Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hollis Brown & Desert Noises Bring That Old Rock & Roll to Mercury Lounge

When I saw Hollis Brown open for Deer Tick back in December, they'd mentioned that they were going to release a record this year. Well, that time has come, and the rockers celebrated by playing the album and more at packed show at Mercury Lounge last night.

Desert Noises, a rock band from Utah who've been touring with them, kicked things off with a nine-song set. Beginning with "Grandma Looks," I was immediately impressed with how much energy the boys put into the songs live. "You guys ready to dance?" questioned frontman Kyle Henderson right before Patrick Boyer plunged into "Oak Tree" with a heavy dose of slide guitar. On record, Henderson's voice recalls Good Old War's Keith Goodwin, but in person, it's much more ferocious, his face contorting to match the intensity. There's also no bass in Good Old War, and Tyler Osmond's peppy plucking is key to the Desert Noises sound, especially on their new songs from the I Won't See You EP. These tunes, from the Band of Horses-esque title track to the Stephen Hawking-inspired "Birds," move along on a bouncier groove than their full-length, and show them growing as a band, aptly channeling their pop sensibilities through a classic rock filter. It's this filter that makes them stand out. Hip-shaking new ditty "Shiver" might've fit on a Warped Tour compilation if it were watered down and processed to shit, but Desert Noises have a weight to their songs, maybe even a little of "The Weight" the Band were singing about in '68. The young men of Desert Noises sound like they got ahold of their parents' old records and took to the garage to try their hand at it. If they were your kids, you'd hear the wailing guitar solos, open the door, and yell, "Keep it down!" because that's your obligation as a parent and good neighbor. Then you'd close the door, and with a proud smile, giddily say to your spouse, "They're getting really good."

After a quick tune-up, Hollis Brown wasted no time, charging into "Doghouse Blues" from their new album, Ride on the Train. "You go to work in the morning / You go to bed at night" were the first words out of Mike Montali's mouth.  You'd be hard-pressed to find lyrics like these in a contemporary song, and yet, it's still what the majority of us do, toiling our days away to support ourselves and our families.  It's that mentality that pervades Hollis Brown's songs.  They're not trying to reinvent the wheel because the rusty truck they're on still runs.  While most independent artists in New York seem determined to make their mark by finding the weirdest sound possible, the guys in Hollis Brown aren't willing to sacrifice quality songwriting for it. Michael Hesslein, who plays keys on the album, added another layer to a trio of fan favorites, "Nothing & the Famous No One," "Ride on the Train," and of course, "Gypsy Black Cat," which is where things really switched on for the band and the crowd.  I mentioned the Band before, and new song "Faith & Love" could've been an outtake from The Brown Album. "I wanna say thank you to the band for sticking with it and putting up with my bullshit," Montali said as his comrades left him to perform a solo "If It Ain't Me."

"We're gonna take a little break from doing our songs, and we're gonna do a song by Creedence Clearwater Revival," Mike announced as his cohorts returned.  "Green River" was met with cheers, but not as many as for their song, "Nightfall," which is saying something.   Bassist Dillon DeVito took lead vocals on "Carolina, Carolina."  At its end, he admitted that he wasn't a native New Yorker, but offered, "I think it took like 34 days on the road for New York to feel like home, so it's good to come back."  Hesslein was reinstated for the live debut of "Hey Baby," a tune where Jon Bonilla's guitar licks evoked the "woo woo"'s of "Sympathy for the Devil."  Montali set aside his six-string for "Cold City," the non-album single, which featured a super-funky breakdown from his bandmates.  The guy beside me who'd been yelling for "Walk on Water" all night finally got his wish when the song closed the set and marked the entire album played.  After a split-second encore break to wrangle Desert Noises from the crowd, the bands joined together for Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World."  Keep on rockin', boys.  Bands like Desert Noises and Hollis Brown may be a dying breed, but they're also proof that real rock 'n' roll will never die.

DESERT NOISES - 03.30.13 - MERCURY LOUNGE (38 minutes)

SET -
Grandma Looks / Oak Tree / Blinded by the Light* / I Won't See You / Birds / Fall Through the Sky* / Shiver / Wild Dream* / 27 Ways

HOLLIS BROWN - 03.30.13 - MERCURY LOUNGE (1 hour, 8 minutes)

SET -
Doghouse Blues / Down on Your Luck / When the Weather's Warm / Nothing & the Famous No One / Ride on the Train / Gypsy Black Cat / Faith & Love / If It Ain't Me / Green River / Nightfall / Carolina, Carolina / Hey Baby / Cold City / Walk on Water

ENCORE -
Rockin' in the Free World (feat. Desert Noises)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Broken Anchor Pre-Selling Fresh Lemonade

Normally you wouldn't buy fresh lemonade before you knew which kid on the block was selling it, but when it's Broken Anchor, rest assured, it's going to be tasty.  And probably spiked.  That's right.  My most anticipated album of the year now has a name (Fresh Lemonade), cover art (pictured), and a pre-order page on Pledge Music (click here).  Check out the Felliniesque music video for the first single, "Never Leave Me Alone" below:




T.E.N. EP Debuts Monday

On April 1, 2012, Thomas Pridgen (The Mars Volta), Eric McFadden (George Clinton & the P-Funk All Stars), and Norwood Fisher (Fishbone) got together at Hyde Street Studios in California to record some tracks.  On Monday, one year later, they will release the T.E.N. EP, the product of their collaboration.  The limited edition disc (available at live shows and iTunes) features four songs from the dreadlocked trio known as T.E.N. (Thomas, Eric, Norwood).

The hard-rocking "Queen Dreamer" kicks off the EP, immediately invoking Living Colour with its crunchy guitars and pounding drums.  McFadden's voice is similar to Vernon Reid's too, though that isn't a bad thing, as he's able to move deftly from a falsetto to a growl.  That growl comes in handy on the next cut, "Dog Eat Dog World," which wears the Fishbone influence on its sleeve.  It wouldn't feel out of place on an early Red Hot Chili Peppers record either.  The song gets a little silly with the number of howls and woofs (By its end, it sounds like the "twilight bark" scene in 101 Dalmatians.), but we're dealing with P-Funk and Fishbone here, so it's par for the course.

While the first three tunes come off as a little too derivative of late '80s funk metal, the final song, "Asleep in the Ocean" is where the eccentricities of each band member finally coalesce to make that original T.E.N. sound they were searching for last April.  Guitars swirl around sound effects of waves crashing to make a heady stew that is then peppered with violin before bubbling into the driving chorus.  My only complaint is that it's over too quickly.

The challenge of a "supergroup" is as such: How do you make it so it doesn't just sound like a couple songs from each member's primary band?  So far, they've done it with "Asleep," and we'll get to hear if T.E.N. can do it again when they release their full-length on the numerically appropriate release date, 10.10.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Top 10 Daytrotter Sessions

Daytrotter is one of the few music subscription services I pay for, and I'll tell you why.  It's awesome.  I was downloading from Daytrotter for years before they began charging, so I was initially irritated that I'd have to start coughing up the dough, but I only complained for as long as it took me to fill in my credit card information.  For just $24, you get a year's worth of access to their exclusive sessions, which you can download or stream, as well as thousands of streaming videos from Wolfgang's Vault.  

Artists who record for Daytrotter range from unknowns to indie darlings to even a few legends, and genres run the gamut from electronic to rap to country.  Each session is recorded live to tape with no overdubs, and will occasionally feature cover songs or rarities.  I've discovered many bands this way, and I've also heard songs by my favorite artists before they were released on albums.  So give it a try.  It's only $2 a month, and you get to keep anything you download if you decide you don't like it/are a crazy person.  As an added bonus, if you buy a year membership today, you'll get a free 180g vinyl record.  I'll wait while you sign up.

Still waiting.

Okay, now that you're signed up, you'll want to start listening right away.  As Daytrotter has been recording since 2006, there are now literally thousands of sessions, so the artist page can be daunting at first.  I'm here to help navigate.  It was tough, but I've narrowed down the list to my ten favorite sessions.  These are by no means the only ten you should get.  I have DT sessions by over 200 artists in my iTunes.  But think of these as a springboard to get you started.  Before you know it, you'll have made your own top ten.

(Also, if anyone at Daytrotter reads this, these would all make wonderful additions to your vinyl series.)

The Top Ten Daytrotter Sessions

10. Blitzen Trapper (Encore)
Before Blitzen Trapper made the critics swoon with Furr, they were a much weirder band.  Consequently sticking to the folksy formula that got them attention, they've never been as wild since.  This session does contain two great folk numbers, but it ends with "Woof & Warp of the Quiet Giant's Hem," three minutes of cacophony just as wacky as its title.  It's also the only place you'll hear "Big Adventure," the rocker BT were closing shows with in 2008.






9. The Belle Brigade
Barbara and Ethan Gruska are the grandchildren of composer John Williams, so a lot's expected from a band with that musical lineage.  Fortunately, the Belle Brigade's sunny folk-pop continues the tradition nicely.  As the siblings harmonize sweetly, the band makes generous use of Daytrotter's piano, tinkling ethereally during "Losers" and transporting "Sweet Louise" into the can-can show at a Wild West saloon.






8Local Natives
I discovered Local Natives through this session, which actually ruined me for their album release.  When Gorilla Manor dropped, the tracks seemed sterile, concentrating too much on perfecting the vocals, and missing some of the spark of this session.  The one-take aesthetic of Daytrotter really worked in their favor here.  "Airplanes" holds the title of my most-listened-to Daytrotter track.








Most sessions begin with a track called "Welcome to Daytrotter" that is essentially the artist saying, "This is ____, and you're listening to Daytrotter."  I usually delete them for this reason.  Deer Tick had some fun with it this go 'round though, so this was one of the rare ones I salvaged.  Deer Tick concerts are drunken parties that frequently go late, and this session sounds like it was recorded the morning after such a show... and it doesn't sound like they slept.  It's as authentic and raw as John McCauley's raggedly beautiful voice.  Bonus points for the cover of Jim Croce's "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown."


6. Mayer Hawthorne
Mayer Hawthorne's soulful How Do You Do was my favorite album of 2011, so I was delighted when this one came out.  Backed by his band, the County, Hawthorne takes four HDYD tracks and imbues them with that live energy found at his shows.  "A Long Time" truly cooks by its end, but if I had to spotlight a singular moment from the session, it would be in "The Walk" when MH punctuates the line "From the moment that I met you, I thought you were fine, so fine / But your shitty fucking attitude has got me changing my mind" with a quick "That's right, bitch."  Classic.



5. Whitley
There are hundreds of Daytrotter sessions that consist solely of an artist accompanied by his/her acoustic guitar.  My favorite is by Australian musician, Whitley.  Featuring a pair of tunes from The Submarine and early versions of two from his sophomore album, these four performances are filled with so much emotion that it hurts to listen to them.  And sometimes you need that.







4. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals (Encore 2)
This beast was actually released today.  After two three-song sessions, Grace and company returned for this marathon of eight originals and two covers.  The excellent Neil Young-inspired guitar solo in "The Divide" gives way to a solid rendition of Young's "Cinnamon Girl," but the show-stopper is the mid-session medley of "Stars," "The Lion the Beast the Beat," and "Paris," with a bit of Pink Floyd thrown in for good measure.  Honestly, if it were its own session, it still would've made my top ten.  "The Lion" transitions perfectly into a "Paris" that has never sounded more layered.  Die-hards will also appreciate the appearance of rarity "Belladonna."

3. Rayland Baxter
When I first saw Rayland open for Donavon Frankenreiter at Brooklyn Bowl, I knew he was a special talent.  The Nashville native creates beautiful folk melodies with lyrics that recall Dylan in their poetry, except that Baxter can actually sing.  A heaping helping of steel guitar adds a nice country twang to the session, which I sequence with "Olivia" first because that's when Rayland gives his greeting.  Remember how I said you get a free vinyl when you sign up?  Well, it's a split with Rayland and Grace Potter.




2. Reggie Watts
A master of improvisation, Watts creates four new songs from scratch, the shortest of which is still over 6 and a half minutes long.  While Watts' tunes are normally bent in a humorous direction, without an audience to procure laughs from, here he focuses more on the musicality to dazzling results.  Don't fret if you came for the laughs though 'cause you'll get them in the songs' introductions.  Watts crafts gems in every genre, ranging from the upbeat R&B of "Retaliation Under Duress" to the piano ballad "Fictional Entities."  My favorite cut is "Panther Quest," which is quintessential Reggie.


1. Hurricane Bells
It was almost two years ago when I saw a session pop up on Daytrotter by a band called Hurricane Bells.  Intrigued, I clicked through to hear some insanely catchy, fuzzy, indie rock.  Steve Schiltz loves his whammy bar, a guitar accessory not many bands use anymore or at least with such proficiency.  Listen to him rock out on "Monsters," get introspective on "The Cold Has Killed Us," and combine the two on "Tonight I'm Going to Be Like a Shooting Star."  Schiltz and band churned out eight songs for the session, a gracious amount of music to tide me over until my CD arrived in the mail.


Did I mention you should sign up?



Saturday, March 23, 2013

Both Brians of Beat Radio Back in Brooklyn



I walked into Muchmore's about five minutes before 9 to find a tiny bar that only had Abita on tap (What?).  I quickly discovered there was much more to Muchmore's (Well, not exactly.) when I looked through a doorway to my right to see a stage in a room about the size of a studio apartment.  Couches lined the muraled walls, decorated with grotesque characters like this angel.

Why was I in this unfamiliar place?  Beat Radio were making their return to Williamsburg after last month's gig at Pete's Candy Store.  And this time, Brian Sendrowitz would be accompanied by his sole bandmate, Brian Ver Straten, on drums.  The duo opened with "Elegy," and transported the room into a what resembled a mid-'90s grungy house party.  While Sendrowitz himself has described his music as "bedroom pop," Beat Radio's latest effort, Hard Times, Go!, was recorded in his basement, and it sounds like it.  Just listen to the screeches of guitar on "Hurricanes, XO" or Ver Straten's cymbal crashes on "Never Let You Down."  You can't make that kind of noise in your bedroom.  Bringing that basement-sized sound into the demented living room-vibe of Muchmore's paid off in a big way.  Every song sounded fuller than it did at Pete's or on the record.  The distortion in "East Coast" could've curdled milk, and it contrasted wonderfully against Brian's tender singing.  When he hit a wrong chord in "Stars Collided in Our Hearts," Sendrowitz apologized, "Sorry," with a bashful smile.  He was immediately excused because it was so genuine, it was like he was among friends.  Even his pitch for merchandise was affable, if silly: "We're like Kiss.  We have action figures, beer koozies, Hot Pockets.  Some of those are true."  And while Hard Times songs made up the bulk of the set, it was a nice surprise to hear older tune, "Everything is Temporary."


Because the show started a half-hour late, I wasn't able to run over to Brooklyn Bowl to watch Everything Everything as I'd planned, so I stuck around for the next two bands on the bill.  The Pine Hollows came next, playing most of their new album, Something My Heart Understands.  Led by Gianni Napolitano, who looks and sounds like he could've been a member of the Beatles circa 1963, the Pine Hollows make music in the mold of those early Beatles singles.  Perhaps too tightly in the mold.  
There are worse bands to emulate, for sure, but the strongest moments came in a three-song sequence towards the end of the set that rocked harder than the rest, ending with the creepy cadence of "After Dark."  Hopefully they will continue to expand their sound, and not just in the way the Beatles did.

The final band of the evening was Hey Anna, an indie pop outfit consisting of the three Rauch-Sasseen sisters and two of their friends.  The band incorporated several trendy styles into each song to create music that is both catchy and substantial.  While the sisters often swapped lead vocal duties, I preferred the configuration with Erin at the helm, as it seems the band does, just based on the number of songs she fronted.  Things got moody and literal when guitarist Andrew Smolin requested, "Can we turn all of the lights off?" for "Blackout," and new song "Dancin' 'Til 3" recalled a female version of Vampire Weekend.  I'm gonna keep them on my radar, as should you.  Download their EP for free here.



BEAT RADIO - 03.22.13 - MUCHMORE'S (37 minutes)

SET -
Elegy / Golden Age / East Coast / Hard Times, Go! / Stars Collided in Our Hearts / Teenage Anthem for the Drunken Boat / Everything is Temporary / Days Like Diamonds / Hurricanes, XO

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fountains of Wayne Rock the Tiny Bowery Electric


To most people, Fountains of Wayne are the band that made a music video starring Rachel Hunter as the world's sexiest MILF.
While they technically are a one-hit wonder, make no mistake; it's just a technicality.  The songwriting duo of Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood create songs so catchy, every one could be on the radio.  When I found out they were playing at the tiny Bowery Electric, I got my ticket immediately.  It was my first time at the venue, and after descending the stairs into the subterranean club, I took note of a sign on the wall: "Occupancy by more than 108 persons is dangerous and unlawful."  I was in the right place.

A three-piece band called Cruise Elroy opened the show.  It was a dream come true for singer Chris Merritt, who listed Fountains of Wayne among his top 10 favorite bands.  Once they started playing, it was obvious that Ben Folds Five and Coldplay hold numbers one and two.  Merritt did his best Chris Martin on "Rain King," remarking halfway through, "Such a slow song to put third."  The BFF comparison owes itself to the the combo of keys, bass, and drums, but when songs like "Shouldn't Be So Scared" featured a heap of "ba ba ba"'s, fuzz bass, and even a Foldsian slap-piano breakdown, it just felt like, to quote Folds, an "imitation of myself."  I understand they're a new band, but they're all proficient at their instruments, so it would behoove them to write more tunes like "Coney Island," which hinted at a more progressive sound, than to simply emulate their influences.  Five songs in, Merritt admitted he was exhausted: "I'm coming off like five straight days of work."  Oh, like everyone else who works?  Before the final number, he offered, "I'm kind of a dork onstage. I'm gonna work on that; I promise."  While you're at it, work on the endings to your songs because each one either petered out or ended abruptly.

I had no idea there would be another opener, so when Jesse Malin took the stage, I was caught by surprise, especially considering FoW had tweeted that Malin would not be playing.  His twitchy energy has been bubbling since he was 12 and fronting hardcore outfit Heart Attack, and I was unprepared for it, so much that he made me anxious.  Accompanied by Derek Cruz on guitar and keys, it wasn't until Malin's balladic take on the Replacements' "Bastards of Young" that he slowed things down enough that I really got a chance to breathe.  He closed with Cheap Trick's "Surrender," but after seeing Rick Nielsen play it with the Sound City Players last month, that's my definitive version.

Fountains of Wayne could've picked any number of their tunes that reference NYC to open with, and they chose "Little Red Light."  The high-energy song was the perfect one to usher in the wave of power pop that would follow.  
"It's nice to be playing in an actual club again," Schlesinger said, referencing a recent gig at the Mayo Performing Arts Center, where they shared the marquee with Click Clack Moo, a musical based on the children's book where cows and other barnyard animals type letters to Farmer Brown to protest their working conditions (Hey, I've read it to my niece before.  Forgive me for knowing the plot.).  "They're playing here tomorrow!" shouted someone in the crowd.  To be sure, the intimate club setting increased their passion in every song, and made it feel like they were some local secret that only us in the room knew about.  Somehow I'm always astounded when Jody Porter rips into a classic guitar solo, adding another level to the infectious tunes.  Porter's fretwork and the lack of the synth parts reminded me that Fountains of Wayne are not just a pop band, but authentic rockers.  And again, their songwriting is so strong that I found myself able to sing along to Sky Full of Holes songs I had only heard once or twice before.

"If you follow me on Twitter, which you don't, you've heard me whining about the weather," said Collingwood before shifting the tempo and "whining through song" with "Valley Winter Song."  They invited a small group of guys in suits onstage to play percussion on "Hey Julie," Adam teasing, "Please welcome the Goldman Sachs trainees."  It was pretty hilarious to watch the one in the middle take his role on tambourine so seriously.  Near the end of the show, Chris said he was going to slow it down again, and then crunched into "Leave the Biker."  The crowd cheered, and it felt good to be in a room of true fans.  I remember how ballsy I thought it was for them to not play "Stacy's Mom" the last time I saw them at Virgin Festival in 2007, but with the crowd already primed by "Biker," it was time.  They finished the set with "Radiation Vibe," sneaking in the riff from "Bastards of Young."

Returning to the stage for the encore, Chris Collingwood singled out a fan he passed on the stairs: "She said, 'YOLO.'  Security!"  Looking out at the smiling crowd, he continued, "You guys sound like you're in a good mood, so... so we're gonna put an end to all that."  Now with Jody on bass and Adam on keys, they began with two slower numbers, "Cemetery Guns" and "I-95," welcoming 
"fifth Fountain" John Skivic on guitar for the latter.  A fun "Red Dragon Tattoo" followed, and then a "Survival Car" played "triple-ax-style like fuckin' .38 Special or Molly Hatchet" as Jody returned Adam's bass.  "Sink to the Bottom" closed out the 20-minute encore with even more wild sounds from Porter's electric.  Click Clack Moo have a hell of an act to follow.



CRUISE ELROY - 03.19.13 - BOWERY ELECTRIC (39 minutes, 30 seconds)

SET -
Burn Me Like a Baby* / Turn You Right Round* / Rain King* / Coney Island* / All I Need in the World* / Shouldn't Be So Scared* / You & I, Jitterbugs* / The Sound of Our Evolution*


JESSE MALIN - 03.19.13 - BOWERY ELECTRIC (38 minutes)

SET -
Riding on the Subway / Hotel Columbia / Wendy / Black Haired Girl / Bastards of Young / If I Should Fall from Grace with God / Revelations / Burning the Bowery / Surrender

FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE - 03.19.13 - BOWERY ELECTRIC (1 hour, 14 minutes)

SET -
Little Red Light / Mexican Wine / A Dip in the Ocean / Someone to Love / Denise / The Summer Place / Richie & Ruben / Valley Winter Song / Hey Julie / Fire in the Canyon / Bright Future in Sales / Leave the Biker / Stacy's Mom / Radiation Vibe > Bastards of Young (tease) > Radiation Vibe


ENCORE -
Cemetery Guns / I-95 / Red Dragon Tattoo / Survival Car / Sink to the Bottom

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Robert Randolph, Lee Fields, & Some Very Special Guests Drop in for Night 2 of Bowlive IV


Celebrating their fourth Bowlive residency at Brooklyn Bowl, Soulive definitely set the bar high with Friday's mammoth show.  After two sets of jamming with special guests Robert Randolph and Lee Fields, the trio embarked on a surprise third set featuring two members of the Allman Brothers Band.



Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds kicked things off with a lengthy set of soulful rock 'n' roll.  After an opening salvo from the seven-piece band, singer Arleigh Kincheloe sauntered out from backstage to lead them on "The Long Way."  At first glance, Kincheloe recalled Carly Rae Jepsen, with her petite frame and brunette bangs.  The comparison stopped as soon as she opened her mouth.  Her bluesy vocals accented by howls and shrieks assured that she would never be caught dead singing "Call Me Maybe."  There is no "maybe" in that voice.  Tugging at her sheer blouse and gold necklaces, Sister Sparrow gyrated her narrow hips as she sang every song like it was her last, including a cover of "Back in Black."  Kincheloe is not the only musical member of her family though.  Her cousin Bram manned the drumkit, and her brother Jackson impressed everyone with his harmonica solo, "Bulldozer."  The Dirty Birds closed with "Road Trip," which ended with an a cappella and handclap breakdown.  Without the blast of the horns, Arleigh's amazing voice was spotlighted even more.  After almost an hour onstage, Arleigh informed the crowd, "We're all in for a treat tonight.  I cannot wait to be on the dance floor with all of y'all."

I had no idea how big the treat would be.  I'd seen Soulive with Karl Denson in Central Park, and even caught Krasno's solo show at the Slipper Room, so I figured I should go to at least one of the eight Bowlive shows this March.  I decided on Friday's show with Lee Fields and Robert Randolph because I'd never been in town for Randolph's annual Thanksgiving shows at the Bowl.

The trio hit the ground running with the deeply funky "El Ron," which they followed with a sparkly "Dig."  Listening to the tunes in this order, with "El Ron" unearthing its nasty groove and "Dig" priming the rockets for space exploration, the songs should have swapped names.  But what are titles to instrumental music, anyway?  "Dig" dug right into "Rudy's Way," with Krasno making that pained bulldog puppy face he does when he's really feeling it.  Another Get Down! track, "Uncle Junior," came next, culminating in some keyboard sounds from Neal that resembled the Psycho shower scene.  Soul singer Lee Fields then joined the band, along with Dave Guy on trumpet (I don't know that he sleeps; just goes from show to show every night.) and Mike Buckley on tenor sax.  Looking sharp in a silver suit, Fields showed off each aspect of his wonderful voice over the course of three songs: his power in the black anthem "We Fought for Survival," his sensitivity in "You're My Weakness," and his melodic soul in a cover of Otis Clay's "Trying to Live My Life Without You."  I can't wait to see a whole show from him.

"We're really glad you didn't go home," remarked Alan when the band returned almost forty minutes later.  "So glad you could join us for set 2 of 3," he added, holding up three fingers for all to see.  This was going to be a long night.  After Soulive played one of their classic cuts, "Aladdin," Robert Randolph, donning a Mardi Gras mask, took a seat behind his pedal steel guitar beside the drums.  He charged right into the intro of "Foxey Lady," with Alan taking vocal duties.  Randolph's high-energy "Ain't Nothing Wrong with That" came next, forcing the crowd to dance and clap along.  Lee Fields returned for a medley that included "Sex Machine" and Funkadelic's "I Got a Thing," but the real highlight of the set was a stretched-out "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" that had Randolph playing his guitar with his tongue.  Talk about tasty licks.  Mike Buckley also dropped a furious sax solo in the song's second half.  As they continued to jam, the hip-hop elements moved to the forefront, and Randolph took the opportunity to spit some Das EFX lyrics.  "They Want EFX" led into an instrumental "Crosstown Traffic," a track on which they'd collaborated for the Break Out album.

Now almost 1:30am, Soulive started their third set with "One in Seven."  After they'd established the blueprint of the song, an unannounced Derek Trucks appeared to help them build it into something really special.  All the evidence could be found in the smile on Neal's face as he watched Eric and Derek trade lines during the song's final section.  But Trucks split that cab he took from the Allman Brothers' gig at the Beacon.  Warren Haynes emerged from backstage, and took the reins for a soul-drenched "Thrill is Gone" and his own "Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday."  Robert Randolph came forth yet again, this time accompanied by trombonist Saunders Sermons, for blues standard "The Sky is Crying," which saw all four guitarists creating a gumbo with each of their distinct flavors. Neal even conducted Alan to lessen his volume so they could listen to the four at work.  At its end, Alan stated, "We've got one last song.  Gotta go home and get some rest.  We've got shows to play tomorrow."  Perhaps it was the tease of "Them Changes" in Sister Sparrow's "Too Much" that inspired the final number, but whatever the reason, Buddy Miles' infectious ditty got the full, funky treatment here, with smiles gleaming on every band member.

My weekend schedule has been screwed up immensely by the late night, but what a way to screw it up.  Let me know how the remaining nights go.  Friday's will be hard to top.


SISTER SPARROW & THE DIRTY BIRDS - 03.08.13 - BROOKLYN BOWL (57 minutes, 36 seconds)

SET -
Intro > The Long Way / Why Did You Do It* / Make It Rain / Every Road / Another Ride > Back in Black > Dirt / I Want to Take Ya* / Bulldozer > Too Much > Them Changes (tease) > Too Much / Road Trip


SOULIVE - 03.08.13 - BROOKLYN BOWL

SET ONE (47 minutes, 44 seconds) -
El Ron / Dig > Rudy's Way / Uncle Junior / We Fought for Survival / You're My Weakness > Trying to Live My Life Without You


SET TWO (1 hour, 18 minutes) -
Aladdin / Foxey Lady / Ain't Nothing Wrong with That / Instrumental* / It Sure Feels Good* > Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine > I Got a Thing, You Got a Thing, Everybody's Got a Thing > Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine / Instrumental* / Papa Was a Rollin' Stone > Instrumental* > They Want EFX > Crosstown Traffic > Previous Instrumental*

SET THREE (1 hour, 3 minutes) -
One in Seven / The Thrill is Gone / Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday / The Sky is Crying / Them Changes


*I need help with the names of these.  Full review with photos to come later.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Postelles Come Alive for Encore at Santos Party House


The Manhattan-based Postelles returned home to Santos Party House Tuesday night for their first NYC headline gig since they played Cameo Gallery in September.  Muddy mixing may have marred most of the set, but they were able to salvage the show with a rowdy encore.

I should've known something was off when I arrived at the venue and instead of putting the 21+ bracelet around my wrist, the bouncer just ground it into my arm hair.  When I got inside, things resembled a high school dance, green and purple lights reflecting off the massive disco ball and illuminating a few teens in the center, but with the majority hugging the walls.  I guess it had been awhile since I'd been to a concert where an X on your hand meant you couldn't drink.

Brooklyn's Ambassadors opened the show with a set comprised mainly of new songs.  I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the hairline of singer Sam Harris, and no longer felt like the oldest person in the club.  He reminded me of Christopher Meloni in Wet Hot American Summer.  When he sang in his mid-range, his voice was like any other adult contemporary rock singer (Chris Martin of Coldpay or Isaac Slade of the Fray), but when his vocal riffing at the end of "Habits" hinted at a bright upper register, he reminded me of Penguin Prison's Chris Glover.  When Harris went up to the mic to sing the next song, nothing came out, so he signalled Noah Feldshuh to fill the gap with a slide guitar solo.  The issue was resolved shortly after, and that sweet falsetto was heard once again.  At the song's end, Harris remarked, "We were so sexy, we blew the fuckin' power, dude!"  Maybe that wasn't entirely true, but they were an interesting opening band, and I'd see them again.

Unlike Arkells.  I'd downloaded their debut, Jackson Square, in 2009 and listened to it once.  I remembered liking it, but I didn't remember anything about it.  I guess my memory failed me.  They hail from Hamilton, Ontario, and if you didn't already know that, just listen to one of their songs 'cause they'll mention it like five times.  Their lyrics, which are sung over Springsteen-esque progressions, reflect a band with no real life experience.  "The Ballad of Hugo Chavez" is hardly a ballad.  Liberally interspersed with "hey hey hey"'s, its words don't focus on any of Chavez's actual political beliefs; just that he's cramped in his jail cell.  I seriously doubt they even knew that he died the same day as the concert.  "Kiss Cam" was about...you guessed it!  Kissing on the Jumbotron at a baseball game.  They polled the audience to determine if we'd want to hear a cover of a Talking Heads song or the Clash.  The Clash won out, and they played "Rock the Casbah."  Part of me wonders what Talking Heads song they would've played, but most of me doesn't care.

A little later, the Postelles emerged from backstage, with Daniel Balk wearing a Fleetwood Mac t-shirt.  They yanked down a white sheet with their logo printed on it as their backdrop, and kicked into the single that had premiered hours earlier on iTunes, "Caught by Surprise."  "It's good to be back home.  I got arrested at the border of Canada this week," Daniel announced, choosing to refrain from any details.  Perhaps he was a little too relieved to be in NYC because the energy level wasn't exactly up to the standard that I've come to expect from Postelles shows.

The Postelles are one of the few bands that accomplish the rare feat of simultaneously sounding polished and raw.  They use very little in the way of effects, and tuning-wise, they pretty much just plug in and play.  What makes them shine are their songs, perfect bites of pop/rock goodness, every one of them a potential radio hit if they wanted to over-produce them.  But they don't because it's about the songs.  Today's pop-punk bands could take a lesson from the Postelles, who play pop music, but have that authentic punk mentality.  Unfortunately, the sound mix in the room muddled the punchiness of the bass and submerged those sonic imperfections (if that makes sense).  Not to mention the fact that I almost got into a fight with two older guys in front me who claimed they weren't moving, but kept leaning on me.  Go figure that at a show like this, the kids wouldn't be the most annoying.  Then again, they couldn't drink alcohol.

Alex Winston joined the band for "Pretend It's Love," and she must've reinvigorated them because the rest of the show was excellent.  A cover of Wreckless Eric's "Whole Wide World," one of my favorites "Can't Stand Still," and closer "Tidal Wave" were all first-class.  Their set was only thirty seconds longer than Ambassadors', but they returned for a top-notch encore, beginning with a "Boy's Best Friend" that even ventured briefly into reggae land.  While Arkells had merely teased the opening chant to "Blitzkrieg Bop," Balk upped the ante on Ramones' covers, inviting onstage anyone who knew the words to "Beat on the Brat."  The kids had the time of their lives jumping around and taking their turns at the mic.  The vivacity spread into the crowd, and when it came time for "White Night," the entire floor erupted into a dance party.  I'm just bummed they ended it there when it felt like they were just getting started.



AMBASSADORS - 03.05.13 - SANTOS PARTY HOUSE (34 minutes)

SET -
Come Back to Me* / Drink It All Down* / Habits* / Faithfully Uncommitted* / Litost / Unconsolable > Never Let You Go*

ARKELLS - 03.05.13 - SANTOS PARTY HOUSE (49 minutes, 34 seconds)
SET -
Coffee / Ballad of Hugo Chavez / Michigan Left > Take Me to the River (tease) > Michigan Left / Called You Up* / Kiss Cam / On Paper / Abigail > Stand by Me > Abigail > Pullin' Punches > Blitzkrieg Bop (tease) > Pullin' Punches / Where U Goin' / Rock the Casbah / Book Club

THE POSTELLES - 03.05.13 - SANTOS PARTY HOUSE (46 minutes, 30 seconds)

SET -
Caught by Surprise / 123 Stop / Running Red Lights / Sound the Alarms / Sleep on the Dance Floor / Hey Little Sister / Pretend It's Love (feat. Alex Winston) / Whole Wide World / Can't Stand Still / Tidal Wave


ENCORE -
Boy's Best Friend / Beat on the Brat / White Night


*Any help identifying these songs is appreciated.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Frank Turner Previews New Tunes at Bowery Ballroom

Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls rocked the Bowery Ballroom last night.  Though the set  drew mainly from his standard repertoire, everything was played with fervor, including a few new songs from the upcoming Tape Deck Heart.


"I Am Disappeared" was, in my opinion, the perfect choice for an opener.  As the song kept building tension toward its inevitable release, I was bracing myself in case the floor was to erupt into a moshpit as it had at Webster Hall.  The pushing wouldn't start until the next number, "The Road," with a grip of big dudes rushing toward the stage to make sure Frank saw it was their fat fingers in the air punctuating each direction of the compass rose.  Following the breakdown, just prior to the "So saddle up your horses" line, Frank let out a yell that exemplified why I spent the extra money on a second-market ticket mere hours before the show (after the box office and Ticketbastard had failed me months ago).  It wasn't the loudest or fiercest scream, but it was the purest.  If anyone has a recording of the show, you must listen for this beautiful nugget (and please share it with me).

A pit developed as the song flowed into "Peggy Sang the Blues" (Because nothing gets you as violent as a song about playing cards with your grandmother.), but thankfully it dissipated by the ditty's end.  Frank made the token announcements about the new album coming out, and asked if we'd be okay with hearing some of the tracks.  He quickly appended, "All the hits too. 'You Give Love a Bad Name' and all that shit."  To a naysayer in the crowd: "Who booed that?  That's a fucking great song."  Having debuted as the first radio single earlier in the day, "Recovery" was the obvious choice.  The song saw Frank racing through breathless verses to a chorus that just aches for horns.  Hopefully by the fall, Frank will have chosen a brass band to bring along as his opening act, and really set this one ablaze.

To introduce the second performance ever of "Losing Days," Frank relayed a quick story about how he realized he was getting older after dropping something on the floor, reaching to pick it up, and making a noise.  Matt Nasir picked up a mandolin (No word on if he made a noise.) to play the melody reminiscent of the Cure's "Just Like Heaven" while Frank admitted through song that he occasionally gets tattoos because he's bored.  Frank used the "ba ba ba" singalong of "Wessex Boy" to unite us as people who left our differences at the door and came together to have a good time.  "It also makes me feel good about myself," he added.  "I can't believe I just said that," he laughed bashfully.  For "The Real Damage," the Sleeping Souls departed, except for Nasir, who accompanied on keys.  Matt then left Frank alone to unveil "Good & Gone."  "This song's about how I hate Hollywood and I hate Motley Crüe," Frank prefaced.  He then played his rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel #2," which was a little tainted by the some fuck in the middle who sang the wrong words.  The Sleeping Souls rejoined FT for "Prufrock," which led into "One Foot Before the Other," continuing its distinction as the most out-of-place album cut that just ignites when performed live.  During "Long Live the Queen," Nigel Powell emerged from behind his drumkit to lead the crowd in clapping out the song's final chorus.

When it came time for "Four Simple Words," Frank revealed that Switzerland, much to his surprise, won the top prize in the European dance competition.  "You can't argue the fact, Turner," jested guitarist Ben Lloyd.  Perhaps he'd forgotten that Webster Hall's second night patrons had been crowned Dance Champions of the United States of America, or more likely, he was knowingly goading us when he claimed Boston now had the title.  "Do it with passion.  Do it with gusto.  And do it better than Boston," he prodded.  This came as an engraved invitation to mosh, and fortunately, the fans that did, did not do it near me.  (However, those of you busy slamming into each other may not have noticed the the sublimely crunchtastic notes coming out of the low-end of Matt's keyboard.)  The silver lining to the moshpit was that it relocated a group of moms to my section of the floor, and I got to watch them mom-dance as they sang along to every lyric.  Hilarious and very touching.


For the encore, Frank came out solo to perform "If Ever I Stray," with the band kicking in after the first chorus.  FT had everyone in the crowd sit on the ballroom's beer-drenched wooden floor for "Photosynthesis" until he had us jump up at the exact time to give literal meaning to the "I won't sit down, and I won't shut up" refrain.  A fan crowdsurfed to the stage, and put his arm around Frank.  He then grabbed the microphone to sing, but was amazed to find no one singing with him.  "You're okay, you've just mistimed it," informed Frank.  "You wanna stagedive now?" he offered.  Taking his cue, the fan jumped in, Frank professing, "Time is everything, my friend."  "Dan's Song," sans "invisi-monica" section, closed out the night with a blast of punk energy, Tarrant Anderson playing his bass so aggressively that he busted a string, which he threw out to the crowd.  Ben Lloyd also tossed his guitar pick, which I salvaged from the floor at the show's end.  Though I would've loved to have heard some more rarities, I can't really complain about what happens onstage at a Frank Turner show.  The man's got "it."


FRANK TURNER - 03.04.13 - BOWERY BALLROOM (1 hour, 31 minutes)

SET -
I Am Disappeared / The Road > Peggy Sang the Blues / Recovery > Glory Hallelujah > Reasons Not to Be an Idiot / Losing Days / Wessex Boy / Substitute / The Real Damage / Good & Gone / Chelsea Hotel #2 / I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous > One Foot Before the Other / Long Live the Queen / Four Simple Words > Try This at Home > I Still Believe

ENCORE -
If Ever I Stray > Photosynthesis > Dan's Song

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Boyd Tinsley Brings His Film, Music, & Never-Ending Hugs to SVA


Boyd Tinsley, most famous for his role as Dave Matthews Band's violinist, can now add film producer to his résumé with the release of Faces in the Mirror.  For the past month, Tinsley has been touring the film across the country: screening it, fielding questions, playing music with local bands, and meeting his fans.  The tour came to its close last night at New York's SVA Theatre, an event that will be remembered forever by fans.

The show was supposed to start at 8:30, but a venue change delayed the setup, and the real show didn't begin until close to an hour later.  Laurie Lehner, a New York singer-songwriter who gained Twitter notoriety among DMB fans with her parody of "Sweet," performed a tune she'd written in tribute to Boyd's film entitled "Faces in the Mirror."  From the right side of the room, a choked-up Boyd, wearing his trademark sunglasses, thanked her for the song, and then turned his attention to the crowd: "I'm so fuckin' late. Thank you guys for waiting for me."

Boyd proceeded to tell of the epiphany he had whilst eating warm Krispy Kremes and vanilla ice cream, playing
 Call of Duty ("That shit's fun."), and listening to Pearl Jam, where he realized that love was the most important thing to give and receive in this world.  By making Faces in the Mirror and touring behind it, he'd be able to foster these celebrations of love.  And if anyone's ever made a positive case for Twitter, it's Tinsley, who only joined the social-networking site eight months ago, but was immediately flooded with "more love than I ever had."  "We know how to give it!" yelled a superfan.  "It's changed my life," he admitted genuinely.  "I thank you for accepting me amongst you for the crazy motherfucker that I am."

Faces in the Mirror is an experimental film scripted by Nicholas Kimbrell and directed by Aaron Farrington.  In the late nights following the sessions for Big Whiskey & the Groogrux King, Tinsley enlisted the help of some Seattle musicians including Maktub and Shawn Smith to compose the film's score, even prior to the script being written.  Instructed to play what they felt, the music shifts directions frequently, and the film reflects this loose morphology.  Ryan Orr, an actor friend of Tinsley's, stars as Ben Fischer, a young man who returns home to Virginia for his father's funeral.  Having already witnessed his mother's death firsthand as a boy, Fischer is troubled by his grief, feeling guilty and alone.  Things are compounded when he receives an envelope from a mysterious stranger that contains old film reels of his father, forcing Ben to confront his memories and make sense of his current situation through a journey involving fire, drugs, religion, nature, a lost dog, and love.  "Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you," the man tells him.

Visually, the film is captivating, partly indebted to the fact that places like Charlottesville are rarely seen in feature films and television shows.  The colors are striking, and though the mood of the movie changes often, thematically it fits together as a whole.  Boyd likens the film to an album, where you could play each scene like its own song, but when put together, it's a cohesive body.  Boyd even has a cameo, sans shades, as the eccentric preacher of the Rising Sun Baptist Church, featuring his first recorded vocal performance since 2003's True Reflections.

Admittedly, I am not the biggest fan of experimental film.  I'm also quite fond of dialogue, of which Faces in the Mirror has very little.  The combination of the warm temperature in the theatre, the darkness, the dreamlike imagery on the screen, and my perpetual lack of sleep proved potent, and I succumbed to dozing during the middle of the film.  Thankfully, I awoke with a jolt at the same time as the lead character does after having a drug experience in a teepee.  Two women covered only in body paint lay across from him.  Did I seriously miss the only part with boobs?  I'm going to have to watch this movie again.

After the movie ended, Boyd and Aaron Farrington came to the front of the room to conduct a Q&A.  Distracted by the buzz of a guitar amp, Tinsley fumbled to turn it off before Farrington arrived to hit the power switch on its rear.  "Yeah, that's why he directed the film.  I don't know buttons and shit," laughed Boyd.  He revealed that the untimely death of LeRoi Moore, combined with other personal things that he left secret, left him in a "fuckin' shitty place," and he had to do anything he could to get out of it, the result of which was 
Faces in the Mirror.  "Roi would've loved this movie," he added.  Between drags off an e-cigarette ("That's illegal!" shouted an audience member.), he explained how he and Aaron came together on the project following Obama's first election, and how their working relationship was the best he's ever had: "In all the years we've been working on this film, including two years of editing, we never once had a fight.  That's fuckin' phenomenal."  "That's not true though," replied Aaron, and Boyd admitted they had one small disagreement that Aaron won.  "
Fun is the key part of it.  If it's not fun, why are we doing it?" said Tinsley.

Farrington and Tinsley made a movie that's open to interpretation.  Throughout the film, railroad tracks and trains make several appearances.  I saw the tracks as the normal paths one would take during the grieving process, and it wasn't until Ben renounced those paths that he actually discovered what he needed to do for his personal catharsis.  When questioned about the trains, however, Boyd responded, "We like trains.  Our next movie is probably going to involve trains.  We like trains a lot."

My favorite answer of the night wasn't directly about the film though.  When someone asked why Boyd chose to play violin, he informed us that in 6th grade, his school offered a Strings class.  Wanting to learn guitar, which has strings, he signed up.  "Not having read the fine print, I found out it was a string orchestra class," he laughed.  He chose the violin and it was a fortuitous match from the start.  "My life often changes in a moment," he said, a statement that can be applied to the genesis of this film and the exploration of the lead character in it.  At the end of the Q&A, some fans began to trickle out of the theatre, and Boyd called out, "Don't leave! The music is gonna start!"

The Charlottesville duo of Travis Elliott and Tucker Rogers, who have small parts in the film as themselves, kicked things off with three acoustic originals.  Elliott's clever lyrics and Rogers' dexterous guitar-playing were a nice treat for us New Yorkers, who would've never known about them had it not been for Boyd.  Jack Sonni joined them on electric guitar for the next number, "I Waited Up," and Boyd added his violin into the mix with "Leavin' L.A."  A local band called the Truthseekers united with them for a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers" before Travis and Tucker departed.  While Boyd's bright violin-playing was definitely the standout, the Truthseekers' tunes provided a nice base, with songs that I was sure were covers from the late sixties, but turned out to be originals.  "Alright, Alright" saw solos from Boyd and each member of the band, extending its runtime to about fifteen minutes.  Even though we were in a movie theatre, it felt like we had been transported to Charlottesville and were watching our favorite bar band play at our usual spot.

Following the concert, Boyd made it his goal to meet every single fan who had stuck around.  Along with photos and autographs (I should've brought my 
Big Whiskey vinyl.), each audience member received a hug from Boyd that lasted anywhere from 20 seconds to over a minute.  As you'd imagine, this process took a long time.  As Jack Sonni waved goodbye, Boyd yelled excitedly, "He used to play in fuckin' Dire Straits!"

The hugfest went on so long that we had to exit the theatre out the back door.  A circle of fans surrounded Boyd as flurries fell from the sky.  One presented him with a bag of Twizzlers, which he immediately busted open to grab one for himself, and then passed it around.  Even though I'd watched dozens of people do it before me, when it came time for my hug, I was unprepared for the intimacy.  I could feel his stomach press against mine as he breathed.  I could also feel the immense love he has for his fans, sticking it out in the cold to embrace every one.  As the snow fell down upon our group behind the theatre on 24th St, the moment was almost as surreal as the film we'd seen earlier.


Previous Dave Matthews Band reviews:


LAURIE LEHNER - 03.02.13 - SCHOOL OF VISUAL ARTS THEATRE

SET -
Faces in the Mirror

BOYD TINSLEY - 03.02.13 - SCHOOL OF VISUAL ARTS THEATRE (1 hour, 20 minutes)

SET -
Wasted Roses / Heaven Will Haunt You / Hearts of Paper / I Waited Up / Leavin' L.A. / Dead Flowers / Sugar* / Alright, Alright / Miles to Go