Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Erica Smith & the 99 Cent Dreams at Banjo Jim’s, NYC 7/9/07

The blonde bombshell – sort of New York’s answer to Neko Case, a master of every retro style she’s ever touched – has really come into her own as a frontwoman and bandleader. Tonight Erica Smith owned this place, every square inch (it’s cozy), blazing through a largely upbeat set of mostly unreleased material. They opened with the beautifully evocative, windswept cityscape 31st Avenue (the opening track on her last album Friend or Foe), lead guitarist Dann Baker taking a gorgeous bent-note solo like the one in Blindspot by That Petrol Emotion (does anyone remember That Petrol Emotion? Dollars to donuts Baker does). They followed that with the unreleased Easy Now, a tasty upbeat Merseybeat melody set to a swinging country groove. The next song, a funk number propelled by a fast, growling bass hook stolen straight out of the Duck Dunn catalog, showed Smith at the peak of her powers as white soul sister, circa 1966 maybe. At the end, the band went into a wild noise jam as drummer Dave Campbell (who,with Baker, propels psychedelic rockers Love Camp 7) went looking for the second stone from the sun, but it was clearly Smith’s soaring soprano that left the crowd silent for several seconds after the song was over.

The next tune was also a new one, an impossibly catchy, bouncy 60s-style Britpop hit possibly titled Firefly, guitars and bass weaving and bobbing, alternating between punchy staccato and smooth legato lines. Smith and band like obscure covers, and tonight they mined the 80s LA new wave scene for Where and When by Blow This Nightclub (who were fronted by filmmaker Dan Sallitt), opening the song with pounding chords and a bassline nicked from the Cure’s Killing an Arab. Then they brought it down with a sultry bossa nova song, picked up the pace again with the scorching, unreleased Neil Young-inflected rocker Jesus’ Clown, kept it up with a practically heavy metal cover of Judy Henske’s Snowblind (with a strikingly quiet, artful solo from Campbell), took it back down with the obscure Livia Hoffman gem Valentine (completely redone as a smoldering torch song, something Smith does extraodinarily well) and closed with the old Sinatra standard One For My Baby. Not as good as the Iggy Pop version, but not bad either.

Cangelosi Cards (the Cangelosi Cards? a reference to the diminutive former Mets outfielder, maybe?) followed, an aptly chosen oldtimey quartet: vocals, guitar, harmonica and upright bass, playing blues and pop hits from the 20s and 30s. The musicians have the songs down cold and the petite, retro-garbed singer showed off a spectacular, girlish upper register that seems to owe a lot to Blossom Dearie. “It’s easy to like this band,” remarked one of the musicians who had just played, and he was right.

July 16, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Shadows and Angles: Edward Hopper Retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Fascinatingly, this exhibit concentrates on Hopper’s landscapes and city scenes from the 1920s, rather than the voyeuristic interiors for which he’s best known. Hopper was absolutely obsessed with shadow: in many of these works, the light is amplified just so that he can get a nice solid patch of black under the eaves or behind a fencepost. Subtleties of shading are not so much an issue here. But his eye for extremes of illumination was equally good: in one oil of a lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, the near side of the obelisk is rendered without detail, blinding in its reflection of the afternoon sun. 

 

There are some especially notable, lesser-known New York scenes as well, a view of the upper stories and rooves of the brick apartments on Broadway in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, just before the Marcy Avenue J train stop, as well as two fascinating views of Chinatown from the walkway of the Manhattan Bridge (East Broadway does not seem to have changed in eighty years).

 

Otherwise, it’s the Hopper we know and love: a scene’s focal point is never front and center, serving strictly as a backdrop for a desolate road, hillside or sand dune. Nobody communicates with anyone; everyone is absolutely and completely alone. And perhaps the most chilling painting of all is one of his final works, a death-obsessed depiction of an empty room, washes of yellow-ochre shadows set off by the sharpest of angles where the walls meet the floor and ceiling.

 

Finally, in the last section before the exit, there are all the greatest hits, including Hopper’s big enchilada, Nighthawks, the famous all-night diner scene (with the marquee advertising Phillies cigars fifty years before their signature Blunt would become synonymous with all-night revelry). There’s also the secretary in the tight dress, after hours with her inscrutable boss seated at his office desk; the usherette under the balcony in the theatre, oblivious to the movie she’s seen dozens of times; and Automat, with its young woman sitting dressed to the nines, all by herself, lost in thoughts that one would probably not want to imagine. 

 Open through August 19, 10 AM (early arrival recommended) to 3:30 PM, expensive ($23 general admission for adults plus $6 for the exhibit) but worth it if you can afford it.

July 16, 2007 Posted by | Art, Reviews | Leave a comment

NYC Live Music Calendar 7/16-23/07

Mon July 16 Rev. Vince Anderson plays Black Betty, across the street from the new Luna in Williamsburg, 10:30 PM. The Rev.’s weekly Monday bacchanal is the most consistently good non-narcotic thrill in NYC. Amazing piano player, wildass frontman, high priest of the church of sex with a great band behind him – Moist Paula from Moisturizer on baritone sax is the star attraction. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thurs July 19 brilliant, utterly unique guitarist Matt Munisteri plays Barbes, 10 PM. Raised on bluegrass, steeped in jazz, lightning-fast and armed with considerable wit.

 

 

 

Also Thurs July 19 Ellen Foley plays Lakeside, 10 PM. The noted actress and onetime Clash collaborator has recast herself as sort of the dotty grande dame of rock n roll. She’s never sounded better and she looks great, if you have an 80s fixation don’t miss this show.

 

 

 

Also Thurs July 19 Susquehanna Industrial Tool &Die plays Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Swinging, oldtimey acoustic country band featuring at least one of Amy Rigby’s brothers.

 

 

 

Fri July 20, not to be a rumormonger, but word on the street is that Bobby Bland will not be playing Prospect Park. Catherine Russell, with the big voice and gospel vibe will still be playing at 7:30 PM with Matt Munistri on guitar. Supposedly there is a “surprise” opening act, I can’t wait to find out who.

 

 

 

 

Also Fri July 20, 10 PM Secretary – which is Moisturizer frontwoman Paula Henderson’s fascinating, soundtrack-ish beautifully lyrical instrumental side project plays at the Silo at the Yard, 400 Carroll Street, Brooklyn (between Bond & Nevins on the Gowanus Canal), F train to 4th Ave.

 

 

 

Also Fri July 20 Rev. Vince Anderson – see our reviews page for his latest amazing show – plays two sets starting at 10 PM at 55 Bar on Christopher St., a nice detour from Trendoidville if you’re up for a jaunt to the West Village.

Just so you know, Gogol Bordello, 7/20-21 at Irving Plaza is sold out.

 

Sat July 21 there’s an interesting outdoor acoustic show in the community garden on Ave. B and East 6th St. Maya Caballero – author of the absolutely bone-chilling, strangely titled Bisbee – plays around 8 PM. Also on the bill, among others: noir accordionist Marni Rice, who has a Piaf fixation and is always worth seeing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also Sat July 21 the Las Rubias Roundup with Bob Hoffnar on pedal steel plays Barbes at 10, early arrival a must. This is Las Rubias playing country chanteuse standards – in the original English, their native language. Sweet harmonies and a real feel for the music are guaranteed.

 

 

Also Sat July 21 Zane Campbell plays Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Ola Belle Reed’s nephew, if memory serves right: a wild, hair-raising performer who basically invented alt-country in NYC by himself in the late 80s and hasn’t lost an iota of energy.

 

 

 

Sun July 22, 7 PM sharp Matt Munisteri’s killer accordion/guitar jazz group Brock Mumford will be playing a sunset concert on the Hudson River at pier one at 70th St., if we’re lucky they’ll do two sets. Both the bandleader and accordionist Will Holshouser are amazing soloists and Munisteri’s clever, cerebral songwriting is the perfect vehicle for them.

 

 

Mon July 23 the quietly hooky, effectively captivating female-fronted indie rock trio Girl Friday

play the Magnetic Field in Brooklyn Heights, 8 PM, free. Check our reviews page for a look at the excellent show they played to close their residency at Lakeside last month.

 

 

 

Also Mon July 23 once and future Beat Rodeo frontman George Usher plays Lakeside, 10 PM. His most recent solo effort is reputedly one of the great powerpop efforts of recent years; his old band did some mighty fine stuff in that vein back in the 80s.  

July 16, 2007 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City | Leave a comment