Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Chickfactor 20th Anniversary Show Fills Maxwell's with "Love of Pop" (Photos)

The Chickfactor 20th anniversary tour pulled into Maxwell's last night, with four different acts filling the Hoboken club with bouncy tunes and oodles of hooks that exemplified the zine's motto, "For the love of pop."

(Note: the Chickfactor party moves to Bell House in Brooklyn starting tonight, April 10th, and continuing on the 11th and 12th. See the Chickfactor article about the shows for info on tickets and availability; although the shows may be sold out, individuals may be looking to sell tickets here and there.)

First up at Maxwell's last night was Musical Chairs, which began in the late 1980s as a one-man project of Ian Schlein, then became a band. The band last performed a decade ago and Schlein has since been working on a project called The Aspersions (he recently started a Facebook page for Musical Chairs/Aspersions news).

He admitted to being nervous at the idea of performing some of the songs for the first time in years (a common sentiment among the night's acts), and after a couple of missteps did a 35-minute set of pop tunes on solo electric guitar to start off the evening. For fans of Musical Chairs, he mentioned that a compilation featuring that group and The Aspersions would be forthcoming.

Musical Chairs (Ian Schlein).

Following Musical Chairs was Rose Melberg. While she also performed solo (also playing only electric guitar), she earned acclaim and much love from the indie-pop community as a member of such bands as The Softies, Tiger Trap, Go Sailor, and Brave Irene. Listening to her catchy tunes and heartfelt lyrics, it's easy to see why these bands became such favorites. Though I'm not familiar with all of these groups, it seems Melberg played tunes from most if not all of them, as well as a couple of covers.

One of the latter was a gorgeous version of "They Don't Know," the Kirsty MacColl tune that became a moderate U.S. hit for Tracey Ullman. Melberg dedicated the tune to Gail O'Hara, one of Chickfactor's co-founders.

Rose Melberg.

 As enjoyable as the first two acts were, good, catchy indie-pop is best served by a full band (to me ears, at least). So the night kicked into high gear with the North Carolina band Fan Modine, fronted by Gordon Zacharias. They rocked their way through a 40-minute set of songs including "Through the Valley" and Meet Me at the End of the Line," both from their latest album, "Gratitude for the Shipper."

Fan Modine.

The reunited Black Tambourine was the headline act of the night, and their set displayed the songs, musicianship, and fun that has made these gigs so anticipated. How much work went into bringing Black Tambourine together? As singer (and Chickfactor co-founder) Pam Berry said, she hates flying and lives "on a different continent" (in London, from what I've read), so that in itself was a big hurdle to overcome. She mentioned that a Kickstarter campaign had raised funds to make the financial aspect of the trip possible.

Black Tambourine, back at Maxwell's.
Besides Berry, the band features Slumberland Records head honcho Mike Schulman and Brian Nelson and Archie Moore, both of whom played in Velocity Girl. Although they collectively have tons of experience in these and other bands, Black Tambourine hadn't played together since 1991 before this past weekend's shows in Arlington, Virginia.

Despite that, they rattled off a 50-minute set beginning with "For Ex-Lovers Only," and they displayed plenty of energy and fine playing (see a photo of the setlist below). You certainly wouldn't have guessed that they hadn't played together for more than 20 years.

In addition to their own songs such as "Throw Aggi Off the Bridge," "We Can't Be Friends," "Can't Explain," and "Black Car," Black Tambourine also played covers including "Heartbeat" and the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend." And Rose Melberg joined Berry in singing the last couple of songs, adding even more love of pop to the end of an evening of great, catchy tunes from the good old 1990s (and beyond).

If you're in the Brooklyn area and can find tickets (check here), by all means go. There will also be some vintage issues of Chickfactor on sale (including some no longer available at the zine's online store), each of which is packed with articles and news to take you back to the good old '90s. Seeing photos of the various musicians in their much-younger days is pretty much worth the price all by itself.

Pam Berry and Rose Melberg.

Black Tambourine setlist.

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