A Martian Lands on 23rd Street -- is Blown Away!


gary-soloIt was billed as a 20th anniversary tribute to Gary Lucas's band Gods and Monsters. The lineup was impressive to say the least. In addition to Gary's band, with Lucas on guitar and vocals, Ernie Brooks (ex-Modern Lovers) on bass, Billy Ficca (ex-Television) on drums, Jason Candler (Hungry March Band) on Sax and Joe Hendel (Latest Show on Earth) on keyboards and trombone (how I love to see a trombone in a "rock" band!), special guests Alan Vega (Suicide), Lenny Kaye (Patti Smith Band), Jon Spencer, Peter Stampfel (Holy Modal Rounders), and Gary's collaborator in his Chase the Devil project, Dean Bowman. And of course, we can't forget to mention Mike Edison (Sharkey's Machine), burning it up on theremin.

The venue, formerly the Blender Theater -- before that magazine went bust -- is now called the Gramercy (the sign still says Blender). It's a magnificent hole of a place, inspiring, grungy, combining cavernous and cathedral-like. All in all, an appropriately skewed introduction to a magnificently skewed evening. Just as it should have been. Now, I should add at this point that it is tempting to discuss this show as a valedictory, as a summing up, as a tribute, but I'm not gonna do that. I'm gonna give you, as best I can, a tabula rasa review of this. (For those of you who have forgotten absolutely all of your philosophy classes, that means blank slate.) I'm just gonna talk about what I heard, as if I descended from Mars and caught the show. (And I did, in fact, feel like that, but that discussion is for another time and place.) gary-peter Now, on to the music. Finally.

Well, to put it mildly, if you like guitars -- acoustic, electric, sliding, pulling, banging, twanging, slithering, growling guitars -- you were in the right place. Not only is Lucas both a god and monster on his variety of guitars, he plays in at least five distinct and dazzling styles, from Kottke-esque fingerpicking that makes him sound like three players to slam-bam-whammy bar pyrotechnics that would make Jeff Beck sit up and take notice (more on Mr. Beck anon) to psycho-folk, psycho-bluegrass, psycho-punk, psycho-metal, basically, psychedelic everything -- especially amplified when Mr. Edison (how aptly named he is) let rip on the theremin. If you think this thing is just for 1930s Universal horror film soundtracks, think again. Under Edison's magic hands (and, if you've ever seen a theremin played, you know what I'm talking about), and cranked through what seemed like a wall of Marshall stacks, this thing punctuated and ignited some ferocious, late-inning jamming from the assembled multitude on stage.

But, lest you think this ensemble was in any way ragged, let me assure you that Lucas runs the tightest loose ship I've seen since I saw Frank Zappa perform three hundred and twelve gazillion years ago. gods-monsters Now, to Mr. Jeff Beck. He is' by many people's acclamation, a reigning guitar monster, still tearing it up and making new sounds despite having practically invented the whole guitar god thing back in Soho in London when everything was black & white.

Now, it so happened that it was announced from the stage that a certain Giorgio Gomelsky was in the crowd at the show. Big deal, you say. Yes. Big deal. Gomelsky was the dude who DISCOVERED Beck and the Yardbirds. So, the cosmic connection made, Lucas tore it up and showed that he is right up there. (I only wish Jeff Beck and his band and Gary Lucas and his Gods and Monsters would get together.) His fleet fingers, mastery of the effects board, and analog finessing of the whammy bar would have made Leo Fender proud indeed as he rode two different Strats into the cosmic hemisphere.

It wouldn't be fair to finish the review without noting how damn fun the whole thing was. Unbridled, slightly off-kilter rock and roll joy. That's what it was. Besides the band, the sidemen also distinguished themselves in their individual turns. I, for one, will be scouring the YouTube, etc., to see if anybody captured Lucas's eerie and magic duo with a new song by he and Vega aptly called "Life Kills." Because that's what this entire gig was about. Life kills. And so do Gods & Monsters. - Ken Krimstein

Ken.jpgMr. Krimstein is a writer, cartoonist, father, and grump who lives in New York City. So there.