October 3, 2002

Without Headphones

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Last Saturday night, a four band bill transformed the J.A.M. performance center into a packed, sweaty venue that featured two New York City headliners, Oneida and The Walkmen. The Fanclub Collective produced their third concert of the semester, only one week after their successful Brendan Benson show, and for each show the group has been able to find music that filled a niche in the Ithaca/Cornell scene. Over 150 people came to see the unlikely combination of two local bands with two underground big names.

To start the evening, The Atomic Forces laid siege to the stage for a set of politically conscious punk. The band had another gig that night at the Rongo, so they got right down to business and pumped out a string of hard-hitting songs, which caught the attention of Oneida and the growing number of audience members. Next up were Red, with a homecoming performance (they used to be JAMMIES) comprised mostly of covers, plus a few newly-written originals. The band, still in the early stages of development, had some interesting ideas, but played mostly innocuous rock, sticking close to their covers’ sources (The Who, Hendrix, and Weezer). Demonstrating a proclivity for long jams, Red showed potential.

With lightning-quick speed, Oneida set up all their instruments, and by the time they started playing, there was a fairly large crowd packed towards the front of the performance space. Led by the jagged, broken edges of Kid Millions’ cymbal crashes and manic drumming, this Brooklyn trio churned out a high-energy set, concentrating mostly on as-of-yet unreleased songs (including some that will be on their forthcoming split CD with fellow Brooklyn band the Liars).

The group opened their set with two tracks from their latest album, Each One Teach One. The breakneck pace meant that Millions was dripping with sweat before the opening barrage was over. He wouldn’t get a break all night, and even managed to sing two songs back-to-back (prompting him to tease his bandmates with the cry, “you bastards”). Towards the front of the stage, Hanoi Jane and Bobby Matador continually switched instruments, as Bobby started off on keyboards and Jane on guitar, later switching to guitar and bass, respectively.

With some of the Walkmen looking on from the backstage corridor, studying their fellow NYC residents, Oneida played a loud and crazy set, combining abrasive, rhythmic riffs with quirky melodies on guitar and keyboard. All the while, Kid Millions slaughtered his drum set, and the audience watched in amazement at the spectacle. Who was it that said, “punk is energy?” Whoever it was, it certainly was true of Oneida’s raucous performance.

The sweater-clad Walkmen got on stage next, before the heat of Oneida’s set had dissipated, and the anticipation in the audience grew high as they waited for the retro-rockers. Setting up, the group dragged onstage a beaten-up old piano that the Walkmen have referred to as their “bucket of junk.” They opened the set with “They’re Winning,” the first track from their debut album, Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone. The song is indicative of the band’s overall sound, with atmospheric echoing guitar and an ever-present organ drone, held together by the stiff, syncopated drumming of Matt Barrick, and topped off by Hamilton Leithauser’s surging vocals.

During the rest of the set, the Walkmen played one of their new singles, “Look Out the Window” in addition to most of their debut album, from the fast-paced drum intro of the title track, to the bump-and-run groove of “Wake Up,” to the tinkling piano echo of “We’ve Been Had.” While the heat continued to rise and the audience’s rapture grew, the Walkmen neither dropped the intensity level nor took off their sweaters. Singer Hamilton swayed with the bends of his voice, chewing gum in his nonchalant manner the whole time. At one point, he singled out his bassist, Peter Bauer for praise, saying, “he’s just pounding it out back here.” With the one-song encore of “Revenge Wears No Wristwatch,” The Walkmen closed their set and escaped the heat of the stage with the resounding approval of the J.A.M. concert-goers.

One of the overwhelming benefits of the intimate J.A.M. venue is that it allows for close interaction between the audience and the bands, as both Oneida and The Walkmen hung around after the show to sell some merchandise and converse with us “normal people.” Nonetheless, their modesty could not take away from Oneida’s and The Walkmen’s excellent performances, as stary-eyed and grateful students walked by the bands. For Oneida, the festivities had only just begun, as Billy, Kid, and Jane returned to a Fanclub Collective member’s house for a post-party, eventually crashing on the living room couches early Sunday morning after an amazing night.

Archived article by Ariel Ronneburger