Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: My Pet Dragon at the Cameo Gallery, Brooklyn NY 2/8/10

My Pet Dragon opened their February residency at the Cameo Gallery with a fiery yet trance-inducing show including a considerable amount of new material. From their first few notes, they went for sweeping, epic grandeur, part 90s British anthem band, part shoegaze and whichever way they turned, completely psychedelic. Frontman/guitarist Todd Michaelsen’s voice functions as an instrument in the band rather than a distinct lead vocal over instrumentation. He’s got a range that would make Thom Yorke jealous, and uses the entirety of that range with an unselfconscious intensity. Harmony vocalist/dancer Reena Shah would judiciously pick her spots to echo or play off Michaelsen’s soaring wail when she wasn’t moving around her corner of the stage with a grace that was as trance-inducing as the music. Lead guitarist Anthony Rizzo layered precise, reverberating raindrops of melody when he wasn’t making a sonic Jackson Pollock behind the atmospheric washes and roars of Michaelsen’s guitar. Several of the songs would riff off a hypnotic two-chord vamp until the chorus would sail in, bright and catchy, sweeping the clouds away.

They opened with an insistent, creepy, Radiohead-inflected new one, Michaelsen running the lyric “with a minute to go,” over and over, mantra-like. There’s a remarkable social awareness to their lyrics, which really came to the forefront on New Nation, a hopeful post-apocalyptic duet between Michaelsen and Shah. Another new one, Yellow Brick Road was a study in unease, Rizzo bringing just a hint of a bluesy tinge to the pensiveness underlying the song’s sturdy, anthemic theme. A couple of other recent tunes swung and swayed, buoyed by bassist Mario Padron, taking advantage of the opportunity to emerge from his usual insistent pulse with some potently incisive runs up the scale as the verses would turn around. Another more recent one added subtle shades and shadows to a four-chord hook that wouldn’t be out of place in the Brian Jonestown Massacre catalog. Their last song – one of three brand-new ones they debuted tonight – became a mesmerizing, swirling echo chamber with the two guitars roaring full blast, the two singers rising wordlessly out of the morass, part exaltation and part scream.

The opening band were like a good ipod mix of b-sides – they have excellent taste. The end of their set included a Nashville gothic ballad, a ska-rock number like early No Doubt but with an edge, a song that sounded like Wire and another like Blur (or like bands who’ve ripped off those two groups, whose sound these guys were now recycling). My Pet Dragon are back here on the 15th and then the 27th at 10.

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February 9, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Concert Review: Wire at South Street Seaport, NYC 5/30/08

A pounding, hypnotic, energetic show, revealing the seminal British punk/new wave band none the worse for the thirty years since they played their first New York show at CBGB in 1977. If anything, the prototypical art-school punks are more minimalist than they were three decades ago when their highly influential debut album Pink Flag came out. Running their guitars through a labyrinth of digital reverb and delay effects, they roared through almost an hour of the “modernist deconstructed rock distanced from the form” or whatever bullshit their website says their music is about. Like so many of their punk contemporaries, they weren’t the greatest musicians, but their uniquely eerie melodicism was matched by an equally quirky sense of humor: frontman Colin Newman’s off-key, semi-shouted nonsequiturs have always imbued with a very subtle, very British sense of fun, something their legions of imitators (REM, said Michael Stipe, would never have existed without Wire) have been oblivious to. This wasn’t the original unit: they now have a woman (not Justine Frischmann) serving as the second guitarist, and her aggressive, noisy playing is just what this band needs to keep the old songs sounding fresh.

The set they played last night spanned the group’s entire career, from the barely ninety-second 106 Beats That, from Pink Flag, to a long, pummeling, danceable number that hung on the same chord for about four minutes as the overtones from the guitars built a seemingly impenetrable wall. A lot of Wire’s songs make great dance music, but, predictably, the surprisingly small crowd scattered around the stage didn’t move a muscle. Although, as one concertgoer remarked, it was a totally 90s crowd in all the best ways, a refreshingly diverse mix of gay and straight, old and young, with hardly a $300 bedhead haircut to be seen anywhere.

“You haven’t taken the opportunity to see the Eagles,” Newman noted (apparently the El Lay schlockmeisters were in town: who knew?). Some things never change: Wire’s subtly biting, percussively optimistic tunes remain just as much of an antidote to top 40 as they were three decades ago.

“I’m going to get epilepsy up here,” said bassist Graham Lewis, imploring the light person to be a little less creative. Otherwise, they didn’t say much, hitting the audience with one song after another, flailing away through several of their signature, sudden, cold endings. The last of their encores was a song they’d played at that first CBGB show, inbued with all the energy and intensity that one could hope for from a band from that era.

The next stop of the evening was Crash Mansion, that tourist trap on lower Bowery where El Jezel were playing the release show for their new cd The Warm Frequency. Word on the street is that it’s excellent, the album that Portishead should have made this year but didn’t. Sadly, it didn’t take long to figure out that the bands were running way, way behind schedule. Surrounded by the entire cast of the O.C. (or what looked like it, anyway) and with plenty of booze at home, the choice was clear. But you should see El Jezel sometime – they play around town at least once a month.

May 31, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Erase Errata at McCarren Pool, Brooklyn NY 7/8/07

Further proof that the audience for rock music is New York City has scattered: Erase Errata were totally kicking ass, the show was free, but the old swimming pool basin was about a third full. There was a small crowd of a couple hundred people gathered close to the stage, where the band was actually audible (away from the stage, it’s a predictably muddy ooze of low frequencies), but those scattered around the perimeter seemed more interested in sunning themselves. Then again, if money is no object, and you have the option of seeing the band at an airconditioned club for, say, $60…well, in the immortal words of Cyndi Lauper, money changes everything.

Sad, because Erase Errata’s searing set, clocking in at barely 45 minutes, was all too brief. Particularly impressive considering this was a scorching hot afternoon. Erase Errata are a very high-energy band, most of the material they played today was very fast, and the trio was obviously getting a hell of a workout. Bianca the drummer played a lot of impressively long, intense, marvelously precise 16th-note runs; bassist Ellie kept in perfect sync with the drums, stealing a drumstick and using it for a slide at one point (though this was barely audible). Guitarist Jenny somehow makes her furious up-and-down strumming and tremolo picking look effortless. When she wasn’t slamming out screechy, trebly chords, she threw out some tasty flamenco-inflected lines, as well as a lot of deliriously evil firestorms of overtones and wild noise. For the most part, she delivered her vocals spoken-word style rather than singing, and most of what she was talking about was lost in the mix, but what she was doing came across as comfortably conversational rather than contrived.

In the few moments she wasn’t wailing, she played den mom to the audience: “Are you all hydrated? Wearing your sunscreen?” A lot of this band’s songs are supremely danceable, but nobody moved a muscle. Then again, this is Williamsburg, Roger Waters’ Trial in full effect: “Showing feelings of an almost human nature? This will not do! Call the schoolmaster!!!!!”

July 8, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments