Tag Archives: Music Hall of Williamsburg


Parson James and Fletcher Play Music Hall of Williamsburg Tomorrow

December 8th, 2016

Singer-songwriter Parson James left behind small-town South Carolina to move to New York City when he was 17 in hopes of making it in the music business, crafting what he calls “conflicted pop gospel.” He got his big break when Norwegian DJ Kygo wanted to remix James’ original acoustic version of “Stole the Show” (performed live, above, for KCRW FM), turning it into a club smash in the process. The Temple EP (stream it below), filled with tender lyrics about acceptance and longing for love, arrived earlier this year. Fletcher, another local up-and-coming singer-songwriter, has also recently released an EP, Finding Fletcher (stream it below), which Idolator calls “a treasure trove of upbeat pop anthems.” And you can experience those anthems live when she and Parson James play Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow night.


Metric Play Intimate Hometown Show at Music Hall of Williamsburg

November 30th, 2016

Metric – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 29, 2016

Before the 21st century, a musical collective out of Toronto formed by the name of Broken Social Scene and spawned such acts as Feist, Stars and Metric. The environment was a supportive one, nurturing a space where each band could thrive. The founding duo of Metric, Emily Haines and James Shaw, moved to New York City in the late ’90s and recorded early demos that would provide material for their first studio album. Fast-forward a decade and some change, the indie-rock band released a sixth studio album, Pagans in Vegas, last fall. And last night they returned to Brooklyn for a sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg show as part of the Steve Madden Music series.

Fashioning a black cap, the lead singer took center stage kicking off the evening with a rousing rendition of “Speed the Collapse,” followed by the up-tempo “Youth Without Youth” as guitarist Ward added Auto-Tuned choruses. Haines had a few wardrobe changes, with the most notable being a luminescent cape that glowed against the black lights. (Added kudos to the lighting tech for her mastery of the syncopation of pulsating white shocks to several songs.) For crowd favorite “Dead Disco,” Haines turned up the showmanship, thrusting her fist and engaging the crowd from right to left. Bassist Joshua Winstead drove in the throbbing introduction to “Front Row,” as Haines took over with her melodic chants of “Burned out stars they shine so bright.”

The frontwoman noted that it was a hometown show for the band and great to “rekindle memories of North 6th.” A lot has changed since Haines and Ward moved here and shared a Williamsburg loft with soon-to-be members of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars and TV on the Radio. As the singer stripped down “Combat Baby” to a shortened a cappella interlude, I couldn’t help but relate the lyrics to a recent presidential candidate’s resilience. Following up that with “Gold Guns Girls” seemed to emphasize the formation further with Haines donning a guitar to jam with Winstead and Shaw, who closed out the song with an electrifying solo. The evening came to a close with singer and guitarist paired for a stripped-down “Gimme Sympathy,” before Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key rejoined the band for the finale, “Breathing Underwater.” —Sharlene Chiu


STRFKR Headline a Night of Dancing at Music Hall of Williamsburg

November 28th, 2016

STRFKR – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 25, 2016

STRFKR - Music Hall of Williamsburg - November 25, 2016
Friday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg was the perfect way to dance off the excess of Thanksgiving—the venue’s incredible acoustics will make any performance more than memorable. The show began with Brooklyn psychedelic-pop duo Psychic Twin. Both members, Erin Fein and Rosana Caban, wore intergalactic-inspired outfits, which perfectly complemented material from their debut album, Strange Diary. Having an ’80s synth-pop style is what makes Psychic Twin’s music addictive to listen and also see live, and there’s a vibrant, danceable side to dark songs like “Lose Myself.”

Continuing the dance-filled night, Minneapolis-based DJ Gigamesh played his neo disco and rhythmic dance beats against a screen projecting eye-catching imagery. Beginning his set with numbers off his debut album, Time Travel, Vol. 1, got the crowd dancing from the outset. Playing remixes in between songs was refreshing because it added an element of surprise. The crowd went wild, singing along to his remixes of Grouplove’s “Tongue Tied,” Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” and by the end, the audience was completely his.

The crowd’s anticipation increased as the venue grew more crowded. And then the lights dimmed and STRFKR—in drag—appeared, surrounded by dancing astronauts and green strobe lights, but it was just the beginning of the fun. They played such older favorites as “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second” mixed with material off their fourth album, Being No One, Going Nowhere, like “Never Ever,” and confetti and lasers made the night even more special. All three artists exceeded expectations, and friends and memories were made on the dance floor. —Karen Silva | @ClassicKaren

Photos courtesy of Julia Berke | juliaberkephoto.com


Sweater Beats Headlines Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday

November 23rd, 2016

Antonio Cuna was born in the Philippines and raised in Maryland (just outside D.C.) before heading to college in New York City. Once here, and already immersed in skate culture and inspired by Pharrell and Timbaland, he began crafting R&B-influenced electronic music as Sweater Beats, making waves with is debut single, “Mlln Dllr” (above). He’s since released countless singles, collaborations and remixes while touring with the likes of Chance the Rapper and Chet Faker, earning a reputation as a hard-working producer and musician who is willing to push his sound into new territory. Currently in the middle of a big American tour, Sweater Beats plays Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday night. Bearson and Different Sleep open the show.


Caspian Find Their Mark at Music Hall of Williamsburg

November 18th, 2016

Caspian – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 17, 2016

Coming out of a Caspian show, you feel roughed up and blown out, but in a good way. The post-rock band’s (mostly) instrumental sound seems to build from somewhere far away, encroaching gradually until it’s totally taken over, swarming you with a hail of guitar and other effects, roiling the floor with pummeling rhythms, pushing you over an abyss or up into a heavenly resolution of chords. It’s exhausting, cathartic and mighty dramatic—but that’s the point. You’re enthralled by the layers of sound and it’s kind of alarming, but you feel it build and build in tension, then give way to explosive release, whether on the back of a high-stacked triple-guitar melody or something more latent that takes longer to reveal itself. Dust and Disquiet, as Caspian’s 2015 release was named, and very much so.

Caspian were a buzzed-about curiosity in Massachusetts and in post-rock circles for long enough that when they finally began to mount national tours, the crowds were there to greet them. Their sound can be dense—you’re entering a sonic thicket and it’s easy to get lost in it—but the band also prioritizes melody. They’re accessible and not given to long stretches of ambient goo or merely retreading a crescendo-and-explode-over-elaborate-orchestration format. The five-piece found their mark early and often last night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, with a cinematic hour-plus set of selections that focused on but didn’t limit to Dust and Disquiet material. Some songs, such as “Rioseco” and the old Caspian favorite “Some Are White Light,” favored the long build, with layer upon layer of guitar swells crashing against a wall until they broke through, washing the senses. “Arcs of Command” and “Echo and Abyss” veered toward prog-metal, doped on guitar syncopation, letting crashing cymbals and electronic loops overwhelm the audience with inspired clangor.

They’re not all dark-night-of-terrors songs, though. Many Caspian tunes go for ominous uncertainty—inchoate guitar tones wandering around one another in a maybe-spooked, maybe-blissful haze—or for unbridled, bust-out joy, with massive builds that sound like blasts of light through a darkened tunnel look like. This is not an easy feat. Too much indulgence into a sound like this means lots of sculpted noise and guitar hail with little to hang on to. Too much composed orchestration, however, and the feeling in the music goes away—it becomes antiseptic, a tasteless recital, especially for those who’ve already taken the ride with the band. So credit Caspian for infusing so much heart into a genre that can sound remarkably numb. This is a rock-your-face sound you want to lean toward, rather than resist. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson


Hiss Golden Messenger Dazzle at Music Hall of Williamsburg

November 16th, 2016

Hiss Golden Messenger – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 15, 2016

The challenge when writing about Hiss Golden Messenger is to not overdo it. There’s marvelous stuff going on in this music, delivered in a deceptively simple framework. It’s the kind of thing that once you’re in its thrall and listening to frontman MC Taylor ramble on the frayed edges of Americana, you’re given to purple prose out of obligation, wanting to make sense of music that projects grandeur but also feels remarkably earthbound. It was a great turnout last night for Taylor’s latest stop in Brooklyn, part of a national tour behind the recent Hiss Golden Messenger album, Heart Like a Levee.

It’s accurate to call Hiss Golden Messenger a concept as much as a band; the live membership is variable (“MC Taylor + pals” is how they bill themselves), with a malleable cast of players who are at least as entranced as Taylor by what this music can do. At Music Hall, the band was on the larger side: usual suspects like Phil Cook on guitar and keys, Ryan Gustafson on lead guitar, Scott Hirsch on bass and Matt McCaughan on drums, plus expansion members like Josh Kaufman (everywhere lately) on guitar and the dazzling singer Tift Merritt, who earlier in the evening slayed with a soulfully roots-y solo set.

They were feeling it plenty: The band played a bit longer than the tour’s previous shows and held steady on a warm, almost hootenanny vibe that was at times both uplifting and spooked. Songs from Levee dominated, from “As the Crow Flies,” “Biloxi” and the soul-gospel “Happy Day” to the title track, and its loaded entreaty, “Will you grieve me, honey?/ Will I give you a reason to try?” “Tell Her I’m Just Dancing” is a Hiss Golden Messenger tune with a harder edge, awash with Cook keys in its closing jam. Such older tunes as “Lucia” and “Mahogany Dread” mixed with newer ones like “Like a Mirror Loves a Hammer,” and none were afraid of gritty rock and funk.

It’s Taylor’s band but the collective nature of it buoys him. His mates were free to roam, whether it was Merritt with deep-impact harmonies, or Gustafson injecting spooked or spacey guitar flourishes, or Cook pulling psychedelic tones from the keyboards to light the way. Together it’s a chameleonic thing—just when Hiss Golden Messenger sounded like a remarkably sturdy country-rock band, there were tears at the seams and more than hints of ’60s psychedelia, or a retreat into austere folk or hymnal balladry when it seemed like there might be a give in to boogie, or a heavy Southern soul thing when you were expecting, I don’t know, singer-songwriter confessionals. That it sounded like all part of one fabric is the mystery and also the joy. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson


Wild Beasts – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 14, 2016

November 15th, 2016

Wild Beasts - Music Hall of Williamsburg - November 14, 2016

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com


Helmet – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 13, 2016

November 14th, 2016

Helmet - Music Hall of Williamsburg - November 13, 2016

Photos courtesy of Adela Loconte | adelaloconte.com


El Ten Eleven Are Anything but Accidental on Saturday Night

November 14th, 2016

El Ten Eleven – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 12, 2016

(Photo: Rozette Rago)

(Photo: Rozette Rago)

Was it an accident that the lights went down at Music Hall of Williamsburg for Saturday’s El Ten Eleven show at exactly 10:11? Maybe yes, maybe no, but with those guys, it doesn’t feel like anything is an accident. For Kristian Dunn on basses and guitars and Tim Fogarty on drums, precision is key. Their songs are constructions of riffs and loops and samples and beats, and in many ways it’s as much math and engineering as anything else. Within the first two songs, Dunn dazzled with complicated double taps on his double-neck guitar-bass, utilized an EBow, expertly layered multiple sampled melodies and had Fogarty bang out a riff on his bass with drumsticks. But as the show progressed, it was clear that there was an emotional core to that precision, that the serious gear and the serious talent made it possible to make inspired music that was fun to dance to.

“Living on Credit Blues” about “how annoying it is when you’re poor,” according to Dunn, found a moving melody, a humanity in the how’d-they-do-that playing. “Disorder,” a Joy Divison cover, exhibited a lyrical beauty in its instrumental El Ten Eleven form. “Fanshawe,” off their self-titled debut album, was a gorgeous piece of bass playing. Throughout the set, Dunn was a Seurat of the strings, a musical pointillist creating awe-inspiring artwork out of large numbers of individually expressed notes. The band sounded great, their constant touring and a genuine love of what they’re doing shining through. They also looked great, with their own onstage rig providing dramatic multicolored backlighting and atmospheric smoke to enhance the music. The middle of the set was dedicated to several yet-to-be-named new pieces, one feeling like the theme song for a video-game villain, another had light-touch six-string guitar notes melting in a floor of low-end drum-machine furnace that vibrated the room.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the band brought out Emile Mosseri from the Dig to sing vocals, quite possibly an El Ten Eleven first. Mosseri’s gliding falsetto worked almost perfectly with Dunn and Fogarty’s sound, pointing to perhaps a new direction for the veteran duo. The latter portion of the show was consumed by old “hits”—including “I Like Van Halen Because My Sister Says They Are Cool,” “Connie” and “My Only Swerving”—that had the crowd giddy at each ecstatic climax. When Dunn announced that they had reached the end of the show, it was a bit of a pump fake as they delivered three more songs, with the show-closing “Transitions” a lengthy, multipart composition that delivered on several levels, ultimately peaking at just the right moment, which was, I am sure, no accident at all. —A. Stein | @Neddyo


Wild Beasts Come to Music Hall of Williamsburg on Monday

November 11th, 2016

Perhaps AllMusic describes London’s Wild Beasts (above, performing “Big Cat”) best: “Afrobeat- and rockabilly-infused ’00s post-punk lent circus surrealism by Hayden Thorpe’s rich falsetto and arcane lyrics.” The band—Thorpe (vocals and guitar), Ben Little (guitar), Tom Fleming (vocals and bass) and Chris Talbot (percussion and vocals)—has been together nearly 15 years, liberally making time to record and tour. Boy King (stream it below), their sixth studio album, arrived this past summer. “Boy King is the sound of a band reborn. The core elements are all still there—the falsetto-baritone play-off between vocalists Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming as prominent as ever—but they’re glitched-up and garbled,” raves DIY magazine. “Where before Wild Beasts bathed in soft textures, this time around they’re wailing away.” With their North American tour winding down, they come to Brooklyn on Monday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Porcelain Raft opens.


Helmet Come to Music Hall of Williamsburg Sunday with New Album

November 11th, 2016

Bridging the gap between heavy metal and indie rock with syncopated staccato guitar riffs, unusual tunings and uneven time signatures, Helmet rose up out of New York City in 1989, a cornerstone of alt-metal. The band found success in the ’90s while signed to Interscope, but with relentless touring and several lineup changes, Helmet (above, doing “Blacktop” live on KEXP FM) broke up before the turn of the century. Of course, it’s tough to keep a good band down, and so again Helmet rose up, in 2004. And again the lineup changed but it’s since been steadied with Kyle Stevenson (drums), Dan Beeman (guitar) and Dave Case (bass) joining founding member Page Hamilton (vocals and guitar). Last month, Helmet returned with Dead to the World (stream it below), their first album in six years. “Dead to the World isn’t the best Helmet record in almost 20 years because it returns to the sound of old,” says Sputnik Music, “but rather because it employs their more melodic style with tact, confidence and, most of all, conviction.” Touring the country behind the new tunes, Helmet return home to play Music Hall of Williamsburg on Sunday night. Local H open the show.


Double the Fun with Two Nights of El Ten Eleven Live This Weekend

November 10th, 2016

For close to a decade and a half, bassist and composer Kristian Dunn and drummer Tim Fogarty have been making sweet groove-oriented instrumental post-rock music out of Los Angeles as El Ten Eleven (above, performing “My Only Swerving”). They’ve expertly combined drum and bass with heavy looping and effects pedals over the course of six full-length studio albums filled with songs that are downtrodden but upbeat. The most recent of which, Fast Forward (stream it below), came out last year. Written and recorded on the heels of Fogarty’s father passing away, it “maps the melancholic expanse of human grief and memory, coloring it, however, with a melodic brightness,” according to PopMatters. “Fast Forward emphasizes the way multiple voices are expressed and reshaped through various stages of interaction, finding unique expressions of grief in its complex instrumentation.” Currently on an East Coast swing, the lively performers play Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday and Garcia’s at the Capitol Theatre on Sunday.


Roísín Murphy – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 4, 2016

November 7th, 2016

Roísín Murphy - Music Hall of Williamsburg - November 4, 2016

Photos courtesy of DeShaun Craddock | dac.photography


Pond Heat Up Music Hall of Williamsburg

October 27th, 2016

Pond – Music Hall of Williamsburg – October 26, 2016

The overnight temperatures have taken a turn toward downright chilly lately, the first sign that winter will be here soon. Of course, in Australia, the opposite is true: Summer is on its way. Indeed, walking into Music Hall of Williamsburg for the Perth band Pond last night, it felt like going from winter into summer, the globe flipping upside down, cold was now hot, dreary was now Technicolor. By the time the band took the stage, the room was packed and ready and the music delivered from the beginning, Pond’s mix of psychedelic throwback and danceable grooves.

Don’t look now, but what originally felt like a side project several years back, Pond now have three albums to their name and more new music on the way. The set list drew from all angles and eras, with large doses coming from 2015’s Man It Feels Like Space Again and 2013’s Hobo Rocket. “Giant Tortoise” showed off the band’s modern-day powers, Pink Floyd disco with a swirl of heavy-throttle guitar and dreamy pop. Songs like “Don’t Look at the Sun or You’ll Go Blind” were equal parts soaring guitars and deep synths, giving everyone in the audience a choice of clapping along or letting their minds swirl. Meanwhile, colorful images flickered on the stage backdrop, combining with Pond’s goofy banter to give the impression that they were performing in some old school Saturday morning cartoon.

At one pause, was that a sly little Yes tease I heard? Yes, Pond’s prog roots still show, “You Broke My Cool” feeling like a modern-day Bowie with a quick, ecstatic guitar jam. The set ended with a monster 15 minutes of nonstop music, starting with “Man It Feels Like Space Again” with a deep space funk and soaring guitars, ending up, I think, in “Midnight Mass,” but feeling like a continuation, an emotive liftoff. The band left the stage to aural ghosts panning left and right across the PA, before returning for a multipart encore, a high-energy left-of-Jupiter excursion with crowd surfing and heavy boogie and one last dose of that devil-may-care, party-all-night summer spirit. —A. Stein | @Neddyo 


The Mummies – Music Hall of Williamsburg – October 25, 2016

October 26th, 2016

The Mummies - Music Hall of Williamsburg - October 25, 2016

Photos courtesy of Dana (distortion) Yavin | distortionpix.com