The All-For-Nots are not a real band, except when they are. Confused? Let me explain.
They’ve been constructed – a la NBC’s The Monkees or MTV-cum-Diddy’s O-Town by Kathleen Grace and Thom Woodley of Dinosaur Diorama Productions – for a soon-to-be released, self-titled web series that showcases the band’s and their documentary crew’s on-tour antics as they bounce from gig to gig across the Northeast.
The show is Grace and Woodley’s sophomore effort after their first online serial, The Burg (Tilzy.TV page), caught the eye of Michael Eisner, who liked its comedic, slacker-stylings so much that he teamed its creators up with his new media production company, Vuguru, for another project straight out of Hipster, Brooklyn.
The band is fake, but it’s comprised of real artists, with original songs, with fake names and personalities, who play real shows. Monday night was their first.
The thermometer read 32 degrees Fahrenheit but, according to weather.com, it “felt like 23.” It was cold for New York City. Still, when I arrived at the Mercury Lounge, the middle-aged woman at the door had collected cash from at least 75 others who said they were there to see The All-For-Nots. “Is that a good draw?” I asked, not having been to the venue before. “It’s near freezing and it’s a Monday night,” she said through a smile, “What do you think?” I felt dumb and snaked my way around girls in tights and dudes donning scarves and facial hair until I hit the stage.
I heard an impression of a stereotypical Jewish mother from some stand-up comedian who was testing material in between bands. She was either lucky or unfortunate enough to first menstruate at 16. Her act was bad. The All-For-Nots were good.
Its pseudonymed members – Johnny Hamilton, Farrah M, Caleb Casablanca, Paul Silverzweig, and Shirley Burke – collectively describe themselves as a “Synth-Pop Indie-Electro-Folk-Emo-Dance-Gazer-Punk-Americana-Pop Prog-Rock-Emo” band. Comedic hyperbole aside, and taking into account that I don’t know my Arcade Fire from my Brazilian Girls, I’d say they’re rock, with an inde-pop flare built on a strong synth foundation.
From their teeny-bopper soundtrack selection, “Party Girl” to their mash-up cover dubbed “Don’t You Want Me Bobby” (“Don’t You Want Me Baby ” + “My Prerogative ”), Hamilton’s guitar and vocals and Silverzweig’s keys kept the crowd in a constant state of head-nodding and occasional body-moving enjoyment. Farrah’s female voice was a nice touch, but her absence from most of the band’s MySpace page and promo pictures makes one wonder whether she was a late addition by a Vuguru producer who thought the presence of a leggy blonde love interest would do The All-For-Nots web series well.
It was a pleasant performance. There wasn’t anything mind blowing and nothing that’s going to make next year’s Pitchfork 100 (unless “12 22 12” falls into the ears of an eschatological reviewer), but the music was likable and, though faux and despite it being its first live gig, the band meshed well. Plus, Eisner dug it.
The ex-Disney CEO was at the show, standing in back, and a lot bigger than I expected at roughly 6’2”, 190 lbs with a build like he played football in college. I overheard him saying to someone something like, “When people know the concept of the show they don’t expect them to be this good, but they are. They’re really good!”
After the gig was up, I caught up with a few of the band members by the bar, who introduced themselves both by both their stage names and real names. When I asked one, “How’s it feel after your first show?” I got the response “I think they played pretty well.” I laughed and began to ponder when an artist’s act starts and stop. Then I saw Grace.
I told the band’s creator and muse that I was confused by the lack of cameras, “Shouldn’t you be getting this on film for the web show?” “Nah,” she said, “this is just for fun.”
She’s right. It was. And if the upcoming series is at least as fun as the concert, I’ll definitely tune in.