THE LONG WAY AROUND
Damien Simon was like any teen with a guitar: He wanted to be a rock star when he grew up. Now, a decade later, the self-proclaimed former punk rocker is a classically and jazz-trained guitarist who creates delicate music touched with lyricism and graced with serenity.
For Simon, it's not such a strange road to travel from his days in local "melodic punk bands" like Enuff to studying musicology at the University of Dublin. "The more you grow, the more you learn," Simon said. "Music is what I love to do."
Simon studied music in Amsterdam and Holland before finishing his degree in studio composition at the Purchase Conservatory. It was there Simon's work expanded into composing scores for theater and dance. The opportunity to intertwine his work with the other arts was a revelation for Simon. "I liked using a medium for my orchestral scores. I could visualize people moving to my music to create a mood," he said.
From there, it was on to the University of Dublin, where he composed for ballet, modern dance and theater. His most intriguing work, however, may have been performing in a ballet with the Dublin Opera Company after a choreographer he was working with asked for his help. Simon, who did this despite having no training, says his writing for dance gave him the background he needed. He's always busy composing, writing locally for the Alleyway Theatre and Zodiaque Dance Company. His compositions are often a snapshot from his life.
"It's about the mood I'm in and what's going on around me," he says. On his new debut solo CD, "Healing," written during a five-year span in cities as diverse as Buffalo, Amsterdam and Dublin, each song title has a specific reference. His apartment view overlooking St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, for instance, was the basis for "Sraid Patrick" (Patrick Street).
He has spent the past two years since returning from Dublin with the local rock band Last Lemming, but his solo work is purely instrumental. "I'm not a singer. I can't sing," he says. "And I'm not a poet. My strong point is music and I want it to stand for itself."
Upcoming: 3 p.m. Oct. 11 at Media Play, 3050 Sheridan Drive, Amherst; 2 p.m. Oct. 12 at New World Record, 512 Elmwood Ave.
For information: Call 636-5065.
LOCAL RECORD PICK
"Princess," Oui 73. Call Oui 73's debut CD a local product, but it tops most of the bland, homogenized national "alternative" rock wasting space on the airwaves. The loud, urgent, dissonant guitar opening the first track, "My Sister Meek," grabs the listener as it builds with an unnerving intensity. That edginess, strung throughout the CD from the tenacious "Acid Freak" into the pop-based "See Ya Later Miss Radley," is the hook that doesn't let go. In a nice move, Oui 73 took one of its most intense live songs, "Drag the Lake," and slowed its pounding heaviness into a dreamy, otherworldly state. Two of the best numbers show the group at extremes: The band cuts completely loose with the raw, questioning anger of "Why'd You Want Me," then breaks it down for the simple beauty of "Sun Maid." Oui 73's CD release party is at 11 tonight at Nietzsche's.
-- Toni Ruberto