27 February 2007

Review: Capsule 2007 CD's Vol. 1

Didn't catch any live shows in the past week... I think it's the 1st week of '07 where this has been the case. Never fear, I'll be out and about multiple times in the next couple days and will be sure to report back with the usual nonsense.

In the meantime, some quickie reviews of the last few new 2007 CD's I've purchased -- yes, I still buy real live plastic CD's, crappy jewel cases and all, old habits die hard. Although a few of these have some wonderful packaging that makes it all the more worthwhile.

Click on links for Amazon pages and expect some of these to make appearances in the minimixes in weeks to come... actually hit 3 last week for your downloading enjoyment.

[Note: these are my initial impressions, not full-blown reviews, and Ned-O-Matic grades are based on a 5 being an average album in my collection with the caveat that I am an informed buyer these days, so everything I buy I'm probably going to like. Happy to review others if you want to send me free music!]

Of Montreal -- Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer
I've downloaded an Of Montreal track here and there and always enjoyed the hell out of 'em, but I went crazy and bought the whole shebang and am really happy I did. Expansive, psychedelic doo-wop at times deep and introspective and others swinging and, well, funky. A lot of reviews will dwell on the personal edge to the lyrics, but I've listened to this a half dozen or so times and have enjoyed it immensely without making a single pass at what the songs were about. Some of the more creative CD packaging in my music collection, you don't get the full effect via iTunes, I assure you. Ned-O-Matic: 7

Menomena -- Friend and Foe
I got a bunch of these in one batch and threw 'em straight into the living room CD changer. Three of them - this one, Of Montreal and The Earlies - kind of ran together as one blur of that big psychedelic pop sound. I dig them all, but this one continues to stand out head and shoulders above the rest as a truly excellent album. Brings to mind the best of the critically acclaimed Super Furry Animals' Rings Around the Sun and TV On the Radio's Return to Cookie Mountain and yet carves out wonderfully new sounds in between those. Can't get enough of this one, highly recommended. Ned-O-Matic: 9

The Earlies -- Enemy Chorus
Of the three that I'm kinda lumping together, this one is definitely the most ambitious: symphonic, electronic... big. This is the kind of album that seems to take a different form depending on the venue: background noise while making dinner, dance music when playing with the kids and seriously deep mind-expanding experience when it's just you and the headphones. This thing is growing on me with each listen and I'm sure there's plenty left in there to discover. Ned-O-Matic: 7.5


Clap Your Hands Say Yeah -- Some Loud Thunder
Sophmore albums are pretty tough. CYHSY's 1st one came pretty close to living up to the praise and this one is a pretty admirable follow-up, which would lead you to believe that these guys are for real. They don't quite stick to formula and they don't quite change it up radically, so maybe they're playing it safe. The sound has definitely evolved, pushing that Talking Heads-at-CBGB's punk derivative both forward and backward and time, bringing in their own elements and some damn good songwriting. Still they channel David Byrne in the best possible ways on swingers like "Satan Said Dance." Ned-O-Matic: 6

Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter -- Like, Love, Lust & The Open Halls of the Soul
Your enjoyment of Sykes' music will certainly be directly correlated to your enjoyment of her voice. She's got a whiskey-stained growl that's been compared (favorably) to Widespread Panic's John Bell. I think it's more of an evolved Janis Joplin, but regardless, the music's pretty damn good... most of the time. When she tries to slow it down too much, her voice just doesn't get pretty enough to carry it. Her band totally rocks, though, so she has that much more in common with Janis. This music sits in that reliving the 70's vibe, channeling that bridge between sweet candy pop and churning dirty rock and roll. Ned-O-Matic: 5.5

Mike Dillon's Go-Go Jungle -- Battery Milk
Don't know about Mike Dillon? Get involved! His latest band is a vibraphone-driven mind-and-body fuck. Funky grooves, wild percussional interludes and great subject matter. The title to "Your Mother Was My Teacher" was actually blurted out by a woman to Dillon mid-coitus and "Bad Man" is about good ole GWB with some well-placed samples augmenting the mood. Dark and twisted in reality and much of the same in his music (just look at that album cover). Ned-O-Matic: 6

Tin Hat -- The Sad Machinery of Spring
Tin Hat is like mutated chamber music that has lost its way in the East European woods of jazz, pop and folk. With such a colorful palate to draw from, this album plays like it's in black and white: melancholy, moody, everything shadows and shading. While I think their previous efforts as a trio are a little better (Book of Silk is a masterpiece album that should be in your collection), it's all just degrees of wonderful. Tin Hat is listening music at its finest. Ned-O-Matic: 7


Guess you can't go wrong with any of these -- just be thankful I limited myself to a couple sentences. I'll hit you again in a month or so with the next batch of good 'uns and you be sure to return the favor with any recommendations or CD's to avoid for that matter.

26 February 2007

Photos: Deep fried Orange... and bacon

Before I get into the meat of today's post, I'd like you to know that we're all about the OTW reader here.... er I'm all about the reader here, so if you say "make it happen!" I make it happen. That being said, I did my 1st draft on the deep fried bacon, photographic proof of such tasty deathliness, or is that deathly tastiness?

The shit was damn tasty, although I'm quite certain it'll be tastier next time. I need to use thicker/better bacon next time. I just threw what I had in the fridge in there which was Oscar Meyer brand. The package claimed "America's Favorite Bacon" which is kind of like claiming that in 2004 George Bush was "America's favorite presidential candidate" -- needless to say it was almost deep fried fat, which isn't saying that's a bad thing. But we can do better... and will!

Onto the game...

Just watched the biggest Cuse game of the year as the Orange absolutely crushed the consensus top team in the Big East and a legit top ten team, so I had to steal some photos off the AP wire and sell them off as my own blog post. It being Georgetown made it that much sweeter, but really what decade was this game played in??

Two technical fouls plus a player named Patrick Ewing (Jr.) all made for some weird Remember the 80's action. In fact, there were at least three players who were sons of former 80's stars: Jeremiah Rivers (son of young coaching phenom Doc Rivers, soon to be late of the Boston Celtics), Ewing (nearly identical to his father except he's lacking his pop's extraordinary abilities to sweat... and play basketball... I kid, I kid, he's actually pretty good) both on Georgetown and Andy Rautins from Syracuse, son of former Orangeman, and present Canadian renaissance man Leo Rautins.

In my pre-Ned days of old I spent many a winter night in the Carrier Dome booing the hell out of John Thompson and watching some sublime in-the-prime Big East action, so tonight was especially sick ass.

Bring on March!

25 February 2007

Shows of the Week

This week we welcome March, which is like the Rocktober of late winter. Lots of great music this week... and even more on the horizon. Let me know what I'm missing.

Enjoy!

Click here for upcoming shows

Monday:
*Fiona McBain's Starlite Review @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (late)
The Bird & The Bee @ Joe's Pub
Sigur Ros, Lou Reed, Patti Smith et al @ Carnegie Hall (benefit)
Nils Lofgren @ BB King's

Tuesday:
*The Slip @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)
Marilyn Crispell w/ M. Helias, P. Motian @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
American Babies @ Living Room
Sam Champion, David Vandervelde et al @ Piano's

Wednesday:
John Mayer @ Madison Square Garden
Sparklehorse, Jesse Sykes @ Webster Hall
Bill McHenry-Ethan Iverson Quartet @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
*Apollo Sunshine @ The Annex
Doug Wamble, w/ S. Bernstein, B. Perowsky, B. Allison @ Tonic (early)
Tim Fite et al @ Union Hall (Brooklyn)
Alexa Ray Joel @ Mercury Lounge
Binky Griptite @ Lucky Cat (Brooklyn)
Marilyn Crispell w/ M. Helias, P. Motian @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Scrapomatic @ Sidewalk Cafe
Addison Groove Project @ Mercury Lounge

Thursday:
Mofro @ Irving Plaza
El Perro Del Mar @ Bowery Ballroom
*Zorn, Ribot, MMW et al @ Town Hall (benefit)
Marilyn Crispell w/ M. Helias, P. Motian @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Apollo Sunshine @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)
The Bird and the Bee @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)
George Garzone @ The Cutting Room (late
E. Simon, J. Pattitucci, B. Blade @ Iridium (early/late)
Hanson @ Starland Ballroom (Sayreville, NJ)
Eddie Money @ BB King's

Friday:
Keller Williams @ Nokia Theater
Oteil & The Peacemakers, Backyard Tire Fire @ Lion's Den
Bright Eyes @ Bowery Ballroom
Olu Dara @ BB King's (early)
*The Bird & The Bee et al @ Mercury Lounge
Winterpills et al @ Living Room
E. Simon, J. Pattitucci, B. Blade @ Iridium (early/late)
The Radiators @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)
Marilyn Crispell w/ M. Helias, P. Motian @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Maurice Brown Soul'd U Out @ Blue Note (late night)
David Kolker @ Bitter End

Saturday:
Bright Eyes @ Bowery Ballroom
Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad @ Galapagos (Brooklyn)
Scissor Sisters @ Theater at MSG
E. Simon, J. Pattitucci, B. Blade @ Iridium (early/late)
*Circus Mind @ Chesterfields (Huntington, LI)
Guillermo Brown's Cut Up Quintet @ The Stone (late)
BuzzUniverse @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
John Ellis Band @ Tonic (early)
The Radiators @ IMAC (Huntington, LI)
Laurie Berkner @ Town Hall
Marilyn Crispell w/ M. Helias, P. Motian @ Village Vanguard (early/late)

Sunday:
E. Simon, J. Pattitucci, B. Blade @ Iridium (early/late)
Marilyn Crispell w/ M. Helias, P. Motian @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
*Rashanim et al (Purim Party) @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)

Click here for upcoming shows

23 February 2007

minimix: Old & New Vol. 1

I'll pick up on the F.Art series here and there in the coming months (if you'd like to nominate a musician or band, please do, I welcome all suggestions) as well as try to continue some of the other "series" I've left dangling.

In addition, I'd like to throw in some new tunes throughout the year instead of back loading in the fall. Here are 3 new tracks with 3 pretty old ones. A pretty dreamy near-psychedelic mix for your Friday:

Enjoy!

Download the mix


01 GoGo's Theme -- Mike Dillon's Go-Go Jungle: Battery Milk
02 Wet And Rusting -- Menomena: Friend And Foe
03 East -- Pat Martino: East!
04 I Am Waiting -- The Rolling Stones: Aftermath
05 California -- John Mayall: The Turning Point
06 Foundation And Earth -- The Earlies: The Enemy Chorus

21 February 2007

Links: Bob and David and Sarah (and David)

My link posting has been pretty lame lately, if not for the lifetime of this thing. I've recently started using Google Reader which has consolidated my blog reading quite conveniently and also allowed me to share links with y'all "on the fly" on the sidebar (to your right: "Ned Read.") I can highly recommend the Reader, pretty snazzy and easy as with all of Google's products. I guess I'm a Goo-slut in the worst way and I shudder to think about how much personal information those dudes have of mine between my Gmail account, regular use of Google Maps and now doing about 90% of my web-browsing via Reader, not to mention this blog. Let's hope they don't turn malevolent any time soon.

I will take this chance to recommend some more television, specifically the Sarah Silverman Program on Comedy Central. I've read a few reviews that were kind of "meh" on the show and have heard from people personally who seem to think that shit ain't funny, but I got to tell you, it's been making me laugh consistently for the first three weeks. It's a natural extension of my love for Mr Show, of which both Silverman and a few of the other cast members were a part of. Everyone seems to dwell on the non-PC/making a statement about PC aspect of the show, but really, to me, it's more of the sort of meta-comedy that Bob and David made into an art form: what Mr Show did so brilliantly to the sketch comedy show, Silverman is trying to do to the sitcom. What I'm trying to say here, is that if you don't like it, you're just not smart enough to get it. The incredibly offensiveness is just a bonus byproduct!!

Both of the links above for her show and Bob and David's site have plenty of goodies to get your funny on, but if you're really looking for something to do, pretty much every halfway decent Mr Show sketch is available on YouTube.

To get you started, here are a couple of music-related sketches:

There's plenty out there, get it on... enjoy!

Of course, the real comedy is in Caruso:

Review: Jenny Scheinman


Barbes, Brooklyn, NY 13 February 2007

A little late on this one, but I did catch one other show besides the Arcade Fire last week: Jenny Scheinman at Barbes. Jenny is in residency at this little nook almost every Tuesday and there's nothing I love more than the ResideNYC. A residency can serve many purposes -- band's just getting going can use them to build chemistry and hone their collective chops, musicians use them to work out new material before hitting the road or settling down in the studio, or they can be used as a catchall, a blank canvas with no rules or regulations. Scheinman's is mostly the latter these days, the band is rarely the same, the material likely shifts just as much... even the genre is unclear from week to week: when I saw her last week it was mostly jazz-oriented, but this week she was doing her singin' country routine.

Whatever the music, one thing is clear: you owe it to yourself to make it every once in a while, especially if you live in Brooklyn. The shows start and end relatively early, so even on a cold night, you can get in and out without hassle, or let it start your evening off: you'll have plenty of time to go on to other stuff if your Tuesday should allow. Last week, Jenny had a usual cast of NYC bangers: Adam Levy on guitar, Ben Allison on bass, Nasheet Waits on drums and Aaron Goldberg on piano. I thought it was interesting that two big releases from last week, Norah Jones and Lucinda Williams, albums that would sell in the tens of thousands, featured musicians crammed into the corner of Barbes with an audience of 25 looking on.

They started a little before 7:30 with a quiet wash of music that wasn't too far removed from the previous 15 minutes of tuning up and sound checking. The back room at Barbes is one of those wonderfully private cubes, a three dimensional crumb in the universe where good music was destined to be made and appreciated by small groups of believers. This first song was one of those pieces of music that wasn't quite a song at all, where the musicians all sort of sit on the cusp of melody and the audience waits and waits for the song to "start." Minutes later, after completely atmospheric whooshing, when the sound has built to near-climax we realize that this is the song and gasp and smile and then it is over. It was a total-Frisell type piece coming from a band full of Frisell-family-tree types who have learned it well watching and playing with the masters.

The second number shifted gears completely into a more funky rave-up type thing. Scheinman shows total mastery over a range of styles and reveals the violin to be nearly as sonically flexible as the piano or guitar. Waits controlled a lot of the show starting with this piece, as he laid down a range of overlapping James-Brown-worthy breakdowns and drawing Allison into his web of groove. Solos from Scheinman and Levy made way for Goldberg who was very interesting to watch. When the band cleared way for his slot he seemed incredibly tentative, the look on his face not quite terror, but complete bewilderment. His hands seemed too small on the piano as he very delicately dipped his fingers onto the keys like he was washing them in some ceremonial bowl. As the solo built up, though, that look made more sense -- it was more of the concentration of an expert chess player, planning dozens of moves down the line of play. Aaron's touch remained incredibly light across the keys as he built momentum in speed and volume until the entire band joined him in checkmate.

From there the group played a couple more pieces each with its own distinct feel: a more straight jazz piece with klezmish leanings and one or two others. The music as a whole is border-straddling: jazz, country, classical, funk, pop... you can taste a little of all those spices. Jenny is a treat to watch. Every time I see her, on her own or backing someone else, she draws me in completely. She is the type of musician who opens up my eyes to an instrument I usually wouldn't pay a second notice to. She doesn't quite play the violin as much as coax it to sing and speak, sometimes long, gorgeous operatic notes and other times, emotive grunting and groaning. Watching her play, I realize how unnatural the instrument is. Most others: the guitar, the piano, etc., seem to have evolved to fit the human structure, they flow in with our bodily lines so that our hands naturally fall where they should to play. The violin seems to be almost violently orthogonal to this notion, sticking straight out from the body at right angles and forcing even more awkward angles from the wrists. And yet, Jenny makes this look and feel fluid and graceful and the music flows as such.

The band took a short break before which Scheinman announced that she was playing with Waits for the first time. That struck me a bit dumb -- the guy was masterful to the point where it seemed like he was dictating the pace and feel of each piece. This was even more apparent in the second set. The first number started off with a real catchy hook and rotated around each member in the usual way. But then it sort of veered off into this bridge where Jenny settled onto a single note -- one hypnotic bowed string over and over and over for minutes on end. Meanwhile, the band abandoned the one-solo-at-a-time method and congealed around Waits' rhythmic pacing. Nasheet took control, flipping the "jam" into a groove, then a reggae breakdown, then a dancehall breakdown and on and on. It was, if you'll forgive me, a bit Phish-esque, the way the band kind of freely flowed from one form to another under the guidance of the brilliant drumming. Allison seemed especially in tune with Waits, bopping along, literally bouncing up and down to the beats. This is where the beauty of the unknown rears its head and what makes a residency like this so priceless. These guys are all consummate pros, ready for anything, but probably expecting little more than reading some sheet music and taking a predetermined solo every once in a while. But then there are real moments when the bandleader closes her eyes and strokes her instrument in a trance and the entire room becomes completely hypnotized by the music being churned out in real time before them. Nothing short of magical as it smoothly flowed back into the original theme. From there it got drawn out and the band seemed reluctant to just let things end without more exploration. Scheinman was the consummate bandleader following the golden rule, allowing all her musicians freedom within the boundaries she created.

The night ended in a similar manner to which it had started. Jenny lead the charge as they built another sound collage, redefined what "beautiful music" was for just a few moments. When the night had started a short 90 minutes previously, it had been 5 musicians feeling each other out on a cold Tuesday night. Now, as the snow was starting to fall outside in the "real world" they were a band, tight, coherent and pretty amazing. Not bad for a show where they passed around a bucket for the band with the caveat that there was "No Maxium." No maximum indeed.

Jenny Scheinman is in residency every Tuesday in Park Slope and you owe it to yourself to check her out... there are few better.

Aaron Goldberg is playing this week at the Jazz Standard


19 February 2007

Photo: The Boy's Day Out

The Boy had his first taste of the cruel, cold world of the athletic arena today, his first whiff of sweaty, gladiatorial competition... that's right, his first sporting event: Harlem Globetrotters live and in person!! (cue Sweet Georgia Brown) The kid did surprisingly well after a steady infusion of syrupy beverage, deep fried snacks and the coup de grace: the Carvel twist. Next step: The Carrier Dome.

[Thanks to birthday boy, David C and family for the fun afternoon in the dirty Jerz]

And for those of you who could care less what my son and I did this long weekend, I add that while we still might be weeks away from chicken fried bacon, we did our first batch of homemade french fries and they were yum for the whole family.

18 February 2007

Shows of the Week

Show me your...

click here for upcoming shows

President's Day:
*Explosions In The Sky @ Warsaw (Brooklyn)
Jon Anderson w/ School of Rock All Stars @ BB King's
Smokey's Roundup @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
Snowden @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)

Mardi Gras:
Jenny Scheinman @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (early)
Donny McCaslin @ 55 Bar (late)
Explosions In The Sky @ Society for Ethical Culture
Scott Metzger @ Old Office
Five of a Kind @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Brian Blade Fellowship @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
American Babies @ Living Room (early)
*Dansettes, Stephane Wremble et al @ Union Hall (brooklyn)
Howard Fishman @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (late)
Hazy Malaze et al @ Arlene's Grocery

Wednesday:
Brian Blade Fellowship @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Rod Stewart @ Madison Square Garden
Viktor Krauss @ Joe's Pub (early)
*Aaron Goldberg 3 w/ Stefon Harris @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Adam Deitch Project @ The BLVD
Binky Griptite @ Lucky Cat (Brooklyn)

Thursday:
Guillermo Brown/Dave Burrell et al @ Symphony Space
Aaron Goldberg 3 w/ Stefon Harris @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Charlie Hunter @ Mo Pitkin's
*Julian Velard @ Joe's Pub (early/late)
Stellastarr* @ Gramercy Theater
Himalayas @ Zebulon (Brooklyn)
Brian Blade Fellowship @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
G Love & Special Sauce @ Starland Ballroom (Sayreville, NJ)
Joan As Police Woman, Kyp Malone et al @ Tonic
BB King @ NJPAC (Newark, NJ)

Friday:
*Neko Case @ Lincoln Center (early/late)
The Bad Plus @ McCarter Theater (Princeton, NJ)
Ruha @ The Cutting Room
Brian Blade Fellowship @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Andrea Parkins/Ches Smith @ The Stone (early)
David Bromberg @ Joe's Pub (early)
Edom @ Zebulon (Brooklyn)
Javon Jackson w/ Dr Lonnie Smith @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
The Lemonheads @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)
Curha-chestra @ The Stone (late)

Saturday:
*Black Hollies, O'Death et al @ Mercury Lounge
Javon Jackson w/ Dr Lonnie Smith @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
Rusted Root @ Nokia Theater
Theremin Society @ Issue Project Space (Brooklyn)
Brian Blade Fellowship @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Big Yes and a small no @ Lakeside Lounge
The Lemonheads @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)
Amayo's Fu-Arkist-Ra @ Zebulon (Brooklyn)
Brooklyn Qawwali Party @ Joe's Pub
Matt & Kim @ Rodrigue's Coffee House (Bronx)
Lotus @ Bowery Ballroom
Mosh Ben Ari @ Symphony Space

Sunday:
Allen Toussaint @ Joe's Pub (noon)
Stephane Wrembel @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
*Brian Blade Fellowship @ Village Vanguard (early/late)
Javon Jackson w/ Dr Lonnie Smith @ Jazz Standard (early/late)
The Lemonheads @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)

click here for upcoming shows

16 February 2007

14 February 2007

minimix: F.Art.S Vol. 2

Guess you guys like Metzger, or at least were willing to give him a try -- last week's was the most downloaded mix yet (not counting the 2006 maxi). Let's keep the "My Guitar Pantheon" theme going with a whole slew of jimmy jam-jams with Jimmy "F'in" Herring. I had trouble whittling it down to just 6, and these probably don't even represent the best tracks from these shows, let alone the whole Herring shebang... in the interest of time and space, these should certainly suffice. If there's enough interest, I could put these entire shows up for download as well, incredibly tasty (except the Panic which is for sale).

Anyway, Jimmy's been all over the place the last couple of decades, hope you appreciate the chops half as much as I do. n.b. I was lucky enough to be at 4 of these 6 shows.

Download the mix

01 Jam -- The Dragonflys: 20 July 2005
02 Slipknot! -- Phil Lesh Quintet: 30 April 2001
03 Compared To What -- Aquarium Rescue Unit: 12 November 1993
04 Bowlegged Woman -- Widespread Panic: 31 December 2006
05 What I Say -- KVHH: 30 April 1999
06 Fountain Jam -- Rogers, Herring, Sipe, Fountain: 10 August 2006

Links: Centennially Yours


Yesterday's Midlake review was the 100th post here at OTW, so thanks for playing along at home. That's right, Ned pulled a Roosevelt and got shit done in his first 100 days, 20 mixes, 20+ reviews, and a whole lot of unhealthy living in between... pretty much a neat 1 post per day in the past 20 weeks. A lot of those mixes are still available, so feel free to browse through the archives and if there's a particularly old one that's not up and you want it, let me know. And don't be shy, my second 100 post resolution is to get some more feedback from you, the faithful OTW readers... I even fixed those chicken wing photos for you! We're all about you here, don't forget it. You've even gotten me to become the guy I hate, schlepping my camera to shows to take blurry, poorly lit photographs of less-than-attractive jazz musicians, thanks!

In honor of #100, here are some other folk celebrating a centennial in 2007:

The State of Oklahoma
Rose Festival of Portland, OR
Medical school at the University of South Dakota

Exciting, eh?

How about this, Congress finally passed the budget so we can get on with our lives and maybe I'll actually get a raise this year! Good times.

Finally, this dude from Heroes not only went to my alma mater, but we graduated in the same class. I knew he looked familiar. It's been tough carrying the "only celebrity" flag for so long, I'm totally ready to offload.

Sorry for the lame post, I promise a fat new mix tomorrow...

12 February 2007

Review: Midlake|St. Vincent|The Czars


Bowery Ballroom, 9 February 2007

There was an interesting article in last week's New York Times Magazine about designer dog breeds, a strange mathematics of genes where 1 + 1 = 3 and basset + beagle = bagel. Lately it seems like so many musical acts are trying to pull off the same magic and this was on display Friday night at the Bowery Ballroom. What was ostensibly a chance to check out Midlake and confirm that my lusting after their sound on their album The Trials of Van Occupanther was warrented turned into a 3-band mini-festival of stylistic mashup. The neverending calculus of subgenres and musical oneoffmanship provides for some interesting bedfellows. Each act trying to distill the strengths of one addend and add it to those of another.

First up was The Czars whom, within 2 verses of their opening number, I pegged as the unlikely pairing of Billy Joel + Pink Floyd. These guys went the trendy route -- just a duo: piano/vocals with a guitarist accompanying behind him. These things can work and they can't, but it helps if you can sing and you can play and these two could do both. The vocals were particularly strong, and in a universe where that often isn't the case, it was noteworthy. Even when the songs were crammed to the legal limit of lyrical cliches (which was the case on more than one occasion), the power and earnestness of that voice was enough to get me past it. After a while, with some hit-or-miss attempts at humor in his words, I wasn't sure if the lameness was intentionally coy or what, but it didn't matter. With that end being held down with some surehandedness, the fate of the band's good-or-not verdict fell into the guitarists fingers. He was up to the task. This guy obviously took his guitar playing and his guitars very seriously -- watching him play, I saw many lonely hours in a dorm room getting intimate with his axe. But it paid off, especially in his use of effects which consisted mainly of heavy, heavy reverb or heavy, heavy distortion or both. This added some extra oomph to what otherwise might have been bearable but boring love songs. The first tune -- that one that had me feeling the Floyd -- was interesting in that he used an e-bow to get some wild out-there noises and was allowed some room to weave in a dreamy outro. The room was fractionally full and many early-risers were more interested in their conversation and drinks than the music. That goes without saying, of course, but what was kind of neat was the way the music seemed to invite in the din, almost making it a piece of furniture in the room. It was certainly the weakest set of the night, but that's not taking away anything from these guys, definitely worth checking out in some bar or as an opening act.

Post-Czars, I got into that "watch 'em set up the next act" act and tried to guess at what might be coming down the pike. But nothing prepared me for St Vincent (= Norah Jones + Jimmy Herring (seriously)). It's rare that I would become instantly smitten with a musician or band, but that happened after about 15 seconds of St Vincent which is an aka for Annie Clark, solo and in no need of accompaniment whatsoever. It was especially interesting to experience her cold right after my Cat Power experience on Monday. Everything that Cat Power wasn't (she was a whole lot of other things, but there as plenty she wasn't), St Vincent certainly was. Starting with her clothes -- an off-beat take on the quintessential little black dress -- right down to her sense of humor that was actually funny, occasionally hilariously so, both inside and out of her music [n.b. her myspace page lists the following influences: Sarah Silverman, Woody Allen, John/Alice Coltrane amongst others and under "Sounds like" avers "Hand claps and wry smiles"].

Oh yeah, and there was music. It wouldn't be an overstatement to say Ms. Clark was a virtuoso. She had a pair of big, beautiful Epiphone jazz guitars and she treated them both like her pet Labradoodles -- with love, affection and complete control. Fluttering fingerpicking up and down complicated jazzesque lines, she was dazzling to a note. She made sure we knew she was from Texas (or the "United States of Texas" as she called it) and yet her act was much more Paris on the Seine circa Roaring Twenties than Rio Grande turn of the 21st century. Her skills and style coming to fruit in the Lone Star State are about as likely as a finding a butterfly in Antarctic, but there you go. In fact, the EP that I had no choice but to plunk down a fiver for on the way home (she indicated that her full-length might be on its way this summer; already on my must-buy list) is called "Paris Is Burning."

Was it jazz-infused pop or pop-inflected jazz and does it matter? No it doesn't, St. Vincent was phenomenal. The set was one big grin from ear to ear whether she was crooning something sweet and soulful, ripping up some serious shredding on her guitar or moving over to a keyboard. There wasn't a clunker in the bunch. Somehow she fused a sardonic wit with serious chops without any jarring weirdness. She finished a rollicking revenge tale and moved over to her keyboard introducing the next song as "Marry Me" and then pointed out how that wasn't necessarily a strategic set pairing. The latter tune featured one of many memorable lyrics: "Marry me, John... let's do what Mary and Joseph did, without the... kid." Call her Annie, call her St. Vincent, she is the complete package was a total revelation to me. Her songwriting was both intricate and interesting and simple and start at once. I had to remind myself on several occasions how truly amazing her ability to sing and play two complementary yet complicated parts simultaneously was... which isn't to mention the specially miked wood block on which she whammed out an echoing rhythm on select numbers. I haven't enjoyed a musician utterly blind like this in who knows how long. I don't think I was alone, that chit-chat from the Czars set turned into nothing short of awed cooing between songs, a giddy kind of silence. You owe it to yourself to check her out, you'll either be just as smitten as I am or I question your taste in music and beyond.

So, here we are, two hours into the night, headliner yet to take the stage and it has already been $13 well spent. From the beautiful nakedness of St Vincent's solo stage the cozy stage was suddenly crammed tight with equipment, threatening to pop its top button and rip the inseam as a small battalion of roadies lugged piles of amplifiers and a phalanx of keyboards front and center. Now I had the opposite game to play: I knew what these guys sounded like, I'd obsessed over their CD for about a month straight and the melodies linger deep in my subconscious -- now I tried hard to figure out how they could bring that magic to the live stage. Would they be able to pull it off? Would the smiles of the night continue? The small touches of the set-up time -- the paper mache Occupanther mask from the album art was situated on one of the keyboard tables and a projector was set up with a drop-down screen appearing behind the stage -- indicated that it would.

The obvious question to ask, so many paragraphs into this interminable reviews is: what mixed breed is Midlake peddling? Is the algebra as easy as Midlake = Fleetwood Mac - Stevie Nicks or is there something deeper going on there? I've delved deep into the album and I watched them go America soft-rock poetic for a good 80 minutes Friday night and I really don't know, nor do I care. All I know is that they absolutely killed it, through and through, taking the daunting prospect of a sold out Bowery Ballroom (this while playing rooms fraction of the size in Philly and Boston on nights sandwiching this deep-winter Friday) and flipping it into a consummation.

Midlake is a quintet where everyone has a keyboard in front of them. The drummer's keyboard was of the laptop variety and controlled short videos and bizarro movie clips through the projector for each song. Pretty standard fare for a pop act these days, but a nice wrinkle nonetheless with their pre-modern dramatics that synched up with the music pretty well... there was even a homemade video or two in there which echoed the Flaming Lips in a way. The other four all spend legitimate periods of time laying down on a wide variety of keyboard tones, from the piano player sticking mostly to the piano to some deep, evil electronic bassishness from the bass player. The two guitar players did a nice mix and match between 6 & 12 strings, acoustic and electric. The point here being that the sound that was called for at each moment was achieved in a constant flow of pure pop precision.

A heavy fraction of the show was taken from Van Occupanther, as you might expect, with probably the first 30-40 minutes being from the album. I wouldn't have had it any other way, especially with the skill in which they pulled it off. The stage presence particularly through this opening stretch seemed to indicate that achieving near-perfect renditions of the material was no easy task. The look on their faces, especially the front man, Tim Smith (I think he's the lead guy?), was almost one of sheer stress. It didn't show in their playing though. It's not that the songs are incredibly complex on their face, but they do have a certain level of subtlety that pretty much makes the sound -- without it, the music pretty much falls apart... something that didn't even come close to happening Friday night.

As the set went on, though, they loosened up that top button and the guys seemed to open up a bit between songs. Like they withstood the initial onslaught and realized they were still in the game... not only in it, but winning it handily. We can *do* this. This middle section of the night opened up for some older material from their debut "Banman and Silvercork" -- including "Balloon Maker" and ""Some of Them Were Superstitious") as well as at least one in-progress new number, "Children of the Ground." These showed both a little prodding and malleability to that pastoral Midlake sound at the same time it revealed a tidy limit to where they were going. This was somewhat comforting -- Midlake's sound is self-contained and somewhat perfect in the universe they have carved out for it. These guys are virtuosos of a different sort -- they don't awe in technical mastery of an instrument, but rather excel as a band. There were no highlight moments, no "wow" stretches -- they nailed the material, "Roscoe," "Bandits" and the rest of them. Here's a very short taste of the "Head Home" that ended the set (I can't shoot more than a minute without feeling awkward, but this came out pretty good):



Lush, dense harmony -- three-part vocal harmony and sweet, pitch-perfect harmony of guitars, bass, keyboards and drums -- dig deep inward tunnels toward dreamlike otherworlds. Some bands thrive on gobbling up more and more of the musical spectrum with each step, a group like Midlake has quite an attractive patch of real estate and would do good by seeing what kind of homestead they can achieve therein. To listen to Midlake, on CD or live in concert, is to allow yourself to travel to a slightly alternate reality. The rich storytelling, the harmonizing acoustic guitars, the occasional spaced-out keyboard romp or raunchy electric guitar -- it evokes some of the more beautiful, (very old) Genesis [a personal preference]. This is the kind of music that requires listen after listen after listen -- it draws you in and becomes a part of you and thus the live show was a natural extension of the romance. I would be curious to hear the opinions of someone who went into the show cold. What is it like to walk in from the street and find these five guys on stage, doing nothing that spectacular or out of the ordinary and yet holding sway over hundreds of rapt devotees? For me, it was stumbling out onto Delancey slightly buzzed -- the happy feeling of a great meal and one too many glasses of wine, great music flowing through my veins warming me to immunity from the Saturday morning chill.

Well, I've name-checked Fleetwood Mac, America, Flaming Lips and Genesis, looks like we've got ourselves a lovable ole mutt on our hands. Listen to Midlake. Check out St. Vincent. Designer breeds and mutts all the same: big, fat, wet indiepop doggie kisses.

Photos: Wing Work

It's been a while since I gotten deep into the food porn with you, so I'm happy to report that I got a new toy. For my birthday last month, I got a gift certificate to Cooking.com which I was happy to receive as there's a plenty long list of food-prep swag I'm needing these days... and I was all prepared to get a new knife or something usefully pedestrian like that when I got wind of this video and I made one of those make-it-or-break-it decisions to momentarily quell my inner demons, satisfy a lifelong dream, and surely take off at least 36 months off my ever-shrinking time on Terra... that's right I got a deep fryer:


Nothing restaurant-grade or anything, fits comfortably on the countertop between the defibrillator and sink, but greasy enough to feed my small family with wings and fries if the feeling should arise. The trial run was the above-video-inspired (oh, YouTube is there anything you can't do??) Smo-Fried wings [smoked BBQ style and then deep-fryed to wingy perfection] this past weekend.

I used the Bold rub from Wolfe's, which I won in a VWB contest and smoked on the Weber for 25 minutes with Maple wood chunks... here's what they looked like post-smokeout:
Then into the swimming pool:
Damn, you made some honest-to-goodness wings! Pretty damn good for my first attempt, I must say.
Just used some good old Frank's-based sauce, but will certainly be looking forward to experimentin' in the future. If you've got any good wing-sauce recipes, or deep-fryer recipes for that matter, pass 'em on! The Maple-smoking definitely makes a difference... between that and the rub, there was flavor to spare.

The wings brought back memories of the crazy wing chow-downs we used to have in our suite Sophomore year courtesy of Wing Works. Those were some fat-assed cluckers -- they were like the Mcguire-and-Sosa-circa-98 magnitude chicken wings... I'm not even sure they were from chickens they were so mammoth. If anyone knows where I can get my hands on some freak poultry like that, let me know.

11 February 2007

Shows of the Week

That's a spicy meatball! Gorge yourself on this:

Click here for upcoming shows

Monday:
*Smokey's Roundup @ Barbes (Brooklyn) (late)
Meshell Ndegeocello @ Joe's Pub (late)
Silverchair @ Bowery Ballroom
Madeleine Peyroux @ Living Room

Tuesday:
Jenny Scheinman (w/ A. Goldberg, K. Wolleson) @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
Jerry Douglas @ BB King's
Tony Trischka @ Makor
The Arcade Fire @ Judson Memorial Church
*Rudder @ The Bitter End
David Bromberg @ Joe's Pub
Andrew Kenny, Sparrow House et al @ Mercury Lounge
Chris Potter's Underground @ Village Vanguard
Silverchair, The Whigs @ Webster Hall
Meshell Ndegeocello @ Joe's Pub (late)
Kelly Jo & The Koch Man, Scott Holcomb @ Common Ground
The Cat Empire @ Bowery Ballroom

Love Day:
The Arcade Fire @ Judson Memorial Church
*Zorn improv night @ The Stone (benefit)
Chris Potter's Underground @ Village Vanguard
Binky Griptite @ Lucky Cat (Brooklyn)
Butch Morris Orchestra, Brazilian Girls, Kudu @ Bowery Ballroom
Emergency Party et al @ Mercury Lounge
Akron/Family @ Europa Club (Brooklyn)
Rod Stewart @ Madison Square Garden
Tim Fite et al @ Union Hall (Brooklyn)

Thursday:
Charlie Hunter @ Mo Pitkin's
Apples In Stereo @ Bowery Ballroom
Dirty On Purpose et al @ Mercury Lounge
Mooney Suzuki @ Rebel
Jason Crigler, Ollabelle et al @ Living Room (early/late)
The Disco Biscuits @ Starland Ballroom (Sayrveville, NJ)
Chris Potter's Underground @ Village Vanguard
*The Arcade Fire @ Judson Memorial Church
Guillermo Klein @ Merkin Hall
Lismore @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)
Oregon @ Iridium (early/late)
Sam Bardfeld @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
Wayne Krantz w/ K. Carlock, A. Jackson @ 55 Bar (late/midnight)
Slayer @ Hammerstein Ballroom

Friday:
The Disco Biscuits @ Starland Ballroom (Sayrveville, NJ)
Jerry Douglas @ IMAC (Huntington, LI)
Sonic Youth @ Webster Hall
Rickie Lee Jones @ Society for Ethical Culture
Chris Potter's Underground @ Village Vanguard
State Radio, Earl Greyhound @ Bowery Ballroom
The Arcade Fire @ Judson Memorial Church
*Sex Mob @ Tonic (early)
Hopewell et al @ Galapagos (Brooklyn)
Stir Fried, Katy Pfaffl @ Living Room (late)
Afroskull @ Parkside Lounge
Hieroglyphics (Mark Feldman et al) @ Cornelia St. Cafe
Oregon @ Iridium (early/late)
The Dirtbombs @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)
Melissa Ferrick, Tim Fite @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)
MaMaVig (Jamie Masefield) @ Tap Bar (midnight)
Rick Springfield @ Nokia Theater
Howard Fishman @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
Blind Boys of Alabama et al @ NJPAC (Newark, NJ)
David Bromberg @ Boulton Center (Bay Shore, LI)
David Kolker @ Bitter End

Saturday:
Jon Cleary @ Lion's Den
Binky Griptite @ Ace of Clubs
The Arcade Fire @ Judson Memorial Church
The Disco Biscuits @ Starland Ballroom (Sayrveville, NJ)
*Earl Greyhound @ BAM Cafe (Brooklyn)
Chris Potter's Underground @ Village Vanguard
Marah @ Maxwell's (Hoboken)
The Dirtbombs et al @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)
David Kolker @ Bitter End
Gladys Knight @ Carnegie Hall
Oregon @ Iridium (early/late)
Brooklyn Qawwali Party @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
State Radio @ Bowery Ballroom

Sunday:
*Chris Potter's Underground @ Village Vanguard
Richard Buckner @ Union Hall (Brooklyn)
Jon Anderson w/ School of Rock AllStars @ BB King's
Oregon @ Iridium (early/late)

Click here for upcoming shows

09 February 2007

Nedstalgia: Freaks Ball II

(old school images of Robert in the day from D'Owen, don't know if any exist from that night)

I'm going to try and do a new nostalgia post at least once a month, heavily targeting those nice big round year anniversaries like 10 and 15, but occasionally throw in something random when nothing else fits the bill or even something a little more recent... like this month's for example. Where I can, I'll try to incorporate some music from said show.

Download the entire Freaks Ball II set: part 1, part 2, part 3

So, it was exactly 5 years ago tonight -- well, actually most of it was the next morning, but whatever -- that we had one of the best Freaks throwdowns of all time. Back then, Robert Randolph was just starting to get his due beyond New York City, but still remembered where he came from and was happy to be a part of the second Freaks Ball. I was still feeling my way around putting a show together and I was pretty much on my own for the first time trying to get the pieces to fit. On top of that, our daughter had been born right when the details were falling into place. It was no wonder that the whole thing had the momentum of a monumental train wreck.

The initial idea was to do the show at Galapagos in Williamsburg, with the Freaks bar band Butter doing an opening set and the Family Band playing well into the wee hours. As things came together, though, I realized that the space was much too small and too many people would have to be turned away. Luckily, I was able to contact and work out a deal with Northsix (literally next door to Galapagos) such that we could have the club after their regularly scheduled gig that night. Butter would play an early set at Galapagos and then the party would move next door for the main event. Sounds ridiculous in retrospect, but look who was putting the thing together.

Butter totally rocked the early portion of the evening, but it did nothing to prepare the Freaks for the epicness of what would take place next door. When I moved over to Northsix to oversee the transition, I was a bit worried. The show there had been some kind of hardcore rager and there was broken glass like everywhere being swept up as quickly as possible. The stage was inches deep in beer bottles and booze and who knows what else. Somehow, everything got cleaned up without too much more than the usual rock and roll delays and the crowd shuffled in for a Mardi Gras hullabaloo.

By this time most of us had seen Robert multiple times, he was kind of our musical mascot in the post-Wetlands world. It was more than just shout outs from the stage -- he was our friend. He was ours. As such, we thought we knew what we were in for, what kind of typical Family Band show we were about to partake. We had no idea. The equipment was set-up, with the big glaring change being two drum sets on either side of the stage... and without sound check, Robert launched into something none of us had ever heard, quickly dropping in a sly "NYC Freaks" tease as a way of saying "howdy," "let's get this party started" and "you ain't seen nothin' yet" all at once.

(check out the opening Fillmore Shuffle from this show here)

All the normal rules of a Robert Randolph show quickly dissipated as the band stretched things out to unusually SICK territory. Randolph always knew how to stretch things out, but this was different, it wasn't the length or the energy of the jamming so much as the out-and-out creativity of it all. Songs twisted up on one another, segueing back and forth, bits and pieces of tunes popping up in strange places, like some postmodernist take on what a Robert Randolph and the Family Band show was supposed to sound like. A whole slew of the tunes were brand new -- I'm pretty sure this was the first time played for many of the songs that would eventually make it onto his major label debut, Unclassified, and they all came with a slick new purpose that signaled that this guy would not be playing the Freaks Ball for much longer.

(grab the brand new at the time, Squeeze, here)

It was a crazy energy in that room that night, one that I've constantly been chasing ever since. It was as close to a truly private party as we've ever had in the 7 Freaks Balls -- nearly everyone knew everyone else and didn't mind getting dirty, sweaty and everything else with each other. The strange way it worked out with the clubs actually played into this perfectly, pushing the set deeper into the evening and giving a weird dose of covertness and openendedness that both the band and the Freaks took advantage of. Guest vocalists (check out Paulie Ethnic throwing down on the Three Little Birds theme), crazy teases and wild, wild playing. The kind of evening that was built on hyperbole. The band did not want to end and chugged along hours into the evening with as much thrust as they had started with. When they finally paused to chase down some water (it was hot as hell in there on all fronts), it was well into the next morning and the crowd was fighting exhaustion to cheer for an encore... we thought they were done, how could they have anything left in the tank? Northsix let them came back to play one last song, although who knows how long they would have chugged along for had they the chance to keep going.

If you ask most anyone who was around during the Lakeside/Mercury residency period of Robert's ascendancy to whoredom who was also at that second Freaks Ball, they will almost all, to a freak, tell you that that was the pinnacle of Robert's career. It was the best he had been and it would never be that new, exciting or full of potential. A lot of that had to do with that second drummer, Dan Fadel, who controlled the pace like Marcus Randolph never could and never would be able to. At the midpoint of the marathon evening, we collectively knew that either he joined the band permanently or it'd never be this good again. The rest is history.

Download the entire Freaks Ball II set: part 1, part 2, part 3

08 February 2007

minimix: F.Art.S Vol. 1

The Featured Artist Series begins with some live Scott Metzger on guitar... because I said so.

Download the mix

01 The Song Remains The Same -- Bustle In Your Hedgerow: 31 July 05
02 Carbombed Again -- Rana: 27 January 05
03 Looking for Light -- Chris Harford & Band of Changes 27 January 07
04 I'm Going To Kill You -- Hell Is for Children: 20 January 05
05 Whenever You Can -- Rana: 27 January 05
06 Cortez The Killer -- Gov't Mule: 25 June 05

07 February 2007

Review: Cat Power

Hiro Ballroom, 5 February 2007

So, as I was saying... I caught Cat Power on Monday night at Hiro Ballroom. The room is situated under the Maritime Hotel and is completely Japanese/Asian in its decoration scheme. The stage juts out into the floor which is a perfect size for a few hundred with raised sections with tables, etc. I am really looking forward to returning to this venue for more intimate shows like this.

I was lucky enough to snag a parking spot directly across the street because it was a night that gives wind chill a bad name -- bitter, bitter cold to go along with a line out the door to get in. There seemed to be a haphazard method to getting people inside, but the folks running the show there seemed to be doing their best and gave off a refreshing friendly vibe to go along with their urban-hippie appearances. Once inside, most everyone opted to sit on the floor which made things cozy, if not a little tight for space. Of course, I had the luck of some hard-core standers in front of me, so it was achy-feet for me. There was an opener, Tan or Boil who probably played his sleepy, whiny, singer/songwriter/two-chord finger-picked guitar for 20 minutes tops. Can't recommend steering clear of this guy enough. That's all I got to say about that. Unfortunately, this short set made way for at least an hour of wait time before the main event started up. This was made worse by announcements saying 15 minutes til she was taking the stage when it ended up being 40 and similar misinformation from there on in. What can you do?

I had very little idea of what to expect, I've never seen Cat Power before and really have only listened to her newest, The Greatest. So, when she took the stage, I was a bit taken aback by her total package: her look, her demeanor, her presence... all of it was a bit jarring. Describing her stage persona is a bit difficult but enduring it is just as tough -- it took a while for me to sort of adjust my bearings to her. She's got kind of this grating, white-trash boozehound thing going on. I don't know if she was drunk or what, but the first ten minutes I thought maybe she was going to fall off the stage she seemed so tipsy. She came out with some sort of iced Starbucks drink (although it easily could have been something else) and smoking a cigarette, the first of what would have been at least a pack for the evening. To hear her talk with her raspy semi-drawl and her somewhat gawky movement from one side of the stage to another was to smell the residue of thousands of cigarettes smoked on her breath. Not too attractive. After a while, I finally was able to sum it all up with the notion that Cat Power is just not that feminine. She was wearing a denim shirt buttoned up to her neck and pants that rode low on her torso with the effect of making her body look incredibly awkward. Her banter was of the "I don't give a damn" variety, sassy jokes which worked their way around the spectrum in whom they might offend and a witty repartee that wasn't nearly as witty or even entertaining as she probably found herself.

If I dwell too much on everything but the music, it's because this was all in pretty stark contrast to the songs and her voice. Sure, that raspiness is still there, but if you close your eyes while she's singing you're confronted with beauty, sexiness, command and the dilemma of which is the true "Cat Power." The set itself was nothing short of a marathon -- when I left midway through what was billed as the "last song" it was over two hours after she had taken the stage. Two hours filled with dozens of songs, dozens of cigarettes (many of them toked on once or twice and then flicked haphazardly at willing recipients sitting on the floor in the crowd) and dozens of individual moments of wonderful music.

The night split into a few different sections. The first part was with a guitar player, Matt somethingorather, seated in accompaniment and Ms. Power strolling around at the edge of the stage like some demystified diva at the end of her career. This section was punctuated with a certain bluesiness in timbre, a timbre that reached its climax when the guy who took my ticket on the way in was invited on stage to blow some harmonica for a couple of tunes. That was pretty cool. The cover of "Tracks of My Tears" that she did with just the guitar behind her was even cooler -- the absolute knockout highlight of the night. There were a bunch of covers of a wide range of background and each of them was drawn out and redefined by that voice. This Smokey Robinson staple was completely reimagined to a sullen, bluesy miracle. There were highlights in there, but the Matt the accompanying guitar player section was the weakest of the night -- partly because it allowed her to meander around the stage and highlighted all those things that are annoying about her.

Once she gave him the pass to go backstage and have a smoke, things seemed to open up. The next two portions of the night featured self-accompaniment on piano and then guitar and this sort of focused the Cat Power effort and the music she made here was strong from top to bottom. Even the anecdotes and offensive jokes became more endearing as the night went on -- the crowd seemed to be more accustomed to her gesticulations by then, like finally enjoying the water in a swimming pool which seemed way too uncomfortably cold when they first jumped in. In there were a bunch of tunes off of The Greatest, which came across perfectly in this setting, particularly the title track. Playing solo allowed her to kind of ad lib through a lot of the songs, reworking them in real time, stopping midway to interject something obnoxious or maybe even actually funny for once, and even flowing songs together in weird sandwiches and segues. When she hopped on guitar, it made me wonder why she bothered employing someone else to pull that duty, because she was more than serviceable in the six-string capacity (as she was on piano, I should add).

I was really happy to hear a bunch of covers throughout the night. It seems like so many artists, especially from the Pitchfork crowd, are reticent to throw covers into their sets. It makes no sense to me, but Cat Power doesn't have that problem whatsoever. This middle section was highlighted by a couple, particularly Otis Redding's "Remember Me" and a wicked version of "House of the Rising Sun" which prompted an anecdote about the Bob Dylan tribute show in the city a few months back.

My initial guess for a solo set would have been one hour, but that came and went without even a tap on the brakes. The more time went on, the more she loosened up in both her playing and her blabbering, and this, in turn, loosened up the crowd nicely, prompting conversations back and forth with audience members, who all were "pigeons" to her... a term she seemed to interchange for "fuckers." She'd ask for requests, get a handful and then ignore them in true rock star fashion. The whole thing was a wonderfully subdued spectacle. She'd return to some requests later, with one, "Lived In Bars" being another real highlight. She'd returned to the piano by this point and played the tune and then kind of stretched it out, segueing it into the old standard "Blue Moon" and then a couple other tunes (which I can't for the life of me remember right now, should really write these reviews right away or start taking notes...) making it all sound like one seamless entity with a professionals perfection.

06 February 2007

Photos: Hiro Ballroom

Caught Cat Power at the Hiro Ballroom last night. First time in this room, very cool spot, another one of those live music treasures in the city. I'll review the show late tomorrow or Thursday (heading out of town this morning), but enjoy these pix of the venue in the meantime:

04 February 2007

Shows of the Week

Enjoy...

Click here for upcoming shows


Monday:

*Cat Power @ Hiro Ballroom
Adam Levy et al @ Rockwood Music Hall
Prisoners of 2nd Ave @ BB King's
Smokey's Roundup @ Barbes (Brooklyn)

Tuesday:
Jenny Scheinman @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
Bill Ogg @ Fat Baby
Tom Hamilton's American Babies et al @ Living Room
*Rudder @ Fontana's
Ches Smith @ The Stone (early)
Earl Klugh @ Blue Note (early/late)
Jason Crosby @ Ace of Clubs
From Bacteria To Boys @ The Stone (late)
Martin Sexton @ Joe's Pub

Wednesday:
The Wood Brothers @ Joe's Pub (early/late)
Earl Klugh @ Blue Note (early/late)
Alexi Murdoch et al @ Mercury Lounge
*Marc Ribot/Mary Holvorson @ The Stone (late)
Justin Timberlake @ Madison Square Garden
Bo Diddley @ BB King's

Thursday:
Ned Rothenberg w/ E. Friedlander, M. Feldman @ Tonic (early)
Calexico @ Lincoln Center (early/late)
Rod Stewart @ Madison Square Garden
Earl Klugh @ Blue Note (early/late)
Wayne Krantz @ 55 Bar (late/midnight)
Joss Stone @ Bowery Ballroom
*Jorma Kaukonen @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
Charlie Hunter @ Mo Pitkin's

Friday:
The CodeTalkers (Outformation opens) @ Lion's Den
*Midlake @ Bowery Ballroom
Sec't Government @ Underscore
Slick Rick feat. Adam Deitch Project et al @ Knitting Factory
Porter/Kimock/Worell/Kimock @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
BuzzUniverse @ Donegal Saloon (Kearney, NJ)
Johnny Winter @ BB King's
The Fringe @ Cornelia St. Cafe (early/late)
Todd Sickafoose w/ Jenny Scheinman @ 55 Bar
Earl Klugh @ Blue Note (early/late)
Licorice @ Blue Note (late night)

Saturday:
Paco De Lucia @ Carnegie Hall
*The CodeTalkers (Outformation opens) @ Lion's Den
Stephen Malkmus, Silversun Pickups, Derrhoof et al @ Irving Plaza
Earl Klugh @ Blue Note (early/late)
Jorma Kaukonen @ Landmark on Main (Port Washington, LI)
Lily Allen @ Webster Hall
Vetiver, Vashti Bunyan @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)
Andy Statman @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
The Fringe @ Cornelia St. Cafe (early/late)
Chick Corea @ Staller Center (Stony Brook, LI)
Leroy Justice et al @ Bitter End
BuzzUniverse @ Lamp Post (Jersey City, NJ)
Mastodon @ Starland Ballroom (Sayreville, NJ)

Sunday:
Sounds of Greg D et al @ Living Room
Britt Dennan @ Joe's Pub
Nels Cline/Elliot Sharp @ The Stone
Tony Trischka @ Makor
Jonah Smith et al @ Rockwood Music Hall
*Sam Cohen (of Apollo Sunshine) @ Union Hall
Jefferson Starship, Tom Constanten @ Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
Stephane Wrembel @ Barbes (Brooklyn)
Earl Klugh @ Blue Note (early/late)

Click here for upcoming shows

01 February 2007

minimix: Halftime Show

Enjoy the weekend; enjoy the game.

Download the mix

01 Superconnected -- Broken Social Scene: Broken Social Scene
02 Hunting Bears -- Radiohead: Amnesiac
03 Via Chicago -- Wilco: Summerteeth
04 Indiana -- Buddy Emmons: Amazing Steel Guitar
05 Coltsfoot Leaf -- MF Doom: Special Herbs
06 Game Face -- Gov't Mule: Dose

Links: Consider the infinite oblivion, people

Not much for you today...

I'm thick in the midst of a David Foster Wallace reading-frenzy, so it was nice to find that there's a new spot of short fiction from "DFW" in the newest New Yorker (which, at the usual pace, I will probably read in full in June some time).

Thankfully, it's online, so go get you some genius: Good People.

The last book I read was the collection of short stories, Oblivion and I'm just about done with Consider the Lobster. Both are highly recommended, especially because they give you the brilliant, dense prose and complex inner-narrative in smallish easily digestible chunks. Of course, the bible, Infinite Jest should always come first and has conveniently been recently released in fancy 10-year-anniversary form. If you've got to read one book and only one book, don't die before reading this one... seriously.

Oh, and while we're throwing hyperbole around, if you didn't catch this one on Roger Federer the first time around, it may be the greatest sportswriting ever.

More DFW than you could ever dream of wanting here.