A last-minute show booked at the Crazy Donkey featuring Manchester Orchestra was a delightful surprise. The band hasn't played Long Island often, and the last time they did was at Nassau Coliseum. Despite some admonished hate served towards the Crazy Donkey by various show-goers, it was inarguably a much better atmosphere to watch the Atlanta, GA indie rockers do their thing. And when a pair of solid openers were booked it made the announcement all the better.
Sainthood Reps were the first of these two. It's a side project for Brand New guitarist/vocalist Derrick Sherman, but with BN's (lack of) activity lately, it seems more like a steady gig. The band's got a sound that grows on you, and similarly, their performances have seemed to improve with every show. They played their steady mix of alternative/indie rock and lumbering post-rock with a nervous, unshakeable energy that ended with a crushing instrumental endeavor with Sherman finishing by kneeling, leaning over and screaming "WHERE'VE YOU BEEN?" (if I remember the lyric right) directly into his pickups.
Set list (7:14-7:43):
- title unknown
- new song
Person L played their wild brand of Dismemberment Plan and Radiohead-influenced indie rock'n'roll to an audience that clapped along when encouraged and offered polite applause between songs, but was otherwise sort of unreceptive. One lad would rather have heard vocalist/guitarist Kenneth Vasoli's former band, as likely half-sarcastic requests of "'Best of Me'!" would lead one to believe. Vasoli ignored the requests and lack of response--save a few dancing, enthused fans--by fronting his dual-percussive band with limitless enthusiasm. I mean, Vasoli's pretty loose on stage as it is, but he just went off this night, putting on silly James Brown dancing impressions and screaming his lungs out with a grainy rawness for those howled lines in "Untitled." The audience even received a replay of the new song they've been jamming out, and another one that'll be from an oft-delayed split 7" with Weatherbox.
Set list (8:05-8:40):
- Good Days
- Goodness Gracious
- song from Weatherbox split
- Help Yourself
- new song
The venue had been surprisingly empty to this point, but now filled up with an audience largely prepared to stand and watch--like zombies--Manchester Orchestra rock rawly and plow through aggressive versions of hits like "I've Got Friends," "Wolves at Night" and "Shake It Out." Seriously, they were barely breathing, which was a pretty drastic change from the Irving Plaza show in NYC back in April. Bearded and v-necked vocalist/guitarist Andy Hull would be shredding his vocal cords, keyboardist/vocalist Chris Freeman eyes closed and practically convulsing, and people up front merely watched it like an obligation. It was the weirdest thing. Apparently behind me, further back in the crowd there was some life--and even a mosh pit?--but it was all very strange to have such little interaction between the band and a territorial set of spectators by the barricade.
Really, though, no matter. Those aforementioned hits have helped vault Manchester to a level that finds them tending to play bigger venues than this one, so it was a treat to see them showcase a strong collection of their best songs in a smaller place. The timeliness was probably a big assist in the whole thing: the fall semester's recent start and the purgatory of being between promo cycles.
Besides a lion's share of last year's Mean Everything to Nothing and a few choice cuts from 2006's I'm Like a Virgin Losing a Child, the band hit us with two new songs from their forthcoming LP, one of which was the opener. They appeared to be a little more straightforward but carried smart and able dynamics that demand attention.
But when the band were playing the familiar material, it seemed to be informed by a somewhat newer set of influences. During another 15-minute rendition or so of the breathtaking "Where Have You Been?" (staple Kevin Devine reference and all), Hull got into a spazzy, off-key guitar fit that reeked of Built to Spill's touch. Ratchety Americana vibes permeated guitars and the rhythm elsewhere; as Freeman would tell myself and a friend the next night, talking about his band's forthcoming record: "We discovered Neil Young."
But sometimes Hull would harken back to older musical discoveries and friendships. Keenly self-aware of the comparisons surrounding his band's first proper studio album (down to specific tracks), Hull began "I Can Barely Breathe" with the opening strum and lyrics from Brand New's "Sowing Season (Yeah)." It was almost self-deprecating in a way, but really amusing and enjoyable all the same.
The band dismissed the vocal criticisms of some "14-year-old fuck" before Hull played his year-old ode to 50 Cent, a humorous, stalker-level love letter of a song that was not the only novelty of the set. "Barry Bonds" was a practical pop-punk interlude that, while well done, seemed awfully dated and a weirdly jarring way to cut the tension after the band had finished the heart-aching self-searching of the epic "Where Have You Been?".
But hey, do what you want Manchester. When your real songs are that good, you could play Anal Cunt covers too for all I'd care.
Set list (9:12-10:46):
- intro into "Pride"
- augmented "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" (Paul Simon) intro into "In My Teeth"
- 100 Dollars
- new song
- Wolves at Night
- 50 Cent
- Now That You're Home
- My Friend Marcus
- augmented "Sowing Season (Yeah)" (Brand New) intro into "I Can Barely Breathe"
- Shake It Out
- Colly Strings
- The Party's Over (Willie Nelson)
- Everything to Nothing
- The Only One
- Where Have You Been?
- Barry Bonds
- I've Got Friends
- new song (opening track from upcoming LP)