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75 Dollar Bill residency at Troost

Out of the nightclub and into the street

for The Brooklyn Paper
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The signature that accompanies e-mails from the duo 75 Dollar Bill sets a simple formula for the band’s sound: “Wood/Metal­/Plastic/P­attern/Rhy­thm/Rock.”

That may sound like, well, about 300 other bands that call Brooklyn home, but there aren’t any making music quite like guitarist Che Chen and percussionist Rick Brown do.

Most of that is thanks to instrumentation. Brown sets a beat using a large wooden crate that he sits on and hits with a mallet or his hands, adding shakers, chimes, or the occasional bleat of a handmade horn. Over that, Chen plays steely strains inspired by the music of India, Africa, and the southern U.S. Their combined efforts are primal, hypnotic, and alive.

But as intricate as the work of 75 Dollar Bill can sometimes be, the men behind it talk about their music matter-of-factly.

“I was just interested in starting a band that was only melody and rhythm,” said Chen.

Brown agreed, adding, “That’s all I really know. I have no background in harmony, and don’t know about chords and chord progression. So to focus on those things was relatively easy for me.”

There is a folksy element to their creative efforts, as well. The duo prefers to play gigs in the afternoon and seems to lean towards playing free shows.

The pair also have a thing for playing in unusual spaces. There is a great clip of them on YouTube performing on the sidewalk in Chinatown to bewildered passersby.

And, in another iteration of their aversion to the traditional club show, they sometimes take over the cozy confines of a haunt like Troost in Greenpoint, where they will have a residency for the next three months starting this Saturday.

The next challenge for 75 Dollar Bill is to take their sounds out of town. They plan to play their first out-of-state gig this month and are plotting a West Coast tour in August.

“We play a lot of places that we feel comfortable in,” said Chen. “I think we’re ready to take on situations that are somewhere between playing on the street and on a big stage. We’re certainly ready to go back on the street, though!”

75 Dollar Bill at Troost [1011 Manhattan Ave. between Huron and Green Streets in Greenpoint, (347) 889–6761, www.troostnyc.com]. May 10, 8:30 and 10pm, Free.

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