Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Custard Wally at Don Pedro’s, Brooklyn NY 6/25/08

Comedic Brooklyn punk band Custard Wally blasted through an absolutely kick-ass fifty-minute set mixing a lot of new material in with the band’s older, frequently scabrously funny, sexually explicit three-minute songs. It was like being transported back to a CBGB of the mind circa 1979, the band sounding much like a cross between the UK Subs and Motorhead. Frontman Chris Giunta plays Gibson SG guitars through a huge Peavy combo that gets a wickedly overtone-laden, brimstone sound so loud that the vocals were pretty much indecipherable all night – and the PA here is pretty powerful. But no matter: Giunta is a a consummate showman. Between songs, he addressed the audience in the trademark phony British accent he uses onstage: “This a song about…EATING PUSSY!!!” And so forth: this is a band that doesn’t itself seriously at all. But the music is another matter. They opened one of the songs with a heavy metal version of the hook from Anitra’s Dance, by Grieg. Otherwise, there was a lot of riffage, a little jangle (on the completely over-the-top, snide All the Sex in the World, from their previous album Estrogennia Dementia) and plenty of straight-up three chord punk rock, including a stomping version of their vicious anti-trendoid rant Pretty Little Ponytail Boy. Giunta’s an excellent guitarist whose occasional flashy displays of technique and skill are almost invariably satirical, and tonight proved no exception as he tossed off several lickety-split, faux-emotional Jimmy Page style hammer-ons when it came time for a solo.

 

Then he gave one to the bassist, and then the drummer, whose face immediately took on an expression that pretty much said “how am I going to pull this off without making a complete asshole of myself.” So he pounded his way around the kit a couple of times and then brought it down to just the tom-tom, sparing the audience considerable pain and suffering as high frequencies ping-ponged off the untreated cinderblock walls. Meanwhile, Giunta switched guitars, took his sweet time tuning up, drank half a beer and finally glanced over at his bandmate with a sadistic grin as if to say, “Fuck these people.” Then they finally launched back into the song. If that’s not punk rock, nothing is.

 

They closed the set with their new single I’m in Love Wif Shithead, leading the crowd in a singalong of “shithead, shithead, shithead,” ending with the melody to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. And it was just like CBGB, 1979: back in those days, everybody wanted to sound like Aerosmith. Punk rock was banished to a dumpy country bar in a shitty neighborhood on upper Bowery, and pretty much the only people who went there were from the other bands who played there. Seems that what upper Bowery was to the late 70s, Bushwick is to the late zeros, except that there aren’t nearly as many bums.

 

Custard Wally’s t-shirts are also a kick: they’re designed as a tour shirt with the band logo on the front and a list of 2005 tourdates going down the back. Only these dates are the pretty much monthly gigs they did at the Continental along with a WFMU appearance and a single show at the dreaded Pussycat Lounge. You can get one (and a copy of their new cd Call Me Walt) at their cd release show here on August 16 at 9.

June 26, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | Leave a comment

Evan Schlansky at Sidewalk, NYC 6/25/08

Evan Schlansky writes great rock songs. He may play acoustic guitar, sitting on a stool with a harmonica slung around his neck, but he definitely rocks. If you hate singer-songwriters, Schlansky is right up your alley. He’s the poster guy for learning how to play guitar: last night at Sidewalk, he didn’t take any long solos, in fact, not a single solo throughout his too-short 40-minute set. But it was clear from the start that this is a guy who knows his blues, knows his 60s music and uses the whole fretboard with a casual effortlessness that typifies his songwriting. For Schlansky, Dylan is the obvious stepping-off point. But – like another great NYC songwriter, Marcellus Hall – it’s the playful, freewheeling young Dylan that Schlansky most resembles. Until he opens his mouth, that is. Schlansky has just a tinge of a sardonic twang in his voice, but it’s there for effect, not affectation.

 

This show was something of a departure, mostly quieter, darker material as opposed to the generally upbeat, bluesy, deviously funny songs that make up most of Schlansky’s catalog. This time out, he played a lot of downbeat, pensive, often outright dark material, the high point being a somewhat eerie minor-key number chronicling the collapse of a relationship: “If this was a job, we’d both be fired…I ain’t no mechanic, but this is barely a car.”

 

Another of the set’s high points was a long, meandering number that he said he wrote in fifteen minutes, an accident of leaving the recorder running while rehearsing. It started out on a wryly amusing note about trying to get ready for a show but being too stoned to remember lyrics, and then went totally stream-of-consciousness. Eventually, he referenced Randy Newman, “before he started working for that mouse.” Schlansky continued that if anyone found that particular line funny, they should immortalize it. So: here it is.

 

He also played a brisk one about driving while high on crack (which does not appear to be something he has any personal experience of) before closing, counterintuitively, with another fairly long, quiet lament. That this guy’s slow stuff gets over as well as it does says something about how good his writing is: it’s hard to think of someone as good who’s as far under the radar as Schlansky. Bands in need of good hitworthy material would be well advised to check him out.

June 26, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | Leave a comment