Musical Festivities at The Wiyos’ CD Release Party

The Wiyos‘ new CD “Broken Land Bell” actually came out a few months ago, but the band was busy touring this summer so they were unable to have an official release party for the album until last Friday night. Having returned from playing a whirlwind of stadiums opening for a triple feature of Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and John Melloncamp, The Wiyos brought the house down at The Gramercy Theatre which hosted the band’s night of celebration. There was a lot of music to be heard, and not just The Wiyos’.

MICHAEL CULMELLA

The first set of music was by Sxip Shirey and Adam Matta. No, scratch that. The very first set of music was during the interesting pre-show, courtesy of DJ Michael Cumella. He’s not your typical DJ, that’s for sure… What Michael spins is 78’s featuring music from 1900-1929 (I believe I heard a bunch of Annette Crenshaw in the mix), which he plays on a gramophone. How cool is that? I’ll tell you one thing, I would be happy to attend any wedding that Michael is DJing. However, if there aren’t any weddings scheduled on your calendar but you still want to hear the vintage goodness, you’re in luck! Michael has a radio show every Tuesday at 7pm on WFMU. It is called “Antique Phonograph Music Program” and can be heard on 91.1 FM in NYC. You can also listen live online, play archives, and sign up for a podcast of the show at www.wfmu.org/playlists/AP. For more information about Michael you can check out his website at www.michaelcumella.com.

ADAM MATTA AND SXIP SHIREY

After that came the music of Sxip Shirey and Adam Matta. Adam is a one-man drum set/sound effect creator/vocal trumpeter extraordinaire. He’s a New Yorker, and by what I gathered from audience’s reaction when he took the stage Adam apparently has quite a devoted following. No surprise why — the guy is impressive. I have wanted to see him for a while now, and was thrilled to finally get the chance. While Adam creates cool effects with voice, so does Sxip Shirey with his ensemble of assorted items which include bells, whistles, flutes, maracas, and a harmonica. Sxip uses microphone effects to achieve some of the sounds he creates, but even still, not everyone can make pan pipes sound like an organ! Sxip is a genius who looks like a mad genius, but then, that might just be the hair… It really is quite fantastic…

After a few songs Adam left the stage and Sxip performed solo for a while, Adam later returning towards the end of the set. Listening to Sxip was like getting a history lesson, comedy show, and concert all rolled into one. He talked about New York City and personal events that have shaped who he is, doing so with the humor of a stand-up comedian. He has a mind of incredible inspiration and appreciates not just musical notes as we know them, but abstract sound. He hears the world differently than everyone else does, and during the show on Friday Sxip explained how his inspiration for a particular song came from an unconventional source: apparently he was in his apartment one night and heard the most beautiful noise he had ever heard, but he couldn’t figure out what it was. Sxip thought he might have dreamt it, but he awoke the next night to the same noise. As it turns out, it was a train rounding a curve in the tracks. Each train car that passed had a different pitch, and all of the cars harmonized with each other to create a symphony of sorts. Only Sxip can hears things that way, and then recreate the auditory experience perceived through his own ears for the audience. He used paper clips on his guitar strings to produce the sound he wanted — I mean, who else would think of doing that? I don’t know how in the world he comes up with some of the unusual uses that he does for random items, but Sxip Shirey is the McGyver of music. When Adam came back out he and Sxip played some more great songs, and seeing the two guys perform together was like witnessing a hip-hop/avant-garde/performance art/technological sound scape/theatrical opera masterpiece.

THE WIYOS

The spotlight was then handed over to The Wiyos, although Sxip and Adam — both of whom are on tracks from “Broken Land Bell” — played with the band for the majority of their set. Seeing Michael Farkas, Parrish Ellis, Joseph “Joebass” Dejarnette, and Teddy Weber with Adam and Sxip was like seeing The Wiyos for the first time, the addition of the latter two musicians giving the music a new spirit. The musicians took the stage one at a time amid shouts of excitement from the crowd, Teddy going first. He proceeded to play an edgy repeating pattern of music, making the anticipation in the room build, and continued playing that as the other musicians stepped onto the stage from the wings. As each musician came on they started to play along, and when everyone was onstage the musicians burst seamlessly into song with “Stomp.” The Wiyos’ set was off and running from there.

The band’s performance was even more theatrical than usual, and was a feast for the eyes and ears alike. The Wiyos had more energy than I’ve ever seen them have, both in their music and movements, and energy is certainly not something the band has ever been lacking in! The Teddy Weber original “All Aboard” had a carribean-esque groove that I hadn’t heard before, and I was in bliss when the musicians played “Tennessee Tango” (which appears on The Wiyos’ first album, “Porcupine”) because I got to hear the song live in all its destined glory, complete with sound effects and embellishments. I’ve never seen The Wiyos in a venue that has rock lighting, as The Gramercy Theatre does, and I have to admit it was a cool experience. The Wiyos aren’t a rock band by any means, but it was exciting to see them on a stage with different colored lights flashing and that only added to the already brimming enthusiasm of the crowd. The Wiyos topped off their marvellous set with an encore, which there wasn’t time for since everything at The Gramercy was kept on a tight schedule, but the crowd persisted. The venue finally consented to the chants of “One more song… One more song…” and The Wiyos delivered a smooth rendition of the classic “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby.”

The farther The Wiyos stray from the path of what is the norm (not that they were actually ever on it), the better they sound. They just keep rising to new levels of artistic brilliance, and I feel they are one of the most note-worthy alternative bands of our time. They play music with deference to old-time tradition, yet infuse their music with a progressiveness and a relatability. Music that the very old, the very young, and everyone in between can enjoy and appreciate. The band has been playing together for six years now and I’m glad to they’re climbing out of general public obscurity, slowly but surely. Where before upon mentioning the band’s name I would get a “Who? How do you spell that? W-I- what? Nah, never heard of them,” I now get a “Yeah, The Wiyos! I’ve heard of them… Who are they?” (Hey, I never said there isn’t room to grow on the part of the ignorant.) Opening for Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and John Melloncamp gave The Wiyos the wide exposure they deserve, and I’m happy to find that new audiences are getting into the band’s music.

LAS RUBIAS DEL NORTE

The last band to play was Las Rubias Del Norte, a band based out of Brooklyn whose influence is drawn heavily from the music and rhythms of classical latin music. They’re equal opportunists however, and cover music from as wide a variety of sources as Wolfgang Amadaes Mozart and the opera Carmen to Venezuelan folk songs. Emily Hurst and Allyssa Lamb are the founders and lead vocalists of the band, and are both alumna of the New York Choral Society. Las Rubias Del Norte also includes Taylor Bergren-Chrisman on double bass, Olivier Conan on cuatro and vocals, Giancarlo Vulcano on guitar, and Timothy Quigley and Greg Stare on percussion. The seven piece band played gorgeous music, Emily and Allysa’s voices blending beautifully together and swirling around the audience in a haze much like the smoke effects from the stage did. The percussion section was amazing, and Giancarlo had superb technique on guitar. I unfortunately couldn’t stay for the band’s whole set since I had a dark, rainy two-hour drive upstate ahead of me, but I am really grateful that I got to hear the music of Las Rubias Del Norte that I did. Although my ride home was indeed dark and rainy, I was warm of heart as I basked in the joy I felt from being at the show; a joy that was contributed to by each band and musician.

Videos from the show:

Adam Matta and Sxip Shirey:

Rain On The Roses

Istanbul

The Wiyos:

Stomp

Jack and Boon

All Aboard

Promenade

Cherry Ball Blues (Skip James cover)

Tennessee Tango

Las Rubias Del Norte:

El Gavilán

Seguedille

*If you’re interested in watching footage of The Wiyos from their summer tour, they have a videoblog on YouTube. You can find their account at www.youtube.com/thewiyos1

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