Thursday, 23 April 2009

LIVE REVIEW: The Riverboat Gamblers / Fake Problems @ Knitting Factory, NYC

Reasons for attending this gig:

1) Been meaning to check out Fake Problems on both plastic and in flesh for over 1 year. Double fail, to date.

2) One of only a few left at the semi-legendary Manhattan
Knitting Factory location, before they up sticks and move (like everything else NYC musically-inclined) to Williamsburg.

3) The Riverboat Gamblers singer is several screwdrivers short of a complete tool set.

The final point alone makes it worthwhile dragging one's body out on a cold Tuesday evening, as the last time I saw this chap he was shouting in the face of some gobby, Warped tour-attending lass in Cleveland, OH. She had foolishly engaged him in a debate about the quality of his band's punk rock. Armed with a microphone and superior wit, the conflict was quickly resolved.

The point should also be made that, contrary to foolish Clevo heckler girl's assertion, the Gamblers peddle some of the most raw, energised live punk-rock this side of The Bronx. This may not be altogether clear on their more polished recent releases, but dig back a bit further and it makes more sense.

Starting with Fake Problems, though, and the band look somewhat different than I expected as they tool up onstage. I was envisaging something more like the rough and ready appearance of Against Me! but there are far more instruments and the singer looks like he's just finished studying for his Chemistry exam, ready for some warm milk and an early night. The visage is deceptive though and they kick into a tight live set with quite some verve and passion. The use of trumpet and string instrumentation plays off quite nicely on the first few songs, setting off the furiously shredded guitar tones effectively. The band quickly begin to sound very similar from song to song, however, and my attention begins to wane. Whilst they can't be faulted for effort, my recollection was of some quite memorable material which just doesn't come across live. A mixed bag.

Which all means that The Riverboat Gamblers need to produce in order to save this from being just another forgettable midweek show. I really need not have worried. A huddled cheering session emanates from the dressing room, enthusiastic screams, shortly followed by the band bursting onto stage and we're off.

What follows is a non-stop display of beer-fuelled, high octane punk-rock, with the musical emphasis on the rock and the attitude on the punk. Mike Wiebe is a queer character, clad in garish pink jumper and 'sensible' corduroy trousers and shorn of the lank, grebo locks that were so in the face of the beloved heckler mentioned earlier. His hair obviously didn't contain his powers, though, as he bounces off the narrow stage walls, into band mates, monitors, and often off stage entirely into his adoring crowd.......well, 4 people enthusiastically mouthing all the words, if you want to be specific, but adoring nonetheless.

The band tear through cracking old cuts like Last to Know and Hey! Hey! Hey! and happily manage to make the more shiny newies from 'A Choppy Yet Sincere Apology' sound equally vital. That title track and Alexandria in particular showcase the band's ability to take a catchy pop-punk song, double the speed and volume, and create an energetic punk-rock tune. Rarely does the approximately hour long set slow up, allowing only time for brief refreshment and a crack at their less savvy New York buddies - who insisted this venue no longer existed - before we're off again into the next 2 minute scorcher. Highlights for me are predictably from the older stuff - Rattle Me Bones and What's What - but the whole shebang is a smile inducing success.

As with many punk-tinged bands, on stage is where
The Riverboat Gamblers really come to life. The records give you an idea but can't replicate the energy and enthusiasm shot into the arm of the live show. Add $3 PBR's and a mucky, DIY venue to the mix and you're onto a winner. Good times at the old Knitting Factory. Here's to the new one replicating more like this one.

The Riverboat Gamblers Official Site

Fake Problems
Official Site

MP3: The Riverboat Gamblers -
A Choppy Yet Sincere Apology
Taken from new album
'Underneath the Owl' - Buy

MP3: The Riverboat Gamblers - Rattle Me Bones

Taken from 'Something to Crow About' (Highly recommended!) - Buy

Now playing: Madness - Baggy Trousers
via FoxyTunes

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