Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Lenny Molotov Live at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 2/16/08

Lenny Molotov is the greatest guitar-god songwriter you’ve never heard of. Actually, you probably have: he plays lead guitar in Randi Russo’s band. But his own work is just as good. Richard Thompson is the obvious comparison: technically, Molotov is equally breathtaking, although long extended solo flights are not his thing. Perhaps even more than Thompson, Molotov seems to want to make every single note count for something, to make the music work perfectly in the context of the song. While Thompson’s fallback place is traditional British folk, Molotov draws most deeply from the murky well of oldtime delta blues, although he’s fluent in country and rock and, to at least some extent, jazz.

Tonight he reaffirmed why club owners like blues acts so much: for some reason, everybody drinks as long as the band is playing, if they’re not drinking already. Although Molotov and band didn’t hit the stage here til after one on the morning, they kept the crowd of Jersey tourists in the house throughout their long, almost two-hour set. Playing a mix of about 50/50 covers and originals, they impressed with the quality of their musicianship and Molotov’s clever, witty, lyrically-driven songs.

They opened with an eerie, minor-key blues chronicling the last few hours of a kid from the projects in Brooklyn who goes out to buy some weed, ends up being entrapped by an undercover cop, panics and shoots the cop and ends up killing himself in the wee hours after running out of options. One by one, Molotov enumerated the obstacles that tripped up the poor guy: “It’s too hard to be an outlaw anymore,” he lamented. Another equally chilling Molotov original, Faded Label Blues traced the decline of blues/jazz legend Hoagy Carmichael’s career. Molotov has a remarkable political awareness which made itself apparent in these two songs as well as a bouncy, uncharacteristically sunny, major-key tune titled the Devil’s Empire (as in “I saw the devil’s empire coming down”).

Their covers were just as good. Molotov’s version of St. James Infirmary Blues ostensibly stays true to the original, fast and driving. Backing Molotov were an upright bassist as well as violinist Karl Meyer and harmonica wizard Jake Engel. Meyer’s soaring, fluid country fiddle made an interesting contrast with Engel’s heavy artillery: the guy was channeling Big Walter Horton half the night, blowing eerie chromatics like he wanted to shatter the big plate glass window that serves as the front wall here. They finally wrapped it up at about 3 AM, the club owner still sitting on his perch at the sound board above the stage, carefully tweaking the sound throughout the show to make sure everything was crystal-clear. It’s hard to think of anybody else who cares so passionately about the sound in the room or who is as good at it as this guy is. We’re going to pay close attention to the Rockwood schedule from now on: if someone you like is playing here, don’t pass up the opportunity.

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February 18, 2008 Posted by | blues music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why We Hate Trendoids, Pt. 2

Is it that they’re pawns for the scam developers who’re razing perfectly good buildings in working-class neighborhoods and replacing them with plastic-and-cardboard monstrosities that the people who live and work in those neighborhoods will never be able to afford? And that will raise rents in those neighborhoods to the point that the people who live there will have to move?

Is it that they stand in the middle of the sidewalk yakking on their cellphones and refuse to move for passersby? Is it their abysmal taste in music, their fondness for everything corporate (chain restaurants, reality tv, in other words, everything that’s big in the suburbs where they were born and raised), their hideous fashion sense or their sheer physical ugliness? No. It’s that trendoids are just plain GRODY.

Case in point: Brooklyn-bound L train, 8th Avenue, rush hour. At the back of the train so as to engineer a quick exit. A trendoid grabs the adjacent seat. Skintight jeans, black wool hat pulled down practically over his eyes, silly goggle glasses like the kind the Red Sox wore after they won the World Series and started spraying champagne all over each other. Pulls out a paperback on how to write, by Thomas Lynch (in case the name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s the “undertaker poet” that NPR loves so much, whose precious, effete style is everything a writer should AVOID EMULATING AT ALL COSTS). Trendoid then promptly sticks his fingers in his mouth, as if he’d just touched something hot on the stove.

Now one would assume that at some time or other in this kid’s life, his mom or his nanny or babysitter or older sibling/s might have told him that in a dirty city like New York, sticking your fingers in your mouth and sucking on them might not be such a good idea. Evidently not this guy.

It gets worse. A lot. Next, he starts picking his nose and eating it. And then he’s surprised – or he feigns surprise – when the passenger next to him flinches and huddles up against the wall of the subway car.

Why is it that the most disgusting creatures on the subway are NOT the bums, junkies or prostitutes? Why is it that it’s always the affluent, privileged white males, many of them in suits and ties, who’re always the ones throwing up, coughing and sneezing without covering their mouths and picking every available orifice?

February 18, 2008 Posted by | Rant | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment