Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

This Dec. 10, a Global Dance Party with Real Live Music – Who Knew?

A lot of people know about this, actually – but there’s always room for more. Scott Kettner and Mehmet Dede are the brain trust behind the frequent Is America Part of the World? global dance parties around New York. For awhile they did them at the Brooklyn Yard; this time out they’re at Littlefield. Scott plays drums in the excellent, absurdly eclectic Brazilian-flavored Nation Beat; Mehmet holds down a corner of the Drom nightclub empire and produces music festivals including the NY Gypsy Festival. Here’s their take on their next show, Friday, December 10:

Lucid Culture’s Correspondent: The club’s going to keep the floor open, people will be dancing just as they usually do at your shows, right?

Mehmet Dede: Yes, absolutely. Our series is about the heart and mind as well as the feet – it’s a global party. Dancing and having fun is an important element for us.

LCC: All this is happening Friday, December 10 at Littlefield, showtime says 8 PM, is that actually the time the bands start?

MD: Doors are at 8 PM; the first band, Tall Tall Trees, will go on at 9. After midnight we’ll continue with DJ Turnmix, who is an excellent dj from Barcelona. Did I say this is a global dance party?

LCC: What’s the deal with tickets? Thirteen bucks, that’s about four dollars a band…

MD: Yes, we wanted to keep the ticket prices down to give people more for their money. In this economy, I think people will appreciate it.

LCC: Let’s see if I got this right, first band is Tall Tall Trees, who are a very funny, wry sort of acoustic Americana jam band with banjo and guitars and upright bass. True?

MD: That’s a pretty good description. Scott?

Scott Kettner: Yes, they’ll be the first band. They are a really high energy band that take Americana and rockabilly to a whole new level. I think they are using electric bass now.

LCC: The second act is Brooklyn Qawwali Party, at ten, right? I’m personally not a fan of qawwali music so I was very surprised to see that these guys are a funk band, from what I’ve seen on youtube they’ve got about 50 people in the band and they really rock the party. Do they also do the hypnotic sufi chanting stuff?

MD: It’s not exactly 50 people, but yes they are a crowded band, and they love to jam onstage. Some songs can easily top 10 minutes. They’re both hypnotic and transcendental, but also groovy and danceable. They are a party band with a spiritual vibe. It’s a joy to see them on stage.

LCC: Scott, I have a bit of an inside track on your band Nation Beat because I’ve seen you a bunch of times – with Liliana Araujo your Brazilian chanteuse, and with Jesse Lenat the country crooner for example. You play country, and Brazilian styles, and funk, and soul, and I’ve even seen you go into a surf groove. Do you have a favorite of all these styles, and what is it?

SK: My favorite is when all of this music blends and there is not a “style.” That’s what really gets me off about drumming and music…when it can’t be defined. I love hearing a band play and walking out wondering what the hell it was. That’s partly the purpose of this festival, to bring together groups who are blurring the lines of genre and just pulling together the music they love to create a sound that isn’t contrived. When I was in high school I played in a surf punk band called Liquid Image and also played in some local funk and blues bands. Then I moved to NYC to study jazz and developed a passion for Brazilian music. So when I sit behind the drums or compose a song I’m always searching for a way to bring all of these musical experiences together.

LCC: A surf drummer: I knew it. Very very cool, as you probably know we are huge surf music fans here. Now out of all those Brazilian genres you play, what would you say is your specialty? Forro? Frevo? What does Nation Beat bring to it that’s original, that makes it all yours?

SK: I really love maracatu and forró. I moved to Brazil specifically to study maracatu back in 2000 and have developed a very deep relationship with the music and culture of this rhythm. Nation Beat is a collaboration between Brazil and the US. We’re a band that seeks the similarities between the music and culture of the northeast of Brazil and the southern United States. We play a lot of rhythms from the northeast of Brazil; maracatu, forró, coco, cirando and frevo, all music that Liliana Araujo grew up listening to. When her and I get together we bring our musical backgrounds to the table and the result is Nation Beat. This is what makes it OUR music, the fact that we’re not trying to imitate a style but rather bring our musical backgrounds together to create OUR own music.

LCC: Is it ok if I ask some hard questions now? For example, how effectively do you think “Is America Part of the World?” comes across? What I mean is that the idea is pretty funny if you think about it – obviously, America is part of the world, we’ve got just as much a right to make “world music” as anybody else. But is it good branding? Something people are going to remember?

SK: I think it’s a great name…thanks for the idea! [grin]

LCC: At this point in history, is Brooklyn really part of the world? You’re playing a club in Gowanus where there are all these hideous gentrifier condo buildings sprouting up amidst the warehouses, rents are rising, destroying the neighborhood. How would you respond to a cynic who might say something like, “These guys are just a bunch of rich white kids ripping off styles from around the world, if they really cared about the world they’d bring in a real qawwali band?”

SK: First I’d say I’m not rich and not even close to it and I think I can speak for all of the musicians on the event. Second I’d say if all you really want to hear a “real” qawwali band you probably won’t come to our festival and probably shouldn’t. The whole point of this festival is to bring together bands who are interpreting the music that they have a passion for. We’re searching for the point of convergence where our musical backgrounds meet with our musical passions. That’s it. If you think about the history of all music in the new world; jazz, blues, salsa, merengue, samba, maracatu, rock and roll, etcetera, you will not be able to define this music without realizing the fact that it took many cultures, many people coming together and mixing their musical and cultural backgrounds. None of this music would exist if it weren’t for Europeans, indigenous and African people being thrown into a turbulent culture where they had to find common ground to communicate together with music. So what’s the difference if we choose to do the same thing today?

LCC: I’m always impressed with how diverse the crowds are at your shows: at least they’re part of the world. Beyond the usual Bushwick blogs, how do you get the word out about them? Or is it a word of mouth thing, either you know or you don’t?

SK: I send out a big newsletter every month announcing our gigs and we also do the social networking song and dance. There’s a community of people who are really interested in what we’re doing so they just keep tuned in to what we’re up to.

LCC: How’d you end up at Littlefield this time? I like the place a lot – the sound is good and there’s none of the disrespect you get on the Lower East Side for example…

SK: My partner Mehmet and I checked out the club and really liked the vibe of the people and the room. It also has a great sound.

LCC: After this, when’s the next show and who’s on it?

SK: This will be Nation Beat’s last show in town until 2011. I have a brass band playing forró music on December 14th at Barbes.

Is America Part of the World starts at 9 on Friday, December 10 with Tall Tall Trees, Brooklyn Qawwali Party at 10 and Nation Beat at 11 at Littlefield, 622 Degraw St. (3rd/4th Aves.) in Gowanus, Brooklyn, easy to get to from the F or R trains. Tickets are $13 at the door and will probably sell out: early arrival is advised.

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December 2, 2010 Posted by | concert, funk music, interview, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Rupa & the April Fishes at the Bell House, Brooklyn NY 11/13/09

Bay area band Rupa & the April Fishes had just played a couple of other New York City gigs in the previous week, yet nevertheless managed to bring an impressively energized crowd out to pack the Bell House in remote Gowanus, Brooklyn. In a cold drizzle, even. Rupa Marya, the band’s frontwoman goes for breathy, sensual atmospherics on the band’s new album Este Mundo (very favorably reviewed here on November 9) but in concert she showed off a bright effervescence to go along with it and the band roared along. These folks really pulled out all the stops – they know that people don’t just want to hear the album note for note, they want a party, a jolt of energy and they got every bit they could have hoped for. And Rupa Marya is all too aware of her charisma and makes the most of it. The upright bassist didn’t get to step out a lot – it’s usually a good thing when the band keeps the bass locked up tight with the drums – but when he got a solo, he made it a soaring, terse jazz horn line. Drummer Aaron Kierbel was a dynamo full of surprises, completely schooling opening act Nation Beat (a hard thing to do, by the way) when it came to soloing, blasting through a cheery yet ominous surf passage, otherwise maneuvering expertly through the ska and gypsy-rock numbers bringing the beat down to reggae as the songs went halfspeed, then leaping into doubletime again with unabashed relish.

Accordionist Isabel Douglass alternated between lush ambience and a whirlwind attack that showed off her blistering chops while the cellist would frequently carry the songs’ hooks, getting a surprising warmth out of his characteristically austere instrument. Marcus Cohen on trumpet contributed soulful blues, sly ska and full-throttle Balkan riffs over his frontwoman’s incisive rhythm (she started on acoustic before moving to a beautiful hollowbody electric).

Most of the songs were from the new cd, notably the shapeshifting Elephant, part stomping Parisian waltz, part Balkan reel steaming along on the pulse of the bass (well up in the mix, a pleasant change for a bull fiddle in a loud band). The gypsy inflections took center stage, but the band put their own indelible spin on them, twisting them into just about every dance beat you can find south of the border (including cumbia on one particularly soulful, swaying number, and their portentous tango they used to open the show on a note that was as mysterious as it was sensual). But the single best song of the night might have been a track from their first album, its ridiculously catchy, upbeat chorus pulling in several in the audience, then bursting into flame on the sparks flying from Cohen’s trumpet. As many other amazing concerts as New York has seen this year, this had to be one of the best: you’ll see it on our 20 Best Shows of the Year list when we put it up in December.

Nation Beat may have realized that they were never going to beat the headliner at the minor-key game, so they stuck to their happiest, most blissfully upbeat Brazilian songs along with a break for several innovatively rearranged covers of classic country numbers delivered with a cool yet heartfelt understatement by crooner Jesse Lenat. It wasn’t a bad set. Violinist Skye Steele – whose own stylistically uncategorizable quintet is 180 degrees from what he plays in this band, and is sensationally good – led the charge with a barrage of lightning-fast climbs and charges. But they didn’t deliver the transcendence they’re capable of (see our review of their show last summer on Roosevelt Island, featuring Brazilian singer Liliana Araujo – absent from this gig – leading the band through a much more stylistically diverse mix of ska, reggae and even a New Orleans-style march along with the Brazilian stuff). This wound up with a long, well-intentioned but ultimately pointless percussion jam where the band went down into the crowd in front of the stage – fun if you felt like joining in, but for those who didn’t it was more Tompkins Square than Rio.

November 22, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Concert Review: Thy Burden, Across the Aisle and System Noise at the Delancey, NYC 11/19/08

A benefit for urban agriculture charity Just Foods – dedicated to sustainable community agriculture in NYC – turned out to be one of the best triple bills of the year so far. Maybe the energy of the election is still bouncing around. Whatever the case, it was a night for serious dancing. Thy Burden were recently mischaracterized here earlier as an Irish band (while they’d no doubt do a great job with it, our spies gave us bad information: sorry). What they are is the missing link between Bill Monroe and Gogol Bordello. With acoustic guitars and rhythm section, banjo, fiddle,mandolin and sometimes harmonica, they delivered a deliriously fun, frequently psychedelic show. They like minor keys and get the fires burning most brightly playing in them. They also like their tempos lickety-split, giving all the players a chance to show off some sizzling chops. The mandolin took most of the solos. Frequently they’d jam out on a tune for a few minutes before launching into the verse, which worked especially well on Friend of the Devil – done oldschool rather than the Grateful Dead way – and the Hank Williams classic Ramblin Man. At times, they’d add just a little Balkan tinge to the mix, which really hit the spot. There hasn’t been a bluegrass band this fun here in town since the Dixie Bee-Liners vamoosed for the hills of Virginia, or maybe even since Brooklyn Browngrass split up.

 

Female-fronted ska rockers Across the Aisle were next, blending ska with a brassy, chipper, cheery, occasionally sarcastic pop feel – imagine No Doubt without the weight of the corporation beating down on them, and with a horn section so tight you couldn’t fit a piece of paper between the sax and the trumpet. Everything they did was infectious: the sly Born Dirty, their signature song Across the Aisle which they began at hardcore speed, the impossibly catchy Out of Sight, Out of Mind, the sexy urban tale 59th and Lexington, a straight-up reggae number and the sardonic Everybody Lies: “Don’t be fooled by assholes,” Megg their frontwoman grinned. Thy Burden were a hard act to follow, but the party didn’t let up til Across the Aisle left the stage. All they need is some college radio exposure and this band will be huge.

 

One of those choadmonkey corporate bands was next, “choadmonkey” being the marvelous term coined by System Noise’s bass player to describe pretty much any loud Nickelback wannabe (a choad being something small and disgusting from the nether regions, either a dingleberry or some other short stubby thing). This crew had a lot of stuff on tape, might have been lipsynching and didn’t seem to have any fans either. Finally, System Noise took the stage and delivered a set that was as ecstatic as it was eerily intense. They started with the party set and eventually segued into the dark, disturbing set, which somehow still felt perfectly natural. Their frontwoman Sarah Mucho is a bonafide star on the cabaret circuit (she won a MAC award if that means anything) and a wiseass onstage, and she was on top of her game tonight, playfully berating her band when they insisted on playing a new one she clearly didn’t feel up to. But she nailed it and then some. When she suddenly stopped wailing, leaving a pregnant pause and then unexpectedly picking up right where she left off, the effect was spine-tingling. The guitar alternated between sly, catchy funk and scorching, chromatically-fueled noise, the rhythm section in particularly ferocious, pummeling mode tonight, even on the catchy, funky stuff like Shitkickers and Everyday Hustler, the two songs that opened the set.

 

A new one in 6/8 (the one Mucho didn’t want to sing but nailed anyway) began especially ominous, with a watery 80s feel before building to a pyrotechnic, noisy crescendo. They roared through the snarky, darkly pounding, Iron Maiden-inflected cannibalism anthem Good Enough to Eat and followed that soon after with an other chromatically-fueled, even noisier one called Cosmic Monsters. This being a cold night, when they finally wrapped up the set well after midnight, a lot of the crowd had cleared out. Those who remained were rewarded. When the bass, guitar and drums launched into the slow, ominous intro to Daydreaming (our pick for best song of the year for 2006), a murmur ran through the crowd: this slowly crescendoing, titanic anthem is a big hit, and the band hadn’t played it out in a long time. This time out they brought out every bloodcurdling ounce of menace in the melody, Mucho toying with her phrasing on the quieter sections like a cat with a helpless rodent.

 

The only drawback of the evening was a late arrival meant missing Farm Aid regular Jesse Lenat’s opening set: if what he played was anything like what’s on his myspace, he kicked ass. Check and see for yourself.

 

Thy Burden’s next show is on Dec 6 at Europa; Sarah Mucho stars in her highly acclaimed revue Subterranean Circus at Don’t Tell Mama on Dec 3 at 8 PM and Dec 9 at 7.

November 20, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment