11 July 2007

Photo: New Pornographers


Battery Park, 4 July 2007

Despite the threat of rain the whole OTW family made it into Manhattan on Independence Day for some free music courtesy of the good folks at RiverToRiver. We've never been around on the holiday to take advantage of what is always a very attractive show, so unfriendly forecast or not, we weren't going to let this opportunity slip by. This year's offering was Midlake opening for The New Pornographers -- not too shabby, although how they get these utterly unAmerican acts to play on July 4th is beyond me (last year was the Scottish Belle & Sebastian, I believe).

Getting into the show was easy as could be and there was plenty of room to throw down a blanket wherever we pleased. We fortuitously picked a spot right under a tree and pretty much right on the spot, Midlake took the stage. As you know, I'm a big fan of Midlake so I was happy as could be. While their quiet, understated songs competed with the empty space, the crowd and the whistling winds, the guys from Denton, TX didn't fail to disappoint. Certainly the more rocking numbers came off better in this quasi-festival setting, but even the more subtle stuff felt right. The moody setting, with the grays-upon-grays of the storm watch afternoon sky was an appropriate backdrop to their music. But that's coming from a fan who's pretty familiar with their music.... in the end, though, maybe Midlake wasn't the best choice for this slot.

New Pornographers, on the other hand, were perfect. Peppy poppy and crowd-pleasing from the get-go, a no-work Wednesday afternoon could do a lot worse. The band did a real nice job mixing their new material (from upcoming album "Challengers") with the old. I would say that the new stuff felt pretty rough at times and at one point the drummer even jokingly confessed confusion as to which song they were playing. The older stuff, particularly the Twin Cinema material of which there was plenty, was kick-ass throughout.

The setlist: All The Things That Go To Make Heaven And Earth / Use It / The Laws Have Changed / All The Old Showstoppers / Jackie Dressed In Cobras / Challengers / The Spirit Of Giving / Mass Romantic / From Blown Speakers / My Rights Versus Yours / The Jessica Numbers / Go Places / Mutiny, I Promise You / Twin Cinema / Sing Me Spanish Techno / The Bleeding Heart Show // These Are The Fables / Testament To Youth In Verse / The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism

[show available for download here via Dimeadozen]

Not too much to say about this one, just a helluva nice way to spend the day. Couple more random comments:

  • They were joined for the show by a mini-orchestra of a couple strings players a French horn and a couple others. These extra-curriculars were mixed in nicely to the point where I didn't even notice them most of the time -- they just complemented the music when necessary and hung back the rest of the time.
  • Decent stage banter, with the best line quoting Homer Simpson after pointing out the view of the Statue of Liberty from the stage [B Sharps episode]
  • Neko Case -- I wouldn't kick that voice out of bed for eating crackers.
When the rain started to fall, we barely felt a drop under the canopy of the tree. Couldn't have worked out better. Of course, we had to leave eventually, and right around the time of the encore, the rain started to get a bit on the downpour side, but we made it back to the train without melting.

Train > fireworks on the beach > bed.

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