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Courtney Barnett and San Fermin Are a Winning Combination

October 21st, 2014

Courtney Barnett/San Fermin – Union Transfer – October 20, 2014

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The rarely mentioned truth about live music is that it is, in essence, an exercise in predictability. From night to night, bands play the same songs with minor variations. The attitude of the crowds may influence things, but when a group plays their songs, they are working from a script, a set list of material, which, hopefully, they know well. Within that paradigm, where is the band’s enjoyment? What does the audience come to see and hear? How is live music a unique experience?

Listening to Courtney Barnett, you get the sense that whatever navel-gazing, highbrow thinking is imposed on her music, she will shrug it off and keep playing. As the lyric to her runaway radio hit, “Avant Gardender,” goes, “It’s a Monday/ It’s so mundane.” Mundane for her, maybe, but for the audience that came to see Barnett with coheadliner San Fermin last night at Union Transfer, the performance was extraordinary, necessarily so. It’s self-evident that everyone would feel something different, from the older couple sitting at the circular table wedged between the bar and a support beam to the many flannel-clad twentysomethings. As a member of the visual majority, I too could pick out the influence of the Dirty Projectors and the National on the intricate orchestral pop of San Fermin.

And in Barnett’s shrug-filled delivery, I even heard a little Dylan. But on Monday I wanted to lose myself in these performances, and for two mesmerizing hours, they offered just that, as routine magic. Midway through her set, Barnett asked, “How is everyone doing? Good, great or average?” You could take a poll, but we all know that the responses would differ. Barnett—and her band—and San Fermin are two well-paired acts, touring as a curveball-to-fastball one-two combination. It’s tricky and off-kilter, but I imagine that every night is slightly different and new. And when it comes to live music, that is what you hope for. —Jared Levy

 

 

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Phantogram Continue to Grow Bigger in Philadelphia

October 20th, 2014

Phantogram – Union Transfer – October 18, 2014

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What a difference four years can make. In 2010, Phantogram played Mercury Lounge to an audience of half the venue’s capacity. The duo of beat-maker Josh Carter and vocalist Sarah Barthel showed confidence then, playing songs from their excellent debut album, Eyelid Movies, complemented by art-house films in the background, but they were still feeling through the material to create an engaging live show. On Saturday night at Union Transfer, though, Phantogram looked like a band transformed, in full possession of their talents and truly deserving of the sold-out crowd’s transfixed gaze. It was a performance to enjoy in and of itself and to admire for its passion, physicality and complete beauty.

Stunning Barthel is Phantogram’s visual and emotional center. On Saturday, she wore a black leather crop top with black short shorts to match and silver bracelets running from her wrist to her elbow. Throughout the set, Barthel moved around the stage with a microphone in hand, sighing and singing her vocal parts with an intensity that soared above the group’s full-bodied sound. Two additional musicians, a live drummer and multi-instrumentalist, created floor-shaking bass and teeth-clattering kicks. Beams of strobe light flashed onto the band and crowd. Still, Barthel’s fragile voice juxtaposed against huge electronic beats is the unique success of Phantogram’s sound. It’s what kept the audience rapt until the last electronic loops cut out.

Four years later, Phantogram are famous. Their music appears in commercials and on the Hunger Games soundtrack. Their second album, Voices, released this year, reached No. 11 on the Billboard 200. And when Phantogram played their most recent single, “Fall in Love,” next to Eyelid Movies“When I’m Small,” 1,000 people sang along to both choruses. That’s a new phenomenon, but it’s also a consummate showing of support from Philadelphians. At the show’s end, Barthel said of Phantogram’s first ever performance, which was in Philadelphia: “Ten people showed up, but they brought it.” And with a second sold-out show on Sunday, Philly brought it again—and whenever Phantogram return, a growing and increasingly connected audience will be there. —Jared Levy

 

 

 

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Zeus Use Democratic Effort to Wow Late Mercury Lounge Crowd

October 20th, 2014

Zeus – Mercury Lounge – October 17, 2014

(Photo: Sean O’Kane)

(Photo: Sean O’Kane)

Sometimes we speak of a rock band being democratic, meaning that everyone in the band has a voice. But there are always degrees to this, and usually there’s a frontman rock god pulling the levers. Watching the Toronto quintet (recently grown from a foursome) Zeus bound across the stage late on Saturday night at Mercury Lounge felt like observing a true musical democracy at work (ironically despite the deity band name). Who is the lead guitarist in Zeus? Who is the lead singer? All of them and none of them. Must be a Canadian thing—their universal health care is much more universal than ours too.

Promoting their new album, Classic Zeus, and mixing in plenty of older, classic Zeus, they declared their love for New York City: “You always know how to treat a band!” The feeling was mutual. A core of die-hard fans tried their darndest to keep up with the kinetic energy onstage. There was constant motion as Zeus rocked new tunes like “Miss My Friends” with its breezy ’60s pop sound and older favorites like “Heavy on Me,” off their debut release, Say Us. This motion included gyrating and head-banging from all, particularly (mostly) bassist Carlin Nicholson, as well as song-to-song instrument switching so that everyone got their hands on the guitars, bass and electric piano without a lapse in the set’s continuously improving energy.

Zeus were even democratic in their rock clichés, mastering the good ones (share-a- microphone harmonies, two-guitar dueling solos, timely cowbell) and avoiding the bad ones. Mostly their set was superlative rock songs played by a bunch of guys having a whole lot of fun. As they out-classic-rocked classic rock with their raging “Are You Gonna Waste My Time?” everyone in the crowd was in thrall, having whole lot of fun, themselves. There is something irresistible about watching a band wear their emotions on their sleeves. In Zeus’ case the overall emotion was “hell yeah,” which seemed to be the democratic consensus of all in attendance. —A. Stein

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A Special Night of Southern Rock with Drive-By Truckers on Friday

October 20th, 2014

Drive-By Truckers – Beacon Theatre – October 17, 2014

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In all its majestic glory, the Beacon Theatre has a way of making rock shows feel special. As the go-to venue for any local Allman Brothers Band show (and reportedly their final one), this may hold especially true for Southern rock. It was certainly the case on Friday. Following a fantastic opening set from the Alabama soul outfit St. Paul and the Broken Bones, there wasn’t a single butt sitting in one of the venue’s seats. And it was pretty much that way for the next several hours as Drive-By Truckers performed. “Today’s one of those days where your real life exceeds the life you dreamed of,” said Patterson Hood.

Drive-By Truckers are a band that never seems to stop gaining momentum. And if these aren’t the group’s golden years, there still hasn’t been a time when they’ve had more loyal fans. Led by Hood and Mike Cooley, two songwriters who seem to keep getting better, DBT brought out everything you’d expect, leaving no stone unturned: Great songs about Southern tragedies, “Puttin’ People on the Moon” from Hood and “Uncle Frank” from Cooley, to fan favorites like “Women Without Whiskey” to deep cuts like “Runaway Train,” from Cooley and Hood’s first band, Adam’s House Cat.

Of course, there were also the rousing sing-alongs, like the one that accompanied “Hell No, I Ain’t Happy.” Hood added in an epilogue of “I’m fuckin’ happy” at the end, as if to let everyone know that the song wasn’t a real-time account. There were some epic tales of Hood family history leading into “Box of Spiders,” a song about Hood’s great grandmother, who loved going to strangers’ funerals. The night closed with “Grand Canyon,” off their latest album, English Oceans, and then one by one everyone in the band waved goodnight and exited the stage. —Dan Rickershauser

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Flying Lotus: Commander of the Afterlife

October 16th, 2014

Flying Lotus – Terminal 5 – October 15, 2014

Flying Lotus - Terminal 5 - October 15, 2014
“I have come to inform you that, you’re fuckin’ dead,” said Flying Lotus last night to a sold-out Terminal 5 crowd, stated in the most matter-of-fact way possible, thus kicking off the all-senses barrage that is a Flying Lotus show. With glowing bright yellow eyes and sitting in the midst of an inverted cube bathed in shape-shifting projections, Flying Lotus provided a symphony of his own creation. Further driving home the afterlife theme, someone dressed as the Grim Reaper menaced the audience for a few songs. But those sounds were not of this world. There was bass so heavy you could not only feel it but also sort of taste it, almost as if Flying Lotus had turned an intensity dial up to 11 and then the dial broke, so he just said, “Fuck it” and left it there.

But there was also a top on this, a weird calming sense of meditative contemplation. And those two things don’t often work together. Some jazz has been able to do it, although it’s rare. But Flying Lotus is related to Coltranes, which may partially explain his mystical musical powers, but to nail it down in a different genre—electronic music—is a noteworthy innovation. Of course, the visuals were extravagant enough to make up half of the show’s overall experience. Think of Flying Lotus’s amazing album covers but always morphing. It was like a trippy three-dimensional stream constantly flowing through the stage, with a mere silhouette pushing buttons, moving dials, throwing his hands up and dancing.

For a few songs, Flying Lotus popped out of the inverted projection cube of awesome to rap a few songs as his alter ego, Captain Murphy, right into the first few rows of audience. After the set ended he returned, saying he’d see some of the crowd on Thursday at Music Hall of Williamsburg. It’s remarkable how trailblazing Flying Lotus’s sound has become, especially in an era when people are racing to find that next big thing, the last morsel of underutilized electronic sounds that could (potentially) change everything. Only recently are others catching up to FlyLo, in a rush to appropriate, integrate and collaborate with that sound he’s pioneered for years. It’s like he’s turned around to ask, “Where have y’all been?” But by the time the rest of the world finally catches up, we may all well be dead. —Dan Rickershauser

Photos courtesy of Andie Diemer | issuu.com/andiediemer/docs/portfolio

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Pond Evoke the Past While Providing a Glimpse at the Future

October 16th, 2014

Pond – The Bowery Ballroom – October 15, 2014

61-atxl1Having never been there, I imagine Australia to be like a bizarro northern hemisphere— perspective is flipped, up is down, the earth spinning in the other direction. For all I know, it’s possible the arrow of time is pointing in the other direction, so a band like Pond isn’t influenced by past greats, but is somehow instead influencing classic rock’s future past. As they tore through their late set last night at The Bowery Ballroom, the Perth quintet evoked the sounds of prog and psych rock—bands like Pink Floyd, Genesis, Black Sabbath and even David Bowie—but made these sounds their own from an alternate universe where those bands don’t even exist yet. Maybe that doesn’t make too much sense, but these are the kinds of things that run through your head when your body and brain are being jostled around by Pond’s live set.

Things got to that place quickly, particularly with “Giant Tortoise,” off last year’s Hobo Rocket, early in the set. With pixilated stripes of primary colors jiggling on the screen behind them, Pond deftly switched gears, high then low then back to high again, propelled by Jay Watson’s superlative drumming. The guys in the band didn’t seem to take themselves too seriously at all. Guitarist and lead singer Nick Allbrook wore a dress more appropriate for a picnic date and a Justin Bieber sweatshirt that only muddled the ensemble, plus he went on a long ad-libbed bit in the middle of “Fantastic Explosion of Time” that touched on a number of topics, including the taste du jour, pumpkin spice.

The music, though, twisted expertly through multisectioned compositions, heavy two-guitar rock-outs and more prog-y interludes. The crowd pulsed with each shift and crescendo, bouncing and bumping around the Ballroom floor. “Don’t Look at the Sun or You’ll Go Blind” was a brilliant Pink Floyd–as-disco jam from their back catalog, while “Xanman” was pure Sabbath fist-pumping energy. As the music pulled in different directions, Pond remained tight, largely on the strength of Watson’s intense playing and focus. The set climaxed with “You Broke My Cool,” off their 2012 album, Beard, Wives, Denim, a dense double helix of psych and funk, and the closing “Midnight Mass (At the Market Street Payphone).” That last tune was pure “save the best for last,” with a long spaced-out bridge zapped with a dreamy slide-guitar riff from Joseph Ryan. Evocative and futuristic all at once, which describes Pond through and through. —A. Stein

(Pond play Rough Trade NYC on Saturday.)

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Guitar Maestro Steve Gunn Celebrates New Album in Brooklyn

October 13th, 2014

Steve Gunn – Rough Trade NYC – October 12, 2014

sg-in-the-park-2There was an old kind of guitar nerd who would go cross-eyed from a solo of Malmsteenian technical skill muttering in awe, “How does he do that?” But nowadays, there’s a new kind of guitar nerd that was out in full force at the Steve Gunn show last night at Rough Trade NYC. These ladies and gentlemen still appreciate the technical skill, which was to be found aplenty throughout Gunn’s set, but along with and really beyond the proficiency, there is an emotional connection that goes deeper. Gunn and his soul-probing band seemed to be performing therapy by six-string, wowing the crowd and then asking, “And how does that make you feel?”

He was an unassuming guitar maestro in denim, his banter was almost accidental and his vocals were understated (part mumble, part moan), but got the job done and counterbalanced the music behind them. The set began with a quick in-line sound check that itself was pretty great, reminiscent of a 1973 Grateful Dead jam, the band tossing around a melody like no big thing. Once the set got swinging, though, it was a cascade of musical emotion, jubilant, cathartic, evocative. The songs were mostly from Gunn’s excellent new album, Way Out Weather—with one or two of the longer jams drawn from older material—the show serving as a release party (with Gunn the type of musician who drinks water at his own Sunday night celebration). Each seemed to evoke a feeling, from the nostalgia of “Wildwood” to the bickering of “Milly’s Garden.” The latter, Gunn explained, was basically about an asshole neighbor, and his guitar and lap steel went back and forth in musical argument, building to an angry crescendo.

Later, those same two instruments overlapped again on “Way Out Weather.” This time the guitars felt like they were in deep, respectful conversation, the jam moving from quiet and beautiful to fiery, the whole band expertly coming together. Whatever the feelings evoked, it was Gunn’s guitar as the source. Impossible amounts of notes poured from his instrument, acoustic and electric, his fingers moving effortlessly up and down his fretboard, like a minimalist masseuse who knows the exact location of each melody’s pressure points. The notes layered into nonlinear masterpieces that stretched out in time and filled the room with a steady hypnosis. After the “session,” a big hug felt appropriate, but a deserved ovation and a soul-searching encore did the trick as well.  —A. Stein

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The Airborne Toxic Event’s Group Effort at Terminal 5

October 8th, 2014

The Airborne Toxic Event – Terminal 5 – October 7, 2014

The Airborne Toxic Event – Terminal 5 – October 7, 2014
I’ve always thought of the Airborne Toxic Event as a band that’s been around far longer than they have. Because there’s something about them that screams comfort and confidence on a big stage like Terminal 5, something that usually only comes from a seasoned band with lots of experience. Although they only formed in 2008, last night the five-piece put on a show with the aplomb of an act that’s been around twice as long.

The Airborne Toxic Event crammed a career’s worth of songs into the show, and even from up close the full-page set list looked like it was written in 12-point font. A feathery 20-foot avian sculpture adorned the stage and provided the production an ethereal quality— drummer Daren Taylor practically looked like he could take flight—as they crisscrossed back and forth among songs from their self-titled debut, 2011’s All at Once and 2013’s Such Hot Blood. Lead singer Mikel Jollett never seemed happy in one place, taking each chance he could to leave his microphone to wail on his guitar or tease the crowd. Within the first half hour of the set, he was hanging from the facade of Terminal 5’s second floor and joking with the crowd he was singing and dangling above.

Anna Bulbrook was lively, too, as she took turns doubling up the vocals, ripping on her violin and tapping away at her keyboard. Guitarist Steven Chen and bassist Adrian Rodriguez put on a show of their own on the opposite side of the stage as they shredded their way through their parts of every song. It was the kind of group effort you expect from a band with decade-spanning experience, and it hopefully means that the Airborne Toxic Event will be around for that long … or more. —Sean O’Kane

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com

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Delta Spirit Prove That Three Is Better Than One

October 2nd, 2014

Delta Spirit – The Bowery Ballroom – October 1, 2014

Delta Spirit – The Bowery Ballroom – October 1, 2014
Why celebrate the release of your new album with one show when you can do it with three? That was the mindset of Delta Spirit, who last night played the second of three sold-out shows at three different venues. This one was in The Bowery Ballroom, which was buzzing after a rollicking opening set from Streets of Laredo. The stage was set up with long floor-to-ceiling white slats reminiscent of a giant picket fence. Nothing more simple, quaint America than a white picket fence, but the reality was much more interesting as the slats became a segmented screen for a series of on-the-fly projections that alternated between arty, dreamlike and full-on psychedelic. Similarly, the band taking the stage: guitars, drums, bass and a little keyboard—nothing more simple, quaint American rock and roll than that. Again, the truth was infinitely more interesting, as Delta Spirit proved to be a force, putting on one of the better rock and roll shows I’ve seen this year.

They opened with a one-two punch of “From Now On” and “Tear It Up,” the former from their new album, Into the Wide, and the latter from their 2012 self-titled release. It was the equivalent of kicking down the door and bursting into the room guns a-blazing. There was a constant churl of electric guitar from William McLaren as Matt Vasquez riled up the crowd like only the best frontmen can. If things seemed a bit more intense during that second song, they were. As Kelly Winrich hopped on a second drum kit, joining Brandon Young in kicking things up a few notches. From there, the crowd was completely in the band’s hands, compelled to sing and clap along as the five-piece mixed up new material and old. As the digital projections spiraled behind them, Vasquez and Co. kept things intriguing without falling back on long guitar solos or extended rock jams. It was a combination of great songs, choreographed interplay among bass, guitar, drums and keys, and just pure manic energy that proved to be totally irresistible.

A highlight middle section centered on “Live On” seemed propelled almost entirely on Jonathan Jameson’s superlative bass playing. Around the time when most Bowery headliners announce their last song, Vasquez informed the excited audience that they were about halfway done. And while that wasn’t exactly true, the next 30 minutes, kicked off by “Language of the Dead,” played out like one long epic closing number: a master course and total deconstruction of how to put on a great rock show. “Children” was the highlight of the closeout, a great display of dynamics, the band waxing and waning as little digital mites buzzed around a surreal cityscape behind them. The encore centered on the new LP’s fiery title track, Vasquez belting out the lyrics with plenty of emotion left in his tank. Of course, the encore featured a trio of rockers total, because why close a show like that with one song when you can do it with three? —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com

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At Terminal 5 Banks Proves That Her Star Is Still on the Rise

October 1st, 2014

Banks – Terminal 5 – September 30, 2014

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“New York, I’d die for you,” shrieked Banks last night to the sold-out Terminal 5 crowd, almost in disbelief to be playing her biggest headlining show in the city to date. And rightly so—it’s been barely 18 months since the once mysterious Californian chanteuse began dropping tracks on Soundcloud and gaining traction after Zane Low featured her on BBC Radio 1. Now, it’s clear that Jillian Rose Banks is a star in the making, building more than just a solid Internet following.

Playing off the theme of her recently released debut album, Banks revealed the growth of a real Goddess. There’s an intimacy to each of her gigs, which makes those in the audience feel like they’re the only ones in the room, as she reveals deeply personal lyrics about love and heartbreak. But don’t be fooled, this is one strong woman who makes it known that she’s a force to be reckoned with through her haunting don’t-fuck-with-me vocals. In fact, Banks went all boss during the title track, “Goddess,” flipping the bird at the crowd as if she were M.I.A. at the Super Bowl.

Having attracted some heavyweight producers for her first record, Banks’ live show really brought the likes of TEED’s production work on “Warm Water” to life. One of the night’s clear highlights was her live take on the brooding track with Sohn, “Waiting Game,” and a surprising rendition of a Fugees’ classic, “Fu-Gee-La.” On a final note, Bank’s hipster-Goth-awkward-dance game is something to rival Lorde’s epic double claw. Just saying. —Pip Cowley

 

 

 

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Augustines Take to the Streets

September 30th, 2014

Augustines – The Bowery Ballroom – September 29, 2014

Augustines – The Bowery Ballroom – September 29, 2014
Augustines have become synonymous with the tricky combination of moral victories and abject failures, if not unique, certainly associated with living in New York City. Theirs is a story of name changes, near misses and eventual triumph: Pela splitting into We Are Augustines and Thieving Irons, and then We Are Augustines becoming Augustines. After a performance on his show, it was finally David Letterman—a guy who appreciates tragicomedy—who suggested the band’s debut LP, Rise You Sunken Ships, as a bromide with which to face down struggle. The band took the stage at The Bowery Ballroom last night with a Billboard-charting second record, a movie about their ascendancy recently funded on Kickstarter, Rise, and maybe a bit of a crisis about transitioning from the band that could never get it right to the one that seemingly couldn’t miss.

Lead singer Billy McCarthy kicked off the show with “Headlong into the Abyss,” a song he closed with the coda “It’s good to be home. We’re going the distance.” But this was no conversational promise: The show would end more than two hours later out in front of the venue on the Delancey St. sidewalk. The band marched through their brand of underdog rock, playing “Chapel Song” and the pointed “Cruel City.” The latter prompted McCarthy to issue a pseudo-apology: “I might say some bad things about this town in the songs, but I got love for you all.” The New York City focus rarely left the band’s focus. In fact, McCarthy introduced “Waiting on the Stairs” by yelping, “This one’s for New York”—as if there were anything else to say.

The frontman launched himself from the top edge of the kick drum and brandished the neck of his guitar like a Tommy Gun to the delight of the assembled. An increasingly soft-at-the-edges McCarthy reaching for the top of the room proved to be something of an allegory. If the National stormed out of the NYC market with their willingness to replicate and repeat being miserable despite all evidence to contrary, Augustines continue to mine the against-the-odds narrative, even while the band approaches becoming an overdog. McCarthy still desired connection, perhaps the band’s enduring truism, first taking to the center of the room and then the street outside for an acoustic encore. This commitment to New York City was more than an aesthetic choice, McCarthy, sweating profusely, shed down to his undershirt in the unseasonable humidity of the Lower East Side, surrounded by his people. —Geoff Nelson

Photos courtesy of Greg Pallante | gregpallante.com

(Augustines play Rough Trade NYC on Friday.)

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Teleman Impress in Their First Visit to America

September 26th, 2014

Teleman – Mercury Lounge – September 25, 2014

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If last night’s Mercury Lounge crowd had—as English four piece Teleman suggest on “23 Floors Up”—their “conscience stuck 23 floors up,” their superegos would have been stuck on the roof of the 22-floor luxury apartment complex the Ludlow that now towers above the Houston Street venue. It would have also left nothing but unrestrained id on the ground floor, sort of an odd image for a band as methodical and fastidious as the elegant Teleman. Plunging down from towering heights through the layers and layers of Pottery Barn dwarfing the memory of the Lower East Side, the audience and band resembled a different, more generative lyric from “23 Floors Up”: “The city below is anywhere you like.”

With songs that lack a similar discernible quality, Teleman bounded through cuts off their debut LP, Breakfast, before a crowd that showed a similar level of careful enthusiasm. It was, they told the audience, their “first time in America.” The band opened with “In Your Fur” and its repeated chorus, “We’re on the strangest ride,” a subtle irony for a band that crafts such straightforward, satisfying pop songs. Emblematic of this impulse, “Skeleton Dance” and “Cristina,” a pair of tunes about different ways of getting down in the bedroom, populated the middle of the set.

Consistent, wry commentary sprang from the stage, like lead singer Thomas Sanders introducing “Cristina”: “This song is called ‘Cristina.’ It’s about a girl named Cristina from America. It’s our only tie to your country.” The blithe discourse continued on the night’s closing number, “Travel Song,” and its final, repeated promise—“I’m not in control.” This was, in part, the joke. Teleman were masterfully in command the whole time, from the roof all the way down to the ground level. —Geoff Nelson

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A Wednesday Dance Party with Pomplamoose at The Bowery Ballroom

September 25th, 2014

Pomplamoose – The Bowery Ballroom – September 24, 2014

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There is an art to covers—a balancing act, if you will, between reinvention and cheesy imitation. The Californian couple of Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn, aka Pomplamoose, have tackled a slew of artists ranging from Beyoncé to Eden Ahbez and have garnered a large fan base from their YouTube videos. It’s difficult to pin down the duo to a genre, as the two float between pop, jazz, blues, punk and folk. Whether doing covers or their own original songs, the pair infuses jauntiness to every melody they tackle. In front of a sold-out crowd at The Bowery Ballroom last night, Conte and Dawn kicked off the night fittingly with the introductory “Hey, It’s Pomplamoose.” Dawn announced the night would be a dance party as she barreled into Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.” For the doo-wop sway of “Bust Your Knee Caps,” references to the Italian mafia rang through the lyrics but the bouncy cadence had the fans singing the chorus to the end of the ditty.

The evening turned toward covers from a “Lorde 2Pac Beck Mashup” to Eden Ahbez’s “Nature Boy,” after which the backing band exited to leave the couple front and center. While Dawn attended to some battery issues with her earpiece, Conte proceeded to entertain the crowd with stories from their tour. As they ad-libbed through the technical hiccup, their personalities shined through. Fueled by a crowdsourcing engine Patreon, Pomplamoose aren’t signed to a label, and they produce largely through funds from their patrons, a few in attendance last night. Some covers (Mark Owen’s “Makin’ Out” and Pat Ballard’s “Mister Sandman”) hit stronger than others (Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and the Beatles’ “Come Together”).

Dawn’s playful vocals shown through on “If You Think You Need Some Lovin’” and telegraphed a resemblance to Feist and Inara George of the Bird and the Bee. Conte playfully called for a James Brown “hit me” moment egging on the band to “Another Day.” He continued the frivolity on “Get That Body Back” by asking the audience to part ways to create a circle that he proceeded to occupy by “going crazy” in and recruiting fan upon fan to join him. To top it off, both Conte and Dawn stage dived and crowd surfed before ending the set with the timely cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September.” Returning to the stage, Pomplamoose encored with “Centrifuge,” while an accordion was being located. That fine instrument would put the icing on the cake for the evening as Dawn lulled the crowd with Édith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose.” —Sharlene Chiu

 (Pomplamoose play Music Hall of Williambsurg tonight.)

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Lily Allen Doesn’t Miss a Beat at Terminal 5

September 24th, 2014

Lily Allen – Terminal 5 – September 23, 2014

Lily Allen – Terminal 5 – September 23, 2014
On the 10-year anniversary of penning “Smile,” the song that would cement Lily Allen’s place in the pop scene, the British singer opened her show last night at a sold-out Terminal 5 drenched in sequins. The stage had been transformed into a toddler’s playground surrounded by larger-than-life baby bottles that lit up the venue in a rainbow of colors. Allen first entered our lives with a distinctly wry wit, donning baggy tracksuits and a ballsy attitude. She made creepin’ sound cute and her unpolished pop had a childish sensibility, which made her fans fall in love with her.

A decade on, Allen has matured into a more developed songwriter with her 2013 LP, Sheezus, however her playfulness is still front and center. One of the early surprises of the night was a cover of R&B princess Jhené Aiko’s slow burner, “The Worst.” Straying from its original version and instead mashed up with a little drum and bass and reggae, Allen’s megahit “Smile” had the crowd singing along. If it sounds odd, it sort of was but no one seemed to care. The real highlight was Allen’s dedication to “the divorced bank accountant” with her fearlessly crude hit “Fuck You.”

With all the baby paraphernalia on hand, anyone in attendance could have expected that at any moment we were going to be sung lullabies and rocked to sleep. But instead, the performance was packed with energy and punchy lyrics, and the pop diva didn’t miss a beat. In her fourth and final costume change, Allen closed the show with Sheezus favorite “Hard Out Here,” giving the night a truly anthemic send-off. —Pip Cowley

Photos courtesy of Greg Pallante | gregpallante.com

(Lily Allen plays Terminal 5 again tonight.)

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Panda Bear Plays New Material at Music Hall of Williambsurg

September 23rd, 2014

Panda Bear – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 22, 2013

Panda Bear - Music Hall of Williamsburg - September 22, 2013
Flanked by two large blinking strobe lights, Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) stood behind an elaborate console last night at a sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg. At times, as bright, undulating video projections (designed by longtime collaborator Danny Perez) beamed upon the stage, Lennox, in his white T-shirt, nearly blended in with his surroundings. Of course, even when overtaken by pulsing patterns and colors, Panda Bear commands attention, singing earnestly while managing to craft elaborate layers of sampled sound, manipulating beats and looping vocals.

A new full-length album, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, is slated for release later this year (although details are scarce), and Panda Bear performed several new tunes last night, mixing in a few crowd favorites from 2011’s Tomboy, like “Last Night at the Jetty” and “You Can Count on Me.” Many Panda Bear songs center around a repeated lyrical refrain, which Lennox sings over and over as music ebbs and flows around it, subtly shifting gears or abruptly changing course. As the projections flashed between disparate images—ice cream, lizard eyes, anemone, bunch of grapes, hypnotic dancing bald women—Lennox repeated the line, “Don’t ask why.”

It’s a treat to experience Panda Bear’s new material in the live format, where he seemed to relish the freedom to experiment and to witness the response from a crowd hearing the music with fresh ears. It shifted organically, ranging from haunting and spare to playful and pulsating, and although the grim reaper referenced in the upcoming album’s title did pay us a visit via projector, we emerged unscathed and fully entertained. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Lina Shteyn | www.linashteyn.com