Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Curtis Eller European Tour Dates – Fall 2009

Fiery, lyrical banjo-playing hellraiser Curtis Eller is off to Europe for another tour, playing a mix of stuff from his most recent Wirewalkers and Assassins (very favorably reviewed here) plus new songs. The schedule:

NORWAY:

Friday, 9 October

Lister Blues Club (full band)
w/ Daniel Eriksen and Slade
8th Avenue Bar, Brooklyn Sq.
4560 Vanse
Farsund, Norway
http://www.listerbluesclub.no/
Saturday, 10 October
Fan It (solo show)
6453 Kleive
Kleve, Norway
+47 91 37 07 53
http://www.fanit.no//
Sunday, 11 October
Langesund Bad
3970 Bamble Badevejen 4
Langesund, Norway
+47 35 97 35 29
http://www.langesundbad.no/default.asp?Folder=4686&IdEvent=1591
Monday, 12 October
Rallarhuset (solo show)
Storgata 22a
3660 Rjukan, Norway
+47 95 27 59 24

Wednesday, 14 October
John Dee (solo show)
w/ Vider Busk
Torggata 16
Oslo, Norway
+47 22 20 32 32
http://www.rockefeller.no/index.html?bb=J
Thursday, 15 October
Buddy Scene (full band)
w/ Daniel Eriksen
Amtmand Bloms, Gate 4
Drammen, Norway
+47 32 82 14 00
http://www.buddyscene.no/
Friday, 16 October
Kafe K (full band)
w/ Daniel Eriksen
Storgata 174-C
Porsgrunn, Norway
+47 35 55 99 00
http://www.kafek.no/
Saturday, 17 October
Bø Vertshus/Grillen (full band)
w/ Daniel Eriksen
Bogata 61
Bø Norway
HOLLAND:
Tuesday, 20 October 8:00pm
De Nieuwe Anita
Frederik Hendrikstr 111
Amsterdam, Netherlands
http://www.denieuweanita.nl/
Wednesday, 21 October 7:30pm
The Delicatessen
Sumatrastraat 32
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Friday, 23 October 10:30pm
Patronaat Cafe’
(Katzenjammer post show)
Zijlsingel 2
Haarlem, Netherlands
(023)517-5858
http://www.patronaat.nl/
BELGIUM:
Saturday, 24 October 8:00pm
Secret Hero House Concert
Ghent, Belgium
http://www.myspace.com/secretheroconcerts
for reservations e-mail: piere18@hotmail.com

October 5, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Daniel Bernstein at Sidewalk, NYC 7/9/09

Even by Daniel Bernstein’s standards, this show was particularly transcendent. Like Luminescent Orchestrii, just reviewed here, Bernstein gets raves from his fellow musicians. No matter how he ends up putting his songs out there – as punk/metal in the great early zeros band the Larval Organs, as austere chamber pop in Hearth, in the ferocious, coyly named Whisper Doll or simply solo acoustic as he delivered them last night, they always pack a wallop. Railing more than he was singing, alternating between unleashed rage and kvetchy discomfort and backed by soaring harmonies from Erin Regan – an equally good songwriter in her own right – he nonchalantly burned through a nine-song set of bleak, brilliantly lyrical and very catchy existentialist angsthems. This may have been an acoustic show, but the sound was loud, the sound guy very impressively pulling a good mix together, Regan’s pitch-perfect wail in stark contrast with Bernstein’s haphazard snarl.

Death pervades his lyrics. Decaying carcasses, dying light and dashed dreams are so abundant as to be inescapable. As is a sense of being completely and overwhelmingly alone. To say that Bernstein channels Beckett in places would not be an overstatement: his lyrics are plainspoken yet profound and symbolically loaded. And as with Beckett, there’s plenty of stream-of-consciousness gallows humor to make things a bit more tolerable, if only momentarily before the plunge back into the abyss. The best of this stuff ranks with Ian Curtis, Roger Waters, Leonard Cohen and any other legendary dark songwriter you can think of. Bernstein’s catalog of songs is considerably deep, this show mixing new material along with a couple of genuine classics from his Larval Organs days. He opened with a characteristically anthemic number chronicling miscommunication, burned bridges and “summers spent in ashy crash.” The dark, forsaken Wizard Gardenia, an upbeat Larval Organs song was inspired, he said, by a brand of aerosol disinfectant: “Her skin is young like a dead man’s tongue…if I never wake up for a thousand years would you still be blowing those Pyrex tears?”

The forsaken vibe continued with another more recent tune, skeletal fingerpicking on the verse giving way to an upbeat chorus: “God thinks it’s treason if you ask why…a quarter ounce of truth is the only truth we divine…ain’t no way out of here, look how far we’ve come.”

In these songs, love is always fleeting, a momentary yet irresistible distraction that becomes a destructive obsession, vividly illustrated in the Larval Organs song City Parks:

Grey skin like the hue of rotten meat

That is cooking itself in the heat of its desire…

I know that love is not some sort of prize

And I am all alone on this ride

Still I wish that you would hold me in

They saved the best for last, the Larval Organs classic Joyless Now:

There’s gold in the hills

There’s a thousand bottles of pills…

We go on to John Brown’s grave

I’ve got a heartache the size of a great lake

I’m so faraway

I’m on the outside either way

I want to bring myself into a room

Pretend the lighting fixture is the moon…

I’m on the outside and I’m going insane

Let’s speed and drive all night

Into the diffused grey light

With that, he sent everyone off into the as-yet-undiffused, unseasonably cool black comfort of a relatively tourist-free Thursday midnight in the East Village. Watch this space for upcoming shows: if lyrical rock is your thing, you need to get to know this guy’s songs.

July 10, 2009 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 5/28/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Thursday’s song is #426:

Penelope Houston – Voices

Slow, haunting, 6/8 ballad from the Avengers’ frontwoman’s excellent 1986 acoustic solo debut album Birdboys (still available on cd and high quality cassette!). It’s an ominous meditation on getting old – which Houston seems incapable of becoming.

May 28, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 11/29/08

The top 666 songs of alltime countdown continues, one day at a time all the way to #1. Saturday’s is #605:

Penelope Houston – Living Dolls

The Avengers’ frontwoman has also enjoyed a spectacular good if vastly underrated career as an acoustic songwriter. This is one of her best early solo songs, a darkly imagistic, minor-key tableau, figures hiding in the shadows in some nameless terror state. Even more relevant today than when originally released in 1985. From the cd Birdboys (also still available on high-quality cassette!).

November 29, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Rachelle Garniez at Barbes, Brooklyn NY 11/1/07

Rachelle Garniez is the best thing going right now. She’s a songwriter completely in command of any style she wants to appropriate, as well as being a performer completely in command of any audience, anywhere. She ranks with Iggy Pop and James Brown as one of the great, charismatic live acts of our time. Not bad for a somewhat inscrutable woman whose main instrument is the accordion.

On a big stage, or any kind of stage (this place has none), Garniez will sometimes pull out all the stops. Her roots are punk, her accordion style somewhat cajun-inflected, but when she sees the opportunity she isn’t shy about showing off her spectacular vocal range, belting to the rafters for all it’s worth. Here, she whispered her jokes instead and held back a little on the mic, working the little room masterfully.

Garniez doesn’t confine herself to the accordion, and that’s a good thing because her chops on the piano are downright evil, her hands casually gliding over the changes, making the seemingly endless series of tough, staccato octaves and jazzy, chordal fills that she played tonight look absolutely effortless. It’s hard to imagine a better keyboardist in rock, if you can call what she does rock. Perhaps New York noir would be a more appropriate umbrella to throw over her, not that she’d stay there long, moving from ragtime to saloon jazz to psychedelic art-rock in the span of perhaps a dozen minutes during this evening’s show. Holding all her stylistic leaps and bounds together is an unflinching, utterly spontaneous, darkly bemused vision of a completely absurd, frequently threatening but ultimately conquerable world.

Tonight she began the show pedaling a big accordion chord, going way up into falsettoland with vocalese while guitarist Matt Munisteri (whose surgically smart, incisively minimalist acoustic fills were spot-on all night) slowly built a raga behind her. It eventually morphed into a 6/8 ballad called Tourmaline, the semiprecious stone triumphantly symbolizing everything that’s…not quite there. In a sometimes very roundabout way, Garniez champions the underdog, and this new song from her forthcoming album The Melusine Years is a prime example.

As she switched to piano, she divulged that she’d been hired as a witch for Halloween, which left her with a big dreadlock hanging over the back collar of her pristine vintage dress. “The witch hairspray gives you a very Elsa Lanchester kind of feeling,” she explained, and launched into a comfortable, upbeat country ballad, playing a couple of amusing quotes from pop songs during the song’s ragtimish bridge. There was a bag of Reese’s candy on the piano, which she examined with considerable skepticism. “Made in Pennsylvania. That’s what it says,” she shrugged. “It was here when I got here, so you know it has to be safe.”

The big anthem that followed was the highlight of the night, or the month, maybe, which Garniez opened with a vividly chordal, Asian melody:

After the afterparty
The sun rose oh so quickly
As you stared oh so blankly

And I spoke oh so frankly
So many words to you
So many words to you
I can’t remember a thing

Garniez virtually always sings in character, and by now she has enough of them to populate a small village. But every once in awhile, she drops her guard, and the effect is riveting:

After the afterparty
You hailed me a taxi

And I buckled up for safety
Maybe I’ll live to be an old lady
With lots of big hats and jewelry
And an inscrutable air of mystery

And when questioned about my history
I’ll smile oh so sweetly
And whisper oh so discreetly
I can’t remember a thing

The hurt in Garniez’ plainspoken delivery was visceral, just as much as the sweet taste of revenge at the end of the song. After that, redoubtable upright bassist Dave Hofstra switched to tuba for a bouncy, oldtimey number that she told the audience she’d been lambasted for writing, considering how cynical it is. But no matter: “Have yourself a nice pre-post apocalypse,” she sang triumphantly. If the rest of the material on the new album is remotely as good as what she played tonight, it’ll be one of the decade’s best. Just like her last one. Rachelle Garniez plays the cd release for The Melusine Years at Joe’s Pub on December 22.

November 5, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Concert Review: Secretary Feat. Big Boss/Nina Nastasia & Jim White at Mercury Lounge, NYC 10/3/07

Secretary is Moisturizer frontwoman and baritone sax player Paula Henderson’s Hollywood soundtrack side project. Or at least that’s what it sounded like tonight, like Angelo Badalamenti covering Moisturizer. Hollywood would do well to seek her out. As she made a point of reminding the audience, everything she writes is a true story. The resulting compositions, whether the utterly unique dance-rock that she plays with Moisturizer or the quieter, more atmospheric works she played tonight, all have a narrative feel, and it’s often very compelling. Or very funny. Or both simultaneously.

 

Although for Secretary gigs she hides behind a pair of spectacles and a vintage secretary suit, Henderson didn’t bother trying to shed the slightly coy, deviously witty Moist Paula persona that she assumes at Moisturizer shows. Maybe that’s just who she really is. Big Boss is a new addition, a sharp-dressed man busily multitasking on a laptop and mixer, occasionally contributing trombone, keyboards and even turntable scratching on one song. Although Moisturizer is defined by playfulness and fun, and that sensibility isn’t lost here, the quieter, more downtempo tunes Henderson does in this project afford her a chance to explore more thoughtful, pensive terrain. Tonight she played lead lines on her bari sax as Big Boss ran the tracks, most of which are on the excellent debut Secretary album. They opened with a sultry, jazzy, unreleased number perhaps titled 37 Again, Henderson’s achingly torchy, jazzy melody playing against a dense mix of textures created by playing sax through a bunch of garageband patches and then mixing everything. Later she did the balmy, ambient South Carolina Holiday, the long, playful Mouse (which is actually about chasing a mouse around the apartment), the catchy Latin dance tune Mofongo Raincheck and a somewhat classically-inflected fanfare, live sax playing call-and-response with harmonies using several different textures. Toward the end of the set, she did a lively new number called Mushrooms with Strangers that wouldn’t be out of place at a Moisturizer show. The evening’s most amusing moment was another new one called The Perfect Boss. Henderson played repetitive, staccato riffs while the computer run a shrieking, metallic wash of noise that sounded like Suicide or something from Metal Machine Music. If that’s the perfect boss, one can only wonder what the boss from hell sounds like.

 

Nina Nastasia sold out the room. It had been ten years since she’d played here, she said, “When I was…18.”

 

“Not,” she said under her breath, barely audible. She may wield an acoustic guitar but she hardly fits the singer-songwriter mold. You’ll never hear a Nina Nastasia song in a credit card commercial. Tonight she played mostly new material from her album with Dirty Three bandleader/drummer Jim White, her only backing musician. He was amazing: no wonder everyone wants to work with him. Using a flurry of rimshots, cymbal splashes and boomy tom-tom cascades, he orchestrated her often grimly minimalistic songs with both precision and abandon. Often he’d leave Nastasia to hold the rhythm as he’d accelerate or slow down, or play deftly off the beat. There are only a few drummers in rock who are in his league, perhaps Dave Campbell of Love Camp 7/Erica Smith renown or Linda Pitmon from Smack Dab and Steve Wynn’s band.

 

In the years since she first played here, Nastasia has developed a seemingly effortless fingerpicking style on the guitar. Hearing the new songs stripped down to just the guitar and drums was a revelation: it was instantly clear where the melodies for all the layers of strings and keyboards on her albums come from. I found myself playing orchestrator, imagining violin, viola and cello parts. One of the great keyboardists of our time was in the audience and was overheard raving about how good the piano on the new album is.

 

Nastasia has also become an excellent singer. That creepy little voice she had when she put out her landmark 1999 debut, Dogs (whose title track she played tonight, to much applause) is still there when it needs to be, but in the intervening years she’s learned how to belt. And project, with an anguished wail that serves her songs, particularly the new ones, spectacularly well. Her earlier material was typically noir urban tableaux; now, she’s taking on more abstract, universal emotional territory, though her vision remains the same, as bleak, angst-driven, desperate and sometimes exasperated as it’s always been. The dark glimmer has become a gleam. If this show is any indication, the new album is a must-own.

 

The only problem tonight (one hopes uncharacteristically) was the sound. The sound guy was playing annoying, effeminate computer-disco over the PA before Secretary went on, and predictably mixed the backing tracks from the laptop louder than Henderson’s sax. Bad mistake. Then Nastasia’s guitar started to generate a lot of low feedback, perhaps because it needed to be amped high in the mix and she didn’t have one of those little rubber thingys that fits into the sound hole. Where was Freddie Katz when we needed him.

October 8, 2007 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Concert Review from the Archives: The Pogues at the Beacon Theatre, NYC 9/27/91

With Shane MacGowan AWOL, probably fighting the DT’s, Joe Strummer fronted the band and played rhythm guitar on his Telecaster. This is by far the best project he’s been involved with since the Clash, considering that the Pogues are basically an Irish traditional version of that band. This was an excellent show, even if it was pretty disjointed: they’d play an original, then a traditional folk song or a dance tune, then another original, then a cover. Still, few bands seem to have as much fun onstage as this unit, Spider Stacy on pennywhistle, James Fearnley on accordion and the rest of the crew. They did a lot of stuff from the new album Hell’s Ditch including the title track, the rousing opening cut Sunny Side of the Street, Sayonara, Rain Street and the eerie, chromatic shipwreck tale Wake of the Medusa. Strummer’s finest moment as a frontman was his show-stopping, snarling vocal, “I will not be re-con-struc-ted” on Sunny Side. They did a mellower, jangly version of the bitter immigration anthem Thousands Are Sailing later on. But the high point of the evening was a furious, stomping, competely unexpected cover of London Calling, missing only Mick Jones’ dazed, sunspotted guitar solo. A fun, jangly version of I Fought the Law followed a few songs later. This may have been the Beacon, but the party was in full effect, the bathroom a haze of pot and hash smoke, half the crowd half in the bag and singing along with every word. A deliriously good concert.

September 26, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: Willie Nile – Live at the Turning Point

Most acoustic albums by rock bands suck. If you can’t wait for Poison Live and Unplugged, better stop while you’re ahead. This cd, by contrast, is the rare exception. Hot on the heels of Willie Nile’s career-best 2006 album Streets of NYC, the veteran NYC rocker shares the secret to his success. It’s called kicking ass. Backed by drummer Rich Pagano and tv gabfest studio guitarist Jimmy Vivino in an upstate New York yuppie folk club, the trio sledgehammer their way through a mix of songs from Nile’s latest studio cd as well as a few choice cuts from throughout his career. Don’t let the presence of Vivino scare you off – he plays mandolin and acoustic rhythm guitar here and does so competently, even passionately. Nile somehow managed to get him into the harness without completely muzzling him, and the results are impressive.

The set opens with two cuts from Streets of NYC, Welcome To My Head and Asking Annie Out. Nile has always been a hookmeister, and stripped to the chassis, these songs remain as instantly hummable as their original versions. Then they play Nile’s classic from way back in 1981, Vagabond Moon as if it was the single they’d just released. It’s sort of Nile’s Aqualung or The Thrill Is Gone: everybody wants to hear it, he’s played it a million times but he still usually manages to fit it into the set. How he manages to keep it fresh is the operative question: maybe because it’s so damn catchy and builds to such killer crescendos.

The following cut is another early one, Les Champs Elysees, and the version on Nile’s Archive Alive album is pretty forgettable: “Anybody like to do the twist?” he asks, and it sounds rote. Not this version, with its uncommonly nice acoustic intro. After that, we get what’s surprisingly the best song on the album, the coruscating, gorgeously lyrical Irish ballad The Day I Saw Bo Diddley In Washington Square. As with Nile’s best work, it’s a sprawling, Bruegelesque tableau set in a New York now pretty much buried under suburban chain restaurants and towering Lego condominiums selling for multimillions of dollars. Nile’s boast that “everyone will say they were there” on that vivid afternoon rings defiantly true.

The band also runs through a couple of hook-driven anthems, That’s Enough For Me and On Some Rainy Day, as well as Cell Phones Ringing (In The Pockets Of The Dead), another one from Streets of NYC. That’s the one cut here that misses the pyrotechnic Andy York electric guitar work that makes the studio version so unforgettable. But it’s still a good lyric and a good song, even if it doesn’t evoke the Madrid train bombings as well. The band recasts the following tune When One Stands as more of a swinging countryish song, as opposed to the blazing reggae take they made in the studio, but it works.

There’s also a surprise, Hard Times In America, the title track from Nile’s little-noticed ep from the 90s, brilliantly recast as an ominous, skeletal delta blues as it builds into the verse. Nile virtually never plays it live: this version alone is worth the price of the album. Streets of New York, with Nile on piano is uncharacteristically quiet, with a good build to the conclusion. The album winds up with mostly covers, including a blistering, stomping version of the Dylan classic It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue: what seems to be a pretty clueless, sedate yuppie audience is suddenly adrenalized and roaring along with the band. Nile and his cohorts also tackle the Who classic Substitute as well as a Ramones song.

For devoted fans, this is a must-own. It’s also a good introduction to the artist, a suitable present for fans of rock songwriters ranging from Springsteen to Richard Thompson. Caveat: the Willie Nile catalog is highly addictive. After hearing this you will probably want the rest of his albums.

June 4, 2007 Posted by | Music, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments