Photos, Review And Audio | Bustle Plays Other Shit | Brooklyn Bowl
Words by: Aaron Stein
Bustle In Your Hedgerow :: 08.31.2013 :: Brooklyn Bowl :: Brooklyn, NY
Check out Aaron’s review below this gallery.
Is 10 years a long time or a short time? It does feel like a long time since Joe Russo, Marco Benevento and Scott Metzger (later to be joined by Dave Dreiwitz as Bustle In Your Hedgerow) first got together to play a seemingly one-off set of Led Zeppelin tunes on a boat cruise around New York. At the same time, 10 years doesn’t feel nearly long enough for four musicians that play together but every few months to get to be this good. But as they finished up a celebratory 3-day anniversary run at the Brooklyn Bowl Saturday night, billed as “Bustle plays other shit,” they were, indeed, that good.
Russo had hinted online that he wanted to play some Sabbath (“exorcise some demons”), so walking in midway through the show-opening “War Pigs” was no surprise. No, the surprise was that this was just the launch of a set covering Black Sabbath’s Paranoid album in its entirety. Anyone sick of the cover-a-whole-album thing yet? No, me neither, not by a long shot. The quartet brought the same skillful interpretation to Sabbath as they’ve done to Zeppelin, which is to say they totally ripped that material a new one. Besides the final “Fairies Wear Boots,” this was all-instrumental, heavy duty, bludgeoning rock and roll. All four guys were locked in tight like they’d been listening to this album since they were 12, jams sprouted throughout, growing gnarly with twists and turns and sharp thorny guitar-bass-keys sections. Every song had its surprises and head-banging inspirations, but I found the adventures leading out of “Iron Man” particularly awe-inspiring. Sure, the material is classic, but has it ever been played like that? Metzger was at the peak of his don’t-fuck-with-this-guitar prowess here; Dreiwitz seemed to be playing his bass with his shit-eating grin; and Marco was busy doing all those wonderful things that make him Marco. But all set long, it was Joe Russo running the show, dropping the quartet headlong into the dark and murky unknown just long enough before expertly guiding them back. Ten years ago, Russo was just a bad-ass drummer, maybe the baddest, but Saturday he was a force of nature, one half tempestuous rock god, one half level-headed bandleader.
Set break was barely long enough to catch your breath and check your thesaurus for new ways to say “whoa!” but it did allow a few “old timers” to ponder aloud, “Why not a Duo song or two?” As fate would have it, we weren’t the only ones thinking that as they opened the second set with the classic Benevento-Russo Duo song “Becky,” this time in quartet form, Dreiwitz chugging the bass riff and Metzger doubling up on the melody for a unique twist. That was definitely a fun treat and as they jumped right into the Beatles’ “Day Tripper” I thought I had an idea of what the set might be like, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. “Day Tripper” got funky really fast, with Scott Metzger turning the theme into a full-fledged Wolf! jam (Wolf! being Metzger’s excellent, Danny-Gatton-esque groove-a-billy trio). From there it was clear this was going to be something special as the band weaved in and out of the “Day Tripper” theme, vamps on Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Til You Had Enough” and some wolfish redneck jazz, the band showing what 10 years of playing together gives you as they effortlessly no-big-deal’d through the jam: long and groovy and perfect.
On some unseen ESP cue, things turned a little darker and Dreiwitz started drawing longer pulses into a familiar theme. I turned it over in my head once, shook my head in shock and awe and then turned to the crew next to me: they’re not doing what I think they’re doing, are they? I’m very often blown away by great music, but it’s very rare that I’m overcome by a just-no-f’in-way moment the way I was when the band, first Dave then Marco, then Joe and finally Scott, completed a stunning, perfect segue into the Allmans’ “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” A few members short of ABB, they did a remarkable version, Marco bringing you back to the old versions you’ve only heard on tape and Metzger…well, what can be said? The look on Scott’s face after he hunted down and devoured that “Liz Reed” was the guitarist’s equivalent of dropping the mic.
At this point it was clear the band was the master of not only Zeppelin, not only Black Sabbath but of all rock and roll period. What’s better than one sweet segue? Two sweet segues, of course. And what’s better than one “are you kidding me!?” moment in a set. Two of them. The Bustle Quartet obliged somehow double-arrow-on-your-setlist’ing “Elizabeth Reed” into the Grateful Dead’s “King Solomon’s Marbles.” Again, the friends’ comfort with each other shone through as they worked their way, easy-peasy, through the convoluted folds and twists of the Dead rarity.
After that three-song mind-bender, they could’ve played anything and I’m pretty sure everyone in attendance would’ve felt they’d gotten their $15 worth, but of course, they had more. The set ended with a great, great cover of Ween’s “I Fell in Love Today” and Dreiwitz singing a loud-and-nasty take on Motorhead’s “The Ace of Spades.” The weekend fittingly ended with one more Zeppelin song, “The Wonton Song,” which sounded as fresh as ever after the set that preceded it, a set that had you asking yourself: “what can’t they do?” One of the few (only?) shows I’ve seen this year that was better than this one was these same four guys playing as “Almost Dead” back in January. My plea to “The Bustle Quartet” is this: too good to be so few and far between, let’s look back in 10 years and marvel at what was started Saturday night at the Brooklyn Bowl.
Take a listen to Clinton Vadnais’s marvelous soundboard recording: