Daily Archives: September 19, 2009

It’s time for The Bongos

Richard Barone just Twittered about a Bongs reunion next month.

Richard Barone just Twittered about a Bongs reunion next month.

What can I say? Bongos frontman and rock raconteur Richard Barone just an hour ago used his Twitter feed to forward a message that will thrill many NYC-Hoboken rock fans:

RICHARDBARONE: The Bongos at Hiro Ballroom and Maxwell’s in October? Stay tuned….

Original Tweet: http://twitter.com/RICHARDBARONE

How awesome is that news? There couldn’t be a more appropriate venue than Maxwell’s for The Bongos, and Hiro will do just fine too.

As the man said, stay tuned…

Punk rock lives

The Zeros reunited.

The Zeros reunited: Hector Penalosa, Robert Lopez, Javier Escovedo and Baba Chenelle.

It was a perfect meeting of punk minds on Monday night at Maxwell’s in Hoboken when contemporary punk rockers The Choke opened a set for The Zeros, a band from the first wave of original LA punk that’s on a reunion tour.

Javier Escovedo onstage at Maxwell's.

Javier Escovedo onstage at Maxwell's.

Between the two bands, the packed room got two solid sets of high-energy punk, with the opening act paying homage to the headliners by playing their new take on totally old-school ideas.

It was hard to believe that The Zeros hit the scene more than 30 years ago. All four — Javier Escovedo, Hector Penalosa, Robert Lopez and Baba Chenelle — were high school students in Chula Vista, Calif., when they started in 1976. Although they’re often referred to as the Mexican Ramones, they didn’t know anything about those NYC punk rockers when they got their start.

Javier comes from a rock family, and played with his brother Alejandro Escovedo in The True Believers, while Robert has developed an international career as El Vez, The Mexican Elvis (an act that, as I learned at The Zeros set, is heavily influenced by Robert’s high school experience).

Robert Lopez, aka El Vez

Robert Lopez, aka El Vez

Click through to the jump for more photos from Maxwell’s and more on The Zeros. Continue reading

Finding light at the end of a subway tunnel


My first exposure to Amy X Neuburg (please no period after the X!), the San Francisco-based avant-cabaret singer-percussionist, came at NYC’s Symphony Space during the 2003 Bang on a Can Marathon. She did a riveting set of live-looped, manipulated vocals and percussion that left a strong impression on me. Unlike so many singers who emphasize such vocal manipulation, Amy demonstrated from the first note that she had a strong voice. She wasn’t using her electronics as a crutch for a weak vocal instrument, but as a way to express her art and enhance a beautiful natural instrument.

In a chat after her performance, I talked to Amy about her voice, and she explained that she had operatic vocal training, but her art led her in a different direction.

Amy has always gone her own way. In the Nineties she mined a pop vein with her Amy X Neuburg and Men ensemble, then stuck mostly with solo cabaret-style performance in subsequent years, turning out beautiful recordings like Six Little Stains in 2003 and Residue the following year.

Her wonderfully inventive mind and obvious love of all sort of musical styles makes her a delight to hear and see, but a bit of a marketing challenge. Is her act cabaret, musical theater, performance art, contemporary classical? The labels don’t really matter. She’s a massive talent whose work is always fresh and entertaining.

Amy, who rocks a vintage Lisa Loeb-ish look, is back with an ensemble on The Secret Language of Subways. This time it’s Amy X Neuburg & The Cello ChiXtet, a trio of female cellists. With its blending of her voice, electronics and the full range of the cellos — which may well be the most expressive string instruments around — TSLOS is Amy’s best work yet. The 13-song cycle works well as a story arc —  a sort of unstaged musical — but the indivdual songs are so finely crafted and tuneful that they can  stand on their own quite well.

Amy says the project grew out of her love for the “expressive voice-like quality, enormous pitch range and dramatic look of the cello — I felt I had found a sort of instrumental kindred spirit to my own voice.” Continue reading