Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Edelweiss Snags Some New Fans at Tammany Hall

Not to be confused with the Austrian dance band of the same name, Edelweiss is an indie rock quintet from Stroudsburg, PA.  In celebration of their Honduras EP, which drops next week, they played a gig last night at Tammany Hall.

It was my first time in the venue, and I had a strange sense of déjà vu before I realized it used to be the Annex.  It was also my first time seeing Edelweiss, and I didn't know exactly what to expect from the live show of a "math rock" band.  Would they be standing there, feet planted firmly on the ground while their fingers did all the fancy fretwork to form the precise guitar lines?  It turns out they were anything but stationary, a surging whirlwind of energy that swept up the audience.  While it's true that the crowd started off small, as more people entered the venue, they didn't just talk to each other while waiting for the headliner.  They said their hellos and then turned their undivided attention to the narrow stage, perhaps partly out of concern that one of the gambolling bandmembers might topple off.  Bassist/vocalist Tommy Vitale was particularly engaging, with his wild bunch of curls catching the light like the web of feathers dangling from his headstock intend to catch dreams.
Edelweiss started the set with "Grand" and "Withering Heights" from the new EP, not ashamed to front-load with fresh material.  Self-describing their songs as either "fidgety" or "atmospheric," "Himura" was a nice mix of the two.  Its jittery post-punk riffs concocted the feeling of an all-night dance party before opening up into a new dawn.  Days don't last forever though, and the sun fell back behind the horizon, party time once more.  The guys weren't slaves to technicality either, revealing some truly melodic moments in "Fiasco."  The groove before "Icarus" was especially tasty, new fans cheering at its climax.  The band finished the set with a medley of "A Sound from Pennsylvania" and "Toussaint," which escalated into a drum-led cacophony that even saw keyboardist Shane Cashman banging on a tom of his own.

I interviewed the whole band for The Next Round podcast, so stay tuned in the upcoming weeks for that.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Penguin Prison Plays in What Feels Like a Prison

Ozomatli had posed the question earlier in the evening during one of their songs: "¿Dónde está la after party?"  For me, it was a DJ set by Penguin Prison (Chris Glover) at NYC's newest nightclub, the Wall.  After catching him a month ago in Las Vegas, it was time to check one out on his home turf.  While Commonwealth was a nice escape from the glitz of the Strip, the Wall was like a place from which you couldn't escape.  Waiting to enter in a narrow black corridor with stenciled instructions (EYES UP FRONT. HANDS TO YOUR SIDES. NO SPITTING.), I heard someone say, "I feel like I'm going into a rollercoaster ride."  Once finally past the checkin podium, the venue felt a little like Sleep No More's McKittrick Hotel in that there were no directions as to where to go in the coal mine darkness.  After wandering around in an upstairs area, I made my way down to a bar, where four dim chandeliers provided the only light.  Around the corner from the bar was a dancefloor.  A DJ with a laptop was on a raised platform at the far end.   A woman in lingerie danced in a birdcage beside him.  You'd occasionally spot patrons hitting C0₂-filled balloons into the air.  That is, until they were popped on the disco ball ensconced in razor wire.  (You read that correctly.) I wasn't digging the DJ, so I waited patiently by the wall for PP.

He took over right before 1am, getting things started with his brand new remix of Hockey's "My Mind," posted just two days prior on his Soundcloud.  After his remix of "Blue Jeans," he grabbed the mic to sing "Hollywood," acting out the lyrics with his hands.  Shifting back into DJ-mode, he programmed a little Fleetwood Mac.  While he'd condensed his live vocal performances into a mini-set at Commonwealth, he interspersed them throughout the night here, continuing with new song, "Callin' Out Your Name."  After singing about his car called Jenny on "The Worse It Gets," PP announced, "Now I'm gonna do this song. This is a song about Prince."  While I'm still partial to the surprise Vegas version, his take on "I Wanna Be Your Lover" was excellent.  You could just tell he was having so much fun, coming out from behind his setup to sing unabashedly to the gyrating mass below.  That joy carried over into "You Can Call Me Al," where Glover didn't sing, but made sure to conduct the crowd on the horn hits, and save a miniature freakout for himself during that infamous bass solo.  "I hope you guys know this song," he said, dropping "Don't Fuck with My Money" on us for his final number.  It didn't reach the heights of the live version, however, with the omission of the screamed lines about "squeezing it 'til the eagle bleeds."  Penguin Prison was prepared to pass the platform to the proximate performer, but pleas from the people persisted.  "I could try one more," he said, firing off "Fair Warning" for an encore, slapping hands with those in the front as he sang.


SET (with vocals) -
Hollywood / Callin' Out Your Name* / The Worse It Gets > I Wanna Be Your Lover / Don't Fuck with My Money

Fair Warning

Ozomatli Play a Set for Each Generation at Lincoln Center

Ozomatli performed two shows—one for the kids and one for their parents—yesterday in Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park Bandshell.  Having already contributed songs to PBS Kids Rocks and the video game soundtrack to Happy Feet Two, it was only a matter of time before Ozomatli took the plunge into an entire album of children's music, 2012's Ozokidz.  While the record is clearly for its intended audience, I decided to show up early to see how an Ozo show would translate to the little ones.  Not surprisingly, very easily.  Running out on the stage in monochromatic Adidas tracksuits, each member in a different color, the band recalled a hip, urban version of the Wiggles.  They began with one of their "adult" numbers, "La Gallina," explaining it as sort of a chicken dance, throwing in extra squawks for good measure.  They interacted with the crowd like many children's TV hosts, by asking them questions like, "What's your favorite instrument?"  Incoherent shouting responded, but it was obvious the children were having fun, dancing wildly to songs about germs, exercise, and balloons.  Two more "adult" Ozo songs found their way into the set too, "Caballito" and "Como Ves," the latter on which they were joined by Dan Zanes on guitar.  As with most Ozo concerts, the band made their way off the stage and sambaed into the crowd, playing "The Hokey Pokey."  "Follow us, kids!" they yelled, as they proceeded onward.  Thankfully it wasn't an elaborate kidnapping attempt, but a chance to direct families to the merch table, where they bookended the set with the actual "Chicken Dance."  I must admit I was a tad surprised not to hear the theme to Sesame Street, which they've been known to play, but a lesson this big kid has learned is, "You can't always get what you want."

The band changed out of their matching outfits and emerged an hour or so later for the adult show, also beginning with "La Gallina."  "Come on, Lincoln Center, you don't sit down at an Ozomatli show," they urged, and everyone remained standing and cavorting for the rest.  It was apparent this show was for the adults when the band members came to the front in a choreographed thrust during "Chango."  If that didn't make it conclusive, Justin Porée turning around and shaking his ass at everyone during new song,"Paleta," did.  Along with "Paleta," the band served up a few cuts from the upcoming LP, including the reggae-infused "Brighter" and "Tus Ojos," which comes dangerously close to sounding like a Spanish version of "Crazy Train."  The show was a blast, as always, whether dip-diving-and-socializing on an actual "Saturday Night," scatting back Asdru's trumpet lines on "Elysian Persuasion," or jumping in the air during a high-energy "Nadas por Free," ironically at a free concert.  While all the members of Ozomatli were on point last night, Uli was absolutely killing it.  Any instrument he picked up, be it melodica, clarinet, or saxophone, he just lit on fire.  After supplying the melody to a surprise "Stir It Up" in "Cumbia" on his sax, he dropped another tasty solo in "After Party."  The song went its route in sampling from gems from the past like "Just My Imagination" and "Ooh Baby," and then Uli took center stage to dedicate one to the '80s kids.  "Those of you who grew up in the '90s, you're not gonna remember this shit at all," he said before ripping into a pitch-perfect "Careless Whisper."  The band invited some kids onstage to boogie down during "Como Ves" and "La Misma Canción."  One boy stole the show, looking like he was under the Cruciatus Curse as he flailed about crazily with an indifferent look on his face.  The band exited into the audience once more, teasing "Beethoven's Ninth," decidedly more adult than "The Hokey Pokey."  The band got all the way to merch table again, but this time they were completely encapsulated by fans.  When they attempted to stop playing, cheers forced them into doing one more song.  (If anyone knows what it was, let me know in the comments below.)  I guess adults can be more demanding than kids.


SET I (41 minutes) -
Intro / La Gallina > We Are the Ozokidz / Germs / Sun & Moon / Caballito / Happy Birthday / Like It's Your Birthday / Exercise / Balloon Fest / Como Ves (feat. Dan Zanes) > We Are the Ozokidz > The Hokey Pokey > It's Time to Dance! (tease) > Chicken Dance

SET II (1 hour, 27 minutes) -
Intro / La Gallina > Chango / Paleta / Saturday Night / Elysian Persuasion / Ya Viene el Sol / Tus Ojos > Cumbia de los Muertos > Stir It Up > Cumbia de los Muertos > Nadas por Free / Brighter / After Party > Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me) (tease) > Ooh Boy (tease) > Careless Whisper (tease) > After Party / Caballito / La Temperatura / Como Ves / La Misma Canción > Ozomatli Exit Song > Olé, 
Olé, Olé > Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (tease)

ENCORE (3 minutes) -

Friday, July 26, 2013

Smokey Robinson Concert Ends Awkwardly in Coney Island

The Seaside Summer Concert Series, an annual concert series where they exhume the bodies of hitmakers from the '60s and '70s to make them perform in the worst venue possible, continued last night with Smokey Robinson.  While the sound wasn't great, it was miles ahead of the atrocious mix at last year's Jacksons show.  The audience was still oddly divided into people who paid $5 for a seat, those who brought their own chairs, and people like me who stood in the back for free.  This kind of segregation over such a large space doesn't unify the concertgoers into a crowd, making any audience participation fall extremely flat.  "Going to a Go-Go" started the show, but Robinson's vocals felt weak and overused.  By the fifth song, "Ooh Baby, Baby" his voice had warmed up, and he received a standing ovation from a number of fans.  "We should've played that first," he remarked.  Maybe, or maybe he shouldn't have front-loaded "I Second That Emotion" and "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" before he had a chance to find his pipes.  "This is Thursday night in Coney Island. You had a thousand choices and you came to spend it with us. We love you," said the gracious Robinson.  "Right now we are going to boogie," he said, taking the opportunity to show off some dance moves.  When they evolved into pelvic thrusting, Smokey stopped himself, admitting, "I got a little carried away, didn't I?"

I've seen Toots Hibbert (70), Mavis Staples (74), and Jerry Lee Lewis (77) this year.  Smokey is 73 years old, and among his fellow septuagenarians, he is up there with Toots in terms of impressive agility and mental clarity.  He had no memory lapses whatsoever when telling the tale of how he wrote "The Way You Do the Things You Do" for the Temptations while he was driving late at night on a cross-country tour.  He performed the song in a medley that included "Get Ready" and "My Girl," the latter of which saw moments of prime Smokey falsetto, most notably on the "I got sooo much love to give" line.  He seemed satisfied with the crowd's performance as well, stating, "Everybody out there was singing that one.  You sounded GREAT!  I thought that you may have just been here to see a concert, but I knew after that you are the Seaside Summer Choir."  He advised us not to miss Motown: The Musical on Broadway, and proceeded with a story about Stevie Wonder approaching him at a party with a song idea.  Exaggerating the duration of Wonder's head-swaying blindisms for comedic effect, Smokey said, "He offered to drive me home so I could get started.  But you know I wasn't gonna go for that.  He drives much too fast."  Smokey giggled with delight at his joke, and dropped into the track, "The Tears of a Clown."  Stories like this are why you go to see these legends in concert.  However, you don't go to hear them hawk their latest Cracker Barrel-released CD.  "For those of you who've never been, Cracker Barrel is a store restaurant.  You can go to Cracker Barrel and order some food.  The food is great.  Then you can go shopping, and when you're done, you can eat.  Women love it," Smokey laughed.  It was a weird bit of promotion that didn't go over particularly well.  After all, he did use the same adjective to describe the food at Cracker Barrel as he did our singing ability.  The song he performed following his pitch was called "That Place."  With a chorus that contains the line, "There's no place like that place," I couldn't help but think he was singing about the chain restaurant with the rocking chairs on the front porch.  It was only during the number's finale, where Smokey unleashed some orgasmic wails, that the crowd got on board.  "Just to See Her" came next, but it delved too far into '80s cheese with its "Flashdance... What a Feeling"-reminiscent ending to excite me much.  Accompanied solely by guitar for the first half of the tune, Smokey closed the show with "The Tracks of My Tears."  It's one of my favorite songs, so I'm glad I got to hear it, albeit past its prime.

The audience leapt to their feet, showering Robinson with cheers as he departed.  The stage lights remained on, and the drummer even seemed reluctant to leave.  We waited and waited, applauding for an encore.  Six minutes later, Borough President Marty Markowitz appeared.  "I feel exactly the same way you do.  Let me put it this way: It's show business," he said disappointedly with that same diarrhea-of-the-mouth he's famous for.  It made the lack of an encore that much more awkward.  He encouraged us to go to Luna Park and the Wonder Wheel, but everything was closed.  Nathan's was packed though, the talk in the long lines all revolving around the concert's anticlimactic ending.


Going to a Go-Go / I Second That Emotion / You've Really Got a Hold on Me / Quiet Storm / Ooh Baby, Baby / The Way You Do the Things You Do > Get Ready > My Girl / My Girl (tease) / My Girl (tease) / The Tears of a Clown / That Place / Just to See Her / The Tracks of My Tears

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Allen Stone Starts a Dance-Off at Brooklyn Bowl

"He looks like Napoleon Dynamite, but he sounds like Stevie Wonder!"  That's how my brother described Allen Stone in an effort to get me to see him at last year's Virgin FreeFest.  Unfortunately, Stone's set time conflicted with Penguin Prison's, so my only glimpse of him came during Justin Jones' set, when I observed the bespectacled soul singer nodding his head along in a pavilion seat.  Stone left his eyeglasses on the tour bus for last night's sold-out Brooklyn Bowl gig, looking more hippie than hipster, adorned in an array of necklaces and bracelets.  With one soulful scream, he ripped open his set and demanded, "Brooklyn, New York, how the hell are you?!"  The son of a preacher man, Stone commanded the crowd with ease, loosening the audience up immediately by having them put their arms above their heads and clap them together.  Determined to give each audience member "the best fucking experience that they've ever had in their life," Allen had set himself a lofty goal, for sure.  But his willingness to take on all of our woes and worries to free us to dance and have fun definitely helped.  We chucked these burdens up at him as the band grooved into "Sleep."  The crowd was with him all the way, shouting advice to "Count sheep!" and "Drink whiskey!" in the correct spots without any prompting.  For "Celebrate Tonight," Stone introduced us to the "universal sway," a side-to-side full-floor dance move that lasted the song's entirety.

Allen plugged in an acoustic guitar for a cover of Tingsek's "Six Years," but connection problems marred the number with harsh clipping sounds.  The soundwoman provided him with a new cable for "Quit Callin Me," putting an end to the evening's technical problems.  "Quit Callin Me" provided a nice launchpad for a back-and-forth between organist Greg Ehrlich and keyboardist Josh Rawlings because honestly, what would be the point of having a Hammond organ and a Fender Rhodes onstage if they weren't going to duel?  After the funky workout, the band took a break, leaving Stone behind to perform Marcy Playground's "Sex & Candy."  I've never liked that song, but Allen made it the most tolerable it has ever been, subbing out John Wozniak's bored vocals with his impassioned voice, getting particularly melismatic on the "There she was" lines.  He followed with "The Bed I Made," a James Taylor-esque ditty, accompanied by Rawlings and bassist Brent Rusinow on harmonies, shaker, and snaps.  Allen sat his six-string down and the band returned for a joyous take on Bob Marley's "Is This Love," Stone lapping at the microphone as he stretched out the "I-I-I-I'm willing and able."  The energy continued through "Contact High" and "Figure It Out" before Stone embarked on his longest medley of the night.  Beginning with "Tell Me Something Good," Stone had the crowd sing back Chaka Khan's lyrics, and then turned things over to Jason Holt for a drum solo.  The drums led into the rocking "Nothing to Prove."  As the band played on, Allen jumped down to the floor to clear an aisle, effectively dividing the crowd in half for an "old-fashioned dance-off."  "If all you have in your dance repertoire is the two-step, you better two-step the shit out of this dance-off.  If all you have in your dance repertoire is the jump-up-and-down with the spirit fingers in the air like you just saw Dennis Rodman at Burger King, do that," he commanded.  On his count, the floor erupted into a land of 1000 dances, the musicians onstage firing off a greasy "Get Nasty."  At some point in all this, Jason Holt lost his shirt.  They transitioned into "Satisfaction," finishing with Allen performing necromancy on Greg Ehrlich as Josh Rawlings spun in circles at the Rhodes.  I'm not sure if Josh is now a permanent member of Stone's band, but he should be, judging from his tasty licks and stage acrobatics.  Stone and band left the stage to thunderous applause punctuated by lightning bolts of girls screeching.

They returned to the stage shortly thereafter, Allen thanking the crowd for supporting truly live music.  "There's no tracks; there's no laptops up here," he attested.  Closing with "Unaware," the satisfied crowd sang back to him, "Push, pull, tear."  While I may not have had the best fucking experience of my life, it was obvious that others in the crowd did.  I had a great time, and will definitely go to many more Allen Stone shows, but a dance-off is just never gonna trump sex.  I'm just not that good a dancer.

ALLEN STONE - 07.24.13 - BROOKLYN BOWL (1 hour, 36 minutes)

Intro / What I've Seen > Mama > Sleep / Celebrate Tonight / Six Years / Say So > Quit Callin / Sex & Candy / The Bed I Made / Is This Love / Contact High / Figure It Out / Tell Me Something Good > Drum Solo > Nothing to Prove > Can You Feel It* > Get Nasty > Satisfaction


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Rx Bandits Bring "The Resignation" to Best Buy Theater

Two years ago, Rx Bandits went on an indefinite hiatus, and fans weren't sure when they would return, but we all had a sneaking suspicion they would.  The tenth anniversary of The Resignation, the album where they solidified their progressive sound, turned out to be enough of a catalyst to make them pack up the van and hit the road once more.  Last night, the tour stopped at New York's Best Buy Theater.

The opening act was Northern Faces, a band I wasn't expecting to enjoy based on the samples I'd heard of their debut EP, Southern Places.  However, in accordance with my maxim to see music performed live, I was pleasantly surprised by the quartet from Albany.  I still feel they have plenty of room to grow vocally, but their stage presence and musicianship were both beyond their years.  Bassist Matt Ippolito wiggled around the stage joyously as "Dark Days" packed its Crazy Horse punch.  Revving up new song "Strange Places," Marco Testa's guitar sounded like a helicopter taking off underwater.  Testa attempted to sing some lyrics off-mic, but the room not being as intimate as Mercury Lounge, or having the legendary acoustics of Carnegie Hall, his voice was completely swallowed up.  Before their final number, Bryan Shortell thanked the crowd, saying, "There's an energy in this city that just isn't anywhere else in the country."

Truer words were never spoken as the lights went down for Rx Bandits, the large screen behind the stage displaying The Resignation's cover art.  The boys dove right in with "Sell You Beautiful," generating a tsunami on the floor that was perpetuated by the spinning vortex of a moshpit on the left side of the room.  Not a casual fan in the crowd, everyone sang along at the top of their lungs, forging a blistering energy that only intensified with "Prophetic."  Chris Tsagakis rode the wave, accelerating the already-fast "Newsstand Rock" to a breakneck speed that actually got a little sloppy.  The opening chant of "Overcome (the Recapitulation)" gave everyone a chance to breathe (Well, maybe not the folks in the front, packed so tightly that security emptied water bottle after water bottle onto them in hopes of preventing any blackouts.) before it eventually found its way to its normal pace.  Slipping into the next tune, the horns caressed the groove of my favorite performance of the night, "Never Slept So Soundly," which reached its pinnacle as the crowd sang, "Together!"  After "Republic," Matt Embree took a moment to address the audience briefly: "We missed you guys. How ya doin'?"  He didn't wait for an answer though, as the band crunched into "Mastering the List."  There was a noticeable dip in the energy level around this point, a combination of both the predictability of the setlist and the fact that the songs on the album stretch out in this section.  "Mastering" wrapped up as it does on the record, with a spaced-out dub jam, this time visually accompanied by the opening dream sequence from .  In a night that seemed slim on jamming, it was a welcome treat.  "Falling Down the Mountain" featured a Coltrane-esque sax solo that felt a little out of place thematically, but I appreciated the effort.  After "Dinna-Dawg," C-Gak played a drum solo that came to an abrupt end right before the stabbing beat of "Decrescendo" would've kicked in.  The audience had been waiting for it all night, and the delay made it that much sweeter.  The energy back on par with the set's beginning, the moshpit took over the entire center of the floor as Embree repeatedly sang, "Did you get what you wanted?"  I don't think there was a soul in the room who didn't.

As fans cheered for four minutes, a bizarre video was projected of man who had been shot in the stomach, crawling around and smearing his blood as he inched along a wall.  The images switched to the chest of a female exotic dancer, who removed her top, issuing an audible cheer of "Yeah!" from some in the encore-hungry audience.  So much for not objectifying women, Bandits.  The band returned, and Embree admitted, "It means so much to us that we were gone for so long, and you all came back."  The screen illuminated with the four-armed woman on the cover of ...And the Battle Begun as they eased into the title track.  Would they play all of that (superior) record too?  It actually seemed like they might when they transitioned into "In Her Drawer."  There were no complaints though, only a collective roar, when the Native American face from Progress appeared to ring in "Infection."  Midway through "Only for the Night" Embree stepped to the edge of the stage and said, "We could play all night for you.  We could play all night for you."  Though he didn't make good on that, he sang a few lines from "Bring It on Home to Me," which I'd seen him perform in full last year, before bringing "Only for the Night" on home to its rousing conclusion.  There isn't any word yet on if the Bandits are back for good, but I hope they don't make us wait three more years for the ...And the Battle Begun anniversary, even though that's a show I definitely wouldn't miss.

NORTHERN FACES - 07.20.13 - BEST BUY THEATER (39 minutes)

Poor Moonlight / Dark Days / You Not Me / Side of the Road / Woke Up in the Morning* / Strange Places* / Under My Skin / Finding Hope

RX BANDITS - 07.20.13 - BEST BUY THEATER (1 hour, 42 minutes)

Sell You Beautiful / Prophetic > Newsstand Rock (Exposition) / Overcome (the Recapitulation) > Never Slept So Soundly > Taking Chase as the Serpent Slithers / Republic / Mastering the List > Falling Down the Mountain > Dinna-Dawg (and the Inevitable Onset of Lunacy) > Pal-Treaux / Decrescendo

...And the Battle Begun > In Her Drawer / Infection / Apparition / Only for the Night > Bring It on Home to Me (tease) > Only for the Night

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Beat Radio Bushwick Show Gets Cut Short

"I'm breaking out keyboard and the sampler tonight for my solo set at Brooklyn Fireproof.  Things might get weird."  Or so read Beat Radio's Twitter at 3:58 Friday afternoon.  At 8:30, just sitting down to my dinner, I saw the post on their Facebook: "Set time was moved up to 10pm!"  I scarfed down my salad, and began the hour-long commute to Bushwick.  It turned out the venue had double-booked, forcing the four acts on the first show to cram their sets into half the time.  It was understandable that Brian Sendrowitz didn't want to spend half of his allotment rigging up electronics, so he opted for an amplified acoustic guitar.  Three songs in, he asked, "Do I have time for one more?"  God, I hoped so.  Though his performance lasted barely 18 minutes, it was nice to get to hear some older tunes like "Sunday Matinee" and "Treetops," even if the latter was at a faster tempo, likely sped up to preserve time.
Bushwick may be a blossoming neighborhood due to its affordable rents, but no one who doesn't already live there wants to go.  The transportation options are too limited to make it accessible to anyone not living along the L or the brown line.  While there is a certain thrill to the DIY attitude of the venues, it rarely outweighs the fact that almost every show that I've been to in the area has been sparsely attended.  I guess that's the irony the hipsters have been searching for.

BEAT RADIO - 07.19.13 - BROOKLYN FIREPROOF (17 minutes, 45 seconds)

Sunday Matinee / Chasing a Phantom / Treetops / Golden Age / Hurricanes, XO

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Broken Anchor's One-Man Show at Rockwood Music Hall

It's not every day that one of your favorite bands of the year invites you to construct their setlist, but then again, it's not every day that your blog grows a new arm.  The big news is that Dry Paint Signs is branching out into the podcasting world with Dry Paint Signs presents The Next Round.  Last night, I sat down with Austin Hartley-Leonard of Broken Anchor before his show at Rockwood Music Hall, and we talked about topics ranging from addiction to ball sweat.  I'll be posting the interview in the next few weeks, so stay tuned.

Austin recommended that I get to the venue before his set to check out Sometimes We Sing Together, a duo comprised of Ashleigh Haney on drums and Trey Lockerbie on guitar.  And as you may have guessed, sometimes they sing together.  
"Thanks for comin', friends and fam," Ashleigh said graciously.  "I thought you said friends and fan, like we had one," Trey admitted with a laugh.  They definitely have a new one now.  After the cowboy folk standard "Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie," Lockerbie relayed a story about how they'd recently opened a "hippie festival" in San Diego, claiming, "We just started playin' and they started comin'," he and Ashleigh imitating the fluid motion of the hippies.  Trey reprised the dance at one point in the rollicking "Big Black Car," but the song's highlight came when he and Haney delivered the line, "People stopped and they stared," and the pair took an extended pause to gaze at each other before jumping back in.  The audience chortled, enamored with the twosome.  But that little bit of comedy was only a taste of what was to come, as SWST put their hilarious spin on Ray Wylie Hubbard's "Snake Farm," getting full-blown belly laughs from the late-night crowd.

With the recent departure of drummer Mike Duffy, Broken Anchor has become a solo project for Hartley-Leonard.  Though he's currently developing an act that relies heavily on sampling, for last night's gig, he took the stage with only his guitar and a vocal effect pedal to emphasize certain parts.  By the third song, "Dear Diary," Austin had the room rapt with attention, everyone listening so intently to the haunting guitar that you could hear a pin drop, or as it turned out, a text message being received.  The only time I missed the drums was in this song, following the line "Something deep inside of you burned deep inside of me."  I guess I've just gotten too used to listening to the studio version where everything kicks in at that moment.  "This is a song written by one of my favorite guys in the world, A.A. Bondy," revealed Austin. "Yeah," offered a voice in the dark.  "One guy also feels that way maybe," Austin said, starting up "Oh the Vampyre."  "Ohio" was dedicated to his Uncle Mike from Cleveland.  "C-Town.  Do they call it that?" asked Austin.  Mike, sitting on a stool by the wall, shook his head horizontally.  "That song isn't about you, Mike. It's about a woman," Austin clarified.  On the closer, "Never Leave Me Alone," Trey Lockerbie rushed the stage to sing backup into a spare microphone.  I was worried I'd miss Duffy on this one too, so accustomed to his rapid fills and tambourine shakes, but by the time Austin wrapped it up with an elongated yell of "Never leave meeeee alone!" it was like this was how it always had been.  Having now seen Broken Anchor as an electric duo, an acoustic duo, and Austin solo, I'm stoked to see the sampler incarnation once he rolls back into town.

BROKEN ANCHOR - 07.17.13 - ROCKWOOD MUSIC HALL (29 minutes, 15 seconds)

Leave the Light On / Broken Anchor Blues / Dear Diary / Oh the Vampyre / Ghosts / Ohio / Always / Never Leave Me Alone

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mayer Hawthorne Celebrates "Where Does This Door Go" at Bowery Ballroom

"It's a very special night tonight. My brand new album comes out worldwide in two hours. It is definitely a celebration in this motherfucker," announced Mayer Hawthorne last night at Bowery Ballroom.  The album is Where Does This Door Go, and Hawthorne offered up a heaping serving from the new disc at the sold-out show, kicking things off with the slinky "Robot Love."  The music didn't stop as he drifted into "Henny & Gingerale," a stagehand bringing him a plastic cup filled with the beverage to conduct the crowd in singing along.  "Henny" gave way to the Hall & Oates-inspired album-opener "Back Seat Lover," which had the audience grooving as if the song had been around since the early '80s.  He continued the medley to include "A Long Time" and "Finally Falling," each receiving a roar of approval from the crowd.  Hawthorne stopped to strap on a guitar for the supremely funky "Love in Motion" before the music shifted yet again, Mayer revealing, "This right here, this is all about sexy time right now," cueing "No Strings."  The song progressed into a propulsive jam, Quincy McCrary taking a rousing ride on the keys for over a minute before segueing into the Pharrell-produced "Wine Glass Woman."

"What day is it, Monday?" Mayer questioned the smiling patrons.  "You guys look rested. You guys look fresh."  Upon asking a few people in the front row what they did on Sunday night, and receiving the same answer of "We went out" every time, he remarked, "Man, New York don't sleep. You guys are wild, man.  I'm gonna tell you what I did."  It was all a setup for "Designer Drug," a bonus track where he self-prescribes a woman as his drug of choice.  But, as with other drugs, too much can be a bad thing, and Mayer recognized this by adding in a bit of Bell Biv DeVoe's "Poison."  "You know what we call this kind of show where we're from? We call it intimate," he said, dripping into the seductive "Get to Know You."  Coming down off the high, some crowdmembers used the slow song to chat, but Hawthorne won them back by instructing them how to dance with their hands "real sexy like Diana Ross" on "I Wish It Would Rain." MH took a moment to take a photo of himself in front of the crowd, a custom at his concerts.  He then told everyone to take out their iPhones and iPads to take as many pictures of him as they wanted.  The County played some light circus music while Mayer mugged in the flashes, and then demanded that everybody put their cameras away for the next few songs so they could experience it live.  It's worth mentioning that there was no stage design; all was performed in front of a plain, black backdrop to ensure the focus was on the music.

New song "The Stars Are Ours" stretched Mayer's canon into rock, finishing with him harmonizing his guitar with Christian Wunderlich's before flicking his pick into the crowd to sing "Corsican Rosé."  The song unraveled at its end into some sticky slap bass courtesy of Joe Abrams, signaling the single, "Her Favorite Song."  I'd questioned the label's choice based on the studio version, which seemed a little sappy and subdued, but it was infinitely better live, especially with a surprise visit from Large Professor, who contributed the rap verse from his remix of the song.  So much of the night had focused on the new tracks that when Mayer dropped "Maybe So, Maybe No" from his debut, the dancefloor detonated.  The old man in front of me started grinding on his date, and I laughed out loud.  When the drumbreak that begins "The Walk" hit, the electricity was palpable.  "I need to hear everybody sing this shit," Mayer requested unnecessarily.  Of course we were gonna sing.  As the band played the theme to The Price is Right, Mayer thanked everyone for attending, with a special shout-out to his parents, who were in the crowd.

Almost two minutes later, the County returned to the Bowery stage and began a groove.  Mayer joined them a minute later, crooning Barry White's "Playing Your Game, Baby" before  transitioning into "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out."  Everyone was singing the words until halfway through, when Mayer shouted, "Remix!" and the tune took on a hip-hop beat for several more reprises of the refrain.  An overzealous fan climbed onto the stage, putting his arm around Mayer for a photo before he jumped back down.  Mayer laughed it off and took this last break to emphasize his enthusiasm for Where Does This Door Go: "I'm really excited for those of you who haven't heard it yet to hear it.  It's the craziest thing I've ever done. It was really a crazy journey for me through a new door."  He dedicated the night's final number, "Reach Out Richard," to his father.  A love song to his dad, the lyrics included the line, "I'll find my way eventually."  At the song's end, Mayer's dad stood up and blew him a kiss from the balcony.  Bowery-tested; dad-approved.  Looks like you've found your way, Mayer.

MAYER HAWTHORNE - 07.15.13 - BOWERY BALLROOM (1 hour, 31 minutes)

Robot Love > Henny & Gingerale > Back Seat Lover > A Long Time > Finally Falling / Bootsy Collins Tweet* > Love in Motion > No Strings > Jam* > Wine Glass Woman / Designer Drug > Poison (tease) > Designer Drug / Get to Know You > I Wish It Would Rain / Picture-Taking Music* / Crime > Sound of Da Police (tease) / The Stars Are Ours > Corsican Rosé > Her Favorite Song (feat. Large Professor) / Maybe So, Maybe No / Your Easy Lovin' Ain't Pleasin' Nothin' > The Walk > The Price is Right Theme

Playing Your Game, Baby > Just Ain't Gonna Work Out / Reach Out Richard

Monday, July 15, 2013

Big News Coming Soon!

Just wanted to let you all know that in the next week or so, I'll be announcing some very exciting news for the blog.  Last year was amazing, but this will be our year.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Kishi Bashi Opens for One of His Idols at Prospect Park

In the summer of 2005, Celebrate Brooklyn programmed a screening of the 1931 film, Dracula, with accompaniment by composer Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet.  A violent thunderstorm caused the movie to be aborted barely 15 minutes in.  In the crowd that day was Kaoru Ishibashi, the frontman for an indie rock band called Jupiter One.  Little did he know, eight years later, he would be opening for Glass at the film's raindate.

Kishi Bashi took the Bandshell stage promptly at 7:35 despite the long lines of people waiting to get in.  The venue was already packed, and the only free space being the pathway between the seats and the lawn, I picked a spot to stand and watch.  "You can't stand there.  You have to go in the grass," demanded a security guard.  Having been to several Bandshell shows over the years, I knew that this area always becomes standing room.  "Where is everyone else gonna go when they come in?" I asked.  "Not here 'cause I'm gonna make them move," said the asshole on a power trip.  I would have rather focused on K's opening improvisation, but by the time I was able to find a small piece of mud to stand on, he was already joined by Mike Savino (Tall Tall Trees) on colored-light-changing banjo and Elizabeth Ziman (Elizabeth & the Catapult) on drumpads.  "I'm gonna do a song called 'Chester's Burst Over the Hamptons,' which ends in chaos. I'm sorry," he warned.  Assuming the crowd was there for Philip Glass, I'm not sure what he was worried about.  "Chester" never truly ended either, transitioning out of the chaos into "Beat the Bright Out of Me."  Halfway into "Bright Whites," K began one of his trademark beatbox breakdowns, singing "Celebrate Brooklyn" (Just the words; not the They Might Be Giants song.) to cheers from the crowd.  "We're gonna calm things down for a minute. This song was placed strategically in the set so I wouldn't have a heart attack," he said before "Wonder Woman, Wonder Me."  It was hard to hear with all the chatter coming from the hill, as I realized that the crowd wasn't necessarily there to listen to Philip Glass, but to see a free movie outside.  K sensed some reluctance from the audience too, clarifying, "I'm not on drugs; I'm just having a great time, okay?"  It was quite clear he was, especially being able to open for Mr. Glass.  He was visibly choked up talking about the influence minimalism has had on his music, and admitted fanboyishly, "I got a picture with him. That was cool."  He attempted another improvisation in honor of Glass, but felt it wasn't up to par. "That didn't do him any justice. That was terrible; I'm sorry. That's the nature of improvisation," he shrugged.  He redeemed himself with "Manchester," performed solo with a little assistance from nature's disco ball: a crew of lightning bugs that flickered with scattered beauty.  Though I would've liked to experience Dracula, there was no place to stand, at least where anyone would let me.


Improvisation 1 > Evalyn, Summer Has Arrived / Atticus, In the Desert / Chester's Burst Over the Hamptons > Beat the Bright Out of Me / Bright Whites / Wonder Woman, Wonder Me / It All Began with a Burst / I Am the Antichrist to You / Improvisation 2 / Manchester

Friday, July 12, 2013

Perfect Weather for the Summer Sounds of Generationals on Pier 84

When I was in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, I happened upon a store in the Miracle Mile called Art of Music.  Inside, they had some autographed vinyls, but their main draw was signed guitars.  I noticed that most of the instruments were brand new and often from a lower quality manufacturer.  Do you expect me to believe that Bruce Springsteen has ever played a Squier?  I saw what I believe to be the first Squier I've ever seen onstage last night at Pier 84.  The owner was Katie Crutchfield, also known as Waxahatchee, who has received an insane amount of buzz and praise after releasing a record last year. She just dropped the follow-up, Cerulean Salt, the band now expanded to a trio of tatted up Philly hipsters.  With a voice that recalls Zolof's Rachel Minton (I guess that's just how Philadelphia girls sound?), Waxahatchee mananged to sing thirteen songs in just over 35 minutes.  "We're gonna play our bar rock song now," she said, starting up "Magic City Wholesale."  I'm not sure what sort of bars Crutchfield has been going to, but I'd venture to say they have $2 PBRs and allow cats.  The horn from a departing Circle Line boat the next pier over sounded loudly at its end.  "They're telling us to be quiet," joked Crutchfield.  If that was their intent, it was only to silence the other band members, who might as well have been playing in a high school talent show.  The musicianship on songs like "Brother Bryan" was just too monotonously simple to add anything to Katie's words.  Although a nice jangling groove accompanied "Grass Stain"'s noteworthy lyrics, Crutchfield was at her best when she was alone, even if that meant the bassist and drummer had to wait there awkwardly.  I'm not so sure I get the hype, but I feel like if Katie had performed solo, my review may have been different.

Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside were up next, opening with the surf rock instrumental, "The Eagle Has Landed."  Ford broke a string during the number, and picked up another guitar at the song's end. "Little bit of technical difficulties, but we'll keep goin'," she said with a chuckle. There's a certain innocence about Sallie, with her shy banter and her childlike face behind cat eye glasses, that's offset by her womanly figure.  Looking at her in her short blue dress, you wonder, "Do you think she knows we can see her underwear?"  Then you hear her suggestive, sometimes profane lyrics, and you realize, "Of course she does." She lies, she can raise hell, and she doesn't want any lip from boys, but boys should feel free to take hers.  And she sang all this with a distinctive articulation that went up to a nasal snarl at the end of most lines.  I wasn't even particularly fond of her voice, but the sheer originality of it, coupled with her attitude, won me over.  Shoeless lead guitarist, Jeff Munger, proved a nice foil, with his rockabilly licks and quips in between songs.  Offering up a joke, he said, "How do you know if a hot pepper is being too nosy? It's jalapeño business."  When it didn't get quite the laugh he'd expected, he followed, "Obviously you guys have not been drinking as much as I have."  A party boat returned to Pier 83 blaring Serani's "No Games," and Munger shouted, "Turn it up!" "Oh my God," Sallie kept repeating, shocked by their competition.  Munger embraced it, yelling to the boat's passengers, "Why you guys over there?!"  Pulling a cellphone from her purse, Ford explained, "I don't know how many more we have for you 'cause I've gotta check the time."  The band churned out a few more tunes, closing with "Party Kids," which saw Ford playing Munger's guitar with a can of Modelo as she chugged from another.  As with Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, it was great witnessing an empowered rock n' roll woman who's not afraid to get dirty.

I was at the sold-out Generationals show at Bowery Ballroom in April, and missed out on buying the Lucky Numbers 7", so this was my chance to remedy that mistake.  Unfortunately, there was no merch available, but I still got a good show from the New Orleans band.  I made a conscious decision in the spring to make Heza one of my go-to summer albums, and I couldn't have wished for better summer weather last evening.  Generationals demonstrated their faith in the new record by opening with "Spinoza" instead of the usual "Ten-Twenty-Ten," and the crowd responded positively.  "Ten" made its appearance after a chill "Say When."  "You Got Me" came next, but this wasn't the maraca-infused encore version from Bowery, but a louder, front-of-the-set kind of deal.  Ted Joyner's vocals seemed to have more treble than normal, but I'm gonna blame the mix on this one.  "Is anyone here from Louisiana?" asked Grant Widmer.  A few cheers punctured the night air.  "There are some of you. I thought I smelled you guys," he jested.  "Okay, this song is for tomorrow," he added before they delved into "Friday I'm in Love."  Placed in the spot where Frank Black's "Headache" had been at Bowery, the Cure cover definitely went over better with the crowd.  Using that momentum, they plunged into fan faves "Put a Light On," "Trust," and "Yours Forever," all of which had the audience bouncing.  To finish off the set, they opened up the power pop ditty "Nobody Could Change Your Mind" to include a final double-guitar attack.  Overall, a great night to be outside listening to music.

WAXAHATCHEE - 07.11.13 - PIER 84 (36 minutes)

Hollow Bedroom / Coast to Coast > Misery Over Dispute / Waiting / Magic City Wholesale / Grass Stain / Tangled Envisioning / Brother Bryan / Lively / Noccalula / Blue pt. II / Peace & Quiet / American Weekend

SALLIE FORD & THE SOUND OUTSIDE - 07.11.13 - PIER 84 (45 minutes)

The Eagle Has Landed / Shivers / Bad Boys / Lip Boy / Devil / They Told Me / Paris / Do Me Right / Fuck That / Lips & Hips / Addicted / Party Kids

GENERATIONALS - 07.11.13 - PIER 84 (50 minutes)

Spinoza / Say When / Ten-Twenty-Ten / You Got Me / Awake / Faces in the Dark / When They Fight, They Fight / Friday I'm in Love / Put a Light On / Trust / Yours Forever / Nobody Could Change Your Mind

Thursday, July 11, 2013

B.B. King Puts on the Best Comedy Show I've Seen All Year & the Joy Formidable Rocks BAM

B.B. King headlined the first night of the Lowdown Hudson Blues Festival on Wednesday at Brookfield Place's waterfront plaza.  I got there early enough to grab a seat, though there seemed to be plenty of space along the marina to accommodate the 7000 subjects of the King.

The James Hunter Six got things rolling with the saxophone-powered "She's Got a Way," Hunter's bluesy vocals ranging from howls to falsetto coos.  Introducing "Chicken Switch," I was a little stunned to hear him talking in a thick Essex accent.  On "One Way Love," James looked a little surprised when he went to the mic to sing and the baritone and tenor saxes came in, but he went with the flow and entered a measure later.  They followed with "Gold Mine," which would've felt right at home on a Sam Cooke record.  Hunter moved among styles effortlessly, whether paying homage to the doo-wop of the "5" Royales with "Baby, Don't Do It" or adapting Allen Toussaint's jazzy "Fortune Teller" into "The Gypsy."  "Let the Monkey Ride" floated along on an island vibe, as I experienced déjà vu as the same two couples kept walking by and sitting down until I realized a film crew was shooting.  "Look Out" was somewhat of a ska number, succeeded nicely by the reggae beat of "Carina," which drew comparisons to Elvis Costello.  Hunter was convinced the crowd wasn't that into the performance, but A) having so many chairs set up in the main sightline meant no one in the front was dancing, and B) if you're opening for B.B. King, the crowd isn't there for you.  But you would've thought everyone was there for the Six during "Talkin' 'Bout My Love," where Hunter pulled out all the stops, dancing on one foot across the stage as he banged out a guitar solo that sounded half-surf rock, half-knocking on a door.  The audience ate it up, so he dropped down to do a Cossack dance, whilst playing, to even more applause.  Finishing with a scat-along from the now-responsive crowd, Hunter definitely picked up some fans last night.

A little before 8pm, the B.B. King Blues Band geared up with the befitting "Manhattan Blues."  The instrumental allowed each horn player to demonstrate his prowess, each having to prove his worthiness to play with the King.  Guitarist Charles Dennis came forward to dig into "Two I Shoot Blues," assisting the band in bringing up B.B.  The King shuffled slowly onto the stage, tossing out a handful of guitar picks before he'd even played a note with them.  But that didn't matter to the lucky recipients, as the hands they were thrown from have played so many impassioned notes before.  Taking a seat center stage, King instinctively turned his attention to the females in the crowd: "There are some beautiful ladies here tonight."  The women cheered.  "And some fellas," he added.  When that wasn't met with the same enthusiasm: "Some handsome guys, I said!"  He introduced his band, forgetting a few of their names at first, though I suspect it was an act.  He informed us that bandleader James "Boogaloo" Bolden "got my job because he could dance.  I said he could dance!"  King sang "Every Day I Have the Blues" and "I Need You So," his voice a little worn in his 87 years, though not as much as you'd expect.

"We're gonna go country a little bit," said King, easing into "You Are My Sunshine."  The crowd began singing almost immediately.  King approved, "Yeah, go ahead."  The experience reminded me a lot of seeing Jerry Lee Lewis at Beale Street Music Festival in May, watching a legend past his prime, but finding so much enjoyment in continuing to play.  Unlike Jerry Lee, who seemed more like a senile grandpa, B.B. was more of a horny old man.  "Ladies, kiss someone.  That's what I like to see," he said halfway through "Sunshine."  The crowd kept singing along, so B.B. stuck with it: "Go ahead.  I ain't done yet.  Ladies look like you dancin' like that; I'll play 'til tomorrow evening."  He turned his sights to one particular dame up front until he found out she was married.  "All pretty ladies remember that.  You got a husband?  Leave him at home!" he exclaimed.

He didn't only talk about ladies though.  Other nuggets referenced the band's speed ("Bring it down.  Don't never rush an old man."), World Trade Center 1 ("I was lookin' up for a moment.  I thought I saw King Kong up there."), strangers in the crowd (Who are you? Stick your hand up. Still don't know who you are.), and calisthenics ("I'm gonna do my exercises now.  That's called shakin' your booty.").  But then he was back at it: "I wanna talk to security for just a moment.  Let all the girls come up."  Singling out another, he said, "She's a cutie," and threw her a guitar pick. "Shake your booty," he appended, and I don't know whether the girl left or what, but shortly after, he stated, "That's the one thing about ladies.  They always leave."  Suddenly, 100 shows a year at 87 didn't seem too hard if all he had to do was sit up there and flirt for an hour.  Sure, he played a little on Lucille, most notably a solo on "Sweet Sixteen," but he left most of the guitar parts to Dennis.  With so much success for so many years, one might argue that King no longer has the blues.  But that's fine.  King is living proof that you can overcome the blues and live out your golden years happily.  And I had a smile on my face the whole time.

"I don't care if you didn't pay nothin'.  I'm glad to see you," King said with a grin.  "I love all of you.  Fellas, I love you too, but I don't want to say it too loudly," he teased as the band added some slick funk to "The Thrill is Gone."  "May I come back again another day?" he asked, receiving a resounding "Yes!"  As the band jammed out following "When the Saints Go Marching In," B.B. emptied his pockets, chucking out little bits of everything, including change to play slot machines, a practice developed by playing so many gigs at casinos.  His attendants put his hat on his head and his jacket on his shoulders, and the King slowly scuttled off.

The night still young, I hightailed it over to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where the Joy Formidable were playing a free show.  Though I missed the first half-hour, I took the escalator up to the café to find the trio rocking the "Cradle."  Ritzy Bryan, with a much improved haircut since I saw her at Beale Street, announced, "We usually do this song through the fucking PA. It kinda lacks the fucking point of being acoustic."  They took to the center of the floor for an unplugged "Silent Treatment," tall fans huddled tightly around them.  Making their way back onstage, Ritzy asserted, "Let's continue with the cacophony now. Mr. Thomas?" she said, signaling Matthew to kick into "Maw Maw Song."  Rhydian Dafydd manned a keyboard for the beginning of "Wolf's Law," the screen above the band showing a series of images that included bugs on their backs and babies being delivered, though still a relief from the creepy guy eating chocolate pudding that had been projected earlier.  The sound mix in the room was excellent, perfectly capturing the climax of "Whirring" with the band bashing away at their instruments before Ritzy gave her guitar up, leaving Matthew and Rhydian behind to reprise a bit of "Maw Maw" for the riotous crowd.  Matthew stepped down to the floor, receiving several well-deserved pats on the back from the adoring mass.  What a nice, little cherry to top off the night.


She's Got a Way / Chicken Switch / One Way Love / Gold Mine / No Smoke Without Fire / Baby, Don't Do It / Heartbreak / Jacqueline / Let the Monkey Ride / The Gypsy / Down Home Girl / Don't Do Me No Favours / Minute by Minute / Look Out / Carina / Talkin' 'Bout My Love

B.B. KING - 07.10.13 - LOWDOWN HUDSON BLUES FESTIVAL (1 hour, 26 minutes)

Manhattan Blues / Two I Shoot Blues / Mr. King Comes on Stage / Every Day I Have the Blues / I Need You So / You Are My Sunshine / Rock Me Baby / Sweet Sixteen / The Thrill is Gone > Guess Who / When the Saints Go Marching In


SET (incomplete, missing first half-hour) -
Cradle / Silent Treatment / Maw Maw Song / I Don't Want to See You Like This / Wolf's Law > Whirring > Maw Maw Song (tease)