Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Beefstock 2010 Day One

Beefstock is sort of Bonnaroo for great obscure New York bands, an annual two or three-day spring music festival in the Catskills. We’ve covered the previous two – the backstory is here. In the beginning, it was skewed more toward jam bands, but in recent years it’s become more and more diverse. As with all festivals, it’s impossible to take everything in, and the quality of the bands at this one – arguably the best Beefstock ever – was frustratingly good. Standing around watching music for seven or eight hours at a clip gets exhausting, so, apologies in advance to the acts who played who aren’t covered here. With breaks for food, wine, more wine (Beefstock requires a lot of refueling!), checking email (there’s no cell service at the festival site, the Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, NY) and general socializing, this is simply one perspective on this year’s festivities.

A later-than-expected departure from Manhattan meant missing the early Friday night performances. By eight in the evening, Fred Gillen Jr. was wrapping up a characteristically tuneful, invigorated set of socially aware acoustic rock with his new drummer. If memory serves right, this was their first show together, and they rocked, concluding with a spirited version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Liza Garelik Roure and her husband Ian Roure, who would play Saturday night in their band the Larch, followed with a duo set showcasing songs from the band she fronts, Liza and the WonderWheels, and these proved more richly tuneful and emotionally diverse than ever (their upcoming cd ought to be awfully good). “Trailer punk” band Mr. McGregor followed them, including in their set an inspired, rocking Joe Maynard cover and a resonant ode to grilled cheese.

Girl to Gorilla were good at last year’s Beefstock. This time around they absolutely and colossally kicked ass, with a clanging, careening set that was part southwestern gothic, part paisley underground psychedelia, all of it with a snotty punk sense of humor. The electric violin wailing over the din of the guitars is the icing on the cake with this band, the violinist contributing some intense harmony vocals on a couple of numbers as well. One song sounded like the Dream Syndicate. The catchy, minor-key Evil Man was like a cross between True West and Ninth House. The equally catchy Waste of My Time was followed by a new wave-flavored one, a ska-punk number, a Steve Wynn-style riff-rocker and more menacing, jangly stuff. They encored with an aptly wired cover of Koka Kola by the Clash.

The next band, Black Death also absolutely and colossally kicked ass. To say that they sounded like the UK Subs but with better lyrics doesn’t give them enough credit. They jokingly describe themselves as not stupid enough to be metal but not good enough to be punk while they combine the best elements of both styles, punk fearlessness and heavy metal fun. Their Les Paul player gave a free clinic in good bluesmetal solos while their frontguy roared his way through one ferocious, pounding number after another with both his voice and his guitar. Maybe appropriately, their biggest audience hit, I Like Pussy, had a death metal feel. They closed their set with a Balkan death metal waltz and encored with the blasting Live Free or Die (not the Bill Morrissey comedy-folk hit recently resurrected by Hayes Carll) with a deliciously long, bluesy guitar solo.

Following Black Death was a Plastic Beef spinoff, Live and Let Diane (an inside joke), with backbeat drum monster/Beefstock impresario Joe Filosa showing off the same kind of casual cool brilliance on the mic that characterizes his work behind the kit. By now, the wine had kicked in, the really nice guy behind the bar had given one of us a generous glass of Jameson’s on the house, and it was time to call it a night or miss out on a lot of the next day’s fun.

An account of Day Two continues here.

April 15, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: Shatter the Hotel – A Dub Inspired Tribute to Joe Strummer

If you’re a musician, you’ve got to be very careful if you want to cover an iconic band like the Clash. The obvious question is, why bother, since virtually all of the songs are impossible to improve on. Pretty much the only way to approach material like this is to either redo it with a completely different feel…or do it in a rub-a-dub style, mon. The new Shatter the Hotel compilation is yet further proof that just about everything sounds good if you play it as reggae. Yet it’s only logical that this album would happen eventually: the Clash were competent reggae musicians themselves, inspired equally by the music and the roots esthetic. This album is charity effort whose proceeds benefit Strummerville, set up by the Strummer estate to benefit young musicians. It’s an intoxicatingly psychedelic, smartly original dubwise collection of reinterpretations of a whole bunch of classics – Clash fans will love most of this, as will fans of oldschool conscious reggae as well.

The single most imaginative cut here is Infantry Rockers’ transformation of Rebel Waltz, a head-spinning, surf-inflected mix that takes the song straight 4/4 – in its own way, it’s as good as the original. Dubmatix‘ version of London Calling, which kicks it off, features both longtime Clash collaborator/dj Don Letts along with Dan Donovan. It’s more of a reggae-rock effort that sticks pretty close to the source except for a little toasting after the second verse (best not to try to upstage Joe Strummer when it comes to lyrics). Dub Antenna take White Riot and completely flip it, turning it into a slow groove (where you can actually understand the lyrics, which are great!). By contrast, Creation Rockers keep it short and sweet with Four Horsemen, clocking in at just under three minutes, although they take Complete Control in a completely opposite direction with equally successful  results. Nate Wize mixes equal parts electro and vintage dub on Rock the Casbah and vastly improves it – when’s the last time you heard a Clash cover that’s actually better than the original? John Brown’s Body prove themselves to be the perfect band to cover Bankrobber, adding their trademark, slippery keyboards-and-horns sound.

The deepest, bassiest dub here is Wrongtom Meets Rockers’ hydroponic instrumental of Lost in the Supermarket. DubCats do Rudie Can’t Fail in a modern, techie Jamdown pop style, while Citizen Sound’s take on One More Time starts out without adding anything til the dub effects start to kick in. O’Luge and Kornerstone’s straight-ahead roots treatment of Spanish Bombs reminds what a great song it is under any circumstance, and Danny Michel’s cover of Straight to Hell is a real eye-opener, accenting the tune’s underlying Celtic edge. The only real miss here is the cover of Know Your Rights which adds nothing to the original, which was nothing special anyway – the Clash were running on fumes by that point.

February 8, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Concert Review: Adam Masterson at Banjo Jim’s, NYC 5/1/07

So often the best shows are the ones you never expect to see. The only reason I was there was because a friend of mine was tending bar and invited me down to alleviate the boredom on what was to soon become a slow rainy night.We had the place to ourselves til Adam Masterson showed up. Neither one of us had any idea of what to expect and cynic that I am, I expected the worst. After screwing around with the soundboard for half an hour, the bartender and I finally got it up and running, soundchecked the guy and then kicked back with a beer. The club was empty except for us: Masterson’s crowd was depleted since he’d played a gig the previous night.

He piqued our interest during soundcheck: to say that his guitar skills are a cut above your average performer is faint praise, in this post-grunge era, but he impressed with his sense of melody and the licks he threw in between chords. Then he took a seat at the piano and showed us a rolling, gospel-inflected chordal style. He launched into his set before anyone else got to the bar.

Two hours and three sets later, he’d made a fan of everyone who’d braved the rain. What a discovery this guy is: you should see him. He’s British, sounding a lot like a young, pre-delirium tremens Shane MacGowan, casting himself as an acoustic punk gutter poet of sorts. Most of his vivid, hook-driven tales of life among the down-and-out take place in “twisted nightmare alleys past rotten rags and half-chewed chicken bones,” to quote a line from one of his songs. He delivers them in a hoarse, soul-inflected voice (which rang especially true on a rousing cover of Sam Cooke’s Change Is Gonna Come).

The first of the night’s two best songs was a surprise cover of the obscure Clash b-side Gates of the West (available on the Super Black Market Clash anthology), an apt choice for an expatriate. He didn’t do it note for note with the original, but the bittersweet longing of someone who made it “from Camden Town Station to 44th and 8th” and still feels like an outcast here rang true.

The other was his strongest original, a brilliantly catchy portrait of dejection and despair in the London slums. While Masterson’s lyrics generally express optimism despite all odds, this haunting story of a junkie, his prostitute girlfriend and their sketchy neighborhood doesn’t end well: To his credit, Masterson could have gone all mawkish and romanticized it, but he didn’t.

In what amounted to about two hours onstage, he did several other impressive originals (sometimes more than once for the sake of latecomers), including the fiery Can’t Control Myself and My Only Way Out; Avenue Walk (a piano song that could be a dead ringer for a swinging, country-inflected Sam Llanas Bodeans hit); Metropolitan, a London cityscape set to a rolling piano melody, and the 6/8 cabaret blues The Actress, which casts drugs as an actress who’s always there for the “show, show, show.” Mighty good stuff. Masterson is a rock band type at heart, but he’s a passionate performer and an uncommonly intelligent songwriter and for that reason very much worth seeing play solo. Fitting that I’d see this guy for the first time on a rainy night in what used to be a slum. Masterson has a demo cd that’s worth taking home for the songs even if it doesn’t capture the fire of his live performance.

May 4, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment