WHY ARE THOSE GIRLS SO LOUD it’s ‘cos we’re jewish’s first press/review and it’s a generous/smashing one at that! i’ll take it. There’s a Cloud Club penumbrella upon us Boston vaudevillians according to this chap…
by Mary Bichner
New England’s Prospect: When the Working Day Is Done
By Matthew Guerrieri on October 27, 2011 on newmusicbox.org
One of the more unpredictable communities in Boston music has comprised a group of pop/rock/other performers and acts that, in one way or another, seem to trace their lineage back to local heroine Amanda Palmer and her breakout duo, The Dresden Dolls. Part punk confrontation, part performance-art boundary-blurring, part art-rock musical ambition, and part burlesque naughtiness, it’s a loose, like-minded orbit, familiar faces turning up in various places—the “Org” shows organized by Mali Sastri of Jaggery are a good example, or the occasional (in all senses) themed shows curated by Mary Bichner, otherwise known as the band Box Five. Bichner’s latest effort was “A Dream Within a Dream,” an evening paying tribute to Edgar Allan Poe, which kicked off a brief tour on October 5 at the Somerville Theatre. (The tour then went to New York, Baltimore, Richmond, and Philadelphia—all the American cities Poe, at one time or another, called home—with local bands joining the lineup in each city.)
One might have expected an evening of non-stop, dark-cabaret gloomy edge; but with emcee Mika Cooper on hand as, often, the only real connecting thread, the concert encompassed a whole catalog of varied inclinations claiming Poe as an ancestor. Alexandra Day, visiting from Philadelphia (Bichner’s old hometown), contributed “Poe at Seven,” a portrait of the author as a Scottish boarding-school student, all discontent and images of distant trains, set to groovy piano pop that put the alienation firmly in the post-Beat road-scholar school of rock. What Time is it, Mr. Fox? brought a set mixing raunchy soul, gutbucket blues, and fierce Irish fiddle, all covered in Victorian cobwebs, but the group’s Poe-specific premiere was “Eleonora,” an arrangement of lines selected from that story (which, as lead singer Brian King pointed out, ranks as one of Poe’s happiest—dead lady notwithstanding); King and his guitar made it into a moody emo romance, a 19th-century alternative prom theme.
Bichner’s three Poe-themed works ran the gamut from melodrama (“Virginia’s Waltz,” with burlesque/performance artist “UnAmerika’s Sweetheart” Karin Webb reciting as Poe’s doomed wife) to art song (Poe’s famous poem “For Helen,” set in polished, pitch-perfect parlor style) to sketch comedy (another melodrama, to Poe’s slapstick romance “The Spectacles,” piano, drums, and strings providing parodic diminished-chord background while Poe impersonator Rob Velella narrated a semi-staged—and eagerly mugged—presentation of the tale). Sassier silliness came with the purposefully rambling, determinedly ragged, rollicking stylings of jojo Lazar and Amy Macabre, better known as WHY ARE THOSE GIRLS SO LOUD it’s ‘cos we’re jewish: ukulele, toy glockenspiel, jagged-razor cheer, and a steady stream of potty-mouthed lit-crit stand-up commentary, combining the morbid goof of a mash-up of “The Raven” and “The Rainbow Connection” and the connoisseurship of a cover of Iron Maiden’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue.” (True to this particular scene’s stock company/community ethos, both Lazar and Macabre figure in other groups as well, most notably the rock-and-roll circus of Walter Sickert and his Army of Broken Toys.)
Bassist Tony Leva (also part of Jaggery), with Michael Dobiel remixing on a laptop, spun a kind of free-jazz/spoken-word critique of “The Purloined Letter,” accompanying Webb performing a gender-bending change of costume. Guitarist/composer Brendan Burns’s “A Valentine for Poe” was especially strong, an acrostically derived theme that Burns, Leva, and drummer Nate Greenslit worked into an arc from Frisell-esque Americana evocation to full-distortion psychedelica and back again.
For a finale, Bichner organized a musically exquisite corpse, dividing “The Raven” into six parts, then assigning each part to a different act for musical realization: Bichner’s operatic lyricism; WHY ARE THOSE GIRLS SO LOUD’s garage-band drive; Mali Sastri in full dramatic cry; Day’s freeform rumination; the jazz duo Bottom of the Well‘s sultry noir; Molly Zenobia spinning a hell-lonesome variation on the most austere corners of American roots music. The wide-ranging, even contradictory variety was as apt a tribute to Poe as any.
by Reid Simpson
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.” —
Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Parker (via apiphile)
Another Dorothy Parker life-moment today. It is in the ether. She is my spirit guide? Enough rope.