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POP MUSIC REVIEWS : Show's a Showcase for Songwriters

April 16, 1993|DON SNOWDEN

Anyone hoping to get a clear handle on "avant-rock" from the show at the Largo on Wednesday would have been disappointed.

The three featured bands--Samm Bennett & Chunk, Fertile Crescent and Oren Bloedow--did occasionally venture into tone zones outside the pop-rock norm, and there was an informal, personal brand of showmanship. But this bill, sponsored by the New York experimental-music club the Knitting Factory, showcased the idiosyncratic slants of individual songwriters more than a cohesive school.

Bennett's electronic percussion pads created everything from keyboard to bell-like effects during his 45-minute set. Backed by trap drums, guitar and bass, he mixed Bill Withers' "Use Me," the rock-steady pulse of "Get the Hell Out of Bessemer" and some intriguing sonic blends worthy of the avant-rock tag. But intentionally or not, Bennett approached lounge-singer parody at times by dancing goofily while striking his percussion pads with drumsticks.

Fertile Crescent's fairly orthodox venture into pop-rock split the difference between XTC and the Police, while opener Bloedow's Elvis-Costello-goes-downtown routine veered erratically from tolerable to wearing. Bloedow's trio did feature the evening's instrumental star in John Medesky, whose fluidly inventive, jazzy organ recalled the late-'60s heyday of Larry Young and Soft Machine's Mike Ratledge.

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