Monday, June 1, 2009


On a recent fine May midday, I set out to walk a pleasant two miles to Mazzotti Music to pick up a fixed guitar amp and found the usual plethora of books that seem to line my path everywhere. To begin with, a street giveaway carton yielded up four volumes of legendary early 70s Detroit ghetto naturalist Donald Goines. Whether I need to read all four remains to be seen - Daddy Cool went down fast like the kind of snack food that leaves you feeling a bit queasy.

A block party in Park Slope provided an exemplar of a somewhat different African-American literary aesthetic, Wanda Coleman, whose Heavy Daughter Blues: Poems & Stories 1968-1986 was published by Black Sparrow Press, so you know (if you are familiar with their work) what a distinctive look the book has. Coleman's curriculum vita (I see from the credits) includes a stint with Anna Halprin's Dancers' Workshop, so you might further connect the dots with having seen Daria Martin's Minotaur, a film of a Halprin-choreographed duet, when it was showing at The New Museum earlier this spring.

Strolling around street fairs in Brooklyn, I have found, gives you a reasonable chance of seeing The Gowanus Wildcats; Saturday was my second sighting. They are a drill team (not step dancers, as they always remind you), 10 early teenage girls from a public housing project, whose level of precision is perhaps more folk art than West Point, but all the more engaging for it (here's a segment).

Finally, guitar amplifier retrieved and bánh mì sandwich consumed, I headed off to the Cake Shop for an evening of what Time Out sort of touted as hipster metal. I got there in time for Darsombra, a one-man band from Baltimore. With 8-string bass, guitar, a vocal mike and about 30 effects pedals, Brian Daniloski (barefoot on his own Persian rug) creates huge throbbing waves of winedark sound that could pretty much pass for electronic music without the little bit of doom-metal subculture trappings. The set was perfectly paced and timed – quite exciting.

Philadelphia's Stinking Lizaveta followed – I have seen them a handful of times and felt respectful but never quite enthralled. On this occasion, whatever those inhibitions were got thrown to the wind and I felt, at least for the duration of their set, like they were the best band I'd ever seen, a form of selective amnesia that often affects for me some subset of a particularly good show, but doesn't always sustain itself to coming home and writing about it. Seismic exuberance, raw power...I fear I will cheapen my transcendent experience with rock critic hyphenations (instrumental prog-metal-skronk etc) but comparisons abound with all sorts of things from Return To Forever's epoch-defining Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy to Quebec's Voivod and everyone there knew they had seen something remarkable.

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