Gurgling fake goth band gets ghostly amid fake tombstones
East River Park
Declaimed by their striped-pants romantic-poet intro guy as equal parts Zeppelin, Sabbath, and Heart, ghost-fuckingly histrionic quartet Haunted Pussy’s 20-minute rock opera September 25 at East River Park was actually more a gurgling sprawl of psychedelic Fucking Champs guitar wank with muffled Diamanda Galas sex sounds and drama kid shrieks. The Omen-esque plot: Rich latchkey girl with forever vacationing parents is raped by inscrutable mansion staff until visited by Casper the Randy Ghost, who rapes her again in order to bury the seed of a baby ghost to scare away future defilers.
Guitarist Mr. Brooke Shields and the Ghost Drummer remained ensconced in the rear, while front-runners Bilge Byron and Bilge Baron slid and spun on damp grass before a makeshift “secret” cemetery. Faux gravestones reflected some kind of HP cosmology: dick-shaped glory holes for Freddie Mercury, Kermit-lined felt for Jim Henson, a nod to Kurt Cobain, disses of Ronald Reagan and George W. But watching Shields with his low-slung bells and flowing locks solo against shadows of the East River and Williamsburg Bridge, I wondered if they should’ve buried Randy Rhoads too.
Byron, a ringer for Lisa Carver of old, donned corpse eye makeup and a black stripper top, pounding the ground, speaking in tongues, and preening on park benches. Cycling through the audience, an elaborately dressed Baron acted more as narrator: She wore a red bandanna fashioned into an eye patch, sequined bodice, and black ripped panty hose with white underwear over the hose, pulled down just-so to connote invasion, but her main prop was an inexplicable flyswatter decorated like an Aerosmith mic stand. Perhaps to deflect ectoplasm?
Sans vocal amplification, the Bilge duo’s screams and trills rested below Shields’s effects-heavy guitar and Ghost’s tentative, new-guy drumming (hey, is he the shady father?), so when the set capped with an extra half-minute of diminishing skyrocket guitar scrawl, I mistook a passing ambulance’s precipitous siren as the over-the-top twosome’s just-birthed banshee call. BRANDON STOSUY
Psychedelic folkies happily reunite as own tribute band
The Incredible String Band
Once upon a time, their music embellished with exotic instruments, witches, and a Minotaur, the Incredible String Band (initially Robin Williamson, Mike Heron, and Clive Palmer) traveled in rock circles even though, unlike Fairport Convention, they spurned drum kits and electric guitars. The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (1968) garnered highbrow praise, poising them for sainthood; they followed up further ancient tales and ambitious concepts with a largely forgotten Woodstock appearance, Scientology, girlfriend bandmates, and then an inevitable breakup in 1974. Despite props from McCartney, Dylan, Robert Plant, Johnny Marr, Neil Tennant, and the archbishop of Canterbury, they sired almost no progeny—at least till lately, if Devendra Banhart or Animal Collective count.
“We’ve been waiting so long for a tribute band that we’ve given up and become our own,” Heron said recently. After decades of solo careers (including jug bands, Yiddish music, soundtracks, and kiddie LPs), the original trio tried a 1997 reunion and then a 2000 U.K. tour, adding guitarist Lawson Dando. With ISB commitments cutting into solo work, Williamson couldn’t stick around long. So on the heels of their recent live-in-studio Nebulous Nearness, two sold-out September 26 Joe’s Pub shows concentrated on their first six albums and Heron’s songs.
Incredibly, the Heron-Palmer-Dando trio pulled off a gentle, cheery set, sounding even funnier and livelier than they used to with Williamson—Dando’s kazoo solos were pure Spike Jones. Living up to their multi-instrument rep, they strummed, blew, and banged on guitars, keyboards, banjos, percussion, and harmonica. Palmer’s thin voice was perfect for the pre-war pop he slipped in, Leon Redbone–style. But it was Heron’s joy and confidence—running through jaunty sing-alongs, Gregorian chants, booze-hungry and happy-go-lucky stuff—that put these guys miles ahead of confessional coffeehouse folkies. Their climax, the 10-minute-plus crowd-pleaser “A Very Cellular Song,” had Heron emitting New Testament imagery over the traditional “We Bid You Goodnight” and then leading a rousing chorus about “pure light within you.” Pretty naive, but ISB meant such sentiments decades ago, and they mean them now—they’ve managed to keep their innocence, but who knows when we’ll have ours again? JASON GROSS
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 28, 2004