Concert mini-reviews: Red Baraat, Evolfo Doofeht, Idan Raichel Project, Klezwoods

Catching up on a few shows I’ve seen in the last few weeks… in no particular order.

Red Baraat: I’m not always very good at deciding what genre any given band is, but they describe themselves as “Bhangra Funk Dhol’n’Brass.” (I’m not sure that really helps!) The eight-piece band consists entirely of percussion and brass. This was a classic case of a good band that isn’t really up my alley; they had the crowd excited and dancing for most of the set, but for my taste I would have jettisoned the dance/hip-hop influence. My ears would have liked more of the brass band sound. That said, it was still a fun and danceable show. You can check out their NPR Tiny Desk concert here:

Local band Evolfo Doofeht opened for them, and I was having a hard time making up my mind about their set. They described themselves as “gypsy funk” – I probably would have liked them more if the gypsy part was more prominent. To me it sounded like pretty straight up funk/R&B type music. In parts it was too smooth and clean for me, but in parts I thought they really had some promise. They are a pretty young band, so they might be one to keep an eye on if they develop in the right directions. I’d suggest spending more effort on their solos than their costumes, for a start – no one is going to be impressed with the trombonist’s furry purple suit if he can’t musically knock it out of the park. (Well… maybe a LITTLE impressed. It was awfully purple.)

The Red Baraat/Evolfo Doofeth concert was also my first time at the Sinclair, a new Harvard Square venue. I had heard a lot of “it’s like the House of Blues, but small” and I can definitely see that, although I think the smallness has solved a lot of the problems plaguing the House of Blues. I actually really liked it as a mid-size venue – definitely nicer than the Middle East Downstairs (and far better sound), and a little more sophisticated than Brighton Music Hall (and a lot more convenient to me). I need more visits to make up my mind, but (more…)

Concert review: Border Music – Marc Ribot and David Hidalgo (1/26/13)

I took a somewhat ill-fated trip to Burlington, Vermont this past weekend to catch a concert at the Flynn Center: Marc Ribot and David Hidalgo‘s “Border Music” project. (I won’t bore you with the ill-fated parts of the trip, but if I ever start talking about going on a long bus journey again, please remind me of the time we broke down in rural New Hampshire in the dead of winter.)

I’m not entirely sure what “Border Music” is supposed to be, but judging from the music I heard that night, their definition seemed to be pretty fluid. There was a lot of Latin music – unsurprisingly, given Hidalgo’s background in Los Lobos and the Latin Playboys and Ribot’s Cubanos Postizos – but there were some other selections that were a little less clear on where they fit in to the concept. I’m sure that if I had a chance to ask, they would have had fascinating explanations of which borders those songs would be straddling.

The equipment on stage was intriguing me even before they started playing: two electric guitars, three acoustic guitars, a cello, and a ukelele. There was, needless to say, a lot of tuning going on throughout the set (along with the obligatory “we tune because we care!” jokes and one or two “shouldn’t we have roadies for this?” comments).

Marc Ribot and David Hidalgo

The setlist seemed to be mostly improvised, with the two performers taking turns to pick which song they wanted to play next. The first piece to be performed was one of Hidalgo’s picks, a song he did with the Latin Playboys called Manifold de Amour. It was a gorgeous start to the concert – Marc Ribot playing acoustic guitar, David Hidalgo picking out a bass line on the cello, both singing the single repeated verse: Voy a navegar / Al puerto del alma / Cruzando el mar / Hasta que llegaré
The internet informs me that the translation is something like: “I’m going to sail / to the port of the soul / crossing the sea / until I arrive.”

The next song was The Dying Cowboy, a song that Marc Ribot has recorded more than once – most recently on Buddy Miller’s Majestic Silver Strings album. He talked about his unusual arrangement of the song in an interview with the L.A. Times: “I was surprised at the dirgy, depressing, very non-cowboy chords of this version/arrangement. Pretty soon I figured out that I was misreading it (chalk up another one for Harold Bloom). In contemporary [musical] notation, a minus sign means minor chord; in the 30’s, it meant dominant 7th, a completely different vibe. But I liked it so much that I kept it minor, more or less threw out the original melody (ah, it’s good to be an American!) and turned it into a kind of free-jazz cowboy raga.” The “Border Music” interpretation of this was a haunting duet with two acoustic guitars and Ribot doing the vocals in a more-or-less spoken-word style. Really lovely.

The next couple of pieces were fairly predictable choices – a Los Lobos song called La Pistola y El Corazón and Fiesta en el Solar, an Arsenio Rodriguez song that Ribot recorded on one of his Cubanos Postizos albums. I sneaked a video recording of La Pistola just for you:

After this we got the first song choice that made me wonder exactly what sort of border this music was on: David Hidalgo sang a quite lovely version of Jim Reeves’ Put Your Sweet Lips Closer to the Phone. Marc Ribot switched from his acoustic guitar to his Fender Jaguar for this one, giving us our first taste of his electric guitar style (of which I happen to be a very big fan!). (more…)

Concert review: Klezwoods, Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band, Cirkestra (1/10/13)

My first concert of the year was a big one – three popular local bands, all touching on the klezmer/circus/gypsy music family. We are blessed with a lot of that sort of music here in Boston, although I’ve never really known why. Whatever the reason may be, in my opinion it’s a very good thing!

The show was at Johnny D’s in Somerville, where I hadn’t been in ages. They recently changed their ticketing system for the worse, unfortunately. You used to be able to buy a ticket online, then call to reserve a table, where you could eat and drink as much or as little as you felt like. With the new system, if you want to get a table reserved, you have to pre-pay for $12 or $20 worth of food, which must be ordered from a limited prix fixe menu. This can make things considerably more expensive, especially since you have to pay fees on the food prepayment amount. On the plus side, Johnny D’s is a pretty decent place to see a concert: the sightlines and sound are both good, and the food is better and less expensive than a lot of similar concert venues.

Cirkestra was the first band of the night, and I couldn’t help but notice that their usual saxophone player was not there. I felt a little sad about that, because she’s one of my favorite things about that band. There was another saxophone player in her place, who I knew I had seen in another band recently, but I couldn’t put my finger on it for a while. Finally it hit me: I saw him play with Amanda Palmer at the Paradise in November! (If you’re wondering why that was so memorable, (more…)