Polar Bear Club / The New Dress - live in New York (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Polar Bear Club / The New Dress

live in New York (2007)

live show

More or less a Red Leader Records showcase, this Knitting Factory basement show was an excellent platter of the lesser known New York-area "punk" (more or less) acts.

Jena Berlin was up first, and from seeing them previously I knew to expect a hugely energetic performance, and it's exactly what they delivered, yet every member ensured competent work on their respective instrument. Singer Jon Loudon got up in the faces of members of the audience while gravelly screaming his lines, while arching his back and stretching every bone in his body for the weird, momentary poses he struck. Set list-wise, they stuck mostly to their new album, Quo Vadimus, which is finally set to be released this coming Tuesday. Good stuff as expected, even when the bass amp momentarily fizzled out during one song.

Set list (8:00-8:25):

  1. Looking Over the Wall
  2. Communique
  3. -----
  4. Instruments
  5. Motion Sickness
  6. -----
  7. Chelsea
  8. Sand
  9. -----
  10. Crossed Arms
Next was Nakatomi Plaza, who live seem to concentrate heavily on conveying impressive guitar work. Crazy textures and solos constantly seeped from the speakers courtesy of seeming guitar virtuoso Oscar Rodriguez. They put on a solid show overall, with the vocal trade-offs pulled off nicely and pre-recorded samples helping to ensure the songs would flow smoothly, which they did.

Set list (8:42-9:11):
  1. The Strikes
  2. -----
  3. Not Hopeless
  4. The Ghost Intriuge
  5. -----
  6. Finish Line
  7. -----
  8. Calling All Cars
  9. -----
  10. ?
  11. -----
  12. A Manifest Destiny Grows in Brooklyn
Attica! Attica! was original and enjoyable, as was to be expected. The newest project of former Marathon frontman Aaron Scott, many of the outfit's songs were written while Scott was still in Marathon, so naturally a few of the songs definitely sounded like such -- only, convert the electric guitar to an acoustic. When Attica! played with a full band, that's precisely what it sounded like. Otherwise, there were more minimal numbers that featured just Scott and his accompanying guitarist, playing excellent personal and protest songs. It doesn't hurt that Scott has one of the most unique voices in modern punk rock this side of John K. Samson. They played for a good 35 minutes, including Scott's ballsy a cappella song, a full band all-out alt-country romp about the horrors of imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay, and a two-man version of Billy Joel's "Movin' Out." Scott had some dedicated followers up front singing along for much of the set, but "Movin' Out"'s chorus caused the rear portion of the audience to perk up a bit.

The New Dress definitely sounded not unlike that of Defiance, Ohio at many points, being a mildly folk-tinged duo comprised solely of a female vocalist and a male electric guitarist/vocalist. Not that they were bad or disgustingly derivative -- far be it. Considering the setup it was surprising they maintained my interest for all 28 minutes, playing straight up, sincere tunes about various political and personal matters, including the first song of their set, "Where Our Failures Are." The "band" had a few of their own fans there for them, singing along happily in unison.

And finally, Polar Bear Club, who have apparently amassed a ridiculous following in the New York City area. At least two to three dozen were packed out in the cramped area and going apeshit to nearly every note, with people occasionally spilling over onto the front of the stage and quickly being assisted to back up on their feet. The band performed wonderfully, nailing every chord right on the head and hitting every beautiful dynamic of their powerful sound. Frontman Jimmy Stadt engaged the crowd every moment, standing on the edge of the stage to a rabid audience shouting along with every lyric as dudes up front dived onto the crowd with the ceiling six inches above their backs. The rest of the band were no slouches, either, energetically thumping on their weapon of choice. The 'other' new song they played was excellent, as one could imagine, while the band talked about how "Our Ballads" references a criticism that "girls wouldn't like [Polar Bear Club]." The disgust of the band's response to such a proposed scenario seems to be justified -- at this very show, the sporadic female could be seen right up front with the beards and beer guts.

Set list (10:59-11:27):
  1. Parked in the Parking Lot of Your Heart
  2. Election Day
  3. -----
  4. new song
  5. To the Engravers
  6. -----
  7. Our Ballads
  8. Resent and Resistance
  9. -----
  10. Most Miserable Life
My only complaint would probably be towards not playing "His Devotee" and thus narrowly failing to play the entirety of their breakout five-song EP, The Redder, The Better, but that would be my only grievance. Finally getting to see upstate New York's next big thing (relatively speaking) after a good 14 months or so of patient waiting paid off in quite the dividends.