Tag Archives: Dan Rickershauser

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Jens Lekman Offers an Antidote to NYC’s Winter on Saturday night

March 20th, 2017

Jens Lekman – The Bowery Ballroom – March 18, 2017

(Photo: Andie Diemer)

(Photo: Andie Diemer)


(Jens Lekman performs live at Rough Trade NYC tonight.)

Given New York City’s week of Swedish weather, with gray days and precipitation falling within the never land between rain and snow, it must have felt like home for one of Sweden’s great pop troubadours, Jens Lekman, who, before returning to Europe, ruled the weekend here in the city, playing The Bowery Ballroom on Saturday and Music Hall of Williamsburg on Sunday—plus he’s at Rough Trade Trade NYC tonight. His Saturday show began with just him and an acoustic guitar, performing “To Know Your Mission” and “Evening Prayer,” off his latest album, the fantastic and much-acclaimed Life Will See You Now. The latter track was particularly Jens-ian, a tender yet optimistically upbeat tune about worrying and carrying for a friend going through chemotherapy.

“Who here is seeing Jens Lekman for the first time tonight?” asked Lekman to a handful of cheers. Going back all the way, he then went through every one of his local shows, even asking who was at his 2005 Mercury Lounge appearance. “I like growing older with you guys. I want this thing to last forever,” he said. The rest of the band then joined him onstage for “What’s That Perfume That You Where?” about memories triggered by a scent. After an amp malfunction that cut the song short, Lekman began again, playing through on acoustic guitar, somehow sounding even better the second time around: Nothing can hold back those danceable Lekman grooves. There’s a heartfelt warmth to his music that even permeated how he performed. For the end of “The Opposite of Hallelujah,” Lekman pantomimed the xylophone notes in front of him like falling snowflakes.

He introduced “I Know What Love Isn’t” as something he wrote during a cynical time of his life, but even this song brought forth a sense of cheeriness. Perhaps cynical New Yorkers have our taste for cynicism skewed too far to recognize the finer nuances of Scandinavian cynicism. Lekman introduced “Dandelion Seed” as the last song, realizing as he said it that the audience wouldn’t let things end there. The band returned for Lekman classics “Maple Leaves” and “A Postcard to Nina.” And when even that wasn’t enough, the affable performer returned solo yet again for “I Want a Pair of Cowboy Boots” and “Pocketful of Money.” “I’ll come runnin’ with a heart on fire,” sang the packed crowd with Lekman repeating the chorus over the audience, delivered like a high-pitched plea. There’s no better antidote to the dregs of a New York City winter than huge moments like these. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nricks

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Run the Jewels Kick Off Four-Night Run at Terminal 5 with Fiery Set

February 27th, 2017

Run the Jewels – Terminal 5 – February 25, 2017

Run the Jewels – Terminal 5 – February 25, 2017
While New York City was sweating out some of the hottest days on record for a February, on Saturday night, Run the Jewels kicked off their takeover of the city at Terminal 5, the first of four shows in the city El-P calls home. By now you should be well familiar with the group, the greatest buddy rap duo spitting rhymes poised to save the world from the guy with a “bad toupee and a spray tan.” Everyone in the crowd was ready for the takeover, losing their minds to the opening bars of Queen’s “We Are the Champions” as Killer Mike and El-P came to the stage. When the bass dropped in opener “Talk to Me,” it was powerful enough to bounce the crowd up off the vibrating floorboards. “Legend Has It” welcomed thousands of “RTJ” chants, raised finger pistols and fists.

An extra bass-y rendition of “Call Ticketron” had Mike and El-P running around, crisscrossing each other center stage and passing off their verses like a baton. “I’ve been imagining being here with family and friends all tour,” said El-P, nearly choked up. His mother was there for the night, no doubt proud of her son as he pantomimed lines like “You can run backward through a field of dicks” off “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry.” But it was Gangsta Boo who had both Mike and El blushing, coming out to absolutely murder her potty-mouthed verses on “Love Again (Akinyele Back).” She had the crowd chanting “pussy power” before returning the stage to Run the Jewels. “She makes me uncomfortable every night,” said El-P, adding, “I’m so ready to elect Gangsta Boo for President of the United States of America. At least she’s truthful!” Some thoughts were then shared on the current president as El-P introduced the charged “Lie, Cheat, Steal.”

The set ended with the song that began it all, “Run the Jewels.” Killer Mike retold the group’s story, meeting in El-P’s Brooklyn to record his own album, R.A.P. Music, and becoming inseparable ever since. “You done good, Ma,” exclaimed Mike, his arm around El-P. They returned to perform an encore of “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” and “Down,” a song about challenges conquered and overcome. The night must have felt like a victory lap for the duo, a return to where it all started just a few years ago, having since taken over the world. Don’t expect them to slow down anytime soon because rappers who speak truth to power are needed now more than ever. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Jeremy Ross | jeremypross.com

(Some tickets remain to see Run the Jewels tonight and on Wednesday.)

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Hamilton Leithauser’s Remarkable Friday Night in Williamsburg

February 27th, 2017

Hamilton Leithauser – Music Hall of Williamsburg – February 24, 2017

Hamilton Leithauser – Music Hall of Williamsburg – February 24, 2017
Call it New York City’s other sold-out Hamilton show, although this one showcases not a rapping founding father but one of the best voices in rock right now, the strained high range of Hamilton Leithauser’s, which will catch you off guard with its sheer power. “I use the same voice I always had,” he belted out in the closing lines of “Sick as a Dog,” the opener on Friday at Music Hall of Williamsburg. It was the first display of his voice in full force, firing off like the starting pistol for a remarkable night of music, the second of three local sold-out shows. Multi-instrumentalist and collaborator Rostam Batmanglij, Eric Harvey of Spoon, Greg Roberts and Stephen Patterson of White Rabbits—whom Leithauser had met touring over the years with his previous band, the Walkmen—joined the frontman.

They sounded like they’ve been playing together forever, a band perfectly suited for Leithauser and Batmanglij’s bluesy rock songs that fit perfectly well within the American songwriting canon. “If the man that you need honestly wasn’t me, tell me honey who could that be?” sang Leithauser in a desperate pleading voice over a wavering organ. With its lush sound, his 12-string took the slow-building “In a Black Out” from simmer to a boil and back to a simmer. He told the audience a story about attending a wedding where the father of the bride made a toast and broke out into “Wild Mountain Thyme.” Apparently an awkward affair for everyone else at the wedding, Leithauser fell for the guy in the moment, writing the tender song “The Bride’s Dad” from the father’s perspective. Knowing the song’s background set an incredibly vivid scene of the affair.

The catchy “1,000 Times” followed with hundreds of voices joining in for the chorus. Free-jazz saxophone and Batmanglij’s piano rambling like a rolling river closed out the set with “Rough Going (I Won’t Let Up).” Leithauser’s wife, Anna Stumpf, and the opener, Lucy Dacus, came out for an encore performance of the dreamy “1959.” If the Walkmen were the first act of Leithauser’s career, this collaboration is a hell of a second act, one that shouldn’t see a curtain call anytime soon. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

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Low Cut Connie Cut Loose at The Bowery Ballroom on Friday

December 5th, 2016

Low Cut Connie – The Bowery Ballroom – December 2, 2016

Low Cut Connie – The Bowery Ballroom – December 2, 2016
Low Cut Connie’s Adam Weiner cut his teeth performing solo with his piano to some of New York City’s toughest crowds, gay bars, dive bars, restaurants, any number of other venues with an audience there mostly for something other than the music. But the end result today is that he’s one hell of a live performer—although Low Cut Connie’s classic rock and rolling chutzpah definitely helps too. “Are you guys here, are you guys ready to get weird, are you guys ready to make a baby tonight?” Weiner asked the lively crowd at The Bowery Ballroom on Friday night.

Piano-fueled rock is rare these days, and Low Cut Connie’s particular strain harkens back to the days of Little Richard, with Weiner’s piano in the opener, “Back in School,” chugging along in the background like a runaway train. That piano, affectionately called Shondra (named “for a beyond-middle-aged dancer from Atlanta’s Clermont Lounge”), sure knows how to take a beating, with him standing on its bench, standing on the piano itself, slinking beneath it and banging keys with his hands, feet, the microphone stand, whatever the situation calls for. If there was a moment when his hands were free, Weiner was pointing out into the audience or shaking his behind. The second tune brought along the barn-burning drinking sing-along “Boozophilia,” a favorite song of President Obama’s.

The band also paid tribute to one of Weiner’s home-state favorites, New Jersey’s recently reunited Misfits, with a piano-y cover of “Where Eagles Dare.” Weiner pointed out several in the crowd he thought were from Jersey, asking, “What exit?” “Shake It Little Tina,” an homage to Tina Turner, began with a teasing, lulling beat before building up to dancing chaos, with Weiner venturing out far into the audience by the song’s end. The band teased a new album, promised to be out early next year, with three new tracks, “Dirty Water,” about rock and roll, and one sung and written by guitarist James Everhart. The show ended with a fast-moving five-song encore, closing out with a rambunctious cover of Prince’s “Controversy.” —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Silvia Saponaro | www.saponarophotography.com

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Beach House Make Themselves at Home at Kings Theatre

November 4th, 2016

Beach House – Kings Theatre – November 3, 2016

Beach House - Kings Theatre - November 3, 2016

With a wake of classic albums behind them (two in 2015), it’s hard to pinpoint any one period in Beach House’s history and call it their peak. Are we there now? Their show on Thursday at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn made for the case that we are, taking over the night with a full band firing on all cylinders. Things kicked off with the beautifully ethereal “Levitation,” an appropriate beginning: Let’s take you up on a journey into this wondrous universe this band’s built. “You should see there’s a place I want to take you/ When the train comes I will hold you,” sang Victoria Legrand.

There’s no better voice to float above their music than Legrand’s, with her chameleonic ability to stretch her voice as needed. For the fiery rendition of “Walk in the Park,” she worked her way up to a near scream for the final lines of “More, you want more, you tell me!” But rather than ending in a fade-out, the song finished by exploding into itself, a call for some universal goose bumps as Legrand’s voice hung in the echo. “Heart of Chambers,” off 2008’s Devotion, carried on like a shape-shifting ballad, benefiting from some added instrumentation to help the song wax and wane through its lovesick lines.

During “Space Song,” Beach House gloriously filled the moments between the synth arpeggiator, a perfect mix of organic meets the mechanical, while the simmering build of “Elegy to the Void” worked its way up to a stampede, with drums kicking and guitars screaming once the song ratcheted up to a sprint. Kings Theatre, in all its ornate grandeur, made for the perfect home for Beach House’s expansive sound to reverberate every which way. At the same time, their music lives in its own world, always reaching for the stars. Count yourself lucky to live there for one night. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

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Whitney Sound Like Heaven at Music Hall of Williamsburg

October 11th, 2016

Whitney – Music Hall of Williamsburg – October 10, 2016

(Photo: Andie Diemer)

(Photo: Andie Diemer)


What’s a young band to do, touring behind their much-acclaimed debut album? Throw out to the world every song you have and play with everything you’ve got. In this instance, the band was Chicago’s Whitney and the world was Music Hall of Williamsburg: “I wanna say the biggest venue we ever sold out,” said frontman-drummer Julien Ehrlich. Whitney played through their entire LP (10 songs), plus two covers last night, with the chops and tightness of a band that has that many albums recorded to their name rather than songs.

Led by Ehrlich at center stage, Whitney kicked off the performance with “Dave’s Song,” a momentum-shifting number that exploded into its hook-y melodic bliss mid-song, only to keep on expanding from there. Next came the summery anthem  “No Matter Where We Go,” featuring the catchiest guitar riffs sprinkled in from guitarist Max Kakacek (former member of Smith Westerns), which evolved into a jaunty, song-stealing solo. The forlorn and lovesick “Polly,” flirted with a maximalist chorus, offering only hints of it before ending in a beautiful trumpet solo from Will Miller. It’s not too often that you see indie bands fucking around with a trumpet, but Whitney perfectly worked the instrument’s buttery crispness into their melodic assaults.

The extended instrumental “Red Moon” featured everyone trading solos, beginning with Miller on the trumpet. Next came the Bob Dylan cover “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You,” sung wonderfully by Ehrlich—trading in Dylan’s Kermit the Frog–croon for his own gentle tenor. (Whitney also covered NRBQ’s “Magnet” in their encore.) The cheery “Golden Days” was introduced as a love song, “No Woman,” as a tune about having no girlfriend, and “Follow” as a song about death. But all three made for sing-alongs, carrying with each of them an optimistic, sunny feel in their own right, even the latter, which was inspired by the death of Ehrlich’s grandfather. With a band putting out music this strong, even tunes about death end up sounding like heaven. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

(Whitney play The Bowery Ballroom tonight.)

 

 

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Blood Orange Shines at a Sold-Out Terminal 5 on Saturday

October 3rd, 2016

Blood Orange – Terminal 5 – October 1, 2016

Blood Orange – Terminal 5 – October 1, 2016
This has been a crazy year. Even without big orange Donald’s presidential campaign, it’s been a year of new changes, challenges and protests. We’ll likely look back at 2016 and remember the artists who used their art to speak to our times, and Blood Orange will definitely be remembered as one of them. Before his performance at a sold-out Terminal 5 on Saturday night, the show began just as Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound does, with Ashlee Haze delivering powerful spoken words about discovering Missy Elliott: “If you ask me why representation is important/ I will tell you that on the days I don’t feel pretty/ I hear the sweet voice of Missy singing to me/ Pop that pop that, jiggle that fat/ Don’t stop, get it ’til your clothes get wet/ I will tell you that right now/ There are a million black girls just waiting/ To see someone who looks like them.”

So the show began. Haze’s powerful words bled into “Augustine,” with Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes dancing through the song in his flowing trench coat. The man’s a hell of a dancer. With a backdrop illuminating the shadow of his frame, Hynes’ moves filled the center stage for much of the show. Other artists take note: Dancing can add an incredible amount to a performance. And it was as versatile as needed to match Hynes’ musicality. In moments when he’d step aside to play piano or guitar, other dancers would fill the stage. At one point, Hynes sat at the piano for an incredible slowed-down rendition of the undeniably sexy “Champagne Coast,” made that much more sexier by the slow tempo bringing down the refrains “Come into my bedroom” to a cool burn.

Other songs demanded an obvious dance, the infectious groove of “EVP” leaving nobody in the building standing still. Hynes started it by bringing out a cello to play the yawning string part that kicks into the beat. Freetown Sound features some high-profile guest female vocalists, the singers filling in for them on Saturday gave all of them a run for their money. The two filling in for Empress Of on “Best to You” made for some gorgeous harmonizing. The show ended with Hynes shredding the guitar on “Bad Girls” and riffing through “Uncle ACE.” The latter was passed around for each band member to jam to, giving Blood Orange’s band members much deserved moments in the spotlight, something Hynes knows all about. So it was no coincidence that his show began with Ashlee Haze describing how important it was to her to find Missy Elliott beneath it. Let that light shine on.
—Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks 

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

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The Growlers Bring Brand-New Tunes to Music Hall of Williamsburg

September 30th, 2016

The Growlers – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 29, 2016

(Photo: Andie Diemer)

(Photo: Andie Diemer)

The Growlers hail from California, which is an important detail to remember because few bands nail the California sound, all of it, and all on their own terms. It’s like they took every genre the large, diverse state is known for and mashed it into one thing. Surf rock, psychedelia, sunny pop tunes, throw it all in a blender and what comes out? Beach Goth, if you were to ask the Growlers. It’s how they refer to their unique sound—they even host an annual festival by the same name.

But on Thursday, the Growlers’ conquests remained on the rainy East Coast, more specifically at the sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg on the night before the release of their fifth full-length, City Club. They even came with a neon-glowing CITY CLUB sign onstage to mark the occasion. Donning some seriously stunning white Western suits with floral stitching, the Growlers ran through all the hits, and for a relatively young band, there’s a hell of a lot of songs the majority of the crowd knew most of the words to, following along to singer Brooks Nielsen’s signature nasally croon. He’s great fun to watch, if there’s such a thing as slow motion flailing, it’s his dance move of choice.

Contrasted to their older tunes, the latest material has a little more poppy sheen. “Night Ride” features an ironed-out, dance friendly groove. The equally dance friendly “Dull Boy” showcases a more lurching reggae groove, while the latest release’s title track has a polyrhythmic groove reminiscent of the Talking Heads. Simply put, there were grooves for all. The performance ended with “Going Gets Tough,” with its refrain of “Still always remembering/ When the going gets tough/ That the labor of our love/ Will reward us soon enough.” Nothing Goth-y about this sentiment, beach Goth-y maybe, but nonetheless a perfect send-off for the night. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

 

 

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Angel Olsen Displays Her Powers at Warsaw on Sunday Night

September 19th, 2016

Angel Olsen – Warsaw – September 18, 2016

(Photo: Andie Diemer)

(Photo: Andie Diemer)

Angel Olsen wields the superpower of having one of the most dynamic voices in music. Not only that, but her songwriting puts it all to damn good use. Her latest release, the much-acclaimed My Woman, further pushes her sound into every direction. Sometimes it’s poppier, sometimes more mellow, louder and/or softer. Call it her slow takeover of the entire musical canon. Olsen and Co. came to Brooklyn’s the Warsaw on Sunday night, her second of two local weekend shows. Olsen’s backing band, sporting adorable matching gray suits with bolo ties, featured some welcome new additions. Mount Moriah’s Heather McEntire may be one of the few voices out there with the chops to sing backing vocals for Olsen. Their Southern-inspired outfits seemed fitting for the barn-stomping, rockabilly-tinged set openers, “Never Be Mine” and “Hi-Five.” All three guitarists came out swinging as the slow-burning “Sister” worked toward its fiery crescendo.

At the opposite end of things, “Acrobat,” usually already a sparse song, was stripped bare even of its rhythm, making a brooding number sound all the more haunted. With its lurching momentum, the shape-shifting melody was left to wax and wane as Olsen saw fit, belting through lines like “I am alive” before lingering on “I thought I had died.” It remains one of her best songs, made all the better by her continual experimentation with its arrangement. She makes it all look easy to boot. “Windows” showcased vocals reminiscent of Stevie Nicks’ raspy warmth. The following song, “Not Gonna Kill You,” brought out the fever-pitch psychedelic sharpness that could be mistaken for Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick. The encore kicked off with the bright and moody “Intern.” And for all the range displayed within the main set, the song still felt like a counterpoint, replacing drums and guitars for keyboards and synths. Just when you thought she was done conquering the musical landscape, there was still more stones left unturned. You can call this rock and roll. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

 

 

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Dinosaur Jr. Celebrate New Album’s Release at Rough Trade NYC

August 8th, 2016

Dinosaur Jr. – Rough Trade NYC – August 5, 2016

Dinosaur Jr. – Rough Trade NYC – August 5, 2016
Forget about the Olympics. Anyone looking for a classic example of people getting together to produce greatness despite their differences need look no further than J Mascis and Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr. Their historic infighting dissolved the band in the late ’90s in what was bound to remain a tale of what could have been. Yet against the odds, they reunited in 2005 sounding as good as ever, putting out album after album like nothing had changed. And in a way, things haven’t: They still don’t get along. Barlow recently admitted that he’s hardly on speaking terms with frontman Mascis. They’re like an indie-rock Fleetwood Mac minus the mountains of cocaine and intraband romances.

Friday night at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade NYC marked the release and celebration of Dinosaur Jr.’s fourth post-reunion full-length, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Notanother ear-splitting album to add to the band’s canon. The humbly introverted Mascis nestled into his stack of Marshall amps while sporting a giant blue Cookie Monster T-shirt. They kicked off the set with the muddy classic “The Lung,” with Barlow’s heavy slaps of bass crashing down like his Muppet mop of hair. The new album’s first track, “Goin’ Down,” followed with Mascis providing buzzsaw riffs reminiscent of Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades.” “I don’t think we’ve made it through this song one time,” said Barlow, introducing “Love Is….” And if not for the squelching Mascis guitar solo in the middle of it, the tune could have easily been mistaken for one by Barlow’s other band, Sebadoh.

Mascis’ noodling appeared as effortless as ever—no one shreds as nonchalantly as he does, and it’s not even close. The soloing outro of “I Walk for Miles” was enough to burn down the venue, and even if it had, Mascis would’ve probably just stood there like the This Is Fine dog. The set closed with a tear through the classics, “Start Choppin’,” “Freak Scene” and a massive “Gargoyle” jam, plus a two-song encore of “The Wagon” and “Out There.” Some people believe God scattered dinosaur bones around the planet to confuse us about evolution, to test our faith. Those people are fucking crazy, but not as crazy as the fact that after all these years, Dinosaur Jr. are still together, and not just together but still insanely good. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nricks

Photos courtesy of Pat Tabb | pattabb.com

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Kevin Morby Returns to Sell Out Rough Trade NYC

June 23rd, 2016

Kevin Morby – Rough Trade NYC – June 22, 2016

kevin-morby-singing-saw
For a long time, Kevin Morby called New York City his home. After arriving here in his late teens, the city found it’s way into the songs he wrote, as it almost always does. He’s since moved on, but the songs remain and the place still loves him enough to welcome his return for back to back sold-out shows, the second one at Rough Trade NYC on Wednesday after playing Mercury Lounge on Tuesday. “I played New York last night so I’m trying not to regurgitate my banter,” Morby told the audience.

His set began with the soft and reflective “Cut Me Down” before jumping into the stop-and-start momentum of “Dorothy.” Morby’s got a knack for creating hook-laden grooves that pull you along, but at moments throwing you off the groove and floating the song with just his lyrics. The winding NYC-inspired “Harlem River” rolled through its foreboding rhythms and into an energetic jam, much like the river that cuts off Manhattan from the mainland. In his jams’ heftiest moments, Morby swung back and forth, throwing around both his mop of hair and his bolo tie.

Morby recalled an earlier time he’d played a local show with just his drummer, Justin Sullivan, when someone shouted, “Where’s the band?” He’s since added Cyrus Gengras on bass and Meg Duffy on guitar, who backed songs like “Destroyer” and “Miles, Miles, Miles” with some beautifully understated soloing. The band left the stage and Morby played through “Black Flowers” and Townes Van Zandt’s “No Place to Fall.” Everyone then returned to the stage for the encore, another Gotham-inspired tune, “Parade,” before shutting down things with the barn-burning “Ballad of Arlo Jones.”
—Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks  

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Steve Gunn Kicks Off Tour at Home at Music Hall of Williamsburg

June 10th, 2016

Steve Gunn and the Outliners – Music Hall of Williamsburg – June 9, 2016

Steve Gunn and the Outliners – Music Hall of Williamsburg – June 9, 2016
Steve Gunn is a guitarists’ guitarist, much in the same way that there are comedians’ comedians (Bill Hicks, Lenny Bruce, Louis CK). He’s earned the respect and admiration of Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis, Wilco and the guy who I buy strings from in the guitar shop off Carmine St. Gunn falls somewhere on the guitar family tree under John Fahey, the legendary master of Americana ragas, and he certainly shares his ability to hold down meditative rhythms while stringing a different melody through them. That he’s able to sing on top of it all (something Fahey rarely did) makes the skill all the more impressive. Back from a recent European tour, Gunn returned home to Brooklyn—at Music Hall of Williamsburg—last night, kicking off his American tour in promotion of the excellent Eyes on the Lineshis Matador debut.

Gunn began as a guitarist for Kurt Vile’s Violators, and Vile got his own start as a guitarist for the War on Drugs. If this tradition holds up, stay tuned for an amazing debut from Jim Elkington, who embellishes Gunn’s tunes with artful twangs of his slide guitar. Elkington and Gunn proved to be impressively skilled, trading guitar solos in an epic call-and-response session off the jams of “Park Bench Smile.” Both made use of racks of guitars and a healthy number of pedals to bleed just the right sound out of their noodling. “Ancient Jules” showcased some of the finest riffs to have come out thus far in 2016, searing through a steady on-the-road flowing rhythm. Mid-set, the crowd started yelling, “More Steve!” “More Steve?” replied Gunn. “What does that even mean? Oh, turn me up?”

The set wound down with just Elkington and Gunn on acoustic guitars for a stripped-down version of the beautiful “Wildwood.” The full band returned for the encore with “Way Out Weather” with Gunn’s guitar drifting in and out of the song like a gentle breeze.
—Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

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Floating Points Blow Minds at The Bowery Ballroom

May 13th, 2016

Floating Points – The Bowery Ballroom – May 12, 2016

Floating Points – The Bowery Ballroom – May 12, 2016
Floating Points is the brainchild of Sam Shepherd, the Manchester, England, electronic musician with a Ph.D. in neuroscience and epigenetics. I guess contributing to just one emerging field wasn’t enough for him. Without knowing enough to say anything about his scientific output, his musical output is undoubtedly advancing electronic music into new areas, blowing up the formula in a similar way that free jazz disrupted the jazz formula. Shepherd brought along a whole band with him to perform for two sold-out New York City shows—last night at The Bowery Ballroom and tonight at Music Hall of Williamsburg.

It’s a demanding sound for a full band to play live: Shepherd’s big on throwing his music into warp speed until it practically dissolves into chaotic synthesized noise, before reining it back into its familiar beat. Some numbers went back and forth a few times, and when a song settled down, you were reminded of from where it evolved. It made for some heavy lifting for the drummer. At points during “Silhouettes (I, II, III),” the fill-heavy drumming sat somewhere between a long solo and a complex driving beat and went on for a long time, allowing Shepherd to hammer down on his synths in an all out bleep-bloop blitz.

Other songs featured impressive reverb-drenched guitar solos reminiscent of David Gilmour. Set against a backdrop of white lasers circling into geometric patterns, the spaced-out thoughts were inevitable as your mind was blown to bits, both visually and musically. Thankfully, there was a neuroscientist in the house to put everything back together again. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

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Alex G and Porches Close Out Tour at The Bowery Ballroom on Friday

April 18th, 2016

Alex G/Porches – The Bowery Ballroom – April 15, 2016

(Photo: Dan Rickershauser)

(Photo: Dan Rickershauser)

If you’re going to close your tour right, one of the best ways to do it is with two sold-out shows in New York City—on Wednesday at Music Hall of Williamsburg and then on Friday at The Bowery Ballroom. And if you’re going to end the finale right, one of the best ways to do that is to get all the bands onstage to jam on Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” Such is how Porches and Alex G ended their tour together on Friday on the Lower East Side. The two bands make for an interesting billing, although each have a knack for defying genres and are seemingly good friends. “This is our last show with Porches and Your Friend, which is good because they are the worst fucking bands,” joked Alex G.

This doesn’t mean the venue wasn’t jam packed for Porches’ set (it was). The band’s on a serious upward trajectory with the recent release of the much-acclaimed Pool—the album’s a departure from the sound of their previous release, Slow Dance in the Cosmos. And if you go to their bandcamp and chart their progress, you’ll notice that drastic changes in sound is kind of their M.O. Pool features a much synth-ier, down-tempo sound, although the songs played with a live band featured an added tinge of funkiness, making for easy dancing. “Let the booty do what the booty wants to do, because the booty gonna do what the booty wants to do,” singer Aaron Maine told the audience. And while this has been said at every Porches show I’ve ever attended, the new songs do make the booty shaking much more involuntary. “Mood” sounded almost tropical, with the synths nearly taking on a steel-drum sound. There’s no fat in Porches’ songs, as soon as you fall into the groove of “Mood,” it’s already on its way out. They played a few bars of Alex G’s “Walk,” easily the most Porches-sounding song in his catalog. And things got noticeably more up-tempo as the set went on, with the stop-and-start momentum of “After Glow” acting as the in-between. “Be Apart” started off within an industrial beat before shaking itself free of the rhythmic shackles for the refrain “I wanna be a part of it all.” The set ended with the hard-rocking “Skinny Trees,” by far their loudest tune of the night.

Alex G’s well-known for crafting songs close to their inspiration, lo-fi in the sense that they’re not entirely scrubbed of the weirdness they were born with. They’re sure to sound different played with a live four-piece, and it might not be apparent in their recordings how much his band loves to rock out. In these fine moments you could find Alex G slinking back and forth onstage, rocking out with his tongue out. The emotional honesty with which he writes his songs remained fully intact. “Black Hair” featured a calming lullaby of a melody interrupted by some unsettling squealing guitars before returning to its cheerful groove. “Mary” sounded like a downright upbeat pop song before collapsing into the final lines of “Mary is the girl that leaves you to rot, she says I am real and you are not.” And “Rules” sounded like Elliott Smith, who was also known for emotionally honest songwriting, could’ve written it. These are two bands led by guys with some serious writing chops, Aaron Maine of Porches and Alex Giannascoli of … well, Alex G. Expect much to come from both, haphazard covers of “Smoke on the Water” are just the beginning. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

 

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Autolux Return with New Music at The Bowery Ballroom

April 6th, 2016

Autolux – The Bowery Ballroom – April 5, 2016

Autolux – The Bowery Ballroom – April 5, 2016
Releasing an album once every six years is a great way to keep your band under the radar. Intentionally or not, this has been Autolux’s approach since 2004, and the easiest answer to the question “Why isn’t this band bigger? They’re so good!” The six-year album cycle also allows them to evolve their sound considerably between releases. This year marks the release of their third album, Pussy’s Dead, produced by Run the Jewels collaborator Boots, and it’s easily their most experimental to date. If there’s one big takeaway from the LP, it’s that Carla Azar is one hell of a drummer. And if listening to the album doesn’t drive the point home, seeing Autolux live certainly will.

Their setup at The Bowery Ballroom last night reflected this, with Azar—center stage between Eugene Goreshter (bass) and Greg Edwards (guitar)—wearing bright pink, against a backdrop of black-and-white visuals. She was the only band member wearing color (or in the venue for that matter, New Yorkers really aren’t big on wearing bright colors). The show kicked off with her standing, singing “Soft Scene,” before sitting down and drumming her way into the beat. The group worked within some complex rhythms, and Azar commanded them with ease, holding her drumsticks in the seldom seen traditional grip and never appearing all that challenged by the shifting time signatures.

Autolux are big on contrast, all three band members singing in a tender way with voices that can slip through the cracks of some seriously noisy instrumentals. “Subzero Fun” could pass as a hook-filled pop song without its menacing, dissonant snarl. Their set ended with “Blanket,” which sideswipes you with its bursts of intensity, before keeping things there with an extended noisy jam at the intensity high-water mark. Autolux’s encore featured the crowd-pleasing riffs of “Turnstile Blues,” and then the show ended much like it had begun, with just Azar onstage, drumming out the last bars of “Reappearing.”
—Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Pat Tabb | pattabb.com