Steamy summer evening in Philly, just right for a great Friday night rock event. This was my 3rd visit to Kung Fu Necktie
, a well worn dive under the Frankford El. Tonight would be decidedly noisy and avant-garde. Some of you reading us may well prefer this expression. Me? I’m OK with it. I can tolerate it, but it’s by far not my go-to.
Inasmuch as personal taste goes, I was invited by Northern Spy Records
, a growing indie label based in Brooklyn, NY to check out psychedelic/art rock band Starring
. They were finishing a regional tour with fellow headliner Guardian Alien
. This was going to be one of those nights for hipsters. It was hard after a while to determine who were the performers. So many full beards, shorts and tattoos on all the guys in the place tonight. After downing a can of Lion’s Head I was ready for work.
Drums Like Machine Guns
were up first, Brooklyn twins Brian and Brandon stood for about 25 minutes chugging away on various pitches and speeds, tossing about all sorts of squelches of noise and clatter, with a very loose drumbeat. At times it was rather engaging, tho the small audience could only stare and be amazed at the output. One of the two did all the heavily distorted vocals. In the absence of a website they have a page on weebly.com which is somewhat outdated and lacking in personal info. Maybe that was the point. Bernard, Guardian Allen’s guitarist mentioned a connection to Drums LIke Machine Guns, which may have been a student-teacher role.
Starring are a 5-piece, with bass, drums, keys, vox, guitar, violin and other instruments from the kitchen sink. They are among the more notable ones from the Brooklyn underground.Talking with the band after the set, they reveal that they have been friends and playing partners going back at least 10 years to college days. Their lead vocalist, Clara, was rather animated at the lead on vox and guitar. First song of the handful they performed included a flute, the last on bowed guitar (a favorite approach appreciated by yours truly). She sang in a strong, arcing pitch at times, others simply blending in with the spacy keyboard action from the tall, high-haired, full-bearded Peachy. Clara broke the fourth wall to churn out understated guitar while bouncing in time to the drummer’s wild syncopation. Amy,the violinist would calmly add her own licks, rarely straying from the beat. Matt, their drummer changed measures several times in every composition, with occasional pauses to allow Clara’s poetry to sink in. Their chemistry allowed each member to contribute equally and fully.
The relative order in Starring’s music and prose was a slight contrast to the strong improv and psychedelic/artistic approach by fellow Brooklynites Guardian Alien. The 5-piece band performed on vox, drums, bass and a long electronic instrument that I could not name right off. Whatever it is, it seems like a core instrument for electronics and off-the-wall noise.Greg is the main man of the band, orchestrating the beats and measures on drums, with almost nonstop drumming in various speeds all through the 40 minute set. The intimidating confident vocalist Alex Drewchin was dressed in a tasteful summer dress, lashing out barely discernable vocals, caterwauling at times. She danced about in place in each song, thoroughly at one with the sound. Early in the set she was hunched over with a small electronic box manipulating tiny switches to add to the electronics. Bernard, their guitarist, was mainly on his knees and actually facing toward the stage. Kung Fu Necktie’s stage didn’t quite have room for all 5 (never understood the venue’s lack of feng shui in that regard) but the band made it work. Bernard, tells me that they wrote music together in practice starting with a particular riff and beat and just go from there.
Both bands perform at PA’s Lounge
in Somerville, MA on Saturday 8/25 to wind up their East Coast tour. Starring then are featured at Le Poission Rouge
on historic Bleecker Street in New York City, 9/9.