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Shoe Gazers Come Out to Hear Pere Ubu’s New Album in Brooklyn, New York

Williamsburg Honors One of Indie’s First

Sunday night is a one of the best nights to catch a show in  New York City; it’s more laid back. This Sunday I got to see Pere Ubu at The Music Hall of Williamsburg. They played to a full house and did a lot of cuts from their new album 20 Years In A Montana Missile Silo as well as some old favorites. Kristof Hahn, who is of the Swans, played steel guitar that night and also plays on the album adding the Pere Ubu touch that the folks came to hear. This album, as some of the tracks on their previous album Carnival of Souls features theremin, an instrument that has a sound is associated with 1950’s horror and science fiction B movie incidental music. The combination of steel guitar, synthesizer, and theremin really created a unique tableaux.

Pere Ubu was very energetic and ran the gamut of musical styles in the set they did Sunday night. Frontman David Thomas’ banter in between songs kept the audience laughing. Thomas can be very funny and you need a little levity after a heavy tune like “Cold Sweat” off their new album. I would love to hear someone do a sludge metal version of “Cold Sweat.”

The Music Hall of Williamsburg is a dimly lit huge space with a raised stage that was standing room only. It has at least three levels, the upper level wasn’t open that night but the nice lounge on the lower level was. The place was filled with shoe gazers, hipsters, and Generation Xers drinking in the dark.

Pere Ubu did “We Have the Technology” that was from 1988’s The Tenement Year which is one of their more commercial albums. This song is what I call a straight song. What I mean by that is that is doesn’t have the cacophony that Pere Ubu is known for, e.g.  squeaky noises that remind me a bit of the horn playing of Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman and Pharoah Sanders. It was a radio hit that doesn’t have sounds of shattering glass and other disturbing elements that a track like “Sentimental Journey” from their debut album Modern Dance and some more of their edgy music have.  Ubu’s  “Sentimental Journey” is not to be confused with your grandmothers old standard standard for sure. “We Have the Technology” was the oddity for Ubu. It’s the kind of song you can sing in the shower.

Pere Ubu, to my delight, did one of their earliest singles, “Final Solution,” as part of their encore and which was a seminal recording that foreshadowed  what was to come. It must have sounded very different to hear it in 1975, it was like nothing yet recorded. Ubu did “Red Eye Blues” and “Monkey Buziness,” also from 20 Years In A Montana Missile Silo which are high energy tracks on the punk and jet rock & roll side. The band was awesome and they have been referred to as a small orchestra. The credits on the album include Keith Moliné and Gary Siperko on guitars. Robert Wheeler does analog synths, and theremin on the album and Gagarin does the digital synths. Michele Temple plays bass. The credits also list Steve Mehlman on drums/percussion and as I mentioned before Kristof Hahn on steel guitar.

There were a few songs where Pere Ubu brought it down a bit with the ambient and melodic “The Healer” and the cool moody “Howl.” These both are on the their new album. “Howl” is a kind of a blues stomp with an Ubu twist. “The Healer” which has an off center beauty to it, shows another side to Pere Ubu.  “The Healer” was part of their encore.  The encore ended with another new one “Toe to Toe” which is  a mutated  punk garage song and it sounds like Billy Childish and Thee Headcoats  or PIL trapped in  the 23rd Century.  I was a lot of fun and good to see that even after forty years Pere Ubu still hasn’t fit into any kind of mold or run out of ideas.

Catch this tour:

Date Venue Location
Nov 16 The Basement Columbus, OH Tickets & More
Nov 17 Magic Bag Detroit, MI Tickets & More
Nov 18 Beat Kitchen Chicago, IL Tickets & More
Nov 19 Culture Center Theater Charleston, WV Tickets & More
Nov 20 The Hi-Fi Indianapolis, IN Tickets & More
Nov 22 The Grog Shop Cleveland, OH Tickets & More
Nov 30 Rickshaw Theatre Vancouver, Canada Tickets & More
Dec 01 El Corazon Seattle, WA Tickets & More
Dec 02 star theater Portland, OR Tickets & More
Dec 04 The Independent San Francisco, CA Tickets & More
Dec 05 The Ritz San Jose, CA Tickets & More
Dec 06 The Echo Los Angeles, CA Tickets & More
Dec 08 Soda Bar San Diego, CA Tickets & More

Brooklyn native, Frederick Gubitosi, is a musician, artist, songwriter, and music journalist. Alumnus of Pratt Institute and Brooklyn College, the former teacher writes as an insider to world of music and the humanities. In the '90s he had two solo painting exhibits in NYC and was involved in a performance art group which merged live music, improv theater and multimedia. In 1995 he participated in Philadelphia's first performance of John Zorn's "Cobra" as a musician. In 2005 he wrote, directed, and created the musical score for his comic play, "Love, the Happy Disease." He now participates in events for Brooklyn's Creators Collective making improvised music for modern dancers.

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