This Weekend In New York: Zambri, Black Pus, Coasting, And Chain And The Gang Get Frisky
In Waste Of Paint, our writer/artist team of Jamie Peck and Debbie Allen will review goings-on about town in words and images.
Maybe it was just the warm weather messing with my head, but everyone in New York seemed a little bit friskier this weekend. From the black-clad romantics swaying back and forth to Zambri to the feral nerds who worship Black Pus, bands and fans alike were in it to win it.
Friday we hit up Glasslandswhich seems to be becoming the city's default stop for buzz bands who don't want to deal with Bowery Presentsfor Zambri, a Brooklyn-dwelling sister-sister duo dealing in dark, moody synth-pop. Literally a bedroom project, Christi Jo and Jessica Zambri have been making music together since they shared a room as kids on Long Island, and it showed in the easy way they traded off instruments, sang, and moved with each other. (The band swells to a quartet when playing live.) Sparse drums and dramatic keys foregrounded Christi Jo and Jessica's strong, affecting voices, which at their best remind me of greats like Kate Bush and Siouxsie Sioux. As someone who will always remain Goth on the inside, I must say I strongly approve of the "neo-Goth" direction taken by acts like this one, Zola Jesus and Chelsea Wolfe.
Next, we went around the corner to Death By Audio for a bill of strange, intense acts headlined by Black Pus. The solo project of Brian Chippendale, who also drums in Lightning Bolt and Mindflayer, Black Pus continues the LB tradition of conjuring balls-out live energy by setting up in the middle of the floor. Clad in a creepy Leatherface mask (closer inspection revealed that it was printed with flowers), the virtuosic drummer filled every last nanosecond with aggressively baroque compositions while somehow also finding the breath to sing (if pedal-warped, otherworldly slicey-grinding sounds can be counted as singing). At one point, he blew the power out, but kept on drumming, and the dense circle of fans pressing in on him didn't miss a thrash. Crowd-wise, I found it noteworthy (and awesome) that more noise-loving ladies had fought their way up to the front than is generally seen at such performances. Elbows schmelbows.
Saturday we traveled to Mercury Lounge for an 11pm presentation of Coasting and Chain and the Gang. Coasting's prolific drummer Fiona Campbell (also of Vivian Girls) is now playing in Chain and the Gang as well, making for a convenient (if probably tiring for her) double booking. Consisting of Campbell (drums/vocals) and long-distance pal Madison Goner (guitar/vocals), Coasting makes stripped-down garage pop anchored by the same kind of bouncy beats Campbell plays in Vivian Girls. Their traded-off vocals and harmonies were pleasant enough, but I couldn't help wishing they're go a little crazier, both in terms of their stage presence and how much noise they made. I found myself slightly more drawn into their wistful songs than their upbeat ones, as they showed a lovely side to their voices and did not bump up against that problem as much.
A quick outfit change and Campbell was drumming for Chain and the Gang, the latest outlet for the hilarious anti-capitalist satire of notorious D.C. subversive Ian Svenonius. Like Svenonius's previous projectsNation Of Ulysses, The Make-Up, Weird WarChain and the Gang uses the idiom of rock and roll to mock corporate American values in a silly, absurdist, and hugely entertaining way. Buoyed by his bluesy band and the disgruntled presence of backup singer Katie Alice Greer (all teased black hair and angry red mouth), Svenonius would often go off on an extended riff about something before launching into the full-on song. As intro to the catchy "What Is A Dollar," for instance, he explained how U.S. currency is dirty and covered in cocaine before reminding us that it's superior to other currencies and has magical properties if you know how to "treat it right" (which involves burying and voodoo). Other topics covered included nuclear disaster, reparations, things you do when you've given up on caring, and "kinds of trash you just don't see anymore" (pipecleaners, floppy discs, porno mags...you get the idea). Throughout it all, Svenonius did his own spastic interpretation of James Brown and/or David Johansen, flinging his suit-covered limbs about and deep-throating the mic. "What is this?" asked a confused bro in the back. Where to start?
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