27 June 2007

Review: Free To Be...

Summer means free music and I got my feet wet with a little bit of that love last week.


Prospect Park Bandshell, Brooklyn 21 June 2007

Thursday night was my first visit to my favorite spot to see music in the city: Prospect Park Bandshell. I'll save the poetic waxing for another time, but I will say that there is something about crazy-ass deluges and my visits to Prospect Park. A few years back it was standing in an absolute soaking rain while Stephen Malkmus (& the Jicks) blew me away; last year I didn't even make it to the park before the rain made its case... it stopped in time for an utterly transcendent night of movies and Bill Frisell. So, when I made my way to Park Slope on Thursday with rain falling and deep, grey clouds overhead, forgive me if I didn't expect another musical miracle.

The miracle came. Short lived, but it came. The clouds seem to dissipate just as we found a spot a few blocks from 9th St and we (me & the kiddles) got there in time for the bulk of Ollabelle's set. I've sung their praises before and this one was a perfect sunbeam bouncer once again. Oren Bloedow (last seen trying to fill Chris Wood's shoes) was sitting in on guitar and brought a little more of that bite to the music. It was a bit mellow at times, but seeing as I barely even noticed it must mean I am a true Ollabelle fan. It was a perfect setting for them the sun peaking out and Brooklyn at its best.

After a short break consumed mostly by a quick dash to the ice cream cart and an ominous announcement over the PA that another "squall" was coming through, Richard Thompson took the stage. Like the author's names that pepper the reeking-of-the-intelligensia New Yorker Magazine, Richard Thompson is proof that I'm not as smart as I think I am... or at least that I know very little about music. The point being that I know very little about Thompson. Nor would I get a chance to find too much out Thursday night. The skies opened up... innocently at first and then -- "WE'RE OUTTA HERE!"

Oh well, I'll be back.


Heckscher Park, Huntington, LI 23 June 2007

Saturday night was a total change of pace. Rocking out in the burbs with Eric Lindell who was playing up the road at Hecksher Park in Huntington, Long Island. Not quite walking distance, but, let's just say, I know the playground there quite well.
Lindell is a New Orleans native and if there's one thing I've learned over the years of seeing music in the city, it's that if a NOLA musician makes it this far north, it's a good bet they're well-worth checking out. I've had the Lindell fan club selling me his bill-of-sale, so I wasn't totally unawares, but I had no idea I would be sucked in that hard. The crowd was mellow suburban, lawn chairs scattered over the lawn made it seem more packed than it probably was, but still a nice healthy crowd and Lindell did his part to sell them on his brand of rock and roll.

It started out as a sort of greasy rhythm and blues with Lindell on vocals and guitar joined by another guitarist, a heady bass & drums rhythm section and a backup singer-slash-harmonica player rounding out the sound. The harp was a nice treat, elevating the standard swing with a little depth in several directions: sometimes taking things a little chromatic and other times just getting seriously bluesy. Around the midpoint, the funk started to manifest itself. I've been increasingly wary of the funk as an end, but as a means, it can be an exhilarating vehicle. Lindell -- and particularly his more-than-solid bassist and drummer -- knows just how much of the Nawlins groove to pepper his rock and roll with. The result was an extremely audience-friendly mix.

I was also way impressed with how Lindell handled the sit-and-listen crowd. The tendency in those kind of spots is to push the audience: "come on and dance, people!" but Eric let the crowd come to him and dictate the energy level. It's not that the crowd wasn't into it -- they most certainly were diggin' the heck out of it -- it's just that they chose to chill out with their citronella candles rather than break a sweat. Still, the "let's party" New Orleans vibe shone through in the music and I'm really looking forward to getting filthy with Lindell & Co in a club setting next time they're coming through town.

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