Tag Archives: Talking Heads


A Celebration of the Rich Musical History of Memphis

February 12th, 2015

Take Me to the River – Brooklyn Bowl – February 11, 2015


Last night Brooklyn Bowl hosted a celebration of the rich musical history of Memphis, Tenn., in conjunction with Take Me to the River, a new documentary that traces the roots of the incredible blues, soul and R&B that originated in the city and shows how new generations of artists are carrying on and reinventing this musical legacy. That legacy was on display last night, beginning with the Hi Rhythm Section—musicians who once backed Al Green among many others—performing as the house band for the night.

With expert style, the Hi Rythym Section treated the crowd to a wide range of Memphis music history, as a rotating cast of multigenerational performers took the stage. Otis Clay, who was celebrating his 73rd birthday, performed a soulful rendition of “Precious Precious,” while later Bobby Rush, in a crisp white suit, looking (and sounding) great at 81, performed the Stax Records hit “Push and Pull” alongside rapper Frayser Boy (of “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” fame). Later, William Bell worked his magic on a cover of “Knock on Wood” before enlisting rapper Al Kapone to help perform “I Forgot to Be Your Lover,” a smooth new song featured in the film. In addition to the foundational and contemporary Memphis performers who came together last night, the show featured some very up-and-coming young musicians from the Stax Records Academy, a music school that mentors and trains the next generation of Memphis musicians.

By night’s end, there was really only one natural choice for the finale: So all of the performers crowded onto the stage to collaborate on a rendition of the Al Green version of “Take Me to the River,” joined by Jerry Harrison, of Talking Heads (whose popular cover of the song is yet another example of the impact and power of Memphis music). It was a joyful, freewheeling, inclusive sing-along—a nice distillation of the spirit of Memphis, now and then. —Alena Kastin | @AlenaK


The Bogmen Celebrate Christmas at The Bowery Ballroom

December 22nd, 2014

The Bogmen – The Bowery Ballroom – December 19, 2014

(Photo: Dan Rickershauser)

(Photo: Dan Rickershauser)

If you’ve already heard of the Bogmen, then you probably love them. They had a short but sweet run through the mid-90’s, which included getting signed to the major label Arista for the release of their two albums. But in the pre-Internet days, when music discovery was left to happenstance, the Long Island group never broke huge. So instead of being liked by all, they remain loved by the select few in the know. The Bogmen dissolved with the ’90s but have reunited occasionally for charity shows, like their appearances at The Bowery Ballroon on Friday and Saturday. Their fans are still rabid, and anyone who saw them on Friday night has the beer-shower stains to prove it. (For those wondering if The Bowery Ballroom has the structural integrity to sustain a sold-out crowd of rather large men jumping in unison, the answer is yes.)

Their stage had all the glitz and glamour of a true Christmas spectacular, complete with a silver-streamer background and Christmas lights–lit microphone stands. The band wore all white outfits with wonderful accents of Christmas tree garland, and lead singer Billy Campion sported a tie made entirely of Christmas ornaments. With your eyes closed once the music started, you’d have thought this was a band playing shows on a regular basis. Dance friendly polyrhythmic grooves reminiscent of Talking Heads carried “Big Burn.” “Dr. Jerome (Love Tub, Doctor),” with its chorus of “Dr. Jerome, love tub doctor!” sung in unison by all, as loud as possible. Campion, who’s had vocal-cord issues in the past, powered through the vocal-straining “It’s a Fast Horizon,” noting that it was the first time he was able to sing it live, declaring his voice, at 43, the best it’s ever been. “Suddenly” came complete with a live rendition of the back-and-forth breakup phone call, with the original line declaring that the ’90s would be all about love replaced with “the ’90s, they’ve come and gone/ And now I don’t know what’s going on/ But I’m loving it!”

With a point, a nod or a smile, over the course of the night, band members acknowledged a number of faces in the crowd—a healthy mix of friends, fans and family. Opener Julia Haltigan joined the Bogmen for their encore of a stirring rendition of the Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York,” complete with dancing around a stage crowded with band members. Someone dressed as Santa eventually made his way onstage. Or, if you believe in miracles, maybe it was Kris Kringle himself, taking off time from his busy schedule. After all, the Bogmen don’t perform very often, but when the opportunity arises, you take it.
—Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks




Landlady Holiday Spectacular: Great Night of Music for a Great Cause

December 9th, 2014

 The Landlady Holiday Spectacular – Mercury Lounge – December 8, 2014

I walked into Mercury Lounge last night to a festive holiday party already in progress. There were blinking lights, multiple trees and decorations throughout the room, a jar labeled FREE CANDY offered candy canes, and Santa Claus had just hopped off the stage to lead the room in “Silent Night.” Far be it from me to call Santa a liar, but the Landlady Holiday Spectacular would turn out to be anything but a silent night. In fact, with a makeshift second stage set up on the side of the room, there was almost no pause in the music for three-and-a-half hours, with brass bands big and small to indie-rock quartets to bluegrass trios, folk duos, large Afrobeat ensembles and almost anything else you could imagine. The sets were quick: two to four songs each, so if you didn’t like what you were hearing, you didn’t have to wait long, but that was rarely the case. It would take too long to even try to list the proceedings, probably about a dozen bands played in all, but there were Zula mixing Latin rhythms in an indie rock thing, the Westerlies adding Christmas songs to originals arranged for two trombones and a trumpet, the avant drum-and-guitar duo Star Rover expertly going post-post-rock, and Zongo Junction getting everyone boogieing down with their big, funky Afrobeat.

The audience constantly rotated between the front and the side, where little impromptu groups would spring up in between the more established ones, like when Rubblebucket’s Kal Traver joined the man of the hour, Adam Schatz, on a nice bluesy sax-and-vocals duet. Although the room was full, at times it felt like there were more musicians in the crowd than paying customers, a constant stream of saxophones and guitars fighting their way one of the stages. If this party were a movie, Schatz, who amazingly made the evening work while sitting in on sax with almost everyone, would’ve filled the director, producer and lead-actor roles. Still, by the time his band, Landlady, took the stage there was a risk that it would be anticlimactic after all that had already come. Not to worry, there wasn’t a chance of that happening. They opened with “Under the Yard,” off their new album, Upright Behavior, and raised the energy a few notches, mixing harmonies and offbeat rhythms with Schatz’s unique songwriting. The music was a groovy, progressive New Wave, a Talking Heads for the 21st century, with Schatz gesticulating lovingly at the front on keyboards. But even as he led Landlady through their repertoire—the title track and “Dying Day” were early set highlights—he was directing the show, prompting a horn section on the side stage to enter the fray at just the right moment.

Of course, with so many friends in the house, you had to expect even more collaborations, guests and permutations, and Schatz quickly ceded the stage to Jared Samuel (leading the band in a nice cover of George Harrison’s “Awaiting on You All”), Sam Cohen, Xenia Rubinos and Luke Temple. This highlight stretch turned Landlady into an expert house band primed for late-night talk shows, slipping between genres as easily as flipping through LPs at the record store. As if to punctuate the point, Landlady invited pretty much everyone onstage for a closing climactic one-two punch of covers by Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love” and Funkadelic’s “I Got a Thing.” With horns, guitars, drums and what seemed like the whole room singing along, spectacular doesn’t even begin to describe the festivities. It should also be noted that the whole night was a benefit for the Bushwick School of Music, which provides music education to kids who wouldn’t otherwise receive it in school. It was a worthy cause, indeed. Guys like Adam Schatz just don’t appear beneath the Christmas tree, you know. —A Stein | @Neddyo


Catch the Funk Army Turkuaz on Saturday in Williamsburg

November 26th, 2014

Dave Brandwein (vocals and guitar) and Taylor Shell (bass) formed the nine-piece funk orchestra Turkuaz—rounded out by Craig Brodhead (guitar and synths), Chris Brouwers (trumpet and keys), Greg Sanderson (sax), Joshua Schwartz (sax and vocals), Michelangelo Carubba (drums) and Sammi Garett (tambourine and vocals)—in 2008. Mixing Funk, R&B and Motown with world-music flourishes, Turkuaz (above, performing “Future 86” live at Brooklyn Bowl) take cues from bands like Parliament, Sly and the Family Stone and Talking Heads. Their most recent album, Future 86 (stream it below), came out in April, and it’s filled with the psychedelic funk and brassy soul that’s become one of the funk army’s calling cards. Another is their electric stage performances: “If you’re a good live band, you’ve got to get out and play. That’s really all there is to it,” Brandwein told Relix. See for yourself on Saturday at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Energetic Baltimore five-piece Pigeons Playing Ping Pong opens the show.


Five Questions with … Xenia Rubinos

February 21st, 2014

Brooklyn’s Xenia Rubinos is a talented singer-songwriter and keyboardist, and she teamed up with drummer Marco Buccelli on Magic Trix, (stream it below), which arrived last year to a fair amount of acclaim, charming even those noted grumps at Pitchfork: “She’s triumphed unambiguously: Magic Trix is a startling lightning bolt of a record.” The big-voiced Rubinos (above, doing “Hair Receding” for KEXP FM) is an energetic, engaging performer, and although she’s currently out on tour, Rubinos returns to New York City to play Mercury Lounge on 3/11. And she checked in from the road to answer Five Questions. (Rubinos also happens to do a pretty cool “Psycho Killers” cover.)

What music or song always makes you dance?
“Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” by the Police.

You’ve been on the road since releasing Magic Trix. But do you ever work on new material onstage, or does the new stuff stay private until it’s more polished?
Every once in a while I take something out of the shop and put it onstage to see how it runs and let it stay that way for a while to give it some air. I do often take songs back into the shop (new and old) when they need work. They’re alive and need tune-ups and attention.

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?
You are all things. It’s all in there all the time, so if you work toward it you can access what you need when you need it, but the control of all that is the hard part!

Living in Brooklyn, does playing Mercury Lounge have any special significance?
It feels good to go “into the city,” so to speak. Driving across the bridge and seeing Manhattan is never less breathtaking than the time before, and sometimes I remember what I used to see years ago when I was new to the city and felt like I wanted to eat the whole thing in one big bite—well, maybe I still do. Also always excited to be on a Bowery Presents show cause ya’ll have such funky taste!

As a touring musician, do you ever notice that your music is received differently on the road than it is at home?
For sure every place has its own energy and the people there have their -isms. New Yorkers can be generally quite hard to impress, and sometimes I really like that. —R. Zizmor


We’ve Got Your Late-Night Action This Weekend

December 27th, 2013

It’s the time of year when people really want to spend quality time with their friends. And along those lines, there’s lots of great shows this weekend, whether you’re going to Phish at the Garden or one of our shows. But either way, no one really wants the party to stop early. So not to fear because we’ve got your late-night festivities, beginning tonight with Rocky and the Pressers at Mercury Lounge. And tomorrow we’ve got even more options: the Talking Heads tribute Start Making Sense at The Bowery Ballroom and the Spring Standards at Mercury Lounge. And then we’ve got the Invisible Familiars at Mercury Lounge on Sunday and then Alex Bleeker and the Freaks (above, doing “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad” for Relix) there on Monday night. Get involved. It’s gonna be fun.


Yellowbirds Sounded as Good as Ever on Friday at Mercury Lounge

August 26th, 2013

Yellowbirds/Landlady – Mercury Lounge – August 23, 2013

It was another fun, fun, fun late night at Mercury Lounge on Friday. First Landlady played an awesome, noisy art rock that may be best approximated by Talking Heads meets Frank Zappa with a very ’80s–Steve Winwood vocal from frontman Adam Schatz. Harmonies and weirdo polyrhythmic prog were all glued together by the drummer. They closed their set big, with Sam Cohen joining in, adding a mid-song two-guitar space out that broke down into a monologue from Schatz before a build-up sing-along, the whole crowd singing “Always!” Keep an eye out for Landlady.

Cohen’s Yellowbirds hit the stage at midnight and were sharp from the start. Their opening song featuring a noise jam that melted to a fantastic two-guitar section with melodic guitar from both Cohen and Josh Kaufman. In the past, the stage at a Yellowbirds show has been populated with extra instruments. But the present incarnation is just two guitars, bass and drums, and the simplicity seems to have enlivened the material. Cohen and Kaufman’s guitars were constantly anticipating and complementing each other, two old friends telling a single anecdote with perfect timing. The set bounced effortlessly between the new album, Songs from the Vanished Frontier, and the tried-and-true material from The Color. Bassist Brian Kantor and drummer Annie Nero, laying down the groovy before a nice double guitar bridge, were a highlight of “Julian,” while “The Honest Ocean,” was crunchy with whammy reverb from Cohen.

Late-night crowds can go in many directions, but Friday’s was the right mix of rowdy and appreciative, with an enthusiastic patron repeatedly and playfully yelling, “I love you” until Cohen hopped down from the stage to serenade the wooing fan with his guitar. Which is to say that the band was as animated as ever. Returning the favor, Schatz joined in on keyboards—and a guest vocalist came out—for a fun, decidedly after-midnight Serge Gainsbourg cover. The set closed with “Young Men of Promise,” Yellowbirds sounding as good as ever, perhaps more than a few in the crowd thinking to themselves, “I love you!” —A. Stein



Two Chances to See David Byrne and St. Vincent

June 11th, 2013

It’s a word that’s used far too much, and all too often when it doesn’t really apply. But there’s no way around it: David Byrne is a genius—first as the frontman of the groundbreaking Talking Heads and then as a solo artist, record-label head, producer, artist, writer and director. It basically comes down to this: If David Byrne’s doing something, you should be paying attention. His newest endeavor finds him teamed up with singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Annie Clark (better known as St. Vincent). Their album, the highly acclaimed Love the Giant (stream it below) came out last September, followed by a short tour. But fortunately for us, the collaboration turned out not to be a one-off. Because the two (above, performing “I Should Watch TV” on Late Show with David Letterman) recently released a free EP, Brass Tactics—highlighted by a terrific live version of “Road to Nowhere”—and are now back out on the road again. See them tomorrow at The Wellmont Theatre, and then again at The Capitol Theatre on 6/29.


Spend Saturday Night with Matthew Dear at Webster Hall

November 15th, 2012

You can’t pin down Matthew Deer, so don’t even bother trying. The producer, DJ and avant-pop musician first discovered electronic music as a teenager in his native Texas. In college in Michigan, he began DJing parties, which led to producing and then eventually making his way to the front of the stage to sing his own music. Pitchfork said of Dear’s fifth solo album, Beams, which came out earlier this year: “Each successive release under the Detroit producer’s own name has seen him reveal more of himself as he simultaneously retreats deeper into the shadows.” But make no mistake, influenced by Brian Eno, David Bowie and Talking Heads, Dear (above, playing “Headcage”) makes the kind of music that gets people moving. And you can get moving yourself when Matthew Dear—alongside Light Asylum, Beacon and MNDR—plays Webster Hall on Saturday.


A Perfect Performance

September 26th, 2012

David Byrne and St. Vincent – Beacon Theatre – September 25, 2012

Two years ago, David Byrne gave a lecture in Brooklyn titled “Creation in Reverse,” a warm-up for his presentation at TED Talks. His thesis boiled down to the claim that music is determined by context—that is, the venue where music will be played influences and shapes the songwriting process. At the time, as a member of the audience, I was skeptical. Byrne’s argument seemed to have a misguided premise that didn’t sit right with me. I understand music to come from emotional states, rather than careful analytical thought, and Byrne was saying the exact opposite.

Two years later, sitting in the three-tiered, high-ceilinged and ornate Beacon Theatre, it all came together. Byrne and his latest collaborator, Annie Clark, known by the stage name St. Vincent, played each other’s music as well as songs from their excellent new album, Love This Giant. The project features plenty of horns, which serves as a glue and counterpoint to their distinct styles. And in the sprawling theater, the two brought an eight-piece brass section, along with a drummer and keyboardist, which reflected a level of forethought I didn’t think possible: They made and executed the perfect performance for the space.

Every detail of the show seemed planned for a maximal audience experience. Byrne, Clark and their band dressed in slightly varied arrangements of formal black-and-white clothing. They moved together and separately in choreographed patterns. It was visually striking in addition to being sonically engaging. But the greatest pleasure was definitely the sound—towering vocals with Byrne’s signature falsetto and phrasing complemented by Clark’s airy harmonies, her glitchy, menacing guitar solos and huge swells of orchestral horns.

Byrne’s Talking Heads classic “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” had all the charm and original sweetness of the original but with bounciness from the new arrangement. Clark’s recent singles “Cruel” and “Cheerleader” retained their off kilter yet melodic power, but with a largess befitting the night and space: Because this space and this night were special. Although the band could have easily stopped after playing “Burning Down the House” for the first encore, they came back and finished with “Road to Nowhere.” It was emotional to hear the song in the context of the night, capping off such a monumental performance. They finished and took a final bow. Those in the crowd, who had been on their feet since the first encore, roared with applause. It was over, and we knew it. But to finish, they walked out playing a little reappraisal. The band played on. —Jared Levy

(David Byrne and St. Vincent play the Beacon Theatre tonight.)

Photo courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

(After three years as a House List contributor, Jared Levy is headed to New Zealand. Follow his blog, Playtonic Dialogues, and find him on Twitter: @Playtonic.)


Hot Chip Spreads the Joy of Repetition

July 23rd, 2012

Hot Chip – Terminal 5 – July 20, 2012

Electronic dance music is experiencing a renaissance right now, and the London-based band Hot Chip is somewhere down one of the paths in this explosion of creative talent that’s pushing the genre in a thousand different directions. Never mind that half the band could double as high school chemistry teachers, their pioneering take on the world of electronic sound is unique in an otherwise cluttered genre. The group topped off a three-day stint here in New York City by playing a sold-out show at Terminal 5 on Friday. (On Wednesday they played a show in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park followed on Thursday by a terrific performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.)

Things kicked off with “Motion Sickness,” from their latest album, In Our Heads, a slow-building song that piled so many Talking Heads-esque polyrhythms onto one another that it almost hit a saturation point by the end. Just about every song they played was so beat driven that dancing became an involuntary reaction. Even “Boy From School,” one of their more somber recorded songs, was kicked up a few notches live, making it irresistibly dance-y. “Don’t Deny Your Heart” sounded like it was constructed entirely out of the greatest synth sounds of the late ’70s or early ’80s, a time when electronic music was restricted to the seldom few geeks who could control the not so user-friendly machines that manufactured electronic noises (people who, more often than not, also looked like high school chemistry teachers).

Hot Chip’s performance was also playful in terms of the audience’s expectations. Some of the best moments were interludes that popped up seemingly out of nowhere only to disappear without a trace after a few seconds. Such aural teases made for an engaging listening experience that’s unusual in dance music, which is otherwise known for its escapist quality. LCD Soundsystem taught the world it was possible to simultaneously be experimental, crowd-pleasing and catchy as hell. And Hot Chip is moving full speed ahead with that tradition. When singer Alexis Taylor sings, “The joy of repetition really is in you,” in “Over and Over,” to a sea of dancing bodies, it was more like an astute observation than a lyric. They’re on to something, but they already seem to know that. And whatever that something is, New York City can’t to get enough of it. —Dan Rickershauser

Photos courtesy of Diana Wong | dianawongphoto.com