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)

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)

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

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)

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

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)

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


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 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)

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)
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)

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

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)

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

If Ever I Stray > Photosynthesis > Dan's Song