Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: LJ Murphy, Ninth House and Others at Galapagos, Brooklyn NY 7/5-7/07

The probability of two good things happening at Galapagos in the span of a week is about as high as Bono retracting his support for the privatization of third world nations’ water supplies and police forces in exchange for debt forgiveness. But this week it happened (the shows, not Bono coming to his senses and telling the Jeffrey Sachs crowd to fuck off). While both performances were excellent, the lesser-attended of the two was the greater success.

Thursday night LJ Murphy did a rare solo show in the club’s front room, hot on the heels of his scorching performance at the Knitting Factory last month, and it was no surprise to see him come out swinging. The sound was good and LOUD, just the way it ought to be at rock shows. Like Stephane Wrembel, Murphy knows that the guitar is a percussion instrument: how he manages to avoid breaking strings all the time is a mystery. He wailed through an all-too-short set of his more upbeat material, including a furious version of the Weimar blues Mad Within Reason (the title track to his latest album) and a commanding take of the careening Blue Silence (which was anything but silent tonight). But nobody – nobody – was listening. Maybe it was because the evening was billed as an old-school English variety show: you know, music, random entertainers and of course strippers. And of course, at these events, it’s obvious what the crowd comes out for. Now people should be able to see strippers whenever they want, but does every venue in town have to turn into a strip club? Isn’t this Brave New World all over again? And the funniest thing is how they try to make it all gentrified and upscale and call it “burlesque.” I defy you to identify any substantial difference between the Bada Bing Club just off Exit 11 of the Jersey Turnpike, and Le Choque du Monde at Chez Madame in the East Village.

In his excellent book The Making of American Audiences, Richard Butsch chronicled the shifting tides of communal meeting places. In the early 1800s, in urban areas, the public hangout of choice was the music hall, where crowds of drunks would holler at each other over the orchestra (in that sense, Galapagos got their history right Thursday night). Fifty years later, it was the vaudeville hall. And let’s not forget the “bowling ground” that B.B. King immortalized in Three O’Clock Blues. While it’s hardly obligatory for an audience to pay attention to whatever’s put in front of them, you’d think that somebody – SOMEBODY – would have been interested in what Murphy was doing up onstage. The guy fucking wailed. Toward the end of the set, he launched into a swinging, upbeat new one, then abruptly changed his mind, worked his way down the scale and segued into a punked-out take of his song Parking Lot Ball. “Taught you how to genuflect, taught you how to bow!” he roared, and not a soul in the crowd got it. The excellent ska band Tri-State Conspiracy was scheduled to play after him, but the long delay between acts proved too much to wait through.

Then last night Ninth House headlined in the back room, playing the cd release show for their new one Realize and It’s Gone (see our review of the album), and while it was a good night it wasn’t in the same league as Murphy’s absolutely riveting set. Yet it was a considerable success. The Whores opened, just guitar and drums, playing a bunch of generic mid-80s hardcore. Then they invited Ninth House’s new keyboardist up onstage to play bass, and finished the second half of the set with some decently melodic punk rock. The highlight was a halfspeed cover of We’re Desperate by X, where the guitarist and the female drummer traded off on the John Doe/Exene parts and to their credit it was actually better than the original.

The quartet Abraham Van were next. All that needs to be said about them is that they really want a major label deal but they aren’t goodlooking enough to get it. Forget about the music: the corporations these days have no interest in that. Or whether the band wants to be Matchbox 20 or the Goo Goo Dolls (hard to tell), or whether or not the rhythm section can keep time (they can’t).

Ninth House finally took the stage around 1 AM, after an hourlong delay while the evening’s projectionist struggled to get his gear working. This could have been a real long night for them, since their old keyboardist Zach has now switched to guitar, and this was his first show wielding an axe (a beautiful Epiphone ES355 copy). There were moments where they stumbled like a wounded beast, but this beast was always dangerous, from the opening crash of the new single Long Stray Whim through the blistering cover of Ghost Riders in the Sky that the audience begged for, that closed the show. It was heartwarming to see a good crowd turn out, enthusiastic about real rock music at a place that’s pretty much Trendoid Central (if you really have to know, there was a stripper, but she wasn’t the evening’s main attraction). Ninth House frontman/bassist Mark Sinnis is moving toward a pretty traditional, Nashville gothic sound these days, but tonight’s show proved that this band is still viable if he wants to keep it going. They’re also playing Hank’s Saloon on July 14 at 10.

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July 8, 2007 - Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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