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Trombone Shorty Keeps It Funky at Terminal 5

December 11th, 2014

Trombone Shorty – Terminal 5 – December 10, 2014

Trombone Shorty – Terminal 5 – December 10, 2014
It’s become something of a routine—the weather turns cold, December rolls around and Trombone Shorty returns to New York City to play Terminal 5. The New Orleans native is now so popular here that his shows have become something of a can’t-miss seasonal staple. Despite being extremely funky, Shorty and his excellent band, Orleans Avenue, often oscillate into the territory of jazz and soul during their performances. They aren’t afraid to embrace pop or rock either, and last night’s show featured renditions of Green Day’s “Brain Stew” and even Limp Bizkit’s “Rollin’”—the latter being a cover you can only get away with if you have a crew that has as much fun onstage as this one did.

The focus, of course, is on Shorty himself. He’s been a stellar frontman for a while now, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t gotten better. It was fitting that the band took the stage to James Brown’s “Make it Funky” because Shorty increasingly shows more and more of the Godfather of Soul with each passing show. His stage presence was already great, but it’s becoming the stuff of legend, on a bother-your-friends-who-don’t-like-funk-until-they-see-him kind of level. Orleans Avenue are made up of five seriously impressive musicians, and their skills were often featured throughout the set.

When Shorty wasn’t tirelessly tearing up the stage on trombone or trumpet, he parked right next to whichever bandmate had a solo going. Like Hendrix appeared to be coaxing spirits from a burning guitar, Shorty swayed back and forth and waved his arms next to each musician, like he was trying to help him get every ounce of funk out of his veins. Like the inevitable changing of the seasons, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue will be back again before you know it. And that next time he returns, tell everyone you know it’s a can’t-miss show. —Sean O’Kane | @Sokane1

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com

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The Bowery Ballroom as a Recital Hall for a Night

December 8th, 2014

Max Richter – The Bowery Ballroom – December 7, 2104

Max Richter – The Bowery Ballroom – December 7, 2104
Renowned composer-producer Max Richter graced New York City for a rare performance of his soundtrack for HBO’s The Leftovers, paired with his classic album, The Blue Notebooks, last night at The Bowery Ballroom. Richter’s music should resonate with cinephiles as his compositions have accompanied such films as Waltz with Bashir, Stranger Than Fiction, Prometheus and Shutter Island. It’s no wonder that HBO tapped the German-born British composer to score The Leftovers. The show’s producer Damon Lindelof (Lost) and director Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) sought out Richter after hearing his score for a Broadway production of Macbeth.

Last night the esteemed Lower East Side venue was filled with melodious harmonies seeping into the crevasses that are normally reserved for rock and pop outfits. Clad in a black turtleneck, Richter took his place behind the piano as the American Contemporary Music Ensemble filed onstage. Opening the evening with “The Leftovers Piano Theme,” the band played the entire soundtrack. All in all the audience was rapt on the sumptuous notes. Through the set, uncertain applause was offered, as folks were not completely sure when pieces concluded. There was no doubt when the crescendo of strings came to a halting stop on “Afterimage 3” for an uproar of claps to follow. Richter confessed he never thought he’d perform the soundtrack live, but he was happy he had.

The performance of The Blue Notebooks was in honor of the album’s 10th anniversary. Tilda Swinton read the excerpts from Franz Kafka’s and Czeslaw Milosz’s works on the original recording. But at The Bowery Ballroom, Sarah Sutcliffe did the honors as Richter dabbled with sound effects on his iMac. Despite bows from the composer and ensemble upon the album’s conclusion, they returned to encore with “Autumn Music 2.” This unorthodox evening turned the venue into a concert recital hall, leaving fans with an indelible music memory. —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg 

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Yo La Tengo Celebrate Their 30th Anniversary at Town Hall

December 4th, 2014

Yo La Tengo – Town Hall – December 3, 2014

Yo La Tengo – Town Hall – December 3, 2014
Thirty years ago a little band named Yo La Tengo played their very first show, at Maxwell’s—in their hometown, Hoboken, N.J. Their very first song was a cover of the Urinals’ “Surfin’ with the Shah.” Three decades later, and the band began their encore with that very same song, this time joined onstage at Town Hall with more than 15 fellow musicians, friends and ex-band members all playing along. Other bands take note: This is how you celebrate a band-iversary.

It says something about Yo La Tengo that they’re still friends with former band members, which is a pretty rare thing. Sure it might make for a boring episode of Behind the Music, but it also means that they were able to reach far back into their catalog last night, pulling out songs like “Tried So Hard” and “Can’t Forget,” off their 1990 album, Fakebook, alongside the old friends who helped record them. For Yo La Tengo diehards, this was the show to see them bring out everything they’ve got. As frontman Ira Kaplan explained, they are celebrating the release of their “brand new 21-year-old record,” the expanded rerelease of Painful, but beyond that, the performance was a rare chance to pull from anywhere in the band’s discography. There were tender songs on acoustic instruments, like the opener, “My Little Corner of the World,” sung beautifully by drummer Georgia Hubley. There were blisteringly loud squealing Kaplan guitar solos, an all-body attack on the instrument that came out for the likes of “The Story of Yo La Tengo,” “Blue Line Swinger” and others. Very few bands do loud so well, or soft so well, and very very few bands can do both.

The night was filled with many little special moments. It’s easy to forget that at the heart of this band is a husband-and-wife duo (plus bassist James McNew). When they wrapped up “Nowhere Near,” Kaplan remarked how it felt like just yesterday that he’d first heard Hubley play the song for them, kind of like an older couple looking at each other and asking themselves, “Where does the time go?” A good concert is one remembered fondly by the audience, but a truly great show is equally special for the band. And last night was special for all. So expect great things for their 50th anniversary, because if any band can make it there, it’s Yo La Tengo. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Ahron Foster | ahronfoster.com

(Tonight’s Yo La Tengo show at Town Hall is sold out.)

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James Blake Melts a Sold-Out Music Hall of Williamsburg

December 2nd, 2014

James Blake – Music Hall of Williamsburg – December 1, 2014

James Blake – Music Hall of Williamsburg – December 1, 2014
James Blake is like a fine wine: His live performances get better over time. Last night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, the English singer drew complete silence as he opened the show, his entrancing hum casting a spell over the audience, making anyone in the room with testosterone turn all gooey on the inside. I have boobs, so I’m already made that way, and as a result, I completely melted all over the floor.

In case you’ve forgotten what it’s like to feel a full range of human emotions, witnessing James Blake live will remind you. It’s a psychological roller coaster of feels, from the pure joy of hearing his crystallizing vocals to the overwhelming sadness of his slow-burning piano ballads. Blake’s soul-crushing rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” still jerks a tear (or 50) from my eyes every time I hear it, damn it. Then there’s the part when you feel anger, jealousy and spite, because seriously, how can one human be that talented?

Blake showcased his diversity as a producer and as a singer-songwriter while bouncing across genres, from deep house into trap before whipping into piano solos on “Limit to Your Love,” “A Case of You” and “Overgrown.” One of the best things about the show was seeing the enjoyment on Blake’s face, resonating throughout his performance. But the night’s real highlights were “Retrograde,” which had the entire crowd humming and cooing, and then the encore of “The Wilhelm Scream,” leaving everyone on a total high. —Pip Cowley | @PipCowley

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg

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Interpol Play with a Purpose on Their Home Turf at Terminal 5

November 25th, 2014

Interpol – Terminal 5 – November 24, 2014

Interpol – Terminal 5 – November 24, 2014
Image always matters in popular music, perhaps more than it should. So when Interpol emerged in 2002, pouncing like a fenced-in Doberman onto New York City’s then indeterminate alternative-rock scene, they evenly struck the balance between style and substance with impact. Theirs was a convincing symbiosis. The music was at once emphatic and intricately textured, catchy yet with cerebral and ambitious arrangements, and their image of midnight coolness mirrored it effortlessly, lending the mystique and credibility to a style of rock that was commanding and often imposing. Their debut album, Turn On the Bright Lights, was the soundtrack to Friday nights in NYC, with all of its promised deviousness to be found in the shadows and around corners.

Twelve years—and four albums, including the freshly released El Pintor—later, and Interpol return for a homecoming, beginning on Monday a sold-out three-night run at Terminal 5. With the glimmering bravado underlying the elegance of a veteran band, they played with the purpose of cementing their legacy. Armed with a classic like Turn On the Bright Lights makes it easier to throw around your weight, and an abrupt announcement of their stature was delivered with the opening statement, “Say Hello to the Angels,” a stalwart number off their first record. An assertive turn into new material, like “Anywhere” and “Everything Is Wrong,” was deftly interwoven with the invigorating “Take You on a Cruise” and the crowd-pleasing “Evil,” with its whimsical flavoring of ’50s-era Jerry Lee Lewis rock and roll over their trademark rhythmic surge. Quite suddenly, the divide between stage and audience disappeared like a bridge in the fog as Paul Banks’s haunting, serpentine vocals took turns with Daniel Kessler’s shimmering guitar chords, elevating the icy operative-like persistence of Sam Fogarino’s drumming.

Ruminative pieces “Lights” and the “The Lighthouse,” pulled along by the Kessler’s sultry strumming, echoed just long enough amidst the black sea of currents projected behind them, before giving way to the climactic flourish that everyone knew was coming: The show culminated with “PDA” and its wondrous cascading finale. By night’s end, Interpol had left no doubt of their authority. Somehow, they represent how the smart, artistic post-graduates living in the city want to come across, and their tensely dramatic rock songs have always been in sync with their collectively pounding pulse. Listening to Interpol brings with it a rush, like stepping out into a biting, blustery winter wind from somewhere safe and warm. —Charles Steinberg

Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com

(Try to Grow a Pair of tickets to tomorrow’s sold-out Interpol show at Terminal 5.)

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A Taste of Alberta Lands on Delancey St.

November 14th, 2014

Rural Alberta Advantage – The Bowery Ballroom – November 13, 2014

Rural Alberta Advantage – The Bowery Ballroom – November 13, 2014
Rural Alberta Advantage singer Nils Edenloff never makes anything look easy. The veins in his neck bulge as he reaches for his upper register, a frequent move in the arrangements of his band’s emotive acoustic pop. Often as early as a melody’s second or third note, Edenloff’s raspy tenor nears the top of his range, rattling away like a charming, reliable, old bucket-of-bolts car, possessing a mixture of utility and worn grace. The overwhelming sense of watching him perform his craft, a painful high-wire act, is that he may well be damaging himself for your benefit. If it isn’t guilt you’re feeling, it’s something like indebtedness. So it was theatrically painful pathos—along with their most bombastic studio album to date, Mended with Gold—that the Rural Alberta Advantage brought to The Bowery Ballroom on a blustery Thursday evening.

The RAA opened with “Stamp,” “Muscle Relaxants” and “Don’t Haunt This Place,” all songs from their first two records. The opening sequence reminded a New York City audience that hadn’t seen the band since January that their catalog runs deeper than just a new LP. Paul Banwatt, one of the best-period-drummers-period-in-rock-music-period, wailed away on the same beat-up drum kit he’s used for years. The My Old Kentucky Blog sticker on the side of one of his tom drums dates the kit back to an era when music blogs helped rocket the band out of the open-stage night in Toronto where Edenloff and Banwatt first met. The band, too, felt older, more methodical, moving with deliberate if not frenetic pacing. The riffs exploding from Banwatt’s drums supported Edenloff’s raspy vocal when the band switched to material from Mended with Gold, pounding out lead track “Our Love…,” the snare hits arriving with the same inhuman effort as the melody.

Edenloff reminded fans that although the band is from Toronto that he was originally from Alberta and that many of the songs regarded his native province. With the always delightful Amy Cole—backstage sticker affixed to her bare right arm—leaning on the backing vocals, the RAA played  “Runners in the Night” and “Vulcan, AB.” On the latter, Edenloff sang into a modified telephone-receiver microphone. It was a call from far away, a Canadian prairie hymn shot through with human suffering and effort. Outside, the first snow of the season was rumored to be only hours away from dusting Delancey St., a bit of the frontier carried in a gravelly vocal, an old drum kit and Cole’s Swiss Army ebullience. It was anything but easy. —Geoff Nelson | twitter.com/32feet

Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.wordpress.com

(Tonight’s Rural Alberta Advantage show at The Bowery Ballroom is sold out.)

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Friday Nights Rock with J. Roddy Walston & the Business

November 10th, 2014

J. Roddy Walston & the Business – Stage 48 – November 7, 2014

The energy in the room at Studio 48 on Friday night was of the school’s-out-for-summer, Friday-before-a-three-day-weekend, they-don’t-rock-’em-like-they-used-to variety. Thankfully, the soundtrack matched the mood with Fly Golden Eagle opening the night and J. Roddy Walston & the Business bringing it home. There was something universal about Fly Golden Eagles’ set, the kind of rock and roll that made the bar back on his way to get more ice stop and play air guitar and those lucky to be there early to revel in the band’s slinky grooves. The short-but-sweet set bounced around straight funky blues riffs, prog-y instrumental interludes and blasts of dry heat rock that were reminiscent of the night’s headliners—no doubt a band to keep your eye on.

After a short intermission, which saw pretty much every empty space fill up with people eager to rock, J. Roddy Walston & the Business took the stage and pounced on an opening “Don’t Break the Needle,” off their 2010 self-titled LP. To say the room exploded at the opening riffs would somehow be an understatement. The audience’s reaction was like that of a bunch of people who had never experienced rock and roll before, which is the way Walston plays it. By the time the set’s third song, “Take It as It Comes,” reached its first chorus, everyone in the crowd wasn’t so much singing along as screaming as if their lives depended on it, not so much dancing along, but flailing as if possessed. And really, things stayed at that level the rest of the set: the audience dry kindling soaked in gasoline, the Business shooting off sparks of guitar, piano, bass and drums and watching the combustibles before them burn, burn, burn.

Between songs, Walston would banter with a wink: “Here’s another rock and roll song” and “You guys want to keep on rocking?” Almost a tease, except that they kept delivering, Walston bouncing and boogieing and gesticulating all the while, right through the closing “Midnight Cry.” A fireworks display like that required a big finale, and the band delivered with an encore of “Sweat Shock”—Walston sounding every bit like the second coming of Robert Plant as the Business brought arena riff rock into the 21st century—and then “Heavy Bells,” which was somehow impossibly bigger, louder and badder than everything that had preceded it. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

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An Impressive Punk Double Bill at Mercury Lounge

November 10th, 2014

PUP/Chumped – Mercury Lounge – November 7, 2014

PUP – Mercury Lounge – November 7, 2014
Two of the best young bands in the punk scene tore up Mercury Lounge at Friday night’s late show. It was the second-to-last date of a tour that has taken what were separately two already must-see acts and turned them into a double bill that fans will talk about for years. Chumped—a Brooklyn pop-punk group playing to many hometown fans, family members and friends, who couldn’t stop hurling empty beer cans and plastic cups onstage— performed first. According to the four-piece, it was the their biggest show to date. They ripped through a huge chunk of their growing discography and delighted the crowd with their loud and speedy (yet still melodic) sound. Chumped moved at such a quick pace that fans couldn’t help but move along to it, smiling all the way. Luckily for New Yorkers, the band has an LP about to be released, so they will be easy to find in the coming months. But on Friday, their fast and furious set was the perfect primer for the mayhem that followed.

If Chumped are made for dancing, PUP are made for moshing. “It’s easy to like New York but it’s not easy to like shows in New York,” said singer Stefan Babcock midway through the set. “But you guys made it easy.” That’s probably because no one in the crowd stopped shouting every lyric right back at the Canadian indie-punk band. For an hour, they were no longer a four-piece because the entire room became PUP. Babcock was sweetly engaging when the band wasn’t shredding, but during songs he furiously paced the stage like a lion waiting to roar. Every time he returned to the microphone, lyrics were sung with an incredible force and were always backed by the synchronized thrashing of his bandmates.

PUP’s sound ranges from pure shout-along songs like “Guilt Trip” (perhaps the first song I’ve ever heard people shout “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6” along to, thanks to its time signature) to “Yukon,” a moody tune that seethes during each verse before it explodes into the chorus. Regardless of tempo, audience members and the band fed off one another’s wild behavior. Fans crowd surfed, so Babcock did the same. Fans shouted as they leaned over the stage, Babcock and the band got right back in their faces. All this resulted in one hell of a messy conclusion just as PUP covered the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” and Babcock was once again hoisted above the crowd, a fitting end to the band’s first-ever sold-out headlining show in New York City—but most certainly not the last. —Sean O’Kane

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com

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Benjamin Booker Proves to Be the Real Deal at Mercury Lounge

November 7th, 2014

Benjamin Booker – Mercury Lounge – November 6, 2014

Benjamin Booker – Mercury Lounge – November 6, 2014
There was little known about Benjamin Booker, a one-time aspiring music journalist, his last time through town to play Mercury Lounge in April. He had just a few singles, a minimal Internet presence and a pretty short bio: “Benjamin Booker is a young New Orleans–based singer-songwriter. He is influenced by the Gun Club, Blind Willie Johnson and T. Rex.” Since then, his sensational self-titled debut full-length was released to near unanimous praise and his profile has risen dramatically, thanks in part to an opening slot on tour with Jack White, fiery festival performances at Newport Folk Fest and Lollapalooza, and a national TV appearance on Letterman. So in some sense, seeing him last night at Mercury Lounge was like catching Alabama Shakes and Gary Clark Jr. there four days apart in December 2011—watching a musician play a room he’d already outgrown.

Booker’s debut LP showcases an evocative, whiskey-soaked voice that belies his young age. (Based on what he sounds like, you almost expect him to appear live in sepia tones or black and white.) Released this past August, it’s obviously a modern album, but from the very first listen, the punkish, soulful bluesy garage rock sounds familiar, like an unearthed gem from the past—not like you’d previously heard its influences, but rather you’d actually already heard this album. Performed live, alongside a pair of talented musicians, drummer-mandolinist Max Norton and bassist-fiddler Alex Spoto, songs like “Violent Shiver,” “Have You Seen My Son?” and “Old Hearts” grew into something more than their recorded versions, Booker’s raw, raspy vocals blossoming onstage as the trio jammed their way between tunes, often making a lot more joyful noise than your typical three-piece.

While incredibly expressive, Booker, who began performing live just two years ago, wasn’t particularly chatty. “It’s nice to be back at Mercury Lounge. We played here earlier in the year. It’s one of my favorite rooms. Here we go,” he said just before they lit into “Kids Never Grow Older,” a sweating Booker quietly barking out the opening stanza in a whispered snarl. Alternating between standing still with his left leg twisting in place and hopping across the stage, belting out distorted guitar riffs, he appeared to be every bit of a star in the making. No more so than as the show concluded with him, his guitar strap broken, shredding from his knees at center stage. Booker still has room—and time—to grow, and even despite singing, “The future is slow coming” in “Slow Coming,” in some ways, it feels like it’s here now, and Benjamin Booker has already arrived, fully formed. —R. Zizmor

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com

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Rubblebucket’s Music Comes Alive Onstage at Stage 48

November 6th, 2014

Rubblebucket – Stage 48 – November 5, 2014

Rubblebucket – Stage 48 – November 5, 2014
While their tour might not yet be over, Rubblebucket returned home last night with an excellent performance at Stage 48, still glowing from showing off the music from their newest full-length album, Survival Sounds. They played to a crowd brimming with excitement to welcome home the band, so much so that Rubblebucket didn’t even make it past one song before lead singer Kalmia Traver had to take a moment to shake hands with and high-five most of the front row of fans.

If you’ve never seen (or heard of) Rubblebucket, that’s a problem that needs to be quickly remedied. They’re a band that’s been around for a while now, having cut their teeth playing all sorts of small-time jam-band festivals with long, loud and messy sets. But today’s Rubblebucket are a refined version with melodic pop influences, which means most all of their recorded tracks are certified earworms. And in a live setting, they’re even better. Traver is a total force, the kind that’s hard to write about because she’s what everyone can’t help but focus their attention on every time the band is mentioned.

Rubblebucket’s live setup usually involves two horn players (or flutes or both, depending on the song), a guitarist and bassist, a drummer and a synth player who does just about everything else as well. And despite all these moving parts, the band is almost impossibly tight, so the lush music sounds bigger and brighter than that of almost any other live act. And they do this all with a ton of action onstage and a smile on every face. They’re the kind of band that makes you realize how boring even some of your favorite groups can be with their live shows, but you’ll only be able to thank them for that. —Sean O’Kane

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com

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Top Gun, Halloween Leftovers and Rock’s Goofiest Rocker

November 5th, 2014

Mac DeMarco – Terminal 5 – November 4, 2014

Mac DeMarco - Terminal 5 - November 4, 2014
Mac DeMarco is one charismatic, goofy fella. Give it a year or so and the gap-toothed rocker from Bed-Stuy by way of Canada will probably have his own show on Vice or something, and lots of people will say, “I definitely saw that coming.” The cheers began at Terminal 5 last night as soon as he came out to set up the stage, getting his equipment together alongside some skeletons and Egyptian sarcophagi. There was either an after-holiday deal at a Halloween pop-up store or DeMarco just can’t bring himself to let go of the holiday. First he tried to walk around the stage unnoticed and shush the crowd, but the already packed venue was going nuts, shifting as one giant blob from left to right.

As inconspicuously as they could, the band climbed onto the Egyptian-themed stage, dimmed the lights, accompanied by the anthem from Top Gun, and popped back out of the sarcophagi, to the surprise of no one. DeMarco yelled, “Hey, guys, that cost us hundreds of dollars!” as the band jumped into “Salad Days.” Don’t let the second-rate theatrics mislead, the main event was definitely the music. In a relatively short amount of time, DeMarco’s put out three great albums of seemingly effortless catchy and jangly rock, each better than the one before. The songs check off just about everything that makes rock music fun in a live setting: relatively lighthearted, easy to sing along to, even easier to mindlessly groove along to with tasteful smatterings of perfectly catchy rock riffs.

“Cooking Up Something Good,” “Let Her Go,” “Ode to Viceroy,” “My Kind of Woman” all carried with them easy rockin’ vibes, with just a taste of some unexpected little jams, adding flavor to the songs like a dash of curry. As DeMarco tuned his guitar between songs, his bassist, Pierce McGarry, jumped into impromptu covers of Coldplay’s “Yellow” and Sisqó’s “Thong Song.” Their set ended with DeMarco jumping into the crowd, surfing all the way to the back of the venue, climbing up one of the columns to the second floor, dropping back down into the audience and getting carried back to the stage. Rock and roll! The band didn’t seem set on doing an encore, but when the sold-out crowd asked for it, they kicked off one in the best way possible, with DeMarco telling the crowd, “You guys are going to hate this” before launching into an extended (more than 10 minutes) rock out on the Top Gun theme. —Dan Rickershauser

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com

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Lo-Fang Delights Mercury Lounge Crowd on Saturday Night

November 3rd, 2014

Lo-Fang – Mercury Lounge – November 1, 2014

Lo-Fang - Mercury Lounge - November 1, 2014
The classically trained singer-songwriter Matthew Hemerlein produces lush soundtrack-worthy music under the moniker Lo-Fang. Most recently, he had been tapped to perform his cover of the Grease favorite “You’re the One That I Want” in a Chanel No. 5 short film starring supermodel Gisele Bündchen and directed by Academy Award–winning Baz Luhrmann. Not bad company to keep. With a slew of influences from R&B to electronica, it should be noa surprise that Hemerlein’s debut album, Blue Film, was written over a three-year globetrotting journey across Cambodia, London, Nashville, Tokyo and Bali. After making his New York City debut at Mercury Lounge earlier this year, the L.A.-based producer returned to the venue for a sold-out performance on Saturday night.

Those in the crowd waited in the chilly rain but were quickly heated up by the singer’s theatrics. Opening with “Silver,” from his newly released Every Night mixtape, Hemerlein literally kicked off his shoes to work his magic not only on the violin but also on the multitude of pedals beneath his feet. The ladies front and center were in for a treat as Hemerlein lunged closer for the throbbing “Light Year.” Wooing the opposite sex further, Hemerlein covered BOY’s “Boris,” serenading, “You owe me/ Your lips I’m gonna give tips/ And I heard your boyfriend is out of town?” Plenty of his admirers would have happily run away with him. On the title track, he even broke out some push-ups to work out his guns for further flexing throughout the evening. With Lo-Fang’s dramatics checked, his classical training shown through on “#88” as he lithely wove Andrew Bird–like violin plucks into his falsetto.

Nearing the end of the set, Hemerlein returned down the path of seduction for “When We’re Fire,” as his gyrations, straight out of Magic Mike, would make Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey blush. And when this reviewer was mistakenly taking notes, the singer cheekily reprimanded me by pocketing my phone. Boy wants all eyes on him. Lesson learned. To punctuate the evening, Lo-Fang dug deep into the late ’90s with Ginuwine’s “Pony” for a fitting final fling. But despite his female admirers’ desire for more, they were left hot and bothered into the crisp evening air. —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Mina K

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The Sky Is the Limit for Larkin Poe

October 30th, 2014

Larkin Poe – Mercury Lounge – October 29, 2014

Larkin Poe – Mercury Lounge – October 29, 2014
When I saw Conor Oberst play Central Park’s SummerStage back in July, I loved his massive hodgepodge of a backing band, the majority of which was made up of opener Dawes, and there was a horn section. But most notably there were two women tearing it up on slide guitars and singing the Emmylou Harris parts during the Bright Eyes songs that night—and I knew I had to find out who they were.

It turns out they are the sisters who make up Larkin Poe, a country-tinged band from Atlanta that last night set Mercury Lounge ablaze with a pressure-cooked set of songs. Fresh off an appearance backing up Kristian Bush on the Today Show and not far removed from a tour opening as a duo for Elvis Costello (“We got to stay on his tour bus,” admitted older sister Megan Lovell excitedly), they looked and sounded ready to be doing their own thing again. “It feels so good to be back with the full band,” the younger Rebecca Lovell candidly told the crowd. The exposure and experiences the pair were able to rustle up in the last year or two must have been fun, but you could see they are now dead set on focusing that momentum on Larkin Poe.

That starts with their first full-length, Kin, released last week, an album full of sweet melodies juxtaposed with bluesy grit often materialized in the form of Rebecca’s straight guitar licks or Megan’s atmospheric slide-guitar playing. Larkin Poe played most of the album last night, and as good as those songs sound in headphones, they’re even more of a force to hear in person. And if Larkin Poe can find a way to use the sisters’ music-industry momentum to attract more ears, the sky’s the limit. —Sean O’Kane

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com

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SBTRKT Captivates Terminal 5

October 28th, 2014

SBTRKT – Terminal 5 – October 27, 2014

SBTRKT – Terminal 5 – October 27, 2014
Restrained energy perhaps best describes the music the captivated Terminal 5 crowd witnessed last night courtesy of SBTRKT. It was constructed much in the way a wave rolls into its crest, with deliberate forward motion and then unfurling, tumbling over itself as it cascades onto the shore. As if stepping out of a spacecraft wearing his trademark tribal mask, the phantom of electro-soul opera expressed his sonic salutation to the New York City earthlings, greeting them in a convivial British manner along with his strobed-out laser-splashed music from somewhere just outside the stratosphere.

What came across straight away was that SBTRKT commands his own instruments—
and consequently the crowd—deliberately building each movement of a neo-funk symphony through orchestration, elevating each piece to its climactic flourish, adding layer upon layer of percussion loops, further propelled by the accents of the drummer and keyboardist who accompanied him. Just after the first movement, SBRTKT gauged the audience’s temperature, checking to see if everyone was ready to be swept up in his momentous arrangements.

SBTRKT creates epic, soulful soundscapes that hearken back to ’90s R&B that he accentuates with jungle beats and dubstep, and he recruits a diverse assembly of crooners to emphasize his dynamic compositions in the process—a few of whom landed with him last night. This mixture of style and form is most comparable to his American contemporary, Flying Lotus, yet SBTRKT’s individuality is unmistakable, and he demonstrated with reserved confidence why his appeal is expanding. Dancing between his surrounding soundboards and keyboards while eluding the laser beams shooting from the stage behind him, SBTRKT put on a performance that left its intended mark, before jumping back into his spacecraft to look for the next destination and bring new life to the contemporary-music environment. —Charles Steinberg

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg

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Shoegaze Pioneers Slowdive Reunited and Sounding Fresh

October 27th, 2014

Slowdive – Terminal 5 – October 25, 2014

Slowdive – Terminal 5 – October 25, 2014
The first of many shoegaze moments occurred near the beginning of Slowdive’s sold-out Terminal 5 show on Saturday night. The group—pioneers of a sound that combines loud, fuzzy guitars and ethereal vocals, now emulated by a plethora of contemporary bands—recently reunited after disbanding in the mid-’90s. While strobe lights flickered around them, Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell began to sing “Catch the Breeze” from 1991’s Just for a Day. As the song progressed, all band members (minus the drummer) were focused intently on their guitars, bass and effects pedals, necks craned downward, rocking gently back and forth amid the dreamy chords—the classic shoegaze stance and sound.

As Slowdive played precise and lovely versions of crowd favorites like “Crazy for You,” “Machine Gun” and “Souvlaki Space Station,” they cycled through an impressive lineup of guitars, even taking a moment to give a nod of appreciation to their guitar tech, a constant onstage presence between songs, swapping and receiving and replacing armfuls of guitars. To their credit, for a band with such intricate guitar arrangements and dynamics, Slowdive’s songs sounded bright and clean, never muddy or muddled, often classic shoegaze stumbling blocks.

“This is a pop song, kind of,” proclaimed Halstead before the band played what may have been the night’s crowd favorite, “Alison.” Indeed, a catchy song on the surface with moderately morose lyrics, it’s a prime example of Slowdive’s signature subtle hypnotic power, a sound that was exhilarating to experience live. By giving us a taste of their classic shoegaze, Slowdive managed to also feel completely modern and fresh—a very successful reunion indeed. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Adela Loconte | adelaloconte.com