The Sway Machinery: Live Last Night

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Live Last Night

If Howlin' Wolf had been a refugee from an Eastern European shtetl who started a New York alt-rock band, circa 2006 -- well, that doesn't make any sense, does it?

Yet that fusion seemed entirely plausible last night at the D.C. Jewish Community Center, where the Sway Machinery exuberantly combined twangy guitar, Jewish liturgical chant and horn riffs that ranged from klezmer to Afropop. Frontman Jeremiah Lockwood, the grandson of a cantor, sang in Hebrew, Yiddish and Aramaic, but his guitar spoke Link Wray and Bo Diddley.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

When the raucous combination seemed to overwhelm a few listeners at the event, which was part of 10th Anniversary Washington Jewish Music Festival, trumpeter Jordan McLean gallantly rushed offstage to get them earplugs.

The Machinery is well-connected, having at various times employed members of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Arcade Fire. Most of the current lineup also plays with Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, and a few horn fusillades came directly from that group's playbook.

Lockwood's songs were spare at first, but sometimes expanded dramatically. "Adiray Ayumah," for example, ended up resembling a cross between U2 and a Russian men's choir.

In his vested suit, fedora and tie, Lockwood cultivated an old-fashioned persona, which supported such spoken-word pieces as "When I First Came to This Country." Yet the American-born musician also slipped into the role of a Southern gospel shouter, making a rare foray into English with "Revive the Dead." Philosophically, the cantor and the preacher may be incompatible, but Lockwood's music persuaded them to get along.

-- MARK JENKINS

By J. Freedom du Lac |  June 8, 2009; 2:43 PM ET Live Last Night
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Check out the Festival's full line-up at wjmf.org. Tonight at 8pm the Festival features Pitom--PunkassJewJazz.

Posted by: lilikg | June 8, 2009 3:12 PM

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