Tag Archives: Dan Rickershauser

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Patti Smith Celebrates and Pays Tribute at SummerStage on Thursday

September 15th, 2017

Patti Smith and Her Band – SummerStage – September 14, 2017

“Most of these songs I wrote for Fred, with Fred or about Fred,” said Patti Smith last night on Central Park’s SummerStage. It would have been the 69th birthday of Fred “Sonic” Smith, Patti’s late husband and the father of her two children, Jackson Smith and Jesse Paris Smith. Patti Smith has been part of New York City royalty for decades now, her role in the art world, contributions to music and writing, her ability to find herself by chance in the midst of history’s cool and famous since she first stepped foot here in the late ’60s. But the intimate knowledge of her personal life is relatively recent news for her fans. Smith’s memoirs, Just Kids and M Train, share stories about the love and loss of her best friend, Robert Mapplethorpe, and her husband. They also let in the world on the person behind the art, her uncanny ability to find the sacred in everything and even just a good cup of coffee in a local diner. Knowing this is how she experiences the world made a noteworthy performance to honor and remember her late husband all the more special and intimate.

With her son on guitar and daughter on keyboards, Smith played through a catalog inspired by or written with her husband, gone since 1994 but an inspiration ever since. “Fred, this is the product of many day dreams,” she said as an introduction to “Because the Night” (written with Bruce Springsteen). Smith shared how “Looking For You (I Was)” was penned for their anniversary, a love song written for the city of Detroit, her home in the early years of her married life, written while she was in NYC. The show was full of memorials for others, too. Smith dedicated “Ghost Dance” to the activists who took a stand at Standing Rock; “Dancing Barefoot” to Amy Winehouse, who would have turned 34 on Thursday; “Peaceable Kingdom,” to Hüsker Dü’s Grant Hart, who passed away earlier in the day; “Pissing in a River” dedicated to legendary writer Sam Shepard, a close friend who passed away earlier this year. Despite all of these memorials, the performance never stopped feeling like a celebration. Messages sprinkled throughout were delivered with a sense of urgency: “We are free!” and “The people have the power!” Later, triumphantly holding aloft her guitar, Smith yelled, “This is the only fucking weapon we need!”

These are the messages Patti Smith was born to spread. Joined by her now adult children, she  took some moments to try to embarrass them a little, noting her daughter’s willingness to always give her mom her bobby pins. She’s also still wickedly funny, ending some stage banter with: “What am I talking about? I just turned 70. You know when you turn 70 your mind works … in mysterious ways.” But she remains the no-bullshit punk rocker she always was, bringing out the rock and roll animal inside her to dominate the stage for the set-closing “Land.” Even when performing other people’s songs, like Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” the message felt as much hers as theirs. R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, a longtime fan and friend, joined Smith to sing happy birthday to Fred and also to close the show with “People Have the Power.” It was a perfect way to end a night that remembered a powerful artist and reminded everyone there of the most powerful message of all—delivered by the woman he loved. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks


Photos courtesy of Silvia Saponaro | www.saponarophotography.com

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Vulfpeck Fly Funky Flag Friday Night at Brooklyn Steel

September 11th, 2017

Vulfpeck – Brooklyn Steel – September 8, 2017


Funky times call for funky tunes. And while it seemed on Friday night like half of the country was on fire and that the other half was staring down a massive hurricane, Ann Arbor, Mich., band Vulfpeck landed in Brooklyn to plant their funk flag and fly it high—the first of thee booty-shakin’, sold-out Brooklyn Steel appearances in a row. “And just like a sporting event, there will be a palpable drop in energy after the introduction,” jokingly said Jack Stratton as a means of introduction.

The whole thing felt like a funky circus troupe, with at one point 11 people onstage, each switching instruments, more than half of them in gym gear straight out of a ’70s phys ed class, and Stratton leading dance moves and sing-alongs—the rhythm never falling out of time. “New York, can you sing this bassline?” asked the frontman as an intro to “Fugue State,” and the crowd happily obliged. For “El Chepe,” Stratton led the audience through a dance called the Choo Choo. R&B singer Antwaun Stanley joined the band for the set’s middle third, and everyone else in the room joined him on the chorus for “1612.”

The love Vulfpeck have for’60s and ’70s classics is evident in their sound. They paid homage with Stevie Wonder and Al Green covers, but there were audible traces of the era flowing into every tap of the drum. A raging brass section helped, too, with guest Elizabeth Lea, of Tedeschi Trucks Band, tearing it up on the trombone on several songs. And “Back Pocket” featured some elaborate audience participation, in three-part harmonies no less. But the show wasn’t over until “Outro” was played with the saxophone blaring, a song so perfect as a finale that it was the last one played at my own wedding. And with my 30th birthday on Friday night, it’s now also closed out my twenties. A true funkin’ coincidence if there ever was one. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.com

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Sylvan Esso Triumphantly Return to Celebrate Brooklyn

July 27th, 2017

Sylvan Esso – Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell – July 26, 2017


(Sylvan Esso play My Morning Jacket’s One Big Holiday on 3/2-6.)

Killer squirrels be damned, last night Sylvan Esso returned to Prospect Park, almost two years to the day since they’d last performed there. Not even signs around the park warning of our now infamous and unusually aggressive squirrel with a taste for human flesh could tamp down the mood of an otherwise beautiful night for music. “We had a lovely weekend in your city. Last night we saw Phish. It was my first time,” said singer Amelia Meath. “And my 22nd,” added Sylvan Esso producer and beat-master Nick Sanborn. “I get it, I got it, I got it. I think I got it,” said Meath, referring to the Phish “thing.”

For anyone unfamiliar with a Sylvan Esso live show, it’s important to note that Meath can fucking dance. “Man, she’s GOING for it,” said a woman next to me two songs into the set. Slithering, snaking her body through a web of beats, whipping around a ponytail, Meath can make a big stage seem somehow not big enough for two people: They own it. Outdoor shows can make everything seem bigger, but providing the backdrop for this dance-y performance mutated their bedroom pop songs into downright pop anthems—and they’re pop anthems the world seems to need right now.

“This song is about feeling good and making yourself feel good. Whether it’s in your own skin or your mother-fucking country, we stand with you everyday,” said Meath introducing “Dress.” Something about this musical duo has made sense from Day One. Meath’s silky smooth voice contrasts beautifully against Sanborn’s choppy, scattered beats. “Signal,” maybe the craziest beat of any of their songs, had Meath’s voice split into octaves harmonizing with itself. Their megahit, “Coffee,” came out as the mid-set stimulant, complete with “get up, get down” sing-alongs. Just two albums in and Sylvan Esso already have an impressive roster of insanely catchy songs, like “Just Dancing,” “Hey Mami” and “H.S.K.T.” The twosome closed the set with their first single off their second album, “Radio.” It’s a huge amount of pop songs to be written by a duo. Most other pop acts get, at best, a few singles off each album, worked many times over by massive teams of the world’s most renowned producers in music. But Sylan Esso are a David in a world of pop Goliaths, and Goddamn can that David dance. —Dan Rickershauser |@D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Pip Cowley | pipcowleyshoots.com

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At Brooklyn Steel Whitney Prove Why They Continue to Get Bigger

May 25th, 2017

Whitney – Brooklyn Steel – May 24, 2017


It’s been a whirlwind for Whitney ever since releasing their much-acclaimed debut album, Light Upon the Lake. They’ve visited New York City, crisscrossed the country, made their television debut, toured the rest of the world and returned to NYC—each time passing through an increasingly larger venue, having quickly outgrown almost all of them. For a group that began as a bedroom project, recording songs in the dead of a Chicago winter, the nonstop touring has made a good band even better: It’s been a hell of a first lap.

Last night, Whitney took over Brooklyn Steel, a venue even newer than the band. The show kicked off with a Dolly Parton cover, “Gonna Hurry (As Slow as I Can),” performed by guitarist Max Kakacek and singer Julien Ehrlich on the piano. And although the song takes some serious falsetto chops to sing, Ehrlich might be the only male singer in the world capable of nailing it. The remaining members of the six-piece then came out to perform “Dave’s Song,” It’s a glorious moment when the rest of the band kicks in alongside Ehrlich’s drums. There’s something to be said for singing drummers, and with the frontman’s tender voice, the sticks in his hand added punch to his pleas. The cheery “No Matter Where We Go” featured drum fills trading off with Kakacek’s guitar riffs. And the lovesick “Polly” finished with a piercing Will Miller trumpet solo. The performance streamed live and there were shout-outs to a pair of grandparents watching, including a grandfather, born in Brooklyn, celebrating his birthday.

The momentum shifting instrumental “Red Moon” made room for each instrument to shine, its slowdowns and buildups making way for guitar and trumpet solos. Next came the Lion cover “You’ve Got a Woman.” “It’s always a hard song to play, and we sweat a lot, so don’t take too many Instagram photos,” warned Ehrlich before jumping into it. Whitney played most of Light Upon the Lake before announcing that they’d return. The four-song encore kicked off with a brand-new tune: “It’s about partying too hard,” said Ehrlich by way of introduction. Next came what’s become a tour staple, their cover of NRBQ’s “Magnet,” followed by the theme to The Golden Girls. Ehrlich claimed that he’d have trouble with the lyrics, but the audience enthusiastically helped out, before Whitney closed with “No Woman,” pausing at the end to thank everyone before jumping back into the climactic finish. These songs have been perfected, poised yet again to be a soundtrack for those sunny golden days of summer. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.com

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Bonobo Dazzles a Sold-Out Terminal 5 with Wide-Ranging Sounds

May 1st, 2017

Bonobo – Terminal 5 – April 28, 2017

(Photo: Dan Rickershauser)

Simon Green, better known as Bonobo, has always dealt in big sounds. His musical universe seems to expand with each new release, and it now includes full string sections, brass sections, guest vocalists, even guest entire other bands. So how do you tour to meet the demands of such a maximalist sound? (Even the Beatles gave up on touring for Sgt. Pepper’s.) The answer is you bring everyone along for the journey.

Friday’s show—Bonobo’s second sold-out appearance at Terminal 5—featured a stage full of widely talented musicians, all finding a home in Bonobo’s world. Szjerdene’s soulful voice smoothed out the electric arpeggios of “Towers.” Nick Murphy, the artist formerly known as Chet Faker, made an appearance to sing “No Reason,” his reverb-y vocals carrying through the cavernous venue. The sound mix was perfectly layered with the many rich textures of Bonobo’s sound, not an easy feat on a stage filled with as many as 11 musicians playing at the same time.

The swirling string orchestrations of “Kiara” were loud enough to drive the song. The bass never managed to drown out a flute part, the brass band cut through electronic haze like the stage lights through the smoke-filled venue. Grey Reverend mellowed the night for the slow-building burn of “First Fires” before the Morroccan band Innov Gnawa came out to kick off “Bambro Koyo Ganda” with their harmonizing chants. The set ended with the frantic “Kerala,” followed by an encore that included the infectious polyrhythms of “Know You.” —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

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The Octopus Project Bring New Music to Mercury Lounge Tonight

April 11th, 2017

They say everything’s bigger in Texas, a statement that certainly rings true for the big-ass sound of Austin’s very own psychedelic slingers the Octopus Project. Think of them as the poppier stepchild of fellow Texans the Butthole Surfers. Their strain of psychedelia seems designed to not just expand your consciousness but to blast holes through it. Officially a band since 1999, the Octopus Project (above, performing “Sharpteeth”) have been fine-tuning their sound with each release ever since. Their latest, Memory Mirror (stream it below) out last Friday, is their first proper release since 2013’s Fever Forms (stream it below). Memory Mirror has the troupe of multi-instrumentalists at their shape-shifting best, with their rhythmic, arpeggiating sonic assaults firing into the cosmos like a well-oiled machine. Recorded with the help of legendary Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann, the album shares a mission statement with the Lips in seeing just how far pop music can venture into the weird while still holding on to its hooks (answer: very far). The album highlights everything you’d expect and then some from the seasoned vets of trippiness. It has the bliss-inducing bleeps and bloops of “Understanding Fruit,” the rapid-fire guitar shreds and diced-up vocals of “Woah, Mossman!!,” the bowel-punching bass booms of “Ledgeridge,” the grime beats laying down the foundation for “Small Hundred.” The band heads to Mercury Lounge tonight, with Brooklyn’s Brothertiger opening. So prepare your psyches and strap in for the ride. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

 

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Lambchop Paint a Pretty Picture at The Bowery Ballroom

March 31st, 2017

Lambchop – The Bowery Ballroom – March 30, 2017

Lambchop – The Bowery Ballroom – March 30, 2017
There’s a deep reverence fans have for Lambchop—you can hear it in the silence that takes over the audience right before the band begins to play. Last night at The Bowery Ballroom, this silence left nothing but the sounds of Delancey Street traffic and bartenders shaking up cocktails in the few seconds Lambchop’s music began to fill the void. Frontman Kurt Wagner treats his music the way a painter would: Each album is a chance for reinvention, with different media opening up the possibilities of what fills the canvas. For the latest Lambchop album, FLOTUS, the new medium is electronic beats and vocal effects, splintering Wagner’s gentle yet husky baritone voice into a full landscape of melody.

On the set-opening “NIV,” Wagner’s voice sounded almost alien, grounded only by the song’s gentle arpeggios. Taking a page out of the book of their friends in Yo La Tengo, Wagner knew that if he could milk the power out of a song’s quieter moments, it would only feel more powerful as the song grew louder. On “The Hustle,” this slow build from powerful soft to powerful loud happened slowly yet still managed to somehow catch concertgoers off guard. These new sounds they’re playing with at this point in their long career blow sonic possibilities wide open. “Directions to the Can” was almost like trip-hop and had Wagner full-out dancing by the track’s conclusion. “In Care of 8675309” featured a refrain that sounded like it was trying to break free from the song after each verse.

“This next song Kurt wrote while we were playing the last one,” said the always-wisecracking keyboardist Tony Crow as he introduced “The New Cobweb of Summer.” Crow’s stage banter is the stuff of legend, itself worth the price of admission. “It’s not as hard as it looks, Kurt. A lot of things are harder,” he added after Wagner introduced him, going on to list a series of activities that included kayaking and cooking. Lambchop finished with the delicately acoustic “My Blue Wave” and a gorgeous rendition of Prince’s “When You Were Mine,” the song sounding next to nothing like the original. Consider it a painter’s take on the landscape before him with the supplies at hand. Lucky for Lambchop fans, Wagner’s art supplies seem endless. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

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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