Heal Thyself

During an exhilarating performance by Colombia’s Aterciopelados (“The Velvety Ones”) at Bowery Ballroom on May 1, folksy-voiced frontwoman Andrea Echeverri dedicated “Chamánico” to the shamans of the Putumayo region in her country. A psychedelic tropical groove off the group’s new album, Gozo Poderoso (meaning “powerful joy,” available May 15), the song reveals how much the Atercios take shamanic rainforest teachings to heart. Environmental awareness, respect for women, and above all the salving powers of music and dance are central themes that Echeverri and bassist/programmer Hector Buitrago write about, often drawing on Colombian colloquialisms and kitschy slang.

The lyric “La música es amor” (from the new album’s title track) is the quick of Atercios’s pacific message these days. And to leave no doubt, the show began and ended with a loop of Echeverri’s silky vocals cooing the refrain over a filtered electronic disco beat. The only props were white-fury peace signs suspended in midair—perhaps a cliché in another context, but a poignant assertion for them given the escalating violence in Colombia. The audience gave back some love by dancing and singing along to several of their hits, including “Bolero Falaz,” with its classic indignant line: “¡Te dije, ‘No más,’ y te cagaste de risa!” (something like: “I told you, ‘No more,’ and you shit your pants laughing”). Though Gozo Poderoso and its groundbreaking predecessor, Caribe Atómico, frame Caribbean and Andean elements with psychedelic electronic textures and rock structures, in concert the group moves from Latin folk-pop to percussive outbursts to hard-rocking jams. Retooling the grungy “Florecita Rockera” (“little rock blossom”) with a spaced-out house beat, the band updated their sound from its aggressive postpunk beginnings a decade ago to its present cool mélange of international tropi-rock. —Enrique Lavin

Four Boy Rhumba

“Anything You Want,” from Spoon’s newish Girls Can Tell, would sound equally swell in Pretty in Pink and Dazed and Confused. It’s a kinda perfect little (in a good way) song, absent of any consciously retro signifiers or particularly “now” sounds. It just has a chirping organ line and a laconic brevity that mixes with singer/guitarist Britt Daniel’s healthy mix of cynicism, romance, and nostalgia as he sits in a back room drinking his half of a beer. Watching the prom-night episode of Dawson’s Creek in a pizza parlor by Maxwell’s before the show, I couldn’t help but think of a little slice of the earth where the minimal pop songs from Girls would waft around slow-dancing couples and guide them through their awkward after-prom parties.

But I reckon most of America’s yoof want either to get their freak on or break stuff or throw some bows on that most magical of nights. And most nights so would I. But as Spoon rode a Crazy Horse through their version of Wire’s “Lowdown” to end their set last Wednesday night, they showed no regrets about missing out on the teen-dance circuit. Their perfect pop is perfectly damaged. While their current tourmates, Guided By Voices, keep trying to make their basement anthems sound like Candy-O, Spoon seems more comfortable posing as Joe Jackson waving a Pink Flag. Daniel drove the four-piece Austin group through a parade of A-sides with little banter and fanfare. Songs like “Mountain to Sound” (from the earlier Soft Effects EP) or the stomping “Fitted Shirt” could’ve used an extra serving of guitar volume. But when the guys hushed up on the sober love songs from Girls, like “Chicago at Night” and the aforementioned “Anything You Want,” things got downright promlike in their own way. Even if it was a prom for Wire fans. —Chris Ryan

We Want a Rock

“Is anyone here from Williamsburg?” Dave Eggers asked existentially from the stage of Bowery Ballroom. “Anyone from Park Slope?” As the April 30 release party for the latest issue of McSweeney’s, his literary journal, made clear, Brooklyn is the Burbank of nerd culture. No. 6 (“The Art Issue”), assembled in the Slope, comes with a CD of 44 musical compositions (one for each item in the book), most by Tourettic L-train pioneers They Might Be Giants. In a masterstroke of retro geek chic, the event was a benefit for Reading Is Fundamental.

Patrons didn’t get a free trip to Camden, Maine—Eggers once bused the attendees of a reading there—but they did get authorial renditions of some of the book’s better pieces, including Chris Ware’s devastating fable of frog and princess (followed by a performance of the accompanying ditty by Kings County contender Mike Doughty, who improvised a lyric upon forgetting the words); a dog story with music by shaggy Arthur Bradford; Sean Wilsey’s memories of Marfa, Texas; Mark O’Donnell’s short screenplay; and of course the Giants. Neal Pollack, in full-on Philly B-boy regalia, slammed the belletrists in faux Nuyorican (“Sontag, Updike, Mailer, Havel/I wipe my ass upon your novel”). Eggers, who wears his awkwardness about race like a backward baseball cap, quickly disavowed the performance.

Doughty baited the “literary crowd” purportedly in attendance, but there was no doubt about who pulled the weight at the gate. The kids cheered John Flansburgh’s turn as Ware’s overhead projectionist; they cheered John Linnell’s intro of “a song about the 11th president of the United States”; they even cheered for the damn glockenspiel. Ramones-like, the Giants buzzed through a full set of button-down bop and left ’em panting for more. Like anybody else, smart alecks appreciate a good short story, but when it gets late they just want to jump up and down. —Josh Goldfein

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