Friday, January 14
Better than: Sniffing magic markers
Psychotropa is the newest spoke on Brooklyn’s wheel of venues, and in the interest of you getting to enjoy a show there sometime, let’s just say it’s off the Montrose Avenue L stop. It has a polite doorman and a greet-and-pay window, not unlike “regular” clubs; the basement space itself is long, pillared. and low-ceilinged, fluorescent-lit and easy to be in. Friday night’s show was a mixed bag: One act didn’t show, and one act that did consequently played for too damn long. But Magik Markers made it all OK.
It was immediately apparent that no one had seen or heard from Skaters’ James Ferraro, who was set to open. Maybe that’s why SSPS (Savage Society Private Sector), the solo thing from Excepter’s Jon “Porkchop” Nicholson, went and played for more than an hour — long enough to think both This is cool and This is why I never fucking go out a couple times each. If he’d stopped at 20 minutes, the loud, Korg-y set (abetted by the strapping young PA system) could’ve made some sort of rough-hewn statement, powered by sweet-and-sour Kraut rhythms fed through rambling-topography synths (with occasional five-string bass), arranged simply and refreshingly, without polish. He clearly had more grandiose ideas, though, given the painted face under the Spider-Man mask under the motorcycle helmet. Thirty minutes in, it still seemed salvageable; once he’d passed an hour, smashed an innocent midi deck, and placed himself in psychic debt to the entire room, a few kids up front started clapping in a concerted effort to suggest that he stop. He pressed on meaninglessly for another 10 minutes. Do not invite this guy to your dinner party.
Magik Markers, low and holy, redeemed us all. A Northeast band again now that singer/guitar politician Elisa Ambrogio has relocated from SF to Massachusetts, the Markers thumb-smeared two psychedelic jams from their 2009 split EP with Sic Alps and improvised the rest of their beautifully loose, squalling 30-minute set. It might’ve been impenetrable if it wasn’t so enveloping. Drummer Pete (Spectre Folk) Nolan and bassist John Shaw seem to start every song or fragmented impulse from somewhere behind you, stealing up your legs, rounding a beat into life, and roping everyone in. Ambrogio, who by dint of either gender or her band’s outlying-underground status may never get her due as a guitarist or lyricist, is even more focused and powerful a frontperson now than in the Markers’ early days, when she’d often end up bleeding and hopelessly tangled in cords. Amid the din at one point, she invoked her former self, free-declaiming “I invented electricity!” and “If you have enough money you don’t need to be seen,” before dropping to the ground to sculpt waves of heaving noise out of the basement air. Was that a song? Was that the encore? Who went first again? Disoriented and tingling, the crowd (more musicians than you usually see in one place — the Markers a psych-band’s psych band) spilled out, having been karmically repaid.
Critical Bias: Paid my $7 at the door. A half-hour later, Markers drummer Pete Nolan gave me $7 and an unnecessary apology.
Overheard: “This is, like, the third straight show that [Ferraro] has missed.”
Random Notebook Dump: When a DJ lops off a bassy hip-hop track to smash into an early Beat Happening tune (which will also meet a premature end), it may be surprising, but that’s not the same as good.
Magik Markers Set List
White Map Laid With White Inks On White Walls
The Diamond Guitar Of Tico Feo
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 18, 2011