Eve and I went to Union Hall on Saturday to check out The Rifles, after eating delicious poutine at Sheep Station. We got to the 'Hall around 9:30, expecting to miss the opening act, and the place was practically empty. "Oh no," I said. "What if nobody came? I'm sorry if the bands suck." But it turned out that nobody had gone on yet. The first band was called The Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band (ugh), and I hadn't been wowed by the songs of theirs that I'd heard, but they ended up being fairly tight, musically -- good, precise guitar playing; excellent, vigorous drums. There were two things wrong with them, though: First off, there was this chick in the band whose only job seemed to be to shake rain sticks and look really blissed out, like the music was really, you know, moving her. Second, the lead singer had this awful smug, insincere attitude. While the band was tuning up between songs, he'd say things like: "Yesterday we were in the Poconos. ...Hiking on the old Appalachian trail. What were you doing? Were you stuck in the sticky city? ...Were you in your office?" (Yep. I sure was. What a sucker I am.) As they prepared to leave the stage, he said, "Thanks everybody. Stick around for The Rifles. I'm sure they sound really great." Yikes.
The bass player was the first member of The Rifles to take the stage, and we could tell immediately that they had a much better vibe. The guy was dressed like a alt-rock clown: aviator shades, a black felt hat with a feather in it, and a weird little miniature checkered scarf. He gave a bunch of fans in the front some cool older-brother high-fives, like a guy who might technically be a douchebag but who's pretty hard to dislike. Their music was also pretty hard to dislike -- they sound a bit like The Jam, a bit like The Fratellis -- but it was almost unmitigatedly monotonous, to the extent that Eve decided she'd had enough and left about fifteen minutes before their set was over. I guess I felt a little more charitable towards them, but, yeah, it was a little boring, and a little hard to fathom how they had so many fans who were that into them -- because there was a mysteriously high quotient of well-dressed, purse-carrying girls who were dancing around and taking pictures of the band and each other on their fancy computer phones. It reminded me of that time that Alana and I went to go see this ridiculously terrible band called Copperpot at a now-defunct club on the Lower East Side that was packed with screaming teenage fans who'd been bused in. The Rifles definitely had a leg up (or not) on that band, though, in that the guys in The Rifles mapped eerily well onto the cast of That 70s Show: The bass player looked like Danny Masterson, the lead singer like Topher Grace, and the other guitar player like Wilmer Valderrama. The drummer didn't look like Ashton Kutcher, though.
On Sunday, Nina and I had planned to go apple picking with Brooke and Aanie, but it ended up being too rainy. So we went out to brunch at Belleville instead, and then hopped the bus to Ikea, where we picked up a few small, useful things. Because of the speed and circumstances of our move, we hadn't yet had a chance to "play house," and so it was nice to make plans and think about ways to improve our new apartment. Ikea can be pretty draining, though. It's like a hedge maze, or one of those haunted house amusement park rides where you go from diorama to scary diorama and you just have to wait until it's over. But at Ikea all the dioramas are about chairs that don't have armrests.
My new(-ish) job continues to be an improvement over the past two years. I guess I didn't say too much about it last time, so: Conductor is a search optimization / analytics company, about 60 people strong. You know me, I'm not into marketing or business or that type of thing, but they're building something pretty advanced and interesting (and which I can't really talk about). The company's currently headquartered in the Grand Masonic Lodge building on 6th Ave. and 23rd St., which is a regular office building except that some of the floors (including one of the ones Conductor's on) are outfitted with mahogany trim and full-length wall murals of Teddy Roosevelt and other famous Masons. Oh, and there are special locked rooms full of Masonic books and artifacts -- for example, there's a Masonic dining room about 10 feet from one of our conference rooms that houses, among other curios, an 8-foot-tall stuffed polar bear. I shit you not.
Like I said, though, it's an improvement, especially in terms of management sanity and, you know, "perks" -- there's free fancy coffee, a fully-stocked snacks cabinet, and free pizza on Friday. I'm not fully sure what it means that this is reassuring to me. It's either that, as a company, it's pretty easy to provide a baseline level of comfort for your employees; or maybe it's just that programmer types can be bought off with granola bars and pepperoni.
I went out to Williamsburg tonight to catch a show at Bruar Falls. I'd never been to the venue before, although it comes up a lot on Oh My Rockness. It's set up like a lot of new places seem to be these days: Bar in the front, small stage area in the back, furnished like a kooky living room from the 70s. And there were a lot of little Bud Cort-type guys in attendance. But the bands ended up being pretty great. The opener was called Yusef Jerusalem, and they were a little rough at first -- their first song was just a bunch of shrieking and guitar feedback that made me go "oh no" -- but they ended up being pretty tight and garage punk-y. The lead singer didn't say anything to the audience, though, which was a little weird. Not even hello or goodbye.
Thomas Function, the band I was there to see, were pretty dope. They play fast, tight, punky soul songs, and their lead singer had a cool, nerdy yell. I wanted their set to be longer, but it was not to be.
I've been playing Xbox 360 games. They're selling a combo-pack of Bioshock and Oblivion for cheap at Best Buy, and both of those games seemed to be pretty well-received, so I picked 'em up. I'm in the middle of Bioshock right now. I can't deny that it's a pretty original framing device, and it certainly makes me consider while I'm playing it the differences between representation and endorsement of an idea, but there's something about the way it's paced -- the fact that you never really leave first-person-shooter mode, say, or that the character development happens primarily through asynchronous voice-over -- that makes the world feel kind of superficial.