Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Thy Burden, Across the Aisle and System Noise at the Delancey, NYC 11/19/08

A benefit for urban agriculture charity Just Foods – dedicated to sustainable community agriculture in NYC – turned out to be one of the best triple bills of the year so far. Maybe the energy of the election is still bouncing around. Whatever the case, it was a night for serious dancing. Thy Burden were recently mischaracterized here earlier as an Irish band (while they’d no doubt do a great job with it, our spies gave us bad information: sorry). What they are is the missing link between Bill Monroe and Gogol Bordello. With acoustic guitars and rhythm section, banjo, fiddle,mandolin and sometimes harmonica, they delivered a deliriously fun, frequently psychedelic show. They like minor keys and get the fires burning most brightly playing in them. They also like their tempos lickety-split, giving all the players a chance to show off some sizzling chops. The mandolin took most of the solos. Frequently they’d jam out on a tune for a few minutes before launching into the verse, which worked especially well on Friend of the Devil – done oldschool rather than the Grateful Dead way – and the Hank Williams classic Ramblin Man. At times, they’d add just a little Balkan tinge to the mix, which really hit the spot. There hasn’t been a bluegrass band this fun here in town since the Dixie Bee-Liners vamoosed for the hills of Virginia, or maybe even since Brooklyn Browngrass split up.


Female-fronted ska rockers Across the Aisle were next, blending ska with a brassy, chipper, cheery, occasionally sarcastic pop feel – imagine No Doubt without the weight of the corporation beating down on them, and with a horn section so tight you couldn’t fit a piece of paper between the sax and the trumpet. Everything they did was infectious: the sly Born Dirty, their signature song Across the Aisle which they began at hardcore speed, the impossibly catchy Out of Sight, Out of Mind, the sexy urban tale 59th and Lexington, a straight-up reggae number and the sardonic Everybody Lies: “Don’t be fooled by assholes,” Megg their frontwoman grinned. Thy Burden were a hard act to follow, but the party didn’t let up til Across the Aisle left the stage. All they need is some college radio exposure and this band will be huge.


One of those choadmonkey corporate bands was next, “choadmonkey” being the marvelous term coined by System Noise’s bass player to describe pretty much any loud Nickelback wannabe (a choad being something small and disgusting from the nether regions, either a dingleberry or some other short stubby thing). This crew had a lot of stuff on tape, might have been lipsynching and didn’t seem to have any fans either. Finally, System Noise took the stage and delivered a set that was as ecstatic as it was eerily intense. They started with the party set and eventually segued into the dark, disturbing set, which somehow still felt perfectly natural. Their frontwoman Sarah Mucho is a bonafide star on the cabaret circuit (she won a MAC award if that means anything) and a wiseass onstage, and she was on top of her game tonight, playfully berating her band when they insisted on playing a new one she clearly didn’t feel up to. But she nailed it and then some. When she suddenly stopped wailing, leaving a pregnant pause and then unexpectedly picking up right where she left off, the effect was spine-tingling. The guitar alternated between sly, catchy funk and scorching, chromatically-fueled noise, the rhythm section in particularly ferocious, pummeling mode tonight, even on the catchy, funky stuff like Shitkickers and Everyday Hustler, the two songs that opened the set.


A new one in 6/8 (the one Mucho didn’t want to sing but nailed anyway) began especially ominous, with a watery 80s feel before building to a pyrotechnic, noisy crescendo. They roared through the snarky, darkly pounding, Iron Maiden-inflected cannibalism anthem Good Enough to Eat and followed that soon after with an other chromatically-fueled, even noisier one called Cosmic Monsters. This being a cold night, when they finally wrapped up the set well after midnight, a lot of the crowd had cleared out. Those who remained were rewarded. When the bass, guitar and drums launched into the slow, ominous intro to Daydreaming (our pick for best song of the year for 2006), a murmur ran through the crowd: this slowly crescendoing, titanic anthem is a big hit, and the band hadn’t played it out in a long time. This time out they brought out every bloodcurdling ounce of menace in the melody, Mucho toying with her phrasing on the quieter sections like a cat with a helpless rodent.


The only drawback of the evening was a late arrival meant missing Farm Aid regular Jesse Lenat’s opening set: if what he played was anything like what’s on his myspace, he kicked ass. Check and see for yourself.


Thy Burden’s next show is on Dec 6 at Europa; Sarah Mucho stars in her highly acclaimed revue Subterranean Circus at Don’t Tell Mama on Dec 3 at 8 PM and Dec 9 at 7.


November 20, 2008 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks so much for the kind words! We had a blast!

    – Jake, ATA’s New Guy

    Comment by Jacob Wake Up! | November 24, 2008 | Reply

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