Review(s): A completely insane week of music, featuring Kenny Wollesen (3x), Marc Ribot, John Zorn, Secret Chiefs 3, and so much more…

For the record, I’ve pretty much given up on trying to review each concert I go to. In the last 30 days I went to 25 shows. Between that and working full time, I haven’t even finished unpacking from my move, let alone found time to blog about all those shows! I’m not sure if it’s best to write about only one in five shows (give or take) or if it’s best to write about more of them, but in less detail. Your feedback on this is encouraged…

Since my last review (a week ago) I’ve seen seven concerts in six venues in two states featuring roughly 20 bands/ensembles. I can’t write about them all, and it’s hard to even know where to start, but let’s go with 6:30PM, last Thursday afternoon. I’d been planning to go to the Stone for a relatively easy evening out, but I was feeling pretty well rested after staying in the previous evening and I made a very last-minute decision to take the PATH train to New Jersey and attend the HONK! festival event at Monty Hall in New Jersey. The main reason I wanted to go was to see Kenny Wollesen‘s band, the Himalayas, who were on the bill. I’ve seen him play vibes or drums or percussion many times, but only once before had I seen him lead a marching band, and it was over-the-top fun. Naturally, I was eager to repeat the experience.

Monty Hall is a new venue and I had never heard anything about it, so when I arrived to find a quite small venue with no seating, plush wall-to-wall carpeting, and a surprisingly liberal BYOB policy (…I’ve heard of “bring your own” but not “greet everyone at the door with directions to the liquor store and a suggestion that they go get something to bring back”), I just shrugged and tried not to think too hard about their carpet cleaning bills. Like pretty much every HONK! event ever, there was a great vibe to the place and the show was massive amounts of fun. There were a bunch of bands, my two favorites (very narrowly, but I’m trying to be brief, here!) were the Himalayas and the Chaotic Noise Marching Corps. CNMC were punky, loud, crazy, and fun. They overflowed off the stage and into the small audience area, making for a very intense and in-your-face set. The Himalayas, with Kenny Wollesen at their helm, were more percussion-focused than the other bands we saw, which I found very interesting. The rhythms seemed more subtle and sophisticated, and I really enjoyed that difference in a show that didn’t have a lot of subtlety going on. The whole concert was a lot of fun and we danced a lot. (Well, I only danced a little, I’m not very good at dancing. But other people danced up a storm and I had fun watching!)

Kenny Wollesen & the Himalayas

Kenny Wollesen & the Himalayas

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Concert(s) review: Marc Ribot residency, part three (1/31 & 2/1/2014)

Seven concerts, a foot of snow, and 200 miles later, we’re back with the exciting third installment of the Marc Ribot residency week at the Stone! (Previous reviews, if you missed them, can be found here and here.) Today we’ll be covering the two Marc Ribot Trio + guest shows, which were the late sets on January 31st and February 1st.

The Trio consists of Marc Ribot on guitar, Henry Grimes on upright bass and occasionally violin, and Chad Taylor on drums. I saw them a few times back in November at the Village Vanguard (see my review/video/etc. here), and after those stellar performances I was really looking forward to seeing them in the Stone with a group of good friends. I was expecting them to mix things up a bit since they had invited special guests each night: guitarist Mary Halvorson on Friday and keyboardist Cooper-Moore on Saturday. I’d seen both musicians before and knew they were both top-notch performers who could potentially add something really special to the Trio.

four-pic

(Apologies for not getting a photo of Cooper-Moore, he was sitting with his back to me and I never really got a chance to get a photo of him that would show anything more than the back of his head.)

Friday and Saturday’s performances were the most crowded of the whole residency; I’m not sure how much of that was because of the appeal of the line-ups those nights and how much was because of the fact that it was the weekend, and maybe the weather played into it as well. (I can personally attest that it was painfully cold on Tuesday and Wednesday when we were waiting in line outside. Literally painful, as in “my exposed skin was really hurting right up until I lost all the feeling in my face.”) At any rate, it was packed, with people standing in the back and sitting on the floor, and people were turned away at the door after the venue reached capacity.

There are pros and cons to the general-admission no-advance-tickets strategy, but one thing it does is (more…)

Concert Review: Marc Ribot Trio at the Village Vanguard (11/9 & 11/10/2013)

This weekend I was lucky enough to be able to go to New York and attend the last two nights of the Marc Ribot Trio residency at the Village Vanguard. They had played their first Vanguard residency last summer, and I attended some of those shows as well, so I had a pretty good idea of just how special these concerts might be. The Vanguard – while not an ideal venue at first glance (it’s crowded, has weird sight-lines, etc.) – is practically oozing jazz history from the walls, and when you’re there you can’t help but feel the weight of nearly eighty years of performances by jazz icons like John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Charles Mingus. The audiences tend to be peppered with music tourists who want to experience what may be the most famous jazz club in the world – I sat near two different people who appeared to have no idea who the band was, and were just there because “it’s the Vanguard!” I guess there are upsides and downsides to that as a musician – you can win over some new jazz-loving fans, but you can also face some skepticism if you are not a straight-up jazz player. But the experience as an audience member is like – well, if you’ve ever seen a movie or TV show with some kind of downtown smoky basement jazz club, it was probably based on the Village Vanguard. It’s like that. And the sound is excellent.

The Marc Ribot Trio consists of Marc Ribot on guitar (naturally!), Henry Grimes on bass, and Chad Taylor on drums. Ribot is an incredibly versatile guitarist who plays everything from rock to jazz to classical to punk to surf guitar, and has performed with a very wide variety of musicians both live and in studio. He also has a number of his own bands and projects (Marc Ribot Trio/Spiritual Unity, Cubanos Postizos, Ceramic Dog, etc.), all of which are worth checking out. Chad Taylor is a drummer who has played with a long list of impressive jazz and indie rock collaborators, from Cooper-Moore to Iron & Wine to Eugene Chadbourne. Henry Grimes has perhaps the most unusual life story of any musician I’ve ever seen – he was an important up-and-coming young bass player in the 50s and 60s, playing with people like Albert Ayler and Sonny Rollins, but he dropped out of the scene completely and suddenly. No one really knew where he was, and for many years people assumed he was dead. In 2002 a particularly determined fan discovered that he was living in California, no longer performing after being forced to give up his instrument some 35 years previously due to bad luck and finances. With help from some fellow musicians and fans he was able to procure an instrument and start performing again… and in spite of all those years away, he is still amazing.

I got there early enough on Saturday night to be the first person in the door, so I was able to snag one of the best seats in the house. I misjudged a little bit because when the band came on stage it turned out that Henry Grimes’ bass was blocking my view of Chad Taylor, but on the plus side I had what I believe to be the only seat in the entire place where you could sneak perfect photos of Marc Ribot from underneath the table where the camera wouldn’t bother anyone:

Ribot-vanguard

I didn’t plan it that way, but sometimes life just works out in your favor like that! I only took a couple of flashless photos and a short video clip for my blog readers, because it really wasn’t (more…)