Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Karen Curious and the New Professionals at Trash Bar, Brooklyn NY 6/5/08

Finally, a rock band actually makes a live album at a New York venue! It’s always been hard to fathom why more bands don’t do that. It’s far cheaper and less labor-intensive than making one in the studio, and in the case of Trash Bar, the sound is reliably excellent and was on Thursday when Karen Curious and the New Professionals got at least an ep’s worth of good songs for their barely half-hour onstage. It may have been just former Kathy Valentine sidewoman Curious and her captivating harmony singer Lizzie Steelheart backed by Sprinkle Genies drummer Rich Heaven, but between the spot-on harmonies and the catchy, hook-driven tunes, the sound was still full. If the cd sounds anything like the mix in the club, it should be great. Curious’ main axe is the bass, but her guitar playing is just as terse and tuneful: she didn’t waste a note all night. They’re one band whose best songs have a Velvet Underground feel but don’t sound derivative or wimpy: they definitely rock, but their songwriting has a classic pop sensibility. The best tunes they played were the tongue-in-cheek, somewhat Pretenders-inflected Coffee and Medication, and a song about dealing with homophobia that they played late in the set. The perfect soundtrack for open bar, which it actually was while they were playing.

June 6, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | 3 Comments

Been to the Art Store Lately?

Henry Jones, Jennifer Blowdryer and the kids have a bunch of new stuff up at Snakemonkey AKA the Art Store (on A between 12th and 13th) – then again they always have a bunch of new stuff up, but they’ve become such an East Village institution that they get taken for granted. As the permanent tourist class continues its blitzkrieg over the Maginot Line of Manhattan rent regulation, a place like the Art Store becomes less of what it is, simply an old-school punk-esthetic gallery/bookstore/hangout spot and more of a shrine to a considerably better time and place. The opening was last night. Right now they have, among other things, a vintage pencil-drawn Nick Zedd comic referencing being awake for three days straight and then going to the Scrap Bar (how 80s is that?), a colorfully psychedelic Dame Darcy original and of course plenty of their own stuff. If you want to be old-school and buy from the artists directly (or would rather not subsidize amazon), you can pick up an original, first edition copy of Jennifer Blowdryer’s short novel The Laziest Secretary in the World (also reissued by Zeitgeist Press with drawings by Beppi), or her compilation Good Advice for Young Trendy People of All Ages which includes contributions by James St. James (Michael Alig’s erstwhile buddy), among others. As far as other collectibles are concerned, they also have a ton of original sketches from the guy who did Ren & Stimpy. Duck in and escape to a time and place before luxury condos existed east of Third Avenue.  

June 6, 2008 Posted by | Art | Leave a comment

Rachelle Garniez at Barbes Again 6/5/08

As regular readers of this page know well, multi-instrumentalist/chanteuse Rachelle Garniez has been playing a regular residency at Barbes at 10 the first Thursday of the month for what seems like forever. Tonight it was just her and longtime bassist Dave Hofstra, who’d patiently pedal a chord or run the changes while Garniez made up her mind what joke she wanted to tell or what she wanted to play next. The primary reason Garniez is such a captivating performer is because she never plays the same song the same way twice, not remotely. The rotating cast of characters backing her onstage is part of it, as is the wide diversity of styles in her repertoire, but it’s mostly because she’s not just entertaining the crowd: she’s also entertaining herself. Being someone who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, if something is good enough to tickle her, it’ll probably tickle everybody else too. Tonight it was less about the jokes and more about the music: she made up a set list on the spot and then played it, more or less all the way through without interruption.

Playing accordion, Garniez opened with a tongue-in-cheek, newish cabaret number. She likes to jam out intros and outros, using them basically as background for improv comedy. The big crowd-pleaser of the night was the bouncy Kid in the Candy Store with its sly Freudian metaphors and intro which of course Garniez made up on the spot. She also did another metaphor-driven number, Tourmaline, the anthropomorphosed semi-precious stone whose flaws make it all the more interesting, along with a towering, chordally-infused take of the Johnny Thunders classic You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory. When the scars go, they let you know, and Garniez brought out every ounce of ache in the lyric.

Later, she switched to piano for Quality Star, which might be her best song. It’s a long, slowly crescendoing art-rock epic that builds to become one of the most savage kiss-off anthems ever. Casually and matter-of-factly, Garniez related her tale of a marriage gone horribly wrong, tinkling the handbells she’d brought with her as she opened the song, an effect that gave the crowd pause even while they were chuckling, while Garniez took her time climbing to the chorus:

But you say
Monsters like us don’t make good husbands and wives
But monsters lead such interesting lives
Now I don’t know what you’re hoping the future might bring
But monsters make the best of everything

Then she took a solo. On the album, her guitarist Matt Munisteri cranks it up just enough to hammer the point home, gently; live, it screams out for a vindictive crescendo, but in typical counterintuitive fashion, Garniez didn’t do that. Instead, she gave it a dismissive, even indifferent tone with an offhand series of jazz chords down the scale to where the outro starts to kick in:

You couldn’t pay me to go back
You couldn’t pay me to go back
You couldn’t pay me to go back to where I’ve been

And followed that with the very subtle revenge anthem After the Afterparty, the opening track on her latest cd Melusine Years (our pick for best album of 2007). Then she picked up her accordion again and reverted to the lighthearted tone she’d started with, closing with the punked-out oompah song Pearls and Swine, a reliable crowd-pleaser.

Here in the blogosphere – isn’t that where we are? – it’s considered gauche to spend too much time on any one band or artist. Nobody wants their blog to be dismissed as just another fansite, after all. But Garniez’ shows are all so different and so much fun for such widely different reasons: she’s someone you can actually go see every month without ever running the risk of boredom. If this review – and the next, and the next, because there will be more, never fear – succeed in failing to bore you, that’ll mean that we’ve been able to capture a little of what makes this elusive performer so spectacularly good.

June 6, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment