30 November 2006

minimix: Road Trip

Sorry I've been remiss about keeping the regular schedule, but I'll regain my form shortly.

Filly Friday, enjoy the new tunes.

Download the mix (Mediafire)

[buy 'em if you enjoy 'em!!]

01 Nice Day -- Persephone's Bees: Notes From The Underworld
02 Kennedy -- Ratatat: Classics
03 Apocalyse Circa Now -- Frank Smith: Red On White
04 Children of December -- The Slip: Eisenhower
05 Best Reason To Buy The Sun -- Benevento/Russo Duo: Raw Horse [Import]
06 Off the Record -- My Morning Jacket: Okonokos

Review: Benevento/Mathis/Chamberlain

Tonic, 29 November 2006

Does it always have to be transcendent? Not necessarily, but it helps. Marco Benevento drew his 5-week-month at Tonic to a close last night with Matt Chamberlain and Reid Mathis rounding out an honest-to-goodness band for once. In many ways, the residency had been building to this night and the crowd and energy in the room reflected that sentiment -- it was as if the sum of the audiences from the previous 4 nights arrived for their curtain call, not to mention a few musicians that graced the stage.

That was my first impression of the night: the most "all star" band in the room might have consisted of people in the crowd which was peppered with some of my favorites: Metzger, Carlock, Scheinman, Dreiwitz and more. The presence of Keith Carlock was particularly tough to take because I felt for large stretched of the night, particularly in the first set that the drumming was subpar, and this in turn ruined a lot of wonderful playing by both Marco and Reid for me. Is it sacrilege to say so? Well, that's just the way I saw it. This was true from the get-go when the night started with some formless improv; Chamberlain just did not sound or even look comfortable in this setting and from here on out stuck out to me like a Hasid at a strip club. As far as my ears were concerned, he was never in anticipation of where the music wanted to go and thus was often a step behind, reacting, not acting. This fizzled any hopes of organic chemistry on the stage and left a lot of the first set limp. Although it did seem to get better as it went on and, not wanting to gripe too much, the piano and bass playing was really spectacular on its own merits, although I couldn't call it "tight." The enthusiasm and joy and just flat-out physical movements that radiate from guys like Benevento and Mathis are hard to ignore and tough not to be sucked in by.

Marco played about 2/3 on the piano and the rest on the only other keyboard he had, one of those ultra-funky throwback keyboards that ellicited the perfect sounds at just the right moments. The first set featured a couple covers including another Radiohead song (which was, frankly, lifeless... and no, I believe I know no Radiohead song titles) and a few "new" Benevento originals which were, surprise, quite, quite good. Mathis played his usual deep, dirty bass with plenty of effects and distortion, but almost always the right amount. At times he is closer to a guitar player than the gatekeeper of the low end and this suited this night just fine. My only complaint with his performance was that it wasn't high enough in the mix -- turn that shit up!! Frankly, I would have loved to have seen these two play just a Duo, with a drum machine if need be, in lieu of that first set. Speaking of guitar, late in the first set and multiple times in the second, Marco went "electric" with the piano, feeding it through some wonderful distortion, an effect that really made some of the songs. Never heard a distortion-laden grand piano like that and it was a pretty thrilling sound -- just the kind of thing you'd expect to flow from the mind of Marco.

While the first set was C+ and probably the worst of the 4 I saw, the second set was a whole 'nother story, quite easily the best of the run, no arguments. I wouldn't say the drumming all of the sudden approached the sublime, but the band certainly tightened and loosened up simultaneously over the break and came out with some nasty stuff. Lots of covers in there once again with a lot of repeats from the solo set two weeks ago. In a lot of ways that solo show, while brilliant in its own right, was like a warm-up for last night's show. The Leonard Cohen song from that night was gorgeous as a solo multi-layered piece; last night it may have been the best thing I've heard all year: goosebumps, chills, teardrops. "Fearless" opened the solo show to great effect but midway through the second set last night was a Pink-in-the-center-all-beef patty, with Reid garnishing with some deliciously Floyd-esque licks. "Goldfinger" (or whatever Bond tune that is) was poignant and solid but last night was a powerful anthem, a hold-up-your-lighter-and-sway build to climax. There was a whole lot more, originals, jams, etc. and the crowd seemed to grow to a really healthy size as the night wore on, which is as it should be. Late in the set a violin player hopped on stage and joined in quite nicely, although I, being the selfish and cranky bastard that I am, would have preferred it if it were Jenny.

Tonic is one of those schizophrenic clubs the city serves up so well. Is it an intimate, plush jazz room or an exposed brick rock hall? Is it a place to sit down and close your eyes letting the otherworldly music take you "there" or is it a place to stand up, shake yer ass and go boozehound on a Wednesday night? Is it an old-school LES dump or something more upscale in the shadow of newfangled, bluefangled condominiums, Williamsburg West? Marco Benevento fit right into this aesthetic and grabbed it by the scrotum. Last night was the perfect example, the perfect showcase. Beautiful jazz butted heads with funky dance, pop and roll with bug-eyed free-form.

The resideNYC(TM) is a beautiful thing, the home-cured pastrami of live music. Sadly, Marco's has come to a close, just when I think I'm ready for another 5 nights. Who's got next?

27 November 2006

Ramblings: The second degree

Excuse me while I ramble...

When you're driving to our place in South Huntington from the highway, you get off at the exit for route 110; the sign at the exit reads "Amityville|Huntington." I.e. when I'm going home, the inverse of my trip is that to Amityville. We're opposite sides of the spectrum. The strange thing about it is that "amity" means "peaceful relations, as between nations; friendship" and yet the town is best known for this. After last week, Amityville will now mean Terrell Gray shot Danielle Baker in what is probably just a drop in the bucket of senseless death in this universe and yet the one which I feel most closely bound to.

This was the case in which I served on the jury for in one of the more interesting and intense experiences I've had in my short adult life. The whole thing was so incredibly cinematic: the wildest reality show; a pedestrian episode of CSI: Suffolk County; courtroom drama. It was a drama born out of tension between class, race, generation and culture; where groups of people are easily bagged and tagged but individuals must be considered one at a time. Layers of persona unfolded over the course of the week and it was the small details that made some of the most memorable bits.

The gist of this case was that an 18-year-old "man" fired a gun through a window into a dark, crowded room, killing an innocent 14-year-old girl. It was the ultimate in random worlds colliding. The man was 20+ minutes from his own town of Ronkonkoma, a good 3 or 4 years too old for the kids at that party, guzzling Hennessey out of a coffee cup instead of Sierra Mist from a can, 9mm in his pocket. The girl was quintessential innocent victim -- smart, involved, well-liked, too good to ever, ever, ever be in a situation where random gunfire should find her neck, splitting her jugular on the way out her shoulder. Unfortunately for Mr Gray, despite his best efforts to run, to cover up the crime, going so far as to burn his clothing in a metal drum on the side of his house and to implore his no-less-shady friends not to be "snitches" the house where he committed this crime happened to be outfitted with surveillance cameras which caught the whole thing on videotape. Indeed, the case seemed over before it began as his defense was simply that he was too drunk for his actions to be described as "depraved" (necessary for the charge of Murder 2 to stick) and that manslaughter was the correct diagnosis. The fact of the matter was, there was no testimony to the effect that he was intoxicated. Sure, he was drinking, probably smoking weed as well, but there was little doubt, especially with the video evidence on hand, that he acted with a depraved indifference toward human life. He shot back into the crowded room from which he had just came. In fact, there were voices shouting at him through the window: "fuck the Browns" "you pussy" -- there was little doubt he was shooting at those voices.

Just who the fuck the Browns are is anyone's guess. Apparently some gang loosely related to the Bloods and the dudes and/or dudettes doing the shouting were affiliated or friendly with the Deuces who may or may not be loosely affiliated with the Crips. Like, WTF? Bloods vs. Crips. Layers. The trial never got around to fully exploring that space. There were 3 or 4 distinct clusters of witnesses who seemed loosely intertwined at best. We got intimately detailed glimpses of the law enforcement -- the officers, the detectives, the crime scene investigators, the medical examiner, the expert trace analysis guy, DNA testing, the video expert, and of course the Assistant District Attorneys plodding through each witness, putting all the pieces together.... Basically, they all served to describe the obvious since nothing was really in contention. Terrell Gray shot a bullet through that window. He killed a little girl. He ran. But, it was all in the details, always the beautiful details. This is the stuff that makes Law and Order a can't miss, CSI, CourtTV, etc. etc. etc. It was all there in real life and utterly fascinating.

The most interesting aspect were the witnesses at the party. A motley mix of 14, 15 and 16 year olds. Some obviously on the wrong side of moral clarity and perhaps the right side of the illicit drug economy. Each had their own perspective on the evening and their stories fit together like some ill-conceived jigsaw puzzle, contradicting each other while daintily pirouetting around any mention of gangs and/or gang members. The testimony was like Long Island's own Rashomon (never seen it? classic... Netflix that shit immediately) with the basic shell of the story intact from person to person, but those details!! At one point a witness came up that was quite obviously the twin brother of a previous witness... both convicted felons and both placing a distinct piece of the puzzle in its place. Tarantinoesque. You couldn't make this shit up!

In the end, all that really mattered was that there was no way this guy was drunk enough to get off. Of course, drunkenness is no excuse, but the NYState law permits the jury to consider it with regards to "depraved indifference." The best example would be drunk driving -- drinking will not get you off the manslaughter charge, the jury can't consider intoxication for a charge of recklessness -- rarely will a drunk driver be charged for murder because the law allows intoxication to be considered for "depraved indifference."

The final piece of this whole puzzle was us (were we?) the jury. Just as it was with each individual witness, each person needs to be considered on their own merits -- one at a time. If you threw twelve random people, they'd probably have little in common, but in the end each would probably be found to be decent, even kind, reasonable, even intelligent -- someone you could appreciate, if not grow fond of. We 16 folk (12 + 4 alternates) went one step further -- we hit it off wonderfully, joking around non-stop, delving into each other's personalities and personal lives. It wasn't like 4 groups of 4 either, it was nearly across the board, mix any subset and we had no trouble, nothing but amity. That probably explains why it took us less than 3 hours to come to the verdict... really the only verdict possible... despite not discussing the case one lick during the proceedings (as instructed by the judge ad infinitum). It was a group you wanted to go out and have a beer with and that's just what we did when it was all said and done.

Details, details, details... there were so many more, the types that make cinema more than characters and plot. Perhaps the most bizarre is that the defense attorney was Amy Fisher's attorney which means, amongst other things, that he's in the IMDB and here, too. This finally puts my degrees of separation from the Buttafuoco clan well under the requisite 6 degrees, not to mention Drew Barrymore.

26 November 2006

Shows of the Week


Click for upcoming shows

*Nada Surf @ Hiro Ballroom
Stephen Ulrich/Jeremiah Lockwood @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
Jason Collett @ Bowery Ballroom
Dark Star Orchestra @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
Johnny Winter @ BB King's
Oz Noy Trio @ Bitter End
Beat The Devil @ Knitting Factory

Burnt Sugar @ Zebulon (Brooklyn)
The Who @ Harbor Yard Arena (Bridgeport, CT)
Redman, Keith Murray, Raekwon @ BB King's
Citizen Cope @ Nokia Theater
*Jenny Scheinman w/ A. Levy, D. Weiselman, G. Cohen @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
Sean Smith Quartet @ Cornelia St. Cafe

*Marco Benevento w/ Matt Chamberlin & Reid Mathis @ Tonic (early/late)
Adam Deitch Project @ Club Midway
Pat Martino @ Birdland (early/late)
Ches Smith @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (early)
Citizen Cope @ Nokia Theater
The Bravery @ Webster Hall
Curtis Hasselbring @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (late)
Mike Clark Trio @ Lucille's
The Pretenders @ Starland Ballroom (Sayreville, NJ)
Joy Askew et al @ Living Room

My Morning Jacket (The Slip opens) @ Roseland Ballroom
Jet @ Starland Ballroom (Sayreville, NJ)
*Rashanim (CD release) @ Zebulon (Brooklyn) (early)
Pat Martino @ Birdland (early/late)
Aaron Comess @ Nightingales
Wayne Krantz @ 55 Bar (late/midnight)
Skerik, Chamberlin, Saft @ Knitting Factory (late)
The Head Set et al @ Mercury Lounge
Pharoah Sanders @ Iridium (early/late)
Talat (CD release) @ Zebulon (Brooklyn) (late)
Katy Pfaffl, Kieran McGee et al @ Living Room

Umphrey's McGee @ Nokia Theater
Victor Wooten @ Irving Plaza
Tenacious D @ Madison Square Garden
Dinosaur Jr. @ Rebel
Baya Kouyate @ Zebulon (Brooklyn)
Frank & Joe Show (Fareed Haque) @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
Cyndi Lauper et al @ Town Hall
Pharoah Sanders @ Iridium (early/late)
*Damnwells, Frank Smith, Julian Velard @ Northsix (Brooklyn)
Conspirator @ BB King's (midnight)
G. C. Weston, B. Martin, J. Tacuma, A. Coleman @ Tonic
Meowskers @ Pete's Candy Store
Doyle Bramhall @ Knitting Factory (late)
Steaks & Chops @ Cutting Room
Erik Friedlander Duo et al @ Union Hall (Brooklyn)
John Fogerty @ Beacon Theater
Page France @ Mercury Lounge
Pat Martino @ Birdland (early/late)
The Stills @ Bowery Ballroom

Nomo @ Zebulon (Brooklyn)
*Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog @ Tonic (early/late)
Dinosaur Jr. @ Rebel
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts @ Irving Plaza
Pat Martino @ Birdland (early/late)
McCoy Tyner @ NJPAC (Newark)
Blind Boys of Alabama @ BB King's
The Stills @ Bowery Ballroom
African String Music @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (early)
Goo Goo Dolls @ Hammerstein Ballroom
Pharoah Sanders @ Iridium (early/late)
David Krakauer w/ Fred Wesley @ Carnegie Hall
Umphrey's McGee @ Nokia Theater
+/- @ Knitting Factory (late)
Akoya Afrobeat et al @ Union Hall (Brooklyn)
Page France et al @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)
John Brown's Body @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
Brooklyn Qawwali Party @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (late)
Frank & Joe Show (Fareed Haque) @ Blue Note (late night)
Klezmatics @ Town Hall

Goo Goo Dolls @ Hammerstein Ballroom
Chicago Afrobeat Project @ SOB's
Pharoah Sanders @ Iridium (early/late)
Stephane Wrembel @ Barbes (Brooklyn)

21 November 2006

minimix: Do the Turkey Trot

Jury duty is over. I'll do a full rundown of the experience next week...

Special holiday version of the mix on a Wednesday for you with some old and some new. We'll get back into the normal scheme of things and I'll be sure to get some fresh meat in there for ya, but for your long weekend here's something that's bulging with "undo the button on your pants" goodness. Wait the extra minute for the extra tunes, enjoy the cheer and have a good weekend, folks.

Download the mix

(sorry, no links)

01 Driving Song -- Widespread Panic: 2006/09/16 II New York, NY
02 Family -- John Zorn: Filmworks XVIII: The Treatment
03 Thanksgiving Waves -- Eef Barzelay: Bitter Honey
04 Wild Turkey -- David Crosby et al (PERRO): 1970 Studio Outtakes
05 Thank You -- Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin II
06 Big Eater -- The Bad Plus: These Are The Vistas
07 (Do The) Mashed Potatoes, Pt. 1 -- James Brown: Star Time
08 I'm Thankful (Part 2) -- Spanky Wilson & The Quantic Soul Orchestra: I'm Thankful
09 Thank You For Sending Me An Angel -- Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense
10 Driving Song -- Widespread Panic: 2006/09/16 II New York, NY

19 November 2006

Shows of the Week

Get yer gobble on!


Click here for upcoming shows


Ben Folds (Corn Mo opens) @ Beacon Theater
*Bob Dylan @ City Center
Regina Spektor @ Warsaw (Brooklyn)
Ollabelle @ Banjo Jim's
My Brightest Diamond @ Northsix (Brooklyn)
Van Davis @ Mo Pitkin's

Brian Wilson (Pet Sounds) @ Beacon Theater
Matisyahu @ Canal Room (benefit)
Bill Ware & Kazu @ Tonic (late)
*Ollabelle @ Banjo Jim's
Fire of Space (CD release) @ Zebulon (Brooklyn)
Joe Lovano Nonet @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Sia @ Bowery Ballroom
Jenny Scheinman @ Barbes (Brooklyn)

*Wolfmother (Silversun Pickups open) @ Hammerstein Ballroom
Marco Benevento w/ Russo, Previte, Dillon @ Tonic (early/late)
G Love & Special Sauce (Marc Broussard opens) @ Nokia Theater
The Hold Steady @ Warsaw (Brooklyn)
Stephane Wrembel @ Joe's Pub
New York Dolls et al @ Irving Plaza
Joe Lovano Nonet @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Brian Wilson (Pet Sounds) @ Beacon Theater
Adam Deitch @ Club Midway
Pere Ubu @ Knitting Factory

Day of the Gobbler:
**Turkey (w/ C. Sauce, M. Potatoes et al) (F-Ball opens) @ Club Glutton

Disco Biscuits @ Hammerstein Ballroom
Peaches @ Irving Plaza
The Hold Steady @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)
Lotus @ Rebel (late night)
The Musical Box @ Tribeca Perf. Arts Center
*Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood @ Bowery Ballroom
Rakim @ BB King's
Joe Lovano Nonet @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
The Brakes, Licorice @ Tap Bar (late)
Raq @ Club Exit (Brooklyn)
John Ellis & Friends @ Blue Note (late night)
Dark Star Orchestra @ Nokia Theater
Peaches @ Irving Plaza

*Hot Tuna (Railroad Earth opens) @ Beacon Theater
Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood @ Bowery Ballroom
Disco Biscuits @ Hammerstein Ballroom
Joe Lovano Nonet @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Dark Star Orchestra @ Nokia Theater
The Musical Box @ Tribeca Perf. Arts Center
Blue Fringe w/ Julian Velard @ Makor
Rakim @ BB King's
Howard Fishman @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
Aaron Comess et al @ Rockwood Music Hall
Irvin Mayfield Quintet @ Newark Museum (Newark, NJ)
The Breakfast @ Knitting Factory
Arlo Guthrie @ Carnegie Hall
Moonlighters @ Mo Pitkin's
John Ellis & Friends @ Blue Note (late night)

*Joe Lovano Nonet @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Jerry Joseph @ Banjo Jim's
Dark Star Orchestra @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
Stephane Wrembel @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
Amayo's Fu-Arkist-Ra @ Zebulon (Brooklyn)

Click here for upcoming shows

16 November 2006

minimix: Has you covered.

Cover songs this week (although I suppose track #1 might not technically be a cover)

Enjoy the tunes. Enjoy the weekend.

Download the mix (Mediafire)

01 On Your Way Down -- Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint: The River In Reverse
02 Stella Blue -- Willie Nelson & the Cardinals: Songbird
03 I Want You -- Widespread Panic: Live -- Las Vegas 30 October 2006
04 Volunteered Slavery -- Derek Trucks Band: Songlines
05 Come As You Are -- The Mammals: Departure
06 When The Levee Breaks -- Stanton Moore: III

Links: Freakers

Two links today, both highlighting a couple of the "People To Read" roll here.

First is the Trans-Americas Journey. Eric and Karen and their beloved Silverado, pictured above, are two mondo music freaks like you and me, but they're doing the ultimate reset, dropping out and traveling coast-to-coast old-school road-trip style for like three years or something obscene like that. The site is a treasure chest of Eric's amazing photography and Karen's witty anecdotes. Check in on them every once in a while and see what comfort food they've found in bizarre places like Idaho and outposts in that 51st state up North and scratch your head over their unhealthy relationship with their vehicle. Highly recommended for all ages... start at the beginning and work your way across the continents. What wacky adventures will those crazy kids get into next?

Second, a renewed shout out for Hidden Track the newish live-ish music blog over at Glide Magazine. Ace & Co. are starting to hit their stride and the site is becoming a pit stop must on your daily travels through this interweb. Tis the goods all around.

Review: Marco Benevento solo

(I'll add links and probably some photos shortly, thanks for your patience)

Marco!... Polo!... Marco!...Solo!

About a month and a half ago when Marco told me about his November Tonic residency and mentioned the solo date I asked him if he would just be playing piano or if he'd have some of his other keyboards with him. He kind of hesitated and seemed to honestly not know what he was going to do. "Probably just the piano, but maybe I'll have another rig up there." Somewhere between that night and last night, the decision must have been made with a ne'er-say-die "Fuck it!!" because, in what must have been a Herculean effort to set-up, the entire stage was jam-packed with at least a half-a-dozen different keyed instruments, with the containers they all came in cluttered against the wall it looked like a museum installation. Benevento seemed to be some singularity in the universe Wednesday night, bending space and time such that one man filled the space of a dozen and barely an hour of music seemed to satisfy for much much longer.

The set was comprised pretty much entirely of covers, or 100% of covers if you include Duo songs as covers. The set started off with a very nice cover of Pink Floyd's "Fearless" with Marco using an overly distorted electric piano to simulate the raunchy slide guitar of the original and then dancing his fingers back and forth between that and the grand piano center stage. It was clear from the get-go that the only things limiting him would be his lack of third and fourth limbs and whatever limits our technological advances man, as a race have yet to overcome. Samples, drum machines, bent toy circuits, etc. were all used to varying effect with the best moments coming when Marco was able to cycle and loop his own playing and then layer and layer to generate a nice large, textured, soulful sound.

The set was populated by obvious favorites from the Benevento playlist, hitting Radiohead, Leonard Cohen and Thelonious Monk (a highlight Bye-Ya that was the most straightforward of the evening -- straight up 10-fingered piano jazz). There was genuine emotion in the playing and that great loose vibe in the room that a quarter-filled Tonic can afford. Somewhere in there, I believe there was a semi-acoustic rendition of the Benevento/Russo hit "Welcome Red" which seriously lacked for Russo's absence, but was fun nonetheless.

Midway through the set Scott Metzger hopped on stage with his axe and an amp that seemed little more than a cardboard box with a mouse running on a wheel inside. The sound provided, though, was a perfect, raw, raunchy howl that meshed with Marco perfectly. They played a nice, carnivalesque Combustible Edison tune and then perhaps the best moment which was a Duo "cover" -- Abduction Pose. Here Marco bounded back and forth from the left side of the stage to the right, piling sounds upon sounds with Scotty scratching away at his guitar. The result was nothing short of spectacular intensity that probably lasted 3 minutes but easily felt like 15. A cover of Ween's "Birthday Boy" was a nice touch with Marco asking for a somewhat bizarre rendition of Happy Birthday to be sung in the middle by the audience... we did oblige. I'm sure the complete setlist will surface shortly since I'm sure I'm missing a few more.

Here's hoping I can make the next and final two shows... no doubt they'll be as special as the first couple.

14 November 2006

Civic doodie

Ahoy there citizens! A new frontier in Nedland as I started jury duty last week and was chosen for a trial that started yesterday. Should actually be an interesting case and while I can't talk about it at this point, I'll post a full murderously awesome "review" once the verdict is handed down.

They say it's going to take 2.5 weeks, but everything seems to move slow by a factor of 3 or 4, so this could take a while. I'll try to keep up with semi-normal posting, but if I lapse, it doesn't mean this blog has gone into the closet with the tango class, Boy Scouts uniform and pan flute lessons. At the very least, you'll definitely be getting a batch of sweet new tunes on Friday.

And while I'm posting and owe you a photo, we went up on a massive Super Happy Fun-Time Family Jaunt through New England over this past long weekend, all culminating in a rainy-but-climactic visit with Thomas The Tank Engine in Essex, CT and we got to meet Thomas hisself. Anyone with a son between 2 and 10 years old can appreciate the magnitude of the event. They can also appreciate the phrase "license to print money." Tally-ho Thomas!

13 November 2006

Shows of the Week


Upcoming Shows

*Bob Dylan (The Raconteurs open) @ Nassau Colesium (Uniondale, LI)
Panic! At the Disco @ Theater at MSG
Gary Lucas Gods & Monsters @ Knitting Factory
Joanna Newsom @ Webster Hall (early/late)
Modest Mouse @ Nokia Theater
Tricky @ Irving Plaza
Butch Morris Orchestra @ Nublu

*Silversun Pickups, Oh No! Oh My! et al @ Northsix (Brooklyn)
Modest Mouse @ Webster Hall
Panic! At the Disco @ Theater at MSG
Shawn Colvin (Brandi Carlisle opens) @ Town Hall
New Found Glory @ Irving Plaza
Guillermo Brown @ The Stone (late)
Chick Corea Leprechaun Band @ Blue Note (early/late)
Vusi Mahlasela et al @ BB King's
Chris Barron et al @ Bitter End
Los Lonely Boys (Ozomatli opens) @ Nokia Theater
+44 @ Bowery Ballroom

*Marco Benevento solo @ Tonic (early/late)
Modest Mouse @ Webster Hall
Hidden Cameras @ Bowery Ballroom
Heartless Bastards, Catfish Haven, Tim Fite @ Mercury Lounge
Rev. Horton Heat @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
Benzos et al @ Rebel
Andrew Bird solo et al @ Good Shepherd-Faith Church
Chick Corea Leprechaun Band @ Blue Note (early/late)
Himalayas @ Zebulon (Brooklyn)
Scrapomatic @ Joe's Pub (late)
Shemekia Copeland, Honeytribe @ BB King's
Adam Deitch Project @ Club Midway

Papa Grows Funk (Jamie McLean Band opens) @ Lion's Den
Bob Dylan (The Raconteurs open) @ Continental Arena (E. Rutherford, NJ)
Xavier Rudd @ Webster Hall
Twilight Singers @ Warsaw (Brooklyn)
Amy Millan, Eric Bachmann @ Bowery Ballroom
Belle Orchestre, Christina Courtin @ Merkin Concert Hall
Matt Munisteri @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
Wayne Krantz @ 55 Bar (late/midnight)
Coalition of the Willing @ Knitting Factory
The Mountain Goats @ Irving Plaza
Chick Corea Leprechaun Band @ Blue Note (early/late)
*Damien Rice @ Hiro Ballroom
Tim Reynolds @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
Cheap Trick @ Beacon Theater

Tin Hat Trio @ Symphony Space
Kid Koala @ Northsix (Brooklyn)
Centro-Matic @ Mercury Lounge
Chick Corea Leprechaun Band @ Blue Note (early/late)
Ben Folds @ Warsaw (Brooklyn)
Modest Mouse @ Bowery Ballroom
Robyn Hitchcock @ Hiro Ballroom
Robert Randolph @ Roseland Ballroom
Maybe Monday @ The Stone (early/late)
The Moonlighters et al @ Rockwood Music Hall
*The Heartless Bastards, Catfish Haven @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)
Blood Orange @ 55 Bar
OK Go @ Starland Ballroom (Sayreville, NJ)
Robert Earl Keen @ Irving Plaza
+44 @ Webster Hall
Meowskers @ Pete's Candy Store

*Bill Frisell's Unspeakable Orchestra @ 92nd St Y
Ani Difranco @ Beacon Theater
Modest Mouse @ Bowery Ballroom
Centro-Matic @ Mercury Lounge
Rashied Ali Quintet @ Tonic (early/late)
Doc Watson & Friends @ Town Hall
OK Go @ Irving Plaza
Maybe Monday @ The Stone (early/late)
Robyn Hitchcock @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)
Chick Corea Leprechaun Band @ Blue Note (early/late)
New Riders of the Purple Sage, Hackensack Boys @ Society for Ethical Culture
Paul Ruderman Band @ Canal Room
Edwin McCain Band @ BB King's
David Kolker @ Bitter End

Chick Corea Leprechaun Band @ Blue Note (early/late)
David Grisman @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
Ben Folds @ Hammerstein Ballroom
Robyn Hitchcock @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)
Jason Crosby & Friends @ Ace of Clubs
Stephane Wrembel @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
*Jenny Scheinman Orchestra @ Tonic (early/late)
Leon Russel @ BB King's
Maybe Monday @ The Stone (early/late)

Upcoming Shows

09 November 2006

minimix: Hey! Have you heard... ?

More new music for you, hopefully some stuff you haven't heard or heard of. If you've got some mix-worthy tracks that may or may not be on my radar, feel free to send 'em along. Just got my hands on this new Rashanim and I must say, I'm as excited about these guys as I am about anyone these days. This track is both representative and also doesn't do 'em justice all at once. The rest is pretty OK as well...

Enjoy! Hopefully you've got a nice long weekend like I do:

(click the album name for Amazon... if you dig 'em, buy 'em)

Download the mix (Mediafire)

01 Big 'Uns Get The Ball Rolling -- Stanton Moore: III
02 Conventional Wisdom -- Built To Spill: You In Reverse
03 Pink & Sour -- Califone: [Roots & Crowns]
04 Sukie In The Graveyard -- Belle And Sebastian: The Life Pursuit
05 Message To Tomorrow -- Spanky Wilson & The Quantic Soul Orchestra: I'm Thankful
06 Atbash -- Rashanim: Shalosh

08 November 2006

Links: God is A Scientist

A couple loosely connected links for you today.

First of all, I have been on a wrapping-things-in-bacon kick, check out the Big Squeeze gettin' her char-grilled, bacon-cheeseburger on-an-e-muff on so the idea that bacon could solve many of the world's ills rings very true with me. Check it out:

Peace Through Pork

And what would a links post be without some YouTube action. This was one of the funniest things I've seen on the ole teevee in a long time.

Finally, this rather breathtaking image comes from NASA's planetary photojournal and you can follow that link to a whole slew of rather breathtaking images of the universe around us... and decide for yourself the existence of God (and whether he wants you eating bacon or not)

Review: The Decemberists

Hammerstein Ballroom, 3 November 2006

(photos pilfered from Alex Wolinetz & Tammy Lo)

WOW! Where did all those people come from. Seems like only yesterday that I got a "you'd really dig the Decemberists" vibe from a couple trustworthy tastemakers and hit 'em up blind at the Mercury Lounge. That show was crowded, certainly not sold out; I was sold on 'em about a song into the set and easily made my way to the stage to get a better gander at who was making me smile like that. To say that the music I heard that night filled a niche would be an understatement, more like crammed into a nook, stashed in a cave -- it didn't come to you, you had to brave the stalagmites to find the "it" that made the Decemberists so appealing.

Almost exactly three years and a couple near-perfect full-length releases later I found myself struggling to find a ticket for their CMJ-week show at Hammerstein Ballroom (yes, two trips to one of the worst rooms in the city in one week, masochistic, I know). They'd made it, crossed the threshold of niche in every direction, blew up the cave and hit the mainstream. Friday night made it clear why.

The set started promptly at 9pm with "Crane Wife 3" just like their brand spankin' new album of same name does. Colin Meloy, the spearhead of the operation, the brain trust, good boy/bad boy of the band, ensured that all attention was focused on him from note one. He was playing a lute-like thing (bouzouki?) but he acted like he was playing Eddie Van Halen's red and white striped guitar as he preened in front of the audience, walking right up to the lip of the stage and leaning out into the crowd like a hair-band sex god. It was a strange sight, but perfectly encapsulated Meloy's stage presence -- heavy metal lute.

"Crane Wife" is a brilliant tune, as most of the tracks on the album are, and most of them were played Friday night. In fact, the next song followed the track listings as they launched into the "The Island," an absolute raging suite, one of two "major" tunes from the album. Here is where you started to see how this band has stretched its big crane wings made themselves much more than that appealing-but-limited literatipop. The Island is a masterpiece of tone shifts, of big sounds -- it's old, fat, prog rock of the best type. Deep into the tune, Jenny Conlee rips into an organ solo that would make Keith Emerson jealous -- "The Island" is, no doubt, a song ELP wished they had written.

Even as good as the music was, it seemed lacking at first. Part of this was that Meloy's vocals were a bit shaky and he dropped a few verses here and there. Meloy's voice is the type that probably shouldn't be appealing -- he reminds me of the nasally Dave Foley -- but he somehow pulls it off. Part of that shakiness was probably due to the fact that he was honestly overwhelmed by the crowd. He even referenced the old Mercury Lounge gigs and made a couple comments like "Hammerstein Ballroom!" although he said it like there should be a "fucking" in the middle there and picture an absolutely flabbergasted look on the guy's face. It didn't take too long for him to settle in, though, and the set got stronger and stronger.

So did the crowd. I tell you, I haven't been that impressed with an audience in a while and Meloy played them like a master craftsman. He took band/audience interaction to wonderful places, somehow making general participation tedium a lot of fun. The normal indie pop crowd is too hip for sing-a-longs and impromptu dance contests, but Colin had no trouble getting these hipsters to shed their irony and isolation and just have fun. Part of this might have been an infusion of out-of-towners for CMJ, but still, NYU doesn't hold the patent on disaffected youth. And it was amazing how into it the crowd was, this wasn't a "hey, it's Friday night, let's go check out the Decemberists" bunch; it was more like a "we know every song to the entire catalog and can sing along to 'Red Right Ankle'" kind.

The Decemberists aren't the kind of band that stretch things out, that improvise or jam. If you told me that they played the same exact set every night down to the intersong banter, I wouldn't be surprised. Even so, they are a fantastic live band, although the reasons why are tough to put your finger on. Part of it is Meloy's presence. I honestly believe he may be the making of a David Byrne-type... this thought came to me during that, coincidentally Talking-Head-ish "Perfect Crime" when he started flailing about and writhing on the floor while playing sharp-angled guitar chords.

Of course, this is not "the Colin Meloy Band" and the band is equally impressive. I would put the collective in the pretty-good-at-lots-of-things circle and not the bloody-brilliant-at-one-thing camp. It's cliche as all hell, but there is a lot of instrument changing for pretty much everyone on stage. Yeah, everyone does it, but I am a sucker for it anyway and the Decemberists are as deft as anyone at finding just the right combination of instruments for each song, or even each part of a song. So at one moment, there's a a glockenspiel, an accordion, an upright bass and a sweetly-plucked acoustic guitar urging a beautiful melody from the stage and the next it's back to a more traditional rock and rolling with electric guitars, bass and organ. At one point a rock band quite literally transformed into a string quartet behind Meloy's vocals and guitar. Violins, banjos, pedal steel, cello, Moog all have their place in the Decemberists canon and each arrangement breathes life into what could easily be just a set of clever poetry and stories by a third-rate English major. But the important thing is that it's not. Watching the Decemberists onstage, the whole experience, is undoubtedly art of the most enjoyable kind.

I don't have a complete setlist, but, like I said, they played nearly everything off "The Crane Wife" -- Yankee Bayonet was probably the weakest of the bunch, not translating too well to the stage; O Valencia! was fantastic high-energy stuff; Shankill Butchers was where Meloy's vocals really tightened up, a quiet, sparse string-heavy, absolutely gorgeous rendition, the Crane Wife 1 & 2 suite was perfectly played, with multiple mid-song instrument changes that couldn't have been any more smooth. In addition, there was one track that didn't make the album -- "The Cutting of the Boy" which Colin said might have been "too violent" for the masses. Personally, I just thought the song was cutting-room-floor-worthy, but Meloy brought a whole slew of stomping 'cross the stage energy to it. I think it was during this song that he added some more of his brilliant interactive wit, mocking the masses of cell-phone-cameras poking in the air
mid-exposure by grabbing someone's phone and singing into it and holding it up as if photographing the crowd.

A nice number of songs from the other albums rounded out the 2 hours of white tower goodness including We Both Go Down Together, Song for Myla Goldberg, and 16 Military Wives which may be the best Iraq-era anti-war screed on the market today. He prefaced this with a little "everyone go vote on Tuesday" type rap saying it didn't matter who you voted for, etc but of course, this was said with a wink as he said "this is a song about what happens when you don't vote!" Good stuff.

Here's a nice video of the sing-along during Military Wives:

The last tune of the encore was "I Was Meant for the Stage" which is the kind of song that starts with voice and guitar and kind of builds and builds, each instrument adding a little weight each go-around until it finally sort of explodes in complete cacophony. Here everyone kind of continued to make noise as they sort of sprawled out on the stage, Meloy finally rising to basically run over the drum kit. For that moment, the Decemberists were the Who, but the night proved that they can be whoever they want to be and do it well. I just want to know what room they'll be playing in next time they come through town.

If you're still reading, quick note about the opener: Alasdair Roberts. Hailing from Glasgow, this guy sang with the thickest brogue you could imagine. It was him on acoustic guitar/vocals and a traditional 2-man rhythm section of Chicagoans behind him. Roberts had a real gawkiness to him, long thin limbs stretching from quite possibly the widest, squarest shoulders I have ever seen on a man that slight. The appearance fit the music. The songs were like Scotch-folk-infused singer/songwriter pop. Very slow-moving, quiet stuff that I would love to see in a cozy room like The Living Room. He had trouble holding the attention of the crowd despite some really nice songs -- the kind of verse-by-verse-by-verse storytelling that just as easily fit in between battels in "Braveheart" as it would in a pub in Glasgow. One tune in particular, introduced as a "drinking song," had a wonderfully incongruous pair of rhythms between the drums and guitar. Roberts was deft as could be finger-picking his guitar, elliciting melody and rhythm out of his guitar with what seemed like no motion at all. Definitely recommended if he's playing in a coffee
house near you.

07 November 2006

Photos + Review: Guttman|Steve Earle et al

Tonic|Southpaw, 1 November 2006

Last week was the CMJ festival so there was a glut of music around town and I was lucky enough to get out of the house for some bonus live show action. So here's a quickie review to go with some nice photos courtesy once again of Mr Aiello...

Mid-week midnight sets are tough, but I couldn't let the opportunity to catch my main men Marco and Mike do their thing as Benevento opened up a 5-week residency at Tonic (no way I'm missing opening night!). My personal name for the nu-duo was "Ben-Gordon" which makes me chuckle on many levels, despite my UCONN hatred, but they called themselves "Guttman," although they seemed to pronounce it Gut Man, I think it's probably supposed to be like a Germanic Goot-mahn, i.e. Goodman [comma] Benny, the King of Swing. The entire, short set was music written by Benny Goodman. You probably think you don't know any BG tunes, but if you were at this show you would quickly realize that you know plenty of them.

With a Benevento/Mike Gordon hit, the expectation would be for a uber-improv late night mind-party, but as Mike said he'd only play if they could do a Benny Goodman set, there were some interested constraints on the music. They did not stretch or improvise or even really explore the music. And yet, it still had a wonderfully loose late-night feel from top to bottom. The constraints really opened up an interesting level in playing from both Marco and Gordo. On top of this, the music was obviously in-its-original-packaging new for both of them, despite any limited rehearsal they had done.

Marco sat in a jacketless tuxedo get-up at the grand piano, while Mike somehow managed to clash 3 different shades of black in one outfit, including a tie that his mother may or may not have helped him affix to his neck. Gordon's bass was a departure from his normal 6-string Modulus -- it was a funky, artsy-fartsy, curvy V-shaped, neckless thing which nestled nicely on his knee as he sat and played. The sound from the bass was a softer, jazzier ooze than the normal plunky funk you're used to getting from him.

The set was smoething along the lines of this: Bugle Call, You Be So Nice, Temptation Rag
Moonglow, Breakfast Feud, Exactly Like You, Sing Sing Sing, Don't Be That Way, Rachel's Dream, Elmer's Tune, Bye Bye; and like I said, you'd probably recognize a whole lot of it. This is especially true of Sing Sing Sing which is probably featured in about 150 different movie scenes, mostly involving some sort of swing dance number, although off-hand I can't think of an example. During Sing, the guys worked on some audience participation, having the crowd carry the rumbling rhythm with hand claps and foot stomps. Brad Barr (of the Slip) hopped up on stage and beefed up the sound by playing the beat on a drum that was on the stage.

The mood in the room was wonderfully loose. Both Mike & Marco were pretty comfortable with some back-and-forth between themselves and the audience. Despite the marquee names, it was a big week of music crammed directly between Halloween and a mammoth CMJ weekend, so it was a healthy sized crowd for a midnight set, but barely a half-full Tonic, which is already a nice, cozy room. Those who made it out, though, were treated to something really special. The only way to describe the set would be "professional" -- these guys were a bit out of their element, but they pretty much nailed the correct tone, attitude and energy of the Goodman tunes they were playing. This is even more amazing considering they were taking a big band genre with a lead clarinet and transcribing the music while preserving its spirit for a piano and bass. As someone said, just listening to the music made them feel classy. Both guys took multiple solos and then meshed back together in each tune quite wonderfully. Along the way they really opened up some interesting complexities within each composition. The only down part of the night was that there was some "college music"-type bass bleeding up through the floor. My guess is that this is why they ended up playing for just under an hour, but it was a nice tether to reality. Without it, we might have floated back to another time, anachronisms in the Lower East Side.

This is likely a one time thing, but who knows how it might open up the musical mindset of these guys... especially Marco who's in a real prolific space right now, weaving long-spun 1st rate improv nightly on the road with Joe Russo as well as churning out A+ compositions at a yearly rate.

The Tonic residency continues this week, and we'll expect more of the normal head-scratch/booty-shake delicacies as Benevento is joined by an interesting slate of local cats: Steve Bernstein, Claude Coleman & Dave Dreiwitz. If I make it, you'll be hearing about it.

Not being able to hit a midnight set cold, I hit a warmup other-end-of-the-spectrum show at Southpaw in Brooklyn. I don't get there often enough, but every time I do I remember that it's flat out one of the best rooms in the 5 boroughs. The show was headlined by Steve Earle and being that the last time I saw him with his band it was at the Beacon, seeing him for $20 in a perfect-sized room in Brooklyn was too tough to pass up. Although it doesn't seem the type, this was a CMJ show and there were small peculiarities that made it so. 4 different artists on the bill, a sold out show even though the room wasn't half-full, a young lady repping Magic Hat Brewery, floating around giving out free beer and t-shirts, etc.

We walked in when the first artist was on stage: Tim Easton. He played an affable solo guitar-and-self-penned-songs kind of set. The real highlight of the bill was the second artist: Laura Cantrell. All the acts had a sort of alt-country/folkie/Americana slant to them, but Cantrell definitely fit the part the best and was the most impressive. She was backed by a mandolin player and a guitar player while she played guitar and sang. I would easily put her a lucky break or two away from the level of a Neko Case or Jenny Lewis. Her trio-mates were fantastic pickers and she integrated them perfectly with her own beautiful voice and songs. Keep an eye out for her, highly recommended. Next up was Allison Moorer who brought us back to solo-country. She had the best voice of the night, just a haunting, deep instrument in its own right.

Knowing I wanted to hit that Tonic set, I was getting antsy waiting for Steve Earle and finally realized I wouldn't be able to stay for his whole set. He came on after 11 and launched nicely into anecdotes about Bob Dylan and this-and-that while building up a song around it. He was solo-with-guitar, which I've never seen from him before. With Steve Earle, you never know if you're going to get straight-ahead folk-country-rock star playing music Steve Earle or the rant-and-rave about the government and the man Steve Earle. It was dangerously close to Election Day, but for the 45 minutes I was there, he stuck on the preferred script and was pretty much a delight. When he's on, Earle is really as good as anyone. I never get that excited about him until he's right there in front of me, intoxicating with a legend's personality and skill.

Apparently, after I left Mr Hyde kicked Dr Jeckyll off the stage. My friend reports that the weird energy of CMJ and the long, 3-opener, beer-filled wait for his taking the stage created an unfriendly mix when Steve started into his political schtick. When he took the stage he offered that it was his first time playing in Brooklyn, and from the heckling and none-too-friendly back and forth my buddy described, it doesn't sound like he'll be back anytime soon. Too bad, the 5th Ave crowd is perfectly suited for his music if he only knew to play to them properly.

05 November 2006

Shows of the Week

No picks this week... recommend your own.


Upcoming shows

Voxtrot @ Bowery Ballroom
The Album Leaf @ Northsix
Crooked Still @ Joe's Pub
Barenaked Ladies @ Radio City Music Hall
Ramblin' Jack Elliot & Peter Rowan @ BB King's

Pretty Girls Make Graves @ Northsix
Todd Sickafoose w/ J. Scheinman, S. Burgon et al @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (early)
Voxtrot @ Bowery Ballroom
The Duhks @ Joe's Pub
Chick Corea Elektric Band @ Blue Note (early/late)

The Black Crowes @ Starland Ballroom (Sayreville, NJ)
Death Cab For Cutie, Ted Leo @ Theater at MSG
Jon Spencer, Cody&Luther Dickinson @ Bowery Ballroom
Ryan Montbleau Band @ Knitting Factory
Lionel Richie @ Beacon Theater
Gob Iron (w/ Jay Farrar) @ Northsix (Brooklyn)
Chick Corea Elektric Band @ Blue Note (early/late)
Marco Benevento w/ S. Bernstein, D. Dreiwitz, C. Coleman @ Tonic (early/late)
Phil Lesh, Rob Baracco, John Scofield @ SOB's
Adam Deitch Project @ Club Midway

Dylan benefit w/ P. Smith, P. Lesh, Cat Power, Gov't Mule et al @Avery
Fisher Hall
Jason Moran @ Symphony Space
Califone @ Joe's Pub
Death Cab For Cutie, Ted Leo @ Theater at MSG
Primus @ Roseland Ballroom
Wayne Krantz @ 55 Bar (late/midnight)
Heavenly Jams Band w/ Jon Madof et al @ Lion's Den
Lucky Oceans @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (early)
Chick Corea Elektric Band @ Blue Note (early/late)
Musical Box @ Westbury Theater (Westbury, LI)
James Taylor @ Beacon Theater
Ziggy Marley @ Irving Plaza
Bottle Rockets @ Mercury Lounge
Julian Velard @ Rockwood Music Hall
David Bowie, Alicia Keys et al @ Hammerstein Ballroom (benefit)
Si*Se @ SOB's

James Taylor @ Beacon Theater
Chick Corea Elektric Band @ Blue Note (early/late)
Cut Chemist, Lyrics Born @ Webster Hall
Bruce Hornsby solo @ Society for Ethical Culture
Particle @ Knitting Factory (late)
Si*Se @ SOB's
Califone @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)
Tim Reynolds @ Canal Room
FREE Cut Chemist @ Apple Store
Winterpills et al @ Living Room
Guns N Roses @ Madison Square Garden
Scritti Politti @ Bowery Ballroom
Meowskers @ Pete's Candy Store
Musical Box @ Westbury Theater (Westbury, LI)
Slightly Stoopid @ Roseland Ballroom

Veteran's Day:
Michael Franti & Spearhead @ Webster Hall
Method Man @ Nokia Theater
Reverend Horton Heat @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)
...and You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead et al @ Irving Plaza
Ratdog @ NJPAC (Newark)
Mountain @ BB King's
Chick Corea Elektric Band @ Blue Note (early/late)
Particle, The Bridge @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
Stephane Wrembel @ Joe's Pub
Burnt Sugar @ Joe's Pub (midnight)
Mouse On Mars @ Bowery Ballroom
Aaron Comess et al @ Rockwood Music Hall
New Riders of the Purple Sage @ Society for Ethical Culture
Zilla @ BB King's (midnight)

Chick Corea Elektric Band @ Blue Note (early/late)
...and You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead et al @ Irving Plaza
Imogen Heap @ Webster Hall
Frank London, Gary Lucas et al @ Tonic (late)
Reverend Horton Heat @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)
Stephane Wrembel @ Barbes (Brooklyn)

Upcoming shows

02 November 2006

minimix: More new music

A random mix of two thousand six for your Friday. I think the Budos and Dansettes are officially '05, but I don't think you'll mind... and just in time: both Decemberists & Dansettes are on tap in NYC this weekend...

Download the mix. (MediaFire -- trying a new download site, let me know what you think)

01 Broken Boy Soldier -- The Raconteurs: Broken Boy Soldiers
02 This Ol' Cowboy -- BuzzUniverse: Birdfishtree
03 Oh My! -- The Dansettes: Oh My!
04 Cellphone's Dead -- Beck: The Information
05 Budos Theme -- The Budos Band: Budos Band
06 The Crane Wife 3 -- The Decemberists: The Crane Wife


Links: Let's Go Orange! (+ bonus FUNKYouTube)

Last night was marked the official start of the college basketball season for my beloved Syracuse Orange as they opened their short preseason schedule. I love the NFL, dig hard on baseball (read: Mets), college football and the NBA, but college hoops is where it's at for me and being a native Syracusan, it's all about the Orange. Let this post serve as a warning that I might delve deep into SU minutiae from here up until whatever painful exit they inflict on us faithful in March.

Some links:

  • Pictured above is Paul Harris (hard to fathom that kid was in high school 6 months ago) who is the new wunderkind freshman for the team. We'll see if he lives up to the "next Carmelo" expectations, but here's a taste of the hype. Boeheim seems to indicate he's a one-and-done, but we'll see.
  • Who knows if this shit means anything, but here's a neat slideshow of a little hardcore hoops boot camp.
  • Who can deny that Jimmy Boeheim is the man? Here's a Q&A from USAToday.
  • Basic optimistic preview from rivals.com.
  • And while things are looking good for this year, perhaps the best thing to be excited about is that the future is bright: SU incoming recruiting class for next year is currently ranked #1
Feel free to discuss the upcoming hoops season below [snicker, snicker]. They'll be more, you've been warned.

And for those of you who couldn't care less but are looking to boogie, apropos of nothing except me and my girl just got down to this... funkucational!

01 November 2006

Review: Medeski, Martin and Wood|Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

(photo pilfered from Colin Ashe)

Hammerstein Ballroom, 31 October 2006

While the nearly-packed crowd on the floor was decked out in 100 types of slutty-somethingorrathers, the Hammerstein Ballroom itself wore a costume of its own. I think it was called "The Fifty Faces of FUNKY" and, courtesy of Sharon Jones, The Dap Kings, Medeski, Martin and Wood and guests Halloween night was one filthy, butt-shaking affair. In fact, my hips are downright sore from what turned out to be a 3+ hour marathon of tricks and treats.

The Dap Kings came on just after 7:30 decked out in what I believe were Mexican wrestler outfits, masks completely covering their faces. The grooves commenced immediately as the audience started to fill up the floor. We had a nice vantage point from the front of the first mezz, but the sound was a bit to be desired at the start. There is nothing secret about what these guys do; the only important thing is that they do it well and that they do. They've got the R&B revue thing down to a tee and by the time Sharon Jones hit the stage they had the joint well-lubricated. Sharon's fireplug of a frame was decked in a Wonder Woman get-up that accentuated what little legs she's got and she was on it from the get-go. Heck, the formula is a tried and true one and with SJ in the role of JB, the ensemble of guitars, horns and rhythm took an hour warm up set and turned it into a calisthenic work out. There was a nice mix of their standard material mixed with what was formally announced as "new" songs. Sharon started with "How Can I Let A Good Man Down" and then invited a guy on stage to boogie with and serenade. She kept remarking how young the kid looked and was just a master of stage presence as she quickly flipped the band off that song to "Go Easy." It just built and built from there and the set seemed perfectly timed with the growth of the crowd, playing the energy just right, each song upping the intensity just a bit.

The Dap Kings are fascinating to watch. They are one of the only bands that has three distinct leaders to it -- not in the sense of a trio like MMW each being a leader, but each person has a distinct role. Before Jones comes out, Binky Griptite, the lead guitar player acts as the emcee, working the crowd and the band, introducing band members and setting up the grand entrance of the grand dame of groove. Obviously when Sharon is on stage, she is the central focus, telling the band when to hit it and when to quit it, working mid-song soliloquies like no other and bounding from one end of the stage to another with microphone in hand like she could go on for hours and hours without pause. But the real leader is probably Bosco Mann on the bass who, sometimes overtly, sometimes more subtly directs all the action. Of course, he also plays one mean-ass bass guitar, some truly primitive funk; basslines and songs that he largely concocted himself. All this underlying interplay purely for some unavoidable dance music. If these guys don't get you up and dancing, I question your humanity.

Around 9:15-9:20, Medeski, Martin and Wood took the stage with some guests in tow: David Tronzo (someone I was previously unfamiliar with, but was described by Billy Martin as an old friend) on guitar, the legendary Airto Moreira on percussion and Flora Purim on vocals. The opening segment was as loose as the stage would get -- a good 10 minutes of pure improvisation between everyone on stage. Meandering, obtuse interplay between the sextet, unrealized potential grooves, occasionally annoying caterwauling from Purim and a whole lot of fun. The previous set still in my muscle memory, there appeared to be grooves and danceable beats where there probably were none, but it was enjoyable in a spectacle kind of way. We weren't quite close enough to discern costumes, but Medeski seemed to be some sort of red-caped ghoul of some sort, Chris Wood had on a red wig and Billy Martin was like a mad scientist with a big curly white wig and white coat... well he's always a bit of a mad scientist, but he also served as a human projection screen, with a projector shooting straight at his coat with shapes and numerals and other random digitized bits.

After this foray into the unknown, Purim left the stage and it was time to get down to the business at hand. That business being a complete exploration of what funky is. This show was so damn funk-filled, I'm going to make sure this review is equally "funk"-filled. The first tune out of the gate is the now-standard MMW cover of "What'd I Say." I've somehow managed to see these guys twice previously already this calendar year and this would be my third version of this song. This was the straight grand piano boogie woogie funk that took off with Medeski's left and right hands midway through and just went. From there we got all sorts of flavor of the funk: the undeniable funk of the organ groove trio; faux-electronica funky dancehall; deep, dark Davis-era funk fusion; the funk of the slow, sexy, slinky "Anyone Love My Jesus;" the Chris Wood + four-string Fender = as funky as you can imagine funk; the porno psycheldelic space funk of Medeski's otherworldly toys; the utterly funky kinetics of the multiple percussive breakdowns of Billy & Airto cluttered through the set; the ethereal funk of the slide guitar layered on a pulsing groove machine; the pure MMW-brand funky flavor of the adrenaline rush "Think" and just about every other possible way of being funky that you can think of. I mean, they played over two hours and there wasn't one pause, one "sit down and rest" moment... save for the opening "number" there wasn't any experiment or noise it was 100% dance-til-you-drop and the crowd just ate it up.

The guests filled in admirably. The band seemed to entrust them completely to know when to step up, when to fill in and when to lay back and they were totally up for the task. Tronzo's playing wasn't the type of guitar sit-in that has you agog with the guy's shredding. Rather he just blended himself into the mix, sure a heady solo here or there, but mostly he just added guitar where he felt it needed to be added and he was usually right. Ditto on Moreira who seemed totally locked into the grooves from the start, plying his wares from the bongos to the timbales to the random knick-knacks that always seemed to be just the right sound for the occasion. Near the end of the set, when you thought maybe things were winding to an end, Sharon Jones, staying strong still in her Wonder Woman get-up bounded back on stage and lead the band just as smoothly as she had lead her own. The first number with her was some standard-sounding rhythm and blues of course with plenty of MMW-level embellishment. The second tune, though, was a cover of "Sunshine of Your Love" which was, pardon the cliche, quite sick! Sharon hit the vocals quite perfectly, somehow funking this up while maintaining the bad-ass power trio rock and roll spirit of the tune. The band flexed its muscles here, and like they do with so many Hendrix covers, they totally contextualized the rock and roll and, quite frankly, nailed it.

Amazingly, there was still something left in the tank for an encore and it was a steady continuation of the set that took us nearly up to that midnight hour... in the end they played a good 2.5 hours straight (save a short break for the encore) and nearly the entire time had the funkmeter pinned at 10. Hard to believe that this was the same band who awed the suburban music heads with a pitch-perfect hour of sit-down acoustic jazz at the IMAC in Huntington in April and then wowed the wine-and-cheese set at the Planting Fields Arboretum on a gorgeous summer night. I last saw an MMW Halloween show back in 2000 at the Beacon and had such a great time that night, I'm not sure why it took so long to get back. Now, I'm already looking forward to next Halloween.

Program note: Billy Martin announced two Thanksgiving weekend shows at the Bowery with John Scofield in the mix.

Bonus Review: Benevento/Russo Duo

(images courtesy of Greg Aiello)

Bowery Ballroom: 27 October 2006

Not sure if it's genetics or environment, but sometimes you're just programmed that way and that's that. Something comes at you and you either dig it or you don't and not much is going to change that. And so it is for me with this, that and the other and that's how it is for me and the Duo. Are they the greatest thing since fire met cow flesh? In reality, probably not, actually... but as far as my personal DNA is concerned the answer is GATTACA... er, "yes."

I'm not sure that I've seen ever Benevento/Russo offering at the Bowery Ballroom, but pretty darn close. It's all been an evolution, from the first gigs nearly exactly five years ago in the depths of the Knit, to Friday night on Delancey. Very few seismic shifts and very many small ones, a new toy here, a new mind-sticky hook there, and voila! Here is the Duo update ver. 10.27.06 available for download and processing.

The opener was Todd Hamilton's American Babies. Hamilton is a big chunk of the Brothers Past sound, so I went in with a certain expectation, but as you might have guessed, I couldn't have been more wrong. First off, there were some nice recognizable faces in the band -- why look! it's Joe Russo on the drums. Good start. And Kevin Kendrick, someone I've most recently dug putting the groove behind Metzgerville, on the vibraphone. Then there were a couple ladies with acoustic guitars slung over their shoulders and microphones and music stands at attention in front of them and standing front and center an enthusiastic presence on the bass. Hamilton stood off to the side, alternating between acoustic and electric slide guitars. The music was a country/rock hybrid at about 75/25 of each part. The songs were solid, the sound was damn good, twinkling acoustic guitars in heavy layers, a smooth, fat bass underneath, precision, understated drumming from SirJoe and the wild card of Kendricks. It really was the vibraphone that made the music delicious, the thing that clicked one of those chromosomes in my inner iPod and released the warm "note: you like this" memo to my hormones. I recommend.

The Duo took their time coming to bat as any proper headliner knows to do. Amazingly, the stage at the Bowery Ballroom can barely contain this band any more -- the space taken up by 6 in the American Babies was just barely adequate for the two. That would be an apt metaphor for the music itself, as the Bowery in its entirety was barely enough to contain the sounds -- the music, the noise, the electronics whirrs and beeps, the electric audience reaction -- Joe and Marco created. The genes were working overtime processing layers and layers of straight, unadulterated Duo. Sometimes you see a drummer do things your brain can't quite comprehend and you call that dude "superhuman." Joe Russo's playing is as airtight as it gets, but it is all too very, very *human* from limb to limb. The language flows organically between the two and Marco seemed to be in pretty deep trance for much of the night.

Song lists are really a small part of the Duo experience. Yeah, here's what they played and the order they played it in, but Friday it was more of the how and why and that takes too much to get into. Songs seem to occur organically from the whims of the pair and from gig to gig, month to month, take on different forms and really a mind of their own. The energy level in the room seemed to be completely dependent on Joe & Marco's desires, they lifted and let down at will and there wasn't much we could do about it.

I find these two sets of compositions to be not a jam or jazz subgenre, but their own subset of electro-orchestral art pop -- more a descendant of Radiohead than even the more overtly copping wannabes are. "Something for Rockets" was a piece of pure pop perfection, with Joe Russo nimbly cascading triumphant samples while massaging impossible beats out of his "analog" drum kit. Still, they can get you moving, with the I'm-still-not-sick-of-it "Becky" continuing the grow and explore new musical space every time out and the newer "Play Pause Stop" getting a whole slew of guests on stage to bring a vocal wailing section to full effect. Most of the music was from their past two (fantastic, I might add) albums and yet, it doesn't look to the past and the near past -- the music they played at the Bowery was 100% forward looking, already anticipating the next few moves in the Duo's addictive arc. The lone interloper was a "Three Question Marks" which isn't quite the infant of the newer material, but still just a toddler in the scheme of things. The midsection of this one was a complete diversion from the normal proceedings, where the two disassociated altogether and fell into a funky free-form romp for one of those moments that seems to go on forever.

The set was described as short by a couple people on the way out, but I can't imagine it being much longer. As the old "Far Side" cartoon said: 'can I be excused, my brain is full'.

And yet, a month-long Marco Benevento residency at Tonic... better make some room up there and warn the DNA!

Some video of the show.