Debussy, then the Dictators

Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” by Claude Debussy. You can’t get any more sublime, more tranquil, more exquisite. The Bloodbrothers album by the Dictators. You can’t get any more coarse, more raucous, more testosterone-fueled. Yet on December 30, 2016 – New Year’s Eve Eve – I’m listening to the Debussy piece, announced as number 21 on WQXR’s annual “Classical Countdown,” while getting set to journey downtown to the Bowery Electric for a performance of Bloodbrothers – from start to finish – by the Dictators NYC.

debussy_o_preludefaun_harp_1                                      image courtesy

The Debussy, all flute and harp on a feather-bed of strings with touches of playful oboe and clarinet, cannot evoke anything less than lush landscapes of forests and streams, populated by sensuous figures out of an adult fairytale. Look up the words ‘pastoral’ or ‘magical’ in an online dictionary and there might as well be a recording of this piece uploaded nearby. Check out the visuals in this interpretation. Ok, and now – as if by a sudden, shocking scratch of the needle across the record on the part of some clumsy DJ…

220px-bloodbrothers_album       dictators_nyc

It’s another sold-out, packed-to-capacity evening at the Bowery Electric. Second opening act Palmyra Delran has just wrapped up their set, and just like the Heartbreakers show I reviewed in November, the only way to see anything is on a video monitor at the back bar. Just as crowded but this time more than a few of the patrons are, let’s say, size XXXL. And before long, here he is, in trademark BRONX knit cap, the one-and-only Handsome Dick Manitoba! He and the current incarnation of the Dictators (known as the Dictators NYC) – guitarist and original Dictator Ross “The Boss” Friedman, drummer J.P. Patterson, bassist Dean Rispler, and guitarist Daniel Rey – tear into the opener from the third album, 1978’s Bloodbrothers, “Faster and Louder,” and then keep on tearing into the whole record including all-purpose pop-rocker “Baby, Let’s Twist,” bad-boy anthems “No Tomorrow” and “I Stand Tall,” masterpiece of rock ‘n’ roll energy “Stay with Me,” all the way to the Flaming Groovies cover “Slow Death.” In between Mr. Manitoba delights in relating anecdotes about…what else?…growing up in Da Bronx! Then a couple of classics from debut album Go Girl Crazy!, “Weekend” and “Two Tub Man,” and…it’s up the stairs and out the door, to beat the exit stampede of 500-pound two-tub-men!

So welcome to 2017, where the sublime coexists with the coarse, the tranquil with the raucous, the exquisite with the testosterone-fueled. Schizomusica!

debussy_faun-_foresthdm1-44330_imageimages courtesy Lim;


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