Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Fall 2010 Dresden Dolls Tour Dates

Nice to see the Dresden Dolls back together and on the road again after Amanda Palmer’s diverting diversion with Jason Webley in Evelyn Evelyn. They open the tour on Halloween at Irving Plaza in New York after Palmer wraps up her Broadway gig as the Emcee in the latest revival of Cabaret. Upcoming concert dates are:

Oct 31 – NEW YORK, NY- Irving Plaza

Nov 12 – NEW ORLEANS, LA- Tipitina’s (with Jason Webley)

Nov 13 – ATLANTA, GA- The Buckhead Theatre

Nov 14 – LEXINGTON, KY- Buster’s Billiards & Backroom

Nov 16 – ST. LOUIS, MO- The Pageant

Nov 17 – CHICAGO, IL- The Vic Theatre (with the excellent, horn-driven Mucca Pazza)

Nov 19th – DALLAS, TX- Granada Theatre

Nov 20 – HOUSTON, TX- Fitzgerald’s

Nov 21 – AUSTIN, TX- La Zona Rosa

September 9, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The New York Philharmonic at Prospect Park, Brooklyn NY 7/15/09

In the program notes, Maestro Bramwell Tovey is quoted on the difference between summer and winter audiences: “A concert in the ‘regular’ season is a bit like a dinner party: people only come if they blend with one another.” [emphasis ours]

Pianist Vladimir Feltsman, on summer crowds: “It’s definitely more of a mixed crowd, more cosmopolitan and laid-back.”

In a word: wow. Sounds like the NY Philharmonic is in open rebellion against the Jersey and Westchester hedge fund contingent, huh? The crowd at Wednesday’s outdoor show at Prospect Park was everything Feltsman said it would be, an almost defiant display of seemingly every culture and ethnicity that Mayor Bloomberg, Borough President Marty Markowitz and their out-of-town developer cronies are doing their best to evict en masse. If anyone needs further proof of classical music’s power to transcend boundaries and bring people together, this was it. And the atmosphere couldn’t have been more the opposite of the oppressive feel that you get at the free shows in Central Park – there was no antagonistic jockeying for position, vastly more open space and the wine flowed freely. The anticipated posse of undercover cops out to make their quota of cheap arrests never arrived. Maybe they were simply wrapped up in the music like everybody else. And what a beautiful night – to think that there could have been such a pleasant, cool evening in the dead of summer, 2009 seems to defy the laws of physics. Or else, somewhere far north of here, we have a body of water that was once an iceberg to thank for this.

About the concert: Alan Gilbert is taking over as conductor fulltime this fall, a healthy shot of adrenaline. Despite (relatively) unfamiliar surroundings and the spectre of sonic issues, he and the orchestra brought their A-game. Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony, No. 41 was first on the bill. The composer whipped this one out over the span of a couple of months in the summer of 1788, robust, catchy and utterly predictable (at least in the sense that you know that the big riffs are going to work their way through the various sections of the ensemble – how far they’re actually going is the only question here). It was as if Gilbert had put up a big sign on the back of the orchestra tent saying “PLAY LOUD.” Dynamics took a back seat to volley after volley of call-and-response. But it worked. There’s no real depth to this piece – it’s drinking music for classical fans, a blast from the past when drunks would get together at the music hall and shout over the orchestra. Gilbert made sure they couldn’t do that here.

Yet he didn’t do that with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. Even as a handful of voices across the lawn were encouraging them to “play louder” – no joke – Gilbert worked the dynamics just as if they were at Lincoln Center, sensitively and intensely, bringing out all the longing and joy in a piece so frequently overplayed and underdone. If those furthest from the stage missed out on the nuances, that’s how Beethoven wrote it.  As predicted, the PA came undone with a big squawk during the first movement’s warm, matter-of-fact counterpoint, but the orchestra soldiered through it. The program notes credited the piece for foreshadowing Wagner: more pleasantly, it also foreshadows Jeff Lynne, particularly in the brighly apprehensive, minor-key theme and its permutations in the second movement. The encore was chosen by text message, and was apparently a tie (two people responded, maybe?). Happily, a memorably ebullient Mendelssohn scherzo won out over Beethoven’s Egmont Overture. Several in the crowd agreed that this was the best piece of the night. Mark your 2010 calendar to check the listings – here of course 🙂 – for free NY Phil concerts at Prospect Park and in other public places in (hopefully) June and July of next year.

July 19, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Simone Dinnerstein with the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall, NYC 7/8/09

The pretext of the evening’s performance was “From the Danube to the Rhine,” the two feeder rivers of northern Europe and some of the composers associated with them. Simone Dinnerstein’s warmly lyrical recording of the Goldberg Variations topped the classical charts a couple of years ago: this time out, she matched rapidfire precision to a fluidly expressive style , joining the orchestra on Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto in A. Essentially, it works two themes, a nocturne and a stomp, variations on some glimmering upper-register work and a fiery cascade down to the lowest registers, respectively. Dinnerstein pulled out every piece of shimmering moonlight in the former and a gatling-gun staccato on the latter. Musicologists disagree on how many movements the piece has: the conventional wisdom is six; thematically, there seem to be half as many, the highlight being a deliciously anthemic, crushingly chordal Rachmaninovian run up the scale in what would be the second. She didn’t make it look easy, because it wasn’t, and her unaffected intensity earned her a well-deserved standing ovation. Not bad for her second-ever Lincoln Center performance.

After the intermission, conductor Bramwell Tovey led the orchestra on an inspired romp through Brahms’ Hungarian Dances #4 and #10. In 19th century western Europe, popular composers’ gypsy themes tended to be of the ersatz variety, akin to most of what fueled the 1950s’ mambo craze here. With this suite, Brahms sought authenticity, and the first of the pair show off some stark chromatics and trills, set aloft on the wings of the strings. The second could have been a pretty folk dance from pretty much anywhere.

The orchestra had warmed up with Johan Strauss’ Overture to Der Zigeunerbaron, a perfect illustration of faux-gypsy if there ever was. To the credit of conductor and orchestra, they did their best to endow it with the dynamics and passion of a work far more substantial, but even that failed to elevate it above the level of schlock. In a perhaps intentional stroke of irony, they closed the program with Richard Strauss’ Rosenkavalier Suite. The opera itself is completely buffo, a drag drama that plays off all kinds of buffoonery created by multiple disguises. Yet the incidental music, first assembled as an integral suite decades after the opera’s 1909 debut, is impressive, from the strikingly modernist atonalities that begin the soaring, passionate overture, to several spot-on parodies of Johan Strauss waltzes that recur throughout. There’s also a recurring “uh-oh” motif, usually before Baron Ochs, the opera’s lumbering bull in a china shop, gets to wring some cheap laughs from his lines. As much as everyone onstage was obviously having a good time with the silliness, it was the lush, cinematic string-driven exaltation that carried everyone away. It was a worthy sendoff for retiring bassist Shelly Saxon, bowing out after 38 distinguished years with the ensemble.

The NY Philharmonic has some tantalizing outdoor concerts coming up in the next week before departing for Vail for a series of shows (see our live music calendar for dates and programs); Simone Dinnerstein plays selections from her highly anticipated cd of Beethoven works for piano and cello with cellist Zuill Bailey at le Poisson Rouge on August 27.

July 9, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Make Music NY Review 6/21/08

What a beautiful summer day. There are plenty of beautiful days in New York, just hardly ever from June to late September. Saturday was what New York was supposedly like in the summer in the 70s, temperatures around 80 but with a nice breeze and hardly any humidity, a very auspicious way to start the second annual Make Music NY, the local version of the international outdoor street music festival la Fete de la Musique. In keeping with the Lucid Culture tradition of trying to cover as many performances in as many diverse styles as possible, a decision was reached. The all-day punk show on Governors Island was tempting, but didn’t make the cut (and as it turned out, this Sunday’s NY Times covered it, in which case a report here would have been at least somewhat redundant). Since this is an outdoor festival, with most of the bands shlepping their own primitive PA systems and portable generators, performances tend to run behind schedule, with the inevitable snafus. The game plan: start in Williamsburg, where there were several intriguing shows scheduled within a short radius; then, to minimize travel time, to the East Village; then back to the Burg for a final show. A single indulgence would be allowed, one favorite band who’ve been profiled here before. Otherwise, everything would have to be either a new discovery or at least someone who hasn’t been reviewed here yet. The best-laid plans, ad infinitum…

Saturday’s tour began in the belly of the beast, beneath the scaffolding at one of those shoddy new luxury condo firetraps that seem to spring up overnight, this one on North Tenth. A handful of kids passed by, the pile of amps and band gear drawing lots of looks, but nobody stopped. Then a couple arrived, both looking somewhat puzzled. “You wanna buy a condo, talk to Patrice inside,” a worker on the catwalk told them, looking just as puzzled as they were. “We DON’T want to buy a condo,” the guy replied, practically shuddering at the thought – apparently he was looking for a friend in one of the bands who were scheduled to play there. A little after one, the punkish Bronx group Diabolique started playing: just two of the band members, a guy on lead guitar and a woman on drums who later switched to rhythm guitar while stomping on a tambourine. A work in progress: they started out with a decently growling cover of the Rumble, which was a good sign (Link Wray covers are almost always a sign of good chops and good taste). The band has several intriguing mp3s (available for free download) on their website, one of which they played, not as punk as the snarling broadside online. The woman is the better of the two musicians; maybe it was the early hour or lack of rehearsal, but for whatever reason, the guy needs practice. But the two had good energy and enough of a sense of what they were doing to make them worth checking back with in a couple of months.

Next stop was McCarren Park, where a gamelan orchestra, Gamelan Dharma Swara were scheduled for 2 PM. You’d think that it would be pretty impossible to hide a gamelan orchestra in this park, but they were nowhere to be found. An hour into the festival, and Plan B was already in full effect, which meant that the next stop was 780 Lorimer St., where the marvelous oldtime French chanson revivalists les Chauds Lapins were supposed to play. As it turned out, the address is the entrance to McCarren Pool (one wonders how many more of the band’s fans would have showed up had the band, or Time Out, who were in charge of the festival schedule, made this known). But no matter: the group’s frontman and woman, Kurt Hoffman and Meg Reichardt stood resolutely in the hot sun and played a characteristically delightful set. As they serenaded the crowd gathered beneath the trees, a fenderbender between a couple of SUV’s was narrowly averted. A Mr. Softee truck circled the block: in an absolutely unexpected act of politeness, the driver turned off his jingle as he passed the second time. Hoffman sang and played banjo ukulele; Reichardt also began on banjo uke and then switched to lead guitar. What was most apparent was how much their repertoire has grown in the months since they were last reviewed here, and what a fine jazz guitarist Reichardt is becoming. She’s always been a smartly incisive, original blues player, so this new direction she’s taking makes perfect sense. French speakers will find their songs a lyrical feast, loaded with innuendo and clever wordplay; the somewhat stagy charm of the melodies has plenty of appeal for English speakers as well.

When they’d finished, the greenmarket a short walk away beckoned: fresh cilantro, mmmm! And across the way from the stalls with all that delicious greenery was Gamelan Dharma Swara! “New York’s own gamelan,” or at least this edition of it is a community group with what seems to be a revolving membership based on who’s available to play. With a total of 17 members at this show, most of them playing traditional Balinese gamelan bells with bright yellow hammers, augmented by a boisterous bongo drummer who seemed to function as the group’s conductor, a trio of dancers and two magnificent gongs lurking behind the group (nobody took the opportunity to ring them, at least during the orchestra’s last half-hour). The music is both brightly tingling and hypnotically psychedelic. Pretty much anybody who watches PBS has probably at least caught a glimpse of a gamelan orchestra at some point, but live and up close, this kind of music reveals itself as soothing as it is fascinating, its ebbs and swells incorporating the most minute rhythmic and melodic intricacies between the performers. One of the Lucid Culture crew, nursing a pulled wing muscle, had taken a certain narcotic preferred by a certain terminally obese extreme-rightwing AM radio host, and the orchestra had her on her back and somewhere way off in dreamland within five minutes of arriving.

Gamelan Dharma Swara’s music dates back to an age where the dividing line between audience and performer was nebulous at best, before the point in history where music became a commodity, when pretty much everyone could beat on a drum or sing along or even lead the band with a lyre or a fiddle or a flute. The woman who served as the group’s spokesman informed the crowd that the public is invited to participate in rehearsals, and from the likes of it, this is a crew that is strictly in it for fun: the guy who serves as what might be called the lead bell player looks to be all of 14. Yet the orchestra came across as completely professional, assured and far beyond mere competence, even more impressive when their spokeswoman finally told the crowd that they hadn’t really rehearsed for this performance and that they were now just basically going to jam. This is the kind of group that Dave Matthews or (is Phish still together?) ought to take on the road with them if they had any brain cells left.

After that, it was back to the original agenda, to the day’s one scheduled indulgence, Linda Draper at Like the Spice Gallery on the south side. Lucid Culture’s resident part-time pillhead, back from her hippie heroin coma, had left her sore subscapularis in dreamland and, reinvigorated, went off in search of pizza. The crew’s temporarily more sober member took the long way through the park to Roebling Street, passing a bunch of trendoids playing little more than random squalls of feedback, a laughably bad Bad Company imitation yowling away where les Chauds Lapins had been an hour before, and an equally silly Interpol wannabe band out in front of the tattoo store on Roebling. As expected, everything was running behind schedule at this point. At Like the Spice, a guy/girl trendoid duo called the Dead Batteries were preening, posing and making stilted, declamatory attempts at vocals while accompanying themselves on drums and a screechy old analog synth from the 70s. Draper asked the two if she could borrow the PA their parents’ money had gotten them, but they couldn’t be bothered, so she decided to do her set old-school, completely without amplification, even though she was playing with a bleeding finger – “That’s punk rock, right?” she laughed. Meanwhile, the neighborhood Jesus freak was blasting his weekly Spanish-language Saturday sermon, with musical accompaniment, on the next block. The gallery owner, a pretty brunette named Marisa, made several attempts to get him to shut up (he’s been a nightmare for her and several other neighborhood businesses), and finally succeeded, while a crowd of skateboarders passed by, screaming and hollering at a slow-moving car competing for with them for space on the street. And then the fire department showed up. But then they left.

Distractions finally out of the way, Draper finally pulled up a chair and sang to a crowd that had obviously come from all over to hear her. Like Nina Nastasia, Draper expertly plucks her guitar more than she picks it, singing with the quiet, full, round tone of the ex-chorister she is. She did a lot of new material including songs from her soon-to-be-released sixth album, and they were uniformly excellent. From this show it was clear that Draper has grown into one of the world’s elite songwriters, finally managing to weld her rich, utterly surreal lyricism to the catchy, equally incisive tunefulness that characterized her earliest work. Frustration and sometimes raw rage frequently factor into her tersely crafted lyrics. Double entendres and an often laugh-out-loud stream-of-consciousness humor abound. Her best songs were both new numbers, one with a sharp, minor-key garage rock melody called Bridge and Tunnel which turned out to be not a slap at tourists but at just assholes in general. The other was an equally catchy, slowly burning 6/8 broadside. She asked if anyone had any requests, and someone did, the opening cut on her first album, a terrific pop tune set to a circular four-chord melody. But halfway through, she forgot the words. So she made up some new ones on the spot:

My finger has finally stopped bleeding
My hair smells like barbecue
From the restaurant down the street
Which is really good if you’re not a vegetarian…
I’m not
I always had a fast metabolism

Draper also unearthed a cover by obscure 70s songwriter Kath Bloom, a plaintive number which meshed well with all the originals. Indulgences done with, the cilantro still looked fresh, but it was time to put it in the fridge, so it was over the bridge and then over to the park at First St. and Houston where the Main Squeeze Orchestra were playing. The full orchestra is seventeen women all playing accordion, making for a sound potentially even more psychedelic and captivating than the gamelan orchestra in the park. For the first time today, the pungent smell of ganja was noticeable, wafting across the park from the benches, a crowd of derelicts relaxing to what they could hear while leaning against the fence since the the ten group members (including conductor Walter Kuhr) who’d come out today were doing the show completely without amplification. A five foot one guy in an Iggy t-shirt stopping briefly as the haunting sound fluttered in and out. Because the breeze had picked up, the womens’ sheet music was fluttering as well, creating some long pauses between songs. One of the women sat behind the front line of accordions, playing oompah basslines on a big, beautiful, oversize keyboard. She also contributed vocals on a singalong of the Kinks’ cabaret-inflected Demon Alcohol. The group alternated between haunting, classical sounding material and the amusingly orchestrated pop covers that have become their trademark: among them, a strangely straightforward Beach Boys tune, a gypsyish St. James Infirmary and Mack the Knife, and a completely over-the-top version of Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean.

Perhaps frustrated by the windy conditions, the whole band took a lengthy smoke break – they all look like a bunch of party animals. So it was up to 14th St and the L, back to Williamsburg where melodic rock trio Violet Hour were supposed to play outside a bar. They had their equipment on the street, and after some lengthy soundchecking, it was apparent that they were waiting for the bar to start to fill up before playing their set. But that’s ok: Make Music NY is first and foremost for musicians. It wouldn’t make sense to fault them for not playing to a pretty much empty street where they could catch the beginning of the Saturday night bar turnout if they started an hour late. Or perhaps Time Out got their set time wrong, which would hardly be surprising. So perhaps at some point in the future Lucid Culture will cover one of their live shows. Til then, there are some good youtube clips of the band live at Trash Bar that you can listen to on their myspace.

June 22, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Last Time I Went to the Pot Parade

It was mid-May, 1999, unseasonably cool for the global warming era. The plant kingdom was in full sprout. My girlfriend and I wandered down Broadway toward Battery Park. As we reached the park, there was no indication that there would be any greater quantity of illegal drugs there than on any other day, or that anyone would be ostentatiously indulging in them.

I was sober.

We were going to see a free show by John Brown’s Body, the best white reggae band ever. I say that jokingly because they’re also one of the best reggae bands ever, irrespective of anything that pigmentation might imply. That they’re worth seeing while sober attests to how good a live band they are: you can be completely free of any pot-induced bullshit and still enjoy them because they’re not any more self-indulgent, repetitive or clichéd than, say, Bob Marley.

As we approached the stage (this was in the days when you could do that, before the Park Pigs began setting up a labyrinth of barriers worthy of the king of Minos), we could smell what people were there for. There were lots of cops, but not in anything approximating the kind of numbers you see today when they do dry runs for a post-9/11 catastrophe, massed with sirens and lights under the Williamsburg Bridge.

I approached one of them and struck up a conversation. He wasn’t stoned as far as I could tell and seemed pretty blasé about the whole thing. “What’s it like, working this thing?” I asked him. He laughed. “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”

Eventually a small handful of the more obvious pothead kids were led away in handcuffs. Yet for the most part, the cops kept a respective distance and the revelers did the same. John Brown’s Body did a very short set, about 25 minutes. Then some guy from a popular Wetlands band – I forget the name – got up and launched into a pretty bad Shabba Ranks impression. So we wandered back in the direction we had come. It was a pleasantly mellow, predictably amusing afternoon and although it was only eight years ago, it feels like a lifetime.

As cruel an irony as this is, if you go to the parade this year, don’t bring pot.

May 2, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, New York City, Rant | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment