Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: AK Healey at Luna Lounge, Brooklyn NY 12/5/07

Always leave them wanting more, the saying goes, and tonight AK Healey did just that. In a classy (and savvy) piece of booking by the Luna people, Healey was handed a captive audience, the big room filled with oldsters from out of town who’d come to see headliner Steve Forbert. An odd segue, perhaps, the once-and-future Scout frontwoman followed by a folksinger from the 70s. But his crowd’s a lot more likely to actually buy cds instead of downloading all their music for nothing. That there were a gaggle of kids in the back by the bar who’d actually come out and paid the $20 cover to see her play for barely a half an hour says something about the loyalty of her fan base. Playing the vintage red Gibson she used in her old band and accompanied by just a guitarist singing harmonies and playing the same kind of minimalist melodic lines you’d find in Scout songs, it was more apparent than ever that Scout basically was Healey. She’s never sung better, her clear, unaffected alto cutting through without having to fight the din of a band behind her, once in awhile pushing just to where her voice would start to break up into grit, like an overdriven amp, when she needed to make a point. She was also remarkably at ease with the audience despite the intimate, stripped-down setting – there were rows of chairs set up for this show. At Luna Lounge, imagine that.

Healey’s rain-streaked, thoughtfully melancholy songs are like a windbreaker on a brisk, late fall morning: you’ll survive without them, but you might be miserable. Tonight it was triumphantly clear that Healey’s vision is undiminished: she’s nothing if not consistent. If you like Cat Power, Girl Friday, or Randi Russo’s quieter songs, you’ll love AK Healey. No notes are wasted, catchy hooks casually insinuated everywhere rather than being thrust in your face. Healey’s music falls under the vast, shaky tent that people call indie rock for lack of a better word, but her melodic sensibility is classic pop, if through the bottom of a glass, darkly. A lot of her songs utilize those moveable guitar chords that are both the backbone and the bane of indie rock, but she doesn’t rely exclusively on them: she has the technique to play whatever she needs to get the job done. Tonight she used a beatbox on a couple of them, which got a few chuckles. Her brief set included only one song dating from the Scout days, the big audience hit I’ve Got a Secret. On one of the later numbers, the lead player put down his beautiful two-tone Gibson Firebird and added organ tones with an Omnichord, a 70s artifact that looks like a miniature UFO and works something like an electrified autoharp. Healey’s best songs were the ones she used to open and close the show. The opener, Songs to Strangers (as in, “when you sing songs to strangers”) began darkly in a minor key; the closing number, with its insistent, harmony-laden chorus of “everything’s the same,” was as wistful as it was anthemic, two qualities that might seem at odds with each other, but Healey made it work. That these songs would stand up on their own without a band and just bare-bones arrangements testifies to how well Healey’s writing right now: she’s at the top of her game.

[postscript – AK Healey would go on to join popular, hypnotic, artsy rockers Hurricane Bells, the latest project from former Longwave and Scout guitarist Steve Schiltz]

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December 6, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Girl Friday at Lakeside Lounge, NYC 6/25/07

This band is creeper. Their songs sneak up on you when you least expect them. Sonically, Girl Friday are your basic indie rock: guitar with a dirty, unprocessed sound, bass and drums. But the songs are not. They’re very intelligent, very crystallized and when you think about it, very catchy, with something of a minimalist sensibility. They seem to be written deliberately for repeated listening. If that’s the band’s intent, they succeed. The hooks often appear unexpectedly, in places other than the front of the chorus, the turnaround or the opening of the song. Sometimes they flare up and then disappear. But they’re all over the place, and there are so many of them it’s hard to count.

Singer/guitarist Amanda Dora didn’t waste a note all night. Her vocals were casual, conversational and completely unaffected. The songs themselves remind very strongly of the late, great Scout, at the very end when they were off their brief garage rock tangent. Girl Friday evokes the same nebulous melancholia, but without the occasional Beatlisms. And they also pick up the pace with riff-driven, punchy garage rock to liven things up. Dora plays mostly with downstrokes, adding to the percussive flavor of much of their material. On one song, the bass player began the song with a reflective stroll which he took using a slide, playing through a reverb box, and continued to carry the melody through to the end. On another, Dora began with an incisive, midtempo staccato hook on the verse, but when the chorus kicked in, the band went to 6/8 time, cranked it up to a crescendo and suddenly they had an anthem.

Girl Friday were completing a Monday residency here and invited a couple of special guests up to join them toward the end of the set. Briana Winter impressed the most with a ridiculously catchy 4-chord pop song that she delivered passionately and effortlessly while the band wailed behind her.

Props to Lakeside for giving them the residency and a chance to play for a crowd who would probably never see them on the Ludlow Street strip. While they’re pretty far removed from the usual Lakeside twang (Girl Friday clang and crunch instead), they share an intelligence and dedication to craftsmanship with the best of the crowd who play here. If their forthcoming album is anything like what they sounded like tonight, it should be killer.

June 26, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments