It is rare that I can attend a musical event that features more than one legendary performance. Last weekend, it was a nostalgic Friday night when I headed on over to Rough Trade as part of the CMJ Music Marathon 2015. Rough Trade had a bunch of great musicians playing in the space that evening, two in particular stood out in my mind, Chicago’s own Modern Vices and Yoko and the Oh No’s. Both groups are special in their own way and, to me, the epitome of music that needs to be heard today. Allow me to show you.
After taking it easy that day, I was excited to wander over to Brooklyn. Fall had finally arrived and the flannel was worn with pride! Feeling comfortable, I arrived off Bedford Ave. and walked to Rough Trade, a venue I have always wanted to visit. The place is one of a kind and located right near the East River surrounded by strange factories. It is the perfect locale for musicians and music fans. Upon entering the venue, the space opens immediately into the largest record store I have been to. Records old and new were sprawled all over the place. There was even a mini balcony in the back that displayed books, art and clothing for sale! Rough Trade is another barn of music for the music soul child in all of us.
As I made my way to the concert hall, picking up my ticket and getting a red stamp on the wrist, a sparse crowd welcomed me with intermittent chatter. Grabbing an Oktoberfest beer, I started chatting with Thomas Peters of Modern Vices who introduced me to his parents. It took him a moment but he finally remembered that we had met almost exactly a year ago for a Skype interview with the rest of the crew. You can find that article here. To be transparent, Modern Vices were one of the early interviews I completed for Punchland and they set the tone and style that I would later follow with my future interviews to date, so I tip my hat to them for that. After a brief conversation, Alex Rebek, lead singer for the group who peaked sheepishly past the backstage, called Thomas onstage to get ready.
In an instant, the Chicago boys came onstage in matching fur coats and some light makeup on their faces. They wasted no time and immediately began performing their stuff. Alex had his wild hair a flowing filled with thumping power early on in their set. Each member of the group was in his concentrated flow that made their sound crisp and raunchily delicious. These guys sound so much better live and offer a more vibrant flair onstage. Miles’ bass was pumping loudly and sent a thrill through the show floor. Modern Vices were like a battery slowly charging the energy up in the place as more people walked in curious to hear the awesome ever-vibrating sounds. I love the groove they create. It is so danceable in a way most dance music is not. Dancers can get down and dirty with their music in an empty factory or by some fishing docks for all I care. Modern Vices create a perfect river of jiving rhythm all the way through. They fit their genre well. Once the loud beat got them going, they all began twisting and flailing about without hesitation. All of the fellas kept gazing left and right rocking in a total free zone. Alex had no shirt underneath his fur coat and was satisfied making the mic his own tool of musical power. Passion was unveiled as he sung all the way through. Another part of Modern Vices that I love that was apparent in this live show was the intense drumming that was a sublime pairing with their one of a kind guitar riffs. They were having fun and their music played excellent tribute to the feeling. Modern Vices were the grinding gears of musical ecstasy that night. Nobody came close to their work.
Along with their attire, there were plenty of glittery guitars to be enjoyed. It was hard rock meets the urban indie world. Thus, it was a perfect mesh of sounds for that crowd. As the wild animals of the field came towards their crescendo, I noticed how Modern Vices had excellent transition between songs. Towards the end of their set, there were already had dancers on the show floor. Many were bouncing their heads to the beat. Thomas’s guitar strap fell off at one point but he kept at it with professional ease. Modern Vices ended and waved out to the crowd before rushing to gather their gear for another show later that night. They were high tailing it out of there like the rock stars they are.
After watching two more bands perform in what soon became a heated venue full of new bodies, Yoko and the Oh No’s finally were set to come on. I actually have been a fan of their work for a while now. Lead singer and fashion icon Max Goldstein’s family have been extremely close friends of mine since I was a kid. So this event was a mini reunion that was well received. I caught Max right after Modern Vices’ set and we immediately caught up on all the years that had past. Max is an energetic and passionate man with a smile always plastered on his face. His persona is even more enhanced onstage. After he introduced me to his fellow band mates, Max Loebman and Joey Lucente. He departed to get ready for the magic to come. Drummer Stef Roti showed up out of nowhere later on and set up the drums with ease. With Janis Joplin swag, she made her way to her drum throne. After a short while, Max L., Joey and Stef were all set as Max G. came on stage in his full glory.
To get the gist of what fashion Yoko and team have, look at their main man. Max G. is the embodiment of his own style and is a gentleman who is obviously comfortable in his own skin. He wore a colorful silk looking robe and had a half striped t-shirt underneath. With his happy grin, his black hat, almost Amish looking, and stylish transparent golden specs, that had the crowd curiously looking on. His Hawaiian hipster look had everyone loud and ready for the musical pandemonium to come. Before they began Mr. Goldstein was already dancing to the radio playing throughout the space. He was pumped. Max L., Joey and Stef were all unbelievably relaxed compared to the music god that is Max G. After a moment, it all came alive with the band all dancing right into it. Max G. was in the zone, that none of us would ever be able to enter. We could only watch and enjoy.
He cradled the mic like it was his precious gem. They were flamboyant and wonderful. Joey had his hair loose and was grinning here and there to Max L. who shared singing duties. The best part of the show was when they were all smiling to one another. It was apparent they were enjoying themselves up there. As Max G. went to and fro between the guitar and bass, listeners loved the solos the shot on through. Max G. even hung from his band mates as he sang eventually skipping on the stage. After each song there were lots of fan applause. With a strong pulse of rock and an unusual aching with the music, Yoko and the Oh No’s were all well matched and showed an ideal collaboration. Max G. slowly stripped his clothing off, with only his pants and shirt still on towards the end. I loved the jazzy blues tracks that they played to slow things down. I was also impressed with the solid fan base of people singling along. That must be every musician’s goal to have people reciting their lyrics. Yoko has achieved that early on. Then again, most people cannot help but be fans due to Max G.’s demand of a powerful stage presence. The hard rock with synchronized dancing made it all worthwhile for us. Was he a rocker or a model? Who cares? It was wild and perfect.
These nights are what make the whole music scene in NYC and around CMJ so valuable. Both Modern Vices and Yoko and the Oh No’s give music listeners pure ear candy for the cool fall. As a fan and a friend, I remain optimistic that these two musical groups will soar to new heights. They have already paved a way for some great success to come. Go listen to Modern Vices here and be sure to buy Yoko and the Oh No’s self titled album here that will be available Oct. 30th! Become a fan with me and enjoy the madness.
Modern Vices photo credit: Cooper Fox
Yoko photo credit: Alexus McLane