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Ron Gallo and Naked Giants Blur Lines at Rough Trade NYC

November 20th, 2017

Ron Gallo – Rough Trade NYC – November 19, 2017


Sometimes it’s best to start with the end and work your way back to the beginning. Such is the case with the show at Rough Trade NYC last night, which closed in burn-the-house-down fashion, Ron Gallo and his band joined by opening band Naked Giants, two power trios banging around onstage, at least half of the six musicians having removed their shirts, the sweat a couple of hours of no-garage-can-contain-this rock and rolling. The Naked Giants guys had already been onstage for three songs to close out the set, at one point joined by Dr. Dog’s Eric Slick as well, playing both sides of their split 7″ single and culminating in a frenzied cover of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.” Apparently they’ve been performing it together all along their tour, but when they played it in Brooklyn last night, it not only was an appropriate show closer, but also unwittingly, and perhaps unintentionally ironically, marked the passing of Charles Manson.

The packed house had been bouncing and percolating to both bands all night, but by this point, the energy from front to back was combustible, bodies slamming into one another and carelessly bounding up and down. Whatever the opposite of “quiet Sunday evening at home” is, this was it. The preceding set from Gallo and his trio had been an exercise in blurred boundaries, playing songs from their appropriately titled Heavy Meta record. The demarcation between headliner and opener seemed fluid, at one point midway through, after singing a song apparently about two headlining bands, the Naked Giants guys came on and swapped instruments, allowing Gallo and his group to hop into the audience to rock out with the crowd. Indeed the fourth wall between the performers and audience was as equally dynamic throughout, Gallo not only coming down off the stage on multiple occasions, but also chatting and bantering with folks in the audience, and the musicians mimicking the propulsive dancing of the crowd. At one point Gallo was able to merge all of the audience requests into one surreal medley, blowing into his trumpet and then threading together a few seconds of an unintelligible “Free Bird” with “Fight for Your Right to Party” and, of all things, “One of Us.”

The boundary between rock and roll show and performance art also disappeared, stretching back to the opening moments of Gallo’s set, when he played a little trumpet and then read a prepared introduction statement from a piece of paper seemingly channeling Christopher Walken. At other points, Gallo played his guitar with and on a skateboard. But for all the shenanigans, his set was a rage of rock and roll, channeling the great trios like the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream along the way. With Joe Bisirri on bass and Dylan Sevey on drums, the three-piece was greater than the sum of their parts, breathing fire into the material from the beginning. And as we continue to work our way backward through the night, we once again find Seattle’s Naked Giants. Seen from the end, their set was a bit of foreshadowing—their intense and thoughtful guitar-bass-drum rock a perfect tee up for the night. Their songs seemed to have a mind of their own, losing themselves in the middle to stray here or there in is-this-another-song fashion before hitting the head and drawing to a close. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

Photos courtesy of Silvia Saponaro | www.saponarophotography.com

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Broken Social Scene to the Rescue at Brooklyn Steel on Wednesday

October 5th, 2017

Broken Social Scene – Brooklyn Steel – October 4, 2017

In “getting the band back together,” the siblings in The Blues Brothers are compelled to get all of the original members, no less will do, in order to rekindle the old magic. I imagine Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning going through similar adventures every few years as they search Toronto to round up Andrew Whiteman, Charles Spearin, Justin Peroff and the rest of Broken Social Scene. In the movie, the reunion is to save an orphanage, and while now there’s no orphanage to save, per se, it does lately feel like our collective national psyche has been orphaned—and who better to save it than these guys? Or, as Drew put it midway through their sold-out show at Brooklyn Steel last night: “When your country gets fucked up, Broken Social Scene shows up … that’s what we do.” And show up they did, delivering a powerful, jubilant, cathartic set, the band, indeed back together.

The healing vibes were flowing from the beginning with a punchy opening one-two of “KC Accidental” and “7/4 Shoreline,” guitars layered upon guitars and then, at just the right moment, a blast of horns materializing to provide the exclamatory oomph. “We’re not a rock band, we’re a family!” proclaimed Drew later in the night, putting to words the unique, sibling-love energy coming from the stage. Even when squeezing two, three and sometimes four guitar parts into their songs, the sound was big and loving without getting too messy. A mid-set pairing of “Stars and Sons” and “World Sick” showed off the ensemble’s range: joyous, raucous bounce followed by more subtle, heartfelt rocking, the latter lingering with beautiful cascades of guitar in both the intro and outro.

While it’s been a few years since Broken Social Scene’s last proper tour—and the band and crowd were both filled with nostalgia last night—plenty of new material still seamlessly fit into the set. “Skyline,” dedicated to Tom Petty, felt especially purposeful and charged, quietly building to another horn-led climax. The new record is titled Hug of Thunder, and that’s exactly what the show felt like, an emotional release in voluminous guitars, bass, drums and more. During the encore, the hugs became literal, Drew dropping down into the crowd to sing “Lover’s Spit” and giving a genuine embrace to as many people as he could along the way as he sang, sincerely, if not reassuringly, “Making it work takes a little time.” —A. Stein | @Neddyo

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

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Patti Smith Celebrates and Pays Tribute at SummerStage on Thursday

September 15th, 2017

Patti Smith and Her Band – SummerStage – September 14, 2017

“Most of these songs I wrote for Fred, with Fred or about Fred,” said Patti Smith last night on Central Park’s SummerStage. It would have been the 69th birthday of Fred “Sonic” Smith, Patti’s late husband and the father of her two children, Jackson Smith and Jesse Paris Smith. Patti Smith has been part of New York City royalty for decades now, her role in the art world, contributions to music and writing, her ability to find herself by chance in the midst of history’s cool and famous since she first stepped foot here in the late ’60s. But the intimate knowledge of her personal life is relatively recent news for her fans. Smith’s memoirs, Just Kids and M Train, share stories about the love and loss of her best friend, Robert Mapplethorpe, and her husband. They also let in the world on the person behind the art, her uncanny ability to find the sacred in everything and even just a good cup of coffee in a local diner. Knowing this is how she experiences the world made a noteworthy performance to honor and remember her late husband all the more special and intimate.

With her son on guitar and daughter on keyboards, Smith played through a catalog inspired by or written with her husband, gone since 1994 but an inspiration ever since. “Fred, this is the product of many day dreams,” she said as an introduction to “Because the Night” (written with Bruce Springsteen). Smith shared how “Looking For You (I Was)” was penned for their anniversary, a love song written for the city of Detroit, her home in the early years of her married life, written while she was in NYC. The show was full of memorials for others, too. Smith dedicated “Ghost Dance” to the activists who took a stand at Standing Rock; “Dancing Barefoot” to Amy Winehouse, who would have turned 34 on Thursday; “Peaceable Kingdom,” to Hüsker Dü’s Grant Hart, who passed away earlier in the day; “Pissing in a River” dedicated to legendary writer Sam Shepard, a close friend who passed away earlier this year. Despite all of these memorials, the performance never stopped feeling like a celebration. Messages sprinkled throughout were delivered with a sense of urgency: “We are free!” and “The people have the power!” Later, triumphantly holding aloft her guitar, Smith yelled, “This is the only fucking weapon we need!”

These are the messages Patti Smith was born to spread. Joined by her now adult children, she  took some moments to try to embarrass them a little, noting her daughter’s willingness to always give her mom her bobby pins. She’s also still wickedly funny, ending some stage banter with: “What am I talking about? I just turned 70. You know when you turn 70 your mind works … in mysterious ways.” But she remains the no-bullshit punk rocker she always was, bringing out the rock and roll animal inside her to dominate the stage for the set-closing “Land.” Even when performing other people’s songs, like Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” the message felt as much hers as theirs. R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, a longtime fan and friend, joined Smith to sing happy birthday to Fred and also to close the show with “People Have the Power.” It was a perfect way to end a night that remembered a powerful artist and reminded everyone there of the most powerful message of all—delivered by the woman he loved. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks


Photos courtesy of Silvia Saponaro | www.saponarophotography.com

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Vulfpeck Fly Funky Flag Friday Night at Brooklyn Steel

September 11th, 2017

Vulfpeck – Brooklyn Steel – September 8, 2017


Funky times call for funky tunes. And while it seemed on Friday night like half of the country was on fire and that the other half was staring down a massive hurricane, Ann Arbor, Mich., band Vulfpeck landed in Brooklyn to plant their funk flag and fly it high—the first of thee booty-shakin’, sold-out Brooklyn Steel appearances in a row. “And just like a sporting event, there will be a palpable drop in energy after the introduction,” jokingly said Jack Stratton as a means of introduction.

The whole thing felt like a funky circus troupe, with at one point 11 people onstage, each switching instruments, more than half of them in gym gear straight out of a ’70s phys ed class, and Stratton leading dance moves and sing-alongs—the rhythm never falling out of time. “New York, can you sing this bassline?” asked the frontman as an intro to “Fugue State,” and the crowd happily obliged. For “El Chepe,” Stratton led the audience through a dance called the Choo Choo. R&B singer Antwaun Stanley joined the band for the set’s middle third, and everyone else in the room joined him on the chorus for “1612.”

The love Vulfpeck have for’60s and ’70s classics is evident in their sound. They paid homage with Stevie Wonder and Al Green covers, but there were audible traces of the era flowing into every tap of the drum. A raging brass section helped, too, with guest Elizabeth Lea, of Tedeschi Trucks Band, tearing it up on the trombone on several songs. And “Back Pocket” featured some elaborate audience participation, in three-part harmonies no less. But the show wasn’t over until “Outro” was played with the saxophone blaring, a song so perfect as a finale that it was the last one played at my own wedding. And with my 30th birthday on Friday night, it’s now also closed out my twenties. A true funkin’ coincidence if there ever was one. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.com

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The Brian Jonestown Massacre Deliver What They Do Best in Brooklyn

September 6th, 2017

The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Brooklyn Steel – September 5, 2017


Anton Newcombe will go down fighting the good fight. Since 1991 he has maintained a laughably prolific pace of releasing music with his band, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, that’s mined the depths of early-’60s British rock and Haight Ashbury psychedelia. A true believer and uncompromising musical mastermind, Newcombe has remained one of underground music’s biggest cult artists. But all of his acclaim and adoration from fans has been hard won over years of touring the globe and tinkering in the lab. Along the way, he’s built up the reputation of being one of rock’s most eccentric yet volatile personalities. Ondi Timoner’s classic documentary Dig! shows Newcombe both at his most erratic and brilliant. With the release of this year’s Don’t Get Lost, the Brian Jonestown Massacre brought their tour to Brooklyn Steel last night and were welcomed by a packed house of eager fans waiting to see which side of Newcombe they would get. And for those who were lucky enough to purchase tickets, he did not disappoint.

The experimental group Chui Wan, from Beijing, opened the show, easing the crowd into the night with a loose yet moving set of mind-bending textures and cascading melodies. Once they had finished, the stage was quickly turned around for the headliners. Dressed in matching white linen with a long flowing scarf draped around his neck, Newcombe stepped onstage backed by the six-piece band that makes up the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Including Newcombe, there were three guitarists, a bassist, keyboardist, drummer and longtime tambourine player and mascot Joel Gion, whose lackadaisical presence at the center of the stage drew impassioned “Joel, Joel, Joel” chants from the crowd.

For more than two hours, the Brian Jonestown Massacre delivered what they do best. Each song blasted out of the gate with the force of a desert hallucination as the band treated fans to selections from across their massive 17-album catalog. Newcombe was in great spirits throughout, and he took to the microphone for multiple hilarious tangents. “Do you think that Korean guy Lil’ Kim liked the Beatles?” he asked at one point. And then: “Do you think he watched Yellow Submarine as a kid? How could he and the act like this? I don’t get it.” The group mixed in some newer material from over the past decade alongside such fan favorites as “Anemone” and “Servo,” from their classic run in the ’90s. And by the time the Brian Jonestown Massacre put down their vintage teardrop guitars and that last rattle of the tambourine was heard, everyone who had packed into Brooklyn Steel on Tuesday night knew that they had been treated to one of rock and roll’s last great torchbearers. —Pat King |@MrPatKing

Photos courtesy of Adela Loconte | adelaloconte.com

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Sylvan Esso Triumphantly Return to Celebrate Brooklyn

July 27th, 2017

Sylvan Esso – Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell – July 26, 2017


(Sylvan Esso play My Morning Jacket’s One Big Holiday on 3/2-6.)

Killer squirrels be damned, last night Sylvan Esso returned to Prospect Park, almost two years to the day since they’d last performed there. Not even signs around the park warning of our now infamous and unusually aggressive squirrel with a taste for human flesh could tamp down the mood of an otherwise beautiful night for music. “We had a lovely weekend in your city. Last night we saw Phish. It was my first time,” said singer Amelia Meath. “And my 22nd,” added Sylvan Esso producer and beat-master Nick Sanborn. “I get it, I got it, I got it. I think I got it,” said Meath, referring to the Phish “thing.”

For anyone unfamiliar with a Sylvan Esso live show, it’s important to note that Meath can fucking dance. “Man, she’s GOING for it,” said a woman next to me two songs into the set. Slithering, snaking her body through a web of beats, whipping around a ponytail, Meath can make a big stage seem somehow not big enough for two people: They own it. Outdoor shows can make everything seem bigger, but providing the backdrop for this dance-y performance mutated their bedroom pop songs into downright pop anthems—and they’re pop anthems the world seems to need right now.

“This song is about feeling good and making yourself feel good. Whether it’s in your own skin or your mother-fucking country, we stand with you everyday,” said Meath introducing “Dress.” Something about this musical duo has made sense from Day One. Meath’s silky smooth voice contrasts beautifully against Sanborn’s choppy, scattered beats. “Signal,” maybe the craziest beat of any of their songs, had Meath’s voice split into octaves harmonizing with itself. Their megahit, “Coffee,” came out as the mid-set stimulant, complete with “get up, get down” sing-alongs. Just two albums in and Sylvan Esso already have an impressive roster of insanely catchy songs, like “Just Dancing,” “Hey Mami” and “H.S.K.T.” The twosome closed the set with their first single off their second album, “Radio.” It’s a huge amount of pop songs to be written by a duo. Most other pop acts get, at best, a few singles off each album, worked many times over by massive teams of the world’s most renowned producers in music. But Sylan Esso are a David in a world of pop Goliaths, and Goddamn can that David dance. —Dan Rickershauser |@D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Pip Cowley | pipcowleyshoots.com

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Elvis Costello Mesmerizes Packed SummerStage Crowd

June 16th, 2017

Elvis Costello & the Imposters – SummerStage – June 15, 2017


Elvis Costello is a writer’s rocker. David Lee Roth put it best when he said, “Music journalists like Elvis Costello because music journalists look like Elvis Costello.” I would take offense to this statement, but after sneaking a glance at myself in the mirror, I think Diamond Dave might be onto something. Costello knows where his strengths are because as a self-proclaimed music nerd (check out his old Sundance show, Spectacle, if you need any more convincing) he can tell when an album or piece of art should be looked upon in reverence. That is precisely why for his current tour with his longtime backing band, the Imposters, he’s playing his 1982 classic, Imperial Bedroom, in full. Upon its release, the LP wasn’t as big of a commercial success as his previous albums, but it was a breakthrough moment for Costello as an artist. Following up the recording of his country-covers album, Almost Blue, in Nashville, Tenn., with famed producer Billy Sherrill, Costello hooked up with Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick to explore the furthest reaches of the pop landscape to create Bedroom, and it’s since remained his most expansive and rewarding record. The tour rolled into town Thursday night for a packed show at Central Park’s SummerStage.

With no opening act, Elvis Costello & the Imposters began promptly at 7:30 p.m. as fans were still making their way into the venue from a line that zigzagged through the park. The band immediately dove headfirst into a ripping version of “The Loved Ones” and from then on we were given a tour of Bedroom with few detours in between. The projection lit up behind them took each of Costello’s album covers and obscured them with art in the style of Barney Bubblesartwork for Imperial Bedroom. At one point Costello explained the original abstract work by saying that he told Bubbles to listen to the album and just paint what he felt the overall theme of the record was. After listening, the artist then produced the piece he titled “Snake Charmer and Reclining Octopus” to which Costello thought, “Fuck me, what did we make?” The show was filled with hilarious banter from Costello, and his band was as sharp as their leader’s deadly wit. With original Attractions members Steve Nieve on keys and the incredible Pete Thomas on drums, the band was rounded out with Davey Faragher on bass and Kitten Kuroi and Briana Lee on backup vocals.

It was a great to see them include obscure Imperial Bedroom songs like “Human Hands,” which would normally be left off of the set list. Costello clearly loved this trip down memory lane as he dug deep into an extended guitar solo during the album’s climactic “Beyond Belief” that launched the caustic track into pandemonium. They did find the time to dig out classics from other albums like “Accidents Will Happen,” “Clubland” and a raucous version of “Watching the Detectives,” which had Costello creating piercing feedback through his guitar with a megaphone siren that soared out of control and into the New York City sky.  The main set ended with the Bedroom Highlight “Pidgen English” before the band left and returned for an encore. More like a second set, Costello treated the audience to 12 more songs that not only finished his obligation to play Imperial Bedroom in its entirety but also treated his fans to some of the hits they had been craving. For the first song, he yelled, “Now for the original heartbreak song!” before launching into the My Aim Is True classic “Alison” with his two backing singers providing sweet harmonies to its chorus. After running through some more tunes, including the Imperial Bedroom standout “Man Out of Time,” Costello treated the audience to a brand-new number called “American Mirror.” He described it as a plea for a return to decency that could be called “British Mirror” or “Russian Mirror.” They ended the night out with a one-two punch of “Pump It Up” and his version of Nick Lowe’s timeless anthem, “(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace Love and Understanding” that seemed as meaningful and prevalent as ever. After Costello and his band bid goodnight, the crowd flooded into the city streets, mesmerized by one of today’s greatest living showmen and songwriters. —Patrick King | @MrPatKing

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

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The Avalanches Throw a Dance Party at Music Hall of Williamsburg

June 14th, 2017

The Avalanches – Music Hall of Williamsburg – June 13, 2017


Over the past 17 years, the Avalanches have carved out a strange and mysterious world for themselves. The Australian DJ collective appeared out of obscurity in 2000 with their classic album, Since I Left You, and it’s remained a gold standard in the world of sampling. The album brimmed with ideas in the same way as Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique or DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing—and it still sounds just as fresh today as it did upon its release. The band remained silent to their fans as the years went by and their legend only grew larger and larger. That all changed in 2016 with the release of their highly anticipated follow-up, Wildflower. It was well worth the wait. With the group’s core lineup now down to the two principal members, Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi, Wildflower is packed with the same mosaic sample style and emphasis on old school drum samples that made Since I Left You such a cohesive masterpiece.

The Avalanches made their long-awaited return to New York City during Governors Ball a couple of weeks back, but decided to add a last-minute stop to Music Hall of Williamsburg last night to return the love. To no surprise, the show was sold out and the room was packed with eager fans not willing to miss out on seeing them. After all, who knows when the next Avalanches album might come out? The anticipation in the moments before they took the stage could be felt in the room like the heavy air outside. Everyone knew this was going to be special and, man, did they deliver. Di Blasi and Chater ran through the hits off of Since I Left You and Wildflower with the help of a dynamite band consisting of Paris Jeffree holding the groove on drums, singer Eliza Wolfgramm covering the hooks and MC Spank Rock taking care of the guest rap spots. They moved from song to song with an insane amount of proficiency that barely gave the audience time to settle down in between tracks. Di Blasi stuck to the electronic triggering of the songs with a huge smile plastered on his face for the entire show, and Chater mainly played guitar jumping up and down during each tune like the rhythm guitarist in a pop-punk band.

The joy coming from stage was infectious and the crowd gave it back tenfold as Music Hall was transformed into one massive dance party. Wolfgramm’s soulful support on the hooks was impeccable and even more impressive was how she danced around while wearing a neck brace for most of the show. It didn’t slow her down for a second and she led the crowd through a fantastic cover of the Clash’s classic “Guns of Brixton” while swinging a baseball bat over her head like a slow-moving helicopter blade. MC Spank Rock did the material justice as well as he easily covered the wide variety of guest rappers’ styles. He was even able to imitate Danny Brown’s verse on the Wildflower track “Frankie Sinatra,” which is no small feat. The biggest reaction of the night came from the Avalanches’ biggest hit, “Frontier Psychiatrist,” its patchwork samples and blasting operatic chorus sounding larger than life. The band played a two-song encore, ending on Since I Left You’s title track. It’s refrain “Since I left you/ I found the world so new” took on a new meaning as much has changed in the world since most of us had last seen the Avalanches in action, but the world seems a little better having them back. —Patrick King | @MrPatKing

Photos courtesy of DeShaun Craddock | dac.photography

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Feist Takes Town Hall on an Evocative Journey of Feelings and Sounds

June 13th, 2017

Feist – Town Hall – June 12, 2107


The prolific Leslie Feist has always been in touch with her emotions (she wrote a song entitled “I Feel It All,” after all), and on her new album, the evocatively titled Pleasure, the Canadian musician is again focused on channeling some big feelings into her music. On Monday night, the last of three consecutive shows at Town Hall, Feist and her band played the new record from start to finish, taking the crowd on an impassioned voyage both musical and emotional. Following the piercingly sad “Wish I Didn’t Miss You,” the singer-songwriter set the scene for the next number: “After that, you kind of need to chill out and, like, go to a lake and sit at the end of a dock and write a song like this,” she explained, shifting gears into the mellow and groovy “Get Not High, Get Not Low.”

Before performing “Lost Dreams,” Feist instructed us to think of an old dream or idea that may have been holding us back and to shake it off. Later, as she introduced the wistful “Any Party” (a song that contains the excellent lyrics “You know I’d leave any party for you/ ’Cause no party’s so sweet as a party of two”), we were asked to think of the show as an awesome party (not difficult to do), to consider the person we wanted to leave with and to “fortify that intention” as we sang along. But the participation didn’t end there—volunteers were later invited onstage to slow dance to the cautiously optimistic album-closing “Young Up.” Pleasure’s lyrical ups and downs were mirrored through Feist’s vocals and body language, punctuating lines with a yelp or a jump, lowering her voice to a near-whisper and cracking an occasional playful smile. Even the stage lights pulsed and flickered along with the musical dynamics.

After the conclusion of Pleasure, Feist dug into her back catalog, performing crowd favorites like “My Moon My Man,” “Sea Lion Woman,” “Anti-Poineer” and “Let It Die”—a collection of songs bursting with many of the same feelings as her new material: pain, joy, sadness, curiosity. Part of the pleasure for the listener was simply being taken along on Feist’s journey as she sorted through it all, transforming big feelings into beautiful sounds. —Alena Kastin | @AlenaK

Photos courtesy of DeShaun Craddock | dac.photography

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Big Thief Celebrate New Album’s Release at Rough Trade NYC

June 12th, 2017

Big Thief – Rough Trade NYC – June 9, 2017


Rough Trade NYC filled up quickly on Friday night, and the expectations were high for the headliners, Big Thief, as well as the opening acts, Mega Bog and Really Big Pinecone. The latter—a trio with disarming charm—took the stage first. Their smart lyrics and self-deprecating humor were an intoxicating little combination. The band’s acclaimed sophomore album, What I Said About the Pinecone, came out last fall. Mega Bog, a jaunty rock act fronted by multi-instrumentalist Erin Birgy, followed with signature spacey sounds. Their songs sent an eerie yet cheery chill down my back, her bright voice mingling with the group’s shape-shifting psychedelic guitar riffs and kicky drums from their 2017 album, Happy Together. Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief joined them for a song mid-set to add yet another layer to the band’s freewheeling sound.

Big Thief came onstage to the tune of some particularly uproarious applause, undoubtedly because some of us had already listened to their brand-new second album, Capacity (which had come out earlier that day)—and it’s incredible. The band’s sensitive, poignant sound brings life to stories of love, death and the family history in a devastatingly real way. What’s more, singer-guitarist Lenker, guitarist Buck Meek, drummer James Krivchenia and bassist Max Oleartchik put such care and compassion into being onstage together. It’s heartening to see such a thing these days.

Big Thief played their new album almost all the way through—“Pretty Things,” “Masterpiece” and “Mythological Beauty” rang out, and Lenker paused in the middle, joking, “We’d need this time to flip the record.” Capacity’s intimacy was really magnified live. Its quiet yet ecstatic energy delivered a punch to the stomach that hurt so good. The band is just beginning a summer tour of the world, and future Big Thief concertgoers beware: You’re in for an unbelievably ride that will take you deep into the crevasses of love, pain, light and dark. —Schulyer Rooth | @SchuylerSpeak

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

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At Brooklyn Steel Whitney Prove Why They Continue to Get Bigger

May 25th, 2017

Whitney – Brooklyn Steel – May 24, 2017


It’s been a whirlwind for Whitney ever since releasing their much-acclaimed debut album, Light Upon the Lake. They’ve visited New York City, crisscrossed the country, made their television debut, toured the rest of the world and returned to NYC—each time passing through an increasingly larger venue, having quickly outgrown almost all of them. For a group that began as a bedroom project, recording songs in the dead of a Chicago winter, the nonstop touring has made a good band even better: It’s been a hell of a first lap.

Last night, Whitney took over Brooklyn Steel, a venue even newer than the band. The show kicked off with a Dolly Parton cover, “Gonna Hurry (As Slow as I Can),” performed by guitarist Max Kakacek and singer Julien Ehrlich on the piano. And although the song takes some serious falsetto chops to sing, Ehrlich might be the only male singer in the world capable of nailing it. The remaining members of the six-piece then came out to perform “Dave’s Song,” It’s a glorious moment when the rest of the band kicks in alongside Ehrlich’s drums. There’s something to be said for singing drummers, and with the frontman’s tender voice, the sticks in his hand added punch to his pleas. The cheery “No Matter Where We Go” featured drum fills trading off with Kakacek’s guitar riffs. And the lovesick “Polly” finished with a piercing Will Miller trumpet solo. The performance streamed live and there were shout-outs to a pair of grandparents watching, including a grandfather, born in Brooklyn, celebrating his birthday.

The momentum shifting instrumental “Red Moon” made room for each instrument to shine, its slowdowns and buildups making way for guitar and trumpet solos. Next came the Lion cover “You’ve Got a Woman.” “It’s always a hard song to play, and we sweat a lot, so don’t take too many Instagram photos,” warned Ehrlich before jumping into it. Whitney played most of Light Upon the Lake before announcing that they’d return. The four-song encore kicked off with a brand-new tune: “It’s about partying too hard,” said Ehrlich by way of introduction. Next came what’s become a tour staple, their cover of NRBQ’s “Magnet,” followed by the theme to The Golden Girls. Ehrlich claimed that he’d have trouble with the lyrics, but the audience enthusiastically helped out, before Whitney closed with “No Woman,” pausing at the end to thank everyone before jumping back into the climactic finish. These songs have been perfected, poised yet again to be a soundtrack for those sunny golden days of summer. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.com

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Animal Collective Stretch the Limits at Brooklyn Steel on Tuesday

May 24th, 2017

Animal Collective – Brooklyn Steel – May 23, 2017


We have arrived at the stage where there is absolutely no telling what you’re going to get at an Animal Collective show. Essentially, they are the computer-generation equivalent of the Grateful Dead and Phish when it comes to live-performance unpredictability. Impulse and whim stir together with rote knowledge of every song in their nearly 15 years of recordings that have traveled through woods and rocketed into the space age. Their familiarity with one another’s moves from playing on- and offstage is such that the holy triumvirate of Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist can wander off trail to blaze another, then find their way back without a compass. The collective experience akin to being tugged into velvet, open-lake waters, a first time water skier on their rippling currents of electronic sound.

Last night, Animal Collective swam about the confines of Brooklyn Steel like betas in a fish bowl, stretching the limits. Releasing a deluge of strawberry electro jams that oozed outward like they’d been left out in the sun, the band treated the opportunity as kids would a new neighborhood playground, sonically leaping and bounding and beckoning others to join in the frolicking. Over the course of the run of shows since releasing last year’s Painting With, it’s been each member at his control station of sound backed by a drummer. The character of their live performances, without fourth member Deakin, has then taken on the more cubic and elastic tone of Painting With, which didn’t feature Deakin.

From the quicksand of cosmic slop Animal Collective create emerged the type A–personality bounce of “FloriDada” and “Hocus Pocus,” and staying in that key, the wild bunch stretched out their legs on the subsequent The Painters EP by hurling “Peacemaker” into the room to bounce about in a manner resembling Atari’s Breakout. Avey Tare and Panda Bear’s vocal interplay formed a snake dance on “Lying in the Grass” before the gang took us back to older fare like “Summertime Clothes” and “Guys Eyes.” Songs melted into one another as an up-tempo trance-hop version of “Bees” spread over the sizeable room. On some of the set’s jumpier tunes, Tare came forth to dance loosely along with his animalistic vocal calls. When Animal Collective returned for the encore, it was to extend the evening for as long as they could hold their breath under their water world of experiments. Thanking friends and family for coming out to see them at a new playground, the band plunged back in, to the delight of all. On this night, Brooklyn Steel was where the wild things were. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

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A Laid-Back Sunday with Real Estate at Brooklyn Steel

May 22nd, 2017

Real Estate – Brooklyn Steel – May 21, 2017


There are few bands with a sound and vibe as laid-back as Real Estate. They give the impression of having just stumbled upon themselves and their music with little effort or plan. Of course, that’s not the case, two sold-out shows at Brooklyn Steel don’t just happen on their own, although playing a sold-out, two-night run on two nonconsecutive nights, as they just did on Wednesday and then last night, is the sort of shoulder-shrug, yeah-why-not? move that befits the band.

“We’re back,” announced bassist Alex Bleeker as if he weren’t quite sure himself. They opened with “Stained Glass,” off their new In Mind release, lead singer Martin Courtney singing about “the days are slowing down” as their harmonies and Beatles guitar eased into the room. “Darling” featured skip-rope bass from Bleeker as the venue dappled in blues and purples. Seeing them live, one can fully appreciate how many great songs Real Estate have—they seem to play themselves, relaxed and effortless, like sinking down into a comfy couch. “It’s Real” revealed fun little games with tempo and “Talking Backwards” was naturally pure sine waves of melody.

As the set unfolded, Real Estate did as well, spinning out extended band-fully-clicked daydreams of guitar, bass, drums and keys. The reverie coming to an end when Courtney announced they had a couple songs left, “and by couple, I mean just one,” and then proceeded to play two songs’ worth of music, “Beach Comber,” its country hop opening up into the long instrumental outro of “Two Arrows,” with its dreamy-but-intense drum-addled jam. The encore featured three more songs to round it out, including a guest appearance from the members of Frankie Cosmos, who opened the show. Real Estate finished with “All the Same,” Courtney reminding us that “It’s alright, it’s OK,” an appropriate mantra for the truly laid-back. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

Photos courtesy of Nick Delisi | www.nickdelisi.com

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Perfume Genius Goes Bold at Sold-Out Brooklyn Steel

May 17th, 2017

Perfume Genius – Brooklyn Steel – May 16, 2017


There’s a lot to be said for an artist rising to the occasion, for recognizing the swell of critical acclaim for the work one has created and the inescapable buzz of anticipation for performing it while being able to get a handle on all of the nerves and emotions flowing in and around a big moment to deliver with poise and pace, and, ultimately, heart-stopping impact. Perfume Genius’s pop music is so stirring because it strikes a balance between extravagance and intimacy, bombast and fragility, not to mention Mike Hadreas dancing unpredictably within the space of that spectrum. Riding the energy of his just released fourth solo album, No Shape, Hadreas greeted his largest U.S. audience to date last night at the recently unveiled and sold-out room of Brooklyn Steel.

Amidst his backing band keeping a steady pulse of from the shadows, Hadreas floated about a stage transformed into his own lair of sonic fantasy, unleashing a voice of divine range to touch thrilling peaks on seismic pop starbursts like the rousing “Queen” and “Slip Away.” Then, with uncanny sense of timing, ballads including No Shape finale “Alan” and “Too Bright” found him landing softly and sweetly into spot-lit pockets where lyrics of emotion commingled with his virtuosic piano play. With his seductive and disarming presence, Perfume Genius’s music left all in the audience intoxicated and helpless to surrender. It was a performance of bold substance, delivered with flair and elegance by an artist keenly aware that his time has arrived. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

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Father John Misty Lets His Music Do the Talking at Brooklyn Steel

May 12th, 2017

Father John Misty – Brooklyn Steel – May 11, 2017


Brooklyn Steel was shoulder to shoulder with people on Thursday night to see Father John Misty for the second of three straight-sold out shows in Brooklyn this week. His new album, Pure Comedy, is a lyrically deep concept record that has been picking up some well-earned praise for layered cultural commentary that takes sharp aim at sacred cows, innocent bystanders and everything in between. It’s a demanding and serious affair that eschews his usual self-deprecating humor for a set of somber ballads that set out to explain how the technological advancements we’ve made as humans is quickly leading to our downfall as a species. See? Comedy, right? Nevertheless, the room was filled with excitement as people packed in eagerly waiting for the Father’s sermon.

First up was NYC freak-folk mainstay and ex–Moldy Peaches frontman Adam Green, who recently directed the video for Misty’s new single, “Total Entertainment Forever,” and it’s truly something to behold. If you haven’t seen it, you owe it to yourself to check it out. I won’t spoil it for you. Along with his three-piece band, Green played a set full of feel-good indie rock that found him high-fiving people in the front row and even fitting in a few lengthy crowd surfs that took him across the room. As he said his goodbyes, it was clear that he had won over everyone who caught his opening set.

Shortly after, the crowd exploded with cheers as Father John Misty, aka Josh Tillman, took the stage. Dedicating the lion’s share of his set to the new album, he shied away from his usual witty stage banter and let the songs do most of the talking. The new material translated to the stage fantastically as his nine-piece band, complete with a horn section and two-keyboardists, brought the dynamics and drama that make the arrangements so powerful on record. Ever the dynamite showman, Misty navigated the stage with ease as he threw in his Jim Morrison gyrations with a wink and a nudge all while pouring out his world-weary grievances through his tender croon. Misty’s voice sounded tremendous as it filled the room and was heartbreakingly beautiful when he would hit his high falsetto. As good as it was, when he reached back to some of the more upbeat material from his first two albums to close out the set, the crowd answered back singing along to every word.

When he returned for the encore, Father John Misty addressed the crowd for the first time, entering into a long and hilarious conversation with a girl in the front row. She yelled out for him to “Do you!” to which he replied, “Thanks, I needed that today” before going into his anthem about modern American dejection, “Bored in the USA.” During the final song, “Holy Shit,” the singer-songwriter pointed the microphone stand into the crowd to let the adoring fans belt out the wordless refrain before taking his final bows. By the end of the night, Misty’s message had landed and was somehow both distressing and life-affirming at the same time—all in a fantastic way, of course. —Patrick King | @MrPatKing

Photos courtesy of Pip Cowley | pipcowleyshoots.com