Live: Blank Dogs on Record Store Day at Radio-Active Records, April 16
Photo by Monica McGivern
Record Store Day
Saturday April 16, 2011
View our full slide show from Record Store Day here.
Merchandise, of Tampa's Drugged
Conscience label, was a fitting start. A three-then-two-man band with a
lot of synth, it belted out vocals hovering somewhere between postpunk
Anthony Hamilton With Lalah Hathaway & Eric Benet
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and hardcore and occasionally employed a harmonica. 24 Hour Party
People had been playing on a television nearby, and its main title screen
seemed suited to the band's set. The crowd, unfortunately, was sparse, but
this was due to an inevitable afternoon lull -- Radio-Active was
bum-rushed early in the day and later in the evening, and the afternoon
was for stragglers who, having missed the morning goods, had a mission
to scrape out what was left.
The Axe and the Oak, local purveyors
of dark, surfy twang, had that Americana
influence reverberating more loudly than ever -- perhaps because it just released an
album. It is the first vinyl release by Radio-Active Records and perhaps the
beginning of what will become a legitimate and homegrown label. Here's a choice
local act that's been around for a while releasing something on a label
connected to a choice local store that's been around for a while.
Photo by Monica McGivern
Boys have developed a local reputation for their energy and for
frontman Gabriel Alcala's cheeky banter with the audience ("Who fuckin' loves
melons?") and their ability to enliven a crowd. A mosh pit in the
immaculate Radio-Active was almost humorous but exciting enough to
render Gabriel's observation about one of their songs -- "That was
sluggish" -- totally incorrect and tongue-in-cheek. As mentioned
previously, these guys might've been the proverbial fishing reel, as it
seemed so much of the crowd was there for them, and the crowd size was
noticeably different after they finally dipped out, sweaty and giddy.
The audience was quick to filter back in later, midway through Blank
Dogs' set. Plenty's been said about the
former obscurity of Blank Dogs frontman and Captured Tracks label founder
Mike Sniper. He finally revealed his identity and played a live show in
2008, long after he'd released a catalog of skuzzy lo-fi LPs and
cassettes, most of which he made available for free download on his
website. None of the warbled vocals and drainpipe-y synth that has
characterized all of his work could hide the fact that it was melodic,
blissed-out pop -- albeit muffled by dark, raw fuzz. Recorded in his room
on four-track for years, Blank Dogs did not see the light of day until
the aforementioned show in a Brooklyn gallery, and still, it was a set
played in Chinatown the following night that was deemed the official
debut. Your humble reporter was in attendance and watched him and his
band, then a four-piece, play in a converted fire station, surprisingly
Some years have passed, and the confidence Blank Dogs
has developed as a band is clear. Sound check was a tad confusing --
Sniper stated in the middle of the set that "It sounds like a cat
crawling out of a bag underwater up here" -- but this was not audible to
the rest of us. Craig Mileski's modulator synth resembled a Rube
Goldberg machine with a Theremin-like antenna and colorful wires that
curved above and through one another and appeared to have multiple,
perhaps secret, purposes. It was enticing to watch and well-manipulated,
its sounds creating that distinctly fuzzed-out veneer that is so Blank
Dogs-specific. Pam Garavano-Coolbaugh swayed, seemingly entranced, over
her keyboard and guitar, but the vibe of the audience veered toward the catchy aspects of Blank Dogs' sound as opposed to the dark parts.
Personal bias: As mentioned, I saw Blank Dogs' first (technically second) show and have been a fan for years.
Overheard: "It isn't over! Wait!" --a clueless adolescent in regards to Blank Dogs' set (see below)
The crowd: Teenagers, Miamians worn out from Sweatstock or getting ready for it, Fort Lauderdale residents, parents, babies.
By the way: After
Blank Dogs finished their set, Craig Mileski continued to mess with his
synth like a madman, cuing some overly excited fans to stick around
with hopes of an encore, even as Mike Sniper continued to unplug all of
Editor's note: Radio-Active Records' Facebook page got deleted during the weekend but is now back up and running and ready for you to "like" again.
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