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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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The London Souls Celebrate New Music at The Bowery Ballroom

April 8th, 2015

The London Souls – The Bowery Ballroom – April 7, 2015

The London Souls – The Bowery Ballroom – April 7, 2015
The London Souls used to be a trio, so I have to admit I was a little nervous when they showed up to The Bowery Ballroom last night without a bassist. But the duo put on a set massive enough that you could have sworn you were watching them at a summer festival. The hometown show was in celebration of the long-awaited release of the band’s second LP, Here Come the Girls, an album that was written years ago but was delayed as singer and guitarist Tash Neal fought back from a near-fatal car accident.

Neal isn’t the still, silent type, like Gary Clark Jr. He emotes as he plays—every note Neal sang or strummed was accompanied by a lip curl, a head shake or an eyebrow raise. His body swayed with each bent string or blue note. It’s the kind of thing that makes you feel the emotion behind the music rather than interpreting it in your mind. Chris St. Hilaire’s drumming was sort of the opposite of that, machine-like and furious but a loose style that doesn’t sacrifice precision. He almost didn’t move above his shoulders—if your view was blocked, he could have been typing an essay or knitting a scarf for all you knew. But from the shoulders down, he was a blur of sticks, wrists and elbows.

St. Hilaire struck his drum set hard enough that it sounded like we were listening to a rhythm from a different decade. It was proof that his drumming is the reason (as much, if not more than Neal’s abilities) that the band draws comparisons to Zeppelin, Cream and the Experience. That’s just a few ways of saying that even as a duo, the London Souls still rock harder than most bands you hear. Their now more unapologetic sound is tailor-made for their louder tracks, like “Steady Are You Ready,” but even their more melodic tunes, like “When I’m With You,” still hold up. The duo might sound a little cleaner when they’re accompanied by a third musician onstage, but a clean sound is overrated. Two is all they need. —Sean O’Kane | @Sokane1

Photos courtesy of Jeremy Ross | jeremypross.com

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A Unique Live Experience with Public Service Broadcasting

April 8th, 2015

A Public Service Broadcasting show is a unique live performance. With music, spoken word and live audio-visual effects, multi-instrumentalist J. Willgoose Esq. and drummer Wrigglesworth combine their own krautrock riffs, drums, banjo and electronics with archival audio clips and film footage mined from the British Film Institute. Their first full-length, Inform-Educate-Entertain (stream it below), came out to some acclaim three years ago. And earlier this winter, Public Service Broadcasting (above, doing “London Can Take It” for KEXP FM), put out their follow-up effort, The Race for Space (stream it below), a retelling of the space race with the Soviet Union. Per British GQ, “The Race for Space is an album that really takes you somewhere (no prizes for guessing where), and when you’re back on Earth as the final track fades away, you’ll be desperate to listen again…. It’s an unexpectedly magnificent record, at once totally contemporary, and yet in thrall to the events of the past.” Public Service Broadcasting play The Bowery Ballroom on Friday night. Los Angeles electronic outfit Kauf open the show.

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Chet Faker – Terminal 5 – April 7, 2015

April 8th, 2015

Chet Faker - Terminal 5 - April 7, 2015

Photos courtesy of Brian C. Reilly | www.briancreilly.com

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The Ting Tings – Rough Trade NYC – April 6, 2015

April 7th, 2015

The Ting Tings - Rough Trade NYC - April 6, 2015

Photos courtesy of Dana (distortion) Yavin | distortionpix.com

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The Decemberists – Beacon Theatre – April 6, 2015

April 7th, 2015

The Decemberists - Beacon Theatre - April 6, 2015

Photos courtesy of Greg Pallante | gregpallante.com

Contest

Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See Bleachers on 4/9

April 7th, 2015

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Jack Antonoff’s latest band, Bleachers, just kicked off a new tour last week, which brings them home to play Terminal 5 on Thursday night. The show is sold out, but The House List is giving away two tickets. Want to go? Try to Grow a Pair. It’s easy. 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 (Bleachers, 4/9) and a brief message explaining your favorite song on Strange Desire. Eddie Bruiser, who finds the album to be catchy as hell, will notify the winner by Thursday. Good luck.

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Night Terrors of 1927 Tomorrow Night at Mercury Lounge

April 7th, 2015

Former Rilo Kiley guitarist Blake Sennett and former Honorary Title frontman Jarrod Gorbel met through mutual friends in 2010, but they didn’t begin making music together until after Gorbel left Brooklyn for Los Angeles two years later. Initially they were writing songs just to do something different than either of them had previously done—neither intended for it to become a new band. “I wanted to create something with someone, not just on my own like I always had. When I moved to L.A., I called Blake and was like, ‘Hey, can we just get together and write a song. I don’t know for what or why.’ And that was that,” said Gorbel. But they were so happy with their new material that they launched the electronic-tinged rock duo Night Terrors of 1927. Their debut EP, Guilty Pleas (stream it below), came out in 2013. Spin praised it as an “anthemic debut,” further mentioning its “open-hearted, high-drama glory.” And earlier this year, Night Terrors of 1927 (above, doing “Running in Place”) released their debut full-length, Everything’s Coming Up Roses (stream it below). According to AllMusic, “Sennett and Gorbel have bridged their seasoned musical pasts into a sweet pop music present.” See them play the late show tomorrow night at Mercury Lounge. Minneapolis three-piece Strange Names open.

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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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The London Souls Celebrate a New Album at The Bowery Ballroom

April 6th, 2015

The guys in the London Souls—Tash Neal (vocals and guitar), whom Okayplayer says channels “both Jimmy Page and the gypsy verve of Django Reinhardt,” and Chris St. Hilaire (drums and vocals)—felt comfortable playing together the very first time they did so. It also happened to be the first time they had met each other. No matter, they’ve been channeling their shared love of classic bands like Cream, the Beatles and Led Zeppelin into their own hard-driving rock with layered vocals ever since. Their newest full-length, Here Come the Girls (stream it below), comes out tomorrow. According to AllMusic, it “features 13 tracks of driving rock, stomping blues and the occasional folky jingle. There’s distorted guitars, upbeat ukulele and drums that aren’t in a rush to get to their destination, combined with vocals that alternately ache and roar.” The London Souls celebrate its arrival with a hometown album-release party tomorrow night at The Bowery Ballroom. Brooklyn rock five-piece the Skins open the show.

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Hear Some of the Bands You Can See This Week

April 6th, 2015

Hear some of the bands you can see this week.

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Close Out the Weekend with Parker Millsap at Mercury Lounge

April 3rd, 2015

A young guy with an old-timey Americana sound, 21-year-old Parker Millsap grew up in small-town Oklahoma attending Pentecostal church three times a week, which—despite the fact he no longer considers himself to be very religious—undoubtedly affects his songwriting. He began playing acoustic guitar at just nine years old, but once Millsap discovered Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton, like Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, he plugged in. And thanks to a post–high school performance in Nashville, Millsap won a coveted spot opening for Old Crow Medicine Show and later Patty Griffin, Shovels & Rope and Lake Street Dive. But with the release of his self-titled debut album (stream it below) last year, the engaging live performer became known for more than his gravelly, soulful voice. In a glowing review, PopMatters proclaimed, “Road tunes and leave-takings are a fitting metaphorical trope for this album, because Millsap is clearly going places. With his voice and his rich, suggestive songwriting, it might not be long before Red Dirt isn’t just a bandwagon that people recognize, but one that they might be willing to jump onto.” And per American Songwriter, “Like the best of his peers, Millsap lets his music and lyrics do the talking, keeping the production sparse, not stark, and creating a terrific, even audacious first effort. Millsap’s subtle style allows the listener to discover the emotional vortex of his often confused characters, helping us identify with their motives without casting judgment.” Of course, you can judge for yourself because with a night off from opening for Houndmouth, Parker Millsap (above, doing “Truck Stop Gospel” live at the Grand Ole Opry) plays the early show at Mercury Lounge on Sunday.

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An Acoustic Solo Citizen Cope Show at the Capitol Theatre Tomorrow

April 3rd, 2015

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Clarence Greenwood has been doing business as Citizen Cope since the ’90s. But after his major-label debut on Dreamworks in 2002, Cope further made a name for himself in buying out his contract and self-producing the follow-up, the eclectic The Clarence Greenwood Recordings (stream it below), filled with roots, rock, reggae, dub and hip-hop. Now a decade later, Citizen Cope (above, doing a solo rendition of “Bullet and a Target” live in the Bing Lounge) is known for his high-energy live shows, done solo or with a full band. And tomorrow night at the Capitol Theatre he’ll perform an intimate solo acoustic show. (Plus, it’s for a good cause with $1 of each ticket sold going to Turnaround Arts to purchase musical instruments for middle schoolers in Lame Deer, Mont.—a community on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. Lame Deer is part of Turnaround Arts, a President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities program that uses arts education to help students succeed.)

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Jessie Ware Doesn’t Hold Back at Terminal 5

April 2nd, 2015

Jessie Ware – Terminal 5 – April 2, 2015

Jessie Ware – Terminal 5 – April 2, 2015
“Mazel tov!” shouted Jessie Ware to the man and woman—who had just gotten engaged in front of the sold-out Terminal 5 crowd—she invited onstage last night. Yes, it should come as no surprise that the artist who has penned dozens of lovelorn, yearning pop songs (and was recently married herself) is a romantic at heart, beaming at the newly betrothed couple before serenading us with “You & I (Forever),” a perfectly fitting song for the moment. “That was so much better than my husband’s proposal,” joked Ware.

The surprise engagement was one of the night’s many high points, as Ware performed songs from her new album, Tough Love, and from 2012’s Devotion, opening the show with “Running,” a sleek, Sade-esque number punctuated by understated flashing lights. “Champagne Kisses,” a new song as light and bubbly as the titular beverage, and tunes like “Kind of … Sometimes … Maybe” and “Sweetest Song” kept the mood bright and dreamy, while others, like “Tough Love” and “Wildest Moments,” carried more emotional heft, with Ware abandoning the cool and collected restraint displayed on the previous songs for a more raw, direct approach.

The London singer-songwriter closed the show with “Say You Love Me,” a powerful number that manages to stand out in a catalog full of songs about love and all of its complexities. Without holding back on the emotion or the vocal delivery, Ware belted out the tune’s velvety melody, enlisting the crowd to join in and sing along, a nice show of solidarity for the joys and agonies of love. —Alena Kastin | @AlenaK

Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com