Concert Review: Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog barking out a nuclear meltdown alarm – loud and ferocious but tranquil and beautiful at times

Date: May 5, 2013
Venue: Le Poisson Rouge (NY)
Review by Ancelmo James

Last week I headed down to Le Poisson Rouge to see Marc Ribot perform for my first time since 2004, and then, it was with Los Cubanos Postizos. This time it was with Ceramic Dog – Ribot accompanied by Shahzad Ismaily on bass and electronics, and Ches Smith on drums. This particular show was the CD release party of their new album Your Turn (Northern Spy) and was also the band’s first night home from a tour of Japan. A point which Ribot commented on by asserting that they didn’t suffer from jet lag because they spent all of their 7 days in Japan operating “on New York time” a feat which takes a good amount of “well…something” according to Ribot.

Ceramic Dog opened the show with a good bit of noise and segued into “Take 5,” a relatively acidic version of the standard. It suffices to say that most of the night could be described as somewhat acidic, metallic, even violent at points. When speaking of intensity levels, if Los Cubanos Postizos is analogous to lullaby music, Ceramic Dog might share a similar correlation to a nuclear meltdown alarm – loud and ferocious. Of course this is a generalization, and Ceramic Dog did play a handful of tunes that were, in no uncertain terms, tranquil and beautiful.

Particularly a song called “Angel On My Mind”. Through most of the show Ribot and his band carried the audience to devastating heights of frenetic and highly electric exploration. Songs that took chaotic twists and turns while seemingly completely controlled and within some semblance of structure illustrated how Jazz guys like Ribot and Smith and Ismaily will take it as far out into the universe as they want, the whole time knowing exactly where they are and how to return. To my surprise, having previously never heard the Ceramic Dogs, Ribot sang quite a bit. Naturally, having long long ago established himself in this world’s music community, he will take his music in any direction he pleases, and with all the respect and admiration for it. Nonetheless, singing is not Marc Ribot’s forte. Sandy monotony and too many Pall Mall’s come to mind.


It is important to note that Ches Smith was both literally and figuratively CRUSHING the drums all night. His ideas were so fresh and vibrant and clear through all the surf-rocky, jazzy, noise that was being played, his musical voice really shined through as his own. Ismaily from my perspective played the anchor much of the night. Through all of the exploration and lift off-ing between Ribot and Smith, Ismaily was a rock solid foundation holding it down and keeping the heads of audience members from potentially exploding. The music of Ceramic Dog is not for everybody, but music this honest and interesting never is. Ceramic Dog is very very exciting and these players are incredible at what they do.

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