Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Just Another Random Awesome Night at Freddy’s

It wouldn’t be fair to let the week go by without mentioning how much fun the quadruple bill – yup, four bands – at Freddy’s was on Saturday night. The music started at around 8 and ended some time in the wee hours – it was that kind of night, with tunes to match. The Roulette Sisters were first. These four badass players – resonator guitarist Mamie Minch, electric guitarist Meg Reichardt, washboard player Megan Burleyson and violist Karen Waltuch – have a great new album out (recently reviewed here) and as usual, had come to conquer. Their unusually early hour onstage was a warmup of sorts for a gig later at some costume ball (Meg already had her lion tamer costume ready to go). As usual, the set was a trip to a speakeasy of the mind circa 1930. Meg sang the cheery swing tune I’ll Take the South and the Cowboy Boogie, a funny mashup of oldtime blues and hillbilly music. When she got to the line “that cat was raised on local weed,” the whole band couldn’t help smiling. Megan sang the charming flapper anthem Coney Island Washboard and a nonchalantly innuendo-packed version of Bessie Smith’s Sugar in My Bowl. The whole crew sang an Al Duvall song which attempts to answer the question that if you’re shagging in the woods and nobody sees it, did you really get laid? Other songs included Your Biscuits Are Tall Enough for Me as well as a thinly veiled ode to masturbation and a lament told from the point of view of a woman whose man’s performance has been wiped out by Jamaica ginger (a deadly patent medicine that was sort of the 1920s equivalent of Prozac).

The Larch were next. The back room at the new Freddy’s isn’t as conducive to electric sounds as the old downstairs room was, but they managed. Lots of new songs in their set, which makes sense since they’ve got a new album coming out this year. With Liza Garelik Roure’s swooping, fluid organ lines anchoring her husband Ian’s razorwire guitar solos, they sounded like Squeeze circa 1980, when they were still Kool for Kats and rocking hard. Some of the songs – particularly one that might have been called Midweek Nebula – had a psychedelic edge, including one in tricky 9/4 time.

There were two more acts. Multi-instrumentalist Dave Wechsler is best known for his work with historically-infused chamber-rock band Pinataland, but his own solo work – which he plays and records as Tyranny of Dave – is just as interesting, and historically-inspired. Playing solo on acoustic guitar, with electrifying backing vocals a couple of numbers by oldtimey siren Robin Aigner, he ran through a set of mostly new material. Right about here, the memory gets fuzzy: moderate tempos, warmly melodic tunes, thoughtful lyrics and the occasional bright harmony dominated his hour onstage. The Magpie were next. This group is Dave Benjoya’s latest adventure in world music and they’re as good as they are eclectic, which is a lot. With guitars, accordion, bass and percussion, they swayed and bounced through a bracing mix of latin, gypsy and klezmer tunes, a couple of apprehensively charming Belgian barroom musettes and an English folk song. By the time they wrapped up their set, it was after midnight, but a crowd of A-list Brooklyn musicians stuck around and took it all in. Just a random night in a good Brooklyn bar – not something you typically find where the blight of gentrification has completely taken over, but reason to stay optimistic about music in this town.

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May 19, 2011 Posted by | blues music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abbie Barrett and Her Band Wail at the Rockwood

Saturday night at the Rockwood, singer Abbie Barrett took a stab at explaining what she’s all about. She’d recently been asked by someone, maybe a promoter or a blogger. “I was supposed explain what my theme is. What’s my theme? Telling people off in a really obnoxious way.” Which isn’t exactly true. Her stage persona is hardly obnoxious, although she’s very, very good at telling people off, sometimes directly (one of her catchiest songs might have been called Fuck Off), more frequently in a subtle, vividly lyrical way. Barrett does it without cliches, a tinge of smoke in her soaring voice adding a plaintive edge to her country and vintage soul-inflected rock songs. As Mary Lee Kortes famously said, never mess with a songwriter. They always get even in the end.

She and her excellent band had just driven up from Boston. “This song is about road rage,” Barrett told the crowd, as they launched into Bang, the darkly bluesy soul shuffle that opens her most recent album Dying Day. After a surprise tempo shift, the Telecaster player switched to a distantly ominous, watery chorus-box tone for the rest of the song. They’d opened with a song possibly titled On the Range, blending 60s psychedelic folk with an anthemic, big-sky feel, a cynical account of a place where there are no jobs and not much of anything else. Barrett went deep into soul mode with a defiant shuffle, its narrator refusing to back down: she’s a soldier. A fast, potently jangly number sounded like the Grateful Dead classic Bertha done by another Barrett, Syd, bassist Alec Darien soaring into the upper frets over the apprehensive chord changes. They wrapped up their set with the suspenseful Kingdoms and Castles, seemingly a dis aimed at a would-be domestic goddess, its hypnotic, atmospheric intro building to a backbeat-driven stomp. As enjoyable as the acoustic/electric guitar textures were – the room doesn’t usually get as loud as these guys were – it would have been nice to have heard more of the lyrics cut through, especially considering how intensely Barrett was singing them. But that wasn’t the band’s fault. Barrett’s next gig is on June 11, outdoors at Union Square in Somerville, Massachusetts; watch this space for upcoming NYC dates.

May 19, 2011 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment