Tag Archives: Cactus Blossoms

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The Cactus Blossoms Keep Mercury Lounge Cool on a Hot Night

July 13th, 2017

The Cactus Blossoms – Mercury Lounge – July 12, 2017


Honky-tonk noir anyone? Well you’re in luck because Minnesotan brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum are serving up just what you’re craving as the Cactus Blossoms. They resemble a blend of vintage sibling pairs, with the harmonies of the Everly Brothers and the bittersweet waltz of Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk.” It’s not surprising that the two made their national-TV debut on the recently rebooted Twin Peaks: The Return, playing the melancholic “Mississippi” as the third-episode outro. After a string of Midwestern dates opening for Jenny Lewis, the duo returned Stateside following a quick European tour to grace Mercury Lounge with a late-night session on Thursday.

Playing to a sold-out crowd, Torrey hit the stage last apologizing for the late start as he was locked in the bathroom. Thankfully freed, the reunion produced an evening of sweet Southern charm as the Cactus Blossoms played a large portion of their debut full-length album, You’re Dreaming. The title track had the crowd soaring to the brothers’ harmonies, followed by the eerily haunting track featured on Twin Peaks. Drummer Alex Hall literally wheeled up to the stage with suitcase in hand to relieve his stand-in, Grant. Turns out Hall’s flight had been delayed 12 hours. But the consummate professionals rolled with the punches, noting that as musicians, it’s rare when things go as planned.

The Cactus Blossoms treated devoted fans to cuts from their back catalog, including the farewell tune, “Adios Maria,” which was less about a woman and more about parting with a place. After a new song, they covered the Kinks“Who’ll Be Next in Line,” paying homage to a fellow sibling pair, and dedicated “Happy Man on a Gloomy Day” to an unfortunately canceled Spain show. A previously requested “Spotlight Kisses” was happily applauded, and the country waltz of “Powder Blue” had everyone in the room swaying in delight. With the encore imminent, Torrey announced it was “too hot to rock,” instead concluding the evening with a slow one, “Travelers Paradise.” It was a fitting adieu on a steamy night. —Sharlene Chiu

 

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Pokey LaFarge Extends the Weekend on Sunday Night in Williamsburg

April 1st, 2016

Singer-songwriter and guitarist Andrew Heissler has appeared on other musician’s albums, like Jack White’s Blunderbuss, but he’s best known for fronting his own band as Pokey LaFarge and mashing together Americana, country, blues and Western swing into his own unique roots-y sound. And while that kind of music is often played quietly, it all comes to raucous life when LaFarge (above, doing “Actin’ a Fool” at the Grand Ole Opry) performs live with Adam Hoskins (guitar and vocals), Joey Glynn (upright bass), Ryan Koenig (harmonica, washboard and mandolin) and Matthew Meyer (drums). Their most recent album, Something in the Water (stream it below), came out last spring. “Pokey LaFarge is a force of nature. Not only has he set out to popularize his unique take on the traditional American music he so obviously loves, but he has done it with verve, energy and commitment,” per PopMatters. “This would be commendable even if his music, almost entirely self-written, was any less good than it is, but, notwithstanding his efforts, the music on Something in the Water is that good.” Additionally, they declare that the album “is joyous, musically seamless, progressive and celebratory all in one.” So come join the party—and extend your weekend—when Pokey LaFarge plays Music Hall of Williamsburg on Sunday night. The Cactus Blossoms—two Minneapolis brothers—open the show.

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The Cactus Blossoms Fill Mercury Lounge with Perfect Harmonies

February 19th, 2016

The Cactus Blossoms – Mercury Lounge – February 18, 2016

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“It’s the country in it, but really the harmonies,” a friend told me about the Cactus Blossoms. “Like Hank Williams crossed with the Everly Brothers.” High—and pressure-packed—praise, but in the case of the Cactus Blossoms, it was decidedly accurate. The Minneapolis duo of Page Burkum and Jack Torrey, brothers in life and in music, blend their voices and demonstrate a command of traditional country that, astonishingly, sounds nostalgic and modern, particularly live. They didn’t so much play a 70-minute headlining set as stop time for a little bit, hypnotizing a packed audience with bittersweet romances, sad-eyed waltzes, bristled cowboy songs and snatches of Western swing.

The Cactus Blossoms dipped expertly into Hank Williams (“Your Cheatin’ Heart”), Waylon Jennings (“Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line”) and others, but let many of their own tunes carry the night, from “A Sad Day to Be You” and “You’re Dreaming” to “Powder Blue” and “Stoplight Kisses.” But he standout may have been “Queen of Them All,” a swooning ballad that turned into a deeply felt romantic declaration with a happy ending.

Why did this work so well? The brothers let those rich, blended singing voices breathe, underpinning gorgeous harmonies with only the necessary amount of electric and acoustic guitar accompaniment and the insistent but never overpowering rhythm work of upright bassist Andy Carroll and drummer Chris Hepola, rounding out a new touring lineup. You could feel the heart in it—the authenticity and appreciation for this form of Americana and the potency of voices and spare instrumentation, without tricks or embellishment. And if you missed it, they return next week. —Chad Berndtson | @cberndtson

(The Cactus Blossoms play Mercury Lounge again on 2/23.)

 

 

Five Questions with … Mail the Horse

February 18th, 2016

The folk- and classic rock–loving group Mail the Horse (above, performing “Flowers, Keys & Gasoline”)—Donny Amidon, Michael Hesslein, Chris May and Brendan Smith—first laid roots in coastal New Hampshire before making the move to Brooklyn. They’ve become known locally as a DIY band not to miss. They open for the Cactus Blossoms tonight at Mercury Lounge, and the guys answered Five Questions for The House List.

As a touring band, what’s the best part of staying local to play Mercury Lounge? And do you ever notice if your music is received differently at home versus on the road?
Mercury Lounge has been good to us, and it’s still one of the best places to see music in the city. They pride themselves in establishing solid artist relations, which is something we appreciate. It’s great to see familiar faces but also nice to not know anyone in the crowd and let go a little more. Bottom line is that we like to play and we like to make people feel as many different emotions as possible during our sets. That’s what we pride ourselves on.

Planet Gates came out about a year ago. Are you guys working on anything new? And do you ever fine-tune music live before recording it?
We’ve been writing and are about to start recording in the spring. We performed about half of the tunes on Planet Gates before we recorded them. Studio is always different than a live performance so there are always adjustments to be made. We look forward to seeing where the next set of sessions take us.


What bands have influenced your music?
We all spent a real decent chunk of our formative years listening to way too much of the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan obviously, the Band, Flying Burrito Brothers, the Byrds and other “cosmic” American bands from the ’60s and early ’70s, but we also dig in deep with the Stones—all eras—and on tour our playlists and our tastes tend to be very, very eclectic. We listen to straight up Journey and then we listen to Pharoah Sanders and then we listen to Ryan Adams, then we listen to Gene Clark demos from the late ’70s on YouTube. But we also all listen to a ton of contemporary stuff. There’s an album coming out this week by this band Murals that we’ve been looking forward to for months.

Do you have any crutches when writing a song—are there certain words or styles you feel you lean on too much?
It’s OK to have something to lean on because it gives you confidence in your abilities,= and you can make it your thing. But it’s very important to step outside the box and challenge yourself musically—or in life in general. Most of the time when you find yourself leaning on something, it means you’re honing in on something. And then once you get closer to it, maybe you catch it, and then move onto something else. Sometimes you never catch it, or sometimes it morphs into something new. It’s like chasing something that you can’t see but can feel. Also, we wrote a few songs over the years with recurring lines about dead dogs. I think all the songs are great, but maybe it’s something else’s time to die!

Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song? Is a song better when it really happened to you?
Some of the best songs ever written are stories that don’t relate to the songwriter. It always helps to feel a certain way, but it’s fun putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Singing/ playing with conviction is the most important aspect or no one is going to believe you either way. Two of us had a fiction professor tell us a quote: “Write about what you know, whether it happened to you or not.” If your goal is expressing emotional truth, the facts can become irrelevant. Bruce Springsteen didn’t drag race all those cars himself, right? But “Racing in the Street” sure rings true. Big time.—R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog

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Two Nights of the Cactus Blossoms’ Harmonies at Mercury Lounge

February 18th, 2016

Brothers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey have been making music as the throwback harmonizing folk-country duo the Cactus Blossoms for more than five years. AllMusic compared them to the Everly Brothers, and fellow Minnesotan Garrison Keillor dubbed them “the brother duet that America is waiting for.” The Cactus Blossoms (above, performing “Powder Blue” for Prairie Home Companion) have taken a major step forward with the recently released You’re Dreaming (stream it below), which BBC Radio 2 called “an absolute gem—a completely stunning debut album,” and about which American Songwriter said, “It won’t take more than one spin for these songs, with their lovely, pure melodies and sharp wordplay, to get stuck in your brain…. It’s an honest, unvarnished, completely engaging style that is clearly retro but in no way musty.” The Cactus Blossoms play Mercury Lounge tomorrow night. And if that weren’t enough, they also return to play Mercury Lounge next Tuesday.

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Two Chances to Catch Nick Lowe’s Quality Holiday Revue

December 12th, 2014

Singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Nick Lowe has been a big part of British music—specifically rock, power pop and New Wave—since the ’70s, steadily releasing music and delighting fans across the globe. And despite the fact that his Christmas album, last year’s terrific Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family (stream it below), received terrific reviews—per Relix, “While Lowe’s recent critically acclaimed CDs have mined a mellow, melancholic mood, Quality Street sparkles with holiday cheer”—Lowe (above, performing “Christmas at the Airport” live in studio for WFUV FM) never toured in support of it … until now. In fact, Nick Lowe’s Quality Holiday Revue (which includes Los Straitjackets and the Cactus Blossoms) hit the road last week, and they’re headed our way not once but twice, on Sunday at The Bowery Ballroom and on 12/20 at Music Hall of Williamsburg.