Saturn is a new live-music facility in Birmingham, Ala., that also has a bar and coffee shop serving Stumptown Coffee. Named after local legendary jazz guru Sun Ra, the project is a joint venture between Birmingham musician Brian Teasley and The Bowery Presents. Saturn also includes the Living Venue Audio Project, a multisensory reactive sound medium where various devices installed in the venue (stimulated by sound, light, motion, weather, etc.) trigger random ambient sounds, a sort-of symphony of sonic activity. Shows begin on 5/1 and they go on sale this Friday.
Childhood friends Kris Bentley (vocals and cajón) and Nick Jamerson (vocals and guitar) have been mashing together bluegrass, folk, R&B, rock and soul into their own foot-stomping take on Americana with a back-porch vibe since forming Sundy Best in 2010. The two began making music together at church while seniors in high school, and the band name comes from their Kentucky pronunciation of what they wore while doing so: their Sunday best. The band’s debut album, Door Without a Screen (stream it below), arrived in 2012. And thanks to their smart use of social media and energetic live shows, Sundy Best (above, performing “Southern Boy” for Made In) began to make a name for themselves. A second full-length, Bring Up the Sun (stream it below), out about a year ago, contains some rerecorded versions of Door Without a Screen songs plus new tunes. And while they could’ve been content to just ride out 2014, instead, the Lexington, Ky., duo put out a third full-length, Salvation City (stream it below), last December, impressing the folks at Rolling Stone: “The group took leaps forward on its new album…. Salvation City is a sonic ride, 10 songs that range from down-home hootenannies to soulful ballads.” And after spending some time at home preparing a new live show, Sundy Best play Mercury Lounge tonight. Chattanooga, Tenn., four-piece Hans Chew open the show.
Phil Lesh – Capitol Theatre – March 16, 2015
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
Tags: Allman Brothers Band, Capitol Theatre, Eric Krasno, Gov't Mule, Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, John Molo, Phil Lesh, Review, Rob Barraco, Soulive, Traffic, Van Morrison, Warren Haynes
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The Cold War Kids’ current tour brings them to Terminal 5 on Friday night. And although the show sold out quickly after it went on sale, The House List is giving away two tickets. Don’t have any but want to go? Then try to Grow a Pair. Just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (Cold War Kids, 3/20) and a brief message explaining which song off the California five-piece’s fifth LP, Hold My Home, is your favorite. Eddie Bruiser, who’s got his own but doesn’t want anyone kissing up, will notify the winner by Friday. Good luck.
Twerps – Rough Trade NYC – March 13, 2015
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
Tags: Alex MacFarlane, Courtney Barnett, Jack Cooper, James Hoare, Julia Macfarlane, Julia McFarlane, Marty Frawley, Matt Frawley, Parquet Courts, Review, Rough Trade NYC, Twerps, Ultimate Painting
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Singer-guitarist Marty Frawley and bassist Rick Milovanovic founded the lo-fi band Twerps in Melbourne, Australia, seven years ago. Eventually Milovanovic left the group and Frawley settled in with bassist Gus Lord, drummer Alex MacFarlane and guitarist-vocalist Jules McFarlane. Their noisy pop and ’80s-influenced college rock (reminiscent of music released by the New Zealand label Flying Nun Records) became the band’s calling card, and the foursome has steadily put out new music followed by some considerable touring ever since. Their second full-length, Range Anxiety (stream it below), came out on Merge Records this past January. And it’s safe to say people were impressed. “Pretty much all the best rock bands in the world today come from Melbourne, Australia,” wrote Paste magazine, “and Twerps are at the top of that list.” Additionally: “Even at their most technically complex, Twerps still maintain a low-key, laid-back, indie-rock appeal. They pull off charming pop that sounds tender and thrilling at the same time.” See how it all sounds performed live when Twerps (above, doing “Dreamin’” live to air for Triple R Melbourne) play Rough Trade NYC tonight and Mercury Lounge tomorrow. London duo Ultimate Painting opens both shows.
Tags: Alex MacFarlane, Flying Nun Records, Gus Lord, Jules McFarlane, Marty Frawley, Mercury Lounge, Merge Records, Range Anxiety, Rick Milovanovic, Rough Trade NYC, Twerps, Ultimate Painting
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Over the course of a career that’s now spanned four decades, Sydney space rockers the Church—currently Steve Kilbey (vocals and bass), Ian Haug (guitar and vocals), Peter Koppes (guitar, vocals and keys) and Tim Powles (drums)—have been known for their heady guitar work and instrumental jams, not to mention their 1988 smash, “Under the Milky Way,” the lead single off Starfish (stream it below), out that same year. The band’s 21st, and most recent, studio full-length, Further/Deeper (stream it below), came out toward the end of 2014, impressing critics across the world. “This is not background music—it demands your attention. Along with the oft-surreal lyrics, there’s a lot of care put into the sonic details,” opined PopMatters. It’s “an album that moves onward and upward, further and deeper—a journey begun a long time ago in a 1980s galaxy far, far away.” Currently touring North America in support of their LP, the Church (above, performing “Reptile” for Moshcam) play The Bowery Ballroom tomorrow and Rough Trade NYC on Saturday. Brooklyn chamber-pop collective the Sharp Things open both shows.
Influenced by the likes of Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age and the Scottish post-hardcore trio Mclusky, four guys—Dara Kiely (vocals), Alan Duggan (guitar), Adam Faulkner (drums) and Daniel Fox (bass)—formed Girl Band more than three years ago in Dublin. Their debut EP, the noise rock–filled France 98 (stream it below), arrived in 2012, which Pitchfork said, “could’ve passed for a product of Sub Pop circa 1988.” Since then, the quartet has become known for energetic live shows. Recently signed to Rough Trade Records, there’s talk of new music, but ahead of that, Girl Band (above, doing “Lawman” for KEXP FM) have booked their first U.S. tour dates, and you can see them at the late show on Friday at Mercury Lounge. Brooklyn psych-pop outfit Monograms opens.