WHERE: Key Club
Better Than... Your kid sister's recital.
Russian religious icon Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin has long been a great source of intrigue, fear and inspiration, and one of those inspirations is New York-based act Rasputina.
Back in 1989, members Melora Creager and Julia Kent planted the seed that would become Rasputina with the Traveling Ladies Cello Society. After Creager's stint on tour with Nirvana in 1991 (during the In Utero days), it was still another five years before Rasputina's first album Thanks for the Ether would be released on Columbia Records. The work introduced the concept of using distortion pedals with cellos, and along with Finland's Apocalyptica (formed in 1993) paved the way for the genre known as Cello Rock.
Rasputina have now released nine albums -- three of which are live recordings -- as well as several EP's, and they've collaborated with the likes of Marilyn Manson and Chris Vrenna from Nine Inch Nails. Their songs cover an array of grim topics and happenings throughout fiction and history, from Black Death to Rose Kennedy. On their 2007 concept album, Oh Perilous World (an Apocalyptic Fable) Creager tells the story of post-9/11 America and the Bush administration, with an alternate universe twist.
As the band walked onto the stage Friday night, gasps and squeals filled the room, and a man in front bounced up and down in hysterics. The band shouted compliments of the crowd from the stage, and awestruck fans whispered among each other.
As she sat down, Creager thanked the crowd in a fragile voice and coyly asked if the concert was going to be available on Kindle. The fluorescent head of pink-haired beauty Dawn Miceli popped up above the drum set, and her enormous warm smile swept over the room. Daniel DeJesus quietly sat behind his cello. Once the music started it was clear that Creager's voice -- different and beautiful, giving off the sense that it could crack at any time -- wasn't actually in any danger of cracking.
DeJesus came to life behind his cello, his fingers quickly running up and down its neck, his use of vibrato and vocal harmonies elegant. For her part, Miceli brought a femininity to drumming, a steady delicate pounding that perfectly complimented Creager and DeJesus.
The show was barely underway when they lost the pedal effects and a string, the latter of which he was able to replace. The lack of distortion gave the songs a completely new sound, one that was still powerful but also delicate, ethereal, and intimate. The three musicians' stark figures against the black nothingness of the stage complimented the bare, distortion-less songs.
They played covers of "Wish You Were Here" and "Bad Moon Rising." Both versions were breathtakingly beautiful, particularly their ability to turn the John Fogerty work into a melancholy, cello-driven piece. The show was hugely satisfying, and left the audience walking away filled with joy.
Personal bias: I've always favored string instruments -- particularly of the bowed variety -- and find the cello the most beautiful of them all.
The crowd: Considerably older than those who usually come to Key Club, and possibly the best behaved in the venue's history. Among them were loads of nuzzling couples, women in corset/bloomer ensembles, and one guy in a Venom shirt who spent most of the night tearing up.
Random notebook dump: The Plush Lounge downstairs was hosting a hip hop night. The patrons were frequently seen looking lost and confused as they waded through the corseted upstairs crowd. At one point Creager exclaimed, "That rap party downstairs sounds fun!"
The set list is below.
1816, The Year Without a Summer
Holocaust of Giants
Sweet Sister Temperance
Mamma Was An Opium Smoker
2 Miss Leavens
Wish You Were Here
Any Old Actress
Saline The Salt Lake Queen
Snow Hen of Austerlitz
In Old Yellowcake
A Retinue of Moons/The Infidel is Me
Bad Moon Rising
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Rusty the Skate Maker