Album Cover

New York City is a town full of fixtures and fly-by-nights. For every Katz deli and Strand bookstore, there are countless forgotten eateries and that didn't make it. This holds especially true for bars and nightclubs in the city. You can go on vacation for a week and return to find your favorite bar gone, and replaced by a Starbucks.

For half a decade, at a three-story club near Union Square, an event called Shout! has been defying the odds, opening its doors to stylish hipsters every Sunday. Playing a mix of '60s and '70s Soul and Rock n' Roll, Shout! successfully recreates the feel of '60s mod all-nighters in England.

Mod revivalism is nothing new. It comes like clockwork every ten years of so. From the Northern Soul scene of the '70s to the mod-punks of the '80s, the period of the '60s that bred the Rolling Stones, the Who and the Beatles has always fascinated subsequent youth cultures. It's just that these revivals are usually short-lived and lacking in any kind of depth or imagination.
What really sets Shout! apart from similar, but less successful club nights, is its stylistic consistency and willingness to play tunes not normally listed in Northern Soul or Garage Top 100 lists. They always have the best flyers, the best DJ's, the best video projections and the best live music, assimilating their favorite elements of the '60s and '70s into a cohesive party that always adds up to a good time. Garage and soul never go out of style, the mainstream just tends to forget about it every so often.
The first time I went to Shout! was when I moved to New York City three years ago. Considering myself somewhat of an authority on '60s Soul and Garage, I went looking for a good time, but also expecting to be let down. Walking up the winding staircase, I heard the Doobie Brothers “Listen to the Music” blaring and immediately realized two things: how much I loved that fucking song, and how Shout! wasn't just your typical Mod night.

As a testament to its endurance and vitality, Shout! has compiled a CD of songs from bands that have played their beloved night. The result is a collection that sounds like music Shout! devotees would make. It's stylish, occasionally inspired music whose influences are easy to spot.

So let's be influence spotters. The Vue kick things off with some Stooges and MC5 mimicries. The Greenhornes follow the same leaders, but do it a little better, since they have something to talk about: “Good Times!” The Holmes drive off with some rambling, stoned Rockabilly, then the Witnesses take a detour as “Exiles On Main Street”. Mover seem to have a healthy Creedence fixation, while The Boggs wade deeper up the Mississippi, summoning the spirits of long lost ancestors once recorded by Harry Smith in the Appalachian foothills. They got the porch-front dobro licks down, and their vocals sound truly inbred.

On side two, the British influences kick in. Knoxville Girls play a nasty, white-boy blues romp that could have almost made the cut on an early Stones album. The Hiss plays pure post-shoegazer grunge with a swagger that would make Swervedriver dizzy. Calla gets the funk flowing, laying down some wicked post-punk beats. Elefant sound like a young U2, but all emotional pleas, no political rhetoric. Dead Meadow play proto-metal like the '80s never happened and Ozzy never had a show on MTV. The Warlocks are truly Spiritualized, while Black Rebel Motorcycle worship Jesus and his Mary Chain.

Many of these groups are now probably too big to play at Shout! The less successful groups are still hitting the club circuit, essentially becoming pub bands dressed in three-button suits. I'm sure they all remember their days playing Shout! fondly, and would gladly play there again, if only their agents and publicists would let them. But this is all speculation. “Shout! The Revolutionary Rave Up Alive (1997-2003)” is a surprisingly consistent compilation, and proves that maybe, just maybe, there's life left in the rock 'n roll dinosaur. All the more reason to keep attending Shout! in hopes of seeing tomorrow's garage bands today.

Patrick Billard
New York, New York