The Fiery Furnaces / Holly Golightly / Gary Lucas / The Reverend Horton Heat
Another night, another duo, although this pair does its utmost to sound like a fully loaded band, pretty much admitting, onstage, that the twosome state was a matter of enforced budgetary measures. Holly Golightly is an English singer and guitarist, though she's now dwelling in rural Athens, Georgia, with Lawyer Dave, who's the American half of this band. Yes, he's the one-man-band Brokeoff, although at least in their fantasies there is an optimum state as a multi-being operation. In the meantime, the Lawyer combines densely chewed-up guitar with a foot-operated mini drum kit.
The foundation sound could be described as rambling, rickety, rumbling, rockin' country blues, earthy Americana, garage punk or even 'billy soul. The words tell stories, and even if the songs are originals, they remain indebted to nearly a hundred years of black and white Stateside roots. There's humor too, running as a central vein, with Golightly's particularly English self-deprecation, gloominess and mischievous mockery delivered with a cheery casualness.
The duo's set was condensed, to say the least. They had been playing for more than 20 minutes when talk began of only a few more numbers left. This may well have been the usual banter between Golightly and her lawyer, as in reality the songs kept coming for at least twice that amount of time. Golightly was quipping about how they had to make way for the "disco," which was actually a 'round midnight freebie set by another combo.
Golightly is now something of a veteran, boasting two decades of recording activity, beginning with her London roots as a member of various outfits led by the garage rock extremist Billy Childish. The four-year history of this duo setup admirably continues that lineage, though with much less truculence, savagery and excess. Now, this pair is still rough and raw, but there's more attention paid to relaxed song craft and more amiable forms of folk music. Despite the fact that Golightly and her lawyer could easily have entertained for a further 30 minutes, this was a good shot of alternative-reality Americana, from down amongst the goats and chickens of the couple's dusty Athens mini-farm.
The Knitting Factory
May 7, 2011
Finally, we get to a full band lineup, and a lusty amount of hardcore amplification. Gary Lucas shall forevermore be most famed for his guitaring membership of the final Magic Band of the great Captain Beefheart, back in the late 1970s and early '80s. This is not to deny that he's been extremely prolific and artistically successful over the last three decades, but that the Van Vliet legacy is impossible to ignore, not least for Lucas himself.
On the last occasion that his Gods & Monsters played at The Knitting Factory, it suffered from an awful sound mix. This time it was far superior, but Lucas should really bring his own engineer along, as there were so many sudden solo peaks from various players that it was frequently the case that a guitar surge was submerged when there was clearly some rampant string action happening, or the horns wouldn't be sufficiently prominent at key junctures. Usually, the venue's sound mixing is fine, so it's puzzling why Lucas should have been unlucky on two gigs.
It's important to mention the significant connections held by Gods & Monsters. Although absent for this gig, Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads) is the producer of the band's latest album, The Ordeal Of Civility (Knitting Factory, 2011), as well as being its occasional keyboardist. Then there's drummer Billy Ficca (Television) and bassist Ernie Brooks (The Modern Lovers). The horn section of Jason Candler and Joe Hendel is comparatively unknown, when standing next to these new wave veterans.
Lucas' guitar style remains in the zone of avant blues from those Magic Band days, but Lucas also composes with a divergent attention to various rock alternatives, from psychedelic freak-out to folk balladry. When he switches from electric to acoustic, this doesn't necessarily lead to a softer sound. Sometimes, Lucas can be at his most violent whilst abusing an acoustic axe with a virtuoso élan. The evening's repertoire contained its moments of extracurricular variety. Lucas played "Mojo Pin," one of his two co-compositions with Jeff Buckley, just as a duo with the guesting German singer Jann Klose. Even more of a pace-change was the other vocal guest interlude with Sally Kwok, revisiting their album of 1930s Chinese pop songs, Edge Of Heaven (Knitting Factory, 2010). Also, from the new Gods & Monsters album, "Lady Of Shalott" navigated a folksier terrain, best described as psychedelic Medieval, but without relinquishing any deranged intensity.
The Reverend Horton Heat
May 8, 2011