In 1979, towards the end of the original punk rock movement in New York City, Bush Tetras formed and merged gritty funk, hard-edged punk and dissonant no wave trends with a female-dominated stance and empowering lyrics. The quartet was popular on the Manhattan rock club circuit and on college radio, but catchy songs like “Too Many Creeps” and “Can’t Be Funky” did not lead to commercial success, and the band split in 1983. The original lineup reformed in 1995 and released an album in 1997, but split again in 1998. The band reformed in 2005 and presently includes three original members: vocalist Cynthia Sley, guitarist Pat Place, and drummer Dee Pop, plus newer bassist Val Opielski. Bush Tetras yesterday released Take the Fall, a five-song EP which features the band’s first newly-recorded music in 10 years.
Tonight, Bush Tetras celebrated the release of the new EP with a headlining concert at le Poisson Rouge. The band remained true to its stirring, unpolished sound, packing a propulsion that made its listeners want to bounce to the beat but also loading a raw and tense agitation that could give the listeners the nervous jitters. Opielski and Pop synchronized to give the songs a groove-filled spine, to which Place added stinging reverb-and-distortion riffs and Sley thrusted lyrics. The total effect was a fiercely gripping combination that was as loud and as crude as a cannon and yet was utterly spellbinding. Bush Tetras influenced numerous later guitar-based indie bands, but none of these outfits are as intense and as novel as Bush Tetras.
Skeletal Family/Mercury Lounge/April 14, 2018
During the height of the new wave and gothic rock movement in 1982 in Keighley, West Yorkshire, England, Skeletal Family formed from the remaining members of an earlier group called the Elements, and took its name from the title of a David Bowie song, “Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family.” After two albums, Skeletal Family disbanded in 1986. Regrouping in 2002, the band released two more albums and then disbanded again in 2009. Regrouping in 2012, Skeletal Family now consists of original members Anne-Marie Hurst (vocals), Stan Greenwood (guitar), and Roger “Trotwood” Nowell (bass), plus newer member Adrian Osadzenko (drums). Skeletal Family’s fourth and most recent album is 2009’s Songs of Love, Hope & Despair.
On the second Saturday of every month, longtime nightlife promoter Sean Templar hosts the Red Party at Mercury Lounge, where he usually books one gothic rock band and several DJs. Skeletal Party’s performance was a rare event in that the band seldom tours the United States. Skeletal Party’s up-tempo music was driven by Hurst’s rather monochromatic and suitably gothic vocals, Greenwood’s shimmering guitar leads and the thick, crashing rhythms provided by Nowell and Osadzenko. As the sole guitarist, Greenwood’s riffs chimed behind Hurst, but shined most effectively when he powered the instrumental interludes by alternating between searing leads and melodic refrains. The high energy concert ended much as it started, with a ringing rock and roll that blasted to the back walls of the venue.
The Feelies/Rough Trade, Brooklyn/April 15, 2018
In 1976, just as the original punk era began percolating in small clubs, guitarist Glenn Mercer, bassist Bill Million, drummer Dave Weckerman and vocalist Richard Reilly played as the Outkids in and around Haledon, NJ. Losing Reilly and adding members over time, Million moved to rhythm guitar and Weckerman to percussion, and the Outkids evolved into the Feelies. The band’s new name was taken from a fictional entertainment device described in Aldous Huxley‘s Brave New World. The Feelies gained critical applause and influenced R.E.M. and other bands but four Feelies albums sold poorly and the group disbanded in 1992 when Million lost interest in music, left the group and moved to Florida with his family. The classic mid-1980s lineup of guitarist/vocalists Mercer and Million, percussionist Weckerman, bassist Brenda Sauter, and drummer Stanley Demeski reunited in 2008 at the request of Sonic Youth and released new albums in 2011 and 2017. The Feelies’ sixth and most recent album, In Between, was released on February 24, 2017.
The Feelies now reunite annually for a several local performances, which this year included three nights at Rough Trade in Brooklyn, NY. Each night at this venue, the band performed two sets and multiple encores, performing much of the band’s recorded catalog and numerous cover songs. The Feelies’ music is inspired by the Velvet Underground, so Sunday’s set in particular paid tribute with three Velvet Underground covers. Dry vocals and cascading guitar melodies dominated the forefront, highlighted by sporadic twin-guitar attacks, often sounding very much like the band’s contemporaries, Television. (This night, The Feelies also covered Television’s “See No Evil”.) In its early versions, this music sounded like experimental garage band music, but with the leverage of years of refinement the music now sounded like it was way ahead of its time.
Reed Turchi/The Bitter End/April 17, 2018
Raised in the Swannanoa Valley just outside of Asheville, NC., Reed Turchi grew up playing boogie woogie and New Orleans style piano before turning to slide guitar. He then learned to play Hill Country blues firsthand in North Mississippi and founded a blues-rock trio called Turchi in 2011. Seeking new inspirations and sounds in 2014, Turchi the musician disbanded Turchi the band and moved to Memphis, Tennessee. He formed Reed Turchi & the Caterwauls and released an album in 2016. Later that year, playing guitar by his grandmother’s death bed inspired him to record a solo album that returned him to his acoustic blues roots. Forming a band again, he recorded his most recent album, Live at Soulshine by Reed Turchi & His Kudzu Orkestra Featuring Art Edmaiston, which was released on October 25, 2017. He currently resides in Nashville, Tenn.
Over the span of his musical career, Reed Turchi has explored several facets of blues, and many of these ventures delved deep in the lesser known veins. Turchi may be a connoisseur of finer but more obscure blues traditions. His ongoing exploration of southern blues permit him to incorporate these sounds innovatively into his own music. At his performance at the Bitter End, much of his performance honored familiar terrain, but there were several this-is-different moments. These moments happened when his blues probed deeper, grittier and darker than the commercial variety. His accompanying musicians kept the music buoyant while Turchi kept it rootsy. His slide guitar work kept it authentic, and his cloudy, slightly raspy vocals kept it swampy. Turchi’s set proved to be rich and tasty.