By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Last Monday, Paskabeered, loose-bellied, red-facedperformed for a downtown hipster audience that had crammed into Bar 16's glittering shoebox of a basement for a night of improvisational fare. Though many at tendees seemed not to know what the hell was up with this guy shrieking in a hard-to-place accent, enough were won over by the time "Pain in the Ass" rolled around to lustily sing along with the ending ("Pain! Ass! Pain! Ass!"). As Ernest Hemingway once wrote, this does not sound so funny now but it was very funny then. Just ask Blixa Bargeld, who was there. Coincidentally, Paska was later asked to open for Einstürzende Neubauten here next month, but his travel plans may not permit it. More's the pity, even if not all who've seen Paska's NYC shows seem to share Neubauten's enthusiasm. The finale of Paska's Knitting Factory appearance during CMJ had him dragging a bearded, bespectacled, fortyish guy onstage to serenade with a particularly visceral version of "Love Me Tender." When Cake Like trooped on stage moments afterward, bewildered bassist/vocalist/Comedy Central per former Kerri Kenney asked, "What the hell was that?" One attendee's muttered response: "A lot funnier than Viva Variety." Jon Fine
Guided by Voice
How do you pay tribute to a voice? Songs written can live on in others' throats, but the singing of songs is mocked if mimicked. Instead of trying to replicate one vocalist's irreplicable style, "Listen, Listen: Music of Sandy Denny," a multiartist program at St. Ann's on Saturday, wisely honored Voice, particularly the female voice seeking release in British balladry. Yes, Denny, the singer for folk-rock groups Fairport Convention and Fotheringay in the '60s and '70s, wrote songs (her first and greatest hit, "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?" was delivered by Judy Collins in 1968). But it was for her voicea husky alto with a soprano's trills, carrying centuries of English folk tradition but speaking a modern woman's troubles and hopesthat Denny earned her fame. She sang of a bucolic past that made her strange death in 1978, after falling down a stairway at age 30, mythicas if it were an accident she was born in this century, and she wasn't meant to stay.
Except, thankfully, her devotion to Celtic and Anglo-Saxon music has endured in artists like Katell Keineg, a talent blessed with Denny's vocal capabilities and literary lyrical skills that Richard Thompson should envy. The Welsh, Brittany-bred Keineg was the well-chosen star of "Listen, Listen," but she was almost outdone by English émigré Amanda Thorpe's clear grace and Irish expat Susan McKeown's powerful cadences. The Americans lost this revolution, with the only standouts being Susan Cow sill, who created a tomboy's lullaby out of "At the End of the Day," and Darius Rucker (yes, Hootie), who found gospel in "Blackwaterside," a revelation of talent that sent this critic into a confused crisis.
Rucker succeeded partly because he could hold his own over the backing band the Continental Drifters, who generally played too loud. Gathering Southern alt-rock cronies like R.E.M.'s Mike Mills and producer Don Dixon, tribute organizer Peter Holsapple may have wanted to turn the evening into a hoedown. But Denny was a balladeer, not a belter, and her voice, even in tribute, deserved its own space. Evelyn McDonnell
Hardcore, You Know the Score
If you noticed a lot of dejected kids wandering around Times Square last Wednesdaymore than usual, any wayit was because the Deftones were playing Roseland. You couldn't get a ticket for love or lunch money, and even the scalpers were getting ripped off. Those lucky enough to join the record-capacity crowd sat on the floor, showed off new tattoos so raw you could "just look, don't touch 'em," or pulled a friend's head out of the toilet: "I love you, okaywatch your hair!" Not that there was much visible drinking: with the 16-to-21 demo graphic in full effect, the bar was the only place that wasn't packed.
Everywhere else, from parquet to rafters, stripped-to-the-waist teenage boys and a few girls erupted at the first adrenaline-shot note of the torrential "My Own Summer (Shove It)," alternating ominous bass riffing and death-rattle vocals with maelstroms of guitar abuse and malevolent shrieks. The Deftones are subtler and smarter than the rest of the current punk/metal croptheir tightly rhythmic, densely low-end sound hails back to old hardcore. They raise goosebumps even in a room overflowing with sweat and testosterone, mainly be cause of Chino Moreno's vocals: he can bend over and scream from his gut in throat-searing agony or let loose with unbroken, soaring wails that raise eyes and ears to the ceiling. He's also a magnetic stage presence, flying back and forth, leaping over barricades and speaker stacks, culminating in a 15-foot swan dive into the crowd during the (literally) bruising thrash anthem "Headup."