Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: The Brooklyn What at Trash Bar, Brooklyn NY 5/28/10

An hour of power after power hour Friday night. Actually, the power started during power hour (at Trash Bar, they have free drinks in the back for an hour starting at 8 PM – with a deal like that, who needs to pregame). Play It Faster sound like the Subhumans, but if that band listened to Social Distortion instead of reggae – interesting song structures, smart politics, loud, roaring vocals and guitars. And a Rickenbacker for some unexpectedly sweet guitar textures. Memo to the Rick player: if you’re going to keep taking solos, you need at least a cheap Boss pedal so they can cut through every time.

“I can’t remember when we played a set this early,” Brooklyn What frontman Jamie Frey told the crowd (they hit the stage a little after nine this time; showtime for these guys is usually around midnight on a Saturday). There are louder bands in New York than the Brooklyn What – a few anyway – but there are none better. Their new songs are so strong that they don’t have to fall back on last year’s hits, or the ones from the year before. It’s amazing how much this band has grown – people don’t realize how young they still are. Lead guitarist Evan O’Donnell just graduated college. “He’s ours all the time now,” Frey grinned. Gibson SG player John-Severin Napolillo – who also leads first-rate powerpop band John-Severin and the Quiet 1s – joined O’Donnell in locking into a murkily beautiful, melodic, punk-inflected roar, reminding of nothing less than the Dead Boys, but without the drugs. Frey knows that hits are simple; this set was one after another and they all packed a wallop. And they did it without I Don’t Wanna Go to Williamsburg, or We Are the Only Ones, or Planet’s So Lonely. Like the Clash, the Brooklyn What leap from one genre to another with gusto yet without ever losing sight of the social awareness that defines them. How ironic that they’d play this show in what has become the neighborhood most antithetical to everything they stand for.

They opened with a characteristically cynical, scorching version of Gentrification Rock, title track to their most recent ep, bringing it down to Doug Carey’s growling bass for a couple of measures at the end. “I don’t mind if you put a hole right through me,” Frey sang sarcastically on the snarling midtempo rocker they followed with. This is a guy who obviously loves oldschool soul music, and he’s developed into someone who can deliver it and make it his own without sounding derivative or fake. There was a lot of longing in those vocals all night. Their best song was another new one, Punk Rock Loneliness, a bitter and angry memory of Bowery and Bleecker before CBGB became just another overpriced clothing boutique for tourists: “You wanna be a dead boy?” Frey taunted. As charismatic as Frey is, he’s generous with his bandmates, giving Napolillo a turn on lead vocals on a handful of cuts including a new one with a swaying Guns of Brixton flavor. The first of the encores was a delirious crowd-pleaser, I Want You on a Saturday Night, more doo-wop than anything the Ramones ever did (that these guys, like the Ramones, know what doo-wop was, speaks volumes).

And now comes the sad part of the evening, at least for us. Tri-State Conspiracy were next. Ten years ago they were a killer ska band, just busting out of the small club circuit. These days they still play ska, but they’re way more diverse than that, and even more gleefully noir than they were in 2000. One of their early songs sounded like the Yardbirds. Their trumpet player sang; their two guitarists traded licks better than any jam band in recent memory. So it hurt to walk out on what was obviously going to be a killer set – and hurt equally to miss the Highway Gimps, whose snarling post-Gun Club glampunk songs sound like they’d be even better live than what’s on their myspace. But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

May 30, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: John-Severin & the Quiet 1s at Fontana’s, NYC 9/5/09

John-Severin’s guitar and voice are already a prevalent part of the Brooklyn What’s “… For Borough President” album [Lucid Culture’s pick for best album of 2009 so far], providing melodic yet wild lead guitar on songs like “She Gives Me Spasms” and “Summer Song” as well as his own “50 Days”, a dark, brooding rocker with a great, moody Cure-like vocal. In his own project John-Severin and the Quiet 1s he puts his vocal, guitar and songwriting skills all on the line, which makes for a very moving performance. Backed by the powerful Brooklyn What rhythm section of bassist Doug Carey and drummer Jesse Katz as well as second guitar and harmony vocal by Sairuh Lacoff, the Quiet 1s are an ensemble to be reckoned with.

Saturday night in the basement of Fontana’s, after two painful Jack Johnson/Jason Mraz wannabe singer/songwriter groups, the Quiet 1s hit the stage like a bolt of lightning, bringing much needed energy to the room. They opened with the seriously catchy rocker “Prince St.” the first track off their recent “Get Quiet” ep. The next song “Sucked In” was another piece of propulsive power-pop, recalling Green Day, Weezer and the glory days of 90’s alt-rock. Lacoff provides a great vocal foil for John-Severin, who already has a quite pretty voice for a man – their harmonies together are spot on, and they get the maximum effect out of a doubled vocal line.

“Never Love Nobody Else” is a newer, vicious tune which sort of sounds like the White Stripes covering “She’s Not There,”  in which the band let loose its more aggressive side, John-Severin wailing with his new Big Muff pedal and sounding a bit like J. Mascis. Another more kick-ass number, “Hold Your Tongue” is a more Chuck Berry/punk rock influenced track, featuring a great call-and response-vocal between John and the band. The duets, the original “I’ll Be Around” and their cover of “My Girl” had Sairuh stepping out and showing her vocal prowess, the usually raucous rhythm section laying back like Motown pros. Another soul-influenced song, “Just Want A Girl Who Wants To Dance With Me” was a killer, sounding like a “My Aim Is True” outtake with an infectious vamped chorus and a drum solo by the wily Jesse Katz. A unexpected and fun cover of the Misfits’ “When Eagles Dare” closed the show, evoking the Bratmobile version more than the butch original, in which John Severin proclaimed that he ain’t no goddamn son-of-a-bitch. The “Get Quiet” EP and John’s first solo EP “Look, the Lows” are available now on Pozar Records, be sure to check it out for a rare example of contemporary indie rock/power-pop that can kick your ass and tug at your heartstrings at the same time.

September 9, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment