Review: The Ettes, American Bang, Juliette Lewis

Grity, Sexy, Glamorous Rock

Irving Plaza

09/19/09

The simple joys in life are sometimes few and far between. We all live real lives; work, stress, boredom and the obligations we’re attached to can often make a sincerely good night out almost impossible to identify and even worse rarely accomplished.

But there’s something about music that seems to break that pattern and music live  in one of the greatest cities in the world; NYC only furthers that sentiment.

Last night had all the right ingredients for the great show it turned out to be; fair weather, good venue, great sound system, nice fans and three talented artist to share the experience of live music with.

At 9:00pm the first of three acts went on stage: The Ettes. The Ettes are what rock and roll is made out of. Their the fundamental core of the slightly aloof but, always caring glare that rock music embodies. Fronted by ‘Coco’ a small and very polite front-woman who on stage doesn’t need to strut and dance around to keep ones attention. From the moment she takes the mic in hand or here telecaster you know she has something to say and whether you want to or not you’re going to hear it. The Ettes music is punctuated by her distinct style of singing and the driving groan of some raw and energetic bass playing. The fuse of the crunching rhythm and her innocent sounding but, sneering delivered voice is a paradox in itself. The songs rage and the addition of a drummer who is merciless only makes the primal rage that more real.

The greatest thing about the Ettes is that their not something you couldn’t see, not on stage. They are the kind of band that seems to have just arrived from practice in their garage and are doing it from memory. There’s somewhat of a reckless abandon that makes the listener wonder: ‘did they just mess up? Or was that just something clever’. Odd time changes, feedback in strange places and possibly, a missed note. Either the Ettes are doing it all by luck or they’ve got it down better than most and I’d place my bet on saying it’s the latter for sure.

With just enough time to enter back into reality from the Ettes, American Bang set up on stage and began, what could only be described as, the purest or rock sets. This wasn’t my first experience with American Bang, they had opened for the Pretenders in January this year. There’s something about this band that is just damned sexy. Four guys from Nashville putting on a show that is just rock and roll; full of the tumultuous emotions of life, the hypocritical mind thoughts of the average person and the ever present struggle to just get it right. American Bang simply gets ‘it’.

Mainstream music keeps going on about things not real, a fantasy world we strive to live in but, this is about the world we do live in and what it means to be apart of it as an imperfect being. American Bang is not sentimental about it at all, they rock out all the varying emotions with a dash of swagger that makes them look like experts but, with a dose of vulnerability that makes them look like they still don’t understand the complexities of average life. That sometimes, the mundane is the most perplexing conundrum. All that being said they’re also amazing because they’re drop-your-camera-and-holler good. They differ from the Ettes in that they have a musicality that is more matured, they know how to put a nice sounding song together. Something that could get stuck in your head, but it’s never something you could simply hum, that driving bass, the pounding drumming and the raw realness of Jared’s voice implore you to get up and do it as good as them or at least with that amount of energy.

It also helps that these aren’t four guys who are bad to look at. Often the musical experience is akin to sex for me. Not that it’s physically as pleasing or something to that effect but, its because when you see an artist live, their either going to stand on stage and get naked in front of you or hide something from you. If they’re doing ti right, you should leave the show feeling as if you’ve seen them in their most powerful, vulnerable and enjoyable moments and if they’re doing it wrong, you feel as if you don’t know what they are. American Bang did it right. They’re so open on stage with it all, they hold nothing back, they stand on stage and let it rip. Their incredibly sexy because they give it to the audience in the purest way, there’s nothing pretentious here about their act, you can see it in their eyes, they’re still four guys from Nashville, just now they’re playing music for you. They’ve got the perfect balance of energy, knowing just when to pull it back so it doesn’t become something else. If the Ettes were a great example of raw ‘new’ rock, American Bang is the perfect example of fine tuned, understated rock. The kind of rock that can declare the hardest of heartbreak then make a offhand comment and go back to playing hard.

American Bang is one of our premiere bands today. Put down Fall Out Boy and Greenday turn off, Gym Class Heroes and Incubus, American Bang is where the real music is at and they will prove it to you everytime.

So it’s time For Juliette Lewis, whom I’ve also already seen and also from opening the Pretenders on their tour. I’m already aware that the experience I’m about to have is going to be different than that of American Bang and the Ettes. Lewis is anything but, understated, raw, new Rock. She and her band are a well polished machine that has to be seen to believe, and thats no exaggeration.

Lewis is a firecracker, her energy is endless, from start to finish she’s strutting, jerking rigidly and berating her audience with her sharp vocals. Juliette is full of this energy that is awkward to watch, akin to the humorous and odd dancing of Elaine Benes on Seinfeld but, that’s the good thing! Her awkwardness makes for a show thats +1, the music is there (and I’ll go more into in a moment) but her spectacle of simply loving being on stage is enough to ensure a good time already. You like that she’s wierd in ways because in all actuality a lot of us who love music are wierd ourselves. All three bands served as a reflection of the audience, if it was the Ettes raw and nonchalant rage or American Bangs sexual but, introverted expression of life or finally Juliette Lewis’ awkward screaming and dancing expressing, want, need desire and disgust its all somewhere we’ve all been to before. Lewis knows how to play her angle, she doesn’t pretend to be musical at all. She’s a frontwoman with a voice but, she knows that her role is to keep the energy going in front of this band that is essentially on fire the entire time.

Juliette Lewis offers a paradox that only someone in music could do: Lewis is the most expendable part of her band, yet if she weren’t there it wouldn’t be the same at all. Her voice isn’t the ‘best’ (though it’s not bad either) and she doesn’t play an instrument but, her ENERGY is like the fifth member of the band. She’s a smart enough woman to surround herself with a band that knows what its doing so that she may be able to get off with doing her thing the best she can, and if one didn’t exist the other wouldn’t be as interesting.

There’s not much else I can say about Lewis, as I prefaced this section you have to see it to believe it. Her energy is truly only rivaled by that of Sharon Jones of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and even then it’s a totally different sort of energy.

Here are a few outstanding points:

Maria aka ‘pony’ from the Ettes is a terrific drummer, she has to be mentioned again and again she has something about her that is undeniable. She literally reminds me of the muppet: ‘Animal’ of The Muppets. Her hair is flying around and she is an (with the most respect and she knows this) animal on the drums.

Irving Plaza: if you ever get the chance go see a show there, its small fun and loud. That and Highline Ballroom are the two best venues in NYC

American Bang totally nice guys, thanks to Jared and Ben especially for treating us so nicely after the show.

Juliette’s band is amazing, go see this band they are furious and unrelenting like Juliette herself.

In closing I’ll say most of all, I enjoyed American Bang Juliette and the Ettes aren’t far behind though. I’d suggest if these bands were coming to your town or city to seriously consider going, disappointment is certainly not in order.

The Ettes: B

American Bang: A

Juliette Lewis: B+

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