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Little Dragon – Terminal 5 – June 20, 2014
I can remember it like it was yesterday. A magical summer day two years back after a downpour rinsed off Brooklyn and the steamy heat rose to engulf the members of Little Dragon as they stepped onstage at Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell. The Swedish electro group, led by Yukimi Nagano, had been touring in support of their latest, Ritual Union. I had just recently returned from Sweden where I had attended a wedding, and coincidentally the happy couple danced the night away with me that unforgettable evening. Needless to say the quartet had a lot to live up to that summer night.
Playing the first of two sold-out shows at Terminal 5 on Friday night, Nagano and gang slowly marched onstage with drummer Erik Bodin leading the procession dressed in a black unitard replete with sewn-on DayGlo flowers. Fans knew they were in for a treat. Opening with “Mirror,” from their recent release, Nabuma Rubberband, the frontwoman swayed in her knee-high socks and sparkly dress. The crowd erupted for “Please Turn,” from Ritual Union, as a sea of bodies undulated across the dance floor. Nagano got into her groove twirling and shaking her tambourine to “Underbart,” which led into claps from the elated audience for “Crystalfilm.” Expressing their joy to be back in New York City, the lady of the night informed revelers that it was Midsummer’s Eve, a big holiday for Swedes in which “everyone gets crazy and dances around.”
No difference on Friday in New York City. In the meat of the set, “Ritual Union” and the new LP’s lead single, “Klapp Klapp,” climaxed the night with a confetti-cannon explosion. How’s that for a celebration? A short exit barely fooled the audience into thinking that there wouldn’t be an encore, as the Swedes returned promptly with a trio of treats: Nabuma Rubberband’s title track, plus oldies but goodies “Runabout” and “Twice.” As if a confetti cannon weren’t enough, a balloon drop was perfectly triggered when the second-to-last song ended, leaving a cloud of inflated friends looming. Terminal 5 was a flurry of Midsummer converts as they exited the venue against stray balloons following them into the night. —Sharlene Chiu
Little Dragon close out their U.S. tour this weekend with two sold-out shows at Terminal 5 on Friday and Saturday, and The House List is giving away two tickets to Saturday’s show. Want to go? Try to Grow a Pair. Just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (Little Dragon, 6/21) and a brief message explaining exactly what about this Swedish synth-pop five-piece does it for you. Eddie Bruiser, who’s been listening to their most recent album, will notify the winner by Friday. Good luck.
Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 16, 2015
Given the number of New York City shows King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard have played in the past year, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re from around here—or at least nearby. It’s a little absurd then to remember that they’re actually from Melbourne … Australia. But like their Dungeons & Dragons–on-acid band name and their three-guitars-two-drums-bass-harmonica-and-occasional-flute lineup, there is little about these guys that isn’t absolutely absurd. So making NYC their Western Hemisphere outpost is right in character and, judging from the absurd energy inside Music Hall of Williamsburg last night, the crowd is happy to have them call our town home.
Before King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard got started, Toronto’s Michael Rault perfectly set the stage with an excellent set of overdrive garage rock that featured odd, shifting tempos, vocal harmonies, two-guitar jams and a nonstop flow of delectable bass playing that got the full house in the mood. After a quick changeover, the sound of Men at Work’s “Down Under” filled the room—a cheeky reminder that, no, the headliners didn’t just drive in from their Bushwick walk-up. The prolific seven-piece opened with some new material that nonetheless had the crowd bouncing and stage diving within minutes as brain-trip projections flashed behind them at an epileptic rate that kept pace with the intense two-drum rhythms. “Hot Wax” earned a roar of approval with its hot fusion of sounds, like the punk rock of CBGB and the psychedelic jams of the Wetlands exploding together in an at-home-in-NYC flash.
From there, things got, well, absurd. Songs leaped from genre to genre, from the metal of Black Sabbath to the flute-prog of old Genesis, from cosmic doo-wop to jazzy improv. Themes flipped from one to another without warning but also without whiplash, long extended jams sometimes circling back around again leaving you with a sensation of headbanger’s déjà vu (“Is this the same song?”). The set list bounced between yet-to-be-released new ones and what constitutes older material for a band that’s been churning out music for the past five years. “The River” was a representative highlight, beginning with a swinging jazz riff and then launching into a lengthy go-everywhere jam led by 12-string-guitar exploration and weird-out animations on the backdrop. “Head On/Pill” was another highlight: an epic that grew very quiet before a full-band spastic freak-out and a triumphant mid-song melodic climax, hitting a few other sweet spots before eventually coming back. After 90 minutes of breakneck no-encore-necessary playing and a promise to return soon (like there was any doubt!), there was only one way to describe King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: absurdly good. —A. Stein | @Neddyo
Singer-songwriter Valerie Teicher grew up in Bogotá, Colombia, and Vancouver, B.C., before heading to Boston to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music. She’s since brought her keen pop sensibilities to Brooklyn, recording and performing as Tei Shi. And after gaining notice with the release of several singles and a pair of EPs, her acclaimed debut full-length, Crawl Space (stream it below), was released this past March. “Loaded with vocal hooks, sassy, R&B-infused performances and textured, groove-powered tunes, it’s a hypnotic set that’s definitely got its own thing going on,” says AllMusic. “Her bijou brand of left-field R&B shares space with Chairlift or Little Dragon,” adds the Observer. Now out on the road in support of the LP, Tei Shi (above, performing “Say You Do” live in studio for KEXP FM) comes home to play Music Hall of Williamsburg on Wednesday night. Los Angeles singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lawrence Rothman opens.
Australian singer-songwriter Elizabeth Rose may have only a pair of EPs to her name,
but her electronic pop—filled with layered beats, melodies and synths—has won over
fans from Oceania to New York City while earning her comparisons to the likes of the Knife and Little Dragon. And with the recent release of the ethereal Elizabeth Rose
(stream it below), the follow-up to 2012’s Crystallise (stream it below), Rose (above, performing “Good Life” live on Triple J) has hit the road, performing live with synths player Alex Dawson. And they come to New York City this week. See her play Mercury Lounge tomorrow night. Multi-instrumentalist Louis Schwardon’s psych-pop alter ego,
Sky White Tiger, opens the show.
I Break Horses – Rough Trade NYC – April 18, 2014
A wide range of Swedish artists, like Robyn, the Knife and Little Dragon, have made some of the most infectious dance music over the past few years. And Maria Lindén and Fredrik Balck continue in that vein as I Break Horses. Following the release of their sophomore effort, Chiaroscuro, earlier this year, the two have embarked on their first-ever headlining tour in North America. Their label, Bella Union, describes the pair’s evocative sound as “a gorgeous Scandinavian croon that’s bathed in an ocean of reverb and tremelo,” and Lindén and Balck are no strangers to performing to huge crowds, having previously opened for M83 and Sigur Rós.
But on the eve of Record Store Day, the Swedes fittingly performed at the intimate Rough Trade NYC in Brooklyn. Lindén raised an arm for the show to commence against the throbbing drums of “Medicine Brush.” And while she later had some synth troubles, the band swiftly recovered with crowd-favorite “Denial” to the delight of concertgoers happily bobbing their heads to the beat. I Break Horses followed with a pair from their debut, Hearts—“Load Your Eyes” and the shimmering synth-filled title song—before the set closed with the thumping “Faith.” But the band returned to encore with the swirling “Winter Beats.” —Sharlene Chiu
March has begun, which means a few things: We change the clocks soon, the NCAA Tournament is fast approaching and The House List is headed back to SXSW next week. We’ll be setting up camp again at IFC’s Crossroads House on Sixth and Brazos, and we’ll be keeping you up to date with everything happening 3/16-18. We’ve got a great lineup of interviews and performances, including Brett Dennen, Portugal. The Man, Lupe Fiasco, Young the Giant, City and Colour, Little Dragon, Emmylou Harris, Fitz and the Tantrums, Liz Phair, Sharon Van Etten, the Rural Alberta Advantage and Wild Flag. And we’ll have links to live streams, interviews and plenty of photos. So make sure you tune in! In the meantime, check out Broken Social Scene, above, playing “Texico Bitches” at last year’s SXSW.
Of Montreal – Music Hall of Williamsburg – April 27, 2017
You’re weird! When you were a kid, that would’ve been a put-down, but nowadays, in some circles, the greater sin is being normal. No worries for Kevin Barnes, the lead genius behind Of Montreal, who showered a sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg with their Day-Glo, bizarro resplendence last night. With a later start time, the set was the kind of happening that transpires when the normal folk are sleeping, a giant dreamlike hairy beast, a yeti in Brooklyn, marching across the stage as the band wound up “Gratuitous Abysses,” before Barnes had even taken the stage. The cosmic doo-wop sounded like eight genres mashed together, or maybe more like flipping among them so fast that it felt that way, a good primer for the sight-and-sound feast of a show that followed.
At times watching Of Montreal go through their set, many songs accompanied by a traveling troupe of performers acting out a hallucinogenic scene, each difficult to describe in words, was like watching a Saturday morning cartoon, the band maybe splitting time between their deeply psychedelic grooving and, at any moment, hopping off in a multihued van to go fight crime somewhere. The opening stretch was heavy on the synth and disco whorls, but a few songs in, Barnes picked up his guitar and the sound worked more toward a funked-up glam. The audience continuing to push closer to the stage to get into his orbit, whooping at each wardrobe change, Barnes working a new look at each third of the night.
The set list folded selections from Of Montreal’s vast and varying catalog, “Different for Girls” fueling a front-to-back dance party, “Bunny Ain’t No Kind of Rider” getting everyone to sing along in collective glee, “Gronlandic Edit”—with Barnes singing about “all the party people dancing”—was explosive fun of room-rattling bass. The last third of the performance was a nonstop blast of crowd-pleasers, with enough “Is that what I think it is, WTF?” moments mixed in to get most people in the room shaking their heads almost as much as they were shaking their bodies. The set closed, appropriately, with “The Party’s Crashing on Us,” off 2005’s The Sunlandic Twins album, which goes to show how long Barnes has been infectiously bounding around a stage with Chinese dragons and the like, in a hot-pink number, or with little clothing on at all, for that matter, as normal as can be. —A. Stein | @Neddyo
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Music Hall of Williamsburg – October 11, 2013
In this what’s-old-is-new-again age of rock, it’s sometimes fun to think about what classic bands from the past might sound like if they had started in the here and now. Like what would the 2013 version of the Jimi Hendrix Experience sound like? Maybe something like Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the Portland, Ore., trio that impressively scrambled guitar, bass and drums on Friday night at a packed Music Hall of Williamburg. Working in equal parts from their two records, they offered spiraling space jams, soulful interludes and artful interplay. With its chaotic pink lighting setting off a jammy section that made way for intensely raging drums, early set highlight “How Can You Luv Me” revealed how much it’s grown since the group’s self-titled debut album came out in 2011.
Frontman Ruban Nielson proved his dexterity throughout the set, twisting his guitar and voice through a variety of colorful distortions, both playing off of each other in some sort of complicated waltz. Nielson holds his guitar high up on his chest, strap barely over his shoulder, neck pointed out like a little boy who turns anything he can get his hands on into a rifle. And he did wield it like a weapon, song after song unleashing heavy-duty artillery. But over the past few years, UMO have found admirable cohesive energy as a three-man unit, with bassist Jake Portrait and drummer Riley Geere as equal contributors to a set full of highlight electricity jams.
So, of course, the encore began with just Nielson offering a fantastic solo acoustic version of “Swim and Sleep,” fine guitar fingering accompanying a sweet, quiet vocal. This melted into an almost Raga-like electric solo before the band returned for an excellent “Ffunny Ffriends” that opened up into an extended everyone-wins rock-out. A third song began with Nielson on acoustic then moving to electric leading to a weird, slightly off section before a final dragon-slayer guitar jam that felt at times like it might melt into a distortion-laden live-at-Woodstock version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” But that’s the past and there’s no doubt that Unknown Mortal Orchestra is undoubtedly what’s new. —A. Stein
Portugal. The Man – Terminal 5 – October 20, 2011
Lots of bands play New York City. Probably a zillion of them this week for CMJ alone. But not all of them do New York City the way Portugal. The Man does, with extra shows and secret sets that you’re likely to miss if you’re not paying attention. Already this week has seen two intimate acoustic sets in the same afternoon around town. So when playing their biggest headlining show to date at Terminal 5 last night, there was little doubt that it would be more than just another show.
Taking the stage in a cloud of smoke, the band opened with “So American” off their newest album, In the Mountain in the Cloud. Instead of continuing with new material, the band ripped through 30 minutes of older stuff (like “AKA M80 the Wolf”), strobe-light-induced jams and an in-your-face cover of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” before even touching another new track. From there, the band zigzagged through their catalog, barely pausing for breath.
Portugal. The Man was a dichotomy in action, the Young Lady or an Old Hag? illusion. Is this a band that plays irresistible pop songs that had the entire room singing along to every chorus or is it one that turns its back on the audience, letting itself get lost in the smoke and lights with dragon-slaying guitar? Were those psychedelic orbs populating the stage oversize ping-pong balls succumbing to gravity’s will or were they bubbles escaping to the sky? After a 100-minute set of Portugal. The Man doing New York City like few do, including a five-song encore (that included the clever coupling of their “People Say” into a cover of its musical cousin Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger”), the answer of course is: either. Or both. Depends on how you look at it. —A. Stein