Lucid Culture


Concert Review: 9th Wave at Coney Island 8/9/08

Hard to imagine a better place for surf music than Coney Island. And hard to think of a better surf band right now than 9th Wave. Saturday afternoon, on the boardwalk in front of the entrance to Astroland, the fearsome Connecticut foursome put on a scorchingly intelligent, remarkably diverse, interesting show, even by their standards. Guitarist/composer and Northeast Surf Music Alliance (NESMA) founder Mike “Staccato” Rosado is highly respected in surf rock circles, but his writing and playing transcend the boundaries of the style: he even has a lounge act called the Acoustic Surf Tones for venues who for whatever reason can’t handle 9th Wave’s reverb-fueled intensity. Something of a reluctant guitar god, he comes across as a good soldier who always makes sure his bandmates are up in the mix, which occasionally means his own guitar is too quiet: Rosado is the rare guitarist that you always want to hear more of. A powerfully percussive, Dick Dale-influenced player, he’d rather play melody, developing and shaping a tune, instead of taking a lot of wild solos (which, on the rare occasion he does, can be spine-tingling).


But there are plenty of good surf guitarists out there. Rosado’s strongest suit is his writing: he’s equally adept at growling hotrod instrumentals and slinky spy themes as he is at his somewhat pounding, syncopated, signature style of surf. The band’s rhythm section proved they could handle what he gave them; 9th Wave’s not-so-secret weapon, multi-instrumentalist Oceana, played rhythm guitar when she wasn’t tossing off eerie organ fills on her Farfisa, or playing snakecharmer leads on her flute (when’s the last time you saw a surf band with a flute player? Ever?).


9th Wave pride themselves on their originals – they have five excellent cds out – but this time, maybe playing to the crowd a little, they went into the vault for some old classics: an impressively rearranged, supercharged Sunset Beach, a pretty straight-up version of Apache and their closer, another imaginatively rearranged tune, the old surf standard Squad Car. In a characteristically sardonic, somewhat sarcastic moment, Rosado went up to the mic and mimicked a siren sound before launching into the song’s somewhat predictable but reliably bracing chord changes.


Otherwise, their originals were the best songs of the set, from their so-bad-it’s-good tribute to southern fast food, Waffle House, to the genre-busting instrumental Mule Train that began as a spaghetti western theme before branching out in all sorts of other directions, and a darkly ominous, more recent tune that finally saw Rosado go flying off the handle and then expertly back again. 9th Wave plays frequent New York shows at Otto’s; their next gig there is on August 23 around midnight. Until Rosado gets that Hollywood film score job he so richly deserves, you may get other chances to see them there as well.


Next on the bill at the all-day festival were the Tarantinos NYC (the Outpatients were originally listed on the bill, but for one reason or another they weren’t there). Quentin Tarantino may be a horrible filmmaker, but at least he deserves credit for helping promote surf music (a style that never really went away, and in fact is vastly more popular today than it was in its ostensible heyday 45 years ago). This band limits its repertoire to songs used in Tarantino films, everything from Dick Dale to Booker T. In the year since they last passed through here, it’s nice to see that they’ve grown. Tightness is still a problem, but their bassist Patty has come to the point where she can actually play those excellent, trebly, melodic lines she likes so much. This is the kind of band you root for: you want them not to screw up pretty basic repertoire stuff like Misirlou, especially if they’ve just done a nice job with a Booker T. funk tune.


Witches in Bikinis – one of this year’s funnest discoveries, and not just for their good looks – were next on the bill. But there were corn dogs to be eaten, and there was a ballgame to see.

August 10, 2008 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews

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