Rock Gods #257: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

If everyone who claims to have heard “Sat” Satin play when he was part of the local scene were telling the truth, he would’ve been selling out stadiums—and this town doesn’t have any of those. Some say he came up at a time when bands were gracious and community-driven, and that his unusual act benefitting from that purity. Others say he was a crazed, driven monster who broke up every band which wouldn’t let him have his way.
Satin still circles the scene, plucking gullible guitarists and ego-driven drummers out of bands which are sickened to lose them. Sat promises the sun, moon and stars. He knows producers, agents, label owners. (Or at least he used to.) He’s the last of the old school wheeler-dealers, and he still gets a lot of good people stuck in his orbit.
Latest “Sat” Satin New Talent Showcase—at which the participants pay (rather than get paid) to play—is Saturday. Or, as its herald would have it, Satin-Day, at D’ollaire’s, where the maestro still has some old connections. The smaller clubs are done with Sat’s nonsense—some bartenders won’t even serve him. That’s notoriety, we guess, a precious resource for networking. But we’re sitting Sat’s latest stunt out.

The Secret of Pirates’ Hill, a live punk rock opera by a secret ensemble who once had Pirates in their name until they weren’t allowed to anymore, at The Bullfinch, with “narrative folksinger” Trapped at Sea (who’s also at several senior centers this week)… Hooded Hawk (some kind of penis metaphor, we’re told) with Airport Mystery at Hamilton’s… More darkness at D’ollaires with Demon’s Den, Blackwing Puzzle, Game Plan for Disaster and Tic-Tac-Terror… Several teen bands got on a benefit bill for their dads’ forest-animal Lodge #72: Voodoo Plot, Firebird Rocket, Sky Blue Flame, Witchmaster’s Key and the little league outfit Danger on the Diamond. Will they have made anything once they pay for the clean-up afterwards?…

Listening to… Jamuel Saxon

Jamuel Saxon, Pre-Madonna.
Jamuel Saxon, featuring composer/frontman Keith Milgaten plus live bandmates and a projectionist, has the amiability and impatience that are too often missing from electro-pop. The band’s songs don’t spin aimlessly in their tracks. They amble off in fresh directions, layering and extending themselves. The opening track, “Jonathan Taylor Thomas Jefferson” continues the presidential nameplay of the band’s own monicker and is a fitting intro for the fun and frolic to follow. “Time is Money” (with rapper Scarub, who also appears on “Fake Yr Death”) is a straight-out pop single, quirky yet earnest. “Planetarium” gets more dark and tribal. Honestly, by then you’re hooked. I don’t dance, but I listen, and this is listenable dance music.

Literary Up: Raiders Revered

It’s Mark Lindsay season! The latest issue of ‘60s garage fanzine Ugly Things has a lengthy interview with the old vocalist for Paul Revere and the Raiders. (For those who don’t know, Paul Revere was the real name of the band’s entrepreneurial founder and drummer.) Now the generally less nostalgic rock mag The Big Takeover runs a separate chat with Lindsay in its 69th issue, one which also touts interviews with members of Iggy Pop’s Stooges and the recently reunited 60s baroque pop pioneers The Left Banke.
There’s some overlap but no overkill. It’s hard to tire of Mark Lindsay’s exploits, and I wish he’d write a book already. He was an attractive front man, but no mindless pop star, helping guide the group from the lucrative realm of sleazy frat parties to a losing duel with The Kingsmen over who’d turn “Louie Louie” into a hit (ditto Monkees and “Stepping Stone”), from dressing up in Revolutionary War costumes for a daily teen-dance show to a string of major hit records, from disguising the band as “Pink Puzz” to sucker radio programmers when the Raiders were considered unhip to surving time spent in the house of co-producer Terry Melcher, site of Manson family murders. Lindsay made the most of Paul Revere’s ride, becoming a skilled songwriter and producer and fashioning a solo career that helped him when the band’s fortunes waned. He’s been the member most keen to revisit the grottiest chapters of the Raiders’ storied past, doing a Cavestomp set in the ‘90s backed by Chesterfield Kings and reuniting in ’97 with key Raiders Drake, Smitty and Fang even when Paul Revere didn’t want to join in. The impetus for the interviews is a new Raiders greatest-hits collection, but Lindsay’s more vital than that. He’s still raiding and stepping and hungering and kicking.

For Our Connecticut Readers: Please Subscribe to the Daily Nutmeg

I am a “lead writer,” whatever that means, for a new web publication, The Daily Nutmeg. The site’s founder is Mike Mims, former publisher of Connecticut Magazine. Mims’ sons Dan and Jeremy are actively involved with the look and style of Daily Nutmeg. The other main writer is Todd Lyon, a former New Haven Advocate colleague of mine and of course the former food columnist for the New Haven Register. I’m thrilled to be a part of this new endeavor. It’s slick, it’s legit, it’s found a niche, and I get to write about stuff I dig in New Haven. What’s not to love?

The site has been up since December, and articles I did on It’s a Wonderful Life at Long Wharf Theatre and the Library Science exhibit at Artspace have already appeared on it.

But in terms of its most provocative element, Daily Nutmeg properly launched just last week. Its main distinction is a daily e-mail feature about New Haven culture, sent directly to those who’ve signed up for a free subscription. The stories land on the main site as well, but there’s a neat novelty is getting a well-packaged local preview or profile in your in-box every day.

Today’s the first e-mail feature with my byline on it—the first of a weekly rundown of things to see and do in New Haven. As the writer of “Critic’s Picks” and “Highlights” sections in print newspapers for decades, I found I’d actually missed that discipline once I turned to a freelance existence a few years ago. It’s refreshing to be flipping through club schedules and college calendars again.

For me, this is a wonderful opportunity to get back into writing positivist stories set in the cultural capital of Connecticut.
My theater reviews and personality-based op-ed columns got more attention, naturally, but the bulk of what I did for a combined 20 years at the New Haven Advocate and the old (late-‘80s, print format) New Haven Independent was upbeat previews of worthwhile local events, or profiles of people and institutions in the community.

There’s no lack of opinions on the web, but it’s hard to find culture features of the sort that once filled whole sections of the local dailies and alt-weeklies. Some sniff at that stuff and don’t miss it, but as someone who’s done it for decades, I think it’s hard to do properly. A preview article is not propaganda, and it’s not advertorial. It’s there to answer questions about a thing or event that deserves your attention, and understanding. If connections aren’t made with the community, that thing might soon vanish. I always found explaining cultural phenomena to potential partakers to be a high calling. Thanks to Daily Nutmeg, I’m doing it on a regular basis again.

R.I.P. Etta James

Etta James died last week, within days of the death of her mentor and fellow R&B/rock & roll crossover pioneer, Johnny Otis.
Etta James wailed a decade ago on New Haven Green in sketchy weather. I always remember those Green concerts where the artists triumph over the elements.
Etta James did one of my favorite blues Christmas albums, 12 Songs of Christmas, all familiar carols worked over in her sassy rasp.
Etta James (who real first name, delightfully, was Jamesetta) was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993—eight years before she was entered into the Blues Hall of Fame and Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Her 1970 album Etta James Sings Funk has to be heard to be believed.

Rock Gods $256: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

The Cosmogonys, legendary local psychedelic band of yore, were apparently set to reunite, opening a projected national tour with a theater concert at the college on the hill sometime next year. Then a few interviews with band founders Joe V. and Harry Busey hit the indie press, and now the only reunion likely will happen in a courtroom.
The dispute is over who formed the band, plus when and why. Joe V. is selling the story that it all grew out of a band his parents began, Race of Titans, where Joe worked out some of the key keyboard riffs he later brought to Cosmogonys. Baloney, says Busey; he thinks Joe is just trying to get his retired mom and dad some easy royalty checks.
Chaos. It’s chaos. All plans are on hold until a court settlement is considered. The band, which never appeared all that talkative before now, is politicking heavily against each other, in conversations all over town, to own their own origin story. But when we ask, it’s strictly “Talk to my lawyer.”

Footprints Under the Door and Sinister Signpost, high school gloom rock, at the Bullfinch… At the Hamilton’s, it’s Mark on the Door (Mark is a bouncer at that club; get it?) and Flying Express, drunken covers… Metal Nite at D’ollaire’s with Broken Blade, A Figure in Hiding and Clue in the Embers.. Yow!…

Listening to… The Unthanks

The Unthanks, Diversions. I love The Unthanks—it’s unapologetically raw modern folk with indie band underpinnings—kind of the way Steeleye Span felt in the much different music universe of the 1970s. For The Unthanks to cover not just one or two but a whole album’s worth of songs by Anthony & The Johnsons and Robert Wyatt—acts that prize spirituality over musical conventions—seems like a declaration: We are in this world now, and we prefer to be gentle and pretty. Deal with it. Or, as one of the lead-vocalist Unthank sisters says early in this live recording, “You’ve all got your nice woolly coats on.”
Yet for all the sweetness and lightness of the presentation, there’s an earthiness and sauciness inherent in The Unthanks. “Buckets at the ready,” the band’s stylistic mastermind Adrian McNally says before he begins playing the piano part of Antony Hegarty’s trickily harmonic “You Are My Sister”; “Here’s one to make you puke.” He presumably means he’s worried the song is underrehearsed, but not to worry. The Unthanks don’t really make mistakes; they interact openly. Plus, having real sisters sing this encouraging, loving songs overcomes all else.
With the exception of a few signature songs, A&TJ and Wyatt aren’t often covered, yet they are such distinctive cover artists themselves: I’m thinking of Wyatt’s industrial take on the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet’s wartime novelty “Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’,” or Anthony ethereal unraveling of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day.” The Unthanks find both structure and improvisational opportunities in such material as Wyatt’s stomping and honking “Dondestan” and Antony’s desolate “Paddy’s Gone.” There’s considerably more Wyatt (nine songs) than Johnsons (six) here, but it’s the half dozen Antony songs in a row which lead off the concert, so any imbalance is redressed by that mood-setting choice. Wyatt’s had the longer and more varied career, so the set of his songs provides the sort of jumpiness and edginess you need in a second act.

Rachel Unthank: “Just in case anybody’s worried because we’re doing these other things, that doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be any clog dancing.
Adrian McNally: “We know why you’re here.”

Literary Up: The Kiss/Archie Army

Archie #627: Archie Meets Kiss, guest-starring Sabrina the Teenage Witch!
By Alex Segura (script), Dan Parent (pencils), Rich Koslowski (inks). Archie Comics, 2011.
Not the first comic book appearance by Kiss by a long shot, but easily the tamest. You might want to add “even by Archie standards,” but in fact this is the second Archie adventure in a few months where the townsfolk of Riverdale (and, since Josie of the Pussycats is seen, neighboring Midvale as well) are turned into drooling zombies.
No, the mildness comes from the band arriving as helpful heroes, summoned to round up some intergalactic monsters mistakenly conjured up by a jealous Veronica Lodge when she’s not allowed to join in on a proper spell planned by Sabrina. (Since Jughead #200 or so, Archie and his friends have been clued in to the fact that Sabrina is a witch.)
The members of Kiss go by their make-up names—The Demon, Starchild (ot “The Starchild”), Spaceman (again, not “The…”) and “Catman” (rather than “The Cat”). No wizard or fox. Artist Dan Parent doesn’t go in for detail, and fans of the band could justifiably raise hell with where he puts the cat’s facial stripes.
This is the first part of a four-issue miniseries, and Kiss’ presence can only increase. The band appears in only about a dozen panels of this 22-page initial installment. Not much for Kiss fans to salivate over. For Archie enthusiasts, however, the final full-page panel alone is worth the $2.99 cost: the horde of “mindless zombies” includes all three Pussycats, Chuck Clayton, Mr. Weatherbee, Cheryl Blossom, Ginger Lopez and even L’il Jinx.