Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Supertones Live at Otto’s, NYC 2/2/08

The Supertones differentiate themselves from the legions of other bands in the thriving surf instrumental underworld in that they write excellent original songs. The long-running unit has been together since 1988; their weekly residency at the old Luna Lounge in the late 90s is the stuff of legend. But the band seemed to lose interest after that, phoning in covers of awful 60s pop hits like Georgie Girl on the increasingly rare instances that they played out at all. Although their drummer and rhythm player left shortly thereafter to form Mr. Action & the Boss Guitars, the rhythm guy is back, and their lead guitarist is better than ever, tremolo-picking furiously and really taking his playing to the next level. With Simon Chardiet from Simon & the Bar Sinisters on bass, way up in the sound mix, playing wildly furious, intense lines on an 8-string Hamer and then a vintage Rickenbacker, and a new drummer whose stock in trade obviously isn’t surf but proved up to the challenge, they immediately reclaimed their status as one of this city’s must-see live bands.

As usual, most of their set was originals. Stylistically, they take their cue more from the Ventures or the Shadows, jangling and clanging in major keys with a ton of reverb rather than doing the Beirut stomp a la Dick Dale. Of the few covers they did play, the best were a spot-on recreation of the old Lee Hazelwood classic Baja and the obscure, gently twanging Morgan, along with a driving take of Journey to the Stars. Their best original was a gorgeously melodic, nocturnal number introduced by Chardiet: “That one is dedicated to George Bush. It’s called Bushwacked. And this next one is dedicated to Rudy Guiliani’s prostate. It’s called Last Ride,” he gleefully told the crowd, as they launched into a swaying, spaghetti-western tune.

The show was put together by Unsteady Freddie, who is something of a legend in the surf world, a promoter who tirelessly travels the country, spreading the gospel of reverb and 2/4 time. The shows he puts together here on the first Saturday of every month are reliably good and sometimes absolutely transcendent. The latter promised to be the case tonight. It would have been awfully nice to have been able to stick around for the scorchingly powerful Coffin Daggers and another recently resurgent band, the Sea Devils, but by then it was already past one and time to nudge a handful of overindulgent people in the direction of home.

February 3, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Concert Review from the Archives: Rev. Timmy James, DollHouse, Twin Turbine, Noxes Pond and the Sea Devils at the C-Note, NYC 10/26/01

[Editor’s note: this concert from our inherited archives dates from the brief period after 9/11 when New Yorkers demonstrated an amazing amount of solidarity. Ironic as it must seem, this town defiantly showed a great deal of joie de vivre while the pit downtown smoldered and burned. This is just one example.]

A gastronomic walking tour of what’s left of the old-school Jewish Lower East Side with a Massachusetts friend ended with takeout from Yonah Schimmel’s, where I ended up practically getting killed in traffic while trying to get back into his Jaguar while a traffic cop’s siren wailed behind us. I was sure we were going to get pulled over, and it was all my fault, but no. He dropped me off at the club and left with plenty of knishes and noshes for the ride home to Beacon Hill. Rev. Timmy James was on when I got there, playing open-tuned, acoustic blues with a slide. He’s a competent player, he doesn’t Pearl Jam the vocals and the Rev. thing seems to be neither religious nor sarcastic. A tip of the hat to Gary Davis, maybe. DollHouse, who haven’t played a live show in a long time, were introducing their new lead guitarist, who is vastly different from the two guys who preceded him: he’s totally 80s, alternating between fast funk/metal and more ambient licks that he played with an ebow. Not sure he’s right for this macabre, punk-inflected harmony-rock band. On their frontwoman/guitarist Lisa Lost’s big showstopper, Queen of Despair, he took an attractively minimal solo straight out of the Phil Manzanera book circa Avalon, which was by far the best thing he did all night. The band’s best song was a ridiculously catchy new one set to a ska beat, an uncharacteristically lighthearted, optimistic song called Smile driven by a deliciously melodic, pulsing Frankie Monroe bassline. The band also played Lisa Lost’s darkly entertaining Bride (as in bride of Frankenstein) along with Monroe’s scorching, minor-key punk-pop songs Conditioning and Night People.

“Heavy pop” power trio Twin Turbine weren’t the best segue, considering that this is a small club and they are very loud. But melodically it made sense: frontman/guitarist Dave Popeck is every bit as much a hookmeister as the previous band. “Husker Du,” a friend of mine hollered into my ear. I thought for a moment. “Social Distortion,” I hollered back. They don’t confine themselves strictly to major and minor chords but the hooks are relentless, as is the sonic assault: there isn’t much subtlety in this band. Their best song was a darkly careening number called Noreaster that resembled Guided by Voices at their most melodic.

Noxes Pond followed, and like the last time I saw them here, they packed the place. This isn’t a big club by any means, and it’s become a rocker hangout, in a lot of instances musicians basically playing to their peers, and the cognoscenti were here tonight to check out the newly resurrected incarnation of this popular LES noise/rock/funk unit. They’re much more melodic than they used to be, driven by catchy, jazz-inflected, tasteful guitar. And the rhythm section, with the guy from the Scholars on drums and the Supercilious bassist, has much more of a groove than they used to have. But it’s their frontwoman who steals the show, a petite powerhouse who dazzled with her spectacular range and potently soulful pipes. By the time the Sea Devils launched into the first of two long, exhausting sets, starting practically at the stroke of midnight, it was apparent that the person I’d been waiting patiently for wasn’t going to show up. But no matter. “Surf punk,” a well-known blogger told me, sarcastically. And he’s right, to an extent: energy and volume are important to this band. But so is authenticity: they have all the requisite vintage instruments and amps and get a completely 60s, reverb-drenched sound. They reminded tonight how vast their repertoire is, basically every good Ventures and Dick Dale song along with literally dozens of songs whose titles you wish they’d announce so you can go out looking for the originals. Their best song was the opener, the haunting Mr. Moto, followed by the Ventures classic Diamond Head and an obscure, gorgeously propulsive number called Tally Ho. And they kept the crowd in the house: after they’d finally wound up their second set, a clearly impressed audience member insisted that the band had just played the longest-ever set in the club’s history. Which wouldn’t be surprising: just under three hours of fiery, propulsive clang and twang. And I was there to hear all of it since I hadn’t had a drink til they’d taken the stage.

[postscript: Rev. Timmy James hasn’t played around New York in awhile: someone like him can pretty much take his act anywhere. DollHouse is defunct, and Twin Turbine has been on hiatus pretty much since 2006. Noxes Pond morphed into art-rockers System Noise, who were one of New York’s best bands for several years. The Sea Devils still appear live once in awhile with a reconfigured lineup.]

October 26, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment