Lolita Bras / Wilderness / The Internet
Pianos; New York, NY

I'm not going to lie. I did not
know who Lolita Bras was when I bought tickets to this show. I went solely to
see Wilderness, a band that has crept up my spine and rendered me paralyzed
for weeks with their self-titled album on repeat. I was shocked that a band
that was on so many top 25 lists for 2005 was playing a tiny venue like
Pianos.

I arrived at Pianos to a fairly empty yet enthusiastic back room. I utilized
my promotional Lolita Bras Lemon Drop shot tickets and, due to an unsuspecting
bartender, quickly took the tickets back and slid them in my pocket for later
reuse. The Internet was on stage playing the last few songs of their short
set. A duo consisting of Nat Rabb and Michaelann Zimmerman: they sound a bit
like The Rapture with less punk, more house, and more humor. The crowd seemed
responsive to their pseudo-homegrown industrial dance music complete with Nat
Rabb's jagged guitar and Richard Hell-esque computer warble. I can't say my
foot wasn't tapping, although I'd like to.

After a short break between sets I turned around to realize that the place was
packed and electric with anticipation. Wilderness took the stage and started
in a seemingly unorganized and droning manner. A few things became immediately
apparent:

1. It was fucking loud. I was standing right in the front in the direct target
line of the overhead PA and felt like my ears were going to bleed.
2. This band was not from New York, nor did they give a shit about New York,
which was immediately endearing.
3. Guitarist Colin McCann was convulsing like a Mexican jumping bean at a
Black Dice concert, all while finger picking and smiling broadly. When was the
last time you saw that?

They launched into their sinuous sound while frontman James Johnson matched
the waves with rave/robot-like arm curling. Johnson is an interesting and
ultimately intimidating character, a peaceful yet aggressively messianic
leader. If I were to attempt to pin him down in some way I would call him a
drill sergeant preacher reminiscent of John Lydon circa P.I.L. mixed with a
bit of Henry Rollins, David Byrne, and Anthony Kiedis. Absolutely captivating
on stage.

I sensed that some of the Lolita Bras crowd was put off by Johnson's powerful
groan, but on many occasions, as I glanced about the small venue, it became
clear that Wilderness put a smile on many patrons' faces. I'm sure every
reader would agree that it always enhances a concert when the band members
seem to be enjoying what they are doing. I can safely say that Wilderness
wants nothing more than to play music and apparently get off to themselves
regularly in front of the crowd.

After Wilderness's brilliant set and an ample set break, Lolita Bras took to
the stage. Despite my immediate skepticism, I stayed and listened to a couple
songs only to confirm my predisposition. All dolled up on stage like every
other next "it" band, their music lacked any inventiveness: simple songwriting
with little or no luster to catch an eye. One might compare their sound to
Interpol's first record with insulting nods to My Bloody Valentine and U2.
They do have some clever hooks but forget that in order to make a good song
great you must push some envelopes around. Not awful, but not anything
special.

Wilderness, unlike Lolita Bras, is a band that pushes things forward, a
perfect example of a group that synthesizes a number of notable influences
into something completely new and brilliant. Incorporation without
regurgitation. They more than confirmed that they are the real deal, and I
can't wait to see where they go next. 

Photo: Justin Lin

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