Also every Sunday in May the Jack Grace Band plays Rodeo Bar around 9:15 PM. Grace plays what sound like classic country hits from the 50s and 60s, until you realize that they’re all originals. He’s a very funny performer, although some of his songs, the minor-key Tom Waits-ish ones, are white-knuckle intense. His wife Daria, from Melomane plays bass.
Also every Sunday excellent country twangsters Sean Kershaw & the New Jack Ramblers play Hank’s in Brooklyn around 9:30ish, frequently with special guests or a guest band after the previous event, the weekly rock jam, is done.
Also on Sundays, there are free, 5:15 PM organ recitals at St. Thomas Church. This is a prestige venue for touring organists from around the world, the sonics are spectacularly good and so is the old Skinner organ.
Mondays in May (and pretty much every month, when he’s not on tour), Rev. Vince Anderson and his band play Black Betty in Williamsburg, two sets starting around 10:30 PM. The Rev. is one of the great keyboardists around, equally thrilling on organ or electric piano, an expert at Billy Preston style funk, honkytonk, gospel and blues. He writes very funny, very politically astute, frequently salacious original gospel songs and is one of the great live performers of our time. Moist Paula from Moisturizer is the lead soloist on baritone sax.
Also Mondays the Barbes house band, Chicha Libre plays there starting around 9:30. They’ve singlehandedly resurrected an amazing subgenre, chicha, which was popular in the Peruvian Amazon in the late 60s and early 70s. With electric accordion, cuatro, surf guitar and a boisterous rhythm section, their mix of obscure classics and originals is one of the funnest, most danceable things you’ll witness this year. Perhaps not so strangely, they sound a lot like Finnish surf rockers Laika and the Cosmonauts in their most imaginative moments.
Every Tuesday at 9 PM the boisterous and very popular brass-heavy gypsy jazz band Slavic Soul Party plays Barbes at 9. Get here as soon as you can as the opening act is usually popular as well.
Every Wednesday, Will Scott and drummer Wylie Wirth play mesmerizing, hypnotic, completely authentic Mississippi hill country blues along with Scott’s own melodic, tuneful blues originals at Jay St. Bar in Dumbo, starting around 8:30 PM. Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside and Asie Payton are sadly gone but Scott continues their tradition of music that is as danceable as it is trance-inducing, and does his influences justice.
Thurs May 1, 1 PM for a nice financial district lunch break the Manhattan School of Music Chamber Sinfonia is at Trinity Church, performing works by Haydn, Monteverdi and Stravinsky.
Also Thurs May 1, 5:30 PM if you’re lucky enough to get out of work on time, there’s an organ recital at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin on West 46th St. featuring excellent New York organist Christopher Creaghan.
Also Thurs May 1, a good oldtimey bill at Spikehill starting at 8 PM with Brotherhood of the Jugband Blues, then yodeling banjoist Curtis Eller’s American Circus and then Bliss Blood’s blissfully good barrelhouse blues band Delta Dreambox.
Also Thurs May 1, 8 PM a nice twinbill at the Music Hall of Williamsburg with the Ivan Milev Band playing their gypsy stuff, opening for the Budos Band who are sort of like Tortoise on speed, adv tix not required.
Also Thurs May 1 multi-instrumentalist/chanteuse Rachelle Garniez plays her regular monthly gig at Barbes, 10 PM. What Lou Reed was for Lester Bangs, what Dylan was for Greil Marcus, what R. Kelly is for that girl at the Times (just kidding about that one, Rachelle), this unassuming woman is the artist we’ve probably given the most press to here. Because, although she has a rabid and adoring cult following, she should be vastly more popular than she is. There is astonishing imagination in her retro jazz/blues/cabaret/gypsy inflected songwriting, brutally subtle power in her lyrics and she’s an absolutely hilarious, spontaneous live performer. Oh yeah, also maybe the best keyboardist in town, whether on piano or accordion. OK. Now you know.
Fri May 2 at 7 PM an all-ukulele bill at Bowery Poetry Club with a rare solo performance by the Moonlighters’ Bliss Blood along with Doug Skinner, Jennifer Kwok, Ben Lerman, Carmen Borrgia, Ballard C Boyd.
Also Fri May 2, 8 PM Catspaw plays Trash, 8 PM. These two women and a guy on bass deliver all the fun of original rockabilly and surf music with none of the affectation or the pose. How refreshing. And their song Southbound Line has to be one of the best of this decade.
Also Fri May 2 frequently mesmerizing concert harpist/chanteuse Katie Brennan plays the cd release for her sensationally good new one Slowly at Jimmy’s No. 43, 43 7th St. (between 2nd & 3rd Aves.), 9 PM. She sounds nothing like that goofy-voiced girl who was all the rage about a year ago (what was her name? How quickly fads like her come and go); instead, Brennan has staked a claim to sultry Neko Case/Eleni Mandell territory.
Also Fri May 2 absolutely riveting, haunting, oud-and-accordion-driven East African dance band revivalists Sounds of Taraab plays Shrine uptown, 9 PM, 2271 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. betw 133-134 St.
Also Fri May 2, 9 PM a killer triple bill with arguably the best gypsy band in NYC, Luminescent Orchestrii, oldtimey ragtime blues cats the Wiyos and boisterous Cajun acoustic band Feloche at Drom on Ave. A.
Also Fri May 2 veteran expat Jamaican reggae crooner Winston Irie plays Otto’s, 10 PM. His lo-fi keyboard-driven sound, at this dive especially, will make you think you’re at a similar lo-budget joint in the nasty part of Kingston. Irie, mon.
Also Fri May 2, 10 PM the excellent country band Jerry Teel & the Big City Stompers play Union Pool, 10 PM. Teel has had quite a career, with noise-rockers the Honeymoon Killers, the late, great Chrome Cranks and retro garage guys the Knoxville Girls. He ran the legendary Fun House studios here on the Lower East Side til relocating to New Orleans – where he lost pretty much everything when the levees broke. Now back in the area, Teel and his velvet-voiced wife Pauline are backed by a killer band featuring JJ Jenkins on lead guitar and the Dog Show’s Jerome O’Brien on bass.
Also Fri May 2 the Vivian Girls – a pyrotechnic amalgam of Link Wray, early Lush and the Shangri-La’s – play the Silent Barn in Queens, 10 PM. They’re also playing Cake Shop at 9 on May 3.
Also Sat May 3, 9:30 PM, long-running, sprawling Brooklyn funksters Groove Collective play Drom. Bounce to those amazing basslines,
Also Sat May 3 scorchingly good delta blues guitarist Lenny Molotov – something of an American counterpart to Richard Thompson, with his stinging, smart, socially aware lyricism and spectacular chops – plays with his band at Sidewalk, 10 PM.
Also Sat May 3 it’s another of legendary surf music promoter Unsteady Freddy’s shows at Otto’s starting at 10 with the Tritons, Reverb Galaxy, the uncommonly oldschool, twangy, subtle Mr. Action & the Boss Guitars and then the sensationally good, somewhat improvisationally-inclined Venice Beach Muscle Club sometime in the wee hours. For those who prefer Mr. Action at Lakeside on a Friday night, they’re at Lakeside on May 16 at 11.
Also Sat May 3 dark, guitar-fueled noir glam punks the Bellmer Dolls wind up their residency at the Charleston, 11 PM.
Sat May 3 a hip-hop bill starting around 9 at Galapagos featuring a rare appearance by the best rap group on the East Coast, the furiously and brilliantly political Dead Prez playing a short set around 11ish.
Also Sat May 3 the hilarious, picture-perfect retro pre-rockabilly country trio (“ballads, boogies and blues,” according to the band) Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co. play Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM.
Sun May 4, a major event in the history of classical music, and it’s free! At the Town Hall: a spectacular reunion, the first New York performance in thirty years by TASHI – the quartet of soloists who made their New York debut in 1973 – Pianist Peter Serkin, violinist Ida Kavafian, clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, and cellist Fred Sherry, playing
Josquin des Prez (c. 1440-1521) Ave Maria…Virgo Serena
Thomas Morley (c. 1557-1603) Christes Crosse
(recomposed for TASHI 2007 by Charles Wuorinen (b.1938)
Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996) Quatrain II
And last but not least, one of the major events in the Messiaen centennial:
Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) Quartet for the End of Time
Ticket Price: Free
Where to get Tickets: Tickets for Free for All at Town Hall are available ONLY at the The Town Hall Box Office, starting at noon on concert days, Sunday, April 27, and Sunday, May 4, 2008. Both performances begin at 5 pm. Free tickets may be picked up at the box office any time between noon and show time. Two tickets per person. First come first served.
Also Sun May 4, early, 2 PM, for those not too hungover for some amusingly anti-corporate liberation theology, Rev. Billy & the Stop Shopping Choir play an afternoon show at Highline Ballroom.
Also Sun May 4, 9 PM Bliss Blood’s ever-more-popular Bessie Smith-inspired barrelhouse blues band Delta Dreambox plays the National Underground. They’re also at Barbes on May 9 at 8 PM.
Also Sun May 4 excellent, loud Brooklyn noise-rock/shoegaze types Apollo Heights play a loft show at Dead Herring, 141 South 5th Street. Willliamburg, time TBA. They’re also at Lit on May 6 at 11:30.
Mon May 5, here’s what could be the best single show of 2008: keyboard monster Greta Gertler continues her Monday residency at Banjo Jim’s at 7 PM with a spectacularly good band comprised of her fellow panstylistic rock goddesses: Rachelle Garniez, Serena Jost, Alice Bierhorst and Carol Lipnik! This is the kind of crew that could swap instruments on every song a la Blue Oyster Cult (hey Greta: double double dare you to play Joan Crawford!!!).
Also Mon May 5, 8:30 PM beatnik jazz legend David Amram leads a quintet at Cornelia St. Cafe. Now in his seventies, he still refuses to slow down. Equally at home playing classical on French horn, jazz on the piano or revisiting the ghost of his pal Jack Kerouac, he’s earned his legendary status.
Also Mon May 5, 9 PM it’s the debut of Whisperado’s Mud Room Event at Kenny’s Castaways beginning with the Leonard Cohen-inspired, minimalist dark folk of Tam Lin and then the caffeinated, Dylanesque stylings of Whisperado themselves.
Tues May 6, Michal the Girl – a great singer whose catchy powerpop was one of the best things going back at the old Luna Lounge around the turn of the century – plays an acoustic show featuring lots of new material at the Rockwood, 7 PM.
Also Tues May 6 violinist Jenny Scheinman – who’s just wrapped up a long stand at the Vanguard with Bill Fressell – plays her own stuff at Barbes at 7 followed by the very popular Balkan brass band Slavic Soul Party. $10 cover for SSP.
Also Tues May 6, 9:30 PM, $15 adv tix available and enthusiastically recommended, Tammy Faye Starlite plays Joe’s Pub. From the moist lips of the evangelist herself: “Tammy Faye Starlite, the celebrated and somewhat salacious country chanteuse-cum-evangelist, brings her sweet gospel chansons to the stage of Joe’s Pub in order to pray for our country and to implore the cheerless, peccant souls of New York City to elect a leader who will follow the dictates of a Southern Baptist Lord and lead us into the ultimate, eschatalogical battle of Armageddon (we’re already on our way!) which will ultimately bring about the Second Coming of Christ. With songs by Tammy Wynette, Bob Dylan (the Christian incarnation) and Charlie Daniels, plus a brand new Tammy Faye original, she hopes to unite these fragmented 48 contiguous United States (Alaska and Hawaii don’t count – their indigens look different) and help make this a truly Christian nation, the way Jesus (and Ann Coulter) intended, as stated in Matthew 2:13: “And ye shall elect a leader who will protect the sanctity of life, and perpetuate an overtly heterosexual, gun-wielding, bellicose culture of abstinent imperialists, guarded from all evildoers by His holy Blue Cross and His impenetrable Blue Shield .” Songs include “Where Is America Going,”, “Saved,” “Don’t Liberate Me, Love Me” and Tammy’s own ode to White Supremacy, “White As Snow.” Sponsored in part by Pastor Rick Warren and the Saddleback Church, with additional support from Dr. James Dobson and Focus on the Family.”
Also Tues May 6, sprawling horn-and-keyboard-driven groovemeisters Chin Chin play the cd release for their new one at Union Pool, 11 PM. True story: one of the crew here is a notorious non-dancer. At a Chin Chin show awhile ago, even though he was being totally ghetto and drinking a 40, a couple of beautiful women came up to him and asked him to dance. And they dragged him out on the floor with them. No joke. This could happen to you.
Weds May 7, legendary 60s psychedelic artifacts the Electric Prunes play B.B.King’s, $22.50 adv tix available at the club box office. Don’t laugh: the group responsible for the classic single Too Much to Dream (and Mass in F Minor, which has to be one of the ten best stoner albums ever made), is back, with a couple of original members. Check out their myspace for a scary/cool listen to their new stuff, equal parts eerie garage band and Roky Erickson-style cautionary tale.
Also Weds May 7 Moisturizer plays two deliriously fun sets of their indescribably fun baritone sax/bass/drums instrumentals at Black Betty starting at 10ish.
Thurs May 8, lunchtime, Ljova and Kontraband play their completely wild, intense original gypsy stuff at 1 PM at Trinity Church. They’re also at Drom on May 10 at 8.
Also Thurs May 8, early evening, 7 PM, ever-more-guitarishly intense Brooklyn new wave/early 80s revivalists the Larch play the cd release for their new one Gravity Rocks at Arlene’s. Potently adrenalizing Richard Lloyd-influenced lead guitar, smart and socially aware songwriting and Liza from the WonderWheels smirking behind the keyboard.
Also Thurs May 8, 7 PM at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, an impressive, free evening of French romantic organ music (mostly for two organs) along with liturgical works for choir featuring Marcel Dupre’s Quatre Motets; the Louis Vierne Messe Solennelle, and another mass by Widor.
Also Thurs May 8, brilliantly haunting British expat Americana chanteuse Jan Bell plays with her band the Cheap Dates at Highline Ballroom, 7:30 PM, opening for longtime womens’ music singer Ferron who headlines later on.
Also Thurs May 8, the reliably excellent, smartly aware, lusciously romantic oldtimey Moonlighters play 9 PM at the National Underground. They’re also here on May 22 at 9, and at the Jalopy Café in Red Hook on May 16 at 9
Thurs May 8 and May 15 the highly regarded, pretty self-explanatory NY Gypsy Allstars play Drom, 10 PM
Also Thurs May 8, 10 PM at Barbes, if you need a gypsy fix later in the evening, ANSAMBL MASTKIA. From the Barbes website: “Greg Squared leads this mostly Balkan-inspired ensemble which plays tunes ranging from the plaintive clarinet ‘miroloi’ of northern Greece to the funkier grooves of the Serbian and Macedonia Roma (gypsies); from the mysterious qualities of Turkish calgija music to the driving power of Bulgarian wedding music. with Matt moran – percussion; Reuben Radding – bass; Joey Weisenberg – guitar; Matthew Fass – accordion; Catherine Foster – trumpet and Greg Squared – Sax and clarinet.
Also Thurs May 8 Eli “Paperboy” Reed plays the cd release for his new one Roll With You at Joe’s Pub, 11 PM. Wow. This guy, his horn section, rhythm section and the rest of the band are amazing. Otis Redding reincarnated, or so you would think until you see his white face. Incontrovertible proof that soul transcends ethnicity.
Three chances to see excellent French ska/funk/Balkan/brass band rockers Samenakoa: Fri May 9 at the Jalopy Café in Red Hook, 10 PM; Sat May 10 at 11 at Barbes and Sun May 11 at 10 at Drom.
Also Fri May 9, half past midnight the wildly popular eerie oldtime goth band O’Death plays the Music Hall of Williamsburg, adv tix $12 absolutely necessary, available at the Mercury box office.
Early Sat May 10, 11 AM “Sudan: A Musical History” airs this Saturday at 11 PM on Radio New York 91.5 FM in the debut of Afropop Worldwide. Featuring the music of Mohammed Wardi, Abdel Gadir Salim, Omer Ihsas (Darfur), Al Balabil (Nubia), Emmanuel Kembe and rapper Emmanuel Jal (Southern Sudan), Rasha (new voice of the diaspora), and many others. There’s also extensive companion information on http://www.afropop.org including links to feature stories, photo essays, discographies, and a podcast with program highlights in case the radio show is too early for you.
Sat May 10, 6 (six) PM the legendary queen of rockabilly, Wanda Jackson plays the Knitting Factory, $20 adv tix available, still vital and having a party after all these years.
Also Sat May 10, 7:30 PM Spanking Charlene plays Luna. If the X show at Irving Plaza (May 24) is too rich for your blood, Spanking Charlene provide a worthwhile alternate. Frontwoman Charlene MacPherson is the real deal, a fiery, powerful belter and her husband/guitarist has a real feel for dirty, distorted, punky Americana rock. And the songs can be very funny. They’re also at Lakeside on May 17 at 11
Also Sat May 10 former Roulette Sisters frontwoman and National steel guitarist Mamie Minch plays her mix of salaciously entertaining and darkly haunting original blues songs at Barbes, 8 PM. Her forthcoming album Razorburn Blues is something of a change, with an emphasis on stark, sometimes emotionally wrenching songwriting.
Also Sat May 10, 9 PM Orientalist jazz improvisers Ilham, which is Arabic for “inspiration” feat. Gaida Hinnawi (Vocals), Rufus Cappadocio (Cello), Amir ElSaffar (Santoor, Trumpet) and the brilliant Brahim Fribgane (Oud, Percussion) play Alwan for the Arts.
Also Sat May 10, 10 PM scorching garage-punk band the Mess Around play the Charleston. Radio Birdman, MC5, Kinks influences and a completely kick-ass live show. They’re also at Trash at May 30 at 8,
Also Sat May 10 Zane Campbell plays Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. The legendary Ola Belle Reed’s nephew is a certifiable hellraiser who pioneered alt-country in New York two decades ago, before the rest of the world discovered it. See for yourself.
Also Sat May 10, 11:30 PM tuneful, atmospheric, dreampop-influenced rocker Samara Lubelski and her band play the Silent Barn in Queens.
Also Sat May 10, 10:15 PM, early (by Lakeside standards), Simon & the Bar Sinisters blast into Lakeside. Old-school LES squatter punk who cleaned up his act and became one of the great rockabilly/surf guitarists (and bassists!) around. If you’re lucky they’ll do their dirty Batman theme and the ska cover of In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida.
Also Sat May 10 Bobby Radcliff, another damn good real blues guitarist (as opposed to fake blues guitarists – you know who they are, yuppies call them god, ad infinitum), plays Lucille’s, 8 PM. Faster, jazzier, more incisive and intense than he’s ever been.
Also Sat May 10 fiery, rustic country rockers Her & Kings County play downstairs at the National Underground, 10:30 PM. With the three guitars and the steel, they really get the twang cooking.
Sun May 11, noon Dr. John-influenced singer/guitarist Lipbone Redding and his oldtime ragtime/swing/blues trio play Jules Bistro on St. Mark’s, where they frequently do a brunch show. They’re also back here on Friday May 16 at 8 PM.
Sun May 11, early, 7 PM, lush, atmospheric art-rockers the Quavers play Barbes. Live, they create songs by playing loops, one after the other, adding them to the mix until they have a song: it’s amazing to watch. Another amazing player, gypsy guitarist Stephane Wrembel follows at 9 PM.
Mon May 12 deviously multi-stylistic keyboardist/singer Greta Gertler winds up her “casting lines” (that’s Australian for “going fishing”) project at Banjo Jim’s at 7 PM with her regular band plus unnamed special guests. She can literally play anything and make it funny and captivating at the same time. Most recently she’s been messing around with ragtime and early 80s new wave with equally fun results.
Mon May 12 Mavrothi Kontanis and his sensationally intense, haunting, powerful Greek rebetika band play Barbes at 8 followed at 9:30 by one of New York’s most reliably good live acts, Chicha Libre. Mavrothi Kontanis is also here on May 26 at 8.
Also Mon May 12 Black Sea Hotel plays Pete’s, 9:30 PM. This all-female Balkan a-capella harmony quartet is amazing! In the little room here, their alternately eerie and exhilarating blend of voices should sound especially good. If you can’t afford tickets to Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares but love those scary gypsy sounds, don’t miss this show.
Tues May 13 at Barbes, 7 PM it’s Nanina. From the Barbes site: “Nanina’s repertoire is a panorama of vocal Georgian music. They perform Alilos (orthodox carols) chants from the eastern and western liturgy, and rousing and/or humorous folk songs from several regions accompanied by panduri, chonguri or chunir. With Jodi Hewat, Carl Linich, and Aurelia Shrenker. Then, at 8, AE: Aurelia Shrenker and Eva Primack sing songs that’ll make your eyes water and your toes tingle. Tonight they will share music from Appalachia, Caucasus Georgia, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, Ukraine, Corsica and beyond, with accompaniment on dulcimer, accordion, and the Georgian panduri.”
Also Tues May 13 through 17 Pharaoh Sanders plays Birdland, $35 general admission, shows 8:30 & 11. A legend who played with everybody, fifty years ago: Miles, Trane, you name it, and somebody whose sax can still conjure up a firestorm of spirits when he puts his mind to it.
Also Tues May 13 the Snow – which is Melomane frontman Pierre de Gaillande’s side project – plays Drom, 9 PM. They sound pretty much like Melomane, maybe a little jazzier and more rustic, but with the same lush atmospherics, intricate arrangements, smart lyrics and apocalyptic sensibility. Their new album is reputedly excellent.
Also Tues May 13 deliriously fun accordion-and-violin-driven klezmer/gypsy rockers Golem play Joe’s Pub, 9:30 PM $20 adv tix available.
Also Tues May 13 vocal jazz group the Old Rugged Sauce plays Lakeside at 10 PM. With horns, guitar and keys and a pretty standard repertoire, they’re pretty much what you’d hear somewhere in the Midwest – except that their arrangements are amazing. And even the more impressive considering that none of these guys is in it for anything but the sheer fun of it
Also Tues May 13 and 15 Mike Ness plays Irving Plaza, 11ish, adv tix $35 available at the box office and get ’em now if you’re going, they’ll sell out fast. The original Americana punk, maybe better than ever after all these years.
Weds May 14 Botanica plays a free show at the Delancey, 8:30 PM with darkly propulsive, melodic bassist Dana Schechter from Bee & Flower, plus OPEN BAR from 8:30-9:30. How appropriate. We weren’t going to list this show since we want everybody to go to Botanica’s big Bowery Ballroom show with Firewater on May 26, but this is just too good to keep secret.
Also Weds May 14, Moroccan Jazz featuring Malika Zarra (composer & vocals), Francis Jacob (guitar), Mamadou Ba (bass) and the spectacularly good Brahim Fribgane (cajon & oud). Sets @ 8, 10, 11:30pm at Smoke, 2751 Bwy, $20 minimum
Also Weds May 14, 9 PM amusing, 70s throwback outlaw country hellraisers Maynard and the Musties play at Buttermilk, 577 5th Ave Park Slope, Brooklyn at 17th St near Prospect Expressway F to 7th Ave.
Weds May 14, for jazzcats, Dave Smith’s The Perfect Man – electric trombone, synths, and a rhythm section at Black Betty, 11 PM. The other bands he plays in – Rev. Vince Anderson’s gospel group, Sun Ra revivalists Who Put the Bad Mouth on Me and others are all good so this one ought to be as well.
Thurs afternoon May 15, 1 PM at Trinity Church Metropolitan Klezmer play their mix of deliciously danceable, accordion-and-horn driven tunefulness along with darker, quieter stuff and some especially choice originals.
Also Thurs May 15 Bobby Bland plays B.B. King’s, 8 PM, adv tix still available at the club box office. B.B. King’s former butler still has the growl that made him such a big hit with all the ladies fifty years ago, and still pulls the chicks at shows. Whether he delivers a flat-out soul clinic or just phones it in tonight is the operative question.
Also Thurs May 15 Linda Draper plays Sidewalk, 9 PM. Having conquered every lyrical style she ever felt like tackling, she’s gone back to the catchy, upbeat acoustic rock thing she did so well on her first album, and the lyricism is still there but more terse than ever. Nina Nastasia is the obvious comparison: both have edge and bite and zero tolerance for BS.
Also Thurs May 15 Ansambl Mastika play Barbes, 10 PM. We just reviewed them: these pan-Balkan rockers are deliriously good.
Also Thurs May 15, Suicide plays Europa, 11ish. That’s right, Alan Suicide, from CBGB, 1976. Their sound hasn’t changed one iota, and it could be described as unlistenable. For serious noise-rock fans and anyone who actually likes Metal Machine Music.
Fri May 16 Graham Parker plays Joe’s Pub, 7:30 PM, $25 adv. tix available and worth it. One of the greatest songwriters of alltime, plain and simple. Started out slowly aping Van Morrison in the mid-70s, then discovered new wave and hit it big for a few years. His two most recent albums are as good as anything he’s ever done, as virtriolic, funny and tuneful as ever.
Also Fri May 16, 9 PM the Jack Grace Band and Wayne Hancock play a double bill at the Jalopy Café. Grace is our hometown country throwback ham and an underrated lead guitarist; Hancock’s fiery mix of honkytonk and western swing is as exhilarating as it is funny.
Sat May 17, starting in the morning at 11 AM it’s Wall to Wall Bach at Symphony Space, free, what looked like great fun gets more and more dubious by the moment. Now the venue is allowing people in only at specific times (10:30 and 1:30), with reserved seating for members only. If you’re one of the lucky ones (or can borrow somebody’s membership card), The American Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Leon Botstein and a slew of artists performs preludes, fugues, cantatas, suites, concerti, sonatas and more (gavottes? Airs?), concluding with a resounding performance of the B minor Mass in the early evening.
Also Sat May 17 noir accordionist Marni Rice – equally a devotee of classic French chanson and dirty garage rock – plays Banjo Jim’s, 7:30 PM
Also Sat May 17, 8 PM, the Chelsea Symphony plays at St. Paul’s Church, 315 W 22nd Street (btwn 8th & 9th), on a program including excerpts from Shostakovich’s Tenth and Twelfth Symphonies and the entire, horrifyingly powerful Symphony No. 9. The program repeats on Sun 5/18 at 3 PM with a slightly better program: Lawhead – Rondo for Strings, Harp and Brass; Saint-Saens – Introduction and Rondo Capricioso and then the Shostakovich fireworks.
Also Sat May 17 Brian Jackson plays BAM Café, 9 PM. Gil Scott-Heron’s 70s electric keyboardist and sparring partner still brings the funk with the same sprightly optimism as he did thirty years ago.
Also Sat May 17, 9:30 PM, deliriously danceable, haunting, incredibly generous ouzo-swilling Greek rebetika revivalists Magges play Mehanata. You have not lived until you have danced to Magges, and you heard that here first.
Also Sat May 17 Witches In Bikinis play Kenny’s Castaways, 10 PM. More of a theatrical event than a concert: The Trip (the Jack Nicholson movie) meets Rocky Horror. Campy, yes, but genuinely funny, both lyrically and musically, to the extent that the show would work equally well if the witches, in their matching colored wigs and bathing suits, weren’t all dancing around with hardly anything on.
Also Sat May 17, 10 PM Burnt Sugar plays Luna. Hmmm…Luna has a big stage, let’s see how many people it holds. Fifty? OK, then we’ll bring the whole band. Greg Tate’s slowly unwinding vamp-jazz megaplex are great to listen to if you’re in a pensive mood.
Also Sat May 17 Jimmy Nations plays Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Carolina expatriate and a sensational rockabilly/blues/honkytonk lead guitarist who actually deserves a comparison to Wayne Hancock, and whose originals sound like the real thing from fifty years ago.
Also Sat May 17, Public Enemy frontman Chuck D makes an appearance on a hip-hop bill at Galapagos. First-ballot hall-of-famer. One of the greatest lyricists of alltime. If you never got to see PE in their prime, might actually be worth braving the moat here to see him.
Also Sat May 17 captivating, jazzy keyboard-and-horn-driven Latin groove rockers Urbansonora perform at club D’Antigua at 11:30 PM. 84-16 Northern Blvd in Queens.
Sun May 18, early, 7 PM Amy Allison plays Banjo Jim’s. She’s sensationally funny, super smart, has a beautifully unique voice and while her new, more rock oriented songs are sometimes wrenchingly dark, she still plays a lot of her older, more countryish, amusing material for a rapt cult audience who know all the words and request stuff issued on obscure compilation cds back in the 90s that Allison has long since forgotten.
Also Sun May 18, semi-legendary mandolinist Andy Statman – equally dazzling at both bluegrass and klezmer – plays Barbes at 9 PM, early arrival (i.e. an hour early) very strongly advised, as this guy is used to playing vastly larger clubs.
Also Tues May 20, 9:30 PM noir accordionist Marni Rice – equally influenced by French chanson and American garage rock – plays the Parkside, followed at 10:30 by scorching twangmeister Tom Clark and his killer band.
Also Tues May 20, 10 PM at Drom it’s Eljuri AKA Cecilia Villar Eljuri, a somewhat jangly Ecuadorian singer/guitarist whose electric songs blend influences from her home country with janglerock and reggae. She’s good. Fans of Chicha Libre should check her out.
Also Tues May 20 Kinks and Hollies-inspired Washington DC retro 60s rockers Bellman Barker play a rare duo show at Sidewalk, 11 PM. Their album Anise & Anisette is excellent.
Weds May 21 excellent southwestern gothic rocker James Apollo plays Union Pool, 8 PM. Dark, dusky, hypnotic, slow-burning intensity
Also Weds May 21 Marty Willson-Piper of the Church plays the cd release for his new one Nightjar at Joe’s Pub, 9:30 PM, $15 adv tix available. He’s also at Maxwell’s on 5/23 for the same price. Pantheonic lead guitarist, highly influential janglerocker (Rickenbacker invited him to open one of their guitar factories), cursed with being an excellent songwriter in a band (the Church) with an even more prolific one in Steve Kilbey. If players like Richard Thompson are your thing, check him out.
Also Weds May 21 a klezmer show at Banjo Jim’s starting at 9:30 PM with Michael Winograd, Art Bailey’s Orkestra Popilar and Eyal Maoz Edom sometime after midnight.
Also Weds May 21 the English Beat plays Maxwell’s, 9ish, $25 adv tix will probably sell out fast. If you like aging fratboys in their forties, this is probably the place to be. Seriously, though, this jangly multiracial British crew were, along with the Specials, the best of the second-wave ska bands of the late 70s and early 80s.
Thurs May 22 in the afternoon,1 PM at Trinity Church – the New York Scandia Symphony, Dorrit Matson, conductor, performs works by Sibelius, Foerster and Langgard.
Thurs May 22, 7 PM Toby Williams, the soaring frontwoman of hilarious lounge jazz satirists Cocktail Angst plays the Marriott Residence Inn, southwest corner of 39th and 6th Avenue with her regular non-faux jazz combo. Cost: free, “Low key nice jazz gig,” as her myspace puts it.
Also Thurs May 22 powerpop siren Patti Rothberg plays the cd release for her new album Double Standards – a sizzling, guitar-fueled mix of upbeat, catchy, slightly new wave-ish tunes that could be the great long lost Go-Go’s album – at the Gramercy Theatre, 8 PM.
Thurs May 22 the Doc Marshalls, equally adept at fiery Louisiana Cajun songs as they are at Texas honkytonk, play Hill Country over on 26th St., 9 PM.
Also Thurs May 22, 9:30 PM at Joe’s Pub Ukrainian actress Mariana Sadovska plays haunting, ghostly Carpathian mountain music backed by jazz group. Centuries-old yet cosmopolitan at the same time, should be a good time for all you gypsy rock types.
Also Thurs May 22, 10:30 PM Demolition String Band blast into Rodeo Bar. Fiery electrified bluegrass guitar, soaring girl/guy vocals, like the country side of X. Their new album Different Kinds of Love is their most rocking yet.
Also Thurs May 22 the Mercenaries play Lakeside, 10 PM. Some of their stuff is pretty standard Stonesy meat-and-potatoes rock, sometimes they venture toward the more melodic side of Guided by Voices. Either way, the guitars are cranked up.
Fri May 23 long-running, reliably amusing faux-French garage rockers Les Sans Culottes – with Moist Gina from Moisturizer playing her spectacularly propulsive, melodic lines on bass – open for one of our favorites, surfy, psychedelic, chicha revivalists Chicha Libre at Joe’s Pub, 7 PM, $15
Also Fri May 23 at Barbes, 8 PM it’s sultry, innuendo-driven French chanson revivalists Les Chauds Lapins with Meg Reichardt (ex-Roulette Sisters) and Kurt Hoffman (ex-Ordinaires) followed by accordionist Rob Curto’s Grupo Sanfona playing both original and classic Brazilian forro music (yet another style with an eerie, gypsyish feel).
Also Fri May 23, 10:30 PM scorching art/punk/noise rockers System Noise, with the riveting Sarah Mucho on lead vocals play the Blaggard as part of a battle of the bands sponsored by the Shure microphone company. Meaning that things will run on time and if Shure gets their way, the sound will actually be ok.
Also Fri May 23, 10:30 PM the Greyhounds play Rodeo Bar. Dark swinging rockabilly band who venture into surf occasionally.
Afternoon Sat May 24 for anyone who’s around, Brooklyn’s own haunting, all-female Bulgarian vocal choir Black Sea Hotel play along with the ferociously good gypsy/Greek/Turkish/Balkan/Arab rockers Ansambl Mastika who are hosting a bbq (kebabs? bureks?) at Rose Bar, 4-8 PM. The bands’ email said free hot dogs and vegetarian grill thing, 2 for 1 domestic drafts, $3 sangria
Early evening Sat May 24, 4:30 PM at Cake Shop hauntingly, brilliantly lyrical rocker Randi Russo plays her first show in ages since breaking up her band. Paleface – who did the white funk thing long before it ever got popular in the 90s (and was supposedly Beck’s flatmate for a few years back in the 80s – not that it’s important) plays later at 10 at Cake Shop followed by Schwervon (Major Matt Mason and Nan Turner’s lo-fi project) who are flat out hilarious.
Also Sat May 24 9 PM Amir ElSaffar’s Two Rivers: Iraqi-American trumpeter leads a jazz ensemble including the sensational oud virtuoso Zafir Tawil and Tareq Abboushi (Buzuq and Percussion) at Alwan for the Arts.
Also Sat May 24 hilariously retro ragtime banjo songwriter Al Duvall plays Hank’s, 9 PM. Steeped in history and good fun: if you’re lucky he’ll play the one about the sex change operation from the days before anesthesia.
Also Sat May 24, 10 PM 1st Village (the Drom house band) plays their Turkish vocal and instrumental numbers with 2 guitars, keys and a rhythm section at their home base.
Also Sat May 24 New York’s finest electric Chicago-style blues guitarist Johnny Allen – whose voice is every bit as potent and soulful as his solos – plays Terra Blues, 10 PM.
Also Sat May 24 X plays Irving Plaza, 9 PM, adv tix $25 available at the box office. All original members. After all these years the best and most musically interesting of the LA punk bands haven’t lost a step, a group you really should investigate if you want to know something about American music.
Sun May 25 dark, brilliantly lyrical acoustic songwriter Erin Regan plays a short set upstairs at Cake Shop, 5 PM.
Sun May 25, 7 PM at Barbes it’s Bridget Kibbey playing solo on classical concert harp: a big star in the world of symphonic music, here’s your chance to hear her close up and intimate. Followed by the great Django Reinhardt disciple Stephane Wrembel playing gypsy jazz at 9
Also Sun May 25 at 7:30 PM Nour (Armenian for pomegranate, Arab for divine light) plays Drom. Levantine dance music and all kinds of pan-Arab brilliance from this five-piece
Also Sun May 25 a surf music extravaganza at – where else – Otto’s, with a whole slew of bands including The Madeira, The Atomic Mosquitos, The Outpatients, The Octomen, amazing Connecticut Dick Dale soundalikes 9th Wave, The TarantinosNYC and the single best surf band in New York, the scorchingly powerful, frequently macabre Coffin Daggers headlining. This could go late.
Mon May 26, one of the best double bills of the year so far with two remarkably similar noir rock bands at Bowery Ballroom, 10ish, adv tix absolutely necessary and available at the Mercury box office. Openers Botanica spun off from Firewater, whose dark, eerie keyboardist (Paul Wallfisch) will be playing with both bands. Botanica is the more musicially diverse and subtle of the two; Firewater, the headliners have more of a gypsy punk vibe. Both have released two of the greatest albums ever made by New York bands: The Ponzi Scheme, Firewater’s 1996 swipe at consumerism and the robber barons of the world, and Botanica vs. the Truth Fish, the brutal and bitter 2004 post-9/11 masterpiece.
Also Mon May 26 ex-Moonlighter Daria Grace’s charmingly oldtimey Prewar Ponies open for the boisterously jazzy Hot Club of Cowtown at Rodeo Bar, 9:30 PM.
Tues May 27 impressively diverse cello player RUFUS CAPPADOCIA plays Barbes at 7, early. Equally adept at Balkan music, classical and jazz, he’s played with everyone from Aretha to the Matt Darriau’s Paradox Trio.
Also Tues May 27 Mamie Minch plays the cd release for her solo debut, Razorburn Blues at Union Hall, 7:30 PM. Sultry alto singer, a throwback to people like Memphis Minnie with her National resonator guitar and strikingly smart, effortlessly rustic oldtimey songs. Imagine the Moonlighters at their darkest and sexiest.
Also Tues May 27 the swinging, upbeat, oldtimey ragtime/hokum blues band the Second Fiddles play Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM.
Weds May 28 the Five Points Band play Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Where do they find these people: this is a ghoulabilly parody band, like the Cramps fronted by Cab Calloway. Their cover of the B-52s’ Strobe Light is hilarious.
Thurs May 29 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral there’s an Olivier Messiaen Anniversary Recital at 7 PM featuring organist Gail Archer.
Also Thurs May 29 alternately haunting and dreamlike pan-Orientalist Middle Eastern jazz-rockers Pharaoh’s Daughter play Banjo Jim’s, 8:30 PM. Warning: this is a very popular band, get there early if you’re going.
Also Thurs May 29 a rare acoustic show by excellent, low-key, completely affect-free Americana rockers Sounds for Your Hounds (who also occasionally mine a catchy Wallflowers-style janglerock vibe) at Kion, 509 E 6 th St. off Ave. A. You’d never know it, but some band members are in Brazilian Girls, so you might want to get here early.
Also Thurs May 29, 10:30 PM Mechanical Bull play Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Hilarious country parody band from upstate – songs about drunk driving, box wine – you get the picture.
Fri May 30 first-wave British punk/new wave legends Wire play the first show of the summer season at South St. Seaport, free, time TBA, guessing around 8. All original members. The first out gay band in rock history has a couple of certifiable classic, weird, eerie albums (Pink Flag and Chairs Missing) and reputedly still has it live.
Fri May 30 60s throwback country hellraiser Jack Grace and band at Banjo Jim’s, 8:30 PM
Fri May 30 A diverse bill at Highline Ballroom starting at 8 with the all-female, twenty-member Main Squeeze Orchestra (whose psychedelic accordion orchestrations are some of the most imaginative you’ll hear these days), followed by rousing Balkan brass band Slavic Soul Party and then Hungry March Band who mine a similar vein with equal competence.
Fri May 30, 9 PM rambunctiously sloppy, loud Pennsylvania party band Drink Up Buttercup play their “campfire metal” i.e. amusing faux oi-punk at Cake Shop, 9 PM
Also Fri May 30, 10 PM the actually good, horn-driven, female-fronted self-explanatory NY Funk Exchange plays the Lucky Cat in Williamsburg.
Fri May 30 alternately haunting and deliciously groove-driven shoegaze/dreampop rockers El Jezel plays the cd release for their new one The Warm Frequency at Crash Mansion, time TBA
Also Fri May 30, in case you missed them earlier in the month, the always brilliant, romantic, oldtimey Moonlighters play Barbes, 10 PM.
Sat May 31 yodeling banjo player/authentic oldtimey songwriter Curtis Eller and his band American Circus play Barbes at 8 PM.
Sat May 31 6th St. Garden (Ave. C/ 6th St.) show with darkly captivating acoustic rocker Maya Cabalerro, more, 8ish
Sat May 31 as many of sprawling downtempo groove jazz megaplex Burnt Sugar at Banjo Jim’s as they can fit onstage, 11:30 PM
6/1 Devi at Marcus Garvey Park, 4 PM Mt. Morris Park West and 122nd Street
6/1 Dwight & Nicole at Banjo Jim’s, 11:30 PM
6/3 6-9 PM it’s the annual museum mile festival – 5th Ave closed 82nd Street to 105th Street. Free adm at El Museo del Barrio; The Museum of the City of New York; The Jewish Museum; Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution; National Academy Museum & School of Fine Arts; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Neue Galerie New York; Goethe-Institut New York/German Cultural Center; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art
6/5 at Trinity Church, 1 PM “A Journey through the History, Mystery, and Music of Pere Lachaise” with piano, strings, visuals, music by many of the composers buried there and – yes – a Doors cover.
6/5 Rockie Dan (roots reggae) at Crash Mansion, 8 PM
6/5 8 PM Mohammed Reza Shajarian (the “Voice of Iran”) at Town Hall, 8 PM, adv tix $38 at their box office
6/6 Des Roar at Rehab, 9:30 PM
6/7 the Slackers at Irving Plaza 8 PM adv tix $16.50
6/7 the Roscoe Trio/Bottle Rockets Mercury Lounge 9 PM
6/7 Mike Hunt Band at Lakeside, 11 PM
6/7 the Sadies at Maxwell’s, time TBA
6/10 LJ Murphy at Rehab, 8 PM
6/10 The Strawbs (1974 lineup!) at B.B. King’s 9 PM adv tix $22.50 available
6/11 Israel Vibration B.B. King’s 8 PM $20.50 adv tix available
6/12 Isaac Hayes at Prospect Park Bandshell supposedly 5:30 PM
6/12 Haale at Flushing Town Hall 7:30 PM
6/13 9 PM Thalia Zedek at Union Pool
6/15 Mark Sinnis at the Rockwood 11 PM
6/18 Thalia Zedek at the Mercury Lounge, time TBA
6/18 the Kennedys at Madison Sq Park 7 PM
6/21 Make Music NY AKA la Fete de la Musique with free outdoor shows all over town starting at noon – we’ll have a full page of highlights up for this as soon as the calendar is made public
6/21 Wagstock at Wagner’s Cove, Central Park, 2 PM, down small NW slope off Cherry Hill Fountain (?) in association with La Fete de la Musique – innumerable acoustic acts, many of them good (Erin Regan et al.)
6/21 Polvo at Bowery Ballroom, 11 PM
6/22 Haale at Prospect Park Bandshell, 6 PM+-
6/22 Polvo at Maxwell’s, time TBA
6/21 Spanking Charlene at Lakeside 11 PM
6/24 Nan Turner of Schwervon at Sidewalk, 10 PM
6/26-27 Peter Murphy at the Gramercy Theatre, 9 PM $35 adv tix at Irving Plaza box office
6/26 the Mercenaries at Lakeside 10 PM
6/28 8 PM Las Rubias Del Norte at Union Hall
6/28 Crooklyn Dodgers reunion show with Chubb Rock, Jeru the Damaja and O.C. at Prospect Park Bandshell, time TBA
6/28 Scott Morgan’s Powertrane feat. Deniz Tek from Radio Birdman!!!!! at Maxwell’s only $12, insanely cheap. They’re also at Southpaw the previous night 6/27 for the same price.
Thursdays, July 3/10/17/24/31/ Aug 7 through August 7, 2008 organ concerts at Trinity Church, performances take place from 1 PM – 2 PM at Trinity Church, Broadway at Wall Street.
7/5 Apollo Heights/Dengue Fever/Rachid Taha at Central Park Summerstage, 3 PM, recommended with considerable trepidation, early early arrival (i.e. 2:30 PM) advised for the extremely dedicated fan.
7/10 Freddie McGregor at Prospect Park Bandshell, time TBA
7/12 the Main Squeeze Accordion Festival at Pier 1 starting at 2 PM
7/16 Steel Pulse at Rockefeller Park north of Chambers on the water, 7 PM
7/17 Ted Leo at Castle Clinton, 7 PM, tix available at 5 at the fort
7/19 the Skatalites at Metrotech Park in downtown Brooklyn, noon
7/20 Sway Machinery and Golem at Prospect Park Bandshell, time TBA
7/22 Jarvis Cocker at Terminal 5, adv tix $37.50 available at the Mercury box office
7/25 Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3 play the Dream Syndicate’s classic album Days of Wine & Roses all the way through at Maxwell’s, 10ish, $15
7/25 Brian Jonestown Massacre at Terminal 5
7/26 Johnny Cash tribute feat. Laura Cantrell, Ollabelle et al. at the World Financial Ctr., 7 PM
7/27 Pharaoh’s Daughter at Pier 1, 7 PM
8/7 Stephane Wrembel at Damrosch Park, Lincoln Ctr. 7 PM
8/23 Irma Thomas at Damrosch Park, 8:30 PM
8/24 the Knitters and Patti Smith at Damrosch Park, Lincoln Ctr. 5:30 PMish
More to come, stay tuned. If you don’t recognize where the particular show you want to see is happening, the venue is probably listed in our Venues section, to your right.
“Is there anyone else who needs to leave?” grinned classical guitarist Bret Williams, “Like the guy in the back there?” He was referring to the screaming rugrat who’d erupted in rage at the end of the La Vita/Williams Guitar Duo’s first song, an anonymously springtimey piece by Brazilian composer Sergio Assad. As welcome as it is to see classical music on a program outside of the usual midtown concert halls, the infant slowly wheeled outside by a lackadaisical mother never would have made it past security at Carnegie Hall. Apparently, the church fathers at St. Paul’s Chapel today were too nice to turn her away. And this was somebody who obviously wasn’t homeless. Memo to parents: you had a choice, you had the kid, now you pay the price. No concerts for at least four years (for the kid, anyway).
What started inauspiciously got good in a hurry. Duetting with Williams was Italian guitarist Giacomo La Vita, whose fluid, brilliantly precise playing made a perfect match for Williams’ lickety-split yet subtle fingerpicking. The two ran through two pieces by Manuel de Falla, the romantic, flamenco-inflected Serenata Andaluza and the swaying, 6/8 Danza Espanola, then did two Scarlatti pieces that La Vita had arranged himself. In music this old, the emotion is in the melody, not the rhythm, and both of them dug deep into the stateliness of the tunes to find it.
The high point of the show, and probably the drawing card that got the audience in here on a cold, rainy Monday was Astor Piazzolla’s 1984 Tango Suite, another original arrangement for guitar. It’s unclear if the pantheonic Argentinian tango composer actually knew Charles Mingus personally, but the third piece in the suite definitely had the same kind of defiant scurrying around that the great American jazz composer was known for, beginning with a chase scene, running through all kinds of permutations to arrive at a fiery chordal ending. The two parts which preceded it began darkly reserved, then became expansively jazzy.
“We usually have an intermission, but we have to get up to the Upper West Side to teach,” explained Williams. “To a bunch of kids who probably haven’t even practiced. We’ve got to be there at 2:30!” And with that they burned through yet another of their own arrangements, this for De Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance, an orchestral piece every bit as volcanic as the title would imply. An impressively good crowd, especially for the time of day and the drizzle outside, responded with a standing ovation. Obviously, fans of acoustic guitar music will like these guys best, but they cover vastly more terrain than most of their colleagues, a savvy move because it will earn them more of an audience. One hopes enough to eliminate the need to rush off to a midafternoon private-school teaching gig after they’ve finished playing a great set.
Sometimes a plan B isn’t enough: you also need a plan C. Rachelle Garniez at Joe’s Pub was the unanimous choice tonight. But the show was sold out. By that time, plan B, Hazmat Modine, were probably already halfway through their set at Drom. After some discussion, a decision was made to head out to Hank’s in Brooklyn, where a couple of favorites, Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co. and Ninth House were on the bill. The former are a trio that might be mistaken for rockabilly by a lot of people, but what they play sounds actually straight out of 1953, not 1958 (decades in dog years and maybe the equivalent of a century in terms of what happened musically over that time).
Frontman/lead guitarist Michael McMahon didn’t joke with the crowd as much as he usually does, maybe because he didn’t have any new stage patter ready. In addition to the trio’s matching brown pinstriped suits, matching bolo ties, and delightfully authentic stage props, posters, flyers and beer coasters, McMahon makes very clever, period-perfect repartee with the audience. For example, tonight he introduced an instrumental about hot dogs as something you might hear at Forbes Field, where his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates played in the 50s.
Otherwise, they were as boisterous and reliably funny as always. It’s amazing how tight these guys are, especially since they don’t have a drummer. Among their best songs: the snide Mr. Romance and the understatedly hilarious country gospel parody Read It in a Book, whose punchline depends equally on lyrics and music (the joke’s so good it wouldn’t be fair to give away). They also did their biggest crowd-pleaser, a genuine classic, the uncharacteristically snarling I Hate You. The lyrics may all be wickedly literate double entendres, but there’s no hiding from the message. Great stuff, especially with Ninth House next on the bill.
Who didn’t have their keyboardist with them, so violinist Susan Mitchell, their not-so-secret weapon, stepped in and in addition to her usual slashing gypsy melodies, she also played evil sheets of ambience to compensate for the lack of the organ and string synth. From the first screaming chords of their usual opener, Long Stray Whim, a song about ditching everything and getting the hell out of town, they were on a roll. The band that used to be sort of the American Joy Division continue to jam out their catchy Nashville gothic stuff, great songs like Your Past May Come Back to Haunt Me and Mistaken for Love, versions of which appear on both the most recent Ninth House album as well as frontman Mark Sinnis’ debut cd, Into an Unhidden Future. As with the opener, they went with their usual closer, a blistering cover of Ghost Riders which in the hands of a less angry, bitter band could easily have turned into camp, but with Mitchell screeching up a tornado and guitarist the Anti-Dave blasting the crowd with his big Fender Twin amp, it was pure punk rock, straight out of the early Social Distortion catalog. People were dancing. The price of draft Schaefer may have gone up a dollar here (four bucks for a Schaefer, can you believe), but it didn’t matter, plan C turned out just fine. Ninth House play Lucky Cheng’s on May 9 at 10 PM. That’s not a joke.
Yet another attempt on the part of Lucid Culture to encourage adventurous listeners to investigate the fascinating, emotionally rewarding subculture of pipe organ music and the world-class performers who come through New York to play it. Not for the faint of heart. Then again, nothing you’ll find here ever is.
Galveston, Texas organist Joanna Elliott is a highly respected talent in the fanatical organ music demimonde, a student of Marie-Claire Alain and Joyce Jones, also adept at the concert harp. Tonight was a riveting, spectacular performance, even more than one would expect from a musician with the subtle sense of touch that comes from playing the harp. She opened with the famous Bach Toccata and Fugue in F Major (BWV 540), which begins all happy and upbeat before the demons start to filter in during its second part, the fugue. Literally pulling out all the stops, she managed to get the newer organ here, the smaller of the two, to sing. There was a triumphant sway in her playing, imbuing the piece with special optimism while remaining true to Bach’s clockwork rhythm.
Switching to the big, beautiful main organ here, she pulled out all the stops again for Marcel Dupre’s Prelude and Fugue in B Major, Op. 7. Dupre is one of the great exponents of French romanticism: his Stations of the Cross is one of the standard works in the organ repertoire and quite the showstopper, as was the piece Elliott had selected for tonight. Ablaze with purpose, melodies spinning from the pedals, it’s a hard piece to play and Elliott’s interpretation was both passionate and seemingly effortless.
Next on the bill was a duo of Louis Vierne compositions, Clair de Lune and the Toccata from his 24 Fantasy Pieces. The first is all quiet, eerie ambience, atmospheric sheets of ominous sound: Vierne’s moon here is completely phantasmagorical. The Toccata, by contrast, is all fire and brimstone, yet imbued with the same macabre feel, and Elliott sprinted through it as if someone was chasing her. And the unusual pace actually enhanced Vierne’s dark ambience, making it an apt counterpart to what had just preceded it. She closed with long-tenured Notre Dame organist Maurice Durufle’s famous Chorale on the theme of the hymn Veni Creator (Op. 4), another big warhorse, a suite whose brief, opening parts foreshadow absolutely nothing of the fireworks to come. Elliott set them off with unabashed joy, all the way through to the wall-rattling crescendo at the end.
While Lucid Culture takes pride in spreading the word about the best under-the-radar happenings around town, it’s always fun to revisit the A-list, to catch a show by one of New York’s most exciting, popular acts. Tonight’s show strikingly reaffirmed what a great band Melomane is, not just one of the best in New York, but in the entire world. And also a reminder of how much fun and visually entertaining their live show is, with everyone trading off licks, throwing in silly quotes from pop songs, orchestrating a little mayhem into their impeccably crafted tunes. And tonight they did it mostly with songs about the end of the world. The only bad thing about this show was that it ended: they called it a night after fifty minutes onstage, perhaps because their sizzling new three-piece horn section doesn’t know any more songs.
Forget the Melomane you might have known when they first started out, the artsy, Mediterranean-inflected, somewhat Roxy Music-ish pop band they were around the turn of the century. This band is a whole lot darker, a LOT louder, more powerful than ever. They hit the ground running with the title track from their second album Solresol, a scorching, fast minor-key anthem that takes flight on one of frontman Pierre de Gaillande’s signature eerie guitar hooks, anchored by multi-instrumentalist Quentin Jennings’ ominous organ. Then they took a lengthy excursion through Gaillande’s ongoing “disaster song cycle,” including new songs about apocalypse by never-ending solar eclipse, flood, volcanic eruption, collision with an asteroid and more. The volcano song, Vesuvius was a gleefully morbid, cabaret-inflected number. Their sky-is-falling song caught the audience completely off-guard with two dramatic, false endings to its incongruously Stonesy boogie blues outro, capped by a dark minor chord that rang out majestically at the end. Two more of the end-of-the-world songs were blackly humorous, slow 6/8 numbers. In the country band that shares with her husband Jack, bassist Daria Grace is all about the swing and the sway: in this unit, she gets to play a lot of melody, including one gripping, soaring solo, a lot of slides and chords for extra impact. The horn section, whose name is still up in the air – the Brassholes? The Brass-ieres? The band can’t decide – gave the crescendos extra fire and bite. They also played what was ironically the first song Paris-born Gaillande ever wrote in French – an amusing tune about the relationship between a cigarette and a match – bouncing along on Grace’s Motown bassline. They closed with the weird, multi-part, Skyhooks soundalike This Is Skyhorse from their most recent and best album, Glaciers, one of our picks for ten best albums of 2007. Melomane plays June 13 at BAM Café: if you like sweepingly orchestrated art-rock, or just plain good fun, you would be crazy to miss this show.
There’s a lot to like in Anthony Pontius’ oils on display here through May 24. This series centers frequently goofy, cartoonish, anthropomorphosed animals onto dark, nebulous, out-of-focus forest backgrounds for a feel that is Simpsons and Twin Peaks simultaneously. A two-headed dog chases its own face, a guillotine looms beneath the dripping trees, a killer’s goofy, fuzzy-bearded face leans in from a stick-figure body. These paintings are surreal, psychedelic as hell and the more compelling the more you stare at them, the backgrounds especially. Playful yet eerie, the visual equivalent of a mix of the Ventures’ minor-key hits. In the back room Pontius also has several wry, Edward Gorey-esque pencil sketches on display. Yet another rousing success for 31grand, a welcome addition (some might say antidote) to the neighborhood.
[postscript – 31grand Gallery is sadly now closed – one of their curators went on to join the similarly edgy Black and White Gallery in Chelsea]
It’s no secret that New York has one of the most vital, thriving country music scenes anywhere. Forget any snide commentary you may have overheard about urban musicians playing country: if anything, the music coming out of the New York country scene is far more traditionally-oriented than most anything Nashville is producing these days. Tonight’s bill paired two of the more popular country acts in town. Monica Passin, frontwoman of long-running Rodeo Bar honkytonkers L’il Mo and the Monicats played mostly solo acoustic, with occasional help from a couple of women who sang harmonies, and the New Jack Ramblers’ amazing lead guitarist. She’s pretty much everything you could want in a country singer: pretty voice, good songs, good taste in covers and backing musicians. Her best song was a minor-key rockabilly number – the first one in that style she’d ever written, she said – possibly titled This Cat. The lead player used Passin’s ominous chord changes as a springboard for a riveting, intense, jazz-inflected solo that drew roars of appreciation from the crowd. On the last song, Passin invited Lisa, the bar owner up to sing harmonies, and as it turned out she’s actually good! Not since the days when Juliana Nash ran the show at Pete’s Candy Store has there been a bar owner who’s been able to show off such a soaring, fearless voice. Bands in need of a frontwoman ought to stop by the bar: she won’t embarrass you, and if all else fails you’ll always have a place to play.
Sean Kershaw and the New Jack Ramblers aren’t exactly under the radar, maintaining a hectic gig schedule in addition to the regular Sunday night residency they’ve been playing at Hank’s for what seems forever. They’re a rotating crew of some of the best players in town: the weekly Sunday show originated out of necessity, as this was the only night everybody in the band didn’t have a gig. Tonight, backed by just lead guitar and upright bass (their awe-inspiring pedal steel player Bob Hoffnar wasn’t available, and you really don’t need drums in a small room like Banjo Jim’s), Kershaw ran through a mix of what sounded like covers but probably weren’t. The guy’s a hell of a songwriter, a prolific, versatile writer as comfortable with western swing as honkytonk, rockabilly or stark, Johnny Cash-inspired narratives. Tonight’s show was the western swing show, driven by lead guitarist Skip Krevens, whose ability to burn through a whole slew of styles was nothing short of spectacular, everything from jazz to rockabilly to blues. He made it seem effortless. They gamely ran through the old standard Smoke That Cigarette in addition to a bunch of originals, some recorded, some not, closing the first of their two sets with what has become Kershaw’s signature song, Moonlight Eyes. Originally recorded with his first band, the fiery, rockabilly unit the Blind Pharaohs, it’s a genuine classic, something that sounds like a Carl Perkins hit from 1956. Kershaw has played it a million times, but still manages to make it sound fresh, the ominous undercurrent beneath its blithe romantic sway more apparent than ever tonight, stripped down to just the basics.
And what was even more apparent was that both of the acts on this bill would probably be big stars in a smaller metropolis: here, they’re only part of a widespread, talented scene.
From the first two folksongs on the bill, it seemed that this show was going to turn out like something you’d see on a Sunday afternoon at some suburban “arts center” in central New Jersey, most of the $60 seats taken up by squirming gradeschool kids dragged out for a shot of “culture” by their yuppie parents. The Russian Carnival Ensemble once appeared on Good Morning America (or its equivalent – they’re all the same, anyway), and the schmaltz they played early in the program could well have been on the audition dvd that got them the gig. But the show got better from there. Despite the fact that this seemingly sexagenarian Russian-American folk ensemble is probably best seen on their own turf, playing to an expatriate crowd who would object if the program was dumbed down, the remainder of the show gave them myriad opportunities to show off their sensational chops and interesting arrangements. Led by Tamara Volskaya, a spectacularly fast, virtuosic player whose axe is the domra (a small Russian stringed instrument that looks like a cross between a mandolin and a balalaika), the group ripped through a mix of their own arrangements of both classical and traditional pieces. The bassist played a large, hollowbodied, triangular instrument whose sides looked to be at least six feet long, definitely the largest bass on this side of the Hudson and maybe on the other as well. In addition to an excellent accordionist who sat impassively while casually spinning off lightning-fast trills, the group – wearing matching traditional costumes – had two other string players alternating between guitar, domra, balalaika and occasional percussion.
Other than a blistering, barely minute-long version of the Flight of the Bumblebee, the classical pieces weren’t all that interesting (in case you’re guessing, yes, they did the Lone Ranger theme). Traditional Russian dances, however, are their strong suit, and listening to them blaze through a handful of freilachs reminded of how much of a Russian influence there is in klezmer and gypsy music, and vice versa. In case you haven’t noticed, Lucid Culture has been off on a serious gypsy music tangent lately, and the pieces the group played this afternoon hit the spot perfectly, especially the encore on which what Volskaya wailed furiously, its melody a lickety-split series of sixteenth notes. The group also played a piece introduced by Volskaya as a world premiere, its quiet, eerie ambience quite a contrast with the ebullience of the rest of the program, hinting that this ensemble is capable of vastly more than they showed playing to an audience obviously unfamiliar with the material.
Frequently referred to as the French Gogol Bordello, a better comparison would be Balkan Beat Box. Both bands are horn-driven, love their gypsy melodies and bring the party. Last night at Drom, Babylon Circus had the packed house pogoing throughout their roughly hourlong set. With a three-piece horn section, keyboards, sometimes two guitars and rhythm section, they played as tightly and boisterously as one would expect from a band that spends as much time on the road as they do. Their sound is unique, equal parts ska and gypsy rock, with sardonic, witty lyrics in both French and English. Theatricality and audience participation are trademarks of their live show, and they played it up for all it was worth, inviting people from the crowd up onstage to dance and cajoling those seated at the adjacent booths to get up on their feet and join the fun.
Babylon Circus’ vibe is both hippie and punk. While they preach peace, their sly lyrical narratives softpedal the politics. This is obviously an intelligent band: they realize that the best way to get a point across is put the crowd in a party frame of mind first. Though frontman David Baruchel is still recovering from the effects of a near-fatal fall at the end of a concert in Russia a couple of years ago (a blow to the head left him suffering from the occasional grand mal seizure), it was impossible to tell. Clearly accustomed to playing larger stages, he staked out what little room he had, leaping and bounding with the rest of the band. Their best song, an anti-violence number, saw the band members dropping one by one as the sax player shouldered his instrument, taking aim while the drummer supplied the ammunition. Thought most of the set was upbeat material, much of it from their energetically tuneful most recent album Dances of Resistance, they brought it down for a couple of slower, darker reggae numbers delivered by their other singer Manuel, who proved adept at fast and furious dancehall toasting.
Although Baruchel’s English is good, his repartee with the audience didn’t match the subtlety of his lyrics: “How ya doing New York, make some noise!” might work in Lafayette, Louisiana (the next stop on the tour), but it didn’t cut it in what’s left of the East Village. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why the band hasn’t played that many shows in their home country lately. If you think New York audiences are jaded, see a couple of shows in Paris.
There’s no celebrity dj at Brooklyn’s best dance party. For that matter, there’s no dj. No celebrities, either. No ipod that hasn’t been stowed in a pocket or a purse. And no ecstasy, at least the kind that comes in a pill. Chicha Libre’s weekly Monday night residency at Barbes, where the back room becomes a roiling mass of bodies, gets plenty of press here, as Lucid Culture regulars will recall from our NYC live music calendar. The band actually likes it when people dance! The more people jump around, the better the band sounds. A stop by the club to see how the residency is going found them fantastically tight and more fun than ever: this weekly gig has done wonders for them.
In case Chicha Libre are new to you, at this point in time they are possibly the only American practitioners of chicha, a mostly instrumental style of dance music that originated in the slums of the Peruvian Amazon in the late 1960s when indigenous groups discovered American surf music and psychedelic rock and started playing electric instruments. Many of the bands who played it then called it “green music,” not for the dollars they managed to scrimp together for all that equipment, but for what they were smoking when they played it: this is the most hypnotic style of dance music you’ll ever hear.
Tonight the band ran through a mix of originals and covers, both from their sensational new cd Sonido Amazonico as well as Barbes Records’ anthology The Roots of Chicha, released last year. The way the band plays these songs, they’re full of trick endings: unless you have the cd – which is possible, since it’s all the rage – or you know the songs inside out, it’s hard to be sure if you should keep dancing or not. Tonight just about everybody in the mixed Anglo and Latino crowd was moving around on the floor: even the gaggle of drunks at the back table had their heads bobbing. The other great thing about Chicha Libre is that they improvise a lot, especially keyboardist Josh Camp, who ran his vintage Hohner Electrovox (an electric organ designed to look like an accordion, devised as a marketing ploy to open up the Latin market to the company’s instruments) through a labyrinthine circuit of weird, spacy wah-wah and reverb effects. Their version of the famous Ravel Pavane was as amusing as always, frontman Olivier Conan intoning “Pavane, pavane, pavane,” while trying to keep a straight face (that didn’t last long). Then it was the audience’s turn, grins breaking out throughout the room as everyone realized that the band was taking a stab at the Love classic Alone Again Or. While they gave the intro a bouncy chicha groove, the rest of the song was remarkably true to the original. It’s the closest to Arthur Lee (or Bryan MacLean, for that matter) you’ll ever get at this point in time.
Otherwise, they ran through a powerfully propulsive, surprisingly dark version of Los Mirlos’ Muchachita del Mi Amor, as well as amped-up, surfy takes on Conan’s Primavera en la Selva, Camp’s La Cumbia del Zapatero and the cover Un Shipibo en Espana, the latter three of which are all on Sonido Amazonico. If dancing is your thing, if you don’t go out on Saturdays because all the amateurs are out in full effect, Monday nights with Chicha Libre at Barbes are everything we’ve been saying about them for the better part of a year. This band is at the point where they’re about to outgrow the space here: see them while you can.