Eleven-year-old José Sarango has been to a fair number of concerts in his young life in New Haven. A member of the All-City Honors Ensemble, he’d been exposed to big-name composers like Aaron Copland, Jean Sibelius, Beethoven, and Mozart, all before his 10th birthday.
But never had he heard how Alexander Borodin’s Symphony No. 2 in B Minor approximated folk music, early jazz, and work songs at its best moments.
Or received a free book about that tradition, tracing the work of 19th-century composers to Troy Andrews, known more widely as “Trombone Shorty,” wielding his horn through the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans.
There was no featured artist, and it had already been raining for two days straight, but that didn’t keep a small group of devotees from showing up at the Outer Space on Wednesday night for what could be the longest-running open mic in the New Haven area. For good reason.
“You First,” the opening track on Western Estates’ debut EP Me First, starts with a churning electric guitar that makes its indie-rock intentions clear. But the drums that come in don’t fall into the usual pattern; after sliding into the rhythm of the song, they fall into a call and response with the strong yet quavering vocals, before the end of the verse opens up into a catharsis surprising in its timing, but so welcome when it comes.
And that’s all in the first 20 seconds. In its 1:10 running time, the New Haven-based band runs “You First” through a series of changes that catch the ear without losing the pulse, as the instruments switch up their strategies, build to a final moment, and then cut out with the kind of ending that says one thing: Play me again.
Indie hip hop artist Sammus had a cannon for an arm. Earlier in her set, she’d mentioned that she realized she was dressed like video game character Firepower Mario. But the real firepower came from her words, her mind, from the minute she took the stage at Cafe Nine on Saturday night. In the wake of a divisive presidential campaign that created a divisive president-elect, she was the headliner of a night that brought people together.
Toward the end of the last set in the back room at BAR Wednesday night, Cretan lute player George Xylouris — one half of duo Xylouris White with drummer Jim White — was beginning a quiet piece when his head suddenly turned the bar, where a cluster of people were talking. He stopped playing. The people kept talking. So he rose from his seat and walked over, into the middle of the group.
“Shhh!” Xylouris said loudly. The entire room fell silent for a second. Then almost everyone in the room clapped. Xylouris returned to the stage, took his seat near White’s kit, picked up his lute, and started where he left off.
If a nation’s music matches its cuisine — from Jean Sibelius and chilled vodka to Giuseppe Verdi and marinara sauce — then this Friday is German night at Woolsey Hall, with the Yale Philharmonia serving up meat and potatoes at 7:30 p.m.: just Brahms and Bruckner, which is to say heavy and heavier.
“There’s a million dollar man/ with a dime store sun tan/ beggin’ me to sign away my will,” sings The Proud Flesh frontman Patrick Dalton in the first seconds of “Fanfare for the Pathetic Loser,” a slight edge to his voice stretching over a jaunty guitar. “He’s droppin’ 50 dollar words/ off at the local blood bank/ written on a seven dollar bill.”
TMonday’s programs on WNHH radio probe the connection between folk music and the prison industrial complex, address Election Day concerns, contest a political decision in Derby, and celebrate the Ansonia Chargers.