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Danks for the Memories... the Unexpurgated Version

Wednesday 4 June, 1997
Freaks and Fusion

The Wetlands, nestled downtown in New York on the corner of Varick and Hudson, is like a second home to me. Cozy and dark, it is fragrant and unassuming, and leaks good vibes out the walls. This evening's Dank endeavor was kicked off really strongly with three members of Yolk (featuring one of the band's two newly instated lead singers, Cris Noel, on guitar, with Jim Lomonaco on bass and Jim Loughlin, normally on drums, on guitar). The tunes were quite out of character considering Yolk's usual blistering blend of ska-funk and punk poison. But the ensemble proved their versatility, with Noel, honorary First Grrrl Dankster, laying down some serious emotive howling, and facile strumming. Mixing the musical content as well, the trio took their set into varied territory: a Dylan cover, an Ani DiFranco cover, as well as Noel's own powerful creations, all layered over Lomonaco's smooth bass and carefully interwoven melodies.

The big event of the Wetlands show was Al Solo. Mixing in his characteristically unique contribution to Dankness, Al hit the stage with a sampling outfit and a few pedals (in contrast to the largely stripped down gear thus far). Firstly, he cranked out a bouncy and almost hip-hoppy version of the moe.favorite, "Moth," head a-swivel and drum machine bass thundering underneath Al's fiery picking and hilarious disco bleeps. The marriage of acoustic guitar (bastion of folk sentiment) and irreverent, ultra-now technology made the statement truly Al, whose influences range as far as the frequencies on his many little electric boxes. Next, moe.brother Chuck joined Al for a rousing rendition of what can be called 'one of moe.'s big hit numbers,' "St. Augustine." Finally, Al, true to his multifarious form, played a low-key rendering of "Windfall," from current straight-up Midwestern country-rockers, Sun Volt, and finished his set with a disjointed, low-fi, spaced-out Beck-esque assessment of conformity, called "What Will the Children Think?"

The Wetlands introduced me to Gibb Droll, whose playful manner sublimates into a frenzy of intensity once he gets behind a guitar. His steady, pungent approach and incomprehensible riffs added flourish to the evening, and more genre-hopping fun came about when the stage was occupied by Chuck, who, despite his halting facade, gets steamed up but good in the presence of other stellar talent. Gibb and Chuck trotted out the steamy bluegrass standard, "Salt Creek," with lightning, sweat-inducing exactitude. Chuck did a gorgeous rendition of the standard, "Jackaroe," with wailing, gripping vocals. And, joined by Jim Lomonaco on bass, the three strolled out a ribbony smooth version of Miles Davis's "All Blues."

To pay homage to an expansive musical tradition, the end of the New York Danksters show got Max and Tom, Al, David and Dave for a final end jam of Grateful Dead covers. "Cover" doesn't much do justice; as a novice and non-Deadhead, I can say that the renditions were rich and mesmerizing without referent. "Friend of the Devil" lurched deliciously into a narcotic space of sleep and temptations. "Jack Straw" was a warm, uncertain and meandering embrace. A magic moment rose out of the sure basslines, and Max and Dave's gentle harmonizing.

Standing in the back of the room, in the dark behind all the slowly swaying onlookers, I looked over to the only area of dim light to my right. In that glow stood Brendan O'Neill, a solidly stacked, salt-and-pepperheaded and bespectacled feller, intently gazing up and down, twiddling a knob here and a knob there. Then he'd stop. And listen. And twiddle. Being moe.'s soundguy, I'd gotten used to the scene. Right then, he was drawing a roar from relative silence, and the mix was bewitching.

"This sounds incredible right now," I said looking at his vague, contently concentrating face, quiet thunder and soft prairie rain pouring off the stage, somewhat at a loss for words.

"Yeah?" he replied, then paused. "Cool!"

The Way of the Dankster is modesty at all costs.

"I was born to be a minstrel, to walk the streets alone...to plant the seeds of change and then move on...and never see them grow"
P Donnelley & D Gans


ONWARDS TO 5 June >>



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