XXXX. “An Evening with Math and Physics Club”
PIANOS occupies a smallish storefront on Ludlow street, just a block or so below Houston in New York City. Turn right at Katz’s deli, and it’s just about the first decent place you’ll pass on your left.
I arrived here early for the Math and Physics Club show. Been trading emails with the lead singer for a few days now and am supposed to be on the list, but wanted to get here early to buy the band a round of beers. Seeing Seattle bands after defecting to New York from the Northwest two years ago always makes me happy. Ask anyone in New York that grew up out there—the city’s great, lots of bodegas and cool bars and we get movies earlier than the rest of the country. But as far as the quality of people and the quality of air and landscape, nowhere’s got nuthin’ on Seattle (or Portland, Olympia, Bellingham, etc).
After a hungover morning spent reading the paper and slurping down a pot of coffee and listening to NPR I’ve decided just to get started with the drinking. I’ve got a notebook, and sit now at the bar drinking a Harp and sketching the way a girl in the mirror holds her glass. It looks like shit, I tell myself it’s sort of like DeKooning.
I order another beer and look around again. I’ve been here for about an hour and no sign of the band. I check the bill and see Citizens Here and Abroad are set to play a couple hours after MAPC. Think about staying.
The band’s coming in and I recognize Charles the lead singer and Saundrah the violinist right off the bat. Then Kevin the drummer comes in and sits next to me. The guy from Central Services. It’s right when I’m about to introduce myself when the bartender hands me my turkey burger. I eat a pickle and turn to say hey to Kevin.
We all greet each other, Saundrah and I recollect some show at the Crocodile when I ran into her and Imaginary Dana. Trying to remember if it was Long Winters we were seeing then. Talk about records, talk about turkey burgers, whether or not anyone is going to Harvey Danger show later that night over at the Mercury Lounge. Someone brings up a Damien Jurado show somewhere in Brooklyn. We eat, chat, then the band takes the stage.
Hadn’t seen MAPC before and I take a bunch of pictures that don’t turn out so hot. A couple work okay, but for the most part the live space always looks brighter on the viewfinder or lighter because of the flash then it really is. Then I start shooting black and white and that turns out pretty cool. Like most Seattle bands that come to New York and aren’t bands like Pearl Jam or Death Cab, most of the people in the audience are either in the other bands playing tonight or friends of those bands. There’s some twee dancing going on and overall people enjoy the vibe MAPC offers. I hate to drop the BS allusion in writing about this band, Belle and Sebastian I mean, but it’s just a compliment. A lot of musicians, especially the bands I used to run sound for in college, try to pull off this simple pop-song sound, but hardly anyone has a good way of doing this. Math and Physics Club do a damned good job, though, and by the second or third song I’m really enjoying the hell out of songs off the two EP’s they put out last year. “When We Get Famous” gives way to “White and Grey,” probably my favorite song by the group.
The lighting-slash-sound guy seems to be feeling the group as well. The gels in the spotlights go red like a dark room and I take a few more snap shots.
The band’s playing “La-la-Lisa.” It’s on the new full-length, the one I don’t have. Pretty awesome song—Charlie’s singing about girl musicians. “There’s just something ’bout a girl with a bass guitar,” he says. I think everybody knows that’s true. Who didn’t have a crush on Carrie and Corin from Sleater-Kinney, even if they did play regular guitar most of the time? And they sang, too, which is even hotter.
As the show goes on I finish my beer and decide against another one. It’s going to be a long night. Thinking about going over to Harvey Danger after this—haven’t seen them before somehow. And the new record’s pretty kickass. So that’s cool.
I’m starting to think about what to do next and that makes me feel kind of bad. I guess it’s knowing I’m going to be on the train at 3 am tonight and that’s never a good thing. But then (and I know this part of the anecdote is going to sound trite and lame, but hey, what isn’t?) MAPC busted into a song I wouldn’t know the name of till later: “Last Dance.” Charlie starts a out a great little ditty-riff on his acoustic guitar like a lost 50’s pop song or something, and we all start shifting foot-to-foot in the audience. Charlie’s singing:
“Last dance / I’ve been saving you the last dance / hoping you’d give me one more chance / to make you fall for me.”
I look around, and being alone I feel okay lifting my arms up over my head and doing the kind of little dance hefty people like me really shouldn’t do in public. But that’s the atmosphere of an MAPC show, even in New York. It’s still all just kids kind of drunk and wearing plaid and thinking about what they’re going to read on the ride home.