Though radio may not the most common way most New York music fans get their news anymore, with John Schaefer of WNYC, it has become one of the most reliable. Every day on his show “Soundcheck,” he features what he calls a “Gig Alert,” showcasing an artist performing in New York later that day. But for two days, he wanted those outstanding artists he showcases to play specifically for him, leading to his own mini-festival, Gigstock, at the intimate environs of the Greene Space.
While the first night of Gigstock featured The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and post-punk garage rockers Parquet Courts, the second night took a more mellow turn. Irish singer-songwriter James Vincent McMorrow quietly took the stage first, and he did so with quite an impact. Playing tracks from his newest release, Post Tropical, his voice, while very high in pitch, was somewhat soothing and soulful. His performance on songs like The Lakes was captivating, sending chills down spines throughout the room. He closed out his set with Look Out, and though it translated differently than it does when he played it with a full band, the emotions were still fully intact.
After some banter and blues with Jerron “Blindboy” Paxton about the Brooklyn Folk Festival, Conor Oberst took the stage performing a short set of songs from his upcoming album, Upside Down Mountain. While some of these songs have been played before, others, including opener Time Forgot, were showcased to fresh ears. That strum-heavy song features bright guitars and a toe-tapping beat, Double Life is a melancholy piece, with a slight country vibe to it, reminiscent of the greats like Emmy Lou Harris, making it as beautiful as it is somber.
Oberst also played songs that were a bit more familiar. Though not officially released yet, Night At Lake Unknown was debuted on Oberst’s last solo tour, and has since been polished up. The lyrics show him at his best, as he gently sings simple yet moving lines like, “I don’t need my concentration to know when I’m in pain/When I lost myself I lost you by extension/I don’t know who would stand to gain.” He also played the charmingly cheesy and sweet You Are Your Mother’s Child, which was released on the Stuck In Love soundtrack, and the Upside Down Mountain’s first single, Hundreds Of Ways.
The set wrapped up with Common Knowledge, which is also set to close Upside Down Mountain. The song, which tells the story of a failed friendship filled with backstabbing, is easily relatable and makes you feel for Oberst. We’ve all been there, and it shows that Oberst is no different. In a way, it humanizes him, making him less an untouchable emo godhead and more an average guy with feelings. However, not every average guy can write an album like Oberst can. If the songs he played at Gigstock are any indication, Upside Down Mountain is going to be a hell of a record.
Photos by Marie Scarsella and Janice Yi.