Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Die Hipster Scum: Simon and the Bar Sinisters Live at Lakeside, NYC 4/12/08

Simon Chardiet surveyed the packed house at Lakeside last night. “I’m always amazed that you come out,” he told the crowd.

“Because you’re good, Simon,” somebody in the back murmured. Understatement of the year. Chardiet and his rhythm section are a New York institution: they’re been playing as Simon and the Bar Sinisters since 1991. Chardiet isn’t just one of the best rock guitarists in town: he’s one of the best rock guitarists in the world. When you hear Simon, you know it could be nobody but Simon. Playing with his signature growly, distorted tone, he alternated between the big, expansive chords he loves so much, fast, precise chicken-scratch staccato solos and some awe-inspiring surf, rockabilly and jazz work. He’s a musician’s musician, the kind of player who, just for kicks, would take the time to score the entirety of The Planets by Holst for bass (true story).

He’s also extremely funny. “Never mind real estate, the oil companies, defense contractors: when it comes to craven greed, nothing matches mine,” Chardiet told the audience. “Somebody told me that I could make money being a guitar player,” he mused sarcastically as a young woman made the first of three trips through the crowd with the tip bucket. Someone had recently asked to be taken off his email list, offended by one of Chardiet’s famous anti-yuppie screeds, and in removing the guy, Chardiet accidentally deleted his entire email fan base. “Don’t sign the mailing list if you can’t handle sarcastic humor. I don’t mean to offend anyone, I just want to tell the truth,” he explained, and there was no sarcasm in that. Although along with his cds, he was also selling “Die Hipster Scum” bumper stickers, a welcome concept, especially in this day and age.

Chardiet may have assimilated every worthwhile retro guitar style ever invented, but ultimately he remains true to his punk roots. As wickedly smart and witty as his music is, his songwriting has all the good fun, fearlessness and in-your-face antagonism that made classic punk rock so great. Tonight it took him awhile to warm up, but once he got rolling he and the band were unstoppable. The surf interlude in the middle of the set was the best part of the show, all original songs, beginning with a surprisingly wistful, nostalgic one possibly titled Mr. Pickle, then a scorching, chromatically fired tune that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Dead Kennedys album. He took a few requests, including the amusing Bad Boy, an expansively jazzy, torchy tune about a lunatic. Later, he dedicated a rockabilly number to Eliot Spitzer: “I can’t believe this guy…I never paid more than $5 to get laid in my life” Then he changed the lyrics at the end of the verse into “I’m leaving town, gonna get me a $5 whore.”

Toward the end of his long set (over an hour and a half), he and the band played one of his best songs, the ruefully sarcastic rockabilly number Wooden Nickel, about meeting someone who doesn’t exactly turn out to be as advertised, using it to address first the women, then the men in the audience, leaving everyone in stitches (Chardiet’s comedic timing is just as spot-on as his playing). The rhythm section was excellent: the drummer is a hard hitter, but he swings like crazy; although he was playing bass guitar, the bassist frequently slapped at it, as if playing an upright bass, to create a boomy, low tone on the rockabilly songs. They’re back at Lakeside on May 10: be aware that since this band is very popular, you need to get here early if you want a seat. Lakeside shows usually start around 11 on weekend nights, but Chardiet would probably play four sets if they let him. Expect the festivities to start around quarter after ten.

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April 13, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Unsteady Surfing 10/6/07

The night began at the Bohemian Hall out in Astoria. This is the big, outdoor, authentically Bavarian-style beer garden that you probably already know about, perhaps because there was a big article about them in this past Sunday’s Times. The beer is pricier than it ought to be, but it’s good. The music was not. A bunch of geezers on the big stage amid the picnic tables wheezed their way through rote covers of Dylan, Tom Petty and Bob Marley songs, the kind of stuff you learn in the first two months of taking guitar lessons. Then they took a break, probably smoked up some more and then came back and played Grateful Dead covers. The crowd got more into the music as the night wore on and the booze kicked in, even though the band was pretty out of it. And the no-see-ums were out in full effect: don’t anyone dare criticize Joba Chamberlain for throwing that wild pitch.

The game plan was to get back to town and head down to the Parkside where Love Camp 7 and Liza and the WonderWheels were playing. Each band played a fantastic set the last time we saw them, and odds are they did as well Saturday night. But the best laid plans, etc., etc., ad infinitum. We ended up at Otto’s where Unsteady Freddie’s monthly surf night was in full swing. This is reliably a good time, sometimes an absolutely transcendent one. Unsteady Freddie is a longtime Dick Dale fan who has done more to promote surf music on the east coast than anyone except NESMA founder and 9th Wave bandleader Mike “Staccato” Rosado. Rosado’s band was unfortunately absent from tonight’s bill, but there were other good ones. The big surprise was the Clams. They’re from Connecticut and have really pulled themselves together recently, with the addition of a new bass player. They did all covers, mostly standards, Out of Limits and Baja and Pipeline and the requisite Misirlou to close the set, but that stuff is not easy to play and they pulled it off. And they had a horn section, two women sax players, one of them being multi-instrumentalist Sandy from 9th Wave, and they were spot-on. Which you pretty much have to be if you’re the Clams’ horn section (that’s a joke: a flat note played on a horn is called a clam). The high point of their set was a surprisingly careening version of Mr. Moto, reminding a bit of the out-of-control version that the Coffin Daggers used to do. A lot of people think surf music is cheesy, including some of the people who play it, but not these guys. Surf music at its best is as haunting and gorgeous as it is danceable. Tonight the Clams grew legs, pulled themselves out of the muck and had the crowd hollering for more when they left the stage.

The Twangtones were next. This trio appears to be a pickup band with NY rockabilly/surf legend Simon Chardiet (of Simon & the Bar Sinisters) on bass and a guy who looks like Gaylord Perry (the way Perry looks now….which I guess is the way he’s pretty much always looked) playing guitar. Chardiet played with his eyes closed, lost in the music, the way he always does. He’s a virtuoso. He swings, he has impeccable touch and unimpeachable taste. Other bass players should watch him closely. The guitarist clearly knows his stuff as well. Like the Clams, they played Ventures covers and other classics, impressing with their ability to avoid replicating the previous band’s set. It would have been nice if I could have stuck around for the night’s final act instead of being pressed into emergency crisis mediation duty just when the night was starting to take off.

October 11, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments