Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Make Music NY 2009 – A Wash?

Running around hungover on a muggy, then rainy Sunday – pure joy, NOT. For the crew here, Make Music NY 2007 was a day at the office followed by a ferociously good System Noise concert before the clouds burst, and then it was pretty much all over. By contrast, MMNY ’08 seemed to be a smashing success – at least it was from this vantage point. Yesterday was awash in cancellations and delays, to be expected when there are roughly two thousand live shows of some kind going on all over town. Smartly, several establishments about as far removed from the music business as you can imagine opened up their storefronts or spare corners. The original game plan here was to get up as early as possible and head over to Governors (“Punk”) Island to see the allday punk festival, but the more hungover and tired party here stood her ground, not in the mood to traipse through the mud with nowhere to sit for a whole afternoon. Therefore, plan B.

Last year’s agenda here was to take in as much unfamiliar and diverse stuff as possible (regulars here know that Lucid Culture has an ever-growing list of stuff to review, not just all the albums that come over the transom but also bands who don’t have anything recorded – the more we know, the more we realize we don’t know). For one reason or another, the best stuff this year was spread out over a much wider geographical area than last year – and what’s up with all the open public spaces? Are public parks and sidewalks now off-limits to MMNYers? In Manhattan most of them seemed to be, at least early in the day.

We only got to two shows. Escarioka careened through a deliriously fun, hypnotically multistylistic hour inside a coffee shop on the Lower East. The nine-piece band is already excellent, will get even better and will be huge in Latin America once word spreads – and it will. They’re just loose enough to give themselves an air of real menace. With a three-piece horn section, rhythm section, percussion, two guitarists and a charismatic frontman with a rapidfire reggaeton-inflected delivery, they switched styles and speeds effortlessly yet with an energy that defied the show’s early hour. Like the band they most closely resemble, Mexican rock legends Maldita Vecindad, most of their songs are in minor keys. One of the tunes they played this past afternoon slunk along on a vintage bolero vamp, the bassist playing in the major scale under the horns’ minor-key attack, adding a considerably ominous edge. Another burst out of the gate as pogoing ska-punk, building to a trance-inducing, percussive cauldron of sound before mutating into a salsa riff and building that up to a big roar as well. Several of the other songs had a gypsy punk feel. Watching these guys kick in and give 100%, seemingly oblivious to the fact that it was daylight and they were surrounded by people sipping juice and herbal tea instead of dancing like people usually do at Escarioka shows, reminded of the early days of Gogol Bordello. This band is going to be huge. You heard it here first. At least you heard it in English here first.

From there, it would have made good sense to see what the Woes were up to – they were supposed to play outside Spikehill in Williamsburg. The hangover started barking at this point, demanding food and water, so after a quick trip home, it was over to Passout Records in Williamsburg where rain goddess Randi Russo was scheduled to play – it virtually always rains on her gig days, including an afternoon in Milwaukee when a storm literally blew her and her band off the stage. Some aid organization should sponsor a Randi Russo tour of the Sahara. By now the rain was no longer threatening but actually on its way – but then the clouds broke, they lugged the amps outside again, where she treated the growing crowd outside the store to a brief but characteristically rich seven-song set, solo on her beautiful red Gibson SG. Even through a makeshift PA, her velvet voice projected her biting, often savage, meticulously crafted lyrics. She opened with the corruscating Venus on Saturn, a spot-on sendup of status-seeking, catty women, followed that eventually with a gorgeously melodic, somewhat noir blues alienation anthem that wouldn’t have been out of place in the Gun Club catalog. Played solo, the anthem Head High While You Lie Low took on a percussive, hypnotic feel. She wrapped up the set with a fiery, swaying version of Battle on the Periphery, one of the great workingman’s (or working woman’s) laments of alltime.

Lorraine Leckie followed, solo, her terse, garage-inflected songs stripped to the bone. Leckie doesn’t waste words or notes, has a bite and an edge: she’s gritty in a good way. After just a couple of songs, the clouds burst. Here’s hoping she didn’t get zapped and will do another show next year that isn’t so rudely interrupted.

And a plug for the store – among the treats onsale were $1, decent quality vinyl copies of a Jacques Brel greatest-hits collection and a good Robert Cray album from the 80s, reggae great Jacob Miller’s greatest hits on cassette for $2 and Brubeck Plays Cole Porter on vinyl for $10. And plenty of punk and garage too. If the idea of owning music in tangible, visible, better-than-mp3 form isn’t alien to you, this place deserves your support.

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June 21, 2009 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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