Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Four Headliners for the Price of a Beer at the Parkside 11/28/07

It was Freddy’s Bar night at the Parkside. Since Freddy’s is doomed – failing an intervention from some deus ex machina, the encroaching Atlantic Yards luxury condominium/arena monstrosity is scheduled to engulf and demolish the building that houses the venue– several of the bands from what’s left of the scene there have started playing other places. This is the latest. One of the ways you can tell if a scene is real is if bands share musicians, and this crew takes that concept to an extreme. Lead guitarist Ross Bonnadonna played with Paula Carino, Tom Warnick and John Sharples. Sharples himself drummed for Warnick and then fronted his own band at the end of the night. Bassist Andy Mattina also did double duty with Carino and Sharples.

Carino has made a name for herself by writing heartwrenchingly lyrical janglerock songs, but tonight was her fun set. She has a thing for weird time signatures and did four of them in a row: the caustic Rough Guide to You (“Just take me home,” the narrator sighs at the end, exasperated); the crunchy Discovering Fire; the hilariously punk Old People (“Old people must go/Set them all on an ice floe/Make room for the new old people”) and the quirk-rock hit Robots Helping Robots. She and band burned through the rockabilly-inflected yet mournful Saying Grace Before the Movie, a potently metaphorical tale of a woman alone in a theatre in a No Exit situation, knowing the villain always returns. They dusted off her classic, victorious Venus Records (“You’re my alltime favorite lucky find”) and encored with the scorching Coming To Your Senses, one of her most slashing numbers. The crowd was ecstatic: for once, the sound here was excellent, Carino’s vocals like velvet cake with creme de menthe icing. She would prove a very hard act to follow.

But Tom Warnick was up to the challenge. He’s simply one of the most dynamic, effortlessly hilarious frontmen in all of rock. Marcellus Hall is a good comparison: both like their retro styles, have a great sense of melody and an equally sharp sense of humor. Waving a hammer at the audience and pounding his keyboard with it – from the back of the room, it looked like the real thing, not a prop – he gave his completely off-the-wall, stream-of-consciousness songs just enough menace to give the crowd pause. Warnick does the evil-eye thing as well as Johnny Rotten in his prime: it’s never certain whether he’s just goofing around or whether he really means it, and he clearly gets a charge out of messing with his bandmates just as much as he messes with the audience. His best song was a very funny chronicle about playing a gig later on a Monday night at a club where the promoter expected him and the band to bring at least forty people. He closed the song with a brief quote from the Mission Impossible theme.

He and band also ran through the fast, noir City of Women, which dates back to his days as a guitarist, along with a gut-bustingly funny, twisted travelogue through the south and back: “You always hit the bullseye when I go in the donkey tank,” he mused. Since it was Randy Newman’s birthday – “If it wasn’t for Randy Newman I wouldn’t have written a lot of these songs – it’s true,” Warnick told the crowd – they did one of his songs, a 6/8 number where the narrator gets “some whiskey from a barman, some cocaine from a friend” and sinks into something approaching wry despondency.

After Carino and Warnick, the Erica Smith Jazz Odyssey (as Carino playfully called them) should have been anticlimactic to the extreme. But Smith, radiant in a shimmery black dress, grabbed the crowd and they latched on for the ride. She and the band may play mostly rock, but jazz and soul is where her heart and especially her voice are at, and the band gamely played along while she delivered a goosebump-inducing Cry Me a River along with sultry versions of The Very Thought of You, Ain’t Misbehaving and One for My Baby. They also ran through several of her originals, ranging from the bossa nova soul of the soon-to-be-released Tonight, the backbeat-driven 31st Avenue and a practically heavy metal cover of the obscure Judy Henske classic Snowblind (the title of the band’s forthcoming album).

The evening closed with John Sharples, who as he told the audience is “the anti-songwriter” since he doesn’t write his own stuff, opting to cover his friends’ songs. Good taste is his trademark, as he and the band (with Smith playing rhythm guitar and singing harmonies) launched into the excellent, tongue-in-cheek Blow This Nightclub hit When Amy Says, along with a surprisingly good, bluesy, minor-key Dan Killian song and eventually something that sounded like Minor Threat at halfspeed which Smith sat out (just as well, considering how much louder Sharples was than any of the other bands: he’s pretty punk rock). They closed with Smith bringing down the house as usual with a blazing, passionate cover of the old Beatles tune I’ve Got a Feeling. What a treat for everyone who filled the back room here on a weeknight: four headline-quality acts for the price of a beer, arguably the best lineup in any club this year all year.

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November 30, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, philosophy, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

With Static and Perception

When a party to your aggression,
We pass it off
As a cocktail hour parfait,
The delicate whipped cream
Accenting a Dijonaise.

When a party to your aggression,
We flinch,
Drawn taut.
We flail
In the peppered afterthought
Of your goose liver pate.

When a party to your aggression,
There is a bangbang
A shot you think is true.
Cutting flesh
Like flesh cuts you.

But these fantasies are just that.
The ghosts of culture
The Gladstone of the Frontier
The historic yearning
For a past without fear.

Our reality
Asks something more.
With static,
And perception
Our peace is here..

April 19, 2007 Posted by | Culture, philosophy, poetry, Politics | Leave a comment

Lucid Culture.

What is it? What was it? What could it be?

In ancient Greece, there was an early chthonic cult that insinuated itself into Greek culture as it evolved: the cult of the Charities. The Charities had their hands in many things: music, education, recognition, beauty, and yes, morality. But the way in which this early cult ultimately came to celebration was with the idea of charis, grace. Its most direct referent is ‘light’ – precisely to alight the physical form, a light that makes the physical form beautiful. But this ‘alighting’ of the physical is also more an ‘illumining’ of the physical. Grace lets us intuit beyond what is immediately seen and into what ruminates behind – the beauty of action, of conviction, social interaction – and the motivation of history. And further, grace elucidates, it begs intellectual enlightenment, it asks the deepest questions and seeks the deepest answers.

To be lucid [alighted], means to have grace. To seek a lucid culture, means to approach it with grace.

To that end, we will cater to the Charities. We will promote and review music, as that is the basis of all chthonic cults, toward a lucidite of artist and audience. We will attempt to alight culture and politics beyond the moribund silliness of ‘Hollywood Stories’. We will try to promote and make art which illuminates our lives in the present age. We will do our best to elucidate.

To make lucid.

To contribute to a lucid culture.

April 4, 2007 Posted by | Art, Culture, Literature, Music, philosophy, Politics | 27 Comments