Tag Archives: Le Poisson Rouge


Magma are a French prog-rock band formed in the 1969 by classical drummer, Christian Vander. Prog-rock is often cast as nerdy due to content hailing from anywhere in outer-space to middle earth, lorded over by technically proficient players and revered by, well, various nerdy sorts. But really, what is a nerd and who cares? I’ve been called a lot of things and it hasn’t made any less or any more of me. That said, Vander claimed his inspiration for forming the band was a vision of humanity’s spiritual and ecological future (which was bleak). The first album was the story of humans fleeing a doomed earth to settle on the planet, Kobaia. Conflict arises between Kobaians and the earth refugees. Vander created a phonetic language, Kobaian, which is sung to express the story. The venue, Le Poisson Rouge, is still one of my favorite surviving NYC venues. It always sounds good and the sight-lines are excellent, and they get interesting acts (I wrote here about Califone and Iggy Pop). The opener was a solo cellist who goes by Helen Money though her name is Alison Chelsey. She created pieces with her cello and effects pedals which were cinematic and/or classical and occasionally piercing. She’s billed as a doom-cellist on her website but that’s a little limited according to what I heard. The place was packed. I’m pretty sure I spotted Greg Saunier, the drummer from Deerhoof, in the crowd. When Magma took the stage and got started I understood completely why Saunier was there. This drummer, Christian Vander, is amazing!! This band, Magma, are incredible!! Not wonky, nerdy, technical stuff but vocally and drum driven rock. It was wild, the guitar, bass, and keyboards (usual prog-rock suspects) served almost as ornamentation to the vocals and drums. There were interesting stops and great builds in the music and they had soul! The most important thing, as with most vocal performances, was the telling of the story which they did with the acumen of classically trained actors. One male lead vocalist in addition to Christian Vander and two females. The concert was like being at a modern classical music concert in the length of the pieces and intensity of the music. It was alternately meditative and hypnotic. Drums and voices….it doesn’t get much more primitive than that and yet those parts were both so expertly handled that it elevated the music as a whole. My first rock concert was arguably one of the best prog-rock bands ever, Yes, at Madison Square Garden. Compared to Magma Yes are traditional. It was really a one of a kind concert.

The Players:

Christian Vander
Stella Vander
Isabelle Feuillebois
James MacGaw
Benoit Alziary
Herve Aknin
Jérémie Ternoy
Philippe Bussonnet

Here’s a taste (with only one of the women) They played this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjYnuhIlnIU

Upcoming Dates:

Thursday April 14th @ Branded Saloon 603 Vanderbilt Ave. Brooklyn, NY Philip Lynch (solo) 7PM, Harry Graff Kimball (solo) 8PM, Los Chinches 8:30PM
Sunday April 17th @ An Beal Bocht 445 West 238th Street Bronx, NY Rob McMahon 8PM, Philip Lynch 9PM
Friday April 22nd At The Start / At Long Last will be widely available on familiar digital platforms


Califone @ Le Poisson Rouge

Last Sunday I had the distinct pleasure and privilege of seeing and hearing the band, Califone, at Le Poisson Rogue, 158 Bleecker Street, NYC. Califone is led by singer, guitarist, keyboard player, Tim Rutili. His site is here: http://www.califonemusic.com/. He had been the lead singer of the band Red Red Meat in the 90’s. They produced hazy, fuzzy, atmospheres in their songs which suited the lyrics sometimes and sharply abutted against them others. I really love Red Red Meat’s final album, ‘Bunny Gets Paid’. Califone put out ‘Stitches’ last year around this time and I’m still not tired of it, a true testament to the ever-seeking listener. One of my favorite releases of 2013. This was a CD that would not be thrown back! ‘Stitches’ is a bit cleaner and more produced than ‘Bunny Gets Paid’. Not a bad thing mind you…it makes me think Tim has found more confidence in his lyrics and melodies or something (maybe just working with different people). In anticipation of the show I wondered if they would be able to create the edgy, rough bleeding into delicate sounds achieved on ‘Bunny Gets Paid’ or would they perform as close to the album (Stitches) as possible? I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome…it was a mix. The rough sounds they achieved without being too loud and yet that feeling of danger, of everything falling apart and having to let it go was in excellent balance with the melodies. It felt like luck that it worked! But it had to be orchestrated. I imagine what I saw and heard to not be far from a Velvet Underground performance. I don’t know why more people don’t move, physically react to music nowadays. Granted, Califone doesn’t write dance music but it’s music that you can physically feel. The arrangement was Rutili on Guitar or keyboards, 2 drummers, lead guitar player, and bass player. I recognized one of the drummers from shows I had seen in the past and couldn’t restrain myself after the show. I’ve seen/heard Rachel Blumberg over the years playing with The Decemberists, M Ward, and Norfolk and Western. Excellent player and creative soul, http://rachelblumberg.com/. I had the opportunity to thank Tim Rutili and all of the band members for an excellent show…they kind of regarded me as though I had two heads…either that or I was feeling self-conscious approaching strangers. heh. Anyway have a great week and thanks for reading! -p

Elder Statesmen

This has been an excellent month of music for me, performance-wise (thanks Bowery Electric (Christina LaRocca), No Malice Palace (Kipp Elbaum)) and show-wise. I saw three different performances, Hugh Masakela, Wynton Marsalis and his band performing Duke Ellington, and Iggy Pop and the Stooges. What, if anything, do these different types of music and performances have in common? A lot.

Hugh Masakela is a 74 year old trumpeter from South Africa. He was playing with an arrangement of electric guitar, bass, percussion, drums, and piano. The show was at the historic Tarrytown Music Hall. A real theatre space, the sound was great. He is an excellent showman, he genuinely wanted to communicate with the entire audience whether through a story he told of his upbringing or through his dancing or singing or playing. The things he did with his voice were as effective as sounds found in nature, his trills and high pitched wails were very moving. He roused the audience calling upon our basic humanity, to look to ourselves, the nature of modern life, what were we ever hiding from? It’s hard to articulate how he did this… he was not preachy, he was telling his story. He had a great time up there and wanted us to do the same. We did.

Wynton Marsalis guided us through various Duke Ellington tunes with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra sometimes with personal accompanying stories, sometimes with the facts of the recordings. I love Ellington but had never heard these songs performed live. It was wild. Very loud at times, like a rock show…..but with brass. The arrangement was piano, drums, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, guitar, banjo, and slide trombones. Wynton was humble, always deferring to the material and its composer. He let the flow of solos and tempo of the whole evening unfold organically.

Iggy and The Stooges played a free show at Le Poisson Rouge yesterday at 5PM, NPR streamed the show live. Electric anticipation in the room before they hit the stage. Guitar, bass, drums, saxophone and 64 year old Iggy. He shimmied shirtless and shaked like a man possessed. He had some go-to gestures and dance moves, this was theatre of his own devising fine-tuned throughout 40 years or so. He played to every corner of the room. At times he’d make a face or stick his tongue out despite the heavy material, a reminder that we’re in it for kicks. During one talking moment he likened our times to the Vietnam era. He handed his microphone off a couple of times to audience members encouraging them to partake of the performance, say whatever! Yell your name! And he was always supportive. He had as many as could fit up onstage with him for the last song. Whether folks are staid or depressed or too cool nowadays to shake it I don’t know but in the face of this mans antics everybody moved.

Two of the the most important common things I came away with from these shows is that setting the historical context for what you’re sharing is crucial to the telling of your story also if the performer commits totally to what he or she is doing and enjoys it, we will too. All three of these performances were transcendent for me in that they were rich, expressive, accepting, questioning, challenging and ultimately cathartic. On top of it all, totally professional which some may scoff at as just a technicality but we couldn’t get to the meat unless it had some bones supporting it.

Go see live music, support your scene and have a great week humans!! -p