Nu-folk and old indie

Two gigs from my last weekend in New York…

On Friday night we went to see Jaymay, supported by Mike Block. Block is a cellist who actually performs with Jaymay (along with a stand-up bassist), but he has also been opening up for her as a solo act. His songs are whimsical urban folk tunes, and while his voice is a little grating, his cello playing is absolutely stunning. He makes his cello sounds like a string quartet at times, and effortlessly emulates rock and jazz sounds with innovative plucking and bowing.

Jaymay (who has returned to New York after a couple of years in London) had not previously registered on my radar, but I was really impressed. Her voice seems to me to range between Chrissie Hynde and Regina Spektor, while her guitar playing and songwriting evoke the first incarnation of Laura Marling. All told, it was a fantastic show – her voice is mobile and playful, and her mastery of the stage reveals a good few years of gigging experience. You can hear some tracks here.

No such unfamiliarity with Pavement, who (thanks to a friend with a spare ticket) I was lucky enough to see on the banks of the East River on Sunday night. Wonderful location, right across from the twinkling Manhattan skyline in Williamsburg, and thankfully the rain held off. I only got into Pavement after they had split up, so while I had seen Stephen Malkmus a few times, I had no idea how the live set up worked relative to their singular studio sound. As it happened, they were relaxed, amiable and generous in their performance. They played for around two hours and included almost all their better-known songs. Standouts were ‘Cut your hair’ and ‘Stereo’, but in truth almost everything was great. The only real oddity is Bob Nastanovich, who plays the Will Butler role of stage jester, prancing around, whacking things, shouting and screeching. In a purely live context he seems a strange ornament, but it made perfect sense wherever I could place those moments on the studio albums. A great gig which left me grateful that I had finally got to see one of the most influential bands of the 1990s (and more generally one of the musical bright spots in a pretty mediocre decade, notwithstanding their late arrival on my consciousness).

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Published in: on September 24, 2010 at 4:31 am  Comments (2)  

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  1. I really like Jaymay but then I do have a weakness for slightly off-kilter solo female performers. I saw her about 4 years ago at the Borderline supporting Kevin Devine who, incidentally, I first saw supporting someone else at NorthSix in Brooklyn, have you been there?
    p.s Pavement at Brixton were ace except they criminally didn’t play Range Life

    • That is indeed criminal. Fortunately they played it last Sunday – it has my favourite Pavement lyric: “you’ve got to pay your dues before you pay the rent”.


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