Lucid Culture


Catspaw Live at Hank’s Saloon, Brooklyn NY 1/3/08

It’s too easy to be jaded. It’s all too easy to say you’ve seen it all before. If you put yourself in a situation where exciting things can happen, they generally do. Case in point: tonight.

It was cold, sixteen degrees according to a digital readout visible from the Manhattan bridge. Returning from a long absence from the NYC stage, Catspaw shook off the rust, shed some sparks and got the crowd dancing. And they played Southbound Line. It’s their signature song, and it’s a classic, the kind of song that sends your adrenaline straight into the red when they play it live. The version they played tonight was somewhat offhand, kind of casual, but no less intense. It’s a fast minor-key rockabilly shuffle about a woman losing it in a hurry, on the train ride from hell. Or to hell – the southbound New Jersey Transit line runs in the opposite direction of Manhattan. Frontwoman Jasmine Sadrieh crams so many lyrics into the verse that it’s not easy to sing without losing your breath, but she did it, effortlessly. Random drunken kids asking her which way to the Jersey shore, a sketchy guy with a brown paper bag and toothpaste sitting across the aisle, and she doesn’t even know what train she’s on. When she gets to the guitar solo after the second verse, you can see what’s coming as soon as she starts with the deliberate, determined steps down the scale that she throws in between splashes of chords, but the reverb-drenched blast of guitar fury at the end is still the high point of a real thrill ride. Moments like these make a long walk in the cold and the always uncertain availability of a train ride home worthwhile.

Catspaw is pretty much defined by Sadrieh’s vintage Gretsch guitar sound and her deadpan sense of humor. One of the songs they played tonight, the darkly clanging Ancient Irish Ballad is a prime example. “We wrote this song….although I don’t think anyone in the band has Irish blood,” Sadrieh told the crowd. “But we are ancient.”

She was joking, of course. It was almost a year to the day since we saw them for the first time, seven years ago, playing one of their very first shows to an empty house on one of the last nights at the old Chicago Blues, opening for the Sea Devils (who also played to a pretty empty room). At the time, it was obvious that they had some good songs, but they weren’t very tight and as much as it was clear that everybody in the band liked playing rockabilly and surf covers, they didn’t have much of a feel for the music. How times change. In actuality, they got good in a hurry after that cold January night gig at 14th St. and 8th Ave. This time around they had their work cut out for them. On nights like this, guitars go out of tune fast and most people stay home (which is why it’s always fun to venture out on the coldest night of the year: you always pretty much have the whole place to yourself). But there was a crowd, maybe because Catspaw hadn’t played out in awhile, since their bass player left to join her husband in now-defunct garage rockers the Dark Marbles. It’s good to see that they’ve found a replacement as fluid and melodic as she was, and he was clearly having fun up there.

They opened with a couple of lively originals and then tackled a couple of rockabilly covers, 20 Flight Rock and Brand New Cadillac, staying impressively true to the originals. Sadrieh’s guitar was LOUD, so loud in fact that it wasn’t easy to hear the drums. Drummer Erica Golino is an equally powerful player. With her smart, rolling, Keith Moon-style barrage, she’s as good at building a crescendo and flying out of the chorus at full tilt as Joe Filosa (of Plastic Beef and Liza and the WonderWheels infamy). And she knows it, flinging her long hair back behind her at the end as if to say, GOTCHA.

They also did the tongue-in-cheek surf instrumental ABW, from their album Ancient Bateyed Wallman, which they were giving away for free to lucky fans tonight: “I’m sick of it,” Sadrieh winkingly told the crowd. They encored with Jailhouse Rock. It was a little incongruous hearing Elvis’ vocal delivered in Sadrieh’s carefree, unaffectedly pretty voice, but that’s how bands ought to play covers: if you can’t match the original, do it completely your way, and Catspaw did exactly that. They’re a lot of fun. It’ll be good to see them playing out more now that they have a bass player again.

January 4, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment