Every Sunday at 5 PM, New York Music Daily hosts the Sunday Salon at Zirzamin in the old Zinc Bar space at Houston and LaGuardia. The previous week was a hotbed of dark songwriting activity; this one began with a small sampling of the A-list, some of whom will be performing here in the weeks to come. Beyond the inevitability that this music blog would start booking shows, why this format, and why here? Because it’s one of Manhattan’s best-sounding rooms. And since there are upwards of a thousand groups and musicians across all styles who comprise this city’s elite, it’s a daunting task to keep up with each and every one of them individually. From a blogger’s point of view, the salon is a step closer to one-stop shopping, a chance to stay on top of what at least a portion of the most important artists in town are doing.
LJ Murphy, who’s playing here at 7 on Dec 9 with his band the Accomplices, opened the evening with a trio of characteristically vivid, savage, catchy songs including the big crowd-pleaser Barbed Wire Playpen (about a Madoff type who likes to get spanked) and Sleeping Mind, a nonchalantly chilling, soul-infused chronicle of clinical depression. John Hodel did a couple of surreally aphoristic, grimly funny numbers, followed by the Salon’s own Lauraly Grossman, who unearthed a rustic Laura Marling rarity as well as a bluesy, rustic one of her own which she sang a-cappella. Lorraine Leckie, who’s here this coming Sunday at 7, then took over the piano. While it’s amazing how simple yet resonant her dark chamber pop songs are, her upcoming show here is with her careening Canadian gothic rock band the Demons, featuring Hugh Pool on lead guitar.
After the salon, chanteuse Carol Lipnik and pianist Matt Kanelos (who also fronts Americana soul band the Smooth Maria) treated the crowd to a luminous, magical, otherworldly set. Lipnik had brought her famous vocal pedal but used it judiciously for just an extra touch of creepy reverb or echo. Though she can wow a crowd with her four-octave range, she only went up that high a handful of times throughout an eclectic mixof originals and covers that nonethless came across almost as a single piece. Kanelos’ judiciously resounding chords and hypnotic, percussive attack took the trancelike quality of the music several steps up, through Leonard Cohen’s The Gypsy Wife, an utterly minimalist version of Harry Nillsson’s Life Line and then Wilco’s War on War, stripped bare to its inner juxtaposition of hope and dread.
They elegantly elevated an Emily Dickinson poem to New England gothic territory, following with the high point of the evening, two new Lipnik originals, the ethereal Crow’s Nest and the toweringly mysterious Oh, the Tyranny. Kanelos reinvented Nick Drake’s Black-Eyed Dog as a deadly, ravenous beast with his hammering cross-handed counterrythms, then taking the mood back to deep ethereality with two songs of his own, With the Sum and The Brink. The biggest hits with the crowd were a trance-inducing take on Richard Thompson’s gloomy The Great Valerio (where Lipnik did a bit of wirewalking, consciously or unconsciously, to drive the lyrics home). They closed with Neil Young’s There’s a World (which as Lipnik explained could be part of a much bigger picture…or just about smoking pot), freak-folk icon Michael Hurley’s Troubled Waters, and then, persuaded to do an encore, ended the night on a chilling but transcendent note with Kanelos taking over the lead vocals on a minimalist yet lushly haunted version of the Smiths’ There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.
The Sunday Salon happens every week starting at 5 PM at Zirzamin, the lowlit subterranean music parlor in the old Zinc Bar space on Houston and LaGuardia. The public is always welcome to come out and watch, and admission is always free. This coming Sunday’s featured guests at 7 PM are Canadian gothic rockers Lorraine Leckie and Her Demons.