Tag Archives: Review


Hiss Golden Messenger Make a Connection at Rough Trade NYC

September 19th, 2014

Hiss Golden Messenger – Rough Trade NYC – September 18, 2014

Hiss Golden Messenger - Rough Trade NYC - September 18, 2014
Raw seems to be everyone’s go-to word to describe music that’s innately soulful, so much so that it can sometimes seem a little overdone. I’ve always taken it to define the stuff of pure heart, feelings berthed there spilling right out, largely unfiltered by the brain, the great rationalization of our abstract and unruly emotions. There are few people who sing this stuff better than MC Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger. It’s not just evident in his compositions’ great emotional landscapes, but also you can see physical evidence of it as he performs. When he sings loud, he leans back as if the feelings coming out cause recoil like when firing a gun. Sometimes he’ll squint a little, further proof of the cocktail of feelings that first berthed the music. And all of that was on display last night at Rough Trade NYC, a perfect setting for an intimate performer.

When Hiss Golden Messenger last came to town, it was just MC Taylor and an acoustic guitar. This time, though, he was backed by a full band, including longtime collaborator Scott Hirsch and talented Megafaun multi-instrumentalist Phil Cook. With projects largely the vision of one musician, backing bands can seem a little out of step or merely following the lead of the group’s visionary. But that’s not the case with Hiss Golden Messenger, which speaks both to the band’s pure talent and their ability to feel out Taylor’s vision. “We’re going to start the dancing portion of this set,” said the frontman, somewhat tongue in cheek as he introduced “Blue Country Mystic.” The song had an irresistible group sound to it fleshed out with a full band, complete with collective rhythmic pauses, swooning baritone saxophone lines from Matt Douglas and some Cook wizardry on the keyboards.

“Lucia,” off the latest release, Lateness of Dancers, showcased the Hiss Golden Messenger’s harmonizing prowess, including some backup vocals from guest Alexandra Sauser-Monnig. The band’s encore took them out into the audience to play an acoustic rendition of “Drum,” a song that first appeared on the lo-fi Bad Debt and again on their latest release. The audience was encouraged to sing along to the song’s chorus: “Take the good news and carry it away/ Take the good news and spirit it away.” And without much coaching, fans beautifully filled out the harmonies. As adeptly as this band fulfills Taylor’s vision, there just might be something about his music so fundamental that it’s felt by everyone—and damn easy to sing along to. After the show, in what now seems to be standard protocol at Rough Trade NYC, the band hung around to talk to concertogers. The band-fan connection is strong with Hiss Golden Messenger, and it’s a beautiful thing. —Dan Rickershauser

Photos courtesy of Peter Senzamici | petersenzamici.com

Slow Club Launch New Tour at The Bowery Ballroom

September 18th, 2014

Slow Club – The Bowery Ballroom – September 17, 2014

Charlie Watson and Rebecca Taylor have been playing together as Slow Club since 2006. Blending two-part harmonies against a multitude of instruments, they’ve toured their native homeland, England, this summer in support of their recent release, Complete Surrender. The third full-length album has been described by the Guardian as “a soaring account of bruised hearts and tear-soaked pillows” and lauded by Paste as “making the kind of songs that aren’t just meant to score feelings, but actually make the listener feel.” They arrived Wednesday evening to kick off their North American tour at The Bowery Ballroom.

Starting with the appropriately titled “Beginners,” off their previous album, Paradise, Taylor crooned against Watson’s backing aahs and oohs. The pair quickly settled into material from their latest album, starting with the title track. As the drum solo kicked in, the disco ball quickly turned on for the infectious dance tune, before halting for “Tears of Joy.” Taylor stood alone against a single spotlight as she belted out “Not Mine to Love.” And upon returning, Watson confessed he’d dreamed of playing The Bowery Ballroom, but not in the baggy dad pants he was wearing. (Heck, comfort first, right?)

Fans were treated to some back-catalog treasures, like the Beatles-inspired “Never Look Back,” the rapid-paced “Our Most Brilliant Friends” and the rollicking “If We’re Still Alive.” Taylor’s and Watson’s vocals were on full display as the set neared its close. For “Number One,” Watson delivered deep, plaintive lyrics supported by Taylor’s gutsy backing vocals. Those pipes were further highlighted on the soul-drenched closer, “Suffering You, Suffering Me.” Hinting earlier in the night that there’d be an encore, the two returned to the stage with “Dependable People and Things That I’m Sure Of” and “Two Cousins.” And then several people had already exited as Watson and Taylor came back again to treat the crowd to an unplugged, acoustic version of “Hackney Marsh.” —Sharlene Chiu




Ty Segall Proves to Be a Rock Music Life Force at Webster Hall

September 18th, 2014

Ty Segall – Webster Hall – September 17, 2014

(Photo: Andie Diemer)

(Photo: Andie Diemer)

“Did anybody lose a red shoe?” asked Ty Segall last night, the Webster Hall stage littered with lost items: a blue backpack, a handful of wallets, a boot, even a belt. With more people in the front row trying to crowd surf than hold up said crowd surfers, the venue had become one giant lost and found. What do you get when you have a sold-out Webster Hall audience collectively losing their shit? You get a lot of people, well, physically losing a lot of their shit. For anyone not familiar with Ty Segall at this point, he can best be described as some superhuman rock music–making machine. At 27, he’s already got seven solo albums to his name, plus another excellent one filed under the Ty Segall Band, several side projects and bands he’s involved with in one way or another. Segall has yet to put his name on anything subpar. He tours constantly. And with the energy he throws into performing, seeing him play live makes this output slightly more believable, further proof that there’s some supernatural rock music life force coursing through his veins.

Segall, who came out wearing the same glam makeup he wore on his latest appearance on Conan, was joined by longtime collaborator—and accomplished solo artist—Mikal Cronin on bass, Charlie Moonheart on guitar and Emily Rose Epstein on drums. Everyone besides Segall sporting waist-length hair made their collective head-banging a glorious spectacle. They opened with the title track off Segall’s latest album, Manipulator, and continued checking off most of its songs. Three tunes in, the barricade separating the audience from the stage began showing signs of giving out, with five security guards doing their best to keep it together. And then two songs later, Segall announced that they were going to pause so they could get the barricade out of there, thus beginning the endless crowd surfing.

For his guitar solo on “The Faker,” Segall joined the surfers, walking out onto the crowd’s hands Iggy Pop style to rip his face-melting guitar solo right into his fans’ faces. But the best crowd surf of the night was courtesy of the band’s “manager,” Jimmy Longhorn— prior to the show, he declared that the band was from Jupiter—who came out asking people to carry him to the bar on the opposite side of the venue and back, and they happily complied. “Caesar” brought out a bunch of folks from backstage into the audience. Shows don’t usually get this out of control. Musicians don’t usually release this much quality music this fast. Concerts don’t usually sustain such a high level of energy. Those in the crowd aren’t usually that willing to give it their all. But maybe this band really is from Jupiter. —Dan Rickershauser

(Ty Segall plays Webster Hall again tonight.)


Portugal. The Man and Grouplove Close Out Tour in Central Park

September 17th, 2014

Portugal. The Man/Grouplove – Rumsey Playfield – September 16, 2014

Portugal. The Man – Rumsey Playfield – September 16, 2014

Portugal. The Man

Midway through their set at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park on Tuesday—the closing night of the Honda Civic TourGrouplove’s Hannah Hooper declared that the tour was all about “making art.” As incongruous as that may sound, the show was one of those rare instances where live rock and roll was elevated to an art form: the music, the lights, the visuals and the crowd interaction. The pairing of Grouplove with Portugal. The Man was an inspired billing, each band bringing a different aesthetic and energy to the performance, and both inspiring a whole lot of singing along, clapping along, waving arms along, pretty much everything along.

After a big-sound set from Typhoon, Grouplove entered amidst a cloud of smoke and a haze of hip-hop over the PA. Their set was 70 minutes of cathartic, jubilant bounce, beginning with the opening “I’m with You” and its sing-along-ready ah ah ahs and oh oh ohs. The audience was in it from the start. Grouplove’s free-form sing-along contrasted with the visuals, which had a sleek, modern feel, colorful geometric rectangles or simulated multihued television static danced on the large-screen backdrop while the audience danced in front. Everyone loves a hit, and Grouplove played plenty of them, highlighted by the ecstatic groover “Tongue Tied.” The set peaked with the couplet of “Slow” and “Borderlines and Aliens,” and particularly the space in between the two, where lights, the band’s movement and the pulsing drums worked together as one entity, eventually releasing into a wild guitar jam. After a rousing “Colours” to close their part of the show, the band returned for a rare mid-show encore, bringing along members of Portugal. The Man for a crowd-riling version of the Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” everyone screaming the classic lyrics. Any other night it would have been the ultimate sing-along, but there was more to come.

A quick breather later, Portugal. The Man returned and picked up right where Grouplove left off, with another classic-rock along, covering a verse and a chorus or two of Pink Floyd’s anthemic “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” before quickly kicking into their own “Purple Yellow Red and Blue.” Their aesthetic was more bright-eyed psychedelic, like crawling into a living version of frontman John Gourley’s bizarre drawings. That is until the lasers came out, transforming Rumsey Playfield into an alien planet, with Portugal. The Man’s music as a galactic soundtrack. The band was in top form, looping verses of multiple songs into coherent medleys, stretching others, like “All Your Light,” into prog-rock freak-outs and dropping snippets of perfectly placed covers throughout. This was live music as art form, the audience digging every moment and singing from beginning to end. Like Grouplove had done, the band saved the biggest moment for their encore, which began with their slow-build rager “Sleep Forever” and ended with all of Grouplove and Typhoon onstage—horns, strings and all—for the second ultimate sing-along of the night, everyone belting out the coda to “Hey Jude”: the final touch on a work of art. —A .Stein

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com


Chromeo Bring Their Dance Party to Central Park

September 15th, 2014

Chromeo – Rumsey Playfield – September 12, 2014


(Photo: Timothy Saccenti)

As summer winds down there are only a few remaining outdoor shows around the city, and, fortunately, Chromeo’s appearance at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park on Friday night was one of them. The dance-pop duo’s set not only kick-started the weekend for a few thousand fans, but it also helped close out a season. The band proved again that Chromeo as a whole are more than the sum of their parts. Look too closely and you’ll see David Macklovitch tapping at a keyboard and easing his way through guitar solos, or Patrick Gemayel occasionally crashing a cymbal or cowbell with a drumstick. But focus less on the details and let loose a little and suddenly you see Dave 1 and P-Thugg orchestrating one hell of a dance party.

All those little things, like handclaps timed to strobe lights, escalated the atmosphere surrounding the hook-filled jams Chromeo so adeptly make. The set was filled with a range of their songs, from the pounding dance beats of “Sexy Socialite” to “Momma’s Boy,” a sweet blend of electronic sound straight out of ELO mixed with guitar that would make the CarsRic Ocasek proud. And regardless of whether they’d seen Chromeo prior to Friday, everyone at Rumsey Playfield ended up hearing something they could enjoy, which always makes for a fun night. —Sean O’Kane






Sylvan Esso’s Potent Chemistry on Display at Rough Trade NYC

September 12th, 2014

Sylvan Esso – Rough Trade NYC – September 11, 2014

Sylvan Esso – Rough Trade NYC – September 11, 2014
Last night’s Sylvan Esso show at Rough Trade NYC, alongside Landlady, sold out at lightning speed when tickets went on sale months ago. Adventurous pop rockers Landlady took the stage first and delighted the audience with their sprightly music. Six men strong, they commandeered the stage and held everyone in their thrall as they launched into a glittering set of percussive, psychedelic songs. Lead singer Adam Schatz propelled the performance with his soulful crooning and no-holds-barred dancing. Songs like “Maria” and “Above My Ground,” from the band’s sophomore album, Upright Behavior, began ever so quietly and culminated thunderously. Schatz provided plenty of entertaining and insightful banter throughout and had no trouble engaging the crowd in sing-alongs.

Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn of Sylvan Esso took the stage next, Meath in six-inch platform sneakers and Sanborn with his fingers poised to take command of his soundboard. The sultry chords and audacious beats of “Hey Mami” launched their set. Sylvan Esso’s music is simultaneously doe-eyed and wolfish—it’s a tantalizing tangle of abstract lyrics and sly electronica. The duo’s chemistry is some of the most potent stuff around these days. They faced off throughout the set, feeding off each other’s energy and charging the air with fervor. Heavy reverb on Meath’s vocals made for an especially heady effect. The two played some artful cover songs during their encore, but it was the originals from their self-titled debut album that mesmerized most. These two bands are the quintessence of enchanting, and their magic won’t be fading any time soon. —Schuyler Rooth

Photos courtesy of Lina Shteyn | www.linashteyn.com

(Tonight’s Sylvan Esso show at The Bowery Ballroom is sold out, but you can see them play Terminal 5 on 1/23.)



White Denim Are Red Hot at Music Hall of Williamsburg

September 12th, 2014

White Denim – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 11, 2014

White Denim – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 11, 2014
The headlines kind of write themselves: White Denim burn down Music Hall of Williamsburg or White Denim play blazing show in Brooklyn. Thankfully, despite an unplanned fire drill midway through their set, there was no literal fire in Williamsburg last night. Metaphorically, however, the headlines stand up pretty well. Playing the middle show of a three-night run at Music Hall, White Denim were hotter than hell, setting the room on fire, downright blazing and any other cliché you can think of. They began the set with a smoldering, soulful “A Place to Start,” the last track off their most recent LP, Corsicana Lemonade, and then hopped into that album’s opener, “At Night in Dreams,” a heavy-duty dose of concentrated Allmans, with James Petralli and Austin Jenkins giving a preview of what would be a night full of two-guitar prowess. “At Night” kicked off a multisong medley, the first of many such signature excursions: two or three songs with instrumental interludes, quick-stop segues and check-your-baggage jam-outs. This first one ended with a stretched-out version of “Drug,” off their 2011 breakthrough album, D.

With White Denim, each show feels like the best they’ve ever played, and the best they’ve ever played and Thursday felt no different, although years of touring in their now-steady quartet form seems to have elevated and matured their jazz-metered, free-form Southern-rock sound. Select tunes were slowed or mellowed a bit, providing room for more interesting dynamics. “River to Consider” was a good example, as its normal breakneck pace was given a more deliberate rendering that allowed for a tremendous slow-build jam. Shortly thereafter, as the band tried a similar trick with “Anvil Everything,” the fire alarm sounded and the room was cleared (I must say in a very orderly fashion). Following a 20 minute smoke-’em-if-you’ve-got-’em intermission on the sidewalk of N. 6th St., NYC’s Bravest gave the all clear and the crowd returned with a little fresh-air buzz.

The break seemed to have a filter effect on the audience, those who were there to drink and be social went off to a bar somewhere, and the remaining crowd was smaller, but a bit rowdier with room to boogie and throw fists in the air. White Denim gave plenty of reason to do both, launching a few more highlight-reel sections starting with another medley that began with a restarted “Anvil Everything” and ending with a stretched-out, swallow-everything version of “I Start to Run.” Things turned looser as the show came to its furious conclusion, large swaths of the band’s last few albums coming together in exciting combinations. The pairing of the acrobatic instrumental “At the Farm” and a beautiful, stripped-bare “Keys” was an inspired moment among many. When everyone filed out the front doors for the second time, giddy, glazed looks in their eyes, there was no doubt that White Denim had, indeed, set the building on fire. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com


Spoon Make a Beautiful Night in Central Park Even Better

September 11th, 2014

Spoon – Rumsey Playfield – September 10, 2014

Spoon – Rumsey Playfield – September 10, 2014
Last night was perfect to see music outdoors, the temperature was just right and the conditions were breezy, not blustery. The same could be said for Spoon, the Austin, Texas, five-piece that made high-level rock and roll look easy with little bluster at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park. With equal parts grit in his guitar and his voice, Britt Daniel kicked off things with “Knock Knock Knock,” off Spoon’s newest release, They Want My Soul. The crowd was a catchall mix of types: boozy college girls, graying rockers, new parents enjoying a night out, giddy Spoon geeks with tour T-shirts and a running set list on their phones, and everything in between. The career-spanning set appealed to them all, each song drawing excited reactions and sing-alongs from at least one or two happy fans.

The show hit its stride early with the clavinet-heavy groover “Small Stakes,” off 2002’s Kill the Moonlight, and “Inside Out” and its ethereal three-keyboard breakdown. The stage was set up with large white-sheet panels that filled with light and shadows. Each song was enhanced with its own color palette, the mood running through a rock and roll rainbow of sorts. So there was “Who Makes Your Money” in mellow pink with a matching bass riff and ripping guitar; summer-sun orange for “Rhthm and Soul,” a muted purple-orange mix for the chunky guitar-and-piano voodoo rock of “My Mathematical Mind”; and a particularly saucy guitar jam in green for “Got Nuffin.”

Daniel switched to an acoustic guitar for a couple of highlights, including the set-closing “Black Like Me,” which began with no color at all, murky shadows on the panels until a high-energy bridge in white, a mirrored pyramid suspended above the stage became a primitive disco ball as the audience sang, “Yeah!” along with the band. The three-song encore was, as it should be, highlighted by the hits everyone wanted to hear: “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb” in cherry red (natch) and a big, sing-along “The Underdog” in pretty much every color of the rainbow. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Pip Cowley | pipcowleyphotography.tumblr.com

A Night of Transportive Music with Bombino at Brooklyn Bowl

September 8th, 2014

Bombino – Brooklyn Bowl – September 7, 2014

Context is everything. Take your basic Fender Stratocaster guitar—the de facto rock and roll instrument—and take it to the African desert and put it in the hands of Bombino, and all of the sudden it becomes so much more. At Brooklyn Bowl last night, Bombino’s guitar painted pictures, told stories and inspired. The set began with his band sitting, Bombino playing acoustic backed by percussion, harmonica and electric bass. On paper, they seem like a standard blues band, but following Bombino’s deft playing and singing, the percussion and the harmonica transported the bowling alley to the Sahara, with warm- breeze rhythms and a bleak, stripped-down beauty. Each guitar string seemed to tell its own independent tale, weaving together strands into a larger narrative of strife and redemption.

After a few energizing songs, the band stood as Bombino picked up that Fender and the effects were amplified both literally and figuratively. His Tuareg sound was a mix of Afrobeat and the blues with a flavor of reggae throughout. Its appeal was widespread whether you came to dance or to geek out on guitar, whether you loved your music with a bit of the political or the spiritual. The crowd was a mix of these currents and moved joyously to the music, screaming “BOM-BINO!” in between songs much to the grateful delight of the musicians. While the lights spiraling onto the walls and the ceiling normally turn the room into a dance hall, on Sunday they felt like the infinite stars above the desert, leaving the audience to imagine what sounds the sight must inspire. Bombino filled in those daydreams, decorating each song with an exploratory guitar solo: cascades of sound that were hypnotic and groovy, easy to get lost in as they gathered mass and momentum. These were the jams of a forever horizon that never seemed to get closer, but we kept on riding toward it anyway. —A. Stein



Interpol Are All the Rage Back Home

September 5th, 2014

Interpol – The Bowery Ballroom – September 4, 2014

Interpol – The Bowery Ballroom – September 4, 2014
Interpol at the Bowery Ballroom: an esteemed New York City band taking on an esteemed New York City venue, playing their classics first brewed in the city’s now legendary indie-rock scene of the early ’00s. The love for this band in this city is palpable. When this show was announced a little more than a week ago, it sold out almost immediately. Fresh off the album-release show for their latest, El Pintor, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in front of the ancient Egyptian Temple of Dendur, the band’s follow-up show last night dug deep into their first two releases.

The show kicked off with a real sense of “let’s get into this, shall we?” front-loading their set with the hits “Evil,” “C’mere” and “Say Hello to the Angels” one after another. Antics and Turn On the Bright Lights were both heavily represented in the set list, with some new songs off El Pintor sprinkled in as well. This is what “giving the fans what they want” looks like. In even its quieter moments, Paul Banks’s voice carried some serious intensity to it. The drums, the bass, the guitar all seemed high the mix, then the sharpness of the frontman’s vocals cut through it all, coming through the noise crystal clear. So when their songs blasted off into a bridge, it was Banks’s voice that made you feel that brute force of the tunes’ emotional intensity. There’s a moment like this built into almost all of their songs, and yet each time it’s capable of catching you off guard. “I am a scavenger, between the sheets of union. Lately I can’t tell for sure, whether machines turn anyone,” Banks belts on “Take You On a Cruise.” You feel those lyrics. They cut like a knife.

The band saved El Pintor’s first single “All the Rage Back Home” for the encore, following it up with their hometown homage, “NYC,” and finishing off things with “Slow Hands”—start the show strong, finish it even stronger. Following a tour of the rest of the country, the band will return to New York City for two shows at Terminal 5 in November, though both are already sold out. Seeing Interpol play their hometown isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s absolutely worthwhile. —Dan Rickershauser

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


Reigning Sound Bring New Tunes to The Bowery Ballroom

August 29th, 2014

Reigning Sound – The Bowery Ballroom – August 28, 2014

There’s a theory that some people have that the mountain of great music to come out of America—or more specifically the South—has a lot to do with the Mississippi River. That massive flowing body of water just puts a spell on people, and from that spell comes the great genres of American music: blues, soul, gospel, rock and roll. The river is merely a natural world muse for the region and its artists. A part of me believes this. And it would help explain Memphis-born Greg Cartwright, the lead man behind Reigning Sound with an uncanny knack for pumping out songs that fit so nicely into the canon of American music. Almost all of his material comes with a dash of soul, a sprinkling of gospel and a nice healthy dollop of classic rock and roll. Few people are this good at it. (Perhaps Alex Chilton, another Memphis native, who was once wade deeply in the mighty river.)

Cartwright’s on-again-off-again career with Reigning Sound has most certainly switched back to on as of late. Having just released one of the year’s best albums, Shattered, Reigning Sound came to Bowery Ballroom last night to play through almost the entire LP. Their set kicked off with the album opener, the fiery upbeat “North Cackalacky Girl.” Given the newness of the record, the new songs played live came out sounding incredibly polished. Their set even got some assistance from a violin and cello player to fill out the gorgeous backings of the mournful “Never Coming Home.” Cartwright has a long history of working in punk bands, most notably the Oblivians. And if you listen closely, you can hear it influencing Reigning Sounds’ … well, sound.

Although not a band that falls into the punk category, there is certainly a punkish energy behind some of Reigning Sounds’ earlier songs, especially “Reptile Style.” That tune still sticks out crystal clear in my mind when I first heard the band opening for the Hives in 2004. That they weren’t overshadowed opening for a group Spin magazine dubbed “the best live band on the planet” that year, certainly says something. That the latest iteration of Reigning Sound some 10 years later plays that song even better than when I first heard it says something, too. Their band name is fitting, I’ll leave it at that. —Dan Rickershauser



Rubblebucket Are a Force to Reckon With

August 27th, 2014

Rubblebucket – Mercury Lounge – August 26, 2014

Rubblebucket – Mercury Lounge – August 26, 2014
A name like Rubblebucket might conjure up a mishmash of musical nuggets, which is exactly what the seven-piece outfit creates. Anchored by a strong horn section, a flurry of explosive synthesizers creates melodies that range from indie pop to dance funk. The band began with leader Alex Toth meeting Annakalmia “Kalmia” Traver at the University of Vermont, and from there the bond has spanned nearly a decade. Slowly building a fan base on the festival circuit, the Brooklyn band has garnered a healthy following, including NPR Music’s Bob Boilen. On the night of their third full-length album release, Rubblebucket played a sold-out Mercury Lounge christening their latest, Survival Sounds.

A setup of a tarp backdrop and strobe floor lights hinted at the night ahead as the troupe took the stage that seemed barely big enough to contain them. “My Life,” off their latest, opened the set to a sea of adoring fans. Traver exclaimed that it was Survival Sounds day and expressed that she was feeling crazy this evening. The septet rippled through old and new material, following up the opener with “Silly Fathers,” off Omega La La, and brought out the flutes for “Sound of Erasing.” Toth and trombone player Adam Dotson provided some choice backup dance moves behind the eccentric Traver on lead vocals. Throughout the evening, the band employed stage effects like a confetti cannon, balloons released from a black trash bag and a long panel of fabric, which stretched close to the end of the venue—creating a billowing tent over half of the audience.

Toth descended into the crowd for “Came Out of a Lady,” sending many into uproarious cheers. The tempo mellowed for “Young and Old,” but that didn’t last long as the group continued playing new material, including the clap-happy “Origami,” a crescendo-heavy “Hey Everybody,” crowd-favorite “Shake Me Around” and the upbeat, jazzy “Rewind.” On the latter, Traver invaded the floor to start a Soul Train line, with fans eager to join. As the show’s end neared, the single “Carousel Ride” built up the energy as everyone sang a chorus of  “round and round.” Following the final song, “Pain from Love,” everyone in the band jumped off the stage to march through the audience and into the front bar, but not before they’d proved that Rubblebucket are a force to be reckoned with, from their fierce music to their showmanship. —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.wordpress.com

(Rubblebucket play Rough Trade NYC tonight.)


Frontier Ruckus Answer the Question at Mercury Lounge

August 20th, 2014

Frontier Ruckus – Mercury Lounge – August 19, 2014

Frontier Ruckus – Mercury Lounge – August 19, 2014
“What’s the song about?” For many singer-songwriter types, that’s probably an annoying question to answer. Sure, sometimes it’s easy (I, like, love you very much!), but I imagine for Frontier Ruckus, with their word-dense, evocative, nonlinear songwriting, it’s usually more complicated than that. That being said, last night’s late set at Mercury Lounge featured plenty of explanations. So we had a number of introductions from frontman Matthew Milia like “this song is … vaguely about finding a stash of porn behind a Taco Bell” and “about getting drunk at your enemy’s wedding” and “winter in Michigan” and “on the surface, this is a breakup song.”

But when these tunes were played, dense forests of language with layers of lyrical fauna and flora, it was clear that they were much more than the descriptions offered. Part of the joy of listening was trying to grasp and digest these bits of imagery before the next one quickly came along. Of course, Frontier Ruckus are more than just lyrics, and the band was in fine form for their first of two area shows. To describe their sound, you need only know that in addition to the folk-rock staples of acoustic guitar, bass and drums, they feature a banjo player, David Winston Jones, and one of those Swiss Army knife guys who does a little bit of everything. This was Zachary Nichols, who rotated through keyboards, melodica, tuba, trumpet and the freakin’ saw, oftentimes all in the same song.

The set featured older material, songs from their excellent Eternity of Dimming album
as well as a healthy highlight of their soon-to-be-released, Sitcom Afterlife, which, ever with the wordplay, is both their fourth and forthcoming album. Highlights abounded: “Dealerships,” nominally about Michigan winters, punctuated with nice trumpet and banjo; the instrumental banjo-meets-saw duet of “Moon River”; the audience-requested “The Tower,” another duet with Milia again backed by Nichols on the saw; and the set-closing, long-player, “Adirondack Amish Holler,” with enough musical and lyrical twists and turns to fill at least a month of Tuesday nights. What’s the song about? That’s a good question! —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com

(Frontier Ruckus play Rough Trade NYC tonight.)





Music as Medicine on Saturday Night at Rough Trade NYC

August 18th, 2014

Bobby Long/Dawn Landes – Rough Trade NYC – August 16, 2014

It had been one of those weeks when upsetting news and disturbing images across the world seemed to fill an even greater percentage of our consciousness than usual—the kind of week that requires some good, honest music to remind you that there are still beautiful things out there. And thankfully, on Saturday night, Rough Trade NYC hosted a bill filled with acts that were just what the doctor ordered. A band to keep your eye on, Brooklyn upstart Bird Dog, opened the show with intelligent songwriting and innovative genre blending. The band hopped among styles easily: a close approximation of a country honky-tonk, a Latin groove machine and a radio-ready pop group in quick succession. And terrific guitar playing and touches of violin impressively punctuated great songs like “Holiday Season” and “Read My Letter.”

Dawn Landes, a one-woman prescription for whatever ails you, played the middle set. Her newest album, Bluebird, comes off like a newly found timeless classic, filled with golden-era country-inflected folk songs. As luck would have it, Robert Ellis, who also has a best-in-class album out this year, joined her. With Landes leading the way with her sweet-tea voice and easy-to-love charm and Ellis chiming in with an occasional harmony and quick acoustic-guitar fills, the duo melted away worries and evaporated strife. The set was full of highlights, from the cover of the sweetly humorous John Prine/Iris Dement duet “In Spite of Ourselves” to the gorgeous trio (with friend Lauren Balthrop singing harmony) on “Twilight.” But my favorite moment was when Landes sang the new album’s title track, a few minutes of perfection.

Bobby Long, who is from NYC by way of London, closed out the night singing folk the old fashioned way—just a man and his guitar onstage. With hair covering his eyes and a heavy dose of Brit humor, Long was introspective with his music. Songs were introduced with quick jokes and “true story” anecdotes, but seemed to grow in his playing, with vivid emotional imagery and broader themes. Singing solo allowed Long to expand his vocals, repeating choruses each time with different emphasis, filling in nicely with bits of fingerpicked guitar. I thought the set highlight was “Kill Someone”—about “fucking assholes”—which was prefaced with a description of Long’s sister’s ex-husband. His jokey introduction of “serious song, no clapping” made way for a piece with real anger that gave it a lively energy. Long described it as “hitting him with lyrics” as opposed to the real-life swing and a miss that his dad tried to lay on the jerk. That song might have had much more of an impact, but when passionately sung by Long it was a damn good one regardless, which counts for something. If only all the world’s problems could be solved with a great song. —A. Stein


Agnes Obel Proves to Be Worth the Wait

August 15th, 2014

Agnes Obel – The Bowery Ballroom – August 14, 2014

Unusual for the popular music vernacular, Danish singer-songwriter Agnes Obel floats through a landscape of pop divas and indie bands. She trained in classical piano at a very young age and was ensconced in a house filled with music, including a mother who was a talented pianist and father with a habit of collecting instruments. Her current residence in Berlin houses not one, but two pianos—a Grotrian-Steinweg and a Berdux. As if the pair weren’t enough, she’s also got a vintage house organ for good measure. Obel released her sophomore album, Aventine, last fall following the success of her debut Philharmonics. Although she was slated to play The Bowery Ballroom this past March, visa delays prevented her from arriving Stateside, but not to fear as she returned for a small three-city tour, which concluded last night at a sold-out Bowery Ballroom.

Clad in an iridescent and sheer black shirt, Obel took her seat behind a black Steinway as she opened with “Louretta,” an instrumental piece worthy of a period drama musical score. A river of trembling keys introduced “Fuel to Fire” before the Dane produced Kate Bush–like choral cooing. The pianist apologized to those March ticket holders and promised a special evening. Cellist Anne Müller later confessed that she was the one who hadn’t gotten her visa to travel to the United States. All was forgiven as the trio, completed with violinist Mika Posen (Timber Timbre), effortlessly weaved through both albums.

From the fluttery keys on the song about a bad temper, “Beast,” to a waltz of title track “Philharmonics,” the women hovered amongst the delicately played pieces to the joy of fans. Obel saved the best for last, offering crowd-favorite “Riverside,” as well as the new love song “Words Are Dead.” Although “The Curse” closed out the set, the three returned to encore with a pair: the vocally requested “Pass Them By” and a reimagined cover of folk blues singer Karen Dalton’s “Katie Cruel.” —Sharlene Chiu