God Is in the Details

There were nine of them on the Knitting Factory stage. Each wore a purple tunic emblazoned with a shield bearing his or her first name; each tunic had a long hood adorned with small bells and a silver heart stitched on the sleeve. Chain-mail shirts and crushed-velvet leggings completed the outfits. All nine had rouged cheeks that made them look like giant dolls come to life. The overall effect was spookily darling, in a demented, space-age King Arthur kind of way. They hadn't hit a note yet, and they were already unforgettable. "We are Danielsonship, as in relationship," said singer and guitarist Daniel Smith by way of introduction.

Comprised of Smith family members and assorted friends, Danielsonship is but one aspect of the Danielson galaxy— the other two are Brother Danielson (Daniel singing solo from inside the trunk of a homemade tree) and the Danielson Famile (the five Smith siblings and their friend Chris Palladino, all dressed up in white nurses' outfits). With an assortment of instruments that included violin, flute, keyboards, xylophone, percussion, guitars, and sax, Danielsonship made a mighty ruckus. They joyfully borrowed from gospel, country, oddly metered bluegrass, and the outer reaches of alt-rock to create their own surrealistically cryptic universe. Older songs like "A No No" and "Smooth Death" are now sing-along live staples. Of the newer numbers, "Idiot Boksen" was the most memorable, Daniel's unnerving falsetto juxtaposed with the comforting drive of a hoedown.

More interested in exploring their own self-contained world than in proselytizing, the openly Christian Danielsonship offered a rare example of polymorphous creativity fueled, not hindered, by powerful, all-encompassing faith. At a time when many use ironic distance to ensure audience complicity, the band's willingness to "expose" its beliefs to a crowd of heathen pop and art lovers was remarkable. And while rock purists usually think that props and costumes interfere with the honesty of emotions, Danielsonship's elaborate stage dress doesn't function as a disguise; instead it paradoxically allows the band members to reveal themselves unadorned— no wonder they have hearts stitched on their sleeves. — Elisabeth Vincentelli

Polymorphous creativity fueled by powerful, all-encompassing faith: Danielsonship at Knitting Factory
Andrew Goldberg
Polymorphous creativity fueled by powerful, all-encompassing faith: Danielsonship at Knitting Factory

Nothing But Net

"We're like the Beastie Girls," Mia Juhng said about the 14 or so musicians, industry plebes, directors, and whatnot who play basketball together each weekend as the Varmits. You know some: Miho Hatori of Cibo Matto, punk icon Kathleen Hanna, Gabby Glaser and Kate Schellenbach of Luscious Jackson; others you don't, like Juhng, who books a hip-hop­oriented weekly party at Brownies. But they were just the team to raise money for the Greenwich Village Youth Council's Youth Basketball League, a way of thanking the guy who's been coaching them free the past four months.

Hanna serving as MC, the Tuesday Brownies show meandered personably, with Johnny Temple of Girls Against Boys spinning Poor Righteous Teachers, Mellowman Ace, Special Ed, and other relics of our not-so-recent youth— hey, it's less lame than disco oldies! Cibo Matto's set was really short, but sweeeeet, as Miho likes to sing, a candied hissy fit. The same musicians, mostly, then became Sean Lennon— he's indulging the Melvins side he warned us about, only he's the mellowest metalhead ever, throwing in Ipanema melodies and, midsong, a "whoop-de-do." Jock Rock was Schellenbach drumming and Josephine Wiggs on guitar, Hanna singing, and some Joan Jett cameos, quickie-covering arena anthems like Queen and Gary Glitter.

Then, as just keeps happening, with alt-rock archness starting to enervate the throng, hip-hop arrived to save the day. The Jungle Brothers strolled the stage for about 12 minutes, tighter and looser than in their heyday (I'm going by Berkeley Community Theater with BDP, circa 1990). We were up; it was over. Hanna, doing it all, taped the Arsonists' banner onstage, then for 90 seconds max the Bouncing Heroes did some no-hands pogoing in Knievel-wear to the Rocky theme, don't even ask. Arsonists played a full set, five MCs rapping out of a flying wedge, hairy and callous— best throw-your-hands-in-the-air invocation ever: "C'mon, you all know the fucking routine." But they paused for silence to honor slain rapper Big L, too, and brought out members of the now two-decade-old Rock Steady Crew for break dancing extraordinaire. It's fun frolicking in somebody else's utopia; when are the Beasties gonna run for mayor? — Eric Weisbard

Starr Struck

The hits just kept a-comin' last Tuesday when Ringo Starr rolled out this year's edition of his All-Starr Band at the Beacon for an unashamed orgy of culturally encoded boomer nostalgia. The former Beatles drummer— along with former Procol Harum keyboardist Gary Brooker, former Cream bassist Jack Bruce, former Free­Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke, former Utopia guitarist Todd Rundgren, and former Peter Gabriel saxophonist Timmy Cappello— knocked one well-rehearsed chestnut after another out of the ballpark, all for the benefit of some of the tightest ponytails ever seated together under a single roof.

I love Ringo. How can you not love Ringo? "We love you, Ringo!" shouted a woman who obviously loved him. "It's lovely to be loved, darling," he replied. The only thing wrong with Ringo in this particular context was having to listen to a bunch of second-rate Ringo songs. I mean, "You're 16" and "Boys," but no "Octopus's Garden" or "Don't Pass Me By"? Come on. Only the charmingly jaded Ringo could get away with introducing "The No No Song" as "the only reason I'm here tonight," then end the show with "A Little Help From My Friends."

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