Australian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jessica Newham grew up in Sydney, but headed to the U.S. as a teen to attend a performing-arts school in Michigan and then the Berklee College of Music in Boston. She began playing live when she was just 16 and then, channeling popular ’80s influences and synth pop reminiscent of M83 and MGMT, started releasing music as Betty Who just a few years later. After early buzz for a pair of acclaimed EPs and opening for Katy Perry’s Down Under tour, her debut full-length, Take Me When You Go (stream it below), arrived in 2014. Betty Who (above, the video for “Mama Say”) returned this past spring with her sophomore effort, The Valley (stream it below), which has a more modern sound, but is as life-affirming as her other work. Catch her life-affirming music live tomorrow night at Brooklyn Steel. Another synth-pop act, Geographer, opens.
Tag Archives: MGMT
Charismatic frontman Matt Vasquez (vocals and guitar), Jon Jameson (bass), Brandon Young (drums), Kelly Winrich (keys and vocals) and Will McLaren (guitar) formed the soulful Americana five-piece Delta Spirit (above, performing “From Now On” for KUTX FM) a decade ago in San Diego. They won over fans the old-fashioned way, crisscrossing the country—often with their musical brothers-in-arms Deer Tick and Dawes—and becoming known for arena-ready songs and energetic, leave-it-all-onstage live shows, not to mention their quality discography, which includes four well-received studio full-lengths. The most recent of which, Into the Wide (stream it below), came out last year. Per Consequence of Sound, “They’ve successfully expanded their range without it feeling unnatural. The change is never forced; they just have faith in their intuition. That’s what led them to Brooklyn, which led them to Into the Wide. Wherever those instincts take them next, they should trust it.” And not only do Delta Spirit play Warsaw tomorrow, but they’re also bring some friends with them: MGMT’s James Richardson, Guards’ Loren Humphrey, Cults’ Brian Oblivion, Madeline Follin and Gabe Rodriguez, and Jessica Lea Mayfield.
Tags: Brandon Young, Brian Oblivion, Cults, Dawes, Deer Tick, Delta Spirit, Gabe Rodriguez, Guards, History from Below, Into the Wide, James Richardson, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Jon Jameson, Kelly Winrich, Live Music, Loren Humphrey, Madeline Follin, Matt Vasquez, MGMT, Music, Ode to Sunshine, Preview, Video, Warsaw, Will McLaren
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The Brooklyn quartet Bear Hands—Ted Feldman (guitar), Val Loper (bass), Dylan Rau (vocals and guitar) and TJ Orscher (drums)—got started when Feldman and Rau met in college. The duo then paired up with Loper and Orscher, who had been involved in hardcore-punk bands, and they suddenly had a post-punk experimental sound. Their first EP, Golden (stream it below), came out in 2007 and Bear Hands (above, playing “Giants” for KEXP FM) eventually got a plum gig opening for MGMT. (Rau had attended Wesleyan with that band’s Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser.) A proper LP, Burning Bush Supper Club (stream it below), came out in 2010, and even the noted cynics at Pitchfork were impressed: “Bear Hands excel at crafting songs that chug manically under a cloud of reverb or coax wallflowers out onto the dance floor with an infectious marriage of musical precision and experimental messiness.” The four-piece returned earlier this year with their sophomore LP, Distractions (stream it below). “By giving up some their raucous, more punk-inspired roots, Bear Hands have collectively grown as both songwriters and shapers of sounds,” said Consequence of Sound before declaring an “undying punk ethos still shines thanks to their insatiable sense of curiosity and utter creative fearlessness.” See them play The Bowery Ballroom tonight. Local quintet Ski Lodge open the show.
Tags: Andrew VanWyngarden, Bear Hands, Ben Goldwasser, Bowery Ballroom, Dylan Rau, MGMT, Preview, Ski Lodge, Ted Feldman, TJ Orscher, Val Loper, Video
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Francis and the Lights – The Bowery Ballroom – March 28, 2014
It shouldn’t surprise you that someone with a name like Francis Farewell Starlite is the illuminating man behind New York City’s Francis and the Lights. They’ve previously shared bills with the likes of MGMT, Drake, La Roux and Ke$ha. Starlite is a less-is-more kind of guy. He explained in an interview: “Before a performance, I tell myself to only say and play what is important. Ultimately, it’s just to do less, do less, do less. It’s as hard as it gets. I fail at it more than I succeed.”
On Friday night, Starlite crooned the opening lines of “Like a Dream” backstage before taking the stage at a sold-out Bowery Ballroom. His voice wasn’t completely ready, missing a few keys here and there, but he fully made up for it with his jig that’s enthralled many. Donning a black jumpsuit and aviator sunglasses, he quickly warmed up his vocals with “The Top,” and accelerated with a high falsetto resembling Barry Gibb’s on “Strawberries.” Starlite’s pace quickened and his jumpsuit was soon unzipped for the rest for the evening. Bouncing back and forth between keyboards on either side of the stage, Starlite seemed to be unable to sit still or stop from fluffing his disheveled pompadour until he sat at a white piano for the falsetto ballad “I’ll Never Forget You.” The enigmatic singer then treated fans to a pair of new songs, “Scream So Loud” and one yet untitled.
Truly thankful for the opportunity to perform, Starlite ended his set with the folk-tinged love tune “It’ll Be Better” and his signature track, “A Modern Promise,” complete with the exclamation: “They call me Starlite now.” Returning to the stage, he encored with “Striking” and “If They Don’t Come Tomorrow.” The latter had the man of the night basked in spotlight, seated at his keys, which only seemed the appropriate way to conclude the evening. Shifting back and forth from soul-infused ballads to infectious dance tracks, Starlite is best described in his own words, “The idea of extremes: black and white. Black and white could be dark and light. I like that idea.” —Sharlene Chiu
MGMT/Dinosaur Jr. – Barclays Center – December 13, 2013
Underage was the word that occurred to me as I watched fans stream into Barclays Center on Friday night: goofy-looking dudes with skinny necks and hats on sideways, girls covered in colorful crop tops and fluorescent face paint. So when I got to my seat and saw a woman older than my mom sitting nearby, I had to talk to her. Good-natured ushers rebuffed my first two attempts, though, and I enjoyed the openers, Kuroma and Dinosaur Jr., from the comfort of my own section. Kuroma delivered excellent, jangly rock tunes and with three MGMT members gave an exciting preview of the show to come. Dinosaur Jr., playing mostly to teens who weren’t born when they first broke up, didn’t disappoint either. J Mascis ripped off a succession beautiful, frenetic solos as they barged through deceptively simple rockers, highlights being “Feel the Pain” and a thunderous cover of “Just Like Heaven,” which brought their set to a sing-along close.
Finally, I made my way over to the white-haired woman and was astounded to learn she was bass player Matt Asti’s mom. After trading memories of past shows, I asked if she ever thought her son would be a rock star. “When he was three months old, I took him to an astrologist who said he’d make his living onstage. So I guess I should have known,” she replied. And with that, the lights began to dim, so I said a quick goodbye and good luck. The latter, as it turned out, was completely unnecessary. Opening with “Flash Delirium” followed by “Time to Pretend,” Asti and his bandmates had the crowd standing and screaming right away.
MGMT’s set was a rousing blend of Oracular Spectacular’s catchy tunes and their other albums’ more psychedelic fare. The show also featured trippy, Spirographic projections, a remote-controlled flying saucer and surprise guests—little known 1960s psych rocker Faine Jade, who came out to sing his “Introspection” (which MGMT covered on their eponymous new album), and Gibby Haynes, of Butthole Surfers, who joined them to sporadically bang on an massive cowbell and jump into the crowd during “Your Life Is a Lie” and “Kids.” MGMT then treated fans to two of the new album’s best songs (“Alien Days” and “Cool Song No. 2”), plus an epic encore of “Congratulations.” And if everyone else was as lucky as I was, they got to see Ms. Asti dancing in the aisle all show long. —Mickey Novak
Tags: Barclays Center, Butthole Surfers, Dinosaur Jr., Faine Jade, Gibby Haynes, J. Mascis, Kuroma, Matt Asti, MGMT, Oracular Spectacular, Photos, Review
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Local psychedelic rockers MGMT have been away for a while, since the release of their previous album, Congratulations, in 2010. But, fortunately, they returned to the studio to record their third full-length, MGMT (stream it below), which came out a few months back. In a glowing review, NME calls it “a transcendental [journey] you’ve never been on before.” And while MGMT (above, performing “Introspection,” “Your Life Is a Lie” and “Mystery Disease”) haven’t played a New York City show in three years, they head to Brooklyn tomorrow night to play Barclays Center.
But a big show calls for something different, and so MGMT will be joined by the massively influential alt-rock trio Dinosaur Jr. and Hank Sullivant’s quartet, Kuroma. And while Kuroma are up-and-comers not to miss, it’s worth mentioning that although Dinosaur Jr. have been around a while, the distortion-loving band remains as vital as ever, releasing the acclaimed I Bet on Sky (stream it below) last year. Paste called it “a jangly rock throw-down with a nostalgic center and a confident drive that ends up capturing everything that’s great about the band.” This will be one not to miss.
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Melodic electronic outfit the Naked and Famous got started in Auckland, New Zealand when Alisa Xayalith (vocals) and Thom Powers (guitar and vocals) recorded EPs with Aaron Short (keys) in 2008. David Beadle (bass) and Jesse Wood (drums) became fulltime members the following year. And thanks to their debut full-length, 2011’s Passive Me, Aggressive You—which earned them comparisons to MGMT—the five-piece toured the world, winning over fans across the globe with their dazzling live shows. Afterward, the Naked and Famous (above, performing “Hearts Like Ours” on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson) settled into Los Angeles’s musical-hotbed neighborhood Laurel Canyon to begin working on their sophomore effort. The moodier but no less fun In Rolling Waves (stream it below) arrived about a month ago, prompting the quintet to again hit the road. The bad news is that you can’t see them tonight at Terminal 5 unless you already have tickets. But the good news is that some tickets still remain for tomorrow night.
Tags: Aaron Short, Alisz Xayalith, David Beadle, Jesse Wood, MGMT, Passive Me Aggressive You, Preview, Terminal 5, the Naked and Famous, Thom Powers, Video
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Yeasayer – Rumsey Playfield – September 12, 2012
Central Park! Yeasayer! Beautiful September weather! Babies! Put all these things together (OK, well, except for the babies) and you’ve got the essential ingredients for a perfect show to usher out the summer outdoor-concert season. Wednesday night was the final stop of Yeasayer’s tour promoting the release of their latest album, Fragrant World . Their tour is being cut short thanks to the birth of Yeasayer mult-instrumentalist Anand Wilder’s new baby daughter, who was born on Saturday. The guys in the band welcomed the good news like the baby was all of theirs. Chris Keating joked several times throughout the set that they were returning to their hometown, New York City, to raise the newborn as a group.
When it comes to all the bands that have come out of the mid-aughts, Yeasayser’s a bit of an outlier. In many ways, their songs sound like a grab-bag collection of familiar sounds that have come into vogue as of late. Tunes both new and old dabble in the psychedelic, hypnotic grooves from the school of Animal Collective. Songs like their latest single, “Henrietta,” seamlessly morph from MGMT-style electro dance grooves to M83-style synth sentimentalism. With three of the four band members swapping vocal responsibilities, sometimes they all sang together like in the breakout from their debut, “2080,” building up an epic wall of harmonies reminiscent of the Fleet Foxes.
Individually these things aren’t necessarily unique, but throw them all together and you’ve got one of the most original and strangest sounding bands to emerge from the new millennium’s indie renaissance. And then of course there is “Ambling Alp,” the show ender and clear crowd favorite. Sung in unison, the lyrics from the song felt like some perfect and timely advice for someone new to this world. What an appropriate way to conclude a tour cut short by the birth of child. —Dan Rickershauser
Photos courtesy of Alexis Maindrault | rockinpix.com
Tags: All Hour Cymbals, Anand Wilder, Animal Collective, Central Park, Chris Keating, Fleet Foxes, Fragrant World, Ira Wolf Tuton, M83, MGMT, Photos, Review, Rumsey Playfield, Yeasayer
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The name Ill Fits seems appropriate for a band with such disparate parts—Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, Will Berman (of MGMT), Don Devore (of Amazing Baby) and Johnny Hunt (of Foreign Islands)—until you actually hear the five-piece play. The group first came together for some late-night jam sessions, mainly doing covers, but with new material like “Blood & Devotion” (played, above, for Indmusic), it’s easy to see that these guys actually fit together pretty well. See them tomorrow night at Mercury Lounge.
Tags: Amazing Baby, Don Devore, Foreign Islands, Ill Fits, Johnny Hunt, Mercury Lounge, MGMT, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, Preview, Video, Will Berman
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MGMT – Radio City Music Hall – August 17, 2010
MGMT performed the majority of their first of two sold-out Radio City Music Hall shows covered in shadows. The focal point of the venue’s cavernous stage instead fell upon an onslaught of colorful psychedelic images and lights projected onto a backdrop of large abstract shapes. The eager crowd danced and waved glow sticks as the band played material from their most recent album, Congratulations, with the trippy visuals complementing the eclectic-retro sound on songs like “Brian Eno,” “Flash Delirium,” “It’s Working” and “Siberian Breaks.”
In addition to newer material, MGMT also played a sizable portion of their 2008 breakthrough album, Oracular Spectacular. Though two years have passed since its heyday, one of the loudest cheers of the night erupted with the opening notes of “Time to Pretend,” the group’s tongue-in-cheek tale of rock-star excess, which unwittingly became the soundtrack to every hipster BBQ and house party from Brooklyn to Brisbane that summer. Despite the fact that in the years since the song was written, MGMT founding members Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser have actually become what most would consider bona fide rock stars, with fancy magazine-cover stories and headlining slots at festivals around the world, their understated performance further cemented the fact that they have certainly not become the rock-star clichés they once wrote about.
As the show began to wind down, the modest rockers finally let the lights come up a bit during the undeniably catchy “Kids,” with Goldwasser and VanWyngarden stepping away from their instruments and awkwardly, endearingly attempting to dance with the crowd—but mostly just looking down, nodding their heads to the beat and wandering around the stage as they sang. When the song finished and the crowd erupted with approval, VanWyngarden seemed relieved, admitting in utter un-rock-star fashion that when faced with the task of playing Radio City Music Hall, “I think we were a little bit nervous.” —Alena Kastin
Photos courtesy of Greg Aiello | www.ga-photos.com
They most recently played a stellar late-night show at Bonnaroo, but MGMT doesn’t have to travel too far for their sold-out hometown gig at the Prospect Park Bandshell on Wednesday as part of Celebrate Brooklyn. If you don’t have tickets but are still hoping to go, try to win a pair from The House List. Just fill out the form below, listing your name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (MGMT, 7/1) and a brief message telling us your favorite non-music-related thing about Prospect Park. Eddie Bruiser, a lover of all public parks, will notify the winner by 3 p.m. on Wednesday, July 1st. Good luck.