Tag Archives: Simon & Garfunkel

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Bad Books Play Their Biggest Show to Date

July 15th, 2013

Bad Books – Webster Hall – July 12, 2013


As individuals and as a band, the members of Bad Books are no strangers to New York City. Singer Kevin Devine is from here, and he and the rest of his bandmates (also known as Manchester Orchestra) have played in just about every room this city has to offer. But Friday night at Webster Hall was the biggest local show Bad Books, formed in 2010, have played so far. Their shows are always loose and fun, and the often-silly relationship between cofrontmen Devine and Andy Hull was obvious as they busted out a Simon & Garfunkel–like version of the theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

The rest of the set had that same sort of loose and carefree vibe, and the band clicked so well that they’re nothing but a total joy to watch perform. And now with two albums, Bad Books have found a way to mix a variety of kinds of songs, from steamy, seething rock, like “Please Move,” to quieter hold-your-breath tunes, like “Ambivalent Peaks.”

But it would be remiss not to mention that the opener, the Front Bottoms, whipped the sold-out crowd into a frenzy. Hailing from New Jersey, this former duo turned full band has been gaining an almost unstoppable momentum—not to mention a rapidly growing fan base. In what was also one of their biggest shows, the Front Bottoms made sure to get their time’s worth, going onstage early to bust out a wild set full of their signature sound while their fans put on a dizzying crowd-surfing display. It might seem difficult to find a unique band these days, but you need look no further than these guys. Their graduation into one of the bigger rooms in the city couldn’t have gone better. —Sean O’Kane

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com

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A Wild Night of Music at Mercury Lounge

July 3rd, 2013

Noah and the Megafauna/Jenny O. – Mercury Lounge – July 2, 2013


What do you call the Tuesday night of a three-day workweek? Regardless, it can throw the week off-kilter a bit, which is fine, because the music onstage last night at Mercury Lounge was also slightly off-kilter, in a very good way. Noah and the Megafauna headlined the early show, bringing to mind some sort of biblical flooding and pairs of animals crammed onto a boat. Well, there was plenty of cramming going on, with 10 musicians onstage, including a pair of guitars, a violin and a three-person reed section. The musical mix was about as motley as the ark must have been, a salad of gypsy jazz, Dixieland and baroque pop, surprisingly swinging and lots of fun. Definitely not the kind of sound the Merc is accustomed to, but maybe that was the point. Probably those left off the ark would’ve enjoyed it best. This was a set of songs for sinners, like “Moan All Night” with a dark, Arabian energy featuring solos from pretty much everyone. In between songs, the eponymous Noah sipped beer with one hand and did shots with the other, running the band like a mishmash jam session at a house party in ’30s Paris. After one slowed-down song in the middle of the show, things picked up with a series of exotic grooves, the band clicking on “On and On” amongst others.

The late-show headliner, Jenny O., is from Los Angeles by way of the “tri-state area,” which I believe is a euphemism for Long Island. Her music was a mélange of influences and styles, evoking Fleetwood Mac, Edie Brickell and Creedence Clearwater Revival throughout the set. She opened with “Learned My Lessons,” featuring a Simon & Garfunkel–feelin’ groovy vibe and followed it up with the dreamy, twangy title track off her wonderful new album, Automechanic. Jenny O. had a two-shots-and-two-tokes kind of giddiness going on, teetering a bit at the start, whether part of her thing or not. The band, dubbed the High Society, kept that precipice-dangling energy and focused it admirably. I was absolutely flummoxed when she announced a few songs later that this was actually her first time playing with them—and that they had only met a few hours earlier.

As the set unfolded, mostly with material off the new album, Jenny O. sharpened considerably, switching to electric guitar for some added ferocity. After a couple of solo acoustic numbers, including a cover of the Whigs’ “Rock and Roll Forever,” the show really got moving. “Come Get Me” was high-energy fun with a rocking guitar solo, and “Lazy Jane” was a highlight, the band tight as a veteran touring act and Jenny O. sounding like a slow-burning Stevie Nicks. The singer-songwriter’s voice was like a chameleon, her banter flavored with a mix of Southern, Los Angeles and New York accents, and her singing almost beautiful but absolutely enchanting. When the band exhausted all their prepared material, she returned for a solo encore, fulfilling the request for “Won’t Let You Leave” with her strongest vocal performance of the night and adding an unwound cover
of Paul Simon’s “Peace Like a River,” perfectly capping off this rare Thednesday night. —A. Stein

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Christopher Owens Lets His Music Talk for Him

January 23rd, 2013

Christopher Owens – The Bowery Ballroom – January 22, 2013


Maybe you’ve heard the fable of one Christopher Owens. Reared in the Children of God cult and later “rescued” by Texan oil tycoon Stanley Marsh III, Owens now resides in San Francisco, where he formed the recently disbanded Girls. As if his fortunes weren’t promising enough, he was announced as the face of the Yves Saint Laurent spring/summer campaign. And although he’s concluded his work with Girls, Owens’ solo album, Lysandre, remains confessional, telling the story of a French woman he fell in love with while on tour with his former band.

Playing his latest album completely in order last night, Owens shuffled onto the stage at The Bowery Ballroom with a band of seven. Parking himself in a seat, he wore a suit and tie for the occasion. As those in attendance held their breath for Owens’ first words, his simple “hey” would set the tone for the night. There was little chitchat, and in its place were the repetitive chords of “Lysandre’s Theme.” Bouncing from reflective narrative with “A Broken Heart” to upbeat “Here We Go Again,” Owens let his songs do the talking. He earnestly sang, “What if everybody just thinks I’m a phony/What if nobody ever gets it/Well, some people never get anything/And I shouldn’t care what people think” on “Love Is in the Ear of the Listener.” In response, onlookers offered shouts of encouragement. Singing pensively about the dissolution of his French romance on “Everywhere You Knew,” a lone lighter was raised in the crowd.

For the encore, Owens and Co. returned for a set of covers starting with the first song he ever learned to play, Cat Stevens’ “Wild World,” followed by Donovan’s “Lalena.” With the freezing temperatures, Simon & Garfunkel’s lyrics “Where the New York City winters aren’t bleeding me” from “The Boxer” were quite appropriate. Topping it off, Owens resurrected the Everly Brothers’ “Let It Be Me” and Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” Flowers were passed to the front row and Owens pulled out his iPod to record the audience’s applause. This was a memorable evening for him as well as those who braved the arctic chill to hear him. —Sharlene Chiu