July 29, 2008
The Record Bar
By CRYSTAL K. WIEBE
Here comes a bitter rant: The bummer about the rise of such awesome worldly rock acts as Gogol Bordello and Devotchka is that it's led to some really annoying bands. Like Boom – the jokey polka, thespian group that played Record Bar last night. It’s always cool to see people break out squeezeboxes and other less common instruments of rock. But I guess I just wasn't in the mood for Flight of the Conchords-style musical humor and a guy on stage wearing nothing but a green bath towel.
Apparently, pretty much everyone else in the bar was into that, though. Hence, the mass exodus after Boom marched off stage. The few stragglers who hung around caught something real special, though: Alina Simone covering the music of Yanka Dyagileva.
Dyagileva is a tragic, Kurt Cobain-like character for the tiny Soviet punk rock scene. I didn't know who Dyagileva was until I caught Simone a few months ago. It was a similarly empty night at the Record Bar, and Simone got on stage alone with her acoustic guitar and started singing in Russian.
Simone, who writes her own dark indie rock in English, recently recorded Everyone is Crying Out to Me, Beware a haunting, full-length album of the late Dyagileva's songs. In a thick alto, Simone belted out most of the cuts from the album last night. And this time, she brought support -- a skinny guy with little John Lennon glasses and an electric guitar, which added to the rawness of the music.
The two players turned toward each other a lot, smiling slightly. Big smiles would have been out of place; even one of the more upbeat songs -- which was punctuated with Simone's catchy ahs and included accompaniment on an omnichord -- was born out of the original artist's tortured spirit.
Simone translated a first verse into English: I repeat ten times and again/No one knows how sad I am/And a television hangs from the ceiling/And no one knows how fucking sad I am.
But it was a beautiful sadness.