Tag Archives: Led Zeppelin


Wardell Celebrate a New Release Tonight at Mercury Lounge

February 11th, 2015

Brother and sister Theo (a onetime House List writer) and Sasha Spielberg began making music as Wardell several years ago in Los Angeles. Influenced by the disparate likes of Led Zeppelin, Fiona Apple, the Strokes and Joni Mitchell, the bicoastal (he in New York City, she in L.A.) indie-folk duo put out their aptly named debut EP, Brother/Sister (stream it below), in 2013, with Sasha on vocals and Theo handling the instrumentation. Afterward, they really began to work on their sound while performing live, including a plum gig opening for Vampire Weekend and Haim at last year’s SXSW. Today, Wardell (above, doing “Funny Thing” and “Love/Idleness”) see the release of their debut full-length, the charmingly easygoing Love/Idleness (stream it below). And they celebrate its release tonight at Mercury Lounge. Bushwick dream-pop four-piece Arc Waves open the show.


Steve Gunn Headlines a Great Showcase at Mercury Lounge

May 19th, 2014

Steve Gunn – Mercury Lounge – May 18, 2014

Last night Mercury Lounge hosted the kind of show you’ll easily find during CMJ week, but is rare most of the rest of the year. Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records have put out a steady stream of fascinating, enigmatic music over the past couple of years, and there was no reason to expect anything less in the live version with multiple acts on the same bill. Things got rolling with the acoustic duo Worthless. There seemed to be a resonant theme with reverberating six- and 12-string guitars, echoing vocals and stark shadows formed by the LCD projector. It was a crunchy sound, slightly comforting, very engaging. Devonian Gardens followed, and at various times they featured a harp, a flute, finger cymbals, a harmonica and a possibly intentional aqua blue–instrument scheme. At this point, things began to simmer as Drippy Eye Projections filled the stage with swirling bubbles of light. Given all that, the set was actually heavy duty rather than cutesy esoteric, characterized mostly by a pounding bass drum and not-much-less-pounding electric bass. There were plenty of frisky little space jams, off-kilter vocal harmonies, weirdo-psych-punk ragers tied one end to the other and, on average, about one hair-on-your-chest guitar solo per song.

The penultimate slot went to Prince Rupert’s Drops, guitarist Leslie Stein began the set wondering if they would get a trippy backdrop as well. (As if she had to ask!) Still, they hardly needed the visuals to get the brains turning, immediately charging into psychedelic territory led by Chad Laird’s slow-drip bass grooves. The set was a mix of old and new material, the newer stuff characterized by an exciting, darker edge. One of these featured some fancy overlapping guitar riffs, the band showing a new level of skill and maturity. A tune introduced as the “mellow” number for the night began as a dreamy sitar-esque jammer before flipping into a nicely played crescendo jam, drums, bass, guitars and organ working together. Altogether, the material showed a nice mix of both prog and psych rock, most songs featuring several sections or movements with Laird and Steve McGuirl on drums leading them from one to the next smoothly. The set closed with a 10-minute version of “Run Slow,” a long raging jam combining of old Genesis and Led Zeppelin.

Steve Gunn isn’t actually on the BBIB label, but he still perfectly capped off the bill. Playing solo acoustic, he announced things would be mellow but that it was OK because it was Sunday night. (Someone probably should have informed the rest of the bands, but then again, we all have different definitions of mellow and Sunday appropriate.) Gunn’s Sunday night was filled with gorgeous acoustic guitar playing: exotic reverberations, beautiful tones and compelling narratives. He opened with a long meandering thing that drifted in and out of verses and guitar excursions, like a helium balloon filled with blues music that floated halfway across the globe and up into the outer shells of the atmosphere. Although all the songs felt like instrumental pieces with sung verses layered on top, the one true instrumental was a highlight. It was a stunning bit of acoustic music, almost-over-the-top decadent, the room totally saturated with the sound of his guitar. If some of the strings were out of tune, he somehow worked this to the music’s advantage, only enhancing the otherworldly affect. It was a perfect ending to a night of great music. —A. Stein





Headlining The Bowery Ballroom for the First Time, Hozier Thrills

May 14th, 2014

Hozier – The Bowery Ballroom – May 13, 2014

It didn’t take long for the sold-out Bowery Ballroom crowd to start humming elatedly last night. The promise of Irish troubadour Andrew Hozier-Byrne performing live was enough to make an otherwise mundane Tuesday feel divine. Matty Fasano started off the night with a subdued solo set. Standing alone with just his guitar, his songs showcased his lilting voice and his knack for haunting lyricism. By the time Fasano finished, the audience was more than eager to see Hozier take the stage.

Hozier came into the spotlight only last year, but a large fan base instantly took hold of his passionate music. The County Wicklow, Ireland, native is just 24 but his voice sounds much older. The richness in the low notes and the power in his falsetto deliver every contemplative lyric with graceful fervency. The band, a supremely skilled group of musicians, provided choir-like vocals and valiant percussion to support their leading man, who frequently switched between guitars with ease. Fresh off a Letterman taping, they launched into a dazzling set.

“Like Real People Do,” a lullaby of a ballad, sent the audience into hushed awe. A couple of new songs fell into the mix along with crowd favorites like “Take Me to Church,” “Cherry Wine” and “From Eden.” Hozier even slipped in a couple of covers—rousing renditions of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and Amerie’s “1 Thing” rang out, each sparking audience sing-alongs. The singer ingratiated himself throughout, offering endearing anecdotes of his hometown and his time on tour before profuse thank-yous marked the end of the show. Hozier has yet to release a full-length album, but he’s bound to keep selling out venues. And anyone who catches him and his band live won’t be disappointed by the expansive reverie they deliver. —Schuyler Rooth


Swedish Doom Rockers Graveyard Play Webster Hall on Sunday

May 9th, 2014

Inspired by blues-inflected rock legends like Led Zeppelin and Cream, Joakim Nilsson (vocals and guitar) and Rikard Edlund (bass) formed Graveyard back in 2006. Now playing with Jonatan Ramm (guitar) and Axel Sjöberg (drums), the Swedish four-piece’s music reveals hints of blues, folk, jazz and rock and roll—or as they call it, “no boundaries, no limits at all.” The doom rockers, who perform in English, have released three albums, including 2012’s Lights Out (stream it below), which Pitchfork says, “might sound more like Wolfmother—or a supercharged version of the Black Crowes—than an actual metal record.” But you can decide for yourself when Graveyard (above, performing “Ain’t Fit to Live Here”) play Webster Hall on Sunday night.


Three Nights of Acclaimed Guitar Duo Rodrigo y Gabriela

April 29th, 2014

When Rodrigo Sanchez (lead guitar) and Gabriela Quintero (rhythm guitar) met as teenagers in Mexico City, they discovered a mutual musical taste and formed the thrash-metal band Tierra Acida. When that ultimately didn’t pan out (they recorded music that was never released), the duo began to learn different guitar styles, taking a liking to fast, rhythmic acoustic guitars. Finding the Americas stifling, they set out for Europe, landing in Dublin, where Rodrigo y Gabriela honed their fast and lively acoustic sound (incorporating some Zeppelin and Metallica along the way) in pubs and on streets. Then one-time busker Damien Rice asked them to tour with him and things eventually took off. Ever since, Rodrigo y Gabriela (above, performing “Somnium” and “Torito”) have been mashing up rock, classical, Latin, world music and heavy metal into their own unique sound over the course of several acclaimed live albums and studio full-lengths. The most recent of which, 9 Dead Alive (stream it below), just came out today. The new tunes eschew some of the pair’s Latin influences in favor of straight-ahead (acoustic) rock. According to AllMusic, “There isn’t a dull moment in these 41 minutes.” And furthermore, “This album evidences an expanded creative reach for the pair, even as it reengages the sharp edges they displayed on earlier recordings.” Rodrigo y Gabriela celebrate the new release with three nights at the Beacon Theatre, Thursday, Friday (sold out) and Saturday.


Vampire Weekend Continue to Rise

September 23rd, 2013

Vampire Weekend – Barclays Center – September 20, 2013

In 1965, the Beatles made a horde of shrieking girls convulse and fall apart at Shea Stadium. In the process, the Fab Four kicked off an era of arena rock that saw bands like Led Zeppelin and the Who touring the country and making gobs of money, all the while pouring out their hearts onstage. That time has since dissipated for rock bands over the past few decades—aside from occasional reunion tours, there are only a handful of groups from that era still packing big venues.

But a new generation of rockers, like Vampire Weekend on Friday night at Barclays Center, is now playing arenas. Of course, the local quartet is a far cry from the anthemic rock of ’70s—their success stems from the fact that their songs are so different from something like “Stairway to Heaven”—but with their constantly evolving style and deep catalog, they’re now able to fill increasingly bigger rooms.

All the familiar markers of a great arena-rock show were there on Friday night, with thousands of fans screaming as they recognized songs like “Oxford Comma” and “Cousins,” band-induced crowd participation and a theatrical, engaging light show. Drummer Chris Tomson even changed costumes throughout the night, wearing three different versions of Nets jerseys, by my count. And frontman Ezra Koenig’s focused intensity anchored the incredibly tight band as they played through their catalog, which will no doubt be considered classic in time. It was a night that proved that Vampire Weekend will soon take their place near the top of the musical totem pole. —Alex Kapelman

Photos courtesy of Dana Kandic | www.danakandic.com


Galactic Kick Off Four-Night Run at Brooklyn Bowl

August 8th, 2013

Galactic – Brooklyn Bowl – August 7, 2013

As far as metaphors go, New Orleans’ Galactic most resemble Silly Putty: totally elastic, plenty of bounce and press ’em hard enough against something and they’ll pick it up and distort it to no end. Opening a four-night run at Brooklyn Bowl last night, their unpredictable malleability was in full effect. After a tough-to-follow opening set from hot up-and-comers Superhuman Happiness, who appear to be raising Afrobeat space-funk indie pop to an art form, the veteran jammers took the stage and wasted no time with a warm-up solo-packed funk jam.

From there the set was delivered in bite-sized pieces. Guests rotated in and then left only to return, beginning with Corey Glover, looking quite like your golf-obsessed uncle and delivering a decidedly soul-blues-rock edge. His highlight was a great cover of Allen Toussaint’s “Night People,” which rode a nice Jeff Raines guitar solo, and the appropriately titled “Ooh Nah Nay,” the crowd singing along while getting lost in the Bermuda Triangle of Rob Mercurio, Ben Ellman and Stanton Moore. The proverbial glow stick was cracked when Jon Gutwillig from the Disco Biscuits joined in on guitar, adding a long, swirly phospherescent solo to a dark, funky jam. The Silly Putty went pretzel as Glover and Gutwillig both sat in for, of all things, an adrenaline-rush cover of Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.”

Of course Galactic spent some quality time on their own, with plenty of boogie-inducing numbers, from the classic Meters-esque groovers to the explosive, harmonica-meets-slide-guitar-meets-TNT-drums “Shibuya.” But the guests couldn’t be held off for too long: Rubblebucket’s Kalmia Traver brought a bucket of energy to the second Zeppelin cover of the night, matching Glover’s performance with a house-igniting take on “Whole Lotta Love.” Traver moved to baritone saxophone and bandmate Alex Toth joined in on trumpet for a big-horn-section take on “Baker’s Dozen” before Glover returned to close it all out with a Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality.” And that was just the first night! Don’t worry. I’m sure there’s plenty of bounce left in ’em for three more—and then some. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com

(Galactic play Brooklyn Bowl tonight, tomorrow and Saturday.)


Don’t Miss the Legendary Robert Plant Tomorrow in Prospect Park

July 26th, 2013

Ever since Led Zeppelin (perhaps you’ve heard of them) broke up following the tragic death of drummer John Bonham in 1980, frontman Robert Plant has remained busy with a variety of projects and pairings, focusing on blues, country, folk, Americana and rock. Never one to go too long without doing something new, the music legend is currently fronting his latest band, the Sensational Space Shifters—Justin Adams, John Baggot, Juldeh Camara, Billy Fuller, Dave Smith and Liam “Skin” Tyson—reinterpreting world music and Zeppelin classics through roots music, while still managing to make the tunes rock. “We take primeval desert instruments and bring them into contemporary soundscapes,” Plant tells the Boston Herald. “Where Massive Attack and Led Zeppelin left off, we keep going.” Of course, the best part is that Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters (above, doing “Black Dog,” and, below, covering “Spoonful”), along with Matthew Houck’s fantastic Phosphorescent, play Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell tomorrow night.


Rock Out with Clutch Tomorrow Night at Terminal 5

May 1st, 2013

The guys in Clutch—Neil Fallon (vocals, guitar and keys), Jean-Paul Gaster (drums), Dan Maines (bass and vocals) and Tim Sult (guitar and vocals)—have been making their own brand of rock (think: the Venn Diagram overlap of Led Zeppelin and Faith No More, sort of) since forming in Germantown, Md., in 1990. They gained a loyal following and an interest from several indie labels early on, thanks to their high-energy live shows. But despite putting so much emphasis on their stage performances, they still spend a considerable amount of time in the studio recording new material. In fact the quartet recently released their 10th full-length, the well-received Earth Rocker. And now Clutch (above, doing the new disc’s title track) are out on the road in support of it. See them, along with the Sword and Lionize, tomorrow night at Terminal 5.


A Saturday Night Fever Dream

April 29th, 2013

Oneida – Mercury Lounge – April 27, 2013

A set by Oneida isn’t something you should step into halfheartedly. The veteran noise-jammers have literally played hours on end of penetrating, instrumental music. By those standards, their post-midnight set at Mercury Lounge on Saturday night was an utterly accessible affair. Don’t get me wrong, the band that wished everyone a happy Friday night when the clock was decidedly into Sunday morning and that introduced every piece with “This is a song by Oneida,” still indulged in plenty of their patented fever-dream excursions: walls of sound that seemed to bury their ego, superego and id in overlapping swaths of guitar, keyboards and drums for the audience to discover themselves.

Their Merc set was decidedly song-oriented, which is to say that each tune had lyrics and discernible themes. They opened with a longer fractal jam, where subtle deviations from one musician then another then another, eventually moved the entire mass in one direction or another before finally, 10 minutes later, imploding into an ambient space-out. The second song was, indeed, a song, with a dark proto-metal riff, a Zeppelin/punk/psych-rock combo that had drummer Kid Millions pummeling along at an impossible click. Another piece had a heavy organ groove while the dual guitarists swarmed around with a model-airplane buzz, circling the keyboards, eventually consuming them. As is often the case, it was the drums tying the competing ideas together, Millions impossibly playing with everyone else simultaneously while seemingly making it happen on his own.

The set closed with “Up with People,” a dancehall-techno thing that perfectly matched a latch-on hook with Oneida’s go-anywhere improvisational mien. Playing all those concise songs, even at eight or nine minutes a hit, left plenty of room for an encore, and the band took full advantage, flitting through a couple of cursory verses before diverging into a 20-minute journey: drums swimming in a molten pool of guitars and keyboards, simultaneous ecstatic peaks and spiraling descents, an all-consuming pounding that eventually faded into an oblivion jam, the denouement a full-fledged awe-inspiring piece of improv on its own. —A. Stein


Opeth Bring Swedish Metal to The Wellmont Theatre Tonight

April 19th, 2013

The Swedish metal band Opeth formed in Stockholm more than two decades ago, influenced by the likes of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and “occult-infused Scandinavian death metal.” There have been multiple lineup changes since the band’s debut, Orchid, was released in 1995. But the one constant has been frontman (and guitarist) Mikael Åkerfeldt, who is now joined by guitarist Fredrik Åkesson, drummer Martin “Axe” Axenrot, bassist Martín Méndez and keyboardist Joakim Svalberg. And while Opeth (above, doing “The Drapery Falls” at Royal Albert Hall) have long embraced a heavy metal sound, on their 10th album, 2011’s Heritage (stream it below), the five-piece veered in a new direction, employing clean vocals, progressive rock and even jazz fusion to achieve critical and commercial success. (The Guardian called it “brave, melancholic and often beautiful….”) But of course, this doesn’t mean the band’s gone soft. Make no mistake: When they play live, they still bring it, which you can see for yourself tonight at The Wellmont Theatre.


Two Bands Worthy of the Hype

March 1st, 2013

Unknown Mortal Orchestra/Foxygen – The Bowery Ballroom – February 28, 2013

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

The first time I saw Unknown Mortal Orchestra (or UMO) a couple years back, they were a support act you could just tell wouldn’t be an opener for too much longer. So it felt like no coincidence that their big sold-out headlining show last night at The Bowery Ballroom would feature an opening band riding an acclaimed debut album and the justified hype to sold-out headlining gigs of their own before too long. That band, Foxygen, took the stage in a blaze of manic energy and echo-reverb ooh la la’s, twitching their way through pretty much all of their new We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic album. Those recorded tracks come off as retrofitted rock gems, but live they were a delightfully jagged and ragged set. Untethered from the studio, the sound felt like 1960s rock and roll in a blender: a juicy cocktail of Jagger’s vocals, McCartney’s bass, Morrison’s lithe, wild-eyed stage presence, the Who’s bombastic energy, an occasional dash of Dylan’s off-kilter harmonica, topped off with Neil Young’s hat. It was a delicious brew that the expectant crowd guzzled down happily, highlighted by whiplash versions of “On Blue Mountain” and “No Destruction.”

If Foxygen offered a look back for Unknown Mortal Orchestra, UMO returned the favor. Riding on a next-step sophomore album, simply titled II, the Portland, Ore., trio crackled with the confident, cohesive energy of a band in control. On paper, UMO are a standard power trio—guitar, bass and drums—but their sound has a subtle surrealistic edge. This is a power trio as painted by Salvador Dali, melting over the limbs of trees and walls in a distorted reality. They opened with a splash of older material, centered on the catchy, off-center “Thought Ballune,” every bit of music crunched through just the right amount of distortion. From there, they unveiled track after track from the new album, the heavy-hitter middle section of the show characterized by a nonstop, groove-rock bass playing from Jake Portrait, which propelled along each tune. Frontman Ruban Nielson, looking downright wizardlike in poncho and hat, took over from there, leading the band through the set’s final third, which seemed to get better with each passing riff. Centered on a surprising sing-along version of “From the Sun,” Nielson fit powerful guitar solos into perfectly orchestrated pieces, with each sound from the pummeling drumming of Riley Geare to Nielson’s vocals locked into place. That tune relented into a wonderful Frank Zappa section, which kept at it through the remainder: The band sounding as if Zappa were leading Zeppelin as a power trio through an updated psychedelic catalog.

While the late-night packed crowd thinned out a bit around midnight, those who remained to the end seemed to hear pretty much everything from both albums by the end of the night, from the just-weird-enough “Ffunny Ffriends,” off the self-titled debut to the soulful “So Good at Being in Trouble,” off II. I was struck by how much better the already-darn-good band had gotten since that opening hit, getting me to already contemplate their next time through town, as well as what the future brings for Foxygen. And of course, most important, who will be opening for them when they’re playing their big sold-out headlining show. —A. Stein


The Weather It Is a-Changin’

February 8th, 2013

American Royalty/Vensaire – Mercury Lounge – February 7, 2013

American Royalty

As the Northeast awaited another impending storm, the theme of the fantastic late double bill at Mercury Lounge last night was “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes,” as both bands hit a dizzying array of sounds, themes and influences, filling every minute with crowd-pleasing music.

First up, Vensaire took the stage while green laser spots floated around the entire room like CGI fairies bringing a little magic to the Lower East Side. To understand Vensaire, all you need to know is they’re the kind of band that that is very easy to dance to and also the kind of band that has a violin player. Their opening song was nine minutes long and stretched through multiple sections, somewhat freaky-folk Grizzly Bear-ish, before an extended, pounding, triumphant ooh-la-la coda that could have been its own song. From there, the band pulled in some Japanese influences, the violin sounding downright eerie. Throughout the set four different musicians took lead vocals and everyone put their own punctuation on the sound—art-rock vocals, groovy bass and keys, and a prog-y lead guitar, covering a lot of territory, all very smart, all very open and loose, and all very danceable.

Picking up where Vensaire left off, American Royalty began in a now nearly packed room with an ambitious string of songs that featured multiple overlapping sections. And each seemed to bounce among styles: It almost felt like an expert DJ working the turntables, mixing and layering sounds to create a new music. Except these guys were doing it live, and every transition was perfect, the trio hitting three main styles: Zeppelin-esque rock and roll, soul and dance club in some combination in their set. About midway through, American Royalty covered Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman,” which was perfectly nearly unrecognizable, a real-time remix that captured the essence of the original but re-envisioned it as an American Royalty classic. From there the set was one workout to the next—including the standout material from their released-this-week Prismatic EP—fist-pumping sections comingling with hip twisters, each song building a narrative and usually ending in a high-energy climax. So, yeah, if you didn’t like the “conditions” in the room last night, they’d change soon enough, except it was more like every 30 seconds and, as it turned out, everyone seemed to love it all. —A. Stein



Two Nights of Swedish Rockers Graveyard This Weekend

January 24th, 2013

Inspired by blues-inflected rock legends like Led Zeppelin and Cream, Joakim Nilsson (vocals and guitar) and Rikard Edlund (bass) formed Graveyard back in 2006. Now playing with Jonatan Ramm (guitar) and Axel Sjoberg (drums), the Swedish four-piece’s music reveals hints of blues, folk, jazz and rock and roll—or as they call it, “no boundaries, no limits at all.” Last fall the throwback rockers released their third album, Lights Out (stream it below), which Pitchfork says, “might sound more like Wolfmother—or a supercharged version of the Black Crowes—than an actual metal record.” But you can decide for yourself when Graveyard (above, performing “The Siren” at Bonnaroo in 2011) play The Bowery Ballroom tomorrow night and Music Hall of Williamsburg on Sunday.


Robert Randolph Feels the Love

November 21st, 2012

Robert Randoph & the Family Band – Brooklyn Bowl – November 20, 2012

You’d be hard pressed to find a more likeable act than Robert Randolph & the Family Band. It’s not just the fact that a large chunk of the group comes from the same family as the supremely talented pedal-steel guitarist—it’s that Randolph’s music is just so damn eclectic. In the artist notes on his Web site, Randolph called his latest record, We Walk This Road, “…a celebration of African-American music over the past 100 years….” In truth, it showcases his signature fusion of gospel, soul, funk and blues. But it’s clear that there’s a hefty helping of sonic diversity in the mix. Last night at Brooklyn Bowl, along with covers of songs by preeminent black artists like Bill Withers (“Use Me”) and Michael Jackson (“Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough”), the group jammed on selections from legendary white rockers like Bob Dylan (“Maggie’s Farm”) and Led Zeppelin (“Whole Lotta Love”).

To hammer in the point further, the band invited Marc Roberge, from frat-boy favorite O.A.R., to pop onstage for a few songs. It’s this ability to integrate a variety of musical influences that underscores Randolph’s likeability. The second—and equally important— piece of the puzzle is Randolph’s unbelievably energetic show. He slowly hooked in the crowd with his virtuosity, beginning the night teasing his signature licks by playing them in short bursts and then finishing up the set with prolonged, heavily climactic solos. “Can I get a witness!” he screamed to the delighted audience after one particularly uplifting jam.

As it turns out, Randolph had no trouble doing that at all. Halfway through the set, one incredibly bold woman climbed onstage to display her dancing ability. (Quick note: She didn’t come anywhere close to vocalist Lenesha Randolph’s kinetic prowess.) And in a matter of seconds, 12 or so women were strutting their stuff in front of hundreds of delighted fans. After the song ended and people returned to the status quo, two of the interlopers planted big, grateful kisses on Randolph’s cheek. It was a fitting symbol of the crowd’s collective love for the band. —Alex Kapelman

(Robert Randolph & the Family Band play Brooklyn Bowl tonight, Friday and Saturday.)