Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Ian Roure and Liza Garelik and the Larch at Parkside Lounge, NYC 9/4/09

Ian Roure and Liza Garelik are the guitarist and keyboardist in the Larch. They’re also the lead guitarist and frontwoman of Liza & the WonderWheels. His songs are catchy and witty – at the top of his game, he sounds like a ballsier Elvis Costello. Her songs are more riff-oriented but also often hypnotic and psychedelic: her band likes to stretch out. Friday night, most likely because the WonderWheels’ first-rate rhythm section wasn’t available, the two opened the night as a duo playing that band’s songs. Roure and Garelik are a couple, soon to be married and the chemistry extends to the music as well, the two sharing a passion for quirky new wave era pop as well as psychedelia. Those who play together don’t always stay together but a look at how these two play off each other is an auspicious reminder that this particular union is a good one. Their chemistry onstage was electric but playful, the fun the two were having translating viscerally to the crowd. Even with just the two voices and guitars, the tunes were tight and swinging and Roure’s lead guitar was pure magic, alternating between carefree, precise accents and a few of the wild, Richard Lloyd-inflected runs he’s known for. This time out he held back just the right amount so as not to overwhelm the songs. Garelik took advantage of the space to add her best glam-goddess vocals, soaring or cajoling with a devious wink and a triumphant grin. The set included both crowd-pleasers like the anthemic Meet the Animal and Midnight Lightning as well as some excellent new material, including the best song of the night, a long, uncharacteristically haunting, anthemic minor-key masterpiece possibly titled Go Up. It wouldn’t be out of place in the Penelope Houston catalog.

Then they brought up the Larch’s rhythm section and did a fiery set of Roure’s songs, a real thrill ride with all the guitar solos. Like so many New York bands, the Larch are far better known in Europe than they are here: they tour regularly and have some high-profile licensing deals there. Which makes sense, considering that Roure’s wryly cosmopolitan lyricism was honed growing up in the UK – although you’d think that in an ostensibly cosmopolitan town like New York, there’d be more of a place for them. The crowd, many of them A-list musicians themselves, was very into it as Roure led the crew through the tongue-in-cheek genetic engineering cautionary tale Return of the Chimera (which has an equally tongue-in-cheek video), the amusingly caustic Celebrity Gawker and a cleverly sardonic new one, Return of the Long Tail, an anthem for the current depression. Garelik added crystalline harmonies and quirky 80s organ as the rhythm section bounced along, bassist Ross Bonnadonna doing his own impressive version of a vigorously melodic Bruce Thomas style. Then Roure would hit the chorus box or the wah-wah pedal and take the songs to another galaxy.

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September 6, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Tom Warnick & World’s Fair/The Saudi Agenda/Plastic Beef/John Sharples Band at Hank’s, Brooklyn NY 8/31/07

It was Freddy’s Bar night at Hank’s, in other words, a bunch of bands that usually play Freddy’s booked themselves into another neighborhood venue for the evening. This was particularly appropriate since both places are doomed: the scam developers of the Atlantic Yards luxury housing complex are poised to demolish the building that houses Freddy’s, and Hank’s owner has put the place on the block as a “development site.”

Tonight’s lesson was trust your friends. Living in New York, you run into the great minds of your generation. Like everyone else here, I count among my peeps some of the greatest rockers of our time. One of them was recently insisting that I go see Tom Warnick someday soon. Yeah, I told her, I know him. Good writer, dynamic performer, excellent guitarist on the eerie retro reverb tip, sort of Tav Falco without the glam. Throws confetti at the audience. Yeah, he’s worth seeing.

Uh-huh. This guy has made the jump from being someone who reliably puts on a good show to someone you absolutely have to see, now. He’s always written pretty funny, stream-of-consciousness lyrics, but the new stuff – and there is a lot of it – is funnier than ever. Tonight’s best song was an exasperated tale of getting a Monday night, midnight gig from a club manager who expected the band to bring at least 40 people. Warnick still does the googly-eyed lookit-me-I’m-insaaaane look, but there’s a newfound subtlety to it: it looks like he’s having more fun messing with the audience than he ever has. And mess with them he does, with false starts, false endings and just clever lyrical interpretations. At the end of the show, he got the crowd to boo his encore and of course they followed his order, and the joke was on them because it was a good song. And this is a guy who’s survived not one but two brushes with death recently. Since the muscles in his fret hand aren’t all the way back yet, he’s taken up playing keyboards and his melodies are as subtly ominous as always. The backing band feeds off his energy: lead guitarist Ross Bonnadonna played the show of his life, all eerie chromatics and firestorms of blues. Warnick was obviously the evening’s big attraction. By the time his set was over, half of the audience was gone, the area by the front of the stage predictably littered with confetti.

The Saudi Agenda were next, just vocals, drums and former Paula Carino guitarist David Benjoya playing politically charged ska-punk. Their best number was a diatribe about how everyone in the Bush regime, current and former operatives alike, is a piece of shit. The energy was good, they’re right on politically and Benjoya’s guitar didn’t immediately go out of tune the way it usually does. They closed their brief set with a number about how the singer would kill for a falafel. I know what you mean, bro, nothing beats deep-fried, tahini-soaked chickpeas falling out of a torn pita pocket and staining your trousers.

Plastic Beef were next. They’re a jam band who play mostly covers, a rotating cast of Freddy’s characters backed by arguably the most imaginative rhythm section in town. Drummer Joe Filosa and bassist Andy Mattina are sort of the New York version of what Sly and Robbie used to be, the rare bass/drums combo with an instantly recognizable, signature groove and a lot of work: lately they’ve been playing with Liza & the WonderWheels, Paula Carino and others. They’ve also been doing the free live band karaoke thing on Sunday nights at Kenny’s Castaways, which by all accounts is actually quite fun. Tonight they jammed with sort of a Grateful Dead feel, then did a disco number about old East Village clubs, as well as a couple of covers. They closed with an energetic take on the Echo & the Bunnymen goth standard The Killing Moon and arguably did it better than the original. Sensing that the rest of the band weren’t going to do the silly scale solo that the lead guitar plays at the tail end of the recorded version, the keyboardist – who was obviously unrehearsed and pretty clueless up to this point – decided to take it and pretty much nailed it, note for note with the record.

The John Sharples Band closed the night, surmounting some serious technical difficulties to play an inspired set of obscure covers. They opened with When Amy Says by Blow This Nightclub, building to a terrific crescendo before the first verse kicked in (that’s the Plastic Beef rhythm section for you: like a lot of players tonight, they were doing double duty). They’ve recently added Erica Smith on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, and her haunting harmonies took many of the songs to the next level, including a swinging, countrified version of her janglerock song Secrets. They closed with the Beatles’ I’ve Got a Feeling done as an oldschool soul number, and Smith brought the house down: she plays mostly rock, but she’s a soul/jazz cat at heart and she belted this one out of the bar, over the YWCA building across the street and probably over the Gowanus Canal. A walk-off home run to end a physically exhausting but ultimately rewarding evening.

September 1, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments