Delicate Steve

Spotify presents Late Nights @ Mercury Lounge

Delicate Steve

The Stepkids, Parlovr, DJ Young Elz (RCRD LBL / Our Show)

Thu, August 18, 2011

Doors: 10:00 pm

Mercury Lounge

New York, NY

FREE

Free

This event is 21 and over

First Come First Served based on capacity. Line forms at 9:30pm. Follow @MercuryLoungeNY and @SpotifyUSA on Twitter for announcements regarding more shows in this series.

Delicate Steve - (Set time: 12:00 AM)
Delicate Steve
The first time I heard any of this music, Steve was giving me a lift home after a Nat Baldwin show. We were going up Allen Street in Manhattan, and I'd finally convinced him to play me something from the new album. "This is going to be the last song," he said, and put on "Luna." OK, maybe I'd had a couple of beers, but in the dark of night the lights of passing cars and neon signs glowed molten and forlorn just like Steve's guitar, and there was a serene space in the music as if it were the eye of a storm. It was one of those times when surroundings, moment and music combine to make a powerful impression. I'll always remember it.

And that's a big part of Delicate Steve - the mystical synergy that music can have with life. It's why the new album is called Positive Force. "I want to put out a positive feeling," says Steve. "It's so much more fun to get people all excited and uplifted."

And like its predecessor, 2010's also aptly titled Wondervisions, Positive Force really is uplifting, straight outta the idyllic, tree-lined streets of Steve's hometown of Fredon, deep in rural New Jersey, where he wrote and recorded this album. (Listen closely and you can hear the local crickets in a couple of songs.) Maybe it's a little more burnished, leisurely and cunningly layered this time, but there's still that winsome Delicate Steve charm, by turns tender and triumphant, of songs like "Big Time Receiver" or "Afria Talks to You." These are eleven soulful, unabashedly heartfelt variations on the theme of joie de vivre, and each of them is kind of irresistible.

Steve not only played all the instruments on the album - very much including the lyrical and virtuosic guitar that defines the album - but he recorded the entire thing, and mixed it too. And that's all very impressive, but the thing to remember is, Steve is first and foremost a songwriter. His compositions have verses and choruses and sometimes even bridges. It's just that he doesn't happen to be a vocalist. So he gets his guitar to do that. That's why, funnily and miraculously enough, this is instrumental music you can sing along to.

Actually, a few songs do have vocals - besides "Two Lovers," there's "Big Time Receiver," "Touch," and "Redeemer." (Steve sings, joined occasionally by Christian Peslak and Mickey Sanchez from the crackerjack Delicate Steve live band) And even then, the human voice is just another instrument. "As guitar-driven as this album might be," Steve says, "I didn't want it to feel like an instrumental record. I wanted it to have a more encompassing thing, so it couldn't be called instrumental." So Steve calls it wordless music.

But where on earth does this wordless music come from? Steve says the inspirations for Positive Force included a bunch of classic rock, like Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and the Kinks. You can hear the Beach Boys in "Love," the title of "Afria Talks to You" is a deliberately misspelled reference to Sly Stone, the guitar playing on "Tallest Heights" is Steve's tribute to Michael Jackson's vocal style, and "Luna" is a tribute to Miles Davis. Steve's ultra-expressive, melodic slide work hails back to Derek & the Dominos and George Harrison, and I hear some serious proto-Delicate Steve in Santana's sublime "Samba Pa Ti," not to mention various Afro-pop and all reggae's sunsplashed variations.

But there's a futuristic gleam to Delicate Steve that deletes all comparison to just about anything except maybe contemporaries like Yeasayer, Ratatat and the late, great Ponytail. Yeasayer's Anand Wilder, a big Delicate Steve fan, said the music reminded him of early '80s stuff by French-Beninese musician Wally Badarou, who also made bright, upbeat music drenched in ecstatic sunshine. (That explains the title of "Wally Wilder.")

You might notice the hot licks all over Positive Force. Or you might not, since they're so tastefully deployed. That's a big reason why Steve has become a go-to guitarist in the New York-area underground. One night in December last year, he played at downtown NYC avant music club the Stone with a riveting side project by Anand Wilder - and he was so great that the next band, which featured members of Javelin, Man Man and Cibo Matto, asked him to sit in. In 2011, he did an exquisite collaborative single with the great Brooklyn band Callers, sat in with Nat Baldwin from Dirty Projectors, Akron/Family, Fang Island, Janka Nabay, Yellow Ostrich and Ra Ra Riot, and that May, the Delicate Steve live band backed up Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo and Les Savy Fav's Tim Harrington on some smokin' Minutemen covers at yours truly's Our Band Could Be Your Life tribute concert in New York.

All this stuff happens not just because Steve is a splendid musician but because he and his music exude what we call in the business "a good vibe." That feeling permeates every nook and cranny of this record. In a world that does its level best to validate every bitter, cynical thought you've ever had, Positive Force is, in its own delightful way, provocative - it challenges you to accept unqualified sweetness and warmheartedness. "The world is already so full of stuff," Steve observes. "So if you're going to put something in, why not make it something good, instead of adding more negativity. That's part of the mission statement."
The Stepkids - (Set time: 11:00 PM)
The Stepkids
The Stepkids are futuristic electro soul recorded on a reel-to-reel; soaring harmonies sung by three singer/songwriters; Kandinsky-esque visuals that make for enigmatic live performances.

“A lot of what excites us about this band is this band itself,” says bassist and keyboardist Dan Edinberg. “It’s not either of us; it’s about creating an entity where the entity itself is what’s important.”

It’s an approach that comes from more than a decade of musical experimentation. Raised on the East Coast jazz and R&B circuit, individual band members went on to share stages with 50 Cent and Lauryn Hill, tour internationally with indie punk band Zox, score movies and commercials, and produce solo albums. However, it was an interest in creating an aesthetic identity which supersedes conventional pop notions of stardom and self-importance that ultimately drew them together.

The Stepkids groove is a startling, yet sexy, fusion of punk, jazz, West African
traditional, 1960s folk, neo and classic soul, classic funk and 20th century classical; think T.Rex meets Sun Ra, Sly Stone meets Stravinsky, and Dylan meets Dilla. Philosophy and literature provide a conceptual schematic, from existential musings (“Legend in My Own Mind”), to the work of Charles Bukowski (“La La”) and Plato’s theoretical “Allegory of the Cave” ("Shadows on Behalf”). Add to this a vested interest in the recording process, and you have an imaginative album of Technicolor brilliance expertly self-engineered and self-produced. Live, kaleidoscopic projections by experimental video artist Jesse Mann consume the stage with light for a multi-sensory experience.

And every song on the Stepkids self-titled debut album is written with equal input from each member.

“All three of us write and all three of us sing,” says Jeff Gitelman, who resigned from touring as Alicia Keys' guitarist to concentrate full-time on recording the Stepkids self-titled debut album.

“There's an equal split in the creative process, and we’re really happy about that,” says drummer Tim Walsh. “Any lyric, any melody, any idea could have been done by any of us.”

There’s no singular icon, no singular sound, and no singular way of making it happen for the Stepkids. It’s psychedelia for the 21st century, where the focus is on the whole – and that includes you.
Parlovr - (Set time: 10:00 PM)
Parlovr
A cheap Kmart guitar with its guts ripped out, a two-piece drum kit and a keyboard with a mind of its own would all be alone if they weren't all thrown in the mess that PARLOVR got them in when they stumbled together in the wintry months of 2006. Reacting against the multi-instrumental, many-membered orchestral bands that crowded the local Montreal scene at the time, PARLOVR was started with the intention of blowing amps and streamlining pop melodies, bringing back the power-trio of the 90s with an off-the-wall twist.

PARLOVR's upcoming self-titled debut LP (Independent, 2008) was produced and recorded by Martin Horn at Digital Bird Studios over the course of six weeks and brings into focus each of the three members' unique personalities while not losing sight of their pell-mell live show. From the anthemic opener, "Pen to the Paper" to "Palace of Identical Things," Jackson's voice combines a sense of unabashed emotion and bold-faced cheekiness. Cooper bangs out responses with quivering anger and righteous yelping in songs like "Hiccup!" and "All the World is All that is the Case." MacCuish holds up the mayhem on songs like "On the Phone" and gives the percussion a voice of its own on sparser numbers like "Speech Bubble/Thought Cloud."
Venue Information:
Mercury Lounge
217 E Houston St.
New York, NY, 10002
http://mercuryloungenyc.com