The Boston Phoenix
Thursday February 20, 1998
Arts Section
state of the art
Sandman Clubs Elf

 In Press

“Music can serve as a springboard for alternate consciousness if you play long enough and get into a trance spot,” explains bassist Mike Rivard. “And if it works for the audience, too –hey, even better.”

Towards those ends, Rivard has organized Club d’Elf, which premiered earlier this month at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge and returns next Thursday. Rivard assembled a hodge-podge of local talent – including guitarist Duke Levine, members of the Either/Orchestra, two-thirds of Morphine, and himself – to create what he describes as a “live remix of rehearsed grooves. The concept is not totally an open-ended jam but specific grooves and rhythms. I cue certain things and let the players put their own particular spin in there.” On its maiden voyage a couple weeks ago, Club d’Elf (pronounced “clubbed elf” the name comes from the trance-induced writings of Terence McKenna and the concept of Extra Low Frequencies, or ELF) sounded like atmospheric electronica with live instruments.

This is the latest in a series of specialized theme nights that have helped the Lizard Lounge go from just another basement to one of the most promising rooms in town. “It’s a really cool place because you can sit right on top of bands and experience them,” says Lizard Lounge booker Billy Beard. “There’s a wonderful connection between audience and band.” Thanks to that vibe and to Beard’s willingness to book “acts that are a little left of center,” the Lizard Lounge has become a local hotspot less than two years after opening. Last year DJ Brother Cleve (see “Cellars by Starlight,” on page 18) helped prove the viability of the room by turning an off night into a lounge-music haven, though the increased number of live acts has led Cleve to put his “Saturnalia” night there on hold.

“I think the lounge thing is cool and works in that space, but that’s not the only thing that works,” says Beard. True: Club d’Elf had hardly any Rat Pack flavor. Neither did the country-swing outfit the Spurs, who played the following night. Or the Jeff Robinson Trip’s poetry and jazz jam on Sundays. Ditto for the lesbian-leaning Box series on Tuesday and venerable avant-garde jazzers the Fringe on Mondays. In fact, it’s the Lizard Lounge’s remarkable diversity that’s creating audiences.

Another occasional theme night is ‘Drummers Sing,” where local rock pounders get out from behind the kit and showcase their golden throats. Past shows have featured Mike Peal of Groovasaurus doing Metallica and Billy Conway (the one Morphine guy absent from Club d’Elf) performing a song by his girlfriend, Laurie Sargent. Beard hopes to bring back the night in March.

And now there’s Club d’Elf. For its return next Thursday, Mat Maneri, Eric Hipp, and others will be joining the band. Rivard plans to invite John Medeski and New York DJs to future performances. There’s no date set past next Thursday, but Beard says future shows are likely. “That whole dub approach works well for a band that big, and I love the spontaneity of it. I’d like to see it continue.” The next Club d’Elf will take place next Thursday, February 26, at the Lizard Lounge, below Cambridge Common Restaurant, 1667 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge. Tickets are $5; call 547-0759.
-Dan Tobin

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