A Tsunami of Sound Hits Manhattan
Saturday night was Unsteady Freddie’s monthly surf music show at Otto’s. Surf rock isn’t as oldschool as a lot of people think it is since it’s more popular now than it was fifty years ago when groups like the Ventures and the Bel-Airs were just getting off the ground. But Unsteady Freddie’s night is. If you wish New York was the place it was before there was a plastic-and-sheetrock “luxury” condo project sprouting on every ghetto block, if you want to get away from the doucheoisie, Otto’s is the place the first Saturday of every month. This month’s show opened with four-piece instrumental band Tsunami of Sound. In their too-brief 45 minutes onstage, they jangled and clanged through a tight mix of originals and covers. Surf music is fun but the best stuff can also be totally noir, and this band proved they’re not afraid of the dark side. The most interesting song of the night shifted uneasily between major and minor chords over the swaying, distant rumble of Rick Sanger’s drums: he didn’t look like he was working that hard, but the noise from the kit said otherwise. Strat player Dave Esposito has a classic surf sound, nonchalantly firing off one reverb-drenched riff after another, taking one bridge to a crazed crescendo with a flurry of furious tremolo-picking. Bob Damiano, who played both Strat and keys – sometimes both in the same song – has a more biting, bluesy lead guitar style. If Esposito is the stalker in the band, Damiano is the slasher. Bassist Jamie Huggins played simple, propulsive lines, sometimes sailing way up the scale to drive a chorus home.
Another cool thing about this band is that they put their own spin on the cover songs. Was that a janglerock version of Spudnik? If so, it was a long way from the primitive space-rock of the original and it was also a lot more interesting. Their version of Pipeline was matter-of-fact, midtempo and full of neat original riffs. Other bands like to rip through Diamond Head even faster than the Ventures did it, but these guys slowed it down and let the ominousness of the rising wave at the end of the verse build to a genuine menace. From there they segued into a burning, sunbaked version of Lee Hazlewood’s Baja before returning to the originals. Let’s hope the maestro of unsteadiness brings them back.
There were other good bands scheduled for later, as usual – the Tarantinos NYC, who never cease to amaze with how eclectic they are, were on at 11 – but we’ve covered them before, and they manage to get themselves on a gazillion good bills all over town.