Amen to the E-man
Jimmy Castor is no has-been. Harlem’s own Everything Man, who birthed subwoofing novelties like “Troglodyte (Cave Man)” and “Bertha Butt Boogie,” has been sampled over 3000 times, lending raw funk boom to cuts by bands from the Beasties to the Spice Girls. His sound? Well, if you threw together a dash of Little Richard, a whiff of James Brown, the heaviest fat of Larry Graham’s bass, a pint of Pucho and his Latin Soul Brothers, and a dash of Hendrix’s wail, then splashed in Sun Ra’s sci-fi, Jay Hawkins’s scream, and Kid Creole’s calypso, you’d get a taste of this soul stew—plus a few laughs over Castor’s slapstick ups to Japanese monster flicks and Bertha doing “her goodie.”
So where was the love on August 16 at S.O.B.’s—his first show here since 1993? Maybe 50 of us (including waitstaff, family, friends, dancing Euro-freaks, and one potbellied brotha with a beautifully monstrous Afro and medallion set) witnessed the E-man and his eight-piece funky Bunch tear up an hour-long set. Warming things up with the positivity of “Potential” and “Supersound,” they cranked the heat with the infamous 1967 pop hit “Hey, Leroy, Your Mama’s Callin’ You,” and Joe Cuba’s “Bang Bang,” crooned a tribute to King Curtis, then shook the roof with the underground battle song “It’s Just Begun,” with its stabbing horn intro, churning speedmetal funk bass, and propulsive timbales, forcing members of the Rock Steady Crew to pop, spin, and defy gravity like back on Beat Street.
Beforehand, Castor spoke on topics from sampling (“Hip-hop has been fairly good to me. In the beginning it wasn’t, when people like the Beastie Boys just raped my music. C’mon man, as L.L. Cool J said to me one day, ‘That’s like taking someone’s vintage car out of the driveway and just driving it away!’ When they pay, I love it”) to the Boss (“All of a sudden America needs Bruce Springsteen. He hasn’t been out; now they need him? OK. Bruce Springsteen, ‘the hard-working man’s blue-collar,’ please!”) to his own nickname (“I play a lot of instruments. I don’t master them. I am the E. They call me the E. Not Elvis. I’m the E-man”). Later on, he asked the crowd where the hell the rest of New York City was. “Well, you tell them we were here, people! You tell them I put it back together now, and it’s bad, it’s bad.” —Matt Rogers
Pilot to Gunner don’t like to fool around. The Brooklyn quartet’s brand of intricate, churning guitar rock takes concentration, after all; the band usually barrels through terse live shows with minimal banter and nary a smile. So why were they handing out cupcakes on August 13 at Northsix? Turns out Jeffrey Brown, PTG’s good friend and occasional lawyer, had a 30th birthday coming up. Back from a midsummer tour with fellow aviators Jets to Brazil, PTG showed off spiffed-up chops and a slew of new songs to a crowd on a frosting-fueled sugar high.
Emboldened, perhaps, by the free beer flowing through the audience—thanks again to Brown—Pilot to Gunner opened their set with “Action Items,” a bonus track on Building Records’ Australian re-release of 2001’s propulsive Games at High Speeds. As with nearly every melodic rock album released in the last two years, reviewers gave Games the emo tag—but, though angsty enough to bring down the Get-Up Kids, the album’s sound traces a more direct route to early-’90s punk, recalling Polvo’s spidery guitar lines, Fugazi’s caffeinated purism, and the turn-on-a-dime dynamics of Icky Mettle-era Archers of Loaf (PTG singer Scott Padden sings like Eric Bachman’s grumpy twin brother).
Live, drummer Kurt Hermann supplies a rapid-fire rhythmic pulse, but the rest of the band members sometimes seem so intent on re-creating their complex arrangements that they forget to have fun. Tuesday’s looser, more spontaneous show made up in warmth what it lacked in tightness, proving that Pilot to Gunner, despite their math-rock intensity, can still throttle back for some occasional sweetness. —Darby Saxbe
Ease On Down the Road
Whether it was the continually weakening New York City economy, audio piracy, or the battle of the YankeeNets—something finally beat the Wiz. Long Island sports gorilla Cablevision, which owns the gizmo retailer, has announced it will shut down 26 stores over the next few weeks (another 17 will remain open). Sales have reportedly declined by 15 percent from last year’s, but it can’t help that the parent company, which bought the Wiz in a bankruptcy sale four years ago, is locked in an ugly and expensive fight over pinstripe broadcast rights (Cablevision is also unloading its Clearview Cinema chain, while hanging onto MSG and the teams that play in it, Radio City and the Rockettes, and of course, Bravo, AMC, and Metro).
Wizzers learned months ago that some locations might be downsized, so the only new drama was learning which addresses would get the padlock. “They told us three weeks ago, which was nice,” says Madeleine, a cashier at the Fulton Street Mall, where the banner squeezed over the entrance reads “STORECLOSIN.” Less nice is that, unlike many of her colleagues, she did not get transferred to another store. “This was a good job,” she says. “You got two weeks’ vacation and benefits.” The move was probably inevitable. Caught between the monster numbers of “big box” stores like Best Buy, which is expanding in New York, and pop-and-his-brother gray-market discounters selling cheaper crap, the Wiz has long been a brand without an identity. (What marketing genius renames a store for a slogan?) Even that premise doesn’t hold water, with many Wiz products priced well above what they’d fetch at, say, J&R, including the current 10 percent “Selling Out to the Bare Walls” sale specials. Employees expect deeper discounts to be offered in the weeks to come, but there may be nothing left to buy by then: In another sign of the tough times, bargain hunters on Fulton Street were busy picking the carcass clean. —Josh Goldfein