Monday, May 18, 2009

Live: The Vandelles + SikSik Nation

When: 5/15
Where: Cameo

I can't believe it, but looking back, I have not yet reviewed the Vandelles, one of my favorite NYC bands. The Vandelles run with folks like A Place To Bury Strangers, but their music isn't quite like anyone else's on the scene. Yes, it's pop songs laden with feedback and noise guitar, but these pop songs hearken back all the way to the 1950's and 60's, rockabilly and surf tunes at the core, despite the psych-influenced walls of sound.

The Vandelles are good on record but their live show is what's really outstanding. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the band consists of some of the best lookin' indie kids in New York. And they make the most of that fact by knocking out their tunes with maximum sexiness. They are an easy band to watch, let's just leave it at that.

The Vandelles (photo by Eileen Schwartz)
The Vandelles* (photo by Eileen Schwartz)

The Vandelles showed remarkable chemistry on stage on Friday, locking in tightly with one another and delivering one roaring number after another with compelling confidence. Cameo is not nearly a big enough space to hold this band. Though their popularity does not yet justify a major venue, their stage presence is absolutely massive. Frontman Jason Schwartz's bold posturing and bassist Lisha Nadkarni's powerful poise lend the band a sense of professionalism. In the back, Sue "Honey" Pagliorola defies her slight build and girlish looks, proving herself one of the most aggressive drummers on the scene today. She slams the drums with mechanical fury. The least immediately captivating is new guitarist Christo Buffam, but that's only because he's pouring his attentions into his guitar and pedals, painstakingly crafting the subtleties of the band's sound.

Top-notch musicianship is not lacking from any of the four. The band's rhythms are unusual, but the term "syncopated" would be misleading, since most beats the term has been applied to are light-footed, and the Vandelles are anything but. Their syncopation so heavy, it obliterates the beat for everyone - except, apparently, the band, who somehow always reemerge from such passages as tight as ever.

I could go on and on, but I'll leave it there for now. Definitely, definitely, definitely a band to watch.


Next up was SikSik Nation, a Detroit-based psychedelic trio making their first-ever stop in New York City. I didn't have the highest of expectations (for no reason except that I don't usually), but I'm very glad I stuck around for their set! It's easy to forget there's an indie-music world beyond the New York-Boston-DC axis, if only because there's so much going on here. But a band like this, fresh from Motor City, illustrates how insular the East Coast can be. Though the components of SikSik were not particularly original, their music explores a different alley from those inhabited by their New York counterparts, giving indie-psych fans a breath of fresh air.

The band's sound is more spacious than the shoegaze-inspired East Coasters', with more room for the listener to jump right in. Instead of arty noise rock, their music gains its kick from ever-so-slight nods to the garage rock that once made Detroit a rock music capital. Their playing was tight but flexible, working in the unearthly sounds of a theramin and a restrained amount of electronics while still kickin' it out old-school.

SikSik isn't groundbreaking, but they're solid and satisfying, and an hour in their audience is an hour well spent. Come back to New York soon!


*The original guitar player (second from left in this picture) has been replaced with the talented Christo Buffam, but the only picture I could find with him kept looking really pixelated. Sorry!

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