Tag Archives: John Prine

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Music as Medicine on Saturday Night at Rough Trade NYC

August 18th, 2014

Bobby Long/Dawn Landes – Rough Trade NYC – August 16, 2014

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It had been one of those weeks when upsetting news and disturbing images across the world seemed to fill an even greater percentage of our consciousness than usual—the kind of week that requires some good, honest music to remind you that there are still beautiful things out there. And thankfully, on Saturday night, Rough Trade NYC hosted a bill filled with acts that were just what the doctor ordered. A band to keep your eye on, Brooklyn upstart Bird Dog, opened the show with intelligent songwriting and innovative genre blending. The band hopped among styles easily: a close approximation of a country honky-tonk, a Latin groove machine and a radio-ready pop group in quick succession. And terrific guitar playing and touches of violin impressively punctuated great songs like “Holiday Season” and “Read My Letter.”

Dawn Landes, a one-woman prescription for whatever ails you, played the middle set. Her newest album, Bluebird, comes off like a newly found timeless classic, filled with golden-era country-inflected folk songs. As luck would have it, Robert Ellis, who also has a best-in-class album out this year, joined her. With Landes leading the way with her sweet-tea voice and easy-to-love charm and Ellis chiming in with an occasional harmony and quick acoustic-guitar fills, the duo melted away worries and evaporated strife. The set was full of highlights, from the cover of the sweetly humorous John Prine/Iris Dement duet “In Spite of Ourselves” to the gorgeous trio (with friend Lauren Balthrop singing harmony) on “Twilight.” But my favorite moment was when Landes sang the new album’s title track, a few minutes of perfection.

Bobby Long, who is from NYC by way of London, closed out the night singing folk the old fashioned way—just a man and his guitar onstage. With hair covering his eyes and a heavy dose of Brit humor, Long was introspective with his music. Songs were introduced with quick jokes and “true story” anecdotes, but seemed to grow in his playing, with vivid emotional imagery and broader themes. Singing solo allowed Long to expand his vocals, repeating choruses each time with different emphasis, filling in nicely with bits of fingerpicked guitar. I thought the set highlight was “Kill Someone”—about “fucking assholes”—which was prefaced with a description of Long’s sister’s ex-husband. His jokey introduction of “serious song, no clapping” made way for a piece with real anger that gave it a lively energy. Long described it as “hitting him with lyrics” as opposed to the real-life swing and a miss that his dad tried to lay on the jerk. That song might have had much more of an impact, but when passionately sung by Long it was a damn good one regardless, which counts for something. If only all the world’s problems could be solved with a great song. —A. Stein

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A Top Five Look Back at 2013

January 10th, 2014


Ten days into the New Year, The House List looks back at 2013 with some Top Five lists.

My Top Five Favorite Shows
1.
The Postal Service, Barclay Center, June 14
My decade-belated live date with the Postal Service finally culminated at Barclays Center, where rabid fans, like myself, roared as Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello hit the stage. As if acting out lyrics from “Nothing Better,” Gibbard and Jenny Lewis shimmied close for the duet. Old friends reunited onstage never felt so good.

2. Haim, Webster Hall, September 3
I was late to this bandwagon, as fellow House List contributor Alex Kapelman shortlisted Haim last year for his Top Five Bowery Presents Shows of the Year. I knew I was in for a good one when I could barely find a spot in the rafters to catch the three sisters, who charmed with their onstage banter and wicked musicianship

3. Jessie Ware, The Bowery Ballroom, January 17
Straight off her Jimmy Fallon taping backed by the Roots, the British songstress elated the crowd with her effortless, down-to-earth stage demeanor. Her star quickly rose with American audiences, as she sold out shows at Webster Hall, Music Hall of Williamsburg and Irving Plaza throughout the year. I was glad to have caught her earlier in the more intimate venue.

4. Basia Bulat, Bowery Ballroom, November 23
I’ve been a fan of Basia Bulat since I heard her cover Sam Cooke’s “Touch the Hem of His Garment.” This show on a cold night wasn’t sold out, which made me a little sad since she’s quite the talent. But those who were there were enraptured by her prowess on autoharp to the point that you could hear a pin drop during her solos.

5. Daughter, Bowery Ballroom, April 30
Somehow Elena Tonra manages to disguise heartbreak behind soulful lyrics and melody. She has a knack for turning happy dance songs into somber endeavors. The band mashed-up Bon Iver and Hot Chip’s “Perth/Ready for the Floor” that evening. Check out Tonra’s somber retake of Daft Punk’s hit “Get Lucky” for further proof. —Sharlene Chiu

My Top Five Shows I Never Thought I Would See
1. Desaparecidos, Webster Hall, February 26

Desaparecidos (and really any Conor Oberst project) were my bread and butter back in the early aughts, and for a while they seemed to be a one-off, a politically minded side project firmly planted in the past. Fortunately (and unfortunately) the global state of affairs remains messed up enough for the band to regroup to write protest songs for a new decade. It was a nostalgic, sweaty and inspired performance.

2. Shuggie Otis, Music Hall of Williamsburg, April 19
Shuggie Otis began putting out music in the mid-’70s, followed by a long period of laying low. Content to groove along to songs like “Ice Cold Daydream” at home, I never really thought about the possibility of a Shuggie Otis tour in 2013. But when I found out, I was there. And “Ice Cold Daydream” is even better in person.

3. The Flamin’ Groovies, The Bowery Ballroom, July 6
Instead of discovering the Flamin’ Groovies in a smoky San Fran club in the ’60s, I was introduced to their catchy psychedelia on a Nuggets compilation more than 30 years later. Who’d have thought they’d still be going strong in 2013 and that I’d be dancing right alongside some old school fans at this fun summer show.

4.  John Prine, Beacon Theatre, September 26
John Prine has been active since the early ’70s, but unlike Shuggie Otis, he never really went away, writing and recording songs at a steady pace throughout the years. But I still always thought of him as an artist too legendary for me to see in person—or that tickets would be too out of reach. But John Prine put on an amazing show, highlighting his singular skills as a songwriter and storyteller.

5. The Julie Ruin, Music Hall of Williamsburg, October 25
I was late to the party for the original riot-grrl movement, but I became an admirer of Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna during her time in Le Tigre. She’s dealt with some debilitating health issues in the past few years, but I had no doubt she’d continue to make art and music. So I was happy to learn of her latest project, the Julie Ruin, and her energetic show did not disappoint. —Alena Kastin

My Top Five Shows
1. Yo La Tengo, Town Hall, February 16

I don’t like to pick a favorite, but my last.fm account tells me I’ve listened to Yo La Tengo more than any other band since 2007. At Town Hall, they performed an acoustic set and an electronic one, doing two versions of “Ohm,” my favorite song of the year. And then I ran into Tim Heidecker from Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job! Had the Red Sox not won the World Series, this would’ve been my favorite night of the year.

2. Killer Mike/El-P, Webster Hall, August 14
I don’t care what anyone says: The best two rap albums of 2012 came from Killer Mike and El-P. And in 2013 they topped them, coming together as one entity, Run the Jewels. The night included a set from El-P, a set from Killer Mike and a combined set with both. El-P’s ingenious production plus Killer “I bleed charisma” Mike equals one concert I will never forget.

3. Foxygen, The Bowery Ballroom, October 21
With Foxygen it occasionally feels like shit could fall apart at any moment. And sometimes it does. But when their shows don’t come unhinged they deliver that sweet thrill of relief, like narrowly avoiding a car crash. And on this Halloween-themed night, the band made a weird show even weirder with homemade costumes and pseudo spooky vibes.

4. Steve Earle, Music Hall of Williamsburg, May 8
You can just tell some people are genuine, and Steve Earle is certainly one of them. Forever wearing his heart on his sleeve, that same energy bleeds right into his music, which he played alongside what he’s calling “the best band he’s ever had.”

5. Meat Puppets, Mercury Lounge, April 4
Not only are the Meat Puppets still kicking (after living through some serious shit), but also they’re thriving. And as much as I respect their legacy, seeing them play for more than two hours with the intensity you’d expect of a band 20 years their junior makes me respect them that much more. Long live the puppets of meat! —Dan Rickershauser

My Top Five Shows
1. Dessa, Union Hall, May 5

There are few performers I feel can move mountains with their vocal chords, and Dessa is one of them. This performance was an eruption of defiant lyrics and bold beats. A sizable crowd of young girls knew all of her lyrics, giving the show a chant-like feel. The only female member of Minnesota’s Doomtree collective practically vibrates with energy, and it’s completely contagious.

2. Kishi Bashi, Irving Plaza, September 12
Kishi Bashi sounds even better live than he does recorded. And he delivered a dazzling set with profuse vocal looping and an excellent backing band. Kauro Ishibashi has a supercharged, effusive aura, and his music embodies that persona. This set took a rowdy turn that involved crowd surfing, strobe lights and an outright jam session.

3. Panama Wedding, CMJ Music Marathon
I happened upon newcomers Panama Wedding three different times during CMJ: Initially, opening for NONONO at Mercury Lounge on the first night. Since the band had only released one song, “All of the People,” I was eager to see what would unfold onstage. Their set was so tight that I caught the fantastical pop group the following night at Pianos and then again at a showcase at Santos Party House.

4. You Won’t, Rockwood Music Hall, October 30
The live iteration of You Won’t is a spectacle to behold. I watched eagerly as Josh Arnoudse and Raky Sastri wielded a slew of instruments with ease, quickly fascinating the audience. The duo took their jaunty music into the audience a couple of times to break the barrier and enlisted some extra vocal support by encouraging us to all to sing along.

5. James Blake, Terminal 5, November 6
In this spellbinding live performance, complete with plenty of vocal looping and haunting electronica, James Blake made a cavernous room filled with people feel intimate. And that he’s such a dapper-looking fellow only helps boost his appeal. I’m still transfixed by this performance nearly two months later. James Blake’s music has some serious lasting effects. —Schuyler Rooth

My Top Five Shows with Regard to Lights, Visuals and Production
1. Umphrey’s McGee, Brooklyn Bowl, January 20

Kick-ass creative lighting
and Brooklyn Bowl don’t usually go hand in hand, but Umphrey’s McGee lighting guru Jefferson Waful turned the room into a thing of beauty.

2. Föllakzoid/Holydrug Couple, Mercury Lounge, March 21
What better way to enjoy some old school psychedelic music than with some old school liquid projections courtesy of Drippy Eye.

3. Plaza: Portugal. The Man, Irving Plaza, May 20
Freakin’ lasers!

4. The Flaming Lips/Tame Impala, Terminal 5, October 1
It was almost as fascinating to watch the Lips’ spectacle getting set up as it was to see it in action—confetti, strobes, LEDs and, well, pretty much everything. And Tame Impala’s projections were no slouch either.

5. Phish, Atlantic City Boardwalk, October 31, November 2
Phish’s fall tour found lighting director Chris Kuroda playing the Willy Wonka of eye candy all over the East Coast. —A. Stein

My Top Five Albums
1. Phosphorescent, Muchacho
I’d only seen Phosphorescent once before listening to Muchacho for the first time. And while much of Matthew Houck’s previous work is country-tinged (not that there’s anything wrong with that), this album, ostensibly about a breakup, covers more territory, from the meditative sounds of “Sun, Arise (An Invocation, an Introduction)” and “Sun’s Arising (A Koan, an Exit)” to the jammy, driving “Ride On/Right On” to softer fare, like “Muchacho’s Tune,” all centered on Houck’s evocative voice. I still can’t stop listening to it.

2. Foxygen, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
Foxygen’s third full-length, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, comes off as a loving mash note to ’70s rock. You’ll hear bits of the Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground and David Bowie, but the album expertly manages to sound like something whole and new rather than something derivative.

3. White Denim, Corsicana Lemonade
Upon the first couple of listens, I found White Denim’s latest, Corsicana Lemonade, to be too singer-songwriter-y, but I continued to give it a chance, and it opened up to something much bigger, with genre-hopping songs like “Let It Feel Good (My Eagles)” and “Pretty Green”—not to mention some searing guitar parts—grabbing me by the throat.

4. Futurebirds, Baba Yaga
Admittedly, I didn’t know anything about Futurebirds, out of Athens, Ga., before writing a preview of their late-May show at The Bowery Ballroom. But while listening to their second LP, Baba Yaga, as I wrote, I became totally enamored of the album—half twangy Southern rock and half spacey reverb.

 5. Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze
I love Kurt Vile’s Wakin on a Pretty Daze so much, that I can’t believe it’s only No. 5. Labeling it stoner rock, as many have done, is lazy. Although I supposed me calling it laid-back rock isn’t any better. But the fact of the matter is there might not ever be a better album to listen to while walking the streets of New York City with headphones in your ears. —R. Zizmor

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John Prine Showcases His Talents

September 9th, 2013

John Prine – Beacon Theatre – September 6, 2013


Since the release of his self-titled debut album in 1971, singer-songwriter John Prine has enjoyed a productive career and honed a unique songwriting style with an ability to oscillate between light, humorous themes and serious, downcast fare. At the Beacon Theatre on Friday night, Prine showcased material from both ends of the emotional spectrum, from the easygoing twang of opening song “Spanish Pipedream” followed by the nostalgic “Picture Show” and the slowed-down, heavy hearted “Humidity Built the Snowman.” Those in the crowd remained rapt throughout each tonal shift, often shouting requests in between songs, or simply imploring, “play all night!”

Although he didn’t oblige this last request, the show covered a range of crowd favorites, including a lovely mandolin-tinged “Angel from Montgomery,” a brisk and lively “Fish and Whistle,” and the political “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You into Heaven Anymore,” which calls out patriotic hypocrisy and “just won’t seem to go out of style,” according to Prine. An affable presence, he spoke with jovial familiarity, cracking jokes at his own expense—“that song took less time to write than it does to sing,” he said of the humorous “Dear Abby”—and peppering the set with anecdotes about his childhood and career.

For the closing songs, Prine and his band selected a poignant doubleheader from his debut album: “Hello in There,” about the realities of time and aging, and the wistful “Paradise,” on which he was joined by the night’s openers, Rosanne Cash and guitarist John Leventhal. He may not have played all night, as some had hoped, but Prine treated the audience to a showcase of his extensive catalog and skillful songwriting. —Alena Kastin

 


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Brooklyn Country Music Hits The Bowery Ballroom

February 6th, 2013

The Lone Bellow – The Bowery Ballroom – February 5, 2013


Remember how Bon Iver’s heartbreak record, For Emma, Forever Ago, became part of indie-rock lore, straight from a Wisconsin cabin into an awkward Grammy speech? Zach Williams, lead singer of the Lone Bellow, may give Justin Vernon a run for his money with his own self-titled album. Williams was encouraged by a friend to write when his wife suffered a near-paralyzing fall from a horse. And early journal entries became the foundation for songs that grace his album. Williams has said of his work, “We write songs from personal experiences in our lives. Tragedy, hope, betrayal and redemption ebb and flow throughout this record.” He and his band even went up to a cabin in upstate New York to film a video for “Two Sides of Lonely.”

With mandolinist Kanene Pipkin and guitarist Brian Elmquist, the Lone Bellow created a robust hug of harmonies around the audience of The Bowery Ballroom on a chilly Tuesday evening. The band sauntered onstage to the Everly Brothers’ “Wake Up Little Suzy,” and the audience joined in with uproarious cheers and applause as they began their set with “You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional.” Williams offered “another sad country” as an introduction to “Two Sides of Lonely,” in which one onlooker yelled, “Make me cry!” A cadence of hand claps erupted for the rollicking favorite, “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold.” In a playful interlude, Williams and Co. covered Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” and bits of Brian McKnight’s “Back to One.” Returning to a country croon, the Bellows continued with “Bleeding Out” and a steel-pedal accompanied “Looking for You.” Williams proposed a new song, with opening chords similar to Blackstreet’s “No Diggity,” which (you guessed it) they played. It seems as though the Lone Bellow has quite the repertoire of ’90s R&B tunes.

As the end of the night neared, “Teach Me to Know” closed the set with the group’s fans singing along. For an encore, the Lone Bellows covered John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” before finishing with “The One You Should’ve Let Go,” and The Bowery Ballroom was transformed into the set of Nashville, with feet stomping and the crowd chanting: “Come on, my love / I’m not the one that you were looking for / I’m not the shoulder you should cry on / I am the one you should’ve let go.” But despite those lyrics, the Lone Bellow won’t be let go anytime soon. —Sharlene Chiu

(The Lone Bellow play the Beacon Theatre with Brandi Carlile on 3/22 and 3/23.)

 

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Such a Night

October 4th, 2012

Love for Levon: A Benefit to Save the Barn – Izod Center – October 3, 2012


Levon Helm is a towering figure in American music and the main reason a band, well the Band, that was actually four-fifths Canadian could be considered quintessentially American. After Helm was diagnosed with cancer, he began hosting Midnight Rambles at his home barn/studio—ridiculously intimate affairs filled with music that kept onlookers smiling for days. And despite Helm’s passing, it was clear that the barn and the Rambles would continue. But, of course, there are bills to pay. So last night at the Izod Center, a monumental group of performers—those who had worked with the Band, performed with Helm or appeared at one of those fabled Rambles—gathered to pay tribute to the musical icon and help raise money to finally pay off the barn.

There were far too many talented people involved to list everyone, but the night started with a bang as Warren Haynes, backed by the Dirt Farmer Band, did a rousing version of “The Shape I’m In” before Gregg Allman joined him for a riveting “Long Black Veil.” From there a cavalcade of stars, including Bruce Hornsby, Jorma Kaukonen, Marc Cohn, the Wallflowers and Allen Toussaint, appeared. Lucinda Williams said, “God bless, Levon Helm. His spirit lives on,” after concluding “Whispering Pines.” And then the fist set closed with John Hiatt and Mike Gordon doing a lively “Rag Mama Rag.”

And while that first set was particularly great, the second one was something special. Highlights included Ray LaMontagne and John Mayer on “Tears of Rage,” the Dierks Bentley–led “Chest Fever,” with Garth Hudson laying down the winding “Genetic Method” organ intro, and Larry Campbell eliciting a big crowd response to the “Drink all day, rock all night” line in “Tennessee Jed” as Mayer rode shotgun on guitar. Then somehow the ante got upped once again. First, a jammy “Up on Cripple Creek” with Joe Walsh and Robert Randolph (“Jersey boys are here,” proclaimed Walsh), and then the house band ceded the stage to My Morning Jacket.

The five-piece launched into “Ophelia,” with the crowd throatily singing along, and “It Makes No Difference” before bringing out Roger Waters and G.E. Smith for “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Of course all of this was just a lead up to the night’s inevitable conclusion, everyone onstage for “The Weight.” Longtime Levon Helm Band members Campbell, Teresa Williams and Amy Helm rightfully took the first verse, accompanied only by Campbell’s guitar. And then Mavis Staples sang, and then Allman and Haynes. And then Grace Potter, Eric Church, John Prine, Jim James and everyone else took turns trading verses across the stage, before turning to Waters, center stage, singing, “You know I’m a peaceful man,” with smiles everywhere. It was hard to tell who was having more fun, the people in the crowd or those onstage. It was just one of those nights. —R. Zizmor

Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com

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Love for Levon: A Benefit to Save the Barn

October 2nd, 2012

Sometimes you want to see an all-star lineup of musicians performing together, and other times you want to support a great cause. But with tomorrow’s Love for Levon: A Benefit to Save the Barn at the Izod Center, you can actually do both. American icon Levon Helm may be gone, but his musical legacy and studio, home to the Midnight Ramble, remain. And so we’re all trying to pay off the barn together. The star-studded Love for Levon lineup includes Roger Waters (who counts the Arkansas Razorbacks baseball cap Helm gave him among his most treasured possessions), My Morning Jacket, Gregg Allman, Garth Hudson, Joe Walsh, Bruce Hornsby, Mavis Staples, Allen Toussaint and John Prine—plus a host of others, and maybe even some surprises, too. This is most certainly one not to miss.

(Want to go to the show, but don’t know how to get there? Rocks Off NYC is running a bus to and from the show.)

 

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A Legend Comes to Governors Island

September 8th, 2010


After serving in the army, John Prine became an Illinois postman. During this time, he began performing anywhere he could. It was clear he was a talented singer-songwriter, but oftentimes even the talented need a break. His first came when a friend of Prine’s brought Kris Kristofferson to see him play. “That’s how I got discovered,” said Prine. Another bit of serendipity of equal importance found Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert catching one of his shows. The next day he wrote about Prine, titling the article “Singing Mailman Who Delivers a Powerful Message in a Few Words.” Since then, the prolific musician has released a slew of music and has had many of songs covered by people who are more famous, but certainly not more talented. Let’s face it: John Prine (above, playing “Angel from Montgomery”) is a legend. Do your best to see him on Friday at The Beach at Governors Island.