Manhattan Beat: The Carvels NYC, The Monochrome Set, and more!

The Carvels NYC/The Bowery Electric/March 6, 2019

Vocalist Lynne Von first hit the New York City music clubs in the late 1980s with Da Willys, a band that played bluesy, punky, rock ‘n’ roll. Von fronted the Trick Babys in the mid-1990s, formed the Carvels in 1998, and led the Vondells around 2008. Now known as Lynne Von Pang, she reformed her former band in 2016 as the Carvels NYC, which presently includes lead guitarist Brian Morgan, saxophonist Dave Spinley, bassist Mike Dee, and drummer Steve Pang, her husband. The Carvels NYC’s debut album, It Wasn’t My Idea (to Break Your Heart), was released in 2016, and the band issued its second EP, the four-song Life is Not a Waiting Room, in November 2018.

One does not have to wait long for a Carvels NYC gig; the band is playing the circuit regularly these days, perhaps because the band’s music is unique on the market now. At the Bowery Electric, each musician demonstrated a commitment to drawing from classic rock ‘n’ roll styles. Von Pang’s vocals gave a husky twist to the mid-’60s girl group genre; Morgan’s leads were rooted in ’50s rockabilly; Spinley’s wailing sax runs similarly reigned in a vintage rock ‘n’ roll sound. The songs contrasted unpolished, intensive rock immediacy with sweet, romantic pop hooks. On all counts, the Carvels NYC blasted a striking, gritty garage rock bite with ample room for playfulness.

The Monochrome Set/The Bowery Ballroom/March 4, 2019

Formed in 1976 in London, a band called the B-Sides split in 1978. Two members launched Adam & the Ants and the other two members formed the Monochrome Set later that same year. Adam & the Ants enjoyed international success as a founding band in the fledgling punk rock movement, but the Monochrome Set seldom achieved more than a cult audience and a few short-term radio plays. In 1985, facing declining audiences, the Monochrome Set dissolved. Vocalist Ganesh “Bid” Sechadri reformed the band in 1990 and led it until 1998. In 1998, Bid started a studio project, Scarlet’s Well, which became a live band in 2004 and ended in 2010 after seven albums. After Scarlet’s Well, Bid revived the Monochrome Set yet again, recording five more albums. The band presently consists of Bid, keyboardist John Paul Moran, bassist Andy Warren, and drummer Mike Urban. The Monochrome Set celebrated its 40th anniversary by releasing its 14th and most recent studio album, Maisieworld, and a retrospective box set, The Monochrome Set 1979–1985: Complete Recordings, on February 9, 2018.

At the Bowery Ballroom, the Monochrome Set performed a set loaded with its ’80s catalogue, featuring skittering vocal melodies, jaunty rhythms, and a very British approach to pop. Recent tours featured a dual guitar sound, but this tour featured a keyboard player instead of a second guitarist. As a result, the set featured less jangly guitar work in favor of a fuller, rolling organ sound, even when that instrument was mixed so softly that the effect was more subconscious than bold-faced. Minor-chord guitar bridges and warbly vocals proliferated, swimming in a curious mix of calming presence and fidgety rhythms. More often than not, the Monochrome Set framed its edgy music much like many modern indie bands, but with double the energy and sophistication.

Tom Clark & the High Action Boys/The Treehouse at 2A/March 3, 2019

The son of a drummer father in DeKalb, Illinois—a small town about an hour through the corn fields west of Chicago—a 12-year-old Tom Clark bought his first guitar at a garage sale for three dollars. He played in bands by age 13, and in college played bass and then guitar in a punk band called Blatant Dissent. In 1986, tired of working in the corn fields and in the produce section of a food store, Clark moved to New York City. Clark played in the parks and on the sidewalks of Greenwich Village by day and in Irish bars in the Bronx at night. Sometimes he played with his new friend Hank Wedel and his band Open Kitchen. Tom Clark & the High Action Boys recorded one album, 2002’s Cross-Eyed and Bow-Legged, and more recently perform rather regularly at the Treehouse at 2A.

Tom Clark curates a concert series every Sunday at the Treehouse, and once the bands he books finish their sets, he usually concludes the night by joining members of the last band (and sometimes members of the audience) for a half hour of impromptu rock ‘n’ roll and country covers. On this night, Clark played with his own band, the High Action Boys, allowing him to showcase many of his original songs rather than just covers. While his later cover set with opening act Hank Wedel was a fun, Clark & Co. shined more brightly as he sang the songs he penned. Some of the songs were sentimental, but the more gripping lyrics were the humorous twists (“if that’s country music, I want to know what country it’s from“). Regardless of who the headliner is, Sunday nights at the Treehouse are a guaranteed roots rock ‘n’ roll party.oom for playfulness.

Reignwolf/Mercury Lounge/March 9,2019

Raised in Saskatoon, Canada, guitarist Jordan Cook at age 15 performed at Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival with his blues-rock trio. In 2010, he recorded a heavy blues-rock album under his own name. Two years later, he moved to Seattle, Washington, where he adopted the Reignwolf moniker. The name Reignwolf applies both to Cook performing as a one-man band, simultaneously playing guitar and kick drum, or Cook leading a power trio. Within two years, Reignwolf toured the world, performed at many festivals and opened for Black Sabbath without ever releasing a record. Reignwolf released its debut album, Hear Me Out, on March 1, 2019.

Reignwolf performed at Mercury Lounge tonight as part of the venue’s 25 Years of Mercury Lounge series, with Cook accompanied by bassist S.J. Kardash and drummer Joseph Braley. Together, the trio played some of the most raucous blues-rock ever heard on that stage. Unlike the classic bands of that genre, Reignwolf’s performance was not about displaying roots, finesse, or spotlights; instead, the performance concentrated on the raw, explosive power of the blues. Cook bent notes to spine-tingling levels, played with feedback, and was thoroughly unrestrained on his guitar as the rhythm section pounded its support. Noisy as a tornado and electrifying as a lightning bolt, this was all destructive aggression. About as subtle as a wrecking ball, the band played one hard-rock banger after another, leaving little room for tethering or sensitivity. This was a rock ‘n’ roll designed for detonating and pulverizing anything in its path.