Words & Images by: Rich Clarke

The Secret Machines :: 05.19.07 :: Highline Ballroom :: New York, NY

The Secret Machines :: 05.19 :: NYC
The inaugural edition of The High Line Festival, curated by iconic musician/artist David Bowie, closed out two weeks of events scattered around various New York City venues with The Secret Machines entering a new era at the brand new Highline Ballroom. Other than a warm-up show the band played at the lower eastside club, The Annex, this was the first Machines performance since guitarist Benjamin Curtis left the band to devote full-time attention to his new band School of Seven Bells. The show answered many questions and probably created some new ones as well. Now centered around the remaining two-thirds of the band, Brandon Curtis (bass, keys, vocals) and Josh Garza (drums), TSM performed a show that was, as promised, devoted mostly to the new music they've been working on since the change.

Josh Garza - TSM
05.19 :: NYC
The crowd slowly grew during interesting sets by Dragons of Zynth and The Bellmer Dolls. When the re-focused duo emerged with two guest musicians they eased into a haunting version of Gillian Welch's "Everything is Free," sung with deep, haunting emotion by Curtis.

The big bang came next with the first new song and the first dose of thunderous drums by Garza, who sat behind a re-arranged set-up that appeared to be a combination of two full kits. Floor toms sat next to the snare with the bass drum out to the side. The rig seemed optimized for big bombs. There was no confirmed setlist and Brandon Curtis would only discuss the new songs after the show. Perhaps in an effort to avoid permanence, track names are not yet carved in stone, and Curtis told me no setlist was written and the band simply memorized the sequence. Although a bit difficult to determine with no real names, the first new song appeared to be "Like I Can" and it was greeted with a huge ovation. The light show had the same intensity as the intimate "In the Round" tour and paired nicely with the explosive performance.

The Secret Machines :: 05.19 :: NYC
There's still plenty of chemistry between Garza and Curtis, and grins could be seen as their gazes locked. The energy level was extreme. The two guests were casually introduced as Phil and Fredrick, but a little digging yielded their full names - Phillip E. Karnats on guitar and Frederic Blasco (One Ring Zero, State Prison Surprise) on keys and guitar. The two sounded excellent with TSM, and the new songs contained plenty of the signature Machines sound. The set led to an homage to the Festival's curator with an excellent version of David Bowie's "Up the Hill Backwards." Rumor has it the legend was grinning ear-to-ear in the closed off VIP section in the upstairs gallery.

The Secret Machines :: 05.19 :: NYC
After the Bowie cover, the band played a new track going by the name "Now You're Gone," which had their familiar big feedback attack and pummeling drum intro that gave way to powerful lyrics and vocals. Heavy metal chords and a big rock beat that shook the hall were featured before a tender new song called "Daylight" led into "Lightning Blue Eyes" off the band's last album, Ten Silver Drops, sending the audience into a jubilant frenzy. Of course, the material the band created before Benjamin Curtis left sounded different, however, the earlier material, which included "Sad and Lonely" and "Nowhere Again", from the band's first LP, Now Here Is Nowhere, still had plenty of intensity and seemed to thrill the crowd.

A mixture of powerfully performed songs, exciting new material and an intense light show brought a big show feel to a smallish, incredibly fine music venue. It would appear that there is plenty of creativity, chemistry and talent to propel The Secret Machines for as long as they choose to go. The show left me looking forward to the next TSM performance and based on the new songs debuted at the High Line Festival, the third Machines album will satiate fans new and old.

05.19.07 :: SETLIST
Everything is Free (Gillian Welch), Like I Can, Dreaming of Dreaming, The Fire is Waiting Up the Hill Backwards (David Bowie), Now Your Gone, Last Believer Drop Dead, Atomic Heels Daylight, Lightning Blue Eyes
Encore: Sad & Lonely, Nowhere Again

Check out JamBase's exclusive interview with The Secret Machines focused on the departure of Ben Curtis...

Watch Backstage with JamBase:
The Secret Machines in San Francisco

JamBase | NYC
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[Published on: 5/25/07]

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lovelivedos Fri 5/25/2007 06:44PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


any tapes? would love to check out the new sound. love the sound of tsm

djseraphim starstarstarstarstar Tue 5/29/2007 11:40AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Would love to have been there!

Tan starstarstarstarstar Wed 5/30/2007 01:21PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


This band makes active blood.

Fred T. Fri 6/1/2007 02:00PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Fred T.

tanner, you're a freak. just remember to pack 10 silver drops for harmony.