The National Premiere New Songs and a New Movie at Tribeca Film Fest

Last night, Mistaken for Strangers, a film that's sort of about the National and their tour for High Violet, but really turns into something else, debuted at the opening night of Tribeca Film Festival. It's a funny year for the band -- in June they'll headline Barclays Center, and tonight they hobnobbed with Robert DeNiro, who came onstage before their documentary. In some ways their ascent has been an inevitable process, a slow-burning rise from empty Mercury Lounge shows to this, but it's still sort of mind-boggling. Apparently DeNiro was a bit mind-boggled as well, since he said about seven words total before ceding control of the room to Jane Rosenthal, the festival's co-founder.

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Star-ry Eyed Alexz Johnson Cuts Through the Bull and Regains Her Independence

Courtesy of Jessica Earnshaw
Alexz Johnson really loves Brooklyn. It shows on her face with the way she lights up whenever her neck of the woods is mentioned. The 26-year-old singer-songwriter/actress relocated to the borough with one goal for herself as an artist: total scene immersion. It's a pretty good goal when you have to rebuild your career from scratch.

Alexz Johnson performs tonight, 2/28, at Highline Ballroom with Charlene Kaye, Jay Stolar, and Misty Boyce.

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Live: Kelly Clarkson Shows Those Whippersnapper Idol Finalists How It's Done

Bryan Horowitz

Kelly Clarkson
Highline Ballroom
Wednesday, May 25

Better than: Watching the American Idol finale in real time.

I'll be honest: There was something pretty delicious about spending last night, during which a super-frustrating American Idol season came to an end by crowning a bland Southern teenager with a freakishly deep voice its champion, watching a high-energy show by Kelly Clarkson, the Texan who won the show's first season. It wasn't just because of the symbolic middle finger I was giving to this crap run of the show and its lackluster judging and stubbornly undeveloped contestants, though. Clarkson is one of my favorite performers, someone who looks like she's always having a ton of fun onstage while being able to belt out songs about her bad boyfriends and worse luck in love.

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Giveaway: Two Tickets To See White Lies At Highline Ballroom

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White Lies are a gloomy British alt-rock band in the time-honored stylishly dour Interpol/Killers vein, the toast of NME and surrounding critical environs; they just put out their second album, Ritual, and are playing a sold-out show at Highline Ballroom Thursday night with Asobi Seksu. We are giving away a pair of tickets. Right now. The first person to email me at gets them. Here is Ritual's title track, if ye need further motivation -- good luck.

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Lil B To Last Night's Sold-Out Crowd At the Highline Ballroom: "I Adopted A Cat!"

One thousand based gods at last night's Highline Ballroom. Twitpic via Debby LONDON
"I'm the first rapper ever to write a book in email and text message form," Lil B says from a Highline Ballroom stage, surveying the sold-out room. "At 19! And they had the nerve to call me stupid." Lil B is not stupid. And though he is not the first rapper to write a book, he may well be the first to do it in email and text message form, whatever that is. B has a way with firsts: first concert t-shirt with hashtag on it ("#SWAG"). First rapper to express embarrassment onstage about the chest hair he's just begun growing. First artist I've ever seen to vow to get Botox when he gets older ("I'mma get that plastic surgery, I'mma have tour bus full of young girls!"). First guy to rub up and down on his washboard abs while holding the microphone against them so the audience can hear the sound. (OK, maybe he's not the first to do that one.) And of course: "I'm the first rapper to make an ambient album! Ya'll in the club, listening to ambient music!"

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So Willow Smith Is Coming to the Highline Ballroom Next Week

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Despite all sorts of curmudgeonly laws about transporting 10-year-olds across state lines, we are happy to report that the one and only Willow Smith will be in town next Saturday, performing at the Highline Ballroom as part of Power 105.1's Power Live Holiday Party. This and the fact that she's not a grown-up explains why the show is taking place at 3 p.m. in the afternoon (full lunch menu available), and why you can only win tickets through Power 105.1. However we have some pretty informed guesses about her setlist:

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Download Built To Spill's Highline Ballroom Set Last Week, Including A Grateful Dead Cover (?)

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Hearing the crowd's complex mixture of excitement, bewilderment, and trepidation when Built to Spill frontman Doug Martsch announces "This is a Grateful Dead song" is a wonderful thing, but longtime fans of the spectacularly bearded, voluminously noodle-y indie-guitar giants will hardly be surprised to hear them tackle the Dead's "Ripple" -- it seems to fit right into the rest of their sprawling set at Highline Ballroom last Wednesday.

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Download Escort's Not-Exactly-Retro-Disco Single "Cocaine Blues"

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So NYC disco non-revivalists Escort -- recall their Muppet-assisted clip for 2007's "All Through the Night" -- have returned with their own tense, swaggering version of "Cocaine Blues," putting their own spin on the long-mutating track by "making the groove harder, adding more hooks, fleshing out the production with horns and strings, and putting an aggressive vocal that gives the song immediacy," as member Eugene Cho explained to Nick Sylvester this week at, explaining both what's retro about their sound and what isn't. (No "bombs" in their set, for one thing.) The 12-inch is coming soon, but the free radio edit will certainly tide you over in the meantime:

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Brandon Flowers Sang "Bette Davis Eyes" (And, OK, A Lot Of His New Solo Songs) At Highline Ballroom

Brandon Flowers
Highline Ballroom
Thursday, August 26

But seriously, "Bette Davis Eyes"! Is that not a perfect fit for this guy? Blatantly nostalgic, a little serious, a little corny, a little, uh, smokey? You like it just a little more than you're willing to publicly admit? A perfect cover tune can make up for anything, y'know. Even that vest.

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Live: Janelle Monáe, Cheerfully Confounding At Highline Ballroom

Janelle Monáe
Highline Ballroom
Thursday, April 8

Bad Sign #1: We are greeted in the Highline Ballroom atrium by a cardboard cutout of Janelle, sci-fi r&b heroine extraordinaire, holding a sign informing us that we must listen to The Archandroid (that's her upcoming album) from beginning to end to appreciate it fully, and thus we won't be allowed in if we show up after the "emotion picture" (as she prefers to refer to it) has begun. Like, some Broadway-type shit. I am curious to see if they actually bar paying customers at the door if they're late, but I'd rather not risk becoming one myself.

Bad Sign #2: "Emotion picture."

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