A deliriously good show. The all-instrumental trio – baritone sax, bass and drums – swung like crazy. This band doesn’t just “bang out a good time,” as one New York periodical sarcastically put it a couple of years ago: they flat-out groove. Tonight virtuoso baritone sax player Moist Paula, inimitably imaginative bassist Moist Gina and the newest addition to the band, drummer Moist Yoshio laid down the sexiest groove heard anywhere in New York. It was clear that everybody in the band was especially amped for this show.
Moisturizer proved without a doubt that they are the funnest and maybe even – gasp – the best live band in New York. Moist Paula jokingly told the crowd before launching into the catchy, bouncy Cash Incentive that “that’s why we’re here tonight.” But afterward she admitted that she was just kidding. Cash is great, but these two girls and a guy are clearly in it for the love of it just as much as for the moola. The songs that Moist Paula and Moist Gina write are meticulously composed, effortlessly memorable and danceable as hell; it was incongruous to see the tables here full of people just sitting there. People usually get up and move around at Moisturizer shows. If there’s one criticism of this band, it’s that Moist Paula doesn’t always announce the songs’ sly, Satie-esque titles, and tonight she remedied that, making sure to let the crowd know whether they were about to play the gleefully busy Dimestore Aphrodisiac, the big audience hit Actually I’m So Busy, the haunting tango Girl in the Goldfish Bowl and a dynamite new funk number – perhaps titled Restaurant Delivery? – pulsing along on an absolutely luscious, Larry Graham-inflected Moist Gina bassline. They closed the set with guest trombonist David Smith invited up to join the band on a sexy, bluesy reworking of one of their usually more percussive numbers.
Moist Paula has jazz chops, but tonight was a reminder that she’s all about the melody, first and foremost. Moist Gina is a hard hitter, a melodic powerhouse herself, but she’s also become a master of textures, adjusting her effects pedals between every song to change her tone from boomy to watery to springy and back again. For some reason, her amp was producing a ton of interesting overtones in the big, cavernous space, resulting in some high octaves bouncing around the room, almost as if there was a vibraphone in the band. Moist Yoshio has impeccable timing and swings with the best of them, one of the reasons why this band has been able to take it to the next level in recent months.
Moisturizer’s songs are catchy, but they’re deceptively complex. Verses and choruses don’t repeat often: the melodies often seem to have a narrative, and as Moist Paula was quick to let everyone know, all their songs are true stories. Frequently the melody would switch between the sax and the bass, back and forth; other times the two instruments played off each other. The effect of all those low frequencies was as hypnotic and soothing as it should have been dance-inducing (although this venue doesn’t exactly seem like the place for that). The songs embody elements of jazz, funk, surf music, 60s go-go instrumentals, punk rock and even hip-hop. But ultimately Moisturizer plays something completely unique. Call it moist music.
Moisturizer also happens to have perhaps the most diverse fan base of any New York band, bringing an impressively polyglot following out tonight that seemed to embrace just about every ethnicity and age group in town. They were scheduled to do another set accompanied by a heavy metal guitarist from the 80s – this band seems like they’ll try anything once – but we had places to go and things to do.
This just in:
“LONDON (AFP) – Demolition experts blew up Saturday the giant cooling towers of the world’s first commercial nuclear power station, 51 years after it was opened in northwest England.
The first two of the four 88-metre (288-foot) high cooling towers atwere demolished at 9 a.m. (0800 GMT), sending a cloud of dust over the Irish Sea before hundreds of onlookers.
Four minutes later the final pair of cooling towers crumbled to the ground in a series of controlled explosions.
The demolition of the towers is the first phase in the decommissioning of the 167,000 square metre site made up of 62 buildings…”
Note that nowhere in this article do the words “what brain-dead moron came up with this idea” appear.
Concert Review from the Archives: Revlover, Noxes Pond, Florence Dore, Patricia Vonne and Paul Foglino at the C-Note, NYC 9/28/01
The sky looking particularly ominous, I caught a cab up from my company’s satellite office at Union Square to a friend’s gallery for her very first curated opening. She did about seven grand worth of business, not bad considering what she was selling: the artist was sort of Edward Hopper lite, familiar outdoor and storefront NYC scenes including the H&H Bagel sign. Shadows falling everywhere: the guy’s in love with shadow, and when he isn’t doing shadows he’s doing the reverse with lights tracing a path in the dark. Then caught a cab down to the club where a wretched acoustic grungeboy tortured us for the better part of 40 minutes. Fake moveable chords, lame vocals and awful fashion sense. As Luke Haines said, junk shop clothes will get you nowhere, and this guy is living proof, playing to just about nobody at 7 PM at a little Lower East Side club that rightfully shouldn’t even be a club at all. It looked like he was trying to pester the promoter for another gig afterward and the promoter was having none of it. Hopefully he won’t be back.
Revlover were next. They didn’t have Ed Sargent on guitar like they did last time: it was just the three of them doing an exceptionally tight, catchy mix of indie janglerock and somewhat crunchier, tuneful, Guided by Voices-inflected material. They did the always amusing faux Irish ballad Emily, their song about a hermaphrodite, along with the very memorable On Ordinary Days (the title track to their album), sung by their excellent, melodic bass player. He also sang their closing number, a fiery, riff-driven, minor-key garage number called Men in Plastic featuring a fast, searing blues guitar solo at the end. Particularly appropriate, considering what’s going on downtown (body bags – as it turns out the bassist’s office was at 1 Liberty Plaza. He escaped into the Path station).
In the case of the recently regrouped Noxes Pond, word on the street is to be believed: their new lead singer is amazing. Sarah Mucho, all five feet one and maybe a hundred pounds of her, belts like a 300 pound black blueswoman from the 1940s. The songs they played tonight generally fell into a slinky, often funky, generally minor key groove; the steady, sinuous swing of the bass contrasted nicely with the rattle and clatter of the drums, with the vocals sailing spectacularly over it all. The guitarist seems to be the band’s rhythm center which is a very smart move because his timing is spot-on. This version of the band likes dynamics a lot more than their previous incarnation: if this gig is any indication, they’re on track to something really good.
Florence Dore is a star in the making. She didn’t bring a big crowd, but that was probably a good thing since Noxes Pond did and this is a small place. The NYU English professor is a real find, an excellent lyricist with a very strong sense of melody, a honey-sweet, soaring voice and an excellent, driving Americana rock band behind her featuring bassist-about-town Scott Yoder and former Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken pushing it along. She blends country songs with more rocking, upbeat tunes including a lot of material from her new album, including the fiery, early Who-inflected Framed, on which Diken did an impressive Keith Moon seance. But the quieter songs were the best. The highlight was the poignant, rueful Early World, the opening track on the new album, about what it feels like to know that you’ve probably missed the boat. Dore delivered it with a nonchalance that was downright scary.
Patricia Vonne took the stage late, but by the time her hourlong set was over – at almost a quarter to one – she had the crowd mesmerized. Playing without a drummer, backed by just her lead guitarist and bassist, the tall Texas ex-model played a masterfully nuanced set of very compelling material. Like Dore, she falls into the Americana category, but there’s a lot of Tex-Mex and mariachi influence in her songs (she’s Mexican-American and defiantly proud of her heritage). Her vocals are absolutely unique: though she didn’t have to sing over the noise of an electric band, she maintained her trademark passionate, throaty wail throughout the show. All her best songs tonight had an impressive political awareness; the usually stomping El Cruzado was given the tiptoe treatment, without the drums, but it still hit the spot. Dance in a Circle, written in support of wrongfully imprisoned Indian activist Leonard Peltier was as harrowing as the album version, even if it was quieter tonight. She and the band closed with her best song, the riveting escape anthem Blood on the Tracks. Obviously it took a lot of nerve to appropriate that title, but the song lives up to it: there’s absolutely no hubris here. “We ain’t never coming back,” she railed, with a barely restrained rage: “Our hearts have been scarred, there’s blood on the tracks.” It’s amazing that in this city you can see someone this popular – she’s something of a household word in Texas – on a stage this small.
Former Five Chinese Brothers bassist Paul Foglino was pulling mop-up relief duty, playing a solo acoustic set as the crowd slowly dispersed, but he held up his end. He’s very funny, and he knows what he’s doing. “Too old to rock and roll, too stupid to quit,” said the poster for his show taped to the inside of the club window, which is far too self-effacing. Some of the slightly bluesy, upbeat, major-key songs he played tonight were pretty amusing, including a number perhaps titled You Can’t Be too Drunk to Get Drunk. Given the crowd, the hour and the venue, he couldn’t have come up with a more apt choice. Spending this amount of time in a bar is usually a big mistake, but tonight’s bands made it all worthwhile. We ended up closing the club and then going over to Mona’s where a drunken college friend of one of the performers was trying to pick up somebody in my posse, so I went over to the deli on 6th and Ave. B for one of their trademark cheese heros (with jalapenos and avocado), then caught a cab home at around 4:30, waking up in the early afternoon to find that I’d been sharing the bed with what was left of the sandwich.
[Postscript: as Lucid Culture regulars know by now, the once-vibrant C-Note is now defunct, as are Revlover and Noxes Pond (the latter went through some lineup changes and morphed into spectacularly good art-rockers System Noise, who happen to be playing Arlene’s this Sunday, Sept. 30 at 9). Florence Dore’s academic career continues, though it’s been ages since she’s played a New York show. Patricia Vonne expanded her fan base to include Europe, where she became a star and tours regularly. Paul Foglino is still active in music and plays guitar in Ellen Foley’s band].
With Shane MacGowan AWOL, probably fighting the DT’s, Joe Strummer fronted the band and played rhythm guitar on his Telecaster. This is by far the best project he’s been involved with since the Clash, considering that the Pogues are basically an Irish traditional version of that band. This was an excellent show, even if it was pretty disjointed: they’d play an original, then a traditional folk song or a dance tune, then another original, then a cover. Still, few bands seem to have as much fun onstage as this unit, Spider Stacy on pennywhistle, James Fearnley on accordion and the rest of the crew. They did a lot of stuff from the new album Hell’s Ditch including the title track, the rousing opening cut Sunny Side of the Street, Sayonara, Rain Street and the eerie, chromatic shipwreck tale Wake of the Medusa. Strummer’s finest moment as a frontman was his show-stopping, snarling vocal, “I will not be re-con-struc-ted” on Sunny Side. They did a mellower, jangly version of the bitter immigration anthem Thousands Are Sailing later on. But the high point of the evening was a furious, stomping, competely unexpected cover of London Calling, missing only Mick Jones’ dazed, sunspotted guitar solo. A fun, jangly version of I Fought the Law followed a few songs later. This may have been the Beacon, but the party was in full effect, the bathroom a haze of pot and hash smoke, half the crowd half in the bag and singing along with every word. A deliriously good concert.
You didn’t think we’d go another week without putting up another NYC live music calendar, did you? This one covers the next couple of weeks so you can plan ahead. This time around we have a new feature: an ever-more-increasingly complete list of NYC music venues. Not sure what the place you’d like to go to is like? Look to your right under Categories and click on Venues for each club’s website, subway directions and more useful info!
Weds Sept 26 torchy panstylistic chanteuse Eleni Mandell (with Melomane’s Pierre de Gaillande) on guitar play Joe’s Pub, 10 PM. Country songwriter Jim Lauderdale is also on the bill and he’s actually not bad. Not clear who’s playing when, but if you aren’t already in the Eleni cult, this show could make you a fulltime member.
Also Weds Sept 26 Miller’s Farm play Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Frontman Bryan Miller wrote a great country song about the L train, and they’ll do that one and others in a similar vein. Don’t laugh: these guys can play.
Thurs Sept 27, 8 PM Will Scott plays Bar Matchless in Williamsburg. He does acoustic Mississippi hill country blues in the style of T-Model Ford and R.L. Burnside, tersely and efficiently. I know it’s a cliche to say that most white people can’t play the blues, but it’s true more often than not. This guy is the rare exception.
Later Thurs Sept 27 Demolition String Band plays Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Both the mandolin player and the guitarist are fiery, trad country types whose solos are worth the jaunt up here just east of Curry Hill. They have a new album coming out next month and by all indications it’s a real scorcher.
Fri Sept 28 Demolition String Band open for country legend Charlie Louvin of the Louvin Bros. at Maxwell’s, 7:30 PM sharp. They may also be part or most of his backing band. As a singer, Charlie was the lesser of the two Louvins and his voice is completely shot, at his advanced age, but he retains 100% of his charming old-school Nashville showmanship. I saw him last year: he’s an icon, somebody you ought to know, and just hearing him do Why Must You Throw Dirt in My Face made the trip absolutely worthwhile.
Fri Sept 28 all-instrumental, all-low frequency trio Moisturizer play BAM Cafe, free, 9 PM. These mischievous hellraisers will rock this place like no one ever has. I can’t think of a single other band whose every song has been a good one: they’ve literally never written a clunker. All their songs are true stories too. Baritone sax, bass and drums. See ya there.
Fri Sept 28, 9 PM the reliably effervescent, wickedly smart Bliss Blood of the Moonlighters hosts Ukulele Night at the Jalopy Theatre, 315 Columbia St, Red Hook, $10.00, B61 bus (which you can pick along Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg, or on Atlantic Ave. just north of Court St.) to the end of the line.
Also Fri Sept 28 towering, powerful, subtly funny, politically charged art-rockers Melomane play Hill Country, a new place at 30 W 26th betw 6th/Bwy, 10 PM. If they keep doing what they’re doing they’ll end up in the pantheon alongside Pink Floyd. And the Clash.
Also Fri Sept 28 at Barbes, 10 PM: from their website: SOUNDS OF TARAAB. Music of Zanzibar. A little over 100 years ago, the Sultan of Zanzibar sent his court musicians abroad to study. They returned and ‘Taraab’ was born. A spicy blend of East African Rhythms, Arabic modalities, and Indian influences,’Taraab’ is sung in Kiswahili and is popular in the coastal cities of Tanzania and Kenya. “The Sounds of Taraab” features vocalist Alsarah accompanied by oud master Haig Manookian, Ismail Butera on accordion and vocals, Michael Hess on violin and nai flute, and a duo percussion team of Tiye Giraud & April Centrone.
Also Fri Sept 28 Willie Nile plays with his band at Kenny’s Castaways, 10 PM, $15 and worth it. Absolute master of the big rock anthem, coming off the two best albums of his career, a killer studio collection and a scorching live set. Revered by artists far more popular than he is (Bono, Pete Towhshend, Springsteen) even if he’s probably better than they are at this point in his career.
Sat Sept 29 it’s Ed Schmidt’s Dumbolio, a monthly variety show, 37 Main Street, Dumbo, F train to York St. with a bunch of acts starting around 9 including two amazing, intense keyboardists: the wild gospel groovemeister Rev. Vince Anderson & his Love Choir, and enchanting accordionist/chanteuse Rachelle Garniez, who never met a retro style of music she couldn’t make indelibly her own. Eleni Mandell fans should seek her out. Tix $15 advance, $20 at the door and worth it.
Also Sat Sept 29 the Disclaimers play Arlene’s, 9 PM. Garage band with guitar and keys. Some of their stuff sounds like Radio Birdman, no joke; otherwise they have a killer catchy hit sensibility: Elvis Costello, Squeeze, Big Star all come to mind. And a kick-ass live show. If we’re lucky they’ll have the excellent Naa Koshie Mills on violin.
Also Sat Sept 29 old-school Greek rebetika revivalists Magges play their intoxicaiting Mediterranean hash-smoking dance tunes at Banjo Jim’s, 10 PM.
Also Sat Sept 29 Chicha Libre play Barbes, 10 PM. In a previous life, I played in a surf band. The drummer would always insist that anyone who wanted to write a surf song should just walk into a bodega and copy whatever was playing at the time. Chicha Libre give credence to that argument, surfing out Peruvian Amazon styles as well as Erik Satie on a mix of electric and acoustic instruments. Only in New York, kids.
Also Sat Sept 29 former My Pet Dragon bandleader Todd Michaelsen plays his soaring, epic, Radiohead-influenced anthems with his wife Reena Shah and ace drummer Rajeev Maddela at Rebar, 147 Front St., Dumbo, Brooklyn, 11 PM , F train to York St. and a brief two-minute walk from the train.
Sun Sept 30, 5 PM legendary faux-French garage rockers Les Sans Culottes (with the awesomely melodic Moist Gina from Moisturizer on bass) play the Atlantic Antic street fair outside the Last Exit Bar, 136 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, any train to Atlantic Ave. and exit the train, wherever you are you’ll probably be able to see the band or at least hear them.
Sun night Sept 30 System Noise, arguably the best live band in town and without a doubt the most intense, play Arlene’s 9 PM. Dynamic frontwoman with a spectacular voice, scorchingly good, evil guitar and a ferocious rhythm section. For a band as noisy are they are, they sure are tuneful. And even the lyrics are good. And this being Arlene’s, you’ll most likely be able to hear them.
Mon Oct 1 fiery, ferocious, velvet-voiced rocker Randi Russo and her band play a rare non-weekend show at the Magnetic Field, 9 PM. This great-sounding bar is a remarkably good fit for her eerie, overtone-laden guitar playing and excoriating outsider anthems, one part Siouxsie Sioux, the other maybe vintage Daydream Nation era Sonic Youth with some vintage Velvets beats.
Weds Oct 3 speaking of dark, eerie chanteueses, Nina Nastasia plays with Jim White of the Dirty Three at 11 PM at the Mercury, $12 adv tix available at the box office. Her 2002 album The Blackened Air, with its layers and layers of ominous strings, TOTALLY hits the spot for anyone who had to live through 9/11 and its aftermath. Which is probably most of us.
Thurs Oct 4 Rachelle Garniez plays Barbes as she does the first Thursday of every month at 10 PM. Accordionist who’s been playing a lot of piano these days. She’s a throwback in the sense that she’s A) fond of pretty much every retro style from ska to jazz to salsa ; B) a formidable musician and C) one of the most mesmerizing (and funniest) live performers of this era. You must see her sometime. Get here early if you’re coming.
Fri Oct 5th at the Baggot Inn it’s the annual bluegrass festival featuring the Y’all Stars at 8 PM, Demolition String Band doing their killer acoustic set at 9 PM, the Cheatin’ Hearts at 10 and Chris Thile and The Tension Mountain Boys headlining at 11. Expect a big crowd.
Also Fri Oct 5 barrelhouse blues monsters the 4th St. Nite Owls play Barbes, 9 PM. The guitar and keys in this band are exceptionally good, and they know their ragtime too.
Also Fri Oct 5 tastily twangy Steve Earle soundalikes the Sloe Guns promise to play a set of all-new material at Arlene’s, 9 PM. These guys have all been around awhile and if they have the organ with them, it’ll be an even more exceptional show. If you’re really lucky they’ll do the dueling guitar thing which is literally breathtaking.
Sat Oct 6 sprawling bluesy behemoth Hazmat Modine plays Joe’s Pub, 7:30 PM. Charismatic frontman; dueling blues harps; eerie minor key melodies; New Orleans marches, klezmer dances, sly ballads and a bizarre calypso monstrosity, the title track to their excellent latest album. This is a party, folks.
Also Sat Oct 6 amazingly authentic 60s psychedelic throwbacks Love Camp 7 play the Parkside, 10 PM, hot on the heels of their best-ever album. Dave Campbell – arguably the best rock drummer out there right now – swings the band around him while the guitar and bass swirl and mingle and take all kinds of unexpected twists and turns.
Also Sat Oct 6 at Barbes at 10: FORRO FOR ALL. From their website: “Led by accordionist Rob Curto, the band plays the classic brazilian Northeast forros of Luis Gonzagua and Jackson do Pandeiro. Forro comes from the African word “forrobodó” which means big party. Mispronounced by the English railroad workers in Brazil, Forró became For All. Forro Updating the traditional setting, Forro For All uses Accordion, Zabumba (a bass drum strapped on at an angle) and Triangle; Cavaquinho (ukulele-size steel string guitar), a 7-String Guitar (which plays the bass lines), and percussion such as Snare Drum, Agogo and Pandeiro.”
Sun Oct 7 also at Barbes, 7 PM it’s the Quavers, purveyors of two very different styles: lush, haunting, orchestrated violin-driven art-rock and charming, lo-fi country tunes with sweet guy/girl harmonies. They build these songs live by laying down layers and layers of loops on top of each other, an effect that is as spectacular to watch as it is to hear. Virtuoso gypsy jazz guitarist Stephane Wrembel plays afterward at 9 PM.
Also Sun Oct 7 the Van Halen country cover band from hell, Van Hayride plays Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Now that David Lee Loserface is back with the band and Eddie V.H. is out of rehab at last, you know these guys will be especially amped and probably drunker than usual. They are hysterically funny especially if you ever were forced against your will to become familiar with their source material.
Mon Oct 8 Pete Best – that’s the Beatles’ drummer – appears at Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Not sure if he’ll be singing, playing, or just hanging out at the bar, but all the Beatlemaniacs will be there.
Also Mon Oct 8 the Pipettes play Irving Plaza, 10 PM, adv tix available at the box office. Their shtick is that they’re cockney gangster girls playing authentically charming 60s American girl-group pop, except with dirty/hostile lyrics. It works surprisingly well.
Also Mon Oct 8 pan-American acoustic/electric surf instrumentalists Chicha Libre are back at Barbes, 10:30 PM continuing their Monday residency this month.
Also Mon Oct 8 Rev. Vince Anderson plays his weekly Monday residency at Black Betty, 2 sets starting around 10:30 PM. A legend in the making: killer keyboardist equally adept at blues, gospel, country and Billy Preston-style funk, brilliant showman, as spiritually (and politically) spot-on as he is funny. Liberation theology with a libido and a great backing band featuring Moisturizer’s Moist Paula.
Weds Oct 10 the sprawling oldtimey M. Shanghai String Band rock the Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM
Thurs Oct 11, one of the greatest voices of our time, frontman Sam Llanas of the Bodeans plays an extremely rare solo show at Luna, 7:30 PM. Over the last 20 years, this powerful, soulful baritone singer has delivered some of the most intense, passionate and amusing rock anthems you’ll ever hear. He also writes dark, sparse, powerful Americana-inflected singer/songwriter material. Here’s your chance to hear both. See ya there.
Also Thurs Oct 11 Devi – which is killer guitarist Deb DeSalvo’s power trio – plays Arlene’s, 9 PM. They’re going more and more in a psychedelic direction with lots of band interplay which is great because DeSalvo is a tremendously smart, tasteful player who can channel just about any mood she’s in. And her songs are good too, in a dark, Randi Russo/AK Healey way. Nice voice, too!
Also Thurs Oct 11 monster surf/twang guitarist Jim Campilongo plays with his trio at Barbes, 8 PM. Your rare chance to see him outside his usual residency at the odious Living Room. If you like Big Lazy you’ll like this guy too.
Also Thurs Oct 11 Demolition String Band plays the Monkees along with special guests at Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. I have an idea: is Steve Jone around? Maybe they can do Stepping Stone. I’d definitely show up for that one.
Fri Oct 12 at 7 PM Moonlighters frontwoman Bliss Blood’s charmingly authentic acoustic delta blues project Delta Dreambox plays a double bill with the M Shanghai String Band at the soon-to-be-defunct Mo Pitkins, $12 and worth it.
Also Fri Oct 12 tremendous saxophonist Dave Hillyard & his ska jazz band the Rocksteady 7 take over the Magnetic Field, 8 PM. Coleman Hawkins is his big influence, but it’s the wild, scary, later-period bop-oriented Hawk that this guy channels. And his originals are pretty damn good too. The band is every bit as good as the material.
Also Fri Oct 12 Mr. Action & the Boss Guitars play Lakeside, 11 PM. Ten glorious years ago, the rhythm section in this band was part of the Supertones, whose Saturday night residency at the old Luna Lounge is the stuff of legend. When I first saw this new band I thought they were just spinning their wheels, but they’re really pulled it together. Surf music is their thing: instrumental versions of 60s pop hits, rare Ventures classics and an ever-growing repertoire of great dance tunes, done tightly and with a remarkably self-aware sense of humor.
Also Fri Oct 12 the Jack Grace Band plays Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. This guy books the place, so he gets first dibs at weekend shows here, and he’s worth coming out to see if you’re in a party mood. They do the occasional hilarious Led Zep or Bee Gees cover along with Grace’s surprisingly dark, haunting, potent new Merle Haggard/George Jones flavored material. If old-school country is your thing, this is your man.
Also Fri Oct 12 minimalist Americana rockers Kill Henry Sugar play Barbes, 10 PM. Just guitar or lapsteel and drums: smart, understatedly funny songs with an apt political sensibility when they feel like injecting it into the set.
Sat Oct 13 Boston garage revival legends the Lyres play the Magnetic Field, 9 PM. Not sure how lucid their frontman/organist Jeff Connolly is at this point, but at one point, like the Fleshtones, nobody did old-school 60s garage punk better than that guy and his rotating cast of characters.
Also Sat Oct 13 oldtimey “historical orchestrette” Pinataland and their faux-gospel choir the Temple Of Reasons Singers play a rare gig at Barbes, 10 PM. Their accordionist David Wechsler has a superb new solo cd out, and they may do some stuff from it.
Also Sat Oct 13 Zane Campbell, who pretty much invented alt-country by himself in New York 20 years ago plays the Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. He’s a real throwback and something of a hellraiser, and has a whole lot of good songs and a pedigree to go with it: if memory serves right, he’s Ola Belle Reed’s nephew.
Also Sat Oct 13, the Roscoe Trio plays Lakeside 10:30 PMish. Since Eric “Roscoe” Ambel is Steve Earle’s powerhouse lead guitarist, this band will never shortchange you. Expect a long set of very smart, surprisingly subtle, stylistically diverse twangy guitar shit. And maybe a Yayhoos song if you’re lucky. Baby I love you, just leave me the fuck alone so I can enjoy the show.
Also Sat Oct 13 the Moonlighters play at 9 PM at the Jalopy Cafe, 315 Columbia Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn, B61 bus to the end of the line.
New Hampshire bluegrass band Parker Hill Road played a couple of sets in the back of this old brick building packed with concession stands selling maple products, pottery, NH lottery tickets and the band’s two cds. This show was part of the Eastern States Exhibition, a state fair that’s supposedly the largest one in New England and has been since 1910 when the local fair gobbled up a couple of their neighboring competitors. Each New England state has its own building here. Since country and bluegrass have for decades been much more popular in the Granite State than in the rest of New England, it wasn’t surprising to see this group here.
The quintet (guitar, upright bass, fiddle, mandolin and banjo) competently ran through a mix of old standards (Orange Blossom Special, etc.) and covers of songs by Dylan and Sam Cooke, as crowds of people slowly made their way past, a few stopping in the sweltering heat to take in the show. As could be expected, the traditional stuff was best. The band seems to be led by the twin brothers who play mando and bass. The banjo player – whose eyes were Bob Marley-esque red slits all afternoon long – seems to be the wild card in the group. The mando player told a funny story about being on the way to a gig, watching a car in front of them lose control, leave the road and flip over. The band pulled over and walked down to the wreck, to find that the driver, a minister, was ok. The minister told the banjo player that the Lord was riding with him, to which the banjo player replied, “You’d better let him ride with us from now on because you’re gonna kill him.” That’s a very New Hampshire joke: traditionally the poorest of the New England states and #2 in the nation in per capita alcohol consumption (Wyoming is #1), the humor up there is very black. To their credit, the mandolin player didn’t tell the joke with his tongue seemingly between his molars, the way oldtimers speak up there, ay-yuh.
The fair was a good excuse to leave behind the neverland that is New York and get a firsthand look at how the other half is living. Not so well, it seems. Supposedly the nationwide obesity epidemic has reached mammoth proportions, and if the people here were any kind of representation, that estimate is correct. It’s partly the adults, but the kids especially, lots and lots of eight-year-olds the size of twelve-year-olds but without a sixth-grader’s height. The food here may explain something. An average-sized drunk guy in his twenties outside the NH building was bragging to his friends about his overconsumption last year: “A burger, onion rings, funnel cake, candy apple, caramel apple, cotton candy, popcorn and beer, and then I was sick for two days. So I’m going to have a caramel apple and another beer and then I’m gonna leave.”
Admittedly some of those bellybombs are delicious. Somehow I survived a deep-fried whoopie pie (which was probably a Little Debbie thing dipped in batter, served with whipped cream and a scoop of vanilla ice cream) and a surprisingly generous cardboard carton of deep-fried pickles (Vlasic dill spears, I’m guessing), not as good as the ones that Rodeo Bar serves, but they hit the spot on a day like this. If you dare to do this to yourself, do yourself a favor and abstain until after you’ve been upside down and subjected to the strenuous g-forces of the Orbiter or Lady Fireball or the rest of the rickety Wall of Death style rides here, all run by high school kids who aren’t the most attentive minimum-wage employees you’ll ever meet.
Even though this was a weekend, the crowds didn’t reach mass proportions until after the brief 5 PM parade of vintage cars, farm tractors and 4H kids who seemed anachronistically down-to-earth and bright, in stark contrast to the Lindsay Lohan wannabe crowd that takes over lower Manhattan on the weekends. Part of the fair is straight out of Life Magazine, 1941: quilting competitions, oxen pulls, horse shows and cooking demos. The rest of it seems to hail from around 1975 except that the music is 1995: Pearl Jam drools and oozes from the speakers on most of the rides. And the typical ride is $3 or more, with no discount for kids. As the crowd grew, the space between the concessions and the rides became nearly impassable. Western Massachusetts has been depressed for a long time, a fact clearly borne out by the tired young couples blocking traffic with their strollers. Nobody here seemed to be able to afford a babysittter.
And guess who was playing the main stage here at night, for free? The teenage daughter of a well-known WWF wrestler and character actor, the sixtysomething former lead singer of 70s top 40 pop act Three Dog Night, and a couple of American Idol contestants. Memo to all you American Idol types: this is where you go after your 15 minutes are up, not Madison Square Garden. The best you can hope for will be a second-stage gig at the county fair after the crochet-a-thon is over.
The night began with bluesy trio Gate 18 at the dreaded Orange Bear (a seedy old-man bar downtown in the financial district on Murray St. that hardly ever had anyone there, yet for some inexplicable reason could afford an expensive, state-of-the-art sound system). Instructive how a venue this wretched can still pull a quality act like Gate 18 for a Saturday night show with a $5 cover charge. Indicative of how the proliferation of venues has affected bands that don’t always pack the house. Sad to see frontwoman Lynn Ann (an amazing singer equally at home with searing blues, sultry jazz, twangy country and just plain straight-up rock) being harrassed about the volume of her Gibson Les Paul guitar when she wasn’t actually that loud at all. And she’s a big belter – there was absolutely no reason why the sound guy couldn’t have raised that powerful voice above the volume she was playing at. It was equally annoying to see the band being driven from the stage without giving their extremely enthusiastic audience the encore they were screaming for.
The band did their big college radio hit Nikki’s Tits early in the set, Lynn Ann not even trying to belt it (maybe they’re sick of playing it). The rousing Give Me a Reason, which could be a commercial radio hit, featured bassist Chris Witting playing excellent, melodic fills whenever and wherever he could fit them in. They closed with the swinging cover of the Billie Holiday hit Lover Come Back to Me that they always do. The band seemed in good spirits despite having been treated less than cordially by the club.
The Cooler was our next destination. This venue really shouldn’t exist. It’s on the edge of nowhere in the meatpacking district, draws a crowd of weirdos, is never open when it should be and is owned by someone with a reputation for treating bands – female artists, especially – with disrespect. Said disrespectful owner can’t even find a way to put together his own shows: the bands tonight were assembled by Moonlighters frontwoman Bliss Blood. Too bad the turnout was mediocre at best: perhaps this was a last-minute booking. This time, we’d come out to see the Dimestore Dance Ensemble (the former Devil’s Grimy Ascot, with Jack Martin on guitar), but given how early they’d gone on (10ish), there’s no way we could have made it up from the Orange Bear in time. As it turned out, we got there in time to catch the last song by the excellent bluegrass band Jim & Jennie & the Pine Tops (formerly the Pine Barons – that was before they moved to Pennsylvania from Brooklyn. Go figure). Their stuff fit perfectly on an old-timey bill like this. The Moonlighters followed with a brief, 50-minute set (this band will play all night long if you let them), with a standin standup bass player who was clearly lost when they launched into their best song, Blue and Black-Eyed. It’s a harrowing tale of a prostitute who kills herself by leaping from the fire escape at McGuirk’s Suicide Hall, a notorious early 20th century dive bar known for its suicide jumpers. The tenement that housed it still exists today just south of Houston [not anymore: it’s luxury housing now]. While Bliss Blood didn’t bring the musical saw or the train whistle she played at her most recent show, she did hum along as her second vocalist Carla Murray did a great job with their big audience hit Humming to Myself.
The next act, the Hank Williams Lonesome Cheatin’ Hearts Club Band is a Hank Williams cover band fronted by a young, clean-cut, articulate, educated, possibly very affluent East Coast-bred singer/guitarist who has less in common with Hank Williams than most people. But the band – including a standup bassist, and the Pine Tops’ violin player – is super tight, and it’s impossible to have any complaint about their choice of material. The high point of their set was Ramblin’ Man, which actually gave me the chills. Most sensible people would have called it a night at this point, but not us: we had lost a couple of people from the posse, but a couple of late additions re-energized us and we moved on to Finally Freddie’s around half past one in the morning.
It’s another impossible venue way over on Washington St. a couple of blocks south of 14th. There’s a small bar upstairs, an even smaller one down a flight via a tight, spindly staircase that seems ready to collapse. The bands play in the back of the narrow room, which has benches instead of chairs. But at least the air conditioning was blasting. Too bad the sound was awful, which didn’t help things because the band onstage, Cabana Rock, got very loud in the small space. Their frontman is Cuban-American; their metalish lead guitarist seems to hail from somewhere in Eastern Europe, and their bassist, wherever he’s from, is tremendous (a Latin McCartney, said one of our entourage, rapt). In addition to their two percussionists, they have a rock drummer, a local punk legend who’s played with everybody including the Ramones. He’s very busy, and took a ridiculously long, clattering, Mitch Mitchell style solo that wasn’t exactly right for the venue. But the band was good: while Santana is the obvious comparison, he doesn’t seem to be an influence. They fit in better with the current crop of Mexican rock en espanol stars like Jaguares and Maldita Vecindad, building their songs on folky, sometimes eerie acoustic melodies with psychedelic, electric flourishes and lots of energy. Their best original was a syncopated, swaying number in English called In Your Sanity. They also did a good, boisterous cover of the Beatles’ Why Don’t We Do It In the Road. Since the plan the next day was to get up relatively early in order to get to Hoboken by early afternoon for their annual Arts & Music Festival, I cut out after the band was done instead of stopping at the Fish on the way home for a drink or however many may have followed that.
[postscript: each of the venues here are now defunct, as is every band except Jim & Jennie & the Pine Tops and the Moonlighters. The former have achieved real stardom playing the indie rock circuit and backing Neko Case on her live album; the latter have gone through numerous lineup changes yet seem to get better than ever whenever they bring new blood into the band]
Sputnik‘s new cd is an Indian summer album: bright, shiny, shimmery yet wistful. Most of it is catchy, upbeat, major-key janglepop with breathy, often totally sultry vocals from frontwoman Genie Morrow. It seems to have been written in the wake of a breakup, considering that a lot of the songs lament the end of a relationship. They’re pretty affecting, too, especially the album’s fourth cut, 2541, which is a street address, the only one shared by a couple prior to their split. The boyfriend apparently kept it: “It’ll probably not be the last time that I have to be out by the first,” Morrow muses. But her songs aren’t sad: there’s a resilience and optimism underneath, and the music bears this out.
There are a ton of supremely catchy numbers on this album: the title track, the rousing Brightest Day of Summer and Ridin’ in My Car, the bouncy Rappaport Account and an impressively fiery cover of the Grass Roots hit Temptation Eyes: Joe Drew’s layers of trumpet, in tandem with the keyboards, give it the feel of an entire horn section blazing away. The album’s best track is Shoot the Curl: “They’ll never ever hurt me,” Morrow sings over and over again, an impressively decisive mantra. The band is effortlessly tight and inspired: guitarist/keyboardist Mic Rains, bassist Pem Roach and former Scout Nigel Rawles on drums have an easy camaraderie with the songs. Since Rawles is involved, you can count on the usual dadaesque between-song found footage, strange studio patter and the like. The album’s silliest moment is the cover of Lou Reed’s Satellite of Love, which one one level makes perfect sense: the band is called Sputnik, after all. But one suspects Rawles wanted to do it just so he could do the “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday with Harry, Mark and John” bit. And it’s as funny as you would expect. Rains adds a shamelessly grotesque heavy blues coda just like the Jack Wagner solo on the Rock N Roll Animal version. This is a good party album, a good driving album, a good ipod album too. Four bagels from Essa Bagel (the best in town).
Two long, exhilarating sets of jazz from the highly sought-after horn player/bandleader and her seemingly favorite cast of characters. Pam Fleming has played with everybody. She spent a few years in reggae legend Burning Spear’s band as one of the all-female trio the Burning Brass, toured with Natalie Merchant and has lately been the not-so-secret weapon in Hazmat Modine. Her trademark is the instant crescendo. Whether playing trumpet or flugelhorn, she can pull one out of thin air in a split-second and make it seem perfectly natural, a trick that only a few musicians (Robert Cray and Mary Lee Kortes come to mind) can pull off. As breathtaking a soloist as she is, it’s ironic that in her own band, she doesn’t get to do that much. Most of her compositions seem to be written through, in other words, meant to be played note for note without much if any opportunity for soloing or extemporization.
Fleming typically writes in three disparate styles: vividly evocative, richly melodic songs without words; long, sprawling, psychedelic one-chord jams that sound like early 70s gangster movie soundtracks, and jazzed-up reggae tunes that wouldn’t be out of place in the Monty Alexander songbook (imagine if Alexander was a horn player instead of a pianist). Many of the compositions she played tonight had a narrative, cinematic feel: Hollywood would do well to seek her out.
Tonight she had almost all of the unit from her latest album: the always surprising, brilliantly musical Todd Isler on drums and percussion, the fast, stylistically diverse Peter Calo on electric guitar, Leo Traversa holding down the bass, Jim West on keys, and new group member Erik Lawrence on tenor and alto sax and flute. They opened with the reggae tune Slimy Business (guess which business that is), Fleming and Lawrence conversing through their instruments and trading off on sections of the melody, a sonically textural treat. They followed that with the gorgeous, major-key Because of Anthony from their first album. The brand-new, defiant, bluesy I’ve Had Enough gave both Fleming and Lawrence their first chance to stretch out. The haunting, achingly beautiful More Than Anything began with West playing the song’s central hook and built from there; from what Fleming told the audience, it seems to be a love song, but it’s very, very dark: West’s tasteful, traditional approach to his part worked wonders. After that, they did Intrigue in the Night Market, a rousing gypsy dance she wrote for Metropolitan Klezmer (another band she plays in regularly), featuring a boisterous, imaginative hand drum solo from Isler.
The highlight of the first set was Say Goodbye, which actually isn’t nearly as mournful as the title might imply: it’s a comfortable, familiar-sounding theme (perhaps this is a personal interpretation: maybe I’m so used to saying goodbye that it feels comfortably familiar). With its nostalgic, homey central hook, it sounds like it ought to be playing over the opening credits of a popular tv drama (any HBO people out there?).
The evening’s most mesmerizing piece was Fleming’s ominous 9/11 theme, Climb, the title track from her most recent album. From the song’s tersely harrowing opening hook, it’s obvious what’s going to happen, yet the foreshadowing is white-knuckle intense, right up to inevitable crash – and the band missed the crescendo when they hit it. To their credit, they turned on a dime and then brought out every bit of the macabre, disastrous feel of the following succession of chords as the song literally fell apart. Live, watching the melody break down and disintegrate was absolutely riveting. It’s a credit to this band that they can absolutely nail Fleming’s sometimes completely unexpected thematic and mood changes.
The night finally came to a close with Ba-Bo-De, a world-music inflected, two-chord vamp that unsurprisingly evoked a Burning Spear jam, which Fleming opened by playing a conch shell for a few bars. Fleming had had a devious look on her face the entire night, and took this as her opportunity to finally leave the stage and circulate amongst the audience, getting seemingly everyone to sing part of the melody. The crowd loved the personal attention, and the band jumped on the opportunity to get mischievous while she was out mingling with the audience.
This show was part of an ongoing series here called Women Take the Bandstand, featuring a new female-fronted act on the third Tuesday of every month. Given the venue, it seems to be mostly jazz and world music. Kudos to the reliably friendly, sonically superb Nuyorican for creating the series: it’s an admirable concept.
Repost from Chris Hall’s wife via the Lefsetz Letter:
Squeeze reunited this summer for a whirlwind tour, ostensibly to show a US record company that they still have fans, and to encourage them to re-release the Squeeze catalog. Chris found out about an offer to buy VIP tickets that entitled fans to get good seats near the stage, and meet the band backstage after the show. We immediately bought the special tickets. They were $175, but we saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, since it’s unlikely that they will reunite again, so it seemed worth the expense.
The concert was Friday, August 3. We had two other plays scheduled that weekend, so we decided to stay in the city Friday and Saturday nights. It was all set to be a memorable weekend.
It was memorable, all right. But not in a good way.
Our seats were just about perfect — although they were on the left side of the stage, they were on the aisle. We had a perfect view of the opening act, Fountains of Wayne. (My current favorite band.). So far, we were having a great night. I was so thrilled to be there.
As soon as Squeeze came onstage, however, things changed drastically.
A young couple raced up and stood in the aisle right next to our seats. They blocked our view of the stage, and spent the first two songs talking to each other – and when I say “talking,” I mean shouting in the general direction of each other’s ears, so as to be heard above the sound system.
I waited a bit to see if they would settle down or move, but they stayed put. I could not see or hear the show as long as they kept up their disruptive behavior. I asked them to please stop talking, or move to a different location. The woman said that her boyfriend liked to talk, and that they wouldn’t be moving. She appeared drunk, and I didn’t want to engage her further.
They stood there awhile longer, and then she leaned over to me again and said “We’re with the band, so &*#$ off.”
At that point, I knew that they would not be going anywhere, and I was fighting a losing battle attempting to reason with an inebriated woman – and one with special privileges to boot. Chris asked me if I wanted him to get security, and I agreed that it seemed like the best solution. They are trained to deal with the intoxicated, and people who are standing where they shouldn’t be, and those – like this woman — who are both.
Chris returned with an usher. She tried to get them to leave, but they showed their backstage passes to her, and she did not succeed in moving them. Another usher arrived. Still no movement.
During this time, when the ushers were trying to get them to leave, the woman came back to our seats and tried to talk to us about our decision to call security. I wouldn’t talk to her.
She started in on Chris, who was standing to my left (she was to my right, in the aisle). I had noticed earlier that she had very little regard for personal space. She sidled up to me whenever she wanted, she got chummy with every usher who came up to them, she just had a way of getting close to you when you REALLY didn’t want to be anywhere near her. Well, when she was trying to talk to Chris, she was zeroing in on him, and he put up his hands to stop her. It was a defensive move, NOT an aggressive one. His left hand made contact with her right hand, in which she held a fairly full cup of beer. The beer came out of her hand and spilled onto the man sitting in front of me.
A third staff member arrived, and I suspect this was the first true security person on the scene, as opposed to an usher. He tried to elicit the story from them, but ended up conversing and laughing with the boyfriend. We were quite frustrated with how this was progressing, because we felt like we were right in wanting them to be out of the aisle, not disrupting those of us who had paid dearly for our tickets.
Finally, a woman with a clipboard arrived, exuding competence. She got the whole group to move out of the aisle to resolve the issue elsewhere. As she was escorting the group up the aisle, the boyfriend casually leaned his arm into our row and poured his beer all over Chris, dousing him and the woman sitting next to him. And unlike the girlfriend’s spilt beer, this was no accident.
With their departure, we finally were able to focus on the concert. The peace didn’t last long, however. The boyfriend came back and went after Chris, accusing him of throwing his beer at his girlfriend. Fortunately, security was right behind him, and dragged him off. We hoped that was the end of the incident. We settled back again to enjoy what was left of the show – although we were so agitated that it was nearly impossible.
Shortly after that, the security man came back and told us that the woman had called the police, and that we would have to go to the lobby to talk to them. I just wanted to resolve the issue, because I felt like we had done nothing wrong. I thought that the police had arrived already, and that we would just explain the situation, they would see that she had overreacted, and we would get to go back to the show.
Instead, we spent the rest of the concert standing in the lobby. We told our story to the Beacon Theater security, and then to the police when they arrived. We eventually had to sign a police statement regarding the incident, and Chris has the potential to be charged with harassment if the woman chooses to press charges.
We finally received permission to go back into the theater during one of the encores. I figure we saw about a third of the show. It was definitely the worst concert-going experience of my life, and possibly one of the worst nights of my life.
They finally ousted the couple, and we were able to go backstage to meet the band. I did feel like everyone was looking at us, and I got interrogated by the keyboard player (the couple’s connection to the band), but he could have just been making conversation. He asked where we were sitting, and whether we could hear.
Coincidence? I still don’t know.
The representatives from the promoter’s and the Beacon Theater were both really nice while we were standing around in the lobby, waiting for the police. The Beacon Theater woman offered us tickets to a future show, and the woman from the promoter’s was very interested in hearing our side of the story.
Two days later, the Beacon Theater people offered us the opportunity to purchase VIP tickets — at face value — to a future show within the next year. As my sister pointed out, that situation worked out so well for us this time, we aren’t exactly itching to try THAT again.
And almost a week later, I still haven’t heard from the promoter.
After playing the whole evening over and over in my head, I can only say that NONE of this would have ever happened if security had acted quickly to remove the couple from a location that was disruptive to paying customers, hazardous in case of emergency, and in which they had no right to be. If the first usher had either handled it herself or brought someone in immediately to remove them, there would have been no spilled beer, no poured beer, and no 911 call to the police. We would have been able to enjoy the concert in the seats that we paid $175 apiece for, the couple could have enjoyed the concert from a location that did not disrupt other people, and the thought of Squeeze would not make me break out in a cold sweat.
It’s taken me a long time to admit this, but I guess the moral of the story is not to buy reserved tickets to a rock concert. I should stick to the general admission shows where you can move around to avoid the drunken louts, instead of trying to reason with them. Maybe I’m just getting old.