Monday, September 30, 2013

The Next Round - Episode 4: Bleu

After last week's delayed release, I figured I'd post a Monday podcast to get your week rolling.  This time my guest is Bleu, the Boston-bred power pop stalwart, who has produced/written for the likes of Meat Loaf, Hanson, and John Oates.  His new album, To Hell with You, is out in January, but if you buy it on PledgeMusic in the next four days, you'll get it immediately.  Bleu has a beer with me at the Bowery Electric stop on the PledgeMusic Tour, and you can read the review of the gig here.

Subscribe via iTunes, download from the RSS, or stream below:

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Next Round - Episode 3: Edelweiss

It took a little longer to get up, but this week's The Next Round is out.  I sat down with the five wunderkinder of Edelweiss at a cafe in the Lower East Side to discuss their latest EP, Honduras (review here).  It's one of my favorite interviews so far.  Lots of laughs, that super-loose vibe I've been aiming for, and not even a drop of alcohol was consumed.

As always, you can subscribe via iTunes, download from the RSS feed, or stream right here:

Feel free to read the review of that night's show, and please rate the podcast on iTunes if you liked it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Johnathan Rice Headlines Mercury Lounge

Currently opening for Dawes on their fall tour, Johnathan Rice stopped by Mercury Lounge last night to headline his own show in support of his new LP, Good Graces.  Backed by Mike Bloom on electric guitar, Nik Freitas on bass, and Jason Boesel on drums, Rice wasted no time launching into the title track.  It was the perfect showcase for his brand of hazy folk-rock paired with melodic hooks.  "Early show, man.  We're gonna have to disgrace ourselves after instead of before," deadpanned Rice.  As one half of Jenny & Johnny, his band with girlfriend Jenny Lewis, Johnathan sprinkled four of the couple's tunes throughout the set, beginning with "Scissor Runner," where Freitas took care of Lewis' backing vocals.  They segued directly into "Further North," with Mike's countrified guitar lines transforming Mercury Lounge into a roadhouse bar.  Bloom showed off a different side on "Surfer's Lament," employing a whammy bar to create breakers of reverb.  As the shimmering waves washed away from shore, Rice dove headfirst into another J&J burner, "Animal."

"This is a new song. It's about sisters and brothers kissing each other."  The statement was met with nervous laughter from the audience, but everyone was onboard halfway through the number, a Lou Reed homage called "Lou Rider," which saw Rice reaching into his highest register on the chorus.  Boesel complemented his drums with a tambourine for the new single, "Nowhere at the Speed of Light," which was followed by "My Heart Belongs to You," a late-'50s slow dance that wouldn't have felt out of place on a Ricky Nelson record.  Modifying the line "You've still got a hold on me" to "You've still got your claws in me" in "The Middle of the Road" was a subtle improvement in its vivid imagery.

The band left Johnathan onstage to perform one last song by another Jonathan (albeit with one h), Jonathan Richman's "That Summer Feeling."  Many people of my generation associate Richman with his role as the Shakespearean chorus in There's Something About Mary, and therefore, tend to listen to him with a comedic bent, but Rice's clear voice exhumed the original melancholy from the lyrics.  At the song's end, he exited through the crowd, but the applause continued.  In the back of the room, Johnathan signaled to the soundman with his index finger, and his request for one more was approved.  "I didn't know you were allowed to do encores here," Rice remarked, and charged into "We're All Stuck Out in the Desert."  No word on whether he disgraced himself after, but he was definitely held in good graces during the show, no pun intended.

JOHNATHAN RICE - 09.23.13 - MERCURY LOUNGE (55 minutes)

SET - 
Good Graces / Scissor Runner > Further North / Surfer's Lament > Animal / Lou Rider / Committed / New Yorker Cartoon / Acapulco Gold / Nowhere at the Speed of Light / My Heart Belongs to You / The Middle of the Road / That Summer Feeling

We're All Stuck Out in the Desert

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Farm Aid 2013 Review & Setlists

Farm Aid celebrated its 28th year on Saturday, bringing the message of the Good Food Movement to Saratoga Performing Arts Center.  I attended last year's festival in Hershey, so the nestled-in-the-woods amphitheater was a picturesque departure from the concrete stadium in Pennsylvania.  The narrow sloped section of the lawn was filled by the time I entered the venue around 12:45.  The terrain plateaus after that, so fans whose sightlines weren't already blocked by the long ramps leading up to the imposing balcony, had to rely completely on the large video screens.  My advice is to arrive at SPAC early if you have a lawn ticket because it's clear the sacrifice has been made for the one-of-a-kind pavilion.

After checking in at the press tent, I made my way over to the Homegrown Village, where I caught a couple songs by Will Dailey, who I'd seen at Bowery Electric a few days prior.  He closed his set with "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)," a fitting choice considering New York is losing one farm every 3.5 days to suburban sprawl.  The Village itself had considerably improved from last year.  In addition to organic food options and a local beer/wine/cider tent, the exhibits were also more interesting, like an infographic  made of an actual apple sliced up into smaller and smaller pieces to finally represent the tiny bit of the earth's topsoil that's viable for farming.  I got one of the porkchop sandwiches I'd wanted to try last year (which turned out to be disappointingly dry), and sat down to watch a panel consisting of Amos Lee, the director of King Corn, and a 17-year-old Future Farmer of America member.  While it was a nice talk, I was there because I'd hoped to get a podcast interview with Amos, and the briefings were required for those looking to do so.  Missing Bahamas' set in the process, I was especially bummed to learn that no reporter (at least the ones I talked to) acquired an artist interview.

I returned to the pavilion for Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real.  They kicked off their set with "Four Letter Word" like they did last year, but Lukas was a notably stronger performer this go-round.  With more muscle in his voice to match his accomplished fretwork, it was apparent that he's been working hard to live up to his title of "the future of Farm Aid."  He also logged the most total stagetime as he sat in on sets throughout the concert.  Originally composed for the father-daughter dance at a friend's wedding, Lukas dedicated the sweet "I'm Giving You Away" to Neil Young's recently-wed daughter, and topped off "Don't Take Me Back" by gnashing at his guitar strings with his teeth.  Before he departed, Nelson iterated Farm Aid's mission to support family farms, but also suggested, "Grow your own food.  If you have a backyard, put some food in it."

Toad the Wet Sprocket kicked off their short, just-the-hits set with "All I Want."  They followed it with "New Constellation," the title track off their first album in 16 years.  "We didn't get quite enough of Lukas Nelson in that last set," announced Glen Phillips, inviting Lukas out to assist on a cover of his father's "Shotgun Willie."  Lukas' sister, Amy, and Willie's harmonica player, Mickey Raphael, joined the band for the closer, "Walk on the Ocean."  (If that wasn't enough TTWS for you, try to become Phillips' friend.  At a talk later in the day in the Homegrown Village, Glen revealed that at his potluck dinners, not only must all the food be homemade and sustainably grown, but a no pre-recorded music rule often results in some tasty jam sessions.)

Mickey Raphael returned to accompany Amos Lee on "El Camino," though Willie remained conspicuously absent, despite his cameo on Lee's Mission Bell LP.  Perhaps even more shocking, however, was the lack of new tunes from Amos' upcoming album, Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song.  "I'm just gonna sing whatever, alright?  So this is a song called 'Skipping Stone,'" he said.  With his red Farm Aid cap cocked to the side, Amos went solo for rest of his soulful set.  Though his powerful voice usually eclipsed it, a loud hum from the speakers was unfortunately noticeable during the quiet moments of the performance.  And while I never mind it when an artist covers Sam Cooke, must it always be "A Change is Gonna Come?"  At just twenty minutes, it was an all-too-brief slot for one of my most anticipated acts of the day.

I skipped out on the country singers to charge my phone and catch the aforementioned Toad panel, but I returned to my seat just in time for Jack Johnson.  After luring in the crowd with old favorites "Better Together" and "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing," Johnson used new single "Radiate" to unveil the most psychedelic jam I've heard from him, striking his electric guitar with his palm to create sonic shockwaves.  Zach Gill teetered on top of his piano stool to play melodica on "Bubble Toes," and then descended to throw a dash of accordion into the "Banana Pancakes" mix.  A little bit of Lebo must've rubbed off on Gill, who supplied some lap steel to "Shot Reverse Shot," while in the control room, an overzealous director cheesily switched between camera angles on the beat.  My personal highlight of the night came next, when Lukas Nelson checked in to weave some electric layers into "Flake."  Nelson stuck around to inject a few blues licks into "Staple It Together," which also featured a rap from Merlo.  "At or with Me" plunged headfirst into a boogie-woogie piano version of "Crosstown Traffic" and resurfaced to finish with a crowd-chant coda.

"I love this building.  It's nice to be here tonight," offered Dave Matthews, sitting down on a stool next to Tim Reynolds.  The acoustic twosome launched into an extended intro to "Save Me," which culminated in a series of falsetto yelps from Dave.  Reynolds was the star on "So Damn Lucky," using his slide to alternate between vicious squeaks and brittle cascades.  "I like the room.  I like this roof.  I like the seats.  I like those seats.  I get to play something that I love in a place that I love," said Dave before firing up a hot slice of "Corn Bread."  TR killed it on this one too, whether using his thumb to make percussive noises on the body, or shredding high notes with such intensity that his fingertips nearly met over the sound hole.  After sharing the tale of the tune's genesis on his front porch, Matthews eased into "If Only."  My favorite submission to the 46-minute set, the lovelorn anguish just leapt off of Dave's face during the tune.  "Thank you very much.  We've never played that song just the two of us," he said before adding in a silly gruff voice, "That don't matter! Just tryin' to make music."  The sky now dark enough to fully appreciate SPAC's excellent lighting design, the dynamic duo were bathed in green for "#41" before wrapping things up with fan-favorite "Two Step," Dave and Tim furiously strumming as they fed off the crowd.

"When Willie was creating the first Farm Aid, the first person he called was John Mellencamp," shared Matthews.  I guess I grew up in the wrong part of the country to fully appreciate Mellencamp's heartland rock because while the majority of the audience was lapping up "Authority Song," I found myself getting bored.  The gum-chewing Mellencamp followed it with "No One Cares About Me."  (Joke is too easy here.  I'll pass.)  John's band left him alone for an acoustic "Jack & Diane," although alone is a bit of an understatement, considering the entire pavilion was singing along, including the caterwauling drunk lady behind me.  The set reached its apex when Mellencamp tossed to the crowd completely for the "let it rock" section.  "Alright, you guys wanna hear a new song or an old one?" he questioned.  "Old!" demanded SPAC.  "I have a lot of old songs.  Let's do this one then," he said, beginning "Small Town."  "It's the same chords as the last one!" he laughed.  At least he knows.  Towards its end, he was joined by Miriam Sturm on fiddle and Troye Kinnett on squeezebox, with the musicians appending an instrumental take on "The Old Rugged Cross."  The remainder of the set played out exactly the same as last year, finishing with "Pink Houses."  After basking in two minutes of cheers and whistles, Mellencamp admitted that he copied Woody Guthrie for that song.  It was all a setup for the surprise introduction of 94-year-old Pete Seeger, who slowly shuffled to the center of the stage with his banjo.  Seeger literally led the crowd on a singalong of "The Hammer Song," prepping everyone by shouting out the first part of each impending line.  He welcomed the Farm Aid board members to help sing Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," which included the lost "private property" verse, as well as a new one tailored to New York, ending with the line: "New York was meant to be frack-free."  Aside from the glowing Seeger, Neil Young appeared to be having the most fun as he joyfully leaned into the microphone with a huge grin on his face.

After an endorsement from Mellencamp as the world's greatest songwriter, Neil Young chose to start his set with two Dylan songs, "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Early Morning Rain."  In fact, Neil performed very little of his own catalogue, just a pair of Harvest tracks, "Old Man" and "Heart of Gold."  Between songs, Neil spoke through the mic on his harmonica rack, turning the performance into a bizarre TED Talk as he paced the stage, railing against industrialized farming and big oil.  "All the carbon that's up in the sky used to be down here in the soil!" he exclaimed, blaming corrupt politicians and chemical manufacturers like Monsanto.  "I don't really know what I'm gonna do now," he said, punctuated with a sad harmonica exhale.  Young went to the piano for "Since I Met You Baby," turning to face the crowd once he'd finished.  "What the hell's he gonna say now?" he joked, playing the role of a ticketholder.  "There's a lot of things I could say," he said solemnly, and sat down at the pipe organ.  "Let me remember this song," said Neil as he began to plunk out the chords to Tim Hardin's "Reason to Believe."  He aborted it quickly to go on another tirade: "Wouldn't you like to burn something clean instead of something dirty?"  He attacked Washington for their reluctance to enact biofuel legislation. "They would mandate it if they had the balls!  That's what Farm Aid's all about.  Some of it's not that much fun to hear about," he declared.  "I think I feel better now.  I'm gonna try again."  He returned to the organ to restart "Reason," which was especially heartbreaking in Neil's voice, having grown so accustomed to Rod Stewart's.  Young rose to his feet, strapped on his guitar, and began to tell another story before being interrupted by a spectator.  "Come on, let's go?  Did I hear 'Come on, let's go?' I'm on my way, buddy.  I work for me," Neil said defiantly.  He continued on with his account of Phil Ochs' tragic suicide.  "He wrote this song, which some of you have probably never heard of, and it's long as hell," he said, performing "Changes" in tribute to "one of the greatest songwriters who ever lived."  It was unclear as to whether it was just the show running over, or his irritation with the disrespectful members of the crowd, but Neil didn't stand around long to absorb the applause, wrapping up his time at a slim forty minutes.

Farm Aid always seems to run late, and in my opinion, the board member video introductions should be first on the chopping block.  It's exciting enough to see Neil Young introduce Nelson that I'd rather hear "On the Road Again" than spend three minutes watching the same montage as last year.  This year they tacked on another video in celebration of Willie's 80th birthday, which included wishes from Grace Potter, Band of Horses, and a bunch of family farmers.  The birthday piece itself could've done the trick.  It goes without saying that Willie & the Family began with "Whiskey River."  After "Still is Still Moving," Nelson brought out Lily Meola to join him on "Will You Remember Mine," the set's sole entry from his soon-to-be-released To All the Girls, an album of duets with female songbirds ranging from Mavis Staples to Norah Jones.  For both "Good Hearted Woman" and "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," Willie raised his hand behind his ear to roust the crowd to sing each chorus.  "Just Breathe" toned things down a little, and then Lukas took lead vocals on the bluesy "Texas Flood."  As the Nelsons sang of the flooding down in Texas, a deluge soaked the crowd on the lawn, leaving only the poncho-covered diehards and protected pavilion patrons behind.  Bobbie Nelson took the remaining fans on a ride "Down Yonder," while Willie removed his hat and tied on a red bandana.  After three more tunes, the day's musicians crowded the stage for an all-sing of "Roll Me Up" and "I Saw the Light," bringing Farm Aid 2013 to its soggy conclusion.  Hey, at least it's good for the crops.
(All photos are courtesy of Farm Aid/Paul Natkin.)


Four Letter Word / I'm Giving You Away / Set Me Down on a Cloud > Don't Take Me Back

TOAD THE WET SPROCKET - 09.21.13 - SPAC, FARM AID (19 minutes)

All I Want / New Constellation / Fall Down / Shotgun Willie (feat. Lukas Nelson) / Walk on the Ocean (feat. Lukas Nelson, Amy Nelson, & Mickey Raphael)

AMOS LEE - 09.21.13 - SPAC, FARM AID (20 minutes)

El Camino (feat. Mickey Raphael) / Skipping Stone / Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight / Violin / A Change is Gonna Come

JACK JOHNSON - 09.21.13 - SPAC, FARM AID (44 minutes)

Better Together / Sitting, Waiting, Wishing / Radiate / Bubble Toes / Banana Pancakes / Shot Reverse Shot / Flake (feat. Lukas Nelson) / Whole Lotta Love (tease) > Staple It Together > Merlo Rap* > Staple It Together (feat. Lukas Nelson) / At or with Me > Crosstown Traffic > At or with Me

DAVE MATTHEWS & TIM REYNOLDS - 09.21.13 - SPAC, FARM AID (46 minutes)

Save Me / So Damn Lucky / Grace is Gone / Corn Bread / If Only / #41 / Two Step

JOHN MELLENCAMP - 09.21.13 - SPAC, FARM AID (48 minutes)

Authority Song / No One Cares About Me / Check It Out / Jack & Diane / Small Town > The Old Rugged Cross / Rain on the Scarecrow / Paper in Fire > Crumblin' Down / Pink Houses

PETE SEEGER - 09.21.13 - SPAC, FARM AID (10 minutes)

The Hammer Song / This Land is Your Land (feat. Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, & Dave Matthews)

NEIL YOUNG - 09.21.13 - SPAC, FARM AID (40 minutes)

Blowin' in the Wind / Early Morning Rain / Old Man / Heart of Gold / Since I Met You Baby / Reason to Believe (tease) / Reason to Believe / Changes

WILLIE NELSON - 09.21.13 - SPAC, FARM AID (56 minutes)

Whiskey River / Still is Still Moving to Me / Will You Remember Mine (feat. Lily Meola) / Good Hearted Woman / Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys / Just Breathe / Texas Flood / Funny How Time Slips Away > Crazy > Night Life / Down Yonder / Georgia on a Fast Train / Shoeshine Man > City of New Orleans / Roll Me Up > I Saw the Light (feat. Everyone)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bleu & Will Dailey Bring the PledgeMusic Tour to NYC

Crowdfunding may have seemed like a niche idea at first, but as time has passed, more and more artists are turning to sites like PledgeMusic, Kickstarter, and IndieGogo. Two Pledge musicians, Bleu and Will Dailey, have united for the first ever PledgeMusic Tour, which stopped at the Bowery Electric last night.

I'd never heard of Will Dailey before, so when he began with "Rescue," I assumed most of his songs would be straightforward pop/rock. As the set progressed, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find Dailey flirting with several genres. "Once in a Century Storm" saw him jazzily scatting as he strummed the neck of his guitar with his thumb, and "Sunken Ship" somehow evoked a nautical sound without getting kitschy. "Lookout Johnny" contrasted nicely with its charging drums and bass accented by crunchy guitar, while "Down the Drain" rested comfortably in alt-country. "You sound fucking great, man," offered a crowdmember. Dailey had nothing but good to say about releasing via Pledge, claiming, "It's the only way to do it."  I know I say this all the time, and you probably wouldn't be reading this if you didn't go to concerts, but you should really set aside time to go to a show, especially in an intimate room like Bowery Electric. Listening to mp3s on an iPod cannot compare to being that close to the musicians, so close that you could hear the squeaking of the hi-hat pedal as Dave Brophy kept time during "So Many Wrong Ways." Will took a minute to hawk his merch, including a USB bracelet that takes "a friend to get back on, so it brings people together." They wrapped things up with Arcade Fire's "Sprawl II," removing it from its wintry synth home and into the land of power trio rock.

The room went completely dark, save for a tiny speck on Bleu's guitar strap, ominously lighting his face as he whistled and sang along to the loop of "Overture." When the wash of sound ceased, he stomped on a switch, instantly illuminating a string of red lights outlining his guitar's body. Backed by Max Toste on double bass, Joe Seiders on drums, and a series of electronic samples from his pedalboard, Bleu blasted into "To Hell with You," the title track from his new record.  At its end, he urged the applauding patrons on the upper level to fill in the floor area: "Two of you can stay up there. I'll let you decide as a group who gets to stay."  Several people descended, and now Bleu would have to justify relocating the majority of the crowd.  And he definitely did, channeling Jeff Lynne on "It's Not Over ('Til It's Over & Done)" and completely nailing the falsetto shriek of "We both know it's finished!"  Regarding PledgeMusic, Bleu echoed Dailey, admitting he "probably couldn't be an artist without them."  He followed "Dead in the Mornin'" with another Four track, "How Blue," interrupting one of the rests with a cough. "I've never had to cough that bad that I had to do it in the middle of a song," he shared when it was over. "It's probably cancer," he added with a whimsical shrug. "Do you want the vibey one or the one about what a selfish prick I am?" he polled the crowd. Affirming his suspicions, the selfish prick won out, and Toste switched to electric bass for "In My Own Little World."  Bleu's lyrics often come off as cynical or depressing, but the grin on his face during the song made it obvious why he sets his words to such winsome melodies.  He then invited Will Dailey to the stage for a sterling cover of Player's "Baby Come Back" that had everyone in the room smiling.  Dailey departed, Max left to get a whiskey, and Bleu handed his guitar to Joe while he used his iPhone to make strange blips and bloops on "Won't Make It Out Alive."  The diehards who "schtook" around were well-rewarded when Bleu closed with two tunes from his decade-old Redhead: "Somebody Else" and "Searchin' for the Satellites," recruiting the crowd for a singalong on the latter.

My interview with Bleu will be up on The Next Round in the upcoming month. In the meantime, make sure to check out this week's episode with Goldspot.

Will Dailey's PledgeMusic
Bleu's PledgeMusic

WILL DAILEY - 09.18.13 - BOWERY ELECTRIC (51 minutes)

Rescue / Once in a Century Storm / Sunken Ship / Lookout Johnny / Down the Drain / So Do I / Kindness / We Will Always Be a Band / So Many Wrong Ways / Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)

BLEU - 09.18.13 - BOWERY ELECTRIC (58 minutes)

Overture / To Hell with You / It's Not Over ('Til It's Over & Done) / I Have to Have You / Dead in the Mornin' / How Blue / In My Own Little World / Baby Come Back (feat. Will Dailey) / Won't Make It Out Alive / Somebody Else / Searchin' for the Satellites

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Graveyard Lovers Bring the Riffs, But Not the Substance

Today, Graveyard Lovers released Dreamers, a collection of eleven riff-based rock songs. The tracks range from the Ramones-styled "Nameless" to the cock-rock of "Love & Hunger," a song that somehow worms its way into my head whenever I'm making spaghetti or cleaning the bathroom. Frontman Zach Reynolds sounds a bit like Perry Ferrell, but he lacks Farrell's ability to craft a story from abstract lyrics.  Take "When I Get Mine," one of the poppiest songs on the album, that is never able to truly take off because of generic lines like "I used to love a different woman / She used to say she loved me too / Then she ran off with some other guy / Yeah, she left me sad and blue."  It's almost like Zach wrote the guitar part and said, "Fuck the lyrics.  Next song."  The record's shining moment is the title track, which chugs along brightly and sounds like the band actually took some time building it into something past the riff.  Hell, there's even harmonica!  The album was produced by the band and Will Benoit, and a more experienced producer would benefit them on the next album.  There's a lot of records coming out this month, so Dreamers is by no means essential.  However, if you're so inclined to cherry-pick a couple tunes, you might just grab some sweet ones.

The Next Round - Episode 2: Goldspot

I hope everyone enjoyed the first episode of The Next Round last week with Broken Anchor.  You can download Fresh Lemonade on iTunes now right here.

This week I sat down with Siddhartha Kholsa from the band, Goldspot.  We talked in the green room following their record release party at Rockwood Music Hall.  The latest album, Aerogramme, is full of stories from Sidd's childhood, as well as the struggles of his parents, who emigrated from India in the late '70s.

Stream it below, or subscribe via iTunes.  If you like what you hear, give it a 5-star rating on iTunes.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Kishi Bashi Gives & Receives a Whole Lotta Love at Irving Plaza

It's been almost a year since I saw Kishi Bashi open for Delta Spirit and Dr. Dog in Central Park.  I'd seen him twice before that, and once this summer.  And I'll keep seeing him.  Because once you witness K. Ishibashi at work--looping his violin, beatboxing, and singing in Japanese falsetto--you're so amazed that you have to see what he'll do next time.  Over the past year-and-a-half, more fans have jumped on the Kishi Bashi bandwagon.  Those fans bring friends, continually growing K's audience so that he has to play increasingly larger venues each time he returns to New York.  Last night he played Irving Plaza, which is the largest venue in the city that still feels intimate.

The opening act was Elizabeth & the Catapult, the stage name of Elizabeth Ziman, who I'd seen perform with Kishi Bashi at Prospect Park.  Ziman took the stage alone, sitting down at a keyboard to perform LCD Soundsystem's "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down."  Tossing what appeared to be the song's lyrics into the crowd at its end, she transitioned into her own "Thank You for Nothing."  A four-piece band joined her for "Salt of the Earth," one of several tracks played from her upcoming album, Like It Never Happened.  "This is a song my mom doesn't really like.  She's in the crowd tonight," Ziman revealed before "I Wish I Didn't."  While the profanity-laced lyrics might make her mother cringe, I'm sure she's still proud of her daughter's ability to make such a catchy slow-burning indie pop song.  Though the setlist favored the new tunes, Ziman still found time to sneak in a few from her previous LPs, dedicating "Taller Children" to Kishi Bashi's daughter ("I'm not just kissing ass right now."), and getting the crowd moving with the jagged guitar and blasting drum pad of "Go Away My Lover."  They wrapped things up with a cover of Dawes' "When My Time Comes" that procured some whoops from the audience.

The lights went down, and Kishi Bashi approached his violin.  Beginning with an improvisation, he moved into "Evalyn, Summer Has Arrived," and was quickly joined by Mike "Tall Tall Trees" Savino on his part-banjo, part-drum, part-Christmas decoration.  Unfortunately, the speakers in the venue were clipping throughout the song, and the problem wasn't remedied until the encore.  Normally such issues would irk me to no end, but the sound was likely just interference from the electricity in the room.  For as soon as "Evalyn" ended, a deafening cheer shattered the spellbound silence of the crowd.  It was like watching the gymnastics finals in the Olympics, and some girl just rocked a perfect 10 on her floor routine.  After "Atticus," K and Mike were joined by Daniel Brunner on bass and to my surprise, David Heilman on drums.  (David played drums for K's indie rock band Jupiter One, who I saw in 2009.)  While the rhythm section may have kicked "It All Began with a Burst" into high gear, it was the crowd that truly made it blossom, clapping along and singing "ay yi yi" as Kishi Bashi held out his microphone.  "Would you guys like to hear a new song?" K asked.  "Please.  Please," said some overly excited lady near me.  Kishi Bashi also has a new record coming out next year, so he treated us to two songs that might be on it: "Q&A" and "Carry On, Phenomenon."  Noticing he was wearing the same shoes and jacket as he wore at Prospect Park, K decided to flaunt the only different item in his wardrobe, his shirt.  Heilman teased "Fever" as K stripped off his jacket.  "Let's do some oldies but goodies.  This is from my best-of first album," he chuckled, launching into "Chester's Burst Over the Hamptons," which he strung together with "Beat the Bright Out of Me" and "Conversations at the End of the World" with improvised violin bits.  Now the only person onstage, K went into musical magician mode as he looped his way through "I Am the Antichrist to You."  "I hope that was as good for you as it was for me," he remarked.  It was.  Elizabeth emerged from the left wing and walked behind him across the stage, sheepishly admitting she wanted to watch from the other side.  He then played new number "Philosophize in It! Chemicalize with It!" his vocals fluttering beautifully on the top.  I really liked this one, and I'm super-glad I was able to get it on limited edition 7".  K finished the set with "Manchester," gently plucking on his violin amidst the insect swarm he'd just created with it.  The crowd sang along shockingly well, with enough restraint to not overpower the man onstage.  It turned out they were saving their voices for the final thunderous cry as Kishi Bashi left the stage.

But you can't keep a roaring crowd waiting for too long, so K and band returned to the stage in under a minute.  "This is a song called 'Mr. Steak,'" K shared.  Awkward laugh from the audience.  "It is.  Sorry.  It's probably gonna be on the new album," he added nervously.  "Sorry for vegetarians.  It's about steak.  It's about a steak that likes to dance."  There was no need for apologies though.  The four-on-the-floor dance number was a blast, and allowed K to partake in some much-deserved jumping for joy.  (It can get stuffy stuck behind those looping pedals all the time.)  Elizabeth came out again, this time not to watch, but to harmonize and play tambourine on "Bright Whites."  As the song came to its conclusion, we all figured the concert was over.  Then Brunner revved up "Whole Lotta Love," and Kishi Bashi leapt into the crowd to ride on the hands of his admirers.  Crowdmembers who weren't even in his path stampeded across the floor just to touch him.  He surfed his way back to the front, and injected some fiddle into the rock classic to cap it all off.  While I hope the venues he performs at don't get too massive for intimacy's sake, it's clear he's worthy of packing them.

ELIZABETH & THE CATAPULT - 09.13.13 - IRVING PLAZA (50 minutes)

New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down > Thank You for Nothing / Salt of the Earth / I Wish I Didn't / Happy Pop / Taller Children / Shoelaces / Last Opus / Like a Baby Bluebird* / Go Away My Lover / When My Time Comes

KISHI BASHI - 09.13.13 - IRVING PLAZA (1 hour, 29 minutes)

Intro > Evalyn, Summer Has Arrived / Atticus, In the Desert / It All Began with a Burst / Wonder Woman, Wonder Me / Q&A / Carry On, Phenomenon / Fever (tease) / Chester's Burst Over the Hamptons > Beat the Bright Out of Me > Conversations at the End of the World / I Am the Antichrist to You / Philosophize in It! Chemicalize with It! / Manchester

Mr. Steak / Bright Whites / Whole Lotta Love

Thursday, September 12, 2013

North Mississippi Allstars Bring the Boogie to Irving Plaza

Having just released their new album, World Boogie is Coming, North Mississippi Allstars brought their boogie-infused blues to New York's Irving Plaza last night.  It was my first NMA show, and surely won't be my last.

"New York City, Irving Plaza, we meet again," announced opening act Lightnin' Malcolm with a grin.  Favoring cuts from his latest record, Rough Out There, Malcolm took his Telecaster on a ride through ten tunes accompanied by T-Model Ford's grandson, Stud, on drums.  It was Stud's first time in New York, if not evident from his T-shirt proclaiming "NEW YORK FUCKIN CITY" in big block letters.  Malcolm doesn't play with a pick, which frees up his thumb to pluck out the basslines on the lower strings while his fingers do the gritty picking.  Coming from the woods of Mississippi, Malcolm was able to say things like, "We'd love to try to sassify y'all if we can," without a hint of irony.  And while I think the duo would best be seen on a backwoods front porch or a Beale Street blues joint, they were still able to roust the NYC crowd, especially on an instrumental where Malcolm abandoned his stage-left post and rocked out center stage.

The Dickinson brothers began their set with the hip-shaking "Boogie," and were quickly joined by Stud on snare and Malcolm on bass.  The song segued into "Station Blues," establishing a pattern of World Boogie tunes interspersed with tracks from their debut, Shake Hands with Shorty.  Stud would sporadically return throughout the night, and Malcolm settled in as a permanent member.  For "Rollin 'n Tumblin," Luther picked up a two-string tin can guitar, which he both played and howled lyrics into.  That wasn't even the strangest sight on stage, as I looked over and noticed Cody donning black googles and a viking helmet as he pounded on his kit.  "Meet Me in the City" transitioned into "Shake (Yo Mama)," which had everyone in the crowd shaking what their mamas gave them, including some inebriated patrons near me whose mothers may have given too much.  Luther gave the song's final solo to Malcolm, who then took lead vocals on "Goat Meat."  Following one particular drum fill in the song, I spotted Luther and Cody sharing a laugh, the two brothers happily playing music together as a rhythm section.

The band departed, leaving Cody behind.  He strapped a washboard onto his stomach, and scratched out an extended solo before being joined by Luther on "Mystery Train."  Luther was then left alone to play a solo of his own, and the band regrouped for "Po Black Maddie."  The jam that linked "Maddie" with "Skinny Women" was probably my favorite of the evening, Cody's foot on the bass pedal as he sprinkled keyboard lines into the mix.  Another highlight was the juxtaposition of the soft "Up Over Yonder" exploding into the fireball of "Snake Drive."  Stud returned, Cody put on a plague doctor mask, and every member picked up a marching drum.  The drumline went on a victory lap around the floor, singing "Granny Does Your Dog Bite."  After two minutes of applause, the band returned for a half-hour encore of covers and old favorites: "Goin' Down South," "I'm Leaving," "K.C. Jones (on the Road Again)," "All Night Long," and "ML."  The "New York City, dinnertime" line in "K.C." elicited cheers from the sassified crowd, as if to say, "North Mississippi is always welcome in New York Fuckin City."

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Next Round - Episode 1: Broken Anchor

The wait is over!  My podcast has arrived!

Dry Paint Signs Presents: The Next Round is the only podcast where you'll get to hear me, Dustin Sherman, talking to musicians over drinks.  The first episode is with Broken Anchor's Austin Hartley-Leonard.  I spoke with Austin just prior to his show at Rockwood Music Hall.  Our conversation ran the gamut of extreme humidity to teen pregnancy to the band's excellent debut album, Fresh Lemonade (review here).

You can stream it in the player below, subscribe via iTunes, or download from the RSS feed here.

I'm really excited to hear what you guys think, so leave a comment or send me an email.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

They Might Be Giants & Ben Kweller Rock WHYY Connections Festival

After their stellar Celebrate Brooklyn gig, it was a no-brainer to venture to the City of Brotherly Love for another They Might Be Giants "no-dough" show, this time at the WHYY Connections Festival.  We got to Philly a little early to take in some of the sights on the gorgeous day.  Following a tour of Independence Hall (looks the same as it did in 8th grade!), we waited in line for cheesesteaks (with whiz!) at Jim's Steaks on South St.  After struggling to find the entrance, we finally made our way into Penn's Landing, taking a concrete seat in the small amphitheater overlooking the Delaware River.

Philadelphia's own Jesse Ruben was onstage when we arrived, strumming an acoustic guitar and singing "If I Only Had a Heart."  I don't know that the singer-songwriter had expected to be playing to an audience half-comprised of toddlers, but he felt right at home, adapting the stories before his songs for the younger crowd.  "This is the cutest mosh pit ever," he commented on the gaggle of dancing kids that had taken over the area directly in front of the stage.  Following a batch of love songs, including "Bleecker & 6th" and "Love, Don't Turn Your Back on Me Now," Jesse said that it was time for him to go: "I've only got one positive song.  I saved it for the end."  Laughs from the parents. "It's about doing awesome stuff," he translated for the kids, and launched into "We Can."  My post-show research revealed that Ruben has been using the song as part of his "I Can" Initiative, where he travels to schools to teach students that we all can make a difference.  Now it all makes sense why he was able to handle the crowd so deftly.

Also no stranger to free concerts, Ben Kweller took the stage for a 45-minute solo set after a quick soundcheck.  Plugging in an acoustic guitar and piling on the distortion, Kweller chugged through "Mean to Me" and then switched the pedal off for a relaxed take on "Commerce, TX."  "I like the dance party," he said, motioning to the kids that still commanded the floor section.  Kweller shook his rat's nest of dyed hair as he cranked out a hard-edged solo for "The Rules" and then pulled things back for "Full Circle."  "I'm from Austin, TX, so I'm gonna play a quick country song," he announced prior to "Fight."  Following "Lizzy," Kweller retired his six-string, and moved to the piano for the waltz of "Gossip."  Towards the tune's finale, Ben asked, "Actually, can you sing this with me?"  The crowd joined in on the chorus and even took it one round past the song's end.  "See, you don't wanna stop," Ben laughed.  "That's the thing about gossip, I guess.  It keeps on going and going."  He abandoned "Thirteen" after deeming it "too downtempo," choosing to play "Falling" instead.  With just Ben at the piano, it was the first time I noticed how well the number would into a Broadway musical, with its soaring chord progressions and introspective lyrics.  Kweller went back to the guitar for a subdued "On My Way" and a rocking "Jealous Girl."  Tinkling out the first notes on the piano, Kweller asked the sound guy, "Can I get some more guitar?  I really need it for this one, man," and finished "Penny on the Train Track" on his acoustic, adding little asides into the lyrics.

As the sun disappeared behind us, the question loomed: With all the little ones present, would TMBG be modifying their setlist to include some family-friendly numbers from their four children's albums?  If the pack of nerds swarming the standing room once inhabited by dancing kiddies wasn't evidence enough, Dan Miller emerging to dive into "You're on Fire" answered my query.  This was a rocking adult show.  But make no mistake, the kids loved it too, twirling crazily in the aisles in their light-up shoes.  "Hey, horn guys!  Showtime!" yelled John Flansburgh.  Now labeled the Horn Guys for the remainder of the concert, the Tricerachops Horns joined the band for "Withered Hope," each taking a solo.  "The Guitar" went the disco route that it's been going this year, but They were hitting the groove even tighter than normal, and you could see it on the smile on Flansy's face.  The robo-vocals came out a little too sterile on "Nanobots," which I'll chalk up to the Riverstage sound system.  Then Flansburgh encouraged the crowd to stand for what he referred to as They Might Be Giants' "National Anthem," "Damn Good Times."

In a departure from the Brooklyn gig, They divided the crowd in two for the "Battle for the Planet of the Apes."  "People who are sitting down, stand up.  Don't make me resort to swear words in front of so many children," JF warned.  The battle commenced, and Flans even held out his left-handed Telecaster for some front-row apes to play.  The people won, but the apes didn't take the loss well, as the chant resurrected itself multiple times in the evening.  A lot of the show unfolded similarly to the Brooklyn show, but the "New York City > Ana Ng" segue still gave me shivers.  Dan Levine blessed us with a lengthy trombone lead-in to "Istanbul," though it was marred with crackling noises from the speakers.  However, that was nothing compared to what happened next, when the band took on "I'll Sink Manhattan" as fireworks erupted from the Camden-side of the river.  The explosions were only audible during certain sections of the tune, so they enhanced the performance instead of detracting from it.  "Let's hear it for those wireless things!" yelled Flansburgh, who had assumed interference had caused the popping sounds.  Stagehands directed his attention to the pyrotechnics behind him, and he chuckled, "This is in our rider."  They finished the set with a firework-speckled "Call You Mom" and "Birdhouse in Your Soul."

As soon as They stepped off the stage, the cheer began: "Apes!  Apes!  Apes!"  Marty Beller came back out and started up "123 Band Intro," which featured a funny vocal section from John Linnell.  "Hey, Mr. DJ" closed things out, swapping spots with "Birdhouse" since Prospect Park.  While I would've preferred a little more deviation from the last show, I couldn't complain.  If I complained about perfect weather, fireworks, and cheesesteaks, I'd be a real asshole.

BEN KWELLER - 09.07.13 - PENN'S LANDING (45 minutes, 37 seconds)

Mean to Me / Commerce, TX / The Rules / Full Circle / Fight / Lizzy / Gossip / Thirteen (tease) / Falling / On My Way / Jealous Girl / Penny on the Train Track

THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS - 09.07.13 - PENN'S LANDING (1 hour, 20 minutes)

You're on Fire / Withered Hope / The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight) / Nanobots > Damn Good Times / Battle for the Planet of the Apes / Icky / New York City > Ana Ng / When Will You Die / We Live in a Dump / The Mesopotamians / Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head / Doctor Worm / Trombone Solo > Istanbul (Not Constantinople) / I'll Sink Manhattan / Call You Mom / Birdhouse in Your Soul

123 Band Intro / Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had a Deal