Two freebie festivals on Saturday follow a ramping-up of music on Friday at WAMC’s The Linda (339 Central Ave., Albany), where the popular Cuddle Magic joins headliners the David Wax Museum.
Both have impressed here: the David Wax Museum at The Egg opening for Ray Davies in 2011 then at the Linda opening for Tift Merritt last year, and Cuddle Magic at Caffe Lena last year and earlier on The Linda’s Dancing on the Air. Both are cool indie-hybrids.
The David Wax Museum knocks together Tex-Mex and Americana, blending strong, strange instrumental combinations, including a donkey jawbone, to punctuate and color extraordinary songs. Founders David Wax and Suz Slezak recently added multi-instrumentalist Greg Glassman onstage and in the studio for their fourth release, “Knock Knock Get Up.” Maine-based producer Sam Kassirer helped graft Mexican instruments in modern patterns onto field recordings from Veracruz state in Mexico.
A collective sextet orbiting around Brooklyn and Philadelphia, Cuddle Magic uses strings, percussion, vibraphone, trumpet, clarinet, keyboards, guitars, and voices to make experimental but charming music with avant-folk harmonies, complicated rhythms with surprising carrying capacity and words that etch incidents and atmospheres. They don’t let their classical training get in the way of intrepid rule-breaking or rollicking fun on their new digital album “Info Nympho.”
Show time for the David Wax Museum and Cuddle Magic on Friday at The Linda is 8 p.m. Admission is $18. Phone 465-5233 ext. 4 or visit www.thelinda.org.
The New Music Fest brings a strong multiact lineup to the Empire State Plaza on Saturday — unfortunately for music fans, coinciding with the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival at Jennings Landing.
The New Music Fest starts at 2 p.m. with our own omni-rock guitar hero Graham Tichy, a man of many bands. At 3:15 p.m., it’s the Mysteios, a self-described “pop band from the future,” though their music resonates with tradition. At 4:30 p.m., the 1980s-inspired L.A. dream-pop trio Superhumanoids drops in, fresh off spring tours with Local Natives and the Cold War Kids and ready to party or brood with songs from “Exhibitionists.”
Headliner Mayer Hawthorne plays at 7:45 p.m., but he might want to reconsider following Robert Randolph and the Family Band who hit at 5:45 p.m. — one of the most exciting bands touring today.
Randolph has been a rocket since exploding from the hermetic “sacred steel” (Gospel, on pedal steel guitar) environment of small-town Jersey into show-biz brilliance. When my Jazz Fest partner Dennis saw Randolph’s first show outside a church, at New York City’s (late, lamented) Bottom Line in 2000, he immediately twisted the arms of impresarios in his hometown of Northampton, Mass., and inspired Randolph appearances there.
Randolph was then on his way: an immense talent that was well-honed far from the public eye but powered by ambition to match his overwhelming technique. He focused his vision and charisma to recruit, shape and lead an inspired band, mainly from his own family. And he aimed the wide light of all blues-based styles through the sharp, narrow prism of “sacred steel” Gospel fervor to produce an expansive, fresh but obviously deep Technicolor expression.
Through five albums and numerous shows here, notably opening for and playing with Eric Clapton at the Times Union Center (then the Pepsi Arena, 2004) and opening for Cowboy Junkies at the Empire State Plaza (2008), Randolph has consistently amazed. And he generously uses his renown to help fellow artists with similar backgrounds including the Slide Brothers which includes several Campbell Brothers.
Hawthorne, born Andrew Mayer Cohen, took for his last name the name of the street where he grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich. Falling in love with soul music while growing up in the shadows of Motown, Hawthorne moved to L.A. in his 20s and learned to play a bandful of instruments to craft his own hip-hop tracks. He still makes hip-hop under the name Haircut, and his interest in contemporary styles and sounds distinguishes Hawthorne from such purist soul-revival acts as Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings; not that there’s anything wrong with that!
Hawthorne’s soul chops were solid enough that he accompanied Memphis great Booker T. Jones (Booker T. & the MGs) in a 2011 episode of Daryl Hall’s “Live from Daryl’s House” TV show, singing and playing alongside master musicians a generation older. Hawthorne’s songs, and Hawthorne himself, have appeared on numerous TV shows, performing with the band (in matching suits) he calls the County. His fourth album “Where Does This Door Go” hit earlier this year.
No, I didn’t watch Miley Cyrus on the “MTV Video Music Awards,” that oxymoronic event. Author and social critic Camille Paglia did and wrote: “The real scandal was how atrocious Cyrus’ performance was in artistic terms — [Pop’s] lineage stretches back to 17th century Appalachian folk songs and African-American blues, all of which can still be heard vibrating in the lyrics and chord structure of contemporary music. But our most visible young performers, consumed with packaging and attitude, seem to have little sense of that thrilling continuity and therefore no confidence in how it can define and sustain their artistic identities over the course of a career.”