Crumb

Trans-Pecos was once an electronic venue. The kind of place you’d enter and immediately lose your friends in a suffocating overdose of fog machine and lasers. On occasion, a human pterodactyl might sweep into view, their frisbee-sized pupils a stark contrast to the grey clouds that surrounded you. It was amazing – also horrifying.

But when Crumb came to play on Thursday, the scene was entirely different. At first, a sparse crowd of hipsters stood around, nodding emotionally to the opener’s punk song and staring glassy-eyed at the female lead wearing an orange cap.

Honestly, it looked like it was gonna be a night of shitty music. Fortunately, it didn’t sound like it.

Crumb’s lead, Lila Ramani, looked entranced and weird, her head rotating around the beat and her eyes rolling around their sockets. She had a look of quiet confidence.

The rest of the band was tight. Much more technical than I’d expected. Jesse Brotter (bassist) bopped along with sharp notes, while Jonathan Gilad (drums) impressed with intricate and diverse rhythms.

Then there was the sideshow. Brian Aranow’s amalgam of keyboard and synth sounds were what made Crumb sound psychedelic: the spice in an already good dish. But what truly grabbed me was his Mary Poppins bag of instruments that he maintained mastery over. Very rarely will I pay homage to a tambourinist – but he knew how to shake it. Near the end, just when I felt I had a good grasp of Crumb’s sound, he turned around with sax in arms and belted a funky, trippy, and smooth solo. The audience was ecstatic – everyone’s a sucker for the sax.

Crumb’s show at Trans Pecos felt like a moment to remember. They probably have some developing to do still, but I wouldn’t be surprised if two years down the line there won’t be a chance to see them at the likes of Trans-Pecos.

Bill Evans – Peace Piece

It’d been a while since I’d done anything on a Tuesday night, over a year since I’d seen Esther (EMK), and longer still since I’d been to Smalls Jazz Club.

But as we walked down the dusty stairs into the brick-walled bunker, a flood of memories came back to me: the Sunday I discovered Smalls, Johnny O’Neal’s “I’m Your Mailman,” the four-mile bike back to Williamsburg in the rain. I don’t know Smalls’ reputation in the Jazz world, or much about Jazz really, but I have a strong appreciation for the cool, calm, and friendly environment that relieved me during my early adjustment to the chaotic and unsympathetic New York City.

Esther laughed. I was surprised to find out that Esther, who lived in Brussels, had been here before with her mother.

“Yeah. She said the Jazz was terrible!”

We both laughed. Fortunately, this night the Jazz wasn’t terrible. Half a glass of whiskey later, the sedative sounds of the improvised quartet had me entranced.

Whereas electronic music is the work of meticulous planning, Jazz is a mastery over the unexpected. The eye contact between musicians suggests a strong comradery that keeps them in sync despite the rise and fall of sounds and emotions.Their focus is intense, but the musicians convey a sense of ease. At least for me, it’s both jolting and relaxing.

By the end of our glasses, we’re near asleep. We head out.

After we said goodbye at the train station, I immediately put on my “dreams” playlist, a collection I first started when Esther was living in NYC two years ago.

Bill Evans fluttered my ears, a final toast to good whiskey, terrible jazz, and continued adventures with an old friend.

Mount Kimbie – Break Well

It’s the first day of fall. Not technically, but last night a crisp air flooded NYC and turned the leaves in Queens. From the Ridgewood M station platform, the flat roofs give way to the treetops in Highland Park.

Usually, I’ll throw on the headphones and avoid shifting eyes for the 48-minute commute into the city. Today, I actually see the other passengers: a boy running a toy truck along the window, a quiet woman juggling papers, coffee, and a cell phone, a brace-faced teen laughing with her friend while studying for a test.

Between the weather, the view, the unusually serene train ride, and the following song, my mind saves this memory as the mark of a new season.