ASBURY PARK, NJ—The Wonder Bar is the Jersey Shore’s own Thing That Wouldn’t Die. The place is still open and lately has been serving up some great eclectic acts like H.R. of Bad Brains and Rasputina. And they’re still serving those Wonder Burgers.
For Rasputina, the screenplay slug line would say something like “Victorian-era Eclectic Cello Driven Trio,” as opposed to all the mainstream cello trios. They’ve had a rotating line-up, with singer/cellist Melora Creager, on the mainstay. Creager loves history as much as it should be loved, horrific school teachers who drove any thirst for knowledge out of us aside. Fortean phenomena for lyrical inspiration and cellos? Doesn’t get much better than that for those tired of three-chord rock.
The cello is the unsung instrument of music and rock. Few instruments can sing as sadly, or bite as sharply. There’s nothing else in music that comes close to the attack of bow on string straddling a large wooden box. Cellos make an awful lot of noise. They can cut through where other string instruments fail, which on a rock stage, is often. They’re a nightmare to mic and amplify; they are feedback machines. The strings and percussion sounded just fine on the Wonder Bar stage, where an audience that filled the seats sat back to listen, mostly. Some in attendance felt the need to discuss burning issues while Rasputina played, it really sucks to hear a band going for it, then drop out to release some of the beautiful tension of the volume, and instead of wonderful quiet, you hear the conversations of those who have already had their attention spans set to ‘Who cares if I’m talking? I don’t.’ Assholes.
A trio of two cellos and percussion singing about the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Disaster, “My Little Shirtwaist Fire,” and worldwide weather events, “1816, The Year Without A Summer,” is certainly not clichÃ©d. And not for everyone, but they were loved by the audience at the Wonder Bar, which was an audience, not a crowd, thankfully. Small conversations aside, the place listened, and were enthusiastic in their appreciation. Rasputina functions well in its own universe, seemingly unaware or uncaring of most things modern. Some things that call on the past aren’t so good, like anything related to Renaissance Fairs. But for Rasputina, they seem happy to play in their own space and time, fiddling while the economy and the major labels burn.
Photo Credit: Mike Black