Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: The Inbreeds at Banjo Jim’s, NYC 12/9/07

The evening started an hour earlier across the street at Esperanto, where a forro band was playing unamplified in the window. Forro is Brazilian rainforest dance music, under ideal circumstances with acoustic stringed instruments like cuatro and guitar, and accordion. At its best, forro is the South American equivalent of Balkan gypsy music, as haunting as it is rousing. “What’s this band’s name? Mike’s band,” their leader, percussionist Nanny Assis joked. He’s been playing SOB’s for a long time: this is his weekly Sunday early-evening project, just two percussionists and accordion. They sound best at the bar where you can hear them over the yuppies chowing down on overpriced Spanish food. It was nice to be able to get out of the rain and hear this for an hour before splashing across the street. And it’s always fun to go out on a rainy night: you can always get a seat.

The Inbreeds played an absolutely hilarious set of country song parodies. It’s as if somebody in the band heard Tammy Faye Starlite’s Used Country Female album and said, hey, we can do this too. This show was that good. They’re very theatrical, and their act is very visual: imagine the best thing you’ve ever seen at Fringe Festival, only better. It wouldn’t be fair to give away their jokes, but over the course of an hour, they did spot-on spoofs of the country eulogy song, the American Idol ditzy country girl song, the dead dog song, the religious song, the Charlie Daniels clan-versus-clan epic, the sentimental those-were-the-days ballad, the one-night-stand song, the faux-country stadium rock song and finally the right-wing political song that closed the set, in which it was revealed at the end that the continued health of the American consumer economy is completely dependent on the availability of Chinese slave labor. Topics covered in the process include masturbation, teenage homosexuality, abortion, masturbation again, sexism, racist bigotry, religious intolerance and musicians’ inability to resist the urge to ham it up (one song featured banjo played with a bow like Jimmy Page used to play guitar). The material may frequently be sophomoric but the songs are very thoughtfully composed – whoever writes them obviously has the source material down cold. The humor extends to the music as well: even when nobody’s singing, the band is still trying to pull laughs and for the most part succeeded, even if the sound was as awful as it usually is here. Why the club can’t make it work in such a cozy, comfortable space is hard to understand.

The musicians in the Inbreeds are excellent. Haunting accordionist Annette Kudrak predictably steals the show, even if just she’s sitting in the back playing and contributing the occasional vocal harmony. There are two frontmen, one alternating between guitar and banjo, the other playing a standup drum kit. Both are a little stagy and very funny. The unit also has bass, violin (which was pretty inaudible throughout the show) and a woman on backup vocals who took a couple of breathtakingly good, twangy turns on lead vocals.

Where this really ought to be is Broadway: not off-Broadway, but in one of the big Broadway theatres, where wide-eyed tourists from the heartland can pay a hundred bucks a head so this talented crew can earn union scale and maybe teach the out-of-town crowd a thing or two. The ultimate irony here, of course, is that most country musicians go into music for the same reason that nonconformists in the Middle Ages did: to find a safe haven within an oppressive society. Just like five hundred years ago, most musicians, wherever they are, still swing hard to the left. Nashville included. The Inbreeds play Hank’s in Brooklyn on January 17 at 9 PM.

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December 10, 2007 Posted by | concert, country music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Marcellus Hall & the Headliners at Lakeside, NYC 12/8/07

Hall writes devastatingly funny, lyrically driven, catchy Americana rock songs and tonight he was at the top of his game. It was a little incongruous seeing him onstage with a bass player, considering how long his once-and-future band White Hassle went without one (they beat the White Stripes to the bassless rock thing by a couple of years but never got any credit for it). White Hassle was the late, great Joe Ben Plummer’s favorite band, and for good reason: Hall wrote some very good, very catchy, stream-of-consciousness funny songs with them. And also with Railroad Jerk, his band before that. But in the last few months he’s taken it to the next level. White Hassle were great because everything they did sounded completely off-the-cuff, completely uncontrived. Yet as good as they were, nobody writes devilishly funny, sardonic lyrical putdowns as well as Hall’s been doing with this band lately.

“This is a song from our myspace page,” he told the crowd with just enough of a smirk to make it obvious that he was being ironic. Just a couple of years ago he would have been telling the crowd that the track was from a new cd, which he’d have for sale, and maybe if you were really lucky he’d have a couple of copies on vinyl which some lucky schmuck in line in front of you would snatch up before you could get to them. His music, if not his lyrics, is retro, and a lot of his lyrical swipes are directed at ppl txtn n emailn (is that the right way to spell it? Is there a right way?). While Hall’s songs come at you from all kinds of different angles, never straight over the top, in the end it’s very honest stuff. He clearly doesn’t like the deception that is part and parcel of the myspace/textmessage esthetic, so his bullshit detector is set to stun, and who can blame him, after hearing what he’s got to say. Back Where I Started, one of the early songs in the set might be the best song he’s ever written, an ridiculously catchy, upbeat number that’s ostensibly about a breakup, but there’s all kinds of other levels going on and that’s what makes it so fun, just as much as the killer acoustic guitar intro and catchy chorus (Hall’s also taken his guitar chops to the next level).

The song from the myspace page, Gone, has a similar feel, and an unexpected joke at the end about nuts that had people practically rolling in the aisle. He did another new song, a surprisingly moving 6/8 number with an Everly Brothers feel: “You only see the neon/You don’t see the night,” he admonished. Dylan is obviously another influence, but it’s the young, funny stoner Dylan, that Hall’s funky, talking blues with the recurrent chorus, “It was the vodka talking and the gin listening,” most closely evoked.

Accompanied by a keyboard player who added melodic electric piano on about half the songs, they closed with a White Hassle classic, the title track to their ep Life Is Still Sweet. Having bass to push it along gave it a different feel with a lot of extra bounce, but it still hit the spot. Hall finally went down and did the splits during that one – he knows how to work a crowd, as anyone who ever saw White Hassle live will tell you. Too bad there aren’t more performers out there who put on a show as fun as the one this guy played tonight. Marcellus Hall plays Happy Ending Bar in Chinatown (Rivington just off Forsyth) on Dec 12 at 8 PM, presumably solo, as part of a prose reading series which has occasional music.

December 10, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

CD Review: Tinariwen – Aman Iman: Water Is Life

It’s not often that a band lives up to its press. This time, believe the hype: Tuareg nomad rockers Tinariwen are every bit as good as the recent lovefest in the Western press would have you believe. And they deserve it: it’s something of a miracle that this band exists at all. A close-knit but diverse group of Tuareg freedom fighters driven from their traditional stomping grounds in their native Mali by a repressive regime and the encroachment of Western multinationals, they add electric instruments and a small dose of rock riffage to the ambient, chorus-driven traditional desert songs of their native culture. The result is hypnotic and very captivating. Ali Farka Toure is the obvious comparison, but Tinariwen’s material stays closer to the original source. Musicologists will have a field day with this stuff: what they play isn’t a simple chicken-or-the-egg question. When American and British rockers started stealing melodies from across the third word back in the 60s, third worlders were doing exactly the same thing, appropriating rock arrangements, motifs and instrumentation, and it’s clear that Tinariwen have done this to a certain extent. But they aren’t really a rock band: their music is world music in the best sense of the word, original songs based on ancient traditions which also draw on contemporary Malian artists like the aforementioned Ali Farka Toure and Baboucar Traore.

Chord changes aren’t a big part of Tinariwen’s music, yet their sound is as anthemic as it is trance-inducing. While a lot of the songs on this album are very danceable, they don’t bear much if any resemblance to the perennial smiley-facedness of mainstream African pop. Much of their music has a somewhat grim forebearance, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering that this is music made by exiles. Their lyrics are in Tamashek, the Tuareg language.

The cd opens with Cler Achel, a slinky groove with call-and-response male/female vocals, two guitars trading off different textures (slightly distorted rhythm with resonant reverb vs. a reverb-driven lead with a lot of fast hammer-ons, providing a sitar-like effect). Very gripping. The next song Mano Dayak begins with a slow intro into a hesitation rhythm, blending electric and acoustic guitars. Eventually a choir of women enters, their voices keening eerily in the upper registers.

Matadjem Yinmixam follows, closer to Ali Farka Toure than the other songs on the album, with meandering, sputtering lead guitar over an insistent staccato rhythm. And finally a chord change (up to a fourth) at the end of the verse! It’s very anthemic as the female backing singers kick in on the chorus. The next track, Ahimana begins with a spoken word intro and then call-and-response with the women in the choir, very hypnotic in syncopated 6/8 time, the vocals just a little behind the beat. After that, the cd continues with the quiet, subdued Soixante Trois. Toumast, arguably the best song on the album brings in layers one at a time: spooky electric guitar hammer-ons, then distorted, staccato electric rhythm guitar, bass, and the drums and vocals. It’s the best song on the cd, with a nice, terse guitar solo after the first verse.

The dark, relentless Ikyadarh Dim features just acoustic guitar, percussion and a single vocal with an additional harmony voice added on the chorus. At one point someone in the band exhales audibly: out of fatigue, exhilaration, exasperation? The hip-shaking yet hypnotic Tamatant Tilay could be a big Mississippi hill country blues number, like something straight out of the T-Model Ford catalog, if it had English lyrics. Likewise, the next track, Assouf is a burning, open-tuned minor-key blues number. The cd closes with the pretty, pastoral, acoustic Izarharh Tenere, somewhat evocative of the Stones’ Moonlight Mile. All in all, a great album, absolutely one of the best of the year, something you should own if you have any sense of adventure.

Memo to Tinariwen management: get this band on the jam band tour. Haitian rockers Tabou Combo made a pile of money off of rich hippies who have nothing better to do than run all over the country with Phish, and so can these guys. Consider it a unique approach to foreign aid: it would be particularly appropriate given everything the band has been through.

December 10, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

NYC Live Events Calendar 12/16-31/07

We’ll post the early January stuff in a few days once we get some chores out of the way. Coming up in 2008: 1/12 Danny and Dusty at Bowery Ballroom, 1/18 Melomane at Union Hall, 1/26 Nanuchka and Guignol at Luna, 1/27 Randi Russo nobody knows where, watch this space for details and updates.

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 Hall plays 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. Expect a lot of jamming tonight.

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, starting at 8 PM at Banjo Jim’s it’s an anniversary party of sorts for the club, if you’ve played there and want to do a few songs, email Lisa at the club, there’s free food, PBR and Abita for musicians.

Also Sat Dec 15 Sputnik, with their classic powerpop stylings and sultry vocals from frontwoman Genie Morrow play Parkside, 10 PM.

Also 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).

Sun Dec 16 a beer-fueled afternoon fundraiser for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn at Freddy’s, starts at 3:30 PM (and no Brooklyn Lager  because that’s the beer that Ratso Ratner wants to sell at that stupid arena. So til DDDB and Freddy’s win their lawsuits against the Jersey developers who claim eminent domain for personal gain, don’t drink Brooklyn. Please. Freddy’s has plenty of stuff that will get you equally blotto for cheaper). Give generously if you can, pass the hubcap please.

Also Dec 16 there’s a holiday benefit at Maxwell’s starting early at 6:30 PM with short sets by the rockabillying Nissen Bros., the aforementioned powerpop geniuses Sputnik and former Waitresses guitarist Chris Butler.

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.

Also Sun Dec 16 the amazing Rasputina play Union Pool, doors 6 PM. They’re headlining. There are 2 opening bands so get there, get in, hopefully they’ll stamp your hand, let you go home, come back for the show at around 9 and see the totally unique, haunting, two-cellos-and-a-drummer art-rock band whose show last Halloween at the old Northsix was typically brilliant.

 Mon Dec 17 Elisa Flynn plays a birthday show of sorts at Union Hall, 9:30 PM sharp. Unaffected indie rocker with a casual vocal delivery, a fondness for minor keys and also a sense of humor.

Tues Dec 18 the excellent, stylistically diverse 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 over the accordion. Lyrics in Finnish and Spanish for the tangos. Delicious stuff if you’re in the mood.

Weds Dec 19 it’s Sousalves’ somewhat twisted, every-three-months-or-so gathering called Songwriters from Hell at the Parkside, 9 PM. Incendiary indie rocker Sousalves AKA Paul Alves always manages to put together a mostly LES lineup that’s as diverse as it is smart and frequently strange and he’s no slouch himself.

Also 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 noir chanteuse Little Annie Bandez has her opening reception featuring new paintings and also photos by Alice O’Malley at The Rapture Cafe & Books, 200 Avenue A (between 12 & 13 Streets), 7ish.  The show runs through 1/20. Nice work, Annie. You’ve got a big show the following night at Joe’s Pub with Paul Wallfisch from art-rockers Botanica on piano and what are you doing the night before? Partying. Can you believe it? Incidentally, her brightly psychedelic, surreal but very spiritual artwork is something you ought to see and might actually be able to afford.

 Also Fri Dec 21 ex-Rasputina cello player Serena Jost plays Banjo Jim’s, 8 PM. She also plays guitar and piano and will undoubtedly do both here. She covers a vast range of styles, from ornate chamber rock to pop to country and does all of them effortlessly well.

Also 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 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, of all places, at 11. If you can’t get in to hear their very rousing female-fronted gypsy rock, they pipe the music from the main room over the PA at the adjacent bar. A good segue if you’re walking east after Rachelle’s show and not done with the night yet.

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 at 9 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 and his trumpet aren’t doing the big band thing they do 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-and-accordion music. It has a haunting, gypsyish feel and it’s danceable as hell. And it’s our latest fixation. Might just see you there.

New Year’s Eve, several choices, all but one of them second-generation bands doing old styles their own inimitable way.  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) starts around 10:30 (early by Lakeside standards, and they’ll go late too). 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.

Otherwise – legendary Irish expats Black 47 are playing Connolly’s at Times Square around 10 for a measly (relatively speaking) $20. Advance tix absolutely necessary, available at the restaurant. They’re great live, although this is the last neighborhood you’d want to be in on a night like this unless you’re planning on leaving sometime after sunrise.

Also New Years’s Eve legendary Brooklyn second-generation garage punks the Fleshtones play the Magnetic Field, relatively cheap ($20) and in a tourist-free neighborhood.

Also New Year’s Eve the best music you’ll hear anywhere tonight is at Barbes where second-generation Peruvian surf/psychedelic instrumentalists Chicha Libre – the Barbes house band – play at around 10, also for a fairly cheap $20 cover.

And if you want to go all out New Year’s Eve, the absolutely brilliant cabaret stylist Kristine Zbornik, with panstylistically amazing Bobby Peaco on piano play the Metropolitan Room on 22nd St., 10:30 PM, $75 but but but it’s OPEN BAR and a free shot of cheap champagne at midnight. Right now she only has a couple of songs ready so you know by the day of the show everything will be fresh and everybody’s energy level will be through the roof.

December 10, 2007 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City | Leave a comment