RANA, The Knitting Factory, NYC- 3/22
NYC ROLL-TOP: Responses To Rocking, the Good Ol' Haze, and other
I couldn't tell what the girl was saying, but she was addressing two guys
who were standing somewhere near the front at the RANA show the other night
at the Knitting Factory. It was something along the lines of "I'm going to
go home now, does one of you want to come with me?" The guys kinda looked at
each other, sized up the situation (looked at the girl, looked at the band,
looked back at the girl) and shook their heads. They went back to rocking.
And, I swear to God, as the girl walked away, one of the guys turned and
flipped her off. This is interesting behavior.
I can't say I wouldn't've gone home with the girl had the opportunity
presented itself, but RANA was putting on a damn good show, certainly
one of the best I'd seen since the Wetlands blow-outs of yore. Throughout
their two-hour set, they were in full-on punk mode. There were the
highlights, of course — a long, dissonant "It's So Hard"; a thrusting cover
of "Thank You For Sending Me An Angel"; a George Harrison-like swirl on Mr.
Durant's new "Lady Gray"; and the predictable and perfect punch (and
insistent pogoing) of the final "Backstage Pass" encore (replete with an
Echoplex-driven feedback jam tacked onto the end). On this particular night,
though, RANA's opening act forced my brain into a new way of thinking about
Corn Mo can only be described as a heavy metal accordion player. He appeared
on stage shortly before RANA was set to go on, placed a single cymbal by his
right foot, tied a drumstick to his shoe, and proceeded to play power rock
ballads on a bloody accordion while occasionally bashing on the cymbal. He
was a hard act for RANA to follow — first, just 'cause he put on a fucking
entertaining act; second, because he did something which is all too popular
these days: he "rocked" (with full-on quotation marks). Like Tenacious D or
The Moldy Peaches, he presented rock and roll simultaneously as a sham and
something worth worshipping.
RANA has always found strength in their sincerity. Rock has never been a
sham for them. They never made any bones about being influenced by Bruce
Springsteen or Dire Straits or any other artist who ever just wrote a great
rock and roll tune. They were never elitist. Punk presents a bit a paradox
for them, though. While punk was essentially founded to counter the pompous
blowhards of prog-rock, it quickly mutated into an exclusivist club (one
especially foreboding to music fans who dig the style just as much as, say,
mountain music or even disco).
Playing the style in the way the band wants to seems to necessarily breed a
bit of elitism. The band almost seems to have started inserting conceptual
quotation marks where there never were before. They have now, for example, a
song titled "I Wanna Rock" (which they played, admittedly, rather well at
the Knit). Tunes of this style (which were also played by the NYU rockers
These Bones, who opened the evening) seem to be a hallmark of the new rock:
they combine nearly self-referential bravado with winks and nods. It's a
dangerous line to tread. But, as long as RANA keep playing songs like The
Waterboys' "We Will Not Be Lovers", things will be okay.
Perhaps it's improper to say this, but I'm interested in seeing what happens
when RANA graduates. Most of the band are still college students. Or they
will be, anyway, for another two months. They are untainted, for the most
part, by having to make music professionally, by the hassles of the music
industry. That's not to say that RANA is simply a release of steam for them,
but it certainly has to still be a clearly defined space in their
identities: "time to be a student, time to be a musician". It is after May
when the test of their true grit will really begin.
Yes, Jesse Jarnow bought the Corn
Mo CD and he really likes