Puberty Rocks, Even Ask Mom
Florida young’uns prove punk-pop isn’t just for old people
No one in Odd Man Out is older than 16, and on Saturday they played 45 minutes of originals with a look and sound that some idiot marketing exec would probably call “Hanson With an Edge!”—really, though, it was more like a living, breathing “Green Day: The Early Years,” from lead singer Louis Johnson’s sinusy voice to the way Mike Huber attacked his cymbals with sticks as long as his torso (he’s maybe five feet tall). The kid’s got a let’s-call-it-flexible sense of rhythm totally befitting someone who’s currently on the business end of the puberty bat, but with the help of Kyle Krakow (fro’d-out bassist) and Mike’s brother Matthew (taciturn guitar), he pulled off some pretty advanced hooks.
“15 Minutes” was angsty, “Average Guy” merry punk, and that kind of reggae-sounding beat in “Used to Know” is called ska, boys and girls. Plus, the acoustic “Evermore” was an interesting Jackopierce change of pace (sooo high school: “Trying to avoid you/ when walking down the hall”). Their smashup of “Barbara Ann” and Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” was freakin’ ambitious—and damn close to perfect.
In town for one night only before returning home to open for Cyndi Lauper, the West Palm Beach teens and South Florida Battle of the Band champeens filled CB’s Gallery to the rafters: Sisters pogoed alongside the stage, perma-tanned dads shouted “Rock the house!!” and moms manned video cameras in the balcony. A group of college-age aggro guys started screaming and throwing signs of the devil about two-thirds of the way through the set; they might have been mocking the boys, but what-ever. Odd Man Out just smiled blissfully under their moppy bangs, because this was CBGB, dude, and it was packed, and that’s what rock ‘n’ roll is all about. And when Louis yelled, “Thank You New York!!” you had to grin, too, because you know he’s wanted to say that his whole life—all 15 years of it. He gave me a T-shirt after the show and, OMG, can I just tell you? I’m, like, totally crushing right now. WHITNEY PASTOREK
Passover: A Time to Say Oy and Yo
Jewish klezmer, black gospel artists find common ground
Each year, Jews and African Americans often make common cause, sharing legends and sacred traditions, in what are called Freedom Seders or Multicultural Passovers. With some political goodwill and a bit of tinkering with the menu and the Haggadah, these fusions often work. But finding a middle ground in their musics is another matter, and that’s just what the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City undertook March 31, with an evening of “Freedom Songs.” It was a bold project, with producer Aaron Greenwald and the Klezmatics avoiding the merely ingratiating (Passover becomes crossover) and the temptation to pass as black.
The Klezmatics tempered their bristling east-of-the-Village sound by adding an organist—free-jazz pioneer Amina Claudine Myers, on this night working the gospel shift, all tremolos and 6/8 time, with the Leslie speakers spinning the message up to ecumenical heaven. (Different aesthetics, it’s true, but gospel and klezmer both have ties to jazz, enjoy a bit of freedom from fixed tempos, and share a deep belief in the link between improvisation and the ecstatic.) Myers joined the band in singing the Golden Gate Quartet’s arrangement of “Moses Smote the Water.” And if what they were up to wasn’t clear yet, it became so when “Hine Ma Tov,” a song of Jewish solidarity, was opened up by resetting it to the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
From then on, it was one spiritual transformation after another: Guest singer Raúl Midón did “A Change Is Gonna Come” backed only by church-organ chords, and carried Sam Cooke’s populist politics back home. “I Ain’t Afraid,” Holly Near’s defiant indictment of religious fanaticism, took on chilling urgency in the museum’s setting.
But it was Joshua Nelson who slipped the leavening back into the evening and had folks rising to dance in the aisles. A black Jewish singer of old-school gospel with a thunderous, two-fisted piano style, a beatific face that gives off light, and a voice that can pin you to the wall, he made being black and Jewish seem as obvious and natural as matzo. JOHN SZWED
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 6, 2004