Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Left on Red Bring Their Catchy Songs Out of the Underground

While the badge-wearing offspring of suburban wealth flounced from club to club on the east side Wednesday night – it’s Colossal Musical Joke time again – a far more polyglot crowd enjoyed an hourlong set by edgy acoustic harmony band Left on Red at the Bitter End. And while this show was actually a CMJ gig, the audience was as casually diverse as you’d find on the subway. Which is no surprise since that’s where Liah Alonso and Kelly Halloran play most of the time. All those hours in less than sonically ideal surroundings has given their music a captivating chemistry and tightness – having a bassist and drummer behind them was a nice touch, and it filled out the sound, but it was almost as if they didn’t really need the extra rhythm since theirs is so solid.

The set started out pleasantly catchy and got really really good, really really fast. Alonso alternated between acoustic guitar, tenor guitar and Strat; Halloran started out on violin, playing some acerbic, spot-on blues licks before switching to Strat and then acoustic, taking a couple of lead vocals herself at the end of the show. The reaction to the early material was a vivid reminder how much of an audience there is for accessible pop music that’s not stupid. The duo started out with a couple of bouncy, blues-tinged numbers, a train song that took on a funny tinge and then a gorgeously jangly if lyrically perplexing 1960s style psychedelic pop song called Way of the Zebra. Then they ratcheted the intensity up a few notches with the big college radio hit Jack and Jill. “I lost my halo and wings when I escaped from hell,” Alonso sang triumphantly, “This angel never fit me too well.” It spoke for a nation of millions who’ve held back from asserting that themselves.

Another briskly catchy, anthemic number vividly and tersely portrayed the destructive effects of gentrification: musicians and students forced to triple and quadruple up in crumbling, squalid conditions while the yuppies in their suits make it clear that they’re no longer welcome in their own town. “We’re gonna be ok, two cute girls can always find a place to stay,” Alonso sang sardonically, the implication being that those who aren’t so cute might find it somewhat harder.

“Some people thank you for your time – like telemarketers and stuff – but we really mean it,” explained Alonso before doing exactly that, ending the set with an optimistic tune about gaining strength from adversity that wound up with a breakneck, doublespeed violin breakdown. The audience screamed for an encore: several people hollered for Two Drinks Away from Gay, a big crowd-pleaser, which they didn’t play (they’ll do it at their next gig, they said), instead substituting a triumphant escape anthem. “I come from a place where dreams go to die…where hope comes to crawl,” went the lyric, but there was a happy ending, the two women trading a series of music box-tinged, beautifully interlocking, jangly guitar riffs, one after the other. It was the most beautiful moment in a night full of many. In addition to busking (usually in stations on the 1 and the 2 line), Left on Red play frequently for hospitalized veterans and for causes ranging from peace activism to fair trade.

October 22, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment