Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Song of the Day 6/1/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Monday’s song is #422:

Industrial Tepee Lake 48

Long, ominously jangly, slightly Dylanesque southwestern gothic ballad from circa 2000-2001 by this brilliant New York band who never achieved the mass audience they deserved. The roads are all backed up for miles, everybody on their way to…where? The vacation of a lifetime, or something else entirely? Miss your exit and end up at Lake 47 instead, lots of people there too… Frontman Tom Shaner continues as a solo act and remains one of the most casually smart songwriters out there. The link in the title above is a live version from CB’s.

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June 1, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tom Shaner Live at Lakeside, NYC 1/18/08

Tom Shaner has been playing weekends at Lakeside a lot lately, which is a great place for him. He writes subtle, catchy, generally upbeat and very smart Americana-inflected janglerock, sounding something like the Jayhawks without the melancholy or Steve Wynn in a breezy moment. With his old band Industrial Tepee he ventured into a lot of Southerwestern gothic, and there’s still plenty of that in his writing. His more upbeat songs generally have more focus than his slower, meandering stuff. He sings in a casual, conversational voice and gets great press: he needs this review like a hole in the head. But you should get to know him. Shaner was one of the many great mysteries in this city this evening, when hordes of people were willing to drop thirty bucks to see the latest poser du jour at the Gramercy or Webster Hall, while Shaner played to a midsize crowd, for free, in the back room at Lakeside. Some things just don’t make sense.

He and his backing trio opened with the bouncy Sister Satellite, dating from his Industrial Tepee days, lead guitarist Tom Clark taking a gorgeously clanging, tremolo-filled solo that was an omen of even better things to come. Shaner then did a couple of newer numbers set to a reggae beat. The drummer seemed unrehearsed, and obviously the one-drop is not his thing, but he was game, building to a tasty Jim White-style eighth-note crescendo, running all the way around the kit on the first of the two songs.

Gathered away from the stage were a gaggle of ex-sorority types, their lacrosse muscles gone to fat, eyeing Shaner like cats in a butcher shop. “You can’t be louder than the band, that’s rule number one,” Shaner gently admonished the crowd, but the posse of trendoids around the Ms. Pacman machine were oblivious as the band launched into the quietly swaying, countryish Industrial Tepee lament Rosalie. A lot of New York artists lately have been writing some pretty excoriating anti-trendoid songs, and the new one Shaner and band played tonight – perhaps titled She’s an Everyday Hipster – was subtler than most, quietly railing against the “parade of drama queens” surrounding some nameless indie rock diva.

On the fast, driving Waiting for You, Clark took the first of two blistering, spectacularly fast solos, the most potently adrenalizing display of musicianship we’ve seen all year. The band closed with Industrial Tepee’s big crowd-pleaser, Groove Queen, a ridiculously catchy, bluesy number that wouldn’t have been out of place on the Wallflowers’ first album (i.e. their really good one). That this guy isn’t a household name testifies to the sad state of the music business, not to mention what’s happened to the music scene here in recent years. At least the guys at Lakeside get it.

January 19, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: James Apollo at Banjo Jim’s, NYC 12/20/07

“They should do at least one song in Spanish,” remarked one of our crew. What a great discovery. James Apollo and his terrific band sound exactly like the late, great NY band Industrial Tepee in their more subtle moments. They do one thing and one thing only, and they absolutely nail it. They’re Southwestern gothic, with haunting, mariachi-inflected melodies, the occasional tango beat and a quietly dusky, otherworldly feel. We’d stopped in for a drink, still flying from another concert we’d just seen, feeling cynical to the point that we were all dreading whoever might be playing here tonight. Although Banjo Jim’s has had a good run lately – they’re picking up a lot of the spillover from the songwriters who are leaving the Living Room in droves – their stock in trade is still generally the kind of generic lite FM songwriters you hear piped over the PA in shopping malls.

Apollo sang and played acoustic, backed by an excellent lead player who played lush washes of sound on lapsteel, and occasionally on a Telecaster, using an ebow for sustain. From time to time, he’d flick on a percussion device that looked like a kick pedal but sounded like a rattle. Apollo’s rhythm section didn’t waste a single beat all night. His upright bassist delivered a pulsing, propulsive groove and his drummer, playing with metal brushes, set the haunting, hushed tone from which they never strayed. Every now and then he’d throw in a couple of judiciously placed thumps on the kick and the snare, or a rimshot or two, to keep things interesting, and he made them all count. Tonight was a great example of the best that can happen when guys with jazz chops decide to play rock: it was a clinic in subtlety and counterintuitive, smart musicianship.

With admirable restraint, they resisted the urge to turn one of the songs they played mid-set into straight-up rockabilly. The following cut, I’ve Got It Easy, from Apollo’s latest album Hide Your Heart in a Hive could have been early Calexico, or Friends of Dean Martinez with a vocal track, all sunburnt and slightly hallucinatory. They wrapped up the set – ten songs, all of them good – with a couple of numbers with a somewhat Tom Waits-ish, bluesy feel. Check out this band and share our delight in running into them, completely by accident.

[postscript: Banjo Jim’s happily grew edgier in the time since this review appeared, the Lite FM singer-songwriter types apparently staying home in Long Island or going back to the Living Room. We rated Banjo Jim’s Best Manhattan Venue in 2010]

December 22, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review from the Archives: Elena Zazanis, Revlover, Industrial Tepee and the Nods at the C-Note. NYC 9/6/00

[Editor’s note – it must have been a slow day in 2007, back when there were slow days at this blog. Because then we’d put up a post from our recently acquired archive of music reviews and writeups to keep the front page fresh. Here’s one from 2000.]

The C-Note was appreciably more crowded than in the dog days of the past month. Dark, chromatically-inclined powerpop siren Elena Zazanis opened the night with a rare early show, backed by just her two guitarists, both on acoustic. For once, she was able to stretch out and show off just how subtly brilliant a singer she is, without having to wail over the din of a loud electric band. She showed off an impressive upper range and a seductive whisper that doesn’t usually make it into her music, at least onstage. With the acoustic guitars, they slowed down her signature song, a vivid nightmare chronicle called Stingray, and this helped immeasurably. They also did a literally awe-inspiring, quiet take on the psychopathological Imperfect Scheme, along with the catchy Don’t Do Me Any Favors, the Middle Eastern-inflected Doors and Keep the Light On, and the powerpop hit Stronghold along with a pointless but fun cover of Satisfaction. She and the band closed with a ragged take on a punchy, riff-driven new one they’ve been working on. Although she’s a rocker at heart, her subtle side is just as captivating.

Revlover are a new project, just bassist-about-town Andrew Plonsky and Twin Turbine frontman Dave Popeck on guitar. Plonsky has a sense of humor and his bass playing – especially on an old song of his called Diner – is to die for: cool chords and great melodicism. Give them a drummer and a second guitar and they’ll be packing them in on Saturday nights. They got a lot of laughs with a deadpan Irish ballad about a guy romancing a hermaphrodite.

Industrial Tepee’s frontman Tom Shaner said after their set that they’d been ragged, but even in ragged mode they’re an excellent band, Southwestern gothic with maybe a little Byrds and Wallflowers in there sometime: they can get countryish, and some of Shaner’s songs have a classic pop sensibility. Tonight there was a lot of interplay between their two guitarists, with the lead player taking a lot of inspired, clearly extemporaneous solos. Their best song is a slow, chilling number called Lake 48, which is literally the subdivision from hell, with a long, offhandedly eerie, Dylanesque lyric.

The Nods were what the Slackers would become, and lately they’ve reunited for a few shows. They’re still ska, but with blazing, distorted guitars, without keys or their horn section. They blasted through their furious 45-minute set like the Specials on really good coke. Supertight musicianship, the occasional maudlin melody, but their energy and power more than compensated. They closed with a surprise cover of the obscure Booker T. Jones song Red Onions. The extremely popular janglepop trio Jerkwater were next and were very loud, so we went down to the Fish for a drink, then over to Arlene’s where we missed the singer we’d stopped in to see. She’d gotten so drunk that she’d keeled over onstage during her set, and was still having a hard time staying on her feet in the dressing room.

[postscript: The C-Note closed in 2004. The new owners turned it into a bar/restaurant for tourists. Zazanis would go on to a successful career as a stage and film actress, and still writes music. Revlover broke up in 2002, although Popeck still writes and performs. Industrial Tepee are also defunct, though Shaner continues as a solo artist. The Nods haven’t played recently, but the Slackers continue to record and tour, mostly in Europe, and play the occasional New York show. As does the drunk girl who fell over during her show at Arlene’s.]

September 6, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments