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Overcoats Sound Right at Home at Sold-Out Rough Trade NYC

April 21st, 2017

Overcoats – Rough Trade NYC – April 20, 2017

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Sisterhood runs deep between best friends Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell, a bond so strong it’s birthed a band, Overcoats. The New York City–based duo’s debut, Young, is a reverie of R&B soul folktronica coproduced by Nicolas Vernhes (Daughter, Torres, Dirty Projectors, Cass McCombs) and fellow singer-songwriter Autre Ne Veut. NPR’s Bob Boilen recently described the record as “driven by ambition and passion, not craft … the emotion in their harmonies and the space they give each other is filled with compassion.” Last night, the inseparable pair graced a sold-out Rough Trade NYC on the eve of their new EP’s release, donning white jumpsuits and silver platform boots. Microphone stands adorned with flowers and garlands of cameo silhouettes set the stage as their first headlining tour opened with the rhythmic “Smaller Than My Mother.” The crowd swayed to the lullaby of “Hold Me Close” before Elion exclaimed, “We are so fucking excited to be here.”

Covering the entirety of their album with the exception of one track (“Father”), the kindred spirits garnered much love from fans as the mutual admiration between each singer was palpable. They embraced often in between songs and danced side by side without a care in the world. When introducing the debut single “Little Memory,” Elion confessed it was the first one the girls had written together. The duo covered Hozier’s “Cherry Wine” midway through the set. Elion laid her head on Mitchell’s shoulder to preface “Siren,” as she proceeded to sing, “I feel many weights of many worlds on my shoulders.” In a speech that was carved out on the set list, Mitchell offered their gratitude to touring drummer Joao Gonzalez, Andy on sound and their agents. An overwhelming acknowledgement of the upcoming year ahead left the women truly humbled before an encore of the hymnal “Mother” and the rollicking “Leave the Light On” concluded the performance with a fever pitch of participatory claps. —Sharlene Chiu

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Maggie Rogers Returns to The Bowery Ballroom as a Performer

April 12th, 2017

Maggie Rogers – The Bowery Ballroom – April 11, 2017

Maggie Rogers – The Bowery Ballroom – April 11, 2017
When Pharrell takes an eye to an artist (and I’m not talking about his stint on The Voice), ears perk up. The celeb producer was enchanted by American songwriter Maggie Rogers’ track “Alaska” while teaching a master class at NYU last summer. Her anticipated EP, That the Light Is Fading, released back in February layers Rogers’ folk sensibilities with newly examined dance tempos she acquired living abroad. Rogers has the swagger of an Amelia Meath (Sylvan Esso) and the hymnal quality of Florence Welch (Florence and the Machine). Last night at The Bowery Ballroom, the first of two sold-out New York City shows, the singer-songwriter took center stage donning a custom white denim suit designed by Christian Joy. The room was filled with the chirping of crickets as Rogers opened with “Color Song” and her frenetic dance moves were unleashed.

After the dance-pop track “Dog Years,” the recent graduate offered a slow jam written for a crush entitled “Say It.” Wise beyond her years, Rogers pensively acknowledged not only how much has changed for her in the past year, but also the world itself. “Global grief hangs heavy as summer heat,” the first lines of “Hashtag,” rang especially true for the sunny front earlier in the day and the current political climate. She revealed that “Little Joys” was the first song she wrote in NYC and admitted the opening was inspired by Sharon Van Etten. Light on the material, a cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” was reimagined with dance beats ebbing and flowing into the folk-rock classic.

Before the final song, Rogers became teary and choked up recounting the times she had previously been to The Bowery Ballroom as an audience member. She pulled herself together, saying, “I really love making music,” and culminated the evening with the track that had left Pharrell virtually speechless. No longer a fledgling songwriter, the world awaits the next chapter of Ms. Maggie Rogers. —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Pip Cowley | pipcowleyshoots.com

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The Staves Build Bridges at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday

March 13th, 2017

The Staves – Music Hall of Williamsburg – March 10, 2017

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As youngsters in England, Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor learned guitar from their father and sang heavy folk melodies at the local pub, which has bloomed into something bigger. Their sweet sisterly harmonies have earned the Staves opening slots for the Civil Wars, Bon Iver and Florence and the Machine. The siblings formed such a strong friendship with Justin Vernon that the Bon Iver frontman produced their last album, If I Was. Playing at Music Hall of Williamsburg Friday night, the first of two sold-out weekend shows in Brooklyn, the sisters were a lovely respite after the morning’s snowfall. Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” introduced the ladies—and drummer Dave Power—to the stage. The show began with Camilla on ukulele for “Blood I Bled,” while Jessica, on guitar, and Emily, behind keys, offered backing vocals.

Opener Mikaela Davis added harp on the breakup song “No Me, No You, No More” as Jessica’s elfin vocals rang across the room. Midway through the set, when Emily and Camilla needed to swap stage positions, Jessica stalled with some light conversation about Gilmore Girls, which the band had been watching on the bus. This sent the crowd into a tizzy with shouts of “Team Jess,” but it was the sisters’ critical takes on the character Rory as “a nause” (an English term of annoyance) that elicited cheers. Vernon’s influences were obvious once everyone was in the right place and Camilla created an echo chamber with a series of vocal loops on “Train Tracks,” similar to those on Bon Iver songs. The skip-hop cadence of “Black & White” perked up fans and grew for the anthemic “Tired as Fuck” as crowd members clapped along to Camilla’s languid delivery. An encore was inevitable and Davis returned again for a dreaming acoustic cover of Sufjan Steven’s “Chicago.” Jessica prefaced the final song, “Mexico,” with “Don’t build walls, let’s build bridges.” —Sharlene Chiu

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Grandaddy Prove to Be Worth the Wait at Rough Trade NYC

March 3rd, 2017

Grandaddy – Rough Trade NYC – March 2, 2017

Grandaddy – Rough Trade NYC – March 2, 2017
There are albums that define an individual at a certain time of life, and for me it was Grandaddy’s The Sophtware Slump. I was a recent college graduate figuring out adulthood and working a “dream job” at my local radio station. Something about Jason Lytle’s specific lyrics laid across a series of bleeps and electronic haze struck a chord in me. I was first introduced to them when they opened for a then rising British band, Coldplay. That evening was highlighted by the special guest appearance by a barely recognizable Elliott Smith, whom Grandaddy had toured with prior. When the group disbanded back in 2006, there were morsels released in the form of a solo album by Lytle and side projects in Admiral Radley, but Grandaddy would not resurface until 2012 with a few local California gigs and select festivals in the UK. On the eve of their long-awaited fourth album, Last Place, the Golden State band played a sold-out Rough Trade NYC last night.

Opening their set with an abstract film filled with landscape juxtaposed with pixels, the quintet surfaced to the stage as if no time had passed. The crowd quickly got into it as Grandaddy opened with back-catalog gems “Hewlett’s Daughter” and “El Caminos in the West.” The evening would satisfy longtime fans, while introducing newer material like their first single from their latest, “Way We Won’t,” and follow-up single “Evermore.” The frontman was barraged with several requests midway through their set, but none of them were on the list. One fan graciously offered, “Your choice, Jason,” in which Lytle took the opportunity to segue into the spacey favorite “The Crystal Lake.”

The room erupted when the whimsical intro to “A.M. 180” signaled the audience to bop along to the melody, but it was near the end of the set that Lytle wrapped the night with an extra special bow. Going from new track “I Don’t Wanna Live Here Anymore” to the slow-burner “Jed’s Other Poem (Beautiful Ground),” he initiated the climax with a revved-up “Now It’s On.” Although the set concluded with harp-like keys on “He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s the Pilot,” the enduring bandmates would return to encore with a pair, the new song “The Boat Is in the Barn” and oldie-but-goodie “Summer Here Kids.” Needless to say Grandaddy’s return was so worth the wait. Let’s hope there won’t be another decade-long hiatus. —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

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Lisa Hannigan Makes a Triumphant Return at The Bowery Ballroom

February 21st, 2017

Lisa Hannigan – The Bowery Ballroom – February 20, 2017

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Irish singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan has a way of wrapping you in a warm woolen blanket with delicate vocals that seem to embrace you in a loving hug. Often known for her backing vocals while touring in the past with Damien Rice, she has forged on to release three solo albums after an abrupt break from her former collaborator. Her previous album produced with the National’s Aaron Dessner, At Swim, arrived last summer following a long five-year hiatus. Needless to say, fans were excited for her return to New York City as she arrived at a sold-out Bowery Ballroom last night, midway through her U.S. tour.

The room came to a hush as Hannigan took to the stage crooning the ever-haunting “Ora.” Although she was sparse with banter throughout the evening, fans didn’t seem to mind as they happily soaked up her ethereal melodies. Opener Heather Woods Broderick added her vocals on “O Sleep,” stepping in for Ray Lamontagne. Hannigan mentioned how her video for “Undertow” was recently released and that in the filming she had to sing the song backward. The singer playfully proceeded to share her backward trill, before introducing a protest song, “Fall,” which was an appropriate addition to the events of Presidents’ Day.

The band exited, leaving the stage to the lass for the music-box plucks of “Little Bird” and the wanderlusting “Passenger.” Her lilting brogue rang true on “We, the Drowned,” as Hannigan pumped her harmonium with extra zeal. Stalwart fans were delighted by “Lille,” an oldie from her debut solo, Sea Sew. An encore opened with an a cappella version of “Anahorish” accompanied by Broderick and her bassist before the performance concluded with the pair of “Barton” and the uplifting “A Sail.” —Sharlene Chiu

 

 

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Bear’s Den Leave Them Wanting More at The Bowery Ballroom

February 2nd, 2017

Bear’s Den – The Bowery Ballroom – February 1, 2017

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The British folk rock band Bear’s Den wrap gorgeous compositions with a searing banjo ribbon. It’s not a surprise that they supported fellow countrymen Mumford & Sons, as both share similar musical sensibilities. They’re also no strangers to road-tripping across America, having jumped in a Volkswagen Campervan to tour with Ben Howard, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Staves in 2014. In support of their sophomore release, Red Earth & Pouring Rain, the lads played to a sold-out Bowery Ballroom on a crisp Wednesday night. The balcony was overflowing with spectators, as folks could barely get on the floor. Although the evening featured songs from the recent release, special attention was paid to the faithful when the rarely sung and mostly back-cataloged “Sophie” was played acoustically as the audience came to a hauling silence.

Band leader Andrew Davie admitted it was likely their “second-oldest song,” and fans, new and old, were grateful. They erupted for “When You Break,” a favorite from Bear’s Den debut, Islands. A pause in the set carved time for guitarist Christof to make his traditional bottle-flip attempt. The suspense was thick as the water bottle flew in the air, and Davie bear-hugged his bandmate upon success before wailing the sea shanty “Auld Wives.” Christof strapped on the banjo for another favorite, “Above the Clouds of Pompeii,” as clapping hands and stomping feet revved up the band before they exited the stage.

There was little doubt they would not return for an encore, and they did with horn accompaniment for “Napoleon.” Davie, bassist Kevin Jones and Christof made their way into the crowd with only instruments on an acoustic rendition of “Gabriel.” Back onstage, Davie explained that throughout their tour they have been playing covers that were of local artists or about the city they were in. Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy in New York” checked off both those requirements. The evening wrapped up with the anthemic “Agape,” which was a fitting soundtrack to lead folks into the night and onto a new day. —Sharlene Chiu

 

 

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Phox Say Goodbye (For Now) at Music Hall of Williamsburg

January 30th, 2017

Phox – Music Hall of Williamsburg – January 28, 2017

(Photo: Sharon Vanorny)

(Photo: Sharon Vanorny)

Amidst an indie-pop music landscape saturated with bands, the Wisconsin-based Phox spent half of a decade delighting fans with their whimsical melodies. Ascending a stage at a local festival, Boo Bash, the members played for the first time in May 2011 for what they thought would be a one-off performance. From there they became the darlings of Baraboo, Wisc., releasing the Confetti EP in 2013 and then their self-titled full-length, recorded in Justin Vernon’s studio the following year. Last fall the band announced that members had agreed to take a “hiatus” to allow for other creative pursuits, from film to graphic novels. For the occasion, the quintet embarked on their Goodbye (For Now) tour, which rolled into a sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday night.

Taking the stage to an opening composed by guitarist Matthew Holmen, the five-piece filed in with their phoxy lead singer, Monica Martin, clad in a shoulder-baring black top and high-waisted acid-washed jeans. She quickly began with the breezy “Leisure,” and keyboardist Matteo Roberts offered his vocals on the opening of “1936” before Martin took back the reins. The crowd participated in a chorus of “Wah oh oh” on “Evil,” which wouldn’t be the only time audience erupted. A cadence of claps was inevitable during fan-favorite “Slow Motion,” and many joined in, singing, “Everything I do, I do in slow motion.” The evening spotlighted Martin, who recently recorded the hypnotic “Equal Powers” with Jeremy Larson’s Violents.

A solo section showcased new material, including a ballad entitled “Make Believe,” and another song served as a cautionary tale about road trips with strangers. The little-sung “Laura” was hard to perform in the past Martin confessed because it was about the relationship with her mother. Saving the best for last, Phox covered the rhythmic chords of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” and Holman offered a blistering guitar solo on “Noble Heart” to punctuate the set’s end. The band would return to encore with another cover. This time it was Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody.” The bittersweet farewell ended with “Espeon” dedicated to Martin’s younger sister in the audience. And as it neared midnight, fans left dreaming of Phox’s swift return in the (hopefully) near future. Sharlene Chiu

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Kyle Morton Goes Solo at Rough Trade NYC on Friday Night

January 23rd, 2017

Kyle Morton – Rough Trade NYC – January 20, 2017

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The path from band member to solo career can often lead to a clear separation from the former, but Kyle Morton of Typhoon has managed to avoid that divide. Rather his solo album was birthed while he was working on the group’s next major release. It’s not surprising that Morton had qualms touring alone when there are 11 members in Typhoon. In an interview, Morton confessed his nervousness of going it alone: “I’m learning a lot more self-reliance, since I’m out here traveling by myself. I never really wanted to tour by myself because it seemed kind of daunting. But there’s something kind of nomadic and cool about it.” And so the frontman arrived solo onstage before a welcoming crowd at Rough Trade NYC on Friday evening.

Covering a large portion of his debut album, What Will Destroy You, Morton expertly mixed new material with Typhoon fan favorites throughout the set. His singing cadence, which resembled Conor Oberst’s on “Poor Bastard,” was especially punctuated by the morbid, melancholic lyrics. The crowd quickly joined in on the Typhoon track “Belly of the Cavern” by stomping along to provide percussion before echoing the refrain “I will be good though my body be broken” on “Common Sentiments.” Morton joked that one really only had to sing that bit to be part of the band, which endeared him to the audience even more. The mention that his wife, Wild Ones lead singer Danielle Sullivan, was in attendance served as a teaser for an inevitable duet.

Before she would take the stage, Morton sweetly dedicated “My Little Darlin’ Knows My Nature” to Sullivan. Shining a new light on the familiar “Artificial Light” and “Prosthetic Love,” the stripped-down Typhoon songs highlighted the painstaking lyrics that can get lost in the hefty band’s weight. When the words “last song” provoked grumbles, the songwriter discarded the pseudo exit of an encore to remain onstage, calling upon his wife to join him on a new Typhoon song. And if that weren’t enough to appease the crowd, the pair covered the John Prine and Iris Dement duet “In Spite of Ourselves” to cap off the night. —Sharlene Chiu

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An Eclectic Craig David Dance Party at Music Hall of Williamsburg

January 20th, 2017

Craig David Presents TS5 – Music Hall of Williamsburg – January 19, 2017

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It was the summer of 2000 and I was gallivanting in Copenhagen as an exchange student. What I distinctly remember was the insane amount of the Europop that year, and a unique voice, Craig David’s, rang out amongst those omnipresent groups. His blend of R&B mixed with dubstep anchored his first album, Born to Do It. He never fully translated in America to my dismay, but David sold out the Brooklyn debut of his TS5 party at Rough Trade NYC last October. TS5 began as a house party in his penthouse in Miami, Tower Suite 5, and it’s no surprise that it has blown up into a hot ticket. His beginnings on the decks to his top-charting songs set up David as the perfect hybrid of MC and singer.

Commanding a sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg last night, David opened with oldies “Rewind” and “Fill Me In.” His hybrid skills were on full display as he seamlessly moved from his ballad “Walking Away” to TLC’s “No Scrubs.” David continued, proclaiming, “We getting rotten,” before dropping a series of old school anthems ranging from House of Pain’s “Jump Around” to Chaka Demus & Pliers “Murder She Wrote.” He moved everyone in the packed venue through decades of popular music daring to follow Destiny Child’s “Say My Name” with Ginuwine’s “Pony.”

The latter end of the set produced tracks largely from David’s latest release, Following My Intuition, including the Dave Tozer–produced “Warm It Up,” first single “One More Time,” and the Blonde collaboration, “Nothing Like This.” David expressed his gratitude to fans who have followed him for 16 years, rolling it back one more time for “7 days” before concluding the evening with a cover of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” and his viral hit “Fill Me In/Where Are Ü Now,” a mashup of his classic blended with Diplo and Skrillex’s knotted beats. —Sharlene Chiu

 

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Bon Iver Close Out Epic New York Run at Music Hall of Williamsburg

December 15th, 2016

Bon Iver – Music Hall of Williamsburg – December 14, 2016

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During a cold winter in a Wisconsin cabin, the first Bon Iver album, For Emma, Forever Ago, was written out of heartbreak—and the indie folklore remains forever in perpetuity. Although raved about in music critics’ circles, the band wasn’t well-known until winning the Best New Artist Grammy in 2012 for the self-titled sophomore effort. Even then, the public was uncertain who was in the band with tweets throughout the telecast wondering exactly who Bonnie Bear was. After a three-year hiatus, Bon Iver returned to headline the inaugural Eaux Claires Music Festival in frontman Justin Vernon’s hometown. This fall, the latest release, 22, A Million, welcomed a new era in the band’s evolution, moving away from the melancholic, acoustic crooning to heavily Auto-Tuned vocals against grainy synths leaving little resemblance to that emotionally cracked man in the cabin.

Over the past two weeks, the once unknown folk band has played sold-out shows across the New York City area from Hammerstein Ballroom and Capitol Theatre to Pioneer Works and Kings Theatre. The residency ended last night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, blocks away from an in-store the band played almost a decade ago at the long-shuttered Sound Fix Records. The stage was set with gear trunks decorated with Eric Timothy Carlson’s artwork from the recent album and served as tables for laptops and synths.

Carlson’s graphics were projected throughout the entire set, offering a strange mix of numerology and lyrics. The opener, “22 (OVER S∞∞N),” echoed a familiar voice that sounded like Merrill Garbus (aka Tune-Yards), but Vernon’s foray into electronics has masked his vocal coherency. The frontman’s earlier work with the band Poliça can be heard in his delivery of “10 d E A T h b R E a s T,” where distorted percussions give way to shredding guitars. Midway through the show, Vernon confessed that it was great to be back “playing one of our favorite rooms.” In a charming moment, the sextet of backing horns, known lovingly as “Sad Sax of Shit,” accompanied the band on “8 (circle).” The evening was largely dedicated to the newer material, but Vernon offered a morsel of the past with an encore that included “Creature Fear.” —Sharlene Chiu

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Metric Play Intimate Hometown Show at Music Hall of Williamsburg

November 30th, 2016

Metric – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 29, 2016

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Before the 21st century, a musical collective out of Toronto formed by the name of Broken Social Scene and spawned such acts as Feist, Stars and Metric. The environment was a supportive one, nurturing a space where each band could thrive. The founding duo of Metric, Emily Haines and James Shaw, moved to New York City in the late ’90s and recorded early demos that would provide material for their first studio album. Fast-forward a decade and some change, the indie-rock band released a sixth studio album, Pagans in Vegas, last fall. And last night they returned to Brooklyn for a sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg show as part of the Steve Madden Music series.

Fashioning a black cap, the lead singer took center stage kicking off the evening with a rousing rendition of “Speed the Collapse,” followed by the up-tempo “Youth Without Youth” as guitarist Ward added Auto-Tuned choruses. Haines had a few wardrobe changes, with the most notable being a luminescent cape that glowed against the black lights. (Added kudos to the lighting tech for her mastery of the syncopation of pulsating white shocks to several songs.) For crowd favorite “Dead Disco,” Haines turned up the showmanship, thrusting her fist and engaging the crowd from right to left. Bassist Joshua Winstead drove in the throbbing introduction to “Front Row,” as Haines took over with her melodic chants of “Burned out stars they shine so bright.”

The frontwoman noted that it was a hometown show for the band and great to “rekindle memories of North 6th.” A lot has changed since Haines and Ward moved here and shared a Williamsburg loft with soon-to-be members of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars and TV on the Radio. As the singer stripped down “Combat Baby” to a shortened a cappella interlude, I couldn’t help but relate the lyrics to a recent presidential candidate’s resilience. Following up that with “Gold Guns Girls” seemed to emphasize the formation further with Haines donning a guitar to jam with Winstead and Shaw, who closed out the song with an electrifying solo. The evening came to a close with singer and guitarist paired for a stripped-down “Gimme Sympathy,” before Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key rejoined the band for the finale, “Breathing Underwater.” —Sharlene Chiu

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Foals Hold Court Uptown at United Palace on Friday Night

November 7th, 2016

Foals – United Palace – November 4, 2016

Foals - United Palace - November 4, 2016<

Amongst a wave of British alternative bands that have made it in the States, Foals have broken out of a traditional narrative. PopMatters described the group’s transformation best: “Ten years ago, Foals could have likely been classified as an indie-rock group, but now they’re an archetypal case of indies going mainstream. The hip haircuts and clean guitar leads belie the fundamental radio-rock aesthetic in which Foals purvey.” Touring in support of their recent release, What Went Down, the lads headed way uptown to the United Palace to unleash on a packed house on Friday night.

In the ornate venue, strobe lights marked the band’s entrance as they jammed through an opening prelude. Frontman Yannis Philippakis provided a hearty greeting before delivering the guttural “Snake Oil,” which was accompanied by drummer Jack Bevan’s heavy beats. The first wave of collective handclaps began with “Olympic Airways,” but the cadence of striking hands continued throughout the evening, with very few attendees remaining in their seats. The anthemic call of crowd favorite “My Number” had the audience chanting, “You don’t have my number,” while the hypnotic “Give It All” reset the room.

An array of pink, blue and streaming bright white lights bathed the United Palace’s carved walls full of exotic places and creatures. Rhythm guitarist Jimmy Smith quickly slayed the opening chords of “Mountain at My Gates,” bringing everyone back to some heavy rock. The performance ebbed and flowed as the melodic opening of a crashing wave gave way to the lull of “Spanish Sahara.” Philippakis, in true form, hurled into the first few rows for the encore, “What Went Down,” his faithful fans holding him up as if he were walking over them. He and Foals truly ruled over the palace on Friday night. —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Pip Cowley | pipcowleyshoots.com

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Local Natives Make a Triumphant Return to Terminal 5

October 26th, 2016

Local Natives – Terminal 5 – October 25, 2016

Local Natives – Terminal 5 – October 25, 2016

(Local Natives play Terminal 5 again tonight.)

It’s been close to seven years since Gorilla Manor stamped Local Natives’ name into the indie-rock stratosphere with comparisons to Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire. Earlier this fall, they returned with their third studio full-length, Sunlit Youth. And as with previous albums, the songwriting was honed by the original trio of guitarist Taylor Rice, guitarist-keyboardist Kelcey Ayer and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Hahn, but drummer Matt Frazier and bassist Nik Ewing also brought forward ideas. What formed was the cohesive record they featured at their show on Tuesday, the first of two nights at Terminal 5.

Rice, rocking a man bun, crooned on “Past Lives”—off the band’s latest—and the crowd really erupted for old fave “Wide Eyes,” the core trio’s vocals harmonizing in unison. Noting how long it had been since they’d been back in New York City, the band reminisced about their first local show at Pianos in 2009. Fans were starved for the West Coasters and Local Natives delivered, including past gem “Airplanes” as the room chanted the telling lyrics “I want you back.” Adding to the treasure trove, they dusted off “Camera Talk,” about which Rice confessed they “haven’t played in years.”

Although Nina Persson (the Cardigans) recorded “Dark Days” with the quintet, opener Charlotte Day Wilson happily filled in for her. Ayer and Rice remained alone onstage each haloed by a spotlight as they traded verses on the heartbreaking “Columbia.” With two weeks until Election Day, Rice offered hope in the midst of the chaos and encouraged attendees to vote, a perfect setup for “Fountain of Youth” and the uproarious cheers for the lyrics “I have waited so long, Mrs. President.” The evening concluded with the unraveling of Rice’s hair and a final descent into the crowd for “Sun Hands.” —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Mina J

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Explosions in the Sky Electrify Terminal 5

September 23rd, 2016

Explosions in the Sky – Terminal 5 – September 22, 2016

Explosions in the Sky – Terminal 5 – September 22, 2016
Texas band Explosions in the Sky are masters of for providing the soundtrack for pivotal moments in film and television. They are most commonly associated with Friday Night Lights, both the film and the television series, but their music also has graced documentaries, video game promos and a slew of major motion pictures. With their seventh studio album, The Wilderness, a departure from scoring TV and film has afforded the music to sit on its own without football victories or dramatic human narratives to cast scenes. The songs remain empty vessels for listeners to create memories rather than fabricated ones from celluloid. For this instrumental band, the live orchestrations truly take flight in any venue, but it was especially vibrant last night at a sold-out Terminal 5.

What could be described as one of their mellower songs, the title track from their latest opened the evening against an intro of melodic keys. The stage setup was sandwiched between floodlights toward the back and strobe lights in the front, which swayed throughout the performance. Blue streams of lights bathed the quintet as the percolating sound of effects of “The Ecstatics” demonstrated an almost waterfall-like feeling, and laser-like red beams replicated acid rain for “Greet Death.” The performance teetered between harmony and chaos, where lighting was the sixth man of the band. Pulsating floor lights exclaimed the crescendo that welcomed “With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept,” and fittingly a prism wall of light highlighted “Colors in Space.” The group saved the best for last offering crowd favorite “Your Hand in Mine” followed by the noisy “Disintegration Anxiety,” before ending with “The Only Moment We Were Alone,” as the shredding of guitars came to an abrupt halt timed perfectly to a cloak of darkness. —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Brian C. Reilly | www.briancreilly.com

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Rocky Votolato Celebrates Anniversary at Mercury Lounge on Friday

September 19th, 2016

Rocky Votolato – Mercury Lounge – September 16, 2016

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Perhaps unknown to some, Rocky Votolato has been making music for more than 15 years. He honed his craft in the Pacific Northwest during an era when punk and indie-folk artists collided in a musical hotbed. He found a delicate balance between both, collaborating with the likes of Death Cab for Cutie and Pedro the Lion. His seminal album, Makers, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and fittingly the singer embarked on a tour to perform it in its entirety. Friday night at Mercury Lounge, Votolato’s faithful fans were quickly treated to longtime favorite “Portland Is Leaving” as the flood of nostalgia encased the room.

It’s a different show when everyone comes for an artist who’s left an indelible mark on their memories. A perfect example of this lasting impression was the dedication of “White Daisy Passing” to Tony, a fan who had shared the story of how the song accompanied him while he had been traveling years ago after a loved one had passed. Votolato joked that he wasn’t in the music business for fame or riches. He has neither, but in seriousness, the value was the family and community he has built with his songs.

Formerly a “one-man wolf pack,” Votolato is joined by guitarist and lap-steel player Matt Batey, a drummer and a bassist for this celebratory tour. The normally intimate tracks sounded bigger thanks to the musical additions—and even a sampled drum effect was afforded for “Where We Left Off.” Oh, how times have changed! Votolato remarked on how 10 years ago he had flown to New York City upon Makers’ release to open for Nada Surf at Mercury Lounge. He also added that the title track was written here and was inspired by an Allen Ginsberg poem. After covering the full album, the Left Coaster added older material from Suicide Medicine, plus “Boxcutter,” off his latest, Hospital Handshakes. The cozy venue offered little escape for Votolato, who encored with a pair of songs, including “Montana,” leaving no fan unsatisfied. —Sharlene Chiu