6.4.2008 – Times New Viking in Bloomington

Over the last couple of years it seems that good music acts are making a stop in Indiana rather than driving right through it, and in that time I have missed out on some really good live shows, particularly some that have come to Bloomington. There’s really no good reason to have been absent from shows by the likes of Jens Lekman, and countless others I could go on about, but in 2008 I have made it my personal mission to see as many as I can in an attempt to make up for so many mistakes. As much as I loathe colleges and school in general, I have ultimately decided that I am grateful to live an hour and a half away from one of the most popular universities in America, for IU is where many awesome independent acts like to make their stops. Bloomington is also the home of two record labels that have numerous acts that I listen to regularly, Secretly Canadian, and Jagjaguwar. Over the last year especially, the campus grounds have blazed a trail of booking some brilliant shows, most of which I am glad to say I’ve been in attendance for. There is a small venue a block south of the popular Kirkwood Ave., a place that in its lower floors operates as an art school for college students.

On the third floor of the John Waldron Arts Center is a small room that they’ve made into an intimate venue for concerts, and on October 5, 2007 I got my first look and listen at the place when John Vanderslice paid a visit. It was the perfect act to be introduced to a place with, his voice and sound resonating beautifully throughout the room. Corey and I got a chance to see Vanderslice again, at a Luna Music in-store on March 23 of this year. We talked for a bit with him after the short acoustic set that day just before he and his bandmates were headed for Kentucky later that evening, the conversation ending with some pictures, hugs, and a promise that he would definitely be returning to Indiana on his next tour. In addition to being one of the most consistently good songwriters/producers in all of music, John is one hell of a nice guy. April has proven to be the best month of the year so far for live music Corey and I have seen, heading to Bloomington twice for unspeakably awesome concerts. On April 7 we were treated to what I consider the best show I’ve seen to this point in my life – Okkervil River at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. Will Sheff has one of the most commanding presences I’ve seen on stage, and as they ripped through a setlist that gave the audience everything they wanted and more, I was floored for nearly two hours. The soft and haunting rendition of “A Stone” was worth the price of admission itself. It will be hard to top a performance like that. Adding to the list of great environments in Bloomington to see a show is Dunn Meadow, a welcoming park in the center of the campus where on April 19, the WIUX Culture Shock free music festival was held. The weather looked like it was going to be as disastrous as possible that day, but it held off all the way. There was a running ten hours of music that started at noon, but Corey and I were there to see the closing two acts. Dodos were playing at 8:00 and Beach House were to follow at the stage behind it about an hour after. Somehow we managed to find ourselves in touching distance from both bands that night, witnessing first hand just how deep into their craft two terrific groups were. It wasn’t very long (May 2, to be exact) that we found ourselves traveling back to Bloomington, for Fuck Buttons and Caribou were coming to John Waldron. Both acts were astonishing, with Fuck Buttons in particular showing that the live performance only enhances the entire experience of listening to them. Caribou had a projected light show set up behind them that worked very well in the tiny room on the third floor of Waldron, and we found ourselves again within inches from the group and the amplifiers. I am sort of surprised that I can still hear well out of both ears.

Two days ago we were driving south again, this time recruiting my brother to see Times New Viking play at, where else, the John Waldron Arts Center. I had only been listening to the Akron, Ohio-based group for about a month before this show, but it was already easy to assume that this had to be an act to fully appreciate on stage and in person. We arrived in Bloomington about six hours before the show was to start (but would really be seven hours before, because the show was delayed an hour) with no real plans, we just had to get out of the dreaded central Indiana where we live. So, in the next seven hours we drove around and witnessed the vacant streets because school was out, ate at the classic Mother Bear’s Pizza, saw a matinee of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, made the usual trip to Landlocked Music, played catch in a small park next to the police station, and waited on a damp bench for the show to begin seating. A combination of students being gone for the summer and a recent storm that flooded the streets and businesses downtown, made this show starving for audience members. There were two opening acts, Secrets Between Sailors and the Drag City-signed Singer, that I had never listened to before the show. During the Secrets Between Sailors performance, which lasted about 20 minutes, there were less than ten people in the crowd. They were better than I expected them to be, although still not all that great and could’ve easily faired better had they tossed the vocals out completely. As an instrumental band I think I might listen to Secrets Between Sailors, but oh well. The most excruciating part of the night, by far, was the performance from Singer, a band that mixes and matches rhythms and moans and things that they try to make weird but only succeed in being arrogant and self-indulgent. All three of us were nearly screaming in pain as we prayed for an end to Singer’s set, and my brother was cursing me for convincing him to finally see a show with us.

It wasn’t until about 11:00 that Times New Viking took the stage, and before their performance they all three participated as an audience member to watch the acts before them, which I thought was awesome considering I just don’t ever see that anymore. All three of the band members have a interesting stage presence, with the drummer/vocalist acting as the banter-inducer, the guitarist never facing the crowd as he impressively weaves through the setlist, and the vocalist/keyboardist, she was particularly intriguing, almost seeming very timid and reluctant to even be there until they began to rip into their short tunes with an energy that never took a break until it was all said and done. The thirty minutes in which Times New Viking played made up for the previous two hours of disappointment. By the time they took the stage, the place totaled what seemed like no more than thirty in attendance, but it just didn’t matter because their constant fire made everyone bop, tap their feet, dance, and scream, which ultimately made it seem like nearly a hundred were out on the floor. This trio has a very good new record called “Rip It Off”, but the sound there doesn’t even compare to experiencing them live. If you’ve heard Times New Viking and have any interest in their music, then I strongly recommend seeing them in person. Those swift thirty minutes made June 4, 2008 a good day.

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6 Responses to “6.4.2008 – Times New Viking in Bloomington”

  1. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere « see the sky about to rain Says:

    […] Ferguson Reviews – Bloomington and other visits […]

  2. EF Says:

    My first comment. yay! Now I want to go see them rather badly, fuck Vampire Weekend man. I take it back Vampire Weekend sorry. I won’t get started on the TWO upcoming Bon Iver show reviews I hope you write.

  3. Ferguson Says:

    You get to see Vampire Weekend, Modest Mouse, etc…so GET OVER IT!!!! Ha

  4. Sally Says:

    Gee, I was at that show and I totally disagree with you. I thought that Singer was great, and I thought that Secrets Between Sailors was actually the best band of the evening. I’d never heard them before either, but they’ve got a webpage with free music: http://www.secretsbetweensailors.com Singer doesn’t have a website, apparently. I always think that knowing the music before you go to a show makes a huge difference. I mean, Times New Viking has some catchy songs but live it’s just a big mess. They kinda just sound like a bunch of screaming drunk people, and their instruments feedback uncontrollably, and that girl’s voice is not enjoyable.

  5. Ferguson Says:

    I didn’t dislike Secrets Between Sailors, but I was definitely put off by the vocals. As far as Singer goes, I pretty much can say that I LOATHED them. If it weren’t for their horrendous stage presence and blatant arrogance then I would’ve basically considered them another so-so band, but those guys were plain ridiculous.

    As far as the Times New Viking set – I completely loved the fact that it all sort of bled together without hardly a noticeable difference between songs, and the feedback is like a necessary instrument in their sound so I thought it was awesome.

    Sorry we disagree so badly, but that’s the beauty of opinions!

  6. fiendinacloud Says:

    I was at that show as well…and to say Singer was good…nice joke.

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