Lucid Culture


Concert Review: 17 Pygmies at PA’s Lounge, Somerville, MA 5/25/07

Following Randi Russo and her band is never easy, but long-running California act 17 Pygmies proved more than worthy of the task. The band setup for the current tour includes three guitarists, including Jackson Del Rey (ex-Savage Republic) on Strat as well as a 12-string acoustic player and their frontwoman switching back and forth between acoustic guitar and accordion. If it’s possible for a sometimes quirky, often transcendentally beautiful art-rock band to slay, 17 Pygmies slayed.

They opened with a couple of tunes set to a pummeling surf beat, the second with a ridiculously long title (edited version: Sammy Hagar Saves Los Angeles from Godzilla). It didn’t sound anything like the Hag or Godzilla – in fact, it was a dead ringer for Misirlou up until the chorus – but it was the perfect opportunity for Del Rey to show off his devious wit. Then they got serious.

The rest of the set was mostly new material from their new album 13 Blackbirds (their first release since the 80s), as well as some unreleased songs. 17 Pygmies alternated lush, ornately arranged art-rock anthems with quieter, introspective, pastoral fare featuring a lot of fingerpicked classical guitar. With the clang and chime of the 12-string carrying the melody and Del Rey’s nimble, sometimes minimalist leads and fills hovering and circling around, they brought to mind other great, artsy jangle bands like the Church, the Byrds, Fairport Convention or the late, great Wirebirds. Mixing major and minor chords, verses that built slowly to towering refrains and then subsided again, the band held the small but attentive audience spellbound. If the live show is any indication, the new album must be amazing. This is a band you should get to know.

They ended their hourlong set with a psychedelic Kinks cover and then a suitably volcanic, seven-minute take on the Neil Young classic Cortez the Killer which Del Rey attacked with appropriate frenzy when it came time to solo, chopping at the fretboard with a fury that would make Old Neil proud, using his effects pedal to get a watery, chorus effect that effectively set this version apart from the millions of others.

May 27, 2007 - Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. there’s some footage of this at right now – great writeup!

    Comment by Jon | May 31, 2007 | Reply

  2. Kudos for the “devious wit” description …my sense of humor is usually described as “twisted,” “deranged,” or “curiously delusional.” Huzzah.

    PS: I think it fair to say Almovacy and Randi also delivered stellar sets. A splendid time was had by all. Let’s do it again sometime. Say this Friday?

    Comment by Jackson | June 2, 2007 | Reply

  3. Next Friday maybe?
    Check the reviews section: there are two other reviews of Randi Russo shows so I thought it best to focus on how good your show was…

    Comment by delarue | June 2, 2007 | Reply

  4. […] PYGMIES At PA’s Lounge 5/25/07… 13 Blackbirds […]

    Pingback by Index « Lucid Culture | January 19, 2008 | Reply

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