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I saw Bonnie "Prince" Billy play at Warsaw (at the Polish National Home) a few months back and adhered to the old rule, if you don't have something nice to say don't say anything at all. Or is it don't shit where you eat. You see, though I loved the atmosphere of the Polish National Home—the ballroom/pierogi counter/bar setting is undeniably fun— I must confess that the sound was so bad at the venue I could hardly hear Mr. Oldham when he took to the stage. It was fuzzy, unmixed, and terribly distant-sounding. I ended up leaving the show before it was over in frustration. I figured I would wait and give the venue another chance at a later date. They were new at this and would surely get it together eventually.

I decided to try again last Tuesday and am happy to say that all problems are solved. The sound was great and the performance by The New Pornographers was among the best shows I've seen in quite some time. The triple bill of Matt Pond PA (we missed them completely), The Frames (Irish cheese-rock), and The New Pornographers (I'm getting to them) managed to pack the house with a crowd that was eager, bouncy, and clearly elated to see the newest hit indie band from Vancouver. Their debut record Mass Romantic was on almost everyone's best-of list last year.

I started off the night with a Hevelius. The Polish beer selection is a nice break from the usual Bud/Heineken/Guiness bottle selections found at most venues. Plus the bartender was a past-middle-aged sex kitten dressed in a tight velvet jump suit. I opted to skip the pierogis, though they looked yummy. I had already eaten.

Making my way back into the ballroom side of the club, I caught the tail end of the Frames' set. Maybe it was the violin player that tainted my experience (I always expect to hear "Carry On My Wayward Son" when I see a violinist in a rock setting) but they were utterly undynamic and boring. Their ballads sounded like the kind of crap you hear during a cutesy falling-in-love montage sequence in a bad teenage movie. Luckily, their set was brief. Very brief.

Surprisingly soon after The Frames left the stage, the New Pornographers appeared. They had me in stitches by playing the opening to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and then stopping abruptly mid riff. Lead singer Dan Bejar stated with a smirk "now that's a horrible way to start a show."

Much to the excitement of the bouncing crowd, the band opened with a favorite off the new record titled "The Slow Descent into Alcoholism." They sounded tight and played the number to perfection. Dan Bejar had a nerdy-turned-cute presence on the mike and had just the right chemistry with back-up vocalist Neko Case. She said at one point that she had the flu, but no one would have noticed. On the songs where she took the lead vocal, she sounded strong and confident.

Refreshingly the band wasn't afraid to engage in some banter with the crowd. Case stated how impressed she was with the Polish National Home and joked about feeling like she was at a high school dance. And about 40 minutes into the show Bejar even invited crowd members to come onto stage and dance.

Now this admittedly sounded like a horrible idea. I have been at enough shows spoiled by drunken fools trying to steal the spotlight for 5 minutes of fame, but the volunteers were well-behaved, funny, and added to the momentum of the show. By the end, the stage was filled with dancers that were as fun to watch as the band was to hear. A cover of "Cruel to Be Kind" as one of the encore numbers sent the audience through the roof and was another highlight to the amazingly fun hour and fifteen minute set.

Everyone left happy and smiling, exactly as they should have after hearing a great pop rock show.

Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
[email protected] | February 2002 | Issue 23
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