Hey – we have a new calendar for January and February and it’s here: if you have dial-up please wait about 25 seconds for the page to load. Because we sometimes get this info weeks in advance, it’s always worth checking with the club (see our venues section) to make sure the event you’re interested in seeing is still happening.
As usual, weekly events first, followed by the daily calendar:
This December the Stone has been booked by Jennifer Charles, the excellent frontwoman of artsy noir rockers Elysian Fields. As a result it’s an especially good month there. Highlights below in 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, 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. Kershaw also does a happy hour set from 5 to 7 at Hill Country on Fridays.
The 2008-09 series of organ concerts at St. Thomas Church continues most every Sunday (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).
Mondays 12/1, 12/8 and 12/22 the Mingus Big Band at the Jazz Standard. A repertory unit, topnotch players who know the legend’s stuff inside out and really get it. Note that tix are “$25 plus tax.”
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 December (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 Dec 2, 9 and 16 violinist/singer Christina Courtin at Pete’s, 9 PM. A lot like Jenny Scheinman in her quieter moments: classical chops, beautifully thoughtful melody and an outside-the-box approach.
Also every Tues in Dec., 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.
Also 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.
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.
Sun Nov 30 Kilifax at Otto’s, 6:45 PM. Punk vets who’ve never lost touch with what punk is all about. Smartly aware, loud, tuneful and often funny as hell. This is the group responsible for the classic song Bush Is an Asshole.
Sun Nov 30, a rare, excellent triple 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, and eventually at 10 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 Stephane Wrembel at Barbes, 9 PM. The Django disciple is pushing the outermost limits of where Balkan/Middle Eastern-inflected guitar jazz has ever gone.
Mon Dec 1 the Ukuladies play Rodeo Bar, 10 PM. Theatrical, funny, oldtimey female-fronted Canadian ukelele act who bring food and lottery tix to shows: definitely a good time.
Tues Dec 2 Jenny Scheinman at Barbes, 7 PM followed by Slavic Soul Party. The opener you probably know: A-list jazz composer, killer violinist, fluent in pretty much any genre she feels like writing in. The headliners are a wild Balkan brass band who play here every Tuesday and are very popular. Scheinman is also at Banjo Jim’s on 12/10 at 9, most likely doing her country stuff.
Also Tues Dec 2 the Small Rain at Lit, 8:30 PM. Guitar duo – instrumentals. Tropicalia, jazz, minimalist, lo fi downtempo stuff, thoughtful and worth checking out.
Also Tues Dec 2 the New Collisions at Don Pedro’s, 9 PM. Female-fronted powerpop band from Boston with a dirty, noisy guitar edge and chirpy, cheeky vox. They’re also at Arlene’s on 12/3 at 10 and at the Mercury on 12/16 at 7
Also Tues Dec 2, 9:30 PM at Banjo Jim’s, self-described “big city hick” and Minnie Pearl soundalike Lindy Loo’s Country Cuzins with many special guests.
Weds Dec 3, 7 PM, Elaine Romanelli at Suite Bar Lounge, 992 Amsterdam Av at 109th St Subway: 1 or B/C to 110th St, free, shot specials at the bar. Spectacularly soaring voice (classical training, Broadway experience), like a turbocharged Bliss Blood; tastefully retro bluesy songwriting. She’s also here at 7 on 12/17.
Also Weds Dec 3 Anoche plays intriguing downtempo chanteuse stuff at Caffe Vivaldi, 8 PM
Also Weds Dec 3 pianist Sylvie Courvoisier solo followed by the awesome Brahim Frigbane playing solo oud at the Stone, 8 PM
Also Weds Dec 3 fiery Cajun/Texas honkytonk band the Doc Marshalls at Hill Country, 9 PM
Also Weds Dec 3, 9 PM at the Mercury, Twin Tigers play loud, lush MBV style dreampop which could well sound really good live even though vox/lyrics are pretty pointless
Also Weds Dec 3 and Thurs Dec 4 Bill Kirchen at Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Country guitar legend who basically invented alt-country back in the 70s with Commander Cody. And equally good at any other guitar style he wants to tackle. Something of a legend, very funny and wow, watch those fingers fly.
Also Thurs Dec 4 Yarn plays a free show at Arlene’s, 8 PM. Big sprawling acoustic country band, O’Death minus the goth affectations and carrying a thermos of coffee spiked with Jack Daniels
Thurs Dec 4 the Quavers at Barbes at 8 followed by Rachelle Garniez at 10. The openers write lush, ornate art-rock, have a shipwreck fascination and create songs live by laying down layers and layers of loops. It’s fascinating to watch. The headliner wrote Lucid Culture’s pick for best cd of 2007 (Melusine Years), plays keys (piano, accordion) and guitar, has a soaring voice and is unsurpassed at deadpan surrealist humor, one of the real great performers of our time.
Also Thurs Dec 4 Michael Arenella & the Dreamland Orchestra at Galapagos, 8 PM, $12. The horn player/crooner’s claim to fame is rediscovering brilliant early swing jazz obscurities from the 20s, and the band play it with the wild abandon they should.
Also Thurs Dec 4 Carol Lipnik at the Zipper Theatre, 9 PM, $15. She gets props for her astounding, unearthly four-octave voice, but it’s her songwriting – she’s equally good at macabre noir cabaret, carnivalesque Tom Waits-ish blues, classic-style soul and eerie Balkan ballads – that really sets her apart from everybody else. A quintessentially New York performer.
Also Thurs Dec 4 the Howlin Thurstons at Lakeside, 10 PM. If you wish Link Wray was still alive, this pounding all-instrumental quartet do their main influence justice.
Fri Dec 5 Katie Elevitch at Banjo Jim’s, 9 PM. “Slaves stillborn gather round the hearse… kindling for the fire!” she wails on the title track to her sensational new cd. Live, her band takes her noir soul/rock songs, stretches them out, thrashes them and takes them to new places while Elevitch shows off the primeval power of that intense voice.
Also Fri Dec 5 the Squirrel Nut Zippers at Southpaw, 10 PM, $25. The most popular of the first wave of oldtimey revival bands are back together and reputedly as fun and boisterous as ever.
Also Fri Dec 5 Demolition String Band play Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Edgy female-fronted electrified bluegrass band who sound kind of like X doing their country thing; great new cd out too
Also Fri Dec 5, 11 PM it’s metal night at Trash Bar. Both of the bands know that 95% of metal is humor, they get the joke, run with it and are actually really damn good. After about 20 PBRs you will be staggering toward the stage with your forefinger and pinky raised. Wizardry, the opener sound almost exactly like early Sabbath and have a song called Death Rides on Tuesday. Growler, the headliners are even funnier, a little faster and have a song called Fucking the Skull of Jimmy Page.
Sat Dec 6, 1 PM Don Conreaux, international gong master, and the hypnotic, sometimes psychedelic all-acoustic, all-improv community group Open Music Ensemble will present “Have you Caught the Smile?” at the Festival of Fun and Merriment at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, 112th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. Later they do another improv at the New York Insight Meditation Center, 28 West 27th Street, 10th Floor (buzzer 27) at 4PM. Admission free for both events.
Also Sat Dec 6 punk/hardcore rockers the Blackout Shoppers plus others at Passout Records, 131 Grand St. (near Berry) 4 PM, free. Anybody remember Drunk Punks of Brooklyn from back in the day when Sweetwater’s was a punk bar? Maybe stir up some memories and discover some great new tunes.
Also Sat Dec 6 Kira Skov plays Arlene’s, 7 PM. What a trip – good stuff – voted best female vocalist in Denmark, she mixes Shocking Blue-style retro garage with moody post-Cure rock and actually sings very well, with a big wounded, sometimes bluesy wail. Followed at 8 by Oklahoma alt-country types New Madrid who aren’t bad either
Also Sat Dec 6 Matt Kanelos at the Rockwood, 7 PM. Sideman to the stars, Kanelos is a smart, terse pianist, also plays guitar and writes hypnotic Americana-inflected rock comparable to Matt Keating or Tandy in their quieter moments, which sounds great with the acoustics in this room.
Also Sat Dec 6 Caithlin de Marrais at the Mercury, 7:30 PM. What this woman was doing in Rainer Maria, we have no idea. Playing her own stuff, she excels at dark, quietly captivating songs with a dreampop edge. Followed at 8:30 by El May – a good multi-instrumentalist chanteuse playing hushed artsy lush art-rock, a little like Mascott. And then at 11 PM Shelley Nicole’s Blakbushe, a good, smart funk/soul band – their frontwoman is good bassist too .
Also Sat Dec 6, 8 PM at Alwan for the Arts the music of great classical composers Halim El-Dabh and Mohammed Fairouz performed by the Mimesis Ensemble with special guests Kinan Azmeh, composer and clarinetist and Christine Moore, soprano.
Also Sat Dec 6, 8 PM Shrine acoustic (soaring Balkan-inflected frontwoman Barbara Morillo on vocals backed by sensational violinist/singer Karen Lee Larson) at Gizzi’s Coffee, 16 W 8th Street off 5th Ave.
Also Sat Dec 6 Gato Loco at Barbes 8 PM followed at 10 by the Brazilian Acoustic Ensemble. The former are sort of akin to a male Moisturizer playing fascinatingly fun versions of classic Cuban songs from the 20s, low tonalities booming from the baritone sax, baritone guitar, tuba and bass. The headliners are an A-list conglomeration and specialize in brilliant obscurities.
Also Sat Dec 6 the Mess Around at Rock Star Bar, 9 PM, free. If you consider yourself a drinker, you will love this band. At the top of their game they have the same exhilarating, furious guitar intensity of garage/punk legends Radio Birdman, and they’re funny too. Although if they start drinking too early, it could be a trainwreck. Take your chances because they’re a lot of fun and the bar is one of the last vestiges of oldschool Williamsburg cool.
Also Sat Dec 6 a killer blues doublebill at Terra Blues with Bobby Radcliff at 8 followed by Johnny Allen at 10. Both are sensational guitarists. The former is what Stevie Ray might have become had he lived: lots of notes, but they all count, and he can play funk and rock too. The headliner is one of the best singers in town, mines a more traditional Chicago style and when he hits his volume pedal to solo, watch out.
Also Sat Dec 6 at Bowery Poetry Club at 8, Lisa Burns followed by the Bedsit Poets at Bowery Poetry Club, 8 PM The opener specializes in awfully cool 60s soul-pop like Jackie DeShannon – you gotta hear her version of When You Walk in the Room. The headliners’ first cd was all lush, gorgeous retro Britfolk with harmonies; their new one covers pretty much every smart cosmopolitan European style from the 60s.
Also Sat Dec 6 Thy Burden at Europa, $5, 8 PM. Not since Brooklyn Browngrass broke up – or maybe since the Dixie Bee-Liners packed it in for the woods of Virginia – has there been a bluegrass band with such wild intensity here in town. You have to see these guys to believe them. Fast, furious, absolutely spectacular to watch and you can dance to it too.
Also Sat Dec 6 Powdered Monster play Alphabet Lounge, 9:15 PM. This LA band plays intriguing spacy dub/noiserock/downtempo instrumentals.
Also Sat Dec 6 Mighty High at Trash, 10 PM. Absolutely hilarious metal parody band. Their funniest song is a rap/metal spoof called T.S. Eliot. You will die laughing, especially if you know any of the source material.
Also Sat Dec 6 BBQ Bob & the Spareribs at Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Put aside any suspicious you might harbor about white guys playing blues: this dark, rustic harp-driven unit can really play, and really write too.
Also Sat Dec 6 the Coffin Daggers at Otto’s, midnight. Still one of the half-dozen or so of the best live bands in NYC, these macabre surf rockers pour in an eerie layer of organ beneath Viktor Dominicus’ searing, ferocious guitar leads, and the rhythm section completely kicks ass too.
Also Sat Dec 6 the Budos Band at BAM Café, 10 PM, free. You probably know them – they’re popular. Sort of like Tortoise on speed, hypnotically energetic groove instrumentals.
Also Sat Dec 6 Hayes Carll plays two sets, 7:30 and 11ish at Union Hall, $12, adv tix recommended at the club box office. This is the guy responsible for She Left Me for Jesus. He may look like a trendoid but he writes first-class, often hilarious country songs with something of a 70s outlaw vibe.
Sun Dec 7, 4 PM a wonderful way to wind down the weekend, Eunice Poulos sings Piaf at Merkin Concert Hall, tix $27/$21 stud./srs.
Also Sun Dec 7, 7 PM the wild, exciting Gogol Bordello of Klezmer, Metropolitan Klezmer at Temple Sholom, 2075 East 68th Street, Mill Basin, Brooklyn, $20 includes reception beverages ($22 at the door), two sets with intermission. Reservations encouraged to 718-251-0370.
Also Sun Dec 7, 8 PM excellent African/US roots reggae revivalists Meta & the Cornerstones at Rose Bar
Also Sun Dec 7, 9 PM at Barbes Balkan jazz guitar innovator Stephane Wrembel presents The Django Experiment.
Mon Dec 8, lunchtime, 1 PM at St. Paul’s Chapel Alistair D. MacRae, cello, with Heather Conner, piano performing works by Bach, Prokofiev, and Tchaikovsky.
Also Mon Dec 8 Haale at Highline Ballroom, 8 PM, adv tix $15. One of the most riveting perfomers in town, she blends classical Persian melody into her scorching, hypnotic guitar rock, like Randi Russo or PJ Harvey at their darkest and most hypnotic. Having just survived a scary car crash, she should be at the absolute top of her formidable powers.
Also Mon Dec 8 a cool hip-hop doublebill at Santos Party House at 11ish. U-N-I open with an uncommonly smart mix of conscious and party rap followed by golden age legends EPMD – reputedly Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith still have it – $15 adv tix at the box ofc highly recommended.
Also Mon Dec 8 hypnotically grooving Latin/reggae band Urbansonora, with keys, guitars and horns at Pete’s, 10:30 PM.
Tues Dec 9 wanna learn jazz improv from terrific sax player J.D. Allen and his trio (bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston)? You can, for free! They’re conducting a master class on “Jazz Improvisation” as part of the LIU-Brooklyn Campus Jazz Clinic and Concert Series. These clinics are FREE and open to the general public on various Tuesdays 4-6 PM, in room H-106 of the Humanities Building on Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus, as is this one
Also Tues Dec 9, 7 PM Sarah Mucho, sensational frontwoman of System Noise stars in her absolutely macabre yet often hilarious cabaret show Subterranean Circus at Don’t Tell Mama, 346 W 46th St., res. highly suggested to 212-757-0788
Also Tues Dec 9, 8 PM at Trash: the Benjees. Lots of potential for these unpretentious New NY rockers in the same vein as the Brooklyn What, the Mess Around and Des Roar. Some good tunes, good ideas, sense of humor (they make fun of trendoids), kinda punky. Discover them now before they get really popular.
Also 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 feat. 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)
Also Tues Dec 9, 8 PM at Arlene’s: Alec Berlin, who mines a somewhat derivative but very tuneful Beatles/Radiohead/Elliott Smith vein, followed at 9 by Kris Kelly who sounds like recent Radiohead and likes to play with a string section. And followed eventually at 11 by Settly, Marcellus Hall’s basssist who sounds suspiciously like Railroad Jerk, right down to the good jokes
Also Tues Dec 9 at the Mercury, 10 PM: Marissa Nadler. Lo-fi Nashville gothic, accent on the gothic. Distant icy echoes of Nina Nastasia
Also Tues Dec 9 excellent bluegrass fiddler Vincent Cross & Good Company at Hill Country, 10 PM
Wed Dec 10, 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
Also Weds Dec 10, innovative string quartet Brooklyn Rider at Barbes, 7 PM. This group’s amazing new cd Silent City, a collaboration with noted Iranian composer Kayhan Kalhor is one of the year’s best. A real treat to hear this crew up close in the cozy confines here.
Also Weds Dec 10, 8 PM at the Stone Marcellus Hall and The Hostages. The popular illustrator/cartoonist is also a first-rate songwriter, with a frequently hilarious, wickedly deadpan lyrical style that dates to his days fronting indie legends Railroad Jerk back in the 90s, and after that White Hassle.
Also Weds Dec 10, 8:30ish at Public Assembly the kickoff of this month’s Sephardic music festival feat. Diwon w/terrific Middle Eastern/gypsy rocker Smadar Levi, Sephardic-tinged Middle Eastern dance-pop combo Electro Morocco plus Divahn frontwoman Galeet Dardashti’s “The Naming” feat. SYREN
Also Weds Dec 10 at Kenny’s Castaways, 9 PM, Whisperado who blend a classic Memphis sound with a caffeinated Dylanesque vibe, a little like early Dire Straits in places. Followed at 10 by boisterous oldtimey acoustic Americana group Compton Maddux & the Dirt Simple Band.
Also Weds Dec 10 Elisa Flynn at Sidewalk, 9 PM. The Bogs Visionary Orchestra keyboardist is also a first-rate indie rock songwriter, who reminds a bit of the moment when Sleater-Kinney suddenly learned how to play their guitars and got really good. Casually smart vocals and a sense of humor too.
Also Weds Dec 10 guitarist Debra from ferocious, psychedelic power trio Devi is at the Goldhawk playing 10 PM, doing a rare show on acoustic. Here’s your chance to see the roots of all those wild, intense solos, stripped down to just the basics.
Also Weds Dec 10 an extremely rare solo show by Vic Ruggiero at Black Betty, late, probably after 11. The Slackers’ excellent organist is also a killer bluesman. Here’s a chance to hear him strip those cool, smart songs down to just guitar and vox, and maybe air out a few oldies too. He’s also at Otto’s on the 11th at 10 and then at Freddy’s on the 13th at 10ish.
Thurs Dec 11, 7:30 PM at the Mercury – Brendan O’Shea playing pensive, tuneful, unselfconscious acoustic rock – he has a great band (Julia Kent, Skip Ward, Bruce Martin), followed eventually at 9:30 PM by Irish janglerockers Stand who are actually not bad and do a funny deadpan cover of Under Pressure by Queen.
Also Thurs Dec 11 at Rose Bar, 9 PM – Hammond organ groove unit Drive By Leslie with Adam Klipple, Keith Carlock, Steve Jenkins and great slide guitarist Marvin Sewell
Thurs Dec 11, 9:30 PM, free, at Symphony Space, Kristin Hoffmann plays her smartly innovative slightly goth-inflected keyboard-based noir cabaret songs.
Also Thurs Dec 11, midnightish, Golem at Union Pool. Wild, delirious, danceable Jewish party music with violin and horns: what Gogol Bordello are to the Ukraine, Golem are to the shtetls of the rest of the diaspora. Really fun stuff.
Also Fri Dec 12 the Chelsea Symphony plays Mozart, German Dances K605; Finck (frldgf), V2.405 – First Excerpt; Mendelssohn, Violin concerto in E minor; Dai, The Night Before Christmas. Miguel Campos Neto, Kyunghun Kim and Mark Seto, conductors; Michael Antonello, violin; David Hyde Pierce, narrator. At St.Paul’s Church, 315 W 22nd St., 8 PM $15 sugg. don.
Also Fri Dec 12, Spanking Charlene at Don Pedro’s, 8ish. Sort of NYC’s answer to X. Frontwoman Charlene McPherson has one of those voices you’ll never forget once you hear it – she can really wail.
Also Fri Dec 12 the Main Squeeze Orchestra at the Zipper Theatre, 8 PM, $15. This (potentially) 16-piece all-female accordion orchestra deliver playful, sometimes totally psychedelic versions of all kinds of stuff: tangos, schlocky pop songs and classics like Love Will Tear Us Apart. If you get really, really lucky they’ll do their version of Bohemian Rhapsody which is hysterical.
Also Fri Dec 12, 9 PM at Arlene’s: Measure – keys/vox duo, triphop/downtempo, chanteusy vocals – kinda pretty and ethereal.
Also Fri Dec 12 A-list songwriters Jan Bell and Steve Earle are joined by generic “R&B” type Stephanie McKay at the War Resisters League 43rd annual Peace Award and New Orleans Benefit at the Brooklyn Lyceum, at the Brooklyn Lyceum, 8 PM, low income tix $25 available.
Also Fri Dec 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.
Sat Dec 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.”
Also Sat Dec 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
Also Sat Dec 13 blues guitar monster Bobby Radcliff at Lucille’s 8 PM.
Also Sat Dec 13 in case you missed Gamelan Dharma Swara’s fall how (reviewed here earlier this month), Gamelan Kusuma Laras performs the hypnotic, frequently beautiful music and dance of Java at the Indonesian Consulate General, 5 East 68th Street, on December 13 at 8PM and December 14th at 3PM. Suggested donation $20/$10 stud/srs.
Also Sat Dec 13 cool latin/reggae/jazz groove instrumentalists Urbansonora at 8 PM at laidback coffeeshop Waltz Astoria, 2314 Ditmars Blvd bt 23rd and 24th Sts., Astoria, Queens
Also Sat Dec 13, Ljova and the Kontraband at the Stone, 10 PM. Led by one of the most strikingly original composers on the planet, this amazing band blends traditional Russian melodies with jazz, classical, Balkan and film score sounds. Wild, intense musicianship and a totally combustible show. Great new cd out too.
Also Sat Dec 13, at Rose Bar, 10 PM ever-increasingly fiery janglerock en Espanol band Cordero
Also Sat Dec 13, 9M at Arlene’s: the Aye Ayes doing barband rock/pop w/funny lyrics
12/14, 2 PM Metropolitan Klezmer special stripped down quartet show at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, 331 E 70th St between First & Second Aves, free.
Also Sat Dec 13 Slowest Runner at Pete’s, 11 PM. Original chamber music with piano, guitar, bass, strings, and quite good
Sun Dec 14 guitarist Jim Campilongo at 55 Bar, 6 PM. Revered by his peers, he’s equally good at western swing, surf and noir Big Lazy style soundtrack stuff.
Also Sun Dec 14 bluegrass sensations (ranked #1 for 2008) the Dixie Bee-Liners play a coat drive benefit for NY Cares ($5 off admission with an old coat)at le Poisson Rouge, show starts at 7 with Minnie Pearl soundalike Lindy Loo followed by gorgeous-voiced Jen Larson from Straight Drive plus banjo superstar Terry McGill
Also Sun Dec 14 the Four Bags and Stephane Wrembel at Barbes, 7 PM. The former have beeen around forever and imaginatively jazz up every genre known to mankind. the headliner is one of the great guitarists of our time, a Djamgo Reinhardt enthusiast who’s taking Balkan jazz in new and exciting directions.
Also Sun Dec 14, 8 PM Soulcrate Music at the Mercury. Hip-hop from South Dakota – funny, cynical, sardonic, smartly lo-key.
Mon Dec 15 and also on Mon Dec 29, Mingus Dynasty at the Jazz Standard – note that tix are “$25 + tax.”
Tues Dec 16, 7 PM at Arlene’s: Lana Mir. Funny that she does a song called I Wanna Be Adored though she sounds nothing like Randi Russo. She’s a Ukrainian expat doing a good job with bossa nova pop. Followed at 8 by Holding Back Entirely who can’t figure out whether they’re retro 80s, 90s or what, but they’re got potential and some decent tunes.The 10 PM act, the Grey Race, a 90s British style band with some really good songs is also worth seeing.
Also Tues Dec 16, 7:45 PM a cameo by the great noir rocker LJ Murphy as part of a big singer/songwriter extravaganza at Banjo Jim’s.
Also Tues Dec 16 (and also New Year’s Eve) veteran Irish-American rockers Black 47 play Connolly’s, 10 PM. Their latest cd Iraq is the high point of a long hellraising career, and their live show does justice to the material.
Also Tues Dec 16, 10ish at Rodeo Bar 80’s Go South/Van Hayride. Two twisted cover bands. According to Van Hayride’s Jack Grace: “Doublebill- this is either gonna really suck or be the best nite that has ever happened.” The openers play country versions of schlocky 80s hits: Tears for Fears, etc.; the headliners do the same thing with Van Halen.
Weds Dec 17, 7 PM, Elaine Romanelli at Suite Bar Lounge, 992 Amsterdam Av at 109th St Subway: 1 or B/C to 110th St, free, shot specials at the bar. Spectacularly soaring voice (classical training, Broadway experience), like a turbocharged Bliss Blood; tastefully retro bluesy songwriting
Also Weds Dec 17, 8 PM, $10 at Drom, Maria Cangiano plays the cd release show for her sultry, purist new one of Astor Piazzolla’s songs Ballads for My Life & Death: a Tribute to Piazzolla
Also Weds Dec 17, 10 PM, boisterously dark Japanese/balkan party band Kagero at Caffe Vivaldi.
Thurs Dec 18, 7 PM at Arlene’s: Six Chasing Seven, funk/reggae from Lynchburg VA w/horn section – good stuff! Followed eventually at 10 PM by Dublin band the Voxys, who do lo fi garage riff rock and sound like they could be a good, high-energy live band
Also Thurs Dec 18, 8:30 PM Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co. play Otto’s, two sets. One of the funniest and most original bands in town, period-perfect, 1953-style with their matching suits, oldtime stage patter, harmonies and often remarkably subtly amusing pre-rockabilly hillbilly songs.
Also Thurs Dec 18, the Five Points Band at Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Dark, funny, strangely very funny bluespunk band
Also Thurs Dec 18 the Stagger Back Brass Band at Union Pool, 11ish. Monster accordionist Patrick Farrell’s wild horn band’s debut cd blends Balkan dances, reggae, jazz and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink; they sound like they’re a blast to hear live.
Also Thurs Dec 18 the annual Harrithon (George Harrison tribute) at Banjo Jim’s all night
Fri Dec 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
Also Fri Dec 19 NYC’s queen of the blues Mamie Minch , her vintage resonator guitar and a whole bunch of very funny stories at Union Hall, 8 PM, $10
Also Fri Dec 19 another sensationally good oldtimey act, the reliably effervescent and wickedly smart Moonlighters at the 92Y in Tribeca, 200 Hudson below Canal, 9:30 PM.
12/19 the Toneballs show at Freddy’s is sadly CANCELLED
Also Fri Dec 19 the Mess Around at Trash Bar, 10 PM. Hard to think of a better Friday night party band than these ferocious two-guitar rockers who in their most blazing moments evoke the greatness of legendary Aussie rockers Radio Birdman.
Also Fri Dec 19 the energetic hokum blues string band Second Fiddles at Banjo Jim’s, 10 PM
Also Fri Dec 19, Mr. Action & the Boss Guitars at Lakeside, 11 PM playing a tastefully twangy and imaginatively chosen mix of classic and obscure surf covers.
Also Fri Dec 19 Ninth House play the Delancey, 11 PM. With the addition of ex-Gotham 4 guitarist Keith Otten, this roaring Nashville gothic unit has suddenly vaulted back into the ranks of the elite with a savagery and majesty equal to the brilliance they had at the early part of the decade.
Also Fri Dec 19 Daptone superstars Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens (you have to hear them to believe them – they are amazing) and the reliably groovalicious Shaolin instrumentalists the Budos Band at the Mercury, 11:30 PM, adv tix $12
Sat Dec 20, 7 PM it’s bluegrass & country night at Banjo Jim’s
Also Sat Dec 20, 8 PM at the Mercury – Charles Atlas doing pretty, ambient, atmospheric instrumental soundscapes.
Also Sat Dec 20 Sounds of Taraab play at 8 PM at Bush Baby, 1197 Fulton St. at Bedford Ave, Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. They’ve singlehandedly revived the haunting, slinky music of Zanzibar from about 80 years ago and even earlier: Middle Eastern melodies, African beats and sensational playing all around.
Also Sat Dec 20 the Menahan St. Band (which is basically the Daptone house band plus some ringers) at Southpaw, 9 PM, $14
Also Sat Dec 20 the casually brilliant, very funny, totally unpretentious punk rockers the Brooklyn What (the guys responsible for I Don’t Wanna Go to Williamsburg) at Don Pedros probably around 9:30ish
Also Sat Dec 20 singer/keyboardist Kristin Hoffmann, who puts her own original and tuneful spin on 80s goth/noir rock at Caffe Vivaldi, 10 PM
Also Sat Dec 20 the always excellent ska band the Slackers – whose new cover cd is just as funny as it is counterintuitive – at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, 9 PM, adv tix $15 at the Mercury
Also Sat Dec 20 singer/bellydancer Tamar Riqs featuring guest dancers Oya and Ranya Renee, plus special guest Rachid Halihal on oud, at BAM Café, 10 PM
Also Sat Dec 20 ex-Modern Clix founder Fran Powers’ amusing acoustic punk band Box of Crayons and then Baby Daddy with their equally amusing, bluesy sound at Crown Heights coffeeshop Vox Pop, 10 PM
Also Sat Dec 20 Jack Grace and his killer country band at Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Oldschool 50s/60s style stuff, very funny. “Like that Cash boy, but good.” – Jerry Lee Lewis
Also Sat Dec 20 superb jangle/Americana guitarist Chris Erikson (who’s worked with everybody from Matt Keating to Florence Dore) and his band the Wayward Puritans at Lakeside, 11 PM.
Sun Dec 21, 4-7 PM the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn Holiday Party at Freddy’s with Brooklyn’s own man in black, John Pinamonti, Rebelmart, Manson Family Picnic and special guests.It may be a little premature to celebrate the demise of Bruce “Ratso” Ratner’s megalomaniac Atlantic Yards luxury housing/arena scheme, but it’s pretty much dead in the water. Yay, no limos from Jersey backed up for miles along Atlantic Ave.! No more nannies pushing monster strollers than the neighborhood already has! And Freddy’s gets to stay!
Also Sun Dec 21 haunting, female-fronted Middle Eastern groove rockers Pharaoh’s Daughter along with Diwon and the equally haunting medieval Ladino song revivalists Sarah Aroeste Band at Le Poisson Rouge, 7 PM, $15 adv tix recommended.
Also Sun Dec 21, 9 PM at Arlene’s: Special Patrol Group. Not the UK cover band (whose Pretty Vacant is pretty damn good). This is a NYC band, 90s style powerpop, guy/girl vox, lyrically driven, intriguing but let the girl sing, keep the guy away from the mic
Mon Dec 22, 7 PM pianist Gloria Cheng plays music by Salonen, Stucky & Lutoslawski at le Poisson Rouge
Also Mon Dec 22 Layali el Andalus play haunting, rousing, gorgeous Middle Eastern classics from all over the map at 9 PM at Zebulon
Also Mon Dec 22 Daria Grace & the Prewar Ponies at Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM. Grace was once in the Moonlighters; this is her gig where she gets to pick up her baritone ukelele and go front and center with that beautiful voice and all those catchy, winsome oldtimey songs, with a stellar cast behind her.
Tues Dec 23, 7 PM flamenco guitarist Dan Nadel and Ladino Singer Aviva plus wild Balkan party band Romashka along with the even wilder, horn-and-guitar-driven Balkan instrumental band Ansambl Mastika at the Spanish Portuguese Synagague, 3 West 70th St. at Central Park West, $15 adv
Also Tues Dec 23 the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble at the Jazz Standard, note that tix are $25 + tax according to the club’s site. This band (composed mostly of siblings from Chicago) absolutely slayed at their show at South St. Seaport this past summer, mixing some searing charts over a live hip-hop beat.
Also Tues Dec 23 killer Greek traditional party band Magges at Otto’s, 8 PM. Note that they typically have a bellydancer and bring ouzo to their gigs; everyone is invited to join in the drinking and carousing. One of the absolutely most fun bands in town.
Also Tues Dec 23 Carolyn Sill & the Poor Man’s Roses play strikingly authentic Patsy Cline covers at Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM
Fri Dec 26 Moonlighters frontwoman Bliss Blood’s sensationally good barrelhouse blues band Delta Dreambox at Barbes, 8 PM
Also Fri Dec 26 the Fab Faux – who look absolutely nothing like the Beatles but do a spot-on musical evocation – play Abbey Road/Let It Be at Terminal 5, 8 PM, $35 adv tix at the Mercury. They play the White lp on 12/27, same time, same price.
Sat Dec 27 legendary, theatrical 80s punks the False Prophets (or what’s left of them) and others at ABC No Rio
Also Sat Dec 27 Romashka at Mehanata, 10 PM
Also Sat Dec 27 devious keyboard-and-horn driven funk/groove rascals Chin Chin followed by equally devious, innovative baritone sax/bass/drums trio Moisturizer at BPM (237 Kent Ave betw Grand/N 1st in Wburg), midnight.
Also Sat Dec 27 the Flying Neutrinos – one of the first and best NYC oldtimey revivalists, with a distinct New Orleans vibe – at Rodeo Bar 10:30 PM
Also Sat Dec 27 Electro Morocco, who put a guitarish Sephardic spin on synthy Middle Eastern dance pop at Joe’s Pub, 11pm $15 adv
Sun Dec 28, 8 PM equally haunting and sultry noir rockers Elysian Fields at the Stone, $15.
Also Sun Dec 28, 8 PM at Arlene’s: Emma Tringali & the Walk Ins. Singer/songwriter with a very distinctive voice (that might be an acquired taste), some decent tunes, and you can tell she’s not a wimp. Kinda like Linda Draper w/o the Ph. D. Followed at 9 by Lulla – not the really good Italian bossa nova chanteuse – but a really good pianist/chanteuse singing Japanese classical ballads
Mon Dec 29 the Stagger Back Brass Band, who liken themselves to “a drunk who’s had too much coffee” at Barbes, 7 PM
Also Mon Dec 29 another multi-band ska extravaganza at the Knit, $15, shows on all floors starting at 7
Also Mon Dec 29 chanteuse Jes Hudak at the Rockwood at 8 followed at 9 by multi-instrumentalist Rob DiPietro
Tues Dec 30, 7 PM at Barbes violinist Johnny Gandelsman (from brilliant innovative string quartet Brooklyn Rider) and violist Ljova (of Ljova and the Kontraband) plus special guests raising all kinds of hell at Barbes.
Also Tues Dec 30, 9 PM Chilean jazz chanteuse Claudia Acuna with her Quintet at Rose Bar, 9 PM, free, a rare treat to see her in such a relatively casual atmosphere
New Year’s Eve the Mike Hunt Band at Lakeside, 11 PM. Of all the New Year’s Eve shows we’ve seen advertised, virtually all of them are obscenely overpriced or just plain bad. Along with Black 47’s show at Connolly’s (a stone’s throw from Times Square – watch it) and the Brazilian New Years Eve at Barbes, this is the best. The Mike Hunt Band (as in, “”have you seen Mike Hunt?”, ha ha) are another one of Tammy Faye Starlite’s projects, in this case a Stones cover band which she uses as the stepping-off point for her typically spot-on, hilarious, politically charged improv. Those too young to know who Lenny Bruce was ought to discover this far better-looking troublemaker.
Also New Year’s Eve – oh yeah – here’s another really good one, Yarn at Hill Country, 10 PM, free, which is a big plus. They’re a country band with a horn section and they have it all – good original, oldschool 60s style tunes, tight harmonies and a killer mandolinist.
Here’s another excellent, cost-effective New Years Eve choice: Nation Beat doing their innovative, danceable Brazilian stuff at Barbes, 10 PM til late, $10. The club wants you to know that there will be no champagne toast, no noisemakers and no ball-dropping countdown, although you will learn to count to ten backwards in Portuguese.
Yet another good New Years Eve choice: roots/dancehall reggae band Noble Society at Rose Bar in Williamsburg, 11ish, plus it’s free.
OK, here’s another really good one: Missississippi hill country blues guitarist Will Scott and drummer Wylie Wirth play a rousing, hypnotic duo show at 68 Jay St. Bar, probably starting early (8ish) and no doubt going all night, and it’s also free!
Apologies for the typos, the circuslike melange of fonts and crazy spacing on the January calendar below, tech difficulties make it impossible to see the whole screen while typing, plus cut/paste isn’t working…we’ll fix it by year’s end (meaning 2008:)
1/1/09 the Quavers/Rachelle Garniez at Barbes, 8 PM
1/2/09 Curtis Eller at Highline Ballroom, 8 PM, $10
1/2/09 Pinataland at Barbes, 10 PM
1/2/09 the Dickies at Southpaw 10 PM
1/2/09 popular rock en Espanol band Ernesto and their first NYC show in 8 years at Bowery Poetry Club, midnight, $8
1/3/09 another Unsteady Freddie surf music extravaganza at Otto’s starting at 7 with Strange but Surf followed by Hang Daddy, the Tarantinos NYC, Mr. Neutron, 9th Wave and Vivisector Gulag Tunes (?!?)
1/3/09 Bobby Radcliff at Terra Blues, 7 PM followed be the equally good Johnny Allen at 10.
1/3/09, 8 PM guitarist Ron Jackson’s cd release show with his Hammond organ jazz group at Rose Bar, 8 PM
1/4/09 original rockabilly/surf band Catspaw at Otto’s, 7:30 PM
1/4/09 innovative Balkan jazz guitarist Stephane Wrembel at Barbes, 9 PM
1/5/09 Hazmat Modine guitarist Michael Gomez and fusiony jazz group Wormwood at Pete’s, 9 PM followed by the East River String Band
1/6 and 11/13/09 Jenny Scheinman at Barbes, 7 PM followed by Slavic Soul Party
1/6/09 the French Exit at the Mercury, 10 PM.
1/6-11/09 Bill Frisell on guitar, Ron Carter on bass and Paul Motian on percussion at the Blue Note, $20 gen. adm ($30 at tables) plus drink minimum
Hey – we have a new calendar for January and February and it’s here: if you have dial-up please wait about 25 seconds for the page to load.
1/7/09 at 7 PM an intriguing triple bill at le Poisson Rouge: brilliant, somewhat rustic, often amusing art-rockers the Snow (with Pierre de Gailland from Melomane) followed by lush, gorgeous chamber-rock outfit Edison Woods at 8 and the impressively tuneful, imaginative lo-fi American/indie band Bowery Boy Blue at 9.
1/7/09 Matt Keating at Southpaw, 9ish
1/7/09 Robert Gordon & Chis Spedding play rockabilly at BB King’s, 8 PMm $25
1/7-11/09 legendary jazz bassist Dave Holland leads his Octet at Birdland, $30 gen. adm., shows 8:30/11 PM
1/8/09 oldtimey chanteuse Sweet Soubrette at Sidewalk, 8 PM
1/8/09 killer oldtimey band the Wiyos at the Jalopy Café $12 9 PM
1/8/09 darkly glimmering southwestern gothic-tinged Americana rockers Tandy at Rodeo Rar, 10:30 PM
1/9/09 sensational Greek-American oud player/composer Mavrothi Kontanis and his band at Barbes, 7 PM
1/9/09 a pretty good multi-band extravaganza at le Poisson Rouge starting at 7 and including excellent roots reggae band John Brown’s Body, multistylistic violinist/composer Jenny Scheinman, fiery Iranian-American rock siren Haale and three others, no idea who and when but these three make the night worth it.
1/9/09 legendary punk-era songwriter Graham Parker – arguably at the peak of his formidably misanthropic powers right now – plays Joe’s Pub, 7:30 PM, $25 adv tix recommended
1/9/09, 8 PM at the 92Y/Tribeca, 200 Hudson Street (off Canal St.) one of the best multi-band extravaganzas of the decade starting with Senegalese rock/hiphop act Gokh-Bi System, brilliantly playful romantic pan-Latin harmony group La Rubias Del Norte, fiery female-fronted janglerock en Espanol Cordero, sprawling bluesy/balkan improvisers Hazmat Modine, popular world music percussionist and Anoushka Shankar collaborator Karsh Kale and wild balkan brass band Slavic Soul Party, $15 and so worth it.
1/9/09 Irving Louis Lattin plays tasteful purist Chicago blues at Lucille’s, 2 sets at 8. AAlso here on 1/23 at 8.
1/9/09 the Moonlighters at Two Boots Brooklyn 10 PM
1/9/09 Mr. Action & the Boss Guitars play tasteful clasic and obscure surf music covers at Lakeside, 11 PM
1/9-10/09 the Brilliant Mistakes – now doing a tasty nouveau-Byrds Americana thing – at the Canal Room, 9ish
1/10/09 Jeff “Tain” Watts plays jazz from his upcoming cd Watts (a historical pun) with a killer band at le Poisson Rouge, 7 PM
1/10/09, 9 PM, a benefit for oudist/pianist/composer Dimitri Mikelis at Alwan for the Arts (playing the oud with two working fingers but needing another operation to regain the use of all of them). Featuring an allstar 13-piece band incl. pianist Liz Magnes and violinist Sami Abu Shumays from Zikrayat plus dancers.
1/10/09 John Doe & Exene play a rare acoustic duo show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, time TBA, adv tix $18 at the Mercury box ofc. They’re also at Joe’s Pub the following night 1/11 for $4 extra
1/10/09 Dengue Fever at Maxwell’s, 10ish, $12 adv tix at the club and Other Music
1/10/09 Simon & the Bar Sinisters at Lakeside, 10:15ish, maybe if you’re lucky he’ll have his Die Hipster Scum bumper stickers for sale again.
1/11/09 the Lucy Moses Music School’s annual student jazz concert at Merkin Concert Hall, 3 PM, free
1/11/09 flamenco siren Maria Bermudez’ Chicana Gypsy Project in their only 2008 US performance at Drom, 7 PM, $15 – they make the Gipsy Kings sound like a bunch of amateurs.
1/11/09 jazz chanteuse Karrin Allyson – lately mining a Brazilian vein, with richly rewarding results – at Birdland, 7:30 PM, $25
1/11/09 the Tom Beckham group playing vibraphone jazz at Cornelia St. Cafe, 8:30 PM, $10
1/12/09 las Rubias del Norte at Barbes, 8 PM
1/12/09 also at Drom, 9 PM, separate show, adv tix $15 at the box office: Hawaiian night with jazzy trio Kohala, Keale and swanky, romantic uke-lounge project Raiatea plus a jam with all three bands afterward
1/12/09 guitarist Steven Bernstein’s Millennian Territory Orchestra – a Murderer’s Row of feisty, devious jazz talent – at 55 Bar, 10 PM
1/13/09 Hazmat Modine at Terra Blues 7 PM
1/13-18 at Dizzy’s Club, the Clayton Brothers Quintet – featuring John Clayton, bass; Jeff Clayton, saxophones; Gerald Clayton, piano; Terell Stafford, trumpet; and Obed Calvaire, drums, playing stuff from celebrate their impresssive new CD Brother to Brother, which highlights the work ofother brother acts (particularly Hank, Thad and Elvin Jones, and Cannonball and Nat Adderley). Sets at 7:30/9:30, also 11:30 on the weekend.
1/14/09 Swiss Music Night at the Canal Room with multi-stylistic cellist/keyboardist/guitarist Serena Jost, playing songs from her excellent new cd Closer Than Far, plus others
1/14/09 jazz bassist/composer to the stars Jay Leonhart doing a rare solo show at Smalls, 7:30 PM
1/14/09 the Rale Micic Trio playing Balkan guitar jazz at Cornelia St. Cafe, 8:30 PM, $10
1/14/09 Kagero playing Japanese Balkan rock at Caffe Vivaldi, 9:30ish
1/14/09 the Flying Neutrinos doing their fetching N’Awlins oldtimey stuff at Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM
1/15/09 the always excellent Brooklyn What playing fiery, fun songs from their new cd The Brooklyn What For Borough President at Fat Baby, 9 PM
1/15/09 Delusions of Grand St. playing smart female-fronted Costelloish pop at Ace of Clubs, 9 PM
1/15/09 the Five Points Band at Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM
1/16/09 the New Collisions playing their excellent, fiery indie/powerpop in the back room at Public Assembly, 8 PM, $10
1/16/09 fiery guitarish new wave revivalists the Larch at Arlene’s, 9 PM
1/16/09 Irish acoustic punks Box of Crayons at Sidewalk, 9 PM
1/17 8:30 PM the Manhattan Valley Ramblers duo play oldtime country/bluegrass at Orchard House Cafe at 58th and 1st in NYC, $15, $10 stud./srs
1/17/09 the Zlatne Uste world music festival uptown, for more info click here
1/17/09 the Metro Chamber Orchestra plays Beeethoven’s Emperor piano concerto and 7th Symphony at Symphony Space, tix $35 at the box ofc
1/17/09 Spanking Charlene – NYC’s answer to X – at Lakeside, 11 PM
1/18/09 dark pianist/chanteuse Kristin Hoffmann at Caffe Vivaldi, 9:30 PM
1/18/09 Lucky Peterson at Terra Blues 10 PM
1/18/09 the Stagger Back Brass Band (the Spinal Tap of brass bands) plays the cd release show for their boisterously fun debut album at Union Pool, 11 PM
1/19/09 Mascott at Cake Shop, 9ish
1/19/09 Strange Cargo feat. Skip Krevens from Western Caravan on steel plus guitarist Pete Smith from Hazmat Modine and Byron Isaacs from Ollabelle at 7 at Barbes followed by the incomparable Chicha Libre at 10ish
1/19/09 the Mingus Big Band at the Jazz Standard, sets 7:30/9:30 PM, note that tix are “$25 PLUS tax”
1/19/09 excellent, hypnotic Indonesian gamelan orchestra Gamelan Son of Lion at Galapagos, 8 PM, $10.
1/19/09 Egyptian film music revivalists Zikrayat with Faisal Zedan on percussion at LIC Bar, 45-58 Vernon Blvd, LIC/Queens, G to Vernon-Jackson
1/20/09, 7:30 PM at Barbes: Black Bear Combo, “Chicago’s premier avant-gypsy punk brass band” followed at 9 by Slavic Soul Party
1/20/09, 7:30 PM at Drom: Goran Alachki and his trio playing fiery Macedonian accordion music , $15
1/20/09 at the front bar at Public Assembly: the Avi Fox-Rosen band, bassist Mike Savino and Luminescent Orchestrii frontman Sxip Shirey, $8
1/21/09, 7 PM, sizzling Montreal Balkan/Turkish band Shtreiml at Drom, $10
1/21-24/09 Jamaican jazz pianist Monty Alexander (Tony Bennett chose him to lead his band recently, which speaks volumes about his vivid lyrical style) at Birdland, gen. adm. $30, shows 8:30/11. With his trio 1/21-22; with his reggae jazz group 1/23-24.
1/21/09 timeless new wave chanteuse (and Clash collaborator) Ellen Foley at Joe’s Pub, 9:30 PM, $20 adv tix recommended
1/21/09 fiery Chicago blues guitarist/crooner Johnny Allen at Terra Blues, 10 PM
1/22/09, 7 PM acoustic guitar multistylist Peter Calo downstairs at the National Underground
1/22/09 percussion-oriented Greek jazz band Manhattan Vibes, led by vibraphonist Christos Rafalides at Queens Theatre in the Park, 8 PM, adv tix $35 at the box ofc
1/22/09 Buck Owens Cover night at Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM with Demolition String Band, special guests
1/22/09 Custard Wally at Don Pedro’s, 11ish
1/23/09 Rawles Balls, the hilarious cover band from hell at Sidewalk, 10 PM.
1/23/09 hypnotic, noir Bee & Flower/Cordero spinoff And the Wiremen at Pete’s Candy Store, 11 PM
1/24/09 Balkan jazz guitar monster Stephane Wrembel at Spikehill, 7 PM.
1/24/09 Daria Grace & the Prewar Ponies/Conjunto Guantanamo at Barbes, 8 PM
1/24/09 Bulgarian vocal music with Vlad Tomova’s Balkan Tales at Drom, 9 PM
1/24/09, 9 PM popular Boston garage band Muck & the Mires at Southpaw, $12 adv tix at the club box office
1/24/09 ancient but reputedly undiminished artsy 70s metal band Blue Oyster Cult at B.B. King’s, adv tix $27.50 at the box ofc., shows 7:30/9:30 PM
1/24/09 alt-country hellraiser Zane Campbell at Rodeo Bar, 10:30 PM
1/24/09 Luminiscent Orchestrii cd release show at Union Pool, 11ish.
1/25/09 Maria Cangiano plays classic Piazzolla tangos for a brunch show, half past noon at the Blue Note, $25
1/25/09 the Americana Family Jamboree with Demolition String Band playing kid-friendly but cool country and bluegrass at Rodeo Bar, 3-6 PM, free
1/25/09 Louisville country songstress Alanna Fugate at Sidewalk , 9 PM
Later 1/25/09 at Rodeo Bar, 10ish the Superfine Band with guitar monster Jim Campilongo plus Chris Cheek, Stephan Crump, Andy Borger
1/26/09 the Mingus Orchestra at the Jazz Standard, sets 7:30/9:30, tix “$25 PLUS tax”
1/26/09, 10:30 PM at Roeo Bar, Daria Grace & the Prewar Ponies’ gorgeously romantic oldtimey stuff
1/27/09, 10:30 PM the uproarious Second Fiddles playing uptempo oldtime hokum blues at Rodeo Bar
1/28/09, 7 PM the Megitza Quartet play their pioneering and often hauntingly noir mix of Balkan, tango and bossa sounds at Drom, $10
1/28/09 8 PM at Galapagos it’s tango night, $15
1/29/09, 8 PM, $30 at Merkin Concert Hall: Vox Americana: Oliver Lake, Joel Harrison, and Wendy Sutter performing Vox Americana: Suite for 7 Musicians; the world premiere of Sonata for Solo Cello performed by cellist Wendy Sutter, followed by the Joel Harrison String Choir performing the music of Paul Motian and concluding with an epilogue with choir.
1/29/09 excellent, lyrical tenor player JD Allen and his trio at the Fat Cat, 9 PM
1/29/09 the Komeda Project plays jazz and soundtrack works by legendary Polish composer Krzysztof Komeda at the Cornelia St. Cafe, 8:30 PM, $10
1/30/09, 8 PM the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra play new works by latin composers at Galapagos, $15
1/30-31/09 Afrobeat wildmen Antibalas at Southpaw, 9 PM, adv tix $18 at the club box ofc
1/30/09 a screening of the new Joy Division documentary The Atrocity Exhibition at Glasslands, 9 PM, $5
1/30/09 Gaucho play Balkan jazz at Drom, $10, 10 PM
1/31/09 sprawling minor-key Balkan/klezmer/reggae party band Hazmat Modine at Terra Blues, 7 PM
1/31/09 sultry-voiced songstress/pianist Allison Scola at Drom playing the release show for her new cd, 7 PM
1/31/09 low-frequency Cuban revivalists Gato Loco at Barbes, 8 PM
2/4/09 Paolo Bordignon plays Pachelbel, Vierne and Mendelssohn on the antique 1830 Appleton organ in the musical instruments section at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 3:30 PM, free w/museum admin
2/6/09 second-wave ska with Bad Manners and the English Beat at Irving Plaza, 9ish, adv tix $26 at the box office
2/12/09 rousing klezmer-rock party band Golem at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, time TBA, adv tix $10 at the Mercury
2/13-14/09 Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – you know them, right? Today’s greatest soul singer and her great band – at the Nokia Theatre, time TBA, adv tix expensive, $35 at the club box ofc
2/13 Bulgarian vocal music with Vlad Tomova’s Balkan Tales at Shrine, 9 PM
2/14/09, 8 PM Orchestra Otmani of Fes in their North American debut, playing Andalusian classical music at Merkin Concert Hall, adv tix $35 at the box ofc highly recommended
2/18/09 Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mtn. Boys at B.B. King’s, 8 PM, adv tix $30 at the box ofc.
2/20/09 The Neville Bros. and Dr. John at Terminal 5, adv tix expensive, $35 at the Mercury
2/21/09 Orchestra of Tangier playing traditional and new Andalusian music including a world premiere at Merkin Concert Hall, adv tix expensive, $35 highly recommended at the box office
3/5/09, 7:30 PM Iraqi refugee oud virtuoso Rahim AlHaj at Symphony Space, adv tix $25 highly recommended
3/5/09 pan-latin guitar genius Aquiles Baez at the Jazz Gallery, $15, sets 9/10:30 PM
3/12/09 the Throwing Muses at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, time TBA, adv tix $20 at the Mercury, no idea if it’s Kristin and Tanya or one or the other or both…
4/18/09 latin jazz guitarist (and Red Sox nemesis) Bernie Williams’ cd release show at the Nokia Theatre, adv tix $24.50 very highly recommended at the box office, this will sell out very fast.
The top 666 songs of alltime countdown continues, one day at a time all the way to #1. Sunday’s is #604:
For almost forty years, Burning Spear AKA Winston Rodney has been making brilliant, socially conscious roots reggae. This is arguably his finest song, a wicked slap upside the head of anyone who ever claimed that Columbus “discovered” America. “What about the Arawak Indians?” Spear asks pointedly over one of his most memorable melodies. The album version is fine, but check the usual sites: Spear fans are compulsive collectors, and there are many sensational live versions out there. One particular ten-minute version from Manhattan Center in 1994 with a spectacular piano intro is the best we’ve heard to date.
Bay area duo Teslim’s new cd is one of the most exciting albums to come over the transom here in recent months. Although it’s all acoustic it’s almost punk rock in its wild, reckless abandon, a couple of virtuoso American musicians having a great time with Middle Eastern modes and motifs. Violinist Kaila Flexer is an intriguing, genre-blending writer whose previous work has much in common with Jenny Scheinman’s instrumental compositions. Multi-instrumentalist and luthier Gari Hegedus is a primeval force wailing on a museum worth of stringed instruments – oud, lute, Turkish saz, violin, viola and also percussion – mixed together here into waves of lush jangle, clink and clang with the violin soaring around it. The backstory here is really nice – Flexer called on Hegedus once to sit in on accordion at a gig on very little notice, and then discovered what kind of talent she was dealing with – and what kind of chemistry the two musicians had. The rest – this cd – is history. Prepare to be lifted out of your seat: what doesn’t levitate you will soothe and captivate you.
It opens with Camila’s song, peaceful bucolic bluegrass as Kayhan Kalhor might have done it. The cd’s second cut, Ajuar de Novia Galana/Timrxou Street Dojo (a tribute to Hegedus’ Greek luthier friend and aspiring ninja) is a partita, its first part dark and stately, violin over lute, picking up the pace with Hegedus slamming out staccato chords as Flexer adds ambience above the fray. It ends on a beautifully climactic note. Track three, El Meod Na’ala is a march of sorts punctuated by somber dumbek over what sounds like saz, building to ferociously beautiful heights: it’s the kind of track you can play over and over again and never get sick of. After that, Knight of Cups slows down, plaintive violin over minimalist layers of stringed instruments. Azade builds to a fiery dance that just keeps climbing to a sudden, unexpected ending.
There’s also an improvisation here, appropriately titled Taxim, layering ambient violin over meandering oud, followed by the bracing, upbeat Stone’s Throw. Kiana’s Waltz builds attractively from its oud intro, violin carrying the melody, then turned over to a harp. Another partita, Elk/High Tide/Yetierre builds slowly and melodically to another dance with gorgeous chromatic work from Flexer with hypnotic violins swirling over the beat of the dumbek. After the gorgeous oud waltz Aley Givah, Petalouda explodes with oud right off the bat. It’s another scorching dance with layers and layers of jangling fretted instruments, screaming out for the repeat button on the cd player after it finally wraps up. The cd concludes with For a 5/Karsilamas for Sara, a tune for flutes (essentially a Scottish bagpipe melody set a couple of octaves higher), picking up at the end with violin and a lot of strumming. Wow – where were we – get the cd and see for yourself. Watch this space for NYC dates; Teslim’s next show is Dec 20 at 8 PM at Zellerbach Hall on the UC Berkeley Campus.
Classically trained retro croooner Max Raabe is a big name in Europe. Working strictly in grand style, this is a characteristically ambitious effort (the title translates as Tonight or Never), a double live cd of classic and obscure swing jazz, cabaret, Weimar blues, dancehall numbers and some ballads, most of them from the 1920s. Had Raabe decided to record them in mono with a few pops and crackles, collectors would be going nuts over this stuff. He and his crew have done their homework – this really sounds like the genuine article. It’s not going to appeal to everybody: many will find Raabe’s mannered delivery stilted and completely over the top (rather than singing in character, he is the character). But fans of this stuff won’t be able to resist. For Raabe, life is indeed a cabaret to be savored in all its exquisite decadence. His Teutonic accent only adds to the period ambience. And he’s funny (this is a guy who once did a deadpan, fully orchestrated cover of Oops I Did It Again). His backing band, Palast Orchester is topnotch with lush strings, buoyant horns and incisive, tasteful piano, banjo or tuba authentically filling in the low frequencies. Ultimately, this is festive party music, best enjoyed after a holiday gluwein or three. Most of the songs here are short, three minutes at best. Some have a nostalgic feel, others are exuberant, with a few comedic numbers and instrumental interludes (which are actually the cd’s best moments – this orchestra really cooks).
There’s a fast, amusing oompah song here titled My Little Green Cactus. Their version of Kurt Weill’s Song of Mandalay is more restrained than Brian Carpenter’s but still good. Dream A Little Dream bounces and plinks along, closer to the original than the Mama Cass hit. Likewise, the version of Alabama Song here benefits from a straight-up treatment, far funnier than Jim Morrison’s. Occasionally Raabe will pull out all the stops and show off his operatic chops; one song features a solo on the spoons. The tuba also takes center stage on a couple of occasions. Campy? Sometimes, yes. But it’s a good party. Fans of the A-list of the American oldtimey revivalists – the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Jolie Holland, the Moonlighters, les Chauds Lapins et al. will enjoy getting acquainted with Herr Raabe and his mischievous crew.
The top 666 songs of alltime countdown continues, one day at a time all the way to #1. Saturday’s is #605:
Penelope Houston – Living Dolls
The Avengers’ frontwoman has also enjoyed a spectacular good if vastly underrated career as an acoustic songwriter. This is one of her best early solo songs, a darkly imagistic, minor-key tableau, figures hiding in the shadows in some nameless terror state. Even more relevant today than when originally released in 1985. From the cd Birdboys (also still available on high-quality cassette!).
Chicago-based singer-songwriter Joe Pug has been riding the wave of a lot of buzz recently, and for once it’s justified. Brash and ambitious as this debut is, we need those qualities in times like these. Pug’s not afraid of the mic like those legions of wimpy, strung-out Conor Oberst wannabes, and for once the material here lives up to its author’s stance. With more than a mere nod to early Dylan, this cd is just Pug and his acoustic guitar with occasional harmonica. His myspace lists John Prine as a big influence, which comes across mostly in his casually smart, metaphorical lyricism; there also seems to be some Richard Buckner and maybe a little Billy Bragg in there somewhere too. Pug’s songs can be self-referential, some might say bordering on self-mythologizing (he calls a couple of them hymns), and selfconscious, but not in a pretentious way. Resolute, defiant, tuneful and often really funny, Pug loves images, and he’s very, very good at them. And perhaps true to his name, Pug is pugnacious.
The cd opens with a shot across the bow called Hymn 101, a more apt title than it might seem, especially in the wake of the election. It’s a hymn to the hope of throwing out the old to make way for the new, the triumph of youthful yet knowing optimism over smug complacency:
The more I buy the more I’m bought
And the more I’m bought the less I’ve caught
The cd’s second track Call It What You Will is a breakup song, a tongue-in-cheek study in semantics:
I called today disaster, she calls it December the third…
Some call an end a beginning, this time they’ll go unheard
Call it what you will
Words are just words
Pub returns to defiant mode with the vivid Nobody’s Man (as in, “I’d rather be nobody’s man than somebody’s child.”). Hymn 35 seems to be a stab at personifying some timeless quality – justice, truth? – what it might be is never clear. I Do My Father’s Drugs, by contrast, is a bristling, wickedly lyrical slap upside the head at clueless, irresponsible, knowitall baby boomers, a spot-on illustration of history repeating itself:
If you see me with a rifle don’t ask me what it’s for
I fight my father’s war…
All the streets in Cleveland are named for Martin Luther King…
When the party starts on Monday and Christmas comes in June…
I’ll be leaving soon
The most traditional of the songs here, Speak Plainly Diana is an optimistic Obama-generation anthem:
There’s a wrecking ball in the front yard but there’s blueprints on the couch…
Steal from the tallest cabinet and make your favorite sound
The cd closes with the title track, and it’s arguably Pug’s strongest, heat taking on as many meanings here as he can squeeze into a tight couple of lines:
So swift and so vicious are the carnival rides
And the carnival barker’ll yell your name for a price
We’ve got billboards for love and Japanese cars
…all the streetlights call themselves stars
The more that I learn the more that I cheat
I come from the nation of heat
In other words, this guy gets it. And if the way he beats on his guitar is any indication, he sounds like he could be great live. Watch this space for NYC dates; Pug kicks off a Texas/Colorado/Midwest December tour on Dec 5 at at 10:30 PM at Stubb’s BBQ, 801 Red River in Austin.
Although like a lot of folkies, Patti Rothberg plays under her own name, she’s not one of them. She’s a rocker through and through. This is her greatest shining moment so far, a deliriously catchy collection of fiery powerpop songs that sometimes border on punk. Along with the boost in volume, she’s really taken her songwriting to the next level – ever since her big breakthrough cd Between the 1 and the 9, she’s always had a knack for a juicy hook and a terse, understated double entendre, but this album explodes with them. If Elvis Costello had done an album with the Go Go’s before they imploded and he became Mr. Classical for awhile, this would be it. Musically, it’s a particular triumph for Rothberg since she plays most of the guitars and bass and does all the vocals here as well. The cd kicks off with Alternate Universe, catchy with a bouncy, almost trip-hop feel, followed by Eye to Eye, an unabashedly hook-driven pop song with something of an 80s vibe.
The cd’s cynical, sardonic title track is a showcase for Rothberg’s characteristically tough, defiantly individualistic lyricism, snidely dismissing “the devil of the double standard, and heaven isn’t very cheap.” The best cut on the album is After the Parade, a big, mostly acoustic, beautifully metaphorical ballad. Rothberg’s vividly imagistic tableau sets those who came to lift their heavy hearts alongside the rest of the crowd who just came to party: “Please don’t ruin it for the rest of us,” she cautions. She follows that with Inventory, a big piano ballad with strings, pensive but optimistic with lusciously watery Leslie-speaker guitar. The bouncy, midtempo Hard Times brings back the cynical feel, as does the fast, defiant Retrograde:
I was never cast in shows
I was casting shadows
The catchiness doesn’t let up on the second half of the album, either. Get Away with It is blasting pop-punk with more than a few echoes of the Blondie hit One Way or Another. The tongue-in-cheek yet intense Chaste Away builds to a ferocious, almost punk chorus. The cd wraps up with a surprisingly quiet acoustic tribute to a friend, a pedal-to-the-metal ode to a mini-SUV, a lush, richly arranged cover of the Stones classic Sway (from Sticky Fingers), another big ballad that builds from dreamy to crushing and finally a terrific, oldtimey acoustic ragtime song. Freddie Katz’ spot-on production puts all those layers of guitars and Rothberg’s voice – playful but wickedly edgy, with just the hint of a rasp – out front where they belong. This could be the soundtrack to a smart indie comedy flick, it sounds like it would be a great highway album and it ought to do well in Europe (corporate radio over here being terrified of people like Rothberg because she’s so much catchier than anything the major labels, in their final grotesque seconds, are releasing, and they’re the only ones still willing to fork over the payola). Available at better record stores, online and at shows, watch this space for upcoming dates.
The top 666 songs of alltime countdown continues, one day at a time all the way to #1. Beyond the brazenness of coming up with one of those crazy “best-of” lists that seem to boost traffic no matter where they appear on the web, our top 666 list does double duty as cheap excuse for the new frontpage post here, every day, no matter what, that we promised you when we started this site. With Thanksgiving bearing down on us like a ten-wheeler on the interstate along the Mexican border, we’re going to race across before it hits us, hope the INS isn’t on the other side and then call it quits til we’re back in town on Friday night, probably too drunk at that point to put up anything meaningful. So here’s the songs for Thanksgiving and Friday:
607. The Leaving Trains – Creeping Coastline of Lights
Like Cortez the Killer, for awhile this song was all the rage as a cover version for indie bands circa 1993 or so. This LA band’s 1984 original from the early indie era is vastly superior to any other version, the song’s beautifully contrapuntal, minor-key janglerock melody perfectly capturing the glimmer of the title. Check your favorite mp3 site but make sure it’s the original; good luck finding the vinyl album, long out of print. And note that the version on the band’s myspace is also a lousy live take.
606. Paula Carino – Lucky in Love
The New York janglerock siren’s greatest shining moment, so far. This is an uncharacteristically quiet, rivetingly haunting 6/8 ballad with one of Carino’s trademark, wickedly metaphorical lyrics, not about the kind of luck the title would imply. Highly recommended for people who like ice cream and beer. Unreleased, although there are bootleg versions kicking around.
Like his colleagues Richard Thompson and Elvis Costello, Steve Wynn has a richly prolific body of work, dating to the early 80s and the pioneering noise-rock band the Dream Syndicate. Although Wynn rocks harder than those other two artists, he’s equally competent at darkly gentle acoustic stylings and slashingly lyrical songwriting. Whenever he puts out a new cd (almost every year, it seems), it’s always amusing to read the reviews: everything seems to be Wynn’s best in a long, long time. Well, his most recent solo studio cd before this one was …tick…tick…tick (reviewed here in our earliest days last year) and that one was killer. So is this. While not everything Wynn touches – from Danny and Dusty, his wildly carousing duo project with Green on Red founder Dan Stuart, or the Baseball Project band he has with Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey – is visionary, this cd is. It seems that every great songwriter eventually ends up playing orchestrated rock, and Wynn’s first venture into this kind of uncharted territory ranks with his finest work. Time may judge this a classic.
In a drastic departure from Wynn’s usual MO in the studio, producer Chris Eckman (leader of another extraordinary, long-running band, the Walkabouts) was insistent on getting Wynn to play as many instruments as he could by himself, rather than utilizing the skills of his snarling backup band the Miracle 3). The result here blends lot of acoustic guitar and some electric piano with lush, epic string arrangements that take Wynn’s dark, frequently ominous songs to new levels of majestic grandeur. Perhaps in keeping with the time-honored tradition of 70s art-rock, the cd begins and ends with a “Slovenian Rhapsody.” “On my own again, haunted by the rain,” is the opening line of its second part, encapsulating Wynn’s signature style with characteristically terse understatement.
The first full-length song on the cd is Manhattan Fault Line, a false start of sorts: it’s an attempt to transpose the ever-present LA earthquake threat to the opposite coast, and ultimately it sinks under its own gravitas. The rest of the cd, however, is another story. Driven by a relentless minor-key groove, Love Me Anyway gets thisclose to desperation without falling over the edge. Then there’s a subdued cover by a Slovenian folksinger that sounds like something Wynn could have written in his early post Dream Syndicate days, and the strikingly optimistic When We Talk About Forever, a big acoustic ballad in 6/8 with those gorgeous strings. Wynn’s vocals have never been stronger than they are on this cd, and this song resonates confidence, yet with apprehension lurking in the background.
The next track, Annie & Me is just acoustic guitar and drum machine, sort of Kooks by Bowie updated for an older couple a decade or three later. The noir cabaret number Wait Until You Get to Know Me is Wynn at his menacing best, the leering tale of a sinister would-be ladykiller who won’t take no for an answer. The levels come down a bit after that but the darkness remains with Punching Holes in the Sky, sparse minor-key acoustic guitar playing against the orchestra:
Strip away the mystery
Lash out at the night
Strip away the storyline
But can I make it right?
Wynn picks up the pace after that with the equally menacing, somewhat hallucinatory Bring the Magic and the strange God Doesn’t Like It (is the song’s bullying narrator to be taken at face value, or is this satire?), then brings it down again with the somewhat breathless, plainspoken nonconformist anthem Believe in Yourself. As Wynn frequently does, he saves the best for last here with I Don’t Deserve This, a big, brooding, absolutely sinister epic building from eerie tremolo guitar and electric piano to mammoth proportions. It’s a bitter, anguished tale of being unable to get away from the enemy, whoever that may be, literal or figurative, and it’s simply one of the three or four most exhilarating, resonant songs released this year. “Violence tricks my ears,” Wynn notes matter-of-factly as the second Slovenian Rhapsody brings the cd to a close.
Like most New York-based artists, Wynn’s shows here in town have become infrequent: like everybody else, he makes his money on the road. For those in LA this weekend, Steve Wynn plays the Cinema Bar, 3967 Sepulveda Blvd. in Culver City, 310-390-1328 on Nov 29.
For those new to the concept, gamelans are the community-based bell-and-percussion orchestras common throughout the Indonesian archipelago. Sunday afternoon, Gamelan Dharma Swara, New York’s very own Balinese-style gamelan treated a standing-room-only crowd to a performance that was as beautifully hypnotic as it was bracing. In keeping with tradition, this group is a community organization, holding an open workshop on December 7 for anyone interested in joining. True to form, this group of 24 musicians plus dancers is multi-ethnic and represents a wide range of ages including a young guy who is their star performer and looks about 12. Musicians from a wide range of completely unrelated styles have found a home in this group, including the bass player from Chicha Libre, one of the singer/arrangers from Brooklyn Balkan folk choir Black Sea Hotel and noted Chinese guzheng player Wu Fei.
Bell players in a gamelan typically play a set of four. Because the bells have so much sustain, half the work involves muting them, requiring both split-second timing and impeccably precise teamwork. This group excels at it. Their percussion includes hand drums as well as a boomy one-piece tom-tom played with a single stick, and a set of two massive gongs that produce resonant, echoey low bass tones. Perhaps also in keeping with tradition, everyone in this group multitasks: dancers play, players dance, percussionists switch to flute or bells and vice versa. Each of eight pieces they played featured a different crew, but regardeless of who was doing what, the result was equally captivating. The most intricate, lush pieces of the afternoon opened and closed the show, the first featuring a quartet of dancers who closed by pelting the crowd with flower petals, the second illustrating a mythical battle between brothers (one ends up killing the other – but then he gets up and starts dancing again) featuring some remarkable call-and-response between the flutes and percussion. To the eyes of one not versed in traditional Indonesian dance, the dancers seem to blend a herky-jerky, googly-eyed eeriness with slowly undulating grace, and to the group’s credit, they made it look perfectly natural.
The rest of the program was a mix of hypnotic lushness and percussive fire, frequently in the same piece. The quietest and most captivating featured a trio of bell players set up in the middle of the stage doing a traditional gender wayang piece typically used as a musical backdrop to Balinese shadowplay theatre. The most intense and percussive piece was in the barong style, in its loudest moments something like a more mellow, less chaotic Chinese New Year celebration, the group’s young star dressed in a strikingly elaborate, oversize dragon costume, keeping perfect time as he clacked the creature’s big wooden jaws together. Unlike Western music, the gamelan repertoire doesn’t utilize chords per se, although a couple of the pieces the group played actually did have chord changes along with some dizzyingly repetitive melodic hooks: one that kept coming back again and again was a 1-3-4-3 progression (for those who don’t play an instrument, that’s the intro to Add It Up by the Violent Femmes – catchy, huh?). In addition to a set of program notes handed out before the show, the group’s spokesman would often entertainingly explain the mechanics and stylistic differences of the various pieces.
One unexpected if very auspicious development was to see how popular this group has become, and not simply among the expat population: the crowd was every bit as polyglot as the crew onstage. Adventurous listeners interested in Gamelan Dharma Swara’s next show should plan on getting tickets the minute they go onsale, considering how quickly both this past weekend’s concerts sold out.