Fool and the Gang
Whether or not Bloodhound Gang guitarist Lüpüs Thünder noticed or cared when his ax tone repeatedly careened from overdriven trebly snow to crackly background sludge at Roseland (mixing-board screwup? bad cord?) doesn’t matter; he and his bandmates threw a tantrum worthy of Fiona Apple anyway. Led by the baggily attired, chubby-cheeked singer-rapper-songwriter Jimmy Pop Ali, the Gang pandered to preconceived notions about almost everyone,including themselves. A recorded chant—”Bloodhound Gang, Bloodhound Gang, Bloodhound Gang SUCKS”—warmed the clove-toting crowd before the stage exploded in light, revealing a backdrop with the band’s name in cartoonish letters below a crossed-out Metallica logo.
The riffs may not have been stolen from James Hetfield & Co., but their menacing metal timbre inspired the more energetic to slam their neighbors. Cooler heads flipped their wigs for Jimmy Pop’s alternately gross-out/down-and-out rhyme shouts, rapping along even though Lüpüs’s thunder often muffled Ali’s lightning levity. Jimmy Pop’s lyrical bon mots were matched between songs with a slapstick jocularity. One cute moment found Jimmy Pop juggling three apples, expertly munching each until he was tossing cores and regurgitating, all at once, every last bite. More predictable and less impressive were his frankfurter antics, but truly unnecessary was the smirking “show your tits” call-and-response. At least the women had a choice; the first guy let onstage left without his BVDs, victim of an atomic wedgie (nor was he the last).
Openers Nerf Herder mined drollery mostly within song, the notable exception being their tiny banner, which read “Nerf Heider.” “Hi, we’re Nerf Heider,” frontman Parry Grip cheerfully intoned after each male-and-balding Donnas tune they tossed off, the best one being the pop-punker-than-thou “Courtney” (“Hope I’m not out of place but/Courtney Love sit on my face”). Although Nerf Herder were more frothy and consistently catchy than the Bloodhound Gang, the Gang’s encore rendition of their new-wavey hit “The Bad Touch” transcended all the shtick (though it’s a super gaggle of gags). They put aside their Kornier musical tendencies, suited up in khakis, black shirts, and backwards red baseball caps—’N Sync-style!—and turned moshing to dancing, the picture of charming innocence as they skillfully undulated in a choreographed breakdown. —Nick Catucci
Evan Parker and Ned Rothenberg surface so rarely for breath they could tag-team dive for pearls. At the Knitting Factory’s Old Office recently, Parker’s first soprano solo plunged into a strenuous 15-minute circular-breathing marathon. No slouch himself, Rothenberg had lung power enough to manage simultaneous melodies on his alto. There’s no repose with these two. Their long-winded statements feature deliberate overblowing beyond conventional tones, with vaulting displays of smacking noises and spinning cartwheels of reverberation. You had to keep your eyes on them to believe it wasn’t actually a quartet. Parker and Rothenberg’s real-time production of an orchestral swarm of notes allayed suspicions that they’d overdubbed tracks on their 1997 Leo recording, Monkey Puzzle. Still, their polyrhythmic fingerings of multiphonics intoned the aural equivalent of seeing double.
Improvisation is a compositional method for Parker, who shares with his favorite writer, Samuel Beckett, a penchant for irresolution. His spiraling musical narratives repeatedly turn in on themselves, and when it’s time to end them, he’s said the only two ways are in a gridlock of white noise or by letting patterns unravel into their component threads. With this enigmatic approach to structured pyrotechnics, Parker has spearheaded the Euro improv scene for 30 years. Lately he’s been rethinking improvisation within the brave new world of sampling, especially with his Electro-Acoustic Ensemble. On this stateside visit, the 55-year-old Brit is showcasing the all-acoustic techniques that make him one of the most formidable saxophonists since John Coltrane.
Besides the duos with Rothenberg, Parker led nightly invitationals with some of Downtown’s finest—all fellow virtuosic tinkerers on their respective instruments. In a trio configuration with jazz intelligentsia bassist Mark Dresser and percussionist Gerry Hemingway on Friday, Parker’s finely tuned phrases complemented the rhythm section’s intricate dialogues. Bobby Previte took over for Hemingway on Saturday, and the drummer kicked in more of a push-and-shove propulsion to the music. Parker responded with some Euro-soul licks on tenor saxophone. When the improv ended, he stripped it down to a solo flash of Coltrane, a final keening blues phrase, a single black pearl. —Michelle Mercer
Garnish and Serve
Ambrosia Parsley sends a humble thanks out to Michael Hurley for letting Shivaree share a bill with him, as if it were his call. If Hurley did them a favor, it was in playing so very long—he was shooed from the Mercury Lounge stage—that his spellbinding ditties began to grate on the nerves. Hurley’s folk is old school: The rule of verse-chorus-verse is ironclad, but repetition and variation of inane parts is as complex, beautiful, and maddening as in the Minimalist classics. The singer can’t be as old (“Forget it, pal,” a henchman rebuffed my inquiry) as his music suggests, but having mentored generations of local traditionalists, Hurley really is more folk than folkie, with a mellow, burnished patina of authenticity.
Whereas Shivaree’s Ambrosia Parsley (could you invent it if you tried?) is no way as young as she seems; you can still see chisel marks on her. On I Oughta Give You a Shot in the Head for Making Me Live in This Dump, you can lose yourself in Parsley’s honky interpretation of Macy Gray’s rasp, in her odd articulations, in Danny McGough’s cheesy Casio sounds; in a certain, as it were, milieu. For a girl whose West Virginia roots are a long way from her San Fernando home, Parsley’s found her way pretty good around the trailer park of Royal Trux and Tom Waits. (McGough, who plays with Waits, and Duke McVinnie, who wants to, showed her a shortcut.) Or at least she knows her way around the Trux’s trashy rock (as on the bull’s-eye “Bossa Nova”), and scrapes her knee on Waits’s ballads.
Onstage, Shivaree’s music is less compelling than the unfolding music-industry morality play. Parsley knows where the action is (“You’re a backstabbing Hollywood pimp”), but you’re not sure she knows what to do when she gets there—there’s a creepy Bow Wow Wow vibe to this photogenic, faux-indie ingenue in deep with these wizened, bored, sleazy-suited sidemen. Parsley herself is unconvinced: “We’re almost done,” she promises—it wasn’t that bad, honest! More time in the minors would have toughened her up. Remember how Liz Phair was rebuked for not “paying dues”? Parsley is no Liz Phair, but she deserves a chance to become one. —David Krasnow