Within seconds of taking the Cafe Nine stage Sunday night, Cynthia Sley of the Bush Tetras announced that her appearance in New Haven was overdue — by two decades.
“We have a story about New Haven,” she said. “We almost played here and didn’t get to. It was about 20 years ago.” For fans of the legendary post-punk band, which could trace its history back to 1979, it was worth the wait.
Before the show started last Friday night at the Space Ballroom in Hamden, Tom Connolly of the New Haven-based band Witch Hair was sitting at the newly refurbished front bar, talking about the night’s headliners, Acid Mothers Temple, visiting from Japan.
“Every time I see them I feel like they are holding my hand and lifting me up,” said Connolly, “like I’m on a journey.”
“As a Puerto Rican,” the newest tune written and performed by New Haven-based singer-songwriter Xavier Serrano, begins with bare and gentle guitar chords and lyrics that are also bare but not as gentle: “Here I am / In the same position I recall from a few years ago,” he sings. “Except for this time around / I don’t feel so bad for myself / There’s something awfully silent within me.”
The soul of the late great jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus hovered in Yale Law School’s auditorium Sunday. So did that of the late Stan Wheeler, watching over from an enlarged photo projected on a screen, as two generations of musicians kept their spirits alive.
Did Russell Shaddox have any final words after the final set of The Mold Monkies show at Best Video Thursday night?
“I’m old and I’m tired,” he said, which elicited a laugh from those around us, and from Shaddox himself. “Old and tired” were not words anyone at the film and cultural center on Whitney Avenue would have used to describe this New Haven-based band.
They fade in from the distance — a booming drum, a driving guitar — setting up the engine of the rhythm on “Control,” the first song from New Haven-based musician RØY’s new EP Thoughts in Sound. Within seconds they’ve arrived and are rising in urgency, only to stop on a dime to let the voice come in over nothing more than the hum of an echo and a couple finger snaps to keep the pulse.
“More Than Ever,” the title track from the New Haven-based band Mercy Choir’s latest four song EP, is a deceptively simple tune, mostly because it is not simple at all. The melody teases you and takes you in immediately with its sweet and jangly guitars until the lyrics implore you to stick around for more: “Treat me right, even though I treat you wrong / Hold me now, listen to my little song.”
From there on in the layers of the song are revealed one by one: more percussion, more bass, backing vocals. In less than three minutes Mercy Choir’s latest is now in your head, and guess what? You already want to hear it again. Paul Belbusti, leader, founder and heart of the band, may have made an almost perfect pop song.
Denise Renee began her set at Sofar on Saturday night with a song patterned first from pats and clicks, sounds she could make into a microphone. A sung riff suggested a chord progression. That was all she needed to build her song. Within minutes, with just a few effects — some echo, a pitch shifter, a looper — and a lot of musical ingenuity, she had made a powerful uplifting song full of voices. “Because I need freedom, freedom, freedom,” she sang. As she got most of the audience to sing along, she sounded like she had all the freedom she needed.