Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Gaucho at Barbes, Brooklyn NY 1/29/09

Gaucho are not a Steely Dan cover band, nor do they wear cowboy hats. According to the band’s website, their name derives from the Romanes equivalent for “gringo,” i.e. they may not have Roma blood but they have the sound down cold. Last night at Barbes the self-described gypsy jazz band out of San Francisco showed off the virtuosity and intensity that keeps them busy with constant gigs in their hometown. For this show, acoustic guitarist/bandleader Dave Ricketts was accompanied by the band’s regular accordionist Rob Reich, in addition to another acoustic guitarist and a sub bassist who got a real workout, expertly and briskly walking the changes.


Interplay defines this band. Athough the band frequently played solos around the horn (or at least between the two guitarists) on many of the songs, it was the intricacy of the melodies intertwining among all the instruments that was their most obviously compelling feature. In a mix of Django Reinhardt classics and other similar material, they breezed through a small handful of 6/8 musette instrumentals, bouncing, almost martial dance tunes including the classic Swing 42, and a handful of vocal numbers. Chanteuse Ariel Morgenstern (sp?), a friend of the band was called out of the crowd to deliver a lickety-split version of the oldtimey blues What Will the Neighbors Say, a strikingly authentic French song with a beautifully expansive solo from the second guitarist (and strikingly authentic French vocals), and an aptly dark, anthemic take of Brother Can You Spare a Dime.


Throughout the show, Ricketts worked every gypsy jazz trick in the book: fast climbs up the scale against a single reverberating string, big staccato blocks of chords and innumerable lightning-fast arpeggios, a style echoed by his cohort. Reich would deftly insinuate himself into the mix with a fluidly lyrical style, at one point deviously hammering on a trill until the rest of the band realized they’d better get out of the way, fast. The band has 3 cds out, including an intriguing live one. Bay Area listeners who don’t already know this band from their long-running weekly residency at Amnesia and elsewhere have a real treat waiting for them; New York fans reading this and wish they’d caught the Barbes show can still see them tonight (Fri Jan 30) at Drom at 10.

January 30, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Sruti Ram & Ishwari at Jivamukti Yoga School, NYC 1/28/09

Sruti Ram sings, plays harmonium and percussion; Ishwari plays acoustic guitar and sings, the two taking turns with what were essentially lead vocals throughout their long, practically two-hour show. Sruti Ram & Ishwari’s new cd Fire of Devotion features a wide, assorted cast of musicians; at this show, the duo were augmented by two percussionists and the audience. Many seated in the spacious upstairs room knew the words (a lyric sheet handed out by school staff helped), clapping and singing along. What Sruti Ram & Ishwari play is a new spin on kirtan music, in this case ancient Hindu yoga chants set to catchy pop melodies. Like Christian gospel music or qawwali,  kirtan (the word is Sanskrit for “repeat” and translates as “worship service”) is an integral, functional part of the service, in this case a yoga ceremony; unsurprisingly, this show was much a workshop in how to sing along to this stuff as it was a concert.


The songs were as catchy as they were hypnotic, going on for at least ten minutes at a clip, rising and falling, often using a verse/chorus pattern to establish the dynamics, the singers’ beautiful harmonies frequently aided by the audience. A couple of the melodies evoked rustic 70s British folk-rock in the vein of Fairport Convention. Another song took a happy, catchy garage rock chord progression, running it over and over again until it was practically trance-inducing. Yet another one, dedicated to an earth mother figure, had a strikingly dark, austere melody that would have been completely at home on a folk-rock record from the 60s. The overall effect ranged from rousing and inspired to inescapably soothing. Testament to the healing power of some types of music, at least one person (guess who) arrived with a barking lower back but left the performance pain-free. If the show is any indication, the new cd could be enjoyed not only by experienced yoga practitioners but also by anyone who likes pleasant, melodically attractive, late-night sleepy-time music. Sruti Ram & Ishwari are back at Jivamukti on 2/25; if the reaction of the audience at this show is any indication, you can expect an experience that could range from peaceful and relaxing to completely blissed-out, depending on your frame of mind.    

January 30, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Song of the Day 1/30/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Friday’s is #544:

Telephone – Telephomme

By far the best cut on the French rockers’ 1977 debut, it’s far closer to the Boomtown Rats than the amped-up second-rate Chuck Berry stuff on the rest of the album. The song’s theme (and the pun of its title) deal with the frustration about being unable to communicate. Louis Bertignac’s long, screaming guitar solo is amazing. Here’s a download

January 30, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , | Leave a comment