New York Music Daily

Love's the Only Engine of Survival

Month: October, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Here’s the incomparable, charismatic Vera Beren and her Gothic Chamber Blues Ensemble singing The Devil, which poses the question, what if god and the devil were lovers? Talk about the breakup from hell! You can grab a free download here.

Here’s the considerably different but equally incomparable Melissa Fogarty singing the 1911 underground hit Die Fire Korbunes backed by Isle of Klezbos – the song appears about halfway through the program here, a Triangle Shirtwaist Fire centenary special which aired on WBAI’s Beyond the Pale last spring.

Ljova’s upcoming album Lost in Kino collects the brilliant and deviously eclectic viola virtuoso/composer’s film music from recent years. Here’s a Halloweeny clip from Charles Ludlam’s The Coup; here’s a snowy Russian Winterland with footage from a 1909 film by Joseph-Luis Wundmiller.

And finally, for all you stoners, here’s Bongfire by the Fuzzy Cloaks, bassist Scott Yoder’s psychedelic Beatlesque powerpop project.


Keep the Historic Occupy Wall Street Protests Going

There’s snow at Zuccotti Park – and there’ll be more as winter approaches.

The Occupy Wall Street protest – which has focused the eyes of the world on corporate greed and economic inequality – is free speech in action. But without shelter, the protesters occupying Wall Street down at Zuccotti Park could be frozen out.

Occupy protests from Boston to Philadelphia to Seattle have been allowed to put up tents to provide shelter and warmth.

Tell Mayor Bloomberg: Let the protesters stay — let them set up tents:

Then please help spread the word.

And here’s a free download, Mike Rimbaud doing 1% Feeling Lonely. “The class war’s here.”

Mickey PG – Rated R for LMFAO

Today’s free download is by Boston acoustic punk rocker Mickey PG, whose new album, Mickey PG Comes of Age is available at his bandcamp. He cites the Brooklyn What’s frontman Jamie Frey as his #1 inspiration, which makes sense considering that both artists’ sense of humor is similiar – it might seem self-deprecating, but it’s actually a lot more complicated, and cerebral. This guy is sort of a cross between Ween and Jonathan Coulton – sometimes on the nerdy side, but LMFAO funny. The band is just him and his drummer Nate Baum: the songs are simple, catchy acoustic punk, like the Violent Femmes or the Dead Milkmen. It wouldn’t be fair to give away the jokes because they’re so good, and he fires them off one after the other. Some of them are good-natured, like the first track, about a short guy trying to steal a taller guy’s girlfriend. “Tell your Goliath not to step on me…I’ve got a friend that he should call, her name is Gina and she plays basketball,” he reasons.

Dumpster Dive is for everybody with big education (and big student loans) who can’t get a job: the kids in this one went to Harvard, but they’re working at Burger King. Surprisingly, the funniest song here is Give Me Back My Calculator, which takes a theme that’s been done to death – dorky guy trying to get a hot girl – and injects it with fresh blood. The story works because it gets absolutely brutal toward the end. Mickey PG is is especially good with innuendo, which is why his songs about masturbation and losing one’s virginity are so funny – he never mentions either one directly. There’s also a song about Harry Potter and a love song for a character from a tv sitcom. If you get a chance to see this guy live, you should – like all good comedians, he thrives on opportunities to be spontaneous. You can interpret that any way you like. That’s the kind of phrase he’d have a great time with.

Some Fun Tracks for the Weekend

Melvin Van Peebles’ 1971 song That’s America with footage from Occupy Wall Street – timeless (via brooklynvegan courtesy of Moist Paula).

Just in time for Halloween, here’s the Marshmallow Ghosts’ The Attic and Pig Man’s Bridge (via IFC).

Quietly and methodically, Brooklyn’s Electric Cowbell Records has been putting out one good vinyl single after another, most of them a refreshingly eclectic mix of styles from around the world. The latest is Sigi Diya, by Malian griot and kora virtuoso Cheik Hamala Diabate. It’s a swirling, spiky, psychedelic treat, also available digitally. Stream the track here.

Karen Dahlstrom’s New Gem State Is Exactly That

Which US state does best as far as songs are concerned? It’s New York, with a bullet. Alabama, of all places, also does awfully well: sweet home y’all. Even Australians love Massachusetts; T for Texas and T for Tennessee are right behind, with Missouri and then Illinois a little further back. Who’s last on the list? Mississippi – everybody except for Jimmy Rogers hates it. Oklahomans are all singing So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Ya, but KKKillafornia isn’t much better. Where does Idaho rate? Close to the bottom. It doesn’t draw much interest – rappers have been very unkind, the B-52s saw it as a metaphor for madness, and Kurt Neumann of the BoDeans wrote his best song about it, sarcastically taking the point of view of a redneck there who stares at the world and completely misses the picture. And aside from a couple of Chuck Berry references, that’s about it. But Idaho has a new champion: Karen Dahlstrom, whose brilliantly rustic new album Gem State vividly explores the history of her home turf.

In a way, it’s pretty remarkable that she found the time to make this record: one of the most sought-after players in the booming New York Americana scene, Dahlstrom is the rhythm guitarist and sings in killer acoustic gothic band Bobtown and also plays regularly with the Evangelines, and most recently in Jan Bell’s magnificent Maybelles. If you wanted to, you could pigeonhole this as “metrobilly,” but Dahlstrom’s period-perfect old west songwriting transcends any kind of label. The west was a tough place, and these are dark songs. She sings them in a low, cool, often troubled voice, with a stark, wary edge and lyrics full of historical references just like the old folk songs she draws on. “My true love lies in a soldier’s grave,” the narrator of the brooding first track, The Miner’s Bride explains – so she’s gone off to mining country to meet her new husband, maybe for the first time. There’s some sweet, terse slide guitar work by co-producer Kenny Siegal. The most stunning track here, Galena, is a haunting, sad waltz lit up with mandolin and accordion, recalling Gold Rush-era disillusion and despair:

We traded our picks for walking canes
Forgot wives we left on the farm
And stole down tiger alleyways
With girls from the line on our arm

A slow, mournful oldtime lament, Starling is a showcase for Dahlstrom’s multi-instrumentalist chops, contrasting spiky mandolin against a backdrop of boomy upright bass. She sings Pocatello mostly a-cappella, in the style of 19th century railroad ballads – it’s a menacing, doomed tale that begins with religion and child abuse, the perfect combination for creating a nation of cannon fodder. The last song is the gorgeously bittersweet One More Time, a co-write with Siegal, his sepulchral organ whispering behind the stately strum of the guitars as Dahlstrom evokes a picturesque Idaho setting. It’s great to hear such a compelling singer out in front of the band this time: this has to be one of the half-dozen best albums of the year. The whole thing is streaming at reverbnation; Dahlstrom plays with Bobtown on Oct 30 at the Jalopy on a killer Halloween bill with Mamie Minch, Frankenpine, the Newton Gang and others and then at Freddy’s on Nov 11 with her new duo project the Do-Overs.

Bugs in the Dark – Just in Time for Halloween

Brooklyn band Bugs in the Dark have a deliciously assaultive new record, Hang It on the Wall, just out. They’re doing the album release show on November 6 at the Mercury. If this is any indication, it should be killer. The band lineup is two guitars, vocals and drums – no bass. The first track, Serpents and Wine begins with some ominous feedback over a tense, quiet beat before frontwoman/guitarist Karen Rockower comes in lurid and suspenseful. With its eerie chromatic chords and unleashed vocals, it comes off like the bastard child of Siouxsie Sioux, peak-era Throwing Muses and late-period Sleater-Kinney. It ends cold, as if the tape ran out while the feedback-infested drone of the guitars was still smoldering. The second track, Picture kicks off with a big hook much like the title track from Daydream Nation and shifts from juicy clang to blistering fuzz as it builds to the chorus. A simple snapshot has never been so menacing.

Metal Bird, the third cut, is slower and more hypnotic but does a slow burn until it’s just as loud, with slithery echoes and big reverb-toned staccato punches. There’s also a remix of the first track that doesn’t sound much like it. Blast this thing on the L train somewhere between Montrose and Morgan Ave. and completely forget what you’re going through.

It’s 4:20, Time For Little Shalimar

What do you get when you mix ganja with codeine? You get Weezy, right? You also get Little Shalimar. This is funkmeister Torbitt Schwartz’s side project (he’s the drummer in Chin Chin and Rev. Vince Anderson’s excellent band). On his solo debut, Schwartz plays everything except for the horns and sings everything except for the girl bvox. He does it all decently well, too – it’s minimalist, amusing psychedelic funk, something you might expect from what was supposed to be a west coast trip for music and sunshine that got interrupted by a case of pneumonia and then lots of medication.

If you know Schwartz’ other bands, you know the groove will be sweet, and it is. On the first song, he also plays decent, low-down, minor-key funk guitar and bass, and even a skronky guitar solo (obviously having picked up a few tricks from his bandmate with the Rev., Jaleel Bunton). But it’s not the instruments that everybody’s going to be listening for: it’s Little Shalimar, your free-associating stoner bud. “She goes to great lengths to put out fire…over and over again she will require some adjustments, but I got no pliers,” he sings woozily. “If I wanna sing a song about a girl that’s got no name, you will forgive me.” Enough said. Suki Anderson does the pillowy harmonies.

The second track is a disco tune, bass blippiness against simple piano. A lot of bands wouldn’t have the balls to release this. It’s not very tight but it is funny. Winds of Wackness is a global warming era cautionary tale straight out of the George Clinton playbook – “Maybe vacation is the best way, this ship (shit?) is going down.” The best and maybe funniest song here, Real Estate, clocks in at a minute 28 seconds of sarcastic riffing on gentrifier buzzwords over Bad Brains style funk-punk. The catchiest and most unexpectedly impressive song is Love in LA, with horns by his bandmates Dave “Smoota” Smith and Jeff Pierce. There’s also surreal reggae-funk with a cool bassline and creepy/cheesy Casio; a trippy number (that’s the weed kicking in) with a silly twin guitar solo; and instrumental insanity with loops and the portamento knob. This isn’t one of the most musically electrifying albums of 2011 but it is one of the most enjoyable. Download it free here.

Gorgeous Oldschool Soul From the One and Nines

Over the past couple of years, New Jersey retro soul band the One and Nines have been putting out gorgeous, oldschool analog singles – on vinyl! They’ve got a brand-new one out today that’s as warm and memorable as anything else they’ve done. The A-side, Tell Me (an original, not the Stones/Dead Boys song) has scurrying guitar, fat punchy horns and a groove that’s somewhere between soul and oldschool Jamaican rocksteady. Guitarist Jeff Marino takes the lead vocal on this one; at the end,there’s a big, deliciously blustery guitar/trumpet outro. The B-side, Make It Easy, has the One and Nines’ signature sound, and frontwoman Vera Sousa gives it her most buttery, gently irresistible delivery yet. Live onstage, she’s a ferociously intense, Aretha-style performer; this is something of a shock…the best kind. In addition to vinyl, the single is also available in the usual digital formats.

Breaking the Record – A Long Overdue Recap

Earlier this month I set a new record, at least as far as I can tell – and I researched it pretty rigorously. Having broken the (admittedly very very obscure) record for most consecutive concerts covered by a music writer, I didn’t make a big deal about it – I started on September 7 and ended on October 8 (my journal of the entire process, with links to all my individual writeups, is here). I thought about applying to the Guinness Book, but then again I don’t know if the Guinness Book of World Records still exists. Maybe there’s a Guinness app that gets updated every fifteen seconds, provided that you provide the Guinness people with your credit card and your whereabouts 24/7. Since I started this blog to focus on the music and the experience of music from a concertgoer’s perspective, it only makes sense to wrap up my adventure from that point of view rather than trying to shoot for some kind of pathetic celebrity.

Since there isn’t an incessantly blinking forest of gizmos and gadgets on this page, if you’re reading this, you’ve already realized that this blog is for the 99% rather than the 1% that the Wall Street protestors heroes are calling to account. If you’re one of the 1% and if for some crazy reason you haven’t already clicked off this page for lack of frantically blinking gizmos and gadgets, this is your chance to laugh at how the other 99% of us live. My intentions for this publicity stunt – my first and last – were threefold: 1) to get the blog off the ground, build some interest and have some fun in the process); 2) to reaffirm how incredibly cheap it is to see incredible live music in New York and 3) to test my ability to pick great concerts from the literally hundreds available to any New Yorker on any given night.

What were the results? Predictable, as far as I can tell. As far as getting the blog off the ground, my experience is that blog interest goes in waves: you go up, you go down, depending on the weather, whether or not there is an important football game on or what holiday it happens to be. I’m happy to say that things are looking good – which I hope means good things for all the incredible artists who’ve been covered here so far. As far as expenses go, I saw 38 shows in those 32 days and wrote about them – which has to be another record, however obscure – and spent a total of $93. Which on face value may seem like a lot of money, but when you divide it up it came to a little more than $2 a concert – and that included a $49 bottle of wine (tax and tip included) on a splurge at the Metropolitan Room, a place I’d never been before and assuredly never will go to again! So if you subtract that, it comes to an absurdly cheap $44. Whether you count it as $93 or $44, the final tally should have a couple of asterisks attached to it: for one,  as a music blogger, I don’t have to pay for shows. Had I paid the door charge for all of these concerts, my total cost (assuming I always got the advance ticket discount) would have risen to $149. Still, divided by 38, that comes to about $4 a show. Admittedly, I tried the best I could to find as many good free shows as I could that would coincide with my schedule, in order to keep the overall cost down, even though it wasn’t an issue for me personally.

There were also a couple of nights where I was out with people and everybody was drinking and there may have been additional expenses that I can’t remember, but that shouldn’t change the overall expense picture by more than $20, assuming that I actually paid for that $3 PBR at Otto’s Shrunken Head instead of allowing my drunken friend to pick up the tab. End of story: as far as finding cheap music is concerned, I don’t think I did too badly.

As far as picking good shows is concerned, the final tally was 35 good shows and 3 awful ones. I think I could have been a perfect 38 for 38 if I hadn’t played it so safe. Early on, this stunt started to take on a life of its own, and I found out quickly that if you go out every night of the week, you have to do your errands on the weekend. For that reason, right off the bat, I sought out every daytime show I could find so that I could still have a life and get everything else done that needed to be done. Day three: perfect example. I had business in Harlem, and it just so happened that there was a show during the day there that coincided with where I was going to be. But while it was endorsed by the September Concert people, an organization I’ve trusted in the past for good performances, the “orchestra” I ended up seeing didn’t even have a web presence. Which should have been a red flag: the show turned out to be a church congregation attempting to play material that was vastly beyond their capabilities, at least as far as public performance was concerned. Should I have bitten the bullet and gone out into what was a miserably hot night to see something actually good? Of course I should have. But I didn’t. Four days into the marathon, and I was exhausted.

Same with my other two bad choices – notice that I’m not big-upping myself for all the good stuff I reported on here. In September and October, there happened to be a daytime outdoor concert series in Madison Square Park that coincided with some errands I had to run – Union Square farmers’ market and such – so I figured I could keep the streak alive without sacrificing an evening (which came in very handy – it takes time to write about all this!). The first was a bluegrass festival which was mostly good, but the next two Saturdays were awful. The third Saturday I’d planned on going to Lakeside Lounge to see legendary psychedelic postpunks Band of Outsiders, but I went to a party that night and as it turned out (not that I was paying any attention at that point), the subway went completely haywire and even if I’d made an attempt, there was no way I would have been able to get to Lakeside Lounge that night.

I ended the streak on a similar note. I could have counted Ninth House’s show that night as my final record-breaking concert, but I wasn’t about to take any chances: to be safe, I saw an absolutely killer, free afternoon classical show at Bargemusic to set the new record since I was worried that Ninth House wouldn’t go on til after midnight and for that reason my streak would have died at 31. As it turned out, they went on a few minutes after eleven.

Will I do this again? No. Do I think anyone else will ever break my record? I hope somebody will – can you imagine how much fun it would be to do this as a competition? – but after going out 32 days in a row, I think my record’s safe, right up there with DiMaggio (that’s a baseball reference – you can look it up). After all, the corporate media people always take Saturday or Sunday off. People who tour with bands don’t usually write about every single show, for obvious reasons, since that would get boring pretty quick. So that leaves me. From now on, you shouldn’t expect live reportage every day here – although after this ended, having taken a three-day respite upstate with some friends, far from any club or concert hall, I saw sixteen shows in the next sixteen days. If that’s not recidivism, I don’t know what is. Consider that a blueprint for the future at New York Music Daily.

Elizabeth & the Catapult Launch a Few at CMJ

The crowd at Rock Shop Saturday night was loud, but Elizabeth Ziman got them to shut up. The multi-instrumentalist songwriter who basically is Elizabeth and the Catapult did it with her voice, and her lyrics, and her tunes. And by being a 99 percenter – when asked, pointedly, by a voice in the crowd if she was down with the Wall Street protesters, her answer was an emphatic “yes.” As if anybody needed further proof, she directed them to to check out the title track to her 2009 album Taller Children and its thinly veiled story of a bankster who jumps out a window. Her songs did the rest of the talking.

She opened solo on electric piano with Thank You for Nothing, singing as her fast fingers flung off rapidfire, Romantically-infused rivulets. “They say hurting is growing, if you believe when you say it,” she wailed, “thank you” becoming a mantra that moved from bitter to desperate. In the studio, her voice has nuance to match her lyrics. Live, she’s a force of nature. She really cut loose on the catchy ba-ba-ba Britpop hit Race You Back Home and then a raw, intense song that set aching Appalachian-flavored harmonies to a funk beat. Ziman’s songs are smart, and seldom completely straight-up, whether musically or lyrically, perfectly illustrated by the next song in the set, its angst simmering below the surface of a blithe 70s-style country-pop tune.

“Are you ready for some classical, bitches?” she smirked, and launched into a Dresden Dolls-esqe noir cabaret number with lightning, Beethoven-esque piano flourishes.”You can trust me now,” was the refrain all the way through…until the creepy ending. She and the band closed with a soaring version of Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows that energized everyone…but left out the meter on the bed that will disclose what everybody knows! Without that meter, the song might as well be Nobody Knows. This might have been CMJ, time might have been tight, but that meter has got to stay where it’s supposed to be!