Ever since the show first aired in 2009, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon has ruled the music department of late night television. Not only has Fallon regularly had a constant stream of great acts grace his stage (it could be considered a cream of the crop of Pitchfork.com indie elite), but he is also fortunate enough to have hip hop's greatest band, The Roots, be his in-house band. As if this is not enough, The Roots also regularly play with the guest musical acts!
Yet, since returning to the airwaves Jan. 2, the Late Show with David Letterman has been giving Fallon's show a run for their money. This week has seen Letterman host a who's-who of hipster darlings. Tuesday's show started the year off with a bang! Guided By Voices (Robert Pollard reunited with the classic mid-90's GBV line-up) performed 'The Unsinkable Fats Domino', the lead single off their new album 'Let's Go Eat The Factory' (released Jan.1, 2012 n their label, GBV inc.). While known for their chain-smoking, beer-guzzling and always raucous shows, Pollard and co. did not disappoint their fans by taming down their act. There might not have been any beer, and they did abide by New York's no smoking laws, but the band did give a enthusiastic performance, culminating in bassist Greg Demo falling flat on his ass in a spirited display of rock n roll acrobatics.
The following night, Jan. 3, WU LYF (which stands for World Unite! Lucifer Youth Foundation) a new band from Manchester, and my personal favorite new band of 2011, made their Late Show debut with 'Heavy Pop' from the album 'Go Tell Fire To The Mountain' (self-released, 2011). And 'Heavy Pop' it was! With their combination of beautiful, reverb-washed guitars, heavy drums that mix military-march beats with good ol' fashion pop sensibility and indistinguishably-barked vocals, this band is geared to set the world on fire! They were the epitome of indie-chic, barely acknowledging Letterman's (surprisingly) enthusiastic post-song greetings, and then walking off stage before the show was able to cut to a commercial break.
On Jan. 4, Montreal's own Barr Brothers made their first appearance on American television. Andy and Brad Barr (along with Sarah Page and Andres Vial) have spent the year getting lots of attention for their self-titled debut record (released on Secret City Records, 2011). They have played with many of Montreal's biggest names and also had a headlining spot on the Trees Stage during Montreal's Osheaga Festival. They played the lead single off their album, 'Beggar in the Morning'. This is just another nod to Montreal's ever-burgeoning music scene, highlighting the city's love for dark indie-folk.
So what will 2012 hold for late night television music? In a day and age when music videos are no longer the staple of the MTVs and MuchMusics of the world, late night television is one of the last ways for new bands to get exposure to the "larger buying market" of North America. People in the know search Vimeo and YouTube for their favorite bands' videos, and for those who still pride themselves on knowing the up-and-comers of indie fame, i.e. those who only like bands before the late night tv audience knows their names, there will always be the Pitchforks (that is, until everyone else knows about the site).
And please don't get me wrong, in no way has Jimmy Fallon waned in his choice of musical guests (this week features Sharon Von Etten and Wild Flag). But it looks like Letterman gets that it might be the music that has helped Jimmy Fallon (and The Roots) garner so much attention so quickly. So I say, "Kudos to you, Dave!". Kudos for trying to stay current with the hip kids of today! The more great music that goes out to the masses the better! Music should not be about status ... all you kids with ironic mustaches and Buddy Holly glasses must accept that you own no music, that music is universal and one of the great unifiers left. So, it's about time Dave starts flexing his indie muscles (he has been a New York institution much longer than the trust-fund children of Brooklyn!).
My only suggestion to Dave... see if LCD Soundsystem will reform and become your house band (sorry, Paul Shaffer!).
Here's the links to watch the performances:
Guided By Voices (via the Audio Perv):
WU LYF (via Pitchfork.com):
Barr Brothers (via YouTube):
Justin James Ford