Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

A Powerpop Trifecta at Bowery Electric

Wednesday night at Bowery Electric, Don Piper and his group opened the evening with a richly melodic, often hypnotic set. Piper’s primary gig these days is producing great albums – the Oxygen Ponies’ lushly layered, darkly psychedelic classic Harmony Handgrenade is one of his credits – but he’s also a bandleader. This time out he alternated between slowly swirling, atmospheric, artsy rock and a vintage Memphis soul sound, backed by a large, spirited crew including keyboards, a two-piece horn section (with Ray Sapirstein from Lenny Molotov’s band on cornet), bass and the Silos’ Konrad Meissner on drums (doing double duty tonight, as would many of the other musicians). Midway through the set Briana Winter took over centerstage and held the crowd silent with her wary, austerely intense, Linda Thompson-esque voice on a couple of midtempo ballads. They closed with a long, 1960s style soul number, Piper and Winter joining in a big crescendo as the band slowly circled behind them.

Edward Rogers followed, backed by much of the same band including Piper, Meissner, Claudia Chopek on violin and Ward White playing bass. A British expat, Rogers’ wry, lyrical songs draw on pretty much every good British pop style through the mid-70s. The most modern-sounding song, a pounding, insistent number, evoked the Psychedelic Furs, White throwing in some Ventures-style tremolo-picking on his bass at a point where nobody seemed to be looking. Whatever You’ve Been Told, from Rogers’ latest album Sparkle Lane, held an impassioned, uneasy ambience that brought to mind early David Bowie. A pensive, midtempo backbeat tune with a refrain about the “seventh string on your guitar, the one you never use” reminded of the Move (like Roy Wood, Rogers hails from Birmingham), as did a bracingly dark new one, Porcelain, highlighted by some striking, acidic violin from Chopek. And a pair of Beatles homages wouldn’t have been out of place on the Rutles albums – or George’s later work with Jeff Lynne. But the best songs were the most original ones. The most stunning moment of the night came on the understatedly bitter Passing the Sunshine, a Moody Blues-inflected requiem for an edgy downtown New York destroyed by greedy developers, gentrifiers and the permanent-tourist class: “This’ll be the last time you steal with your lies,” Rogers insisted, over and over again. In its gentle, resolute way, it was as powerful as punk. They wound up the show with a surprisingly bouncy psychedelic pop tune and then the new album’s droll, swaying title track.

Seeing headliner Maura Kennedy onstage with a bright red Les Paul slung from her shoulder was a surprise, as it was to see her guitar genius husband Pete Kennedy in the back with the drums, leaving most of the solos to his wife. But as fans of their acoustic project the Kennedys know, she’s an excellent player – and also one of the most unselfconsciously soulful voices in rock, or folk, if you want to call them that. This was her powerpop set, many of the songs adding a subtly Beatlesque or Americana edge to fast new wave guitar pop. The best songs were the darker ones, including the bitterly pulsing 1960s style psych/pop hit Just the Rain. Sun Burns Gold swayed hauntingly and plaintively, leaving just a crack for the light to get in; another minor-key number, Chains was absolutely gorgeous in a jangly Dancing Barefoot garage-pop vein, and she used that as a springboard for one of several sharply staccato, chordally charged solos. “I wrap myself in melancholy comfort of the waiting game,” she sang on a brooding ballad that evoked Richard and Linda Thompson. But there were just as many upbeat moments. White, who was doing double duty despite being under the weather, took an unexpected and welcome bass solo on a funkily hypnotic number toward the end of the set; they wound it up with the first song she’d written, she said, the country-pop ballad Summer Coulda Lasted Forever. The rest of the musicians joined them for an amazingly tight, completely deadpan cover of A Day in the Life, Maura leading her little orchestra with split-second precision all the way through the two long, interminable crescendos, a wry vocal from her husband on Paul’s verse, and then up and up and up some more and then finally out. It was an apt way to end a night of similarly expert craftsmanship.

December 10, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Girl Friday at Lakeside Lounge, NYC 6/25/07

This band is creeper. Their songs sneak up on you when you least expect them. Sonically, Girl Friday are your basic indie rock: guitar with a dirty, unprocessed sound, bass and drums. But the songs are not. They’re very intelligent, very crystallized and when you think about it, very catchy, with something of a minimalist sensibility. They seem to be written deliberately for repeated listening. If that’s the band’s intent, they succeed. The hooks often appear unexpectedly, in places other than the front of the chorus, the turnaround or the opening of the song. Sometimes they flare up and then disappear. But they’re all over the place, and there are so many of them it’s hard to count.

Singer/guitarist Amanda Dora didn’t waste a note all night. Her vocals were casual, conversational and completely unaffected. The songs themselves remind very strongly of the late, great Scout, at the very end when they were off their brief garage rock tangent. Girl Friday evokes the same nebulous melancholia, but without the occasional Beatlisms. And they also pick up the pace with riff-driven, punchy garage rock to liven things up. Dora plays mostly with downstrokes, adding to the percussive flavor of much of their material. On one song, the bass player began the song with a reflective stroll which he took using a slide, playing through a reverb box, and continued to carry the melody through to the end. On another, Dora began with an incisive, midtempo staccato hook on the verse, but when the chorus kicked in, the band went to 6/8 time, cranked it up to a crescendo and suddenly they had an anthem.

Girl Friday were completing a Monday residency here and invited a couple of special guests up to join them toward the end of the set. Briana Winter impressed the most with a ridiculously catchy 4-chord pop song that she delivered passionately and effortlessly while the band wailed behind her.

Props to Lakeside for giving them the residency and a chance to play for a crowd who would probably never see them on the Ludlow Street strip. While they’re pretty far removed from the usual Lakeside twang (Girl Friday clang and crunch instead), they share an intelligence and dedication to craftsmanship with the best of the crowd who play here. If their forthcoming album is anything like what they sounded like tonight, it should be killer.

June 26, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments