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Holiday 36

MUSIC REVIEW- Pillar to post: All over the music map

Published June 23, 2005 in issue 0425 of the Hook

Sierra at Orbit Billiards
The Rhumba Chamber at Atomic Burrito
The Matthew Willner Trio at Miller's
Friday, June 17


We could hear the country music pouring from the big bay windows of Orbit all the way down 14th Street. I think it was a first. Sure, on any given day the bands that play at Orbit can be heard for about a block around, but I don't think I've ever heard country music coming from there– ever.

My buddies just chuckled and headed straight upstairs to the pool hall, but I hung around the corner staircase for a clear angle on the band. Country music is probably my least favorite genre, but I recognize that it's the second largest American music form (hip-hop being the first), so it can't be all bad.

There was a time when I wouldn't even listen to a note of it. Now every once in a while I stay on the country radio station for a song or two. Curiosity killed the critic. My reputation may have just dropped points in a few circles.

Sierra was the band on stage, and they looked and sounded like some true honky-tonks. (Ain't the lingo fun?) The three vocalists in the group created amazing harmonies, and the guitarist was tight as any I've heard. For the first few songs I thought I liked the band. They were energetic and well-practiced, with a strong stage presence.

But after about 20 minutes, things became less than bearable for my virgin country ears. Every time the drummer hit the bell on the ride cymbal (for emphasis, I believe), I wanted to run for the hills– and eventually I did flee. My crew and I made headed to Atomic Burrito to check that action. I'm trying, but country just ain't my thing.

Atomic also had its windows open wide on this beautiful evening. Pouring from their itty-bitty innards was The Rhumba Chamber, the rhythm section of Bio Ritmo. Those boys can play. With just timbales, bells, and congas, they had people losing themselves in the rhythm. A DJ in the corner was laying down random house rhythms underneath the Caribbean and Latin percussion. It was like a mini Carnivale.

There was even a skinny Jamaican guy (let's call him Butch) in an all-white suit who tried to convince me that it was okay to cheat on my wife. I couldn't tell whether he meant with another woman or with him. Either way, we had to get away from Butch. There's nothing scarier than an a sloppy-drunk Jamaican of ambiguous sexuality in a pimp suit. When Rhumba Chamber finished their set, we blew Dodge, lickety split.

We ran until we reached Miller's, where we found more music in the form of the Matthew Willner Trio and walked in to the theme music of the old TV sitcom Sanford and Son.

But they didn't just steal the melody and play some rudimentary crap beneath it; they interpreted the song with skill and ingenuity and continued on to Sly and the Family Stone songs (in medley form) and various other soul/funk standards. My buddies and I geeked out to the Trio before calling it an evening. I had had enough excitement to last me a week... but I'll be out there prowl'n again before long.



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