One Writer’s Experience at the Red Bull Sound Select Presents Concert in Brooklyn that Featured Aye Nako, Riley Walker, Beach Slang, and Hop Along.
I have a good friend who sends out emails (!) telling people about fun group activities. This one was about a concert at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn. It was part of the Red Bull Sound Select Series and if you RSVP’ed, she wrote, it was only $3 (in NYC that’s a steal and a half).
The Redbull Select Series describes itself as “shows curated by local tastemakers and featuring Sound Select artists.” Redbull Sound Select, as far as I could tell, is the Austrian wings-giving-drink’s record label.
So I went on the RBS site, created a profile that required a few tidbits about myself, and RSVP’ed for the event. Personal information has become a major form of currency in the world of marketing, as has drawing people into your corporate communications list. For Redbull, trading a few dollars off a concert ticket for my email, DOB, age and location is a no brainer.
To get into the spirit of things, I stopped by my local bodega (say it with me now, bo-de-ga) and picked up a can of the wünder-juice, which I then proceeded to chug (orally) before heading to the venue. There I found a small army of PR temps with iPads dutifully checking in those of us who had RSVP’ed and giving us a rubber stamp on the back of our hands redeemable for a discounted ticket to the show. I was feeling pretty jittery by then and my hand trembled as they stamped it.
Baby’s All Right has become a popular concert and party venue in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg over the past few years. It’s a great spot to catch a show, but it’s also a fun place to end up on a random night, having a large dance floor, three bars, some cool booths to sit at, and food service until late. The space is divided into three rooms: two are fairly standard bars, and the third is the concert venue, with a bar in the back and the stage up front. What I discovered that day, as the stage room filled up and the first act came on, is that the wall between this room and the one behind it comes down in Scooby Doo-ian fashion so that patrons in the back room can see what’s happening on stage. As the wall came down I was a bit confused but there was no time to dwell on it as Aye Nako chomped into their first chords.
For the entire duration of Aye Nako’s show, I thought their lead singer was a nervous teenage boy who “felt like [he was] in a music video” on account of the venue’s impressive lighting. That is probably because of my poor eyesight, but looking back it seems appropriate given that the band describes its genre as “homopop, queercore, punk” on their Facebook page and, although they are not teenagers, photos of them mooning, yo yo-ing, and rolling in the grass (in Spanish, doing “la croqueta”) on their Tumblr confirm that they still act like they are.
This kind of in-depth journalism revealed to me that their leader, Mars Ganito, is not a teenage boy, but a thoughtful genetic female who migrated from Oakland before forming the band. Between her vocal outbursts, said band delivered on-point instrumental breakdowns and meandering staccato guitar lines that reminded me of Fugazzi’s Waiting Room, all collated by a youthful energy and earnest, happy-to-be-there vibe that got everybody fired up for what was to come.
That is, before turning severely down for the next act, Ryley Walker. In an interesting and controversial curatorial move, Brooklyn Vegan, the food blog turned local music bible, slated an acoustic folk act amidst the pop punk histrionics. Some of the people I was with complained about this downturn in the energy, but I thought it was a welcome respite before the storm of teenage screamage that awaited. It also helped sooth my energy drink tremors.
Walker is a consummate musician from Chicago with experience in free jazz as well as touring with other folk acts such as American Primitive guitarist Daniel Bachman. He dove into seven magical iterations of what felt like the same familiar two chord song (in a good way), alternately soothing the crowd with languid instrumentals and building up cool crescendos that felt like they were never going to release. He was accompanied by a jolly man with a Robin Hood cap and a stand up fiddle who laid down the bass line with a vintage sound that fit the songs to a T.
Next up was Beach Slang, who were not headlining but could have been. The Philadelphia band is being lauded as something of a Pennsylvania pop-punk super-group, with most of its members having been in more than one “scene band” in the past decade or two.
The frontman, James Snyder, is being credited with writing the best material of his career after achieving some notoriety in the mid 90’s with Penn pop-punk combo Weston. Dude is 40 year olds and works as a graphic designer at an ad agency, but when he slings that axe over his shoulder he “might as well be 20”, to put it in his own words. He rolled up on stage wearing a tie and blazer that made me think of AC/DC, pausing between songs to conduct charming banter with his audience and laugh at the crowd’s jokes. A veteran of the scene, he looked just as thrilled to be there as the newcomers who had opened two hours earlier.
The band ripped into each song full bore with precision and flare. The sound was tight and on point. You could tell it wasn’t these guys’ first rodeo, and even if they’ve probably never been paid much, their sound had the polish of consummate professionals. I can imagine Snyder cracking the whip at band practice and the other guys just loving it.
They debuted a new song from their upcoming full length, much to everyone’s joy. It’s called “Ride the Wild Haze” and encourages us to “get high enough to feel alive”. I was feeling pretty high on the Crimson Cow, but if anything had me feeling alive it was Beach Slang’s earnest onslaught.
A lot of people have compared them to the Goo Goo Dolls, but I’ve never listened to the Goo Goo Dolls, so I can’t comment on that. When they light up the epic “American Girls and French Kisses” from their latest EP and Snyder belts out the infectious chorus, “It’s Froiday noight and I’m in the basement with my best friends”, I pick up a Blink-182 vibe, even if it’s just the energy and pronunciation. But I think the San Diego trio isn’t out of place in this conversation, or in this moment in time. The scene feels ready for the return of that kind of sentimentalism, and Beach Slang fits right into that equation. After all, Blink’s trying to stage a comeback and I have to say, I like those songs a lot better than I did 15 years ago when I actually was a teenager.
By now I was drunk enough to refuse a last drink and the Red Bull was wearing off. Good thing for me, Hop Along burst on stage and brought out a whole ‘nother level of hype from the crowd. They’re from Philly and apparently they have some very enthusiastic fans in Brooklyn. A mosh pit erupted for the first time all night and I was on the outskirts, iPhone in the air, trying to capture the mayhem via flash photography. An angry concert-goer behind me asked me to stop, to which I replied, “One more!”. “No, fuck you!” he said. What’s a non-fan to do? I snapped one more pic and turned my gaze towards the stage, where front woman Frances Quinlan was laying it all out, bleeding heart and bleeding throat, next to her outlandishly tall lead guitarist.
They were not as compact or precise as Beach Slang, but they made up for it in energy and in Quinlan’s charisma and unique voice. She sounds exactly like the singer from Dover, a Spanish alt-rock band from the 90’s. Of course that means nothing to you because you have never heard of that band. But what’s the point of me comparing one band’s sound to another anyway? You can hear for yourselves in less time than it takes to read this, from the warm embrace of your filthy couch.
Ok, that’s enough Red Bull for me.
Written by Josep Ferrer
OurVinyl | Contributor