Drink up Buttercup
Being the first New York Blogger to write about Drink Up Buttercup back in May of 07 and many times since has been a joy. It never ceases to amaze me the power and exuberance this band projects. Drink Up Buttercup is the zany jolting sound of crashing garbage cans, infiltrated with out-of-kilter skating rink organ, muffled guitar, brutal bass, pounding polka drums, and killer dead-on harmonies. Their sound of infectious delight drew instant smiles from the crowd of new listeners at Piano’s. Their short set consisted of many favorites, but the evolved version of “Farewell Captain” is a succinct intense punk-like rockabilly infused with a madcap circus-like keyboard. When it slows down, James Harvey’s operatic vocals astonish. Stage exploits are a given at any Drink Up show. Watching Ben Money banging a small red metal garbage can and abandoning it in mid-air as he seamlessly switched to bass and continued to move around the stage is exilerating. Listening to Frazad Houshiarnejad sing perfect harmonies while banging a giant metal trashcan with a maraca is admirable. Mike Cammarata will do anything for percussion, including positioning a tambourine between his teeth. An unintended mishap was James Harvey had to trade in his muffled acoustic for a baby blue electric. It was pretty! The set ended off stage with an acoustic stomp along with “The Lovers Play Dead.” What do they possess that other bands don’t? As audacious as their shows are, the band members are unassuming and unpretentious. They are happy to perform and welcoming. That enthusiasm translates. Drink Up Buttercup is a conglomeration of everything right with music.
Project Jenny Project Jan @ Piano’s
Project Jenny Project Jan was a treat to behold. Jeremy Haines (vocalist) is joined on stage with Sammy Rubin (programmer/keyboardist). Rubin’s feverish dance grooves are combined with Haines's extraordinary mock-speed rap. In front of a backdrop of video graphic editing, Jeremy includes every cliché dance move a geek dressed in a white suit, and black tie could conjure. Much like a Saturday Night Live skit, except this is not a joke, the talent is undeniable. Behind the digital setup, Sammy would smile and occasionally do an arm wave, creating a comedic contrast to Jeremy's intense kinetic performance. It was a rip and a roar of an art performance, full of sweat and energy. Hysterically, Karaoke gone Real. I loved them!
The Old Office of the Knitting Factory was the appropriate setting to hear the beat-up sound of The Beets. The trio Juan Wauters (guitar), Jose Garcia (bass), and Jacob Warstler (two kick drums) all share vocals. They sound like a muted garage band with speakers at full throttle. Their vocal harmonies are barely audible but create an intentional direction of distinction. Something about it sounded like sloppy fun pop with a low-fi twist. Kind of like, The Monkees through a liquidizer. The Beets sound aesthetic has endearing qualities. Also, they had the best metal merch lunch box for their CDs and tapes.
My evening ended with The Lisps. The foursome creates quirky cabaret folk-art-rock whose vaudevillian staging augments their stellar sound. They combine great vocal arrangements with off-center instrumentation. The guitar, bass, and drums are combined with snippets of melodica and spiced with eccentric percussion accents like the banging of a soft mallet on a metal cabinet or hammer on a drum kit. The vocal synergy of the two main vocalists has a dynamic juxtaposition of pitch and style. Cesar Alvarez and Sammy Tunis sing/talk in a wordy patter in sync with precision and ease.
Center stage is the lovely star-lit Sammy. Her voice has Broadway-like clarity peppered with avant-garde finesse and a twangy bent. A little like Jenny Lewis meets cabaret. Cesar, her vocal counterpart voice is awesomely low in contrast. They present topical and contemporary savvy lyrics as editorial black comedy. The vaudevillian panache is highlighted with low-fi costume changes. Cesar and Jeremy Hoevanaar (bass) switched glasses and goggles between songs. They had a costume theme of sorts. Caesar wore a NASA suit, and Sammy a onesie (pants suit). A funny moment took place when Jeremy announced he was making a costume change advertisement. He slowly unbuttoned his shirt to reveal Drink Up Buttercup’s new brightly colored Tee shirt. The drummer Eric Farber was certainly part of the comic flair. I loved when he bounced on his cushiony drum seat, flying up in the air, looking like an oversized baby in a bouncy seat. His facial expressions were priceless throughout the set. He also weighed in on song selection, illuminating that this group is collaborative. The Old Office never sounded better! The Lisps music won me over, but their personal approach killed me. It was so inclusive. If they were a club, I’d sign up immediately. By the evening's end, my smile o-meter had risen off the charts.