Cafe Wha? is a Modern Day Joke, AmeriGoGo is Anything But
“I hope you brought your raincoats,” said frontman Nate Windsor as the band took their places on stage, “because this is a baptism.” With that tip off, AmeriGoGo surfaced from non-existence onto the New York music scene with their debut live performance at the Village’s Cafe Wha?, that “legendary” venue where “the price of fries outta include sexual favors” and the drink minimum might be allayed with a Coca-Cola that costs 4 fucking dollars!. But I digress.
The set began with spacey guitar flourishes, suggesting an ambient quality that boasted sprawling organ pushes and cymbal crescendos. While it was pretty, I thought I might have been lured into another indie-psychedelic-dungeon whose bulwarks were built with incomprehensible walls of sound. Fortunately, (it might even have been a clever ploy) these textures were soon juxtaposed over exceptionally-happenin’ grooves, supplied in large part by bass player Sean Surdovel - who must be a student of Colin Greenwood (big thumbs-up) - and extroverted, high-energy vocals. This funkyfied left-turn anticipated the driving “Brooklyn Girl,” (before which the band got shouts from girls all over the country - New Jersey, Nebraska, New Hampshire, etc.) - a tune that features a crude, walking bass-line, Talking Heads-like guitar riffing, injections of synth, and an “oohtz-aahtz” club beat that rocks your dome like the titular character’s “swaying hips” might.
By the third or fourth number, I wore a wide smile; I was truly entertained by AmeriGoGo. These guys were not only comfortable on stage, they were happy and non-brooding (sigh of relief). Windsor in particular was a joy to behold. With his head nearly bumping the ceiling, the lanky vocalist boogied about stage in salmon pants and shone with charisma in and out of song. He was thrilled by his audience, thrilled by their ability to inspire momentum and presence in the band and its music. His vocal breadth was impressive but restrained (complemented by harmonies from synth-canoodler Matt Robbins), and his stage presence was accessible while also pleasantly bizarre.
But now, now, I’m not that easy to impress. As is sometimes unavoidable, there are technical and cooperative obstacles in any live performance. Every so often during the set, the rhythm section sort of lost its balance, causing slight rifts among melody and beat or within a tricky transition. I was part mystified, part annoyed. Finally I identified the root problem, and root it was: the dunces at Cafe Wha? either had a busted mic or had forgotten to mic the bass drum altogether! A goddamn travesty if you ask me, especially when you’re listening to fast-tempo power-pop dance music wherein an anchored, almost inflexible rhythm and beat is essential. While it wasn’t the band’s fault, I wish they would have recognized the absent heartbeat and asked the lousy sound guy to wake up (I woulda asked him myself but I was too busy repelling the overbearing wait staff whose job it is to empty your pockets).
Nevertheless, this band is naturally ambitious; they seem okay with the artistic/performative difficulties that high standards will always present. While it will take time to integrate their individual capabilities into a cohesive whole, AmeriGoGo is not afraid to make creative attempts beyond their relatively young age as a group. Moreover, it shows that they possess an intuition as to where their music is headed - some amalgamation, I’d say, of The Killer’s confessional synth-pop, the disco-danceability of KC and the Sunshine Band, and the white-R&B sensibility of Fleetwood Mac. At any rate, I was fascinated by the variety of genres in which they looked and sounded comfortable, even on a stage with compromised equipment.
I left the show with confidence in this new face on the block (not to mention a revived disdain for the crumbling, pseudo-landmark, tourist-trap that is Cafe Wha?). While AmeriGoGo now has the challenge of matching their initial step into the spotlight, they delivered a fearless indication that they’re willing to take this undertaking seriously. Be sure to keep these guys on your radar.