Anglophile in New York #7: But the kids do like rock and roll

Anglophile in New YorkWhy are Public Access TV compared to the Strokes in EVERY ARTICLE written? Perhaps it’s just lazy journalism on the part of music critics because the differences between the two bands are fairly stark. All of the Strokes have had a well-heeled Manhattan upbringing; the members all met each other at the Dwight School, Lycée Français de New York, and Le Rosey in Switzerland. The success of the Strokes may or may not directly correlate with their pedigrees, but you cannot deny that it’s a factor.

Meanwhile, the boys in Public Access have worked really hard to settle in Manhattan. None of the members were raised anywhere near NYC. John and Max are from Tennessee; Pete Star is from Ohio; their manager, Benny, originates from Missouri; and Xan is from outer space. (He’s a bit of a mystery, that one.)

While Julian Casablancas has made vocal distortion through practice amps the definitive, signature sound of the Strokes, little of that is heard in Public Access TV’s music. The vocals in their debut album, Never Enough, have a raw, face-value sound; the song “Summertime” has a hint of vocal reverb throughout the whole song, but it’s nowhere to the degree of any song heard on Is This It. Hints of the Beach Boys and the Ramones more evident in their sound rather than the early noughties style garage rock.

Throughout my life, I came across both bands purely by accident. I discovered the Strokes through a friend that dragged me to one of their early gigs at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ when I was a tween. I found Public Access TV (the band) while I was searching for other public access television stations in New York City through Google. I laughed hard for while when I saw that there was a band called Public Access TV from NYC. On first listen to “Monaco”, I knew I stumbled onto something really good.

That year, I just got my public access television production “diploma” at MNN and thought it would funny to see if the band wanted to do an interview at MNN, on real public access television. They agreed and the band and I filmed a few things together at MNN over the years that have been aired on MNN; however, that archived footage will sit in a vault, never to be seen again per mutual agreement, mainly because I look nothing like Alexa Chung on TV (I’m working on it at ModelFit).

The Britanys sound more like the Strokes than Public Access TV does.
The Britanys sound more like the Strokes than Public Access TV does.

The other day, I went to see Public Access TV at their sold-out headlining gig at Bowery Ballroom. I got there super early to take advantage of happy hour and to squat a balcony table for a perfect aerial view. The first band on was the Britanys, a band from Brooklyn THAT REALLY SOUNDS LIKE THE STROKES, right down to the vocal distortion. I was pretty amazed to how close their sound was to them; it threw me off a bit. I immediately wondered if they ever worked with the famed Gordon Raphael – producer of Is This It – and quickly found out he produced one of their songs. Quickly, it all made sense. They all had the look of the Strokes; all of the members looked like pure eye candy. I wouldn’t be surprised if the lead singer was a model too, like Matt Hitt of the Drowners. Honestly, I’d have to see them live again and listen to them a bit more to process my own opinions on them.

In between sets, there was a rapping DJ, Promise Land, running around the venue entertaining us all. Sometimes he was in the balcony, on the venue floor, sitting on the shoulders of an audience member, or running up and down the stairs. He was full of energy and I loved him.

Splashh were up next. Ironically, I am usually more up-to-date with British indie, but I was only vaguely familiar with them. They have a low-key, shoe-gazey sound that I could swivel my head to. As I was watching them, I was looking up Splashh on Deezer, listed them on my favorites, and made a note to listen to Comfort this weekend. The Internet also told me they’re originally from Australia. They kept me entertained for a good 40 minutes as I awaited for Public Access TV.

DJ Promise Land jumped out again, and came to my balcony side. I want to see that guy live on his own. GOD!

At 11-ish Public Access TV took the stage. This hometown show was the final stop of their East Coast headlining tour. I just let my mind go and sing along. I’ve never seen so many people in one place for Public Access TV, especially after a Nor’Easter. They performed most of the songs from Never Enough, and “Monaco”. The lyrics of “End of an Era” are ironic; at Bowery Ballroom, the kids do like rock and roll. Sometimes you’re just lost in the zone and loving the moment of a concert. They were on for a good 45 minutes and the only thing missing from their set was “Metropolis”. Perhaps after Nor’Easter Niko, and it being 25F outside, singing lyrics “I don’t wanna live in California” would be too funny.

After the show, I headed over to Cafe Henrie on Forsyeth Street for the after-party. I saw all the guys and Benny again. Ironically, Cafe Henrie is usually a place for brunch and light fare; It’s not frequently used as a venue for alcohol and parties. Perhaps it’s doubling down like China Chalet; It was just a different environment there that night. The room filled up quickly with people and secondary cigarette smoke. I was there just long enough to meet a man named Niko with a fabulous fur coat before I left, which seemed fitting after Nor’Easter Niko dumped eight inches of snow in Manhattan. [JL]

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