Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: The Disclaimers at Spikehill, Brooklyn NY 1/2/10

Half past midnight Saturday night, Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, coldest night of the year. Even Anna Maria Pizza is practically empty. It’s an omen. This is our decade and this is part of the soundtrack. The Disclaimers are waiting onstage for the sound guy, who looks like he really knows what he’s doing, to finish checking all the mics. The hi-hat clutch has disappeared from the drum kit, then miraculously reappears. And they’re off.

It’s like being in college, seeing a favorite band for the first time. All the hits. The audience is pumped, old friends in the crowd materialize out of nowhere. Happy New Year, long time no see! The band starts with Stay out of My Nightmares which is in a way self-explanatory; no big violin buildup on the intro or outro like they usually do but that’s ok.

Under the Belly of the 7 Train is a behemoth, a careening surreal Syd Barrett style chromatic art-rock monstrosity alive with danger swirling around in the shadows beneath the ironwork.

An apprehensive backbeat-driven country anthem is a dead ringer for the Walkabouts. It’s relatively new. Kate Thomason does her best understated avenging angel impression on the mic, “Stranger in this stranger’s land.”

Lead guitarist Dan Sullivan sings Damage, all organ and jangly Dylan guitar and soul girl harmonies, cynical vintage r&b flavor, “Not even the damage gets done.”

Absolution has a casual sexy soulfulness on the verse, Naa Koshie Mills’ trombone leading into the anguish of the chorus, Kate’s wounded vocal – “Rips me apart!!”

Next is a big riff-rocker that sounds like X with blues harp – down to Andy Nelson’s growly bass groove, and then a cold ending.

“She’s going for sultry,” says drummer Phil McDonald who seems to be the band spokesman tonight. Naa Koshie nails a new song, an artsy, resigned, beautifully Beatlesque ballad. And another new one, an anthem, Tell Me What You Want, sweet major/minor changes.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind is an old garage rocker of theirs – “not again not again not again not again” – Dan sings this one.

Strat player Dylan Keeler sings Just Desserts. It sways along on Dan’s organ riffs -“If you’re gonna write a suicide note you should at least spell all the words right.”

Phil: “Love in the back seat.” Kate:”And ice cream.” The big soul ballad’s not quite as much a showstopper as it was the last time out but it’s still impossible to turn away from: “How can you give up something so sweet?” Kate won’t let it go without a fight.

Tiptoe is ferocious when it gets to Dan’s unhinged Leslie speaker solo – he breaks a string but keeps going. Actually he’s not using a Leslie, just a wah turned wide open for a chorus box effect.

They’ve got a theme song now! “We’re the Disclaimers!” Long build to a cold ending. Up front where the drums and the guitar hit you in the chest, the sound is intoxicating, this is why people come out in the cold in the wee hours. This is why we live here instead of somewhere else. Saturday night, ground zero in Williamsburg, and there’s not a single trendoid or tourist to be seen anywhere.

January 4, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Somebodies’ Christmas Show 12/16/09

You know a band has to be good if they can keep a smart crowd entertained with a bunch of Christmas songs. Let’s face it – Christmas music sucks, bigtime. Almost as much as Nickelback or Lady Gag. In fact, the only holiday music that’s any good is the non-Western stuff: Diwali, Passover, Ramadan. And of course Halloween. But the Somebodies – with a lot of help from some good friends – had obviously really worked hard on putting together a theme night that in a lesser group’s hands would have been pure schlock.

The band’s sound is concretized sometime in the 80s: their faster stuff has a scurrying new wave beat; the anthems look back to a time before grunge, before hair metal, in fact, when you were supposed to sing them casually, unaffectedly, without any cliches. But they didn’t play any of those. Usually the bass carries the melody, as Graham Maby used to do on Joe Jackson’s early albums. Their three originals in their set list at Lakeside on the sixteenth included a brisk, punchy pop number that would have made a good b-side to What I Like About You, another with a propulsive, melodic reggae bassline that went doublespeed on the chorus, and the last song of the night, where bassist Luke Mitchell got  to go deep into his bag of chops for some slinky slides, hammer-ons and fat, boomy chords. And these were all well-received, but it was the holiday stuff that made smiles out of winces.

They started with the Eric Carmen weepie (and Rachmaninoff ripoff) All By Myself, just Mitchell and drummer Phil McDonald who gave it the most deviously deadpan vocal you could want. Then frontman/guitarist Pete Derba joined them for Feliz Navidad, which in his hands was basically the same lyric over and over again. That was mercifully over fast. Dylan Keeler of the Disclaimers took a reluctantly amusing turn as Elvis impersonator on Santa’s Back in Town; later, Derba did Blue Christmas back into deadpan territory with some help from a ringer chorus on backup vocals. Kate Thomason and Naa Koshie Mills – the duo who give the Disclaimers their signature soul sound – did a lighthearted rap number, and later a Christmas soul song from the 60s. For her absolutely sultry cover of Eartha Kitt’s Santa Baby, Mills peeled off her shiny fake fur coat to reveal an equally shiny 60s cocktail dress and then brought down the house.

Keeler and his fellow Disclaimers guitarist Dan Sullivan gave Santa Claus Is Coming to Town a sublimely ridiculous Blues Brothers vibe, Sullivan doing most of the jumping and kicking around in front of the stage: “He knows when you forget the lyrics,” he deadpanned. But the most affecting moment of the night was when Jerome and Susan O’Brien of the Dog Show led the crowd in an acoustic singalong of So This Is Christmas. “War is over, if you want it…” If only this year’s Nobel winner could have been there, he undoubedly would have a good time, notwithstanding this timely reminder of how little has actually changed since that auspicious day in November of last year.

December 23, 2009 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Disclaimers at Spikehill, Brooklyn NY 5/29/09

Sign of the times or what: even with the implosion of the major labels, with most of the indie labels a step behind them, it’s hard to believe that a band like the Disclaimers, with not one but two telegenic, charismatic frontwomen and as many great songs as they have, would not be famous. Friday night they ran through a characteristically tuneful, varied set of jangly rock and sultry soul, emphasis on the latter. Unveiling at least three new songs (they sometimes rearrange some of their older tunes), violinist/trombonist Naa Koshie Mills traded off her signature breathy yet nuanced vocals with Kate Thomason’s full-throttle wail. As usual, one of the set’s high points was a snarling, snide version of the propulsive janglerock anthem Tiptoe (an unreleased gem that ranked high on our Top 100 Songs of 2008 list), Dylan Keeler and Dan Sullivan’s guitars slamming their way through with casual, even offhand intensity. Thomason brought down the house as usual with that big summertime soul ballad she always does (it’s unreleased, and this band doesn’t often announce song titles). Mills also took a particularly gripping star turn on a slinky new one, and a duet with drummer Phil McDonald who in his own casual way is as good a singer as anyone else in this band. And you could tell because the sound mix, like it always is at this place, was so pristine. Watch this space for upcoming NYC shows.

June 2, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maynard & the Musties and the Disclaimers Live at Red Star, Brooklyn NY 1/9/08

This place has to be the most unlikely venue in the entire New York area: a split-level, midtown-style sports bar/restaurant, complete with several flat screen tv’s downstairs and a long, spacious music room upstairs – in the middle of nowhere, in Greenpoint. It’s also midtown expensive, as one might expect from such unexpectedly plush surroundings. If their intention is to make a profit from door and bar receipts, they might actually have a chance, a scary thought: book enough popular trendoid bands, a few people who call themselves celebrity dj’s and pay Tara Reid a few grand to show up and drink for free, and they might be able to make a go of it in this former loft gallery space down the block from the Pencil Factory. Such is the state of Greenpoint, 2008.

Maynard & the Musties were playing their first show since the tragic death of their lapsteel player Drew Glackin. To their immense credit, not only did they pull themselves together, they played an exuberant, passionately twanging show. Hot on the heels of their Lakeside show last month (which we reviewed, and was marvelous), they proved that a throwback outlaw country singer backed by a bunch of indie rockers who may be game, but don’t really know their country music, can still kick ass. It was pretty much the same set list as at the Lakeside show. Maynard is an unapologetic advocate for the underdog and the down-and-out, and the band tore through his chronicle of a couple of derelicts in the wilds of a different part of Brooklyn as well as his only slightly tongue-in-cheek love song about a guy with his eyes on a woman and her Volkswagen (which seems in his eyes to be the ideal place to spend the night – with her, naturally). Maynard would probably cringe to hear this, but at their best the band sounded like the Grateful Dead: rockers jamming their way through some Americana with deliciously unpredictable results. In his band introductions, Maynard included the conspicuously absent Glackin, who received a massive round of applause. They closed with a subtly edgy new song, possibly titled It’s Been a Good Life, a chronicle of disengagement while the world goes to hell, set to a deceptively catchy, vintage Velvets-style melody, jamming it out at the end to a fiery crescendo.

Considering the bizarre location, Maynard and his crew brought a good crowd, most of whom stuck around for the Disclaimers. About three years ago, they were one of the best live bands in New York, until their bass player left the band. Since then, they’ve played only infrequently. Battling the club’s horrible sound (the sound guy tried gamely to make it work, to no avail), they reclaimed their status as one of the most exciting acts in town. Steeped in vintage 60s garage and soul, they dazzled with a set of mostly new material, proving that while they may have been absent from the live circuit, they haven’t exactly been idle. The band has the good fortune to have not one but two first-class songwriters, frontman/guitarist Dylan Keeler and keyboardist/lead guitarist Dan Sullivan. Generally speaking, Keeler has more of a classic 60s pop sensibility hitched to a fiery Radio Birdman-style garage-punk vibe while Sullivan is more of a hard-rocking garage traditionalist (and a spectacular lead player, as he proved again tonight). Because of problems with the sound system, Sullivan was reduced to playing only guitar on several of the songs, meaning that he had to come up with lead parts on the spot for the numbers he usually plays on organ, but he was up to the task.

One of their best new numbers, a supremely catchy oldschool garage tune, was sung by drummer Phil McDonald (one of the most sought-after players in town), with everyone in the band joining in on a bizarre doo-wop vocal breakdown between the second chorus and the next verse. Another new number put violinist/trombonist Naa Koshie Mills (who was doing double duty tonight, also providing incisive and ambient textures for Maynard & the Musties) out in front of the unit, a vivid reminder of how effortlessly charismatic a frontwoman she can be. The song was called Leslie Garwick: Sullivan told the crowd that it was a cross between Leslie Gore and Dionne Warwick, therefore, the title. One can only wonder how many Brooklyn bands know who Leslie Gore is, or who Dionne Warwick was before she did infomercials for a notorious psychic hotline scam. But that’s a story, or a rant, for another day.

They closed with their best song, Stay Out of My Nightmares, whose furious, staccato, violin-driven hook on the intro tantalizingly doesn’t recur until after the last verse. Because of trouble with the PA, Mills didn’t get the chance to do it the second time around, but no matter: the crowd, or what was left of it, was completely rapt. This band is the perfect choice to headline the next Cavestomp – or open for whatever 60s relic the promoters have dragged out of the woodwork. The audience will love them. Half Ajar, featuring some of the Disclaimers, was next on the bill, but we had places to go (home) and things to do (catch the train before the last one left the Greenpoint Ave. station).

January 10, 2008 Posted by | concert, country music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Dog Show at Sidewalk, NYC 6/8/07

You just had to laugh. A loud rock band onstage at this usually sedate folkie joint, just blazing, playing to pretty much an empty room. On a Friday night. And it was the Dog Show. Sound incongruous? Not when you consider that most New Yorkers don’t go out on the weekend anymore, not with Humvee limos full of Wall Street trash and their trust-funded spawn overflowing the bars, clogging the streets and screaming into their cellphones. Maybe the Dog Show expected this, considering that they didn’t rehearse for this gig. Not that it showed: this was one of the most rousing, passionate shows we’ve seen this year. It was especially notable for the fact that this was frontman Jerome O’Brien’s first-ever gig playing bass and singing lead (he usually plays rhythm guitar in this unit). It’s not easy singing and playing bass at the same time, and O’Brien is a real hard hitter on his four-string Fender. But he wailed, playing well up in the mix with a dirty, growly tone. Guitarist Dave Popeck seemed to be in a particularly mischievous mood tonight, playing licks from Stairway to Heaven and Beatles tunes in between songs. Lately he’s been playing lead in this project, but he handled the additional chordal work with aplomb, in fact using it as a springboard for some particularly pathological soloing. Tonight the Dog Show sounded like an unhinged version of the Jam, right down to drummer Phil McDonald’s spirited mod beats.

On the catchy, riff-driven I Do It for You, I Do It For Me from their album Hello, Yes, the band began the first couple of verses with just the rhythm section. By the third time around, Popeck was fleshing out the song using strategically placed sheets of feedback. He took a careening, bellicose solo on the next number, I Heard Everything That You Said. On the angry, sarcastic 6/8 blues Diamonds and Broken Glass, the band brought the song way down to just the drums after another Popeck solo, then took a long, rather puckish climb out. They wrapped up the set with Hold Me Down (another song from the Hello, Yes album), Popeck blasting out a wah-wah solo. It was as if Jimmy Page decided to swing Paul Weller around until his capillaries began to pop. The small crowd screamed for an encore and the band obliged with the gorgeously anthemic, politically charged, Who-inflected Masterplan, including an all-too-brief breakdown into total noise mid-song. Right before the final climactic hook, O’Brien took a percussive, crescendoing walk up the scale and when there was nowhere else to go, Popeck slammed into the gorgeous, haunting riff that opens the song. This is the kind of show where people who weren’t there will someday say they were in the house. Even the sound, usually dodgy at this venue, was exceptionally clear. Somebody give that sound guy a raise.

June 9, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment