Miracle of 86 – Mercury Lounge – June 15, 2013
As reunion shows have become ubiquitous, the special sheen associated with them has begun to wear thin with so many bands getting back together, often for what feels like hollow reasons. But for every former radio-rock group that does it there’s a small band like Miracle of 86 that might never have had the chance, or maybe just needed the social momentum, to come back together and give their fans a chance to see them perform a few more times. After what seemed like a one-off show this past winter to raise money for victims of Hurricane Sandy, in the band’s original stomping ground of Staten Island, singer Kevin Devine and his bandmates decided to play a few more, appearing at Maxwell’s on Friday and then Mercury Lounge on Saturday night.
Looking back, what’s especially remarkable about that first run of Miracle of 86 shows is that they occurred in the now prominent shadow of Devine’s current success (both with his solo acoustic shows and his full-band affairs), and yet while some fans went to experience Miracle of 86 for the first time this past weekend, trusting in his name alone, that wasn’t true for most in the crowd. On Saturday night, the room on Houston Street where Miracle of 86 played their first New York City show 15-and-a-half years ago was primarily filled with people you’d hope would be there—old friends and fans. Which is why the energetic show didn’t seem contrived, instead it felt like a bizarre time-travel window into what could have been. In fact, when Devine asked if anyone had been to both shows, someone shouted, “I wish!” from the back. “Too bad we can’t go back in time,” replied Devine, cutting himself off as he looked around the stage at his old band. “Although, I guess we can.” —Sean O’Kane
Baths/Houses/D33J – Webster Hall – June 15, 2013
Webster Hall filled up early on Saturday night for Baths, Houses and D33J. The triple bill proved to be a great combination of varied talent and soundscapes, and all three acts shared a common trait: a knack for performing live. D33J, up first, drew a strong crowd for such an early set. His eerie instrumentals, which he looped in along live guitar solos, effectively hypnotized the crowd. Next, Houses, a dreamy electro-pop outfit featuring real-life couple Tortoriello and Megan Messina, filled ears with swelling sounds as they played material off their sophomore album, A Quiet Darkness, the crowd excitedly swaying in response. Houses’ music lends itself well to a live setting, and it provided a calming introduction to Baths’ headlining set.
Electronic virtuoso Will Wiesenfeld goes by the name of Baths, and he knows how to conquer the difficult feat of performing electronic music live. It’s apparent once he gets onstage that he wants his audience to feel something separate and unique from the experience of listening to his recorded music. Baths’ presence isn’t that of a shy, impersonal soloist turning knobs. But rather, Wiesenfeld has a commanding air about him. “We’re going to play a bunch of songs!” he said emphatically upon taking the stage, before introducing friend and bandmate Morgan Greenwood, who accompanied him for the night. The duo dove straight into an impressive version of “Worsening,” off Baths’ most recent LP, Obsidian, which brings a more introspective, morbid tone to his music. Songs from the new album dominated the set, although Wiesenfeld did play a few other favorites. Highlights included triumphant versions of “Miasma Sky,” “Ironworks,” “Lovely Bloodflow” and “No Past Lives,” featuring Wiesenfeld’s supreme piano skills.
Above all, lyrics sat at the forefront of the night’s material, and the live iterations of these songs were intricate and satisfying, especially for longtime fans. A darker, denser dreamscape inhabited the second half of the set, and the swaying audience head-banged along to some of the deepest, loudest low-end bass I’ve heard at Webster Hall in a while—the music benefiting from this dominating aural effect. Wiesenfeld was clearly involved in the deliciously full sound throughout the entire set, and at one point between songs, he giggled in earnest and said, “I’m having a very good time.” He wasn’t alone: His wholehearted fervor was intoxicating to behold. —Schuyler Rooth
The Postal Service – Barclays Center – June 14, 2013
Ten years is a long time to wait, and regret burns deep. For this writer, not seeing the Postal Service back in 2003 at a small San Francisco venue still hurts—a lot. So I was psyched when rumblings of a tour were announced to celebrate the 10-year-anniversary reissue of Give Up. You might have heard the tale of Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) meeting Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel) on a fateful night in Los Angeles. What coyly began as a request for Gibbard’s vocals on Dntel’s “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan” blossomed into an exchange of musical ideas through the United States Postal Service. The two lead members never would have thought their fledgling project would amount to one of the most successful albums for the Sub Pop label, but that’s exactly what happened.
Fast-forward a decade as a choral prelude welcomed Gibbard, Tamborello, Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley) and Laura Burhenn (the Mynabirds) to the stage of a sold-out Barclays Center on a Friday night. Gibbard offered a hearty “Hiya, Brooklyn!” before diving into “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight.” Lewis, accessorized with a puffy white cap and saddle shoes, promptly threw the hat into the crowd on “We Will Become Silhouettes.” And in a rare turn from his mixers, Tamborello closed out “Sleeping In” echoing the chorus: “Don’t wake me, I plan on sleeping in.” Gibbard took a moment to thank the audience, jokingly, “for coming to this tiny venue to listen to us play music from 10 years ago.”
Having a great time together onstage, old friends Gibbard and Lewis shimmied close for the duet “Nothing Better,” which he introduced as “three sides to every story.” And fans cheered the whirlpool of sound twinkling with drumbeats during “Recycled Air.” But the show didn’t just consist of material from their lone LP. The Postal Service also did songs like “Be Still My Heart,” from the We Will Become Silhouettes EP, and a cover of Beat Happening’s “Our Secret” before the crowd erupted for the beloved “Such Great Heights.” All kidding aside, Gibbard plainly laid out Give Up’s success: “This record still means something to you.” And as I received texts like “this album takes me back” and “I had chills,” from friends scattered around the arena, his point was proved again and again. And then with a mellifluous crescendo, the Postal Service ended their main set with “Natural Anthem,” burying my decade-old regret. —Sharlene Chiu
Tags: Barclays Center, Beat Happening, Ben Gibbard, Death Cab for Cutie, Dntel, Give Up, Jenny Lewis, Jimmy Tamborello, Laura Burhenn, Photos, Review, Rilo Kiley, SubPop, the Mynabirds, We Weill Become Silhouettes
Posted in House List, Photos and Review No Comments »
Son Volt – The Bowery Ballroom – June 14, 2013
The Bowery Ballroom would never be described as a honky-tonk, but when Son Volt rolled through town, treating Friday night’s sold-out crowd to songs from their latest record, the aptly titled Honky Tonk, New York City got a little taste of the twangy Western swing made popular at those titular roadside joints. Making good use of Gary Hunt on the mandolin and fiddle and Mark Spencer on steel guitar, Son Volt frontman Jay Farrar expressed timeless country themes, namely, heartbreak and the power of the open road, in new songs “Bakersfield,” “Brick Walls” and “Wild Side.”
But even though Honky Tonk finds Son Volt honing in on classic Americana themes and country-music styles, Friday’s set wasn’t just about an acoustic aesthetic. The band equally relished performing harder rocking numbers like “Drown” and “Bandages and Scars,” songs that cement the alt in alt-country, a genre in which they found a sturdy foothold during their formation. Of course, even in their early days, Son Volt explored many of the same themes as they do in the new material.
Performing “Windfall,” a mid-’90s ode to getting away and “trying to make it far enough to the next time zone,” Farrar plaintively sang, “May the wind take your troubles away/ Both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel/ May the wind take your troubles away.” Over the years, this restless spirit has made Farrar a veteran of the road and served as inspiration for countless Son Volt lyrics and songs. Hopefully that road leads him back to these parts again, where our pseudo-honky-tonks will welcome the band with open arms and raised glasses. —Alena Kastin
Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard and electronica musician Jimmy Tamborello (also known as Dntel) decided to make music together more than a decade ago. But since Gibbard was in Seattle and Tamborello lived in Los Angeles, they shared ideas, lyrics and instrumental tracks through the mail, which, ultimately, gave them the name of their band: the Postal Service. They put out one electronica- and indie-pop-filled full-length album, Give Up (stream it below), in 2003, which included backing vocals from Jenny Lewis
and Jen Wood, and received plenty of love from critics and fans alike. But despite a successful tour in support of the album, that was pretty much it. Or was it? Thankfully, SubPop recently reissued the album with a host of bonus tracks to celebrate its 10-year anniversary. And following a much-ballyhooed appearance at this year’s Coachella, the Postal Service (above, performing “Such Great Heights” at Coachella) have hit the road. Tonight’s show with Mates of State is sold out, but you can see them—with Ra Ra Riot opening—tomorrow night at Barclays Center.
Tags: Barclays Center, Ben Gibbard, Death Cab for Cutie, Dntel, Jen Wood, Jenny Lewis, Jimmy Tamborello, Preview, Ra Ra Riot, SubPop Records, the Postal Service, Video
Posted in House List, Preview, Video No Comments »
Electronic music isn’t easy to perform live for a lot of reasons, the main one being that it’s difficult to make music derived from a guy clicking away on his laptop translate into a compelling live performance. But Will Wiesenfeld of Baths doesn’t have this problem. If anything, watching the amount of work he puts into rebuilding songs before an audience sets new expectations of what an electronic-music show should look like. Turning knobs and pressing down on a seemingly endless array of buttons while keeping rhythm of the songs with his entire body, Wiesenfeld certainly doesn’t make piecing these tracks together look easy. But he does make it a pleasure to experience in person. Baths (above, performing “Lovely Bloodflow”) released his third album, Obsidian (stream it below), just a few weeks ago—upon which, Pitchfork instantly tagged the LP with its Best New Music label. And if there’s one right way to play this sound live, you can find out for yourself tomorrow night at Webster Hall. —Dan Rickershauser
Originally Fake Problems was going to be singer-guitarist Chris Farren’s solo project. But he ultimately teamed up with guitarist Casey Lee, bassist Derek Perry and drummer Sean Stevenson to make three critically acclaimed country-, punk- and folk-tinged full-lengths: How Far Our Bodies Go, out in 2007, It’s Great to Be Alive, released two years later, and 2010’s Real Ghosts Caught on Tape (stream it below). Thanks to a near-constant touring schedule—and their high-energy stage presence—the Naples, Fla., four-piece have gained the reputation as a fun band not to miss when they come to your town. And fortunately for you, Fake Problems (above, doing “Soulless” for Fearless Music) come to our town to play the early show tonight at Mercury Lounge.
Tags: Casey Lee, Chris Farren, Derek Perry, Fake Problems, How Far Our Bodies Go, It’s Great to Be Alive, Mercury Lounge, Preview, Real Ghosts Caught on Tape, Sean Stevenson, Video
Posted in House List, Preview, Video No Comments »
days of music, art, film and entrepreneurship in Williamsburg and Greenpoint “and some secret surprise spots too”—is back, beginning today. The festival’s music portion runs through Sunday, and Music Hall of Williamsburg hosts four great, wide-ranging shows, starting tonight with Iceage (below, performing “White Rune”) and A Place to Bury Strangers. Tomorrow it continues with Osiris Presents Kylesa, and following a sold-out show at The Bowery Ballroom on Friday night, the alt-country (although we prefer y’alternative) Son Volt play Music Hall on Saturday, before English punks Subhumans close out the festival there on Sunday night. So think global and rock out local.
Tags: A Place to Bury Strangers, Adolescents, Bambara, Bennio Qwerty, Blood Ceremony, Bowery Ballroom, Colonel Ford, Drunken Rampage, Iceage, Kylesa, L Magazine, Lazer/Wulf, Lower, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Northside Festival, Osiris Presents, Preview, Son Volt, Subhumans, the Krays, Video, White Hills
Posted in House List, Preview, Video No Comments »