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
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
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."
While the overblown greatness of Brooker's "A Whiter Shade of Pale" and "A Salty Dog" is indisputable, that of Rundgren's "I Saw the Light" and his post-'70s (!) "Bang the Drum All Day" is somewhat less a given. Nevertheless, "Toddy" (as Ringo referred to him throughout) was the best imaginable guitarist for this ensemble by virtue of his ability to faithfully mimic Robin Trower, George Harrison, and Eric Clapton, not to mention his own younger self. The MVP of the All-Starrs, however, turned out to be avuncular Jack Bruce, who, in addition to elevating the overall musical quality, jammed the muscular fuck out of Cream's "I Feel Free," "Sunshine of Your Love," and "White Room" alongside wahwahing Toddy. Richard Starkey smiled benevolently down from his drum set, loving every minute of it. Richard Gehr
New York's underground hip-hop community was shaken by the loss of a beloved figure last week. On the evening of February 15, Lamont Coleman, known to fans as Big L, was found murdered in his Harlem neighborhood. Police discovered his body in a West 139th Street building with fatal wounds to the head and chest. Detectives at Harlem's 32nd Precinct refused to comment on the case until their investigation is complete, but recent published reports indicate that there are no known suspects or motives at this time. The 22-year-old Coleman joins a tragic succession of New York rap artists, including Tribe Called Quest associate Kid Hood and Boogie Down Productions founder Scott LaRock, whose promising careers were cut short by violence.
Known for his witty, literary, lyrical style and for being near, but never quite at the center of commercial success, Coleman appeared to be on the verge of a breakthrough in 1999. Mase and Cam'ron, two of his partners in the early '90s group Children of the Corn, went on to MTV stardom, but Coleman's 1995 Columbia debut, Lifestylez of the Poor and Dangerous, only earned limited critical attention. At the time of his death, though, Coleman's independently released single, "Ebonics," was receiving consistent airplay on the indiecentric radio mix shows hosted by WKCR's Bobbito Garcia and WNYU's DJ Eclipse. Reflecting on Big L's love for hip-hop, Garcia notes, "He didn't care whether he had a record out or not, he was the type of cat who just loved to rhyme. I don't remember him being all that talkative. He'd just come into the studio and fuckin' rip it."
With other members of the influential Diggin' In Tha Crates collective, including rappers Fat Joe and O.C., and rapper-producer Diamond D, Coleman had also begun working on a full-length album for Tommy Boy Records that was to be released in June. According to Eclipse, proceeds from two forthcoming independent singles will go toward burial costs, and a DITC concert scheduled for March 6 at Tramps will serve as a memorial for Coleman. Kem Poston
Pretty Fly. . .?
The Afghan Whigs' Greg Dulli is the type of guy who likes to pepper his conversation with the words "muthafucker" and "pussy." He's unrepentantly chauvinistic and as horny as a 14-year-old boy. And, yes, he looks like the kinda guy you'd want to sucker punch for being so revoltingly cocky. (In Austin a couple of months back, a club employee allegedly clocked him so good that he landed in hospital, causing the two-month postponement of last week's Bowery Ballroom shows). Still, the singer has hoodwinked a small but devoted harem of post-collegiate girls nursing indie-rock hangovers into believing he's, to quote from the Whigs' latest album, 1965, somethin' hot.
On Friday night, Dulli, and his mythologized libido, commandeered the Whigs' Rabelaisian revelry with the controlling grace of a lion tamer. He played the scoundrel to a T, the mock-guilt that lets starry-eyed girls forgive him lines like "I've got a dick for a brain" long gone. He even went so far as to bellow, "New York, your pussy getting wet?"
Augmenting their standard four-piece lineup with two backup singers and a keyboardist, the Whigs' show succeeds as sheer booty-shakin' bedlam. Even material from their rightfully overlooked Black Love shook and shimmied under the souped-up approach. Cuts from the amusingly oversexed 1965 boogie-woogie-oogied while songs from Gentlemen shed some of their gloominess in favor of unadulterated bump 'n' grind.
And though he wisely refrained from asking "What's the dilly yo?" Dulli wants you to know he's pretty fly for a white guy. Accordingly, the Whigs laid down the funk, deftly working in snippets of "Superstitious," "Pusherman," "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," "Little Red Corvette," and "Candy Girl." Later, aping an alt-rock contemporary with similar blues leanings, Dulli shouted out, "Whigs Explosion! Whigs Explosion!"
By encore time, the singer had spiffed up his simple black outfit with black sunglasses, black hat, and most fetchingly, a black sparkly feather boa befitting a penny whore. He asked if he looked like Truman Capote. Well, the girls next to me thought he resembled Bono; a friend thought he looked like a younger Van Morrison, and I thought he looked like a Vegas pimp. Not bad for a night's work. Laura Morgan
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.