By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
By Ray Cummings
By Nicholas Pell
On an eyeball-freezingly cold January 17, between dates opening for the Stones at MSG, prolific comb-free princeling savior of trad rockways Ryan Adams took the time to inaugurate a new monthly music series at Housing Works Used Books Café. We wondered (waiting in the cold omigod this weather) if he might possibly be a touch overratedhis albums have the strange power, about a third of the way through, to make us leave the room and, if feasible, take a nap. But the ex-Whiskeytown frontman (federal law now requires that allRyan Adams reviews contain this phrase) turned out to be in good voice and Gotham-centric and off-the-cuff appealing and intermittently hyperand now we kind of love Ryan Adams.
The cruise-ship virus prevented Kathleen Edwards from opening, and testosterone-offsetting duties went to replacement Regina Spector, whose hypnotic warble conjures both Kate Bush and the Swedish Chef, and to the five-member Shivaree, whose crystalline catatonia provided a good backdrop for some constructive shelf browsing. Adams drew from the can't-miss portion of his catalog"Come Pick Me Up," "To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)," the lovely "Sweet Carolina"and slowed down the now-more-than-ever "4th of July" to loosen its congested lyrics and "Free Fallin' " chordage to sound reflective, even necessary. The sublime moment should have come during a sound snafu, when Adams launched himself tabletop for a hammy, limpid, unplugged tour of Hank Williams's "Lovesick Blues." But a nearby showboat decided to join in and wouldn't stop until every word had been sung in cloying tandem. After the ostensible star dismounted, the chipper interloper called out to what we hope was an utterly mortified acquaintance, as if to signal: My job here is done. "PatrickPatrick. I'm going to Joe's Pub now! A friend of mine is playing!" We could imagine her vocalizing at Joe's Pub, then going all around town, chiming in with excessive gusto at cabarets as Stephen Holden grimaces at the far banquette. And all this time Patrick is thinking, OK! I'll meet up with you laternot!
Adams's set shambled to a close with a hat passed for $10 requests, to augment HW's proceeds, with sometimes bracing, sometimes hilarious results: his own cast-off ace "Hallelujah," half-remembered Oasis, "Brown Sugar" for the all-white crowd. (Our "A-dar" picked out only one other Asian dudewho turned out to be the drummer for Shivaree!) Bassist and Adams doppelgänger Billy Mercer camped through "Beast of Burden," and it was like a conceptual art piece where you write down all you can remember about a song; the joy lay in the shared omissions and absurd repetitionsviz., never (never!) never (never!) never, never, never be, again and again and again. Ed Park
"Is anybody listening?" screamed guitarist Jennifer Rogers during the rhythmic pause built into "Zero Point," a no-wave-meets-Antmusic pogo that served as the opener of the trio's scorching Friday-night set at Mercury Lounge. Her question wasn't just an undressing of the talkative immediates in the crowd. It was also a rock thrown through the window of a 2003 life during wartime. Angry, far-flung, and idealistic are three things that a good Eco-anthem (like "Zero Point") should be. It should also be fun, and the Sisters rocked it ferociously, resolving the song's throbbing tension in a "Rock Lobster"-like new-wave watusi frenzy, with Rogers's ponytail bop matching her lead guitar lines for pure star-power. Joe Strummer would have fallen in love.
Their Troubleman debut Purely Evilcontinues Nü New York's fascination with all things post-punk. But the Rogers SistersJennifer, drummer Laura (both formerly of the indie-rock quartet Ruby Falls) and live-wire bassist-singer Miyuki Furtadobuild on sounds culled from their favorite records ("Songs the Lord Taught Us," "Jumping Someone Else's Train," vocal inspirations from "World Destruction"). Jennifer's detuned guitar has the echo-happy slither Eno used to give goofy names to; Laura's drums mix bedroom-punk bash and surfabilly wipeouts; and Furtado's bass bleeds about nervously in the mix, much like his own onstage stagger. (At one point Friday, he helplessly fell over, knocked down by the wall of sound.)
Their declarations of dead-end personal finances and torn desires of NME covers filled up the Merc while dancing the whole mess distinctively around. And while I wish they'd have dragged out more of Evil's agitated songs "about you, United States," the foreseeable bidding war improves chances that we'll be hearing themor hearing them talked about in between the bomb bursts. Piotr Orlov
'Opeth,' Says Me
"Bwargh bwargh bwargh," quoth Opeth fronthair Mikael Akerfeldt, between his band's quarter-hour black-metal monster dirges. "Understand that? It was in Swedish." The English was tough to understand, too, ground as it was into a half-kidding growly gravelslide of syllables, but the kids packed into Irving Plaza replied without missing an incantatory beat: "O-PETH! O-PETH! O-PETH!" Bathed in deep purple, the foursome opened the show in much the same way as they were to play the rest of it: Akerfeldt stiffening, then tossing his hair with the lube-smooth time-signature changes; guitarist Peter Lindgren discreetly reaching for his whammy bar; diminutive bassist Martin Mendez swinging his locks in great black swirls; skinsman Martin Lopez (like Mendez, actually from Uruguay), sitting behind a pair of bass drums, demurely blurring his sticks.