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Jukebox: Performance atmosphere really does matter

Jukebox: Performance atmosphere really does matter

Good music rocks away bad weather
Jukebox: Performance atmosphere really does matter
Todd Rundgren performs Friday night at The Egg in Albany.

Here in the middle of summer music season, let’s ask: How does weather matter at shows? First, the obvious; rain or heat can affect comfort. I was once rained on from both sides at once in the middle of SPAC at a Peter Allen show but didn’t care; NRBQ guitarist Big Al Anderson almost melted in the sun on the first Music Haven stage in Central Park but still rocked the place; and I once shared my umbrella with two friends there in a Maura O’Connell show. At a ‘Q show in (non-air-conditioned) Bogie’s, soundman/saxophonist Klem Klimek took off his soaked T-shirt and later found the wet heat had shrunk it so he couldn’t get it back on.

All this, plus your own examples, proves good music rocks away bad weather.

Humidity actually helps the sound, a soundman once told me at SPAC, and proved it with a celestial-sounding Santana/Neville Brothers show he engineered. Humidity increases the density of paper speaker cones, adding punch. Excess wind, though, scatters the sound, and loud rain can drown out the music. A downpour at SPAC made listening to jazz trumpeter Roy Hargove sound like listening to a bad dashboard radio in a car wash.

What about the full moon? Sometimes, maybe, an emotional factor.

Last Saturday, Jazz Fest posse partner Dennis and I hit Luthier’s in Easthampton, Mass., a guitar shop with a rockabilly/blues bar grafted on, or vice versa. We caught hot, spirited Johnny Cash covers by a veteran combo called DeTune, which included a former Mechanicville resident and one-time member of Ernie Williams and the Wildcats. We hung with drummer Rich Gordon, swapping tales of Boston bands; he’s played with many. But they seemed energized less by the full moon than by playing their first show in several years and feeling glad about it.

Then at the New City Brewery we found the Shokazoba Funktet rocking a converted mill hard: nine mostly young guys and a singer who seemed like someone’s mom. Inspired by Fela Kuti, they pumped a relentless groove with anarcho-libertarian words up top. Their churn was ferocious, the bassist knocking it down like Tony Markellis in Trey Anastasio’s band, their overall impact like that of Big Suit-era funkifized Talking Heads. Words hit hard: “Billionaires are the parasites” (chant and repeat) and an anti-GMO broadside at Monsanto, for example. Energizing a younger crowd than at Luthier’s, they were tight and funky/fun enough for Buffa’s back room in New Orleans any night. The Red Sox crushing the Twins 10-4 on the over-the-bar TV didn’t hurt the mood in the place either, but did the full moon help?

I got another sample Sunday at Music Haven when Lakou Mizik and Bonga and the Vodou Drums of Haiti played a knock-out island funk-fest climaxing in a Caribbean second line parade from the stage all over the place.

First, Bonga and his son opened with a drums-driven set spanning the raw and the sweet, sparse as the Black Keys at times, melodic and lilting when the duo doubled up. Bonga, for example, played harmonica, kalimba and conga-like drum at once, singing between harmonica runs; then did the same with a Caribbean kora, its body a round frame drum. They easily engaged the crowd in yelling “Ay, bobo!” — a Haitian creole catchall chant asserting strength in unity.

Sorting out the full-moon effect from the bittersweet vibe of wrapping up a long tour here and simply how good Lakou Mizik is proved impossible, and redundant. They would have overpowered a hurricane.

When singer Jonas Attis asked, three songs in, “Did you like the warm-up?” dancers answered the call, crowding the floor and both wings.

When Nadine Remy sang, the effect was like Black Uhuru with Puma Jones at the mic while Jonas Attis added gruff hip-hop force or R&B fervor. Accordionist Belony Beniste and guitarist Steeve Valcourt bridged the vocals to blasting/dancing beats from bassist Lamarre Junior and percussionists Woulele Marcelin, Peterson Joseph and James Carrier while Sanba Zao led on conga-like tall drums and vocals, loosing floor-length dredlocks late in the show. They lit up “Is Fa Ti Bo” as a swirling island-style polka. They chanted of happiness in community and poignant post-earthquake lamentations with equal power.

Percussionists also played rara cornet (brassy cones like vuvuzelas, skillfully altering tone and attack) or marching-band snares, at coda-parade time. Without missing a beat, they charged down into the surging dancers, tugging them into a rhythm-and-riff procession up one side aisle, across the back and down the other. Jubilation, unanimous and irresistible.

SURPRISE, SWING AT THE EGG
Friday, “An Unpredictable Evening with Todd Rundgren” at the Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) presents who-knows-what from the musician/producer/video pioneer, reaching back to his ’60s crew the Nazz, through smart-pop solo albums to his interactive band Utopia. 8 p.m. $39.50 and $34.50 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org
Saturday, neo-swing jazz-bos the Squirrel Nut Zippers, all nine of them, celebrate their first studio album in 18 years, “Beasts of Burgundy,” by hitting the road together after solo projects and other shuffling. 8 p.m. $36

NEW ORLEANS AT MUSIC HAVEN SUNDAY
Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers headline at Music Haven (Central Park, Schenectady) Sunday; the New Breed Brass Band opens.

Both bands connect to Louisiana musical traditions via family. Dopsie (say with a long “O”) is the eighth and youngest of Rockin’ Dopsie’s children; most are musicians. Starting at seven, he learned to play accordion, but upside down, like (left-handed) guitarist Jimi Hendrix to whom he’s often compared. A multiple regional award winner, his “Top of the Mountain” album (2017) earned a Grammy nomination.

Leading the nine-piece New Breed Brass Band is snare drummer Jenard Andrews, one of many musical kin from New Orleans’ Treme neighborhood including his trumpeter father James “12” Andrews, uncle Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and cousin Glen David Andrews, a regular at the Parish Public House here. When their instruments were stolen last year, New Breed replaced them with a GoFundMe effort. (The tuba is now the most stolen instrument in America: who knew?) 7 p.m. Free. www.musichavenstage.org. Rain site: Proctors

EX-FELICE/OBERST FARLEY
Former Felice Brothers and Conor Oberst band fiddler Greg Farley steps out on his own with his solo debut album “Taker Easy” and a show Saturday at the Parish Public House (388 Broadway, Albany); mostly singing and playing guitar. 9 p.m. $10. 518-465-0444 www.parishpublichouse.com

COMPLETELY DIFFERENT AT CAFFE LENA
The Philadelphia Orchestra Chamber Trio (Yumi Kendall, cello; Yiying Li and Jeoung-Yin Kim, violins) plays Tuesday at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs). 7 p.m. $22 advance, $25 door, $12.50 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org

They follow more familiar-style Caffe fare: Woodstock-and-since troubadour Melanie tonight (6 and 8:30 p.m. $40 advance, $45 door, $22.50 students and children); Americana fiddler/singer Phoebe Hung & the Gatherers Friday (8 p.m. $18 advance, $20 door, $10 students and children); “Banjo Revelry VII” (No rude ban-jokes, now!) Saturday with Bob Altchuler, Martin Grosswendt, Jerry Oland and Sara Grey with Kieron Means (8 p.m. $18 advance, $20 door, $10 students and children — workshops at 11 a.m.); Hudson Valley Americana septet Upstate Rubdown Sunday (7 p.m. $20 advance, $$22 door, $11 students and children); and the return of the Monday open mic (sign-up: 7 p.m., performances at 7:30 p.m.)

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