A pounding, hypnotic, energetic show, revealing the seminal British punk/new wave band none the worse for the thirty years since they played their first New York show at CBGB in 1977. If anything, the prototypical art-school punks are more minimalist than they were three decades ago when their highly influential debut album Pink Flag came out. Running their guitars through a labyrinth of digital reverb and delay effects, they roared through almost an hour of the “modernist deconstructed rock distanced from the form” or whatever bullshit their website says their music is about. Like so many of their punk contemporaries, they weren’t the greatest musicians, but their uniquely eerie melodicism was matched by an equally quirky sense of humor: frontman Colin Newman’s off-key, semi-shouted nonsequiturs have always imbued with a very subtle, very British sense of fun, something their legions of imitators (REM, said Michael Stipe, would never have existed without Wire) have been oblivious to. This wasn’t the original unit: they now have a woman (not Justine Frischmann) serving as the second guitarist, and her aggressive, noisy playing is just what this band needs to keep the old songs sounding fresh.
The set they played last night spanned the group’s entire career, from the barely ninety-second 106 Beats That, from Pink Flag, to a long, pummeling, danceable number that hung on the same chord for about four minutes as the overtones from the guitars built a seemingly impenetrable wall. A lot of Wire’s songs make great dance music, but, predictably, the surprisingly small crowd scattered around the stage didn’t move a muscle. Although, as one concertgoer remarked, it was a totally 90s crowd in all the best ways, a refreshingly diverse mix of gay and straight, old and young, with hardly a $300 bedhead haircut to be seen anywhere.
“You haven’t taken the opportunity to see the Eagles,” Newman noted (apparently the El Lay schlockmeisters were in town: who knew?). Some things never change: Wire’s subtly biting, percussively optimistic tunes remain just as much of an antidote to top 40 as they were three decades ago.
“I’m going to get epilepsy up here,” said bassist Graham Lewis, imploring the light person to be a little less creative. Otherwise, they didn’t say much, hitting the audience with one song after another, flailing away through several of their signature, sudden, cold endings. The last of their encores was a song they’d played at that first CBGB show, inbued with all the energy and intensity that one could hope for from a band from that era.
The next stop of the evening was Crash Mansion, that tourist trap on lower Bowery where El Jezel were playing the release show for their new cd The Warm Frequency. Word on the street is that it’s excellent, the album that Portishead should have made this year but didn’t. Sadly, it didn’t take long to figure out that the bands were running way, way behind schedule. Surrounded by the entire cast of the O.C. (or what looked like it, anyway) and with plenty of booze at home, the choice was clear. But you should see El Jezel sometime – they play around town at least once a month.
A riveting, marathon performance. In the console for the better part of two hours with only a brief ten-minute intermission, Barnard College Music Department chair Gail Archer played all eighteen parts of Olivier Messiaen’s complete Livre du Saint Sacrement (Book of the Holy Sacrament) with extraordinary grace and fluidity. Like the composer, Archer is somewhat idiosyncratic, a performer seemingly not particularly fond of and therefore not particularly suited to much of the traditional organ repertoire. In Messiaen, she’s found her holy grail: her performance last night was the last in her own series of Messiaen recitals this year, and without question one of the highlights of the many concerts going on around town this year in honor of the Messiaen centenary. A lesser talent would have fixated on the suite’s many jarring dissonances and the strangeness of its tempos. Instead, Archer treated the audience to a limousine ride through a minefield: fireworks were going off everywhere, but she glided along with an agility that seemed effortless. She even set her tempo to the church’s natural reverb. Much of the piece is fugal, a constant call-and-response between the left and right hand, a device that would quickly get old if not for Messiaen’s extraordinarily imaginative, eerie, often outright macabre melodicism. Archer played at precisely the pace where, when one note would start to fade away, the next would take its place. Whether this was deliberate or strictly intuitive, it was a stroke of genius.
The suite itself is an amazing composition. A work from late in the composer’s life, it features all of Messiaen’s signature characteristics: liturgical themes (Messiaen was a devout Catholic), otherworldly tonalities, unusual time signatures and in this case a defiant resolve to avoid the use of either major or minor chords throughout practically the entire piece. And, of course, birdsong. But here, they are birds of prey, talons outstretched, primed to do battle in the cause of righteousness.
Archer segued seamlessly from one part to the next, making it difficult to tell which was which, although this interpretation made the work admirably whole. For the most part, Messiaen is at his most minimalist here, only rarely utilizing the icy, atmospheric sheets of noise that characterize most of his other great organ works such as the Birth of Our Lord and the legendary Apparition de l’Eglise Eternelle (Dawn of the Eternal Church). When these did occur, Archer literally pulled out the stops, emphasizing all the drama in the Resurrection, or Jesus’ posthumous appearance to Mary Magdalene, or the exhalted, triumphant prayer that concludes the suite. Otherwise, she calmly let Messiaen’s quieter yet often nightmarish passages speak for themselves. What was left of the crowd at the end of the performance (at St. Pat’s, it’s always hard to tell who’s just passing through, and who’s actually here for the concert) rewarded her with three standing ovations. Which also spoke for itself.
If this concert is any indication, Archer’s new cd of Messiaen works should be very much worth seeking out.
With the summer concert season upon us, we’ve been adding at least a half-dozen new events to this page EVERY DAY since late May. We’ll put a separate page up for Make Music NY aka la Fete de la Musique on June 21 when that calendar is announced. So it’s worth your while to check back every now and then if you didn’t see something that caught your eye the last time you visited. Sorry for the hodgepodge of fonts and type sizes and the weird spacing: computer gremlins gone wild. As always, weekly events first, followed by the daily calendar:
Sundays from half past noon to 3:30 PM, bluegrass cats Freshly Baked (f.k.a. Graveyard Shift), featuring excellent, incisive fiddle player Diane Stockwell play Nolita House (upstairs over Botanica at 47 E Houston).
Every Sunday, Michael Arenella & the Dreamland Dance Band play sly yet boisterous oldtimey hot jazz during a brunch set at Bar Tabac on Smith St. in Brooklyn Heights from about half past noon to 4 PM.
Every Sunday the Ear-Regulars, led by trumpeter Jon Kellso and (usually) guitarist Matt Munisteri play NYC’s only weekly hot jazz session starting around 8 PM at the Ear Inn on Spring St. Hard to believe, in the city that springboarded the careers of thousands of jazz legends, but true. This is by far the best value in town for marquee-caliber jazz: for the price of a drink and a tip for the band, you can see world-famous players (and brilliant obscure ones) you’d usually have to drop $100 for at some big-ticket room. The material is mostly old-time stuff from the 30s and 40s, but the players (especially Kellso and Munisteri, who have a chemistry that goes back several years) push it into some deliciously unexpected places.
Mondays in June (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 29 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral there’s an Olivier Messiaen Anniversary Recital at 7 PM featuring organist Gail Archer.
Also Thurs May 29 the Smallz, who are Greta Gertler (vocals), Robert Di Pietro (drums/guitar/vocals) & Jonathan Maron (bass/vocals) play their deliciously fun, playful, multi-stylistic, artsy songs at Banjo Jim’s, 7 PM followed by the alternately haunting and dreamlike pan-Orientalist Middle Eastern jazz-rockers Pharaoh’s Daughter at 8:30 PM.
Also Thurs May 29, 9 PM 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 6th 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.
Also Fri May 30, 8PM Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares play Symphony Space, adv tix $30 available at the box office. The legendary Bulgarian womens choir introduced the eerie, otherworldly rural songs of their native land to a mass audience, and, unsurprisingly, remain unsurpassed at it. See what kind of spirits they conjure up tonight.
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 60s throwback country hellraiser Jack Grace and band play Banjo Jim’s, 8:30 PM
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.
Also Fri May 30 acoustic delta blues guitarist Miles Turney plays Freddy’s Bar, 10 PM. Close your eyes and you’ll think you’re hearing Rev. Gary Davis. He also does imaginatively rearranged, bluesy covers of classic country artists like Hank Williams.
Also Fri May 30, in case you missed them earlier in the month, the always brilliant, romantic, oldtimey Moonlighters play Barbes, 10 PM.
Also Fri May 30 the Mess Around play Trash Bar midnight. A perfect choice of Friday night headliner: this scorching, Radio Birdman-influenced garage/punk quartet are one of New York’s must-see acts right now.
Sat May 31 yodeling banjo player/authentic oldtimey songwriter Curtis Eller and his band American Circus play Barbes at 8 PM.
Also May 31 Ansambl Mastika plays Drom, 8 PM. This whirlwind of a gypsy band is led by a ferociously fast, pyrotechnic clarinetist and features both the excellent accordionist and bassist from Zagnut Orkestar. You want intensity? You got it.
Sat May 31 at the 6th St. Garden (Ave. C/ 6th St.) several players including the darkly captivating rocker Maya Cabalerro play acoustic, 8ish.
Also May 31, 8 PM a benefit for our peaceful, horny primate relatives the bonobos featuring the ever-increasingly psychedelic, potently guitar-driven power trio Devi plus sarod player Wynne Paris and his band Groovananda featuring famous ex-Bowie/Peter Gabriel bassist Tony Levin (plus the amazing Deb DeSalvo from Devi sitting in on guitar). At everybody’s favorite yoga place, Jivamukti Yoga Ctr., 841 Broadway just south of Union Square, 2nd Floor $30 incl. food & drink from Bonobos vegetarian restaurant, all proceeds to the bonobo conservation initiative. Email us (see About at the top of the page) for info on how to get in for $20.
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
Also Sat May 31 7-11 PM the Sonic Uke festival at Sidewalk featuring probably every ukulele player in town – how many can there be after all, a dozen?
Sun June 1 an allday free festival of sorts show starting at 11 AM at Marcus Garvey Park, Mt. Morris Park West and 122nd Street featuring a bunch of interesting, loud guitar bands: Big Lazy guitarist Steve Ulrich’s macabre Big Lazy soundalike side project Pink Noise at around noon, fiery, metalish, politically charged funksters Funkface at 1, ferociously psychedelic guitar-driven power trio Devi at 4 PM, and noisily captivating shoegazers Apollo Heights later.
Also Sun June 1 Kid Congo & the Pink Monkey Birds open for Slim Cessna’s Auto Club at the Mercury Lounge, 9 PM. The former is the menacing but still sexy underground rock legend from the Gun Club and the Cramps; the headliners are the furious grasscore band on Jello Biafra’s record label and put on a reliably intense, bracing show.
Also Sun June 1 Dwight & Nicole play Banjo Jim’s, 11:30 PM. Real soul music, 1960s style. He’s an incredibly subtle, virtuoso guitarist on the Steve Cropper tip (although he knows his Stevie Ray and his Muddy just as well); she’s a real soul sister, someone equally good at sultry late-night grooves and fiery, passionate broadsides.
Mon June 2 lush, theatrical, romantic and totally devious oldtimey trio Dreamboat play Rodeo Bar, 10 PM. Their slashingly funny frontwoman Kelli Rae Powell plays a solo set at the Rockwood at 9 on June 1.
Tues June 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. And NY’s most deliriously fun, adventurous klezmer band Metropolitan Klezmer will play outside the Jewish Museum from 6-9 PM, 5th Ave. at 92nd St. Indoors at the museum if it’s raining.
Also Tues June 3, 7 PM – from the Barbes website: “Tue 06/03, 7:00pm. SKYE STEELE QUINTET. Violinist Skye Steele has collected a menagerie of musical creatures from around the world and let them cross-breed to create a brood of exotic and enchanting new species only to be found in 21st-century Brooklyn. Erik Satie and John Coltrane discuss American politics, a Turkish wedding band ransacks Sesame Street, an olde Irish bard pines for a Persian princess, and much more. tonight the band will play music from the 2007 release late bloomer. as well as music from their new and as-yet-unrecorded book of love songs. Featuring: Skye Steele, violin; Harel Shachal, Turkish Clarinet; Ben Cassorla, guitar; Josh Meyers, bass; John Hadfield, drums.”
Also Tues June 3 Bob Marley’s old backing band, or what’s left of it, the Wailers play B.B.King’s, 8 PM adv tix $25 available at their box office. Pantheonic bassist Family Man Barrett – one of the most soulful players ever to pick up a four-string – leads these pros through a good if predictable set of Marley classics.
Also Tues June 3 Stephanie White & the NJ Philth Harmonic play the Rockwood at midnight. Wow – somebody other than Kelly Clarkson who was on American Idol (according to her myspace, anyway) who is actually good! The zeros version of Martha Davis? Pale redhead with the potent, growly voice of a 60s soul mama. Her stuff varies from soul to funk to 80s-ish stuff not unlike the Motels. They’re also at the Whiskey Bar on Washington St. in Hoboken, 9 PM on 6/18.
Weds June 4 cabaret star Sarah Mucho is among the cast in one of the plays being put on by the the Dare Project at the Wings Theatre, 154 Christopher St. (Greenwich/Washington), sugg. don. $10, drinks available, 7:30 and 9:30 PM, RSVP recommended. For those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s just like it sounds…it’s a series of 10 min. plays that the writers were dared to write by audience members from the previous DARE project. They each draw a DARE from a hat and then they have a month or two to write the play, cast it, direct it and finally perform it. It’s always a lot of fun.
Also Weds June 4-8 the Nicholas Payton Quintet play the Jazz Standard, cover is $25 ($30 on the weekend). Tasteful purist jazz trumpeter who says more with less. This group features both drums and percussion plus piano and bass.
Thurs June 5 at Trinity Church, 1 PM “A Journey through the History, Mystery, and Music of Pere Lachaise” with strings, piano, visuals and – yes – a Doors cover.
Also Thurs June 5 excellent oldschool roots reggae band Rockie Dan plays Crash Mansion, 8 PM
Also Thurs June 5, 8 PM, Mohammed Reza Shajarian (the “Voice of Iran”) plays Town Hall with his ensemble, adv tix $38 at the box office here.
Also Thurs June 5 dazzling oud player Mavrothi Kontanis and his scorchingly good, alternately rousing and haunting traditional Greek band play Drom, 8 PM. He’s playing his cd release show on the 13th at 8 at Alwan for the Arts.
Also Thurs June 5 Tandy plays Lakeside, 10 PM. Their most recent album, recently reissued as a double cd To a Friend/Did You Think I Was Gone is one of the most gorgeously twangy, intelligent Americana rock albums of the past decade. Live, they mine a frequently hypnotic, somewhat southwestern gothic vibe.
Also Thurs June 5 multi-instrumentalist chanteuse Rachelle Garniez plays Barbes, 10 PM. We picked her most recent cd Melusine Years as the best of last year’s crop. If you follow this space you’ll see we give her a lot of press, but we should, because she’s major: what Elvis Costello was to the punk rock era, what Bessie Smith was to the 20s, Rachelle Garniez should be to the here and now. And in so many ways already she is. See for yourself.
Fri June 6 a good double bill at Bowery Ballroom with captivating multi-instrumentalist art-rocker Caithlin de Marrais at 8 followed by pummeling overtone-laden noiserock/shoegaze instrumentalists the Big Sleep.
Also Fri June 6 the Killing Phantoms play Crash Mansion, 9 PM, free, open bar 9-10 if you get on the email@example.com list. Interesting, tuneful, jangly Britrock influenced band; their myspace says Smashing Pumpkins influence (?!?!?) but there’s some vintage Love & Rockets in there somewhere.
Also Fri June 6 Kill Henry Sugar plays Pete’s, 9 PM. Lo-fi, witty, sardonic guitar-and-drums duo featuring excellent multi-instrumentalist Erik Della Penna. Check their myspace for a typically amusing cover of Jumpin Jack Flash
Fri June 6 Des Roar play Rehab, 9:30 PM. Loud, driving rockers with something of a punk edge and a brutal sense of humor: their song Ted Bundy Was a Ladies Man is a certifiable classic.
Sat June 7-8, 12:45 PM Michael Arenella and the Dreamland Orchestra play three free sets til 5 PM at Governor’s Island. Ferries leave from the Battery Maritime Building, 10 South Street, Slip 7 (at the corner of South and Whitehall Streets) every hour – you have to catch the 11 AM ferry if you want to see their first set. On trombone, Arenella is a superb, bluesy purist; as a vocalist and bandleader, he works a tongue-in-cheek, boisterous Cab Calloway vein.
Also Sat June 7, 7 PM lush, atmospheric art-rockers the Quavers play Barbes. The band promises a long, 90-minute set! 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.
Also Sat June 7 long-running horn-and-organ-driven second-wave ska band the Slackers play Irving Plaza, 8 PM adv tix $16.50 at the box office.
Also Sat June 7, an excellent guitar twang show with the always surprising, guitarishly amazing Roscoe Trio and then reliably high-energy headliners the Bottle Rockets at Mercury Lounge, 9 PM, adv tix recommended.
Also Sat June 7 Bronx-born, second-generation Persian-American rocker Haale plays Drom, 9 PM. Hypnotic, mesmerizing, darkly powerful, with a great band (violin, oud and percussion) behind her. She’s also at Flushing Town Hall in Queens, 7:30 PM on Thurs June 12 and at Prospect Park on 6/22.
Also Sat June 7 the Disclaimers play Spikehill in Williamsburg, 10 PM. Hard to imagine a better choice of Saturday night band than these fiery, smart, tuneful garage/janglerockers with two guitars, an organ, and the always intriguing Naa Koshie Mills alternating between violin, trombone and vocals.
Also Sat June 7 delirious fun, old-school Greek rebetika rockers Magges play Mehanata, 10 PM. Get there before 10:30 and get in free. NYC’s most generous party band – they bring ouzo to every show – are also one of the best acts in town, especially when they have the incomparable Susan Mitchell on her gypsy violin to go along with the electric bouzouki and the belly dancers and all the other general mayhem.
Also Sat June 7 excellent violin-and-guitar-driven Canadian Americana goth rockers the Sadies (who also serve as Neko Case’s regular backing band at live shows, and have Douce Gimlet’s former drummer) play Maxwell’s, 11:30ish. Super catchy female-fronted purist janglerockers Sputnik open at 9:30
Also Sat June 7 while the cat’s away, the Mike Hunt Band takes over Lakeside, 11 PM. Tammy Faye Starlite’s salaciously funny Stones cover band is one act that everyone should see at least once, and an act which would probably get her arrested in several of the “red states.” Hazy memories of her New Years Eve show here seem to indicate that she was more tactful with the drunks in the audience (i.e. us) than we deserved.
Also Sat June 7 legendary Jamaican jazz guitarist Ernie Ranglin plays Joe’s Pub, 11 PM. Now in his mid-70s, he hasn’t lost a step: he still tremolo-picks those fluttery chords as well as he’s been doing for about the last 45 years. Raised on calypso, he played on a million classic ska albums in the 60s, led Jimmy Cliff’s band for a long time and collaborated brilliantly with Monty Alexander. And one of the most charmingly laid-back live performers anywhere.
Sun-Mon June 8-9 Jennifer O’Connor plays Bowery Ballroom, 8:30ish. Good stuff. Unpretentious, energetic, untidy, tuneful somewhat lo-fi janglerock songwriter fueled by exasperation and sardonic anger. Not a natural singer, but she does well with what she’s got.
Also Mon June 9 there’s a free screening of the must-see documentary “Brooklyn Matters” (running time 50 min.), 7 PM at the Park Slope Methodist Church, 493 8th Street (6th Avenue & 8th Street), Brooklyn. Sponsored by the Park Slope Greens – don’t know much about the proposed Atlantic Yards project? Want to learn more? Here is a great chance to see a riveting, eye-opening documentary on Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development proposal, which is currently on the ropes since all the funding for the project has basically dried up. This film will give you the energy you need to join the movement and deliver the knockout punch to the Jersey swindler and his cronies in Albany who want to turn all of downtown Brooklyn into plastic-and-sheetrock luxury condos.
Also Mon June 9 the world’s only all-female klezmer band Isle of Klezbos – including several members of the killer Metropolitan Klezmer play the 12th St. Garden (A/B) at 7:30 PM. If the dark, slinky, haunting, Middle Eastern side of klezmer is your thing, or if you’re a gypsy rock fan, don’t miss this show.
Tues June 10, 6-8 PM it’s the opening for Jill Gewirtz’ photo show at Greenwich Village Bistro on Carmine just north of Bleecker in the West Village. As a songwriter, her completely affect-free, spontaneous wit amuses as much as it confounds; her visual art also has the same completely out-of-the-box creativity. The show runs through July 10.
Also Tues June 10 incendiary, lyrical, charismatic New York noir rocker LJ Murphy plays a special, stripped-down duo show, just the charismatic rocker and his keyboardist, at Rehab, 8 PM. The energy of classic punk, the soul of what soul music was in the 60s, the wit and social awareness of Richard Thompson, and the fashion sense of Sinatra (the sober Sinatra, anyway).
Also Tues June 10, 8 PM AA Bondy plays Bowery Ballroom. Big space for just the guy and his guitar, but he’s got a bunch of good, very funny, completely 1920s style acoustic delta blues songs up his sleeve.
Also Tues June 10, the Strawbs, who have reunited their 1974 lineup, play B.B. King’s at 9 PM adv tix $22.50 available at the box office. Although some may find frontman Dave Cousins’ declamatory vocals Jethro Tull-ish and annoying, the long-running Britfolk rockers made some great, lush, artsy albums in the early 70s, and reputedly they all still have their chops. Believe it or not, Sandy Denny was their original lead singer.
Also Tues June 10 there’s something of a variety show at Joe’s Pub at 9:30 PM including mini-sets from the superb Black Sea Hotel (Brooklyn’s answer to le Mystere des Voix Bulgares, reliably entertaining accordionist/chanteuse Rachelle Garniez and the boisterously comedic Ukuladies, $17 adv tix very highly recommended.
Weds June 11 at Rose Bar in Williamsburg, 8 PM an interesting triple bill: goth-ish rockers Kerry Kennedy & Ghostwise (featuring Melomane’s excellent keyboardist), followed at 9 by Anton Sword, a songwriter in the Stu vein who takes himself a little too seriously but knows how to write a tune, and then Pee Air AKA Pierre de Gaillande, the apocalyptically-minded frontman from both Melomane and the Snow, who is sort of this generation’s Roger Waters except that he likes women.
Also Weds June 11 of the remaining roots reggae relics from the 70s, Israel Vibration are as good as they get. They’re at B.B. King’s, 8 PM, $20.50 adv tix available at the box office. Feel-good story: three polio-afflicted kids meet at a Jamaican hospital, discover Jah Rastafari, ganja and roots reggae, get kicked out but a couple of years later are opening for Bob Marley. Two of the original harmony trio remain, backed by the estimable Roots Radics.
Weds June 11, 9:30 PM Daisy Jopling plays solo violin at Caffe Vivaldi, starting with some classical, a Bach chaconne and working her way through some new music, a premiere and some reggae she’s written. The former Trilogy member has monster chops and an innovative style to match: hard to think of a genre she couldn’t play well.
Also Weds June 11 Big Lazy plays Black Betty in Williamsburg, 10 PM, probably a warmup for another cross-country tour. The reverb-loving noir rock instrumental trio remain quite possibly New York’s best live band, their eerie, chromatically-fired cinemascapes equal part Mingus, Morricone and menace. Their most recent album Postcards from X is their most impressively diverse to date. And they never play the same song remotely the same way twice.
Thurs June 12 Isaac Hayes plays Prospect Park Bandshell, supposedly 5:30 PM but early arrival is advised. His biggest hit remains a movie theme from 35 years ago, but reportedly he’s as much of a showman as always.
Also Thurs June 12, 8 PM Café Antarsia plays their cd release show at Drom. From the club website: “The Café Antarsia Ensemble celebrates the release of their album “Songs of the Table”, featuring original compositions in the world folk/Americana genre inspired by Greek blues (rebetiko & café aman) and Balkan Rroma Gypsy music mixed with Arabic percussion. With exotic instrumentation including French Gypsy guitar, Greek bouzouki, tzouras and baglama, Cretan laouto, accordion, tabla and frame drums, Greek-Texan composer/songwriter Nikos Brisco’s hauntingly urgent melodies are complemented by the panoramic and portrait-driven lyrics of avant garde”
Also Thurs June 12 killer sax player Dave Hillyard with his band the Rocksteady 7 (or some version thereof) play Bar on A, 8 PM, two sets of some of the coolest ska jazz you’ll ever hear. Check his myspace for a very cool series of blogs on the history of NY ska.
Also Thurs June 12, 9 PM Chuck Prophet plays the Highline Ballroom, $20 adv tix available at the box office. Imagine if Tom Petty was about 20 years younger, really smart, really cool and could play amazing, crescendoing guitar solos that went on for seven or eight minutes a pop without sounding self-indulgent at all. His show at South St. Seaport a couple of years ago is already legendary.
Fri June 13 Melomane play BAM Café, free, 8 PM. Sweeping majestic art-rock epics, an ominous apocalyptic sensibility and a lot of songs that flat-out rock, in a lush, beautiful way. Their most recent album made our top 10 list last year.
Also Fri June 13, 9 PM former Come (and Live Skull) frontwoman Thalia Zedek plays Union Pool. Dark roaring guitar-fueled intensity, one of the few truly great musicians to come out of indie rock. She’s also at the Mercury on the 18th, time TBA.
Also Fri June 13 intense, powerful oud player Mavrothi Kontanis and his great band play the cd release show for his two new ones at Alwan for the Arts, 9 PM cover includes delicious Greek snacks. This band is so good for so many reasons: their choice of haunting, hypnotic rebetika covers, their originals and especially their wild, ecstatic jams. Their clarinetist sounds like Coltrane right after he got back from Mecca; the kanun (zither) player, back from Greece, may be the most incisive, furious one of the whole bunch. One of the best bands in New York right now.
Also Fri June 13, 10:15-ish – early by Lakside standards – surf/rockabilly legends Simon & the Bar Sinisters take over Lakeside. Fiery, virtuoso, completely original guitar playing, punk energy and one of the most amusing and entertaining frontmen in the business.
Sat June 14, afternoon, 2 PM Los Soneros del Oriente play the Dana Center in Central Park, (110th Street between Fifth and Lenox Aves.) One of the very few bands outside of Cuba who play old-school 1940s and 50s Cuban son, which morphed into salsa. Reputedly these old-school vets are incredible live.
Also Sat June 14, DJ Kool Herc spins outdoors at the Brooklyn Public Library main branch at Grand Army Plaza, 3 PM. One of the inventors of hip-hop, it’ll be interesting to see how much old-school stuff he pulls out of the crates, and what other rap legends have come along for the party and maybe a guest spot or two.
Also Sat June 14 Lianne Smith plays the Rockwood, 7 PM. One of the most uniquely cool songwriters out there, a rocker at heart (she plays electric with a lot of reverb), the former rockabilly siren has an amazing voice and an unusually crystallized, subtle way with a lyric. And when the mood strikes her she can be flat out hilarious onstage.
Also Sat June 14 the “Lebanese Bob Dylan,” oud virtuoso and fiery pro-democracy advocate Marcel Khalife plays a very worthwhile benefit concert at the Ritz Theatre, Elizabeth NJ, 9 PM sharp, proceeds to benefit the Arab-American Medical Association of New Jersey to establish a National Diabetes Center in Palestine. Tix expensive, $50 is the cheapest but it’s all in a good cause. The lineup is Khalife himself on oud and vocals, along with Peter Herbert on upright bass and his sons Rami and Bachar on piano and drums, respectively. Accessible via NJ transit train from either Penn Station or Newark; return trains from the Elizabeth station run til past 1 AM if the show goes late. From the Elizabeth station (11 W Grand St.), it’s a short walk to the theatre. Take Grand to Broad (you’ll see the police station in the middle of the next block), right on Broad, left on Jersey.
Also Sat June 14 Romashka, self-described at “NYC’s favorite gypsy party band” plays Drom, 10 PM, adv tix $10 very highly recommended at the club box office. This wild, female-fronted unit feature both accordion and viola and are reputedly sensational live. Roma is what gypsies call themselves; mashke is Yiddish for liquor, but romashka is also the Russian word for daisy. You figure it out.
Also Sat June 14 blazing rock quartet the Mess Around play Rock Star Bar in Williamsburg, 10:30 PM on a punk rock bill. Devotees of the classic Detroit sound: Stooges, MC5, Sonics Rendezvous Band, Radio Birdman, hell, the Detroit Cobras will love these guys. A lot of their stuff is oldschool R&B cranked up all the way, with a rare intensity and savage sense of humor
Sun June 15, afternoon, 2 PM the Scandia String Quartet plays a Nordic program at Ft. Tryon Park in Washington Heights:
Edvard Grieg: Waltz Impromptu
Johan Halvorsen: Passacaglia (Handel-Halvorsen Variations)
Frank Foerster: Traditional Folk Dances from Iceland and Finland
Jean Sibelius: Duo for Violin and Viola Duo for Two Violins
Carl Nielsen: String Quartet in G Minor
Also Sun June 15, 8 PM veteran Jamaican dancehall artist Capleton toasts, freestyles and gets the posse going at B.B. King’s, adv tix $23.
Also Sun June 15 Ninth House frontman Mark Sinnis – the missing link between Ian Curtis and Johnny Cash – plays an acoustic show at the Rockwood, 11 PM.
Mon June 16, 8 PM the Tim Kuhl group plays Rose Bar in Williamsburg, mining the style of electric Miles/Wayne Shorter. Dramatis personae: Tony Barba – Tenor Sax Rick Parker – Trombone Nir Felder – Guitar Ryan Macstaller – Guitar Pete Brendler – Bass Tim Kuhl – Drums and Compositions.
Tues June 17, 7 PM Grupo Los Santos plays Barbes. This isn’t the once-ubiquitous, well-loved salsa band that used to play the Coney Island boardwalk on Sunday afternoons, guitar squealing and distorting deliciously through their worn-out PA. Rather, this is a Brooklyn band playing Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music, featuring one of the guitarists from Hazmat Modine as well as Greta Gertler’s drummer and a tap dancer who will provide percussion!
Weds June 18 the Kennedys play Madison Square Park, 7 PM. Pete is the Richard Thompson-influenced guitar god; Maura is the sultry siren with the great voice and a fine guitarist as well. Harmonically-minded urban folk with surprising bite.
Weds June 18 Melomane frontman Pierre de Gaillande’s other fulltime band The Snow play Sullivan Hall in the West Village, time TBA. Just as fun, literate and tuneful as their art-rock sister band but with a more rustic, slightly jazzier feel, and keyboardist Hilary Downes’ sultry vocals and understated wit as an added plus. Their new debut cd True Dirt is excellent.
Thurs June 19 whatever’s left of the original ska band, the Skatalites play a free outdoor show at Metrotech Park at noon in downtown Brooklyn. Whatever the personnel, the songs are absolutely classic if you like this kind of stuff.
Also Thurs June 19, 8 PM, Raekwon and Cappadonna of Wu-tang Clan are at B.B. King’s, adv tix $25 available at the box office. Be forewarned: these guys are both fine lyricists, but live Wu shows tend to be ganja-fueled trainwrecks.
Also Thurs June 19 brilliant guitarist Matt Munisteri – whose main gig is jazz, although he resists being pigeonholed – plays a set of his own beguiling originals at Barbes, 10 PM.
Also Thurs June 19 Rosie Flores plays Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Somebody we take for granted: the Texas tornado swings through town several times a year, usually at this joint. Not only is she a hell of a guitarist, she’s also a hell of a songwriter, somebody who can pull off just about any Americana style she wants with effortless grace and fire.
Fri June 20 an excellent double bill at 8 PM at Barbes: veteran soul sister Queen Esther, who mines a vastly more diverse, retro vein than most of her contemporaries; then at 9, the absolutely irreplaceable, romantic, Hawaiian/swing/oldtimey Moonlighters
Also Fri June 20, expat Chicago bluesman Irving Louis Lattin plays Lucille’s Bar, 8 PM. Understatement is his thing: whether he’s acoustic or electric (probably the latter), he saves his energy for when the song calls for it. Good singer, too. He’s also here on 6/27 and 7/11.
Also Fri June 20 Demolition String Band open for Dale Watson at Rodeo Bar, 10 PM. The former are the edgy female-fronted electrified bluegrass band who sound kind of like X doing their country thing; the headliner is an oldschool baritone cowboy singer and twangmeister, somebody who usually plays big venues for a whole lot of dough.
Also Fri June 20 alternately haunting and deliciously groove-driven shoegaze/dreampop rockers El Jezel play songs from their new cd The Warm Frequency at Rehab, 11 PM. Word on the street is that it’s the excellent album that Portishead should have made this year but didn’t.
Also Fri June 20, 11 PM Los Autenticos Decadentes (Argentinian latin ska band) play B. B. King’s, $28 adv tix available at their box office. Big horn-driven band, lyrics in Spanish: confrontational, irreverent, funny, they’ve been around forever (since 1986) and are very popular in their native land.
Sat June 21 is Make Music NY, aka la Fete de la Musique with free outdoor shows all day long, we’ll give you the highlights as soon as the calendar is announced
Also Sat June 21 it’s 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.)
Sat June 21 fiery punk/pop power trio Cementhead – who have really taken it to the next level at recent shows – play Trash Bar, 8 PM followed by old-school Brooklyn punk legends FF (as in Fat Fuck). Suddenly it’s 1998 again.
Sat, June 21, 8 PM an engaging oldtimey bill at Barrette, 601 Vanderbilt at Bergen Street, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, a “tiki party” with the psychedelically improvisational vibraphone trio Fisherman and then the reliably fun, gorgeously romantic Hawaiian swing institution the Moonlighters
Sat June 21 the arguably greatest noise-rock band of alltime,
Polvo at Bowery Ballroom is SOLD OUT but they’re at Maxwell’s on 6/22.
Polvo at Bowery Ballroom is SOLD OUT but they’re at Maxwell’s on 6/22.
Also Sat June 21 fiery gypsy dance band Zagnut Orkestar featuring both the scary-good accordionist and bassist from Ansamble Mastika plays Barbes at 10.
Also Sat June 21 Spanking Charlene plays Lakeside, 11 PM. Charismatic frontwoman with a searing, powerful voice, good guitarist who knows his country and punk rock and an overall sound that’s a lot like vintage X.
Sun June 22, afternoon, 2 PM the Scandia String Quartet again plays a Nordic program, this one especially intriguing, at Ft. Tryon Park in Washington Heights:
Kaija Saariaho: Nymphea Reflection (For string quartet)
Carl Nielsen: The Fog is Lifting (For Flute and Harp)
Ole Saxe: Summer Suite (For Soprano, Harp, Violin and Flute) (US PREMIERE)
Georg Christoph Wagenseil: Concerto for Harp and Strings
Andrew Ackers: Pastoral Peace (For Harp and Strings) (US PREMIERE)
Also Sun June 22 Django Reinhardt disciple Stephane Wrembel – whose originals remain impressively true to his main influence while adding tasteful influences from classical to more modern jazz – plays Barbes, 9 PM.
Mon June 23, 8-10 PM at Rose Bar on Grand St. in Williamsburg Katie Elevitch and Jonathan Maron (the amazing bass player in Groove Collective, and Greta Gertler’s funky side project the Smallz), collaborate live and debut new music during this rare double bill of both of their bands, with special guest Peter Apfelbaum.
Mon June 23 Daria Grace & the Prewar Ponies play Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. The bassist from Melomane and her husband Jack’s band picks up her ukulele and plays gorgeously romantic, oldtime songs (and some authentic-sounding originals) with this excellent project.
Tues June 24, 7 PM The Four Bags play Barbes. These guys have been around forever: to say that they jazz up the classics doesn’t give them their due. With trombone, accordion, guitar and clarinet, their imaginative rearrangements, whether of rock, folk, classical or jazz are always good for a listen and sometimes a laugh.
Also Tues June 24 Devi frontwoman Debra DeSalvo plays on an unusual but possibly fascinating bill at the Bitter End, 8 PM: the band is playing all originals written by a circle of several diverse songwriters. Hmmm…maybe DeSalvo can get them to do an 18-minute jam on one of her darkly psychedelic powerpop gems.
Tues June 24 the irrepressible, frequently laugh-out-loud hilarious and equally talented multi-instrumentalist Nan Turner of Schwervon plays Sidewalk, 10 PM. The Tanya Donnelly/Kim Deal influences are obvious, but she’s a whole lot funnier.
Weds June 25 one of the best remaining hip-hop lyricists from the late 90s, Talib Kweli, formerly of Black Star performs along with guests at a benefit for Darfur at B.B. King’s, 8 PM, adv tix $35.
Also Weds June 25 Custard Wally play Don Pedro’s, 10 PM. Arguably the funniest band in all of rock: if Ween is a little too tame for you, meet Custard Wally. Punk energy, all kinds of dirty jokes and the humor doesn’t stop when the music starts. Their anti-trendoid diatribe Pretty Little Ponytail Boy will go over just fine here on the outskirts of trust fund land.
Weds June 25 Reckon So plays Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Danny Weiss, master of soulful country guitar gets most of his mileage out of the low strings; his wife Mary Olive Smith has a sweet, completely unaffected voice and great taste in covers. Plus some choice originals too.
Thurs-Fri June 26-27 ex-Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy plays the Gramercy Theatre, 9 PM, $35 adv tix at Irving Plaza box office and worth it. Word on the street was that the Bauhaus reunion tour was all that. And since his criminally underrated 2002 album Dust, he’s been mixing haunting Middle Eastern melodies into his oldschool goth rock.
Also Thurs June 26, Elisa Flynn plays songs from her forthcoming cd Songs about Birds & Ghosts at Freddy’s, 9 PM. She rocks, sometimes pretty hard, with an edgy tunefulness reminiscent of vintage Tanya Donnelly and an impressive way of steering around pretty much any cliché that might get in the way.
Also Thurs June 26, guitarist Matt Munisteri and accordionist Will Holshouser’s excellent blue-collar French and Belgian barroom band Musette Explosion play Barbes, 10 PM. A lot of their stuff is very gypsyish and gorgeously haunting.
Also Thurs June 26 the Mercenaries play Lakeside, 10 PM. They alternate between Stonesy meat-and-potatoes rock and a more indie sound, like Guided by Voices at their most melodic.
Fri June 27 virtuoso delta blues guitarist Lenny Molotov and his band play his own sharply literate, politically charged originals along with some classic covers at Sidewalk, 8 PM.
Also Fri June 27 Brooklyn’s own answer to le Mystere des Voix Bulgares, Black Sea Hotel sing their eerie harmonic magic at Drom, 8 PM.
Also Fri June 27 Ohio surf rock instrumentalists Purple K’Nif play a mix of imaginative, somewhat psychedelic originals and imaginatively arranged covers at Lakeside, 11 PM.
Also Sat June 28, there’s a Crooklyn Dodgers reunion show with Chubb Rock, Jeru the Damaja and OC at Prospect Park Bandshell, sometime in the evening: as always at this venue, early arrival advised, especially as this is hip-hop and the po-po will be out to pop-pop you if you’re not careful. This is the trio responsible for one of the alltime classics in all of rap, the theme song to the Spike Lee movie. Each by himself is a superior lyricist as well.
Also Sat June 28 Daria Grace’s charming, oldtimey Prewar Ponies play Barbes at 8 PM followed at 9 by another one of her projects, the equally charming, quietly swaying, harmony-driven country band Kings County Queens – who might have singlehandedly invented the Pete’s Candy Store sound – playing their first live show in over two years.
Also Sat June 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. Morgan is an interesting mix of Detroit soul singer and powerhouse Telecaster guitarist; Tek is simply one of the darkest, most intense, powerful lead guitarists of alltime and no matter whether you agree with his politics, also a hell of a songwriter. The band plays songs by both of them: their show at Warsaw in Brooklyn a few years ago is legendary.
Sat June 28 the Silos play Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Perhaps energized by the tragic loss of bassist Drew Glackin, frontman/guitarist Walter Salas-Humara hasn’t sounded or played so intensely and angrily in a long time. Now is the time to see these indie rock legends if you haven’t lately.
Also Sat June 28 the Reid Paley Trio play the Parkside, 10:30 PM. This guy has been around forever, that’s forever, since the CBGBs days. A little Screamin Jay, a lot of Tom Waits, maybe the Cramps lurking ominously over there in the corner. He means it, man.
Sun June 29, afternoon, 2 PM the Scandia Brass Quartet wraps up a Nordic classical trifecta at Ft. Tryon Park in Washington Heights:
William Brade: Pavane
Ulrik Dahl: Music for Brass Instruments
Johan Helmich Roman: Music from Drottingholm
Jan Maegaard: Fanfare for Brass Quintet
Also Sun June 29 Agent Orange – yes, the original Dick Dale-influenced LA surf punk band – play Trash Bar, 11 PM. The old punks die off, the venues get smaller, but this trio keeps going, on the basis of one classic album, 1981’s Living in Darkness. And Mike Palm and the guys still rock after all these years.
Mon June 30 the Second Fiddles play Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Energetic, well-played oldtimey hokum blues and hillbilly music.
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 NY Philharmonic Orchestra free at Governor’s Island 6:30 PM, program TBA
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.
7/6 7:30 PM James Reams & the Barnstormers play bluegrass opening for Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Cha’s at Kingsborough Community College Performing Arts Ctr in Brooklyn
7/8 Shelby Lynne at the Music Hall of Williamsburg adv tix $35 at the Mercury
7/8 Brazilian forro bandleader Nanny Assis at Lucille’s Bar 8 PM
7/9 delta blues guitarist Miles Turney at Trash Bar, 8 PM
7/10 Freddie McGregor at Prospect Park Bandshell, time TBA
7/11 the remaining, undead Zombies at Irving Plaza 9 PM, $33 adv tix available at some point at their box office
7/12, 2 PM the Main Squeeze Accordion Festival at Pier 1 on the upper west
7/12 Simon & the Bar Sinisters at Lakeside 11 PM
7/16 Steel Pulse at Rockefeller Park on the water at Chambers St., 7 PM
7/16, 7 PM at Battery Park, a klezmer concert: Pharaoh’s Daughter, Alicia Svigals’ Klezmer Fiddle Express, keyboard virtuoso Marilyn Lerner, The Three Yiddish Divas, Zalmen Mlotek in a “rousing Yiddish/Klezmer musical.”
7/16 Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar (Serbian brass band) at Drom, 11 PM
7/17 Ted Leo at Castle Clinton, 7 PM
7/17 7 PM Duke Robillard at Wagner Park in Battery Park City
7/18 Mr. Action & the Boss Guitars at Lakeside, 11 PM
7/19 7:30 PM Pistolera/Slavic Soul Party Kingsborough Community College Performing Arts Ctr
7/20 Jenifer Jackson at Rockwood Music Hall, 8 PM
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
7/23 7 PM at Rockefeller Park The Punch Brothers featuring Chris Thile (ex-Nickel Creek mandolinist)
7/24 half past noon, Ollabelle tribute to Johnny Cash at the World Financial Ctr.
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, adv tix at the Mercury
7/26 Johnny Cash tribute feat. Laura Cantrell, Ollabelle, John Doe of X, Jay Farrar, Sway Machinery, Catherine Russell et al. at World Financial Ctr., 7 PM
7/26 Rob Curto’s Sanfonia Project/Sounds of Taarab 7:30 PM Kingsborough Community College Performing Arts Ctr
7/26 Bobby Radcliff at Lucille’s Bar, 8 PM, two sets
7/27 Pharaoh’s Daughter at Pier 1 on the upper west, 7 PM
7/30 half past noon, Newsville Washington playing with Lisa Lost & Frankie Monroe of DollHouse at Liberty Park (Liberty btw Broadway/Church)
7/30 Aimee Mann at Highline Ballroom. 9 PM, adv tix $35 available at the box office in June sometime
8/4 Wu Man (Chinese pipa virtuoso) at Schimmel Center at Pace Univ. downtown, 7:30 PM, free adv tix req, call 212-346-1715 for box office hours.
8/7 Stephane Wrembel at Damrosch Park, Lincoln Ctr. 7 PM
8/7 trumpeter Terence Blanchard at Castle Clinton 7 PM
8/13, 7 PM Jimmy Delgado y Orquesta featuring Renzo Padilla, Wagner Park in Battery Park City
8/20, 7 PM at Wagner Park in Battery Park City La Excelencia – Jose Vasquez-Cofresi & Julian Silva’s oldschool salsa orchestra
8/23 Irma Thomas at Damrosch Park, Lincoln Ctr., 8:30 PM
8/24 Knitters/Patti Smith Damrosch Park, Lincoln Ctr., 5:30 PMish
8/27 7 PM Ray Martinez (Latin jazz bassist w/band), Wagner Park
9/3 Latin Giants of Jazz (Tito Puente’s backup band), Wagner Park, 7 PM.
If you don’t recognize where your favorite band is playing, click on Venues (above right, under Categories) and scroll down.
We’ve updated the blogroll, otherwise known as the links section in the lower righthand corner of the page. In the event that Lucid Culture ever bites the bullet – hey, LC’s over a year old now, which in blog years makes us about a hundred – there are several other useful sites which do more or less what you find here:
The Gigometer: a creation of legendary NYC rock photographer Pierre Jelenc (who’s too modest to claim any kind of legendary status, so we thought we’d give him his due), it’s a regularly updated live music calendar, one of the original inspirations for Lucid Culture. He has a weakness for Americana and singer-songwriters.
Brooklyn Country, which lists a lot of NYC-area country and bluegrass shows.
NYC Bluegrass, which also has a useful calendar of live shows.
Ohmyrockness, which is perfect for what it is, a site with links to every venue in the five boroughs who have indie rock shows. Be aware that it’s limited strictly to indie rock: for example, NYC’s three best music venues (Barbes, Lakeside and Rodeo Bar) don’t rate a mention here.
Paula Carino’s Intellectual House of Pancakes. Carino writes like the great songwriter she is, with astonishingly diverse taste, considerable humor and and an infectious enthusiasm for brilliant obscurities.
The Steve Wynn Web: one of the alltime great rock songwriters, Wynn is so busy recording and touring that he doesn’t always have time to update his blog, but he’s always a great read.
Artcal.net, whose weekly list of NYC gallery openings is a must-read for devotees of the visual arts.
The Gallery Guide, which is a global directory of galleries, including many listings for openings.
A promoter of all-ages punk rock shows in Brooklyn.
A promoter of punk shows in Queens.
A useful site for all-ages punk shows throughout the New York area.
Myopenbar.com, a constantly updated calendar of bars serving free drinks for one reason or another. Be forewarned: as you can imagine, many of these things turn out to be a total fratboy/sorority-girl, Long Island tourist scene, which puts pretty much everyone, bartenders especially, in a bad mood. But desperate times call for desperate measures.
And rather than pummeling you with political screeds, we’ve included links to both Barack Obama and John McCain which we encourage you to investigate so you can make up your own mind about who to vote for in November. When both candidates are officially nominated, Lucid Culture will make an official endorsement.
[Editor’s note: it’s been awhile since we reached back for one of these. Occasionally, when we need to put up some new content and we don’t have anything current, it’s time to dig into the dusty Lucid Culture archives for some long-forgotten live show which could be anywhere from completely transcendent to walk-out dreadful. This one falls somewhere in between.]
The sound system blasted the Buzzcocks before the band went on, somewhat appropriately for these cheeky British lads. They opened with their new keyboardist holding a tritone (the devil’s chord), a nice touch. They settled in and so did the audience: early on in the set, it was something akin to an ideal concert experience, perfect sound, the air conditioning working fine and a crowd that wasn’t oversold with sweaty bodies rubbing up against each other, unease turning into hostility. Live, Supergrass ultimately comes across as a step above a topnotch opening band. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to differentiate between their riff-driven 60s garage rock (populist/cool) and their equally derivative 70s (corporate/insipid) influences. At one point, they did a loud, pointless cover of Kenny Rogers’ I’m Just Checking In to See What Condition My Condition’s In. Most of the best stuff was songs from their first album including Caught by the Fuzz, which went over especially well with the audience, as well as Lose It and the last of the three-song encore, the singalong Strange Ones. Their new stuff alternates between tastily organ-driven songs which could be Fleshtones b-sides, and more overtly commercial material, Led Zep lite, which also lean heavily on organ and string synth. Still, a fun if not entirely overwhelming show.
The Five Points Band’s myspace is intriguing: one of the songs there is a considerably funny, tongue-in-cheek ripoff of the B-52’s Strobe Light. From the rest of what’s there, they seemed to be a ghoulabilly parody band. Live, they dress cowpunk although they’re really more bluespunk, equal parts Uncle Leon & the Alibis, Jon Spencer, ZZ Top and the Cramps. Although everything they do sounds pretty much like something you’ve heard before, ultimately they win you over because they’re fun. While the trio’s guitarist was retuning, the bass player launched into Anitra’s Dance from the Peer Gynt Suite, which was amusing. Did she learn it from ELO or the Who? The odds are on Entwhistle & co.
Almost predictably, the drummer had a cowbell. “What’s the cure for cowbell? MORE COWBELL!” yelled the guitarist, to the audience’s equally predictable delight. Alternating between a couple of vintage Les Paul guitars, he proved more than adept at both sludgy, somewhat Stonesy country and gowling, distorted open-tuned blues, and effortlessly tossed off a Middle Eastern-style solo at one point. The bassist proved a better singer than a player, but a better player than the guy who came out of the audience to take over bass when she moved to the mic to sing gospel harmonies on several songs. She took over lead vocals on one pounding number and did a decent job in a Nancy Sinatra kind of way. Another song, sung by the guitarist chronicled the adventures of a gingerbread man in Chinatown: that pretty much tells you what the band is about, if anything. The drummer also contributed vocals. Given the venue and the time of night, past eleven, it was the perfect place for them to be. Although it wouldn’t be a stretch to see them headlining a Friday night at Trash Bar. The redoubtable Jason Marcucci – who could make the inside of a sixty foot steel trailer sound good – was behind the board, providing an excellent mix right from the start of their first set. He seemed to be the only person in the place taking what he does seriously, but that’s ok, the band seemed to be having a great time and it rubbed off on the audience. The more you drink, the better they probably sound. There’s always a need for bands like this.
[editor’s note: the whole crew was out of town for the weekend. Family stuff. Couldn’t drag anybody out to see any of those wonderful cover bands who play sports bars throughout the heartland. In the meantime, here’s some more snarkiness to keep the front page fresh]
Ever see the Rutles movie? Remember that priceless scene where the interviewer asks Paul Simon what the Rutles’ greatest achievement was, and Simon replies by saying that they had none, they never really influenced anybody? To follow up our recent post on the 20 most influential bands of the rock era, here are 10 acts who, perhaps not in the spirit of the Rutles, are vastly overrated, at least as far as their individual spheres of influence are concerned:
10. Robert Johnson. Fast, fingerpicked acoustic guitar, an eerie falsetto and lyrics written in almost instantly dated mid-30s Mississippi delta ebonics. Oh yeah, a BIG influence on all those British guitarists from the 60s, Clapton ad infinitum. Not.
9. Bob Dylan. Passionate advocate of democracy, bullshit detector set to stun except when he was singing. Except for a few ludicrous soundalikes from the 60s, nobody sounds like him (maybe that’s a good thing) and nobody’s ever been able to write like him, although a few have tried. But just a few. Sometimes it’s best to quit while you’re ahead.
8. Jimi Hendrix. A lefty, he played guitar righthanded, i.e. upside down. He used the tremolo bar on his Strat so much, he was constantly going out of tune, and played the way he did to compensate for that. That’s how he invented noise-rock. Until the end of the 80s, when lead guitar playing fell out of fashion, he was often imitated, never replicated: he had a touch nobody else has ever been able to master.
7. Aretha Franklin. Nobody sounds like the Queen of Soul. NOBODY. Every raspy-voiced white chick who ever fronted her boyfriend’s metal band for a couple of songs claims to love her, but the connection is impossible to make. And none of the endless Beyonce types since Beyonce became a type sounds like anything but Beyonce.
6. The Dead Kennedys. The greatest of the original punk bands had very funny, very socially aware lyrics set to eerie surf/garage melodies. Every punk band on the planet since 1980 pays homage to the DKs but hardly anyone sounds like them, or, sadly, emulates their scorchingly amusing, relevant lyrical sensibility.
5. Nirvana. Remember, most of their songs were fast. Unlike the vast majority of grunge bands, they had energy. It’s de rigeur for every grungeboy to worship at the altar of Cobain, but the reality is that most grunge bands are Pearl Jam ripoffs. Besides, whatever you think of Cobain’s voice, it’s impossible to duplicate. And for what it’s worth, you can sometimes understand his lyrics.
4. James Brown. The Godfather of Soul kept things TIGHT. My god, if you were in his band, he’d fire you if you missed a note. But there weren’t a whole lot of them to play: he made every one of them count. Too bad those legions of fonkeh, fonkeh wot bos never really listened to JB or the JB’s because if they did, they wouldn’t be fonkeh: they’d really be funky.
3. Hank Williams. A defiantly retro traditionalist, especially for a young guy, he insisted on acoustic instrumentation – just simple acoustic guitar, fiddle and standup bass – in an era where most country musicians were discovering a new, electric sound. Like Elvis, he knew his gospel and his blues too. Easy to namedrop but very foolish to imitate, and musicians know this.
2. The Ramones. Even though – or maybe because – they basically played the same song over and over and over again with different lyrics, they haven’t been imitated very much. Listen closely to the Ramones and you’ll hear doo-wop, 50s music. It’s corny, perhaps deliberately so: it sure worked with the critics. And it’s an OLD sound, not something kids generally listen to.
1. The Beatles. Sure, when they first hit, a bunch of British and American kids took up guitars and started playing jangly rock. But these guys used jazz chords, sang spot-on four-part harmonies LIVE, and were adept at not only their own remarkably complex pop songs but also blues, country and rockabilly. By the time they were done, they’d either invented or played pretty much every style of rock ever: janglerock, psychedelia, heavy metal, country rock, art-rock, punk, funk-rock and of course Beatlesque pop. But if you subtract the psychedelic movement (which only lasted for about five years before it diverged into art-rock and metal), there simply aren’t a whole lot of bands who sound like the Beatles. Which on one hand is too bad, but on the other is not.
Popular Ukrainian actress Mariana Sadovska is a passionate advocate and goodwill ambassador for the eerie, gypsyish folksongs from the remote villages of her native land. What was most striking about her show at Joe’s Pub last night was how relevant she made them for an urban, non-Ukrainian-speaking audience. Many of these songs involve conjury – for fertility, the change of seasons, the harvest – and unsurprisingly have an otherworldly, magical feel to them. Accompanying herself on Indian harmonium and backed by her terrific jazz trio Borderland (German natives Jarry Singla on piano, Sebastian Gramss on bass and Peter Kahlenborn on drums), Sadovska delivered the songs dramatically and fervently. Moving in a split second from a whisper to a wail, crying, growling and, once in a while, shrieking, she showed off a vocal style more evocative of Nina Hagen or Diamanda Galas’ recent work than, say, Lydia Lunch. There were also echoes of Bjork and, on one long, trancelike number, vintage Patti Smith circa Radio Ethiopia: clearly, Sadovska has listened widely in creating her utterly individual, idiosyncratic arrangements of this material.
Sadovska learned it the old-fashioned way, going from house to house a la Allen Lomax, asking for songs. As she told it, villagers welcomed her and even took her in, as if seeing in her a new messenger for their centuries-old songs. While her often hypnotic, gypsy-jazz versions likely stray considerably from their roots, her passion for the music is contagious: it ought to resonate with fans of the current gypsy music craze. And crazed much of it is: among the songs she and the band played tonight were a lullaby in which a mother prepares her newborn child for the day she sics him or her on the enemy, a fertility song with a somewhat familiar, chromatic gypsy melody and all kinds of tricky time changes, a long, eerie witch’s incantation and a love song with an unlikely melody which she and the band used as an encore after the audience wouldn’t let her leave the stage without one.
Playing prepared piano, Singla went inside the instrument to pull and hammer on the strings to add strangeness. Gramss bowed and plucked his bass in the highest registers for a violin effect while Kahlenborn propelled the unit with considerable fervor. Although the show started slowly on what seemed a slightly contrived note for a couple of songs, the final three-quarters of an hour was fascinating and frequently entrancing to experience.
Not what you might expect. As devilishly funny, irrepressible and irreverent as the former Roulette Sisters frontwoman is live, a lot of this album is rivetingly dark. Mamie Minch’s solo debut is a sparse, terse collection of both original and classic acoustic blues songs, several of them imbued with Minch’s signature wit, but it also shows off an altogether different side of her writing. As any good blueswoman knows, the blues can pack a mighty emotional wallop, and Minch sings with an unflinching honesty, even anguish in places. Minch’s soulful, passionate alto voice resounds over old-school instrumentation including her own National steel guitar, Andy Cotton on upright bass, another former Roulette Sister, Karen Waltuch (who was the original string player in Golem) on viola, Patrick Farrell (Ansanbl Mastika) on accordion and Bob Hoffnar (Amy Allison, Buddy Woodward’s Nitro Express), who graces the album’s final cut, on pedal steel.
The cd kicks off on an auspicious note with a Minch original, Razorburn Blues, an exasperated catalog of indiginities every woman can relate to. The next track, another original entitled Fortified Wine Widow is a sad, downtempo country blues spiced with Waltuch’s viola. The songs’ narrator regrettably admits to playing second fiddle to “that lady he loves best,” be it Mad Dog or whatever her good-for-nothing boyfriend is consuming. As Minch tells it, she leaves him to sleep it off because she can’t stand sleeping beside someone who’s so enslaved to drink that he can resist her charms.
On the sad, slow waltz Astroland Tower, vividly set in a Coney Island of the mind, ninety years ago, Minch evokes the desperation of someone who has nothing left to lose. “Strap me in, I’m feeling fearless,” she intones, “the great height we will, climb stark against the sky,” as if she doesn’t care if the chains of the stories-high amusement park ride will hold her in place or send her spiraling earthward. It’s her Wall of Death, resonator guitar mingling with Waltuch’s emotion-drenched viola work. Another original, Border Radio (originally recorded with the Roulette Sisters on an Edison cylinder, for a still-to-be-released compilation cd) is an authentically old-school country tribute to the powerful US-owned stations situated on the Mexican border who popularized legends like the Carter Family back in the 20s and 30s. And the imaginatively, shape-shifting Poor Girl Blues has the same rapid, split-second time changes that characterized the best of Memphis Minnie’s work.
Minch also ably tackles several blues classics, including Pallet on Your Floor, which is usually played as a come-on. Minch’s interpretation gives her narrator real depth, bemoaning the conditions that she has to deal with sleeping on her own: perhaps she’s looking simply to trade a pallet instead of hooking up with the guy who owns it. She also runs through a particularly chilling, death-obsessed version of the traditional blues Crow Jane, a rousing, authoritative take of Don’t Speak to Me and an inspiringly defiant take of Black Dog Blues, a defiant girl-power tale told from the point of view of a prostitute who refuses to let her pimp push her around.
Hard to think of a better debut album we’ve heard this year, impressive evidence of how today’s best blues players, Minch among them, continue to make the blues mutate and evolve, pushing the envelope while remaining true to the honesty and raw emotion of the original source. And the album comes in a charmingly retro package: the cd booklet’s first print run is a handmade, numbered series run off on a 1930s letterpress. Mamie Minch plays the cd release show for Razorburn Blues at Union Hall in Park Slope at 9 PM on May 27.