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Friday, April 15, 2011

A Night at the Bowery, Caveman Band edition...

It may be the most difficult thing in the world to become rock stars.  And as we all know the music can many times be secondary in finding mainstream success.  Program directors at antiquated radio stations wield unearthly powers.  A&R execs are more concerned with overall looks and styling to be as objective as needed.  And for the most part the American public eats it up with a spoon.  In doing so, bands such as the ones I saw last night, do not get the attention they need.

But first, a word or two about the Bowery.  It had been years between visits before White Rabbits a few weeks back.  I had forgotten the charm and magic inside its walls.  It is very dark, very small and all very charming.  Add to that a strong, clean sound system and you know why I am scouring their calendar to see who is coming next.  I have been to many venues in and out of NYC and this place ranks as one of, if not my favorite.  Get your drink on before you get inside because drinks are crazy expensive.  But take a look at the upcoming shows and try to see some good, NEW, live music.  With tickets usually $20 and under you could do a lot worse.  You spend more than that on pizza and a 6 pack in Jersey these days.

The first band last night, Callers,  is a trio from Brooklyn (duh, who isn't??)  Led by singer Sara Lucas, and her soft yet soaring voice, there is indeed something here.  But maybe it was how soft and jazz like they are given who was coming on next that I was not captivated.  Guitarist Ryan Seaton and drummer Don Godwin have plenty of chops and ability.  And Lucas has a PJ Harvey meets Julee Cruise thing going for her that provides great flashes.  In the end they did a nice job starting the evening, but I am wondering about long term successes.  It goes back to my first point about how to make it in the music business.  And at the risk of sounding sexist (as I was told last night) they might be hindered by their style more than substance.  Sad, yes.  But this business will eat you up.

The main reason I was there last night was for band # 2, Caveman.  They are another New York band comprised of (singer/guitarist) Matthew Iwanusa, (guitarist)Jimmy Carbonetti, (drummer)Stefan Marolachakis, (guitarist)Sam Hopkins and (bassist)Jeff Berrall.  Mixing afro beats, with some free form jazz and straight out rock, these guys are someone who should be on every music fan's radar.  You can visit their website,, to get a sampling of their skills.  Some songs from last night's set appear for download/listening.  Namely, "Decide" and "December 28th."  However, the sheer energy and exhuberance displayed with these gentlemen on stage is something you need to see/hear to believe.  For the 2nd time in a month they sent that joyful feeling over me you only get from live music.  They are, quite simply, a  symphonic mix of guitars, percussion and an overwhelming/commanding bass line.  And good to see them work in some new songs to their set.  A recent trip to the South x Southwest festival has given them more polish and charm.  Here is hoping I see them again real soon as the last band of the evening.

Last night's headliner however, was a Baltimore duo called Wye Oak (, which as I found out, is the state tree of Maryland.  My friends and I were certain before they came on stage that there was a Fred Wye and Nancy Oak.  Nope.  Turns out they are Jenn Wasner (vocals/guitar) and Andy Stack (drums/keyboards/vocals.)  Like Callers, this band has talent and ability for sure.  But unlike the trio that started the evening, there was some mechanical assistance with their set that had my friends and I scratching our heads.  From the opening song we heard a fairly loud bass line without seeing a bass.  Hmm.  Stack plays drums with one hand and has a keyboard with some sort of mix he plays with the other.  So, even though the thought of drumming and mixing confounds me, I still think of it as a kind of cheating.  Mainly I want to know if he is sampling their own studio stuff or other studio musician's stuff?  And Wasner, who has a powerful voice and has a great stage presence, plays guitar but is either mic'd down or not on at all.  I was confused as to what sounds she was making with the instrument.  I have been to shows where artists incorporate mixes and sampling, namely Gomez for some horn parts, and I can give it a pass.  But whereas Gomez called attention to it and goofed on themeselves, Wye Oak does not even acknowledge it.    Don't get me wrong, I liked what I heard from them.  There is some genuine rock and roll here.  Their cover of Danzig's "Mother" was inspired for instance.  But when I see a live show I expect to know the score.  And since Caveman made it impossible to ignore the sounds they were creating...  I did not want to be asking where are these sounds coming from after their brilliant set.

I could go on about the nonsense discussed with friends during the course of the night...  like should married people EVER use condoms, thoughts on Jack White sleeping with Loretta Lynn and if I/anyone would do the same just because she isfamous, debates about loyalty and friendships, bromances, yada, yada, yada...  Main thing is concert nights are great.  Sharing them with friends and family is great.  And if you haven't done it in a while treat yourself.  And no, whoever is playing tonight at your local bar does not count.  How many times can you hear bad covers of "Brown Eyed Girl" anyway?" 

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