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Steve Winwood Prove He’s as Relevant as Ever at Space at Westbury

April 24th, 2015

Steve Winwood – the Space at Westbury – April 23, 2015

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“He’s still got it!” You hear people say that all the time, but so often it’s nothing more than wishful thinking or wistful nostalgia. But when everyone at the Space at Westbury had that thought last night, it was because it was as true as ever for Steve Winwood. With a groovy organ and an Afrobeat feel from his stellar rhythm section, he opened the show with the Spencer Davis Group hit “I’m a Man.” There’s old school and there’s old old school, and the 1967 classic is in the latter category. You have to wonder how many times Winwood has sung the song. Yet, in what would be the prevailing mood of the set, he made it feel as relevant as ever, making it sound like it was the best version ever.

From the opening tune through the end of the encore, the performance was like a long drive on a beautiful night with the radio set to the classic-rock station and every song that comes up is even more of a favorite than the previous one. Winwood described the set list as “predominantly vintage,” and he didn’t hold back on the hits. “Can’t Find My Way Home,” played early on, delighted the sold-out crowd, Winwood’s strong vocals transcending the inevitable sing-along and phone videos to provide a chills-inducing moment. The show’s centerpiece featured a powerful triplet of “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys,” “Glad” and “Light Up or Leave Me Alone.” “Low Spark” was naturally long with a meaty guitar solo and maybe a touch of irony in the lyric “the man in the suit has just bought a new car with the profits he made on your dreams” sung to a room with at least a couple of guys wearing suits (who may or may not have just gotten new cars). The instrumental “Glad” didn’t show its age at all, still feeling fresh and exploratory with a nice moody outro section centered on the organ, flute and congas. “Light Up” was the big, long rocker of the night with solos abound for everyone—pure, classic, good-as-it-gets rock and roll.

Throughout the show, Winwood elevated the time-tested material: His voice sounding unchanged by the decades, and his excellent organ and guitar playing showing plenty of kick. Winwood’s band was equal to the task, keeping the spirit of nostalgia in the material while bringing new sounds into the mix. The all-killer-no-filler set finished with perhaps the most audience-pleasing song of the night, Winwood’s merely old school ’80s hit “Higher Love,” which had many in the place feeling three decades younger, for sure. And while the whole set had the “big guns” feel of an encore, Winwood did have a couple of rounds left in the chamber after a well-earned ovation from the crowd. He displayed his guitar-rocking skills on “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” with what felt like three distinct show-stopping solos. But before the fuzz faded, Winwood returned to his organ and returned to where it all began—not just the show, but his career altogether—leading the band in a rousing version of “Gimme Some Lovin’,” everyone in the room thinking, “So glad we made it.” —A. Stein | @Neddyo

(Steve Winwood plays the Capitol Theatre tonight and tomorrow and State Theatre on Monday.)

 

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Elvis Perkins Leaves Rough Trade NYC Crowd Spellbound

April 21st, 2015

Elvis Perkins – Rough Trade NYC – April 20, 2015

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It’s been a few years since Elvis Perkins headlined a show in New York City. He’s been off the radar for a while, gone so long, one might worry that people would forget about him. But in his case, absence only made the heart grow fonder as Perkins returned to the stage Monday night, performing for a sold-out Rough Trade NYC in Brooklyn. He plays a unique, unpredictable style of folk anchored by superlative songwriting and a voice that’s difficult to forget. Besides, this is a guy who once led a Bowery Ballroom audience underground and across Delancey St. to jam out among the subway power washers. You don’t forget something like that.

Outside, a dense fog had penetrated the entire region, which brought an appropriately mysterious vibe to the music inside. And it was like Perkins—opening with “I Came for Fire,” off his new album, I Aubade—was summoning spirits, howling into the humid evening. He was joined in his séance by a range of instrumentation: Autoharp, pump organ, bass, analog synth, and later, drums and horns (by openers and former Perkins band members Kinsey and Wyndham) adding to his own guitar and harmonica. For the most part, these largely served to frame Perkins’ voice and lyrics, each syllable its own percolating entity seemingly independent of meter or verse. The audience was incredibly attentive, spellbound by the meandering new material, like “Gasolina” and “My 2$.”

Later on, Perkins worked some older material into the set, “Shampoo,” feeling wonderful and weird accompanied by trumpet, harmonica and pump organ, and “Doomsday,” adding to the just-a-little-dark mood. The set closed with “AM,” the band at full sextet and Perkins at his lyrically strongest. He left the stage leaving horns and harp and synth to twist a nifty outro jam before dissipating into nothing. Prior to sending the crowd outside into the fog, Perkins came back out for an encore highlighted by the show-closing “While You Were Sleeping,” the standout track from his Ash Wednesday album, each word condensing in the air until there was almost a moist cloud of lyrics floating through the room. Personally, it gave me some goose bumps I won’t soon forget. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

 

 

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Waxahatchee Delight Music Hall of Williamsburg with New Music

April 10th, 2015

Waxahatchee – Music Hall of Williamsburg – April 9, 2015

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“We’re almost ready,” said Katie Crutchfield, the real person behind Waxahatchee, having taken the stage at Music Hall of Williamsburg last night in support of her new album, Ivy Tripp, her first on Merge Records. Crutchfield opened with “Breathless,” a methodical low-end keyboard progression featuring inscrutable lyrics like “Take what you want/ I’m not trying to be yours/ I’m not trying to have it all.” But even these limited ambitions wilted in the face of Waxahatchee’s very excellent new LP, named after an invented term that Crutchfield says stands for something like indecision, and a sold-out crowd waiting on whatever it was that the 26-year old singer would do. She may well live in half ways, the almost-ready, not-trying-to-have-it-all ideas that color her songs, but on this night, like so much of her recent career, Crutchfield enjoyed complete control and an audience willing to join her in whatever gray spaces she found between things.

Opening her set with “Under a Rock,” the Liz Phair–indebted second track from Ivy Tripp, and “Misery Over Dispute,” from her second LP, Cerulean Salt, Crutchfield transmuted Music Hall back to the mid-’90s. Fans with thick-rimmed glasses and sawed-off bangs nodded along. The set swelled behind “Lips and Limbs,” “Waiting” and “Lively,” all Cerulean Salt songs. Allison Crutchfield, Katie’s sister and bandmate, assisted on guitar and harmonies. The siblings leaned into each other invisibly on “Poison,” “Brother Bryan” and “Blue.” The latter two featured both sisters without an instrument, hands stridently at their sides, fists almost imperceptibly clenching and unclenching. The main set finished with Ivy Tripp’s closer, “Bonfire”—Katie Crutchfield has a thing for endings.

In the encore, she returned with her guitar but without the rest of the band. Someone in the audience yelled, “I love you,” and Crutchfield dryly responded, “You don’t know me.” And yet, in a limited sort of way, the crowd did know her. Her last three songs, “Grass Stain,” “Summer of Love” and “Noccalula” found the singer unadorned, alone, her best and barest self. The lyrics for that final number, the last song off Crutchfield’s first solo LP, American Weekend, rang out: “I’m going to New York/ I’ll be much better there.” When she wrote that, she couldn’t have known there would be hundreds of silent fans, some mouthing this very line, in the confines of the five boroughs. She wasn’t better last night at Music Hall than she would be elsewhere on the Ivy Tripp tour. But she was great in New York, as she said would be. She was ready, and for an hour, she had it all. —Geoff Nelson | @32Feet

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José González Takes Music Hall of Williamsburg to Church

April 9th, 2015

José González – Music Hall of Williamsburg – April 8, 2015

jose-gonzalezLive music has a unique power to transport us, to turn a rock club into something greater than just cinder blocks and floorboards. Sometimes it’s a singer’s voice or a musician’s extreme talent at playing an instrument; sometimes it’s the lights or stage production; sometimes it’s just the people in the room, the way they connect with the people on the stage—and sometimes it’s just some inexplicable magic. But last night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, it was all of these things in abundance as Jose González transported, transformed and transcended. González and his band performed in front of a sort of DIY backdrop, a minimalist line drawing of a mountain range with cartoon renderings of stars, sun and rain—a perfect representation of where we were about to travel: some lo-fi high-altitude dream world.

They opened the show with “Afterglow,” González singing, “All of this will be gone someday,” as his voice and guitar reverberated through the crowd, creating perfect harmony with the rest of his band and the room itself. There was something special in the resonances there, the way the vocals filled the space and the guitars hummed, matching some natural frequency of the moment. Music Hall became a church of sorts and the crowd was completely entranced. “Stories We Build, Stories We Tell” was like a swaying pocket watch, guitars and bongos and finger snaps looped over and over until the audience was hypnotized. For the rest of the set, the energy among González, the band and the audience was palpable: few words were spoken, but the ideas and the shared moments were perfectly conveyed. At moments the power of the music’s vibrations and the space was awe-inspiring, and a hushed amazement bubbled across the crowd, but everyone seemed worried about breaking the spell and the murmurs quickly dissipated.

Halfway through, González did a few solo songs, highlighting his impressive talents. The sweep of five fingers across the six strings of his guitar created a beauty unlike anything you could imagine such a simple gesture could do. The band—a stripped-down affair of light percussion, additional guitar and minimal synth—returned for a strong closing section highlighted by “What Will” and an intensely rhythmic cover of Arthur Russell’s “This Is How We Walk on the Moon.” The set’s final song, “Cycling Trivialities” began precisely at 11:11, that magical moment of synchronicity and symmetry, González asking, “So how’s it going to be when it all comes down,” matching the bleak beauty of the opening song. Lit from behind, the band stood in silhouette, adding in clarinet and xylophone. After one more solo number, González completed the journey with “Leaf Off/The Cave,” each word and chord resonating in more ways than one. As the song built to its final conclusion, the crowd followed the rhythm and clapped along. It wasn’t just an everyday clap-along, but a powerful communal moment as he sang, “What it means to be alive,” the spell still strong even after the music concluded. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

 

 

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Damien Rice’s Triumphant Return at the Beacon Theatre

April 6th, 2015

Damien Rice – Beacon Theatre – April 4, 2015

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It’s been a very long eight years without Damien Rice’s moody, heart-aching ballads. And there’s something to be said about stretches of absence that perpetrate a yearning desire for an artist’s new material. Rice isn’t the kind of guy who’s rolling in the green, but rather he’s the type of guy who moves from his native Ireland to Iceland to renew his love for making music. Finally, back with his long-anticipated third studio album, My Favourite Faded Fantasy, he’s embarked on a tour minus his longtime collaborator, Lisa Hannigan, who’s set off on her own solo effort. And for this longstanding fan, it was hard news to take as the two truly complemented each other, but Rice’s headlining set at a sold-out Beacon Theatre on Saturday night provided a bittersweet reprieve.

Beginning the show literally on his knees, Rice opened with an acoustic rendition of “My Favourite Faded Fantasy” before taking his place behind the microphone for “9 Crimes.” The set interweaved his last album with treasured fan favorites. And thanks to his Irish brogue, women in the balcony requested he take of his shirt, but Rice playfully responded by serenading them with “It Takes a Lot to Know a Man” instead. I’m sure another gent in the audience, Mr. Jon Bon Jovi, appreciated the ploy. As if that weren’t cheeky enough, Rice requested some wine only to raise his glass while commencing with an old favorite, “Cheers.” From lyrics to personal reflections, he philosophized throughout the night about the driving theme in his songs—love. It takes a lot for a solo artist to command a stage like the Beacon, but Rice made it seem effortless as he rode old tunes to new and imaginative heights. That was especially true for “I Remember,” when he had to make up for the missing duality of Hannigan’s chilly work, which was acknowledged by an outspoken fan who yelled, “Where’s Lisa?”

With the performance drawing to a close, Rice returned for an encore with a harmonium-accompanied version of “Long Long Way,” a rollicking “Volcano” and “The Greatest Bastard.” Introducing his fellow countryman with sentimental stories about seeing him as a teenager, Glen Hansard took the stage unprepared but still managed a flawless take of “High Hope.” To cap off the night, the two covered Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel #2,” a location-appropriate nod to the Big Apple and its history of folk singer-songwriters. —Sharlene Chiu

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Houndmouth Are Unrelentingly Energetic at Union Transfer

April 6th, 2015

Houndmouth – Union Transfer – April 4, 2015

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During the second chorus of “Sedona,” it struck me: I hadn’t listened too closely to Houndmouth’s lyrics prior to seeing them on Saturday at Union Transfer, but that night the words had direct meaning. As the band sang, “I remember, I remember when the neon used to burn so bright and pink/ A Saturday night kind of pink,” a neon pink sign reading HOUNDMOUTH glowed atop the stage—and it was a Saturday night. The only other time reference was when drummer-singer Shane Cody called out that Wisconsin had beaten Kentucky in the Final Four.

Otherwise, Houndmouth played in a time warp. The guys—guitarist-singer Matt Myers, bassist-singer Zak Appleby and Cody—wore eccentric vintage outfits with deep V-neck shirts while keyboardist-singer Katie Toupin donned a shimmering blue dress. At times,
it seemed like they were trying to approximate Fleetwood Mac’s aesthetic. Toupin looked and sounded the part of an ethereal songstress while Myers stood at the front of the stage, high-kicking during solos. It worked for them, though, and throughout a set list comprised of material from their first album and their newest, Little Neon Limelight, Houndmouth were unrelentingly energetic.

Most of the songs sounded like they should be played in front of an audience rather than in a studio, especially when they climaxed with instrumental swells and big harmonies. But there were quiet moments too, like when Toupin played guitar and sweetly sang, “Gasoline.” And even if they wear their influences on their sleeves, quite literally, as the classic-rock costumes indicated, Houndmouth don’t come across as overly sentimental, and it’s appreciated. The quartet gave shout-outs to some of the Philadelphia bands they admire, especially Dr. Dog. And despite not sounding alike, both groups approach a live show similarly: work hard, have fun and relax. —Jared Levy | @Playtonic

 

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Swans Leave Music Hall of Williamsburg Wanting More

March 23rd, 2015

Swans – Music Hall of Williamsburg – March 22, 1015

(Photo: Matias Corral)

(Photo: Matias Corral)

There was a buzz in the air last night, quite literally, as Swans shook Music Hall of Williamsburg during a powerhouse two-hour set. The show began with percussionist Thor Harris taking a mallet to a gong and building a reverberating noise that filled the room. In turn, drummer Phil Puleo first joined him and then Christoph Hahn on lap steel guitar. They spent several minutes slowly building reverberation that had my clothes buzzing against my skin. Eventually frontman Michael Gira and the rest of the band joined in and layered guitars and bass, creating an all-immersive, almost Zen-like wall of sound for “Frankie M.” This wasn’t music you listened to as much as you felt: a wind of guitars in your face, the low-end shake of bass and drums rattling your extremities. The first “movement”—from the opening gong to Gira subtly arching his eyebrow and the band collectively crashing to an end—was 35 minutes of traveling through the looking glass.

From there Gira led the band through several more sections, perhaps they were songs, or maybe they were more than that. Each stretched on in time, seemingly in units of 12 minutes: 12, 24, 36 ticks of the hand went by as the six musicians locked into looping soundscapes, hypnotizing and brutalizing the crowd. There weren’t solos so much as six simple patterns played by each man, combined into fractal geometries. Along the way the vibrations grew into tremors, eventually rattling the floor. At some point early in the set, Harris lost his shirt, moving bare chested from violin to vibraphone to haunted-house percussion, revealing the underlying, dark secrets of each song as the band crashed wave after wave of sound on the Sunday night audience.

Gira held court, often raising his arms like a big bird (a Swan, perhaps). His banter was minimal, apologizing for unnoticeable voice troubles with “I have 61 years of angst in my throat.” His vocals were more like chanted koans, mostly undecipherable in the mix, but a necessary component of the ritualistic music. As the clock moved deeper into the night, I tried to convince myself to call it an evening, but found that I couldn’t pull myself away. Like the rest of the people in the room, I was mesmerized. By midnight, the venue was full on rumbling, my teeth actually chattering as the energy ratcheted up to maximum level before ending in a set-closing thermonuclear explosion of cymbals and guitars. Stunned, the audience gave a hearty ovation as Gira and company took a bow and left the stage with a thank you and the promise of a new album out soon, leaving behind plenty of buzz.
—A. Stein | @Neddyo

 

 

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A 75th Birthday Bash Full of Smiles and Classic Rock

March 17th, 2015

Phil Lesh – Capitol Theatre – March 16, 2015

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead and, if you haven’t noticed, their music seems to be everywhere, a constant presence that transcends genre, age and geography. Part of that constant presence has been the band’s bassist, Phil Lesh, who, remarkably, turned 75 on Sunday and is celebrating (how else?) with a run of jam-filled shows at the Capitol Theatre. Monday night’s band of Lesh’s friends included Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers Band and Gov’t Mule on guitar and vocals, Eric Krasno of Soulive on the other guitar, and longtime Lesh running mates John Molo and Rob Barraco on drums and keyboards respectively. The evening began with a session of noodling: free-form, aqueous improvisation that featured all five musicians interacting with the others, like wolves licking their chops before devouring helpless prey.

The set proper bounced back and forth between the Dead’s repertoire, older blues-based material like “Dupree’s Diamond Blues” and “Cosmic Charlie” interleaved with later-era groove-rockers like “West L.A. Fadeaway” and “Alabama Getaway.” Of course, the songs themselves were merely starting points for various shades of space-outs and left-turn excursions. The walls of the Capitol Theatre were populated in tie-dyed fractal explosions that seemed to open up wormholes to past eras, 20, 30, 40 years back. Krasno’s clean-toned guitar played counterpoint to Haynes’s gritty licks, but Lesh was the constant force, running circles around his younger crew. Each measure of bass playing was a snowflake— clear, defined crystal, beautifully unique. The first set ended with an optimistic spring theme: “Here Comes Sunshine” brought a projected sunrise to the theater’s walls with Lesh pushing Haynes and Molo while Baracco glued together the sonic collage, segueing into the Allman Brothers classic “Blue Sky,” the ceiling turning a bright indigo as Haynes ceded the floor for Krasno and Baracco solos before shining his own big, Allmans-y turn.

The second set picked up where the first left off, another round of free jamming, Lesh slithering through multiple THC-soaked themes before charging through a few more covers: Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” and later Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” the band cracking open classic-rock radio and lacing it with LSD-inspired psychedelia. There’s often a concern with the various Dead-cover outfits about who will sing which song, but really it’s not a problem because the guy next to you will (probably) know most of the words and sing it out, loud and proud. The smiles and the twirling dancers were as integral to these shows as the weird set-list variations like the traditional “Help on the Way” > “Slipknot” > “Franklin’s Tower” being split up by “Just a Little Light” and “Uncle John’s Band” as the quintet mostly pulled off Monday night. Krasno shined best during the closing section, finding comfort in build-up solos and going toe-to-toe with Haynes. A supercharged ovation brought back the band for an emotional “Stella Blue,” Haynes belting it out as those in the smiling audience sang along, many swaying in one another’s arms. But no smiles were bigger than the constant one on the 75 year old leading the way. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

(See Phil Lesh play the Capitol Theatre on Thursday night.)

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Twerps and Ultimate Painting Provide a Friday Night of Laid-Back Rock

March 16th, 2015

Twerps – Rough Trade NYC – March 13, 2015

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It was a slacker’s paradise at Rough Trade NYC on Friday night, featuring a couple of bands with a laid-back style that suited the packed house just fine. Ultimate Painting took the penultimate slot playing with that breezy ’60s Brit sound that’s best suited to London bands. They opened with “Ultimate Painting,” their debut album’s title track, singing, “I don’t know what I’m thinking” and sounding as wonderfully can’t be bothered as a group that only managed to come up with one name for everything. The principals, Jack Cooper and James Hoare, tossed vocals and guitar riffs back and forth like playing some lazy afternoon tennis before tea. The melodies were perfectly matched to the vibe, easy to listen to and easy to love. Following a handful of keepers from the album, Ultimate Painting played a few new ones, including “It’s on You,” a slick bit of bluesy pop with some just-fancy-enough guitar interplay and the lyric “C’mon, man, you made me late,” nicely capturing the vibe. “Central Park Blues” was somewhere between contemporaries Parquet Courts and Courtney Barnett, with a slightly angrier vibe contrasting with a sweet guitar that painted a kind of stoner New York City. Their set closed with “Ten Street,” a thumping drumbeat paved the way for a wailing guitar excursion that went as deep as advertised before ending in exactly 10 minutes.

Ending the show, Twerps, from Melbourne, Australia, took the jangly, slacker vibe to the extreme. Marty Frawley and Julia McFarlane split the vocal duties, alternating on songs mostly about love and/or heartbreak like it’s the only thing worth singing about—sounding like they were singing along to themselves in the mirror. With delightful melodies and an almost platonic ideal indie-rock sound, there was much for the crowd to love. With Frawley and McFarlane providing double duty on the singing and guitar licks, the real hidden secret of their live set was Alex MacFarlane on drums. His rhythms and textures added a vital flavor to the sound, giving the effortless sound a much-needed zest, from the mallets on “I Don’t Mind” to the tambourine-heavy playing on “Shoulders.” The latter featured a nifty guitar riff and built to a climactic 15 seconds of angry bliss.

The set picked up a bit of steam midway through, McFarlane’s guitar finding new ways to perfectly highlight the lo-fi songs as the Friday night crowd loosened up to dance. Even the banter had a lackadaisical demeanor: Frawley commented on a band they had opened for that said the same thing every night in a bit of meta chatter, and then later he and McFarlane mentioned how they had a bit of an argument in a way that was unclear the matter had been fully resolved. Still, it was tough to imagine any of them getting too worked up on a night as chill and laid back as Friday proved to be. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

 

 

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Moon Duo Color Outside the Lines at Rough Trade NYC

March 10th, 2015

Moon Duo – Rough Trade NYC – March9, 2015

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The first thing most will notice and likely joke about when seeing Moon Duo live is that they are, indeed, a trio. Playing before a packed Rough Trade NYC last night, the Wooden Shjips spin-off proved that they’re willing to color outside the proverbial lines in more ways than just redefining what a duo is. The band—Ripley Johnson on guitar, Sanae Yamada on keys and John Jeffrey on drums—took the stage beneath a wash of multihued horizontal lines dancing on the screen behind them. Except the projections actually extended well beyond the apportioned white screen, stretching almost around onto the side walls, pulling the entire room into the musical chaos happening onstage. Working almost in silhouette against the flickering lights, the trio churned at full volume, looping drumbeats providing a foundation for psychedelia highlighted by synthesizer organ and electronica.

Moon Duo are a band that longs to be heard live. And while their set largely featured material from the recently released Shadow of the Sun, the songs were just the black outline for the music to quickly jag out from. Vocals felt like a murmured suggestion and the melodies some sort of fevered surf-y doo-wop. Before long, Johnson was deep in a relentless solo, streaks of Crayola guitar licks filling the page. Those guitar jams took on many forms, from lightning staccato licks to more soaring drawn-out hallucinations. These sections lasted just a bit longer than they had to and then as if on some hidden cue, they would end to make room for the next. While the band lacked a bassist, the low end was omnipresent through a combination of drums and synths and guitar drone. Jeffery’s bass drum was a constant paranoid telltale heart, seemingly pounding up through the floor.

But perhaps the most surprising thing about Moon Duo’s live set was just how danceable it was. While the guitars continued to go extraterrestrial, the rhythms remained rooted, providing a beat that had most of the packed crowd moving. Of course, in the nonconformist spirit of the music, the audience proved there were many ways to dance to it, including not at all. And after an intense set of breaking the mold, it was kind of impressive that Moon Duo ended their last jam exactly an hour after starting. But those in the still-hypnotized crowd clamored for more, and they were obliged, the Duo that’s a trio laying down a ten-minute encore featuring “Animal” and plenty of scribbling chaos for good measure. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

 

 

 

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The Bright Light Social Hour Debut New Music at Mercury Lounge

March 9th, 2015

The Bright Light Social Hour – Mercury Lounge – March 6, 2015

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“Let’s have some fun!” That’s how bassist Jack O’Brien began the late show at Mercury Lounge on Friday night, and for the Bright Light Social Hour, is there any other way? The Austin, Texas, quartet has always been an instant party in a bottle, a genie of good times ready to be released on command. The clock had just nudged past midnight and the sold-out crowd was cocked and ready to fire as the band opened with “Sweet Madeline,” the lead track off their new album, Space Is Still the Place. The LP’s title may reference Sun Ra, but the BLSH source material is Southern rock meets the discotheque with jam sensibilities, and the opening songs highlighted all of these influences, Curtis Roush singing like a young Gregg Allman while playing a cosmic slide guitar, and Joseph Mirasole mixing techno beats with rock-out power.

The new material added subtleties to the Social Hour live show, many of the songs having quieter moments to offset and accentuate the high-energy rock and roll. The band played with veteran confidence, debuting soon-to-be-released tunes to the NYC audience like they’ve already been playing them for years. When the group finally broke the ice and busted out an old favorite, “Shanty,” the crowd responded with a surge, Edward Braillif laying down the irresistible synth hook, Roush building an expert slide solo and O’Brien bouncing around the stage with infectious glee. “I Need Your Love” was quintessential BLSH: blues with a funky inside, featuring tremendous drumming throughout from Mirasole, the party in full swing with everyone in the room singing along at the top of their weekend-ready lungs and getting their boogie on in between verses.

By midway through the set, the entire crowd was sucked into the resistance-is-futile party and the band went in for the kill. “Infinite Cities” felt completely like the “first single,” a groovy space-pop declaration of where the Bright Light Social Hour are right now, the entire band contributing and the audience responding in kind. “In and Out” pushed the room to its inevitable climax before the four-piece ended with the new album’s final two songs, “The Moon” and “Escape Velocity,” the latter featuring an excellent cruising-altitude jam. O’Brien said the closing pair described “orgies from the future,” which might have made an excellent alternative title for the funk-blues-dance-jam-groove-rock-and-roll party that is the Bright Light Social Hour. —A Stein | @Neddyo

 

 

 

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North Mississippi Allstars and Anders Osborne Put on Marathon Show

February 27th, 2015

NMO – the Space at Westbury – February 26, 2015

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It was a night of beginnings at the Space at Westbury on Thursday. With a stage packed with two drum kits and more guitars than fingers to count them with, the marathon show officially began with Luther Dickinson and Anders Osborne as a duet, playfully matching slide guitars in each other’s faces, singing “Let It Roll.” As the two hugged and Osborne left the stage to applause, Dickinson announced the evening as the “North Mississippi Anders Osborne Experience” before inviting his “brothers,” Cody Dickinson and Lightnin’ Malcolm, to kick off things once again with a few North Mississippi Allstars songs. But things didn’t really get rolling until Luther coaxed everyone out of their seats, filling in the space in front of the stage and in the aisles while the trio matched the energy with their bread-and-butter material, including “Shake ’Em on Down,” “Drinking Muddy Water” and “KC Jones (On the Road Again).” The trio flexed their Delta blues–rock muscles with Luther strutting his superlative slide playing and Cody shuffling along in time.

Throughout the night, one song’s ending was another’s beginning, and as the NMA mini-set closed, the entire trio banging away on a drum as Osborne and the rest of his trio—Carl Dufresne and Brady Blade—hopped onstage with their own percussion in hand, Cody Dickinson got the party started, singing “Granny Does Your Dog Bite” and getting the audience to sing along. Before long, the six musicians were on the floor marching through the crowd like New Orleans was on Long Island. Again, it felt like things were coming to an end, but the night was just pushing off from shore as NMA ceded the stage to Osborne and with a soulful moan in his voice and his slide, he took the helm. It seemed like the volume was raised a couple of clicks for this portion of the show with Osborne’s trio in fine form. Antics and marching bands are all in good fun, but the audience certainly was hungry for some red-meat rock and roll, which Osborne delivered. The highlight of the night featured his band rounded out to a quartet with Luther on acoustic guitar for a bang-bang-bang stretch of “Mind of a Junkie,” “Back on Dumaine” and “On the Road to Charlie Parker.” Again, each tune bubbled up out of the predecessor’s ending. The first featured a narcotic Neil Young–esque slow-burn guitar jam with Osborne as soulful as ever. “Dumaine” dissolved into a hair-raising improv with Osborne’s guitar channeling Jerry Garcia and Luther matching with an almost-Latin flair of acoustic guitar picking. Finally “Charlie Parker” was a powerhouse of New Orleans–infused rock and roll that easily could’ve ended the night, but, naturally, they were still just getting going.

From there, it would take a slide rule and a spreadsheet to properly keep track of the permutations of musicians and instruments. There was a trio version of the classic “Junco Pardna,” the Dickinson brothers and Osborne doing justice to the source material. Oh, did they mention that they have a new album out together? Finally, after about 90 minutes of soul-warming Southern rock, they got around to playing material from the new release, Freedom & Dreams, like everything else leading up to it had been a rehearsal. Combined as a massive six-piece, looking and sounding a bit like an updated version of the Allman Brothers Band, NMO proper began their night. “Back Together” stood out here, featuring count-’em three overlapping and interweaving guitar solos. Before the night came to a real, honest-to-goodness close, Cody Dickinson took a washboard solo, complete with wild flashing white lights that seemed to turn the band inside out, Malcolm ending up on the drums, Dufresne on the guitar and Luther on the bass. At one point earlier in the two-plus-hour show, Osborne mentioned the writing of a new song, “Westbury Blues,” joking it wasn’t ready … but maybe for the “next album.” From the sounds of it, for NMO, this is only the beginning. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

(North Misissippi Allstars and Anders Osborne play the Capitol Theatre tonight.)

 

 

 

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Ariel Pink Brings New Music to Terminal 5

February 26th, 2015

Ariel Pink – Terminal 5 – February 25, 2015

(Photo: Dan Rickershauser)

(Photo: Dan Rickershauser)


As lore has it, at some point deep into the doldrums of the 1970s, glam rock and punk rock had a lust-driven one-night stand, and out of the encounter came their bizarro love child Ariel Pink. Maybe this isn’t entirely accurate, but what is true is that in the world’s quest for ever-weirder music, they stumbled upon the bedroom-pop aficionado, who since the mid-’90s has been making some seriously strange pop music, a variety that’s rockin’ but off-kilter, sexy sounding but in an unsettling way, and most important, irresistibly catchy. Pink’s latest release, Pom Pom, has been his most acclaimed release to date, and it brought him and his band to Terminal 5 last night.

Sporting a silver mane of messy hair, Pink began things by letting everyone know that he was very sick, apparently having caught the same cold it seems that most in New York City are currently battling. The multicolored-light-pinwheel contraption behind the band made up for any energy lacking in the under-the-weather Pink. It also didn’t stop him from wolfing down a burger that seemed to appear out of nowhere during the second song, “Jell-o,” leading a person behind me to ask, “Did he just order Seamless in the middle of his set?” Pink is backed by an eclectic group of musicians. His bass player looks like a ’70s version of that spooky long-haired guy in the Black Eyed Peas that doesn’t seem to do anything except dance frantically. His drummer sported a cowboy hat and what appeared to be a child-sized teal bikini. (He participated with Pink in the creepy-uncle back and forth about a topless dancer and her aureoles on “Black Ballerina.”)

Pink’s many requests to make certain instruments louder in his monitors and “really, really loud” for the house meant that everything was running at extremely high volume by the set’s midpoint, further making the whole performance seem like a trippy fever dream. Pink’s finale, “Picture Me Gone,” was dedicated to friend, collaborator and fringe-music legend Kim Fowley, who passed away inJanuary. And although the crowd was desperate for an encore, Pink was feeling too sick to make it through one. The drummer came out to apologize and let everyone know that Pink loved us all. Get well soon, Mr. Pink!
—Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

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A Dan Deacon Dance Party at Rough Trade NYC

February 26th, 2015

Dan Deacon – Rough Trade NYC – February 25, 2015

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It was the year 2007 and I had only been living in Brooklyn for a few months. Being a native West Coaster, I was not privy to the genius and fun of Dan Deacon until a coworker (now friend) initiated me to his greatness. She’d recently moved from Baltimore and had regaled me with tales of Deacon’s legendary DIY parties. She described them as “complete madness” and “a mix of spastic dancing, mosh-pitting and communal hugging” in a warehouse space called the Copycat building.  She recounted how “the crowd there was so crazy, that I pretty much went to those shows prepared to get pushed so hard that I’d crash into a random drum set or the wall at some point in the night.”

Fast forward to last night, when I finally experienced Mr. Deacon’s musical wizardry. Readied for my own taste of his exuberant live shows, I (and my previously mentioned friend) embarked upon a sold-out Rough Trade NYC, where Deacon celebrated the release of his latest album, Gliss Riffer. The faux-warehouse venue, which captures some of that look and feel of the space where Deacon got his start, felt like a telling metaphor for the trajectory of his career. Although audience participation was high with Deacon calling for a dance circle and opposite-side dance offs, it was by no means the spectacle I’d heard about.

Nevertheless, the master of ceremonies did not disappoint weaving oldies “Paddling Ghost” and “Wham City” against the latest and greatest from the brand new release. Early on, “Sheathed Wings” had fans whipping their heads to the bass, while everyone erupted in euphoria for “Feel the Lightning,” a track that according to the A.V. Club “comes across as the love child of Daft Punk and Todd Rundgren.” The evening culminated with Deacon playing America, leaving no need for an encore. —Sharlene Chiu

(Dan Deacon plays Warsaw on 5/22.)

 

 

 

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Kishi Bashi Provides a Feast for the Senses at Union Transfer

February 19th, 2015

Kishi Bashi String Quartet – Union Transfer – February 18, 2015

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Sight and sound are the primary senses that an audience uses. And while they complement each other, it’s often said that one sees a band rather than hears one. The body isn’t given enough credit, the muscles and bones. They ache for hours after standing, but if it’s a good show, it’s a good hurt. Still, with that awareness of the body, on Wednesday night at Union Transfer, Kishi Bashi provided floor seating for those eager enough to arrive before the opener, Busman’s Holiday, which he justified by saying, “I know it’s unusual to see a show seated, but I saw one recently and it was great.”

That kind of playful, upbeat attitude was what came across in both Kishi Bashi’s stage banter and his music. After he strode onstage following his four-piece orchestra, Bashi brandished a baton with a maestro’s flair. His particular aesthetic was less traditional, as he wore a well-tailored jacket, dark vest and a plaid bow tie. The clothes were somehow reminiscent of his music, juxtaposing the classical and the idiosyncratic. It was heard on songs like “Bittersweet Genesis for Him and Her,” when Bashi explained that the lyrics told of how “Earth was created by a cosmic couple,” although when the music faded out, he offered, “Earth was destroyed at the end of the song.”

The music featured an unconventional approach to percussion through the work of the orchestra, as well as ecstatic drumming on the banjo(!) from Kishi Bashi’s partner, Mike Savino of Tall Tall Trees. The two traded verbal jabs but also seriously blended instrumental parts when the musical moments called for interplay. To parse out the experience, it went back to this idea of sight and sound: Savino’s neon banjo glowing against the dark stage and Bashi’s high register sailing over the strings—the audience standing after “a seventh inning stretch,” only to stay upright until the final song, when Kishi Bashi, surrounded by his band, played an acoustic version of “Bright Whites.” It was quiet, lush and physically striking as the other musicians stood in a semicircle and watched for cues. It was a full sensory experience, as all good concerts should be.
—Jared Levy | @Playtonic