As many bands as there are here in New York, you’d think that finding good new ones would be like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s not – but isn’t it fun when you do? Two new acts who’re already good and seem like they’ll get even more interesting are Lucy Foley and Llama. Foley is a newcomer from Ireland, a confident, dynamic and often dramatic singer who’s equally at home with retro new wave pop and stagy noir cabaret. At a gig a couple of weeks ago at the Parkside opening for the perennially brilliant, inscrutably charismatic Tom Warnick, she was backed by a great band: her new husband Ross Bonnadona on guitar, Tom Pope on drums, Andy Mattina on bass and a guy who doubled on synth and tenor sax. Anytime a musician can get a supporting cast of that caliber, it’s an auspicious sign. Fans of Blondie and the Dresden Dolls should check her out; she’s at Fat Baby on March 22.
Llama isn’t a reference to the foul-tempered ruminant: the band name is Spanish for “call.” The nine-piece group plays what they call psychedelic salsa, with electric guitar and electric piano instead of a brass section. There have been plenty of other bands who’ve played punked-out electric salsa – Los Santos, who played the Coney Island boardwalk on Sundays for what seems like decades, were one of the best. But what makes this band unique is their dub arrangements: one of the women in the band adds layer after layer of oscillating, trippy sonic layers on a synth that she runs through a labyrinth of digital effects. The result is slinky and danceable and when the band is at the top of their game, it’s completely brain-warping. They’re still figuring out the sonics of their live show. But because they’re all excellent players, especially the killer three-piece percussion section – timbales, bongos and congas – they have the potential to be one of the most interesting bands in town. And they don’t just play straight-up classic salsa – there’s a little cumbia and some funk and maybe even some reggae in the mix too. Right now Barbes seems to be their home base.