Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review – Devi at Mercury Lounge, NYC 3/22/09

It’s hard to think of another band quite like Devi, blending the cleverness and intricacy of a good jam band with the catchiness of vintage powerpop, the awareness and relevance of punk and the occasional smirking metal flourish. The Hoboken, New Jersey power trio have been riding a wave of buzz in the wake of their popular new cd Get Free, and this show found them edging ever closer to the wild, psychedelic jam band inside them, threatening to break out of its shell at any second. As much as this was a song set, there were plenty of opportunities for everybody in the band to cut loose or play off each other and they used all of them. Fighting gamely through a seemingly endless parade of technical glitches, they’d brought a couple of special guests, adventurous keyboardist Rob Clores and also Carmen Sclafani, frontman of Grand Funk-style NJ 70s revivalists Wiser Time to sing harmonies. For significant portions of the show, neither were audible, which was too bad because when Clores was up enough in the mix to be heard, he was always adding something interesting, whether atmospheric washes of synth, ominous organ or tastefully funky Rhodes piano.

 

They opened with the catchy, upbeat rocker Another Day, then immediately launched into the concert favorite When It Comes Down. It’s a brooding, pensive number that practically screams out to be stretched out, and this time the group went out on a limb, frontwoman/guitarist Debra tossing out echoey waves of blues against Klores’ sheets of melody, finally bringing it down to just the rhythm section, all minimalist and mysterious before the guitar kicked in with a wild, psychedelic 70s feel. And then they were back off and running.

 

The group’s new bassist caught the vibe and channeled it perfectly, trading off the occasional lick with the guitar or leading the charge as the drums built to yet another crescendo. Not to be denied, the band ran through a particularly elegaic version of the slow, anthemic title track from the new cd, a charging version of the powerpop hit All That I Need and then a characteristically haunting version of the 9/11 remembrance Welcome to the Boneyard featuring a soaring, haunting lead vocal, the band taking it down to just drums and keys as the last verse came around.

 

Opening act NYC Smoke revealed a fondness for nonsequiturs as well as cheesy 80s albums by the Replacements and the Cure.

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March 26, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Song of the Day 10/17/08

Counting ‘em down from #666 all the way to the best one ever. The full list, growing at the rate of one a day, is at the top of the page. Today’s song is #648:

Debra DeSalvo – Welcome to the Boneyard

The great guitarslinger sings this wrenchingly beautiful ballad from the point of view of a ghost whose body lies in the smoking hole at Ground Zero after 9/11:

 

Welcome to the boneyard

Welcome to the place where they look for me

You can try to find me

All you’ll find are the pieces of a broken dream

 

But the ghost can’t find her way to the loved ones who wait, hoping against hope. A characteristically intense version is on DeSalvo’s Hoboken Demos ep; her power trio Devi is scheduled to release another this fall on their debut cd.

October 16, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Concert Review: Devi at Trash, Brooklyn NY 5/29/07

“I love New York!” exclaimed Devi frontwoman/guitarist Debra. “I’m from Wisconsin, where Friday nights the thing to do was go to Poppin’ Fresh Pies.

And eat pie.”

She and her power trio played with joy and abandon: it was as if they’d just been reprieved from a lifetime at the pie parlor. Tonight it was all about the songs. Maybe it was that Debra – like seemingly every singer in New York this week – had a bad case of allergies and didn’t feel like stretching out. For the most part, instead of getting all wild and psychedelic as they’re tending to do more these days, they hammered out one catchy powerpop number after another. Debra, one of the most exciting, original, virtuosic lead guitarists in rock, did stretch out one of their favorites for jamming, the edgy, anthemic When It Comes Down. First she launched into some blues, then some strategically placed feedback, then started feeling her way through the chorus. Like a cat looking around the house for food, she sniffed at her huge Marshall amp, brushed up against the drums and pawed at her effects pedals. Then, as if returning to a favorite spot by the window, she and the band went back into the song. Like the cat, the solo didn’t really go anywhere, but its insouciant grace was undeniably captivating.

Otherwise, it was nonstop energy, one song into another. They opened with the catchy riff-rocker Another Day and later did a growling, bouncy take on the old Del Shannon hit Runaway. Later, they played a couple of excellent new numbers: first the darkly gorgeous, minor-key, backbeat-driven Howl at the Moon, followed by the funky, sarcastic Miss Indispensable. On a couple of their songs, it was gratifying to see how much of a rapport has developed between band members. Debra led them in a call-and-response (could you imagine a band-du-jour like, say, the Killers playing off each others’ phrasing?), riffing on drummer John Hummel’s pounding tom-tom work as well as the fluid, upper-register melodicism of five-string bassist Dan Grennes.

Hummel’s drums kept scooching toward the front of the stage, which was a blessing in disguise since they were amped way too high in the mix, forcing him to hold back a little and this did a lot to bring the levels under control. While it would have been nice to have heard DeSalvo take a flying leap, swing out past the edge of the cliff and pull herself back with one hand, as she so often does, it was impressive to hear how strong her new songs are. Good to see this excellent, frequently exhilarating band getting some real momentum.

June 2, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Album Review: Debra DeSalvo – Hoboken Demos

Her first album was called Electric Goddess, and this effort, her second, gets this prosaic title. She got it backwards. DeSalvo is best known as a fiery, virtuosic lead guitarist, a master of touch, tone and shading as well one of the most exhilirating fret-burners around. This cd highlights her songwriting, which falls somewhere between Scout, Neil Young circa Tonight’s the Night and PJ Harvey circa Raw. The songs here jangle and clang, build to catchy, crescendoing choruses and surprisingly don’t have as much wild guitar intensity as one would usually expect from her. The cd’s opening cut Welcome to the Boneyard is a bonafide classic, a gorgeously sad number sung from the point of view of someone beyond the grave. The following track All That I Need is a power pop smash that could be Scout or Patti Rothberg. After that, When It Comes Down (a big concert favorite) is the most guitarishly boisterous of the three. Yet what impresses here perhaps the most are DeSalvo’s vocals: she’s become a terrific singer with impressive range. Fans of the guitar pantheon – BB, Jimi, Gilmour, the Alberts (King and Collins), Debbie Davies, etc. – should not deprive themselves of the chance to get to know her. And for fans of Scout, this will be especially satisfying: DeSalvo has the same casual charisma as that band’s frontwoman A.K. Healey.

DeSalvo is also an author, and a very funny one at that: her book The Language of the Blues is imbued with heaping portions of the laugh-out-loud humor that until recently didn’t usually make it through the poker-faced intensity of her music. She and her power trio Devi (Hindi for “goddess”) play around New York every month or so.

April 30, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments