Lucid Culture


New York City Live Music Calendar November-December 2008 Plus Other Events

Hey – this isn’t the most recently updated calendar here. This is.


 If you don’t recognize the place where one of these shows is taking place, click our venues page.  As always, weekly events first, followed by the daily schedule:


Saturdays 11/8, 11/15 and 11/22  organist John Scott continues a marathon of the complete organ works of Messiaen at St. Thomas Church, 4 PM. He’s done the complete works of Buxtehude not once but twice; his recording of the complete Mendelssohn organ sonatas is probably the best extant. Of all the great performances of the Messiaen centenary, these could be the most exciting.


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.


Also Sundays 5 til 7 PM, Nov 9, 16 and 23 with a student show on Dec 14,  excellent Americana songwriter Jan Bell leads a class in songwriting at the Jalopy Theatre. If you’re a songwriter and have a whole “song junkyard” filled with half-finished tunes, this class could be just what the doctor ordered. Bell is a fine, terse writer (don’t take our word for it, check her myspace) and a very positive, unthreatening person. “As a songwriter I often feel like a ship at sea, navigating, fixing the engine, or watching for the wind in my sails. My goal is to lead you through unchartered territory, and find new ways to approach songwriting,” she says. Fundamentals – chord charts, booking tips, internet resources – are covered along with Q&A with her special guests every week (first one is Sam Parton from the fun, beguiling Canadian oldtimey band the Be Good Tanyas). $120 total, payable in installments which makes it the same price as…hmm, one session with a vocal coach? Space limited, first come first served.


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, 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.


The 2008-09 series of organ concerts at St. Thomas Church kicks off on September 14 and continues most every Sunday (certain holidays excepted) at 5:15 sharp, featuring a whole slew of world-renowned performers. Concerts continue through May 17 of next year.


Every Sunday the Ear-Regulars, led by trumpeter Jon Kellso and (frequently) 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.


Sundays at 8:30 PM Sasha Dobson plays Pete’s Candy Store. Jazz chanteuse on the serious Brazilian tip: musically, she’s where Snorah Jones should hope to be in five years.


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.


Monday nights Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks, a boisterous horn-driven 11-piece 1920s/early 30’s band play Sofia’s Restaurant, downstairs at the Edison Hotel, 221 West 46th Street between Broadway & 8th Ave., 3 sets from 8 to 11, surprisingly cheap $15 cover plus $15 minimum considering whaat you’re getting. Even before the Flying Neutrinos or the Moonlighters, multi-instrumentalist Giordano was pioneering the oldtimey sound in New York; his long-running residency at the old Cajun on lower 8th Ave. is legendary. He also gets a ton of film work (Giordano wrote the satirical number that Willie Nelson famously sang in Wag the Dog). 


Also Mondays the Barbes house band, Chicha Libre plays there starting around 9:45. Chicha Libre are the sole American practitioners of chicha, a style popular in the Peruvian Amazon ghettos in the late 60s and early 70s. With electric accordion, cuatro, surf guitar and a boisterous rhythm section, their hypnotic, reverb-drenched mix of obscure psychedelic surf/cumbia/rock classics and originals is one of the funnest, most danceable things you’ll witness this year. Lately they’ve been expanding their repertoire to include not only their often hilarious, hypnotic originals but also covers of period pieces as well as chichafied rock songs. If you get lucky they’ll play their amped-up version of the Clash classic Guns of Brixton.


Mondays in November (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.


Tuesdays El Ritmo Southside plays Rose Bar in Williamsburg, 11 PM. Instrumental covers of classic, Fania-era salsa, mambo, cha-cha, rhumba etc.: Palmieri, Puente, Barretto, et al. featuring superb vibraphonist Tommy Mattioli and a rotating rhythm section.


Also every Tues in Nov. beginning 11/18, 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.


Also every Wednesday, the Nat Lucas Organ Trio plays jazz at Lenox Lounge uptown, sets from 8 PM to midnight.


Fridays in November Brooklyn country and western swing crooner Sean Kershaw plays happy hour at Hill Country, 5-7 PM. Why does this not surprise us?


Also Fridays beginning Nov 14 and continuing through Dec 5, Katie Elevitch plays a 9 PM residency at Banjo Jim’s with her band. Darkly slinky, slowly crescendoing rock/soul equally imbued with riveting intensity and sly humor. She belts, she wails, has some great players (including Jonathan Maron on bass from Groove Collective) and writes great songs; her killer new cd Kindling for the Fire is coming out mid-month.  


Mon Nov 10 the Mingus Big Band makes a welcome trip to Curry Hill with a set at the Jazz Standard, sets at 7:30/9:30, note that tix are $25 “plus tax.”


Also Mon Nov 10, 10 PM at the Slipper Room, excellent accordionist/chanteuse Marni Rice & Le Garage Cabaret doing their intriguing noir blend of classic French chanson and rock Marni’s accordion adds a wild touch to her old school cabaret style. Followed by legendary Patti Smith guitarist (and lately pedal steel player!) Lenny Kaye at 11.


Also Mon Nov 10 gonzo keyboardist Rev. Vince Anderson and his excellent band play their  weekly residency at Black Betty, 11 PM. This show will be special: for years, the Rev. has consoled and counseled us through the worst of times, from 9/1, the 2004 election, gentrification, you name it, and with the election last week, this should be an especially ecstatic show.


Tues Nov 11, 7 PM, early Squidda play Kenny’s Castaways – good imaginative band – a little reggae, funk, surf, dub, ska, plus they do a stoner pro-Obama song.  They’re also at Ace of Clubs on 11/14 at half past midnight (actually the wee hours of 11/15)


Tues Nov 11 LA-based Russian expat Marina V plays her dramatic, classically tinged piano powerpop anthems at Caffe Vivaldi, 7:30 PM 


Also Tues Nov 11 Natacha Atlas and her acoustic Middle Eastern ensemble playing songs from her career-best, heavily Fairuz-influenced new cd Ana Hina at B.B.King’s, adv tix $27 at the box office.



Tues Nov 11 Custard Wally and their self-described, deceptively intelligent “sexually explicit three-minute songs” and similar satirical fare at Trash Bar, 9 PM


Also Tues Nov 11 Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3 – the best straight-up rock band in the world right now, with their noisy guitar duels and vast back catalog of classic noir rock songs at Lakeside 10ish, early arrival a MUST.


Also Tues Nov 11 haunting baritone art-rock songwriter Mark Steiner, the former Piker Ryan’s Folly and Kundera bandleader plays a rare NYC date with sensationally eerie violinist Susan Mitchell at Otto’s, 10 PM.


Also Tues Nov 11 sideman to the stars of the underground, guitarist Homeboy Steve Antonakos plays Banjo Jim’s, midnight-ish.


Also Tues Nov 11 the Dred Scott Trio plays the Rockwood, midnight. Carol Lipnik’s piano player has a sensationally good, fiery, noir style: if you like Botanica, check out this guy.  


Weds Nov 12 at Kennys’ Castaways starting at 7: caffeinated, Dylanesque trio Whisperado and then the boisterous politically cool female-fronted country outfit the Shithouse Lilies at 8.


Also Weds Nov 12 Susan Tedeschi at Irving Plaza, 9ish, adv tix expensive $31.50 at the box office. Blues guitarist in the same vein as vintage Robert Cray: a clear, pure tone, sensational chops, terse solos and not a trace of metal grotesquerie anywhere. Decent singer too.


Also Weds Nov 12 the Mess Around play Public Assembly (the old Galapagos space on N 6th in Williamsburg), 9ish. One of NYC’s most exciting bands, a fiery two-guitar garage-punk group who in their most intense moments rival Radio Birdman.


Also Weds Nov 12 Des Roar play Fontana’s, 9 PM. An equally snarling and even more cynical garage-punk unit, whose show a few weeks ago at the Mercury was one of the best we’ve seen all year. These are the guys (and girl) responsible for Ted Bundy Was a Ladies Man.


Also Weds Nov 12 the Ukuladies at the Stone,  10 PM. A family outfit: aunts and nieces seem to be involved. From Canada, and very charismatic in a disarmingly funny way that might seem corny on face value but isn’t: they’ve been known to hand out bacon and lottery tix in between their clever oldtimey songs.


Also Weds Nov 12 Mamie Minch plays Banjo Jim’s, 10 PM. A devotee of Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith and many far more obscure, a fine resonator guitarist and even finer songwriter whose oldtimey songs sound like classics from 80 years ago. And a very funny live performer.


Thurs Nov 13, 8 PM, $5, Escarioka plays the Fortune Cookie Lounge, 24 1st Ave between 1st and 2nd St. Absolutely delightful and a lot of fun: the magical place where gypsy music, Levantine dance tunes and reggae intersect.


Thurs Nov 13 Mascott at Union Hall, 9 PM. Their rep is indie but they’re really an excellent rock/pop band: great midtempo/slow tunes, casually unpretentious vocals and terse songwriting from Kendall Jane Meade. An even better songwriter, art-rock keyboardist Greta Gertler opens the show at 8. Also on the bill: the forgettable Kaiser Cartel.


Also Thurs Nov 13 the Tarras Band at Barbes 8 PM. A bunch of klezmer connoisseurs playing the catalog of the great Dave Tarras, alternately uproarious and haunting.  


Also Thurs Nov 13 at Symphony Space, 8 PM Ankush Bahl conducts the New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra on a bill featuring Smetana’s The Moldau, Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with pianist Gabriela Martinez, and Dvorak’s  Symphony No. 7


Also Thurs Nov 13 at the Cutting Room, Willie Nile  does a stripped-down show with Jimmy Vivino on lead guitar plus Frankie Lee on keys and percussion. One of the great rock songwriters, finally getting the props he’s deserved for literally decades. There’s nobody better at writing big catchy anthems than this guy. Also a very funny and intense live performer.


Also Thurs Nov 13 Jolie Holland at Highline Ballroom, 10ish, adv tix $17 recommended at the box ofc. Excellent oldtimey singer/songwriter with a sort of Tom Waits feel and a quirky sense of humor.


Also Thurs Nov 13 Sonny Rhodes at Terra Blues, 10 PM. Ancient blues guy who if he’s at the top of his game is one of the alltime great lapsteel players, with a roaring, fluid style. His guitar playing is equally terse and incisive.



Fri Nov 14 horn-driven ska/punk the Avon Junkies and the more oldschool ska band Royal City Riot at Bowery Poetry Club, early 6 PM.



Also Fri Nov 14, 7 PM,  Hazmat Modine at Terra Blues, 7 PM. Losing the dueling blues harps was the best thing that could have happened to this sprawling, rustic, psychedelic Balkan/reggae/klezmer/blues monstrosity. Now frontman Wade Schuman – one of the most charismatic lead singers in town – has his choice of sparring partner: the two sizzling guitarists, the human crescendo who plays trumpet (Pam Fleming) or maybe even the tuba.










Also Fri Nov 14 the possibly 18-piece, definitely all-female Main Squeeze Orchestra plays meticulously arranged, psychedelic, frequently hilarious accordion music at the new Galapagos in Dumbo, 8 PM, $12.  If you’re lucky they’ll do Love Will Tear Us Apart AND Bohemian Rhapsody.


Also Fri Nov 14, 8:30 PM Nicole Atkins & the Sea at Bowery Ballroom, adv tix $16 at the Mercury. The crew here is divided on her: one faction won’t forgive her for that awful tv commercial; the other says forget the stupid commercial, she writes really good 60s noir pop/jazz/Americana songs!



Also Nov 14 Tom Warnick & World’s Fair play Freddy’s, 9 PM. He’s the guy who wrote 40 People, the funniest-ever song about being in a band in New York (the promoter wants him to bring 40 people to a Monday night, 11 PM show). One of the funniest performers in town, you never know whether his googly-eyed madman act is just an act..or if he’s going to hurl that hammer at you instead of playing his electric piano with it. Great band too.



Also Fri Nov 14 the Snow at Union Hall, 9 PM. This side project by Melomane bandleader Pierre de Gaillande has taken on a life of its own: people realize that this slightly more rustic, slightly jazz-oriented, brilliantly lyrical unit is just as good as his other band! And maybe funnier too. 


Also Fri Nov 14 James McMurtry at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, 10 PM, tix $20 available at the Mercury. No current songwriter has done a better job chronicling the past eight years: this is the guy responsible for modern-day classics like Cheney’s Toy and We Can’t Make It Here. Scathing, spot-on and funny despite it all, and a lot more rock than folk



Also Fri Nov 14 Noble Society play their catchy mix of original roots and dancehall reggae at Rose Bar, 10 PM .


Sat Nov 15 Roma jazz guitar genius Stephane Wrembel is at Spikehill, 7 PM.


Sat Nov 15, 8 PM the Ureuk Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Christopher J. Lee plays Saint-Saens, Rossini, Brahms and Korean folksongs at Merkin Concert Hall, $30 tix available. 


Also Sat Nov 15 the lush, atmospheric Quavers – who build songs out of loops, live, a real treat to watch, followed by throwback country hellraiser Jack Grace (“Like that Cash boy, but good.” – Jerry Lee Lewis) and his band at Barbes,8 PM. 


Also Sat Nov 15 Outpost, the new band featuring guitarist Mark C from legendary 80s noise-rockers Live Skull and percussionist Rami El Aaser from Sounds of Taraab at Issue Project Room, 8 PM.


Also Sat Nov 15 legendary Bay Area horn-driven latin/funk big band Tower of Power at B.B. King’s, 8 and 10:30 PM, adv tix $30 at the box office


Also Sat Nov 15 gorgeously oldschool, harmony-driven country band the Newton Gang at Hank’s, 9 PM. 


Also Sat-Sun Nov 15-16 Rev. Horton Heat at the Gramercy Theatre, 9ish, adv tix $26 at the Irving Plaza box office. Punkabilly rocker who’s been around forever, plays great surf instrumentals occasionally and came up with the best-ever album title: Liquor in the Front, Poker in the Rear.


Also Sat Nov 15 and also Fri Nov 21 fiery Irish-American rockers Black 47 at Connolly’s, 10 PM. Their latest cd Iraq is arguably the best of 2008, a viscerally intense, novelesque look at the hell that Cheney and Rove created, seen through the eyes of the guys over there.


Also Sat Nov 15 loud, punkish rockers Spanking Charlene – sort of NYC’s answer to X – play Lakeside, 11 PM. Frontwoman Charlene McPherson has one of those voices you’ll never forget once you hear it – she can really wail.


Also Sat Nov 15 the unabashedly sinister, charismatic noir rocker Reid Paley plus chanteuse Peg Simone at the Parkside, 11 PM.



Also Sat Nov 15 Ninth House frontman Mark Sinnis plays his Nashville gothic stylings at Teneleven, midnight. If you like the Rick Rubin-produced Johnny Cash albums from the 90s, you’ll like this guy.


Sun Nov 16, 3 PM the Greenwich Village Orchestra plays Saint Saens’  Cello Concerto;  Dvorak’s Silent Woods, and Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique at Washington Irving HS Aud., tix insanely cheap, $15.


Also Sun Nov 16 the French Exit plays the Mercury, 8:30 PM, darkly lo-fi Americana/soul duo the French Exit play Freddy’s, 9 PM. Imagine Cat Power fronting the Dirty Three – all those haunting, spiky atmospherics, excellent tunes and vastly fewer vocal affectations than Ms. Marshall. Good stuff. The Brixton Riot opens at 7:30 with their fiery reverb guitar stomp, like Guided By Voices at their catchiest and most intense. at 7:30.



Also Sun Nov 16 a rare reunion of NYC underground noir legends Piker Ryan (Mark Steiner’s dark Nick Cave-inflected band before he went solo) at the Slipper Room, time TBA, guessing around 8 or 9.


Also Sun Nov 16, 9:30 PM rousingly retro improper Bostonian Miss Tess & the Bon Ton Parade play their oldtimey stuff at the Jalopy Café, 9:30 PM.


Mon Nov 17 the Mingus Orchestra take over the Jazz Standard, sets 7:30/9:30 PM, note that tix are $25 plus tax, still a bargain considering what amazing stuff this crew brings to the table.


Also Mon Nov 17 Dasvibenbass at Rose Bar, 9 PM. Pretty much what the band name implies: vibraphone and bass, playing jazz that ranges from loungey and catchy to downright sinister. They’re also at Smalls on 11/18 at 9.


Also Mon Nov 17, Iron & Wine at Terminal 5, 10 PM, adv tix $28 at the Mercury. The crew here is divided on this: one faction is convinced that this guy’s delicate acoustic stoner-folk is the wrong, wrong style of music for this big hall, the other thinks it’ll sound just fine.


Also Mon Nov 17 Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra play the cd release for their new one at 55 Bar. Some really fine players in this adventurous crew, including the bandleader on trumpet, Clark Gayton on trombone, Charlie Burnham on violin, Doug Wieselman on clarinet, Peter Apfelbaum on tenor, Erik Lawrence on bari sax, Matt Munisteri on guitar, Ben Allison on bass, Ben Perowsky on drums. Wow. Sort of the jazz equivalent of the 1972 Oakland A’s except without the moustaches.


Tues Nov 18 the Tim Kuhl Group play melodic, tuneful jazz at Lakeside, 10 PM.


Also Tues Nov 18 a good Sephardic band night at le Poisson Rouge, $10 with Electro Morocco, ska man King Django, Israeli jam band Piamenta, Diwon, terrific Middle Eastern/gypsy rocker Smadar Levi, gentle and somewhat ethereal Israeli janglerockers Blue Fringe and a bunch of rappers.


Also Weds Nov 19, early, 7:30 PM, Redhooker performs at the Chelsea Art Museum 556 W 22nd St (at 11th Ave) in the third floor gallery space. Beautifully evocative, pensive, minimalist compositions that blend classical and shoegaze influences.


Also Weds Nov 19 scorching, artsy, female-fronted rockers System Noise (featuring sensational cabaret star Sarah Mucho) play a benefit for urban charity Just Foods at the Delancey, 8ish. Also on the bill: fiery ska band Across the Aisle and equally fiery Irish hellraisers Thy Burden.


Wed Nov 19 Las Vandelays – a really good female-fronted tropicalia-rock band from Hoboken with more than a passing resemblance to Os Mutantes but grittier – play the Goldhawk, 8 PM, free.


Also Wed Nov 19 the NY Gypsy All-Stars, a danceable, Balkan-tinged fusion jazz project led by intense, haunting, brilliant clarinetist Ismail Lumanovski play Drom, 8 PM, $10.


Also Weds Nov 19 oldtimey acoustic blues guy AA Bondy is at the Mercury, 10:30 PM, $10 and at Union Hall also for $10 on 11/20 at 8:30.



Also Weds Nov 19 another excellent pan-Balkan instrumental band, the incredibly diverse and dangerously careening Ansambl Mastika at Rose Bar, 9 PM


Thurs Nov 20 Liu Fang, the adventurous Chinese pipa virtuoso is at Symphony Space, 7:30 PM, adv tix $28 at the World Music Institute box office


Also Thurs Nov 20 a fun bluegrass night starting at Banjo Jim’s starting at 7ish and continuing all night feat. Vincent Cross, the Yankee Rebels, Citigrass, Breezy Grass, others


Also Thurs Nov 20 legendary klezmer mandolinist Andy Statman followed by another equally good plucked instrument specialist, guitarist/banjoist Matt Munisteri at Barbes, 8 PM.


Also Thurs Nov 20 hilariously retro pre-rockabilly Americana trio Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co. – whose musical jokes are far more subtle than they get credit for – play Otto’s, 8 PM



Also Thurs Nov 20 the Brooklyn What at Trash Bar, 8 PM. They played the best rock show we saw all year. Fearless, funny, imaginative, tuneful, loud oldschool punk rock band who don’t have fauxhawks or Urban Outfitters clothes. It’s just a smart, fun show, and no trendoids to be found anywhere. They’re the crew responsible for the classic I Don’t Wanna Go to Williamsburg. 








Also Thurs Nov 20 Curtis Eller at Banjo Jim’s, 9 PM. Authentically oldtimey  banjoist/songwriter whose new cd is one of the best of the year. Fiery, brilliant lyricist, something akin to Al Duvall but darker and more pissed off.



Fri Nov 21 Lianne Smith followed by the Bedsit Poets at Soundfix Records, 110 Bedford at N 11th in Williamsburg, 8 PM. Smith is a master of minutiae without being precious, plays electric with a lot of reverb and has one of the most scary-good voices in rock. The equally marvelous Bedsits blend 70s-style Britfolk with just about every other urbane European style from that era and before.


Also Fri Nov 21 Prima Ballerina (Tammy Faye Starlite’s hilarious NY Dolls cover band) at the Cutting Room, 9:45 PM.



Also Nov 21 Custard Wally and their self-described, deceptively intelligent “sexually explicit three-minute songs” and similar satirical fare at at Uncle Mike’s (the former Orange Bear space, now a titty bar), time TBA 


Also Fri Nov 21 country throwbacks Alex Battles & Whisky Rebellion at Hill Country, 10 PM


Also Fri Nov 21 dark, pummeling, punked-out macabre surf instrumentalists the Coffin Daggers at Branch Brook Park Roller Skating Center, 7th Ave & Clifton Ave, Newark, 8 PM, $10


Also Fri Nov 21 Lenny Molotov at  Pete’s, 9 PM. Virtuosic oldtime delta blues guitarist and songwriter with a withering cynicism and brilliantly lyrical edge. Good band behind him too.



Also Fri Nov 21 Moisturizer play their innovative, intoxicatingly danceable baritone sax/bass/drums instrumentals at Zebulon, 10 PM.


Also Fri Nov 21 Purple K’nif at Lakeside, 11 PM. This somewhat psychedelic, veteran Cleveland surf band includes ex-Waitresses Chris Butler on drums of all instruments, and has the same kind of tongue-in-cheek, playful feel that characterizes most of what he’s been involved with.


Sat Nov 22, 7 PM for those who like a big lush sound, the world premiere of an original cantata composed by pianist Nerva Altino will be performed at Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Drive.  “A powerful piece of music based on the Books of Revelation, Matthew and Psalms.and performed by over 100 singers and musicians featuring soloist, Dr. Leacroft Green.  Also feat. the Altino Concert Chorale, made up of singers from all over the New York City and graduates from Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music. Robenson Altino, conductor and Nerva Altino, organ. The cantata is very majestic and dramatic.”   


Also Sat Nov 22 Washington DC blues guitarist Bobby Radcliff at Lucille’s, 8 PM. Don’t let his skin tone scare you off: no wanky heavy metal or Bad Company blooz here. A busy player, but like Stevie Ray in his late period, he manages to be tasteful and has a handle on funk too.


Also Sat Nov 22 a benefit for Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (fighting the good fight against Bruce Ratner’s now practically dead-in-the-water Atlantic Yards project) featuring inimitable film collagist Donald O’Finn’s latest creation, Projection, a “re-purposed video art installation” and music by the more imitable but equally fun faux French garage rockers les Sans Culottes and psychedelic revivalists the Marvin Barnes Time Machine at Bar Botanica, 220 Conover St. in Red Hook, Brooklyn, the whole thing goes 8 to midnight, B61 bus to the end of the line.


Also Sat Nov 22, 8 PM New York’s very own captivating, hypnotic Balinese gamelan orchestra Gamelan Dharma Swara play the Consulate General of Indonesia, 5 E 68 th St., sugg. don. $15/$10 stud/srs. “In addition to traditional gong kebyar pieces, this season’s program will feature dances performed by master Balinese artists and special demonstrations of gender wayang, the music of the ancient Balinese shadow play.” The program repeats  at 2 PM on Sun Nov 23.


Also Sat Nov 22 dark yet playful semi-goth two-cello-and-drums Rasputina at the Bell House, 8:30 PM, adv tix  $18. Frontwoman Melora Creager gets extra props for not buying the BS the 9/11 Commission tried to sell us.


Also Sat Nov 22 at Barbes, 8 PM: Brian Carpenter’s Ghost Train Orchestra. Sprawling, carnivalesque, good oldtimey jazz band.


Also Sat Nov 22 frequently haunting, horn-driven, oldschool 60s style ska band Tri-State Conspiracy at Bowery Poetry Club, 10 PM.


Also Sat Nov 22 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.


Also Sat Nov 22 Paleface plays Spikehill, 11 PM. Ten years before tongue-in-cheek white indie funk got popular, he was inventing it in the East Village. Still funny and tuneful after all these years: a good Saturday night party.


Sun Nov 23 wildly psychedelic, rustic Balkan blues behemoth Hazmat Modine and legendary Tuvan throat singers Huun Huur Tu at le Poisson Rouge, adv tix $25 at the box office.


Also Sun Nov 23  at Cornelia St. Café 8:30 PM Herb Robertson’s Freak Lip Kill Band presents Shades of Jazz on Noir: “Excerpts from the classic film noir works of the 1940s and 1950s viewed from the Femme Fatale of those classics” backed by a live jazz band attempting to evoke the style. If they pull it off it could be pure magic. 


Mon Nov 24 Mingus Dynasty at the Jazz Standard, sets 7:30/9:30 PM, note that tix are $25 plus tax. Like the Mingus Orchestra, and Big Band, this is a repertory unit who know the material inside out and always do it justice.



Also Mon Nov 24, 8 PM, note the new venue, relocated to 258 Bowery, 2nd floor – the OLD Dixon Place – $15 / $12 students/seniors: J. Edgar Klezmer, Songs from My Grandmother’s FBI Fileswritten, composed, researched and arranged by brilliant drummer Eve Sicular with Moe Angelos [Five Lesbian Brothers], trumpeter Pam Fleming (Hazmat Modine), sensational vocalist Melissa Fogarty [Opera Omnia, David Del Tredici], Debra Kreisberg, Shoko Nagai, and Sicular herself: “investigates her activist/pianist/psychiatrist grandma Dr. Adele Sicular’s Cold War time capsule, with original and adapted music as well as archival materials put to unexpected use. From klezmer to classical to boogie woogie, from Hazel Scott’s cancelled TV show to derelict theories of homosexuality, exploring surveillance files leads in even more directions than the Department of Justice could have foreseen.”


Also Mon Nov 24 Mary Testa, Alison Fraser and Annie Golden join an allstar band singing the songs of Rusty Magee at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, 407 W 42nd St., 10 PM, $30 plus a minimum at tables, reservations recommended to 212-695-6909. Magee was a deviously funny songwriter, an occasional Lewis Black collaborator and is missed on both the NYC theatre and music scene. Maybe if you’re lucky they’ll play The Lick, his LOL funny showcase for one particular sappy riff that’s been used in schlocky songs throughout the ages.


Also Mon Nov 24 Daria Grace & the Prewar Ponies at Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Back in the day she was in the Moonlighters, and remains terrifically and captivatingly good at oldtimey ragtime, country and swing-influenced songs, be they obscure classics or remarkably authentic originals.


Fri Nov 28 Irving Louis Lattin at Lucille’s, 8 PM. Chicago expat bluesman, as good and terse acoustic as he is electric. This is probably an electric show, 2 sets worth of standards and the occasional original.






Also Fri Nov 28, boisterous bar band Baby Daddy along with equally fun Irish acoustic punks Box Of Crayons and supposedly a reunion of BoC frontman Fran Powers’ semi-legendary 80s ska band the Modern Clix – !!!! – at Rocky Sullivan’s, 34 Van Dyke Street (At Dwight Street), Red Hook, Brooklyn starting around 8ish.


Also Fri Nov 28 if you like your surf music authentically jangly and low-key, Mr. Action & the Boss Guitars play classic and brilliantly obscure covers at Lakeside, 11 PM. If you get lucky they’ll do the formerly obscure Ventures classic Ginza Lights.


Also Nov 28 fearless, funny, wickedly smart oldschool style punk rockers the Brooklyn What play the cd release for their highly anticipated new cd at Don Pedro’s, 9 PM plus special guests. The cd is titled The Brooklyn What for Borough President which is especially apt because they represent us, what’s happening now, this minute: the latest wave of good new New York bands scorn fashion, celebrity and inherited wealth and these guys are leading the way,  doing it with a better sense of humor and better tunes than just about anybody else.


Also Fri Nov 28, 11ish Jerry Teel & the Big City Stompers at the Knit. LES noir legend returning to his dark and sometimes hypnotic roots, mixing in plenty of garage, some Stonesy riff-rock, a little country and stuff from his previous project Knoxville Girls. That’s Jerome O’Brien from the Dog Show on bass, pushing the juggernaut along.






Sat Nov 29, 8 PM at Barbes intriguing singer/guzheng (Chinese lute) player Wu Fei playing the cd release for her new one just out on Tzadik followed at 10 by the always brilliant, romantic, gorgeously retro Moonlighters with those beautiful harmonies and smart, fiery songwriting.  


Sat Nov 29 Baby Daddy at the Parkside, 10 PM. These guys are the bluesy party rockers responsible for the anthem 700 Beers.  


Also Sat Nov 29 the Jack Grace Band at Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. The big baritone hellraiser writes alternately stark and hilarious country songs that sound like classics from 35 years ago, occasionally taking a detour into Tom Waits territory. A very funny, charismatic live performer who’s also become a hell of a lead guitarist as well.


Also Sat Nov 29 the Disclaimers and Half Ajar at Spikehill, 11 PM. The former blend fiery Radio Birdman style garage punk, early Elvis Costello songcraft andd a 60s soul feel, which is better than ever with the two women out front wailing over the guitars and keys. Half Ajar feature a couple of members of the Disclaimers and mine a thoughtful Celtic-tinged vein. 


Also Sat Nov 29 Magges play Teneleven, 11 PM. If you consider yourself a party person and you’ve never danced to this intoxicating – in both the literal and figurative sense – Greek anthem and instrumental band, then you are only an imitation. We’re talking about Gogol Bordello-class energy and fun here. They have been known to bring ouzo to shows, and have a bellydancer. What more could you want.


Sun Nov 30, a rare, excellent quadruple bill at the Mercury beginning at 7 PM fiery, brilliantly improvisational powerpop trio Devi – whose new cd, recently reviewed here, is killer – followed by long-running, absolutely hypnotic, bass-driven reggae/groove-rockers Faith at 8, inventively improvisational groove band Muthawit at 9 and then Lakeside Lounge Saturday night regulars Spanking Charlene, who sound a lot like vintage X and have a ferociously good singer in Charlene McPherson.

Also Sun Nov 30 Balkan guitar jazz wizard Stephane Wrembel at Barbes, 9 PM.  

Upcoming in December:

12/1, 12/8 and 12/22 the Mingus Big Band at the Jazz Standard, tix $25 + tax

12/2 Jenny Scheinman at Barbes, 7 PM followed by Slavic Soul Party

12/3 and 12/9 Sarah Mucho in her sensational noir cabaret show Subterranean Circus at Don’t Tell Mama

12/2 9:30 PM Lindy Loo’s Country Cuzins – with many special guests at Banjo Jim’s

12/4 Carol Lipnik at the Zipper Theatre, 8 PM

12/4 the Quavers/Rachelle Garniez at Barbes 8 PM

12/4 the Howlin Thurstons at Lakeside 10 PM  

12/5 the Squirrel Nut Zippers at Southpaw, 9 PM, $25

12/6 punk/hardcore the Blackout Shoppers at Passout Records, 131 Grand St. (near Berry) 4 PM, free

12/6 Lisa Burns/the Bedsit Poets at Bowery Poetry Club, 8 PM

12/6 Caithlin de Marrais at the  Mercury 7:30 PM

12/6 Thy Burden at Europa, $5, 8 PM

12/6 Gato Loco at Barbes 8 PM followed at 10 by the Brazilian Acoustic Ensemble

12/6 the Mess Around at Rock Star Bar, 9 PM

12/6 the Budos Band at  BAM Café, 10 PM, free

12/6 Mighty High at Trash, time TBA

12/6 the Coffin Daggers at Otto’s, 10 PM

12/7, 4 PM Eunice Poulos sings Piaf at Merkin Concert Hall, tix $27/$21 stud./srs.

12/8 Haale at Highline Ballroom, 8 PM, adv tix $15

Tue-Sun, Dec 9-14 at Dizzy’s Club the George Coleman Organ Quintet w/ Peter Bernstein, Mike Ledonne, Joe Farnsworth & special guest Eric Alexander featuring George Coleman; tenor saxophone; Peter Bernstein, guitar; Mike Ledonne, hammond B3 organ; Joe Farnsworth, drums; Eric Alexander, tenor saxophone, tix somewhere in the $20-35 range (site doesn’t say)

Wed, December 10, 2008 6 PM at Alwan for the Arts a Reading and Discussion: Accountability for Torture and Rendition with David Cole, Moderated by Issa Mikel, based on the new book Less Safe, Less Free: Why America Is Losing the War on Terror

12/10 brilliant, pioneering string quartet Brooklyn Rider at Barbes 7 PM

12/10 Jenny Scheinman at Banjo Jim’s 9 PM

12/10 Elisa Flynn at Sidewalk, 9 PM

12/12 Spanking Charlene at Don Pedro’s 8 is

12/12 the Main Squeeze Orchestra at the Zipper Theatre, 8 PM, $15

12/12 Jan Bell, Steve Earle  and Stephanie McKay perform at the War Resisters League’s 43rd annual Peace Award and New Orleans Benefit at the Brooklyn Lyceum at the Brooklyn Lyceum, 8 PM

12/12, 11 PM a marvelous bill at the new Galapagos with minimalist acoustic avant-garde tunesmiths Twi the Humble Feather, excellent classical/ambient group Redhooker and the similarly inclined, all-female Victrola Victrola, not sure who’s playing when but they’re all good.

12/13 Ljova and the Kontraband at the Stone, 8 PM

12/13 Andy Statman/Jack Grace  Barbes 8 PM

12/13 Bobby Radcliff at Lucille’s 8 PM  

12/13, 9 PM $10 the 4th St Nite Owls at the Jalopy Café  followed by Balkan brass band Veveritse

12/13 the NY Gypsy All-Stars followed by Husnu Senlendirici on the clarinet with the equally sensational Ismail Tuncbilek on the baglama (lute) at Drom, shows at 8 and 11:30 PM, adv tix $35 at the box ofc

12/13 at Issue Project Room, 8 PM intriguing singer/guzheng player Wu Fei followed by pianist Jenny Q Chai’s Lene Lovich-esque avant piano and vocals which “combine playing with singing and speaking techniques, and will feature the work of American and European composers such as Rzewski (the Kreutzer Sonata, one hopes), Cage, Lachenmann, Boucourechliev and Rakowski, as well as composers of the younger generation.” 

12/14 Jim Campilongo at 55 Bar,6 PM

12/14 bluegrass sensations the Dixie Bee-Liners play a benefit for NY Cares at le Poisson Rouge, time TBA

12/14 the Four Bags/Stephane Wrembel at Barbes 7 PM

12/15 and 12/29 Mingus Dynasty Jazz Standard $25 + tax

12/16 and 12/31 Black 47 at Connolly’s, 10 PM

12/17, 8 PM $10 at Drom, Maria Cangiano plays the cd release show for her new one of Astor Piazzolla’s songs Ballads for My Life & Death: a Tribute to Piazzolla

12/17 Kagero at Caffe Vivaldi 10 PM

12/18 the annual Harrithon (Gorge Harrison tribute) at Banjo Jim’s all night

12/19 Cudzoo & the Fagettes, 8 PM at Hell Gate Social, 12-21 Astoria Blvd., Astoria. Really funny punked-out girl-group pop: this is the band responsible for Oops I Fucked Your Brother

12/19 the Second Fiddles at Banjo Jim’s 10 PM

12/19 Mr. Action & the Boss Guitars at Lakeside 11 PM

12/19 Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens/the Budos Band at the Mercury, 11:30 PM, adv tix $12

12/19 the Toneballs at Freddy’s, 9 PM

12/20 7 PM bluegrass & country night at Banjo Jim’s

12/20 Kristin Hoffmann at Caffe Vivaldi 10 PM


12/20 the Slackers at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, 9 PM, adv tix $15 at the Mercury


12/20 singer/bellydancer Tamar Riqs featuring guest dancers Oya and Ranya Renee, plus special guest Rachid Halihal on oud, at BAM Café 10 PM  


12/20 Chris Erikson & the Wayward Puritans at Lakeside 11 PM


12/23 the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble at the Jazz Standard $25 + tax

12/26 the Moonlighters at Barbes 8 PM

12/27 the False Prophets (or what’s left of them) and others at ABC No Rio

12/27 Romashka at Mehanata, 10 PM

12/29 the Stagger Back Brass Band at Barbes, 7 PM ,who describe themselves as “like a drunk who’s had too much coffee”

1/7/09 Robert Gordon & Chis Spedding  BB King’s 8 PM $25


October 31, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, NYC Live Music Calendar | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: 17 Pygmies – Celestina

[editor’s note: this being Halloween, it’s only appropriate that we’d review the most haunting cd of the year]


17 Pygmies’ new cd Celestina is a concept album, an eleven-part symphonic rock suite about love and betrayal in space based on a short story written by bandleader/guitarist Jackson Del Rey. It’s a lush, beautiful, absolutely haunting, mostly instrumental art-rock masterpiece, without a doubt one of the most gripping albums released this year. Celestina is symphonic in the purest sense of the word, a theme and variations that twist and turn and recur throughout. Its rich, icy layers of guitars and synthesized orchestration fade in and out of the mix, alternately hypnotic and jarring, with echoes of Pink Floyd, the Church, the Cocteau Twins, and echoing in the distance, Del Rey’s pioneering noise-instrumental band Savage Republic. The narrative traced by the tracks – simply titled Celestina I through XI – is discernable from the start, and it’s not pretty, despite the music’s glimmering grandeur.


It opens with the introduction of a disarmingly simple, gently menacing, Middle Eastern-inflected central theme, ambient and atmospheric with washes of strings, perhaps created by a guitar synthesizer pedal. The next movement, bracing and stately with reverb-and-delay guitar, is a dead ringer for legendary Australian art-rockers the Church circa Priest Equals Aura, singer/bassist Meg Maryatt’s disembodied, ethereal vocals perfectly capturing the mood. “Feels like heaven,” she sings, but the unease in her voice is visceral. Celestina III builds the instrumental theme introduced in II with lush washes of strings, getting gentle and really pretty at the end yet without losing its menacing undercurrent  


In Celestina IV, a new theme is introduced with octaves in the bass. “What’s that sound?” Maryatt asks, her voice processed to a horror-movie timbre.The album’s centerpiece is its turning point, a murky, reverberating twelve-minute feedback instrumental evocative of Yo La Tengo at their most thoughtful or a quieter Savage Republic tune.  It’s absolutely evil, the guitars’ low resonances phasing in and out for minutes on end until the bassline making a tentative entrance, pushing the melody around, finally grabbing it by the throat and thrashing it around with methodical, deadly force. Throat-singing over the low-register roar adds yet another layer of sinister overtones. At the end, the drums stomp on it a couple of times just to make sure it’s dead.


The next cut is a big, anguished, puzzled ballad with stellar vocals again from Maryatt: it’s something of a cross between a macabre DollHouse anthem and a standout cut from Priest Equals Aura. In VII, reverting to classical mode, the initial theme returns, mingling with its counterpart from II, taking on an altogether different meaning. At the end, bells toll quietly in the background. A fight scene ensues, a quietly anguished cry in a vacuum followed by a long noise jam, the instruments locked in a battle to the death, ending with the same long series of distant wails that began it. When the main theme recurs again, the arrangement is more ethereal and far darker, making it clear that the whole idea of this relationship was disastrous from the start. Closing the suite, loops of tinkling electric piano contrast with a wobbly wash of synth, building to a haunting, darkly nebulous constellation of strings. The cd ends on a surprisingly anticlimactic note, just the guitar playing simple arpeggios with an 80s chorus-box feel.


As with all of 17 Pygmies Trakwerx albums, the cd is beautifully packaged in an artsy, cleverly handmade cardboard sleeve and insert. Available at cdbaby dirt-cheap for thirteen lucky bucks. You’ll see this in the top five or so best albums of the year when we publish the list in December.

October 31, 2008 Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Song of the Day 10/31/08

Counting down the alltime top 666 songs (the full list is at top right), one a day. Today’s is #634: Elvis Presley – Way Down

Happy Halloween! It only makes sense that today’s song would be by a dead man. Some may call this schlock, but listen closely and you’ll realize that this is the King’s death song. He knew it was coming. Elvis wasn’t a songwriter, and considering the condition he was in at the end, one can only wonder what if any say he had in the selection of this song as his very last single. But you can tell that something is awry here. So could he. “The lights are growing dim…”

October 30, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 10/30/08

With Halloween just a couple of days away, here’s more real scary stuff, as we count down the alltime top 666 greatest songs all the way to #1 (the full list is at top right). Today’s song is #635:

The Dream Syndicate – Halloween

The best song on the first album by Steve Wynn’s legendary noise-rock band was ironically one he didn’t write (lead guitarist Karl Precoda did). Kendra Smith’s matter-of-fact stalker bassline sets the stage for the dueling twin guitars’ savage slasher attack. Play this one with the lights out. The original album cut is the best, but there are numerous live versions by both the Dream Syndicate and Wynn and his band, many of them absolutely transcendent, at

October 30, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Roots of Chicha

What the soundtrack to The Harder They Come was for reggae, what the Nuggets anthology was for garage rock, The Roots of Chicha promises to be for chicha.  Like Australian country music, Japanese salsa or British rock, chicha is a quintessentially urban kind of alchemy, in this case a creation of the oil-boom cities of Peru beginning in the late 60s and continuing throughout the 80s where musicians raised on sounds from south of the border picked up electronic instruments and started mixing in surf music and psychedelic rock. Like bachata in the Dominican Republic or blues here in the US, the ruling classes in Peru scorned it. The radio didn’t play it and it was largely confined to the slums. Where it thrived.


The 17 tracks here are hypnotic and incredibly fun. Some of this sounds like scary surf music. Some sounds like salsa played by a psychedelic rock band (think early Santana without the 20-minute jams), with tinny guitars using all kinds of cheap effects. The beat is like ska but slower, and it swings more, but not as much as reggae. The feel is raw, direct and lo-fi; some would call it primitive. A labor of love created by Barbes Records’ Olivier Conan (leader of the sole American chicha band, Chicha Libre, whose intoxicatingly good debut cd just came out this year), this is the anthology that brought chicha out of Peru for the first time. None of the tracks here have ever been released outside the country, which is more surprising than it is tragic because these songs are so delightful. This is party music, after all (chicha is to Peru what malt liquor is here), and you don’t need to speak Spanish to appreciate it.


The Roots of Chicha includes song by five of the most pioneering chicha bands from the late 60s and early 70s. Los Mirlos open and close the cd on a similar note with tersely eerie, one-chord jams with the same mood as Egyptian Reggae by the Ventures, but stranger. They also contribute El Milagro Verde (The Green Miracle), another spooky, tinny reverb-guitar instrumental which is sort of the chicha national anthem, along with Muchachita del Oriente (Little Asian Girl), a party song that has nothing remotely Asian about it. Los Hijos del Sol are represented by another bouncing, incisively reverberating instrumental as well as two characteristically minor-key vocal numbers, the guitar taking off with the central catchy hook on the chorus.


Juaneco y Su Combo have three songs included here. Vacilando con Ayahuasca (High on Ayahuasca, a native psychedelic) isn’t the long psychedelic suite you’d assume but rather a catchy instrumental punctuated by a woman’s orgasmic sighs! Another faster instrumental sounds like a ripoff of Muchachita del Oriente – or maybe Muchachita del Oriente rips this off. Obviously there was a lot of cross-pollination going on. The third track is remarkably different, with a considerable Afro-Cuban influence.


Los Hijos del Sol follow what seems to be an effective and popular formula, verses that come straight out of salsa, with a lot of call-and-response to get the party going, followed by surfy guitar on the choruses. Los Destellos contribute a gorgeously hooky instrumental, A Patricia, that with a little exposure ought to be picked up by surf bands everywhere, as well as a vocal number and the world’s funniest Beethoven cover. Los Diablos Rojos manage to be both the most overtly surfy and most overtly latin of the bands here, equal parts dazzling Dick Dale tremolo guitar and third-generation Cuban son. There’s also a cut by electric banjoist Eusebio y Su Banjo, the defiant Mi Morena Rebelde (My Rebel Girl) which is more of a traditional cumbia than anything else here. Barbes Records continues to mine the rich vein of classic chicha with a brand-new anthology of songs by Juaneco y Su Combo, available for the first time outside Peru.


If the concept of seeing this stuff live intrigues you, Chicha Libre includes some of these songs in their set along with their sometimes even wilder originals. They play Barbes pretty much every Monday at 9:45ish, early arrival always a good idea.

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 10/29/08

With Halloween just around the corner, it’s time to pull out the real scary stuff, as we count down the alltime top 666 greatest songs all the way to #1 (the full list is at top right). Prom Night, by New York rockers System Noise is #636, an absolutely blood-curdling, chromatically-fueled anthem inspired by the film Carrie, from the band’s 2007 self-titled debut cd. Frontwoman (and cabaret star) Sarah Mucho’s voice wails vengefully over a bloodfeast of tortured guitars. In case this gives you a taste for blood, System Noise plays Sullivan Hall on Oct 30 at 9:15 PM. 

October 28, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Municipale Balcanica – Road to Damascus

The most amazing thing to come over the transom recently was this band’s new cd. We didn’t find them, they found us. Good thing. This sizzling Balkan big band is especially notable for its lushly captivating horn arrangements, no surprise since its members got their start playing in the official marching band in their native city of Puglia, Italy (therefore, Municipale Balcanica.) This cd, their second, mixes Gogol Bordello-style Balkan punk rock with straight-up Roma dances, fiery klezmer breakdowns and other dark, danceable instrumentals with influences as far afield as Greek rebetika, psychedelic rock and, as the band makes very clear, the most radical elements of traditional Italian music. It’s a wild ride, most of it at high velocity. The rock stuff typically has a rock rhythm section of electric bass and drums; the more traditional-style stuff features tuba and percussion.


The first song on the album is the klezmerish Gipsy Train, fast and bouncy with a characteristically rich horn chart. Libano, which follows, changes it up over a slow two-chord groove, sax wafting over the tuba. Then the horns come in gently and the pace picks up with a latin beat (shades of excellent New York rockers Hazmat Modine), with a long, sweet, fluttering trumpet solo. L’Orso Ballerino and Contessa could both be Gogol Bordello, electric guitar providing a ska beat, the singer rasping away like an Italian Eugene Hutz.


The slow, contemplative Kolomeyka sounds like a big crowd-pleaser as it slowly speeds up and then changes up the tempo repeatedly. L’Arie Migliore brings it down again, a slow, quiet sotto voce vocal number in 6/8 with beautifully pensive accordion. The high point of the cd  – there are many  – is Artigiana di Luma, a gorgeous Levantine dance melody over a staggered beat. The storm builds, a balmy clarinet solo followed by eerie, scraping violin, then the clarinet returns and plays off it as the violin goes completely berserk. 


Radish Lam is an ensemble showpiece for the horns, its stark intro building to a brisk dance.  Likewise, Alma Cocek accelerates to an interlude that’s practically hard bop, capped by a scary trill by the clarinet. The title track jolts the listener back into the 21st century, opening with a long, slow, weird intro, theremin against flanged guitar. Finally, the trumpet sounds a call, clarinet slowly rising to join in. And then the trumpet returns, and then it’s over, counterintuitively, without really going anywhere


Usti, Usti Baba begins as a somewhat woozy, midtempo vocal number featuring a nice, fast sax solo with the kind of restless intensity typical of Lefteris Bournias (from excellent Greek-American oud virtuoso Mavrothi  Kontanis’ band and others). When the drum solo ends and the melody returns, the trumpet goes flying over other horns and they play against each other, against the beat. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Syndrome of Babylon is a defiant, absolutely brilliant anti–Iraq war number, samples from tv news (Bush wanting to “ensure peace and justice,” etc.) layered just a little below the instruments in the mix. Its breezy melody and tricky time signature make a striking contrast with its theme, clarinet taking the lead over a gritty wash of distorted low-frequency electric guitar. The cd also includes a couple of club remixes that ironically can’t stand up to the band’s original work. Fans of groups as diverse as the aforementioned Gogol Bordello, classic Roma purists like Taraf de Haidouks and adventurous pioneers such as Metropolitan Klezmer will devour this. No US tours scheduled at this point, but that could change: watch this space for further info. The cd is available for download at the band’s site.

October 28, 2008 Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 10/28/08

As we do every day, we add another to our list of the top 666 songs of alltime (the whole thing up to this point is at top right). Or the most counterintuitive songs of alltime, if you will. It’s an attempt to have some fun here rather than any crazy attempt to be definitive – jazz and classical fans will have to wait til we figure out some way of giving those genres their due. Til then, here’s #637:

Marianne Faithfull – The Ballad of Lucy Jordan

This harrowing, if dated, synthed-out 1980 new wave-era tale of a woman slowly losing it was written by none other than children’s book author Shel Silverstein! It resonates even more if you recall the song playing over the opening scene in Dusan Makavejev’s greatest film, Montenegro, Susan Anspach staring into the water and wondering if she should jump. The lp version is on Broken English; if you’re willing to settle for a mp3, rip one from one of the usual places

October 27, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Prima Ballerina at Lakeside, NYC 10/25/08

This was the debut show for Tammy Faye Starlite’s latest rock project, in this case a New York Dolls cover band. As a solo performer, the insurgent actress/comedienne plays a gut-bustingly funny born-again, washed-up, recently rehabbed country singer, in the process shooting daggers at all things rightwing and stupid (much like the Inbreeds, whose Friday night show we just reviewed). She also has three rock acts. In addition to this group, the Mike Hunt Band – her first one – is a Stones cover band (she plays Mick). The Stay-At-Homes are possibly the world’s only Runaways cover band (she’s Cherie Currie). While both groups actually make an effort to be musically competent, they basically serve as an excuse for Tammy to do improv. There is no one funnier, not even John Monteith.


Prima Ballerina – if you know the Dolls’ songs at all, you get the reference –  is the Stay-At-Homes playing Dolls songs. Tammy had names for everyone in the band: Sit N Spin frontwoman/guitarist Heidi Lieb was Heidi Thunders; rhythm player Jill Richmond was Jillvain Jillvain; drummer Linda Pitmon (from her husband Steve Wynn’s band, the Baseball Project and Smack Dab) was Nolinda; what Lieb’s bandmate, bassist Mony Falcone was evades the memory (although Tammy had plenty of vitriol for her and bass players in general). Another woman stood in for Todd Rundgren on keys on a few songs.


“I’m Tammy Jo,” Tammy said in her best Queens accent. “This swong’s really about about a stwop on the Ell Oy Aw Aw,” she told the crowd as the band launched into a decently careening version of Babylon. The recurrent joke of the night revolved around universal healthcare: that was the premise of Pills, Tammy explained. Jet Boy had to do with Barack Obama (big round of applause) hopefully “not getting killed before he comes out of the clouds.” Stranded in the Jungle, she revealed, was a cover of a Vietnam-era soul song by the 60s group the Jayhawks (“Not the alt-country band, you know, the guy who married Victoria Williams. THEY SUCK!!!”).


When they reached the bridge during Trash, Tammy accosted a bewildered guy sitting at one of the front tables: “When you’re hanging out in Chelsea, how you call your loverboy?” When it came time to wrap up the set, she explained that during her tenure in the Ridiculous Theatre Company, Charles Ludlam had been her mentor, and that he had been known to accuse people of having a personality crisis. Dedicating the song to the one John McCain’s been having, the band did a spirited, serviceable version of what was the closest thing the Dolls ever had to a top 40 hit. Memo to Ms. Rundgren: you ought to try that piano hook, it’s easy and it really makes the song. So, what a great weekend –  funny band, intense band, funny band. Prima Ballerina’s next show is at the Cutting Room sometime in November: watch this space for details.

October 27, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Haale at Drom, NYC 10/25/08

This was the drums-and-cello set: that Bronx-born Persian-American rocker Haale Gafori and her band could still be as rivertingly powerful as they were under the circumstances speaks volumes. Drom is typically one of New York’s best-sounding rooms, and throughout their Saturday night show, Haale’s vocals, Brent Arnold’s cello and Matt Kilmer’s percussion were crystal-clear in the mix. Trouble was, her guitar was almost totally inaudible. Haale’s music makes frequent use of open tunings and big washes of sound that ring out for what feels like minutes on end, with many of the songs building to ecstatic crescendos. Good thing the cello was so high in the mix, in fact so loud that there were overtones flying from the strings, otherwise this would have been for all intents and purposes a hip-hop show.


But the material and Haale’s voice simply refused to be denied. The sound was dark, saturnine and all-enveloping, something akin to an amalgam of smoldering, early PJ Harvey, fiery electric Randi Russo, and Iranian traditional song. “We just spent a week in Brazil,” she told the crowd. “It was like silk…I’ve never heard such a tapestry of birds and insects.” Beginning in Persian, switching to English and then back again, she was a fearless force, her soulful alto soaring over Arnold’s dark, atmospheric washes as Kilmer played a neat three-on-four beat. The band came out swinging with two big anthems from their new, aptly titled cd No Ceiling, eventually bringing it down a bit with the tongue-in-cheek yet similarly eerie Off-Duty Fortune Teller. Haale then introduced the trance-rocker Paratrooper by explaining that when Jimi Hendrix was in the Army, he’d listen to the drone of the airplane engine, vowing to figure out how to get that same sound out of his guitar.


Of the other songs in the set, Home Again and the title track to the new cd had the most straightforward rock feel, by contrast to the hypnotic slow burn of the rest of the material. The trio closed with the fiery epic Ay Dar Shekasteh, Kilmer capping the crescendos with a massive splash on the gong that coiled serpent-like above his kit.


It would have been nice to stick around to hear Iranian hip-hop artist Yas and then Brooklyn reggae/dancehall outfit Jah Dan & Noble Society, but they had a hard act to follow, and there was another stop on the night’s agenda.




October 27, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment