Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: System Noise and Vera Beren’s Gothic Chamber Blues Ensemble at Fontana’s, NYC 10/27/09

A pre-Halloween summit meeting of two of the most charismatic women in rock – or for that matter, any kind of music – went largely undiscovered due to an incessant drizzle. What is up with you, New Yorkers? You used to be so tough. Have all the cool people been priced out of town by the yuppies and trendoids, or is it the depression and the harsh reality that nobody except the yuppies and trendoids have any money to go out anymore? Likely so, since System Noise and Vera Beren’s Gothic Chamber Blues Ensemble don’t exactly project the bland, corporate vibe preferred by the Malibu leisure class and the hedge fund nebbishes from New Jersey. Despite the light turnout, platinum blonde System Noise frontwoman Sarah Mucho and her raven-haired counterpart Beren seized the stage to represent two vastly different eras of cutting edge vocals. Both got their start in their teens – Beren’s legendary avant-punk first band Die Hausfrauen had already been signed, toured, put out an album and had broken up long before she reached her twenties – while Mucho honed her unearthly wail as an underage kid belting over crowds of drunks in piano bars. Both women also have a category-defying, intensely dramatic sensibility that draws considerably on underground theatre. System Noise kicked things off with their most ferocious set in a long time, and they’re ferocious most of the time anyway. Mucho, raccoon-eyed and dressed head-to-toe as a skeleton, cut loose with the single most bloodcurdling scream of the night on the band’s towering, macabre Carrie tribute, Prom Night. Otherwise, the band’s new material, particularly the opening number, Hair and Nails (the two parts of the body that continue to grow after death) showed off more catchy hooks than ever, even as they’d intersperse innumerable wild, screaming noise-rock interludes, off-the-cliff tempo shifts and rollercoaster dynamic shifts orchestrated with gleeful abandon by Pouth their drummer.

Beren had also done her best to make herself look dead – or undead – but that didn’t really work, from the moment she sat down at her keyboard and unleashed the contralto roar that has been her trademark since the 80s. Ecstatically alive as she comes across, this was a particularly forceful, intense set, maybe due to the fact that she did more straight-up rock songs instead of the titanic epics in 6/8 that she and her band – this time with two guitarists, trombonist and rhythm section – do so inimitably well. A couple of them evoked Patti Smith, another the Damned; others brought to mind Blue Oyster Cult with a gypsy-inflected downtown sensibility. The most gripping one of the night began stately and anguished in 6/8 before leaping into 4/4 on the wings of bassist Greg Garing’s booming, percussive chords.

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October 28, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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