Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Billy Cohen Memorial Concert

Some people fade from memory after they’re gone. Billy Cohen just gets more and more intriguing. Cruelly cut down by cancer at 23, Cohen still managed to leave a stunningly diverse body of work ranging from punk rock, to modern classical, to the avant garde: if there is any justice in the world, someday there’ll be a Billy Cohen album. Thursday night, Bowery Poetry Club was packed with a mix of family, friends, what looked like every cool kid from the Murrow High School class of ’05, and his surviving bandmates in the Brooklyn What. His younger sister Gabi Cohen had assembled a slideshow that played throughout the night (a favorite shot: Cohen way up in the nosebleed seats at Shea Stadium), a vivid tribute to the multi-instrumentalist composer who was as devoted to the Mets as he was to music.

Politically incorrect singer-songwriter Mickey PG opened, joined at the end by members of the Brooklyn What, their frontman Jamie Frey holding down the bass. He’s quirky and funny in a snotty, punk rock Dead Milkmen/Violent Femmes kind of way. Among his tunes: a not-so-sly, faux R&B seduction song; a funny one about stealing a girl away from her much taller boyfriend; an even funnier one parodying the silly, Jesse Jackson-style slogans that high school teachers use; and the most hilarious one of the night, Dumpster Diving. See, she’s got a Harvard degree, but the only job she can get with it is at Burger King. So she and her man get their gourmet experience out back of the restaurant: it’s all they can afford.

The duo of southpaw guitarist Jonathan Ruderfer (Cohen’s college-era bandmate in Savage Panda) and Cohen’s old college roomie, keyboardist Derek Blustein followed with a stunningly tight, eye-opening set of Cohen compositions along with a couple of originals and some favorite covers. They opened with a catchy powerpop anthem, like Coldplay if that band had real blood in their veins. They nimbly and amusingly tackled a couple of video game themes, a spot-on take of a tricky Radiohead number and an equally tricky, melodically artsy original by Blustein. He explained how they’d been forced to slow down a particularly challenging Cohen instrumental – which came across as a rapidfire amalgam of Louis Andriessen and Thom Yorke – to the point where it was physically possible for them to play it. A terrific, full-voiced singer named Megan then joined them for an equally challenging, operatically-tinged vocal number, on which she had to use every inch of a genuinely breathtaking vocal range.

Cohen would be proud of how good, and how amazingly tight the Brooklyn What have become. Joining them onstage were Ruderfer, Blustein and former Escarioka alto sax player Clayton Costelloe, whose smartly chosen, bracing fills gave the more punk-oriented songs, like a particularly intense version of Gentrification Rock, a scary ska feel. Cohen was a big Kinks fan, so they did a trio of amped-up Kinks covers, the most ecstatic of these being I’m Not Like Everybody Else – not surprising, considering that once he’d brought it into the band, it quickly became a concert favorite. In fact, with the three guitars going at once, it was almost as if Cohen was there. They pounced on Mongoloid by Devo and beat it speechless and burned through an inspired, smartly short version of Moonage Daydream by Bowie. But it was the originals that everybody had come to hear and they got all the Billy Cohen songs from the band’s debut The Brooklyn What for Borough President: blistering takes of the dissociative, Shellac-on-speed rap Soviet Guns, the uneasy, biting punk fury of Sunbeam Sunscream and the quiet disquiet of Summer Song. The high point of the night was another Cohen song, the unreleased Hot Wine, a characteristically surreal Coney Island scenario that went on a doublespeed rampage in the middle. They closed with a delirious singalong of their anthem We Are the Only Ones, written by the band, Frey explained, on Cohen’s little synthesizer in his bedroom. As the audience bobbed and swayed, hands and fists waving furiously on the beat, joining in on the last verse, “I’m not afraid of anything at all, divided we stand, UNITED THEY WILL FALL,” the Brooklyn What were, to paraphrase Frey, undeniably the biggest band in New York. Billy Cohen would have liked that. The Brooklyn What play Arlene’s at 9 this Friday the 20th.

August 17, 2010 Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, concert, experimental music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The 20 Best Concerts in New York in 2009

Of all our year-end best-of lists (the 100 Best Songs of 2009 and 50 Best Albums of 2009 included), this is our favorite, because it’s the most individual (everybody has a different list) and it’s closest to our raison d’etre, live music in New York. Last year’s was difficult enough to narrow down to twenty; this year’s is criminally short. We could have put up a top 100 concerts list and it would be five times as good. 

This was the year of the Beast – Small Beast at the Delancey, New York’s most exciting weekly rock event. We caught onto this slowly – the concert series ran for about a month before we discovered it – but when we did we were there almost every week. Occasionally someone will ask, since you have a music blog, why don’t you start booking shows? With Small Beast, there’s no need: it’s your weekly chance to discover the edgiest, smartest rock-ish talent from Gotham and across the globe. You’ll see a lot of those shows on this list.

Yet 2009 was a weird year for us – running a New York live music blog and not being in town much of the time made it problematic, to say the least. Week after week, we watched from a distance, enviously as half the city got to see stuff we never did. In August, the Brooklyn What did a killer triple bill with Palmyra Delran’s garage band and amazing latin ska-punk-gypsy rockers Escarioka at Trash Bar, but we weren’t there. The second night of the Gypsy Tabor Festival just a few weeks later looked like a great time, but we missed that one too. As the year winds down and we finally (hopefully!) start to reap the rewards of a whole lot of hard work, it appears, pending some absolutely transcendent show exploding onto the radar, that this is it for our Best Shows of 09 list. Needless to say, we can’t wait for 2010.

Since any attempt to rank these shows in any kind of order would be an exercise in futility, we just listed them as they happened:

The Brooklyn What at Fat Baby, 1/15/09 – since we’d just reviewed a couple of their shows in the fall of 08, we didn’t even review this one, fearing overkill. But on what was the coldest night of the winter up to that point, they packed the club and burned through a characteristically fun, ferocious set, maybe fueled by the knowledge that one of their idols, Ron Asheton, had left us.

Kerry Kennedy at Rose Bar, 1/21/09 – the noir chanteuse was at the absolute top of her game as quietly resilient siren and southwestern gothic bandleader.

Paul Wallfisch and Larkin Grimm at Small Beast at the Delancey, 4/9/09 – the Botanica frontman (who books Small Beast) turned in a typically fiery set, followed by the avant-chanteuse who battled and finally lashed out at a crowd of clueless yuppie puppies who just didn’t get what the show was all about.

Kotorino at Pete’s Candy Store, 4/13/09 – the quietly multistylistic, gypsyish band filled the place on a Monday night and kept the crowd riveted as they all switched instruments, beats and genres over and over.

The New Collisions at Arlene’s, 4/23/09 – Boston’s best new band blazed through an early 80s inflected set of edgy powerpop.

Paul Wallfisch, the Ulrich-Ziegler Duo and McGinty and White at Small Beast at the Delancey, 4/23/09 – after Wallfisch had set the tone for the night, Big Lazy’s Steve Ulrich and Pink Noise’s Itamar Ziegler played hypnotic, macabre guitar soundscapes followed by the ferociously lyrical retro 60s chamber pop of Joe McGinty and Ward White.

The American String Quartet playing Irving Fine and Robert Sirota’s Triptych at Bargemusic, 4/26/09 – a sinister ride through works by one of the leading lights of the 1950s avant garde followed by a haunting, intense performance of contemporary composer Sirota’s 9/11 suite.

Paul Wallfisch, Vera Beren’s Gothic Chamber Blues Ensemble, Spottiswoode and Steve Wynn at Small Beast at the Delancey, 4/30/09 – after Wallfisch got the night started, Beren roared and scorched her way through a pummeling, macabre set. Then Spottiswoode impressed with a subtle set of nocturnes, setting the stage for Wynn, playing together with his friend and ex-lead guitarist Chris Brokaw for the first time in several years, a feast of swirling, otherworldly guitar overtones.

The Friggs and the Chrome Cranks at Santos Party House, 5/8/09 – a triumphant return for the popular 90s garage girl rockers followed by the equally triumphant, reinvigorated, snarling sonic attack of another one of NYC’s best bands of the 90s.

The French Exit at Local 269, 5/13/09 – NYC’s best new dark rockers playing one of their first shows as a four-piece, rich with reverb, tersely incisive piano, haunting vocals and defiant lyricism.

Chicha Libre on the Rocks Off Concert Cruise Boat, 5/15/09 – definitely the best party of the year that we were party to, a swaying excursion through psychedelic, surfy cumbia music, past and present.

Paul Wallfisch, Darren Gaines & the Key Party and Alice Texas at Small Beast at the Delancey, 6/4/09 – Wallfisch kicked it off, Gaines and a stripped-down trio impressed with gutter-poet, Lou Reed/Tom Waits style rock and then Alice Texas turned in a swirling, incandescent, gently assaultive show that reminded how much we miss Tonic, the club where she used to play before it was torn down t0 put up plastic luxury condos.

Paul Wallfisch, Marni Rice and the Snow at Small Beast at the Delancey, 6/22/09 – another Wallfisch night, this one featuring the great LES accordionist/chanteuse/cabaret scholar and then Pierre de Gaillande’s clever, haunting art-r0ck crew.

Ian Hunter at Rockefeller Park, 6/24/09 – the former Mott the Hoople frontman, at age 70, has simply never written, played, or sung better. This show was a real revelation.

Daniel Bernstein at Sidewalk, 7/9/09 – the underground songwriter/lyricist/tunesmith casually burned through one haunting, haunted, ridiculously catchy tune after another.

Randi Russo and the Oxygen Ponies at the Saltmines, 7/10/09 – another haunting show opened with the absolute master of the outsider anthem, who did double duty playing in Paul Megna’s equally dark, intense, lyrical indie band.

The Main Squeeze Accordion Festival: Musette Explosion, Suspenso del Norte, Hector Del Curto’s Eternal Tango Quintet, the Main Squeeze Orchestra, Roberto Cassan and John Munatore, Liony Parra y la Mega Mafia Tipica and Peter Stan at Pier One, 7/11/09 – squeezebox heaven.

Amir ElSaffar’s Two Rivers Ensemble and the Dave Brubeck Quartet at Damrosch Park, 8/5/09 – cutting-edge Middle Eastern-inflected jazz followed by one of the great ones, undiminished and still inventive at 89.

Jenifer Jackson at Rockwood Music Hall, 11/19/09 – the panstylistic rock goddess played several good New York shows this past year, but this one with Matt Kanelos on piano and glockenspiel and Billy Doughty on drums and melodica was pure transcendence.

Carol Lipnik, Bonfire Madigan, Rachelle Garniez, Vera Beren’s Gothic Chamber Blues Ensemble and McGinty and White at Small Beast at the Delancey, 11/23/09 – what seems at this point to be the single best show of the year (if only because it’s the most recent one on the list) matched Lipnik’s phantasmagoria to Madigan’s equally artful chamber pop, Garniez’ irresistible charisma and ferocity, Beren’s contralto classical punk assault and then Ward White took over where the sirens had been and sang what could have been his best show ever.

December 3, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 8/24/09

We do this every Tuesday. You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our Best 100 songs of 2009 list at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere. Every link here except for #1 will take you to each individual song.

1. The Oxygen Ponies – Finger Trigger

Big scorching venomous rock anthem written at the nadir of the Bush regime. From their amazing new Randi Russo-designed cd Harmony Handgrenade

2. Sad Little Stars – I’m Going to Paris

Hilarious deadpan anti-trendoid broadside

3. Zebu – You Can’t Polish Shit

Noise rock. Self-explanatory. They’re at Mehanata on Aug 29 with the Brooklyn What and Escarioka.

4. Edward Rogers – You Haven’t Been Where I’ve Been

The expat Manchester rock crooner live at the NME awards doing the ELO thing – title track to his latest excellent album.

5. Basia Bulat – Snakes & Ladders

Orchestrated piano/orchestra ballad by this usually lo-fi Canadian songstress. Is this an anomaly? She’s at the Bell House on 10/7 at 8:30.

6. The French Exit – 3 & 12

We’re just going to hit you over the head again and again until everybody realizes what an amazing band these New York noir rockers are. They’re at Local 269 on 9/17 at 8.

7. Escarioka – Algun Dia Llegara

Every single song the Brooklyn What have ever played has probably been included in this list this year at some point, but we haven’t yet done the same with rock/ska en Espanol hellraisers Escarioka, who are also on the bill on 8/29 at Mehanata. This is a surprisingly gentle number but they’ll no doubt rip it to shreds live.

8. Her Vanished Grace – Sirens

They call what they play “power dreampop” which isn’t a bad way to describe it. They’re at Trash on 9/16 at 9:30.

9. The Anabolics – Je Ne Sais Quoi

Wicked garage punk. They’re at Union Pool on 10 on 9/4.

10. Rebecca Turner – Tough Crowd

Ridiculously catchy Americana rock song from the gorgeous-voiced chanteuse. She’s at Banjo Jim’s on 9/2 at 8.

August 25, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Brooklyn What – Gentrification Rock

The second release by New York’s most exciting band right now has all the fun, fury and intelligence of the Brooklyn What’s debut The Brooklyn What for Borough President (which remains at the top of our list for best album of 2009). Frontman Jamie Frey is possibly even more charismatically and ferociously amusing than ever here, and the band careens along behind him, flailing at everything in their way. When these guys have the three electric guitars going, live, the resulting pandemonium is completely out-of-control, giving their catchy punk songs a crazy, noisy, occasionally no-wave edge. This is a concept album of sorts, proceeds being donated to the esteemed grassroots organization Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn who continue to lead the community resistance to the well-documented Atlantic Yards luxury condo/basketball arena scam. Remember the days when Brooklyn musicians fought against the destruction of New York by suburban invasion rather than being part of it? The Brooklyn What do, even though most of them weren’t even born yet when New Jersey developers began tearing down perfectly good brick brownstones and replacing them with cheap plastic-and-sheetrock future crackhouses back in the 80s. This is a powerful contribution to that battle.

This ep has two versions of the title track, in the studio and live, one as intense as the other, the band’s caustic dismissal of the suburbanites who “wanna make the world one big mistake.” Another new recording, Movin to Philly has more of an over-the-edge anthemic feel than the countryish way they usually play it live. This one’s not an anti-trendoid diatribe but the anguished tale of a guy who’s been priced out of the city where he grew up and dreads every minute of the move and what lies ahead after that. “All my dreams are over there…take one last walk through Tompkins Square,” he muses. There’s also a characteristically snarling, defiant live version of the Kinks’ classic I’m Not Like Everybody Else and another original, I Want You on a Saturday Night, a self-explanatory, Ramones-ish punked out doo-wop tune. Get the album and contribute what you can if you can (DDDB’s funds are perennially in short supply, unsurprising since they’re not bankrolled by developers), and count this among the year’s best albums along with the Brooklyn What’s first one. The Brooklyn What play Trash Bar this Friday August 7 on what might be the best straight-up rock bill of the year with the Warm Hats, Palmyra Delran and Escarioka: the Brooklyn What hit the stage at 11.

August 4, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 8/3/09

We do this every Tuesday. You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our Best 100 songs of 2009 list at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere. Every link here except for #1 will take you to each individual song.

1. The Ulrich/Ziegler Duo – Since Cincinnati

This is the alchemical guitar instrumental project of Steve Ulrich of Big Lazy plus Itamar Ziegler from Pink Noise. Unreleased – you’ll have to see this southwestern gothic masterpiece live.

2. Don Chambers & Goat – Open up the Gates

Dark garage rock with a banjo. They’re at Spikehill on 9/6.

3. Quixote – Hubris

Lo-fi noir cabaret with ornate flourishes from these edgy rockers. They’re at Trash on 8/11 at 8.

4. Mrs. Danvers – Wicked One

Slinky lesbian dance-rock with a trumpet, lots of fun. They’re at Trash on 8/11 at 10.

5. Bacchus King – Sub Prime

Math rock with a social awareness. They’re at Trash on 8/8 at 8.

6. The Warm Hats – Underground

Catchy swaying smartly defiant rock. At Trash on 8/7 at 8 withPalmyra Delran, the amazing Brooklyn What and the equally amazing Escarioka.

7. The Grendel Babies – Penelope

Eerie gothic art-rock with piano and violin. They’re at Fontana’s at 9 on 8/4.

8. The Fox Hunt – Suits Me Fine

Minor key original bluegrass – good stuff. At Caffe Vivaldi, 8 PM on 8/25, also at Arlene’s on 8/26 at 10 and at the National Underground on 8/27 at 9.

9. Glasspipe – Hands

Garage punk. They’re at Trash on 8/4.

10. Verismo – The Lorax

Dr. Seuss thrash metal. Priceless.

August 4, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 7/27/09

We do this every Tuesday. You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our Best 100 songs of 2009 list at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere.  Every link here except for #1 will take you to each individual song.

1. Livia Hoffman – Friday

This is one of those great “finally the weekend’s here” numbers that manages not to be trite. Watch this space for upcoming live dates – this one’s unreleased.

2. Curtis Eller – Sugar in My Coffin

One of the great NYC rockers of this era – it just happens that the banjo is his axe. “The drinks are getting weaker with every round they serve.” He’s at Banjo Jim’s on 7/30 at 10

3. The French Exit – Bones & Matches

Typically haunting, wrenching, eventually explosive lament from NYC’s best noir rock crew. They’re at Local 269, 269 E Houston at 9 on 7/29

4. The Brooklyn What – For the Best

Characteristically snarling, smart punkish song from their first album (their new ep Gentrification Rock is killer too).  They’re at Don Pedro’s on 8/7 on an amazing bill with Escarioka, Palmyra Delran and others.

5. Rescue Bird – Montauk

Catchy, artsy country tune with an autoharp and glockenspiel! They’re at Spikehill on 7/30 at 8.

6. Carrie Clark – Josephine

Smartly soaring, Rachelle Garniez-esque oldtimey cabaret song. She’s at Spikehill on 7/30 at 9

7. Andrea Wittgens – Everything Is Relative to You

Clever, catchy, Greta Gertler-ish artsy piano pop tune. She’s at Spikehill on 7/30 at 11

8. Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens – What Have You Done

Killer minor-key oldschool gospel tune. They’re at Prospect Park Bandshell on 7/30 at 7:30 opening for Burning Spear

9. Rev. Vince Anderson – Don’t Think Jesus

Country music as liberation theology dating from the waning days of the Bush regime. He’s at at 55 Bar on 7/31 at 10.

10. Ansambl Mastika – Gde si Bre

Characteristicaly wild horn-diven Balkan dance. They’re at Mehanata on 7/30 at 9.

July 28, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., music, concert, New York City | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Make Music NY 2009 – A Wash?

Running around hungover on a muggy, then rainy Sunday – pure joy, NOT. For the crew here, Make Music NY 2007 was a day at the office followed by a ferociously good System Noise concert before the clouds burst, and then it was pretty much all over. By contrast, MMNY ’08 seemed to be a smashing success – at least it was from this vantage point. Yesterday was awash in cancellations and delays, to be expected when there are roughly two thousand live shows of some kind going on all over town. Smartly, several establishments about as far removed from the music business as you can imagine opened up their storefronts or spare corners. The original game plan here was to get up as early as possible and head over to Governors (“Punk”) Island to see the allday punk festival, but the more hungover and tired party here stood her ground, not in the mood to traipse through the mud with nowhere to sit for a whole afternoon. Therefore, plan B.

Last year’s agenda here was to take in as much unfamiliar and diverse stuff as possible (regulars here know that Lucid Culture has an ever-growing list of stuff to review, not just all the albums that come over the transom but also bands who don’t have anything recorded – the more we know, the more we realize we don’t know). For one reason or another, the best stuff this year was spread out over a much wider geographical area than last year – and what’s up with all the open public spaces? Are public parks and sidewalks now off-limits to MMNYers? In Manhattan most of them seemed to be, at least early in the day.

We only got to two shows. Escarioka careened through a deliriously fun, hypnotically multistylistic hour inside a coffee shop on the Lower East. The nine-piece band is already excellent, will get even better and will be huge in Latin America once word spreads – and it will. They’re just loose enough to give themselves an air of real menace. With a three-piece horn section, rhythm section, percussion, two guitarists and a charismatic frontman with a rapidfire reggaeton-inflected delivery, they switched styles and speeds effortlessly yet with an energy that defied the show’s early hour. Like the band they most closely resemble, Mexican rock legends Maldita Vecindad, most of their songs are in minor keys. One of the tunes they played this past afternoon slunk along on a vintage bolero vamp, the bassist playing in the major scale under the horns’ minor-key attack, adding a considerably ominous edge. Another burst out of the gate as pogoing ska-punk, building to a trance-inducing, percussive cauldron of sound before mutating into a salsa riff and building that up to a big roar as well. Several of the other songs had a gypsy punk feel. Watching these guys kick in and give 100%, seemingly oblivious to the fact that it was daylight and they were surrounded by people sipping juice and herbal tea instead of dancing like people usually do at Escarioka shows, reminded of the early days of Gogol Bordello. This band is going to be huge. You heard it here first. At least you heard it in English here first.

From there, it would have made good sense to see what the Woes were up to – they were supposed to play outside Spikehill in Williamsburg. The hangover started barking at this point, demanding food and water, so after a quick trip home, it was over to Passout Records in Williamsburg where rain goddess Randi Russo was scheduled to play – it virtually always rains on her gig days, including an afternoon in Milwaukee when a storm literally blew her and her band off the stage. Some aid organization should sponsor a Randi Russo tour of the Sahara. By now the rain was no longer threatening but actually on its way – but then the clouds broke, they lugged the amps outside again, where she treated the growing crowd outside the store to a brief but characteristically rich seven-song set, solo on her beautiful red Gibson SG. Even through a makeshift PA, her velvet voice projected her biting, often savage, meticulously crafted lyrics. She opened with the corruscating Venus on Saturn, a spot-on sendup of status-seeking, catty women, followed that eventually with a gorgeously melodic, somewhat noir blues alienation anthem that wouldn’t have been out of place in the Gun Club catalog. Played solo, the anthem Head High While You Lie Low took on a percussive, hypnotic feel. She wrapped up the set with a fiery, swaying version of Battle on the Periphery, one of the great workingman’s (or working woman’s) laments of alltime.

Lorraine Leckie followed, solo, her terse, garage-inflected songs stripped to the bone. Leckie doesn’t waste words or notes, has a bite and an edge: she’s gritty in a good way. After just a couple of songs, the clouds burst. Here’s hoping she didn’t get zapped and will do another show next year that isn’t so rudely interrupted.

And a plug for the store – among the treats onsale were $1, decent quality vinyl copies of a Jacques Brel greatest-hits collection and a good Robert Cray album from the 80s, reggae great Jacob Miller’s greatest hits on cassette for $2 and Brubeck Plays Cole Porter on vinyl for $10. And plenty of punk and garage too. If the idea of owning music in tangible, visible, better-than-mp3 form isn’t alien to you, this place deserves your support.

June 21, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 3/9/09

We do this every Tuesday, in the tradition of Kasey Kasem for the acts we’ll probably never see, or didn’t get the chance to review when they were in town, or just discovered somewhere because they’re cool or they’re funny, or just reviewed and can’t stop listening to them. Enjoy. All the links below will either take you to the song or to the band’s site.

 

1. The Oxygen Ponies – Love Yr Way

 

I sold my soul for education

Every day I pay the debt

My entire generation

Better find a tourniquet…

When they hang this message bringer

Blood will rain down through the floor

 

Opening cut on the long-awaited Harmony Handgrenade album, coming in May.

 

2. Escarioka – La Nueva Era

Fast, furious, spooky ska en Espanol sounds like Maldita circa 1995! They’re doing a benefit on 3/21 at 7 PM at Revolution Books 146 W. 26th between 6th and 7th Ave.

 

3. Lorrie Doriza – Girl in the Basement

Noir cabaret with a touch of Kate Bush and a little gospel in the voice.

 

4. Graham Bonnet – Whisper in the Night

This histrionic bellower used to front wanky late 70s metal acts like Rainbow and the Michael Schenker Group. Believe it or not, this is a youtube clip of an actually serviceable cover of the classic, haunting Roy Wood song from ELO’s first album. Who knew he had it in him.

 

5. The War on Drugs – A Needle in Your Eye 16

Philly band. This song has an anthemic nuevo Dylan/Byrds feel – imagine if Simon Joyner could sing. They’re at Union Hall on 3/30.

 

6. Jonathan Coulton – Tom Cruise Crazy

A song that needed to be written. He’s at Symphony Space on 3/27 at 9ish. 

 

7. Mames Babaganush – Kojak Cecek

The Copenhagen klezmer rockers’ motto is “klezmer killed the radio star.” This wild Balkan instrumental has a delirious Gogol Bordello feel to it.

 

8. Wheeler’s Cloud – It’s a Fact Jack

Steely Dan ripoff – funny – right down to the percussion.

 

9. I’ll Be John Brown – Cover Song

This is sort of Golden Shower of Hits for country bands. They’re at Ace of Clubs on 3/26.

 

10. Des RoarThe Watchers

They nick the classic blues Baby Please Don’t Go and turn it into evil garage rock. And here’s a sweet live clip for their classic Ted Bundy Was a Ladies Man. The band is at Vanishing Point on 5/2.

March 10, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Escarioka at the Fortune Cookie Lounge, NYC 11/13/08

Maybe it was the election – this has been the best week of the year for concerts. Last night, downstairs from Lucky Cheng’s, popular rock en Espanol group Escarioka turned the room into a sea of swirling bodies. OK, maybe not a sea, but definitely a busy little lake (it’s a small room). Blending elements of ska, reggae, reggaeton and a little Balkan flavor, the seven-piece band had the crowd roaring for a second encore after their too-brief fifty-minute set was over. If rock en Espanol is your thing and you wish you hadn’t missed Maldita at their late 90s peak – around the time of the Mostros album – Escarioka will fit the bill just fine. It’s impossible to imagine a more fun form of crowd control than this band’s tightly constructed, imaginatively arranged songs. Pretty much everything in the set had an element of surprise. Several numbers began slowly, then suddenly went doublespeed, sometimes with the band injecting a break with something totally different, perhaps to keep the dancers on their toes. Their two-piece horn section (trumpet and sax) play as a section rather than taking extended solos; the same applies to their two guitarists, although when one of them finally took an incisive solo that went on for all of a bar and a half, he really made it count. Their frontman has an impressive, rapidfire reggaeton-style delivery and a high-energy style that fits the songs perfectly.

 

One of the early numbers began with an eerie sax intro before going warpspeed in a split second, then halfspeed suddenly again, then bringing it back up and ending on a high note. A couple of songs later in the set went deep down into a roots reggae groove; another started chaotic, almost hardcore, reminding a bit of snarling Argentine punks Todos Tus Muertos. They ended the set with a couple of songs featuring a talented dancehall toaster and encored with yet another fiery, twisting, turning ska number with innumerable tempo changes. Like Maldita, Caifanes and other classic early rock en Espanol groups, most of Escarioka’s songs are in dark minor keys despite the group’s ecstatic dance party vibe. Lyrically, they’re all about the party, with a good sense of humor and a low tolerance for bullshit. Any untightness in their set was obviously due to the fact that the horn players were having a hard time hearing much of anything onstage. This band’s ceiling is extraordinarily high: they’d make a killing playing the circuit from Mexico City on down to Buenos Aires. Catch them now before they’re a household word south of the border. Escarioka’s next show is Saturday Nov 15 at 9 PM at Aji Bar Lounge, 287 9th St., Park Slope, Brooklyn where they’ll be serving $1 tequila shots all night.

 

 

The reggaeton act who played before Escarioka were also a lot of fun. The two crazyheads in the group began by adding deep, boomy live reggae bass and some lead guitar as well before putting down their instruments and getting the night going on a high note.

November 14, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment