It was Monday night and my brain was still processing the news that musical legend and fixture of my childhood, David Bowie, had passed. I was saddened, as were countless others, but what really hit me the hardest was reading the tributes and stories written by people who said that Bowie helped saved their lives when they were younger. Whether they were gay, trans, straight, or had some other issue tearing up their lives, they found solace in the art and imagery that was Bowie. I found myself shedding tears, not for the sadness I felt over the death of one my musical idols, but the struggle and pain that these people had gone through. And that many of them had now lost one of the reasons that helped get them through tougher times than I’ve ever had to encounter.
The only thing I wanted to do that night was go see some live music and take some photos. Something that frequently helps get my mind off of reality. And the moment Sean Hanley screamed, “We are Bandita!” I knew I was in the right place. This new band is driven by a mix of hard rock, funk, metal and humor. So much so that after Hanley’s driving guitars and head banging had clearly taken over, my friend turned to me and said, “Holy shit. Cinderella’s back!” And any band that pays tribute to Jack Nicholson’s Joker, as Bandita did in “Mad Grin” is aces in my book.
Bandita managed to meld speed-freaky guitars and thumping bass that made me yearn for the hard rock of my youth. Full of energy and character, that slowed down for just one moment. When they paid tribute to David Bowie with the aptly titled “For the Moon.” Telling the audience and the rock star, now most certainly in the stars now, that they loved him. And proceeded to let the fuzz from the guitars stick to the crowd. It might have been a small crowd at the Mercury Lounge that night, but if these young men keep on developing their sound and stage act in the manner they’ve started with, there won’t be much room in the audience in the future.
And the sounds from the other bands on the card varied that night. Lee Lawless, looking the prototypical blues man, combined a steady course of original material and covers so that you knew in no uncertain terms that you’d hear echoes of classics like Son House mixed with the influences of more modern performers. Lawless’ command of a strong blues-rock presence assures you that you’ll think about love and loss and muster up some defiance as well. A man who knows where he comes from and rocks and moves in his own direction is one worth paying heed to.
And the trend of reaching into the past to bring out new vibes continued with another local band, Della Grove. There was earnest quality to them that made think of the bands of my college days who valued melody above all. But they took it to another level when they had the courage to let the bassist’s girlfriend on stage to cover Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” Sounds arrogant, right? Not when she totally nailed it. So much so that she deserves to be part of the band full time.
One more local act was on stage that night. WindHorse. A trio from Brooklyn that had maybe the most complex sound of the night. And anyone who challenges the audience to hear shades of deconstructed Nirvana, and jazz with metal sprinkled in, is one that needs to get more attention.
Article: Omar Kasrawi