Posted by: Cory | May 20, 2009

REVIEW: NYC Popfest 2009 with The Radio Dept., Secret History, Pants Yell & Eux Autres

Since coming across the Radio Dept. a few years ago, I have made it my mission to convert every person I come across into a fan. Naturally, it doesn’t take much convincing and everyone from my father to my best friends have fallen in love. The Labrador Records darlings make the trip from Sweden far too infrequently, and as a result, the Bell House show quickly sold out.

The Radio Dept.’s set played like a best of list, hitting each of the fan favorites which is particularly fulfilling because of the aforesaid rare US appearances. The set included “The Worst Taste in Music”, “1995”, “Why Won’t You Talk About It”, “I Wanted You to Feel the Same”, “Where Damage Isn’t Already Done”, “Pulling Our Weight”, and at the request of virtually everyone from the crowd, “Keen on Boys”. Like I’ve said before about Belle & Sebastian, The Radio Dept. could never play all of the songs you want to hear simply because they’d have to play for hours and hours & while I’d have loved to have caught “Your Father” and “Strange Things Will Happen” and several others, I was more than elated with what was played.

As you might imagine from the sleepy, fuzzy sounds they produce, the threesome are traditionally swedish on stage with a very minimalist setup in two guitars and keys. The intimacy of the recently-opened Bell House was a perfect fit for the sleepy and highly intimate songwriting. The Radio Dept. is the type of music that you want to lie on your bed on a snowy day with the person you love and simply be with one another. While the Bell House didn’t quite have that level of intimacy, the crowd was very respectful of the sometimes soft music and relaxed nature of the show.

Starting of the night’s show (after arriving late for Computer Perfection) was Eux Autres. This band hit the scene in a big way upon the release of their 2004 debut Hell is Eux Autres, but seemed to just as quickly fall off with Cold City. The indie music world is a fickle and forgetful arena, and Eux Autres fell victim with their veritable sophomore effort. The thing that stood out most to me is that the frontman was clearly the songwriter, and felt an entitlement to get to sing those songs. Whether it was nervousness or sheer lack of confidence was difficult to tell, but for the songs that his female companion led, she stole the show. The lyrics was very well-written, but it was her energy, confidence and volume that best delivered them to the audience, and were lost in his timid performance.

In contrast, The Secret History suffers from exactly the opposite problem. While the photos below may somewhat misrepresent the performance, it is because the songwriter, Michael Grace Jr, who spent all but one song stuck on the keys as he gave his microphone up to his busty bandmate Lisa Ronson, was the more entertaining performer of the two. While she was beautiful has music in her blood (daughter of Mick Ronson, Bowie’s guitarist), she was something of a boring frontperson and would have filled the role of the beautiful keyboardist better. Grace was all over the stage bursting with the emotionally charged album he’d written as the result of a failed relationship with previous My Favorite band member Andrea Vuaghn, bringing the album to life. I should clarify, until Grace performed, I was perfectly happy with Ronson because she was pretty (though her back-up singer was stunning) and sings great, but when you have a weapon like Grace in your arsenal who can execute the songs as well as he can, there’s no reason to settle, and you don’t need to stick to the schtick of girl-fronted indie pop. I look forward to more from the recently-formed Secret History, but hope to see a switched up structure.

Pants Yell! finished up the night with very fun set bringing friends on stage to contribute vocals to songs they clearly did not know, making for a very fun and impromptu vibe. Sometimes a pop performance is just wonderful as it is, ad no words are needed ad Pants Yell! was a testament to that.

For videos & photos

Secret History

Pants Yell!

Eux Autres


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