Tour de Force

NEW YORKERS: THE AUSTERITY PROGRAM’S JUSTIN FOLEY WANTS YOU TO GO TO SEE YOUNG WIDOWS AND HELMS ALEE ON MONDAY

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justin foley op-ed

Legendary stonebags Sleep are resurrecting their monolithic Holy Mountain this weekend here in the NYC metro area. That record is pretty amazing – less a collection of songs and more a riff delivery program. As is the trend these days, those who didn’t hear them tour on the record in the mid-90s will get a second chance to drink it all in. It will be a moment: everyone in the room will know the songs, the band isn’t going to be too stoned to play and even the opening bands will be watching from the side of the stage, happy to finally hear these songs the way they’ve always hoped to hear them – live, loud and in front of them.

This reunion stuff… I’ve got mixed feelings about it, like lots of folks. I guess it’s better to happen than not to happen. I guess. But bands performing dated works has a sense of nostalgia to it that doesn’t give the charge it did when it was all first going on. This itself may be a fiction – appreciation for a band may grow after they’ve decided to call it quits, and maybe they just weren’t that good a live band when they came up with their classic material. Sleep, for example, was opening for Cathedral at the goddam Limelight (a Mid-town cocaine dance club for those who aren’t familiar) when they were touring Holy Mountain. Still, the thrill of hearing Al Cisneros roll through the opening lines “Dragonaut” just can’t be the same as when it was all happening the first time.

Which is funny for us here in NYC. Because that exact thrill of a totally amazing, mindblowing show happening in a cramped basement by sweaty bands surely at their peak will also be happening Monday night. As 1,000 joints of light are ignited uptown, those lucky enough to cram into the basement of the Lower East Side’s Cake Shop to see Young Widows and Helms Alee are going to be there as it’s all happening for the first time. Each band has put out an underappreciated classic records in the past few years, reports on the new stuff for both say they’re even better and they can each fully fucking bring it live.

Young Widows is a blistering three piece. I guess you could describe them as a rock band, the same way you can describe cheese grater as a kind of loofa. Maybe someone has a complaint with their twin fridge-amp/light show presentation, but not me. It all gives them the visual appearance and sonic presentation of the business end of a Peterbilt truck on a midnight Interstate. I haven’t heard the new shit they will be playing so I’ll hold off on raving about that, but if they’re still ending their set with the transcendently awesome “Swamped and Agitated” from their last record, we will all be leaving that room changed for the better.

But even as great as YW are, they may be upstaged by their opener: Helms Alee. I can’t think of any band playing that so easily moves from a fragile, shimmering moment to a monkey wrench skull-whallop so naturally. All of the songs on 2008’s “Night Terror” have at least one part that stops me in my tracks every time; in several cases it’s the whole damn song. They are both beautiful and devastating. And, given that this band has a limited following and doesn’t tour like crazy, this may be the only time we see them on the East Coast. If they do come back, it probably won’t be jammed into the firetrap of the Cake Shop. It would be foolish to miss them.

Maybe 15 years from now people will be flying to England to hear Young Widows play “Old Wounds” from start to finish, basking in their favorite parts in a big room mostly full of folks who paid a mint to be at that festival. But if you are around New York on Monday (or in Cleveland on Tuesday or Chicago on Wednesday), this is the show to see now. Although I would love, love, love to inhale in the drug-soaked glory of Sleep, I will be downtown, pressed up against a raging amp, watching these young bands fucking kill it like they might die tomorrow. And I hope to see you there next to me.

Young Widows, Helms Alee and Marching Teeth play the Cake Shop on Monday, Sept. 6. Doors are at 7PM. Get there early, it’s probably going to sell out.

-JF

Justin Foley plays guitar and sings for the Austerity Program.  Their record Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn is out now.  Visit them online at www.austerityprogram.com.  All messages about urban bike riding, vegetarian BBQ and monetary policy will be answered first.

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