Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Catalonian Cat

[editor’s note – Lucid Culture has joined forces with former New York mayor and Presidential candidate Rudy Mussolini to temporarily abdicate our role in the Gotham music scene while we root for the Boston Red Sox in this year’s baseball World Series. We’re hoping Sox in four]

I’m posting this dream, which I had just a few hours ago, to make good on a promise. In this dream, I was in an East Village of the mind, approximately Second Avenue and Second Street except that the streets were much more West Village, twisting and turning  into unexpected enclaves. I was with a former bandmate and an ex. The only reason I was with them is because the ex had offered to buy me a drink. If the hour is sufficiently late, I can be bought off cheaply and this person, of all people, should know that. So I acquiesced. We went east toward a bar that my ex-bandmate had recommended. “It’s near Java and Joe, you remember, we played there,” he explained.

Java and Joe? I’ve never played a coffeehouse in my life, nor do I plan to. But I didn’t argue with him. Stranger things have happened to me in Dreamland.

We arrived at the bar to find it a big, ramshackle, New England style woodframe house, circa 1830, with its semicircular driveway set back from the avenue (such a driveway could never actually exist in New York, with real estate prices being what they are, but that’s what dreams are for). The drive was filled up with cars, some straddling onto the patch of lawn that separated it from the bar. We walked in to find a ubiquitous webmaster and photographer friend of mine hanging out at the end of the bar, drinking his usual bottle of Chimay. I wanted to stop and say hi but my compatriots pulled me along. An old guy with glasses made some sardonic, pseudo-literary remarks in my direction, but I paid him no mind, thinking he was just a drunk. The place was pretty full. The duo I was with managed to squeeze through the crowd to find stools around the corner of the bar, leaving me by myself. I looked around: it was a spacious, dusty, high-ceilinged place which had obviously been here a long time, very Old New York. Yet I’d never been here before. How had it slipped under my radar for so long?

To my left, a couple of people at the bar made a comment about sneaking, and suddenly I could hear the crowd pick up on the comment and start to echo it. Suddenly the old guy with the glasses came up to me and in an accusatory tone, asked me, “Are you sneaking?”

“Sneaking? Search me,” I replied nonchalantly (when accused of anything, nonchalance goes a long way. But you really have to pull it off, you can’t just be fake-nonchalant. Trust me on this). What I meant was “Huh?!?”

The old guy then started to frisk me, with emphasis on my waist. But how could I have snuck a bottle in, when I wasn’t wearing a coat, and my pants and shirt fit pretty snugly? Disappointed, he mumbled something I couldn’t understand and shuffled back toward the door. At this point I realized that he must be the bar owner.

Then a waitress came up to me, holding a blue-and-white porcelain pitcher and a rack of matching porcelain cups. “Would you like a [unintelligible]?” she asked.

I looked at the pitcher skeptically. “Uh, what’s in it?” I asked.

“RUM!” she exclaimed. “Drink of the ancients. Good for what ails ya!”

“SURE!” I replied. I hadn’t had straight rum at a bar since a Gosling’s or two at Tonic (I miss that place).

She took one of the cups off the rack and poured it about half full. “That’ll be sixteen,” she said.

I looked at her dumbfounded. “Sixteen bucks?”

She nodded.

I paused a moment. “You’re just messing with me, right? There’s no way that’s sixteen bucks.” 

This time it was her turn to be nonchalant. “Yes, that’s sixteen dollars.”

I had no intention of buying it, especially since all I had on me was a sawbuck I’d discovered in my shirt pocket. “Look,” I said, “If I knew that was sixteen dollars, I never would have ordered it. Besides, you never told me how much it would be.”

At this point, the owner returned, and now he was being surly. He reminded me of the old guy who used to own the Charleston in Williamsburg, who would stand in the middle of the floor and walk straight up to anyone who entered, insisting in his gravelly voice, “You have to buy a drink!”

“That’s sixteen dollars,” he threatened me.

The fact that he’d decided to try to muscle me for the money pissed me off. “No way,” I replied. When I learned it was straight rum, and it was obviously a drink special, I’d guessed about eight dollars, maybe less. “First of all, that’s a total ripoff. Second, no disrespect to your waitress, but she just came up to me and offered it to me. She never told me how much it was. You keep it,” I told him dismissively. I started to walk away from him toward the people I’d come with.

He followed, threatening me. “This is total bullshit,” I told him, exasperated at this point. “You sell drink specials at sixteen bucks apiece and the only people you’ll have in this place will be a bunch of yuppie assholes.”

“Everyone else here is drinking them and they don’t have a problem with it,” he retorted. I looked around the crowded room. The crowd seemed pretty nondescript: nobody stood out as being ostentatiously dressed or wealthy. “People have five of these and everybody’s having a good time.”

“Five of those, that’s eighty bucks!” I exclaimed. Now it was his turn to look at me quizzically. “I can have a way better time for less than five bucks at home, and I can listen to my own music and my own tv and not have to hang out with these losers!”

That’s what got me thrown out of the bar. He didn’t physically toss me: there was a pull on my arm and a hostile look and I knew the deal. “You have to get out, now!” he growled.

It didn’t matter. I didn’t want to be here anyway. I looked back at him as I left. “I didn’t want to give your waitress a hard time, and I don’t care what you sell drinks for. But I am going to put this up on the internet,” I advised him. Walking out, I reached for my phone to let my compatriots know that I didn’t just abandon them.

From the sidewalk, I looked back toward the bar, trying to figure out what it was called. The building’s facade was a mishmash of old neon beer signs, many of which I didn’t recognize. I walked back into the driveway, squinting at the old, painted wooden letters at the top and managed to make out THE CATALAN CAT. I wondered what the provenance of the name was: there was absolutely nothing Catalonian, or even Spanish, about this place. So if you’re ever walking down Second Avenue in your dreams and come upon the Catalan Cat, you’d do well to keep walking. If you do choose to go inside, be aware that if the waitress approaches you with a pitcher, there’s rum in there. And it’s not cheap. By telling you this I am fulfilling my promise to the bar’s owner.

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October 27, 2007 Posted by | Rant | Leave a comment

Concert Review from the Archives: Rev. Timmy James, DollHouse, Twin Turbine, Noxes Pond and the Sea Devils at the C-Note, NYC 10/26/01

[Editor’s note: this concert from our inherited archives dates from the brief period after 9/11 when New Yorkers demonstrated an amazing amount of solidarity. Ironic as it must seem, this town defiantly showed a great deal of joie de vivre while the pit downtown smoldered and burned. This is just one example.]

A gastronomic walking tour of what’s left of the old-school Jewish Lower East Side with a Massachusetts friend ended with takeout from Yonah Schimmel’s, where I ended up practically getting killed in traffic while trying to get back into his Jaguar while a traffic cop’s siren wailed behind us. I was sure we were going to get pulled over, and it was all my fault, but no. He dropped me off at the club and left with plenty of knishes and noshes for the ride home to Beacon Hill. Rev. Timmy James was on when I got there, playing open-tuned, acoustic blues with a slide. He’s a competent player, he doesn’t Pearl Jam the vocals and the Rev. thing seems to be neither religious nor sarcastic. A tip of the hat to Gary Davis, maybe. DollHouse, who haven’t played a live show in a long time, were introducing their new lead guitarist, who is vastly different from the two guys who preceded him: he’s totally 80s, alternating between fast funk/metal and more ambient licks that he played with an ebow. Not sure he’s right for this macabre, punk-inflected harmony-rock band. On their frontwoman/guitarist Lisa Lost’s big showstopper, Queen of Despair, he took an attractively minimal solo straight out of the Phil Manzanera book circa Avalon, which was by far the best thing he did all night. The band’s best song was a ridiculously catchy new one set to a ska beat, an uncharacteristically lighthearted, optimistic song called Smile driven by a deliciously melodic, pulsing Frankie Monroe bassline. The band also played Lisa Lost’s darkly entertaining Bride (as in bride of Frankenstein) along with Monroe’s scorching, minor-key punk-pop songs Conditioning and Night People.

“Heavy pop” power trio Twin Turbine weren’t the best segue, considering that this is a small club and they are very loud. But melodically it made sense: frontman/guitarist Dave Popeck is every bit as much a hookmeister as the previous band. “Husker Du,” a friend of mine hollered into my ear. I thought for a moment. “Social Distortion,” I hollered back. They don’t confine themselves strictly to major and minor chords but the hooks are relentless, as is the sonic assault: there isn’t much subtlety in this band. Their best song was a darkly careening number called Noreaster that resembled Guided by Voices at their most melodic.

Noxes Pond followed, and like the last time I saw them here, they packed the place. This isn’t a big club by any means, and it’s become a rocker hangout, in a lot of instances musicians basically playing to their peers, and the cognoscenti were here tonight to check out the newly resurrected incarnation of this popular LES noise/rock/funk unit. They’re much more melodic than they used to be, driven by catchy, jazz-inflected, tasteful guitar. And the rhythm section, with the guy from the Scholars on drums and the Supercilious bassist, has much more of a groove than they used to have. But it’s their frontwoman who steals the show, a petite powerhouse who dazzled with her spectacular range and potently soulful pipes. By the time the Sea Devils launched into the first of two long, exhausting sets, starting practically at the stroke of midnight, it was apparent that the person I’d been waiting patiently for wasn’t going to show up. But no matter. “Surf punk,” a well-known blogger told me, sarcastically. And he’s right, to an extent: energy and volume are important to this band. But so is authenticity: they have all the requisite vintage instruments and amps and get a completely 60s, reverb-drenched sound. They reminded tonight how vast their repertoire is, basically every good Ventures and Dick Dale song along with literally dozens of songs whose titles you wish they’d announce so you can go out looking for the originals. Their best song was the opener, the haunting Mr. Moto, followed by the Ventures classic Diamond Head and an obscure, gorgeously propulsive number called Tally Ho. And they kept the crowd in the house: after they’d finally wound up their second set, a clearly impressed audience member insisted that the band had just played the longest-ever set in the club’s history. Which wouldn’t be surprising: just under three hours of fiery, propulsive clang and twang. And I was there to hear all of it since I hadn’t had a drink til they’d taken the stage.

[postscript: Rev. Timmy James hasn’t played around New York in awhile: someone like him can pretty much take his act anywhere. DollHouse is defunct, and Twin Turbine has been on hiatus pretty much since 2006. Noxes Pond morphed into art-rockers System Noise, who were one of New York’s best bands for several years. The Sea Devils still appear live once in awhile with a reconfigured lineup.]

October 26, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CA Wildfire Survivors to Receive Free McMansions

As reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Bush regime has announced that most California residents who lost their homes in the ongoing wildfires will each receive $1 million from the government, in the form of vouchers payable to Toll Bros., the recently hard-hit builder of large, prefabricated luxury homes. Homeowners whose net worth is at least $10 million who also decide to build summer homes on the site of other people’s damaged property in New Orleans will also receive an additional $1 million voucher through Toll Bros., new disbursement chief Michael Brown said, citing the landmark Supreme Court case Kelo v. City of New London to justify the use of eminent domain in seizing waterlogged New Orleans property.

 

In other news – I wish this was equally fake – the recent NASA probe of airline near-disasters has been scrapped, with all the data the agency had amassed over the last several years being destroyed. Under pressure from the Bush regime, NASA has erased their database of near-misses during takeoffs, landings and in the air because releasing the data to the public might make airline stocks decline and “negatively impact public confidence” in airlines, according to a spokesman.

October 25, 2007 Posted by | Rant | Leave a comment

NYC Live Music Calendar 10/25-11/15/07

Thurs Oct 25 fiery indie rock trio Cementhead play the Delancey, 8:30 PM. Buzzcocks catchiness, Versus percussiveness, very interesting and innovative guitar and impressive 2-part vocal harmonies. They’ve really taken it to the next level with their new songs.

  

Thurs Oct 25 an unlikely and very good singer-songwriter bill at Fontana’s starting at 7 PM with the promising new Sharon Goldman & Nina Soka duo, then the casual and very smart Kirsten Williams at 8 followed by spectacular soul siren Meg Braun and her trio.

  

Also Thurs Oct 25 the Roulette Sisters finish their October residency at Pete’s, 9 PM.

  

Also Thurs Oct 25 legendary San Francisco punk rockers the Avengers – an iconic band every bit the equal of the Sex Pistols or the Dead Boys, with the great Penelope Houston on vocals – play  Maxwell’s at 10 PM. Their Bowery show last winter was packed, so this will sell out. Adv tix available at the box office and at Other Music. They’re also playing the Knit on Sat Oct 27

  

Fri Oct 26 the date band for people who hate date bands, the Moonlighters bring their gorgeous harmonies, authentic retro stylings and spot-on political sensibility to Barbes, 10 PM. Repeat after me, get there early.

  

Sat Oct 27 the absolutely brilliant Dixie Bee-Liners play Joe’s Pub, early, 7:30 PM. This is recent NY expats Buddy Woodward and Brandi Hart’s killer Bible Belt noir band: classic bluegrass melodies, first-class musicianship and some of the smartest, most incisive lyrics anyone is writing right now. They’re also very funny onstage. Welcome back, you guys!

  

Also Sat Oct 27 noir rocker Kristin Hoffmann plays Caffe Vivaldi in the West Village, 9 ish. A little cabaret, a little Tom Waits and most likely she’s playing with her excellent band which once used to feature the keyboardist from Erica Smith’s band.

  

Also Sat Oct 27 fiery highway rockers the Sloe Guns – who have taken on a harder edge lately – play the Baggot Inn, 9:30 PM.

  

Also Sat Oct 27 legendary 80s surf rockers Agent Orange play Europa in Greenpoint around 10, other acts on the bill TBA. Still living off their one classic album, 1981’s Living in Darkness, after all these years. And they still deliver the goods. It’s just a cry for help in a world gone mad! They’re also playing Midway on Monday the 29th at 11.

  

Also Sat Oct 27 Marcellus Hall plays Pete’s at 11. He wrote some very funny indie rock songs in Railroad Jerk and got even better in White Hassle, who were Joe Ben Plummer’s favorite New York band. But he’s taken it to the next level: he’s gotten REALLY good on guitar and his lyrics have taken a quantum leap from merely stream of consciousness funny to downright excellent, Ward White, LJ Murphy-class good. He’s also playing Union Pool on Nov 2 at 10ish.

  

Also Sat Oct 27, midnight the Coffin Daggers play at Beel Media Loft, 721 Grand St., Hoboken, $10 with open bar and free food, what a deal! Their relentless, gleefully macabre, scorchingly loud surf instrumentals have taken a turn away from the macabre into the simply loud and punked-out, but they still rock. Be aware that the Path train only runs once every half-hour after midnight. 

  

Mon Oct 29 smart, catchy female-fronted indie rock trio Girl Friday play a free show at the Magnetic Field,  9 PM, dollar beers while they’re onstage! Here’s hoping for a LONG set!!

 

Also Mon Oct 29 your last chance to catch the absolutely killer Chicha Libre and their surfy, Pan-American tunefulness during their residency this month at Barbes, 9:30 PM

  

Also Mon Oct 29 Rev. Vince Anderson plays Black Betty, 2 sets starting around 10:30 PM. One of the funniest, most charismatic, politically spot-on performers of our time. Also one of the greatest keyboardists of our time, a guy equally mesmerizing at blues, gospel, funk and honkytonk piano.

  

Also Mon Oct 29 the self-explantory, predicably charming Ukeladies play Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM

  

Tues Oct 30 another chance to catch the panstylistically brilliant violinist Jenny Scheinman at Barbes, 7:30 PM, where it won’t cost you the usual $50 to see her.

  

Also Tues Oct 30 Australian punk rock legends the Saints play Maxwell’s, 10 PM. I say punk legends rather than janglerock legends because they’ve been doing the blistering old punk stuff which actually isn’t as good as the deliriously good jangle-and-clang they did in the 80s. But if you’re a fan, don’t miss them. Last time around they had the great Marty Willson-Piper from the Church doing his best Ron Asheton impersonation on lead guitar. They’re also playing Midway at midnight on Halloween.

  

Weds, Halloween, haunting cello rockers Rasputina play the Music Hall of Williamsburg FKA Northsix, 10:30ish,  adv tix an absolute must and available at the Mercury box office. I can’t think of anything better to do on Halloween.

   

Also Halloween, 9 PM System Noise – another equally good Halloween choice, with their eerie guitar and otherworldly vocals – plays R Bar on Bowery north of Delancey, east side of the street. For a $8 cover you get OPEN BAR from 7-8 PM, shades of Trash Bar. This is THE party tonight.

  

Thurs Nov 1 Rachelle Garniez – multi-instrumentalist whose main axe is the accordion –  plays Barbes, 10 PM. Arguably the best songwriter out there right now, a master of any retro style she chooses. And a powerful, hilarious, magnetic performer who always gives 200% onstage.

  

Fri Nov 2 Spanking Charlene plays Lakeside, 11 PM. Slightly Stonesy, Heartbreakers-ish, Max’s Kansas City style punk band – the punk is more the attitude and the funny lyrics than the music. And the singer is amazing – Charlene McPherson can belt and wail with anybody.

  

Fri Nov 2 legendary 60s garage band the Sonics – whose legend vastly surpasses their recorded output, which was mostly covers and a few C-list instrumentals like the Witch – play Warsaw as part of the Cavestomp garage rock fest. Tix $35 in advance, available at Earwax on Bedford Ave., Other Music and the Warsaw box office. Your best bargain if you’re into this kind of thing is the $90 three-day pass which also gets you the Strawberry Alarm Clock (which was a bunch of jazz guys playing psychedelia – I have their album which includes faux-hippie drivel like Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow) on Saturday night and the Fleshtones and the Sonics again on Sunday. No idea how many if any of these bands’ original members (the Fleshtones happily excluded) are playing. Or still alive.

  

Also Fri Nov 2, 8 PM it’s the Kalman Balogh Gypsy Cimbalom Band, with 2 other Hungarian gypsy bands at Symphony Space  – tix not available online but at WMI box office 49 W. 27th Street between 6th Avenue and Broadway, 9th floor, Suite 930.,Monday – Thursday 10am – 6pm Friday 10am –1pm. A cimbalom looks like the inside of a piano, it’s termed a zither for reasons I cannot fathom (it’s played with mallets rather than strummed) but it actually sounds like somebody playing a harpsichord with an icepick. Could be a great show.

  

Sat Nov 3, 7:30 PM Monlighters frontwoman Bliss Blood’s superb, authentic acoustic delta blues band  Delta Dreambox plays the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library,  1 Grand Army Plaza, 2 train to G.A.P, two sets and worth it,  $10

  

Also Sat Nov 3 amazing Dick Dale-inspired Connecticut surf band 9th Wave fronted by guitarist Mike “Staccato” Rosado plays Hank’s, time TBA, guessing around 9?

  

Also Sat Nov 3 Hem plays the Highline Ballroom, 8 PM. They do one thing and do it very well: pretty, downtempo, major-key, Sunday afternoon Americana and their singer is excellent.

  

Also Sat Nov 3 the Roulette Sisters do their annual Halloween spectacular at Barbes, 10 PM: does that mean they’re giving biscuits and gravy away?

  

Also Sat Nov 3 the original gypsy punks Gogol Bordello play Terminal 5 way over on the west side on 56th St., 11ish, tix available at the Mercury box office

  

Also Sat Nov 3 old school ska stalwarts the Bluebeats play 2 sets starting around 8:30 PM at Magnetic Field. If ska can be quiet, introspective, downtempo and jazzy, then that’s what they play, and they’re very good.

  

Sun Nov 4 Django Reinhardt disciple Stephane Wrembel plays wildly percussive gypsy jazz at Barbes,  9 PM, get there EARLY.

  

Mon Nov 5 former Backsliders frontman Chip Robinson does his growly, twangy, somewhat Steve Earle-ish stuff at Lakeside, 10 PM

  

Also Mon Nov 5 Peruvian-style psychedelic surf monsters Chicha Libre continue their residency at Barbes, 9:30 PM

  

Also Mon Nov 5 Rev. Vince Anderson continues his piano-bashing residency at Black Betty, 2 sets starting around 10:30 PM

  

Tues Nov 6, 9 PM it’s a Jack Grace family thing with his wife and bassist Daria’s charming oldtimey ukelele-driven Prewar Ponies opening for his extremely sick Van Halen cover band Van Hayride at Rodeo Bar.

  

Weds Nov 7 Ninth House, who are sort of a cross between Johnny Cash and Joy Division (accent on the Cash) play Luna, 8PM. With the violin and the keys, they’ve never sounded better, and considering how good this place sounds, it should be excellent.

  

Also Wes Nov 7 raucous, politically charged funk rockers Funkface play Midway, 11 PM

  

Thurs Nov 8 Al Stewart – who 40 years ago was one of Britain’s best acoustic rock guitarists, believe it or not – plays an acoustic duo show at the Cutting Room, 7:30 PM. No idea what he’s been up to since the 80s, but he’s got a great back catalog of songs.

  

Fri Nov 9 Delta Dreambox plays Barbes, 8 PM opening for Balkan brass band Zagnut Orkestar

  

Also Fri and Sat Nov 9 and 10 The Flail – a bunch of A-list European jazz guys notable for their originals – record a live album at Small’s, 10 PM

  

Also Fri Nov 9 boisterous, improvisational Brooklyn bluegrass cats Citigrass play Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM

  

Sat Nov 10, 8 PM the Dastan Ensemble plays Persian classical music at Symphony Space, tix available at the World Music Institute (click on Venues to your right and scroll down for detailed info). This pan-Asian, string-driven classical group rode to fame on their Silk Road albums and put on a lush, truly transcendent show.

  

Also Sat Nov 10 Laura Cantrell, who might still be New York’s best country singer a few years after she became the excellent Americana rock singer that she probably always was but never told anybody, plays the Mercury early, 8 PM. She’s been busy with the kid, hasn’t played a show in a long time, this will sell out, get your advance tix fast. She’s undiminished and can still give you chills.

  

Also Sat Nov 10 if you still can’t get enough of Delta Dreambox, they’re opening for the authentically retro but lately painfully precious Cangelosi Cards at Banjo Jim’s, 10 PM

  

Sun Nov 11 speaking of authentically retro, the Moonlighters play Rose Bar in Williamsburg at 8 PM

  

Also Sun Nov 11 charming harmony-driven Pan-American stylists Las Rubias del Norte play backed by the Parker String Quartet at Barbes, 9 PM. How they’re going to fit all those musicians in the back room is something of a mystery: get there very early because they’ll take up half the room.

 

Mon Nov 12 British semi-sensations the Pipettes play the Gramercy Theatre, 10ish, adv tix available at the Irving Plaza box office. Their shtick is that they’re foul-mouthed cockney gangster girls doing early 60 style American girl-group music. No idea how well the music is live, but they probably put on a good show.

  

Also Mon Nov 12 Chicha Libre is back at Barbes,  9:30 PM. As is Rev. Vince Anderson at Black Betty an hour later. You can catch both acts if you bolt for Williamsburg (and the G train is running) at the end of Chicha Libre’s set.

  

Tues Nov 13 the versatile, excellent violinist-composer Jenny Scheinman plays one of her increasingly more frequent shows at Barbes, 7 PM

  

Also Tues Nov 13 the 2 Man Gentleman Band – just ukelele and washboard – play Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Not sure how well you’ll be able to hear them in this room, but they totally nail the retro hokum stuff they do and they’re funny.

   

Thurs Nov 15 the Ventures play B.B. King’s, 8 PM adv tix avail $35 and worth it.  Bob Bogle and Don Wilson are still at it after all these years. The Ventures rank with the Beatles, the Stones and the Clash as one of the most important rock bands ever. They didn’t invent surf music but they had more surf hits than anybody else and this configuration of the band still plays with virtuosity and twangy intensity.

October 23, 2007 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Les Chauds Lapins at Barbes, Brooklyn NY 10/20/07

[editor’s note: the absence of French accent marks here is due to the computer, not us]

A lush, swinging, passionate performance of some very smart, funny, unabashedly romantic songs from 1930s and 1940s France, mostly. That’s les Chauds Lapins’ shtick: they’re a bunch of Americans playing stuff a continent and a few generations removed, and they do it well. They have a viola and a cello, and when the string section is playing at full steam, they will completely sweep you away as they did tonight. They opened with J’ai Danse avec l’Amour (I Danced with Love), the first cut on their excellent debut album Parlez-Moi d’Amour (Talk to Me About Love). Meg Reichardt (who also plays in the Roulette Sisters) was poised and assured on lead vocals, delivering it with her trademark breathy style, in an impressively good French accent. Then banjo uke/clarinet player Kurt Hoffman took a turn at the mic with the witty Swing Troubadour. It’s told from the point of view of a guy in an upstairs apartment listening to a guy downstairs serenading the girl who used to live there. But she’s not there anymore:

Comme toi je n’ai plus rien
Mais comme toi je chante pour mon bien

“Like you, I got nothing, but just like you I’m singing to myself too,” says the new tenant matter-of-factly. There were enough Francophones in the audience – this was Barbes, after all – to pick up on this and the innumerable other jokes and double entendres that littered the songs they played tonight. On the sardonic Presque Oui (Almost Yes), Hoffman and Reichardt traded off on vocals fetchingly, with an effervescent clarinet solo from Hoffman on the intro. Reichardt wowed the crowd with a banjo uke solo on the bouncy J’ai Connu de Vous (I Knew You), sung by Hoffman, about a guy reminiscing about all the horrible things his girlfriend did to him. Still he has fond memories of her. The album’s title track is a swoony number in 6/8, and Reichardt gave it “tant d’amour [so much love].” On a new number for them, Le Fils de la Femme Poisson (The Fishwife’s Son), Hoffman mined the song’s completely over-the-top humor for everything it was worth. After the gently swaying verse, which sounds suspiciously like the Pachelbel Canon, there’s a campy vaudeville chorus: the narrator can’t afford anything for his girlfriend, a circus headless woman. However, he has been offered a job in a relative’s whorehouse playing accordion. The strings were going full blast on this one, and they were gorgeous.

They followed that with Le Barque d’Yves (Yves’ Boat), a cautionary, 6/8 ballad about dating a sailor where on the last chorus he ends up inviting her to join him in his watery grave. Then Hoffman sang Quand J’Etais Petit, about someone who’s had a crush on a girl since she was a child. But “on n’est plus petit [we’re not kids anymore].” Reichardt pulled out all the passion stops for Si Tu M’Aimes, another cut from the new album, followed by Hoffman’s take on Parlez-Moi d’Autre Chose [Let’s Talk About Something Else, i.e. anything but love]. He forgot the words for a half a verse, but les Chauds Lapins owned the audience tonight, and they forgave him. And they probably forgot all about it after a particularly choice upright bass solo from their 4-string player Andy Cotton. They ended the set with the somewhat silly, coy Il M’a Vu Nue (He Saw Me Naked). The place was packed, but the sound was terrific and the crowd was pretty rapt til they’d finished playing. Nobody cried – people are frequently moved to tears at les Chauds Lapins shows – but a good time was clearly had by all, including a group of Quebecois nodding approvingly. If you can’t wait til the Moonlighters come around next time or you don’t have $200 to cough up for Al Green at B.B. King’s – assuming he ever comes back – les Chauds Lapins will do just fine.

October 22, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Timothy R. Allen at the Organ at St. Thomas Church, NYC 10/21/07

There’s been a lot of mudslinging lately aimed at certain music blogs who flog the same horse – usually a pretty dead one – over and over again. At the risk of falling into that category, let it be said here once more that the weekly, Sunday 5:15 PM organ concert series here is one of New York’s best-kept secrets. If we had our way, it would be much less of one.

This evening’s recitalist was British native Timothy R. Allen, an organist with a conscience. While working in Londonderry, Ireland, he reached out with an olive branch to his Catholic counterpart, Donal Doherty at the Derry Cathedral. The result was the interfaith Two Cathedrals Festival promoting peace and intercommunity relations, a major accomplishment. Allen’s dedication to social issues is matched by his skill at the console, as tonight’s diverse program demonstrated. He opened with British composer Percy Whitlock’s Fantasie Choral No. 2, in difficult F sharp minor. In contrast to Allen, Whitlock’s politics didn’t extend to his music: he may have been something of a recalcitrant Tory wingnut, but there’s a warmth and a joy in much of his work. Although this particular piece begins in a minor key, it quickly switches to the major, with a soulful, catchy, recurrent theme, essentially a spiritual without words.

Allen then shifted gears dramatically with Messiaen’s Dyptich: An Essay on Life on Earth and Eternal Happiness. The first section is an almost shockingly grotesque fugue, almost a parody, its call-and-response neither major nor minor, twisted, tormented, deliberately and arduously unmelodic. Obviously Messiaen was looking forward to his heavenly reward, which in the second part is predictably calm and ambient, mostly sheets of sound played in the upper registers on the organ’s flutes. Troubled as it is, the first part is exponentially more interesting than what follows.

Allen closed with Alexandre Guilmant’s First Sonata in D Minor, a typical French Romantic piece, quite long for its sonata form. He effectively emphasized the considerable contrast between the boisterous intro and outro sandwiching the quiet, meditative pastorale in between. Yet another superb concert in this sonically rich yet pretty much undiscovered space. Does organ music scare people off? Do agnostics and atheists stay away because they assume a religious undercurrent (a vastly erroneous assumption!)? Or is this series like a favorite restaurant, one that’s nice to see having enough of a clientele to stay in business but not to the extent that reservations are required?

October 22, 2007 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Beam Me Up, Scotty, This City Sucks

A couple of nights ago I ended up in New Jersey. Don’t ask me how I got there: I didn’t take the Path, or a bus, or a kayak. And I was sober: no blackout nightmare scenario here. Did somebody tell Mr. Scott to pull a cruel joke and beam me across the river? Not to Hoboken’s cozy mile-square confines, or Jersey City, but to some random spot in the middle of the state, down the block from a mall, a short drive (distances are measured in drives out there, not blocks or walking time) from a Starbucks? Without my bearings, surrounded by a Saturday night’s worth of rich suburban white kids, I needed a drink. I stopped into the first bar I could find. What a surprise to find that a friend of mine was working there! He pushed a beer my way, and I started to feel a bit less queasy.

And what a pleasant surprise to see a good band onstage, in the middle of nowhere. They were called Pharaoh’s Daughter. I’d read about them in the Voice and had been put off by the little blurb they got (memo to self: NEVER TRUST THE MEDIA) which gave the impression that they were new age. Not at all. They’re an interesting, syncretic band, mixing Middle Eastern melodies with a somewhat jazzy pop sensibility. And they’re very psychedelic: their frontwoman Basya Schechter uses Middle Eastern tunings on her guitar, their hand drummer excels at polyrhythms and the lead guitarist they had tonight (more about him later) is very adept. Whether singing in Hebrew or English, Schechter is a deceptively good singer, her voice sailing calmly and effortlessly over the hypnotic swells and ebbs of the band behind her. Their Orientalism appears to be all-inclusive, incorporating both Arab and Israeli traditions: it’s soul music. I wish they’d played longer.

As it turned out, this was something of a cd release show for their lead guitarist, who as it turns out is a Westchester guitar teacher (Schechter was a student of his at one time). It appears that he’d invited a bunch of friends to play sets tonight. Pharaoh’s Daughter would prove to be a hard act to follow: the place went from penthouse to shithouse in the time it took to set up the guy who followed them. He was a trendoid playing country songs, all originals, an endless series of cliches, every trite phrase used in country songs over the last half-century. But his songs weren’t parodies, like something David Allan Coe would write: this guy really thought he could sing about ridin’ on the midnight train over and over and over again and sound authentic. Or perhaps he doesn’t understand the concept of authenticity, the notion that a pale, pale imitation of the real thing might not pack quite as much a punch as the genuine item. But maybe for this guy, with his carefully coiffed, $200 bedhead haircut and hired-gun guitarist sidekick (who was actually pretty good), content is irrelevant. Maybe music is just a thing to do for him, like he’s “doing” New York for a few years until he finally hits 35, his trust fund kicks in and then he can move up to Bearsville. Where he can finally take the midnight train for the first time in his life. Sitting at the bar, it hit me: if this guy can write a country song, then so can I. So I wrote one especially for him. Trendoid boy, whoever you are, I put the lyrics in the comments section below. It’s a simple G-C progression on the verse and then D-G on the chorus, feel free to take it if you want. I wrote it in five minutes. It’s not Johnny Cash – or David Allan Coe – but I think it pretty much tells what you’re about. If you’re about anything, that is, which could be a false assumption.

Finally the torture ended and Dayna Kurtz took the stage. We’ve been very cruel to her here and in past incarnations, and it’s obvious that she has a lot of tsouris. But it was clear from her performance that she’s a Democrat, and she doesn’t like trendoids, so she gets a pass. If I’d had some rugelach with me, I would have offered her some: she seems like the kind of person who knows good rugelach when she sees one. And rugelach will make you happy: have some and you’ll see what I mean. Too bad it was late and we were all somewhere in central Jersey because if we’d been in New York I would have told her that on her way home she could have taken the highway around to the FDR and then made a left on Grand (giving Lower East Side street directions to suburbanites is invariably a lost cause), to that wonderful bakery down the block from Kossar’s. Surely she would remember Kossar’s from what her mother told her, growing up here eighty years ago.

Then the guy whose cd release night it was played a set, and it was sad to see him perpetuate the myth that good sidemen can’t write songs and shouldn’t be out in front of a band. But watching the fat, old, balding Westchester guy singing breathily about picking up a girl in a parking lot was just preposterous. No disrespect to fat, old, bald, guitar-playing guys from Westchester, but the only woman this guy is ever going to pick up in a parking lot, especially with his soft, dorky voice, is a hooker. I got up to go to the bathroom.

When I came out I was suddenly back in New York. The suburbanites had disappeared and the bar was empty. My friend poured another beer and pushed it my way. “You want another one, right?” Damn straight I did. How did I get here? Where had I been? I clicked on my phone: the display said it was after two. My friend looked tired. I drank my beer and didn’t say anything. What I’d been through was too weird to explain, especially to somebody who’d been on his feet all night and was about to close.

So if this ever happens to you, don’t freak out. Eventually, you’ll get home. You might discover a good band, and you might also have to sit through some really bad stuff, but it’ll all turn out ok in the end. I wish I could promise you that would happen, but I can’t.

October 20, 2007 Posted by | Music, New York City, Rant | 1 Comment

NYC Live Music Calendar 10/18-11/7/07

 Ever wonder what CMJ stands for? It’s Colossal Musical Joke. Wonder why there aren’t any CMJ shows listed here? Guess why. Every bar with a pair of speakers turns into a “CMJ venue” – places bands normally wouldn’t conceive of playing suddenly have emocore kids from Tallahassee bouncing and braying in front of the donut rack or the fry-o-lator. Not that anybody should want to get signed to a major label at this point, but the last time somebody got signed out of CMJ, a Bush who actually won a presidential election was in office. Don’t waste your time. There are so many other fun things to do this week.

  

By the way, if you don’t recognize where any of these folks are playing, click on our useful Venues list, to your right under Categories.

   

Thurs Oct 18, 8 PM at Barbes the Plunk Bros – which is Bob Jones and Demolition String Band lead guitarist Boo Reiners doing their dueling acoustic guitar madness – open for Matt Munisteri and his group which this time around includes the amazing jazz accordionist Joey Barbato

  

Also Thurs Oct 18 ska jazz sax monster Dave Hillyard plays Bar on A, 10 PM. A rare chance to catch this guy in a small club. He blends oldschool Skatalites tunes with a Coleman Hawkins-influenced, envelope-pushing sensibility. He’s also playing there on Sat Oct 27 at 10 PM

  

Also Thurs Oct 18 the Roulette Sisters, their guitars and viola and gorgeous harmonies and sly innuendo-laden old blues songs are back at Pete’s, 9 PM.

  

Thurs Oct 18, 9 PM at Zebulon, Big Lazy guitar monster Steve Ulrich joins indie rocker Itmar Ziegler to do what seems to be pretty much their Pink Noise show, i.e. dark chromatic minor-key reverb instrumentals in very much the same vein as Big Lazy, this time without a drummer. Recommended because it’s an early show here: the trust fund children will still be in bed by the time the band is done playing.

  

Fri Oct 19 Randi Russo lead guitarist Lenny Molotov plays fiery, authentic fingerpicked delta blues along with his potent, original, politically charged songs at Sidewalk, 8 PM. You could call him the American Richard Thompson: his songs are as good as his playing.

  

Also Fri Oct 19 the martini cowboy Jack Grace, whose latest songs have taken on a haunting, George Jones/Merle Haggard intensity plays Barbes, 10 PM. Not to worry, he still does the funny stuff too.

  

Also Fri Oct 19 Custard Wally, who put out just about the dirtiest album in recent memory play Hank’s, 11 PM. Extremely funny 2-guitar rock unit who are smarter than you’d think after hearing the lyrics.

  

Also Fri Oct 19 Ninth House frontman Mark Sinnis plays an acoustic set with Erica Smith’s bassist on piano and Susan Mitchell playing scary, haunting violin at Banjo Jim’s at midnight.

  

Sat Oct 20 the brilliant, effortlessly sexy Les Chauds Lapins – which is Roulette Sisters lead guitarist and ex-Ordinaires frontman Kurt Hoffman playing innuendo-laden French songs from the 1930s and 40s – play Barbes, 8 PM, followed by Howard Fishman, who used to be good but now sounds like Dave Matthews. Get there early if you’re going.

  

Also Sat Oct 20 Boston garage rock legends Muck & the Mires play theMagnetic Field, 9 PM, early arrival strongly advised if you’re going.

  

Also Sat Oct 20 the Stay-at-Homes play Lakeside, 10 PM. This is the excellent all-female garage/punk band Sit N Spin fronted by the incomparably funny Tammy Faye Starlite playing Runaways covers. The Runaways were an all-female, teenage LA concept band created by D-list celebrity Kim Fowley back in the 70s. They spawned the careers of both Joan Jett and Lita Ford (and Cherie Currie, if you call that a career). The Stay-at-Homes play their Live in Japan album note for note, word for word and it is absolutely hysterical. You don’t have to know the source material to laugh your ass off.

  

Sat Oct 20 1 AM (actually the wee hours of Oct 21) El Jezel plays the Delancey. Slightly shoegaze, thoughtful, often minor-key indie rock with guitar, bass and sometimes keys, pulsing along on a deliciously swinging groove. OPEN BAR between midnight and 1 AM, how can you resist!

 

Sun Oct 21 and every Sunday there’s a great jazz jam session run by Matt Munisteri and his frequent sparring partner, trumpeter Jon Kellso at the Ear Inn, way west on Spring St., starts around 7.

  

Sun Oct 21 Carol Lipnik & Spookarama play Rose Bar, just west of Havemeyer on Grand St. in Williamsburg, 8 PM. Amazing 4-octave range, oldschool soul singer on the gypsy tip. And it all fits together spectacularly.

  

Sun Oct 21 virtuoso gypsy jazz guitar monster Stephane Wrembel plays Barbes, 9 PM. He’s very popular. Get there early.

  

Also Sun Oct 21 Melomane spinoff the Snow – whose potent, crescendoing art-rock sounds just like Melomane with a few more harmonies, and maybe a jazzier feel – plays Luna at 9:30 PM.

  

Mon Oct 22 another monster guitarist-about-town, Pete Galub & the Annuals play his witty, melodic janglerock, opening for indie rock legends the Silos – who have never sounded better live than they have recently – at the Magnetic Field, 9 PM

  

Also Mon Oct 22, 9:30 PM Barbes house band Chicha Libre continue their deliriously fun, danceable residency.

  

Thurs Oct 25 fiery indie rockers Cementhead play the Delancey, 8:30 PM. This trio has taken it to the next level – they’ve never been so melodic or tight as they are now. Very interesting guitar work, very catchy tunes.

  

Thurs Oct 25 an unlikely and very good singer-songwriter bill at Fontana’s starting at 7 PM with the promising new Sharon Goldman & Nina Soka duo, then the casual and very smart Kirsten Williams at 8 followed by spectacular soul siren Meg Braun and her trio.

  

Also Thurs Oct 25 the Roulette Sisters finish their October residency at Pete’s, 9 PM.

  

Also Thurs Oct 25 legendary San Francisco punk rockers the Avengers – an iconic band every bit the equal of the Sex Pistols or the Dead Boys, with the great Penelope Houston on vocals – play  Maxwell’s at 10 PM. Their Bowery show last winter was packed, so this will sell out. Adv tix available at the box office and at Other Music.

  

Fri Oct 26 the date band for people who hate date bands, the Moonlighters bring their gorgeous harmonies, authentic retro stylings and spot-on political sensibility to Barbes, 10 PM. Repeat after me, get there early.

  

Sat Oct 27 the absolutely brilliant Dixie Bee-Liners play Joe’s Pub, early, 7:30 PM. This is recent NY expats Buddy Woodward and Brandi Hart’s killer Bible Belt noir band: classic bluegrass melodies, first-class musicianship and some of the smartest, most incisive lyrics anyone is writing right now. They’re also very funny onstage. Welcome back, you guys!

 

 

Sat Oct 27 fiery highway rockers the Sloe Guns – who have taken on a harder edge lately – play the Baggot Inn, 9:30 PM.

  

Also Sat Oct 27 legendary 80s surf rockers Agent Orange play Europa in Greenpoint around 9, other acts on the bill TBA. Still living off their one classic album, 1981’s Living in Darkness, after all these years. And they still deliver the goods. It’s just a cry for help in a world gone mad!

 

Sun Oct 28 and every Sunday there’s a great jazz jam session run by Matt Munisteri and his frequent sparring partner, trumpeter Jon Kellso at the Ear Inn, way west on Spring St., starts around 7.

  

Mon Oct 29 smart, catchy female-fronted indie rock trio Girl Friday play a free show at the Magnetic Field,  9 PM, dollar beers while they’re onstage! Here’s hoping for a LONG set!!

  

Also Mon Oct 29 your last chance to catch the absolutely killer Chicha Libre and their surfy, Pan-American tunefulness during their residency this month at Barbes, 9:30 PM

  

Also Mon Oct 29 the self-explantory, predicably charming Ukeladies play Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM

  

Also Mon Oct 29 Rev. Vince Anderson plays his wild, improvisatory gospel show at Black Betty like he does every Monday, 2 sets starting at 10:30 PM. Billy Preston style organ-driven funk, killer honkytonk piano, slow soulful psychedelic gospel. And he’s very funny and politically spot-on, too.

  

Tues Oct 30 another chance to catch the panstylistically brilliant violinist Jenny Scheinman at Barbes, 7:30 PM, where it won’t cost you the usual $50 to see her.

  

Also Tues Oct 30 Australian punk rock legends the Saints play Maxwell’s, 9ish (showtime not on the club’s website as of this posting). I say punk legends rather than janglerock legends because they’ve been doing the blistering old punk stuff which actually isn’t as good as the deliriously good jangle-and-clang they did in the 80s. But if you’re a fan, don’t miss them. Last time around they had the great Marty Willson-Piper from the Church doing his best Ron Asheton impersonation on lead guitar.

  

Weds, Halloween, haunting cello rockers Rasputina play the Music Hall of Williamsburg FKA Northsix, showtime not listed on the club’s website as of today, adv tix an absolute must and available at the box office. I can’t think of anything better to do on Halloween.

  

Also Halloween, 9 PM System Noise – another equally good Halloween choice, with their eerie guitar and otherworldly vocals – plays R Bar on Bowery north of Delancey, east side of the street. For a $8 cover you get OPEN BAR from 7-8 PM, shades of Trash Bar. This is THE party tonight.

  

Thurs Nov 1 Rachelle Garniez plays Barbes, 10 PM. Multi-instrumentalist whose main axe is the accordion. Master of every retro style she’s ever touched – punk, psychedelia, ska, calypso, saloon jazz, torch songs, art-rock. And a great performer, one of the hardest working people in show business.

  

Fri Nov 2 legendary 60s garage band the Sonics – whose legend vastly surpasses their recorded output, which was mostly covers and a few C-list instrumentals like the Witch – play Warsaw as part of the Cavestomp garage rock fest. Tix $35 in advance, available at Earwax on Bedford Ave., Other Music and the Warsaw box office. Your best bargain if you’re into this kind of thing is the $90 three-day pass which also gets you the Strawberry Alarm Clock (which was a bunch of jazz guys playing psychedelia – I have their album which includes faux-hippie drivel like Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow) on Saturday night and the Fleshtones and the Sonics again on Sunday. No idea how many if any of these bands’ original members (the Fleshtones happily excluded) are playing. Or still alive.

  

Also Fri Nov 2, 8 PM it’s the Kalman Balogh Gypsy Cimbalom Band, with 2 other Hungarian gypsy bands at Symphony Space  – tix not available online but at WMI box office 49 W. 27th Street between 6th Avenue and Broadway, 9th floor, Suite 930., Monday – Thursday 10am – 6pm Friday 10am –1pm. A cimbalom looks like the inside of a piano, it’s termed a zither for reasons I cannot fathom (it’s played with mallets rather than strummed) but it actually sounds like somebody playing a harpsichord with an icepick. Could be a great show.

  

Sat Nov 3 amazing, percussive, Dick Dale-influenced Connecticut surf band 9th Wave plays Hank’s, time TBA – the club’s calendar doesn’t have them listed. But that’s Hank’s for you.

   

Also Sat Nov 3, 7:30 PM Monlighters frontwoman Bliss Blood’s superb, authentic acoustic delta blues band  Delta Dreambox plays the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library,  1 Grand Army Plaza, 2 train to G.A.P, two sets and worth it,  $10

  

Also Sat Nov 3 it’s the Roulette Sisters’ annual Halloween spectacular at Barbes, 10 PM. Are there any old innuendo-laden hokum blues songs about Halloween? If there are the Roulette sisters will have discovered them and will play them with their gorgeous 4-part harmonies.

  

Also Sat Nov 3 the original gypsy punks Gogol Bordello play the new Terminal 5, way west on 56 th St., advance tix an absolute must and available at the Mercury Lounge before 7 PM.

  

Sun Nov 4 anothe gypsy guy, jazz guitarist Stephane Wrembel plays Barbes, 9 PM, get there early if you’re going, he’s earned his rabid fan base.

  

Mon Nov 5 and every Monday, it looks like Rev. Vince Anderson has competition! The Rev. still does his killer weekly Monday night show at Black Betty at 10:30, but Peruvian surf monsters Chicha Libre are also doing a weekly thing as well. Theirs is at Barbes and starts around 10 but you should get there early. And you can still make it to the Rev.’s second set if running around on a Monday night is your thing. It sure beats dodging the stretch limos on a Saturday.

 

 

 

Weds Nov 7 Nashville gothic powerhouse Ninth House plays Luna, early,  8PM. Imagine how gorgeous Susan Mitchell’s violin, and the keys, and the guitar and the frontman’s powerful baritone will sound playing through the great sound system here.

October 18, 2007 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City | 2 Comments

Concert Review: Mark Steiner at Otto’s Shrunken Head, NYC 10/16/07

An exhilarating, powerful show. New York expat and former Kundera and Piker Ryan’s Folly frontman Mark Steiner had a great band behind him: brothers Peter and Christopher Mele on bass and drums, respectively, the incomparable Susan Mitchell on violin and a couple of excellent female backing vocalists joining him from time to time.

The band was loud, but as one A-list New York rocker, incognito in a maroon Midwestern windbreaker was heard to say, “I like the rock Steiner.” Both his former bands here were artsy, orchestrated units: tonight, they delivered a mix of big audience hits and new material with a roaring, passionate fury, as if this was CBGB, 1979. The sound mix was far from what it could have been: at one point, the aforementioned A-list rocker, disgusted, calmly walked to the stage and moved both vocal mics next to each other so that Steiner’s ominous baritone could be more audible than it was early in the show. In a world where good male singers are an increasingly rare commodity, Steiner is one of the absolute best, and he reaffirmed that tonight…when he could be heard. This place has a monthly surf music show in the corner back room here, and that sounds great, but bands with vocals are obviously an afterthought. The bass was too loud and the guitar went out of tune frequently (Steiner’s heavy use of the whammy bar requires that he retune after practically every song). Yet it didn’t matter. The songs were so good, the intensity of the performance so relentless and unselfconscious that they could have been playing in somebody’s garage and it would have been no less fun.

Steiner’s signature style is dark and menacing. He plays with a ton of reverb, frequently using his tremolo bar for an eerie, twangy bent-note effect. His melodies blend classical motifs with retro 50s chord changes, occasionally venturing into Irish ballad territory. The obvious influence is Nick Cave, but Steiner doesn’t play the balladeer, or affect any persona. His compositions echo an earlier era, around the time The Mercy Seat came out. Tonight’s only incongruity was between songs, as Steiner casually laughed and joked with the audience. It was a cd release show for his new album Fallen Birds, which he’s also released on 180 gram vinyl. “180 grams,” he mused. “Of what?” There was nervous laughter throughout the room: nobody was oblivious to what he was alluding to.

Early in the show, before they brought up the vocals, Steiner delivered one of his most powerful numbers, a slow, 6/8 tale of abandonment (he loves 6/8 time). Soon afterward Steiner turned up his amp to the point of distorting, and they followed with a supremely catchy, upbeat, staccato-driven tune that sounded like the great lost early Bauhaus track. After that, they played the haunting, 6/8 audience hit Now She’s Gone, then a very long cover of The Fever: “You never know how much I hate you, baby,” Steiner sneered as they launched into the song. A pretty young woman named Trisha came out of the audience to join the band, delivering a long, obviously desperate lyric that she read from a cheat sheet while the band pounded behind her like the Cramps. Given the sonics in the club, it was hard to figure out what she was singing, but eventually she was moved to the point of tears.

Then Bellmer Dolls lead guitarist Peter Mavrogeorgis joined the band for their last few songs. He’s a master of reverb-laden, dismissive, angry staccato wails, which interspersed within Mitchell’s lightning-fast, eerie gypsy runs and flourishes became the perfect complement to Steiner’s brooding, bitter melodies. Steiner warned the audience more than once that he wasn’t going to play an encore, but they still wouldn’t let him leave the stage so finally he indulged them with one of his most popular songs, Cigarettes, another trademark 6/8 number driven by reverb and tremolo chords.

This was the kind of show that you walk out of absolutely flying. It was like seeing the Clash, or the Church, or LJ Murphy for the first time. You feel bulletproof, able to ingest whole bottles of whiskey in a single gulp, stand up to any representative of the fascist machine no matter how outgunned you may be. Pure sonic adrenaline, and a reassuring reminder that music this powerful and invigorating is far, far from dead. Steiner doesn’t play a lot of US dates anymore – which undoubtedly explains why he was playing this one-off date at Otto’s instead of, say, Bowery Ballroom – watch this space for future NYC appearances.

October 17, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Eric Plutz at the Organ at St. Thomas Church, NYC 10/14/07

An impressively diverse performance by Princeton University organist Eric Plutz: the nation’s most heavily endowed school appears to have spent wisely to get him. He opened with 20th century American composer Leo Sowerby’s Jubilee, a characteristically playful, somewhat disturbingly carnivalesque piece. The centenary of Sowerby’s birth, twelve years ago brought renewed interest in this extremely versatile figure, who also wrote jazz and pop songs in addition to his substantial works for the organ. This one begins rather eerie, later juxtaposing a series of somewhat exaggerated, funhouse mirror melodies playing against each other in the right and left hand. If it’s a celebration of anything, it’s a celebration of strangeness. Plutz let the piece speak for itself without unneeded embellishment.

He followed with Eugene Gigout’s Scherzo, from his well-known Ten Pieces. This is an old warhorse in the organ repertoire, and, again, Plutz showed remarkable restraint by not rushing through its comfortably energetic changes as must be tempting to do. Maintaining the concert’s upbeat, ebullient feel, he then played Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in G Major, BWV 541. As everyone knows, there were several composers in the Bach family, all known by their initials: patriarch J.S., followed by son, C.P.E., eventually 1970s spoof P.D.Q. and most recently, a seemingly distant relative who might be called N.P.R. Bach. This member of the family is the Bach you hear on public radio, especially around Christmas: generous amounts of pretty melody, predictable call-and-response and not much more. This is one of those pieces, as lighthearted as Bach ever got with any of his big preludes and fugues. It swirled like a carol chanted in the round, its few minor-key moments a welcome respite from the incessant good cheer.

Plutz then completely shifted gears with Dale Wood’s arrangement of the traditional Welsh folk song Ar Hyd Y Nos (All Through the Night), a very calm, somewhat sleepy tune. He then reverted to the program’s earlier boisterousness, closing with Belgian late Romantic composer Joseph Jongen’s Sonata Eroica, which unsurprisingly owes a lot to Beethoven with its stop-and-start crescendos and false endings, beginning with the organ roaring full blast, punctuated by quieter, slower passages that eventually build back to the piece’s initial stately yet bold brushstrokes. A welcome shot of adrenaline to comfort anyone dreading the prospects of Monday morning. It’s surprising that more people, notably parishioners, don’t take advantage of the free, weekly 5:15 PM Sunday recitals in the magnificent space here.

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