Abe Vigoda band

©Abe Vigoda, 2009

“Abe Vigoda and Talbot Tagora Live at Cake Shop”
For Knocks from the Underground
by Michael Bradshaw


Here’s a rock rule of thumb: if a group of kids look so nerdy, so out of place, it’s a wonder how they ever found their way into a rock club, there’s a pretty good chance those kids are in the band you came to see. Such is the case of Abe Vigoda, a sincere and upbeat LA quartet that headlined Manhattan’s Cake Shop Friday night.

Cake Shop is a low-clearance basement space under, in fact, a cake shop on the Lower East Side. Its sloped, concrete floor culminates at a low-budget, tensile-spangled stage adorned with white Christmas lights: a perfect venue for a perfectly nerdy assembly of nerdy rock.

Men & Women, a down-tempo (all-male) three-piece from Brooklyn kicked off the night with some brainy, post-rock esotericism. Dubby scratches and echoing screeches wandered out of equipment piled on a collapsible card table. Flanked by a guitar and bass, Men and Women are recumbent and somewhat unkempt post-rock with some space to grow.

Dinowalrus followed, also from Brooklyn, cutting the stage lights to leave only a single, red lamp and a lonely mini-strobe that cast the stage in flickering, molten eeriness.

“Light,” lead singer Pete Feigenbaum said. “Is not our friend.” A minor’s lamp dangled from his neck.

Somewhere between surf, new wave, and classic rock, Dinowalrus does that thing music is supposed to do: move. “I Hate Numbers”, a snazzy up-tempo number of Talking Heads lineage, strutted triumphantly towards arena-worthy climax.

Feigenbaum beat a single tom so viciously he tripped forward off the stage into the crowd. “Clean up on aisle five,” he mocked.

Up next, Talbot Tagora, a noisy must-see three-piece from Seattle seems to have mastered there own brand of brooding, catch-and-release power pop. Driven by the ineffaceable drummer Ani Ricci, the moment Tagora cornered a musical phrase they turned it loose to start the chase anew. Despite its complexities, Tagora’s sound is informed by high-strapped and horn-rimmed rock from a simpler time—but if there’s anything cute about Talbot Tagora, it’s so understated that it qualifies as mystique.

Abe Vigoda (on tour with Tagora) then took the stage. Their heartfelt lyricism dripping with authenticity has a breezy, boys don’t cry honesty that was both characterized and betrayed by an impassioned performance. The casual listener and avid fan alike want to believe in Abe Vigoda. They’re approachable, real, and wildly talented. While lead singer Michael Vidal viciously spat his way through “Calypso”, a drunk crowd member walked on stage, seemingly, just to be near the band while they thrashed. The four looked at each one another puzzled, playing through the number flawlessly. Without missing a note, guitarist Juan Velazquez shrugged and then nudged the man gently back into the crowd.

It’s hard to figure out what makes Abe Vagoda so engaging. Perhaps it’s the sense of integrity and harmlessness that arrives when faced with genuine nerdom. Maybe its because Abe Vigoda is a damn good band.

Either way, the nerds leveled their revenge in New York City Friday night and their victory was as sweet as the Red Velvet cakes that baked above their heads.