November 15, 2002

Round and Down

An ethereal buzz, an aggro drone and a 1-2-3-4 rock n' roll were the three very different musical flavors on the menu at the start of this week, spread across two more nights in the rock clubs of New York.

Sunday night was the final show of tongue-trippingly titled Even Now In Heaven, There Are Angels Carrying Savage Weapons tour, a series of four east coast dates pairing old-school Mancunian art punks Crispy Ambulance with Brooklyn music experimentalists Mahogany. Both bands mine a similar aesthetic, hammering a repeated riff, a rhythm or carefully-constructed soundscape into a musical foundation. But where Mahogany blends additional elements -- guitars, heavenly vocals, staccato snare -- into a shimmering composite, Crispy Ambulance uses singer Alan Hempsall's menacing vocals as emphatic punctutation.

Mahogany were up first, taking the stage quietly before letting forth a sonic burst -- a solid wash of strummed guitars over percolating sequencer effects, topped with heavenly female vocals. She and frontman Andrew traded vocals (and guitars) for the duration of their hour-long set, all the while standing quite still with feet firmly planted onstage, as if to brace themselves against the rush of sound being generated. Mahogany manage to be both ethereal and substantial at the same time, pricking up your auditory senses yet holding them in delicious suspension.

Speaking with Andrew after they cleared the stage, I got to hear a few stories about life on the road with the Crispies, was told of a new Mahogany album due in early 2003, and learned a bit about some of the new projects he's been working on in The Simultaneous Workshop. Definitely looking forward to hearing some of new sounds being generated from their musical collective, and -- even better -- these guys are local, so hopefully more shows to attend as well. (Check the front page events sidebar on this site...)

Even though the club never got more than half-full, Crispy Ambulance were received enthusiastically once they appeared, delivering each song with a forcefulness and urgency that was not always captured on record. But it was carefullly-contained aggression, tension... shifting tone and inflection through each rhythmic song cycle.

After encore #1, the crowd hollered for encore #2, but something was wrong: the bassist had somehow cut his hand, which was bleeding freely. People were yelling out requests, to carry on, c'MON! And Andrew from Mahogany jumped onstage to offer himself as a replacement, playing the bass melody on the synthesizer for the last song as audience and band alike expressed their approval. A fittingly dramatic end to the evening.

The drama on Monday happened before seeing a single note played, as a friend and I stood outside Bowery Ballroom, waiting for some kind soul with a couple of extra tickets to the sold out Donnas show to appear.

Turns out that a good number of other hopefuls had the same idea, as there were far more ticket seekers than sellers, a situation that sparked a heated verbal confrontation between one of the members of the club's door staff and one particularly brazen scalper who was peddling counterfeit tickets. The funniest moment was when the club guy made his consumer advisory announcement to the gathered crowd on the sidewalk, urging us to STAY AWAY from the guy in the white t-shirt at the corner trying to sell bogus tickets. At this, the scalper let loose with another torrent of obscenities before angrily stalking back to the corner of Bowery and Delancey.

Part II of this sidewalk drama unfolded as a hapless couple wandered by clutching two of the bad tickets they'd bought from the unscrupulous scalper after they'd been turned away at the door. Because minutes later (after we'd waited over an hour), the club decided to let more people in to buy tickets direct from the door, at face value. Good news for all of us who'd been waiting outside, but bad news for the poor fellow who'd bought the fake tickets and now wanted to get in with the rest of us, as his girlfriend proceeded to yell at him for even thinking of spending more money on an evening that she'd obviously already written off.

After taking in that opening act of sorts, we were ushered inside, past an extremely large Target promotional poster. Apparently the Donnas and Target have some kind of sponsorship arrangement, as there was a Target table downstairs and some contest for which a PR flack was holding a whiteboard of winners later in the evening.

Oh, and there was even music, too -- really! Because we did get there in time to see the Donnas, and we even made our way pretty close to the stage. It may have been a sellout crowd, but it was still far from the jam-packed claustrophobia of the Interpol show there in September. I must confess, I don't have any Donnas albums (just some mp3s), but I found their set to be much more enjoyable than their performance at the heat-stroke-inducing endurance test that was the Siren Music Festival this past summer. Just fun, fast, rock, executed with skill and delivered with sass.

Posted by nstop at November 15, 2002 10:57 PM


Interesting thread. If you have time :

Posted by: painting on April 25, 2004 01:40 PM

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