Those passing through Union Square of late know it’s the de facto campus for anti-war demonstrators, but last Monday night, mere blocks from the rabble-rousers, their less vigilant comrades were revisiting the Summer of Love. And there to help enhance the Zeitgeist was Röyksopp, an energetic dance-music duo from Norway who entertained a smart-drink- and communal-back-rub-weaned crowd with warm, deliberately-paced dance music gussied up with tympanum-shattering bass and densely layered shards of analog disco funk.
Surrounded by mountains of Korg, Svein Berge, an arc of blond hair obscuring his face, tweaked and twiddled various knobs while his studio partner, Torbjørn Brundtland, banged out four-to-the-four phrasing on a high-hat-equipped electronic drum pad, chanting phrases like “We are Röyksopp!” and “Thank you New York!” into a vocodered microphone; hamming it up with the audience, he knelt down so fans could pay homage to his sweat-drenched scalp.
Kicking the set off with “So Easy,” which wraps the chorus from a Swedish easy-listening record around cello-string plucks and a stuttering two-step jig, Röyksopp kept the beat going, eschewing the gentle melodic ballads of their recently released debut, Melody A.M., in favor of user-friendly techno with a big-beat finish, less head music than booty jam—if Autechre are the Gaudi of electronic music then Röyksopp are its Ikea, assembling modular loops of bass and sampled nib-nubs that belie the complexity of their construction. As the night wound down, as if responding to the burgeoning conflict abroad and seeking cross-cultural communion, one fan took a Norwegian flag out of his backpack and waved it from the dancefloor. But without any other arms to keep it aloft, it must have looked awfully crumpled from the stage. —Adrienne Day
No Regrets, Coyote
Symphony Space’s Wall to Wall Joni Mitchell event ran from 11 to 11 last Saturday, from the bright Chelsea morning to the night ride home, longer than a Danny Tenaglia DJ set, and because the Voice doesn’t pay me by the hour, I don’t have an opinion about half of it. Until now, Symphony Space had reserved the “Wall to Wall” treatment for the Bachs and Ellingtons of the world. Mitchell is the first pop songwriter to have her jersey raised to the Space’s rafters, but at times, Saturday’s ceremony seemed designed to honor her as everything but; representatives from jazz and folk and opera claimed Mitchell’s catalog in the name of big-C “culture,” a rather blinkered stance to take toward an artist who has worked with Billy Idol and Cheech and Chong, and a thumb of the snoot to those of us who still file her records, even the boring classical ones, under “Rock/M.”
Performers who chose to navigate the hills and switchbacks of Mitchell’s catalog like fans, not curators, fared best. Suzzy Roche introduced “A Case of You” by saying she hadn’t sung Joni in public since her seventh-grade talent show, where she placed fourth; when she finished, she stomped her feet in triumph. Greg Tate’s Burnt Sugar Chamber Arkestra rendered “The Jungle Line”—a Burundi banger from 1975’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns, and Joni-fanatic Prince’s favorite—as abstruse and barbed as Rammellzee’s autograph. And poetry ambassador Bob Holman (backed by poets Jackie Sheeler and Vicki Hudspith, and a three-piece North Jersey alt-rock band) turned 114 of Mitchell’s lines into a megamix called “Jonicento,” cracking, “By the time we got to Woodstock, they put up a parking lot!” Goofy but sincere, Holman’s crew honored Mitchell’s oeuvre better than anyone else, treating it like a river of words on which to skate, and staggered off like they’d just split a case of the good stuff. —Alex Pappademas
Where There’s a Joke . . .
A fire razed a Rhode Island nightclub last month—and ironic, pyrotechnic-touting flyers recently shut down Brooklyn’s Northsix. The club has been canceling and relocating shows since last week because a Leftover Crack fan distributed pyro-promising posters that the band allegedly never consented to. The fire department found out, raided the club, and discovered an expired occupancy permit. Snap!—out of business. “It was a stupid comment by a stupid person,” says Northsix owner Jeff Steinhauser. “We got shut down because of the permit, not the pyrotechnics, which was a skater kid’s prank.” He said he was hoping to get a hearing this week. “It’s a nightmare, because the building department is so disorganized that it lost our papers and seems to have no record of our existence.”
“A lot of fire department guys told me they didn’t agree with their supervisor’s decision,” Steinhauser says, suggesting wartime jitters as a possible cause for overreaction. If you’re part of the traffic that’s been slowing northsix.com, you’ve seen the announcement. And if you’re part of the music scene pissed that Northsix bands might pass through town without gigging, relax. “I’m moving the Brian Jonestown Massacre show to Southpaw, and the Cursive show there,” says booking agent Todd Abramson. “I thought it would be too awkward to do the Pinback show at Southpaw, so I offered to do it at Maxwell’s, but Hoboken’s not the most desirable alternative to Brooklyn, so it’s up in the air.”
“It’s not like, all of a sudden, Northsix shows are Southpaw shows,” says one of Southpaw’s owners, Matt Roff. “But we’re filling in some slots for them.” Adds Abramson, “We’re hoping to honor Northsix tickets. And if you can’t go, you’ll hopefully get refunds.” —Daniel King
Jazz musicians got jiggy with it on Friday when more than 30 of them crowded into Birdland to celebrate Marian McPartland‘s 85th birthday. The pianist spent the evening eavesdropping on her colleagues, accompanying them, and besting them with stacked, spacious chords. Pianist Bill Charlap introduced the event cleanly before Dave Douglas chimed in with a crackling, whiney trumpet solo. Charlap then passed duties to pianists James Williams and Billy Taylor, who swung so infectiously that Norah Jones could be seen tapping a shoe.
Then Tony Bennett grabbed the mic and summoned the Duke. Pleased as punch, ex-Ellington flugelhornist Clark Terry released a thick, full sound that trumpeter Jon Faddis muscled aside with a yelping, stampeding attack—more macho than music, however. Nawrah followed with a brilliant “Nearness of You” that set the stage for Jim Hall’s “Happy Birthday” quotes and Regina Carter’s violin slurs. Mindful to celebrate abstraction as well as accessibility, McPartland joined pianist Jason Moran for a free-leaning “Summer Time” duet. Moran, in top hat and top form, hypnotized listeners with his bulleting trills and hungry repetition. Saxophonist Chris Potter contributed tons of tricks but little spontaneity. Host Murray Horwitz obnoxiously introduced Karrin Allyson as “the most physically attractive Kansas City vocalist.” Unfazed, she crooned and all but compelled. Horwitz received boos.
Taking care of business was trumpeter Roy Hargrove, who, in his leather pants, played a brooding ballad, eyes shut, valves open, and imagination salted by perspiration. Nnenna Freelon cooled him off with an operatic range and smokey depth that brought sap and sincerity to a steady boil. McPartland and pianist George Wein traded smiles during a “Take the A Train” duet that touched on over-explanation, but swung solidly past midnight, when Barbara Carroll closed the evening with speedy piano lines. McPartland ate her cake and shared it too. —Daniel King