Show Review: Rain Machine, Diane Cluck at The Independent, 9/28/09

by Dakin Hardwick on September 29, 2009

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When TV On The Radio announced that they were going to “take a break for a year or so,” every music critic on earth wept. Mostly because we are going to go through 2009 and 2010 without a bona-fide record of the year. Yes, TVotR released the best records of 2004, 2006, and 2008. (All apologies to 2002’s OK Calculator- you were still finding your footing.) But I believe that after all that hard work and genius deserves a vacation. I’d rather the band take a break now than break up completely later.

It seems that these guys don’t take vacationing very well. David Sitek has been taking on many extra production assignments, and vocalist Tunde Adebimpe is working on a record with Mike Patton. Despite all this, the prize for the quickest end to the vacation goes to guitarist/harmony vocalist Kyp Malone. Merely five weeks after the announcement of the break, Malone released a solo album called Rain Machine and quickly assembled a four-piece backup band to take it on the road. This show at The Independent marks the fourth performance of this band with an audience.

Opening the show was a woman by the name of Diane Cluck, a fixture of the “Anti-Folk” scene in New York City. Her set was beautiful. Her guitar playing was that of a virtuoso, without the overplaying of many similar gifted musicians. She didn’t use a pick, instead opting to use her fingers to pluck the strings, and even used the buzzing of the fret board to enhance her sound. Her voice was pristine, employing a bit of the English folk tradition in her sound, and even playing two numbers largely a cappella. It was a stunning set that left the majority of the audience entranced. It has been years since I’ve seen such a delicate opening performance treated with such reverence.

After this, I took some time out to check out the merch booth. Malone said in an interview that the main reason he didn’t call the project “Kyp Malone” is that he felt that Rain Machine would look good on a t-shirt. He was right. The t-shirts were designed very nicely, and they basically hid the name within the artwork. Many of the shirts were even hand screened. It was definitely a smart naming decision.

Rain Machine live is fleshed out by a drummer, guitarist, bassist, and a woman that handled back up vocals, keyboards and banjo. The show opened with the track “Driftwood Heart,” which was a melancholy number that provided a nice warm up for the band. They next played “Leave The Lights On,” another somber number, and then kicked the audience into high gear with the single “Smiling Black Face.” The song starts out mellow enough, but the drums kick in Mo Tucker-styled, as a simple, yet purposeful steady pace. Scattered members of the crowd found themselves bobbing uncontrollably. They continue with this groove-oriented set until it apexed with the bright and triumphant rock number “Hold You Holy.”

Up to this point, Malone had been rather shy, only muttering a few thank-yous to the crowd. He came off as very shy, but still wanting to engage the crowd. He invited the band to take a break so he can do a song solo electric. He attempted to thank the crowd, but most of his words are indiscernible, so much so that when he thanked the band, I couldn’t begin to decipher their names. The shyness disappeared when he played the next song, “Love Won’t Save You,” by his lonesome. Malone’s already distinctive soulful quiver turned into a full-on shout. On this number, it seems he’s channeling the fuzzed out blues of the late, great RL Burnside, emoting in every direction, and pulling out a vocal range that Mariah Carey would envy. He attacked the song with such a ferocity that one would never believe he’s the same shy guy that has trouble talking to the crowd.

The band took over the second half of the set, and pretty much owned it. There were a few sound glitches, primarily related to the female vocalist. Her mic was often turned down very low, and her banjo was inaudible for a portion of the set. Despite this minor flaw, it was still a tight machine. I had a hard time believing that this band had only been practicing for a few weeks, not several years.

Malone took another stab at talking to the crowd, only whenever he began to stumble over his words, somebody would yell out something random. He did manage to praise San Francisco for its “relaxed marijuana laws,” prompting , of course, a bag of weed to get thrown on stage. His bassist lights up (metaphorically), while Malone just looks embarrassed. They continue ripping through the track “Desperate Bitch,” an eight-and-a-half minute epic that employs a lot of the key elements of TVotR, including an excellent use of whistling.

The set closed with an extended take on album closer “Winter Song,” which was dedicated to anyone “that knows someone who has passed away recently.” A few members of the crowd started yelling out names, and it started to affect Malone a bit. A single tear began to move down the side of his face, but he quickly regained his composure. I believe there were some old friends in the crowd that all lost the same friend, and it looked especially hard for Malone to play the song. But, they got through it smashingly. The song has enough different, distinct movements to make The Moody Blues look like the Ramones. Malone really showed off what kind of guitarist he is; whereas, his day band rarely gives him much room to stretch out. After the song is over, the crowd begged them to play more, but Malone apologized, saying that they have no more material. He then quickly grabbed the bag of pot left on the stage, and left immediately.

In a nutshell, Rain Machine is different, but nearly as good as TV on the Radio. It gives Malone a chance to play songs a bit differently, at times more pop-oriented and at times more psychedelic than TVotR. He promised that they will return, and I believe that any lover of music should be on hand to check it out. Besides, are you going to see TV on the Radio any time soon? Think Not.

Here’s Malone’s Set List:

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Photos on this post taken by David Price

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