New York Music Daily’s Sunday Salon series at Zirzamin took off slowly in the wake of the hurricane but hit a peak two weeks in a row, with transcendent sets from LJ Murphy and the Accomplices and then this past Sunday with Katie Elevitch and her equally intense, virtuosic band. Thanks to Maya Mitter, virtually all of Murphy’s careening set is up at youtube: it’s the NYC noir rock legend at the top of his game. He’s got a new album due out next year with many of these tracks on it; at this point, it looks like a lock for best of 2013.
This past Sunday, Elevitch brought her feral, sultry vocal power and often shatteringly cathartic, shamanic songwriting to the Salon. Swaying and shimmying in front of the band, she began with a couple of haunting new tracks and ended with a vividly wounded version of Corner of Love and Fear, a standout cut from her most recent album Kindling for the Fire. In between, playing acoustic guitar, she led the band through a swirling, improvisational cauldron of originals plus a couple of smartly chosen covers, a luminously hypnotic duet on Neil Young’s Birds with lead guitar genius Riley McMahon, and a little later a lusciously torchy take of Because the Night, by Patti Smith (an artist Elevitch is often aptly compared to).
Drummer Tim Vail felt the room and kept his accents nimble and subtle – this is an intimate space, and it took him only a few seconds to match up perfectly with the ambience. Bassist Pemberton Roach, one of this city’s most consistently interesting and original players, added all kinds of subtle colors as well: booming octaves, the occasional chord to drive a crescendo home, and on a long, epic, unearthly jam on Elevitch’s Oxbow Legacy, tuned way down to Plutonian sonics under McMahon’s searing, sunbaked atmospherics.
Although this show emphasized the darkly psychedelic rock aspect of Elevitch’s music, ultimately she’s a soul singer. She never sings a song remotely the same way twice, which is why she’s always worth seeing live, and this show was characteristic. Moving from an aching alto to stratospheric, angst-ridden highs that suddenly parted the clouds and brought the beams down, she held the crowd in the palm of her hand. Often she’ll take a lyric and make a mantra out of it, as she did with one of the evening’s best songs, the offhandedly savage Man Boy Numb, a new number from her soon-to-be-released new album. She did the same with Hurt People, a relentless, hard-hitting track from the Kindling album a bit later on. Having survived a brush with death when the hurricane knocked a tree over on her house a couple of weeks ago, that song took on a special resonance, and an unlikely triumph. Watch this space for news about the upcoming album which promises to be equally intense.
Before the show, the Sunday Salon mixed usual suspects along with some welcome new participants: highlights included a raw, fiery, completely unplugged mini-set from unstoppable Canadian gothic rocker Lorraine Leckie and some intriguing gypsy-tinged chamber pop from the duo of Kotorino’s Jeff Morris and Sweet Soubrette’s Elia Bisker. The Sunday Salon continues this Dec 23 at 5 PM followed by a 7 PM set by brilliant guitarist Homeboy Steve Antonakos.