Terry Riley and Gyan Riley at Le Poisson Rouge
Tracy Silverman at The Stone

New York Rivals and Foxy Shazam at Bowery Ballroom

by Laura Wasson New York Rivals Bowery Ballroom 5:16

It was a hot, pre-summer night on Wednesday and as I wound my way down to Bowery Ballroom, I was struck by something completely unexpected: a line. Apparently I wasn’t the only person who thought to get there when doors were scheduled to open. Apparently, a whole mess of people wanted to be front row for Foxy Shazam. As soon as they let the crowd in, an ardent flock rushed to get as close to the stage as possible, bypassing empty bar and restrooms completely. I’ve seen this band a few times already, and I’ve never witnessed such a clear display of fandom. These boys are getting a very deserved following, and fast.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. New York Rivals were up first, and they commanded the stage quite well for such a young band (they’ve only been around since last Fall). You can’t buy or teach the innate swagger of lead singer Josh Moran, an angsty polo-wearing disciple of the school of Mick Jagger and Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist. The garage rock sound struck me as being quite similar to The Strokes, Queens of the Stone Age and even a less punk-inflected version of The Hives, great comparisons all and deserved considering all of the Rivals are quite good musicians.

Erik Rudic’s accomplished wailing, Nash Breen’s boisterous drumming and Gianni Scalise’s low and dirty bass combine perfectly with Moran’s vocals which toe the howling/singing line nicely. The boys blazed through a set including songs off their latest self titled album including “I’m Not Ready Yet” and “Black and Blue”. Now, to say that the crowd was here for one band and one band only would be an understatement; however, the Rivals succeeded in winning them over. The fact that so many people stood, bopping their heads and clapping when they could have been milling about is a testament to this band’s strength and natural draw.

Foxy Shazam Bowery Ballroom 5:16

When Foxy Shazam took to the stage the room was not only packed, but positively vibrating with excitement. Having seen them only a few weeks ago in Pittsburgh at Mr. Small’s Funhouse, I was interested to see how this performance would stack up (especially since the last was a bit lackluster). Well, I am happy to report the boys more than made up for it as they were all in very very rare form Wednesday night.

One thing lead singer Eric Nally is known for, aside from his impressive cigarette eating finale, is his weird, nonsensical jokes. Looking like a lost Ramones brother from Florida in a printed turquoise denim jacket and black skinny jeans, Nally opened the show with a “joke” about a laundromat before launching into “Welcome to the Church of Rock and Roll”. Throughout the evening he paused between songs to relay some strange anecdote in the sort of cock-eyed deadpan beloved by the Tim and Eric generation. It’s actually a smart move; it lets him rest his golden pipes while the other boys take a breather too. And they certainly deserved it.

While it seems inevitable that most bands have at least one or two laid back members, Foxy Shazam is filled with real showmen. This particular evening, keys maestro Sky White threatened to steal the show from Nally. Contorting himself and his keyboard into a seemingly endless array of positions, White ended up crowd surfing while playing at one point. But he never missed a beat. Before that, wild haired bassist Daisy balanced his bass in one hand for an inordinately long amount of time. When a completely legitimate mosh pit broke out, I couldn’t help but be annoyed. You probably won’t miss anything at a thrash or punk concert, but here you really could miss a great moment. In so many ways, Foxy Shazam is like the Cirque du Soleil of rock; clowns, acrobats, and all.

The set hasn't changed much since Pittsburgh; they worked their way through crowd pleasers like “Oh Lord” and “I Like It” ending the evening with sexy barn burners “The Only Way to My Heart” and “The Temple”. Each time I see this band I hear more people singing along, the crowd a diverse mix of the very young and old, all happy to worship at this rarefied church in a musical landscape that can so often seem hellish (and not in a good way). It was just announced this week that they’ll be the house band for Spike TV’s upcoming Guys Choice Awards, a coup for a hard working group that’s been around for the better part of a decade. Looks like I’ll be tuning in.