Concert Review

CMJ: Twin Peaks, Happyness, Nai Harvest @ Rough Trade, Brooklyn 10/23/14

Yesterday was a disgusting day in New York, and this is coming from someone whose favorite season is winter: wet coldness due to the obnoxiously persistent rain, and a particularly bone-cutting kind of wind (especially if you were, like me, near the East River). Given that, spending the day indoors, at an afternoon showcase at Rough Trade’s Williamsburg outpost, was a solid refuge for a Thursday.

The lineup boasted a few recent Stereogum Bands To Watch: Nai Harvest, Happyness, and Twin Peaks. Nai Harvest admirably started the day off promptly at 1PM. I say “admirably” because they had also played Pianos over in Manhattan the preceding afternoon, Boston the preceding night, and after arriving back in NYC at 7AM Thursday morning, were there at Rough Trade giving an intense show to the small crowd of people who were able to go to a show in the middle of the day, which meant it was mostly those of us who were there for work instead of skipping work. Music from the band’s excellent Hold Open My Head EP was woven through the set, along with some new songs the band’s planning to include on a forthcoming LP for Topshelf. While Nai Harvest have some roots in the emo revival, they’ve since come around to a sound that sounds just generally indebted to scuzzy ’90s guitar music of all sorts; down to their haircuts and outfits, actually, it all felt exceedingly ’90s. That’s a good thing — the set was great, and I’m excited to hear what this new LP winds up sounding like.

Happyness’ record Weird Little Birthday became a mainstay for me earlier this summer — the burnt-off haze hanging around the edges of that record made for great walking music during some of the more suffocating Sundays in July. They play the songs pretty close to how they appear on record, structurally, but with some more insistence (even the fast songs on the record have a kind of sleepy, bleary-eyed vibe to them). That burnt-off haze catches fire again live, with the band turning up the scuzziness in general, despite the fact that they apologized the amps provided didn’t allow for the proper amount of distortion needed for “Anything I Do Is All Right.” In between all the loud guitars, the band maintained a reliably dry, deadpan sense of humor, like asking the crowd members how to get marker off their arms, or something. Nobody seemed to have an answer for them.

Twin Peaks are a very young band — no member is older than 21 — and seeing them perform made for one of the first times I’ve seen a new band that’s made me feel old (and I’m in my mid-twenties). Their live set is true to their sound on record just, you know, turned up to 11, or whatever. They’re as loud and drunk-sounding as you’d expect, which was kind of funny to see at 5PM when all the band members were taking swigs from water bottles rather than whiskey bottles. They’re a little less my thing than Happyness or Nai Harvest; my favorite Twin Peaks song is relative outlier “Making Breakfast,” which was saved for second to last and garnered a pretty enthusiastic response from the now fairly thick crowd. Still, they do what they do well, and ending the afternoon with some fast guitar music and walking out to a now mercifully somewhat drier Manhattan is a nice way to end a day at work.