The New Pornographers
I have seen The New Pornographers perform seven times. Is it OK to admit this? I’m not sure when official “groupie” status kicks in. I have a friend who has seen Foo Fighters all over the country, with the number of shows totaling somewhere in the double-digit range. So I like to think I can be classified as more of an “active supporter” of The New Pornographers. It’s been 3 parks, 2 concert halls, 1 theater, and an Apple store. And we’ve known each other just over three years. Let’s just say it was love at first sound.
I am ashamed to admit that I had not even heard of the band when I attended their concert at the Prospect Park Bandshell in June of 2005. But at the suggestion of a friend, I went to check them out. They played with Stars and The Sadies that night. And while I enjoyed the two other bands, I was smitten with The New Pornographers. And so it began…
First, I bought tickets to see them at Webster Hall. I wanted to hear them in an indoor venue and I wanted to be up close. I even convinced my friend, Kate, to come along. It was a great show, and Neko Case was there, which I realized later was a rare treat. At the time I wasn’t aware that her schedule limited her ability to tour with the band. See, all the members seem to have musical side gigs. Lead singer A.C. Newman has a solo career, as does Neko Case. Drummer Dan Bejar has a band named Destroyer. And keyboardist/vocalist Kathryn Calder is a member of Immaculate Machine. They’re a bunch of multitaskers, that’s for sure. Actually I just looked them up on Wikipedia to find that ALL the members have side projects, so the ones I mentioned are just the ones I was aware of. In any case, the show was fun and Kate was impressed, so she became a follower, too.
The next time we saw The New Pornographers was at the Nokia Times Square Theater. They were opening for Belle and Sebastian. Watching them as an opening band was disappointing. The full band was not there. There was no special lighting. They weren’t really into it, the performance seemed half-hearted, and it was short. I vowed never to see a band I liked open for someone else (Note: I may have to eat my words if I go see Frightened Rabbit open for The Spinto Band).
And then there were our outdoor dates, the first at Central Park Summerstage, where they were back in full form. At this point I had not recruited any more fans. Kate and I just silently went along showing up anywhere The New Pornographers decided to perform in NYC. We heard songs from Mass Romantic, Electric Version, and Twin Cinema. A.C. Newman is the lead singer, but Neko Case provides the vocals on a bunch of songs. When she’s on tour, “Letter from an Occupant” is a good song to watch for.
The next concert was a free show at Battery Park on the Fourth of July. Yes, me and the Canadians on the Fourth. What more could I ask for? Now, this did involve signing up online and then waiting in line for a bit of time to get the hard ticket. And, yes, there was rain that evening, but it seemed to stay dry during the time of the show. At this point, we had seen the band quite a few times, and I’m not sure they even had a new album out at the time. But the songs they play are songs you can listen to over and over again. And we started to have favorites. I was always waiting for “Bleeding Heart Show” and “Sing Me Spanish Techno.” Kate liked “The Slow Descent into Alcoholism.” We could ‘name that tune’ in just a few notes at that point, and it never got old.
And then came the new album, Challengers. I was able to get tickets to a special album release concert they were doing last November at Bowery Ballroom. So it was a lot of new music, but still some old songs. The opening band was none other than a still slightly-under-the-radar Vampire Weekend. They put on a good show full of catchy tunes. They were one of the best opening band experiences I’d ever had. And A.C. Newman realized that. When he and the rest of The New Pornographers took to the stage he seemed a little concerned. Apparently he felt that Vampire Weekend had already outshined them, end of story, we can all go home now. As The New Pornographers were set to play a whole bunch of new songs, he wasn’t totally confident in how it would turn out, and Vampire Weekend may have been an act a little too tough to follow. But they went ahead and played. And A.C. Newman talked, and talked and talked. He was very chatty that night and even became aware of it and decided there should be more playing, less talking. But he’s a friendly guy and he always seems comfortable with the audience, so I felt like I was part of the most intimate show I’ve seen them perform. His sincerity comes across onstage and you can’t help but root for them and enjoy the show along the way.
I then ended up at a special in-store show at the Apple store in SoHo. It was actually a great show, even though there was a weird screen with a live video feed of them positioned right behind them on the stage. This provided much amusement to the band members—-kind of like when you see yourself on a TV at Best Buy and start making odd hand gestures just to confirm it’s you. I had never seen a band at the Apple store, but I’d go back. I didn’t have a seat, but the sound was still good, and they played for an hour or so.
So, that was the last time I saw The New Pornographers (except for the time I saw A.C. Newman walking his dog in my neighborhood). But I just picked up Neko Case’s The Tigers Have Spoken and I’m enjoying it. I guess if I can keep up with all the different side projects, there will always be some member with tour dates or new albums. But the next time The New Pornographers decide to grace one of the stages of NYC with their presence, it will be hard for me to stay away.
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Tags: a.c. newman, apple, battery park, bowery ballroom, frightened rabbit, neko case, the new pornographers, the new pornographrs, webster hall