Hebrew School

Las Rubias at Barbès this Saturday

Las Rubias del Norte are playing at Barbès this Saturday, 3/28. It sounds like they’re going to be previewing some songs that they’re working on for their next album. Las Rubias includes Hebrew Schoolers Taylor Bergren-Chrisman and Giancarlo Vulcano on bass and guitar.

Every time I go to Barbès, there’s a group of bright-eyed young whippersnappers on their way in, one telling the other “have you been here yet?” It’s been around quite a while, but it’s somehow really that special kind of place– always an exciting new discovery.

The Rubias start at 10pm, but the 8pm band, Gato Loco looks like they’ll be very good, too (“Cuban son dance hits from the 1920s-1940s” + “amazing lineup of musicians”), so maybe I’ll come by early and have one of those hoppy beers they have there in the big tall glasses. Yum!

376 9th St. (corner of 6th Ave.)
Brooklyn, NY
F train to 7th Ave. / R train to 9th St.

** also, tonight: catch The Dollars, a modern take on the music of Abdullah Ibrahim (a.k.a. Dollar Brand) at Le Grand Dakar restaurant in Fort Greene, 8:30pm


Las Rubias del Norte at Barbès

above: Emily Hurst, Allyssa Lamb, Taylor Bergren-Chrisman

There’s been a fairly long-running trend in the New York music scene of various admixtures of traditional and “world” musics. Often presented in venues where folks (most of whom happen to be, well, blond) might not otherwise see them, it’s useful to witness what can be done with traditional and modern forms in these contexts. But to be honest, a lot of times I find the phenomena to be reactionary or mockingly fetishistic of the cultures represented– a particularity of a social world bereft of meaning, thirstily knocking on doors, but not venturing too far. Obviously this an issue prevalent in “Jewish music” as well.

So, it was particularly nice this past Friday to go out and see a band that, without affectation or smugness, eschews all these real and imagined boundaries, playing the music they actually love with exuberance and soul, and giving tender care to the material they’re performing. Las Rubias del Norte are deeply and uncompromisingly rooted in the 20th-century music of the Americas, with particular emphasis on Tejano, Columbian, and Cuban music (though they really do span the continents). Yes, Castro may have stepped down, but his cigar still explodes.

Greg Stare, Timothy Quigley, Giancarlo Vulcano

And then there’s the musicianship of these folks as individuals and as a band. The female vocal harmonies are locked in; the rhythm section, with two percussionists and an upright bass player, feels like being inside an atomically accurate mechanical clockwork while on LSD. Meanwhile, Lamb effortlessly switches out on melodica and piano, Hurst on glockenspiel. It all gets you open with the incessant but solid dignity of Conan’s cuatro, and absurdly tasteful and magical harmonies and interweaving lines delivered by Vulcano on electric guitar.

in the shadows with his cuatro (at far right): Olivier Conan

“S/S/S (sorry so shakey)”

* * *

Las Rubias del web

Las Rubias del myspace

on NPR