BWW Review: Rachelle Garniez and Carol Lipnik Display Their Mystical, Musical Powers at Joe's Pub
Back on May 14th, native New Yorkers Rachelle Garniez (left) and Carol Lipnik each performed her own original songs at Joe's Pub, and while it was several months ago, the show remains embossed in my mind, as meaningful works of art have a way of doing. Each woman has a distinct and wonderful voice, both literally and figuratively. Both artists are exceedingly accomplished, writing and playing their music around New York City and the world for more than 30 years.
Garniez, described by Billboard magazine as a "Diva with a difference," opened the double bill, sporting a small blue guitar as she took the stage, accompanied by double bassist Tim Lüntzel. She punctuated her culturally astute yet absurd lyrics with spare rhythmic playing. During her blues "Kid in a Candy Store" she strummed a vibrantly sloppy solo and quoted "On the Good Ship Lollipop." Embedding unexpected song quotes within her original tunes is a technique Garniez often employs, a fun way of connecting herself to her personal musical lineage. Wearing a sequined jacket over a dress with a correctly placed silkscreened skeleton, Garniez drew the audience into her beautiful, oddball world, fearlessly allowing her voice to traverse terrain from gruff growl to coquettish coo to squeak. She expresses an endless world of character and color. Her songs also roam through a variety of styles--sea shanty, zydeco, art song. She accompanied herself on guitar, accordion, and piano. In the song "Medicine Man" she used her voice to morph from wonder-filled child to seductive vixen to bluesy grandpa, playing her accordion inventively to mimic sirens and finally the sound of hospital machines flat lining.
Garniez has a gift for rhyme and lyrics that are funny, poignant, and evocative, telling impressionistic stories of a New York City childhood before helicopter parents and cell phones, when kids were freer to explore and wander. Singing about her carefree/careless youth: "We must've had some fun," she sings, "but you coulda been anyone." And later she lamented, "Saying goodbye to my invisible friends, I'll never see them again." She sings about coming-of-age from a completely idiosyncratic place. She sang about the body and death. "The good news," she declared, "is we're all gonna die. "When I do the buckety kick, I hope I go fast. We'll sit shiva/by the rivah/and eat chopped livah." Between songs, her improvised banter floated, hovered in the ether, like a delicate yet sturdy spider's web, spinning from one image to the next, taking us with her on this delightfully curious journey.
Her truth is in the specifics. "Of all the green-haired girls I've seen today, you blow them all away," she sings in Tourmaline, painting a vivid portrait. Garniez is a true original, an unconventional artist, comfortable within her kooky awkwardness--shrugging her shoulders and furrowing her eyebrows as if constantly questioning life--creating strange beauty out of everything she encounters.
Lipnik arrived on the Joe's Pub stage like an earth goddess, floating into position at the center wearing a diaphanous tie-dyed floor length gown. She also wore silver cuffs around her wrists and her hair was long, straight and red. Her eyelids were bright blue and her fingernails iridescent green. Lipnik's songs have a quality akin to chants, mantras, and prayers. Her voice is clear, full, reverent, beautiful. The imagery she uses is of the natural world: oysters, sand, trees, honey, weeds, and antlers. Her truth is emblematic, universal.
When she sang "Going down to the honeypot, Gonna get stoned" (Or was she gonna get stung? Maybe both stoned and stung--she was going to be changed somehow), I had the sense of being in the presence of a woman who had tapped into the unseen world. Her pianist Matt Kanelos played exquisitely--elegant and nuanced--and he sang sweet harmonies that blended invisibly, as if their two voices were one.
Lipnik's songs have a mythic quality. "We live in the clouds. We sleep in the treetops. You can't make me ever come down," she sang, casting spells upon the audience. Her arms became branches, as she took on tree-like power poses worthy of Usain Bolt or Athena. Her vocal power, enrapturing, had us shaking our heads in admiration and awe. "So I was eating a lot of pot cookies and reading a lot of William Blake poetry . . . " and proceeded to sing a song she wrote in an effort to create something that resembled one of Blake's illuminated manuscripts. "The Things that Make Us Grow" had an Arabic, modal feel; it was transporting.
For her last number, Lipnik sang a song written by pianist Matt Kanelos, a rapturous ballad with the haunting refrain: "Is it in you to love a non-violent man?" The question is important. Is it in us? Can we allow our men to be peaceful? Will we love them if they lay down their arms? The beauty of the melody, the profound repetition of the words, and the quietly insistent musical delivery moved everyone at our table to dissolve into tears.
Both Garniez and Lipnik have special powers: to move, to transport, to transmute. They shed new light on the reality we think we know. They take you somewhere new and different, each to her own distinct realm. Each possesses magic. Although their songs were new to me that night, they penetrated my consciousness and still frequently resonate in my mind.
Garniez and Lipnik both play around town frequently. Garniez plays the Afterglow festival in Provincetown, MA on September 17. Check her website for future NYC dates. Lipnik will also appear at the Afterglow Festival, but first you can see her in the East Village: Lipnik and Kanelos play Pangea, Sunday September 13 at 7:30 pm, and every Sunday in September.