A Night at the Gramercy Theater – 1/26/19
It was almost two months ago that this show happened at the Gramercy Theater. Saturday, January 26th. Five local NYC bands played. The headliner was Tommy London, who after several years headlining the Dirty Pearls is now solo. So this Saturday night, back in January, he was celebrating the release of a his new video, “Make You Love Me“. With him were four other New York City bands. It was a good night.
I knew of Tommy London and Thornes before this show. I realized I knew Jason Cadic from Panzie. Villins was something I had heard of and Vajra. . . I knew nothing. Below are some thoughts regarding that show and those five bands.
Imagine Phantom of the Opera with a good dose of glam rock with a dash of an erotic tango for good measure. That is my take of the first act I saw that night – Villins.
The first thing that grabbed me with this trio were the visuals. It is really just the two of them with a drummer in the background, providing a rhythm. They being “a two-piece genre-bending pop duo based in New York City featuring singer Jesyka and guitarist/producer Kareem “Jesus” Devlin” (from their Facebook page). Kareem acquired the nickname “Jesus” from Lady Gaga when he was the lead guitarist on her Monster Ball Tour. So not to shabby.
But back to the visuals. Jesyka is typically in something tight, revealing, suggestive. Why not? She looks good. Both look good. Simply appealing to the eye. Kareem, from the show I saw and the pics and videos I peruse, is shirtless, lean, in shape. He is a rocker, long haired and with his Les Paul. It is either a Les Paul or a Flying V it seems. It appears he likes Gibsons.
I digress. the guitars are not important. They are, but they are not. They key is their dance. They are a dance couple. The drummer is there but he is providing a beat. The performance is the two of them. And that is where I get the dash of Tango. If it were just Jesyka it would be Burlesque. I was pondering how to describe her outfits and they are burlesque with a dash of modernity. One of the videos I checked out featured lasers projecting out from both of them!
But it starts with old fashion burlesque, but it is more. It is more because you have both Jesyka and Kareem. And Burlesque is not so cutting sharp. Burlesque hints and suggests. It teases. Burlesque is in the end is stripping. That was not going on here.
And it is in fact not tango, or perhaps it is part tango but it is also part flamenco. In tango, Argentinian Tango, you have man and woman dance. Obviously. Flamenco, you often have woman dance and man typically playing guitar. Often sitting. Kareem does not sit. Nor does she have the typically long dress or skirt of flamenco.
In their performance he is not stationary. He too is moving about the stage, he is rocking with that guitar. So they are part tango and part flamenco, and part rock. And of course the structure for these dances is the music they are performing. So you have the play of the music and the play of the dance complementing each other.
My analogy, at least from the performance I caught, and I do want to go back, but my analogy to dance is flawed. It is there, but it don’t work. They perform, but they are much more a band as opposed to a dance duet. They respond to the music, not to each other. They much more interact through the music, through the pop, through the rock. So they are visual. They embrace and borrow from dance, but they are rockers. Perhaps. Maybe I am wrong, perhaps all, dancers and rockers focus on the music.
So a lovely dash of pop, some nice distorted guitar. She hinting at burlesque, certainly suggestive. He too. All performed and delivered live with this almost classical flamenco or tango vibe. The music was a soundtrack to what was going on onstage. I could see myself becoming familiar with the tunes. I do like his guitar, her voice. For some reason I think of the Yardbirds and their Heart Full of Soul.
Thornes was next up. A power trio led by Ms Antoinette Michael Thornes. She has a voice. A bit of rasp, some range. If you go to Reverb Nation it seems she had blown out her voice awhile back. Whatever had happened, that was in the past. That was 2010? It is 2019. Her voice was pretty damn good.
She has some guitar chops too. I saw her awhile back and was impressed with her guitar playing then. Those skills have only sharpened. A couple rhythms had me going and a few solos just put a smile on my face. And I was not the only one in the audience that night with such responses. Some tasty guitar. And yes I focus on her but the band is solid too. Steve Steele on bass, and Randy Satarsky on drums both more than compliment her vocals and guitar.
Visually, Antoinette did. . . does have it going on. Blonde, shapely. She plays the rocker but does not push the envelope. An beautiful woman, but she really does not play those cards. Not like Jesyka or Kareem before her. I want to say with Thornes, they are taking a page from Joe Perry. They let the music do the talking. But Joe was typically more interesting with Steven. I digress. . .
I guess it comes down to I want to like this band. At the show and as I listen to their various tunes as I write this, there are moments. I simply need more.
They were the one band on the bill that just does straight ahead rock. No appeals to religion, no tango. No flamenco. No apocalyptic overtones with a horn section on the side. Maybe you need something like that today. Again, this three piece does have something going on, but I want more. Don’t we all. They got the chops. I just want them to go that next step, I want them to go for the throat. I want that riff, that chorus, that solo. Something. Easier said than done. Thornes is a band I am following.
Maybe the back cover of their “Issues” CD sums it up. There you have Antoinette in a black cocktail dress and heels doing laundry. A look of surprise on her face as if caught in the act. In one sense it is simply a silly or cute picture. Incongruity or not?
“A vajra is a weapon used as a ritual object to symbolize both the properties of a diamond and a thunderbolt; th e Sanskrit word has both these meanings. The vajra is essentially a type of club with a ribbed spherical head. ” Google
It is also the name of the band that followed Thornes. A good band name, referencing a weapon and ritual object that symbolizes the beauty of a diamond and the power of a thunderbolt. It is a lovely name. Interestingly, their first album or EP is tentatively titled Irkalla, which alludes to the ancient Mesopotamian underworld. So some cool symbolism going on here. And a good band.
The band features Annamaria Pinna on vocals, Erek Smith on bass, AJ Garzón on guitar, and Luca Bertaglia on drums. They are basically a female fronted dark melodic hard rock act. Annamaria has some history in India. There is a dash of Indian music here, some sitar, some traditional Indian rhythms.
What I don’t find is any Bollywood type sound. Maybe the rhythms, Maybe. I am not sure it can be done – dark melodic hard rock and Bollywood. Now my limited knowledge of Bollywood is showing. A buddy of mine had promoted a few Indian dance nights, and now I realize that was ten plus years ago. It was kind of neat. Some neat Indian folk music, folk rhythms, mixed and incorporated into contemporary dance music, beats. Pointing yet again to something different from what we had on the stage that night.
If you look at India on a map you realize, Bollywood, coming out of Mumbai, is on the other side of India. And the folk rhythms I alluded. . . God knows where they originate from. Meanwhile the band is pointing to eastern India as its source of inspiration.
Regardless of the source of inspiration, Annamaria has an amazing voice. Nice vocal styling and just interesting tunes. The Red flowing gown she started the show in again alluded to the eastern Indian, perhaps? The gown, and then the ornamentation underneath. The henna perhaps. All interesting styling. There is something there, with the references to the ancient is. They are reaching for something else. Their sound, their show that night, however, was for me, melodic metal delivered well. They had me at that. I would love more of the mysticism, but again they had me regardless.
Jason Cadic & the End –
A new act, this was their first show. Jason though has some history. Coming from Panzie, and prior to that with He produced or directed Tommy London’s new video, which was being released that night. He just opened an exhibit,”How to Build a Time Machine” featuring paintings and visual art at the Dollhaus2 in Bayonne.
The cool thing here was the size and richness of the band. We had the usual guitars, drums, bass and keyboards. There were some ladies doing backup vocals. That is kind of different for industrial metal. And honestly, I am not sure what industrial metal is. There was a horn section. Industrial metal with a horn section. So it was more than industrial metal, or perhaps it was industrial metal simply being stretched. That really is to be determined.
This first show was really a preshow. If I can believe the Aquarian, they did no original material that night. So they really are just beginning. Don’t get me wrong, what I heard was cool. We got a sampling of stuff Jason has worked on in his prior projects, which for me were new anyway. He did Rage Against The Machine’s “Sleep Now in the Fire”, David Bowie’s “Fame”, and Midnight Oil’s “Beds are Burning”. So there was a mix of things.
The tune that got me? That was their cover of Placebo’s “Broken Promise”. Complete with the melancholy piano and the wall of sound that follows. In this case complete with horns and guitar. Two guitarists I believe. A great tune done nicely.
A debt is owed to the Aquarian’s Manhattan Beat. It is nice to see they are still at it. I recall getting their paper edition weekly to see who was p[laying where and what I was doing that weekend or whatever. That was a long time ago.
Who the fuck is Tommy London? He has been at it in NYC for awhile. I have seen him with the Dirty Pearls a few times. The Pearls and his solo stuff are hard rock with a dash of pop. All done with a certain New York style. His video which he started his set off with was done in Time Square. Solid band, fun tunes, and typically solid performances.
Sadly, by the time he made it on that night I was done. Next time. It was not my best night. . .
I have gone back and forth on this piece for close to two months. Considering what it is, it has consumed way too much time! I am not a critic. Such writing does not come easy. I miss the days when I was promoting the shows up here Westchester. It made such writing tasks easier. It made the Wild West easier.
Basically we had five good acts at the Gramercy that need to keep going. The last two months were an education. Many have said rock is dead. Others say no, it is not. Regardless, I need to keep going, which leads me to the question of the Wild West. Again.