Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Ameranouche at 68 Jay St. Bar in Brooklyn

Much as a lot of New York clubs exploit musicians, there are other venues that actually support and nurture scenes: Barbes, with its global talent base; the Jalopy’s oldtime Americana roots crew; punk rock at ABC No Rio; jazz at Smalls. Count 68 Jay St. Bar in Dumbo on this short but crucial list. If Jan Bell (a poignant and potent Americana singer and tunesmith herself) has booked a band for one of the bar’s Wednesday and Saturday night shows, that’s a guarantee that the music will be good. Saturday night the attraction was New Hampshire gypsy jazz act Ameranouche. Make as many jokes about bands from the boondocks as you want, but Boston and Portland, Maine have been hit just as hard or even harder by the blight of gentrification as New York has, so maybe the Granite State talent that in years past would flee to those towns at the first opportunity is staying put now and making do with what they have.

When the trio first hit the stage, the bar was pretty empty: by the time they’d finished their first set, it was hopping, in both senses of the word. Bassist Xar Adelberg locked into a terse, fluid swing pulse that anchored the hypnotic staccato rhythm of guitarist Ryan Flaherty while lead guitarist Richard Sheppard spun off one spiraling shower of sparks after another. What differentiates this band from the scores of other Django Reinhardt devotees out there is their originality. They played Swing 69 early on and that did one pretty much straight up: for a lot of reasons, it doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room unless you make it punk, or reggae, or something vastly different than the original. After another Django number, the band went into their own catalog for a scurrying train-whistle tune: listening to what was essentially a two-chord jam, it was like being on a comfortable night express surrounded by friendly people drinking beer. The next song had an eerie tinge, with tritones; after that, they took the groove in a funk direction, Flaherty muting his strings just enough to produce a tinny tambourine-like timbre, an unexpectedly cool contrast with Sheppard’s lightning, incisive sixteenth-note runs. A slinkier shuffle, a bluesier number and then their fastest song of the night followed. As you would expect, Ameranouche tour frequently; if gypsy jazz is your thing – if you’re a fan of Stephane Wrembel, especially – they’re a band you need to know.

November 9, 2010 Posted by | concert, gypsy music, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Parker Hill Road at the New Hampshire Building, Springfield MA 9/22/07

New Hampshire bluegrass band Parker Hill Road played a couple of sets in the back of this old brick building packed with concession stands selling maple products, pottery, NH lottery tickets and the band’s two cds. This show was part of the Eastern States Exhibition, a state fair that’s supposedly the largest one in New England and has been since 1910 when the local fair gobbled up a couple of their neighboring competitors. Each New England state has its own building here. Since country and bluegrass have for decades been much more popular in the Granite State than in the rest of New England, it wasn’t surprising to see this group here.

The quintet (guitar, upright bass, fiddle, mandolin and banjo) competently ran through a mix of old standards (Orange Blossom Special, etc.) and covers of songs by Dylan and Sam Cooke, as crowds of people slowly made their way past, a few stopping in the sweltering heat to take in the show. As could be expected, the traditional stuff was best. The band seems to be led by the twin brothers who play mando and bass. The banjo player – whose eyes were Bob Marley-esque red slits all afternoon long – seems to be the wild card in the group. The mando player told a funny story about being on the way to a gig, watching a car in front of them lose control, leave the road and flip over. The band pulled over and walked down to the wreck, to find that the driver, a minister, was ok. The minister told the banjo player that the Lord was riding with him, to which the banjo player replied, “You’d better let him ride with us from now on because you’re gonna kill him.” That’s a very New Hampshire joke: traditionally the poorest of the New England states and #2 in the nation in per capita alcohol consumption (Wyoming is #1), the humor up there is very black. To their credit, the mandolin player didn’t tell the joke with his tongue seemingly between his molars, the way oldtimers speak up there, ay-yuh.

The fair was a good excuse to leave behind the neverland that is New York and get a firsthand look at how the other half is living. Not so well, it seems. Supposedly the nationwide obesity epidemic has reached mammoth proportions, and if the people here were any kind of representation, that estimate is correct. It’s partly the adults, but the kids especially, lots and lots of eight-year-olds the size of twelve-year-olds but without a sixth-grader’s height. The food here may explain something. An average-sized drunk guy in his twenties outside the NH building was bragging to his friends about his overconsumption last year: “A burger, onion rings, funnel cake, candy apple, caramel apple, cotton candy, popcorn and beer, and then I was sick for two days. So I’m going to have a caramel apple and another beer and then I’m gonna leave.”

Admittedly some of those bellybombs are delicious. Somehow I survived a deep-fried whoopie pie (which was probably a Little Debbie thing dipped in batter, served with whipped cream and a scoop of vanilla ice cream) and a surprisingly generous cardboard carton of deep-fried pickles (Vlasic dill spears, I’m guessing), not as good as the ones that Rodeo Bar serves, but they hit the spot on a day like this. If you dare to do this to yourself, do yourself a favor and abstain until after you’ve been upside down and subjected to the strenuous g-forces of the Orbiter or Lady Fireball or the rest of the rickety Wall of Death style rides here, all run by high school kids who aren’t the most attentive minimum-wage employees you’ll ever meet.

Even though this was a weekend, the crowds didn’t reach mass proportions until after the brief 5 PM parade of vintage cars, farm tractors and 4H kids who seemed anachronistically down-to-earth and bright, in stark contrast to the Lindsay Lohan wannabe crowd that takes over lower Manhattan on the weekends. Part of the fair is straight out of Life Magazine, 1941: quilting competitions, oxen pulls, horse shows and cooking demos. The rest of it seems to hail from around 1975 except that the music is 1995: Pearl Jam drools and oozes from the speakers on most of the rides. And the typical ride is $3 or more, with no discount for kids. As the crowd grew, the space between the concessions and the rides became nearly impassable. Western Massachusetts has been depressed for a long time, a fact clearly borne out by the tired young couples blocking traffic with their strollers. Nobody here seemed to be able to afford a babysittter.

And guess who was playing the main stage here at night, for free? The teenage daughter of a well-known WWF wrestler and character actor, the sixtysomething former lead singer of 70s top 40 pop act Three Dog Night, and a couple of American Idol contestants. Memo to all you American Idol types: this is where you go after your 15 minutes are up, not Madison Square Garden. The best you can hope for will be a second-stage gig at the county fair after the crochet-a-thon is over.

September 24, 2007 Posted by | concert, country music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments