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Bridges -burn -build: SViiB @ Cameo Gallery 8/26/11


Addendum 9.6.11: Added Setlist to Image Gallery.

My first trip to Cameo Gallery was a nice opportunity to catch one of my favorite groups, School of Seven Bells, headlining a small club and debuting some new material. I know I’m a bit behind the curve on this venue but the wealth of musical offerings at The Bell House, Southpaw, Union Hall have glued me to my own locale (Sunset Park, Bklyn) over the last several months. Cameo is a kind of hidden space entered through The Loving Cup Cafe on North 6th in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg. You sneak sideways down past the restrooms into a corridor that leads to the venue’s door giving a speakeasy effect to the whole experience. Once inside the area opens into a high ceilinged music & art space. It’s kind of like the much missed Under Acme – bar at one end, stage at the other – but taller. A wooly kinetic sculpture hangs over the stage. It resembles a long-haired yak pelt interpreted as a summer camp hook-rug project, then turned upside-down. It’s continuous shimmering movement is accentuated by colored stage lights and it makes an out of the ordinary background for band photos.

Ghost Echoes
I was first drawn to SViiB based by their sonic similarity to some of my favorite shoe-gaze music from the 90’s. My Bloody Valentine, Lush and the 4AD milieu came to mind immediately when I first encountered them and that was just fine with me. A band that names an album after a Brian Eno Oblique Strategies instruction or references Rene Daumal’s “Mount Analogue”, a double sucker punch on my checklist. Since then I’ve have come to appreciate the style they’ve created beyond its influences. It’s dreamy-pop with beautifully harmonized vocals from twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia over driving dance rhythms and sublimely distorted guitars by Benjamin. They’ve managed to find a compelling ground between the heart pounding and the hypnotic with words that often break across melodies and meters in unexpected ways. I’ve pretty much had the “Disconnect From Desire” album (and much of their earlier work) on endless loop since its July 2010 release and have completely worn out all my friends by proselytizing.

Consider Transitions
School of Seven Bells’ gig at Brooklyn Bowl last fall was a real treat. Killer show from end to end. Zach “Shigeto” Saginaw was on drums and also opened the night with an excellent set of his own material. The equally enjoyable Active Child was direct support. Their newest album, just released this week , is another must hear. Shortly after, I caught SViiB’s spot on The Jimmy Kimmel Show. Why didn’t the camera ever move over to Claudia’s side of the stage? Hmm. I was dismayed to learn that Claudia had left the group. Would this be a fatal blow for a band I love so much? Familial vocalizing is hard to beat; a thing of power and beauty and a key element of this band’s sound. Sibling voices mesh in a way that can’t be approached by mere musical acquaintances – think of the Everly Brothers, Staples Singers, The Beach Boys.

Seeing the band perform a couple of times after the transition it was clear that Ben and Ally were searching for the proper way to re-align the sound and feel on stage; attempting to present a trio’s material as a duo. Having dealt with the effects of band personnel changes myself more times then I care to innumerate I could commiserate, but dilemma is nothing if not cathartic. I’m happy to report that the Cameo show brought back the feelings that enamored me with SViiB in the first place. I wasn’t sure exactly how adding a bassist to the mix as a replacement for a singer/keyboard player would be the fix, but they figured it out. It’s different, but it works. It’s a band. Even on this first outing with the new line-up they seemed comfortable and self assured. The new material (Low Times, The Night) suggests a heavier sound on the next album and I’m excited to hear what they’ve cooked up this time around.

(Dead) Sea Salt
Only lament from me is that “Bye, Bye, Bye” was missing from the set. It’s a tune I’m particularly addicted to both melodically and lyrically. It plays with images from Orpheus & Eurydices and the Biblical tale of Lot’s wife and finds the singer wishing to turn an unfaithful lover into a “standing pile of stones” to “skip across the ocean”… “one by one” until nothing is left of them. Wow.

SkeletonPete Says
Give School of Seven Bells’ 2007 single “My Cabal” a spin or three. If you dig what you hear move straight to the “Disconnect From Desire” album. There’s a lot to recommend it from the chanted opening of “Windstorm” to the pulsing beats and background vocals of “Dust Devil”, and one of the simplest but bravest love songs in recent memory, “I L U”. Once obsessed, fill in the various remixes and explore the earlier “Alpinisms” album. Thank me later.

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Keys To The Highline

Bobby Keys

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What It Is…
New York City’s Highline Ballroom was the site of a grand music summit on July 28, 2011. The venue was packed to the rafters with fans, friends and industry folk who came out to see a creme of the crop group of session musicians that for the most part comprise The Rolling Stones touring band. Ostensibly brainstormed as a night to feature long time Stones cohort saxophonist Bobby Keys, the group became Band 2 (dubbed for the number on their rehearsal room) when Keys preferred to shine the spotlight in a more communal fashion. If you’ve turned on the radio in the last 40 years you’ve undoubtedly heard the Texas born Keys. His saxophone solos grace “Brown Sugar”, Dion’s “The Wanderer”, Elton & Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Through The Night”, he was a Mad Dog for Joe Cocker and a “Friend” of Delaney and Bonnie. He first met The Stones during their 1964 tour of the U.S. and later joined the band during sessions for what became the “Let It Bleed” album. He shares a birthday with Keith Richards and also shared some now legendary carousing, including being “exiled” in France, in the basement of Villa Nellcote, during the summer of 1971.

After an introduction by longtime NY rock disc jockey Ken Dashow, the band slid into the show with a jazzy “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, cast in the style presented on Tim Ries’s “The Rolling Stones Project” recordings. Nearly every tune required some change of personnel and multi-instrumentalist Ries acted as defacto stage manager and band leader for the evening. The show progressed “revue” like with players entering and leaving the stage as song arrangements required. Working their way around a stage strewn with innumerable instruments, microphones, music stands, stomp boxes and cables the group took turns as soloists, duos and trios, voices with simple horn accompaniment and/or acoustic guitar through full on rockin’ ensemble.

Can’t You Hear Them Rockin’

Bobby Keys took the stage joking that in 30 years on the road he’d never been given a microphone to speak into and claimed he “might take it home”. Relating a story of his youth that correlated hearing King Curtis and “leaving” school Keys led the band through a really sweet version of Curtis’s 1962 tune “Soul Serenade”. One truly timeless melody. I dig Willie Mitchell’s version also. Later in the evening he presented a loose version of Booker T. & The MG’s instro “Bootleg”. Things really got rockin’ when the audience caught a hint of the slippery opening riff to “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’” and with the full band on stage the tune took on barnburner status. Keys wowed everyone with a note perfect run through his classic solo over the latin influenced coda.

The show made a couple detours from The Stones catalog. The Beatles were referenced twice with Lisa Fischer singing “Come Together” in similar fashion to Rosetta Hightower’s version and Fab Faux Bassist Will Lee doing a Stax inflected “She’s A Woman”; one of my favorites of the evening. Ries presented an original in progress with daughter Chelsea at the microphone. Lisa’s, Ann Wilson style vocal on Led Zep’s “Rock N Roll” closed the first set with a bang.

There were many highlights during the night. Bernard Fowler sang lead on that most beautiful and heartfelt of Stones songs, “Wild Horses”, with Blondie Chaplin harmonizing. Always makes me think of Graham Parsons. Blondie opened the second set with a scratchy reggae tune and sang a gorgeous rendition of the evergreen “Smile”. Tim added some great accompaniment on soprano sax. That tune began life as a melody written by another chap named Chaplin (Charlie) in the 1930’s and with added lyrics was made famous by Nat King Cole in the early 1950’s. The unquestionable grand slam of the show was “Gimme Shelter” with Lisa’s spectacular vocal and Sugar Blue’s haunting harp playing. The original vocalist on this foreboding juggernaut was Merry Clayton, who set the bar super high for all who followed. Lisa not only met that “threatening storm” head-on but blew it back a few clicks. The encore sent everyone home on an up note with the audience spontaneously joining in on the chorus as Bernard sang “Ruby Tuesday”.

Wish List
Considering the talented horn section and the Stones-centric spin of the show it was surprising to find tunes like “Brown Sugar”, “Live With Me”, “Bitch”, “Happy” and maybe even the obscure but great “I Got The Blues” missing from the presentation. I would have also been glad to hear some more tunes specifically featuring Keys at center stage. Maybe next time, which I truly hope there will be.

SkeletonPete Says:
This jammy stage session was a nice peak at the The Stones mega-talented backline in action on their own. It had the relaxed mood of sitting in your living room while a slew of musician friends play their favorite tunes. Though the audience might have been hoping for a “Keef” sighting, the overall presentation did not suffer without it. Though essentially famous as a backing band, each member could easily star in their own right (and often do) and that was clearly the point of this showcase.

Photo Gallery: Bobby Keys & Band 2 @ Highline Ballroom

The Rolling Stones touring squad, alias Band 2, cooked up a night of horn driven jams at New York’s Highline Ballroom on July 28, 2011. Full story is here.

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Rock-A-Billy Fillies Rip It Up @ Central Park Summerstage

More Encore Photos Below. Follow the links for Full Photo Galleries of Imelda May and Wanda Jackson.

Rock-A-Billy’s Reigning Queen And Princess

The original rock-a-billy fillie, Wanda Jackson, was joined by the genre’s newest spitfire Imelda May for a Central Park Summer Stage night of 50’s styled riffing and jiving on July 27, 2011. The ladies lit up a perfect mid-summer’s eve in the park and wowed the audience with a host of original and cover tunes formulated to get your pulse a-racing and your feet a-dancing.

Let’s Have A Party

Wanda’s early career mixed country with the then burgeoning rock of Elvis and Gene Vincent and deservedly earned her the title of “Queen of Rock-A-Billy” in the ensuing year’s. Aficionados of the style know her catalog well and you’ll find her tunes being spun along with The Cramps, Eddie Cochran and The Collins Kids wherever DA’s, poodle skirts and pegged pants are found on the dance floor. In 2009 she was honored with induction into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. Jackson has flowed through stylistic changes of country, rock-a-billy and southern gospel but she has never “left the building”. Artists like Rosie Flores have championed her in the past and now Mr. Jack White (“a nice young man”) has given the lady’s catalog a healthy injection by producing her most recent album. Aptly titled “The Party Ain’t Over”, a decades later nod to her 1960 radio hit “Let’s Have A Party”, which was the set closer on this show.

I’m thrilled to report Ms. Wanda has kept her pipes in perfect shape and it is a joy to hear her serving up a blue plate special of I – helped – invent – this, four – on – the – floor, stomp. She also kept her red fringe shimmying for the appreciative crowd. Her stories of touring with – and dating – Elvis are priceless. She still keeps the ring he gave her to wear around her neck. Her originals, like “Mean, Mean Man” and “Fujiyama Mama”, penned to fill the gap for female vocals in early rock, match Elvis’s better Sun Records output and rival Gene Vincent’s work for flat out hot-doggin’ fun. Both tunes were in her Central Park set.

Hot Dog, He Got Me Mad

The Hi – Dollars, led by Heath Haynes, backed Wanda marvelously, got a few opening numbers in for themselves to warm up the crowd, and produced some stop-on-a-dime turn around’s with a dose Fender twang, Gretsch sting and banging keyboards; everything cruising along on a bed of pumping stand up bass and drums. The set included two personal favorites, Johnny Kid’s “Shakin’ All Over” and Eddie Cochran’s “Nervous Breakdown”, the latter being the ur-seed for Led Zep’s “Living Lovin’ Maid” and the former sporting a lick that, though covered by every band from here to Timbuktu, never gets old. A run through “Rip It Up” was another highlight for the rock-a-billy centric crowd up near the stage.

Wanda made note of the sad passing of chanteuse Amy Winehouse this week. Lamenting the death of a talent so young and paid tribute with a rendering of Winehouse’s “You Know I’m no Good”. She also dipped into her own country and gospel roots for a few tunes, even slipped in a sweet blue yodel, giving the young audience a nice glimpse of how traditional sounds collided to give birth to Rock.

Darling Buds of (Imelda) May

Petite powerhouse Imelda May’s star has been on the rise internationally since her well publicized stint with Jeff Beck on his Les Paul Tribute Show (Eagle Vision DVD). There she ably emulated the late Mary Ford (Les’s wife), harmonizing with her own meticulously multi-tracked versions of “How High The Moon”, “Bye, Bye Blues”, “Vaya Con Dios”. Similarly her own band includes husband Darrel Higham on guitar. The group is steeped in outre and retro culture. On this night Imelda sported a slinky blue dress emblazoned with the sixties Batman TV show logo, double bass player Al was attired in leopard print shirt and bleached buzz cut, Darrell’s on big fat Gibson & Gretsch hollow bodies – just like Eddie. Imelda resisted the Betty Page bangs so prevalent on the scene for her own signature look; a big blonde curl in her raven hair.

The band’s Dublin Ireland roots come out when Imelda wields a Bodhran and bones beating out a pulse for the audience to clap along to. Along with her own numbers like the popular “Johnny Got A Boom Boom” May peppers the set with tunes like Howlin’ Wolf’s “Poor Boy” and the Northern Soul classic “Tainted Love”, which served as her firey finale number. The group presented a nice tight opening set, only missing one favorite of mine, their take on “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”.

Double Mint Fun

As the audience clearly hoped both ladies took the stage for an un-staged version of Jerry Lee Lewis’s ”Whole Lotta Shakin Goin’ On”. “What key you do this honey?” “I’m following you.” You could see the mutual appreciation unfold as Wanda coached Imelda through the songs sly, sexy, spoken bit. “Now Imelda, my friend Jerry Lee tells me you can shake it just standin’ in one spot. Easy now… yeah, I think you got it”

Rock-A-Billy music will ring throughout the world as long as these ladies have something to do with it. Wanda and Imelda, long may you reign.

SkeletonPete Says: Get Off The Couch!

This free concert was a perfect double bill on a perfect New York summer night and is just one of the many shows offered by The City Parks Foundation and its sponsors. There is plenty more to come from Summerstage throughout the city. Check out their website for details. New Yorkers, time to leave reality TV for your own reality.

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Photo Gallery: Wanda Jackson @ Summerstage 2011


Wondrous Wanda Jackson reigning “Queen of Rock-A-Billy” and her band The Hi – Dollars lit up the Central Park Summerstage on July 27, 2011.

Full story and photos of encore performance with Imelda May are here.

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