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Upstairs, Downstairs: In a career that presaged the whole Ameri-cousticana thing, Cowboy Junkies have had their share of…well, you know…but when they hit Monmouth U on Friday night, they’ll be bringing some delightful stylistic swerves from just this side of No-Mad’s Land…
It’s no exaggeration to suggest that it took an obscure band from Canada, recording with a single microphone in an old church, to chart a new course for American music in the new millennium. That the band was rather casually named Cowboy Junkies should never detract from the seriousness of the accomplishment.
Arriving as it did in the thick of a decade defined by synth drums, moussed hair and video playlists, 1988’s double platinum album The Trinity Session came as a breath of cool and refreshing air, from a place where “roots” didn’t necessarily refer to a problem for one’s stylist to address.
On Trinity, the Ontario-based Junkies — siblings Margo, Michael and Peter Timmins on vocals, guitar and drums respectively, plus Alan Anton on bass — brought a deceptively simple, quiet power to a set of originals and covers that ranged from Hank Williams and Patsy Cline to the Velvet Underground; propelling their next four albums to gold or platinum status, and helping to blaze a trail for the back-to-basics Americana musical movement of the 21st century.
Still together in its original lineup, the band has logged many miles on the road and issued many more releases on its own Latent Records label — including 2007’s Trinity Revisited, a new version of the breakthrough album recorded with guests that included Ryan Adams and Natalie Merchant. In 2010, the members of Cowboy Junkies embarked on an ambitious, four-album project entitled The Nomad Series — a cycle of self-released works that includes an entire set of songs by the late Vic Chesnutt (Demons) and the surprisingly hard-edged, electric Sing in My Meadow. Really, at a time when a new hypie generation trips over itself to come off Rootsier Than Thou, the folks who pretty much started this whole thing have taken a turn for the Sonic Youth side of the street.
Just days before the scheduled release of The Wilderness, the fourth and final entry in the series — the musical nomads from Toronto journey to the West Long Branch campus of Monmouth University, for an 8pm performance on the stage of the Pollak Theatre this Friday night, Feb the 24.
Presented by the Center for the Arts at Monmouth as part of the 2011-2012 Performing Arts series, the concert will showcase numbers from the new, all original set of songs; many of which have been part of the band’s live sets in recent years (and several of which are said to have been inspired by Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead).
With the core quartet joined by multi-instrumentalist Jeff Bird, audience members can expect an evening that runs the gamut from the folky intimacy of the band’s earliest efforts, to an always surprising selection of covers (Springsteen, Stones, Talking Heads, The Cure) to the “acid blues” and sonic experiments of recent seasons — although to be sure, delivering “the expected” has never been part of the Cowboy Junkies playbook. Pollak Theatre at Monmouth University, Cedar and Norwood Aves., West Long Branch • Friday 2/24 at 8pm/ $35 – $55
But why stop there? Flip the rekkid over for MORE picks toward the weekend ahead…
Tag-team masters of ceremony Gentlemen Jim Norton and DJ Values are BACK, baby, as Asbury Lanes presents the long-awaited return of BACHELORS & BACHELORETTES; the live, lewd ‘n lovecrafty game show — in which Dating is a Game that dare not say it by THAT name. This oft-times hilarious hullabaloo is paired for the first time with another Lanes linchpin, SEX TOY BINGO featuring Sarah Potter and Cucumber Weir. Details on the postcard above; look here for our in-depth expose on the seamy subgenre of the Game Show Underground, boasting interview with Gentleman Jim AND Lady Sarah.
FRIDAY: Ivan Julian/ The Cucumbers at The Brighton. Ah, now here’s a “must” event for all self-respecting fans of rock and roll guitar in the jaggedly passionate, marvelously off-center New York style. One of two fantastic fretfuckers (with the late great Robert Quine) in punk pioneer settlement Richard Hell & the Voidoids (“Love Comes in Spurts,” “Blank Generation”), Ivan Julian worked in the 80s with The Clash and Afrika Bambaataa; reappeared in the 1990s on several guitar-centric tours by Matthew Sweet and Shriekback, and continues to stay sharp as hell and ageless as ever in the guise of producer (Jon Spencer! The Fleshtones!), session ace — and bandleader, a role he fulfills for the first time as a branded solo artist (he previously fronted The Outsets post-Hell) on The Naked Flame. He returns to the Home of Original Music on the Jersey Shore in a followup to his December gig with another blast from an immensely satisfying New Wave past: Hoboken’s Cucumbers, fronted by cool cuke Deena Shoskes (who returns Brightonside for the first time since a Keith Roth-produced tribute to Alice Cooper last year) plus Roth’s Frankenstein 3000 and way more. Brighton Bar, 121 Brighton Ave., Long Branch • 9pm/ $8 advance, $10 day of show
He’s wearing one of the loudest, most lens-frying blazers since Lindsey Nelson called the play-by-play for the NY Mets — but while blues harp honcho (and latterday Blood, Sweat & Tears frontman) Rob Paparozzi knows loudness, he also knows how to keep a cool indoor voice, particularly in such a proper setting as the historic Red Bank Woman’s Club. This Friday night from 8:30 to 11pm, the old Anthony Reckless Estate (on Broad Street between Reckless and Leroy Place) is once again the setting for RECKLESS STEAMY NIGHTS, the renewed monthly series of BYOB house parties hosted by the folks at the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation. Papparozzi joins Gerry Yoslovich and special guest Pat Karwan in a blues jam for which proceeds ($10 donation requested at the door) benefit the scholarship programs of the Woman’s Club and the JSJBF. Enjoy the return of this pioneering local offering and take the time to check out one of the Upper Wet Side’s best kept secrets (732.933.1984 for more info).
SATURDAY: Come to Your Senses at Monmouth Museum. Name-checking some of the area’s hardest-working musicians in the same breath as “potted herbs will be available for purchase” can lead to all sorts of snickering connotations — but when the Asbury-based org Musicians on a Mission invades the Monmouth Museum on the evening of February 25, it’ll be a perfectly focused and lucid affair benefitting the programs at the cultural community resource on the Lincroft campus of Brookdale College. Entitled Come to Your Senses, (“as in a feast for all the senses”), the special-event show (5 to 8pm in the Museum’s Main Gallery) will spotlight the talents of five very different musical acts.
We’ve known Terraplane Blues pilot, baseball authority and guitar ace Gary Wright since his days as a counselor with the Community YMCA after-school program at Red Bank Elementary (when our daughter went there, not us) — and this past summer Mr. Wright (pictured above, and apparently NOT the Gary Wright who did “Dream Weaver”) treated a very lucky crowd to a blistering roomful-o’-blues set right here at our hometurf Stephen Crane House. He’ll be joined by one of the very finest of Shore-scene acousticats, Arlan Feiles — along with classical violinist Joel DeWitt, the jazz-funk collective known as Wakah Chan and the long-awaited return of country guitarist singer-songwriter Ronnie Brandt.
A $20 admission (call 732.747.2266 to reserve) includes art exhibits, hand/ neck massages, those aforementioned potted herbs, a raffle drawing (“a large gift basket from area businesses that’s probably worth over one thousand dollars,” according to volunteer Brenda Wirth) and, uh, munchies in the form of finger foods, gourmet fare and “punch with a punch.”
BOOM CHICK, you had us at that above-posted photo — but while drummer Moselle Spiller and her boyfriend, singer-guitarist Frank Hoier might seem to bend over backwards to invite comparisons to iconic two-person band The White Stripes, the duo really hitches its wagon to the sonic legacy of another cute couple: Lux and Ivy of the late great Cramps, and their deliciously skeezy, bass-free take on swampabilly Surf and two-cat Garage. Currently the wildest thing outta beards-and-babystrollers Brooklyn, Boom Chick’s US tour takes them to The Saint for the first time, in a 10pm late show (check website for info on a 6pm earlybird starring James Maddock) for which admission’s a Hambletonian 10 bucks.
SUNDAY: Rosie’s Cafe presents at The Saint. A recent Facebook post we put up — a scene completely unrelated to our blogging beat, and showing a small family get-together with our father-in-law Dan “Dinty” Moore of Point Pleasant — elicited a surprising response from none other than George Wirth. Seems the veteran master of Words and Music is familiar with Dan — not from the days when Mr. Moore managed the Thom McAn store underneath Asbury’s legendary Upstage (sixtysomething George famously only began to perform professionally in 1995), but from Dan’s appearances a faithful fan of Wirth’s evocative songs (like the epic “Memorial Drive” from 2010′s The Last Good Kiss) and frequent “house party” concerts, not unlike the packed pad he performed to last Sunday in Loch Arbour.
Produced by the abovementioned Brenda Wirth, the fabulously floating Rosie’s Cafe Concerts series makes its way to Asbury’s Main Street musicbox The Saint this Sunday the 26th, with an earlybird bill that juxtaposes George with Jersey-fresh Jerzy Jung, Michael Brett, and the AmeriCombo known as Lightning Jar. The Saint, 601 Main St., Asbury Park • 6pm/ $10