photo by John Trevethan

Stereo types get rise out of 'Curtain'

Dave Richards

January 23, 2004 Erie Times News - Weekend

Former Classy 100 owner Don Kelly explained it as a fact of life. By age 35, he said, people's musical tastes shift.

Goodbye, Metallica. Hello, Celine Dion.

OK, it's not quite like that. Some go straight to Zamfir, while others stay edgy. They want to stay current.

But it's oh so hard. As Wall Street Journal critic Jim Fusilli pointed out recently, the industry caters to youth. Older listeners must be content with Rod Stewart remaking classics or endless tours by icons who recycle hits.

Most radio formats for 35 and-up listeners favor oldies and classic rock, not new music. So artists like the Shins or Thrills - who might appeal to adult listeners - get little exposure.

It's even harder to coax older fans into sampling new music played live. But those looking for a wake-up call might enjoy Erie's Tom Curtain, which shares a bill with Joseph Allen Popp's Weirdo Theatre on Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Erie Art Museum Annex.

This arty duo -with veteran Erie rocker Rick DiBello and vocalist/dancer Alethea Bodine - casts a spell with their dreamy, beguiling style.

Di-Bello conceived Tom Curtain when the Roadhouse Theatre asked him to record "Time" - a Tom Waits' song - for its 2001 production of Tennessee Williams' "Vieux Carre". The idea put a picture in his head. What might a jazz band in a David Lynch film sound like?

"That'd be Torn Curtain," DiBello explained.

After the Roadhouse show, DiBello knew he'd struck something cool when patrons clamored for copies of "Time." Torn Curtain began playing gigs around town.

On stage, DiBello plays lead guitar to his own prerecorded rhythm tracks, while Bodine sings and shimmies. She's a classically trained dancer, so she doesn't shake it like a Polaroid picture. She moves in more seductive, bewitching ways.

Tom Curtain plays DiBello originals and radically reworks standards, such as "My Funny Valentine" and "Round Midnight." They give 'em trip-hop beats and languid grooves, like Britain's Portishead.

On Saturday, the duo will crank up the retro-hip quotient. They'll play a set of spy songs, including James Bond themes - all of them presumably shaken not stirred. You'll hear "Goldfinger," "Diamonds Are Forever," "You Only Live Twice" and more.

What's cooler than that? How about a Torn Curtain spy-song CD? It's coming soon.

Torn Curtain doesn't play out often. They're too subtle for the bar scene, though occasional gigs at Scotty's go over well. They may be too esoteric for the mainstream. But those who feel like dipping their toes into new musical waters might come away replenished.

At the very least, it's a good way to keep Zamfir at bay.