Tag Archives: Music Hall of Williamsburg

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They Might Be Giants Take a Look Back and a Peak Ahead

February 23rd, 2015

They Might Be Giants – Music Hall of Williamsburg – February 22, 2015

They Might Be Giants – Music Hall of Williamsburg – February 22, 2015
While millions tuned into the Oscars last night to see whether a movie about an aging actor would defeat a film that took place over the course of 12 years, They Might Be Giants, a project that demands its own meditation on mortality and the march of linear time, took the stage at Music Hall of Williamsburg to play their debut album. Part of a string of shows at Music Hall that will see the band celebrate the 25th anniversary of their seminal record, Flood, next month, TMBG, as they’re fondly abbreviated, navigate their third decade as a project with the aplomb of the Original Gangsters of Brooklyn. But the two Johns—Flansburgh and Linnell—that still comprise the genesis and 30 years of enjoyable musical entropy of the band, remain as sharp in their arrangements and as quirky as ever. If the night promised a return to the 1986 self-titled record, this wouldn’t be the bildungsroman narrative of Boyhood or the middle-aged redemption tale of Birdman. The amazing thing about the Giants is how little they’ve changed since the Reagan administration.

John Flansburgh opened with the band’s requisite dry humor, quipping, “This room smells great … I’ve been on uptown buses, and this beats all of them.” The show itself, billed as the band playing their first LP, quickly wasn’t about that at all, Flansburgh again wryly noting, “We’ll be playing our first record, but out of order and with other songs in between.” Trust TMBG to playfully subvert their own premise. They opened with three cuts in a row off They Might Be Giants, “Chess Piece Face,” “I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die” and “Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head,” before mixing in such recent favorites as “Dr. Worm” and “Man, It’s So Loud in Here,” plus yet-to-be-released material, like “Let Me Tell You About My Operation” and “Music Jail, Part 1 and 2.” The crowd, reacting more feverishly to the older numbers, sang along, a mutual memory machine for those who knew all the words and one of the most prodigious acts in rock history remembering some of their oldest songs. Even the rapid-fire lyrics of “Rhythm Section Want Ad” and “Everything Is Right Is Wrong Again” clearly emerged from the band and their fans.

After playing the club-music send-up, “Man, It’s So Loud in Here,” Flansburgh remarked that the 2001 composition was from the “middle of our career.” Linnell looked askance at his bandmate just for a moment, before correcting, “I think we’re in the middle right now.” While the implication of another 30 years of making hyperliterate, genre-bending pop would wait on the march of time, the Giants launched into “Absolutely Bill’s Mood,” a song they wrote in 1985. Birdman won the Oscar for Best Picture an hour or so after this brief but telling moment, but it was TMBG who looked and sounded undaunted and enlivened staring into their past and unfolding future. —Geoff Nelson | @32feet

Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com

(See They Might Be Giants at Music Hall of Williamsburg on 4/26 and then again on 5/31.)

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Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Music Hall – February 14, 2015

February 16th, 2015

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Music Hall of Williamsburg - February 14, 2015

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

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Sturgill Simpson Transforms Music Hall into a Honky-Tonk

February 13th, 2015

Sturgill Simpson – Music Hall of Williamsburg – February 12, 2015

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Without notice, a new honky-tonk opened on a stretch of N. 6th in Williamsburg near
the East River. Or maybe it just felt that way last night as the Music Hall hostedt to a rollicking set of country music courtesy of Sturgill Simpson and his excellent band. The room was as packed as it’s ever been, the crowd was hitched up and ready to go, and Simpson seemed larger than life onstage, delivering a dominating performance from start to finish. His sound owes much to the outlaw country greats of yore—Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash quickly come to mind—but Simpson proved throughout the show that his is an evolved country for the modern day.

To listen to Simpson sing songs from his best-in-genre 2014 release, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, is to listen to someone born to play this kind of music. His voice was like a fine Kentucky bourbon with a blend of flavors deserving of its own language to describe: oaky with hints of smoke and cinnamon, maybe. The set built like a good whiskey buzz, the aroma, the bite of the first sip on songs like “Long White Line” and “Voices,” the taste turning into a warm sensation in the belly. With each succeeding song, the sensation moved to the head and then a whole-body experience, alternating between soulful introspection and shoe-stomping fun. Much of that giddy feeling was due to Simpson’s stellar backing band, led by Laur Joamets on guitar, who seemed to contain all of country guitar playing in his single Telecaster. He impressively alternated between lightning-fast picking, beautiful slow-and-steady slide guitar, which often took on shades of a steel guitar, and then swirling galactic twang.

As the show built a head of steam, the crowd followed along in their gleeful whiskey drunk, chattering and jostling back and forth to the bar became dancing, whooping and hollering. The second half of the show was an avalanche of superlative country music. “It Ain’t All Flowers” had the packed house shouting along before opening up into one of several belt-hitching rock-out jams that seamlessly transitioned into the quieter “The Promise.” Next, “Railroad of Sin” reached the night’s most frenetic moment, with Joamets, Simpson, Kevin Black on bass and Miles Miller on drums as a locomotive in danger of hopping off the tracks, the dance floor exploding with a manic energy. After a triumphant, cathartic take on his self-professed favorite song on the new album, “Just Let Go,” Simpson’s voice as strong as it had been all night, the show closed with a crowd-pleasing sing-along on “Turtles All The Way Down,” leaving everyone feeling boozy and elated and wondering if there was still time for one more shot before hitting the road. The band obliged the thunderous ovation with two fingers of Simpson spirits, a soulful crooning of “I’d Have to Be Crazy” (“for the ladies”), his voice nearly channeling Otis Redding,  and finally a cover of the Osborne Brothers’ “Listening to the Rain,” which opened into a full-fledged T. Rex cover before looping back around to finish out in didn’t-think-it-could-be-topped fashion. Simpson and Co. exited the stage to more raucous applause and then, the strangest thing, that new honky-tonk disappeared. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

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Two Nights of Brooke Fraser to Close Out the Workweek in NYC

February 12th, 2015

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Brooke Fraser began making a winning brand of folk pop in 2003 with the release of her debut full-length, What to Do with Daylight (stream it below). But it was actually her third album, the universally acclaimed Flags (stream it below)—out in 2010—that made a name for her outside of her native New Zealand. Glide magazine called it “a wonder … drenched in beauty,” claiming that she “is not just another in a long line of pop singer-songwriters who get by on their looks and marginal talent. Her observations alone about the human condition cause this collection of songs to rise above the efforts of many of her contemporaries, and her rich vocals combine with the plethora of piano pop-rock sounds and sometimes otherworldly accompaniments to make the whole experience even more impressive.” In the time since her previous release, Fraser (above, performing “Kings & Quesns” live) has moved in a different musical direction, as evidenced by last year’s Brutal Romantic (stream it below). Per AllMusic, “An acoustic songbird trying on an edgier pop sound isn’t necessarily a revolution, but this sea change still feels pretty dramatic.” Witness it for yourself when Fraser plays The Bowery Ballroom tonight and Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow. L.A. artist Nick Long’s Dark Waves opens both shows.

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Robert Earl Keen Celebrates New Album Over Two Nights Next Week

February 6th, 2015

Legendary Texas country singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen self-financed his debut album, No Kinda Dancer (stream it below), which struck a winning balance between sensitive and raucous, back in 1984. And the Houston native has been a road warrior ever since, knocking out up to 200 shows a year in the ’90s, and even becoming known for the aptly titled “The Road Goes on Forever.” But of course it’s easy to play live when you’ve got so much material. And Keen has put out six live albums, a host of singles and he releases his 12th full-length, Happy Prisoners: The Bluegrass Sessions, next Tuesday. Robert Earl Keen (above, doing “What I Really Mean” live in studio for KDHX FM) celebrates its release with a pair of New York City shows next week, at The Bowery Ballroom on Monday night and at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Tuesday. Do your best to catch him live at least once. You’ll be glad you did.

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Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See Sturgill Simpson on 2/11

February 3rd, 2015

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Sturgill Simpson has been riding high since going solo in 2013. He’s currently making his way across the country, which brings him to New York City next week to play The Bowery Ballroom on 2/11 and Music Hall of Williamsburg on 2/12. Both shows are sold out, but since The House List wants to give you one more shot to see this cosmic cowboy perform live, we’re giving away two tickets to see him next Wednesday at The Bowery Ballroom. Want to go? Try to Grow a Pair. Just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (Sturgill Simpson, 2/11) and a brief message explaining your favorite song on his second album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. Eddie Bruiser, who always listens to the whole thing straight through, will notify the winner by next Wednesday. Good luck.

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Death Cab for Cutie – Music Hall of Williamsburg – January 28, 2015

January 29th, 2015

Death Cab for Cutie - Music Hall of Williamsburg - January 28, 2015


Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com

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They Might Be Giants Close Out Weekend in Williamsburg

January 26th, 2015

They Might Be Giants – Music Hall of Williamsburg – January 25, 2015

(Photo: Andie Diemer)

(Photo: Andie Diemer)

At this point, They Might Be Giants’ career is long enough that it’s become near impossible to paraphrase. It also doesn’t help that their fans, including me, are nerdy and devoted enough to yell at you for leaving out anything. So here goes nothing. They Might Be Giants consist of mainstays John Flansburgh and John Linnell, plus a backing band that’s been with them since the late ’80s, when they got their start playing around New York City. In local papers, They Might Be Giants promoted their Dial-a-Song service, hooking up an answering machine to a telephone line that played a song with each call. Some have counted upward of 500 original songs through the service. Flood, out in ’89, went platinum and featured the megahits “Birdhouse in Your Soul” and “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).” They were ahead of their times poking fun at the all-seeing-eye that is the NSA, before the Snowden leaks even came out. They’ve done a lot of kids music, a handful of theme songs including ones for Malcolm in the Middle and The Daily Show. I’m just scratching the surface here but you get the idea.

They Might Be Giants’ musical output exists as a galaxy entirely of its own creation, somewhere in the universe alongside Ween, Frank Zappa or Weird Al Yankovic. Their latest venture is version 2.0 of Dial-a-Song, with the band releasing a new tune every Monday at midnight through a phone number (844-387-6962) and Web site. Last night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, They Might Be Giants featured several new numbers, including this week’s Dial-a-Song, “Music Jail Pts. 1 & 2,” plus last week’s “Madame, I Challenge You to a Duel,” loosely based on Oliver Reed and Shelley Winter’s appearance on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Outside of the new stuff, it seemed like a handful in the audience knew every word sung. There was the start-and-stop concept song dedicated to the marching on of time, appropriately titled “Older.” There was “Fingertips,” which saw everyone in the venue waving arms in unison.

The horn section came out blaring in full force for “Call You Mom” and “Authenticity Trip.” In a robot voice, Flansburgh took time to explain to all the truth about the Patriots’ Deflategate. And They Might Be Giants played tribute to recently departed Joe Franklin, who, on one of their appearances on his television show, leaned over to tell them, “If you ever win a Grammy, thank me.” They missed their chance but thanked him last night to make up for it. Trusted classics like “Birdhouse in Your Soul” and “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” appeared toward the second half of the set. The momentum built up through two encores, before finally ending things with “Ana Ng,” off Lincoln. For They Might Be Giants diehards, the band returns next month to play their first album in its entirety. Until then, they’ll be releasing a new song every Monday at midnight through Dial-a-Song. Time marches on, and They Might Be Giants continue to grow their galaxy. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

(They Might Be Giants play Music Hall of Williamsburg again in February, March, April and May.)

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Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See They Might Be Giants on 1/25

January 20th, 2015

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Local musical legends They Might Be Giants play their self-titled debut album live at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Sunday. The show obviously sold out well in advance, but The House List is giving away two tickets. Want to go? Try to Grow a Pair. Just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (They Might Be Giants, 1/25) and a brief message explaining why Sunday is the best night to go out. Eddie Bruiser, who doesn’t usually need a reason to go out at night, will notify the winner by Friday. Good luck.

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Psychedelic Furs – Music Hall of Williamsburg – January 18, 2015

January 19th, 2015

Psychedelic Furs - Music Hall of Williamsburg - January 18, 2015

Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com

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A Fun Night at Music Hall of Williamsbrug with Dr. Dog

January 12th, 2015

Dr. Dog – Music Hall of Williamsburg – January 10, 2015

Dr. Dog – Music Hall of Williamsburg - January 10, 2015
Christmas arrived about two weeks later for local Dr. Dog fans. With the city now covered in sad, discarded Christmas trees and dirty days-old snow, Dr. Dog began their long stretch of New York City shows, eight to be exact, with four at Music Hall of Williamsburg and then four at The Bowery Ballroom. According to the band, there’s a pool of 700 songs to choose from, giving those fans attending each show with something new every night. Dr. Dog’s set on Saturday at Music Hall covered the fan favorites and dug deeper into their catalog, leaving everyone with a handful of new ones to adore. In my case, “Be the Void,” off the Wild Race EP. (How could I have missed this song?)

Dr. Dog adapt their live show to their recordings, not the other way around, which is impressive when you consider the complexity of their harmonies. Take “The Breeze,” with its harmonic breakdowns reminiscent of the Beach Boys’. Most would hear that recording and assume Dr. Dog wouldn’t even attempt it live, never mind the fact that they could make it sound even better onstage—and they do. It certainly helps that Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken, who share lead-vocal responsibilities, have complementary singing voices. The two have been writing music together since early adolescence, which probably helps with their harmonizing. If you had to distill Dr. Dog and their live experience down to one word, it’d be: fun. And or the sake of not having to look up synonyms, I’ll just keep repeating the word. “That Old Black Hole” makes for a fun band’s most fun song. Their cover of Architecture in Helsinki’s “Heart It Races” takes someone else’s fun song and makes it even more fun.

After finishing “Lonesome,” Leaman ended up crowd surfing alongside seemingly everyone else in the building. Not in the punk-rock, jump-off-the-stage-in-a-spur-of-the-moment way, but more in a gradual collapse into the audience, as if the crowd had swallowed him whole, a funny gesture considering he’d just sung about being lonely. Delicate Steve’s Steve Marion came out for a guest appearance to rip a massive guitar solo, leaving just him and the drummer while the rest of the band sneaked off, returning in full force for a blazing rendition of “These Days.” If you missed this show, there’s still a chance to catch Dr. Dog on Monday. And if you miss that … well you had eight other chances, so get your shit together. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.wordpress.com

(A few tickets remain for tonight’s Dr. Dog show at Music Hall of Williamsburg. All four nights at The Bowery Ballroom are sold out.)

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Don’t Get Shut Out of Dr. Dog Next Week

January 8th, 2015

Deftly mixing melodic pop and psychedelic rock, Dr. Dog have been winning over fans for more than a decade. And even after releasing seven terrific studio albums, the Philly rockers are still most known for their energetic live performances. And to that end, a live album, the 19-song Live at a Flamingo Hotel (stream it here), comes out next Tuesday. And tomorrow night, Dr. Dog (above, performing “Shadow People” for the live album) kick off a new tour with eight(!) shows at Music Hall of Williamsburg and The Bowery Ballroom. Six of those dates are already sold out, but some tickets still remain for 1/12 at Music Hall and 1/14 at The Bowery Ballroom. But they’re going fast—so don’t get shut out.

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Rustie Plays Live Tomorrow at Music Hall of Williamsburg

January 7th, 2015

Russell Whyte grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, with an interest in music. By the age of 15, he was already playing the guitar and spinning on turntables. He first burst onto the scene—under the name Rustie—in 2007 as a producer, deftly mixing dubstep, funk, hip-hop and electronica. Two years later, Rustie (above, doing “City Star” at MoMA PS1 for Pitchfork) joined Warp’s roster, and his debut full-length, the psychedelic-tinged Glass Swords (stream it below), came out in 2010 to some considerable acclaim. According to the Guardian, the album “is almost entirely composed of dance-floor highs, a series of those hands-in-the-air peak-time moments that stick in the memory long after the rest of the night has turned hazy…. Rustie has a knack for an irresistible hook, and for knowing when to stick with it and move on.” His second LP, the more serious Green Language (stream it below), came out last summer. And critics were again impressed. Per Spin, the album excels “not only because of its smooth integration of ambient, experimental and R&B influences, but also as a seamlessly ranging and novel concept album.” And it delivers, “serving as a fascinating turn for an artist who earned his reputation by essentially bashing fans into submission with bass.” Of course, performing live, he’s a little subtler, which you can experience for yourself tomorrow night at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Straight out of New Jersey, Nadus open the show.

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Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See the Hold Steady on 12/31

December 30th, 2014

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Hometown favorites the Hold Steady close out the year by staying local with two sold-out shows at Music Hall of Williamsburg, tonight and tomorrow. And since we’re still in the giving mood, The House List is offering up two tickets to see them on New Year’s Eve. So if you got shut out before, try to Grow a Pair. It’s easy. Just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (Hold Steady, 12/31) and a brief message explaining your favorite tune on Teeth Dreams. Eddie Bruiser, a fan of the Hold Steady’s entire discography, will notify the winner by tomorrow. Good luck and happy New Year.

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Two Chances to Catch Nick Lowe’s Quality Holiday Revue

December 12th, 2014

Singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Nick Lowe has been a big part of British music—specifically rock, power pop and New Wave—since the ’70s, steadily releasing music and delighting fans across the globe. And despite the fact that his Christmas album, last year’s terrific Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family (stream it below), received terrific reviews—per Relix, “While Lowe’s recent critically acclaimed CDs have mined a mellow, melancholic mood, Quality Street sparkles with holiday cheer”—Lowe (above, performing “Christmas at the Airport” live in studio for WFUV FM) never toured in support of it … until now. In fact, Nick Lowe’s Quality Holiday Revue (which includes Los Straitjackets and the Cactus Blossoms) hit the road last week, and they’re headed our way not once but twice, on Sunday at The Bowery Ballroom and on 12/20 at Music Hall of Williamsburg.