Garage revivalists the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Liars brought two different flavors of New York punk to Detroit’s Magic Stick last Thursday night, as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs dropped their brand of raw, yet hip-n-sexy rock, and Liars threw down some trashy dance-punk.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have risen to the top of New York’s punk underground by means of word of mouth rather than the hype machine that’s responsible for all the plural-noun bands. With only a self-produced EP in their catalog, the YYYs have been touring relentlessly, with Thursday marking their first stop in D-Town.
Firing off punk gems at a frenzied pace, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs powered through a 45-minute set. Lead singer Karen O, her voice ranging from sweet and innocent chirps to throaty screams, prowled the stage like a female Mick Jagger, while guitarist Nick Zinner, looking not unlike Dylan circa Highway 61, and drummer Brian Chase laid down fat and driving riffs that both countered O’s vocals and made up for the YYYs’ lack of a bass player.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ set, which featured an assortment of tunes from their lone EP and some yet-to-be-released material, was highlighted by Karen O’s giddy energy and Nick Zinner’s aggressive garage guitar. O’s intense, piercing vocals shined on the sex tirade “Bang,” backed by Zinner’s thumping riff. Other standouts included the hypnotic electronic-loop-based “Rich,” and “Art Star,” which featured O’s alternating primal screams and cutesy doot-doot-doots.
O’s antics kept the mood blithe, as she elephant-walked onstage and poured out a beer for her homies.
Saving the best for last, the YYYs closed their set with the NYC ode “Our Time,” which cops the pretty li’l melody from Tommy James’ “Crimson and Clover.”
After the audience had a bit of a breather, Liars took the stage and shook the already-unstable Magic Stick floor with some filthy, grinding dance-punk. Liars’ heavy drum-n-bass grooves and Aaron Hemphill’s raspy guitar kept the crowd moving throughout their set.
Brooklyn-based Liars formed in late 2000, and following the release of their first record, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, the band toured Europe with Sonic Youth.
Lead singer Angus Andrew was one of the night’s more entertaining items. Looking like the anti-Stroke, Andrew was dressed in a delightfully white-trash getup that included a yellow mesh hat and Sonny Crockett-style white sport coat – Detroiters Kid Rock and Andrew W.K. would be proud. Angus ruled the stage as he violently danced with every bit of his six-foot-six-inch frame and screamed oddball lyrics.
But the wackiness wasn’t confined to Andrew, as bassist Pat Nature flailed about with synthbox in hand and guitarist Aaron Hemphill spent equal amounts of time shaking his ass at the audience and gyrating on the floor.
Even though they have the talent to hit it big, let’s hope the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Liars never do. With wonderful sounds and styles just this side of garage-rock bedlam, they just wouldn’t seem right outside beer-soaked venues like the Magic Stick.