Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Bobtown at Spikehill, Brooklyn NY 1/10/10

Sunday night at Spikehill is Americana night, with a rotating cast of frequently excellent roots bands from around the New York area. Last Sunday’s show opened with Rescue Bird, who’ve been on our shortlist to see for awhile, but that was not to be. The next band, Bobtown were even better than the few intriguing songs on their myspace indicated. There is no band in town who sound like them. Mixing elements of country gospel, bluegrass and field hollers with an often macabre Nashville gothic tinge and soaring four-part harmonies, they ran through a frequently riveting set of originals along with a plaintive, powerful cover of the old British folk ballad Short Life of Trouble sung with authority by guitarist Karen Dahlstrom.

They opened with three harmony-driven country gospel numbers, one an amusingly herky-jerky original by acoustic bass guitarist (and bass singer) Fred Stesney while lead player Gary Keenan played incisively and tersely as he moved from banjo, to resonator guitar, to mandolin, to what looked like a darkly twangy Turkish cumbus lute. Singer Jen McDearman appears to be the band’s main source of darkness, contributing both a blithe acoustic pop song, Black Dog, its casually menacing lyric making a striking contrast with its peppy tune, as well as the night’s best song, a big, ominous anthem titled We Will Bury You.

Accordionist Katherine Etzel, whose effortlessly high, twangy soprano reminds a lot of a young Dolly Parton, led the group through a series of stark, rhythmic, bluesy originals in the style of nineteenth century slaves’ field hollers. Then they picked up the pace with a rapidfire bluegrass tune, Hell and Gone (with a reference to smoking “all the tea in China”) delivered with a graceful intensity by Dahlstrom, and then reverted to country gospel to close the set. Bobtown have a new album coming out; ostensibly, all of these originals are on it. If they sound anything like how the band played them Sunday night, it should be killer. Watch this space for upcoming live dates.

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January 13, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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: Erin Regan and Mark Sinnis at Spike Hill, Brooklyn NY 8/24/08

Playing solo acoustic, Erin Regan turned in a riveting set of stark, bleak, clear-eyed, tersely imagistic tales of life on the fringes. Suicide, divorce, poverty, alienation and despair figure heavily in her songs, delivered with a calm assurance over fluidly fingerpicked guitar. But she’s less Tom Waits than Barbara Ehrenreich, vividly evoking the desolate stripmall hell that lies beyond the yuppies in the exurbs, that the media pretends doesn’t exist. Her characters drive around aimlessly, contemplate petty crime, casually disrespect each other and seem mostly to have given up completely. But just when it seemed that this was her defining style, she flipped the script with a jaunty ragtime song that wouldn’t be out of place in the Moonlighters catalog, sung with a remarkably jazzy panache. Keep your eye on her: if word of her spreads among the kids she chronicles, she will be very popular. She’s playing Sidewalk on Sept 4 at 11.

 

Mark Sinnis’ long-running band Ninth House has been through several incarnations and is currently going through yet another: an educated guess has them mixing the artsy, Psychedelic Furs-ish, 80s vein they were mining about eight years ago with the guitar-stoked Nashville gothic material they’ve been playing lately. Playing solo, he’s invented his own genre: gothic country lounge. Casually fingerpicking his acoustic guitar and backed by Brunch of the Living Dead’s Sara Landeau playing eerie, reverberating, minimalist Twin Peaks lead guitar, Sinnis held the audience captive with a mix of new material and often drastically reworked versions of Ninth House songs. For a guy, he’s a terrific song stylist (why are women so much better singers than the men these days? Blame it on Nirvana?), especially when he doesn’t have to roar over a loud band. If he liked jazz, he’d be good at it. Among the highlights of the set: the opener, a haunting, Tom Waits-inflected minor-key blues perhaps titled There’s No Heaven, another darkly existential ballad on the same theme that appeared later on and a slowly unwinding version of the Ninth House country-goth ballad Your Past May Come Back to Haunt Me. If Nick Cave is too pricy for you, Sinnis makes a good substitute.

August 25, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment