Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Majorleans Bring Three Guitars to Mercury Lounge

Any martial artist will tell you that a black belt takes time to earn.  So it makes sense that the Majorleans' new album Black Belt took years to make, from recording in a poisonous Chinese church basement to the lead singer's living room to a professional studio, where it was engineered by a Grammy-winner who has worked with everyone from Faith Hill to the Fugees.  The record finally dropped on Tuesday.  Last night, the band took to the Mercury Lounge to celebrate.

The show was opened by Boston's McAlister Drive, or four guys who don't look like they belong in the same band.  If you based them solely on appearance, the bearded, bespectacled guitarist could've been in Beck's backing band, the long-haired drummer from a stoner-rock group, the floppy-haired bassist in a dance-pop outfit, and frontman Christoph Krey fit the part of a bartender at Western-themed watering hole in Bushwick.  Their sound was nothing like the combination of these styles, however.  It was Americana-infused pop-rock.  They weren't bad, but they weren't original enough for me to really care.  That doesn't discount the fact that they are enjoyed by others, including a recently married couple who first met at a McAlister Drive show.  "Thank you for listening to the band all these years.  We write terrible music," said Krey, dedicating "Best Dressed" to the newlyweds.  "This is the part where y'all put your hands together, y'all raise your drinks, and y'all just sing along," instructed Christoph before the final number, "Got It Right."  And exactly how does one clap their hands and raise their drink at the same time without making a huge mess?

While the setlist hasn't changed much in the times I've seen the Majorleans, the addition of a third guitarist, David Andreana, brought a new dynamic to the show.  The triple-guitar attack on the intro to "Mr. Magic" boiled so ferociously that when they turned things down to a simmer for the verse, Nicky Francis' talkin' blues vocals seemed almost sinister.  I don't think I'm off-base by suggesting that the presence of Andreana freed up Francis to concentrate less on his playing and more on his singing.  Take the lyrics in "Never Had Enough," where Francis implores, "I'd like to see you both at the same time with me / I'd like to see you both some time."  While you could interpret this as the desires of his inner monologue, the way he sang it last night felt like he was actually propositioning two women at a party for a threesome.  With a smirk in his voice and drawing out the "both some time" of the second line, he wasn't reiterating; he was correcting a Freudian slip.  The ladies definitely heard him, but they probably smiled and went home with him anyway.  My favorite song from the album, "Real Bad," got the crowd dancing, not to mention the old guy next to me who jumped for joy as soon as he heard the first notes.  Riding the wave of Chris Buckle's feedback on the tail of "See the Seams," "Under Ma Wheels" proved a formidable closer, a fun country rocker that never eased off too much thanks to Colin Brooks' insistent kickdrum and cymbals.
(To learn more about the making of the album, check out the podcast below, recorded at Mission Sound during the Black Belt sessions.)

Although it was the Majorleans' release night, they shared the bill with their longtime friends, Frances Cone.  After eating a banana on the stairs beside the stage, Christina Cone took her spot at the keyboard in the center and began playing "Heartland" from the band's first album, Come Back.  Her bandmates joined her and they launched right into a new song, "Wait Right Here."  Though repetitive in its lyrics, the song eschewed boredom nicely by its variety of sounds: Alex Baron's simultaneous shaker-work during his drumming, bassist 
Andrew Doherty's vocal harmonies, and a few well-placed handclaps.  The result was a song that you're singing along with before it's over, a testament to the band's writing abilities. "Better Man" underwent another remake, as Cone stepped away from her keys, accompanied by Jeff Malinowski's slowly jangling guitar and Alex's mallet-drumming.  Their cover of the Black Keys' "These Days" was excellent, as always, and the hints of classical music in another fresh tune, "Not a Man," proved that the best is on its way from this young group.

MCALISTER DRIVE - 11.21.14 - MERCURY LOUNGE (43 minutes)

Ocean Skip Away / I Met You* / 22 / Devil's Ghost / Best Dressed / Another Day / United South / Got It Right

THE MAJORLEANS - 11.21.14 - MERCURY LOUNGE (32 minutes, 30 seconds)

Go Down All the Time / Coal Mine/Cold Mind / Mr. Magic / Never Had Enough / Imaginary Plane / Real Bad / See the Seams > Under Ma Wheels

FRANCES CONE - 11.21.14 - MERCURY LOUNGE (37 minutes)

Heartland > Wait Right Here > Soon / Better Man / Wiser / Come Back / These Days / Not a Man / So So / 85

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Revivalists Debut New Love Song at Irving Plaza

The Revivalists started last night's show at Irving Plaza by flipping the script.  Every time I've seen them, their set has ended with "Criminal," but they put the moody, crescendoing rocker right up front.  It was a powerful move on the band's part, a way of saying, "We're not gonna make you wait for the song you want to hear the most.  We have just as much confidence that we're gonna rock the shit out of anything we're gonna play after this too."  "Stand Up" was the frank rallying cry to unite everyone under this mission.  That was followed directly by another fan favorite, "Concrete (Fish Out of Water)."  Michael Girardot, who was jumping around more than I'd ever noticed before, took the song into his hands with a rip-roaring organ solo that had the crowd screaming for more.  Instead, as soon as he was finished, he picked up his trumpet and soloed on that to even more applause.  Singer David Shaw's hair, which had been tied back for the first few tunes, came unraveled during the number, his brown, shoulder-length curls exploding outward to give off a Sideshow Bob appearance.  "Monster" was next, David pleading in the lyrics, "Stop, save yourself / You could have anyone else."  But it was clear that this audience didn't want anyone else, only the Revivalists, especially when Rob Ingraham picked up his baritone sax for the explosive "All in the Family."
The New Orleans band was keen on inserting fresh songs into the mix, from the gentle finger-tapped melody of "It Was a Sin" to the soul-drenched "Fade Away."  But none of us knew just how new they would get.  After the encore break, Shaw and Giradot emerged for the debut of "Men Amongst Mountains."  Ed Williams joined midway through the heartfelt love song, laying down a solo on his pedal steel that would've made any '80s power ballad's ax-slinger jealous.  As the other bandmates returned to the stage, David quizzed the crowd, "New York City, are you ready to tear this place apart?"  Cheers from the crowd as Michael and Rob convened at the keys to start up the Who's "Baba O'Riley."  Guitarist Zack Feinberg and Williams did their best Pete Townshend windmills as every person in Irving Plaza came together to sing the chorus.  The room was all smiles at its conclusion, and the crowd craved another.  "One more song!" they demanded, the band still onstage.  A brief band meeting made the decision: "Forgot About Dre."  And while I would've preferred another Revivalists original, something along the lines of a "Bullet Proof Vest" or "BTBD," it was hard to deny the wave of excitement that surged through the crowd when Feinberg started playing those familiar staccato notes.

I drank beers with a few of the Revivalists in their van back in April.  You can listen to our conversation here:

THE REVIVALISTS - 11.20.14 - IRVING PLAZA (1 hour, 34 minutes)

Criminal / Stand Up / Concrete (Fish Out of Water) / Monster / All in the Family / When I'm Able / It Was a Sin > Elementary / Navigate Below > Upright / Not Turn Away / Fade Away / Catching Fireflies

Men Amongst Mountains / Baba O'Riley / Forgot About Dre

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Next Round - Episode 27: The Majorleans & "Bassy" Bob Brockmann

This interview has been in the archives for over a year, waiting patiently for the release of the Majorleans album, Black Belt.  Just like the rocking record, it's well worth the wait.  Nicky Francis and Chris Buckle tell how their origins in Baltimore and Liverpool eventually merged together in the Lower East Side to mint a sound that is undeniably New York City.  Their Grammy-winning engineer and co-producer, "Bassy" Bob Brockmann, who has worked with everyone from Christina Aguilera to Biggie Smalls, also drops in to discuss his career and the state of the music industry.

Stream below, download directly, or subscribe on iTunes for the best experience.

Buy Black Belt on iTunes.

Grab a ticket for their show at Mercury Lounge on Friday.

Read reviews of previous Majorleans shows:
05.02.14, Rough Trade NYC
12.18.13, Mercury Lounge
04.03.13, The Bowery Electric 

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Next Round - Episode 26: Vacationer

I've listened to Vacationer's album Relief more than any other album this year.  I've listened to their song "The Wild Life" more than any other song this year.  So there's no reason why you shouldn't listen to this podcast interview with Vacationer's Kenny Vasoli more than any other podcast this year.  Find out Kenny's favorite Thanksgiving food, what it's like to get a present from Jay-Z, and much, much more.

Stream below, download directly, or subscribe on iTunes to get new episodes hours before they're posted here.

Visit Vacationer's website for merch and tour dates.
Read my review of Vacationer's gig at Webster Hall's Marlin Room.