Luscious Jackson and Cake Like at The Trocadero

by Alan Sheckter
Gray Areas Magazine
September 1994

Luscious has opened for The Beastie Boys (drummer Kate Schellenbach was an original Beastie), Bettie Serveert, Urge Overkill and good friends – The Breeders. Now the four fresh and fashionably unfashionable females of modern urban funk have stimulated enough interest to headline their own tour. And their show was great fun. Musically unique and full of positive personalities on stage, Luscious Jackson gets a big “thumbs-up” from li’l-ol’-me. There was an opening act, though…

At 8:00, Cake Like, a New York group, made up of three amiable, post-college-girl-next-door types performed a fine 35 minute, nine song set. Their music consisted of slow, dissonant arrangements with entrancing tribal drumming and some passages of mild thrash. Some songs, like “Abraham Lincoln,” had a Sonic Youth sound to them. Their ominous and slightly numbing essence was enjoyable. They received good crowd response, and I hope they gain more notoriety.

Luscious Jackson came on at about 9:00 to a full and ardent house. Bassist/lead vocalist Jill, guitarist/vocalist Gabby, keyboardist Viv and drummer Kate acknowledged the crowd with smiles, waves and a couple of words with the folks down in front. A male DJ was also visible toward the rear of the stage. They started with drum-heavy “Péle Merengue,” an upbeat, groovy number short on lyrics but great at setting an energetic, partying mood. The New York foursome (well, three out of four), absolutely kicked it out with a sound and attitude all their own. Their combination of New York City funk, hip hop, mild rap and subdued alternative modern rock is a neat formula (as if they pre-defined a “formula”). And of course, actually experiencing the reality of their unique sound is far better than my attempts to describe it. Songs were taken almost exclusively from their current Natural Ingredients and 1992 EP In Search Of Manny, including “City Song,” “Angel,” “Strongman” and “Rollin’.” The attitudes are real. Not angry women, just real people. The girls are friendly on-stage, (short-cropped keyboardist Viv smiled throughout the set), welcoming happy moshers to climb on-stage, quickly nod to or shake hands with the girls, take a bow and swan dive back into the grooving dance floor. At one point, while the sampling machine did most of the work in the back, Kate came down from her drumset and the girls formed kind of a chorus line with a couple of proud female audience participants. Luscious had such a friendly aura, and they were also clearly in control of the chaos. There were no real security guards at the stage, just the Troc’s Sloan, who more often than not gently helped young ladies climb on-stage and lightly prodded exuberant males to jump back in the pit after a few seconds. There was joyous energy and a little pot smoke around, but no one appeared over-the-edge. The kids who did climb on-stage respected the band. Those folks who threw a kind word to one of the girls (who actually would slickly return the kind word, even during a song), knew their place and exited quickly. Not once did anyone try to grab Luscious’ instruments, mike stands or bodies. One stagediver did jump off with the band’s setlist stuck to her sneaker. A kid in the front row kindly passed it back to Jill – in two pieces. No problem.

Many times, a group that relies on samples on their record can’t translate into a credible live act. Luscious Jackson was very credible and terribly innovative. I hope they “keep on keepin’ on,” on their own terms.

Luscious Jackson’s set: Péle Merengue / Energy Sucker / Bam Bam / Daughters of the Kaos / Strongman / Here / Let Yourself Get Down / Life of Leisure / City Song / Rock Freak / Angel / Deep Shag / Rollin’ / Keep On Rockin’ It / Surprise. (thanks to the man at the soundboard for the list)