Illustrations by Debbie Allen
The hurricane might be over, but as Waste of Paint spent much of the weekend discovering, the recovery work has only just begun. Thankfully, the people of this city support one another in times of need, and the music community is no exception; two of the three shows we attended benefitted Sandy victims in some way, and there are hopefully many more like them to come.
Friday we hit up the Knitting Factory to see Guardian Alien open for the great and trippy Psychic Ills. I was a little bummed Raul De Nieves was not there screaming and hanging from the ceiling in platform heels as he had at Trip House a few weeks back, but he’s not a permanent member of the band, so I can’t really fault them for that.
Built around the complex marvel of Greg Fox’s drumming, Guardian Alien experiments with dynamics and sensory overload in an attempt to achieve something resembling the peace that passes beyond understanding. In what seemed like a half-improvised jam session, Fox’s drum attack escalated endlessly as Eli Winograd’s percussive bass, Turner Williams Jr.’s scrabbly shahai baaja (an Indian electric zither), and Alex Drewchin’s spiritual chanting and spacey sound effects drew various patterns on top of it. Despite being a bit more avant-garde than the Psychic Ills, it tickles the THC-loving parts of the brain in a similar way, but of course, the results can be unpredictable; earplugs in, I found it strangely soothing, while Debbie thought she might have an anxiety attack.
Saturday we stopped by Saint Vitus for an eclectic Sandy benefit which included the feedback-laden noise of Bloodyminded, the “chamber punk” of Buke and Gase, and the throbbing EDM of Believer/Law. We chose to focus on the quieter part of the evening, though, getting there in time for a solo set from Walter Schreifels of Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand and Rival Schools fame. Despite being best known for his louder material, Schreifels has a lovely croon, which a single electric guitar left ample room to shine. His songs ranged from the jazz standard “Summertime” to a well-received rendition of Quicksand’s “Delusional,” but the most engaging gems, for me, were cuts like “Who Knows What Tomorrow’s Gonna Bring,” a sweet story about hurricanes, snowstorms, love, and the unpredictability of life.
Between songs, Schreifels talked about how he’d grown up in the Rockaways and told self-deprecating anecdotes about his exploits during and after the storm. For instance: his rear-ending of a taxi cab.
Afterwards, we hustled over to Shea Stadium to see the Beets provide support to scene (and Waste of Paint) favorite Wild Yaks at the release show for the Yaks’ long awaited LP Million Years. The atmosphere was appropriately festive for a Bikes in the Kitchen joint, with beer, balloons and limbs flying willy nilly. A portion of ticket sales went to benefit Sandy victims, and it’s worth noting that Yaks frontman Rob Bryn lives in Rockaway during the summer, as well as having family ties to beachside fixture Rippers.
Before the Yaks took the stage, The Beets kept up the good vibes with a short set of their delightfully offbeat garage-psych, augmented by the relatively recent addition of drummer/backup singer Chie Mori. Mori’s stripped down kit emphasized that simple, booming beat that anchors so many garage acts, and singer/guitarist Juan Wauters hammed it up with jangling, pitch-bent riffs and bizarro lyrics — sometimes delivered in deliberately broken English — about riding through the desert, wearing black, thinking about the devil, vomiting on purpose, offering up his cojones to his lover, and suicide. Dark stuff on paper, for sure, but between the cheerful ’60s chord progressions, singalong choruses, and the Uruguayan transplant’s talent for telanovela-style melodrama, it all sounded like so much silly fun, as well as a perfect lead in the Wild Yaks’ triumphant, boozy, self-flagellation extravaganza.