September 12, 2014
Baby’s All Right / 9-11-14
Matthew Mondanile was in rare form, playing a rare solo gig at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn. Yeah, I used rare twice in a sentence. What of it? While trotting out all new songs he stopped short multiple times, cursing under his breath and chastising his guitar tuner claiming to not “trust it.” The first three or four songs were abandoned early in and restarted, some more than once, when they apparently didn’t fit his vision of paradise. Or, maybe that’s par for the course for the Real Estate guitarist. Yeah, I’d put my money on this behavior being the norm and I for one condone that shit. I like it when it’s weird. I remember the scene he caused last year while debuting songs from his last record, The Flower Lane, at (Le) Poisson Rouge, meticulously gauging the levels of the kick drum and keyboard with a very tolerant sound guy for a full 10 minutes. “Up, more, more. No! Down, down a little more. A little more. There!” The man knows what he wants.
The show started with a band from Australia called The Stevens. My friend asked me, “What’s with these guys and reptiles?” as two of the band members were wearing shirts featuring a turtle and a frog, respectively. “They’re from Australia,” I said back to him as he shook his head, understanding completely. The Stevens proceeded to summon the spirit of the band Pavement for the next 40 minutes. At one point I could just about make out the opaque outline of Stephen Malkmus’ ghost singing back-up and wearing lots of layers as he’s wont to do. Despite looking like they had dressed themselves exclusively from a 1994 JC Penny’s catalog, they made the room move. While not blazing any new trails, they do write a pretty great song or ten. After the show I saw the bass player under the Williamsburg bridge smoking Parliament lights and cupping a Polynesian broad in a tight black dress. Fucking Australians…
Next up was a fluorescent green guitar. “Hi,” the guitar said, “I’m called Limited.” The room stood silent as it began making high pitched sounds and swaying around to canned beats emitting from a MacBook Pro that the guitar had queued up previous to plugging itself in. I looked around to observe peoples’ reactions to such a spectacle and it appeared as if they were 50/50. “Nothing’s shocking anymore,” I thought. I learned that the guitar had been featured on the aforementioned last Ducktails album and had also been in the live incarnation of the band but even that fact wasn’t doing it for me, not these days. Plus, it looked like a Jackson model and I’m more of a Gibson man. Thankfully the set was only 20 minutes long. After the show I saw the guitar skulking around outside the neighboring Peter Luger’s restaurant until an irate busboy loudly told it that the kitchen was closed. The guitar then yelled a racial slur and ran haphazardly through traffic, down Broadway towards the JMZ train entrance.
Matt Mondanile walked on stage, plugged in, and took a man-sized swig from a bottle of Miller High Life. I was surprised at the lack of fine tuning when it came to his guitar/vocal volume before he jumped into his first number. I didn’t recognize the number but it reminded me of something that would have been on the 2011 album, Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics. Moving on. He started fumbling with what appeared to be a beautifully kept MacBook Air and suddenly the beat that came thumping out of the speakers reminded me of that song “Killing The Vibe,” so much so that I let out an internal “Yeah, dude!” I nodded my head in anticipation of one of my favorite songs but as soon as he strummed his guitar he had a crisis of conscious or something and stopped the thing cold. Someone behind us mumbled “You son of a bitch,” which may or may not have been directed stageward but it was a fitting outburst. Shaking his head, Mondanile explained that “It’s just not right,” and went into a frenzied tuning spree. Nervous laughter erupted. This same scene was repeated twice more until Mattyboy finally hit his proverbial stride and let his proverbial collar loosen and just went with the flow, or lack thereof. “I’m playing all new songs,” he explained towards the end of the show. Yeah, no shit, man. “I hope that’s like, okay but… Whatever,” he said before poking his laptop once more and eliciting “Letter of Intent’s” familiar opening beat. When it was over he ripped the cord from the headphones jack and said “Thank you. That’s it. I’m all done. No encore,” and waved goodbye.
Fair fucking enough.
He’s a conflicting bastard, this Mondonile character. The same guy who came up on stage and immediately pulled down the projection screen because he thought that the famous lit up ashtray wall behind the stage was “too much” proceeded to play a bunch of unknown songs to a full house of people most likely there because of the last album he released. There were some good songs in there, you could tell even at first listen, but you know how that goes. I don’t give a shit what anybody says. We want to hear “Ivy Covered House.”
My girlfriend left at one point and returned to the venue with some Oreos and that made the night incapable of being underwhelming – but seriously, he should have at least played “Planet Phrom.” Maybe next time.
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