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Disbanding in Ludlow Street Basement, Palmyra Leaves Mark, Economy Be Damned

By Matthew Russell Lee, Music(al) Review

NEW YORK, November 26 -- In the Cake Shop basement on Ludlow Street, the quintet Palmyra played what have been been its last show. The band's lead singer Gina Pensiero is headed to LA. Between song she asked the crowd for its advice. “Don't go!” was the reply.

  “Something constructive,” she retorted. As she sang of Michigan, her father was in the front row. The trumpet player Kenny Roebuck put on his mute, twanged his background lyrics. The bass and drums Largo brothers put a happy face on things, the former on Korg synthesizer. Guitarist Karl Sturk hawked the band's five song cassette tape: $5 dollars each, and they'd only made 25 copies. Given this economy, no wonder Gina's headed west.

The songs were heartfelt, authentic, necessary. (Click here for their MySpace space). But with Gina headed West, what will become of Palmyra? Upstairs in the Cake Shop, a Friday night crowd thronged, and apricot beer from Ithaca was sold. Surely there are other bands. But not another Palmyra.

Palmyra on Nov. 26, drummer not shown, but heard (c) MRLee

Before, however, there was a pigtailed Korg keyboard singer named Heather Duby. She too sounded earnest, with Tommy Yunish on electric guitar behind. When finally her lyrics were heard, they were about being unfaithful. She is not leaving New York, and she pitched her Facebook page. (Here's her MySpace.) Could she be Palmyra's vocalist? It's worth at least a try, before the boys disband.

Footnote: a longer shot for Gina's replacement would be the plaid shirted leader of the Heliotropes, who played the Matchless Bar in Greenpoint last summer. Click here for that - the advice is (too) freely given.

* * *

In Brooklyn, A Tale of 2 Girl Bands, The Raw & The Cooked, Heliotropes and Scamps

By Matthew Russell Lee

GREENPOINT, NY, August 27 -- Two female led bands rocked the Matchless Bar in Greenpoint on Friday night, one raw and one cooked. The first, the all female trio Heliotropes, was reminiscent of the Grateful Dead. The guitarist and singer was in a flannel shirt; the drummer, also Asian, stood up in a too short skirt. The African bassist was allowed to rock out. The trio was endearing and promising, touchingly deferential to the coming headliners, The Scamps.

   The Scamps, a hybrid quartet with closely honed songs reminiscent of the early Talking Heads, were launching their CD. They played each song from the CD. The lead singer and guitarist, in David Bowie-like short hair, switched midway to a slide guitar. The space grew warm; she was sweating and smiling.

  The organ player, a placid Asian woman with a tattoo on her left arm, sang in unison. The bass player, a seemingly emotionless Nordic session musician, was matched by a drummer with tongue out and drum machine.

   If the Scams' lineup sounds incongruous, their songs were tight, maybe too tight for some. Comparing the two bands, one imagined the Heliotropes drawn as is by gravity to increasing practicing and tightness, in order to become headlines like the The Scamps, to have a better attended CD launch event. But is bigger always better?

   Better is subjective. This reviewer prefers the endearing amateur to the finely honed presentation. It is merely a prejudice, or preference. One might advise Heliotrope to move out of New York, or at least out of Greenpoint / Williamsburg, to a place like Akron, Ohio. Perhaps there is an Akron in New York. Perhaps Inner City Press can find it. Watch this site.

Heliotropes, overcooking not shown

Matchless, as venue, is virutally matchless. The former car garage to the side of the bar has been subdivided by a door with windows. In the music space, complete with disco ball, a long wooden bench as if from a subway from another era has stools as Ottomen. There are sound checks, and outside, McCarran Park.

In the park, there is a yellow school bus with at least one person living inside. Is it Ken Kesey or the next Heliotropes? Watch this site.

* * *

NYC Summer Music Ranges from Monklike Tango to White Rabbits, Fania All Stars, Hipsters to Salseros

By Matthew Russell Lee

NEW YORK CITY, August 22 -- This summer in the City the music has been free. The main Summerstage in Central Park has hosted, among others, the minimalist British duo The xx. Click here for Inner City Press' review. But its satellite in East River park has recently had the White Rabbits, complete with upright piano in the renovated East River Amphitheater.

  Nearly entirely white hipsters stood awkwardly and listening, filming the proceedings on cell phones for uploading to YouTube. There was Grape Nut ice cream and people longing for (a) Spoon.

  A week later in the same venue, the tribute salsa band Fania All-Stars drew a larger and more demonstrative crowd, this time nearly entirely Latino. A woman in the front rows slowly waved a Puerto Rican flag; the smell of pescado frito for sale wafted over the crowd.

  A borough east in Brooklyn on August 20, an Argentine tango quartet rocked the Vora Space at 315 4th Avenue. Most striking was pianist Octovio Brunetti, who deployed Thelonius Monk-like chords over Mercedes Sosa songs sung by Mariel Sol, and even a bit of salsa.

Octavio Brunetti, radiator and Rooftop not shown

  The crowd was largely South American and older. They looked happy in Vora's small space, with a white painted radiator on the stage. The bartender gave out free wasabi peas. The event packed more wallop and not only wasabi than the season's end of Rooftop Films just a block away, sold out to a European crowd which tried to scalp tickets on the banks of the Canal.

  Finally for now, further back in Park Slope at 444 Seventh Avenue in the Bar 4, a rock quartet played for what looked like their own roommates. There was vodka on the foosball table, a white crowd gyrating. This is summer in the City, at least some parts of it. Some heard as soundtrack: LCD Soundsystem's "New York, I Love You." To be continued.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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