News \

Whistles, Cowbells, and Drums on the Lower East Side

Professor Murder and First Nation played percussion-heavy sets in the smallest, hippest venues on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

SPIN iconSPIN Staff // November 2, 2006

During First Nation’s set at Cake Shop, there was little movement in the crowd or onstage. The all-female NYC trio played a trance-inducing set built on primitive drumming, chant-like harmonies, and dissonant keyboards. They played their instruments languidly and tentatively, as if waiting to see what sounds would emerge from them. It was charming punk amateurism — during the closing song, the three women exchanged “what are we doing?” smiles — but with restraint. Think the Slits’ early shows transposed to the Brooklyn noise scene of 2006.

Professor Murder recalled a totally different side of late-’70s post-punk during their Pianos set. Afire with the bass-heavy grooves and amped-up percussion of pioneering NYC acts like ESG, Liquid Liquid, and Konk, Professor Murder immediately burned through any reticence in the crowd. Lead singer Michael Bell-Smith blew his whistle with the aplomb of an overzealous gym teacher and pounded on his drum set’s cowbells and tambourine as his throat muscles bulged like a young Henry Rollins. Pianos’ small room made dancing tight, but hey, isn’t that what dancing’s all about? KAREEM ESTEFAN / PHOTOS BY ANDREW HINDERAKER