Saturday, April 28, 2018

Minus the Bear Celebrate Ten Years of Planet of Ice at Irving Plaza

The first song I ever heard by Minus the Bear was "Knights" in 2007, but I never saw them in concert. When I got the opportunity to catch their stop at Irving Plaza on the 10th anniversary tour for Planet of Ice, I was ecstatic. Outside of building a time machine and  then using it for such a trivial reason, it was the closest I would get to seeing a show by the band when I'd first gotten into them.

To be honest, I had no idea what they'd even look like, as their album artwork doesn't feature the members, so it was a little surprising to learn that frontman Jake Snider has
 a graying Mark Hamill beard. But it's not about looks with MTB; it's about the music, as evident in their sparse stage setup of a few standing light rigs in front of a backdrop of the cloudy snowscape of Planet of Ice's cover. The band wasted no time in revisiting the record, revving up the opening cut "Burying Luck" to start the show. "You guys are fucking incredible. Thank you," said Snider, who couldn't seem to address the crowd without using the f-word. And that fucking crowd was full of diehards, singing to the rafters on "Ice Monster" and even along with the guitar part on "Knights." While it was annoying to have my favorite POI song blemished by the guy behind me doing just that, you almost couldn't blame him, as guitarist Dave Knudson posted himself at the front of the stage to rock out. As they progressed through the album's tracklisting, the entire band played with such confidence and passion that it was apparent they weren't going to phone these numbers in, even if they were a decade-old. I will admit that my ear can get a little fatigued listening to math rock, so Alex Rose's saxophone on "Part 2" and the extended noise jam in "Lotus" were welcome diversions. They followed the Planet of Ice portion by hopping around their discography, going as far back as 2002's Highly Refined Pirates and as recent as last year's VoidsThe Coathangers, who had opened the show, introduced some red balloons (not 99, like 8) into the audience to toss around during a righteous "Secret Country." This kicked off a trio of the only tracks the band would play from 2010's Omni, culminating in the smooth synth lines of "Dayglow Vista Rd." to finish out the set.

It was Alex's birthday, so for the encore, his bandmates presented "the old man" with a cane as a gift. "It was gonna be cake!" spoke Jake. As a cake materialized from backstage, he added, "And it is. There's cake. Eat up, motherfucker." After a round of "Happy Birthday to You" from everyone in the venue, Rose rested his birthday treat precariously on the top of his keyboard while he played on "Invisible," the standout track from Voids. They wrapped things up with an emo-flavored pair of tunes that have by now become MTB standards, "Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse" and "Pachuca Sunrise." I'm glad I finally got to see them, and it's likely I'll be in the fucking crowd for the Omni anniversary in a few years.

MINUS THE BEAR - 04.27.18 - IRVING PLAZA (1 hour, 44 minutes)

Burying Luck / Ice Monster > Knights / White Mystery / Dr. L'Ling / Part 2 / Throwin' Shapes / When We Escape / Double Vision Quest / Lotus / Hooray / Last Kiss / Women We Haven't Met Yet / Michio's Death Drive / Secret Country / Hold Me Down / Dayglow Vista Rd.

Happy Birthday to You / Invisible / Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse / Pachuca Sunrise

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Jimmie's Chicken Shack Returns to Rams Head Live for 25th Anniversary

"We're officially classic rock," joked Jimi Haha, the eccentric frontman of Jimmie's Chicken Shack, who celebrated their 25th anniversary last night at Rams Head Live in Baltimore. While their 20th anniversary show had purposefully highlighted the band's different eras, the silver anniversary was a decidedly looser affair, with no setlist to guide them through an evening of jams and personnel changes.

Former-WHFS disc jockey Rob Timm had the honor of introducing them, encouraging the audience to "Please welcome the fowlest band in the land, Jimmie's Chicken Shack!" As the crowd cheered with acclamation, the guys (Haha on vocals/guitar, Christian Valiente on bass, Jerome Maffeo on drums, and Dave "Double D" Dowling filling in for the band's current lead guitarist Island Styles) got things rolling with a pair of classics, "Sitting with the Dog" and "Blood." "Dropping Anchor" was dedicated to a fan/friend who'd flown in from San Diego to have his bachelor party at the show. "Give it up for him. He's dropping anchor and getting married," Haha said, offering him the first shot from a bottle of Patrón that would be empty by the night's end.

"Lazy Boy Dash" marked the first selection from Bring Your Own Stereo, and although Haha flubbed some of the lyrics, he got a chance to redeem himself on his favorite track from that album, "Fill in the Blank." Jimi called up guitarist Matt Jones from the back of the venue to join them on a rowdy "School Bus" detour back to their first album, before they swerved back into BYOS territory with "Pure." That song's backing vocals were impeccable, but Haha messed up his guitar part on the mellow "30 Days" that followed. No longer in possession of the Afro-puffed "wig of shame" used to humiliate members after they fuck up, Haha volunteered to wear a set of pink, light-up cat ears that Double D dubbed "the ears of fear" during "Let's Get Flat." Casey Hean accompanied them on the number. Hean was not present at the 20th anniversary, so it was my first time seeing the wild guitarist. While most members have always been willing to let Haha take the spotlight, Casey's ebullience created an interesting dynamic onstage, as he competed for attention. Jimi eventually gave up on the tune, claiming, "No one wants to hear any more of this fucking song. This song is stupid," before wrapping it up with a noisy "big rock ending." During "Outhouse," the crowd tossed a big-titted blow-up doll around like a beach ball. She ultimately made her way to the stage, where Haha demonstrated on her inflatable breasts how assholes in the '90s would grope crowdsurfing girls, and maintained that he would stop songs when he saw this happening. Keep in mind, this was decades before the Architects and Drake went viral for doing the same thing last year.

Mike Sipple, whose ":" jersey still fit, took a seat at the drums for "Spiraling," which also featured an all-too-brief sit-in from original bassist Ché Lemon, who was then traded out for Derrick Dorsey on rarity "Slow Change." While it may be Haha's favorite JCS tune, it had only been available on a mail-in EP, so its scarcity resulted in fewer crowdmembers singing along and a consequential drop in the room's energy level. Fortunately, a raging "When You Die You're Dead" brought everybody back onto the same page. My personal favorite, "Another Day" came next, with a surprise drop-in from Kelly Bell on congas. I didn't take note of the time, as I never expected them to jam on it so long, but several solos took it well over the ten-minute mark, culminating in a swirling, almost psychedelic groove. For a cool-down, Matt Jones returned for "Beautiful," the only number performed from Re.Present and the only song of the evening that Double D did not play on.

As the lineup switched yet again, Jimi remarked, "We've got three songs left. We're supposed to be done at 1, but fuck that. 'Cause George Clinton fucking went past 1." (P-Funk had played Rams Head the previous night.) The first of the three was their 1999 charting single, "Do Right." Jimi went the reggae route towards the song's end, delving into Sublime's "Smoke Two Joints" and teasing "No Woman, No Cry." "I've never played a solo in that song since I wrote it," he revealed with a smirk after plucking out a slinky improvised passage. Then they loaded the stage with all three lead guitarists, both drummers, Ché, and Kelly Bell. "We're like the fucking Allman Brothers," chuckled Haha before giving props to John Mayer for his guitarwork in Dead & Company. He then proclaimed All Mighty Senators to be the best Maryland band, spouting off a few lyrics from "No Clothes On" prior to "Milk." Every guitarist took a solo, with Haha holding up a wooden Maryland flag with the word "Boo" emblazoned across the Calvert sections during Double D's. Before his own solo, Jimi boasted that we were about to witness the "best guitar licks you've ever seen," and lapped his tongue up and down the fretboard of his six-string. "Eric Clapton will never do that," confirmed the drunk guy next to me.

As the show wound down, things got emotional, with Double D disclosing that Kelly Bell had saved his life a few years back, and a misty-eyed Haha referencing the lyrics to "Stop." "We had a song where I said, 'I feel lucky I made it to 25.' Now the band is 25." He also made sure to clarify that we weren't supposed to be booing Dave's solo, but that the sign was in tribute to Ramon "Boo" Valdez, Rams Head's talent buyer that passed away in 2016. Of course, no JCS show would be complete without their raucous first single, "High," so they made it their closer. "I don't want to end this show or concert or whatever the fuck it was with applause. I want to end it with a 'Boo,' requested Jimi. As he held up the the flag artwork again, the crowd booed their approval, grateful to have had this band in their lives for 25 years, not to mention twenty minutes after curfew.

JIMMIE'S CHICKEN SHACK - 02.17.18 - RAMS HEAD LIVE (2 hours, 20 minutes)


Sitting with the Dog / Blood / Dropping Anchor / Lazy Boy Dash / Fill in the Blank / Waiting / School Bus / Pure / 30 Days / Let's Get Flat / Outhouse / Spiraling / Slow Change / When You Die You're Dead / Another Day (feat. Kelly Bell) / Beautiful / Do Right > Smoke Two Joints > No Woman, No Cry (tease) > Do Right / No Clothes On (tease) / Milk (feat. Kelly Bell) / High

Thursday, February 8, 2018

J. Roddy Walston & the Business Brooklyn Steel Setlist

Review to come.


Don't Break the Needle / Full Growing Man / Ways & Means / Marigold > Same Days / Bad Habits / I Don't Wanna Hear It / Numbers / Take It as It Comes / Brave Man's Death / Caroline / American Girl / Bleed Out / Used to Did / Midnight Cry

Sweat Shock > You Know Me Better / Heavy Bells

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Deer Tick Shows Two Sides at Brooklyn Steel

"This show has two sets: one quiet, one loud. The drunker you get, the louder we get," Ian O'Neil informed the Saturday night audience at Brooklyn Steel. I first got word of Deer Tick's "Twice is Nice" tour in June by way of an email containing a pre-sale code. The band would be playing an acoustic set and an electric set, representative of their upcoming albums Vol. 1 & 2, and a stand-up comedian would be opening the show. I bought my tickets immediately, and anxiously waited for December like a kid who's been good all year. After a long walk from the subway and an even longer security process, I made my way into the showroom at Brooklyn Steel to find the comic already onstage. It turned out to be my pal, Nore Davis, who once headlined my comedy show, Free Rad Jokez. Wearing a red bandana, Nore made the packed house laugh at his desire to open a 24-hour farmers market to compete with fast-food chains. Not even ten minutes past nine, he welcomed Deer Tick to the stage.

While normally content to wear white t-shirts or nothing at all, the band dressed up for the occasion, looking quite dapper in various combinations of crimson and black. They greeted the crowd and began with "Sea of Clouds," the first track on Vol. 1. They followed promptly with the tango intro to "Card House," the record's second song and coincidentally my personal favorite of the two-disc collection. "Do an oldie," McCauley declared, leading the band on "Art Isn't Real (City of Sin)" and alleviating worries that a) the albums would be performed in sequence, and b) they'd only be playing songs from Vol. 1 & 2. Highlights included "Me & My Man," which made way more sense to me after Dennis Ryan revealed it to be about his dog, and "The Dream's in the Ditch," my most-played Tick tune. "Mange" capped off the unplugged portion with an energetic finish, McCauley and O'Neil embellishing their guitar strums into a choreographed routine à
 la ZZ Top.

During the break, stagehands traded the red backdrop for a yellow one, keeping with the ketchup and mustard theme of the albums' artwork. Nore emerged once again to introduce the band, this time donning a yellow bandana. I suddenly understood why he'd worn a red one earlier, and sure enough, Deer Tick also returned with an ochre wardrobe change. Taking a cue from the first set's structure, the boys led with the first two songs from Vol. 2. They broke the order with "Clownin Around," Dennis Ryan's ode to John Wayne... Gacy. Ian O'Neil informed the crowd that the show had sold out during set break, and the band appeared to relish the news, kicking off "The Bump" with an extended jam. While I'd enjoyed the first set, it was apparent that they were having more fun in the second frame, even dipping into Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" mid-"These Old Shoes." Ryan sang "Wants/Needs" from behind his Plexiglas drum fortress before careening into Chris Montez's "Let's Dance," McCauley strapping on a harmonica for the ride. Covers of the Pogues' "White City" and Tommy Keene's "Places That Are Gone" injected some '80s guitar tones into the mix. Following the latter, the band departed stage left, with the exception of John, who moved to the keyboard. Although he admitted he was a bit under the weather, he persevered on a spirited take of "Christ Jesus," his bandmates rejoining him after the second refrain. Deer Tick wrapped up the set with a trio from Vol. 2, "It's a Whale," "Look How Clean I Am," and "Mr. Nothing Gets Worse," and left the stage.

Would they come back and play more songs? Would they be acoustic or electric? A minute later, John returned, took a seat at the keyboard, and said, "Alright, we'll do a few more." While the lyrics to "Goodbye, Dear Friend" made it a good encore choice, it's a bit of a downer to end on, so the band fired off a joyful "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, & Understanding?" with John windmilling through the closing power chords. They kept the party going with a pair of their most beloved tunes, "Baltimore Blues No. 1" and "Ashamed," the crowd offering ample vocal assistance. McCauley wanted to ensure that his appreciation for the fans didn't go unnoticed, remarking, "Some people think this is bullshit, but it isn't," as he segued into Joe Cocker's "You Are So Beautiful." After the ketchup and mustard of the first two sets, the encore was gravy.


SET ONE, ACOUSTIC (56 minutes) -
Sea of Clouds / Card House / Art Isn't Real (City of Sin) / Houston, TX / Smith Hill / Hope is Big / Me & My Man / Cocktail / The Dream's in the Ditch / Only Love / Mange

SET TWO, ELECTRIC (1 hour, 11 minutes) -
Don't Hurt / Jumpstarting / Clownin Around / The Bump > Easy / Tiny Fortunes / White City / These Old Shoes > Superstition (tease) > These Old Shoes / Twenty Miles / Wants/Needs > Let's Dance / Make Believe / Miss K. / Dirty Dishes / Places That Are Gone / Christ Jesus / It's a Whale / Look How Clean I Am / Mr. Nothing Gets Worse

ENCORE (19 minutes) -
Goodbye, Dear Friend / (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, & Understanding? / Baltimore Blues No. 1 / Ashamed > You Are So Beautiful

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Next Round - Episode 54: Elizabeth & the Catapult

Usually I buy the drinks on The Next Round, but when the coffee shop we were supposed to go to was unexpectedly closed, Elizabeth Ziman improvised (She is a musician.) and invited me into her apartment for tea. We had a great talk, starting with her childhood in the Village and ending with the release of her fantastic fourth record, Keepsake, an album so good, you'd never guess it was the result of mashing up old journal entries with NyQuil-influenced fever dreams.

Stream below, download directly, or subscribe on iTunes (and rate it 5 stars).

Elizabeth is on tour now. Check here for dates.
Read my review of her release show.
Buy Keepsake on vinyl/CD/digital.

Listen to "Ambrosia" and a song from every guest on The Next Round Companion Playlist.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Next Round - Episode 53: Matthew Logan Vasquez

It's that time again, when rock critics start posting their best-of-the-year picks. While I still like to give December its fair shot, my album of the year (so far, and since April) is Matthew Logan Vasquez's second LP, Does What He Wants. I got the opportunity to interview MLV back in April for the podcast. It was a great talk, but his tour ended before I was able to schedule the episode. Now that he's about to go on the road again, it's finally time to hear what Delta Spirit's frontman has to say about fatherhood, stage presence, and the sound of discovery.

Stream below, download directly, or subscribe on iTunes like the good person you are.

Click here for MLV tour dates.
Order Does What He Wants on vinyl.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Alex Lahey Music Hall of Williamsburg Setlist


Fun Dumpster / Vominos / Run Home / Bad Spanish / Pigeon Language / Serenity / Don't Be a Stranger

DUDE YORK - 11.16.17 - MUSIC HALL OF WILLIAMSBURG (34 minutes)

Black Jack > Lonely Girls* / Something in the Way > Tonight / The Way I Feel > Love Is / Twin Moons / Paralyzed

ALEX LAHEY - 11.16.17 - MUSIC HALL OF WILLIAMSBURG (1 hour, 11 minutes)

Every Day's the Weekend / Wes Anderson / Perth Traumatic Stress Disorder / L-L-L-Leave Me Alone / Awkward Exchange / I Want U / Ivy League / Let's Call It a Day / I Love You Like a Brother / Lotto in Reverse / Backpack / Torn / I Haven't Been Taking Care of Myself

There's No Money / Let's Go Out / You Don't Think You Like People Like Me

Saturday, November 11, 2017

White Reaper Le Poisson Rouge Setlist

Review to come.

WHITE REAPER - 11.10.17 - LE POISSON ROUGE (1 hour, 1 minute)

Wolf Trap Hotel > Last 4th of July > Pills / Little Silver Cross / I Don't Think She Cares > Crystal Pistol > Sheila / Eagle Beach / Friday the 13th / The World's Best American Band / The Stack / Judy French / Make Me Wanna Die > B.T.K. / Tequila Crowdsurfing Jam*

Half Bad