Lucid Culture


Randi Russo and Band Live in NYC 6/22/08

In a triumphant return to the stage since breaking up her old band, New York noir rocker Randi Russo and her new backing unit careened like a wounded panther through an all-too-brief set of mostly unreleased material. Russo and the unit behind her – longtime lead guitarist Lenny Molotov, bassist JD Wood (from Molotov’s own excellent band) and drummer Pete Hayes of powerpop legends the Figgs – are all fine musicians, but it was clear that none of them could hear each other onstage: they’d been invited at the last minute to play one of those trendoid trashpits on the Lower East, a club notorious for its completely useless stage monitors. Yet the power and intensity of the material, coupled with the sheer passion of the band, transcended any sonic or tightness issues.


Russo is a unique and somewhat solitary figure in the indie rock world, a fiery guitarist, brilliant lyricist and fine singer whose stock in trade is outsider anthems. Generating a firestorm of eerie overtones from her bright red Gibson SG guitar, she opened with a new song. Russo delights in subverting any power structure that tries to confine her, whether societal, musical or otherwise, and this ridiculously catchy number is a prime example: “I am, I am invisible/I feel, I feel invincible.” She followed with another new one, an excoriating chronicle of a drama queen, perhaps titled Venus Crossing Saturn: the poor girl just can’t get used to the simple fact that the “world’s not made up of simple patterns.” Russo also added a surprise outro to the gorgeous, backbeat-driven hit Get Me Over, pulled the funk-inflected Where You Wanna Go out of the archives (she hardly plays this equally gorgeous tune live), stomped her way through her signature song Wonderland (a brutally sarcastic swipe at someone going through their fifteen minutes of fame), and a revved-up version of the title track from her most recent cd Shout Like a Lady (our pick for best album of 2006).


Russo’s resolutely individualist songs had a special resonance considering how club’s door staff were treating the customers. Before the night started, the frontwoman of one of the other bands on the bill came through the door and went up to the foreign girl who was taking money. “Hi,” she smiled, “We’ve been emailing with each other. I always like to make a personal connection,” she said warmly, extending her hand.


The door girl would have none of it. “I.D.!!! I.D.!!! I.D.!!!” she yelled indignantly.


The musician was taken aback. “I’m playing tonight. I’m in the band. You booked my band.  I just wanted to say hi.”


“You must show I.D., I have to see,” the door girl hollered petulantly. Memo to door girl: dunno how they do it in Uighuristan or wherever the hell you come from, but this is America. Musicians are treated with respect here. Especially if you’re the one who invited them to play your wretched club in the first place. Needless to say, Lucid Culture won’t be reviewing any shows here again (if you’re wondering which trendoid trashpit this was, check our Venues section, to your right. You’ll find it).

June 23, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | 2 Comments

Make Music NY Review 6/21/08

What a beautiful summer day. There are plenty of beautiful days in New York, just hardly ever from June to late September. Saturday was what New York was supposedly like in the summer in the 70s, temperatures around 80 but with a nice breeze and hardly any humidity, a very auspicious way to start the second annual Make Music NY, the local version of the international outdoor street music festival la Fete de la Musique. In keeping with the Lucid Culture tradition of trying to cover as many performances in as many diverse styles as possible, a decision was reached. The all-day punk show on Governors Island was tempting, but didn’t make the cut (and as it turned out, this Sunday’s NY Times covered it, in which case a report here would have been at least somewhat redundant). Since this is an outdoor festival, with most of the bands shlepping their own primitive PA systems and portable generators, performances tend to run behind schedule, with the inevitable snafus. The game plan: start in Williamsburg, where there were several intriguing shows scheduled within a short radius; then, to minimize travel time, to the East Village; then back to the Burg for a final show. A single indulgence would be allowed, one favorite band who’ve been profiled here before. Otherwise, everything would have to be either a new discovery or at least someone who hasn’t been reviewed here yet. The best-laid plans, ad infinitum…

Saturday’s tour began in the belly of the beast, beneath the scaffolding at one of those shoddy new luxury condo firetraps that seem to spring up overnight, this one on North Tenth. A handful of kids passed by, the pile of amps and band gear drawing lots of looks, but nobody stopped. Then a couple arrived, both looking somewhat puzzled. “You wanna buy a condo, talk to Patrice inside,” a worker on the catwalk told them, looking just as puzzled as they were. “We DON’T want to buy a condo,” the guy replied, practically shuddering at the thought – apparently he was looking for a friend in one of the bands who were scheduled to play there. A little after one, the punkish Bronx group Diabolique started playing: just two of the band members, a guy on lead guitar and a woman on drums who later switched to rhythm guitar while stomping on a tambourine. A work in progress: they started out with a decently growling cover of the Rumble, which was a good sign (Link Wray covers are almost always a sign of good chops and good taste). The band has several intriguing mp3s (available for free download) on their website, one of which they played, not as punk as the snarling broadside online. The woman is the better of the two musicians; maybe it was the early hour or lack of rehearsal, but for whatever reason, the guy needs practice. But the two had good energy and enough of a sense of what they were doing to make them worth checking back with in a couple of months.

Next stop was McCarren Park, where a gamelan orchestra, Gamelan Dharma Swara were scheduled for 2 PM. You’d think that it would be pretty impossible to hide a gamelan orchestra in this park, but they were nowhere to be found. An hour into the festival, and Plan B was already in full effect, which meant that the next stop was 780 Lorimer St., where the marvelous oldtime French chanson revivalists les Chauds Lapins were supposed to play. As it turned out, the address is the entrance to McCarren Pool (one wonders how many more of the band’s fans would have showed up had the band, or Time Out, who were in charge of the festival schedule, made this known). But no matter: the group’s frontman and woman, Kurt Hoffman and Meg Reichardt stood resolutely in the hot sun and played a characteristically delightful set. As they serenaded the crowd gathered beneath the trees, a fenderbender between a couple of SUV’s was narrowly averted. A Mr. Softee truck circled the block: in an absolutely unexpected act of politeness, the driver turned off his jingle as he passed the second time. Hoffman sang and played banjo ukulele; Reichardt also began on banjo uke and then switched to lead guitar. What was most apparent was how much their repertoire has grown in the months since they were last reviewed here, and what a fine jazz guitarist Reichardt is becoming. She’s always been a smartly incisive, original blues player, so this new direction she’s taking makes perfect sense. French speakers will find their songs a lyrical feast, loaded with innuendo and clever wordplay; the somewhat stagy charm of the melodies has plenty of appeal for English speakers as well.

When they’d finished, the greenmarket a short walk away beckoned: fresh cilantro, mmmm! And across the way from the stalls with all that delicious greenery was Gamelan Dharma Swara! “New York’s own gamelan,” or at least this edition of it is a community group with what seems to be a revolving membership based on who’s available to play. With a total of 17 members at this show, most of them playing traditional Balinese gamelan bells with bright yellow hammers, augmented by a boisterous bongo drummer who seemed to function as the group’s conductor, a trio of dancers and two magnificent gongs lurking behind the group (nobody took the opportunity to ring them, at least during the orchestra’s last half-hour). The music is both brightly tingling and hypnotically psychedelic. Pretty much anybody who watches PBS has probably at least caught a glimpse of a gamelan orchestra at some point, but live and up close, this kind of music reveals itself as soothing as it is fascinating, its ebbs and swells incorporating the most minute rhythmic and melodic intricacies between the performers. One of the Lucid Culture crew, nursing a pulled wing muscle, had taken a certain narcotic preferred by a certain terminally obese extreme-rightwing AM radio host, and the orchestra had her on her back and somewhere way off in dreamland within five minutes of arriving.

Gamelan Dharma Swara’s music dates back to an age where the dividing line between audience and performer was nebulous at best, before the point in history where music became a commodity, when pretty much everyone could beat on a drum or sing along or even lead the band with a lyre or a fiddle or a flute. The woman who served as the group’s spokesman informed the crowd that the public is invited to participate in rehearsals, and from the likes of it, this is a crew that is strictly in it for fun: the guy who serves as what might be called the lead bell player looks to be all of 14. Yet the orchestra came across as completely professional, assured and far beyond mere competence, even more impressive when their spokeswoman finally told the crowd that they hadn’t really rehearsed for this performance and that they were now just basically going to jam. This is the kind of group that Dave Matthews or (is Phish still together?) ought to take on the road with them if they had any brain cells left.

After that, it was back to the original agenda, to the day’s one scheduled indulgence, Linda Draper at Like the Spice Gallery on the south side. Lucid Culture’s resident part-time pillhead, back from her hippie heroin coma, had left her sore subscapularis in dreamland and, reinvigorated, went off in search of pizza. The crew’s temporarily more sober member took the long way through the park to Roebling Street, passing a bunch of trendoids playing little more than random squalls of feedback, a laughably bad Bad Company imitation yowling away where les Chauds Lapins had been an hour before, and an equally silly Interpol wannabe band out in front of the tattoo store on Roebling. As expected, everything was running behind schedule at this point. At Like the Spice, a guy/girl trendoid duo called the Dead Batteries were preening, posing and making stilted, declamatory attempts at vocals while accompanying themselves on drums and a screechy old analog synth from the 70s. Draper asked the two if she could borrow the PA their parents’ money had gotten them, but they couldn’t be bothered, so she decided to do her set old-school, completely without amplification, even though she was playing with a bleeding finger – “That’s punk rock, right?” she laughed. Meanwhile, the neighborhood Jesus freak was blasting his weekly Spanish-language Saturday sermon, with musical accompaniment, on the next block. The gallery owner, a pretty brunette named Marisa, made several attempts to get him to shut up (he’s been a nightmare for her and several other neighborhood businesses), and finally succeeded, while a crowd of skateboarders passed by, screaming and hollering at a slow-moving car competing for with them for space on the street. And then the fire department showed up. But then they left.

Distractions finally out of the way, Draper finally pulled up a chair and sang to a crowd that had obviously come from all over to hear her. Like Nina Nastasia, Draper expertly plucks her guitar more than she picks it, singing with the quiet, full, round tone of the ex-chorister she is. She did a lot of new material including songs from her soon-to-be-released sixth album, and they were uniformly excellent. From this show it was clear that Draper has grown into one of the world’s elite songwriters, finally managing to weld her rich, utterly surreal lyricism to the catchy, equally incisive tunefulness that characterized her earliest work. Frustration and sometimes raw rage frequently factor into her tersely crafted lyrics. Double entendres and an often laugh-out-loud stream-of-consciousness humor abound. Her best songs were both new numbers, one with a sharp, minor-key garage rock melody called Bridge and Tunnel which turned out to be not a slap at tourists but at just assholes in general. The other was an equally catchy, slowly burning 6/8 broadside. She asked if anyone had any requests, and someone did, the opening cut on her first album, a terrific pop tune set to a circular four-chord melody. But halfway through, she forgot the words. So she made up some new ones on the spot:

My finger has finally stopped bleeding
My hair smells like barbecue
From the restaurant down the street
Which is really good if you’re not a vegetarian…
I’m not
I always had a fast metabolism

Draper also unearthed a cover by obscure 70s songwriter Kath Bloom, a plaintive number which meshed well with all the originals. Indulgences done with, the cilantro still looked fresh, but it was time to put it in the fridge, so it was over the bridge and then over to the park at First St. and Houston where the Main Squeeze Orchestra were playing. The full orchestra is seventeen women all playing accordion, making for a sound potentially even more psychedelic and captivating than the gamelan orchestra in the park. For the first time today, the pungent smell of ganja was noticeable, wafting across the park from the benches, a crowd of derelicts relaxing to what they could hear while leaning against the fence since the the ten group members (including conductor Walter Kuhr) who’d come out today were doing the show completely without amplification. A five foot one guy in an Iggy t-shirt stopping briefly as the haunting sound fluttered in and out. Because the breeze had picked up, the womens’ sheet music was fluttering as well, creating some long pauses between songs. One of the women sat behind the front line of accordions, playing oompah basslines on a big, beautiful, oversize keyboard. She also contributed vocals on a singalong of the Kinks’ cabaret-inflected Demon Alcohol. The group alternated between haunting, classical sounding material and the amusingly orchestrated pop covers that have become their trademark: among them, a strangely straightforward Beach Boys tune, a gypsyish St. James Infirmary and Mack the Knife, and a completely over-the-top version of Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean.

Perhaps frustrated by the windy conditions, the whole band took a lengthy smoke break – they all look like a bunch of party animals. So it was up to 14th St and the L, back to Williamsburg where melodic rock trio Violet Hour were supposed to play outside a bar. They had their equipment on the street, and after some lengthy soundchecking, it was apparent that they were waiting for the bar to start to fill up before playing their set. But that’s ok: Make Music NY is first and foremost for musicians. It wouldn’t make sense to fault them for not playing to a pretty much empty street where they could catch the beginning of the Saturday night bar turnout if they started an hour late. Or perhaps Time Out got their set time wrong, which would hardly be surprising. So perhaps at some point in the future Lucid Culture will cover one of their live shows. Til then, there are some good youtube clips of the band live at Trash Bar that you can listen to on their myspace.

June 22, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rosie Flores at Rodeo Bar, NYC 6/19/08

What a fun night. Flores hadn’t played the Rodeo in three years, she told the crowd, and it was good to have her back. As she put it, her thing is American roots music, pretty much everything that falls under that wide umbrella: country, rockabilly, western swing, blues and rock, with a psychedelic, 60s edge. Backed by a solid three-piece band with rhythm section and pedal steel, she didn’t have her signature turquoise guitar: instead, she showed off her new, all-white Gretsch Penguin, which she said she “hadn’t gotten to third base with yet. It’s kind of shy, we’re just getting to know each other.” Aside from few tuning problems, they seemed to get along just fine. Flores has a somewhat sweet, unaffected voice with just the hint of a Tejas twang and masterful command of whatever style she wants to purloin, but ultimately what she gets over on is her guitar playing. Tonight was a clinic in good taste and pure, unadulterated fun: at one point, Flores plopped down on a chair onstage and kicked up her heels while the steel player took a solo. An early number in the set, Rockabye Boogie was basically a throwaway, but when she pulled out of the second chorus, she left the trail and threw off enough sparks to start a forest fire. Her style isn’t sensationally fast: instead, she chooses her spots, making every note count for something, whether for a chill or a laugh.


She and the band tackled the Yardbirds classic I Ain’t Talking, backing off a little bit and giving it some swing, which could have been a disaster: the original is raw, undiluted adrenaline. But when Flores got to the solo, she played the intro to Over Under Sideways Down before taking off with some equally amusing early Jimmy Page-style hammer-ons, screaming bent notes and just raw noise before turning it over to the steel player. Obviously, he didn’t know it, so he just let the steel scream, which worked perfectly. Otherwise, they did an authentically dark, ominous version of the old 60s hit Tunnel of Love (written by Charlie McCoy, Flores revealed), along with a long, 6/8 blues number that gave her the chance to stretch out and explore more than her generally fast, upbeat numbers give her the chance to do. For someone who pretty much lives on the road, it’s impressive how she manages to make the songs sound completely fresh night after night, but she does

June 20, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | Leave a comment

New York City Live Music Calendar Plus Other Events – End of June-July 2008

Are you looking for the July/August calendar? It’s here.

Here’s a new calendar with lots of upcoming stuff for the end of June. Check our Make Music NY page for the best of what’s happening all over town on Sat, June 21. As always, incessant updates. As usual, we start with weekly events, 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. 


Sundays Sean Kershaw & the Terrible Two (that’s the New Jack Ramblers minus a couple fingers & toes) play the upstairs roof deck at Rocky Sullivan’s, 34 Van Dyke St. at Dwight St. in Red Hook, Brooklyn, 1-4 PM. Free ferry from Manhattan (pier 11,Wall St.) and free shuttle buses from the F&G trains at Smith-9th St, the F,M,R at 4th Ave, and the 2,3,4,5,M,N,R at Borough Hall.  


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.


Every Sunday, hip-hop MC Big Zoo hosts the long-running End of the Weak rap showcase at the Pyramid, 9 PM, admission $5 before 10, $7 afterward. This is one of the best places to discover some of the hottest under-the-radar hip-hop talent, both short cameos as well as longer sets from both newcomers and established vets 


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 68 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.


Thursdays in July, through August 7 at 1 PM there are free organ concerts at Trinity Church. The new digital organ (which replaced the old pipe organ destroyed on 9/11) is virtually indistinguishable from its analog cousin, and the performers who play this series typically bring a great deal of imagination and innovation with them.


Also Thursdays starting July 13, there’s a series of concerts inspired by Salvador Dali in the sculpture garden behind MOMA, two sets at 5:30 and 7 PM, admission free with MOMA’s exorbitant $20 admission (see if you have any friends who have a corporate membership through their jobs). Highlights of the series are listed below in the monthly calendar.    


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.


Also Weds June 18 Stephanie White & the NJ Philth Harmonic play the Whiskey Bar on Washington St. in Hoboken at 9. 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.


Also Weds June 18, 10:30ish former Come (and Live Skull) frontwoman Thalia Zedek plays the Mercury. Dark roaring guitar-fueled intensity, one of the few truly great musicians to come out of indie rock.


Weds June 18 Melomane frontman Pierre de Gaillande’s other fulltime band The Snow play Sullivan Hall in the West Village, 10 PM. 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.


Also Weds June 18 Dave Smith’s The Perfect Man – jazz sextet with vocals and “freakaphone” led by the purist, bluesy trombonist (here playing electric trombone) plays Black Betty, 11:30ish.


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, half past noon Metropolitan Klezmer plays an outdoor show at the park by Washington Sq. Church, 2nd Ave. and 10th St. Their new live album Traveling Show is pretty amazing. 


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 and then the always charismatic delta blues goddess Mamie Minch at midnight. Minch also headlines here at midnight on 6/27.  


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. Too many to list here: click our Make Music NY page for a complete calendar of the best stuff we could find.


Sat June 21 Joe Louis Walker – one of the few remaining soulful practitioners of Chicago blues guitar – plays Joe’s Pub, early, 7:30 PM, $20 and worth it   


Also 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.


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. 


Also Sat June 21 it’s the Cedric Brooks Extravaganza at Banjo Jim’s at 11, preceded by Burru Style (?) at 10. Could this be the Cedric Brooks, legendary falsetto frontman of the great 70s roots reggae harmony group the Congos?  


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.


Also Sun June 22 haunting, hypnotic, electric Persian-American rocker Haale plays Prospect Park Banshell, 6ish, early arrival advised. Like a more Middle Eastern Randi Russo: passionate, intense, completely down-to-earth.


Also Sun June 22, early evening, 6 PM fiery original rockabilly/surf trio Catspaw plays Otto’s. From the band: “There is still no word on when Catspaw will begin recording their much-anticipated new CD, “Angry Folk Band” (any internet rumors setting the date for February 2018 are precipitous).  However, responding to criticism that they have not produced much in the way of original material since “Southbound Line”, the band is hard at work on some new songs, including the dark polkas “Brooklyn Bound Local” and “Bronx Bound Express” and the sure-to-be-classic album-length instrumental “Empire Service to Syracuse Making Stops at Hudson, Yonkers, Rhinecliffe and Albany-Rensselaer”. 


Also Sun June 22 Amy Allison plays Banjo Jim’s, also early, 7 PM. This time around she has killer lead guitarist Jon Graboff with her, who knows her songs as well as anybody and pushes her to play the most interesting ones (musically at least). Lyrically, there’s nobody better, and then there’s that totally unique, unearthly beautiful voice 


Also Sun June 22 one of the alltime great noise-rock bands, Polvo plays Maxwell’s at 10:30.


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 it’s an allnight all-female country bill at Banjo Jim’s featuring Gillian Welch-influenced duo The Shithouse Lillies, at 7:30 followed by Jamie Lyn & the Red Tail Hawk Band (with special guests Sean Kershaw and Hilary Hawke) at 8, rockabilly firecracker Li’l Mo and the Monicats at 9, Hilary Hawke’s bluegrass band CatWagon at 10, country-pop band Kara Suzanne and the Gojo Hearts at 11. With the exception of L’il Mo, these aren’t the tightest bands in the world, but they’ve got talent and good energy and it should be quite a fun night.   


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 an amazing doublebill at the Stone starting at 8 with the Marvin Sewell Group. Sewell can be searing and intense, especially when he’s playing slide blues, but he’s just as likely to bring it way down and haunt you. With Jerome Harris on bass, the incomparable Rachelle Garniez on accordion, Satoshi Takeishi  on percussion and the Ted Williams of jazz accordion, Joe “Sonny” Barbato who will also play piano. Then at 10 it’s reedman Doug Wieselman’s Zitherine Trio. Whether on sax or clarinet, Wieselman has an understated wit, a bluesy purism and the ability to go way, way out there and somehow find his way back. With a rhythm section of Shazad Ismaily (bass) Dougie Bowne (drums)   


Also 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 Evan Schlansky plays Sidewalk, 8 PM. From the excellent, tuneful, very funny, tastefully bluesy lyrical songwriter’s email to his fanlist:  

“’There are songs, and then there are songs. Evan Schlansky writes both.’ 

– Kelefa Sanneh, NY Times. Okay I made that up.”  


Also 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. 


Weds June 25 a Brad Jones extravaganza at the Stone: first at 8, the bassist plays songs from his Pouring My Heart In cd with his quartet; then at 10 he scales down to baby bass and plays new stuff with a completely different 5-piece “avant lounge” group.  


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.


Also 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. 


Also Weds June 25 noiserockers and self-described “sonic assassins” Apollo Heights play the Rockwood at midnight. The idea of this blisteringly loud if good band in the tiny space here is somewhat ludicrous (although you know the sound will be marvelous); get there early if you’re going.   


Thurs June 26 smashingly good, subtly hilarious early pre-rockabilly revivalist trio Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co. play their monthly residency at Otto’s, 8 PM followed by surprisingly good, tastefully traditional Connecticut surf band the Clams at 10. SIT&Die are also at Rodeo Bar on 7/5 at 10:30.


Also Thurs June 26 Johnny Allen plays Terra Blues, 8 PM. Fiery, incisive Chicago blues guitarist and a terrific singer with a smooth, soulful delivery. You should see him sometime. He’s also here on 7/19 at 10  


Also 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 Jan Bell & the Cheap Dates play the Rockwood, 10 PM. Self-described “Yorkshire lass” with a haunting wail of a voice, above-average guitar chops and Luminescent Orchestrii’s violin player. And a bunch of gorgeous original Americana songs. She’s thisclose to being hugely popular: early arrival is advised.     


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 Inity plays Otto’s, 7 PM. Could this be the shockingly good, multiracial Inity from Connecticut, the roots reggae band?  


Also 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 and Sat June 28 sharp, remarkably tuneful purist jazz quintet the Flail – big in Europe but just getting started here – return to Smalls, where they recorded their excellent new live album last year. Sets at 10:30 PM and midnight.   


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 Fri June 27 Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad play Sullivan Hall, probably around midnight. A spinoff of the excellent roots reggae band John Brown’s Body, they play absolutely hypnotic, spacy dub reggae worthy of Lee Scratch Perry or King Tubby, 1977 stylee.  


Sat June 28 gorgeously tuneful, smart, twangy, Steve Earle-inflected highway rockers the Sloe Guns play Kenny’s Castaways, early, 7 PM. Their two-guitar attack has never been more interesting, their songs have never been better and they’ve finally found the drummer they’ve always needed to complete the picture. One of the best live bands in town.  


Also Sat June 28, 8 PM las Rubias Del Norte – the Latin American musical equivalent of the lush, romantic Moonlighters play Union Hall.


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 an excellent doublebill at Bar Matchless in Williamsburg, (violinist/trombonist/chanteuse Naa Koshie Mills playing with both bands) – smart, funny outlaw country throwbacks Maynard & the Musties at 8 followed eventually at 11 by the scorchingly good, always evolving guitar-and-keyboard driven garage/pop/art-rockers the Disclaimers 


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 lush, atmospheric art-rockers the Quavers play the Collapsable Hole, 146 Metropolitan Ave, Williamsburg, 9 PM. They create songs from loops before your eyes, adding layers and layers of melody and ambience til they have a song. It’s amazing to watch.   


Also Sat June 28 former Railroad Jerk lead guitarist Alec Stephen plays Pete’s, 10 PM. With his band the Pantographs, he put out two albums of lush, pastoral, Nick Drake-influenced songs; lately, he’s returned to his electric roots with remarkably scorching, tersely bluesy intensity.  


Also Sat June 28, Scott Morgan’s Powertrane feat. Deniz Tek from Radio Birdman!!!!! at Maxwell’s, 10:30 PM 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 Kristen Gass plays the Rockwood, 8 PM. Sparse acoustic guitar fingerpicking, a hushed, whispery voice and some very smart, thoughtful, subtle lyrics. Her remake of the Larval Organs’ punk/metal song Ziploc Torso is amazing. Followed jarringly on the bill by Emily Zuzik, who comes across like she would have made a decent trophy wife ten years ago


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. 


Weds July 2 at Kenny’s Castaways, caffeinated, Dylanesque trio Whisperado play at 7, followed eventually on the bill by irrepressible, terminally extroverted soul-inflected acoustic siren Meg Braun at 9 


Thursday, July 3 out back of MOMA in the sculpture garden as part of this year’s Dali tribute, sets at 5:30 and 7 – Lucia Pulido’s Despecho. The Colombian singer, who specializes in a Pan-Latin-American repertoire, will sing classic tangos, waltzes, and boleros. She will also perform “Destino,” the Amando Domingues tune that served as the soundtrack to the Dalí/Disney animated film of the same name. Backed by Sergio Reyes, violin; Sebastian Cruz, guitar; Pedro Giraudo, acoustic bass. Big, stagy voice and some choice material.


Thurs July 3, 10 PM – from the Barbes website (how come more clubs don’t promote their acts as well as Barbes does???): VERY BE CAREFUL. The L.A. based group plays the rawest cumbias you’ll ever hear this side of Valledupar, the Colombian city where Vallenato originated.  Very Be Careful uses a traditional lineup of accordion, bass and percussion – including Guacharaca (the Colombian guiro), Bell and Caja Vallenata – but plays with the sort of energy usually associated with the urban antics of punk. The result is traditional music so thoroughly modern- sounding that its country roots seem irrelevant, even though their Cumbias are as authentic as those of Alejo Duran. i.e. if you like Chicha Libre you’ll like these guys.


Also Fri July 4 Rawles Balls plays Bowery Ballroom, 8PM. The legendary, satirical cover band from hell are one of the world’s funniest live acts, right up there with Ween and Tammy Faye Starlite and Tenacious D. Here’s your chance to see them do their arena rock thing at the peak of their extremely dubious powers.


Also Fri July 4, 9 PM Conjunto Guantanamo plays Barbes. Oldtime Cuban stuff mixed with Nuyorican salsa flavor: piano, trombone, piano, bass and lots of percussion. True to their name, played by guys who have absolutely nothing to do with terrorism.


Sat July 5, 2 PM it’s the sixth annual Musical Saw convention at Trinity Church , 31-18 37th Street ( 37th Street at 31st Avenue), Astoria, $10, R to Steinway Street, N/W train to Broadway. Natalia ‘Saw Lady’ Paruz brings together musical saw players from around the world for classical, contemporary, folk, gospel, pop, and show tunes accompanied by handbell choir, piano, organ and vocals. The end of the concert features the ‘Chorus of the Saws’ – all the saw players playing together.


Also Sat July 5, searingly psychedelic Brooklyn “sonic slayers” Apollo Heights, even more psychedelic, somewhat surfy and often utterly bizarre 60s Cambodian pop revivalists Dengue Fever and Franco-Algerian Arab punk legend Rachid Taha play Central Park Summerstage, 3 PM, recommended with considerable trepidation, early early arrival (i.e. 2:30 PM) advised for the extremely dedicated fan.


Also Sat July 5, 6:30 PM the NY Philharmonic Orchestra plays Tschaikovsky’s 1812 overture on Governors Island. Also on the bill: forgettable pieces by Copland and Rossini along with Rimsky-Korakov’s predictably bracing Capriccio Espagnol. One assumes the free ferry (leaving from the old Shaolin ferry terminal next to the new one downtown) will run later than usual to accommodate everyone.


Also Sat., July 5 a tribute to Johnny Cash featuring Danny Weiss’ and Mary Olive Smith’s soulful country band Reckon So plus San Diego JC cover trio The Cash Kings, 7:30 PM, free at the Performing Arts Center in the middle of campus, at Kingsborough Community College, B/Q to Brighton Beach and walk east.


Sat July 5 intriguing lo-fi horn-driven klezmer group Kotorino open the night at Barbes at 8 followed by the sensational, scorchingly intense gypsy/Middle Eastern/Greek improvisers Ansambl Mastika at 10.


Sun July 6 Nigel Groome of Beckenham, England plays the magnificent organ at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 4:45 PM


Also Sun July 6, 7:30 PM James Reams & the Barnstormers play bluegrass opening for Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Cha’s at the Kingsborough Community College Performing Arts Ctr 


Also Sun July 6, 10:30 PM swing revivalists the Flying Neutrinos – who along with the Moonlighters spearheaded the oldtimey music scene here in town – return to Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM 


Mon July 7, early, 7 PM the Todd Londagin 5 plays Birdland. The once-and-future Flying Neutrinos tapdancing trombonist, a terrifically smart oldtime blues cat, plays his own stuff: worth checking out before he ends up on the top-shelf jazz club tour for $100 a ticket 


Tues July 8 Brazilian forro bandleader/percussionist Nanny Assis plays Lucille’s Bar, two sets starting at 8 PM. A forro specialist, he’s not what you’d expect to see here but he’s good.


Also Tues July 8 Shelby Lynne is at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, adv tix $35 at the Mercury, pricy, but she’s probably worth it. Maybe if we’re lucky she’ll play that vicious swipe upside the heads of the guys at her old record label.


Also Tues July 8 Stephane Wrembel plays a trio show with a rhythm section at the Jazz Standard  $20 cover, sets at 7:30 and 9:30. Wrembel has been going in a more Middle Eastern direction lately; this is a great opportunity to catch the brilliant gypsy jazz guitarist with an extra dose of his characteristically propulsive fire.


Tues July 8 panstylistic jazz/blues/Balkan violinist/composer Jenny Scheinman is at Barbes,  7 PM, also playing here at 7 on 7/15. 


Also Tues July 8, 8 PM George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars play B.B. King’s, adv tix way expensive ($37.50) at the box office. Reputedly the godfather of funk still has it, and he brings with him a typically huge band who will carry the torch should the old party animal not be up to snuff.  


Weds July 9 delta blues guitarist Miles Turney plays Trash Bar, 8 PM. Terrific interpreter of classic blues as well as imaginative, tastefully bluesy versions of stuff like Hank Williams and similar.


Thursday, July 10 in the garden behind MOMA, sets at 5:30 and 7 as part of the ongoing Dali tribute: Rachelle Garniez & Sxip Shirey: A Surrealist Tribute to Dalí. The brilliant, darkly retro Garniez has a handle on the surreal like no other performer; Luminescent Orchestrii frontman Shirey likes unusual instruments such as the Obnoxiophone and the mutant harmonica. Somewhere in the far beyond, Dali will be smiling.


Also Thurs July 10, lovers rock/roots reggae legend Freddie McGregor plays Prospect Park Bandshell, you know what that means, get there EARLY i.e. 5 and suffer in line if you want to get in. Watch your back: this is a reggae show, you know the po-po will have to make their quota of people peeing in the bushes. 


Also Thurs July 10 Chin Chin plays Joe’s Pub, 9 PM, $15. The people who book this place have no idea of what they got into with this sizzling, danceable horn-and-keyboard-driven groove band: the place will be a morass of twirling, bouncing bodies. Seats may be flying. Somewhere – the bar, maybe – the crowd will create a dance floor.


Also Thurs July 10 Serena Jost plays Barbes, 9 PM. One of our favorites: the ex-Rasputina multi-instrumentalist plays catchy, often pensive, impeccably crafted and very subtly funny art-rock with a great band behind her. Her new cd is one of this year’s best.


Fri July 11, Ljova & the Kontraband play Barbes, 8 PM. Amazingly inventive gypsy band playing all originals. Frontman/violist Lev Zhurbin is a boisterous, deviously funny guy, and a hell of a composer (he does a lot of film work, so many of this crew’s tunes have a decidedly cinematic feel).


Also Fri July 11 X-Man and the Boys –  Matt Miller, saxophone;  Leif Arntzen, trumpet/euphonium;  Brian Harding, trombone;  Bill Ware, vibes;  Miles Arntzen, drums;  Andrew Hall , bass play two sets at the Cornelia St. Café, sets at 8:30 and 10, $10. They swing but they also bring the funk, not something you might think the Arntzens would be into, but here they are, and Hall is an especially terse, smart bass player, the kind of guy you would want doing this stuff.


Also Fri July 11 the Zombies – what’s left of them anyway – play Irving Plaza, 9 PM, $33 adv tix  at their box office. Their show at Coney Island last year showed Rod Argent and the remaining crew, now in their sixties, still vital. Too bad the guitarist has to take all those wanky, grotesquely inappropriate heavy metal solos.


Sat July 12, 2 PM it’s the Main Squeeze Accordion Festival at Pier 1 on the upper West, all kinds of good talent: The Italian Village Dance Music, los Macondos playing vallenato, Nicu Helerea (Romanian), Patty Furlong & Coolmagort (Irish), The Raif Heyseni Orchestra (Traditional Albanian & Arabic Music), Raul Jaurena Tango Trio, Veretski Pass playing Ottoman music, and of course the lushly psychedelic 18-accordion Main Squeeze Orchestra on the bill at 3.


Also Sat July 12, a good jazz trio opening the night at Prospect Park Bandshell: Matt Munisteri, Matt Ray, and Tim Luntzel. Early early arrival and then a long wait in line a must, sadly.


Also Sat July 12, 8 PM at Barbes it’s los Cenzontles, who augment their typical Mexican banda/mariachi sound with electric bass and drums for extra oomph – or oompah. The group is currently in the studio with Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo, which makes sense.


Also Sat July 12 Simon & the Bar Sinisters play Lakeside, 10:15ish (early by Lakeside standards, but Simon likes to play long sets). A true original: raised on punk, addicted to surf, steeped in rockabilly, honest as the day he was born and very funny. And damn, what a guitarist


Sun July 13, the English Beat play Irving Plaza, 9ish, adv tix expensive ($37.50) at the box office. A nostalgia trip for the fratboy contingent from 1982 or so; these guys were one of the most musically interesting, more rock-oriented of the second-wave ska bands who came out during the punk era. Reputedly this unit has most of the original members.


Tues July 15-20 the Cecil Taylor Trio plays the Village Vanguard. One assumes with a rhythm section, sets at 9 and 11, reservations highly recommended. For a bop veteran who likes to use the whole keyboard and go way out there, he sure can get melodic, and restrained, when he’s in the mood. Always an interesting, exploratory night with this guy.






Weds July 16 Steel Pulse plays Rockefeller Park on the west side, downtown, 7 PM. Most of the original members of the best of the British roots reggae acts from the 70s remain, and although most of their studio albums since that time have been slick and soulless, their live show still scorches. Yeah mon.


Also Weds July 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 what the organizers call “a rousing Yiddish/Klezmer musical.”


Also Weds July 16 the Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar (Serbian brass band) at Drom, 11 PM


Thurs July 17 in the garden behind MOMA as part of the ongoing Dali festival, 2 sets at 5:30 and 7: Les Primitifs du Futur, somewhat legendary Parisian musette group, playing the the French accordion music beloved by André Breton and the Surrealist crowd. This group emphasizes the danceability in this rather haunting genre; they also have a musical saw in the band (sounds like a violin).


Also Thurs July 17, Ted Leo plays Castle Clinton, 7 PM, you’ll need to get in line no late than 4:30 for the tix that parks personnel hand out (2 per person) for this free show. A somewhat maddening performer: somebody who’s written as many fiercely good songs as this rocker has shouldn’t have written so many clunkers. At least his politics are spot-on.


Also Thurs July 17, 7 PM spectacularly fast, jazzy blues guitarist Duke Robillard plays Wagner Park in Battery Park City. Note that his solo stuff is vastly more interesting and energetic than the paint-by-numbers approach of his old band Roomful of Blues.


Also Thurs July 17 sprawling, improvisationally-inclined, often deliriously good funk band Groove Collective play Sullivan Hall around 10:30 PM


Fri July 18 scorching dark rockers Ninth House play Hank’s, 11 PM. First they went deep into Nashville gothic, now they’ve discovered improvisation, and it actually works: when they give the keys, or the violin a long solo on an intro, chorus or outro, it’s often nothing short of sensational.


Also Fri July 18 Mr. Action & the Boss Guitars play Lakeside, 11 PM. If you like your surf music twangy, tasteful and on the mellow side like it was in 1964, this band – led by the former Supertones drummer – is for you.














Weds July 16 Steel Pulse plays Rockefeller Park on the west side, downtown, 7 PM. Most of the original members of the best of the British roots reggae acts from the 70s remain, and although most of their studio albums since that time have been slick and soulless, their live show still scorches. Yeah mon.


Also Weds July 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 what the organizers call “a rousing Yiddish/Klezmer musical.”


Also Weds July 16 the Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar (Serbian brass band) at Drom, 11 PM


Thurs July 17 in the garden behind MOMA as part of the ongoing Dali festival, 2 sets at 5:30 and 7: Les Primitifs du Futur, somewhat legendary Parisian musette group, playing the the French accordion music beloved by André Breton and the Surrealist crowd. This group emphasizes the danceability in this rather haunting genre; they also have a musical saw in the band (sounds like a violin).


Also Thurs July 17, Ted Leo plays Castle Clinton, 7 PM, you’ll need to get in line no late than 4:30 for the tix that parks personnel hand out (2 per person) for this free show. A somewhat maddening performer: somebody who’s written as many fiercely good songs as this rocker has shouldn’t have written so many clunkers. At least his politics are spot-on.


Also Thurs July 17, 7 PM spectacularly fast, jazzy blues guitarist Duke Robillard plays Wagner Park in Battery Park City. Note that his solo stuff is vastly more interesting and energetic than the paint-by-numbers approach of his old band Roomful of Blues.


Also Thurs July 17 sprawling, improvisationally-inclined, often deliriously good funk band Groove Collective play Sullivan Hall around 10:30 PM


Fri July 18 scorching dark rockers Ninth House play Hank’s, 11 PM. First they went deep into Nashville gothic, now they’ve discovered improvisation, and it actually works: when they give the keys, or the violin a long solo on an intro, chorus or outro, it’s often nothing short of sensational.


Also Fri July 18 Mr. Action & the Boss Guitars play Lakeside, 11 PM. If you like your surf music twangy, tasteful and on the mellow side like it was in 1964, this band – led by the former Supertones drummer – is for you.












Also Sat July 19, speaking of killer accordion, the Will Holshouser Trio with trumpeter Ron Horton and bassist Dave Phillips plays Barbes, 8 PM. 


Sun July 20, the concert we’re inviting you to join us at, one of the greatest songwriters (and singers) of our era, Jenifer Jackson is playing the Rockwood at 8 PM with her longtime lead guitarist Oren Bloedow (of Elysian Fields). Her most recent album The Outskirts of a Giant Town is lush, psychedelic, haunting and beautiful: recorded live in the studio, it accurately captures how good she sounds live. Join us, won’t you?


Also Sun July 20, guitar genius Jeremiah Lockwood’s strange AC/DC-cantorial band Sway Machinery opens for fantastically fun, danceable Eastern European Jewish party band Golem at Prospect Park Bandshell, 6ish, you know the drill, early early.


Tues July 22 Jarvis Cocker plays Terminal 5 in Hell’s Kitchen, adv tix $37.50 available at the Mercury box office. Expensive, sure, but the guy was the frontman in Pulp, the best British band of the 90s. He still has that withering cynicism and simmering rage and can still write a lyric with the best of them.


Weds July 23, 7 PM at Rockefeller Park downtown it’s the Punch Brothers playing bluegrass, featuring Chris Thile (ex-Nickel Creek mandolinist).


Thursday, July 24 in the garden behind MOMA, sets at 5:30 and 7 as part of the ongoing Dali festival, Brian Carpenter’s Ghost Orchestra, a big brass band playing “voodoo jazz” from the 20s along with cartoon and silent film scores.


Also Thurs July 24 panstylistic rock keyboard goddess Greta Gertler plays Barbes at 8 PM followed at 10 by the Mad Jazz Hatters: “River Alexander’s smooth vocals, guitar, kazoo and chromatic harmonica are joined by Jeff Hudgins on clarinet and alto saxophone, Jonathan Royce on percussion, slide whistle and jaw harp and Chicha Libre’s Nick Cudahy on bass.”


Fri July 25 Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3 play his old band the Dream Syndicate’s classic album Days of Wine & Roses all the way through at Maxwell’s, 10ish, $15. Recorded live in the studio in just two days, the record is one of the greatest noise-rock albums of alltime, enormously influential on scores of dirty guitar bands who came afterward. Live, drummer Linda Pitmon sings the one that DS bassist Kendra Smith sang on the album, and the rest of the band do justice to the original with an unbridled ferocity.


Also Fri July 25, the Brian Jonestown Massacre play Terminal 5, 10ish, adv tix available at the Mercury box office. Kind of pricy for a garage band, but these guys sound just like they stepped out of 1967, both sonically and songwise.


Sat July 26, there’s a Johnny Cash tribute feat. great country/rock chanteuse Laura Cantrell, oldtimey harmony group Ollabelle, John Doe of X, Jay Farrar of Son Volt, cantorial riff-rockers Sway Machinery, soul/blues siren Catherine Russell et al. at the World Financial Ctr., 7 PM


Also Sat July 26 an amazingly hip, free  doublebill at Kingsborough Community College Arts Performing Arts Ctr., of all places, in Brighton Beach. Rob Curto’s Sanfonia Project who open at 7:30 are another of the noted accordionist’s Brazilian jazz combos; the spectacular Sounds of Taraab, who headline, play music from Zanzibar, hauntingly slinky Arab melodies over bouncy African beats, have one of the most adrenalizing accordionists around as well as a great new album.


Also Sat July 26 Washington, DC blues guitarist Bobby Radcliff plays Lucille’s Bar, 8 PM, two sets. A rare player who doesn’t let his blinding speed distract him from terseness and melody. As good at funk as darkly exploratory, minor-key blues, he also bears something of a resemblance to Chewbacca the wookie!


Sat July 26, 10 PM, from the Barbes website: “LA CUMBIAMBA ENEYE. La Cumbiamba blends traditional instruments from the African Diaspora in Colombia, with indigenous and European instruments to play the traditional Colombian music that developed through the colonial era and continues to evolve.” I.E. this is the roots of what Chicha Libre plays: if you like them, you should go to this show.


Sun July 27 alternately jazzy and atmospherically haunting, female-fronted pan-Orientalist band Pharaoh’s Daughter play Pier 1 on the upper West, 7 PM, songs in Hebrew, Arabic and English.


Weds July 30, half past noon, singer Newsville Washington plays a free outdoor show with the former frontwoman and bassist from NY noir rock legends DollHouse (the great Lisa Lost and Frankie Monroe) at Liberty Park (Liberty btw Broadway/Church) downtown.


Also Weds July 30, Aimee Mann plays the Highline Ballroom, 9 PM, adv tix $35 available at the box office and worth it. What else is there to say: a pantheonic artist, probably one of the best half-dozen songwriters in the world right now. And she’s even become a damn good singer. She’s also at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, adv tix the same price but available instead at the Mercury.





Upcoming in August:

8/4 Wu Man (pipa virtuoso)  at the Schimmel Center at Pace Univ. downtown 7:30 PM free adv tix req call 212-346-1715 for box office hours.

Thursday, August 7


“Invented in 1919 by Russian scientist Léon Theremin, the theremin is one of the oldest electronic instruments—and the fact that it doesn’t need to be touched to produce a sound makes it perhaps the most magical. Pamelia Kurstin is widely considered one of the world’s greatest theremin players. On an instrument primarily associated with horror and science fiction soundtracks, she creates lyricism. Her pitch, technique, and taste are equally perfect. She can play microtonal puzzles and walking bass lines; she can make her instrument sound like a violin, a human voice, or an analog synthesizer. Out of what was once a symbol of modernism, she plays music of a very emotional order.”

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

Thursday, August 14 in the garden behind MOMA


“Inspired by Indonesian gamelan, this group has invented its own tradition: they play original groove-driven music on improvised instruments and household objects. Haunting melodies and layered, interlocking rhythms are performed on such musical contraptions as the rubarp, sitello, kachapitar, and terraphone. The experience is as visually stimulating as it is aurally exciting. Terry Dame, Julian Hintz, Mary Feaster, Lee Frisari, and Robin Burdulis.” 

8/20 7 PM Wagner Park in Battery Park City La Excelencia – Jose Vasquez-Cofresi & Julian Silva formed an orchestra performing salsa that has been compared to the New York music of the 70’s. New debut album entitled “Salsa Con Conciencia” out now.

Thursday, August 21 in the garden behind MOMA


“Begun as a pit band for the flying Karamazov Brothers, this crew creates the ultimate mixture of high- and lowbrow—artistic music played with an anti-artistic bent. In addition to their own compositions, they perform brass arrangements of pieces by Erik Satie, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Kurt Weill, as well as traditional New Orleans tunes. Gina Leishma, saxophones, bass clarinet, accordion, vocals; Doug Wieselman, clarinets, saxophones, guitar; Steven Bernstein, trumpet and slide trumpet; Marcus Rojas, tuba; Peter Apfelbaum, tenor saxophone, Art Baron, trombone, Kenny Wollesen, drums.”

8/23 Irma Thomas at  Damrosch Park, Lincoln Ctr., 8:30 PM

8/24 Knitters/Patti Smith at Damrosch Park, Lincoln Ctr. 5:30 PMish

8/27 7 PM Ray Martinez (Latin jazz bassist w/band) at Wagner Park

Thursday, August 28

JOHN MARCUS & FRIENDS in the garden behind MOMA

“John Marcus, violinist for the acclaimed Enso String quartet, is a Julliard graduate who has performed extensively in Germany and the U.S. He will present a program of classical quartets, trios, and duos—from Bach to Ravel and Webern. John Marcus, violin; Colin Jacobsen, violin; Christina Courtin, viola; Eric Jacobsen, cello.”

9/3 Latin Giants of Jazz (Tito Puente’s backup band) Wagner Park 7 PM

Saturday and Sunday, September 13th and 14th Michael Arenella and the Dreamland Orchestra at Governor’s Island.

10 am to 7 pm



June 17, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, NYC Live Music Calendar | 3 Comments

Highlights of Make Music NY, Upcoming on June 21

Make Music NY is the local version of la Fete de la Musique, a centuries-old French tradition that spread around the world, street performers celebrating the longest day of the year. What’s good about this festival is that it’s a great way to discover an astonishing variety of live performers, while bands playing to passersby have the opportunity to reach a vastly larger number of ears than would ever hear them in a club. What’s not so good about this year’s festival is that punk rock has been exiled to Governors Island – where you can’t drink?!?!? – , with metal also being ostracized and hidden away in the Rockaways. Meanwhile, of course, every trust fund kid with a equally loud, squalling indie rock band can set up and play wherever they want, a stone’s throw from the Bedford Ave. L train stop if they feel like it. And every lame bistro brunch piano player, wannabe American Idol contestant, or singer-songwriter too inept for even a gig at the Sidewalk will be out on the street somewhere. Furthermore – it’s debatable whether this is a reason for optimism or not – it seems that every weirdo in town who calls himself or herself a musician will be out and about this Saturday: the recent South Asian immigrant blissfully playing an instrumental version of Stairway to Heaven over and over again on his battered Casio with the built-in beatbox; the sometimes Jewish, sometimes Rasta horn player staking a dubious claim to Charlie Parker’s legacy;  several one-man band types, an acoustic Black Sabbath cover band (actually, that could be cool), and several once-ubiquitous, dubiously entertaining street performers who’ve re-emerged this year if only to prove that they haven’t overdosed yet. If weird is your thing, this is your year.


What’s most surprising is that a large percentage of the bands who played Make Music NY last year are not doing it this year. Maybe they know something we don’t.


This year, Time Out NY was put in charge of the Make Music NY calendar, and it is a mess. That’s why we took the time to put this page together, to spare you the agony of spending fruitless hours on their completely disorganized website. In all fairness, putting the whole thing together was a formidable task requiring considerable effort and resources, something that Time Out, reeling from the effects of an ever-shrinking subscriber base and working with a skeleton crew, was simply not equipped to do. Yet another reason why this kind of work should be left to those who actually give a damn: a reasonably dedicated crew of volunteers could have done a better job. Be aware that Time Out first of all DOESN’T have a complete list of everyone playing, and they list the acts they know of not alphabetically by name but, instead, alphabetically by first letter of the bandname (like at Bleecker Bob’s: LJ Murphy is filed under L, not M) And in the case of multi-band extravaganzas like the punk shows on (alcohol-free) Governors Island, they don’t specify when any of the individual acts are playing. This, then is an attempt to do somewhat better. Follow this page and you could see great music all day Saturday, from 11 AM to midnight  – as long as it doesn’t rain.


11 AM:

There’s a punk show on Governors Island, going straight through til 5 PM, apparently on a bunch of separate stages. That’s right: in a particularly spiteful fit of booking, the powers that be have dispatched some of New York’s most meaningful, worthwhile bands to an empty island accessible only by ferry (which leaves the old Shaolin ferry terminal every half hour til 6:30 PM), where YOU CAN’T DRINK. That’s right: the island is run by the Parks Service, whose notoriously tough security personnel will be screening for booze prior to boarding the ferry (get there early if you’re going: they stop boarding the boat about ten minutes before it leaves). Time Out lists a bunch of bands on the bill, but the festival’s myspace lists dozens more. Among the highlights: New York’s own fearlessly political powerhouse the Blame;  the Leader, whose big hit Trust Fund is one of the most relevant songs anyone’s written this decade; the roaring, female-fronted punk/metal Vagina Panther and the delightfully named Hipster Holocaust.




Starting at noon and going til 5, there’s an all-day acoustic bill at Humble Plaza in Central Park  (take the W 77th St. entrance, follow the sidewalk to the left and you’ll soon be there) featuring lyrical brilliant, somewhat menacing acoustic songwriter Erin Regan, charmingly oldtimey duo Royal Pine, sprawling harmony popsters the Wowz and others.


Natalia Paruz aka the Saw Lady plays at Rockefeller Center. The musical saw is her axe. Reputedly she’s very good and very instructive as well.


Al Lee Wyer at Castle Clinton in Battery Park. Blue-collar singer-songwriter from Brooklyn who’s been around forever, knows his way around a tune and will occasionally absolutely nail one in the style of old Bruce circa 1978.




1 PM 

Charming, lush, harmony-driven Britpop revivalists the Bedsit Poets play the Murray Hill Greenmarket, 33rd Street and 2nd Ave. Then they go off to play 3-4 PM at Castle Clinton in Battery Park.

Num & the New Reggae Underground play jazz-inflected roots reggae at their home base, the front garden at Num’s Place, 58 West 127th Street, Harlem


Self-explanatory hip-hop artist No Police State Girl performs at the garden at 8th Street and Avenue C


Lush, atmospheric, Radiohead-influenced art-rockers My Pet Dragon play Self + Therapy, 147 Grand Street (Bedford/Berry), Williamsburg,


There’s a surf music extravaganza at – where else – Otto’s starting at 1 with Bongo Surf,  the Crustaceans, the Octomen, Mr. Neutron, Venice Beach Muscle Club sometime before 6. Strange but Surf play inside the club at 6 followed by the Clams, El Muchacho, Supertones and the Wake at midnight. This is like one of Unsteady Freddy’s shows but better: everyone on the bill, especially the improvisationally and jazz-inclined VBMC, the often ferocious SbS and the recently reinvigorated Supertones (with Simon Chardiet on bass) are worth seeing.


Dark, diverse female-fronted rockers Diabolique, who range from punk to goth to satirical pop – are at 125 N 10th St. in Williamsburg just off Berry St.




2 PM

Chineye, a promising, intelligent, lyrically impressive conscious hip-hop artist performs at Battery Park


Sacred Harp sings their dark, mostly Southern 18th century four part harmony folk music at the 2nd Ave subway 1st Ave exit underneath First Park at Houston and 1st…the operative question is are they actually playing in the subway, right by the turnstiles, and if so, why?


Lushly romantic, beguiling French chanson revivalists Les Chauds Lapins are at Fr. Popieluszko Sq.,, 780 Lorimer Street in McCarren Park south of Driggs Ave., Williamsburg


Gamelan Dharma Swara plays traditional Balinese gamelan music at McCarren Park 



3 PM


Devi at Harlem Stage Gatehouse Terrace, 150 Convent Ave, Harlem. Ferocious, guitar-driven power trio equally adept at sprawling, ten-minute psychedelic jams and terse, haunting three-minute rockers. Frontwoman Debra DeSalvo is a slashingly good lead player, a fine songwriter and often spectacularly good singer as well. 





4 PM

Brilliantly lyrical, tuneful, catchy acoustic indie pop/rock siren Linda Draper plays the Like the Spice Gallery in South Williamsburg, 224 Roebling St.


Hungry March Band plays boisterous gypsy dances and songs at 5th Ave. and 60th St.


Smart, amusing, tuneful 60s country throwback Jack Grace and his band are at Rodeo Bar


Another smart, amusing, tuneful country throwback, this time to an era ten years before, Sean Kershaw plays with his band the New Jack Ramblers at Hank’s


All-female string quartet the Violin Femmes play Johnny Cash & Stones songs at the park at 1st Avenue and Houston


At the the Marble Cemetery on 2nd Ave just north of 2nd St.  it’s “Naughty Nautical Night – Summer Solstice High Tea In The Graveyard.”  Renowned visual artist/songwriter Dame Darcy and her amusingly confrontational cohort Jessica Delfino bring their collection of mermaid, sailor, pirate and ocean-themed antics, sea shanties and more. Bring your dolls, picnic blankets, grandma and the kids, they say. 



5:30 PM

Jamaican roots reggae expat Wellesly Chambers AKA Brimstone plays roots reggae at Putnam Ave. between Franklin and Bedford Ave. in Bed-Stuy



6 PM

Hip-hop artist Satchel Page performs at Brookville Park, 149th Avenue and 235th Street, Rosedale, Queens, followed by sitar player Dawoud at 7:30


The lush, psychedelic all-female eighteen-accordion Main Squeeze Orchestra play the park at First St. and Houston.



6:30 PM

Roots reggae act Meta And The Cornerstones play outside Trader Joe’s 142 E 14th St, between Irving Pl. and Third Ave – be aware that the are B9 bus stops at both sides of the street which may ruin the concert – the alarms that go off as the bus doors open are potentially damaging to your hearing and may ruin the show, despite the coveted location. 


Ramshackle, oldtimey Dixieland Space Orchestra (who don’t play dixieland) are at Sparrow in Astoria (24-01 29th St. at 24th Ave….N/W to Astoria Blvd., across the street from the Bohemian Beer Garden) at 6:30 PM followed by dark, sometimes sparkly downtempo groove band El Jezel at 7:15   



8 PM

Excellent, melodic rock trio Violet Hour, whose stylings range from spiky reggae-rock to swaying country-inflected jangle play Nita Nita, 146 Wythe Ave. at N 8th St.,, Williamsburg.


Apologies for the weirdness with fonts and type sizes – the gremlins get in every time we edit this. Just pretend this whole page is a punk rock t-shirt from 1977.

June 16, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City | 4 Comments

Mark Sinnis at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 6/15/08

The frontman/bassist of long-running New York rockers Ninth House delivered a frequently riveting, low-key set of haunting Nashville gothic songs, mostly from his recently released solo debut Into an Unhidden Future. Fronting Ninth House, he frequently finds himself roaring over the band’s dark fury. Tonight, fingerpicking his acoustic guitar with a terse minimalism, Sinnis and his backing unit – Sarah Landeau playing equally terse, incisive, reverb-drenched electric guitar fills, and Ninth House keyboardist Matt Dundas on the house piano – held the audience in the palm of their hands. A song would finish, and the room would be silent for several seconds before breaking out in applause. Their slowly swaying version of the revenge anthem Mistaken for Love (which Ninth House pulls out all the stops on, live) built ever so slowly to a gently brutal crescendo. The trio reinvented the Ninth House number Down Beneath, in its recorded version a dead ringer for the Cure, as gospel-inflected soul fueled by Dundas’ piano. Taking advantage of the club’s lush sonics, Sinnis used every subtlety in his ominous baritone, particularly on an imaginative rearrangement of the big Ninth House audience hit, Put a Stake Right Through It (our pick for best song of the year 2000). The recorded version, driven by wrenchingly beautiful minor-key electric piano against arpeggiated electric guitar, goes straight for the jugular; this version began mysteriously, in a Nick Cave kind of way. For about a minute, it was impossible to tell where the song would go, to redemption or despair, before the last desperate chorus.


They also debuted an excellent new one, possibly titled There’s No Heaven, a darkly rustic, minor-key blues that wouldn’t be out of place on a Tom Waits album (or, thematically at least, on a John Lee Hooker 45). And there ain’t no devil, and there ain’t no hell, Sinnis crooned as the song came to an end. They followed with the gorgeously melodic When the Sun Bows to the Moon, Dundas’ stark gospel piano punctuating Landeau’s ambient washes of chords. Sinnis closed with a cover of Johnny Cash’s I Still Miss Someone evocative of the series of albums that Rick Rubin produced for the Man in Black in the 90s (which Sinnis emulates impressively on his solo cd). The surprisingly good crowd for a Sunday night wanted an encore but didn’t get one: it was time for the next act, someone who looked like an escapee from Menudo and didn’t surprise anybody when he started simpering into the mic while playing the piano with two fingers.  

June 16, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | 1 Comment

Nightcrawling 6/12/08

First stop of the night was Banjo Jim’s, where Greta Gertler was playing a rare solo show on the club’s sonically impressive new acoustic piano. She’s one of those panstylistic rock goddesses, an ever-growing but select group who seemingly have never met a style they couldn’t play, brilliantly. Neko Case, Erica Smith, Jenifer Jackson, Mary Lee Kortes, Rachelle Garniez, the list keeps growing. Because Gertler’s imagination knows no bounds, and musicians like working with her, she’s fond of lavish, lush arrangements. Tonight, stripped down to just piano and voice, the set was something of a revelation: as surreally captivating as her lyrics are, the tunes are so strong that they’d work equally well as instrumentals. Gertler likes dark, rich melody, classically-inflected cascades alternating with the ragtime and blues she’s recently become enamored of. She started with a new one, a big ballad in 6/8, followed by the title track to her new album Edible Restaurant, a big, bustling ragtime-inflected number that vividly captures the chaos of a busy eatery at peak hour. Aching Melody, from her latest album Edible Restaurant was exactly that, all longing and angst rather than the sultry electric piano-and-beatbox come-on on the album. The same feeling permeated the next aching melody, If Bob Was God (the Bob in the song is Dylan), a cleverly lyrical number from Edible Restaurant. A request, the resolutely antiwar number Uniform saw Gertler playing stately, somber blues much in the same vein as Gary Brooker would do in Procol Harum. Her high, pretty voice made a striking contrast with the understated intensity of the music: one doesn’t typically expect someone with such seemingly effortless grace to pack such a wallop.


Next stop of the night was Bar on A, where (according to his myspace) sax player Dave Hillyard was supposed to play. But apparently not. So it was around the corner to Lakeside where catchy, jangly, female-fronted two-guitar popsters Delusions of Grand Street (gotta love that name) were about to go on. Had they been awful, we would have called them Delusions of Adequa Sea, but they weren’t: they’re one of those bands who are thisclose to not only becoming really good but also becoming really popular. Their songs bristle with unexpected chord changes, they’re all good musicians (especially the lead guitarist, who plays in the house band at Smalls) and their frontwoman is down-to-earth and completely unaffected. She doesn’t try to be Beyonce, or Courtney Love, or whoever the ho du jour is: she seems to know intuitively that she’s perfectly good just the way she is. Her lyrics often have a wry exasperation balanced with a defiant determination to tackle whatever obstacle gets in her way – getting drugged on a date, locked out of the apartment on a busy weekend night in the Village, hassled by an idiot employee at the Mexican restaurant where she works, etc. All of this is as accessible as you would imagine: there are no double entendres, metaphors or deep philosophical meaning to any of this. It’s pop, after all, what people who remember the 80s would call good top 40.


The band needs some work. They have tightness issues, the lyrics and melodies sometimes clash (dark lyric set to an incongruously cheery, chipper tune) and the song about taking dirty pictures was a waste of time. They shouldn’t want that one circulating over the internet any more than all those beaver shots. Check back with this crew in six months’ time and see how much futher they’ve come.  If you want to see them now they’re playing the Knitting Factory on July 21 at 9.

June 16, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | Leave a comment

Concert Review from the Archives: Miss Elixir at Rubulad, NYC 6/15/03

[Editor’s note: more new stuff tomorrow. Til then, here’s another oldie but a goodie]

The keyboardist/songwriter now known as Miss Elixir advised her fan base that she’d be performing around midnight: miracle of miracles, a shockingly quick L train made the trip from Williamsburg to the west side in 15 minutes. This time around the venue for this long-running traveling party was the Altman Building in Chelsea, three floors of fire twirlers, circus performers and random vendors selling everything from sweets to what was purportedly absinthe (it was green). It took forever to get inside and negotiate the labyrinthine space, finally finding the stuffy, unventilated, scorchingly hot side room where the performance would take place. Drink tickets for everyone; the singer nonchalantly addressed the audience holding a deuce deuce of Colt .45. There was an ice machine in the back of the room, and one of the clowns (the real kind, like you’d find at a carnival) who was apparently part of the show began throwing ice cubes at everyone, then sprinkling the crowd with ice water. It didn’t take long before everyone joined the fun. Finally, Miss Elixir – the only one who wasn’t drenched at this point – went back behind her electric piano and delivered a brief but frequently riveting show, accompanied by a talented multi-instrumentalist alternating between violin, guitar, accordion and a mini-glockenspiel built into his carrying case. The two played well, making the frequently jarring, horror-movie cascades in several of Miss Elixir’s artsy, pensive, somewhat Siouxsie Sioux-esque songs seem effortless, her vocals unaffectedly calm in stark contrast with the drama and intensity of much of the music. She closed with a pretty pop song that went over especially well with the audience, who persuaded her to do an encore. So she played it again.

[postscript: Miss Elixir still plays the occasional show in and around the New York area]

June 15, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review from the Archives: Leonard Cohen at the Paramount Theatre, NYC 6/14/93

An enjoyable show from the legendary, self-appointed prophet of doom. His nondescript soft-rock band could have been backing anyone from Patricia Kaas to Neil Diamond, but was rescued from Lite FM territory by an excellent electric violinist who doubled on keyboards. Cohen switched between acoustic guitar (he plays impressively well, with a distinctly Mediterranean flavor) and electric piano.They did Bird on a Wire early, fleshed out by the band: since Cohen’s voice is shot, he has two excellent female singers to fill out the vocals. They did Ain’t No Cure for Love shortly afterward, as well as the highlight of the night, a somewhat tired yet still haunting Everybody Knows. The new apocalypse anthem The Future was excellent, as well as Democracy in America, which went over very well with the surprisingly young crowd. Cohen’s music-box electric piano on Tower of Song (sung syncopated, to powerful effect) was as macabre as could be expected. Closing Time was the first of the encores, a rousing, even danceable rendition. All in all, a slightly spooky trip through a universe of decay, despair and sex. No wonder he’s so popular again.

June 15, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | Leave a comment

Amy Allison Live in NYC 6/7/08

Amy Allison is always worth going out to see not just because she’s a major artist with an avid cult following (and because she wrote the top song on Lucid Culture’s best-of-2007 list) but also because you never know what you might get. Her live shows tend to be hastily thrown together, almost invariably featuring a different cast of characters every time out. Which makes things interesting. Last night at a notorious, sonically dreadful club on the Lower East, it was just Allison and her longtime lead guitarist Jon Graboff, an astonishingly tuneful, melodic player who relishes a challenge and consequently pushes her to play her most complex, unpredictable material. As a result, it was a vivid look at where Allison is going right now, rather than where she’s been. Lots of new material on the bill, including several tracks from a forthcoming album’s worth of songs that may or may not come out in one package. Fingerpicking a vintage acoustic, Graboff amazed with his split-second timing and uncanny ability to find the perfect accompanying phrase with basically no notice. Through an uncanny smile into what looked to be blinding stage lights, Allison sang with her usual devious grace, and blew the preceding act off the stage (ironically, he was the same onetime Laura Cantrell sideman who turned one of Allison’s shows last year into a complete trainwreck with his infuriatingly uptight, mannered, fussy performance).


Although Allison has moved away from the country music that jumpstarted her career, she still writes in that idiom occasionally, as evidenced by a dynamite new song, When the Record Skips, a characteristically terse, funny, metaphor-driven number. At the end, Graboff induced some smiles as he repeated the same lick over and over again. She started another new one, Calla Lily, a pensive yet strikingly hopeful song (basically about science over superstition) by playing a long intro before coming in with the vocals. Then she stopped, starting it again as she’d recorded it. Ironically, the opening series of plaintive, impressionistic chords is so good the song probably works better with the intro than without one. In typical fashion, Allison laughed it off: “This has been a very emotional day. Hillary finally came out for Obama, I’m just glad it’s over.” Of the other newbies in the set, Allison struck gold with a fetching crazy-in-love song possibly titled Why Must It Be Me (that’s how the chorus goes, anyway) and the soaring, optimistic, unabashedly romantic Anywhere You Are.


“Are you still with me? Not really?” she grinned as the show came to a close, wrapping up just under a hour onstage with a charming take of her father Mose Allison’s songs, Was, a somewhat wistful, cleverly lyrical number that ponders what the world might be like decades from now, and what if anything future generations will remember about us. The father and daughter’s musical styles may be completely dissimilar, but the wry wit and intelligence are a family trait. That, and great songwriting. Whatever Allison ends up doing with that new bunch of stuff she’s recorded, it’s all worth hearing.

June 14, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | Leave a comment