Each week, Lizzy Goodman guides you through the dirty streets of rock and roll.
The lull of late summer followed by the whirlwind ramp up to fall that is September has left me feeling winded. In the last month I’ve been paddle-boarding in the Caribbean, chile-roasting in New Mexico, and hiking with yogis in the woods of Pennsylvania. This week, as I dropped off thirty pounds of laundry and went through stacks of mail, I realized I was craving a good old-fashioned New York City rock show to help me reacclimate to city life. Enter Caveman, a charming and buzzy local five piece who make delicate, swoony indie rock.
This is why I love New York: it’s a city where high concept ideas like the so-called 5 At 5 series — in which a band plays five acoustic songs in the lobby of the ACE Hotel precisely at 5 pm — actually work. I showed up just in time to see the hotel staff politely ask the assembled wacky artists, web-designers, and square academic types that use the ACE as their office to put away their laptops. Five o’clock is a weird hour — post-coffee, pre-cocktail, where people’s blood streams are still caffeine jacked in prep for another hour or two of work, but their minds are ready to go home. That’s where the rock swoops in. For the first couple songs it was a bit awkward. “I just came here to meet a friend,” exclaimed a harried looking guy in a suit and Vans. “But I don’t see her and some weird band is playing.” But soon Caveman’s signature sweet, harmony-laden lilting started to chill people out. Boys put their arms around girls and swayed, hotel guests, arms laden with shopping bags, paused before going up to their rooms to watch and listen, and suddenly the bar was busy, as cocktails were ordered and beers were opened. By the time the band played their last song, the positively beguiling new track “Where’s the Time” it was a rapt crowd.
Post show, singer Matthew Iwanusa and bassist Jeff Berrall and I claimed some out-of-the-way leather couches and had a chat about what it’s like to write on the road (hard but you do it) the band’s plans for this year’s CMJ (party harder, play fewer shows) and what to do in the Atlanta airport when you’re delayed (get a massage, they’re the best!). The guys seemed so convivial it was a little unnerving. I’m used to arrogant, driven, secretly-uptight NYC rock boys who’ve had all the joy banged out of them by the ruthless competition the city’s rock scene cultivates. That’s not the vibe, lately, Iwanusa told me. “We go out to shows like every night just because it’s fun to see other bands,” he explained. “People are a lot more supportive than they used to be.” These days, being a New York City musician, Barrall explained, is a perk-filled, community-supported life. “Musicians work in bars and cafes, so if you’re a musician in the city, you can probably get a cup of coffee or a couple of drinks for free,” he explained. “And that’s how you live. There really is a community.”
As I walked out into the fading fall light, I noticed the writing on the giant doormat at the hotel’s entryway: “You are here,” it said, in lovely cursive writing. Totally, I thought. And there is nowhere else I’d rather be.
Watch Caveman’s Yours Truly session below: