There was no shortage of things to do this weekend, with Art-A-Whirl stretching into every corner of the Northeast neighborhood and high-caliber local and national shows across town. Our diligent staff of freelance and staff writers were on the scene and reported back on some of the best shows this weekend, including Rock for Pussy, El-P and Dizzee Rascal, the Heliotrope Festival, and Nick Africano.
Nick Africano 400 Bar, May 16 By Desiree Weber
Nick Africano, photo from his MySpace page.
Nick Africano’s new release I’ve Ever Desired maintains the folksy, bluesy tenor of previous records and adds a touch more introspection. If you weren’t there, here’s what you missed.
Africano’s rustic singer-songwriter style is a place to start, but it doesn’t quite do justice to the layers he brings to the new songs. His gravely voice blends well with the multi-instrumental virtuosity, which isn’t often encountered in the “singer-songwriter” category. Some of my favorites of the set were brand new songs – so new, they aren’t even to be released on this album. The first of those was an up-tempo, minor-key tune called “Only Tears” which found Africano finger-picking an acoustic guitar accompanied to great effect by electric slide guitar. Throughout most of the night, he was ably supported by a rotating cast of players, including former Over/Under band mates and members of Alpha Centauri, which primed the crowd before the headlining set.
Africano ended the set with a one-on-one session between him and his acoustic guitar, allowing him to showcase a good balance of intense vocals and subtle instrumentation. Go too far one way or the other and a lone guy with a guitar can elicit pity, not admiration – but Africano pulled it off to great effect.
Rock for Pussy First Avenue, May 16 By Jen Paulson
Chris Perricelli of Little Man, channeling the Bowie spirit into his tambourine. Photo by Alexa Jones.
Excerpt: "While the show found its leadership in John Eller, it also can’t be denied that one of the real stars of this year’s show was no doubt Mr. Chris Perricelli – Little Man lead singer and guitarist who is both Marc Bolan of T Rex and Bowie combined. Perricelli was featured on multiple songs, especially notable is his treatment on “Hang on to Yourself,” with his vocals full of Bowie panache and with a guitar prowess was as close to Mick Ronson himself as you could possibly get in his blistering guitar solos on “Ziggy Stardust” and “Starman.” Lori Barbero’s version of "Changes" far exceeded the song's nature, as she added her own touch to Bowie’s introspection with a confident, in your face treatise to accepting ones fate, her stage posturing and highly charismatic performance oozed old guard charm and had every one in the house singing along." Read more of Jen's review.
El-P with Dizzee Rascal Triple Rock Social Club, May 16 By Nate Patrin
Excerpt: "What kind of MC uses a mic stand? That’s the first thing I asked myself when El-P took the stage on Friday night’s headliner half of this underground hip hop double bill, and as questions go it was pretty quickly-answered: the kind of MC that spends his time minutes on stage convulsing, slapping himself in the face, throwing elbows like a malfunctioning Bill Laimbeer robot, pantomiming self-strangulation with the mic cord, falling flat on his back, flailing around madly and throwing his entire goddamned body into spitting fire. There’s a lot of vitriol and savagery and all-out doom on El-P’s 2007 record I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead and its 2002 precursor Fantastic Damage – not to mention Company Flow’s classic Funcrusher EP and its LP expansion Funcrusher Plus, represented briefly in his set by indie rap anthem “Vital Nerve”. El's mile-a-minute flow is intimidating but thrilling, and his dark, blunted but headbanging production work makes him sort of the Tony Iommi of the post-Wu-Tang set. And at full throttle, with DJ Mr. Dibbs ramping up the metallic roar of El-P’s beats with diabolical cutting and an assist from a plastic baby-head theremin, it’s brutal as fuck."
Heliotrope Festival Ritz Theater, May 16 By David Hansen
Vampire Hands, photographed by Daniel Corrigan.
Excerpt: "Two-piece metal freaks Knife World were the first band to coax the mounting but stage-shy crowd from the Ritz's cushy stadium seats. To a thrashing cluster of people that crowded the front of the house, Josh Journey-Heinz and Jon Nielsen made themselves an obvious stand-out just two songs deep into their searingly loud set which touched on songs from their recent vinyl release and their stellar EP from 2007. Alone at center stage and top lit by a single spotlight, Knife World managed to make the enormous space seem claustrophobic, overfilling with just drums and guitar a space big and vaunted enough to swallow lesser sounds in a gulp.
Knife World provided a perfect setup punch for the artsy, hyperactive, and precise Gay Beast, whose set suggested graduate calculus with an elevated pulse. A three-piece of many talents, Gay Beast managed to create a sound whose cerebral polyrhythms never detracted from the visceral effect of watching them perform, a talent that was evidenced by the dance party that swarmed and intensified at their feet."