Tag Archives: Nirvana

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Ásgeir Leaves No Doubt at Mercury Lounge

June 20th, 2014

Ásgeir – Mercury Lounge – June 19, 2014

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There’s something about the far off environs of Iceland that gives birth to unique musical voices. Everyone knows Björk and Sigur Rós, and soon they will know the name Ásgeir Trausti. With one out of 10 people in Iceland owning his first album, he is already well known in his home country and is ready to conquer the States. The English translation of his debut album, Dýrð í dauðaþögn (renamed In the Silence) was translated with the American singer John Grant and released earlier this year.

Donning a trucker hat, Ásgeir ascended to the cozy stage of a sold-out Mercury Lounge. Icelandic folk music preluded the start of the show, however Trausti began his set with the English tune “Head in the Snow.”  There’s something interesting about hearing songs in which you don’t know the lyrics or the meaning behind them. As he sang the pair “Leyndarmál” and “Sumargestur,” thoughts of what they might be about tickled my brain. Was it a ballad for an unrequited love or a song about homesickness for the beauty of his home? Only the Icelandic speakers would know, but the mystery is almost alluringly fitting for the language so steeped in a far-off land.

Weaving between his native tongue and English throughout the performance, Trausti made sure to offer several mid-set treats with a debut of a new song, “Ocean,” drenched in reverb, and a cover of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box.” The latter was a drawn-out version of the original that reminded me more of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” than of Kurt Cobain’s grunge masterpiece. Trausti managed to play most of his debut album, which included an acoustic rendition of “Summer Guest,” plus fan-favorites “Higher,” “Going Home” and “King and Cross.” For the final song, Trausti admitted that it was “a strange moment” as his band—consisting of his producer, his big brother, the album’s lyricist, and a drummer—couldn’t exit the small stage as he concluded the night with the lullaby “On That Day.” But there’s no doubting the family onstage and the magical evening they produced for the New York City crowd. —Sharlene Chiu

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EMA Entertains Mercury Lounge with New Material

April 28th, 2014

EMA – Mercury Lounge – April 25, 2014

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EMA’s excellent new album, The Future’s Void, is loaded with lyrics exploring the alienation, dissociation and paranoia associated with our modern times, and what it means to be a human in this mysterious universe. At her sold-out show at Mercury Lounge on Friday night, EMA (also known as Erika M. Anderson) and her band led a journey into the void with the album’s opening track, “Satellites.” It began with the pretty, almost romantic sounds of electric violin before being abruptly jolted by a bass hum and heavy static. A beat kicked in and then EMA began to sing, her voice conveying urgency—an appeal.

While performing new songs like “3Jane,” “Cthulhu” and the ethereal “Solace,” along with older material like the Nirvana-esque “Anteroom” (from previous album Past Life Martyred Saints) and “Cherylee” (by one of her former bands, Gowns), EMA appeared intense and serious, giving the music her full attention. Putting down the guitar for songs like “California” and “Neuromancer,” she moved freely around the stage and addressed the crowd more directly, gesturing powerfully with her arms to emphasize her words. Looking right into the crowd during the latter song, EMA repeatedly asked, “Is it true?” with such conviction that it seemed more of an accusation than a question.

But for all the intensity she channeled during her performance, between songs, EMA was quick to flash a smile, joking easily with the crowd and her bandmates, and even poking fun at herself for spilling her wine not once, but twice. And despite the heavy subject matter of much of her material, EMA didn’t hide the fact that she relishes performing, and these two truths were able to coexist nicely onstage. —Alena Kastin

 

 

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The Breeders Play a Pair of Shows at Webster Hall

December 18th, 2013

Kim Deal first rose to fame as bassist and backing vocalist for the Pixies. But while the seminal alternative rockers were touring behind their highly influential debut album, Surfer Rosa, Deal began working on new material fit for a different creative outlet. Since forming the Breeders in 1990, she has remained that band’s lone constant as lead singer and rhythm guitarist—Deal’s currently joined by twin sister Kelley on lead guitar, Jim MacPherson on drums and Josephine Wiggs on bass. The band’s first album, Pod (stream it below), put the Breeders (above, performing for the BBC) on the map and went on to influence the likes of Nirvana. “It’s an epic that will never let you forget your ex-girlfriend,” said Kurt Cobain. Nevertheless, the group remained a side project until the Pixies broke up—and although they’re currently back together, Deal is no longer part of the band. But even still, the Breeders went on hiatus in the mid-’90s before reuniting to play several shows in 2001 and release their third LP, Title TK, the following year. But they’re currently celebrating the 20th anniversary of their second full-length, Last Splash (stream it below), by hitting the road again to play full-album shows featuring Last Splash and Pod. Catch them tomorrow and Friday at Webster Hall.

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Meat Puppets Still Rule

April 5th, 2013

Meat Puppets – Mercury Lounge – April 4, 2013


That the Meat Puppets are even still around is something of a miracle. They’ve lived through multiple decades of adversity that have swallowed up other bands whole. One of those groups, a grunge band out of Seattle that helped the Meat Puppets gain in popularity by covering their songs on national television, has been gone for almost 20 years. The Meat Puppets’ history reads like a Behind the Music clichés grab bag, including everything from stints in prison to hard drugs and an on-again, off-again history spanning four decades. That brothers Cris and Curt Kirkwood are still even on speaking terms having lived through all this is pretty crazy.

One wouldn’t think that there’s any need for the Meat Puppets to prove anything to anyone anymore, but those crazy motherfuckers out of Phoenix are still at it, plowing through a fiery two-hour-plus set last night at Mercury Lounge, giving each song everything they’ve got and then some. Exhibit A: Cris Kirkwood’s face, home to some of the most interesting facial expressions you’ll find in rock music. Grimacing, wincing and pursing his lips like a monkey, it looked as if each bass note he slapped out hits him like a punch to the stomach. Every second got its own performance. Curt stood at the other side of the stage, effortlessly ripping through searing guitar solos like it was nothing at all. The world should reconsider any Greatest Guitarists lists without Curt’s name on it. Few people have the hand gymnastics it takes to steal guitar styles from so many different genres and toss them all into one blazing guitar solo.

The band’s set included songs from every moment of their lengthy career, including some unexpected covers. There was a surprisingly beautiful rendition of the Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B,” which bled into a near-perfect performance of their classic “Lake of Fire,” complete with a raging solo that kept picking up pace until it had nowhere else to go but to dissolve into its own unstoppable momentum. The band ended their set with “Backwater,” which included the appropriate refrains of “some things will never change.” It felt like an appropriate cap to the night’s performance. Against all odds, the Meat Puppets still fucking rule. Some things will never change indeed. —Dan Rickershauser

Photos courtesy of Peter Senzamici | senzamici.smugmug.com

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Garbage Play The Wellmont Theatre Tomorrow Night

March 19th, 2013

Butch Vig became a producing superstar when Nirvana’s second album, Nevermind, knocked Michael Jackson from the top of the charts and went on to capture the zeitgeist of the early ’90s. But he wasn’t just interested producing music. Vig (drums) also wanted to play it. And to that end, he teamed up with fellow producers and multi-instrumentalists Duke Erikson (bass) and Steve Marker (guitar) to form Garbage, even before they added Scottish singer Shirley Manson to the mix. The band entered the mainstream with the 1995 release of a self-titled album, with hits like “Stupid Girl” and “Only Happy When It Rains.” The quartet steadily released more music (another three LPs) and toured through 2005, and then following an 18-month hiatus, returned to play a benefit show in early 2007. But it took another three years or so for Garbage (above, playing “Stupid Girl” for KROQ FM) to return to the studio to work on Not Your Kind of People (stream it below), which finally came out last May. The band is now out on the road, and you can see them play The Wellmont Theatre tomorrow night.

(Friday’s show at Terminal5 is sold out.)

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Bob Mould Plays The Bowery Ballroom Tonight and Tomorrow

February 26th, 2013

In the music world, if people know you’re name from even just one project, there’s a pretty good chance you’re doing something right. And if audiences recognize you for two influential bands (one of them iconic) plus an acclaimed solo career, well, you just might be Bob Mould. Raised in rural Upstate New York, he headed to college in Minnesota, ultimately making a home in the Twin Cities and forming Hüsker Dü—Mould on guitar and vocals, Grant Hart on drums and vocals, and Greg Norton on bass—in the late ’70s. Initially a thrashing punk band, their sound grew more melody driven but not any quieter. And while they didn’t find the success of R.E.M., they became indie-rock pioneers, paving the way for groups like the Pixies, Superchunk and Nirvana. But alas, for a variety of reasons, it wasn’t meant to last, and Hüsker Dü broke up while on tour in 1987.

So Mould went solo, releasing the excellent Workbook two years later. It was a big departure from his previous work, with much of the album acoustic with a strong folk bent. Another solo effort followed before he again formed a power trio—with David Barbe on bass and Malcolm Travis on drums—the more radio friendly Sugar. Their debut LP, Copper Blue, out in ’92, earned applause from critics and fans alike. But by 1995, Mould had ended the band and gone it alone again. He’s dutifully recorded more material and toured ever since. And his tenth solo album, the well-received Silver Age (stream it below), came out last year. Watch Bob Mould, above, performing “Keep Believing” on Conan and then go see him live at The Bowery Ballroom tonight and tomorrow, where he’ll play selections from Silver Age, Hüsker Dü, Sugar and his solo classics.

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Five Questions with … Roger Miller of Mission of Burma

January 16th, 2013

All Boston’s Mission of Burma did in their original early-’80s incarnation was put out two albums, Signals, Calls, and Marches and the seminal Vs., and essentially give birth to the post-punk movement. The quartet—Roger Miller (vocals and guitar), Clint Conley (bass), Peter Prescott (drums) and Martin Swope (tape manipulations and sound engineer)— quickly became known for solid songwriting, a unique punk-tinged sound and extremely loud live shows. But after Miller developed tinnitus, Mission of Burma (above, playing “1, 2, 3, Party!!” for KEXP FM) broke up in 1983. However the band’s legacy carried on, influencing the likes of Fugazi, Sonic Youth, Nirvana and Pearl Jam (who even named their second LP Vs.). And that’s where this story would end, but, seemingly out of nowhere, Mission of Burma reunited in 2002—with Bob Weston replacing Swope—and went on to release four more critically acclaimed albums, including last year’s Unsound. Now they’re back in town to play The Bowery Ballroom on Friday, and last week Roger Miller answered Five Questions for The House List.

What’s the last band you paid to see live?
Do DJs count? DJ Jonathan Toubin was spinning amazing unknown soul and R&B in Boston for a dance-party vibe a few days ago. Went dancing there with my gal. As far as non-DJs, Boston’s Callithumpian Consort performing a John Cage piece (and pieces by some of his cohorts) just before New Year’s Eve.

Where do you like to hang out in NYC? And do you ever feel like you could live here?
I hang near the clubs (The Bowery Ballroom; Lincoln Center) I play, or else at friends’ places I stay, in Tribeca, the East Village and Williamsburg. When I first went to NYC with Burma in 1979, I thought I’d live there eventually. Gradually this wore off as I get to visit NYC all the time (mostly playing shows) and hence have no need for the intense compression of NYC life.

Do you have any crutches when writing a song—are there certain words or styles you feel you lean on too much?
I’ve been told I write about water too much, and that I use the word forget too often. I believe this critique is accurate. If I’m having no inspiration for lyrics, I go to my dream journal. While this is definitely a form of a crutch, it’s not negative in my opinion. It’s always surprising and refreshing.

Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song? Is a song better when it really happened to you?
All my songs are, to some degree, first person—even the ones that don’t make sense (or especially those).

After all these years on the road, what have you learned to make touring easier?
In the last five years I started using my laptop (with headphones) for composing scores, and the scoring program plays the scores (rather crassly) to the score I’m writing. This takes me away from my immediate environment, putting me in more of a “head” space than a “van” space. Books are good, too. —R. Zizmor

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My Morning Jacket Blasts Off

December 28th, 2012

My Morning Jacket – the Capitol Theatre – December 27, 2012


Last night was a bring-your-own-seat-belt kind of affair as My Morning Jacket played a thrill-ride roller coaster, the first of three sold-out shows at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester. Before the main event began, though, Deer Tick treated the crowd to an opening set that felt more like a second headliner. With their keyboardist “on a plane,” the Providence, R.I., band coalesced in quartet form, tight and rocking and totally polished. The set was an open-the-next-beer-before-finishing-the-last kind, constantly propelling through songs like “The Bump” and “Main Street” before exploding with a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” the audience singing along, and finally closing with “Born at Zero.”

With that, the stage was reset and MMJ came out loud, frenetic and intense from the get-go. The superlative light show at the Cap includes lifelike projections on the venue’s walls, which can suggest an alternate reality for those inside. The music dutifully provided an otherworldly soundtrack: When the walls showed a spooky, psychedelic, come-to-life forest, “Outta My System” delved deep into a dark guitar jam and later, the walls literally went to steam as the band chugged through “Steam Engine.” Throughout there were plenty of wonderfully disassociated moments—jams in stretched-out intros or outros or just standing alone as heady instrumental moments between songs. Jacket classics like “The Way That He Sings” and “Off the Record” were glued together with blistering ad hoc guitar riffs, ambient-noise jams and techno-tinged grooves.

The band has promised no repeats for this three-night run, providing some free-form fun in the set list, which was up and down while maintaining a glorious MMJ intensity all the while. Slower songs like the red-lit “Strangulation” seemed to build to heavy hitter at a perfect pace and eventually segued into a mallet-to-the-head “Smokin’ from Shootin’.” A late-set take on Erykah Badu’s “Tyrone” was a highlight. Here, the walls seemed to go to oil slick, shimmering alive with liquid rainbow colors while the band slow-burned a long, groovy space jam to match.

The set peaked more than 100 minutes in with a monster feedback jam that fed into a loop-de-loop “Mahgeetah.” Still, plenty of track remained for Jim James and Co. as they came out and did a mini-set encore that encapsulated the energy of the show with another 40 minutes of music that included a quieter acoustic-guitar section highlighted by a solo version of “Bermuda Highway,” James ensconced in spotlight, his voice carrying the room. As the night came to a close, the walls went spacey, stars flying by at unnatural speeds as MMJ went into an intergalactic “Gideon.” The song built to yet another climax, entire galaxies floating by the audience. There were only a few questions to be answered: Were we returning to terra firma after a cosmic journey or had we finally left the atmosphere? And more important: Was your seat belt still buckled? —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of JC McIlwaine | jcmcilwaine.com

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With a Brand New Album, the Bad Plus Play Two

September 25th, 2012

After making music together for 11 years, Reid Anderson (bass), Ethan Iverson (piano) and Dave King (drummer), formed the Bad Plus in 2000. The Minnesota trio deftly mix rock, pop and avant-garde jazz, to craft their own unique sound, and in the process, reach a wider audience than traditional jazz usually does. Playing live, the Bad Plus (above, doing Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”) mix originals from their deep catalog with covers of bands like Pink Floyd and Nirvana. And with a brand new album, Made Possible—which employs a broader palette of sounds—out today, they play tonight at Mercury Lounge and tomorrow at Music Hall of Williamsburg.

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Two Nights of Michael Kiwanuka

September 18th, 2012

The TV show The Voice isn’t actually about Michael Kiwanuka, but it probably should be. Because his bluesy, soulful voice, which has earned him heady comparisons to Bill Withers, Otis Redding and Van Morrison, is his calling card. Kiwanuka (above, doing “I’m Getting Ready” on Later … with Jools Holland) grew up in North London with a thing for bands like Nirvana and Radiohead. Despite later becoming a session guitarist, he still did work of his own. The authentic, raw demos eventually caught the attention of Communion, which released his two EPs. Then things got progressively bigger: Adele invited the 24-year-old out on tour with her last year as she was ruling the music world. Then in January, BBC named the singer-songwriter the Sound of 2012 by the . And a few months later, he put out his debut studio album, Home Again (stream it below). It’s worth mentioning that despite talk of him having an old soul and the comparisons to legends of the past, Kiwanuka and his music are authentic and not just some retro throwback. “It would be easy to dismiss this all as a clever piece of calculated marketing,” says The Independent, “were it not for a soulful maturity in his voice that belies his age.” And, of course, the best way to hear that voice is live: Tonight at Webster Hall and on Friday at Music Hall of Williamsburg.

(Listen to Michael Kiwanuka play songs from his album and cover Jimi Hendrix for NPR.)