In spite of the fact that I had a 9 a.m. exam the next day and was behind on all of my thesis work, I headed down to Bowery Electric to see the Yawpers play one of the best live shows I’ve seen in a long time. I’ve been a fan since I reviewed their album a few months back—as soon as I sent in the review, I started to look up live show dates. I instantaneously sensed that their latest record, American Man, would sound great live, and I was proven right! Not only did I get to see them perform at an “intimate” venue, I got to interview two members of the three piece- lead singer/guitarist Nate Cook and drummer Noah Shomberg- before the gig, so it was pretty much a fan’s dream… but I tried my best to keep it cool.
My friend and I met up with Cook and Shomberg at the infamously cheap and delicious Two Bros pizza on St. Marks before the gig. Both of them were laid back and sweet, which made me feel all the more comfortable and excited, nerdy as I was, with my notebook of strategically arranged questions. We started out chatting about their ongoing tour, from their favorite gigs (Long Beach, CA) to their least favorite crowds (Cleveland and Pittsburg), to the rising rock scene in Denver, the band’s current home base. When asked about playing in New York? “It’s just another city,” Cook shrugged. Shomberg, however, is originally from Long Island, so he was expecting family and friends to show up to the show. Hipster crowds who are just too cool to dance drive me insane, so I asked the boys if they’d noticed it—do people have fun at concerts any more? We agreed it’s just the “hipster” thing to do now, and they told me that it’s happening all over the place, not just in New York. From my experience at Bowery though, this gang might be an exception to the rule, and they seem to be getting a great response at their live shows from coast to coast.
The band makes a hell of a lot of noise with two guitars, and I didn’t realize that they were acoustic when I heard the album, so I had to ask them about their reasoning for using acoustic guitars to make electric sounds. Cook called it an organic thing. He and guitarist Jesse Parmet just played acoustic guitars together, and then when they met Shomberg they added his drums. But though acoustic guitars were organic, making an album that could sound great live was intentional. When I asked how the guys don’t want their album classified, Cook responded with lightning speed: “Folk!” “Authentic,” they agreed, would be an ideal compliment. The interview was fun, perhaps most memorably when we wandered off on strange tangents, from attractive dictators to the guys’ hatred of Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters. They are genuine, nice guys… that just happen to also be ridiculously talented.
Even with hopes as high as mine, the live show was even better than I anticipated, and I was thrilled that I got to hear most of my favorite songs from the album. They kicked off with the album’s opener, “Doing It Right,” which was a great way to start the show, setting the stage for what was to come. They followed up with “9 to 5,” which is about, Cook sneers, “sucking the corporate c***.” They performed “Tied” and “Kiss It,” which are two of my favorites, and sound even better live than recorded, because their energy on stage is positively electric. They not only look like they enjoy what they do, you can tell that they truly like to play with each other. Towards the end of the set, they riled up the crowd with a heavy, unexpected cover of the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer,” and you’ll find no complaints here. They killed it! “3 a.m.” was one of the last songs they performed, and though it wasn’t one that jumped out as a highlight on the record, I have a new appreciation for it after the boys delivered in their live rendition. The entire show was amazing, from the song choices to their stage presence: Cook infusing the set with just the right amount of vulgar banter, Shomberg attacking the drums and Parmet expertly incorporating the guitar slide. These guys play gritty rock ’n’ roll like they mean it, and the product is magical. Can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
– Claudia Arnoldo