While I’m rarely forced to wait outside a packed bar, it does tend to happen on occasion. Sometimes the wait is worth it, especially if there’s a solid lineup booked to play the night. This weekend saw those stars align, and I finally made it into the only noteworthy venue in New York I hadn’t yet been to. Now, Arlene’s Grocery had been the place I’d wanted to go since first hearing about all the great bands it hosted in the early 2000’s, and I was excited to finally spend a night there.
The main reason I went was to see one of my favorite new(ish) bands, Twin Berlin. In case you don’t know, they’re a humble group from Boston who play garage rock in the vein of the Strokes. (Yes, I know everyone compares every band with guitars to the Strokes, but other than Howler, twin Berlin have come the closest.) I’ve written about them more than a few times, and was able to spend a bit of time talking with key members Matt and James before the show. We spoke about their recent accomplishments, (Guitar Center just had them record an EP under Travis Barker’s guide) and also their recent line-up changes. Obviously, I’m not giving away their secrets without permission, but I did want to note how down to Earth they are as musicians. Completely friendly, happy to be where they are, and hopeful for future success. There’s no pomp or attitude that other pretentious bands are known to display, and that’s something one should commend.
Anyway, one of the reasons we were stuck in line to begin with was the fact that a band called Black Nash was playing right before Twin Berlin. This band had a surprising number of fans for being a group I hadn’t previously heard of, and I quickly learned why: they are fantastic. The group easily became my ‘personal discovery’ of the month. Their dynamic is interesting and their music is even more so. It’s something close in nature to art-rock, but it’s also weirdly rooted in the world of pop. Or at least there’s a strong pop mentality to the songs themselves, which usually have oddly phrased verses followed by catchy choruses. The closest band they remind me of is Television, but even that’s a slight stretch. That dynamic I mentioned is crazy though.
Black Nash let their lead singer– Peter, who I got to meet later– have all the attention drawn to him by not dominating the stage at all. There’s not a guitar swing or drumstick twirl to distract the eyes from center stage. At the same time, he barely moved for the first half of the set, giving off a cold stare and hugging the mic like it was holding him up. Then there was some swaying after a few songs that worked up to a bit of mic stand humping, but it fit the song so it worked and riled up the audience (in a good way). Most surprisingly is how well the stage presence worked for the band. It made it so you wanted to keep looking at what was happening in case something crazy might occur. Altogether, it seriously added to an already great show.
Twin Berlin took the stage after and of course played a great set. Their new bassist is hysterical and certainly fills out their sound, while their lead guitarist is all over the place (in a good way). My main gripe was that his tone was a little piercing, but it fits the darker vibe the band is going for with songs like “Cant Take Take Take” and “Don’t Hang Around.” As for band leader Matt Lopez, he’s actually grown as a singer/performer, and you can tell he has some new found confidence on stage. Twin Berlin has certainly gotten better since I saw them last year, and their accomplishments thus far have without a doubt been earned. Sadly, a pesky bar tab and an early train stopped me from catching the entire set, but what I saw was good. All in all it was one of the better musical nights I’ve had this year, and I look forward to seeing both of these bands again.
Here are embeds of Twin Berlin’s and Black Nash’s latest released. I strongly suggest you listen. Enjoy!