On!Air!Library!, The Mink Lungs, The Boggs, and Calla
On!Air!Library!, The Mink Lungs, The Boggs, and CallaCity: New York
The Mink Lungs
Calla The artists on Brooklyn-based label Arena Rock Recording Company are poised for a small takeover. While it may be impossible to predict where the fickle fancies of the indie kid contingent will shift next, Arena Rock offers up a talented roster bound to gain attention and loyalty among those tired of garage rock dilly-dallying and electro drones. The evening's showcase took place at Tonic, a former Lower East Side winery turned experimental haven for the likes of Thurston Moore and Jim O'Rourke. The main performance space is a dark, drafty room with wooden beams running across the ceiling. The occasional snatches of French conversation that float my way from a nearby couple have me imagining I'm in a Provencal farmhouse and not a grubby cement room. Label newcomers On!Air!Library! also have the ability to transport their listeners to dreamy aural pastures. The New York City trio features identical siblings Alley and Claudia Deheza on guitars and Farfisa. With Phillip Wann on guitar and bass, they create rich songs that alternately tremble and spark. All three members sing and take turns cueing a pulse of drum machine rhythms and fragmented noise samples. Songs ebb and flow, often starting tenderly and then gaining strength with Alley Deheza's counter current of guitar strumming. It creates a dynamic backdrop for her winsome voice, which has a real standout clarity and strength. The only downfall to the performance is when members have to take time out to fiddle with knobs and buttons to start drum beats and samples before each song. The more seamless the songs can be live, the better. Another band featuring siblings tonight is the raucous Mink Lungs. Brothers Gian Carlo Feleppa and Tim Feleppa play guitar alongside Jennifer Hoopes on bass and Tom Galbraith on drums. A man in a bunny mask makes grilled cheese sandwiches onstage. Once they are complete, he wraps them in aluminum foil and launches them into the audience, to the delight of the hungry crowd. Large jack-o'-lanterns and a lighted mannequin torso also create a festive pre-Halloween party atmosphere. The set is mostly new songs, which go over well, as most anything the Mink Lungs plays is quirky, poppy and infectiously fun. At one point I think I even detect a "Johnny B Goode" type guitar solo. Gian gleefully informs us that "Mom and Dad are in the motherfucking house tonight" and cheery audience members take turns congratulating the chuckling parents on their musical offspring. It's a family affair. The Boggs may look like all those the average disheveled rockers, but they're not plugging into Marshall stacks or slinging around their Telecasters. The Boggs rock not with amplification, but by the amazing skill in which they pluck, strum, stomp, and slap their way through Americana-tinged tunes. Call it folk, bluegrass, blues or country, but it's at the intersection where you will find these four boys blowing up dust on an unpaved road. Purists may balk at young white city kids giving the nod to Leadbelly and Doc Boggs, but even singer Jason Friedman has said in interviews that their playing is more no-wave than archival. This is especially true for the drummer Brad Conroy, who goes into at least two convulsed solos during their show and sends pieces of his drumsticks flying. Friedman himself has a detached sneering thing going on that seethes more than it should hum, but his guitar playing outshines that detail. Ezekiel Healy and Phil Roebuck also turn in stellar finger flying performances on mandolin and banjo. For those in the 'hood who just can't get enough of the down home sounds, Healy can be seen busking at the Bedford stop of the L train when he is not busy on tour. The last act of the evening is the pensive and cinematic scoring of Calla. This moody minimalist trio makes songs like demolitionists make houses. After the bricks and drywall are knocked out, the barest structure and foundation remains. What are left are un-sanded planks of wood and rusty nails left exposed to sweet rolling storms of a Nick Cave style torment. Less you think I've lost it in guitarist Aurelio Valle's husky whisper, I'll tell you that the first time I saw these guys I was fidgeting with boredom. This show has the Texas ex-pats putting new songs to the paces, at a faster speed than they usually spin. It mixes things up and makes old favorites like the applauded "Fear of Fireflies" more poignant. It's a good way to spend a cold night, and a promising beginning to the four-day CMJ audio bash.