RSVP HERE: Combo Chimbita and Sun Ra Arkestra Play Knitting Factory + MORE (Holiday Edition)

Welcome to our weekly show recommendation column RSVP HERE – your source for the best NYC shows and interviews with some of our favorite local live bands. This week we’ve doubled up and listed the best shows from 12/20-New Years!

My favorite show of 2019 was Combo Chimbita at Ace of Cups in Columbus, Ohio, so I’m so happy to be ending this year’s RSVP HERE column with an interview with them! The NYC-via-Colombia tropico-psychedlia meets cumbia rock band has a live set that takes you to another dimension of afro-futurism punk. Combo Chimbita consists of vocalist Carolina Oliveros, Prince of Queens on analog synths, Niño Lento on guitar and Dilemastronauta on a drum set that includes unique percussion instruments and crazy looking cymbals. Frontwoman Carolina Oliveros’ voice is so powerful it will make you cry and the way she plays the guacharaca is so intense it’s almost scary – I seriously thought she might slice someone’s head off. On their latest release Ahomale, which is a Yoruba word that means “adorer of ancestors,” Oliveros set out with the intent to connect with ancestral cosmology, a spirit that becomes animated in their live show.We spoke with the band about their Sun Ra Arkestra, music in Colombia, and inspirations behind their live show…

AF: What were some of your favorite cities you visited and shows you played while on the road in 2019?

Dilmeastronauta: LA, San Juan, NY

Niño Lento: San Juan, PR/Chicago/LA

Prince of Queens: This year we went to so many places! Playing in San Juan in January was amazing, LA, Chicago and Austin is always great for me – so many friends and the crowds are always amazing. One of my favorite shows was in Berlin for Día de los Muertos with Turbo Sonidero; that was an incredible party.

Carolina Oliveros: Berlín, Barcelona e Italia, LA, Chicago

AF: What are your favorite records to listen to while on the road?

D: SunRa “Nuclear War is a Mother Fucker,” Concha Buika “Don’t Explain”

NL: Bocanada (Gustavo Cerati), Lejos de Mi Amor (Polibio Mayorga)

PoQ: When you spend so much time on the road you listen to too much music sometimes… I like silence honestly! But I think always at some point during tour we hit that moment where we listen to classic rock and español and we all sing soda stereo really loud with the windows down.

CO: Me gusta mucho escuchar mucho afrobeats. Me pone alegre y contenta.

AF: What are the differences in the way the direction of music is going in Colombia vs the US?

D: Both cities offer something unique. I feel like NY provides me with access to witness more of the Caribbean diaspora music while Colombia offers its own roots plus, rock, metal etc.

PoQ: I think music in the US might be driven more by the diaspora and the immigrant experience. A lot of amazing music coming out from Colombia feels more focused on re-imagining and inspired by tradition and roots music. I think they are both super relevant and in many ways crossover.

CO: Se que colombia musicalmente en este momento es un gran referente, siento que se está haciendo mucha música que está conectada a las raíces.

AF: What are your favorite percussion instruments to use during your set?

D: Timbal!!!

PoQ: I don’t play it but the Carolina’s guacharaca is special.

AF: What is the inspiration behind the synth sounds you use?

PoQ: I love techno and sound design in general. I always try to approach synth playing more as a sound design tool than a traditional keyboard per se. I love analog sound and just unexpected freak out moments of synth.

AF: What are some of the biggest inspirations and influences on your live show? What are you looking forward to most about your show with Sun Ra Arkestra?

D: I look forward to witnessing the legacy of Sun Ra among the members of his band, their ability to improvise and to be colorful.

PoQ: Too many inspirations! I’m inspired by artists than transcend time and generations. Sun Ra Arkestra, los Wemblers, tabou combo, BIG sound on stage and full on rhythm. I’m not really a religious person but music is spiritual and powerful sound and stage presence can take you places far and deep. That’s what I am into. Honestly just meeting them and hearing them play. So much to learn and experience.

CO: Me gusta muchos lxs artistas que son únicxs y espontánexs y que proponen algo diferente en vivo, que no tienen miedo a explorar y dar creatividad para sus shows. James brown, Janis Joplin, mayra Andrade, La Lupe , celia cruz , concha buika. Tocar con Sun Ra será una de las experiencias más impactantes de mi carrera. Agradecida con tu interés de tocar con el combo .. sera una noche memorable, para ser feliz y hacer vibrar al público. Si quieren candela, candela le vamo a dar !!

AF: What are your plans for 2020 and the next decade?

D: I wanna tour in Latin America, it has become a dream I would like to fulfill.

PoQ: Travel to South America, write some new music and keep exploring, searching and interpreting those energies that keeps us together making music.

CO: Seguir poniendo sabor en el fogón. Haciendo beats poderosos , mucha letra que conecte y retumbe , muchos lugares para conquistar y mucha Alegría y nuevos amigxs

RSVP HERE for Combo Chimbita & Sun Ra Arkestra @ Knitting Factory on 12/28. All Ages / $25-$30

More great shows this week:

 2/20 Tall Juan (single release), Future Punks @ Knitting Factory. All Ages / $15 RSVP HERE

12/20 Surfbort, Bodega, Weeping Icon @ Market Hotel. All Ages / $15 RSVP HERE

12/20 Dinowalrus, Clone, It’s Over @ Trans-Pecos. All Ages / $10 RSVP HERE

12/21 Varsity (NYC debut), Emily Reo, Winter, Lunarette @ Market Hotel. All Ages /$15 RSVP HERE

12/22-12/30 The 8 Nights of Hanukkah with Yo La Tengo @ Bowery Ballroom. 18+ / $40 RSVP HERE

12/27 Veda Rays, No Ice, The Due Diligence @ Alphaville. 21+/ $10 RSVP HERE

12/28 GWAR @ Warsaw. All Ages / $25 RSVP HERE

12/28 Death By Sheep Holiday Party: Deli Girls, Dreamcrusher, Grooming, & more @ Trans Pecos. All Ages / $10 RSVP HERE

12/29 Deer Tick: Tick Tock @ Brooklyn Bowl. 21+ / $35 RSVP HERE

12/29 New Bomb Turks, The Atom Age, Spite Fuxxx @ Saint Vitus. 21+ / $25 RSVP HERE

12/20 Godcaster, Fantasy, Bug Fight, Water From Your Eyes @ The Broadway. 21+ / $12 RSVP HERE

12/31 The Strokes, Mac DeMarco @ Barclays Center. All Ages RSVP HERE

12/31 Priests (last show before hiatus), Russian Baths, Anti Ivry-Block @ Rough Trade. 18+ $25 RSVP HERE

12/31 Wavves @ Baby’s All Right. 21+ / $40 RSVP HERE

12/31 Gnarcissists, Native Sun, Max Pain and The Groovies, Sunflower Bean (DJ set) @ The Broadway. 21+ /$20 RSVP HERE

12/31 The Jesus Lizard @ Brooklyn Steel. 16+ / $65 RSVP HERE

12/31 Cloud Nothings, Field Mouse, Patio @ Knitting Factory. All Ages / $35-$40 RSVP HERE

12/31 Rubblebucket, Guerrilla Toss @ White Eagle Hall. 21+ $25 RSVP HERE

NORTHSIDE HIGHLIGHTS: Shilpa Ray & Sun Ra Arkestra @ Rough Trade


An unlikely lineup at the last night of Brooklyn’s seventh annual Northside Festival, one angsty crooner Shilpa Ray opening for the sparkly and jubilant Sun Ra Arkestra. In a way it was the perfect bill, not only due to the heightened quality of the musicians on it, but that their disparity satisfies every longing you would ever have. To feel deep pain and anger out the mouth of Shilpa Ray, and then to have it lifted and kicked into the cosmos by Sun Ra…what more could you want?

If you haven’t heard of Shilpa Ray, I am so sorry. Now you have. There was a time when I too had not. I saw her by chance at an Eric Garner benefit gig at Shea Stadium, and was instantly bowled over. She was center stage playing a harmonium with an angry sensuality, and had voice like Patti Smith wrapped in Bette Midler. Her performance was gritty and passionate, and quite frankly left me stunned. Where had this woman been all my life????

Her impact was no less intense last Sunday at Rough Trade. Her backing band, or, her Rayettes as she calls them (“aren’t they sexy???”) includes guitarist Alistair Paxton, the energetic drumming of Russ Lemkin, and Jon Catfish DeLorme on a wailing pedal steel.  Ray puts out a mixture of arrogance and sweetness-she’s one of those performers you can’t quite explain…there’s no quantifiable measurement of her charisma, she’s just got it. “This song’s called “Shilpa Ray’s Got a Heart Full of Dirt.” One time a journalist asked me why I put my name in my song titles, and I told her, ‘because I’m a narcissist.’” It’s the kind of remark that rubs you in two different directions, but you can’t begrudge Ray for the honesty. In some ways that’s shorthand for how her music makes you feel, like a cat being pet backwards.

If Shilpa Ray brushes your fur the wrong way (in the best manner possible, of course) then Sun Ra Arkestra will no doubt have you purring. Though the original Sun Ra died over twenty years ago, his Afrofuturistic, psychcosmic funk deities keep the son of Saturn’s soul very alive. The Arkestra’s set up is incredible. No fewer than a dozen men in their seventies playing some of the most searing avant-garde jazz you’ve ever heard-all while wearing sparkly capes and hats. Fronted by saxophonist Marshall Allen, the group is an indefinable tour de force of soul, jazz, funk, and experimental jams. Occasionally punctuated with the vocals of Tara Middleton, the sound was predominantly instrumental, even if some of the instruments were sublime and unrecognizable.

The crowd was fully entranced by the performance-how could you not be? Even if the deepest thought you could muster was: “Will I ever be half as cool as these geriatrics?” (no) there was no resisting sheer enjoyment. By the tail end of the set, three quarters of the band trailed off of the stage, blowing their horns in the air and shimmying through the audience in a slack conga line. We encircled the musicians and danced first around and them with them. It was as if, for a moment, that barrier between performer and observer had been completely dissolved. Just like Sun Ra believed he belonged to the cosmos, so we believed we belonged to Sun Ra.



We’ve Been Had: The Walkmen’s Final Show

The Walkmen at Union Transfer

It wasn’t supposed to be about The Walkmen.

What started as a fundraiser for Philly’s very own High Line-esque project (known as The Rail Park and every bit as awesome) became something different entirely when Peter Bauer (The Walkmen’s organist and bass player) announced last week via a Washington Post interview that the band had absolutely no plans to make a new record, tour, or really be much of a band in the future at all.

“We really just have no idea,” Bauer said. “I don’t think any of us wanted to write another Walkmen record. Maybe that will change down the line, maybe it won’t, maybe we’ll play shows. I think it’s weird to make a hubbub about something if there’s nothing to really make a hubbub about.”

He went on to include sentiments that have been echoed by other members in the band – that because they’re not the “archetypal rock band where everyone lives in an apartment” but in reality have lived in different cities since the release of A Hundred Miles Off in 2006, getting together for a show is more like Thanksgiving or a bachelor party or a family reunion.  In the fall they played a short stint in Europe, and the summer prior saw them added to several festival line-ups, including Brooklyn’s Northside.  With each one-off they left behind wives and young children, saying goodbye to one family to be embraced by a family of a different sort in what must have been an exhausting cycle.

When the “indefinite hiatus” was announced, there were two shows left on The Walkmen’s calendar: one in D.C. at new venue Dock 5, and the gig at Philadelphia’s gorgeous Union Transfer.  Up to the moment they took the stage, it remained a benefit show for Rail Park as scheduled, supported by a full roster of all-star acts.

Sharon Van Etten was joined by Adam Granduciel (of The War On Drugs), Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler for a three-song harp-inclusive set comprised of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day”, Van Etten’s own “I’m Wrong”, and Big Star’s “Thirteen”.  Philadelphia’s Birdie Busch and the Greatest Night gave an impassioned performance, Busch stating between songs that in all her dreams, a project like the Rail Park was the best thing she could imagine for Philly.  Spank Rock’s similarly short but charismatic set blended into a rousing performance from Sun Ra Arkestra, led by Marshall Allen.  The stage was filled with nearly twenty vibrant jazz musicians, clad in glittering garb, horns lifted to Saturn (the claimed birthplace of the group’s now deceased founder) in an incredible performance that fused free jazz, ragtime, and big band sounds.  All this after a fully catered shmooze-fest where I binged on fancy cheese and pumpkin mousse.

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The celebratory tone changed only slightly when The Walkmen took the stage for what would be the last time until who-knows-when.  Members of Sun Ra Arkestra remained to provide brassy accompaniment for “Red Moon” and “Canadian Girl”.  Ever the charismatic frontman, Hamilton Leithauser’s voice was in top form, his gangly form outfitted in a blazer and tie per usual.  Matt Barrick’s indefatigable drums ricocheted throughout the venue, punctuating Paul Maroon’s confident guitar as well as Walter Martin and Bauer’s turns on bass and organ.  They performed dutifully but never dispassionately.  There was no question that as a whole, the group was leaving behind a legacy as one of indie rock’s most exciting and skilled syndicates.

In looking at a typical Walkmen setlist, there was nothing wholly out of place in the band’s chosen sequence of songs, which included material spanning the band’s fourteen-year run.  But it was hard to escape the feeling that it was curated specifically for a farewell show, seeming at times like a mixtape you’d give to someone you were dumping.  Cast in this last light, the latently wistful themes and lyrics about looking back stood out and took on a whole new tone.  From the hopeful line “You will miss me when I’m gone / But the happy music will carry on” in “Canadian Girl” through the world-weary “All the years keep rolling / The decades flying by” in “On The Water” to the anthemic “And my heart’s in the strangest place / That’s how it started / And that’s how it ends” bellow of “In The New Year” the set could have been a manifesto as to why the band was choosing to leave its spotlight.  And that was just in the first few songs.  They spoke for themselves; when Leithauser mentioned the break-up early in the evening he was almost dismissive of the gravity of it, encouraging the audience to have a great time and celebrate along with them.

And The Walkmen did parlay a well-deserved celebratory attitude.  The sardonic undercurrents, delivered as always with a trademark sneer, gave a sense simply that no one had wanted to overstay their popularity as a band.  In The Washington Post, Bauer put it this way: “It’s been almost 14 years now.  I think that’s enough, you know?”   There hasn’t been a dramatic blow-up or falling out – it’s just that all five members of The Walkmen are ready to go their separate ways.  No one is interested in becoming a band that tours for all of eternity, on into their older years.  Instead, everyone is focused on solo projects.  Leithauser has collaborated with members of Fleet Foxes and Vampire Weekend for an album slated for spring release.  Bauer speaks emphatically about his upcoming solo record Liberation!, a psych-tinged project released under his full name that sees him not only playing guitar but actually singing.  Martin is releasing an album of “cleverly done” children’s songs (Leithauser’s description), Maroon’s doing soundtracks for an unnamed documentary.  And Barrick will likely go in a completely new direction, having shot beautiful photos of the band’s tours, street performers in New Orleans, and his family life among other subjects, now finally able to focus more acutely on that passion.

The Walkmen at Union Transfer

A victory lap was in order, and the last half of the set was just that.  “We Can’t Be Beat” provided the build-up – Leithauser’s voice arced easily over the crowd on the line “It’s been soooooo  loooooong but I made it through” before ending the set with what could arguably be considered their most triumphant swan song, “Heaven”.  He literally lifted a fist into the air during bouyant cries of “Remember, remember!” and the rest of the song was just as sentimental: “Our children will always hear / Romantic tales of distant years / Our gilded age may come and go /
Our crooked dreams will always glow”.  Those feeling particularly nostalgic need only watch the video for the track, which collages archival photos and footage from the band’s career.

Amid thunderous (and maybe even some tearful) applause, they returned to the stage for “138th Street”, a fitting ballad about growing up from Bows + Arrows, serving as further explanation to anyone still in need of a reason for the hiatus, or maybe a reminder that life unfolds no matter what antics you pull.  The crazy things we do as kids recede into memory someday, not unlike that one time, in the spring of 2006, when I spent twelve hours wasted on the lawn of OSU’s campus during a little event my good friend Ahmed Gallab had organized (appropriately called Springfest).  The Walkmen headlined that year, somewhere around the eleventh hour of my drunkenness.  I think I was dancing on top of a speaker when a girl I didn’t know ran by, grabbing my arm.

“Hey,” she said, breathless.  “Wanna dive off the stage with me?”  Well, yeah.  I did.  So we ran backstage, and then onto it, past Barrick and Bauer and Leithauser and Martin and Maroon and leapt into the crowd.  It went by in a blur.  I don’t even remember what song they were playing – just that at the time, they were one of my favorite bands.  On the walk to legendary Columbus divebar Larry’s (RIP to that place), I “knew everyone I saw” so to speak, and everyone had seen me do it, and we all had a pretty good laugh, right there in the streets.

Sometimes, I really am just happy I’m older.  Seven years later, the twinkling, ramshackle piano line of “We’ve Been Had” stirred fans at Union Transfer.  Leithauser introduced the song as the first the band had written, back in the day when the boys really were that archetypal band making a go of a music career by moving to New York, living together, running amok, not knowing where the road would lead.  Everyone shouted those iconic lines along with Leithauser: “We’ve been had /I know it’s over / Somehow it got easy to laugh out loud”.  The jangling melody stretched longer as Leithauser introduced his bandmates “for the last time in a long time”.  Then he made the rounds down a runway set up for the fashion show that had been part of the Rail Park fundraiser, shaking the hands of fans who stood alongside it.

For years I’ve taken The Walkmen for granted, assuming they were a band that would be around forever.  I basically “grew up” listening to them. Not in the way that you grow up dancing in your diapers to your parents’ Beatles records, to be sure.  But these songs were with me throughout my twenties, as I made my way through college, out of Ohio, adrift in the wilds of Brooklyn, and into some semblance of adulthood.  And Wednesday’s show was every bit the reminder of just how good a soundtrack The Walkmen made for anyone going through that process, because they were honest and true in their songwriting as they went though it themselves.  As their narrative ends, the relevance of that contribution only skyrockets.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]