Concert Reviews

Live Review: The Men at New York’s Bowery Ballroom (3/5)

on March 06, 2014, 6:24pm

Photos by Rachel Pincus

Shortly before The Men took the stage at their Wednesday night record release performance at Bowery Ballroom, I overheard a fan speculating about the stage set-up. “I’m waiting to see if there will be horns onstage,” he wondered a bit nervously. “Album that came out yesterday had horns.”

It wasn’t the best overheard gem — there was the drunk gentleman who, upon learning opener Honey had been together just nine months, exclaimed, “Fuck, yeah! You guys must be smoking the same pot,” and then there was the equally inebriated man who had apparently traveled from Wisconsin to scream at keyboardist Mark Perro, “I’ve never seen The Men live before! I don’t even know what it’s going to sound like! I’m wearing a plaid shirt!” — but that isn’t the point, because of course there weren’t horns onstage. Despite the success that has ambushed the group since 2012’s Open Your Heart — the festival bookings, the critical appraisals, and the leftward genre spins — The Men have remained the same sort of straightforwardly beer-swigging, punkish live act that that they were in 2010, with a touch more rootsiness peering up from the fuzz. Call them the Little Bar Band That Could (and did).

the men rachel pincus 3 Live Review: The Men at New York’s Bowery Ballroom (3/5)

Naturally, the group tapped similarly seventies-worshiping — if less accomplished — peers to set the scene. The aforementioned Honey, a trio apparently engaged in a contest to determine which member could most resemble Iggy Pop, drifted along on throbbing, sludgy bass riffs and distant vocals delivered from a singer reading his setlist from what appeared to be a paper plate. The messy psych-punk of Ukiah Drag made for a more colorful set, with mustaches and organs and sunglasses and the like, though the soundboard mix could hardly support the group’s prog-tinged unwieldiness. Then The Men emerged — and, despite performing under the neon-lit Tomorrow’s Hits marquee that adorns the record cover, lurched into two fuzzy-as-hell older cuts, Leave Homes “Lotus” and Immaculada’s “Lazarus”.

It’s both an admirable and a frustrating phenomenon: the group’s records have cycled through a bevy of genre identities, yet The Men’s performances reveal only a minor glimpse of that eclecticism, reverting back to the band’s punk roots. It’s only practical, perhaps. 2013’s New Moon was famously pumped out at an upstate cabin, but funneling that acoustic campfire vibe to a Manhattan venue seems a pointless pursuit. The taut, excellent Tomorrow’s Hits glistens with soul flourishes, but schlepping around a piano and horn section is maybe a bit of a hassle. Alas, the Stonesy soul of “Another Night” and winding, muted “Settle Me Down” were nowhere to be found on Wednesday night.

the men rachel pincus 2 Live Review: The Men at New York’s Bowery Ballroom (3/5)

So the group stuck to Tomorrow’s Hits’ crisp rock underbelly, which was no less exhilarating, Mark Perro’s keyboard bits largely obliterated by the two-guitar attack on the pummeling “Different Days” (“I ha-ate being young!” Ben Greenberg screamed to a crowd largely composed of twenty-somethings) and the roaring “Going Down”. In a particular highlight, spittle poured from Nick Chiericozzi’s mouth as he led the way through the immaculate rockabilly thrash of “Pearly Gates”. And from the New Moon tracks performed — the brash “Electric” and “The Brass,” plus an extended “Supermoon” that you could reasonably enough mistake for a sloppily rendered Stooges cover — you’d have no sense of that record’s nostalgic, woodsy twang.

The band’s selection of covers was less convincing — The Chills’ “Pink Frost” arrived early on and The Grateful Dead’s “Big Railroad Blues” closed the encore — but entirely of a kind with the group’s raggedy bar-band ethos. “This is a song we wrote in 1984,” Perro joked when introducing the former track, and hell, if you didn’t know better, you’d believe him.

Setlist:
Lotus
Lazarus
Different Days
Pink Frost (Chills cover)
Electric
Supermoon
Going Down
Dark Waltz
The Brass
Pearly Gates
If You Leave
Big Railroad Blues (Grateful Dead cover)

2 comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Dan
March 7, 2014 at 11:33 am

I’m a little bewildered by the review. I understand that maybe live all the songs sounded more “punk” than on record, but it seems that 75% of these songs are from New Moon or Tomorrow’s Hits. You make it sound like they mostly played older, harder stuff.

Zach Schonfeld
March 7, 2014 at 11:37 am

Not at all! I wrote about all the newish tracks they played (and included a setlist)—my point was simply that the songs they performed (and *how* they performed them) hearkened back to their roots and didn’t entirely reveal the character of those records.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,478 other followers