If Jim Morrison were alive, and saw the future of rock poetry set to music, he'd have pointed to Puma Perl and Friends. She carries the torch and sets ablaze the stage with caustic humor and street smarts to the Rock 'n Roll tune of improvised music as deftly handled by a collective of downtown musicians. Ms Perl's 'don't give a f**k attitude plays well to the East Village crowd.
Who better than guest poet / reviewer David Huberman who bears witness to this event:
I was very curious to see poet Puma Perl and her band (Puma Perl & Friends) play an acoustic set at the Lower East Side’s legendary rock n roll bar, Manitoba’s, on a recent August Saturday night. Why is Manitoba’s so legendary? For one thing, it’s owned by Richard Manitoba (aka Handsome Dick Manitoba, an icon of American punk rock and lead singer of The Dictators) and managed by the beautiful Mrs. Manitoba (Zoe Hansen aka LZ Hansen - move over Erica Jong and Xaviera Hollander, there’s a new erotic memoirist in town!) Another unadvertised allure (until now, of course) is that you never know who might be drinking next to you – it’s a favorite drop-in spot of bands on tour as well as the NYC rock n roll crowd. Let’s not forget the foxy femme fatales behind the bar, or the cool crowd of regulars (You never know!) And if you’re not a people person (despite the fact that you’re hanging in the last rock bar standing), you can lose yourself in the wrestling and punk rock memorabilia that cover the walls, including photo galleries with shots taken by such legends as Lee Childers and Bob Gruen, listen to slammin tunes or choose your own on the jukebox, or watch music videos and/or sports events on one of the flat screens hanging over the bar. Additionally, Manitoba’s regularly offers free live music and other special events, coordinated by Bobcat, who does double duty, helping behind the bar and ensuring quality sound.
I was running a little late to my recent Saturday night at Manitoba’s, (coming from the Charlie parker festival at Marcus Garvey Park) to see spoken word artist Puma Perl and her savvy musician friends. I could actually hear her and the band outside the bar, but I was still taken aback when I walked in. My eyes had to adjust to the bar’s light; it was dimmed for the performance and there was a nice sized audience to see her. I found myself a corner and I noticed there was a rather large HDTV that was on with the sound off, sort of hanging on top of the bar which was pretty close to Puma Perl and her band (Manitoba’s is a cozy bar!!). They must have had a DVD loop or something like that because it went from David Bowie to Iggy Pop to Nico and back again in a matter of minutes. Now, you would think this would distract the audience from the live performance and maybe with a lesser performer it would have, but not with Puma Perl & Friends. It’s called charisma. She has it and so does the band. Dressed all in black, looking like a 50’s Italian film diva, it’s her face that captures you. A face that’s filled with hard luck wisdom mixed with sexual abandon, a face that Federico Fellini would probably fall in love with. Despite (or perhaps because of) the contrast of the lightness of David Bowie and Nico on the silent HDTV and the darkness of Puma Perl live at Manitoba’s, there was a common denominator; they all ooze of pure sex, but in a matter of thirty seconds Puma Perl and her band take center stage and the silent HDTV becomes her prop. You briefly wonder if she set it up that way (she didn’t), but the TV is soon forgotten, as Puma Perl pulls you in with her delivery. It’s her world now, and you’re in it as a spectator. There is no vomiting anger the way Lydia Lunch does, no Penny Arcade diatribes, or obscure lectures from the likes of Patty Smith when she does her rare poetry reading. She is an original, somewhat Bukowski - like in her delivery - and, surprisingly, an element of compassion comes through to the audience. Even with poems about people she can’t stand, she can’t help being empathic towards them. She sometimes even rewards them with sex. I wouldn’t mind the snoring if I didn’t hate you, I say, and I leave the room, return half dressed, climb on top of him, and f**k him – F**k Like an Anarchist. Or Trust me, you say. Are you trustworthy? No, you admit. Trust me anyway. We try again and it works until it doesn’t – Another Year. Puma Perl’s poetry can be angry, even aggressive at times, but never cruel. From her performance, there is no doubt that she is one hell of a worldly lady, the type of broad that the late- great actor Humphrey Bogart, with his portrayals of down on their luck tough guy characters, might fall for. The band that she has put together is top notch and consists of Walter Steding, master punk violinist never sounding better, Jeanne Carno keeping a relentless beat all with a pair of drum sticks and a chair, Joff Wilson playing guitar, Danny Ray on sax, and Rick Eckerle playing various string instruments. They have a bluesy sound to them at times, but to their credit they never once let their music drown out Ms. Perl’s poetry; instead, they show restraint in their playing while at the same time experimenting to get the right sound out. You have to realize that these fine musicians assembled by poet Puma Perl play in many different bands (drummer Jeanne Carno aka-Jeanne the Machine alone performed 100 gigs in 2012), and most of the time they play loud, so I can’t imagine what the pressure must be like on a musician like Danny Ray. He plays sax in rock bands of every genre, including the popular, gypsy-inspired Mad Juana, and is used to letting that sax play out - and here he is, using his instrument as a landscape to the words. When Puma Perl takes a spoken word break, Joff Wilson takes over the vocals singing Velvet Underground songs; his voice is soft and sweet, reminding me of those other Wilson boys. All and all, these are a fine bunch of musicians that Puma Perl has put together and her poetry is pretty damn good, too.
You can link to upcoming performances, join the mailing list, or order any of Puma Perl’s three books by visiting her blog, http://www.pumaperl.blogspot.com, which will also link to her Facebook page. Upcoming projects include plans to record, publication of a new book of poems, and the next installment of Puma Perl’s Pandemonium, a quarterly series at the Bowery Electric, Friday, September 27, 7:00 - http://www.theboweryelectric.com/?m=20130927&cat=6