Lost and Found

"Hello, I'm your new neighbor," Amy Boone sings with a sad drawl, "I was recently robbed this past hour." Stolen: one amplifier, named the Black Widow "even though it was blue." The song, in the tradition of the dB's' great "Amplifier," is a bravura act of storytelling, i.e., a country lament. The details— the investigator tells her she's lucky "it was just an amplifier," but in the pause between lines, you can hear Boone thinking, "Yeah, 'just' "— are as downplayed as the spare, languorous music, delivered like the bated breath of a heavy sigh. True to Narrative Writing Rule 101, "Black Widow" tells much with little— for example, Boone, the younger half of the sister act at the core of the Damnations TX, is the kind of woman who names an amplifier Black Widow.

Although the Damnations don't like to play favorites, "Black Widow" is their calling card— the song fans at Brownies kept shouting for last Wednesday. As on their second album (first for a major), Half Mad Moon (Sire), the band buried it in the middle of their other fine but not as extra-ordinary tunes. Boone and her sibling Deborah Kelly (who, rather than be Debbie Boone, took their mother's maiden name) are middle-class kids from upstate New York, who grew up listening to Kiss and X, then moved to Austin to absorb that town's musical roots (they're big Lucinda Williams fans). Like cowpunks before them (Blasters, Wild Seeds, Freakwater), the Damnations are of the manner bred, not born; their affinities are more the Village than Nashville. At times, that makes them sound like a garage band limiting themselves to genre exercises. Live they were timid, but willing to play all night. With their songwriting talents, their sister-insider harmonies, and guitarist Rob Bernard's Bob Stimson­style squall leads, the Damnations may soon realize that like anything else, country can be a cage to break out of. And the big record company may or may not be your best friend. When you're new in town, you don't know who to trust, Kelly explains in "Black Widow." But that doesn't mean you go home. — Evelyn Mcdonnell

Damnations TX at Brownies: more the Village than Nashville
photo: Carla Gahr
Damnations TX at Brownies: more the Village than Nashville

Brian Teaser

The question, at the standing-room-only Beacon Friday night, was "Would Brian Wilson actually perform for more than 15 minutes?" But I was wondering, "Would it matter? What would be the difference between Brian fronting a night of Beach Boys classics and the other Beach Boys fragments that are currently on tour fronting a night of Beach Boys classics?"

Yes, he made it through the 28-song set, doing most of the singing (except for the high notes) and none of the playing, and much of it was classic Beach Boys concert fare that you could have been hearing somewhere else from the mouths of Mike or Bruce or Al. But it was still a Brian Wilson concert, because it was a Brian Wilson audience.

During the opening 20-minute video the audience booed appearances by cruel-to-Brian father Murray and intolerant-of-Brian Beach Boy Mike. They cheered session-musicians-who-admired-Brian Hal Blaine and Carol Kane and dead brothers Dennis and Carl. And cheered throughout the concert for every Brian-specific moment. Even when Brian just sat there while the band played live versions of his two Pet Sounds instrumentals. And especially when Brian played some of his Brian-y nonhits of the last 20 years like "Add Some Music," or "Back Home."

As the night wore on our famously terrified hero loosened up just a bit, but it wasn't until the last song, "Love and Mercy," that he was totally engaged. Is Brian back? Or is he just paying us another short visit? Either way, this solo tour shows there's still a large audience of us middle-aged white guys out there for the drama of torment and pleasure he reveals beneath and beyond the music of our shared adolescence that he helped create. — Tom Smucker

Songs About Buildings

Between the yawning brick vaults of the Brooklyn Anchorage and the accoutrements of millennial mixed media (turntables, sequencers, and video screens), a crowd— part hip young architects, part electronica fans (there is a narrow overlap)— gathered last Saturday to witness Architettura, a performance/installation by Caipirinha Productions and Creative Time. The events included performances by Terre Thaemlitz and Datach'I and Iara Lee's film shorts. The occasion was the holy union of architecture, film, and music.

Not that that's too heady a concept. Goethe said that "Architecture is frozen music." But there was a thawing tonight. You could differentiate the crowd by where they stood— music fans in front, still and gawking, architects milling about, cocktail party­style— but on occasion they met and mixed in a montage of ambient noise, shoptalk, and trendy black.

The same inspired bubbling seems to elude Caipirinha's Architettura CD series, which showcases compositions inspired by works of architecture. Not simply impressionist renderings, like Monet cathedrals, they attempt to integrate the buildings into the composition processes. Savvas Ysatis/Taylor Deupree and Tetsu Inoue are unnervingly single-minded in their interpretations of, respectively, Toyo Ito's Tower of Winds and Nicholas Grimshaw's Waterloo Station, stripping from the buildings both real and virtual information (photographs and computer algorithms), which is then reconfigured as raw material for their computer software. Cerebral and literal, these works miss a possibly more profound relationship between the spatial and structural properties of music and architecture. David Toop's Museum of Fruit stands out in that it doesn't clearly accommodate Itsuko Hasegawa's building proper, but rather attempts to fuse both media as a "meeting of ideas." Like the scene under the bridge that night, it's not simply a commingling, but a mutual transformation. — Kok Kian Goh

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