Grrrl, Inturrupted


Boy bands are so over. And I’m not just talking about pop tarts like ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys. I’m talking about boy punk bands, boy metal bands, boy ska bands, boy indie bands, boy hip-hop crews, boy DJ teams, and boy conceptual art-rock collectives. Snooze. Bo-ring. So last century. This fall, it’s all about the pussy. Hot, tight, sweaty, wailing, sighing, singing, rapping, swearing, testifying, bottom-heavy, guitar-slinging, amp-clipping, beat-keeping, balls-to-the-wall pussy. That’s right; our city’s about to be overrun by girl musicians, so trash those silly old prejudices and get ready to pump up the volume.

Things start off with a bang this very weekend when “Ladyfest East” (September 6-9, various venues), a four-day nonprofit rock ‘n’ roll (‘n’ art, ‘n’ politics) estrogenanza, invades downtown Manhattan. The last—for now—of four successful Ladyfests that have shaken things up the world over in the past year, this event showcases primarily local and East Coast sisters. Highlights include Ari Up (Brownies, September 8), former lead singers of punk foremothers the Slits; Sarah Jones (Knitting Factory, September 7), the vocalist-performance artist whose song “Your Revolution,” a feminist attack on hip-hop misogyny, was recently censored on college radio by the FCC, sparking the latest free-speech crusade; underground hip-hop collective the Anomalies (Knitting Factory, September 8); hardcore duo the Haggard (Knitting Factory, September 8); and multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Marilyn McNeal (CB’s Gallery, September 6). Inspiration is expected to strike with a series of workshops on topics such as starting your own record label, pirate radio station, zine, or Web site; becoming a DJ; learning to play an instrument; and writing songs.

As if all that wasn’t exhausting enough, less than a week after Ladyfest comes the annual scenester endurance test (and meat market) known as the CMJ Music Marathon (September 13-16, various venues). Thedouble-X chromosomes are out in full force this year as usual, offering further evidence toward my not-so-groundbreaking theory that college-radio nerds get turned on by foxes with guitars. Were said nerds to actually listen to said foxes’ music, they’d find that Stereo Total (Knitting Factory, September 14) and Aterciopelados (Roxy, September, 13) play joyful pop-rock so buoyant that it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand the language they’re singing in. They would also discover that Japanese trio eX-Girl‘s lyrics about froggies and fairies make no sense in any language, and neither does their beautifully damaged psychedelic noise, but as soon as Kirilo, Fuzuki, and Chihiro hit the Knitting Factory stage on September 14 in their handmade dresses and rubber wigs, it will all come together seamlessly. Skinny white butts get kicked by the commanding presences of genre-bending MC Princess Superstar (Makor, September 15) and heavy-metal toughies Bottom (Continental, September 14), while the high-energy hooks of Ultrababyfat (Continental, September 15) lure those reluctant booties out onto the dancefloor. But when dreamy sonic hypnotists Slumber Party share a bill with loud, fast, fun labelmates the Bangs (who play at Brownies for Ladyfest on September 8) at the girl-positive record label Kill Rock Stars’ showcase at North Six in Brooklyn on September 15, the love should be flowing so freely everybody will forget about trying to get into everybody else’s pants.

Ain’t nobody mortal gonna get in the pants of the three big-name cult goddesses coming to town for some of the hottest tickets this season (and, no, I don’t mean Destiny’s Child at the Michael Jackson tribute concert, although good luck gettin’ some of that). If you missed force of nature PJ Harvey at the Hammerstein ballroom last week, don’t worry: Two of her soul sisters will be along shortly. Björk kicks off her American tour in support of her latest oddball masterpiece Vespertine on October 4 and 5 at Radio City. Hopefully the walls of this hallowed venue won’t melt from the power of the Icelandic pixie genius’s spine-tingling voice. And if the rumors are true, when Tori Amos takes over the Beacon Theater on October 9, she’ll be solo at the piano in New York for the first time in seven years. (Thank goodness, those Full Band Big Rock Tori tours kind of blew.)

If you consider PJ, Björk, and Tori to be too “mainstream”—or you just didn’t snag tickets fast enough—there are plenty of alternative divas to choose from. Garage rock queen Holly Golightly plays once during CMJ with the Fleshtones (CBGB, September 15) and again at the Mercury Lounge on September 29. Avant-gardemother Laurie Anderson weirds out Town Hall on September 19-20; former Letters to Cleo frontwoman (and the voice behind the Josie and the Pussycats movie soundtrack!!) Kay Hanley meows at the Mercury Lounge on September 20; and Vee, the female half of the quarreling r&b couple Koffee Brown, dukes it out with partner Fonz at the Beacon Theater on September 8, which is also where Cape Verdean morna singer Césaria Évora appears on November 9. And don’t forget about the “Sisters in the Spirit Festival” (Madison Square Garden, October 6), featuring Mary Mary, Yolanda Adams, Shirley Caesar, and Virtue, whose electrifying voices will probably be able to be heard all the way in Queens, if not up to high heaven.

Praise the Lord, bring on the pussy!


September 7 and 10

Madison Square Garden, 2 Penn Plaza, 307-7171

See the Short List.


September 11

Knitting Factory, 74 Leonard Street, 219-3006

Under his many aliases, Matthew Herbert’s created lilting house with a brainy edge. His latest disc, Bodily Functions, continues along the same path, with a more loungey feel, but the addition of a wispy singer, Dani Siciliano, and misguided jazzy touches somewhat detracts from the record’s impact. While a live electronic performance is usually highly suspect (one wonders how much the artist will rely on a DAT), Herbert’s live representation should restore the faith. (Romano)


September 12

S.O.B.’s, 204 Varick Street, 243-4940

He didn’t invent Nigerian juju, just extended it out toward infinity, where its gentle ebb and flow and startling percussive highs are guaranteed to trip you out. Sometimes his overtures to the non-Nigerian market ring falser than other times, and his gentle voice has started creaking. But always he leads a band whose warp and weave shimmer and throb, undulating to the future amen. (Christgau)


September 13

Knitting Factory, 74 Leonard Street, 219-3006

Having nodded off to Sigur Rós, no wonder you’re suspicious of the NYC debut of Thom Yorke’s other fave art band, especially given their tendency to hide behind the emperor’s new surgical masks. But the wacky, squeaky energy of these Liverpudlians almost makes them the anti-Radiohead. Nearly every song runs under three minutes, including ones called “C.Q.” and “T.K.”: copydesk rock, at last! (Eddy)


September 14

Mercury Lounge, 217 East Houston Street, 260-4700

When last seen, titanic teen Adam Green was still wearing his sailor suit, older woman Kimya Dawson her white bunny-ear hat and makeup to complete the picture, although the stud in her chin was a distraction. Risking cute is part of the idea—cute people who’ll fuck anybody with anything when that’s their mood or stage of life, cute folkies who’ll break without warning into punk noise. Funny, dirty, demented, and sweet, they lead New York’s most promising and maybe even most accomplished young band. (Christgau)


September 14-15

B.B. King Blues Club and Grill, 237 West 42nd Street, 997-4144

The 68-year-old stalwart of the Buena Vista Social Club, who’s manned the bass on every track of every spin-off that paradoxically profitable institution has released, was the last guy you’d thought would escape that institution’s norm. But his solo album was as experimental as the others were traditional—jazzy, abstract, dubwise, even a little hip-hoppy. Here he’ll bring his own non-BVSC sidemen. Expect some of the year’s most original live music. (Christgau)


September 14

Irving Plaza, 17 Irving Place, 777-6800

Much to the chagrin of many rhythm-sectionless competitors around town whining about Unfair Hype, the album makes very clear that these kids have got their dumb sound down. Right, they are not the Velvets or Television; what a brilliant observation. But how many other junkmeisters lately drone half as good as Dream Syndicate in ’81 or Psychedelic Furs in ’82? Having returned from summering in the U.K., it’s back to real business: soaking panties at home. (Eddy)


September 15

Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey Street, 533-2111

Back when most people thought the Kiwi was nothin’ but a fruit, David Kilgour and company planted visions of the “other” land down under in the heads of a generation of indie-rock searchers. Between breakups, the trio has managed to tend to those sonic seedlings with a Johnny Appleseed-styled ardor, retaining the (in)tense minimalist underpinnings of their earliest recordings while buffing the surface to a decorous sheen. With a passel of new songs in tow, the band figures to be energized and ready to serve up some darn fine Dunedin! (Sprague)


September 16

Beacon Theater, 2124 Broadway, 307-7171

The Bob Marley of rai has been the Algerian sound’s only real crossover success. A Don Was-produced album didn’t hurt, and neither did a stylistic diffusion into Europop-rai, reggae-rai, and Vegas-rai. Khaled’s a powerful singer, however, and his North African rhythms can be enthralling when not wrung through the international deflavorizer. (Gehr)


September 19-20

Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street, 840-2824

She hasn’t had a new CD released since Bright Red in 1994, and that’s too long to go without her trenchant commentary on society’s ongoing madness. The new disc she’ll be promoting is just called Life on a String and is a return to personal issues after the mythic concerns of her Moby Dick show. I wouldn’t predict much change in format or style but I bet her insights run even deeper these days, and I’m hoping for some surgically precise W. bashing. (Gann)


September 20-22

Irving Plaza, 17 Irving Place, 777-6800

Although the songs on their new album, Ancient Melodies of the Future, are sleepy, Built to Spill’s shows hardly ever are. Doug Martsch is obviously empowered by the stage; his guitar and vocals ring raw, not ready-made. Even the inevitable (though, admittedly, occasional) extended solos are spliff-errific. (Catucci)


September 24

Beacon Theater, 2124 Broadway, 307-7171

Iceland’s metabolism-slowing soundscapists can get inflated because they provide rock critics with such an endless well of masturbation material. So far this hasn’t stopped them from mesmerizing the masses into silence with left-field ambient rock that’s equal parts obtuse and accessible. Take it from Lars Ulrich, who reportedly wrote in his diary about the “sick, ugly new fucked-up jams” Metallica’s been brewing since he saw the guitar-bowing youngsters live. (Zimmerman)


September 28-29

Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Sixth Avenue, 247-4777

Bennett, whose gruff enthusiasm for the songs he swings somehow blends meltingly with lang, whose poker-voiced delivery manages to deepen her emotions. The teaming may have started in the Unplugged format, but the guy and gal seem plugged into each other, so to speak, for the amusing nonce. (Finkle)


October 4-5

Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Sixth Avenue, 247-4777

Iceland’s greatest export promotes Vespertine with a 54-piece Dutch orchestra, a Greenland girls’ choir, a Canadian throat singer, the San Franciscan experimental electronic duo Matmos, and electric harpist legend Zeena Parkins. (Walters)


October 4-5

Beacon Theater, 2124 Broadway, 307-7171

Only recently has this elegantly wasted melodramatist figured out that you can lure far more victims by being courtly and understated than by frothing and lapel grabbing. Armed with a seemingly bottomless array of claret-soaked murder ballads and a baritone that gets more sepulchral with each passing year, Cave and his compadres slink stealthily towards the jugular. It’s up to you to figure out if the threat is real or just a parlor game. (Sprague)


October 12-13

City Center, 131 West 55th Street, 581-1212

The second annual “Gypsy Caravan” begins with the fiery qawwali family Maharaja before heading north via huge-voiced Macedonian diva Esma, the dazzling 10-piece Romanian brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia, and the Antonio El Pipa Flamenco Ensemble from Spain. (Gehr)


October 25

BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-636-4100

Each of the left-field torch singers on this bill has demonstrated a fine hand—particularly mood-indigo electro-thrush Beth Orton, who demands on-time arrival. Wainwright has grown into something of a local hero, delivering pull-my-heartstrings missives that you needn’t be a Chelsea Boy to understand. N’degéocello may up the spice level with dashes of bass and bawd, but what lies beneath is sweet emotion and a passion that’s hard to resist. (Sprague)


October 28

BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-636-4100

This year’s marathon looks a lot like last year’s, a lot of non-Western performers sprinkled in amid the post-minimalist usual crew. They’re good: the always interesting Elizabeth Brown, microtonal minimalist Arnold Dreyblatt, the ever electronically inventive Joshua Fried, the sterling Icebreaker Ensemble from England. Departures from the usual Bang on a Can aesthetic are in the direction of other continents: the ecstatic Bulgarian wedding music of Ivo Papasov, pipa player Wu Man, James Makubuya playing African lyre, and Burmese pat waing master Kyaw Kyaw Naing. Plus, Newband will bring us some Harry Partch, whose centennial hasn’t been nearly celebrated enough. Not a wide range of new music, but undoubtedly an entertaining show. (Gann)


November 16

Roxy, 515 West 18th Street, 645-5156

S.M.’s closest poetic antecedent has to be James Merrill—they’re at once self-possessed and self-subverting, snotty and yearning, ironic and blasé one moment but wistfully earnest the next. Stephen Malkmus is his McCartney, sure, but with more “Maybe I’m Amazed”s (“Church on White” = Merrill’s eulogies for David Kalstone; discuss). Malkmus’s obstreperously bored final shows with Pavement a couple years back ranked with the shoddiest stage-farts in recorded history, and his Bowery gig with the Jicks earlier this year indicated that he hasn’t altogether shed his fatuous ‘tudinizing, but perhaps the Roxy’s sheer fabulosity will bring out his inner aesthete rather than his outer dilettante. (Winter)