Lorraine Leckie & Her Demons Release a Swirling, Hypnotic, Psychedelic Live Album in Memory of Their Late Great Drummer Paul Triff
More bands should make live albums. They’re a lot less expensive, compared to studio recordings, and if the musicians are on their game they capture an energy that can’t be bottled in the studio. Orchestras and jazz artists have known this for a long time but rock acts are still catching up.
When Lorraine Leckie & Her Demons recorded their September 29, 2015 set at the Mercury Lounge, no one in the band could have known that someday it would have historical value beyond simply being a high-voltage performance. Tragically, this show would be the very last one that popular New York drummer Paul Triff would ever play. And it’s available as a name-your-price download from Bandcamp, in his memory. Fittingly, Leckie and her band are playing the album release show at the Mercury on March 14 at 8 PM. Feral original punk/blues siren Molly Ruth opens the night at 7; cover is $10.
The premise of the September show was to air out a lot of new material from Leckie’s most recent studio album, The Raven Smiled, and the band were clearly amped to play it. While Leckie has flirted with psychedelia throughout her career, she’d never plunged so deeply into it. So it’s no surprise that guitarist Hugh Pool – who can channel Hendrix better than just about anyone alive – and bassist Charles DeChants, who comes from a jamband background, would be on top of their game here. Triff was also a big psychedelic fan, a devotee of Steely Dan; the great drummer Ron Howden, of Nektar, was also an influence. All that shows up in this performance. Violinist Pavel Cingl can play anything from punk to classical, but he also takes centerstage in kitchen-sink psychedelic folk band Jull Dajen, and his interplay with Pool here can be intoxicating.
The show opens with The Man Who Walks in the Rain – Cingl’s violin swirls and dances, mingling with Pool’s echoing leads over DeChants’ looming bass and Triff’s relentless drive. Leckie’s downtuned Telecaster growls and simmers as Dangerous Friends, a slow, slinky, scorchingly rising anthem gets underway. The two guitars and violin build a witchy web in Medicine Man, driven by Triff’s shamanic beat.
The group push their way through tricky polyrhythms into the surrealistically swaying, distantly menacing That Ain’t Nice and then follow it with the suspensefully lingering dynamics of Witches Heart, Pool’s quasar guitar matched by Cingl’s starry violin flickers. Then the intensity reaches volcanic levels with Climb Ya Like a Mountain, Leckie’s tribute to rugged outdoorsman Aleister Crowley, better known for his adventures in black magic than high-altitude hiking.
There’s a momentary lull when Leckie moves to the piano for a solo version of The Raven Smiled, then brings the band back for a rampaging version of her big crowd-pleaser, Ontario, Cingl and Pool sparring throughout the mighty Americana rock anthem. Its final triumphant flurries would be the last beats that Triff would ever play onstage. As the album attests, this is a great live band (Keith Robinson has since stepped in to fill the big shoes left behind by Triff). And this could be their best record.