I was complaining to my brother-in-law the Episcopal priest one night about modern liturgical folk music and how much it sounds like bad U2 to me. When I step into a church, I said, I want to hear tunes that have been piped in that room for at least a hundred years, maybe two. That kind of haunted historical continuity is the church’s greatest asset. He smiled and said with a measured gentleness, “I hear that opinion all the time, and it’s always from people who never go to church.”
Point taken. Like most New York curmudgeons, I like my country music to sound like Hank Sr., or, even better, like whatever we suppose that Hank heard around the house when he was a child. But I understand why today’s country music fans desire contemporaneity and relevance. They love Hank Sr., too; but who wants to see their native genre mummified and curated by coastal elite hipsters? When I listen to WKZE, I often hear old country played by vegan Brooklynites. When I listen to the Wolf (which I do), I hear hair metal played on Telecasters.
The new old versus the old new. Authenticity versus currency. I get confused. I write about it all the time, and never get anywhere with it. The current Indie scene, for the most part, is all about abdicating the present, being de-implicated from it. When Indie goes blues, it goes regressive, deep and primitive in an implicit challenge to the slick grooves and mature nuance of the mainstream contemporary blues sound. (For a local example, witness Rhinebeck’s visceral Indie duo Dirty River.) When Indie goes folk, well, to quote 30 Rock: “A cyclone hit Brooklyn. It destroyed two vintage tee-shirt shops and a banjo.”
But Indie has slick new liturgical music as well: a soft spot for broad-gesture, atmospheric mountaintop rock with its own kind of U2-ish modernity. You can have it without the messianic component (the National, for example) or with (Arcade Fire). Locally, you can hear it on occasion in the acts that pass through the Lounge at Backstage Studio Productions (BSP) in Kingston – especially on Thursday nights, when the Revue series takes place.
The Revue manages some of the most sympathetic and copasetic multi-band bills that you will find – all the more remarkable because it almost always includes a mix of local and touring acts. On Thursday, July 12, for example, the Revue features New York City-based Tall Tall Trees; the Vicious Kind, featuring Sarah Perrotta, a name quite familiar to Hudson Valley music fans; and British songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sophie Madeleine.
Earth blended with ether will be the order of the night. While Tall Tall Trees are a band based on a banjo, lots of high drama and electric shimmer are to be found on their new release Moment, a kind of concept album about the group’s collective trip to Alaska. Sarah Perrotta plays an atmospheric modern art/rock – keyboard-driven, propulsive and tremulously melodic. Sophie Madeleine plays her rich folk/pop songs on the genre’s newest weapon of choice, the ukulele, over the top of complex, chimey drum-machine beats.
The Thursday-night Revue series at BSP has quickly become our region’s great Indie melting-pot oasis – the place to go if the blues (and reggae, and jam, and soul/jazz, and fundamentalist rock) have got you down. It’s a restless scene at BSP, both in music styles and décor, which seem to change monthly without ever losing a muted, moody quality that will remind you that you are as hip as you want to be.
On Thursday, July 12, BSP at 323 Wall Street in Uptown Kingston will host its Revue, featuring New York City-based Tall Tall Trees; the Vicious Kind, featuring Sarah Perrotta; and British songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sophie Madeleine. The doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts with Sophie Madeleine at 9, followed by the Vicious Kind at 10 and Tall Tall Trees at 11. There is no cover charge, but a suggested donation. For more information, call (845) 481-5158 or visit http://bsplounge.com.