NORTON RECORDS 25th ANNIVERSARY: DAY 2
I thought it would be cool to show up fashionably late on Friday, but I overshot and missed not only the Nortones but also the Condo Fucks with the Great Gaylord. I walked in just in time for the last song on their set. It looked good. Luckily there is video footage of the whole thing, both tolerable video and godawful video, for those of you who prefer to have your senses assaulted by shaky pixelated images and bottom-of-trashcan sound.
One-man band Mark Sultan was next. It was hard to tell if he was seriously berating the audience for its generally tepid response to him (plausible) or if he was being punk rock. He plowed through a set that couldn't have lasted longer than 15 minutes, breaking his drum pedal at some point and appearing to use that as an excuse to finish and leave even though Billy Miller brought him a different one. I like Mark's records but I have to say the one-man-band routine live is the sort of thing that belongs on subway platforms. What I mean by that is it's not the most spectacularly interesting thing to watch unless you are one of those "how does he DO that?!" geeks. Which you probably are.
I picked up a new copy of the formerly readable, now useless newsrag The Village Voice either Friday or Saturday and it had a teeny little teaser someone had written for the Norton Fest. It said basically that each night had a band or two worth seeing, but the best night would probably be Friday. It was all moot of course since the whole shindig was sold out for weeks prior to the printing of last week's Voice, but that didn't stop them from recommending Friday night and listing the price of tickets. At least it's free- you can use it to line your catbox every week, or light your barbecue. And for your information, Village Voice, Saturday was the best night, but we'll get there soon.
Oh anyway. Jackie and the Cedrics! From Tokyo! I believe they said this was their first time in NY in about 5 years. They wore matching loungecoats like the Phantom Surfers, but worked a lot harder to appear competent and pulled it off. It is always a challenge to look like you are rocking out while you play most any kind of keyboard instrument; extra member Tucker Rodriguez made it happen.
The Reigning Sound is a band (and by band I mean a rotating cast of musicians supporting Greg Cartwright) I've always wanted to like so much more than I do. The current lineup is basically the Jay Vons with Greg Cartwright. They played an excellent set and were appreciated by a moderately sized but enthusiastic group of fans. Seeing them live was definitely more interesting than listening to Reigning Sound records, some of which (the new one, I'm thinking of) border on positively pop and ballad-y. You can download that new record here, by the way.
The crowning event of the evening was ostensibly the Norton Records Soul and R&B Revue. It was weird.
I know I stated previously that sloppy is about what I merrily expect from Norton...but the R&B Revue was supposed to be better executed. At least I imagined it would be, which was why I was surprised to see essentially a garage band with a bunch of old gentlemen singing a few songs. The Mighty Hannibal was led out by King Khan and did fine as long as he held onto the mic stand. You see, he's had a stroke and a heart attack, can't see a thing, and looked pretty feeble up there. His mind is obviously still sharp because he said a couple funny things including telling us that he had had a stroke and a heart attack, but tonight he was gonna give us all strokes and heart attacks.
Andre Williams came up next and did a couple tunes, including one of the newer ones, "Agile, Mobile, Hostile." Someone missed a cue and the result was the band repeating the same refrain over for a couple minutes, looking confused and embarrassed, while Andre Williams snapped his fingers, tapped his feet and opened and closed his mouth a whole bunch while he apparently waited for the band to do something. I started wondering if he was OK. Then finally they moved on to another song.
I know they still want to perform, and they are finally receiving their due after many years of relative obscurity, and I want them to receive the credit (and pay) they deserve, but trotting out elderly musicians in questionable health has a certain level of exploitation involved. It reminds me of the horrible spectacle of Chuck Berry fainting on stage in Chicago in January of this year. I won't post a link to that video- google it yourself if you really need to see it. You're a terrible voyeur, though.
To sum up, Friday night was not the best night of the four-day ball, in fact, it was the least best. I ended up being a little depressed and weirded out by the last hour. The most exciting thing about Friday night might well have been walking back to the train station and seeing some drunk driver totally plow over the median on 4th Av without even slowing down.