Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Paul Wallfisch, the Ulrich/Ziegler Duo and McGinty and White at the Delancey, NYC 4/23/09

Small Beast is rapidly becoming a New York institution. The kind of thing you’ll look back on and tell your kids assuming you live long enough to have them and they live long enough to understand you when you talk about how in the spring of 2009 you spent Thursday evenings upstairs at this one Lower East Side bar, in a space that by all rights shouldn’t even have music at all because it barely has a stage. But it does. And the shows just get better and better. It started midwinter when Botanica frontman Paul Wallfisch’s desire to work up new material and collaborate with what seems an ever-expanding cast of quality players from some of music’s darker enclaves. It’s not limited to rock, either: there’ve been shows by  jazz, classical and gypsy acts here too.


Thursday’s was maybe the best to date. Or maybe not, there’ve been transcendent moments practically every week. Wallfisch opened as he always does, solo on piano, Chopinesque (in that his style blends the Romantics and the gypsies) and upbeat this time with almost a sprint through the Little Annie noir cabaret gem Because You’re Gone, a brand new tango and a ballad in French. His collaborator onstage this time was cellist Rubin Kodheli from the brilliant chamber rock group Edison Woods and the artsy, ambient Blues in Space. Despite a total lack of rehearsal, the two matter-of-factly made their way through a wrenchingly beautiful version of the subtly and brutally sarcastic Three Women and the stately, equally haunting Eleganza and Wines, Wallfisch as usual getting the crowd going in a clapalong in 7/8 time  – the premise seems to be that if the Arabs and the Bulgarians can do it, we should be able to follow along too. Then they brought Kerry Kennedy up onstage and did Because You’re Gone again, halfspeed, her bruised velvet vocals giving the lament special poignancy.


The Ulrich/Ziegler duo were next, supplying the requisite transcendence, boiling over with chilly reverb instrumental soundscapes evoking images of Tribeca alleyways in grim, rain-drenched late autumn predawn, black and silver but not in a Blue Oyster Cult way, not unless you count the two guitars. With Big Lazy on the shelf at the moment and what seems an endless series of film and tv projects going on, frontman/guitarist Steve Ulrich has been lately been playing duo shows with Pink Noise guitarist Itamar Ziegler. This team is a winner, part Mingus, part Ventures and part Morricone but with a savage, often macabre wit that transcends any of those styles and at times, unsurprisingly, sounds almost exactly like Big Lazy. Ziegler was a human metronome, holding the songs together while Ulrich played sharpshooter, alternating between ominously minimal tremolo licks, ominous washes of sound, reverberating chordlets and dirty skronk. They opened with a vintage Big Lazy song, following with a plaintive waltz and a surprisingly bluesy, minor-key one loping along on a garage rock beat. A new one, Since Cincinnati proved to be Ulrich’s most haunting lapsteel song, sort of a more noir, cinematic twist on the old Big Lazy hit Junction City. They wound up the set with a swinging, chicha-esque version of Caravan lit up with a long, blacklit solo from Ulrich in place of where the Ventures would have put the drums.


McGinty and White were a good segue because while many of their songs have a subtle menace, there was no resemblance between them and Ulrich and Ziegler other than that they could be competing offices of obstetricians. This was ostensibly the first live show together for the former Psychedelic Furs keyboardist and the “tippling gadabout [NOT]” who’s been putting out excellent, darkly lyrical janglerock albums since before the turn of the century. Occasionally putting down his acoustic guitar, White proved equally adept as a crooner while the backing band did a picture-perfect evocation of late 60s psychedelically-inclined chamber pop. Watching them was like being in the audience at Ed Sullivan, 1968 – and putting violinist Claudia Chopek out in front of the stage, on the floor, where her warmly compelling lead lines could resonate was a smart move. The title of their new cd McGinty and White Sing the McGinty and White Songbook is characteristically tongue-in-cheek. McGinty is no slouch at sardonic humor, offering a vivid reminder with the deadpan Get a Guy and the haunting, atmospheric ballad that closed the show. They’d opened the show with the sarcastic Everything Is Fine, punctuated by a surprisingly over-the-top metal solo from their lead player, later delivering the self-effacing Big Baby, McGinty’s effortless rivulets threatening to erode the piano keys. The savage Knees, written by White finally unleashed the demons: “You can keep my heart, bitch, just give me back my knees.” There’ll be a review of the album here closer to the date of the cd release show in May.


Super duper orange alert: unless people start dropping like flies in the streets, Lucid Culture has no intention to stop reviewing concerts, frequenting public places or riding the train. This “flu outbreak” has all the earmarks of hysteria (remember Y2K?). Mexico City has awful sanitation and services, it’s overcrowded, polluted and the most impoverished Mexicans suffer from malnutrition. In other words, it’s a prime spot for an outbreak of something. You could say the same about New York except that as bad as things can get it’s not that bad here. Yet. Keep your eyes open this fall and see if the bug mutates into the black plague.

April 27, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, Public Health, review, Reviews, small beast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 4/20/09

We do this every week. You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our Best 100 songs of 2009 list at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere. Pretty much each link here will take you to the song; if not, you’ll have to check back here for live dates.


1. Juliana Nash – Love Song for New York

Classic, fiery, late 90s style underground NYC rock:  “It’s 6 AM and I’m drunk again…I turn incidents to habits!” Unreleased, as far as we know; watch this space for hopefully a live date or two sometime from the former Pete’s Candy Store proprietress.


2. Lenny Molotov – Brother Can You Spare a Dime

Updated for the new depression: stockbrokers become crackheads. Unreleased, watch this space for live dates.


3. Kerry Kennedy – Sons of Sons

Gorgeous NYC noir rock evocative of the Jesus & Mary Chain’s classic Deep One Perfect Morning


4. Moisturizer – The Kitchen Is Closed

Brilliant, counterintuitive bass goddess Moist Gina doing Larry Graham one better. They’re at Black Betty on 4/29 at 10 debuting their brand-new five-piece lineup!


5. The New Collisions – Ones to Wander

The Boston new wave revivalists have a ton of catchy, edgy three-minute gems and this is one of them. “Oh my eyes!” They’re at Arlene’s at 7 on 4/23 and the Delancey on 5/21


6. El Radio Fantastique – Riverbed 

Swaying, haunting, imaginative modern noir cabaret.


7. Linda DraperTime Will Tell

The great New York songwriter/lyricist has yet another new cd out, titled Bridge & Tunnel and this is a choice cut.  


8. Traquair – Perverted by the 21st Century

Scottish singer-songwriter – catchy, smart, terse.


9. This Spy Surfs – Spy Beach

Smartly virtuosic but tasteful guitar instrumental stylings. They’re at LIC Bar on May 15.  


10. King Django – Thirsty

Characteristically hypnotic but interesting dub reggae. They’re at Shrine on May 1.

April 20, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Paul Wallfisch, Sally Norvell, Ken Stringfellow and Kerry Kennedy at the Delancey, NYC 4/16/09

Through the bottom of a wine glass, darkly, emerge images of Thursday night that no hastily scribbled, largely illegible notes could bring any closer into focus. Wine may be essential to a civilized life, and it’s become sort of the official drink of Small Beast, Paul Wallfisch’s weekly residency/salon/show at the Delancey. No disrespect to all the beer and whiskey drinkers out there – there was plenty of that too. Paul Desmond once said that the ideal tone was the musical equivalent of a dry martini, but for Wallfisch it probably equates to a ballon of good bordeaux. Even though the club was a mob scene, the room emanated a comfortable red wine buzz instead of the usual beery obnoxiousness that you find at the other bars on the Lower East.


It was the usual treat for cosmopolitan people both rootless and rooted. “Is anybody actually here to listen?” Wallfisch asked guilelessly, a couple of songs into his solo set at the piano. Many of them had no doubt come out for once-and-future REM sideman Ken Stringfellow’s first New York show in five years. Others dug in and watched Wallfisch respond with an especially menacing cover of Stan Ridgway’s Town Called Fate along with a long version of the snarling anti-fascist gypsy dance How, from his band Botanica’s Berlin Hi-Fi cd. The he brought up a longtime collaborator, Sally Norvell for a too-brief set of noir cabaret including some of the tracks they’d done together on the marvelous 2003 cd Choking Victim. Most of the noir cabaret chanteuse crowd project an icy distance, but Norvell was just the opposite, the bitter drama in her voice drawing the crowd in, banishing whatever evil spirits might be lingering.


Stringfellow followed with a long, long set of pleasantly melodic, smartly tuneful guitar pop, moving from the little stage across from the bar, to the inner room in the back, to the middle of the floor and maybe even on top of the bar too (the memory starts to get fuzzy right about here). Then it was back to the noir with Kerry Kennedy. Putting her on the same bill with Norvell was a smart move because the two share a love of the darkness yet project a disarmingly down-to-earth, warm stage presence. Kennedy was actually nervous: “We have another order for two glasses of red wine,” she entreated the bartender. Then with Wallfisch on piano again – this was his third set of the night – they validated Kennedy’s status as headliner. Without their usual drummer to propel the keys, two electric guitars and upright bass, they were a lot quieter than usual and a little loose, but with the added benefit of allowing Kennedy’s beaujolais voice to pour brightly through the mix. Kennedy not only writes achingly dark, southwestern gothic-tinged songs, she also collects them and has unimpeachable taste, whether in an understated version of the haunting James Jackson Toth ballad One from the Mountain, an impressively relaxed version of the Little Annie/Wallfisch collaboration Because You’re Gone and a handful of originals. Of those, the 6/8 ballad Wishing Well got an especially poignant treatment, and Dive, a duo with just piano and vocals, allowed Wallfisch to show off some surprising honkytonk chops. This from a guy who never met a chromatic or a gypsy motif he could resist. By two in the morning, the crowd hadn’t dispersed yet, but after an evening of galleries, this, wine and more wine and then a precipitous decline into the harder stuff, it was time to see if the trains were still running.

April 18, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, small beast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 4/13/09

We do this every week. You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our 100 Best Songs of 2009 list when we finalize it at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere. Each link here will take you to the song.


1. Jang Sa-ik – Wild Rose

The haunting, soulful “Voice of Korea”‘s big, noir, Orbison-esque hit. This is a characteristically gripping live version. He’ll be at NY City Center on 4/18. 


2. Raya Brass Band – Karsilamas

Wild delirious minor-key Balkan brass band madness by this allstar NYC crew. They’re at Mehanata on 4/16 at 9. 


3. Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band – Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

Arguably better than the original!?! Roots reggae, funny but also really good! From the new album.


4. Jan Bell – Carpenter’s Arms

Absolutely haunting stuff from the British expat relocated to Brooklyn. 


5. Kerry Kennedy – Because You’re Gone

If memory serves right this is a Little Annie/Paul Wallfisch collaboration, done with characteristic dark panache by this excellent noir rocker. She’s at Small Beast at the Delancey upstairs on 4/16.


6. Dub Proof – Ocean Avenue

Woozy instrumental dub reggae with a nice funky groove.


7.Sari Schorr – Come Around

Artsy atmospheric ballad with bite.


8. Reigns – Everything Beyond These Walls Has Been Razed

Ambient, minimalist, atmospheric, gothy. This is the video.


9. Alana Amram & the Rough Gems – Take a Drink

Great party anthem from the NYC country/Americana chanteuse.


10. Michelle Citrin & William Levin – 20 Things to Do with Matzah

Now that Passover week is over, we’re looking forward to 50 cent matzoh in the supermarket! This isn’t new, some of you doubtlessly know it already but it is really funny.

April 14, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Kerry Kennedy at Rose Bar, Brooklyn NY 1/21/09

A casually captivating, absolutely haunting set by the songwriter/guitarist and her brilliant band. In about 45 minutes onstage, Kennedy came across as part David Lynch girl and part Paisley Underground bandleader, a sound that hasn’t been heard around New York in a long time. She’s a lot like Neko Case, but with a distinctly more rocking edge: she deserves to be just as well-known. Throughout the set, Kennedy sang in a clear, unaffected, unadorned voice, playing her Fender Jazzmaster a little low in the mix. Her terrific lead player, Nathan Halpern made heavy and spectacularly effective use of reverb throughout his often wildly intense solos, adding flame and intensity to the songs’ darkly glimmering, noir ambience. The rhythm section, with acoustic bass, played with a hushed subtlety, the occasional tasteful drum accent or bass fill deftly following the lyrics or the trajectory of the music.


The group opened with the eerie, 6/8 James Jackson Toth ballad One From the Mountain, Halpern wailing and tremolo-picking as the song built: and then they took it out the same way they came in, again building the intensity to redline. Their second song reminded a bit of the Jesus & Mary Chain’s Happy When It Rains, with a nice pointillistic solo from Halpern. On the next number, he took a long, thoroughly macabre Bauhaus-style noise solo that didn’t waver even as the band brought the sound down to just drums and guitar.


Kennedy remarked that the bar’s lowlit confines were the perfect place for her to get glammed up a bit (as unpretentious as she comes across, that was seemingly a big deal for her), asking the crowd if they’d ever been to Graceland: “It makes clear the connection between Lisa Marie and Michael Jackson,” she explained, the glitter on her face twinkling behind the lamps.


The next song was a hypnotic two-chord song with a total Dream Syndicate/True West feel that built to an eerie snakecharmer solo from Halpern, then Kennedy took it down again, then finally built to a completely unhinged crescendo with the guitars raging at the end. The next number, possibly titled Wishing Well, maintained the nocturnal, psychedelic vibe: “How long into the night will you wait for me?” Kennedy inquired matter-of-factly. They closed the set with a David Lynch-esque, noir 60s style pop song featuring some tasty country-blues fills from Halpern. The crowd roared for an encore, so Kennedy obliged them with a starkly haunting, solo version of another James Jackson Toth co-write, Dive, a brand-new country-gothic suicide ballad that she said she’d written in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. If that’s the kind of inspiration she gets there maybe she should visit more often. Fans of all dark Americana bands and rockers – Steve Wynn, Calexico, Giant Sand, Tandy and the aforementioned Ms. Case – will love this stuff. Watch this space for upcoming NYC gigs.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 1/12/09

Every Tuesday here we have our own quarter-sized version of what Kasey Kasem used to do on Sundays back in the day. Each of the links below correspond to the songs on our little hit parade. It’s designed as something that with a few clicks of a mouse will keep you entertained through your lunch hour if you’re at a desk job, or late at night if you’re bored.


1.  Maynard & the Musties – Elvis Museum

Frontman Joe Maynard’s ostensibly true story about one obsessed woman’s tribute to the King, with subtly sly commentary on the culture of celebrity. Producer Ryan Adams on piano and lapsteel.


2.   Max Raabe – Oops I Did It Again

German retro cabaret crooner covering Britney Spears. Words cannot describe.


3.  Kerry Kennedy’s Ghostwise – More from the Mountain

Gothic Americana like the Walkabouts. Eerie and irresistible. They play Rose Bar on 1/21.


4.  Heather Nova – Talking to Strangers

Long and hypnotic with haunting strings and Nova’s trademark wail. Streaming at her site.


5. The Naturals – Missus Sinclair

Super catchy 60s flavored dark guitar pop from North Carolina. Check it out. 


6. The Slackers – Dreidel Dub

A little late for the holiday, this amusing ska instrumental is ultimately a good excuse for a characteristically ripping Glenn Pine trombone solo. Thanks to Jacob of Across the Aisle for the heads-up on this – it’s a new single w/a dub remix as the b-side.


7. Close2death – Memory

An artsy, ornate, minor-key metalish ballad from this intriguing female-fronted band. They’re at Arlene’s on 2/12


8. The Sleaze Tax – Tape You to a Star

This is consistently surprising, multistylistic indie rocker Barbara Manning’s latest project, something akin to Exene’s shortlived but excellent Auntie Christ


9. The Darrin James Band – Had Enough of Me

Swinging minor-key oldtimey Waits-style piano ballad as Jack Grace might have done it. Sweet. He’s at the Parkside on 1/15.


10. Steel Battalion – The Emo Blues

“This song is dedicated to all those motherfuckers who wear more makeup than girls,” snarls these NJ rockers’ frontman on this LOL funny parody. They’re at Trash on Jan 18.

January 12, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment