Wildstreet in NYC
My favorite thing about New York City is the music scene. Operas at Carnegie Hall, Symphonies at Lincoln Center, Steinway pianos echoing from my friends’ home on Central Park South through to jazz at The Blue Note.
I attended a recital at a Church on Bleecker Street a couple of months ago. Some of the most talented music students in Manhattan between the ages of six and sixteen were performing. I gaped in awe at their seemingly effortless renditions of classical pieces that are at least 50 times older than they are.
But on a regular basis, I just wandered through places like The Bitter End, Mercury Lounge, Piano’s and Arlene’s Grocery, discovering new acts.
The Laura Thomas band is one of my favorites. Her vocals are strong and melodic. Upbeat indie rock tunes that put the crowd to dance make up half the jet set, and the ballads could be placed somewhere on the scale between Tori Amos and Ani DiFranco. Occasionally, the band will treat you to a cover song of In Bloom by Nirvana or something classic and unexpected that escapes their style of music completely and displays their latitude. Politics and satire steer the lyrics, which are powerful enough for everyone to be affected by but easy enough for the crowd to relate to. Her stage persona is intoxicatingly captivating and the rest of her band is made up of downright talented musicians. http://www.laurabama.com
It always makes me wonder whether the talent pool in New York does its own “natural selection” thing and as a result, any stroll through these small performing stages of Lower Manhattan will always yield the Crème de la Crème. You don’t have to go to Juilliard to be at the top of the local music scene. And you may not get Rolling Stone to review it, but the buzz is enough to build a fan base on Myspace.
Wildstreet played recently at a bar on Avenue B. Eric Jayk, the lead, cheered the crowd on with shouts and claps in the band’s catchy choruses and glam rock energy. Eric’s voice makes me think of Sebastian Bach, and he displays it all acoustically at a venue like this one. His Bowielike looks, blond hair flying in all directions, rockstar body and fashion sense just add to his aura of grandeur, without distracting from Wildstreet’s refreshing sound. In Manhattan, fashion still rocks.
In the audience, mixed with Punk kids from Alphabet City were a Brazilian, a Brit and an Aussie, all with contrasting drinks and ipod playlists choices, and we all agreed this music was awesome, period. http://www.myspace.com/wildstreet
Then there is James Kinney. I’ll be the first one to admit that neither R&B nor Hip Hop normally float my boat. But watch James Kinney play live once and you’re hooked.
His music is: clever writing, witty rhyming and themes that really speak to New Yorkers’ hearts. James sings of nearly meeting someone in the subway as they check each other out but are wary of the freaks roaming the MTA tunnels. He sings of earning money and also being broke on Union Square. And in my favorite tune, he talks about falling in love with a West Coast girl, and the kinds of things that California girls get a kick out if. It’s dancy, upbeat and always new. To the point where you can follow his acts around and never see the same act twice. It’s a proper seven-piece band whose musical integrity far outweighs any rapping crooners I have see on this scene. http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=28657533
And now that I live on the British side of the pond I really miss it. I have not yet had the chance to scout the London indie scene.
What I have discovered is that music is the only all-encompassing universal subject, the perfect ice-breaker for a foreigner trying to make friends in a new land and the true peacemaker between people with opposing political views. As we say in Brazil, all arguments end in pizza and samba.

Bristol, a huge university town just two hours west of London, is where I now call home. Here, unprivileged children learn music from volunteers. I checked out their recital of cover songs at a school, which included reggae, rock, ska and broadway show tunes. What I was shocked to find out later on is that most of these teenagers had not ever played or sung until two weeks prior to their first concert. So I wanted to meet the masters behind the music. They are the members of band called Clumsy. Their band has played and packed concert venues and pubs in Bristol for a while. Clumsy dedicates all of their spare time to this teaching gig. In the lives of musicians, where the cash earned in concerts does not stretch very far, and most have a club bouncer or bartending gig the rest of the time, Clumsy’s dedication is admirable. As for me, I think I am onto something. Clumsy’s rhythm and genre is not normally what I listen to, but rolling “with the band” will always thrill me.

Some of the titles to check out if you’re not a member of the elite brit rock following are: Peter Bjorn & John, Kaiser Chiefs and the Radio 1 BBC site.

Posted by Kaz, filed under

. Date: November 20, 2007, 12:37 pm | No Comments »