It was Freddy’s Bar night at the Parkside. Since Freddy’s is doomed – failing an intervention from some deus ex machina, the encroaching Atlantic Yards luxury condominium/arena monstrosity is scheduled to engulf and demolish the building that houses the venue– several of the bands from what’s left of the scene there have started playing other places. This is the latest. One of the ways you can tell if a scene is real is if bands share musicians, and this crew takes that concept to an extreme. Lead guitarist Ross Bonnadonna played with Paula Carino, Tom Warnick and John Sharples. Sharples himself drummed for Warnick and then fronted his own band at the end of the night. Bassist Andy Mattina also did double duty with Carino and Sharples.
Carino has made a name for herself by writing heartwrenchingly lyrical janglerock songs, but tonight was her fun set. She has a thing for weird time signatures and did four of them in a row: the caustic Rough Guide to You (“Just take me home,” the narrator sighs at the end, exasperated); the crunchy Discovering Fire; the hilariously punk Old People (“Old people must go/Set them all on an ice floe/Make room for the new old people”) and the quirk-rock hit Robots Helping Robots. She and band burned through the rockabilly-inflected yet mournful Saying Grace Before the Movie, a potently metaphorical tale of a woman alone in a theatre in a No Exit situation, knowing the villain always returns. They dusted off her classic, victorious Venus Records (“You’re my alltime favorite lucky find”) and encored with the scorching Coming To Your Senses, one of her most slashing numbers. The crowd was ecstatic: for once, the sound here was excellent, Carino’s vocals like velvet cake with creme de menthe icing. She would prove a very hard act to follow.
But Tom Warnick was up to the challenge. He’s simply one of the most dynamic, effortlessly hilarious frontmen in all of rock. Marcellus Hall is a good comparison: both like their retro styles, have a great sense of melody and an equally sharp sense of humor. Waving a hammer at the audience and pounding his keyboard with it – from the back of the room, it looked like the real thing, not a prop – he gave his completely off-the-wall, stream-of-consciousness songs just enough menace to give the crowd pause. Warnick does the evil-eye thing as well as Johnny Rotten in his prime: it’s never certain whether he’s just goofing around or whether he really means it, and he clearly gets a charge out of messing with his bandmates just as much as he messes with the audience. His best song was a very funny chronicle about playing a gig later on a Monday night at a club where the promoter expected him and the band to bring at least forty people. He closed the song with a brief quote from the Mission Impossible theme.
He and band also ran through the fast, noir City of Women, which dates back to his days as a guitarist, along with a gut-bustingly funny, twisted travelogue through the south and back: “You always hit the bullseye when I go in the donkey tank,” he mused. Since it was Randy Newman’s birthday – “If it wasn’t for Randy Newman I wouldn’t have written a lot of these songs – it’s true,” Warnick told the crowd – they did one of his songs, a 6/8 number where the narrator gets “some whiskey from a barman, some cocaine from a friend” and sinks into something approaching wry despondency.
After Carino and Warnick, the Erica Smith Jazz Odyssey (as Carino playfully called them) should have been anticlimactic to the extreme. But Smith, radiant in a shimmery black dress, grabbed the crowd and they latched on for the ride. She and the band may play mostly rock, but jazz and soul is where her heart and especially her voice are at, and the band gamely played along while she delivered a goosebump-inducing Cry Me a River along with sultry versions of The Very Thought of You, Ain’t Misbehaving and One for My Baby. They also ran through several of her originals, ranging from the bossa nova soul of the soon-to-be-released Tonight, the backbeat-driven 31st Avenue and a practically heavy metal cover of the obscure Judy Henske classic Snowblind (the title of the band’s forthcoming album).
The evening closed with John Sharples, who as he told the audience is “the anti-songwriter” since he doesn’t write his own stuff, opting to cover his friends’ songs. Good taste is his trademark, as he and the band (with Smith playing rhythm guitar and singing harmonies) launched into the excellent, tongue-in-cheek Blow This Nightclub hit When Amy Says, along with a surprisingly good, bluesy, minor-key Dan Killian song and eventually something that sounded like Minor Threat at halfspeed which Smith sat out (just as well, considering how much louder Sharples was than any of the other bands: he’s pretty punk rock). They closed with Smith bringing down the house as usual with a blazing, passionate cover of the old Beatles tune I’ve Got a Feeling. What a treat for everyone who filled the back room here on a weeknight: four headline-quality acts for the price of a beer, arguably the best lineup in any club this year all year.
Is this list omniscient and immutable? Absolutely not! In our continuing quest for omniscience, we update this on a virtually daily basis, just for you! Which means you should check back sometime.
Weds Nov 28 arguably one of the year’s best triple bills with literate, casually alluring janglerocker Paula Carino – a terrific and very funny live performer – at 8, then the equally clever, funny, somewhat theatrical and absolutely must-see Tom Warnick, then Erica Smith & the 99 Cent Dreams (NYC’s bombshell jazzkitten answer to Neko Case, and just as good) and the John Sharples Band winding up the night with some brilliant obscurities.
Also Weds Nov 28 the Howlin Thurstons play Arlene’s, 8 PM. Punkish surf instrumentals with a dirty, noise-rock feel. Good stuff if you’re in the mood.
Also Weds Nov 28 starting at 7 PM and going all night it’s the Gram Parsons tribute at Luna with Mary Lee Kortes, Roscoe Ambel, Chip Robinson, Demolition String Band, King Vidor (King Vidor?!?) at Luna. Looks like everybody will be playing short sets of Gram. Tammy Faye Starlite said something brilliant about Gram – that we should all get together and throw shit at a picture of him. Not just throw stuff – throw feces. Her point was that he’s great and all, but he’s become an icon and icons are meant to be broken. Maybe the whole crew can do that after the night is over.
Also Weds Nov 28 through Dec 2 the Lou Donaldson Quartet with Dr. Lonnie Smith on organ plays the Village Vanugard, 2 sets nightly 9 and 11 PM. Lou has a classic 60s soul background (and he can sing, too) but this is his organ groove set with one of the greats (and a big influence on Moisturizer) playing Hammond.
Thurs Nov 29 Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co. playsOtto’s, 8 PM, 2 sets. This retro pre-rockabilly trio look exactly as if they stepped off the stage at the Ryman, 1953 and play like it, although their lyrics have a contemporary edge and sense of humor. They’re also playing Hank’s on Dec 28 at 11.
Also Thurs Nov 29 good lyrical songwriter David LK Murphy plays Sidewalk, 8 PM
Also Thurs Nov 29 often-haunting, groove-driven indie rock trio El Jezel play the Bowery Poetry Club at 8 PM followed by another band with guy/girl vocals, marvelous British expats the Bedsit Poets with their catchy, 3-minute Carnaby St. 60s style pop hits, soaring Britfolk anthems and sweet harmonies featuring the effortlessly riveting Amanda Thorpe. Good double bill.
Also Thurs Nov 29 how much can you drink in an hour? What if it’s free. That’s right, open bar with FREE FINLANDIA VODKA DRINKS plus live music by the anthemic, sometimes absolutely exhilirating Radiohead-influenced art-rockers My Pet Dragon at Galapagos from 9-10 PM
Fri Nov 30 and Sat Dec 1, 8 PM Serena Jost dances and plays her original music for dance with other dancers at the Kitchen 512 W 19th Street (between 10th/11th). In addition to being a great multi-instrumentalist (cello, keyboards, guitar) and a fine singer, Jost writes wickedly smart, witty, multistylistic songs. She’s also a somewhat catlike, graceful person so it isn’t a stretch to imagine her doing some dance project (other than drunken pogoing) and actually pulling it off.
Fri Nov 30 Jack Grace brings his boisterous, authentic 1960s style country band intoBarbes, 8 PM, get there early. He’s also playing Rodeo Bar on Dec 19.
Fri Nov 30 Black Fortress of Opium plays Goodbye Blue Mondays in Bushwick, 9:30 PM. The name is apt: they blend ambient, psychedelic, female-fronted, Siouxsie & the Banshees-influenced, Middle Eastern-inflected art-rock with late 80s style dreampop. They’re big in Boston, home to World Champions. Let them see how tough it is to pull a crowd here in the wilds of Bushwick. But you should go: you might be the only people there.
Also Fri Nov 30 reliably hilarious ragtime throwback Al Duvall plays Pete’s, 10 PM. Sex figures into most of his totally authentic-sounding retro songs. As does history, New York City history in particular. And he plays a mean banjo.
Also Fri Nov 30 the Jimmy Nations Combo plays Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Nations is a sizzling fast rockabilly guitarist whose originals are indistinguishable from the classic covers the band plays. If you missed the Rev. Horton Heat show last week, this is your redemption.
Later Fri Nov 30, 11 PM Purple K’Nif play Lakeside. They’re sort of a shambling, jangling, psychedelic 2-guitar Ohio surf band plays a mix of classic covers and originals. Their big hit seems to be called The Beer Theme and it’s good.
Sat Dec 1, at 3:30 PM sharp Secretary (without Big Boss?), which is Moisturizer baritone sax frontwoman Paula Henderson’s beguiling movie soundtrack-style instrumental unit plays Art & Community Gallery, 56 East 1st Street (1st/2nd Aves). Then at night Moisturizer plays Union Pool opening for very psychedelic, funky noise rockers Apollo Heights at 10ish
Also Dec 1 DC blues guitarist Bobby Radcliffplays an early set at Terra Blues, 7 PM. He’s a rare white blues guy who’s actually worth seeing: he can play a million notes, but he makes them count and he can also play funk without a trace of metal. He once made a live album in New Hampshire. If guitar is your thing you should go to this.
Also Sat Dec 1 it’s another Unsteady Freddy surf show at Otto’s starting at 9 with the sometimes painfully cutesy Tarantinos NYC along with Blue Wave Theory, The Outpatients and Strange But Surf. Among all these bands there ought to be at least a whole set, maybe a lot more, worth of danceable twangy instrumentals.
Also Sat Dec 1 Luther Wright & the Wrongs play Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Best known for his bluegrass cover of Pink Floyd’s album The Wall, he and his fellow Canucks also do very funny, authentic bluegrass originals. Get there early.
Early afternoon of Sun Dec 2, 2 PM the blazing, horn-driven, jazz-inflected Metropolitan Klezmer (with the great Pam Fleming on trumpet) plays Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn – Canarsie is the neighborhood if memory serves correctly – at the Goldstein Performing Arts Center somewhere on campus. Be adventurous, go to kingsborough.edu and see if you can find it. We can’t.
Also Sun Dec 2 Matt Keating plays downstairs at the Brooklyn Lyceum, 7 PM, early. He looks like a skinnier Jon Papelbon and throws just as hard, lyrically speaking, even if he doesn’t dance. Ask yourself, would you want to face Matt Keating in a key situation in the 9th inning? No way in hell.
Also Sun Dec 2 the Flying Neutrinos play Rodeo Bar, 10 PM. The original old-timey NY band – predating the Moonlighters – they used to have a drummer who sang and a trombonist who tapdanced rhythm while playing. Their Billie Holiday covers were terrific. No idea of how many original members are left, but the old unit was always a good party.
Also Sun Dec 2 formerly all-female retro trio Catspaw has a new bass player and he’s a guy, but they haven’t lost any of their fiery rockabilly swing, their cool surf sound or their occasionally very haunting originals. They’re playing Otto’s at 9:30 PM.
Also Sun Dec 2 Pierce Turner plays Joe’s Pub, 7 PM. A star in Ireland, he’s something of the missing link between the Pogues and the Moody Blues. His long-running residency at Fiddlesticks back in the 90s is the stuff of legend. And he does a mean cover of the old Motown hit Band of Gold.
Later Dec 2 Texas Flatlander Joe Ely plays Joe’s Pub with separate admission at9:30 PM. Laid-back, soulful country voice and some excellent originals. He opened for the Clash on tour back in the 70s.
Mon Dec 3 at 9 PM the Fisherman Trio plays Otto’s, 9 PM. Polynesian rock withvibraphone and a rhythm section, maybe others playing with them as well. Psychedelic and fun.
Also Mon Dec 3 Rev. Vince Anderson plays his weekly gospel-jam residency at Black Betty, 2 sets starting at 10:30 PM. And Chicha Libre do their wildly psychedelic Peruvian surf thing at Barbes starting around 10.
Tues Dec 4 Brooklyn-based, improvisationally oriented Astrograss play Rodeo Bar at 10:30 PM with the Dixie Bee-Liners’ excellent former violinist.
Tues Dec 4 through 11 it’s Yo La Tengo’s annual Hanukah residency at Maxwell’s, 9ish, tix still available at the club box office as of this writing. They’ll go fast. No matter that their days as the world’s most abrasively intoxicating noise band are behind them: they still write great songs.
Weds Dec 5 the hilarious and also musically excellent faux-French garage rockers Les Sans Culottes open for the Gore Gore Girls at Southpaw, 10 PM.
Thurs Dec 6 Taylor Mali celebrates his first spoken word cd in 12 years with a live poetry performance at Bowery Poetry Club, 8 PM- free admission, free sushi. In other words, free dinner and free fun.
Also Thurs Dec 6 – surely some friend of yours has at one time taken you aside and murmured, “Luminscent Orchestrii are really amazing.” They may not have pronounced the band name right, but this crew is NYC’s best gypsy band. Mostly delirious danceable stuff on authentic acoustic instruments, not much rock, but the same exhilarating vibe as Gogol Bordello. They’re leaving on European tour and are doing a warmup show in the back room at the Ukrainian Restauraut on Second Ave. south of St. Mark’s at 8 PM.
Also Thurs Dec 6 Rachelle Garniez plays Barbes, 9 PM. You heard this here first: there is no more mesmerizing, hilarious or intense live performer anywhere. She also writes incredibly potent, melodically rich, lyrically-driven, keyboard-based songs. And has the monstrously good Matt Munisteri playing lead guitar.
Fri Sept 7 System Noise frontwoman Sarah Mucho stars in her noir sci-fi cabaret show Subterranean Circus at the Duplex, 9:30 PM, this will sell out fast, adv tix available at the box office. The show – a futuristic cautionary tale – has a throwback early 80s East Village punk rock vibe, and her pianist and accordionist are phenomenal. Imagination rules and rules are meant to be broken. And Mucho’s spectacular voice might shatter your glass.
Also Fri Dec 7 you want great guitar? The American Richard Thompson, Lenny Molotov plays Sidewalk, 8 PM. Virtuosic open-tuned blues, brilliant original lyrics and a real sense of history.
Also Fri Dec 7 you want more great guitar? Devi, led by ex-False Prophets guitar goddess plays Shrine, uptown at 2271 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (b/w 133-134). Wild, psychedelic jams with no wasted notes, edgy, catchy songwriting and nice vocals too. Highly regarded, long-running reggae-rock band Faith opens at 8.
Also Fri Dec 7 if you have the cash, 8 PM, Hot Tuna plays electric at the Beacon Theatre, adv tix are expensive ($39.50), box office open 11-7 M-F. Funny how New York’s best exponent of delta blues would be playing the same night as these guys: the first Hot Tuna album sounds a lot like some of his stuff. They’re more psychedelic, as you would expect from the guitarist and bassist from Jefferson Airplane.
Sat Dec 8 the Blue Shadow Dogs play Otto’s, early, 6 PM. It’s not our style to recommend a cover band, but they do the 70s Stones/Santana bluesy improv thing exceptionally well, they groove and they have an excellent bass player
Also Sat Dec 8, repeating Dec 15, 23 and New Years’ Eve Black 47 plays Connolly’s in Times Square, best to get there 9ish. The pre-Xmas shows are $10 and New Years’ is a piddling $20. This is a band you should see at least once in your life and possibly many more times: Irish expat novelist Larry Kirwan still has it after all these years, more than two decades since the band became sort of the American expat version of the Pogues before morphing into a more rock-oriented, anthemic unit. His lyrics are rich with history and political passion – not just for Ireland – and the band still kicks ass live.
Later Sat Dec 8 Demolition String Band play what seems to be their monthly show at Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. The guitarishly excellent rocking country band’s new one Different Kinds of Love is out and it’s excellent.
Also Sat Dec 8 Marcellus Hall & the Headliners play Lakeside, 11 PM. A great songwriter at the top of his game, the former Railroad Jerk and White Hassle frontman has new songs with lyrics funnier than ever, and he’s become a hell of a guitar player. Never thought it would be possible to say about this guy, but the newfound sense of gravitas was well worth the wait.
Sun Dec 9 it’s guitarits Matt Munisteri and trumpeter Jon Kellso’s weekly hot session at the Ear Inn, 7:30 ish. Two of the top jazz guys in town hosting NYC’s only regular weekly jazz jam – who knows what other luminaries might sit in. This could become legendary if it picks up a little more steam.
Also Sun Dec 9 the Janaki String Trio plays Barbes 7 PM. They specialized in obscure string trio classical pieces. Pretty cool that Barbes now has the occasional classical music show, n’est-ce pas? Gypsy guitar monster Stephane Wrembel follows at 9. Get. There. Early.Wrembel also plays here on 12/30 at 9 PM.
Also Sun Dec 9 twisted country parody band the Inbreeds play Banjo Jim’s, 8 PM. Their logo is sort of Catherine the Great in reverse: it’s a cowboy fucking a horse up the ass. Most of their songs are about sex. And they have one of the best accordion players around.
Also Sun Dec 9 Sean Kershaw & the New Jack Ramblers plays their tastily twangy weekly country show at Hank’s, 9ish, free barbecue and sausages beforehand.
Also Sun Dec 9 with the Van Halen reunion (sort of) tour going on, there’s never been a better time for Van Hayride, who play their sick countrified covers at Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Jack Grace, the Country Ham (as his wife calls him) is the frontman, doing an absolutely over-the-top hilarious David Lee Roth parody.
Mon Dec 10 if it’s Monday that means Chicha Libre is at Barbes at 10 PM and Rev. Vince Anderson is at Black Betty, 10:30 PM. Shows repeat Dec 17; dunno about the 24th. Chicha Libre also plays Barbes on New Year’s Eve for $20 which is actually a good deal.
Tues Dec 11, a rare early show by the finest practitioner of potent, lyrically charged New York noir rock, LJ Murphy and his band (now featuring System Noise’s phenomenal lead guitarist as well as the bass player from Erica Smith’s band) at the Knitting Factory, 8 PM.
Also Tues Dec 11 through 16 subtle jazz guitar semi-legend Jim Hallplays with his trio at theVillage Vanguard, sets at 9 and 11. It’s cheaper during the week though the shows should be just as good as on the weekend.
Thurs Dec 13 jazz bassist Tim Luntzel celebrates the release of his new cd at the Rockwood, 8 PM. He’s played with everybody and that’s because he’s got a great sense of melody. Here’s your chance to hear him do his stuff in this great-sounding room.
Also Thurs Dec 13 the sprawling, oldtimey, somewhat psychedelic M Shanghai String Band opens for the best old-timey band on the planet, the Moonlighters, who’ve just returned triumphantly from their European tour. The show is Union Pool starting around 9ish.
Also Thurs Dec 13 in their only 2007 US performance, the wildly psychedelic Microscopic Septet, with their four sax players are at Sweet Rhythm, 88 7th Ave. S, 2 sets 8 and 10 PM playing stuff they’ll record the next day. Want a taste of the new album? Go to the show.
Also Thurs Dec 13 and Fri Dec 14 one of the Wu-Tang Clan’s most consistently good lyricists, GZA, plays the Knit at 11 PM. Watch your back: security might be bashing heads, and who knows how good the guy is live (Wu members’ solo shows tend to be ganja-fueled trainwrecks).
Fri Dec 14 the Ralph Alessi Quartet plays the Jazz Gallery, 9 PM. Trumpet is his axe: adventurous, versatile, tasteful, he keeps it pretty chill most of the time so when he takes off, look out. He likes to jam.
Also Fri Dec 14 former Millerite Redeemers frontman Joe Maynard’s more rocking, equally funny new country band Maynard & the Musties plays Lakeside, 11 PM. Rumor has it that Drew Glackin from Jack Grace’s band might be sitting in on pedal steel, which would be reason alone to go to this show.
Also Fri Dec 14 Ian Hunter plays the well-renovated former Northsix space now called the Music Hall of Williamsburg at 9 PM, $25 tix available at the Mercury box office. This probably won’t sell out since it’s Williamsburg and nobody here knows who he is. In case he’s not your generation, back in the 70s he fronted a lousy British proto-metal band called Mott the Hoople. After that he did a series of surprisingly good, rocking songwriter albums. Both John Cale and Mick Jones of the Clash saw enough from him to produce him; the late Mick Ronson played incredible lead guitar for him for years. Worth seeing what he’s up to lately.
Sat Dec 15 superb blues singer/guitarist Johnny Allen plays Terra Blues, 10 PM. When he hits that volume pedal and starts to solo, look out. His stuff is usually pretty hard-edged, and he doesn’t waste notes. He does a killer cover of the Albert Collins classic I’m Not Drunk (I’m Just Drinking).
Also Sun Dec 16 the Greenwich Village Orchestra plays a kid-friendly but very smart program including Saint-Saens’ witty multi-part Carnival of the Animals at Washington Irving High School on Irving Place, just north of Irving Plaza, across the street, 3 PM sharp, $15 and worth every cent.
Tues Dec 18 the excellent, panstylistic violinist Jenny Scheinman returns to Barbes, 7 PM.
Also Tues Dec 18 Finnish expats Kaiku play the Cornelia St. Cafe, 8 PM. The missing link between the Cocteau Twins and JPP: ambient, hypnotic and sometimes haunting, with the two women singing ethereal harmonies. Lyrics in Finnish and Portuguese. Delicious stuff if you’re in the mood.
Weds Dec 19 hip-hop legends Public Enemy – whose largely unheralded recent work has been more focused and as scorchingly political as their old 80s and 90s hits – play Irving Plaza at 9ish, adv tix $33 at the box office open noon-6 M-F and worth it.
Thurs Dec 20, 6 PM sharp, world-renowned organist John Scott plays Olivier Messiaen’s The Birth of Christ in its entirety at St. Thomas Church. Early arrival very strongly advised. Scott is a deservedly a star and this is his home base, so parishioners will be out in full force. The suite he’s playing is full of goosebump-inducing crescendos, the best thing Messiaen ever wrote other than the legendary L’Apparition de l’Eglise Eternelle.
Also Thurs Dec 20 Matt Munisteri plays some kind of guitar show – he can do pretty much anything well – at Barbes, 10 PM
Fri Dec 21 the Elysian Fields, featuring Jenifer Jackson’s virtuoso guitarist Oren Bloedow and sultry noir singer Jennifer Charles play Joe’s Pub, 9:30 PM. Their new stuff is their darkest yet. Sort of noir cabaret but jazzier and more complex, and they really pull out all the stops live.
Fri Dec 21 and 22 popular goth/folk Pete’s Candy Store-style duo O’Death play the Mercury midnight, adv tix absolutely necessary and available now, get ‘em if you’re going.
Also Fri Dec 21 pan-American retro harmony band Las Rubias del Norte (the Northern Blondes) play Barbes, 10 PM. Charming and romantic with a vibe similar to the Moonlighters in their quietest moments.
Sat Dec 22 Rachelle Garniez plays the cd release for her long-awaited new album The Melusine Years at Joe’s Pub, 9:30 PM, advance tix absolutely required, this will sell out and for good reason: her most recent one Luckyday remains one of the four or five best albums of the zeros to date. The “Coalmine Canary,” noir chanteuse Little Annie plays afterward with separate admission at 11:30 PM which is a crime because the segue between the acts would be terrific.
Also Sat Dec 22 Nanuchka plays the Rockwood, 11 PM. If you’re on your way east after Rachelle, worth stopping by to see if there’s room here to see these first-class female-fronted gypsy rockers. Not sure how they got this gig or how appropriate they are for this tiny room, but any way you look at it the sound will be good. The music from the live room is piped over the PA at the adjacent bar if it’s too packed. Maybe this will be the time the Rockwood finally packs up the tables and chairs and makes some room for a real crowd.
Sun Dec 23 Matty Charles, who held a residency at Pete’s doing his casually smart country stuff for a long time and comes back from time to time and is back tonight at 8:30 PM
Also Sun Dec 23 long-running, horn-driven third-generation ska legends the Slackers play Bowery Ballroom, 9 PM. If you’re too young to have seen the Specials the first time around, or the second, and aren’t sure if there’ll be a third (there probably will), these guys will hit the spot. And they don’t limit themselves to ska, with blues, soul and rock in the mix as well. And a furious, fearless anti-Bush stance.
Thurs Dec 27 klezmer-rockers Golem play Bowery Ballroom, 9 PM. The textures between the killer violin and trombone are delicious. The delirious danceable vibe is equal to what you get at a Gogol Bordello show. Sexy dance songs in Yiddish. Perfect for the space, which used to be an old Jewish vaudeville theatre.
Also Thurs Dec 27 dark, semi-acoustic, semi-goth rockers Mad Juana play Midway at 11 PM.
Fri Dec 28 John Brown’s Body – the world’s best white roots reggae band, absolute masters of trance-inducing dub – play Maxwell’s, 10 PM. They’re also playing Southpaw the previous night, although the sound here will be light-years better.
Also Fri Dec 28 New York’s best blues band, the barrelhouse piano-driven Delta Dreambox play Barbes 10 PM. A rare performance by another one of Bliss Blood’s incredible bands, don’t miss this if you’re around.
Sat Dec 29 and 30 at9 and 10:30 PM, the Roy Hargrove Organ Quintet is at the Jazz Gallery. Hargrove plays well against an organ. And he knows it. When he’s not doing the big band thing he does this and it serves him well.
Also Sat Dec 29 Rob Curto’s Forro for All plays Barbes, 10 PM. Forro is Brazilian jungle guitar music. It has a haunting, gypsyish feel and it’s danceable as hell.
New Year’s Eve your best bet is Lakeside where Tammy Faye Starlite’s incomparably funny Stones cover band the Mike Hunt Band (as in have you seen Mike Hunt). Suggest you get there by 8 – or, hell, get there for happy hour and be completely loaded by the time the band goes on, you’ll laugh harder.
It came as a shock to us to learn that international roots reggae star Lucky Dube had been murdered in an attempted carjacking in Rossetenville, South Africa this past October 19, leaving behind seven children including one born just this year. Dube was 43. Born to a woman who had been told she could not conceive – hence the name Lucky – Dube would release five mbaqanga albums in Zulu before turning to reggae, where he would find a vision and create a body of work that would reach pantheonic proportions. It could be said that he was the king of African reggae, although he would undoubtedly scoff at that title. Dube was a pure embodiment of the roots reggae esthetic, a champion of the underdog, passionate supporter of democracy worldwide and crusader for equal rights for people of all races. He did not merely pay lip service to these ideals: he lived them and breathed them through his music, all 22 albums recorded in Zulu, English and even one (a platinum-selling ep of satirical songs) in Afrikaans. While roots reggae, as played with a traditional band including bass, drums, guitars and keyboards, may be a rapidly dying genre, Dube remained faithful to it all the way through his final cd, Respect, issued earlier this year. While he did not play on his recordings, Dube was also an outstanding keyboardist particularly adept at the organ, something his fans would discover at live shows (his 1990 album Captured Live remains one of the best reggae albums and also one of the best live concert albums ever made). His heartfelt, sometimes anguished, Peter Tosh-influenced vocals and magisterial stage presence made him one of reggae’s most dynamic performers. Although Dube didn’t speak English until he was 18, his lyrics are terse and often even poetic, a mix of fiery political broadsides, social commentary and longing, spiritual meditations.
Considering that Dube was hardly materialistic and deplored violence, it is cruelly ironic that he would die murdered by a stranger attempting to steal his car. In his best song, Victims, Dube offers a poignant and insightful look at the effects of random violence through the eyes of a grieving woman:
Dear lord, she was crying until now
As she turned to move her head
She said boy oh boy it brings tears to my eyes
I said why
She said boy it brings tears to my eyes
Bob Marley said, how long shall they kill our brothers while we stand aside and look?
Little did he know that eventually the enemy will stand aside and look
While we kill our own brothers
Knowing that already they are the victims of the situation
Still licking wounds from brutality
Still licking wounds from humiliation
She said these words as the wrinkles on her face
Became perfect traces of the tears of a race
We are the victims everytime
We got double trouble everytime
She took me outside in the churchyard
Showed me graves on the ground
And she said, there lies a man who fought for equality
There lies a boy who died in his tracks
Can all these heroes die in vain while we sit back and kill our own
Knowing already that they are the victims of the situation
Still licking wounds from humiliation
We are the victims everytime
We got double trouble everytime
Lucky Dube was an artist we’d planned on featuring here for sometime. It’s tragic that we were never be able to do anything on this great songwriter and performer while he was alive.
The concert was newer stuff bookended by old and perhaps someday canonical material: the original ghoulabilly band earned themselves a place in the pantheon a long time ago. They opened with Mad Daddy and Mystery Plane. Frontman Lux Interior appeared sober for most of the show, and even a little self-effacing; guitarist Poison Ivy played distorted rockabilly and hotrod rhythm without many solos. It seems that they’ve come to an uneasy grasp of the fact that this after all is show bizness and they’re in it for the money as much as anything else. Which is ok, because the Dead Boys were too and they also rocked incredibly hard live. So what if the Cramps are basically a 60s garage band with a lot of distortion and a mad Elvis fronting the unit. “Let’s take some drugs,” said Lux.
Let’s Get Fucked Up was one of the last numbers in the set but wasn’t as memorable as something with that title should be. They closed it with TV Set and The Crusher, the bass player using a slide on the highest registers, an attempt to replicate the sound Kid Congo Powers got on the records. An appropriately ominous Human Fly was the first of the encores, followed by She Said wherein Lux made a half-assed attempt to tell a story between choruses. Surfin Bird was the last song and quickly degenerated into a high-velocity, half-hour feedback jam. Lux put the mic in his mouth, climbed on top of the bank of amps to the left of the stage and made a variety of gross noises while Ivy stood with her guitar looking up at him anxiously as the bass and drums pounded and a high-pitched shriek blasted from her amp.
[Editor’s note – during our first year, to keep the front page fresh over a long vacation weekend, we’d dip into the archive for a blast from the past like this one. We plan on resurrecting the tradition at some point.]
Seemingly an impromptu outdoor performance on the sidewalk in front of this new Ludlow Street gallery as an enticement to draw people in street to see what’s on display and drink Dixie cups of Guinness. No joke. Bet the band will be around longer than this place will [editor’s note: the band is long gone and so is the gallery]. They did two sets punctuated by the arrival of a police cruiser which by some lucky stroke of fate pulled up while the band was taking a break. The cops sat there for a couple of minutes, then left and didn’t return. Douce Gimlet opened with frontman Joe Ben Plummer and baritone sax player Paula Henderson marching in from the carpark across the street, both playing sax, unamplified, while the rhythm section played on the sidewalk. Then Plummer picked up his guitar and they followed with a bunch of his superbly surreal, actually very moving country ballads, among them Little Lovers’ Society (about dwarves in love), along with the eerie Dark Eyes soundalike mariachi-rock tune The Wounded Burro with excellent violin work by new addition Josh Diamond. They also played a raw but wrenchingly beautiful version of their best song, the haunting, jangly midtempo Destitute and their big, swinging country hit Blue Chippie, on which Plummer tossed off the hook from the intro to Destitute right before another soaring solo from Diamond. Nice way to kick off a long Thanksgiving weekend.
Long, hot, memorable, political show, the 90s version of what a Pistols/Clash double bill must have been. Onyx opened, ominously, with two female rappers joining them onstage. Their biggest hit with the crowd was the audience-participation hit Throw Ya Gunz. House of Pain followed, turning the venue into just that, doing to rap what Pat Boone did to R&B. As could be expected, the 90%-white audience loved them. Ice-T, however, was a blast, a razor-sharp intellect at work trying to galvanize white support for what amounts to nothing less than a revolution. As in dancehall, the trend in live rap is to truncate the songs so as to fit as many into the set as possible, and Ice-T did his best to oblige: Iceberg, Peel Their Caps Back, Drama and Word all received this treatment. Full length jams he did included O.G. Original Gangster, You Played Yourself, I Ain’t New to This and his closer, the theme from the movie New Jack Hustler. High point of the night: he asks the audience, “Am I up here to tell you to overthrow the government [sparse applause]? No. Am I trying to get you to go out and kill your mother [more applause]? No. Do I want you to go out and kill a cop [massive appause]? No. We just wanna get butt naked and fuck!” he yelled, and proceeded with LGBNAF in its entirety.
Public Enemy followed with an exhausting and exhaustive performance, playing until both Chuck and Flav were hoarse and everybody was more than ready to head for the subway. Their set was mostly newer material, including a full-length version of I Gotta Do What I Gotta Do along with short versions of Night Train, Bring the Noise, Hit the Road Jack and Burn Hollywood Burn. They took the sound effects off several numbers including the controversial, excoriating Welcome to the Terrordome, the iconic Fight the Power and the murderously anti-redneck By the Time I Get to Arizona, giving Chuck’s lyrics the opportunity to strike with maximum impact. Chuck eventually tired and left things to Flav, who with clock on a chain around his neck provided 911 Is a Joke, Yo Nigga and NY Post. They finally closed the show after 2 AM with full-length if tired versions of Who Stole the Soul, Shut Em Down and Can’t Trust It. It was all that.
[postscript: who would have thought in 1992 that in fifteen years’ time, Ice-T would be best known not for singlehandedly inventing gangsta rap, but for his work as a tv and film actor typecast as an undercover cop! – ed.]
[editor’s note: since we’re off for Thanksgiving, we’re putting up stuff from the archives each day while we’re away. Maybe you were there for some of these!]
Jangly Manchester band the Railway Children’s new CD Native Place is a slick and trebly overproduced mess, with synthesizers where the band would ordinarily use layers of guitars, so the game plan tonight was to find out how well they would play the songs if left to their own devices. Pretty well is the answer. The concert consisted of virtually all new material plus songs which are either brand-new, bonus cuts from the cd or from some hitherto unknown ep. They opened with It’s Heaven, which really rocks live without the stupid synth hook on the album. They continued with new material until about a third of the way through the show when the sound was suddenly boosted to earsplitting levels, bass and vocals distorting, drowning out the other instruments and turning the sound into a painfully fuzzy soup. After this happened, the anthemic Over and Over and A Pleasure were anything but that: the latter song’s deliciously recurrent Rickenbacker guitar arpeggios were for all intents and purposes inaudible. A real disappointment, especially in the wake of their excellent Staten Island performance earlier this fall. But it wasn’t the band’s fault.
[postscript: the band, a post-Smiths, 2-guitar unit put out three albums before imploding in the early 90s. Their first record, Reunion Wilderness, was a bracing, jazz-inflected effort, although with its incessant 2/4 dance beat, it was pretty monochromatic. Their second, Recurrence was their high-water mark, filled with pretty, major-key songs including the obscure classic A Pleasure (which became a live concert staple). The overproduced album they were promoting on this tour gained them a big club hit but alienated their core audience, a gaffe from which the band never recovered. The venue, a hangar-like former warehouse space in Chelsea, closed in about 1993, outlasting the band by barely a year. ]
A triumphant homecoming of sorts. Jenifer Jackson was an East Village denizen and made a name for herself here before relocating to Austin this past spring. It was obviously the right move. She’s never looked more at ease onstage or sung better than she did tonight. Like Erica Smith and Rachelle Garniez, Jackson is another one of those multistylistic songwriting machines, someone who can appropriate literally any style of music and make it work, with fluency, poise and passion. Likewise, Jackson has been known to tweak her vocal style from time to time. On her earlier material, she sang with a gentle, tender delivery, then she went through a brief but spectacularly successful phase as a big belter. Tonight it was obvious that she’s gotten more in touch with her lower register, giving her vocals a new warmth and confidence. It suits her well.
When her latest cd The Outskirts of a Giant Town came out last spring, we said it was the best album to come out so far in 2007 and that claim still looks to be valid. Playing a sparse, trio show backed by Roland Satterwhite, who played layers of ambience on violin, and Elysian Fields axeman Oren Bloedow, whose virtuosic, jazzy guitar was spot-on all night, she mixed tracks from the new cd along with a couple of brand-new gems and some older material. On the 70s soul-inflected Power of Love, Bloedow grinned as he went into generic Wes Montgomery mode, playing a solo made up solely of octaves. Was there room on the fretboard for the last note of the verse? Yes! Moments like these are typical at Jenifer Jackson shows.
One of the best things about small-group performances like this is that the songs get stripped down to just the moving parts, which can be fascinating to watch. The title track to Jackson’s new album actually turned out to be built on a totally generic indie rock progression that pretty much anybody can learn how to play in a few minutes’ time. Yet Jackson pulled it off with her airy, jazzy vocal melody, combined with Bloedow’s artful passing tones. I Want to Start Something, with its stratospherically high vocal melody – which Jackson absolutely nailed – was particularly captivating, all impatience and longing for something secure. Their absolutely gorgeous, minor-key, bluegrass-inflected take of Dreamland, arguably the best cut on the new cd, got a welcome boost of energy. Of the new songs, the best new one was a jazz-pop number called Words, seemingly about miscommunication. Jackson’s songs, and especially her lyrics, are remarkably terse and crystallized, so it’s understandable how not being able to precisely express something would really bother her.
They encored with an audience request from her second album, Mercury the Sun and Moon, a tune Jackson wrote back in the 90s while still in her teens. Stripped down to its eerie tango roots, this version saw Bloedow playing a bassline on the guitar with his thumb as he did on several of the other songs. The crowd wanted more, but Jackson hadn’t rehearsed anything else with these longtime cohorts of hers. Always leave the audience wanting more, the saying goes. Tonight Jackson and her band did just that.