Tag Archives: Central Park
Lucius return to New York City to play SummerStage in Central Park on Friday night, and Holly Laessig, one half of the band’s lead-vocals tandem, rang up The House List, from Oklahoma where she and Jess Wolfe were rehearsing for singing background for Roger Waters at Desert Trip, to answer Five Questions.
Plenty of musicians change their sound from album to album. Was that a clear intention in moving from the folkier Wildewoman to the poppier Good Grief? Or was that just how your sound evolved? It’s funny. People comment on how different the two are. But Wildewoman was recorded over a few years, and we were in no rush at the beginning because we didn’t have anything to be rushing for—we were just starting out. And we took our time and made it right. We came out with Wildewoman and we had kind of put the band together throughout and after making that record. So when we toured on it, things started to change, and the sound started to change. And the show got a lot more energetic, and the audience was reacting a lot more to the show than the record. People commented a lot how the live show and the record sounded so different, and that the live shows were so much more energetic. I think by the time we got to the end of that cycle, it was where Good Grief was picking up naturally, but from just listening from a record standpoint, there does seem to be a bigger difference than it felt like.
How was recording Good Grief different than recording Wildewoman? We took a different approach to it. We got off the road—we had been touring for, like, a year-and-a-half straight. And we were exhausted, and we decided to go to L.A. to kind of decompress and start writing. So Jess and I took a few months to write, just the two of us. And we would send the guys rough demos and then they would do their own versions of the same song—and kind of build arrangements around them. So when we went into the studio, we had at least two versions of everything. And we worked with Shawn Everett—he did the Alabama Shakes record with Blake Mills—he’s like this crazy alien angel person [laughing]. He’s one of our really closest friends, and he’s always got these wild ideas. So we were really excited to get into the studio with him. He had an idea to make communication easier with five very strong personalities in the studio. To kind of smooth things over and to get everyone’s voice heard, he thought it would be helpful to come up with a bunch of reference tracks: “For each track that we’re gonna work on, think of a song that you think could influence this.” So it could be “I like the sound of the tone on this Rolling Stones track.” Or “I like the way these vocals were recorded on this West African tune.” And we would all pick one or two songs and put ’em in a box, and he would pick them out one by one—it was all anonymous. And we would listen to everything, like 10 to 15 songs, and write down on a dry erase board everything we like about each one. It could be very specific, as far as a recording technique, or it could be more vague, like a feeling. And once we had this dry erase board of notes, we would then start working on the song. So it was a really interesting way of going about it, and I think we got a lot of good stuff we would’ve normally not even considered.
How did your appearance on Roadies come about? And any chance you’ll be adding “Willin’” to your set list? I mean, I don’t think we could top singing that with Jackson Browne, so probably not. Fair. Rafe Spall, who is one of the actors on Roadies—so the story goes: Rafe’s friend Rafe, which is hilarious to me. The first Rafe I ever met, and I met two of them in one day. His friend recommended our music to him, and he was playing it one day on set. And Cameron was like, “Who’s this?” And Rafe said, “This band Lucius.” And he said, “Well, let’s get ’em in here. See if they want to do an episode.” So we met him, and he’s the nicest guy ever. And we said, “Yeah, absolutely, we’d love to do this.” It was a really cool experience. It was really inspiring to see Cameron Crowe as a director and a leader. Everybody who was there, from the actors to the makeup people to the crew people to catering—everybody—was like, “Yeah, we work really hard, sometimes we work late hours, but we’re happy to do it because Cameron’s the man.” And he really was. We had some lines, and I was incredibly nervous about it because it’s not what we do normally. So there was this one line, and I was like, “This isn’t how I’d normally phrase this.” And I was trying to get my head inside it so I could say it the right way. And I asked him, and he said, “Let’s go over it.” And he dropped everything and took me aside, and he would’ve gone over this, like, one line with me for as long as I wanted—very, very patient. It was great, and we got to sing with Jackson Browne, and Jim James was on the set. It was cool.
For some bands, live shows are like a theater piece in that the set doesn’t change much, but the performers are aware of the subtle nuances each night. And for others, every night’s show is different than the one before. Where do you land on that spectrum? Like as far as each night being different? Yeah, I mean, a band like U2, they play pretty much the same set most nights, but it’s not the same show obviously. But someone like Bruce Springsteen or Pearl Jam, they change their set every night. I guess for each leg of a tour, we tend to stick generally to the same set. Some songs we change a little bit, but it’s nice once you get into a groove to stick with it, the transitions go more easily. But every show’s different regardless, especially because of the audience—not to put it all on the audience—but the vibe and the venue and the city, everything can really make a break a show for the performer. If your audience is really giving back to you, and you’re bouncing off of that, sometimes we have funny banter or things can change, or we’ll decide let’s do this song instead because they’re liking the up-tempo ones. So occasionally, it’s just, like, fly by the seat of your pants. But it’s definitely nice to get into a groove.
What new music have you been listening to? We’ve been listening to the new Angel Olsen record a lot. It only came out a couple weeks ago, I think. We’re excited to be playing with Big Thief in Central Park. And I’m stoked to see them ’cause I love that record. I love Alabama Shakes. We went to see that show at the Greek, and it was so good. That’s a good one to groove to, for sure. Was that with Kurt Vile? Yeah, and I love that record too. And Kurt Vile’s on the bill for One Big Holiday in February. Oh, yeah. That’s gonna be so fun! —R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog
Tags: Angel Olsen, Big Thief, Blake Mills, Bruce Springsteen, Cameron Crowe, Central Park, Desert Trip, Five Questions, Jackson Browne, Jess Wolfe, Jim James, Kurt Vile, Lucius, My Morning Jacket, One Big Holiday, Pearl Jam, Preview, Rafe Spall, Roadies, Roger Waters, Rolling Stones, Shawn Everett, SummerStage, U2
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Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com
Tags: Amir Amor, Central Park, Joe Papeo, Kesi Dryden, Leon Rolle, Live Music, Music, New York City, Photos, Piers Agget, Rudimental, SummerStage, We the Generation
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Cage the Elephant/Portugal. The Man – SummerStage – May 16, 2016
Those waking up on Monday morning in the NYC area probably had a tough time believing that summer was almost here. With temperatures in the unseasonably low 40s, seeing music outdoors wasn’t an obvious activity for later that evening. But when showtime rolled around, the wind had died down, and Central Park’s SummerStage was packed with people who were more than comfortable as they kicked off the summer-concert season with plenty of temperature-raising rock and roll from the stage.
As far as double bills go, the pairing of Cage the Elephant and Portugal. The Man was relatively inspired. In fact, at times the two sets seemed to echo each other, as if the bands were two sides of the same sheet of paper, each providing answers to the questions posed by the other. Portugal. The Man got things rolling: In contrast to the last time they performed at SummerStage, with lasers and clouds of smoke, they played mostly in daylight, but their set was anything but sunshine. Delving deep into a set list built largely from their Evil Friends and In the Mountain in the Cloud albums, frontman John Gourley and the band found new life in the tour-tested material, adding pockets of serrated guitar to songs like “Holy Roller (Hallelujah)” and extraterrestrial synth to “Head Is a Flame (Cool with It).” The crowd sang along and everyone found their mid-July dancing form, truly enjoying the band’s first NYC appearance in more than a year and a half. A new song was synth-psych Motown, Gourley singing about “coming in hot like it’s summer in the city we’re living in.” The sound dialed in about halfway through their hour-long set, building to a crescendo that peaked as the sun set with “All Your Light,” a fireworks display that opened into four distinct well-choreographed jams of varying intensity that eventually returned to a completely redesigned final verse leading to a blistering take on the outro riff from the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).”
With the sun fully set, Cage the Elephant began to build the energy even higher. Their opening number, “Cry Baby,” was like a distorted-guitar so-heavy Beatles, lead singer Matthew Shultz bounding and thrashing across the stage. By the second song, “In One Ear,” the audience was ready to clap, sing and dance along as the this-is-a-rock-show lights were in full bloom of the purple, yellow, reds and blues of Portugal. The Man’s set closer. At some point, someone in the crowd threw a phone onstage and got a unique-vantage photo, the summer’s-almost-here party vibe making its annual pilgrimage into the hearts and minds of young rockers everywhere. From there, the show was a dark and smoky dance party, shades of solstice sunshine in “Trouble” with its central core of “ooowoowoo.” Instead of singing about “evil friends,” Shultz warned that there “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” The sold-out audience basked in the reds and blues and white strobe lights as the band worked through material off Tell Me I’m Pretty and Melophobia, with occasional rock-out explosions to match the mood. When the show finally concluded and the lights came back on, it was merely mid-spring again, but as the intermingling music of Cage. The Man still buzzed in the Central Park air, it was clear that summer is almost here.
—A. Stein | @Neddyo
Tags: Aaron Stein, Beatles, Brad Shultz, Cage the Elephant, Central Park, Daniel Tichenor, Evil Friends, Gregg Greenwood, In the Mountain in the Cloud, Jared Champion, Jason Sechrist, John Baldwin Gourley, Kyle O’Quin, Live Music, Matthew Shultz, Melophobia, Music, New York City, Photos, Portugal. The Man, Review, SummerStage, Tell Me I’m Pretty, Zachary Scott Carothers
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Tags: All Your Favorite Bands, Central Park, Dawes, Duane Betts, First Aid Kit Griffin Goldsmith, Joe Papeo, Johanna Söderberg, Klara Söderberg, Live Music, Melvin Duffy, Music, Photos, Scott Simpson, Stay Gold, SummerStage, Tay Strathairn, Wylie Gelber
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Since forming in Southern California six years ago, the guys in Dawes—Taylor Goldsmith (vocals and guitar), Wylie Gelber (bass), Griffin Goldsmith (drums) and Tay Strathairn (keys)—have won over fans across the land with their high-energy live shows and four albums—including this year’s All Your Favorite Bands (stream it below), which Rolling Stone called “their best LP” and American Songwriter labeled “an inspired record full of space, swagger and warm, analog glow”—filled with tightly written songs, quality harmonies and some good old-fashioned guitar love. But one of the most interesting things about Dawes (above, doing “Things Happen” on Late Show with David Letterman) is the vast array of bands and musicians with whom they’ve been associated. They’ve been compared to the Band, for their lyrics, and Crosby, Stills & Nash, for their harmonies. They’ve crisscrossed the country and teamed up with their musical brothers-in-arms, Deer Tick and Delta Spirit. And in the band’s infancy, they took part in jam sessions at Jonathan Wilson’s house with the likes of Chris Robinson, Benmont Tench and Conor Oberst. But after finding success, Dawes went on to back some of the biggest names in rock royalty, Robbie Robertson, Jackson Browne and John Fogerty.
Sisters Johanna Söderberg (vocals and synth) and Klara Söderberg (vocals and guitar) launched their harmonies-laden acoustic-folk band, First Aid Kit, eight years ago in Sweden, earning comparisons to Fleet Foxes and Joanna Newsom in the process. Now rounded out by Melvin Duffy (pedal-steel guitar) and Scott Simpson (drums), First Aid Kit (below, performing “Stay Gold” on Conan) put out their third studio album, Stay Gold (stream it below), which the New Yorker calls their “most mature and opulent work to date,” in 2014. They also provided backing vocals on Conor Oberst’s sixth solo album, Upside Down Mountain, last year, while Dawes backed Oberst when he performed the new material live. And now Dawes and First Aid Kit team up as a terrific double bill to play SummerStage in Central Park on Monday night.
Tags: All Your Favorite Bands, Benmont Tench, Central Park, Chris Robinson, Conor Oberst, Crosby Stills & Nash, Dawes, Deer Tick, Delta Spirit, First Aid Kit, Fleet Foxes, Griffin Goldsmith, Jackson Browne, Joanna Newsom, Johanna Söderberg, John Fogerty, Jonathan Wilson, Klara Söderberg, Live Music, Melvin Duffy, Music, Preview, Robbie Robertson, Scott Simpson, Stay Gold, SummerStage, Tay Strathairn, Taylor Goldsmith, the Band, Upside Down Mountain, Wylie Gelber
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The Kooks – SummerStage – June 24, 2015
Shows at SummerStage always feel special thanks to the canopy of Central Park and its barely there view of Manhattan’s tallest buildings—but that feeling doubles or even triples when a band like the Kooks plays there. The view even seemed to humble the British pop rockers. “We’re going to play an old song now, we hope you remember it,” said lead singer Luke Pritchard before beginning “She Moves in Her Own Way.” The statement was as absurd as that song is ubiquitous: It’s hard to imagine anyone remotely aware of music not knowing that track, and if they don’t they were probably literally born yesterday.
The Kooks are no strangers to ubiquity. The rest of their set sounded like a compilation of the Top 50 Brit rock songs of the past decade, and in many ways it was. They weren’t shy about dishing out their hits early, either. “Moves” came 15 minutes in, and all the doo-doo-doos of their simplest and perhaps most ubiquitous track, “Always Where I Need to Be,” were sung in the first half hour. The Kooks didn’t sacrifice anything about what made them popular, either. Songs like “Bad Habit” and “Down” sounded right at home alongside the ones from their decade-old debut.
Everything about the Kooks is polished. The years of playing arena shows have implanted some seriously impressive muscle memory in them. Each band member moved confidently around the spacious confines of SummerStage, and the music they were playing sounded flawless. The foursome put on one of the loudest shows Central Park can allow, and at the end of the performance, I’m willing to bet the crowd would have done it all over again. —Sean O’Kane | @Sokane1
Tags: Alexis Nuñez, Atlas Genius, Central Park, Hugh Harris, Joywave, Luke Pritchard, Mina K, Peter Denton, Photos, Review, Sean O’Kane, SummerStage, the Kooks
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Mastodon and Clutch – SummerStage – May 19, 2015
About 30 minutes into their set last night at SummerStage, Mastodon drummer Brann Dailor pulled a classic rock-concert move during a Brent Hinds guitar solo: He stood up, with one foot on his stool and one on the kick drum and begged the crowd to get louder. To be fair to the Central Park crowd, it’s not like they weren’t already going crazy for the Atlanta metal band. But this was a rock show, and this was Mastodon—you can always give them a little more.
Mastodon have been around for 15 years or so now, but that doesn’t mean they’ve lost a step. In fact, the opposite is the case because the band members are playing better than they ever have. And while precision might not be the sexiest thing to crave at a metal show, Mastodon have got it in spades. Their four-part vocal harmonies and dueling guitar parts are as crisp as ever.
There’s just no hesitation in the way that the guys in Mastodon play, which is why that precision didn’t cost any fun. Hinds and guitarist teammate Bill Kelliher spent plenty of time headbanging on the edge of the stage with bassist Troy Sanders. The set still felt loose and was about as loud as you’ll ever hear SummerStage get. That pleased the longtime fans who, when they weren’t popping balloons with cigarettes or playing Ring Around the Rosie with their heavy metal–T-shirt-wearing kids, were still banging their heads along with the band. —Sean O’Kane | @Sokane1
Tags: Bill Kelliher, Brann Dailor, Brent Hinds, Central Park, Clutch, Greg Pallante, Live Music, Mastodon, Music, Photos, Review, Sean O’Kane, SummerStage, Troy Sanders
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Portugal. The Man/Grouplove – Rumsey Playfield – September 16, 2014
Midway through their set at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park on Tuesday—the closing night of the Honda Civic Tour—Grouplove’s Hannah Hooper declared that the tour was all about “making art.” As incongruous as that may sound, the show was one of those rare instances where live rock and roll was elevated to an art form: the music, the lights, the visuals and the crowd interaction. The pairing of Grouplove with Portugal. The Man was an inspired billing, each band bringing a different aesthetic and energy to the performance, and both inspiring a whole lot of singing along, clapping along, waving arms along, pretty much everything along.
After a big-sound set from Typhoon, Grouplove entered amidst a cloud of smoke and a haze of hip-hop over the PA. Their set was 70 minutes of cathartic, jubilant bounce, beginning with the opening “I’m with You” and its sing-along-ready ah ah ahs and oh oh ohs. The audience was in it from the start. Grouplove’s free-form sing-along contrasted with the visuals, which had a sleek, modern feel, colorful geometric rectangles or simulated multihued television static danced on the large-screen backdrop while the audience danced in front. Everyone loves a hit, and Grouplove played plenty of them, highlighted by the ecstatic groover “Tongue Tied.” The set peaked with the couplet of “Slow” and “Borderlines and Aliens,” and particularly the space in between the two, where lights, the band’s movement and the pulsing drums worked together as one entity, eventually releasing into a wild guitar jam. After a rousing “Colours” to close their part of the show, the band returned for a rare mid-show encore, bringing along members of Portugal. The Man for a crowd-riling version of the Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” everyone screaming the classic lyrics. Any other night it would have been the ultimate sing-along, but there was more to come.
A quick breather later, Portugal. The Man returned and picked up right where Grouplove left off, with another classic-rock along, covering a verse and a chorus or two of Pink Floyd’s anthemic “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” before quickly kicking into their own “Purple Yellow Red and Blue.” Their aesthetic was more bright-eyed psychedelic, like crawling into a living version of frontman John Gourley’s bizarre drawings. That is until the lasers came out, transforming Rumsey Playfield into an alien planet, with Portugal. The Man’s music as a galactic soundtrack. The band was in top form, looping verses of multiple songs into coherent medleys, stretching others, like “All Your Light,” into prog-rock freak-outs and dropping snippets of perfectly placed covers throughout. This was live music as art form, the audience digging every moment and singing from beginning to end. Like Grouplove had done, the band saved the biggest moment for their encore, which began with their slow-build rager “Sleep Forever” and ended with all of Grouplove and Typhoon onstage—horns, strings and all—for the second ultimate sing-along of the night, everyone belting out the coda to “Hey Jude”: the final touch on a work of art. —A .Stein
Tags: Beatles, Central Park, Grouplove, Hannah Hooper, Honda Civic Tour, John Gourley, Photos, Pink Floyd, Portugal. The Man, Review, Rumsey Playfield, the Who, Typhoon
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Spoon – Rumsey Playfield – September 10, 2014
Last night was perfect to see music outdoors, the temperature was just right and the conditions were breezy, not blustery. The same could be said for Spoon, the Austin, Texas, five-piece that made high-level rock and roll look easy with little bluster at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park. With equal parts grit in his guitar and his voice, Britt Daniel kicked off things with “Knock Knock Knock,” off Spoon’s newest release, They Want My Soul. The crowd was a catchall mix of types: boozy college girls, graying rockers, new parents enjoying a night out, giddy Spoon geeks with tour T-shirts and a running set list on their phones, and everything in between. The career-spanning set appealed to them all, each song drawing excited reactions and sing-alongs from at least one or two happy fans.
The show hit its stride early with the clavinet-heavy groover “Small Stakes,” off 2002’s Kill the Moonlight, and “Inside Out” and its ethereal three-keyboard breakdown. The stage was set up with large white-sheet panels that filled with light and shadows. Each song was enhanced with its own color palette, the mood running through a rock and roll rainbow of sorts. So there was “Who Makes Your Money” in mellow pink with a matching bass riff and ripping guitar; summer-sun orange for “Rhthm and Soul,” a muted purple-orange mix for the chunky guitar-and-piano voodoo rock of “My Mathematical Mind”; and a particularly saucy guitar jam in green for “Got Nuffin.”
Daniel switched to an acoustic guitar for a couple of highlights, including the set-closing “Black Like Me,” which began with no color at all, murky shadows on the panels until a high-energy bridge in white, a mirrored pyramid suspended above the stage became a primitive disco ball as the audience sang, “Yeah!” along with the band. The three-song encore was, as it should be, highlighted by the hits everyone wanted to hear: “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb” in cherry red (natch) and a big, sing-along “The Underdog” in pretty much every color of the rainbow. —A. Stein
Alt-J/Lord Huron – Rumsey Playfield – September 15, 2013
Late-summer breezes swept over Rumsey Playfield in Central Park last night as a sold-out crowd gathered to hear music by two remarkable sets of musicians. Lord Huron, an indie folk-rock band with rich soundscapes that really belong in an outdoor setting, performed first. Frontman Ben Schneider complimented the venue: “It feels real good to be back in New York on a night like this. It really is beautiful here.” Songs from the band’s debut full-length album, Lonesome Dreams, and their two previous EPs rang out as the light of day drained from the park. A gauzy backdrop of mountaintops was backlit in sunset colors for the duration of the set, giving Lord Huron’s music a palpable glow.
After a brief intermission, the grinning gentlemen of Alt-J took the fog-filled stage and launched straight into their set without saying a word. When I saw them play a much smaller New York City venue a year ago, they radiated a unique, infectious vibe and their music stayed with me for days afterward. The band’s trademark sound, which is characterized by perplexing arrangements and frequent a cappella harmonies, is somewhat complicated to reproduce in a live setting. Despite the difficulty, Alt-J strive to recreate their songs live in a way that gets the entire crowd to lean forward and sing along. While their repertoire is still relatively small, they make up for the brevity of their performance with sheer clarity in their delivery of the songs. The set was constructed around An Awesome Wave, last year’s debut album that’s garnered the quartet abundant praise, including the 2012 Mercury Prize.
Opening with “Intro,” their LP’s lead track, seemed fitting due to its name, although it was a bold move due to the deeply subdued elements of the instrumental song. When Alt-J launched into an especially beat-heavy version of “Fitzpleasure,” any worries I had that this show would be too quiet went out the window. “Bloodflood” came next and the set began to simulate the ebb and flow of the tide. “Buffalo” and “Something Good” soared with hushed vocals, agile guitar and constrained drum beats. “Tessellate” was an invitation to start dancing and sing along to the sultry lyrics and Jon Newman’s coarse voice. “Matilda” and “Dissolve Me” came next, each telling a story of unconditional love. “Hand-Made” slipped into a fine-drawn a cappella cover of College’s “A Real Hero.” “Taro” rounded out the set, and “Ms” and crowd-favorite “Breezeblocks” provided the encore. While the night of music was short, I’m sure everyone left feeling lucky to have spent one of the last days of summer swaying to music from some of the indie scene’s most talented crooners. —Schuyler Rooth
It’s already been quite a year for Trombone Shorty. The party-starting trombone virtuoso has performed at the 2013 Green Inaugural Ball, appeared in a documentary about Lenny Kravitz and, following in the footsteps of Louis Armstrong, Professor Longhair and Fats Domino, he was featured on the 2013 commemorative souvenir envelope for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation—and Shorty topped all of that with the honor of closing out this year’s Jazz Fest. Of course, none of those things were in New York City, but tonight at SummerStage in Central Park, Trombone Shorty (above, doing “Do to Me” on Conan) headlines a fantastic lineup rounded out by soul-funk-fusion trio Soulive and NOLA (by way of Sweden) guitar god Anders Osborne. This is one not to miss. So don’t!