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Head Peddlers challenge convention, but without nihilism

BY RACHEL deARAGON | On a recent Sunday evening, Lucky’s, a little bar at 168 Avenue B, vibrated with the sound of music.  Tucked into a cozy space behind the long, comfortable bar, The Head Peddlers let us know that two guitars and a drum can bring a refreshing contemporary twist to a nostalgic hard-rock vibe.

The audience was happy to be part of the moment, and their active participation in the high-energy sound was contagious.  The only reason people weren’t dancing in the aisles is that they were already full.

Karl Bateman and Elizabeth Ruf got the crowd ready with their driving “Open for Business.” With a jazz-influenced drumming style, Eric Blitz provided a cohesion — joining rhythm and vocal cadence.

The Head Peddlers take inspiration from the Velvet Underground but put a more positive spin on things. (Photo by Andreas Troeger)

Much of the material of this talented group is drawn from everyday life experience, and particularly from the ways in which we experience our neighborhood. “What Happened?” is a nostalgic look at the passing of time and the changes wrought by gentrification. The destruction of our beloved East River Park, and the isolation and novel ways to make contact with the world that happened to us during the COVID lockdown pose poignant images in the lyrics of their songs. Love, marriage, friendship, family and the wonders of our natural world tumble out without apology or sentimentality.

The Head Peddlers bring smiles to the faces of their followers! They challenge convention, but without the nihilism that accompanied their youthful prototype, the Velvet Underground. The hard-driving beat of “Monkey Suit” mocks the conformity of money-hungry hedge-funders — concluding with the stinging lyric, “You got money but it don’t buy you nothing.”

With a clear soprano, Elizabeth Ruf accompanied herself on the piano for the softer “Super 8.”  Laura Thomas and Jenny Blitz provided the harmonic backup for “Room With a View.” Lola Lukas sang a beautiful old Russian folk song, “Kolokolchik,” about a coachman who freezes to death crossing the snow-covered steppes. Accompanied by Ruf on guitar and vocals, Lola brought musical poignancy to the fate of the long-lost coachman.

The evening couldn’t end without a sing-along — “Guantanamera”! Everyone knows that one. And a less well-known Pete Seeger piece about maple syrup season in Vermont.

The Head Peddlers’ CD’s (“Big Mohair Sweater” and “Music To Make Movies”) and T-Shirts are available for purchase at 

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