A Real Cool Time in Cranford: RCU Presents Jeffrey Alexander & The Heavy Lidders with Rootless and Seawind of Battery – 9/10/22

All polaroids by @RoseGardens, and all other pictures are by Christopher Bruno. Please follow them and check out more of their work!

The first ever public Record Crates United event was an astounding experience.

I immediately want to thank everyone who leant a hand to make this day the brightest in the site’s history thus far. I firstly want to thank my wife Sarah for helping me stage this event from inception to fruition, with words of wisdom, reality checks and ticket and merch booth management (and so much more!). This day couldn’t have happened without you.

I need to call out Danny Vargas for lending his considerable sound control talents and the use of his superb gear. A damn solid dude and a wiz behind the mixer. Burnside Ave never sounded so good!

Huge thanks to Rose Gardens and Christopher Bruno for capturing so many great moments forever with your cameras, and for letting us use those pictures here. The warmth of the event really shines through in these truly incredible shots.

I also want to thank of course all of the musicians for helping us promote this thing, for supporting us all along the way and for coming out to our little corner of Jersey to jam, and hang out. You all beamed the adventurous and welcoming spirit of the audience right back at them. I couldn’t have asked for better sets.

Lastly, a massive thanks to everyone else who helped to get the word out and to every person who came by, from curious locals to RCU friends and followers, we appreciate you making the time and effort to check us—and these mighty talents—out. I hope you all walked away feeling every bit as blissed out as we did that night.

Shall we go, you and I while we can….

  …Through the transitive nightfall of diamonds?

Seawind of Battery, AKA Mike Horn, set the day off on a a dreamy note with his gossamer guitar soundscapes. As cushiony waves of reverb-soaked electric guitar and lap steel radiated out from our makeshift stage, the entire yard became completely transfixed and relaxed. Whatever stress or anxieties anyone could have walked in with would have been surely washed away by the end of Horn’s set. 

For his first ever performance under the Seawind of Battery project, he sure did a damn fine job.

It is a crime that I haven’t seen Rootless perform until now, but it was well worth the wait.

Rootless, AKA Jeremy Hurewitz, started his set with hazy soundscapes of mutated samples and electronic sounds that made the grassy green space around us seem suddenly distorted and phantasmagoric. It was like as if an entire blotter sheet just kicked in for the entire yard collectively.

The second half of Hurewitz’s set featured the Brooklyn artist weaving taut acoustic fantasias (like the work you would have read about in our review of his brand new tape last Friday) and his mushroomy astral folk that we love so much. It was a particularly special treat to witness him play the hell out of his earthen dirge, “Lakeside” (probably my push-comes-to-shove favorite Rootless song).

The sounds of crickets, chirping bluejays and the overhead air traffic from Newark Airport were a fitting backdrop for Hurewitz’s deeply environmental music. It felt as though we were in fact living within one of his tapes. You don’t get a scene like that in just any neighborhood!

Jeffrey Alexander & The Heavy Lidders hit the stage last, and were let loose to play for as long as they wanted. They sure made good use of that freedom. 

The supergroup tore into a molten juggernaut barn-burner that pummeled our street into smithereens, as Alexander and fellow guitarist, Drew Gardner (also of Elkhorn), fired off barbed riffs into the early evening sky.

Yet, the piece de’ resistance of this most impeccable day was when the band levitated the yard with a monstrous 40-minute surprise “Dark Star.”

The Lidders began this Herculean epic by drifting us out into deep space, occasionally hinting the song with sneaky bass lines, before using the classic guitar intro as a launching pad to leap straight into uncharted astral waters.

While it was of course a thrill to just hear these fearless sonic explorers take on such an iconic piece of improv psychedelia in the first place, the biggest pleasure came from hearing exactly how these guys made this tune their own.

Alexander came in on this track hot with incinerating solos that were serrated and crunchy, like something off of an early Mudhoney or Screaming Trees album. His vocals hovered and soared like that of a shaman calling a sermon down from a high mountaintop. Meanwhile, Scott Verrastro (also of Kohoutek) kept his drumming full of shimmering cymbal taps and crashes, building up a mystical atmosphere as Jesse Sheppard’s bass slithered and crashed like reptilian thunder.

After infusing the song with a harder, almost Hawkwindian* space rock groove, they steered their sonic ship even further into the the distant cosmos.

*yes, I’m going to keep using this word until it’s in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Alexander hopped off the guitar and manned the controls of an ‘80s Moog, which filled the air with tangling tendrils of laser-like electronic pulsations. At one point, he even snuck in a Close Encounters of the Third Kind quote on the synth (which recalled the Space > Drums from the Dead’s 1/22/78 show in Eugene, OR). 

As he brought a very welcomed kosmische vibe to the Grateful Dead classic, Gardner utilized his armory of pedals and knobs to produce heavily textured and transmogrified guitar tones. Sheppard meanwhile carpet bombed the yard with his booming instrument as Verrastro doubled down on the ritualistic vibe with twinkling bells and a whole array of other chiming and clanking percussive instruments.

This was not like catching any Dead cover band. Instead, this was similar to stumbling into a fantasy jam session between the legendary San Fransisco group and Amon Düül II…and most shocking of all, this impressive and mind-bending journey was dedicated to yours truly (I still can’t get over that!) This was a performance, and a day, for the books.

After “Dark Star” finally landed back on earth, the Lidders launched into one last doomy, acid nightmare that shredded with glowing irradiated fuzz. If you also grew up on Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath and Bardo Pond records, you would have been completely psyched as well.

There was so much zeal and excitement in the air that day, you couldn’t help but smile and talk to your neighbor. We wanted to ensure that this welcoming warmth and passionate enthusiasm would be the prevailing spirit of the event, and I do believe we succeeded in that.

It was a real pleasure getting to see so many friends from the RCU community come out, and to make some new pals from our own neighborhood and beyond.

I cannot overstate how content I was to see people sharing the joy that I get from all of these incredible artists. I couldn’t feel any higher than I do right now. Here’s hoping we can do this again sometime soon, and that you could be there, too.

-KH

Top, L-R, Scott Verrastro, Drew Gardner.
Middle, L-R: Jeremy Hurewitz, Sarah Stapperfenne and Keith Hadad
Bottom, L-R, Jesse Sheppard, Jeffrey Alexander and Mike Horn.

If you like what you’re reading, please help keep RCU thriving. You can show your support by becoming a patron at our Patreon account or you can make a donation to our PayPal account below.

As always, please also consider donating to any of these sites to help fight racial injustice.

Published by Record Crates United

Keith Hadad, the creator and manager of RCU, has been a contributing writer to Elmore Magazine and Thewaster.com and maintains a regular column, “Keith Hadad’s Choice,” in Blicker magazine. His writing has also appeared in the Smithsonian Folkways' Guest Blog and the Optical Sounds Fanzine. Also, please check out the blog's super-active Instagram account, @recordcratesunited for daily blurb-styled music reviews.

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