Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Rogers Sisters - Purely Evil


On the morning of Monday, September 10th, 2001, I drove from Rhode Island to New York City to attend a meeting with some investment bankers at their offices in lower Manhattan, about four blocks from the World Trade Center. I was supposed to meet my boss there at noon, but it appeared I was running slightly late, so I gave him a call as I travelled down I-278 in Queens. He asked me if I was close, and I remember saying to him, "Well, I can see the Trade Center, so I'm pretty close." The meeting took up the rest of the afternoon, and we left Manhattan just before rush hour. I drove him home to his place in Connecticut, then I stopped at Foxwoods to play poker for a couple of hours before getting home later that evening.

The next morning, I was back at work in Providence. It was going to be a pretty busy and important day for me. Some financiers from a Pennsylvania company called De Lage Landen were coming up for an all-day meeting, and I was looking forward to a call from California - I had recently been accepted to appear on a game show, and the producers were supposed to call me later that morning with the final flight details. Other than prepping for and anticipating those two events, it was just another Tuesday at work . . .

Then, of course, all hell broke loose that day. In a couple of hours, the buildings that I used as landmarks less than 24 hours earlier were reduced to rubble, and the place where I had my meeting, four blocks from the WTC, was inaccessible and coated with dust and debris. Back in Providence, the meeting with the Pennsylvania people broke up as events unfolded, and soon the entire town was engulfed in confusion and turmoil, as rumors began spreading about possible terrorists who missed the plane out of Logan being seen getting off of the Amtrak train at the Providence station and disappearing into the nearby mall. They closed all downtown businesses early that afternoon, and I drove home listening to the nonstop news coverage of that day. And, needless to say, I never received that phone call from California that day . . .

Fast-forward to November 2001. I was headed back to NYC for the first time since 9/11, going to see The Fall play at the Knitting Factory on Leonard Street in Lower Manhattan. It was weird being back in the city; there was a palpable sense in the air of something having changed. At that time, people were still being nice to one another in New York, a very welcome change. But that kindness was tinged with wariness and a bit of suspicion, especially if you didn't look quite 'right', if you know what I mean. The security at the show was extra-vigilant, I felt, compared to earlier shows I'd attended there. The patdowns and metal detections were done with determination and purpose, by unsmiling security officials there.

I hadn't seen The Fall in a while; they were touring on Are You Are Missing Winner, one of the weakest Fall albums in recent years. I was still looking forward to seeing them, though. The opening band was a local group I had never heard of, The Rogers Sisters out of Brooklyn. I paid little attention to them while they set up, but that changed once they began playing.

The Rogers Sisters were made up of, of course, two sisters, Laura and Jennifer Rogers, accompanied by Asian-American guitarist Miyuki Furtado. The sisters were formerly in Ruby Falls, an all-female indie rock group formed in 1992 that released a couple of obscure EPs and singles before falling apart in 2000. After the breakup of Ruby Falls, the girls quickly recruited Furtado and began playing a modified sound from their earlier band, incorporating a more garagy/guitar-based punk attack that provided them with some success.

Their gig with the Fall was one of their biggest since forming, and their sound immediately tickled my eardrums. In my experience, it's rare that The Fall have decent lead-in bands; The Rogers Sisters were the exception, so much so that I made a mental note to look for any of their releases in the near future (at that time, they had yet to be signed to a label). The Fall also played an excellent set that evening; Mark E. Smith was in fine form, not too curmudgeonly, and they didn't play too many songs from their recent album, which was a blessing. From start to finish, it was a great show.

After the concert ended, at around 12:30-1:00 am, I decided to try to make my way down to the WTC site, just to see things for myself. I walked for blocks in the dark, along deserted New York streets, some still thinly coated with the dust of that horrible day two months earlier. I made my way around cordoned-off streets and roadblocks, and finally got as close as I could to the highly illuminated site. The work was going on there nonstop, around the clock, and I was close enough to hear the growl of jackhammers and clank of cranes moving pieces of the destroyed buildings. I sat on a barricade along the main street where they were taking stuff away from the area, and I watched for hours as trucks and flatbeds moved past me in what seemed to be an unending wave, all loaded with metal and debris. I remember one flatbed carried an entire fire engine, smashed to half its height and coated with dirt and dust. But there were plenty of other sights and pieces of the tragedy that I saw that night that made the entire event really hit home to me. Seeing the operation on TV was one thing; actually BEING there, and watching the operation, and seeing the dust and smoke rise through the klieg lights . . . well, that was something else, and something I'll always remember.

The Rogers Sisters' debut album, Purely Evil, was released on Troubleman Unlimited Records early in 2002. The disc contained almost all of the songs I heard and enjoyed the year before. The band released two more albums, Three Fingers in 2004 and The Invisible Deck in 2006, before breaking up in late November 2006, almost five years to the day of their Knitting Factory show.

I still enjoy their debut album, but every time I listen to it, I'm transported back in time, and think about that long, cold night I spent sitting on a block of concrete in lower Manhattan, watching the cleanup and trucks going by and trying, like many other Americans, to make sense of it all. This music has nothing to do with or say regarding 9/11, but to me, it will always be part of that time and place.

Anyway, here's the album:

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2 comments:

  1. Thanks, PeePee (although I'm looking forward to a more cheerful entry next time)
    RocknRoll, NZ and the Fall ... these are a few of my favourite things.

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  2. Thanks for the download! Found this band from a free Rough Trades compilation last year that is no longer working. They're an odd band for sure, in the best of ways. Getting a Gang of Four vibe from the music for sure.

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