Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: System Noise and Across the Aisle at the Delancey, NYC 3/18/09

These two played here on the same bill back in November, and a return engagement proved much the same, only better. Both bands have received a fair share of ink here, System Noise especially (their most recent cd Give Me Power made our Top Ten Albums of the Year list in 2008). What else is there to say about them? Last night they delivered characteristic epic grandeur, sly funk, scorching noise-rock and wild intensity, except even more than usual: the whole band seemed in especially “on” mode. They put on a show ripe for photobloggers: Pouth the drummer wailing away on the kit in what’s left of his mohawk (it’s growing out); Kurt the virtuoso guitarist thrashing around and almost losing his glasses, and frontwoman Sarah Mucho stalking the stage with her usually evilly gleeful fifty-yard stare. She’d been under the weather, she said, and she took out her hostility on the mic. As usual, the big anguished ballad Daydreaming was the high point, Mucho pulling out all the stops on the chorus with a wail that was nothing short of primal. They also did the killer new song Hair & Nails, a sharp, typically snide minor-key pop hit with sarcastic, morbid lyrics and an absolutely gorgeous run down the guitar for a hook over the final measures. “It’s us against them now,” Mucho intoned hypnotically on the catchy political-funk anthem Shitkickers. They closed with a loose, careening cover of Rainy Day Women by Dylan, a counterintuitive choice, to say the least.

 

Across the Aisle could have been anticlimactic but weren’t at all. Megg their frontwoman displayed even more arrestingly powerful vocal chops than she did last time out here, and the rest of the band was especially energized as well. This time around, it wasn’t all catchy ska-rock: the band turned up their amps all the way for a couple of straight-up punk numbers including a hilarious hardcore one about Paris Hilton. Another new-ish and equally amusing one, Walk of Shame proved destined to be an anthem throughout dorm rooms worldwide. As usual, the horn section was so tight you couldn’t fit a piece of paper between them, fiery trumpet complemented nicely by slinky tenor sax (the tenor player also providing sly harmony vocals whenever called on: they ought to put her out in front of the band and let her take a long solo at some point).

 

From there it was over to Cake Shop to catch a glimpse of highly regarded, somewhat noir Norwegian songwriter/keyboardist Ingrid Olava, whose final songs of the night were auspiciously good (she’s playing tonight at half past midnight at the Delancey, upstairs). And then it was Mark Steiner, noir rocker par excellence, sadly missed around these parts (he’s in Norway most of the time now), but he did open his set with an offhandedly intense version of one of his classic songs, Cigarettes, violist Susan Mitchell providing her usual gypsy menace and fire. Angst has never looked so easy. Steiner didn’t have his trusty old Epiphone guitar with him, but he still got plenty of twangy, reverb-fueled menace out of a Strat (would have been nice to be able to stick around for the whole set, but the subway card was about to expire at midnight and a walk home would have been the proverbial straw that broke something). Steiner is also at the Delancey tonight around ten, all the cognoscenti will be there – today is Thursday and that means it’s time for Small Beast. 

March 19, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Concert Review: Thy Burden, Across the Aisle and System Noise at the Delancey, NYC 11/19/08

A benefit for urban agriculture charity Just Foods – dedicated to sustainable community agriculture in NYC – turned out to be one of the best triple bills of the year so far. Maybe the energy of the election is still bouncing around. Whatever the case, it was a night for serious dancing. Thy Burden were recently mischaracterized here earlier as an Irish band (while they’d no doubt do a great job with it, our spies gave us bad information: sorry). What they are is the missing link between Bill Monroe and Gogol Bordello. With acoustic guitars and rhythm section, banjo, fiddle,mandolin and sometimes harmonica, they delivered a deliriously fun, frequently psychedelic show. They like minor keys and get the fires burning most brightly playing in them. They also like their tempos lickety-split, giving all the players a chance to show off some sizzling chops. The mandolin took most of the solos. Frequently they’d jam out on a tune for a few minutes before launching into the verse, which worked especially well on Friend of the Devil – done oldschool rather than the Grateful Dead way – and the Hank Williams classic Ramblin Man. At times, they’d add just a little Balkan tinge to the mix, which really hit the spot. There hasn’t been a bluegrass band this fun here in town since the Dixie Bee-Liners vamoosed for the hills of Virginia, or maybe even since Brooklyn Browngrass split up.

 

Female-fronted ska rockers Across the Aisle were next, blending ska with a brassy, chipper, cheery, occasionally sarcastic pop feel – imagine No Doubt without the weight of the corporation beating down on them, and with a horn section so tight you couldn’t fit a piece of paper between the sax and the trumpet. Everything they did was infectious: the sly Born Dirty, their signature song Across the Aisle which they began at hardcore speed, the impossibly catchy Out of Sight, Out of Mind, the sexy urban tale 59th and Lexington, a straight-up reggae number and the sardonic Everybody Lies: “Don’t be fooled by assholes,” Megg their frontwoman grinned. Thy Burden were a hard act to follow, but the party didn’t let up til Across the Aisle left the stage. All they need is some college radio exposure and this band will be huge.

 

One of those choadmonkey corporate bands was next, “choadmonkey” being the marvelous term coined by System Noise’s bass player to describe pretty much any loud Nickelback wannabe (a choad being something small and disgusting from the nether regions, either a dingleberry or some other short stubby thing). This crew had a lot of stuff on tape, might have been lipsynching and didn’t seem to have any fans either. Finally, System Noise took the stage and delivered a set that was as ecstatic as it was eerily intense. They started with the party set and eventually segued into the dark, disturbing set, which somehow still felt perfectly natural. Their frontwoman Sarah Mucho is a bonafide star on the cabaret circuit (she won a MAC award if that means anything) and a wiseass onstage, and she was on top of her game tonight, playfully berating her band when they insisted on playing a new one she clearly didn’t feel up to. But she nailed it and then some. When she suddenly stopped wailing, leaving a pregnant pause and then unexpectedly picking up right where she left off, the effect was spine-tingling. The guitar alternated between sly, catchy funk and scorching, chromatically-fueled noise, the rhythm section in particularly ferocious, pummeling mode tonight, even on the catchy, funky stuff like Shitkickers and Everyday Hustler, the two songs that opened the set.

 

A new one in 6/8 (the one Mucho didn’t want to sing but nailed anyway) began especially ominous, with a watery 80s feel before building to a pyrotechnic, noisy crescendo. They roared through the snarky, darkly pounding, Iron Maiden-inflected cannibalism anthem Good Enough to Eat and followed that soon after with an other chromatically-fueled, even noisier one called Cosmic Monsters. This being a cold night, when they finally wrapped up the set well after midnight, a lot of the crowd had cleared out. Those who remained were rewarded. When the bass, guitar and drums launched into the slow, ominous intro to Daydreaming (our pick for best song of the year for 2006), a murmur ran through the crowd: this slowly crescendoing, titanic anthem is a big hit, and the band hadn’t played it out in a long time. This time out they brought out every bloodcurdling ounce of menace in the melody, Mucho toying with her phrasing on the quieter sections like a cat with a helpless rodent.

 

The only drawback of the evening was a late arrival meant missing Farm Aid regular Jesse Lenat’s opening set: if what he played was anything like what’s on his myspace, he kicked ass. Check and see for yourself.

 

Thy Burden’s next show is on Dec 6 at Europa; Sarah Mucho stars in her highly acclaimed revue Subterranean Circus at Don’t Tell Mama on Dec 3 at 8 PM and Dec 9 at 7.

November 20, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment