There was a special party on Valentine’s Day at the secretive basement venue called The Studio at Webster Hall, just underneath the larger venue/nightclub complex, thrown by My Social List for all those looking to have a little nitro thrown in with their sweet hearts. A spirited energy was set by cheap drink specials and some impressively groovy DJ’ing by Serpent (of DIIV) and Rambo, and everyone seemed to get into a festive mood.
Cassie Ramone/Xray Eyeballs/Hunters/Total Slacker at Valentine’s Day at The Studio at Webster Hall 2/14/13
Opening the show was an acoustic set by Cassie Ramone, sitting on a lonely seat in the middle of the stage, and you could tell that this wasn’t any usual singer/songwriter artist. In fact, as I soon recognized, she was the frontwoman/guitarist of the band Vivian Girls, who I was to see the very next day in Brooklyn. Earlier this year she turned out an unexpectedly somber single called “I Don’t Really Wanna Go,” which really was really unlike her punker girl group alter-ego, and it was actually a tribute to Ariel Panero, the recently deceased Tough Knuckles guitarist. It seems as though she has some more similarly gloomy songs ready to go, as she played enough new music for a full release. She seemed a bit disconnected with her audience, perhaps a bit shy, maybe wary of being onstage alone, but the material was strong, and spoke for itself.
Next was Xray Eyeballs, an unusual quartet who produce an uncommon blend in a playful brew, and who, like Cassie, have recently opened for Cat Power. Comprised of O.J., Carly Rabalais, Liz, and Tom, they are part punk, part driving power ballad, part ridiculous new wave throwback, but full-on fun. The diverse line-up provides an excitable agile Asian guitarist guy at the helm, an insanely leggy brunette towering over the bass (both of whom trade the harmonies), a cute redhead mingling keys and synths, and a drummer in back who stands while tapping out ridiculously catchy rhythms. They actually have several releases out, and I must say, they are very addictive, and I’ve become a disciple of their newest release Splendor Squalor. They were rough at times, but that gave it a textured thickness that was needed, and in the end, I was a fan.
Then the Hunters came on, and clearly most of the heavily male crowd was there to fawn over them in particular. Like many bands in the modern punk/pop genre, they are built off the guy/girl power dueling couple dynamic, in the form of guitarist/singer Derek Watson and singer Isabel Almeida, but as cool and as slick as the dread head Watson’s presence is, he is clearly overshadowed by the boundless energy that is Almeida. It is her dramatic posing, leg kicking (getting so close to my head without kicking it so many times clearly took some talent), jumping and bopping about, falling all over herself, the stage, and even in the middle of the audience, along with that wonderfully off-color pink hair, taped up fingers, and ludicrously cute smile, that really astonishes the audience. I’ve been lucky enough to catch this terrifically terrible twosome before, and they really do leave their mark. Beginning with the opener to their awesome Hands On Fire EP called “Deadbeat,” the debautchery started right off, with Isabel whipping her head about in a whirlwind of pink reckless abandon, then transforming into aggressively sexy swoon, and by the end rolling around the stage floor in post-orgasmic bliss. They were joined by an impressive rhythm section of Tom Martin and Gregg Giuffré, who helped propel the show forward at deeply heavy punk speeds, especially with songs like “Black Hearts,” which got a cute prelude by Isabel, saying “this is a Valentine’s song, not really, that guy over there just told me to say that.” They closed out with an impressively reckless track, which many in the audience called out for, called “Crazy Cats.” There was a lot of material played that was either new or not on the two releases they’ve done, which makes me think they’re up to a new album, which indeed is VERY exciting.
The headliner for the night was Total Slacker, and they also proved to be a pretty fun and diverse outfit; Emily was the super cute bassist and vocalist, Tucker Rountree was the solid guitarist and vocalist, Zoë Brecher was the commanding drummer, and David Tassy was the madman lead guitarist, thrashing about the stage in an entrancing style. They just finished work on their second album, and were playing many of the new tracks for the first time, which gave their whole set a feeling of fresh and decadent energy. Both “Keep the Ships at Bay” and “Out of Body Experience,” off that new LP, Slip Away were big stand outs of the set, whirling in potent grunge-fueled rock power, mixed with a slick pop gazing catchiness. It was all so good it made you want the whole night to play over again, but for many lucky ones in the audience, it was time to go make out with a special someone, with the proper Spanish fly arousings produced by a night of amazing music like the bands heard this night. Happy Valentine’s indeed!