What’s more Halloweenish than a dusty archive haunted by ghosts and alcohol fumes?
Today’s installment in the ongoing, monthlong Halloween celebration here concerns a performance in the wee hours of September 3, 2004 at CB’s Gallery, where New York band Ninth House were the centerpiece of a night of gothic rock.
The venue is long gone. Frontman Mark Sinnis left New York for good in 2009 and has since built a career as one of the most formidable songwriters in Nashville gothic and dark country music. But at the peak of their career, Ninth House were a force of nature – and in recent months, Sinnis has been releasing a series of pristine live recordings.
Rather than reviewing the latest one, CB’s Lounge Drop Dead Party, streaming at youtube, here’s an account from this blog’s archive of previously unpublished concert reviews, which go as far back as the 1980s. Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
“Maybe the best show of the year. [Redacted] wanted me to show up at 9 and run interference in case his now-ex, [redacted], showed up (she did, looking all slutty in leather pants and halter top). This was a goth festival put together by some out-of-town folks and it had that flavor. [Redacted] and I hung at the bar through two awful Cure ripoff bands, far from home and sounding that way. The sound was horrible, all trebly and weak.
A good crowd had assembled by midnight for Ninth House. Then the organizers asked Sinnis if a punk band could do an unannounced mini-set (and also borrow his bass amp), and he acquiesced [no memory of this – 3+ hours drinking before a show will do that to you].
So by the time Ninth House hit the stage, it was 1 AM. The opener, Burn, an older song, has been reinvented as a sleek, slinky art-rock tune (it’s about cremation as closure). It has the hooky major-key catchiness of Your Past May Come Back to Haunt Me and The Company You Keep, both of which they also played. This was one of their best sets, all the darkest material. The addition of Jennifer on keyboards (looking good in a short skirt) improves the band vastly, with Francis Xavier back behind the drumkit. She played mostly string synth and has adjusted her settings to give this edition of the band the Tschaikovskian orchestral grandeur they deserve.
The sound issues that had plagued the earlier part of the night had persisted, but when guitarist Bernard SanJuan turned up, his icy reverb roar cut through and that helped immensely. The set included the vast, panoramic Death Song, an inferno take of Murder, a chillingly High Romantic version of I Warned You, a hauntingly lush Put a Stake Right Through It and a roaring punk rock blast through their cover of Real Life’s new wave hit Send Me an Angel.
[This review conflicts with the playlist, stating that the encore was a cover of the Psychedelic Furs’ The Ghost in You. The live album ends with a so-so Cure cover; that dissonance makes sense in context, unless the review is accurate and Sinnis simply left the Furs cover off the record].
We hung at the bar until almost closing time while [redacted] alternated between chatting with [ex-girlfriend] and [then-current squeeze] behind the bar, who hooked us up with many more drinks than we needed.”
The e-zine publisher and future daily New York music blog proprietor who wrote this ends the chronicle of the evening there. Somewhere in the New York Music Daily archive, there’s an analog audience recording of all but the last couple of songs in the set, effectively perpetuating the mystery. Happily, this album mix of what was obviously a good soundboard recording is excellent and free of any of the problems with the front-of-house sound
Ninth House went through a long succession of lineup changes but never officially disbanded: once in awhile the most recent incarnation will pull a reunion show together. And Sinnis, who during his time here was one of the most interesting and melodic bassists in town, has finally made the switch to lead guitar. It’s never too late to reinvent yourself…or bring your old band back from the dead.