Summer, I think? It's been inordinately rainy in June so far. Lightning wakes me up around 3:00 AM.
Otherwise, Sunset Park has been a dream. The barber shop on our block up towards 5th Ave. was gutted last year and turned into a mini-warehouse for Coco Helado guys to store their carts. And a month or so ago, somebody parked an ice cream truck in front of it with a "For Sale" sign on the back. I think it may be damaged goods since I've never seen it drive anywhere, but somebody's run an orange power line from the warehouse, draping it over some branches of a nearby tree (which the rainy weather has made green and leafy as fuck), and into one of the windows, where, presumably, it runs the freezer when its owners are operating it in stationary mode in the afternoons. The jingle the thing plays is La Cucaracha.
The second floor landing of our apartment building has had a nice, musky spice smell to it for several weeks now, like chili powder or curry or something. I thought it was great until Nina pointed out that bedbugs, in a population that's reached horrifyingly critical mass produce a smell that's ironically pleasant to humans. But then I looked it up on the Internet, and it turns out that smell is "raspberry," and this is definitely not raspberries, so now I think the second floor is great again.
Nina and I came home from helping her mom clean her apartment (in extended preparation for accommodating relatives visiting from Puglia) the other night to find the house in mild disarray (waste baskets knocked over, bedclothes tossed around) and no sign of Kitty to be found. After looking in the closets and under and behind everything we could think of, we finally found her in the bathroom curled up behind the toilet, in the nook behind the bowl under the the toilet, a torn plastic bag sealed firmly around her midsection. She likes to eat the fucking things, see, but one must have gotten the better of her.
Ever since Steve Merchant wrapped up The Steve Show a couple of months ago, I've been trying to be more active in my search for, as Smerch would call it, "new music." (This pretty much means I read the descriptions of bands on Oh My Rockness and then visit their Myspaces.) I recently became aware of a group called Kittens Ablaze that met my current criteria for contemporary indie rock music: Not folk, not techno. I hit up a show they played the last weekend of May at a venue I'd never heard of called The Flytrap -- which ended up being a two-story private house on Court St. right across the Gowanus Expressway. I almost didn't find it, but the sounds of rock music got me zeroed in. They'd set up a little ticket counter by the entryway, and then you walked down a long hallway to get to the back yard where the actual show was happening. It was a beautiful spot: The house was and yard were flanked by warehouses, so the yard made a kind of concrete box that somebody'd gone to the trouble of furnishing with hedges. There was what I guess you could call a shed towards the back where the bands were setting up, except it was sized and decorated like a miniature house. The most impressive feature, though, was the cascade of roses and what I think were climbing hydrangeas pouring over the northern wall and wrapping themselves around the wrought-iron staircase going up to the second floor, creating a flowery canopy over the stage.
The bands (and there were hours of 'em) were mostly of a single disposition: Jangly, earnest. Nonexistent production. A band called Turbotronics (whose members apparently contained tenants of the building) was releasing an album -- this was their release party -- but they ended up switching up the list so that they were opening for Kittens Ablaze. I'd never heard of them, but I was pleasantly surprised by their sound: Kind of synth-y, nasty guitar rock, with a snotty, "fuck it" attitude in the lyrics that reminded me of the Dickies or the Dead Kennedys. Their songs had names like "Taco Bell (Taco Hell)" and "Let's Do Some Yoga."
By the time Kittens Ablaze went on, I was almost too beat to dance -- I have to stop dragging my stupid laptop to shows just so I have something to do on the subway. They played a vigorous, orchestral set (didn't realize they've got both cello and violin players). Their songs are long but have a sustained urgency to them that got me dancing around. Someone kept firing these little champagne party poppers over the heads of the band, the sparks and confetti mixing with the flowers. Long songs but not very many of them (four, five, maybe?) -- after they finished, there were calls for an encore. "I don't think we have any other ones," said the cello player.
The following week, I went to Mercury Lounge to catch Art Brut for the fourth night of their week-long residency. They were great! I remember being fairly skeptical about them when Katharine played their first album for me a few years ago, but I've come around. Despite Eddie Argos' admonitions to the contrary, I did think his talk-singing was ironic -- or musically prickly enough that I was put off. But over the years I've been won over by his clever writing and the band's obvious enthusiasm (although I still don't know if the songs are, you know, hummable). Argos' flustered delivery combines amusingly with how tight the band is and how confidently he directs them. He's a mix of authoritarian and self-effacing -- it's like Martin Prince grew up and started fronting a punk rock band.
The opening act, Cymbals Eat Guitars, was awful: yet another lead singer without any charisma. And a hippie playing a keyboard. How does this keep happening?