For diehard Replacements fans, voyeurism can be the motive for seeing Tommy Stinson on tour for his first solo release, Village Gorilla Head. How has the elfin bass player fared? What’s up with becoming the bassist for Guns ‘n Roses? Has Tommy gone metal? Is he a lost soul, a rock and roll ghost?
Far from it—striding through Brooklyn’s Southpaw he’s wiry and alert, a puckish survivor of 2 1/2 decades in rock, sporting tight black jeans and a cheekily anachronistic punk hairdo. Almost as boyish looking as when he started at age 13, 38-year-old Stinson took the stage and threw himself into an impassioned, no-nonsense performance that converted a subdued crowd into a throng of noisy believers. If there were any doubts about his abilities (and really, doubts were why it was so interesting to be there), Tommy banished them with his authoritative guitar playing, mature songwriting and striking, husky voice. From the beautiful ballad “Light of Day” to the clever wordplay in the Dylanesque “Hey You,” it was clear that Tommy has moved out of the sidekick role forever.
The Oakland band Rogue Wave played an in-store performance at Brooklyn’s Sound Fix a few weeks ago. It was scheduled for 12:30 pm on a Saturday, which is insanely early for a music event or anything involving travel from one part of Brooklyn to any other. We gathered at the record store clutching giant cups of coffee and stared blearily at the band, who stared blearily back. They all (5 of them that day) complained of the early hour, except singer/songwriter Zach Rogue (a morning person).
It turned out Rogue Wave’s music was a lovely way to enter the day. They were all-acoustic, gentle and melodic. Zach sang in a high, soft, lulling voice. He’d managed to come up with inventive rhythmic patterns in his songs that added new life to the same old chords in an unbelievably impressive way. The drummer was keyed in perfectly, however sleepy he might have been. The band was deliciously tight and together, humming along in these beautiful, bouncy compositions that spread in lovely nuances over the assembled thrift store chic and messy Lord Fauntleroy haircuts. They played and played, seeming to love the mix (which was perfect) and the unexpected fun of playing at the crack of hepcat dawn.
Oh, Kimya. You could make the most emotionally arrested among us run screaming for signposts of adult life. Because you’ve taken the idea of naïve self-presentation to new heights. Shoe-gazers, toy-piano players, unpolished warblers, step aside: Kimya is there in a woolen bunny hat fastened under her chin, the tip of her nose darkened and her body obscured inside a giant black suit. She’s singing songs of pain and sorrow, but they’re hard to follow because she rushes through her lyrics like a shy 10-year-old. Occasionally a line jumps out that hits just right: “And the smell of wet dirt reminds me of home.” But then she tumbles into another torrent of words. Kimya! What in aitch is the hurry? Slow down so we can follow what in tarnation you’re talking about.