Last Thursday, June 2nd, I attended my first Brooklyn show since moving to New York, at Williamsburg’s Death by Audio. I was there for Philadelphia’s Sunny Ali and the Kid, a band I’ve previously interviewed twice (for Chicks with Guns and the now defunct Don’t Hear Listen), who were one of four bands on the bill for Woah Woah Records’ showcase.
The unmarked venue was still fairly empty by the time I met up with front man Hassan Malik (aka Sunny Ali) around 8:30, just half an hour after doors had opened. We had met in person when I had visited New York last fall, while I was still making my final decision as to whether I really wanted to relocate to the Big Apple, at The Kominas’ November 18th gig for a Pakistan Flood Relief benefit at the Cameo Gallery. He introduced me to drummer Abdullah Saeed (aka The Kid), who I had only spoken to via email before then, as Woah Woah Records’ personnel were arranging cassette tapes by the night’s acts on a merchandise table behind us. Since Saeed also happens to be a writer, we chatted about the scarcity of freelance gigs before the duo decided to play a game of Alien v. Predator on an arcade-like machine in (what I guess you could call) the venue’s lobby. (I got in a game afterward, and though Saeed said I was a better player than Sunny, I assure you, I had no idea what I was doing, aside from randomly pounding the “kill” button.)
A friend of Saeed’s later commented that Death by Audio reminded her a lot of Los Angeles’ The Smell. I never made it to the Downtown venue, which is known for being a good place to see bands for cheap cover prices, so I can’t confirm this, but Death By Audio did seem to be a cool place. The walls were covered in cartoon murals of alien-esque monsters in the “lobby,” dogs with gas clouds coming from their rear ends behind the stage, and even portraits of the three deceased Ramones hidden in the corner of a wall stage left. Unlike any venue in LA (and most of NYC), smokers were free to light up inside, and you could get a view of a REAL river upon exiting the venue. (The East River is completely intimidating when all you’re familiar with is the trickle of water surrounded by concrete that is the LA River.)
The evening’s openers were The Night Manager, whose singer Caitlin Seager was apparently celebrating her 21st birthday. The group’s poppy garage sound mingled pleasantly with Seager’s sweet vocals, which were full of “wooooahhhs” and “ooo ooo ooo’s.” Their set displayed a band with a lot of potential, and I’d be enjoyably curious to see how this group progresses in the future.
Second up was surf rock two-piece Teen Witch, who I was immediately dazzled by. At the time of the show, they reminded me of a cross between The 5,6,7,8’s and The White Stripes (for their sound, as well as lack of a bass player). After hearing front woman Carol’s growly vocals though, I wasn’t the least bit surprised to see rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson cited as one of their influences, when I went searching for their music after the show. The audience seemed to agree with my favorable opinion of the band, as two crowd members jumped onstage to dance during their last song.
Sunny Ali and the Kid finally took the stage just after 11:00. I had seen them play a couple of their songs during that last Kominas’ set, but this was my first time at one of their official shows. Though I had thoroughly enjoyed hearing their tracks the last time I had been in Williamsburg, I must say, the sound was much more well rehearsed this time around. The band is often described as “country punk,” which seems to be suiting, both sonically and image wise. Malik, who was sporting his signature cowboy hat and a nonchalant stage presence, kept between song banter to a minimum as they cranked out two minute or under tracks, including new songs (like “Don’t Shoot the Boy” and their tribute to Egyptian protesters “Tahrir Square Dance.”) and “older” ones from their debut “Try Harder” EP (like the title track, “Can’t Stand Ya,” and their cover of Alice Deejay’s “Better off Alone.”) Saeed, who played with persistently shrugged shoulders, kept rhythms tight for the dancing audience members near the front of the stage, which included Kominas’ guitarist and co-vocalist Imran Malik.
As far as movement, the crowd was slightly better than most Los Angeles concert-goers, but there was still a fair amount of standing bodies throughout the show that closed with X-ray Eyeballs. (I didn’t catch enough of their set to describe, but I figured they at least deserve a mention, despite my laziness.) It’s been that way at all of the shows I’ve attended since my first “Natalie in New York” music post, so I’m starting to think that much dancing to an unknown band was only due to the fact that they were playing covers. Malik said this was probably the case when we were chatting after the show, since the band I had seen was playing songs everyone knew. He added that was Sunny Ali and the Kid’s objective, “to have everyone at shows know our songs.”
So help this band reach their goal and get to know the music I’ve provided links to, so you’re ready when they come to your town. Or if you’re not able to make it to a Sunny Ali and the Kid show (which have been restricted to the East Coast for now), check out their live album, recorded at Brooklyn’s Shea Stadium.
Until next time, good vibes everyone!