Saturday, June 28, 2014

Chris Mills Does Not Disappoint at Big City Folk Festival

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon.  I'd just done an open mic at the Creek & the Cave, so I moseyed on over to LIC Bar to catch Chris Mills' spot at the Big City Folk Festival.  After squeezing my way through the bar packed with World Cup fans, I slipped out the back door to find a patio full of people singing along to songs by Niall Connolly.  The festival's founder was onstage, tucked away in a garage of sorts, with wooden chairs stacked in the rear by a fireplace, charred with use.  Connolly finished with "Jesus is Coming," and there was a brief lull while Mills set up.  "When I was asked to perform on this festival by its creator, Niall Connolly, directly after a 25-minute set of his greatest hits, with everyone singing along, all I could think was collateral damage," mused Mills.  And while the audience had thinned following Niall's set, Chris made the best of the situation by just having fun playing his tunes.  After the uptempo "Atom Smashers," Mills slowed things down with "Rubicon," a song he'd actually written for one of Connolly's songwriter workshop nights. (Learn the story in my podcast interview with Chris.)  "Dry Eye" had to compete with some World Cup revelry coming through an opened window, but thankfully it was closed in time for "Helpless Bells."  It was my first time hearing the song live, and guitarist Clint Newman's subtle backup vocals were on the money.  Though Mills claimed he'd used all his banter at a gig earlier in the week, he managed to get a few good quips in.  Likening his set to the meat in a "sandwich of disappointment," he explained that after Niall's barn-burner performance, he was to be followed by a full-band spot by the Sky Captains of Industry.  "This is a song I wrote when I was living in my parents' basement at the age of 29... some forty years ago," Chris joked before "Chris Mills is Living the Dream."  He closed with "Castaways," his face turning red during the powerful refrain.  To think, my stomach has been hurting for the last two days, and yet I had no problem digesting a disappointment sandwich.  The Big City Folk Festival concludes tomorrow at LIC Bar.  "It's like the World Cup of Folk Music... except more honest," offered Chris.

CHRIS MILLS - 06.28.14 - LIC BAR (37 minutes)

SET - 
Atom Smashers / Rubicon / Blooms / Suicide Note / Dry Eye / Helpless Bells / Alexandria / Chris Mills is Living the Dream / Castaways

The Next Round - Episode 23: Miniature Tigers

Miniature Tigers began when Charlie Brand and Rick Schaier met over MySpace in 2006.  They've since added Algernon Quashie and Brandon Lee to their ranks, and all four guys had beers with me at 68 Jay St Bar in Dumbo to talk about their latest release, Cruel Runnings.  In addition to the new album, we discussed how social networking has changed in such a way that they likely wouldn't have met if they were forming a band today.  The Tigers also reflected on VHS tapes, McDonald's burgers, and the finale of Lost.

Subscribe on iTunes like a cool kid, download directly, or stream below:

Miniature Tigers kick off their summer tour at Westway in NYC on 7/10, so get your tickets now.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Amos Lee & Lake Street Dive Celebrate Brooklyn Setlists

Review to come.

LAKE STREET DIVE - 06.20.14 - PROSPECT PARK BANDSHELL (1 hour, 10 minutes)

Stop Your Crying / What About Me / Clear a Space / Look at What Mistake / Bad Self Portraits / Love Doctor / Henriette / Use Me Up / Neighbor Song / Spectacular Failure / Bobby Tanqueray / Just Ask / Rabid Animal / Seventeen / Hello? Goodbye! / You Go Down Smooth

AMOS LEE - 06.20.14 - PROSPECT PARK BANDSHELL (1 hour, 27 minutes)

Windows Are Rolled Down / Jesus / Stranger / Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight / Bottom of the Barrel / Tricksters, Hucksters, & Scamps / Flower / Seen It All Before / Simple Things / Arms of a Woman / Cup of Sorrow / Fat Bottomed Girls > Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) / Won't Let Me Go > Freestyle > Shower of Love > If I Ever Fall in Love > Won't Let Me Go (feat. Mutlu) / Sweet Pea / Street Corner Preacher > Game of Thrones

End of the Road (feat. Mutlu & Lake Street Dive)

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Next Round - Episode 22: Jon Cleary

I first saw Jon Cleary when he was opening for Soulive at Brooklyn Bowl, and I was immediately impressed by his piano-playing skills.  He could pay homage to Jelly Roll Morton with "The Crave" one minute and then shift to the modern blue-eyed soul of "When You Get Back" the next.  I made sure to get him on the podcast when he returned to Brooklyn for his gig at Prospect Park.  After an early flight from NOLA and a 90-minute cab ride, Jon needed some breakfast, so excuse his chewing while he tells me how not to pronounce New Orleans, what it was like portraying himself on HBO's Tremé, and how he met John Scofield over turkey.

Subscribe on iTunes like a champion, download directly, or stream below:

Follow Jon Cleary on Twitter.
Check his website for tour dates.
Mark your calendar for 7/23 when he plays Madison Square Park.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Speak Step Into "Pedals" at Rough Trade NYC

Pedals, the sophomore record from Speak, drops next week.  Last night, the Austinquartet took to the Rough Trade stage to give fans a taste of what they can expect.  Being a music journalist has its perks; I've had the album for a few weeks now.  Pedals is moodier than its poppy predecessor, I Believe in Everything.  The LP has a strong electronic bent, and I was skeptical as to how it would translate to the stage.  My worries vanished immediately as Speak sprang into "Mystery Lights."  The cymbals crashed.  The drums thundered.  The guitars crunched.  They played like they wanted to be there, imbuing "Peaks" and "Heavy Metal War" with a spunky energy.  The only giveaway that the songs were new was the absence of the audience singing along, the crowd maintaining a respectful attention usually reserved for more familiar material.  After a tease of James Blake's "The Wilhelm Scream," drummer Jake Stewart clacked his sticks together and they sailed into "Falling" by Haim.  Singing backup together and sporting eyeglasses, matching haircuts, and identical black outfits, there was no reason to think Nick Hurt and Joey Delahoussaye couldn't be brothers.  "This one's ours," said lead singer Troupe Gammage, grabbing a guitar for the hooks-for-days single, "Be Reasonable, Diane."  Gammage picked up a bass for "I Should've Guessed," Speak's collaboration with RAC.  The tune's digging bassline struck a chord with the crowd, turning the first few rows into a dance party.  They wrapped things up with album's opening track "Gates," finishing it off with a chunky coda.  My only criticism was that the set was too short, which could've been remedied by not allowing Australia's awful Vampire Weekend copycat, the Griswolds, to play.  Then they might've had time for few songs from I Believe in Everything.

SPEAK - 06.18.14 - ROUGH TRADE NYC (29 minutes)

Mystery Lights / Peaks / Heavy Metal War / The Wilhelm Scream (tease) > Falling / Be Reasonable, Diane / I Should've Guessed / Gates

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Barr Brothers Debut New Songs at Rough Trade NYC

"We've spent the last year recording a new record.  This is the first show we're actually gonna try some of these songs," Brad Barr disclosed last night at Rough Trade.  It was the final day of Brooklyn's Northside Festival, and the Barr Brothers show was the only one I wanted to see.  Just days before, the band had announced their long-awaited follow-up album, Sleeping Operator, due in the fall, so I was jonesing for some new music.

The band began the set huddled together as a unit, harmonizing sweetly on "Little Lover."  Two minutes in, the members spread out to their positions, Andrew Barr kicking in on the drums and Sarah Page swapping her smaller harp for the imposing full-size one stage left.  The audience was a tad chatty for new song "Wolves," but they quieted for "Even the Darkness Has Arms," which saw Brad, Andrew, and Sarah all picking up guitars to play the Appalachian-style number.  At its completion, Brad took the time to wish everyone a happy Father's Day, adding, "I became a father recently."  The crowd clapped.  "You drink enough Jameson, it's easy," he laughed.  Brad started "Half Crazy" on banjo, but abandoned it for an electric, whipping the tune into a blues rock dragon with his slide as Page plucked frantically at her harp.  They followed it with the familiar "Ooh, Belle" and "Beggar in the Morning," with Brad lyrically tugging on the crowd's heartstrings as he literally tugged on the strings dangling from his guitar.
The Barr Brothers have a complex stage setup in that every member of the band sings and plays at least two instruments, not to mention that half of said instruments look like they were found in the scrap heap at a junkyard.  An earlier mishap had reset all the work done during soundcheck, so it was a constant battle for the band to get the correct monitor levels and avoid feedback.  They were patient with the sound crew though, and aside from Brad's mic being a little too quiet, the house sound was fine.  The band closed with three more Sleeping Operator cuts: "Love Ain't Enough," "Come in the Water," and "England," the last of which Brad played on a guitar fashioned out of a rusty toolbox.

"Whoever said fathers should not take LSD was not on LSD," said Barr as he picked up his toolbox once more for the encore.  "Just kidding," he clarified.  The Barrs plowed into "Lord, I Just Can't Keep from Crying," turning in a nearly 
9-minute rendition.  Brad played with such intensity that the toolbox became unlatched by the song's end.  That would've been a perfect finale, but the fans wanted more, rattling furiously on the COSCO shipping container wall of the venue.  The band chose "Cloud (for Lhasa)," which was a little too soft a finish after the dirty blues of "Crying."  According to the onstage setlist, both "Crying" and "Cloud" were to be played in the set prior to "England" with an encore of "Please Let Me Let It Go" and "Give the Devil Back His Heart."  And while I would've preferred the devil (Probably the first time I've ever written that!), I wasn't disappointed.  The Barr Brothers finally have a new album coming out.

THE BARR BROTHERS - 06.15.14 - ROUGH TRADE NYC (1 hour, 28 minutes)

Little Lover / Wolves / Even the Darkness Has Arms / Half Crazy / Ooh, Belle / Beggar in the Morning / Love Ain't Enough / Come in the Water / England

Lord, I Just Can't Keep from Crying / Cloud (for Lhasa)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Cody Chesnutt Apollo Music Café Setlist

Review to come.

CODY CHESNUTT - 06.14.14 - APOLLO MUSIC CAFÉ (1 hour, 17 minutes)

That's Still Mama / Let's Go Pop (Let's Pimp the Ghetto Lie) / 'Til I Met Thee / When I Find Time / Up in the Treehouse / Everybody's Brother / Under the Spell of the Handout / What Kind of Cool (Will We Think of Next) > Goin' Downtown (tease) > What Kind of Cool (Will We Think of Next) / Goin' Downtown (tease) / Love is More Than a Wedding Day

Gunpowder on the Letter

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Next Round - Episode 21: Jeremy Messersmith

This week on the podcast, Jeremy Messersmith sat down with me at One Mile House before his show at Bowery Ballroom.  He revealed how different elements of his life, from his Christian upbringing to his computer science degree to his job as a college professor have all played a part (be it subliminal or obvious) in his songwriting process.  Find out why all of his albums have 11 songs, including his latest, Heart Murmurs, which has garnered praise from NPR to Time Magazine.

(This episode also features a tease of an upcoming interview with Jon Cleary.)

Subscribe on iTunes to hear new episodes first, download directly, or stream below:

Follow Jeremy on Twitter.
Check out his tour dates.
Buy the album on hot pink vinyl.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Jeremy Messersmith Gives the Fans What They Want at Bowery Ballroom

It had only been four months since Jeremy Messersmith was last in New York, playing his sold-out album release show at Mercury Lounge.  While that set was heavy on Heart Murmurs, only dipping back as far as 2010's The Reluctant Graveyard, Messersmith made sure to give his fans something more than a repeat performance, playing tunes from all four of his albums, a new song, and a surprise cover.

Jeremy began with "I Don't Trust That Boy," an unreleased cautionary tale played solo on electric guitar.  As soon as he finished, the band charged into an energetic "Tourniquet."  A jolly "Lazy Bones" had Jeremy and his comrades flashing smiles at each other.  As "You'll Only Break His Heart" wrapped up with Messersmith strumming his acoustic and guitarist Peter Sieve experimenting with harmonics, the other members snuck off the stage.  The two axmen performed the soft "I Want to Be Your One Night Stand" to chuckles and "aww"s from the floor.  As he departed, Sieve put a reassuring hand on Jeremy's shoulder as if to say, "You got this, man."  Standing alone in the middle of the Bowery stage, he polled the crowd for requests.  Although it was unclear if he'd actually taken someone's suggestion, Messersmith made up his mind.  "This is one from the subgenre of subzero Minnesota songs," he announced, gently fingerpicking into the emotionally gutting "Beautiful Children."  Then he granted a concertgoer's wish with a cover of Robyn's "Call Your Girlfriend."  Jeremy revealed that "Novocain" was "the first song I wrote that I actually kind of liked a little bit."  He explained that he penned the tune while contemplating life at his first job: "Is this the American Dream?  Working in a temp office and driving a Ford Festiva?"  As the song progressed, his bandmates joined in one by one to complete it as a unit.  With the band back together, Messersmith chose to rock out for the rest of the set, which included "Dillinger Eyes," "Heidi," and "Hitman."  Jeremy informed the crowd that he and the band would be hiding offstage for thirty seconds, adding, "I want you to just promise me that you'll applaud the whole time we're over there."  The smitten spectators had no problem obliging.  After two full-band numbers, "Ghost" and "Violet!" Messersmith thanked his band and closed with a "song he stole off the Internet" (actually just inspired by a Reddit post), the sweet yet profane "Someday, Someone."

I had a pre-show drink with Jeremy for The Next Round, so subscribe on iTunes so you don't miss it when it drops.

JEREMY MESSERSMITH - 06.10.14 - BOWERY BALLROOM (1 hour, 7 minutes)

I Don't Trust That Boy / Tourniquet / It's Only Dancing / Lazy Bones / Franklin Avenue / You'll Only Break His Heart / I Want to Be Your One Night Stand / Beautiful Children / Call Your Girlfriend / A Girl, a Boy, & a Graveyard / Novocain / Dillinger Eyes / Organ Donor / Heidi / Hitman

Ghost / Violet! / Someday, Someone

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Soul Rebels & Jon Cleary Celebrate NOLA in Prospect Park

When the weather is perfect in New York, there are few things better than a Celebrate Brooklyn concert in Prospect Park.  Last night's show brought New Orleans to the borough, with sets from the Soul Rebels and Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen.

Jon Cleary and his Gentlemen represented NOLA's cherished history of piano-based fonk, continuing a lineage of artists that includes Jelly Roll Morton, Professor Longhair, and James Booker.  Beginning with a medley of "Fools Game" and "Just Kissed My Baby," Cleary interjected, "Somebody needs to shake somethin'!" and swerved into "Loose Booty."  The sound was great, but a careless cameraman stood right in front of Jon, blocking him from view.  This was especially annoying because it wasn't apparent why they were actually shooting it, considering the bandshell doesn't use screens during their concerts.  As Jon sang, "I feel so damn good I'll be glad when I got the blues," no one was more the embodiment of that feeling than drummer 
Jeffrey "Jellybean" Alexander, who played the entire set with a huge grin.  Though Cleary took obvious pleasure in performing fan-favorites like "When You Get Back," he also made time for some new numbers, which included "Beg, Steal, or Borrow" and "Pump It Up."  The latter took on an island vibe with its chorus of copious congas from percussionist Danny Sadownick.  A low-flying helicopter sent a quick burst of excitement through the crowd during "Groove Me," and the funky ditty sustained that momentum, ejecting several asses from their chairs.  They remained standing for the Absolute Monster Gentlemen's anthem, "Mo Hippa," which featured some supremely fat synth flourishes from Cleary on his Nord keyboard.  I taped a podcast interview with Jon earlier in the day, so be on the lookout for that.

The Soul Rebels took the New Orleans tradition of the brass band and updated it for the 21st century.  After coaxing the crowd to their feet, they used "2013" to teach some simple choreography to the crowd, miming a lasso movement.  Following "Rebelosis," a screen descended behind the eight-piece, and it lit up with a live feed from the cameras.  (It was nice to see Celebrate Brooklyn stepping up their game, but why did they have the camera guys out there to block Cleary?)  The group proceeded with "Thank You," a Jay-Z medley found on their new mixtape, Power=Power (Download it for free.).  Finishing with "Hard Knock Life," the brass mash-up was a hit with the Brooklyn crowd.  For those too old to appreciate rap, the band embarked on a cover of "Billie Jean" with Marcus Hubbard's trumpet replacing MJ's vocals.  They segued into "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)," this time with Erion Williams' saxophone playing the part of Daryl Hall.  A large portion of the crowd took a minute to relax during a drum solo from Derrick Moss and Lumar LeBlanc, but they rocketed upwards at the first notes of the Latin scorcher "Work It Out."  "504" allowed for some easy hand choreography, and then the Rebels educated the audience on the 2-1 handclap to set the pace for Pharrell's "Happy."  Cameras tracked across the barricade, capturing Park Slope matrons unabashedly shimmying to the mom-dance song of the millennium.  During closer "Get Up," Hubbard instructed the Brooklynites to get down as the band lessened its volume.  Singling out a few ladies that remained upright, Marcus scolded, "Y'all with the umbrellas need to get down.  I know you second line."  The raingear-wielding women obeyed.  He continued, "I want people on the other side of the park to say, 'Man, what's going on over there?' letting us know that we were supposed to go wild.  With everyone crouched and ready for liftoff, the band teased the classic "engine, engine number 9" line from "The Choice is Yours," and the crowd exploded with delight.


Fools Game > Just Kissed My Baby > Loose Booty* / So Damn Good / Unnecessarily Mercenary / Beg, Steal, or Borrow / Right Here in My Arms* / Sometimes I Wonder / When You Get Back / Pump It Up / Groove Me / Mo Hippa

THE SOUL REBELS - 06.07.14 - PROSPECT PARK BANDSHELL (1 hour, 14 minutes)

Here Tonight* > 2013 > Rebelosis / Thank You (Jay-Z Medley) / Turn It Up > Billie Jean > I Can't Go for That (No Can Do) > New Song* > Now That We Found Love (tease) > New Song (cont.)* / Drum Solo > Work It Out > 504 / Happy > Get Up > The Choice is Yours (tease) > Get Up

*If anyone knows the titles of these songs, please let me know.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Kishi Bashi Music Hall of Williamsburg Setlist

Review to come.


Wolf Confessor / Begin Again / Oh Lonely Fortress! / Children of the Sea > Your Modern Age / Breadcrumb Trail / Stars / Consolation > 1000 Acres

KISHI BASHI - 06.05.14 - MUSIC HALL OF WILLIAMSBURG (1 hour, 38 minutes)

Philosophize in It! Chemicalize with It! / Carry on Phenomenon / Improvisation > Bright Whites / Wonder Woman, Wonder Me / Q&A / Hahaha pt. 1 > Hahaha pt. 2 / Improvisation > Beat the Bright Out of Me / Evalyn, Summer Has Arrived / Bittersweet Genesis for Him & Her / I Am the Antichrist to You / Drum Solo / Atticus, In the Desert / The Ballad of Mr. Steak / It All Began with a Burst

This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody) / A Sunday Smile / Manchester

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Next Round - Episode 20: Maxïmo Park

Just prior to Maxïmo Park's gig at Gramercy Theatre, I took Paul Smith to The Globe to chat about the band's fifth record, Too Much Information.  We discussed everything from the late-night writing sessions to the mixing via Skype to the tongue-shaving artwork.  As if that weren't enough information, Smith also shared some of his favorite Pearl Jam tunes to sing at karaoke, why he can't help but dance onstage, and his love of root beer.

Subscribe on iTunes, download directly, or stream below:

Visit the band's website for tour dates, and follow them on Twitter.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fancy Colors Turn Mercury Lounge into Island of the Dead

Last night, Fancy Colors played the early show at Mercury Lounge, treating fans to a set that included the first half of their hours-young album, Island of the Dead (Stream it below.).  Less a George A. Romero spinoff and more a mashup of Talking Heads with a Pure Moods compilation, Island expands on the sound established on 2012's Near Equator.
The band drifted onto the stage without fanfare, singer Zac Colwell wetting his saxophone reed as he double-checked his pedal setup.  Zac thanked the crowd for coming early, and proceeded to lay down a flute loop.  Dave Heilman clacked into "History of Civilization," two drumsticks in each hand, fanned out like antennae.  The song built into a burning groove, at the end of which Zac recorded a new flute loop to segue into "Africa."  They followed that with "Infinity," a highly danceable track from the new record before chilling things out with the single "Love is Easy."  "This one's called 'Island Rose.' It's the theme of the album," announced Colwell, and the band embarked on their best performance of the night.  The dreamy intro gave way to a jaunty bassline, which got damn funky as the song progressed.  Oh yeah, there was a sax solo too.  After the always-welcome "The Way You Walk Away," Colwell questioned his bandmates, "Should I do some stuff?"  "Sure, I love stuff," responded guitarist Steve Wall (who also mastered the album).  The "stuff" consisted of layering sounds made from the sax's neck and the flute's headjoint into a heady goulash before Heilman dropped into the chugging beat of "Castle in the Snow."  Fancy Colors' only weakness is that some of their songs hit this righteous fucking groove and then just end.  "Castle" eschewed this nicely, with Heilman ramping up ferociously as Colwell sang a final crescendoing "castle in the snoooooow."

FANCY COLORS - 06.03.14 - MERCURY LOUNGE (37 minutes, 30 seconds)

History of Civilization > Africa / Infinity / Love is Easy / Island Rose / The Way You Walk Away / Castle in the Snow

Phil Lesh & Friends Central Park Saturday Setlist

Review to come.


SET I (1 hour, 26 minutes) -
Jam > Dear Mr. Fantasy > Cassidy / Night Time is the Right Time / Blue Sky / Mountains of the Moon / The Shape I'm In

SET II (1 hour, 28 minutes) -
Jack Straw / New Minglewood Blues / The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys > Caution (Do Not Step on Tracks) > Hard to Handle > Caution (Do Not Step on Tracks) > All Along the Watchtower > Death Don't Have No Mercy / In the Midnight Hour > Purple Haze (tease) > In the Midnight Hour

ENCORE (9 minutes) -
Donor Rap / Into the Mystic