Walter Tunis: Rasputina likes its music old school and its costumes very old school

Contributing Music WriterOctober 4, 2012 

Rasputina — Daniel DeJesus, left, Melora Creager and Dawn Miceli — brings its brand of rock, cellos included, to Cosmic Charlie's on Saturday.



    Andrew Bird at the Singletary Center for the Arts: No sooner did his band lean into the animated stride of Effigy than Andrew Bird called a time out.

    "That's a little too swift," instructed the Chicago song stylist to his backup trio before launching into a second attempt with a slightly dustier rhythm.

    It was curious guidance, in a way, because Bird was armed like an artist capable of taking on the entire arrangement himself. He had a guitar over his shoulder, a violin raised in one hand, a bow in the other, a pedal board full of looping effects at his feet and a glockenspiel (which, sadly, went unplayed for much of the evening) by his side.

    The 1¾-hour performance shifted between such one-man-band designs as well as full-ensemble durability that took Bird's music into rockier and unexpectedly rootsier terrain.

    The show-opening Hole in the Ocean Floor reaffirmed what we already knew about Bird: his ability to summon wistful pop reflection with an orchestra of on-the-spot loops and effects, a beautifully tempered but classically assured command of the violin, and the lighthearted solo stage persona of a minstrel singer. Thank his most distinctive voice, created by human whistling, for the latter quality.

    The band — guitarist Jerey Ylvisaker, drummer Martin Dosh and bassist Alan Hampton — entered for Desperate Breeds ..., one of a handful of tunes — along with Ocean Floor — pulled from Bird's recent album Break It Yourself. Like much of the evening's repertoire, it offered a brightly autumnal atmosphere that grew out of a childlike pop melody created by Bird from plucking and strumming the violin like a ukulele.

    But there also were instances in which Bird and company unplugged from the effects and took on folk fare like Railroad Bill, Townes Van Zandt's If I Needed You and another Break It Yourself gem, Give It Away, by singing around a single microphone.

    Add to that Bird's remarkably clear and mature singing, which often brought to mind Ryan Adams, especially on the new Three White Horses, and you had a performance with almost vaudevillelike variety and expression but balanced by a musical spirit both assured and restless.


10 p.m. Oct. 6 at Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Ave. $15. (859) 309-9499.

My, how quickly the years slip away. Peruse the bio material of the cello-savvy rock trio Rasputina, and you will discover a claim that the band formed about 200 years ago.

Similarly, you will learn its designs on becoming a unit that expanded beyond founder/leader Melora Creager's solo visions and her initial group, the Traveling Ladies' Cello Society, occurred somewhere around 1891.

All we have to say about that is, for a pack of players who have been kicking it real old-school for a couple of centuries, Creager and her cohorts hide their ages remarkably well.

Time is seriously relative with the music of Rasputina. Creager, fellow cellist/vocalist Daniel DeJesus and percussionist Dawn Miceli dress as if they have been partying in some Goth corner of the Renaissance, and their music, a genre-hopping blend of strident rock, pop and baroque influences, centers on stories of giants, hunters, wartime killers and other characters fantastical and savagely real.

A sample of song titles from Rasputina's most recent album, 2010's Sister Kinderhook, further details the imaginative and time-non-specific scope of its music: Snow Hen of Austerlitz, Meant to Be Dutch and This, My Porcelain Life.

Creager and past Rasputina lineups have shared such tales several times at Lexington venues in sometimes oppressive conditions. A standout was a packed 2007 concert at the original, now-demolished Dame on West Main on a stifling August evening when the air conditioning was on the fritz. The saunalike conditions didn't distract from the trio's boldly distinctive music.

By contrast, this weekend's performance should place Rasputina is the midst of some appealing autumn cool.

Outside the Debate

Needless to say, the hottest ticket of the fall at the Norton Center for the Arts in Danville will be for Thursday's vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. But the center is making a full day of the event with a hearty lineup of free live music on the lawn at West Main and Maple. Among the featured performers will be the Marshall Tucker Band and Kentuckian Ben Sollee.

This will be pop-folk cellist Sollee's second Norton Center visit in five months. He played there as a special guest for a May concert by the Portland Cello Project.

The music begins at noon. Scheduled performers include Earthman Lanny Smith, the Kentucky Ensemble with Jeri Howell and MP, Nathan Link Superfriends, Danville Children's Choir, Centre Men's Voices, Centre Singers, the Danville Summer Singers and Aly'an.

Sollee will perform at 7 p.m., after which the festival takes a break for the debate, which will be broadcast on the festival grounds. The veteran Southern rockers of the Marshall Tucker Band, still fronted by original vocalist Doug Gray, will close out the festival with a performance at 10:30 p.m. .

For more information, call 1-877-448-7469 or go to

Buckcherry time

It's Buckcherry time again. The tattooed Los Angeles band that roared in on a post-grunge wave during the mid-'90s with radio-friendly hits like Sorry and Lit Up is heading back to Lexington.

Buckcherry played Rupp Arena shows in 2009 as a headliner and in 2010 as opening act for Nickelback. On Wednesday, singer Josh Todd, guitarist Keith Nelson and company crash the more intimate confines of Buster's Billiards & Backroom, 899 Manchester St. (9 p.m. $27.50 in advance, $32 day of show. (859) 368-8871.

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