Lucid Culture


Concert Review from the Archives: Douce Gimlet and White Hassle at CB’s Gallery, NYC 3/9/00

[editor’s note – here’s another blast from the past. More new stuff tomorrow!]

Part of an “underground film festival,” in reality just a bunch of friends of videographer Jim Spring. Thus, the Douce and WH on the bill together again. A funny short film by Spring about misadventures in the East Village in the late 80s preceded the Douce’s excellent, highly electrifying 40-minute set. Violinist Josh Diamond was AWOL, which put the burden of melodic embellishment on frontman/guitarist Ben Plummer, and he rose to the occasion. They did the old and new intros back to back, Plummer playing tenor sax in tandem with baritone saxist Paula Henderson (of Moisturizer). Later, they did the strangely touching country ballad Little Lovers’ Society and then the high point of the entire night, a chilling, chromatically charged version of their best new song, The Well, Plummer wailing slowly and methodically through two powerful, blackboard-scraping, Keith Levene-esque solos. A bit later they returned to catchy, jazz-inflected pop territory with the propulsive, deliciously chordal Trudy, then eventually the walk-off instrumental where Plummer and Henderson left the stage with their saxes and while playing in tandem, slowly walked all the way to the front exit and then out onto the street while the rhythm section continued onstage.

After two films (one a hideous exercise in video masturbation, featuring a striptease from a sagging, sixtysomething woman, then Plummer’s frequently hilarious, dadaesque college film Juan Frijoles), White Hassle took the stage and wailed through an all-too-brief half-hour set. The punk/folk/country trio (just two guitars and drums) opened with an intro featuring a dj on turntables, then ripped through a tight, driven cover of the Robert Johnson classic Rolling and Tumbling. On their version of the Hollies’ The Air That I Breathe, lead player Matt Oliverio was painfully out of tune until he realized it about halfway through and wisely sat it out until the end of the song. Their big audience hit Life Is Still Sweet, set to a classic soul chord progression, was as warmly uplifting – and warmly received – as it always is. They closed with a wild, hyperkinetic version of their percussion-driven instrumental Futura Trance 2000, frontman Marcellus Hall putting down his guitar at one point to flail away on the empty beer keg, kitchen pots and the frame from a window fan that drummer Dave Varenka had brought along.

[postscript: Douce Gimlet broke up only a year later; their talented frontman would tragically die under very suspicious circumstances later in the decade. White Hassle seem to be on hiatus at this point, while their frontman continues his remarkably excellent solo career; however, they toured Europe last year and another doesn’t seem to be out of the question.]

March 9, 2008 - Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. pardon me for asking, but what are the “very suspicious circumstances” that joe ben died under? i was a friend of his at one time and lost touch with him in the early 00’s. it wasn’t until a few years ago that i heard he had died but i never found out how. he was a good guy and really talented. rip.

    Comment by km | October 27, 2010 | Reply

  2. Joe Ben died of heart failure caused by a combination of narcotics and antidepressants. Since he didn’t do a lot of drugs (he drank a lot and smoked pot, but hard drugs weren’t his thing), the chemicals were too much for him. I personally believe he was murdered. The woman who supplied the drugs told the police – who never charged her – that she woke up after passing out and noticed that Ben was having trouble breathing. However, she didn’t call 911 from the Plummer house – instead, she went down the hill where she woke the neighbors and finally called for help from there. If you know the geography of the area, that’s a long way from where Ben was. She claimed she was too intoxicated to figure out how to work the telephone at the Plummer house, which makes no sense since she was sufficiently aware to make her way down the steep drive and then to the house there. When the ambulance finally arrived, they tried to resuscitate him with no success. At best, it’s a case of negligent homicide; at worst, it’s murder. For whatever reason (laziness? the desire to keep crime statistics as low as possible? both?) the police never investigated. That she was never brought to justice, in my opinion, is an insult to Ben’s family and friends.

    Comment by the boss here | October 28, 2010 | Reply

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