Concert Review: The Snow and Edison Woods at le Poisson Rouge, NYC 1/7/08
Despite the early hour and the swankiness of the venue (usually not a selling point during a depression), it was nice to see the tables filled with an impressively invigorated crowd. The Snow are rocker Pierre de Gaillande’s main band right now; he’s one of those guys who manages to be in several at once (let’s see: Melomane; Sea Foxx; Morex Optimo, and also the Georges Brassens Translation Project, who have a gig at Pete’s on January 15). They’re also one of the best bands in New York right now. As a writer, Gaillande alternates between artsy, slightly 80s-inflected quirkiness (XTC and Split Enz come to mind) and raw, barely restrained menace. Tonight was mostly the latter: this was the dark set, and the band came out swinging with an unleashed version of their signature song The Silent Parade, a big, crescendoing anthem in Gaillande’s ongoing “disaster song cycle,” this one about the blizzard to end all blizzards. The rest of the set was mostly biting, ominous, guitar-fueled material and some more lighthearted fare at the end, from the haunting Undertow, the torchy, noir Shadows and Ghosts (both sung by co-leader and keyboardist Hilary Downes) to the amusing Handle Your Weapon, an insomniac’s lament. Perhaps the best song of the night was Russians, their savagely funny critique of what happens when you introduce corrupt communists to corrupt capitalism:
Mama, I’m home
Mama, I’m sick
I ate too much candy
And sucked too much
And how come your humble reviewer knows all the titles to these songs, even though many of them aren’t on the band’s new cd True Dirt? Because the band made sure to tell the crowd what they were called before they played them. More bands should do that. It would help sales. Or at least help facilitate file-sharing. Which means publicity and that’s always good.
Edison Woods, who, totally oldschool style, are releasing a new single every month, were magic on the lowlit stage, all rain-drenched longing and unease set to richly orchestrated yet minimalist noir atmospherics. They were seven songs into their set before they played one in 4/4 time – and that was a haunting tango. Is that cool or what? Has there ever been another band who specialized in songs in 6/8? Doubtful. The group they most closely resemble is bassist/composer Dana Schechter’s gorgeously dark Berlin/New York project Bee & Flower, or Nina Nastasia in a particularly epic, ambient moment. With cello and reeds augmenting their two keyboards, guitar, rhythm section and beautiful vocal harmonies from keyboardists Julia Frodahl and Johanna Cranitch, they played slowly and sparely without wasting a single note in over an hour onstage.
They set the tone for the night with their opener, Find the Parade, dreamy yet pensive as it built inexorably to a big crescendo. Interplay is an important element in this band, and they work it for all it’s worth, drummer David Berger playing 4/4 against the beat on their next song, suddenly jumping in with the band when they hit the chorus. Their third song of the night was a darkly glimmering, David Lynch style soundtrack piece lit by noisy, twangy reverb accents from guitarist Jonathan Goldberger, the cello taking a matter-of-fact solo against the gently swirling chaos in the background.
They picked up the pace for a bit with a big, sweeping rocker driven by sustained ebow guitar, more than a little evocative of Australian art-rockers the Church at their early 90s peak, replete with big swells and equally dramatic fades. Berger (who has a resume of seemingly every good, dark New York band ever) eventually came out from behind the kit to play acoustic guitar and then piano. They closed with one of their more direct numbers set to a gentle trip-hop beat, the warmth of the sax contrasting with the cello’s austerity as it wound down. Fans of the current crop of artsy classical-inflected New York outfits: Redhooker, Christina Courtin, Victrola, Rasputina – and for that matter, Sigur Ros, shouldn’t miss the chance to get to know Edison Woods. Watch this space for their next show.
It was almost comical how much of a Neil Young & Crazy Horse ripoff the next band were. But in the span of a minute or two, Bowery Boy Blue had completely won over what was left of the crowd, vividly reminding how truly excellent much of Neil Young & Crazy Horse could be, and how proficiently this band has captured that style. They have all the Neil-isms down cold: the whiny vocals, the growling guitars, the slithery vibrato on the solos and the sudden minor-to-major resolution at the end of a verse. They should get a residency at Lakeside: they’d go over well there. Or they could open for Neil Young. Hell, they should play with Neil Young: everybody would love them. And nobody would know the difference.
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