Friday, November 30, 2012

Hellogoodbye Are "Getting Old"

I forfeited my ticket to Hellogoodbye last night to take care of some things around the apartment, but my friend Carrie went and snagged some pics.  The show was in the Marlin Room at Webster Hall, a dancefloor with capacity for 500. While the space was visually interesting, particularly the decorative wrought iron half-circle behind the stage that resembled a peacock's plume when hit with the multicolored lights, the sound quality left much to be desired.  Pounding bass for the first half of the set had my friend stuffing napkins in her lobes as makeshift earplugs.

Forrest Kline and the guys played a total of 49 minutes, a slim set that could have been beefed up by some older tunes, but it has become quite clear that Hellogoodbye are desperately trying to shed their Autotuned, electro-pop past.  Most songs were culled from their sophomore release, Would It Kill You?  They only reached as far back as Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs! twice, for "Baby, It's Fact" and the encore.  The latter came after a 15-second break, with fans eagerly shouting song titles.  "No requests, please," sang Kline in Autotune, and eased into "Here (in Your Arms)" with the first chorus in half-time, which actually had some crowdmembers slow-dancing.
Hellogoodbye have grown up, or are "getting old" as one of their songs goes.  Forrest Kline is the only original HGB member left, and chief songwriter, so if you don't like the direction he's taking, as a fan, you can stop listening, or as a band member, you can quit, as ten previous ones have done.  Forrest mentioned he had a sore throat and would need help from the crowd to sing.  Everyone cheered delightedly, and he responded, "Okay, well, this is a new song, so just try to figure out where I'm going thematically."  Perhaps it's that my-way-or-the-highway attitude that scared away his past band members, but he's just so innocently likeable, especially when dancing like David Byrne to the new song, with its groovy bass and incessant disco hi-hat.

They also played "Swear You're in Love," which is featured on their Daytrotter session that dropped yesterday.  (For those of you who don't know, Daytrotter is a music subscription site where you pay a small fee for downloads of exclusive sessions by bands ranging from Kris Kristofferson to Naughty by Nature.  Hellogoodbye are even the A side of the latest Daytrotter vinyl split.  You can sign up for Daytrotter here for only $2 a month!)  Both tunes will likely find their way onto HGB's next album, which is slated for an April 2013 release.

Forrest said he was heading to Idle Hands after the show to play a few more songs, so hopefully he wasn't too hoarse.  And hopefully people weren't talking too loud like they were for Brandon Reilly.


When We First Kissed / Finding Something to Do / Getting Old / Baby, It's Fact / Dammit (tease) / Coppertone / There's Nothing Else That Seems to Be as True* / You Sleep Alone / The Thoughts That Give Me the Creeps / Swear You're in Love / When We First Met

Here (in Your Arms)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Brandon Reilly Unveils Two New Songs at Idle Hands

If you were to judge solely by iTunes playcounts, Nightmare of You's self-titled 2005 debut is my favorite album.  It's also the first record I ever bought on vinyl.  Sounding like an amalgam of the Jam and the Smiths, the LP contains both insanely catchy hooks and delightfully twisted lyrics.  The last time I saw Nightmare of You was in Hoboken in August 2009 to support their second album, Infomaniac.  The album was disappointing to a lot of fans, and by that time, half of the original band members had departed.  That December, frontman Brandon Reilly announced he was leaving for Italy, and the band would be going on an indefinite hiatus.

Fast-forward to 2012: Reilly has returned to the U.S. and Nightmare of You have released two singles "Out of My Mind" and "Give Us a Kiss" via their website.  When I heard Brandon was headlining a free show at Alphabet City's Idle Hands, I knew I had to go, packing for my Thanksgiving trip home be damned.  Though I'd seen his Movielife band member, Vinnie Caruana, perform solo twice this year, I'd never seen Reilly onstage without at least his bandmate, Joe McCaffrey.

I got there a little early, in time to hear one of the lame opening bands cover the Spice Girls' "Wannabe," modifying the lyrics to "Tell me what'cha want, what'cha really fucking want," which excited nobody except for one drunk girl in the corner.  They had the limited edition Brooklyn Defender on tap so I gave that a whirl (Disappointing, by the way.), and watched the Knicks dominate New Orleans.

After taking a few minutes to tune his guitar, Brandon, looking more adult with his bang-less haircut, asked, "Hey, how's it going?" and jumped right into a new song.  Mainly consisting of the lyrics "I'm so fucking mad, will you be my punching bag?" it wasn't my favorite, but it was also hard to hear it clearly.

You see, Idle Hands may be one of the worst venues for a concert I've ever been to.  It's a basement bar with a stage raised about a foot off the floor.  No lights shine on the stage, so it's actually brighter in the rest of the room, save for a three foot-square cutout in the wall behind it, which backlights the performers.  Things get even more awkward when the large-Afroed DJ hangs out in the hole during the set.  There aren't enough tables for it to be table-seating, and not enough open floor for it to be standing room only.  The narrow spaces between tables are the places to stand, and that's only if you don't mind the incessant chatter from the rest of the room.  It's a bar.  Don't let the band posters on the walls fool you.

Obviously not the ideal spot for a concert, it's hard to give a real review of the performance.  "I Want to Be Buried in Your Backyard" and "The Days Go by Oh So Slow" had a select few upfront mouthing along the lyrics, and "Heaven Runs on Oil" sounded a bit country-western on acoustic.  I found myself missing McCaffrey's vocal harmonies and melodic guitar solos, but also absent were Brandon's pterodactyl-like screams that punctuate many NOY songs.  New song "It Takes All Types" was more developed than the opening number, and I can't wait to hear a full band version.  "Without the trash, there'd be no pearls," sang Reilly, keeping with the theme of that same scornful beauty from which he finds so much to exhume.  "Thank you so much for coming. This is gonna be my last song," Brandon said, and finished up with Neutral Milk Hotel's "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea," which captured some attention from the bar.  Maybe open with that next time?

Nightmare of You will be playing a full band show on January 19th at Ollie's Point/Revolution in Amityville.  I may just have to take a trip on the LIRR and get some more plays on the iPod.

BRANDON REILLY - 11.20.12 - IDLE HANDS (26 minutes, 40 seconds)

Punching Bag* / I Want to Be Buried in Your Backyard / The Days Go by Oh So Slow / Ode to Serotonin / Heaven Runs on Oil / It Takes All Types* / Marry Me / In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Two Encores & Warren Haynes for Grace Potter's Beacon Night 2

Last night, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals played their second show in a two-night stand at the Beacon Theatre.  While Friday night fans were treated to some older GP&N material, Saturday's show had the real goods, with a setlist including a Soundgarden cover and a surprise appearance by Warren Haynes.

I got to the Beacon about twenty minutes before the show to be there in time for opening act, the Stepkids.  I bought a limited edition show poster featuring a lion with only a skeleton for its rear half.  I didn't buy one of the limited edition cocktails, the Lion, or the Beat, because they were $15 each.  I found my prime seat in the left center of the orchestra, and at 8:00 on the dot, the Stepkids took the stage.

I'd seen the Connecticut threesome (foursome if you include projectionist David Pond) open for Mayer Hawthorne this year, and while I don't know that I'd ever listen to their music on my iPod, their stage show is so mesmerizing, they could open any concert I go to and I wouldn't be upset.  The Stepkids are all white guys, dressed in all white clothes, playing all white instruments, in front of an all white backdrop.  But that whiteness only lasts that initial second because as soon as they start playing, Pond begins splashing colors onto the canvas.  Neon yellow drips down purpley pink, blue intersecting lines bump to the beat.  For the Prince-inspired "Sweet Salvation," blobs of primary colors encircled the band members, expanding and retracting with the bassline.  The Stepkids played psychedelic tunes with a hint of funk, and yet when I saw them in April, even though they performed mainly the same songs, I classified them as funk with psychedelic leanings.  Which means they tailor their sound to who they're opening for (funkier for Hawthorne, more psych for Grace), which is pretty awesome.  "Yeah, we're feeling it tonight. We really are," admitted guitarist Jeff Gitelman.  Unfortunately, they only had time to feel it for five songs, just under a half an hour.

With the roar of the MGM lion, followed by the 20th Century Fox theme, the Nocturnals emerged from the wings to rev things up right away with "Medicine."  Usually performed late in the set, the uptempo song lifted the crowd from their seats, and we'd remain standing for the rest of the show.  Draped in black, Potter danced around like she was in an Olympic swimming medley, windmilling her arms in the butterfly and doing an insane variation of the breaststroke.  And this is why we love Grace Potter.  'Cause she doesn't care about looking cool when she dances so crazily, and that's exactly why she's cool.  She's such a magnetic force onstage, it's hard to look away.  I barely caught Matt Burr playing his cymbals with a maraca, and I only noticed lefty Michael Libramento plucks his bass upside-down because Grace happened to be near him during a song.  Introducing "Joey," Grace explained her affinity for NYC: "You got a whole lotta bad boys.  I always seem to get into trouble whenever I come to New York City." (Check out my review of Grace's private Irving Plaza gig in June.)

It was in "Oasis" where I realized how great the sound was.  Grace's tambourine hits shimmered, and the dual-guitars of Benny Yurco and Scott Tournet sliced cleanly through the space.  My only minimal complaint would be that Grace's organ could've been a hair louder.  Potter took center stage with an acoustic guitar to play "Falling or Flying," a song that has brought her peace in the past, and that she hoped would comfort those affected by "that motherfuckin' hurricane."  "I heard somebody call her Slutty Sandy.  I like that.  What a whore," she remarked.  Some members of the crowd decided this slow number would be a great time to yell out their approval, which was annoying, especially when a few bars of Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer" elicited a cheer loud enough to obscure the tease almost completely. 

Grace and the guys dug into the crypt to revive slinky oldie "Treat Me Right," and followed it with the piano-based "Tiny Light."  After crowd-favorite "Stop the Bus," Potter and crew unleashed "The Lion the Beast the Beat" where it had traded places with "Medicine."  One of the ballsiest rocking songs ever sung by a woman, "Paris," had the whole theatre "ooh la la-ing" as Grace cranked out the chords on her Flying V.  "One more song?" Grace asked at its conclusion.  Cheers from the floor and both balconies.  "Una más," she confirmed, and welcomed guest star, Warren Haynes.  Though the Beacon is pretty much Warren's second home (Gov't Mule is playing there on NYE by the way.), it was still a nice surprise when they launched into a screeching cover of "Gimme Shelter," with Warren taking the second verse.  Grace, Nocturnals, and Warren placed their arms over each other's shoulders and took a bow.

The night could've ended there and satisfied everyone, but the Nocturnals still had more to give.  Taking a two-minute break, they returned to the stage for the soaring ballad, "Stars."  And then, surprising everyone, kept the interstellar theme going with Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun."  Grace announced, "This is the real last song," and strapped on her guitar for a solitary slide-necked "Nothing But the Water (I)," as she did at Farm Aid.  The Nocturnals joined in for part two, and everyone in the band ended up drumming together on Burr's kit.  "New York City, do we need to break it down?" quizzed Potter, who removed her shoes and did a rain dance before finishing things up at her organ.  "Salud, New York," she toasted, swigging from her coffee mug before exiting the stage.

New piece of advice: Whenever Grace Potter says they've got one more song, she's lying. Because even after a 25-minute encore, Yurco returned to the stage with an acoustic 6-string and started the opening solo to Heart's "Crazy on You."  The rest of the band joined him, kicking in with the classic riff.  "Help me scream the roof off this place!" Potter urged.  And though the ornate ceiling will still be there for the Mule on New Year's, the cheers were deafening.  While I'm sure Friday night's show was excellent, realizing you've picked the right night in a run feels like winning the lottery.

THE STEPKIDS - 11.17.12 - BEACON THEATRE (29 minutes, 26 seconds)

Shadows on Behalf / Suburban Dream / Sweet Salvation / Legend in My Own Mind (feat. Meredith DiMenna) / Cup Half Full

GRACE POTTER & THE NOCTURNALS - 11.17.12 - BEACON THEATRE (1 hour, 58 minutes)

Medicine / Joey / Hot Summer Night / Goodbye Kiss / Timekeeper / Oasis / Falling or Flying > Cortez the Killer (tease) > Falling or Flying / Treat Me Right > Tiny Light / Stop the Bus > The Lion the Beast the Beat / Paris (Ooh La La) / Gimme Shelter (feat. Warren Haynes)

Stars > Black Hole Sun > Nothing But the Water (I) > Nothing But the Water (II)

Crazy on You

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Legend in the Making: Gary Clark, Jr. at 9:30 Club

The Cody Chesnutt show was sold-out, so here's another review cobbled together from my brother's texts.

On Friday night, Gary Clark, Jr. headlined a sold-out show at Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club, which many people, including myself, consider one of the best clubs in the nation.  Kat Edmonson opened, but had to compete with a loud, chatty crowd that was there to see Clark.  Gary Clark, Jr., the 28-year-old guitarist, is "so hot right now" to say the least.  He burst into the public's ears last year with The Bright Lights EP, a 4-track hors d'oeuvre to the 3-week-old Blak & Blu, his major label debut.  A fixture on this summer's festival scene, Clark has amassed a legion of fans, many of whom were quick to dismiss a handful of the album's more eclectic songs as filler imposed by the label when Blak & Blu dropped in October.  What they may not realize is that GCJ released 3 albums and an EP before Bright Lights, and several of the songs on his new album appeared on them, including the hip-hop-flavored "The Life."  The only one of these records still available is the eponymous EP, which you can download from Amazon.  These documents of GCJ's past have been swept under the rug by Warner Brothers to reinvent him as the savior of the blues, hyping him up as a new artist so as to capitalize on his talent.  Only five songs on Blak & Blu hadn't been previously released before the album debuted at #6 on the Billboard chart.  His entire fall tour sold out in advance, including three shows at the Bowery Ballroom and the Troubadour.  But does he live up to the hype?

Just before 10:30, GCJ and band hit the ground running with "When My Train Pulls In," accentuated by a screeching solo that extended the song to 11 minutes.  After "Don't Owe You a Thang," Clark went with "Oh, Pretty Woman," the funky Albert King track; not the Roy Orbison hit.  My brother's favorite performance of the night came next on "Please Come Home," where Gary let his vocals, usually reminiscent of fellow blues revivalist Dan Auerbach, take a trip into Smokey Robinson falsetto territory.  Following that was "Third Stone from the Sun/If You Love Me Like You Say," the Hendrix-Collins hybrid that was immortalized on this year's Record Store Day release HWUL Raw Cuts Vol. 1, and tailed by a hornless "Ain't Messin' 'Round."  Clark paid tribute again to blues-great Albert Collins with "If Trouble Was Money."  If you don't recognize Collins by name, you may remember him from Adventures in Babysitting, where he delivered the classic line, "Nobody leaves this place without singing the blues."

A slower version of "Blak & Blu" featuring only Gary and drummer Johnny Radelat segued into closer "Bright Lights."  Gary returned to the stage alone to play a very old blues song, "When the Sun Goes Down," which was released in 1935 by Leroy Carr and later popularized by Ray Charles.  He closed with the album's single, "Numb," whose hard rock riffing inspired two crowdmembers to brawl before being escorted out by security.  When the concert ended more than 20 minutes after midnight, my brother texted, "Don't miss this guy the next time he's in NYC.  Legend in the making."

Which made me think: What constitutes a legend?  In this era of shuffling playlists, mp3s, and laptop studios, can there be legends?  When so much music is inundating the marketplace, a marketplace in which many people see no problem in shoplifting, is there room for legends?  When I think of legendary musicians, the first people that pop into my mind are Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, and Elvis Presley.  In "Bright Lights," Clark contends, "You're gonna know my name by the end of the night," which is hopefully true for anyone attending a show of his that sold out in an hour, but will he ever be as iconic as Elvis?  More fittingly, perhaps, is that he may become a blues legend.  Albert Collins has influenced many blues artists and would likely be considered a legend in his genre, but I had to google him to see what he looked like, and then attached him to "Babysitting Blues."  Surely we can all picture B.B. King's face in our heads, but can we readily imagine Albert King's?  I suppose only time will tell for Clark, but one thing's certain: Right now, on stage, he lives up to the hype.

I don't usually make it a point to invite people to comment, but this topic intrigues me.  What makes a legendary musician?  Who would you consider the most recent musical legend?  Do you think Gary Clark, Jr. is next?  Leave your comments below.

GARY CLARK, JR. - 11.09.12 - 9:30 CLUB (1 hour, 52 minutes)

When My Train Pulls In / Don't Owe You a Thang / Oh, Pretty Woman / Please Come Home / Third Stone from the Sun/If You Love Me Like You Say / Ain't Messin' 'Round / Things Are Changin' / If Trouble Was Money / Catfish Blues / Travis County / Blak & Blu > Bright Lights

When the Sun Goes Down / Numb

Friday, November 9, 2012

Thirty Bands Cover Jay-Z in Central Park Tomorrow!

I don't know if I'll make it to Jazz & Colors or not, but it seems interesting at the very least.  Tomorrow from 12-4pm, thirty jazz bands will take spots in various locations of Central Park and play two sets of jazz standards by Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and more.  The bands will all perform the same setlist, so you'll be free to stroll through the park without missing a note.  (Or find your favorite of the bunch and stick around.)  A jazzy spin on Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' 2009 hit "Empire State of Mind" will close out the festival. If you don't have anything to do tomorrow, head to Central Park.  It's not even supposed to be that cold.  Just cool. Like jazz.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Too Much NyQuil: Donavon Frankenreiter at Baltimore's 8x10

My brother Greg made an impulse decision to see Donavon Frankenreiter play at the 8x10 in Baltimore a few nights ago.  I'm going to cull together a review from the texts and pics he sent.

Disappointed by Donny's new band when he saw them in Dewey Beach in August, he was pleasantly surprised by an even newer rhythm section onstage.  "Two songs in, they're already better," he texted, with Donavon opening with two mellow numbers "Lullaby" and "West Coast Fool," far cries from his tendency to start off funky.  Following "Too Much Water" Donavon admitted that had been sick for a few days, but was feeling better.  He did, however, pass his illness onto Matt Grundy, who he said was on "too much NyQuil," though his performance, even on harmonica, wasn't affected.  After a badass sax solo by the keyboardist on "Heading Home," Donny and the boys played the obligatory "Free."  They closed the set with a tasty funk sandwich of "Move by Yourself" and "Byron Jam" with relative rarity "Girl Like You" as the meat.
Tender tune "Butterfly" (which is the song I'm always hoping for, lucky bastard) ushered in a three-song encore that included Tom Petty's "American Girl" and the singalong that will forever end Frankenreiter's concerts, "It Don't Matter."  Donny amazingly tossed the microphone into the balcony to allow an upper-decker to sing the chorus, and then recoiled it for another crowdmember to take the stage karaoke-style.
Before the tour finishes, be sure to enter the Play a Concert with Donavon Contest.  If you are in the city of the show (Tonight they're in Knoxville.), and have an acoustic guitar and some original songs, you might be lucky enough to open.  And be sure to read my Donavon Frankenreiter Brooklyn Bowl reviews here and here.  Thanks, bro.

DONAVON FRANKENREITER - 11.04.12 - 8 X 10 (1 hour, 17 minutes)

Lullaby / West Coast Fool / Life, Love, & Laughter / Lovely Day / Too Much Water / Bend in the Road / What'cha Know About / Start Livin' / Heading Home / Free / Move by Yourself / Girl Like You / That's Too Bad (Byron Jam)

Butterfly / American Girl / It Don't Matter

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hurricane Sandy, Cody Chesnutt, Blind Tony

I was supposed to see Xavier Rudd at Irving Plaza the Sunday of Sandy, but that was postponed.  No word yet on the rescheduled date.

I'm going to attempt to see Cody Chesnutt on Friday at Mercury Lounge, so expect a combined review of the show and his new album, Landing on a Hundred, on Saturday.  I donated to Cody's Kickstarter to help out with its release, so it's personally exciting.

Until then, you can follow me on Instagram, where I post photos as Blind Tony.