Brothers Andrew (drums and percussion) and Brad (vocals, guitar and keys) Barr, who have been members of the Slip and Surprise Me Mr. Davis, moved to Montreal after one of the brothers fell for a local waitress. Early on, Brad and neighbor Sarah Page (harp) could hear each other playing through the walls and struck up a musical friendship. Then, following the addition of Andres Vial (keys, pump organ and bass), the Barr Brothers were born. The folk quartet’s self-titled debut album (stream it below) came out in 2011. “The Barr Brothers are a different kind of folk group,” announced AllMusic, “bringing in unusual instrumentation and performing in a manner that draws the listener into a special musical world.” The Barr Brothers (above, playing “Even the Darkness Has Arms” on Late Show with David Letterman) released their second full-length, Sleeping Operator (stream it below), last month. And the good folks at Relix were impressed: “A product of both invention and intuition, the appropriately dubbed Sleeping Operator isn’t anything less than a dazzling delight.” See them headline The Bowery Ballroom tomorrow night. Bluesy folk singer-songwriter Leif Vollebekk, also from Montreal, opens the show.
Tags: Andrew Barr, Andrew Vial, Barr Brothers, Bowery Ballroom, Brad Barr, Leif Vollebekk, Preview, Sarah Page, Sleeping Operator, Surprise Me Mr. Davis, The Bar Brothers, the Slip, Video
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Back in 2006 the String Cheese Incident’s Michael Travis (drums and multiple instruments) and Jason Hann (vocals and percussion) formed the jammy electronic-dance duo EOTO. Playing “all improvised, all the time,” the two make their way through a litany of dance genres—including drum and bass, dubstep, house—by looping live guitar, bass and synths alongside their own live drums and vocals, without using any backing tracks or prerecorded loops. Hann and Travis remain busy with SCI, so their most recent LP, Fire the Lazers!!! (stream it below), came out in 2009. But let’s be honest, EOTO (above, performing one of their never-the-same shows) are a band best experienced live. So come be part of their dance party tomorrow night at Stage 48. And arrive early enough to catch VibeSquad.
Daniel Armbruster (vocals), Benjamin Bailey (keys), Joseph Morinelli (guitar), Paul Brenner (drums) and Sean Donnelly (bass) formed Joywave four years ago in Rochester, N.Y. Deftly mixing indie rock and electronic music, the group started to gain attention after they’d begun releasing mixtapes online, mashing together their own music with other bands’. Their debut EP, Koda Vista (stream it below), arrived in 2012, packed with “’80s-inspired synth pop, bright vocals and scenic lyrical portraits,” according to Filter magazine. Joywave (above, performing “Traveling at the Speed of Life”for Audiotree Live) released another EP, they catchy, dance-y How Do You Feel? (stream it below), earlier this year. Find out for yourself how all of this music sounds live when Joywave play Rough Trade NYC tomorrow night. Singer-songwriter Vérité and another Rochester outfit, experimental-dance four-piece Kopps, open the show.
Tags: Benjamin Bailey, Daniel Armbruster, How Do You Feel?, Joseph Morinelli, Joywave, Koda Vista, Kopps, Paul Brenner, Preview, Rough Trade NYC, Sean Donnelly, Vérité, Video
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Thee Oh Sees – The Bowery Ballroom – November 18, 2014
The reasons to stay home last night were there for the taking: It was the first “damn, it’s cold outside!” night of the season, late start on a Tuesday night, etc. No one’s blaming you if you skipped out on the Thee Oh Sees at The Bowery Ballroom. But John Dwyer and his bandmates are a center of gravity, and judging from the jubilant packed house, few, if any, were able to withstand its irresistible pull. Opening with “Tunnel Time,” off last year’s Floating Coffin, Dwyer was a lesson in classic physics—pure kinetic energy, object-in-motion-tends-to-stay-in-motion conservation of angular momentum—and pretty much kept it up the entire set. The band mixed songs off their newest album, Drop, with plenty of older barn burners, but it wasn’t so important which tunes they played as how they played them, and how they played them was like a powder keg with a very short fuse.
Here’s what you don’t get at a Thee Oh Sees show: fancy lights, digital projections or witty banter … or any banter for that matter. They pretty much employed the Bowery’s basic lights, eschewing the modern color palettes and designs available and sticking mostly to red, yellow and blue. This was primary-color rock, stripped down to its bare essentials: guitar, bass and drums operating as a single unit, a shot of punk adrenaline with a garage-psych chaser. Which isn’t to say that Dwyer’s music is simple. Songs were stretched out just long enough, Tim Hellman on bass and Nick Murray on drums matching his blistering, never self-indulgent guitar with propulsive melodic rhythm.
On some songs Dwyer used a 12-string guitar to add a little flavor, other times playing a few riffs through a small synth to good effect, but mostly he was pounding away at his guitar, half singing/half shouting his lyrics, everything punctuated by one big Sans Serif exclamation point, if not two or three of them. The crowd kept up with the band, bouncing and moshing with the occasional stage diver taking a ride on the bubbling audience. It was hard to not get sucked into the high-energy fun. For all their great studio tracks, Thee Oh Sees proved that they are best experienced live in the raw and that this was live music in its purest, distilled form … well worth getting off the couch. —A. Stein | twitter.com/neddyo
Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Steve Marion had been in other bands when one day he decided to record his own material at home. It eventually became the first Delicate Steve album, Wondervisions (stream it below). Released by David Byrne’s label, Luaka Bop, in 2011, the LP earned Marion comparisons to Pavement, Vampire Weekend and Dirty Projectors. In a glowing review, PopMusic declared that the album “treads beautifully this line between meaningless emotion and unfeeling precision…. The precise subject of these visions is hard to say—it is, quite simply, the kind of thing you do not describe with words.” The next year, Delicate Steve (above, performing “Afria Talks to You”) put out their follow-up, Positive Force (stream it below). And again critics and fans alike were impressed. Paste rang in: “What’s notable about Delicate Steve is not necessarily guitarist Steve Marion’s apt electronic contribution, but his songwriting and reference to earlier musicality that could be easily overlooked. Delicate Steve understands and is equally intrigued by what you can do with a great vintage synthesizer, but his George Harrison/Eric Clapton-esque guitar melodies are what make this album worth listening to.” See Delicate Steve play the late show tomorrow night at Mercury Lounge. And don’t miss the opener, singer-songwriter Luke Temple (of Here We Go Magic).
Tags: David Byrne, Delicate Steve, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Here We Go Magic, Luaka Bop, Luke Temple, Mercury Lounge, Preview, Steve Marion, Wondervisions
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Lucinda Williams – Beacon Theatre – November 17, 2014
Lucinda Williams celebrated her new LP, Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, with a spirited performance at the Beacon Theatre last night. For many artists, creating a double album of almost completely new and original music might be a bit daunting, but Williams’ musical output in recent years has been ambitious and inspired, and perhaps this is the new normal for her—the fans would certainly not complain.
With her leather jacket and confident, wide-legged stance, Williams commanded the stage, as usual, combining new songs—like “Protection,” the moody “Burning Bridges” and the bluesy “Something Wicked This Way Comes”—with material from back in the ’80s (“Side of the Road”), the ’90s (“Pineola,” “Lake Charles,”) and of course, a great deal from her prolific songwriting period during the Aughts. With a natural ability to give a strong sense of atmosphere with just a few well-chosen details, she’s always been an excellent storyteller. But during last night’s show, Williams prefaced another new song, “Compassion,” by saying it was especially challenging to write. It was the first time she attempted to put one of the poems by Miller Williams, her father, to music. She spoke about his insistence that songs and poems are “two different animals.”
Yet Williams rose to the challenge, and the resulting song was something of a departure from much of her lively, roots-y material, a stark, melancholic piece of music that seemed to wrap itself around the lines of the poem, allowing the rhythm of the words to inform the melody. The result was both arresting and refreshing, an interesting look at an artist seeking to keep exploring and challenging herself, while continuing to make and perform the music that has always spoken to her. —Alena Kastin | twitter.com/alenak
Local favorites TV on the Radio release their fifth studio album, Seeds, today. And they’re celebrating its release with sold-out shows tonight at the Apollo Theater and Friday and Saturday at Music Hall of Williamsburg (plus an in-store appearance at Rough Trade NYC tomorrow). But the good news is that The House List is giving away two tickets to see TV on the Radio on Saturday night in Brooklyn. Want to go? 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 (TV on the Radio, 11/22) and a brief message explaining your favorite tune on the new album. Eddie Bruiser, who’s already got his favorites, will notify the winner by Friday. Good luck.
Tags: Apollo Theater, Contest, Eddie Bruiser, Free Tickets, Grow a Pair, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Rough Trade NYC, Seeds, TV on the Radio
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John Dwyer (vocals and guitar) formed Thee Oh Sees in late-’90s San Francisco, playing psychedelic garage rock that sounds “a bit like the Mamas & the Papas run through a seriously bent garage blender,” according to AllMusic. Dwyer and a changing lineup have recently been prolific, releasing at least an album a year since 2008. So much material provides the opportunity to go from pop to rock to experimental to punk over the course of their catalog. And on their two past two LPs—each of them terrific—last year’s Floating Coffin (stream it below) and this year’s Drop (stream it below), Thee Oh Sees (above, performing “I Come from the Mountain” for Culturebox) have edged away from guitar freak-outs, sticking to hard rock on Floating Coffin and pop on Drop. Of course, another benefit of so much recorded output is that Thee Oh Sees tour often and are a finely tuned live band. See them tonight at The Bowery Ballroom (Jack Name and Economy Punk open) and on Friday at Warsaw (Jack Name and Ice Balloons open).
Ani DiFranco – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 14, 2014
One word that kept popping up during Ani DiFranco’s set at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday night was happy. Whether it was her performance of “Happy All the Time” or her anecdote about an early MTV appearance when Kurt Loder described her as “alarmingly happy,” there was no mistaking the word’s presence in the room. But even her most casual fans know that in DiFranco’s universe words have meaning, have consequence. So while happy made its presence felt, happiness itself, that most sought after of emotions, was in overabundance from the moment DiFranco took the stage. By the time she played the first notes of the show-opening “Not a Pretty Girl,” singing, “I ain’t no damsel in distress,” the audience was drowning in unadulterated joy: screaming, singing, dancing, shouting and, of course, smiling.
DiFranco has that effect on people, and while her own smile was positively beatific, she seemed used to such a reaction. Watching her perform, it’s little surprise that DiFranco pours more emotion and energy into a single chord of her acoustic guitar and wrings more rhythm and soul out of a phrase-turning lyric than you would think is possible. Even her between-song banter was the stuff of Zen poetry: her apologies for new material to come after the old “lulls you into a false sense of security,” and an anecdote about her daughter’s favorite “mommy song” (“Rainy Parade”), and the description of taking a very old song, “Itch,” and turning it into something new. While the old numbers elicited the most enthusiasm from the audience, it’s saying something that some of the best moments came from the new stuff. And there was plenty, whether a generous helping from her new album, Allergic to Water, or the song she wrote a couple of weeks ago or the one that she was working on the previous evening that may or may not be finished, DiFranco proved herself to be dense with songs that are dense with musical ideas and notes and imagery.
As always with DiFranco, part of her show’s magic was the chemistry of the band: Todd Sickafoose on bass, Terence Higgins on drums, and about half the set with Jenny Scheinman on violin and backing vocals. The group was part folk-rock band, part country ensemble, part jazz quartet. The portions with Scheinman (who played an excellent solo opening set) were arguably the strongest, her kindred-spirit playing and singing providing valuable, dimension-expanding counterpoint to DiFranco’s frantic musicianship. The four of them performing “Tis of Thee” was chills-inducing good, a happy-making highlight in a show alarmingly full of them. —A. Stein | twitter.com/neddyo