While the usual million people were getting cold at Times Square waiting for a ball drop that they won't even see, we spent new year's eve in the best way I can think of: music, then more music, then even more music and on and on and on...NYC's Tonic (one of our favorite clubs in the city) celebrated the end of 2005 and the beginning of 2006 with memorable performances in the name of free-form/experimental/avantgarde/noise that included a number of special guests. Music begun at 7pm, when John Zorn (alto sax), Ikue Mori (drum machine / power book) & Mike Patton (ex-Faith No More singer) took their saxophone, Max MSP software and Mike's great voice with all his altering and tweaking pedals and effects, to a whole new level of intensity and sound pressure. As Zorn was blowing the horn and Mori was working the lapton, Patton was screaming, growling, huffing and puffing like some kind of animal-possessed metropolitan tribe-man. The following set consisted of John Zorn's Electric Masada featuring Jamie Saft (Rhodes), Ikue Mori (drum machine / power book), Marc Ribot (guitar), Cyro Baptista (percussion), Joey Baron (drums), Kenny Wolleson (drums) & Trevor Dunn (bass) and special guest Patton on vocals. It's very cool to hear Zorn's material rocked out by 8 people on a small stage and Zorn actually played on it more than he usually does, but still did an amazing job at directing the combo from the stage: the hairy Saft was getting down, dirty and funky on the saturated rhodes' keys, while the calm and motionless Mori was making up for her immobility generating movement in the air with her live digital signal processings; Ribot was in his own amazing world of six strings, sixty pedals and sixhoundred sounds while Dunn was keeping everybody in line with his solid, funky and basically perfectly executed bass lines (at least when he remembered them without Zorn having to hum them out for him first, but that was a single isolated funny incident); grooving with Dunn was a great rhythm section featuring the radiant, smiling and always excited (and exciting) Baron, the creative and inspired Wolleson, and last but not least Baptista, who had as many interesting toys as he had interesting ideas (and he had a lot of ideas for Zorn to keep under control). A very engaging concert that Patton's invigorating guest appearances during both sets (and original midnight countdown screamed at the top of his lungs!) made even more exicting, excruciating and exhilarating. The night was concluded by Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog set at 1am, featuring Marc Ribot (guitar), Shahzad Ismaily (bass/keys) & Ches Smith (drums) and special guest singer Mahogony Plywood aka Mr. Fashion (cmp other Ceramic Dog review in this same section of the site).Awesome night at Tonic, which continues to supply the Lower East Side's music fans hungry for original offerings some of the best music of NYC's very alive downtown scene (along with Zorn's new spot The Stone and maybe the Knitting Factory). The only thing I feel I might wanna complain about is the price. 60 bucks per set for the first two sets, 20 bucks for the after-midnight set and 15 bucks for the champagne toast... I am very sympathetic and sensitive to Tonic's financial issues (and I am sure the Blue Condo will not make it any easier on them) and the musicians are certainly worth every penny, but I still think that 155 dollars total for one night is a little over the top, especially considering that this is usually not the rich and spoiled Wall Street kind of crowd. That's just my opinion. All in all I would say it was one of the best spent new year's eves, great music, great vibes, great musicians, great musicianship and great spirits!
On a warm November night at NYC's MSG I got to see one of my favourite bands ever, for the first time (thank you Genevieve!)... We had great seats, second row behind the pit! Awesome! Opening the night were Death From Above 1979 (who introduced themselves as The Gods of Rock of 1979 that night), a great duo composed by a singer+drummer and a bass player who plays with so much distortion, precision and intensity that it always sounds like you are listening to a bass player and one or two guitar players. The duo rocked and had energy to sell... I thought they were far superior than the other opening band, who were what the mosh pit really seemed to be waiting for: Queens of the Stone Age have played single after single (they really are a successful band, you know that when you don't own a single record or a single song by them and you pretty much know or have heard most of their songs at least once). I don't care what the trendy Garden's crowd thinks, if you ask me they were not as powerful and impactful as I expected them and they seemed less intense than DFA1979 and NIN for sure! The bast part of their show was the highly Jeff Beck inspired solos and intros played on the guitar by the bass player in the second half of the show: that bass player rocks on the guitar and should stick to that!I still would have preferred to see opening bands that were more like the headliners: in this world of Clear Channel imposed and dominated marketing and listening habits, NIN and QOTSA seems normal, but it would have made much more sense to put up on the bill someone like ex-Stabbing Westward's singer's new band The Dreaming, or ex-Die Krupps' singer's band DKay.com, or Ministry, or FLA or Skinny Puppy (had they agreed to play the Garden and open for NIN) or stuff like that: more in theme, you know?Anyway, when Reznor's band finally took over the stage everything was clear: Nine Inch Nails STILL is and probably will be for a while the undisputed gods of modern industrial music!I was a little worried after reading reviews that said the "With Teeth" tour was more intimate and less aggressive, but none of that was true at the Garden. The new found Trent Reznor with his military-looking muscular body and his health food life style played every single hit single he's ever had AND the new record, never missing a beat and alwasy suprassing himself in the performance... All the songs we all know and love were played with insane violence and dead-on intensity! It just was fucking awesome! A brilliant show! Rock on!Also the lighting was great: there were stalactites and stalagmites shaped LCD screens, another huge screen in the back, laser-like horizontal chandelier shaped beams pointed at the musicians, light rigs moving up and down according to the songs and then there was the big textile screen that was dropped around the stage so that you could still see Reznor in his most intimate part of the show while you were really looking at projections of environmentally-inspired and politically-inspired footage of animals attacking each other in the jungle or the savana or of animals dancing (when G.W. Bush's face was to be seen NYC booed at its best!)... that same screen was removed with a projection of a glass breaking when Trent hit it with its mic stand, which looked much cooler than the usual quick-dropping that is usually used in similar circumstances...What can I say, I loved every part of the show... Great impact, great power, great aggressivity, great emotion, great distortion, great demolition, great violence (the restless guitar player was working hard to keep the stage crew busy, knocking down mic stands every chance he got, spinning and flying around his guitar, kicking his amp and his stage wedges and just generally acting like the worst rock star - he was funny to look at, very entertaining and definitely put his best in his performance, but it just seemed a little over the top, like a little kid demanding attention by breaking things constantly).... The only (other?) thing I would have to say, is that the destruction of instruments and gear on the last song is useless, pointless, over-done and just plain stupid. Trent, we all know you are rich and I don't think it is necessary that you rub it in our face like that... It doesn't make me wanna be you! If breaking every possible thing on the finale is your way of making sure you can't be asked out for an encore, just say that you won't play encores (the fake ending thing is over-done as well anyway!). NIN destroyed a perfectly nice set of drums, guitar amps, two keyboards and god knows how many great gibson, fender, and prs guitars... I mean, seriously, come on, that is so juvenile... Hendrix did it, Cobain did it... now it's just too much and doesn't have the same shocking effect anymore, it is just plain simple un-necessary waste of good gear... What really makes me sad is that this is not Woodstock, where you do it once for the heck of it... This is a tour with many dates and since these bands usually do the same thing every night, NIN probably has a whole truck full of these expensive instruments, just so they can completely trash them at the end of every night. A sad sorry waste! I hope he can grow out of that, because the fact is, the show did not become better because of that, it would have been just exactly as fantastic as it indeed was! Definitely one of the best concerts I've ever seen! Thanks NIN! Thanks Trent! Thanks Mijin! It fucking rocked!
The Cake Shop on NYC's Lower East Site's Ludlow Street is a cute place that combines a record shop with a small resale bakery upstairs and a bar with a small stage downstairs. I am a big fan of this kind of combinations (one day I'll open an ice-cream/surf-shop in NYC!) and it gets even better when you can add live music to the equation. October 7th saw the Cake Shop's stage being shared by four bands. They all have their myspace page at myspace.com/bandname and they are: Diagram (Philadelphia), Dream Into Dust (NY), Sleeping Kings of Ionia and Dadelectric. Unfortunately I had to leave and couldn't check out the last two bands, but the first two were worth the night. Diagram played a very cool mixture of experimental pop, ambient and electronic music. By switching roles at playing keys, guitars, computers, trigger pads and pedal bass and by using large sums of delays and reverbs, they were able to create a dense and tense artsy atmosphere that reminded me of Bethany Curve, Lycia, U2's Edge, Coldplay, Bauhaus and stuff like that. Very beautiful. Equally beautiful but slightly harsher and noisier was Dream Into Dust's performance. Derek Rush's creature consists of himself on vocals, acoustic guitars and a million pedals with apparently no signal loss (bravo!), an Al Franken-looking electric guitar-holder (rather than player) that holds his guitar with one hand, while he mutilates it, bangs it, saws it, tweaks it with the other hand (it's all about the feedback, ain't it?), a bass player and a keyboard player (that night we were the only people with blue hair!). Even with all the noise from the electric guitar holder/player/raper, Derek's compositions still manage to come through as intimate. The dark approach and the melancholic setting created a nice atmosphere. Even though I don't necessarily dislike noise, I thought Franken was a little too present at times, but I think Dream Into Dust have their own engineer (who was doing a good job) so I guess that's how it's supposed to be. I had a headache before I walked into the shop, it certainly didn't go away with all those feedback, but I enjoyed myself anyway and I am looking forward to see these bands again.
Marc Ribot is constantly doing something new. After last years' cuban project Los Cubanos Postizos and his busy tour schedule and recordings with pop charts topping italian folk singer-songwriter Vinicio Capossela and with the great Tom Waits, Marc is back doing his own thing with a band called Ceramic Dog, where he's joined by the great Pakistani bass player Shahzad Ismaily (Wilco, Jojo Mayer's Nerve and many other projects throughout the years) and drummer Ches Smith (God for Cows, among others he's currently playing with). The line up is great: Marc's obviously always stomping on one of his many pedals while making up his mind about the next lick he's gonna play (altough much music was written) and played his seemingly hand-made solid body electric guitar with what looks like a classical guitar neck; Shahzad played his old beat up Fender bass workhorse (which he sampled while playing to be able to play other things at the same time - or which he played one handed while playing some keys - or which he played with a bottle neck in his right picking hand) as well as some minimal percussions and other toys and some cool keyboard parts; Ches' very creative and dynamic drumming featured a standard jazz drum set with toys, a smaller snare drums, bells, a little gong and a pad that triggered electronic sounds that he'd manipulate live by tweaking knobs. Ceramic Dog is a great explosive blend of experimental avantgarde music, heavy guitar post punk and psychedelia. You could also hear the jazz and the latin influences in some of the music, which included pieces in 7/8 and other uncommon time signatures. At any given time the trio may sound like a mixture of Pink Floyd (especially when Marc embarks in vocal performances, which he's seems to be doing more and more in this project and where he tends to sound like Syd Barrett at times), Melvins (for the post-punkish tom toms heavy drumming), John Zorn (of whom they performed a great cover version), Rob Levit, Liars, 6-North and so forth... The night's two sets also featured a guest appearance by the animated and lively Gerard Little (from the The Young Philadelphians), who mesmerized the crowd with his great rubberish dance moves, his emotional, raw and heart felt vocal anthems and his silk skirt and huge diaper safety pin (basically an awesome, eclectic and charismatic stage presence - everything about him screamed seventies!!!). For twelve bucks this was a great night in downtown NYC. Tonic was pretty packed and as always they excelled in their musical offerings!
My first experience with this composer was while reading Robert Shwarz's "Minimalists", at the time I didn't know that much about Terry Riley, but after having read his biography I felt I could have liked the works of such a personal "artist". Some years have passed by and I've had the chance to learn more about Reich, Riley and Glass (while I've read but still don't know that much about a forerunner like La Monte Young). The opportunity offered by Turin's own Settembre Musica has been kinda interesting as always, in a couple of years I've had the chance to see two of my favorite living composers, it's just a pity Morton Feldman is already dead otherwise I'm sure sooner or later he would have been part of the "carnet";. Riley's concert was set on Monday evening and the location was great: the concert was set inside the museum of cinema, under Mole Antonelliana's dome. According to the program Riley should have played a couple of pieces of his most recent works with Stefano Scondanibbio and later both of them, together with the Alter Ego ensemble, were supposed to perform "In C", that's probably one of the pillars of minimal music. "Melodious junkyard", the opening suite, was a work for prepared piano and doublebass, I think nobody can't say it hasn't been interesting since from the beginning you could have the chance to see how deeply jazz music has influenced contemporary classical composers (the way Riley plays piano is a good reflection of what I mean). While watching this first performance, I finally understood why everybody's speaking about Stefano Scondanibbio as one of the greatest doublebass players at the moment. Scondanibbio's talent got confirmed during "Raga Makaus";, here the music vividly testified Riley's obsession for eastern music (indian ragas in particular). Part of the audience was already satisfied, but as everybody can imagine the most of the people was there waiting for the execution of "In C". Somehow the most of the people was waiting for the famous composition in a relaxed manner, as the opening couple of pieces was nothing but the morsel announcing a richer banquet to come. Right when Alter Ego's ensemble started taking place on the barely unexistent stage under the dome, while somebody was tuning the grand piano, some people carried Riley's keyboards on the stage, it was a contrasting sight to see how the modern silver shape of the instrument could look near to the canute old musician, but at last it was not yet anachronistical. When the music of "In C" began to rise from the stage everything slowly took its place, if you've ever read or heard anything about minimalism, you probably noticed how it vividly represents a sort the marriage of strength with proportion. During the last performance small parts of the ensemble started playing as if they were nothing but a loop, even if there was no sample at all that repetitions started to fade in and out of the music. Even the improvised moments were so well proportioned that it becomes clear minimalism represents a sort of cradle for the early electronic music. "In C" can induce many listeners to trance and it did, but it also may calm and warm the spirit of the audience and that's what always surprise me of Riley's works, he patiently lulls the audience bringing into an oneiric dimension. During "In C" this dream state arrives slowly, progressively and in a relaxed manner while the music heals your soul.