Thursday, November 27, 2008
Rasputina at Maxwell's with An Horse
I've been a rather devout follower of Rasputina since I was the tender age of 14. It's been over a decade since I first heard the haunting drones of the electric cello and the eerie watery falsetto of Melora Creagor. They've had humble beginnings, a rather climatic career, and have since returned to the discreet settings of the small club circuit.
There are many differences between the Rasputina of today, and that of the Rasputina of my teenaged years.
First, please allow me to describe the "journey" I embarked upon with my dear friend, into the mystical town of Hoboken, New Jersey. We had to take the PATH to get there! A whole new form of transit- so similar yet oh so different from the familiar (dis)comforts of the MTA. We emerged from the station with a rather pristine view of my beloved city, an entire body of water away... and then we walked. In the bitter November cold, we walked. It was basically a straight line- that lasted only about 15 minutes... but we were in a different state and were without the hundreds of distractions of our NYC avenues. We finally arrive at our destination- a little restaurant/venue known as Maxwell's. Little doesn't BEGIN to describe this club. Yet, the ambiance was warm, the staff friendly, and the stage, intimate.
The opening act An Horse was already on by the time we arrived. They're a simple two piece from down under. At first sound you're not "too" impressed, but you're not disinterested either. It took me and my comrade a few moments to let their sound effect us. I knew they were a two piece, but my friend did not. When I made the casual remark that they had a pleasant sound, she shrugged. I was curious at that gesture, considering how impressed I was with the amount of sound being put forth. I said as much, and that's when my friend finally noticed that they were limited to 2. Her reaction changed entirely. "I had no idea there was only two of them up there- what a full sound!". They're certainly worth a go.
The most important of the aforementioned differences in my Raspy of yore and today would be the rotation of musicians in Ms. Creagor's ranks. It never effects the quality of sound. Ever. In fact, I feel the rotation of musicians adds a depth and a certain creativity that wouldn't have been achieved with the same string of players. I've seen them perform as a trio of female cellists, a two piece- the introduction of a drummer and a second chair changed the dynamic yet again- to the present lineup.
Two young folks probably not even older than I am held their own on a stage with a very gifted and grossly under appreciated woman. My biggest shock was not the fresh faces, but rather the role reversal. When the players graced the stage they took their places on either side of Melora. A young spritely looking girl in a corset picked up the drum sticks, and a young olive skinned man in a fedora with a feather in his cap and a chinese embroidered vest carried his cello. I do love those who mess around with gender roles! (on any scale) There was no backstage area to speak of, so they casually made their way through the crowd to get to the stage. My eyes followed them most of the way... but as they set up I took a moment to observe the crowd. Teens, older folk, androgynous youth, and only a smattering of those in costume. I even saw a young child! I was very happy about the variety I saw in this crowd, it certainly benchmarked the bands ability to adapt and take on a wider audience.
The show commences. The sound in this club is rather impressive (then again, I was standing right next to the speaker). They play with vigor and accuracy. I am on the far right (their left) and am silently singing along and doing my trademarked "dances". I'm very happy I decided to come! After the first few songs, Melora asks the crowd if we can see. A booming "NO" resounds, and she makes a simple request. Everyone sit down Indian style and harken back to the days of elementary school for storybook hour. Amazingly, almost everyone sits. Now everyone can see-we all win!
Melora's voice has maintained its haunting timbre, but the strength of it has increased a million times over. I would've once called her singing voice timid... not anymore. She has finally found her true voice, and boy can that canary sing! Her playing was of course flawless yet seemingly effortless, and I can say the same for the new boy, Daniel DeJesus. In keeping with tradition, he assisted in back up vocals which was yet another pleasant surprise- Daniel's voice is beautiful. It reminded me much of Jeff Buckley, or Nick Urata of Devotchka. Haunting, melodic, yet decidedly masculine. The drummer's techniques were simple, which was fine by me, because it really made the strings radiate. The show was a perfect way to spend a Friday night, even if it required a PATH train ride to NJ.
Here's the set list (from what I can recall)
Saline the Salt Lake Queen (opener)
1816 the Year without a summer
Choose Me to be the Champion
Girl Lunar Explorer
Bad Moon Rising
Oh Bring Back the Egg Unbroken
Cage in a Cave
In Old Yellowcake (Closer)