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Bush Tetras with International Shades - Tonic (New York) - Friday, February 24, 2006

13 March 2006

The legendary BUSH TETRAS appeared on stage, intact with all four original members, including drummer DEE POP and guitarist PAT PLACE, who also played with JAMES CHANCE. It was my first time seeing them, though I’ve had other chances since they reformed in the mid ‘90s, including a CBGBs benefit show last August.

Bush Tetras formed in 1980, and in the early ‘80s were one of the leading lights of the New York art-punk scene. They combined African rhythms and funky bass-lines with post-punk dissonance, and thus were one of the bands that paved the way for what a lot of similar bands are doing today. In fact while I was watching them play live, singer CYNTHIA SLEY reminded me of KAREN O from the much more recent and well-known YEAH YEAH YEAHS, though of course Bush Tetras predates them by a good 20 years. I view them as the American equivalent of great UK bands like THE RAINCOATS, THE SLITS and, especially, THE AU PAIRS and DELTA 5.

They opened with a song that I couldn’t place, but right after that, when they went into their dance-punk classic “Cowboys in Africa,” it was on. Throughout their hour-long set, they played all the classics, including “You Can’t Be Funky,” “Boom in the Night,” and their most well-known song, “Too Many Creeps.” They closed with their spirited cover of JOHN LENNON’s “Cold Turkey.” Although they hit a few snags due to technical problems involving a bass amp, they played really well and I’m happy to report that though the downtown scene that gave birth to them over a quarter century ago has changed tremendously, Bush Tetras remain much the same and are just as great now.

Opener INTERNATIONAL SHADES were reminiscent of a PAVEMENT side project such as PRESTON SCHOOL OF INDUSTRY. They were OK and competent in that way, but they didn’t really do much for me, in all honesty. They’re perhaps most notable for the fact that drummer BOB BERT is a veteran of such bands as SONIC YOUTH and PUSSY GALORE, and, more recently, KNOXVILLE GIRLS, and about a dozen others.


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