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December 2012

New Yorkers Gravitate towards Diarrhea Planet at Death By Audio

By Melissa Caruso

On JEFF the Brotherhood’s Infinity Cat label, you’ll find Diarrhea Planet, a band that sounds like what would happen had Beavis and Butthead moved to Nashville and joined a rock ‘n’ roll band.

“We started out as a joke. We thought, what could be so offensive, but still be hilarious for ourselves.  Even five guitars on stage, that’s a joke.”  Not only are they free of inhibitions, they continue to make music simply for the sake of itself; while they may not be trying to impress, they are doing just that.

With a packed crowd at the Williamsburg DIY venue, Diarrhea Planet fed off the crowd’s energy—at times, their free-for-all madness seemed to be confined by the stage. Intrepidly, they took turns diving into moshpits and playing upside down without missing a beat. From defending rock ‘n’ roll to rewriting punk’s national anthem while invoking pop-flavored hooks, Diarrhea Planet gives plenty of reasons to be interested. With songs off their recent Loose Jewels already memorized, it’s apparent that an East Coast fan base exists.

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Medeski, Martin and Wood with Nels Cline at the Blue Note

By Dan Lehner   

  medeski martin and wood with nels cline, blue noteMedeski, Martin and Wood have made a long-standing career out of making endlessly fascinating music with guitarists, and their set last week at the Blue Note was no exception. Let it be said that neither MMW nor Nels Cline allow their celebrity status to stand in the way of inspiring, quirky, and even somewhat confrontational art. Both exist part-time in non-jazz scenes—MMW as charter member of the jam-band scene, Cline as the lead guitarist for Wilco—but here, not only were they unafraid of fleshing out their free improvisation chops, that’s how they chose to kick off the night.

john medeski nels cline blue noteThe first few minutes, which featured robotic bleeps and bristling scratches from the raw ends of their instruments, set the tone for an otherwise hard-grooving set replete with sonic adventurousness and naked aggression. For much of the set, MMW and Cline followed a formula of creating a musical idea, augmenting it with ferocious noise, and then making a groove out of that ferocity. This worked well, since all four musicians groove unbelievably hard.

Wood’s surprisingly loud bass breakdowns were crucial in leading the band in and out of each musical design, both with his sense of pocket and timing. A middle section carried itself with a late-night crate-digging feel, turned slightly on its head by Wood’s no-time-signature ostinato and Billy Martin’s restless percussion coloring. Medeski explored the space between free and funky on his synth, playing what could have been a string score to an old movie, if the vinyl had been beaten up and warped.

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Orpheus Club Holiday Concert with Denyce Graves

Denyce Graves Orpheus ClubRIDGEWOOD, NJ -- Each year around this time, I make my way out to New Jersey to see my Dad sing a holiday concert with the Orpheus Club: a semi-professional men's chorus founded in 1909, many of whose members have been performing with the chorus for decades. They sing traditional carols, rock 'n' roll tunes, and music from around the world—a broad mix that's meant to appeal to everyone.

Each year, the Orpheus Club also invites a guest soloist to join them, typically a mid-career singer or instrumentalist who's won some respectable notices on secondary stages. But this year, the club somehow managed to snag mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, a legit superstar who blew me away when I saw her sing Carmen—her signature role—at the Met in 2005.

denyce graves orpheus clubAt the United Methodist Church in Ridgewood tonight, Graves—wearing a holiday-appropriate combination of crimson and jade—sang a combination of holiday songs, African-American spirituals, and operatic repertoire. She blew the roof off with her rendition of the "Habanera" from Carmen, which also gave the chorus a chance to shine. My Dad said it was one of the best moments he's experienced in his 12 years with the club.

But, the evening's most poignant moment came towards the end of the program, when conductor John Palatucci led the audience in an impromptu reading of "Let There Be Peace on Earth," mirroring thousands of similar sing-alongs happening in churches, synagogues, and other meeting places around the country this weekend:

"Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step i take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment 
And live each moment 
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me."

Orpheus Club Concert Ridgewood

For the Innocents

The Coventry Carol (16th Cen.)

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.
That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and sigh,
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.