The double synth attack worked well for them. Keyboardist Rebecca Rossi stuck to organ and piano patches while Avery Brooks (no, not this guy) played with a more varied sound, providing sprinkles of electronic sounds and supporting the rhythm section. Some of the best moments of the night came when both keyboards peaked out of the guitar-heavy texture, especially when they played off of each other. Honestly, I wish that had happened more.
Drummer Mike Riddelberger was absolutely phenomenal. Each moment was perfectly weighted, and Riddelberger’s subtle drumming drove the crescendos and mood shifts that aptly illustrated Lack’s words.
Old Monk is a trio of hard rockers that delights in surprising musical twists. They sit on the fence somewhere between punk, garage, and indie rock, and like their heavier brethren they change suddenly between all sorts of weird time changes and chord progressions, but always with head-banging fluidity. Bassist Tsugumi Takashi kept the beat with simple, effective bass lines while Ian Burns banged out bar after bar of crazily fast drum parts and Joshua Carrafa switched fluently between destroying his guitar strings with fast-picked chords, and complex, distortion-fueled riffs, all while singing disarmingly sweet melodies. Their set was totally enjoyable. If you like things on the harder side, but with carefully crafted pop melodies, check these guys out.
You may remember Emil Hewitt of Emil & Friends from the occasionally hilarious e-interview I did with him at the beginning of December. We talked a lot about the fact that he writes his music and produces his tracks by himself. I was interested to see how his lush, fully orchestrated, overdubbed songs translate into a live setting.
I was not disappointed, at all. At Cake Shop Hewitt played a two-and-a-half piece set with guitarist David Tanklefsky and a drum machine. What really stood out was the versatility of Emil’s voice, his ability to rocket up into soulful falsetto and come back down to a restful middle range. The phrasing of his already gorgeous melodies worked even better in their stripped-down versions, as they had more time to breathe without the backing vocals and orchestral flourishes. This was definitely the case in “Josephine:” the original track has a beat and a warm blanket of electronic sound that pushes the song forward, even in the slowly-phrased chorus; in the live show, it was transformed into a tender Soul song, and the spacing in the chorus instead felt beautifully isolated, wistful, heart-broken. The chorus's repeated lyric, "I mean it Josephine," never felt so touching.
Tanklefsky played with a warm, full guitar sound, plucking his way sensitively through the set. He provided the perfect background for Hewitt’s vocal fireworks. There were some awkward “oh crap I have to change the track” moments with the drum machine, and I had to wonder – though the small band worked well for the intimate venue – if it might have been easier to add a drummer with a small set, or at least a guy whose only job was to deal with the drum machine. After the show Hewitt mentioned to me that he liked to try out all sorts of combos – maybe he’ll try that out next time. Or maybe not. Really, I just can’t wait to see who he plays with next time.
I should mention that Radical Dads also played at Cake Shop on Friday. Although I missed their set, from what I hear they’re yet another band to watch out for. You can check them out at the link above, at their myspace page, or at Pianos (right next door to Cake Shop) on February 9th. Ravens and Chimes don't have any upcoming tour dates, but they do have an album out, available for order from Amazon. They've also been interviewed on WNYC's Soundcheck, which is pretty amazing. Emil & Friends's Fantastic EP Downed Economy is available on Amazon and iTunes through Cantora Records. Some incarnation of his band will be playing at CoCo66 on February 4th, Pianos on February 11th, and Glasslands (A really interesting Williamsburg venue) on March 1st.