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Superorganism Leave Them Wanting More in Williamsburg

April 6th, 2018

Superorganism – Music Hall of Williamsburg – April 5, 2018


Here’s a story of a lovely lady, Orono Noguchi, an aspiring musician who went on to form a supergroup to say the least. Noguchi moved to Maine from Japan to study and eventually attend college in the States, however opportunities arose in the most unexpected ways leading the singer to meet the Eversons, a band she very much admired, while on a visit to her home country. The New Zealand act kept in touch with the young singer and had record vocals for what would be the first single for a new music project, Superorganism. Noguchi graduated high school last fall and has put college aside for the moment. In that time, the band added two background singers with Ruby and B, as well as a South Korean background singer Soul better known as CHI in the band. Coming off the heels of a successful SXSW, Superorganism played a sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg last night.

Donning colorful raincoats, the band descended onstage to begin with “It’s All Good.” The diminutive singer took a swig of water before commanding the crowd to dance for “Nobody Cares.” Bathed in videos produced largely by band member Robert Strange, images of pawns and iPhones showered over the band. Ruby, B and Soul traded in their raincoats for fruit-shaped percussion shakers for “Night Time,” while claps ensued for “Reflections on the Screen.” Mini inflatable whales branded with the band’s name flew unexpectedly into the room from the balcony. Saving fan favorites to the very end, the pair of “Everybody Wants to Be Famous” and “Something for Your M.I.N.D.” ended the show. Although a short set, fans left thoroughly satisfied and full of glee. —Sharlene Chiu

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Ravyn Lenae Brings New Music to a Sold-Out Rough Trade NYC

April 5th, 2018

Ravyn Lenae – Rough Trade NYC – April 4, 2018


Ravyn Lenae is a workhorse. In the past year, she graduated from the Chicago High School for the Arts, provided support on R&B sensation SZA’s Ctrl tour and released her third EP, Crush, to rave reviews. Now, she’s touring behind the new music, which brought her to Rough Trade NYC on Wednesday night. Such a rapid ascent might shake the average performer, but 19-year-old Lenae seems to only have been buoyed by it. She opened with “Venezuela Trains,” off her first EP, Moon Shoes. The song, like many to follow, felt looser and lighter than its production-heavy recording. Even “Closer (Ode 2 U),” the evening’s first track off Crush, played jazzier than expected: The album’s producer is the Internet’s Steve Lacy, the man behind Kendrick Lamar’s Damn.

Lenae herself was an ebullient presence, with red hair and a red boa–wrapped microphone to match. Her astonishing vocal range dominated the evening—a rendition of OutKast’s “Prototype” transformed the Atlanta duo’s funky love song into something beautifully heartfelt. But the singer really came into her own on “The Night Song,” also off Crush. She sang, “I wanna be no one but me/ And all I really need is my own company.” Lenae remarked on the number’s deep relevance, saying it’s especially important “in this social climate” that women feel beautiful on the inside and outside. The song is just that—a joyous celebration of women feeling themselves: “Ooh I love my body, tellin’ everybody.”

“Sticky,” the single off Crush, followed, and was the audience favorite by far—a delicious, sultry dance track with Lacy’s fingerprints all over it. Lenae closed the set with a classic Chicago house song, an ode to her hometown and certainly to her influences. But leave it to the classical-music major to opt for the unexpected, ever the eclectic, the singer, ended the performance with an encore, singing a classic French chanson. Bonne nuit, indeed. —Rachel Brody | @RachelCBrody

 

 

 

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S. Carey Thrills Rough Trade NYC with New Music on Thursday Night

March 30th, 2018

S. Carey – Rough Trade NYC – March 29, 2018


Growing up in Wisconsin, Sean Carey was literally born into music as a son of a music teacher and singer. Upon graduating from the college in 2007, he was in the right place at the right time having heard a little album by fellow Wisconsinan Justin Vernon and was inspired to learn all of the songs. He got the opportunity to sing for Vernon backstage and then his acceptance into Bon Iver was complete. A musician in his own right, Carey wrote his first album, All We Grow, under the moniker S. Carey, during a break in touring. After the release of his debut in the fall of 2010, Carey joined the Tallest Man on Earth as his opener. Since then, Carey has put out his third record, Hundred Acres, last month, and he landed at a sold-out Rough Trade NYC last night to serenade fans with the new material.

Following her opening slot, the very talented Gordi joined Carey and his band for the headlining set. Fitting in like she’d been in the group all along, her vocals nicely rounded out their harmonies. “Hideout” and the new single “Yellowstone” kicked off the show, and most of the set was comprised of the latest release. Carey took his comfortable seat behind the drum kit first on “Emery,” but would swap with guitarist Zach Hanson throughout the night. The evening’s supporting-player award went to Ben Lester on pedal steel, as his mastery of the instrument wove a sultry country twang throughout.

While Carey was tuning his guitar, Lester led the band in a rendition of Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk,” which instantly drew applause from the crowd. A trio of back-catalog gems, the Yosemite-inspired “Fleeting Light,” a bittersweet “Alpenglow” and oldie but goodie “In the Stream,” came toward the tail end of the set to the glee of longtime fans. An encore included Gordi’s “I’m Done” with the frontman dueting from behind the drums, and a cover of Tom Waits’s “Take It With Me” by a solo Carey. —Sharlene Chiu

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Darlingside Embrace Four-Part Harmonies at Rough Trade NYC

March 29th, 2018

Darlingside – Rough Trade NYC – March 28, 2018


The power of multiples was on display last night in Williamsburg. Instead of playing just one show, Boston quartet Darlingside decided two would be better and so we found ourselves at a late set at Rough Trade NYC on Wednesday night. Because it was the later show, they announced it would be the “loose” one, and the crowd definitely did their best to lighten the mood with plenty of whoops and call-outs. Still, with the way the band played, sharp and composed, the music felt anything but loose. The group employed multiple permutations of sounds and instruments over a variety of genres and influences to deliver a set that could best be described as harmonious.

Early on, “Eschaton”—off their new album, Extralife—combined violin and guitar with a harrowing synthesizer to create a cool room-filling effect. But it was the vocal harmonies of the group’s four voices that enraptured the audience, almost unnaturally pure, if you didn’t see them singing, engaging as a group around a single microphone, you might not even believe it was real. Those voices echoed a multitude of influences, evoking the past and the present, the Beach Boys, the Postal Service, Sufjan Stevens.

The combinations of instruments worked different moods and feels into the set. “Hold Your Head Up High” pulsed with violin and kick drum into ethereal spaces, while “Harrison Ford” felt light and limber on a mandolin melody and “Orion” was pensive in cello, violin, bass and banjo. While the band stayed loose, the music was tight, instruments and voices locked in like the perfect studio take. This extended even to the lights, the band bringing their own rig. When they sang about “white horses,” the stage was awash in the brightest white, and when they sang about the “yellow sun,” well-timed rays of yellow streamed between their faces. At times, the lights cast patterns on the ceiling, flowers and squiggles, transforming the room into an otherworldly place to match the voices resonating off the walls, a harmonious multiplicity of sight and sound. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

 

 

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Lucius Soar at Town Hall on Thursday Night

March 23rd, 2018

Lucius – Town Hall – March 22, 2018


Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of the band Lucius struck quite an arresting image onstage at Town Hall during last night’s sold-out show, with their matching platinum-blonde wigs aglow under a large, color-changing neon sign bearing the band’s name. Incredible aesthetics aside, Lucius’ real impact comes the moment that Wolfe and Laessing begin to sing. As they stepped up to a shared microphone center stage to perform their first song, “Go Home,” they immediately created a sense of intimacy within the large concert hall.

That sense of intimacy is a key element to the band’s new record, Nudes, featuring acoustic and reimagined versions of songs from their catalog, along with some covers, which the musicians recorded with the goal of drawing listeners in and furthering the connection between the artist and listener. Last night, songs like “Tempest,” “Right Down the Line” and “Turn It Around,” were adorned by nothing more than acoustic guitars and drums, with Wolfe and Laessig’s unison vocals and harmonies soaring throughout the room. Cover songs were also prominently featured in the set list, including a sweet version of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” plus the Kinks’ “Strangers” and Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You in the End,” which the band blended into a rendition of their own “Two of Us on the Run.”

It was clear that the commitment to creating a connection with the audience was foremost on the band’s mind, and Wolfe and Laessig also devoted several minutes during the show to speak frankly to the crowd, expressing their gratitude, reflecting on the importance of their collaboration in their career as a band, and sharing some personal experiences, both happy and sad, that had recently touched their lives. By night’s end, Lucius seemed to have achieved their goal—delivering an impactful performance in sound, style and sentiment. —Alena Kastin | @AlenaK

 

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Shabazz Palaces Offer a Glimpse of a Hopeful Future at Boot & Saddle

March 19th, 2018

Shabazz Palaces – Boot & Saddle – March 18, 2018


If now feels dangerous, it’s time to expand our minds. It’s time to imagine new possibilities. We want Black Panther’s Wakanda. We want to shift the boundaries of discussion, and music can be our messenger. Space is needed. Today is cluttered. But through clever lyrics and rich soundscapes, Shabazz Palaces move through the void. They inspire thoughts on an astral plane, somewhere beyond the earthly concept of what is possible to what can be imagined. They are steeped in art, from their dress to visual displays. On Sunday night at Boot & Saddle, the duo of Ishmael Butler (aka Palaceer Lazaro) and multi-instrumentalist Tendai “Baba” Maraire stood behind a projection of thought-provoking imagery. Even when the screen went blue, with a NO SIGNAL icon dancing about, it felt intentional. More so, clips of rocket travel, African tribes and a tense scene with Christopher Plummer.

The whole room was wrapped in sound, the low end rumbling against the walls. And the songs spanned the group’s entire catalog, including last year’s third and fourth LPs—centered on our relationship to devices—Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star and Quazarz vs. the Jealous Machines. The content of those two albums was woven in between standout tracks from previous recordings, such as songs from their debut release, Black Up, which received some of the loud crowd’s wildest applause. It was interesting to see such a cozy venue host such an immersive hip-hop group. With limited lighting, the two were backlit by the screen. We saw occasional flashes of a face, a necklace or a metal plate like armor. There were shadows of a drum machine. It was like ghosts in the machine: The voices and the grooves, space to imagine, boundaries pushed and a glimpse of a hopeful future. —Jared Levey | @Playtonic

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Buffalo Tom Play New Tunes on St. Patrick’s Day at Music Hall

March 19th, 2018

Buffalo Tom – Music Hall of Williamsburg – March 17, 2018


With nine albums over the course of three decades, Boston’s Buffalo Tom have remained dependable underdogs in the world of indie rock. Releasing their self-titled debut album 30 years ago on the legendary punk and hardcore label SST Records, they cut their teeth alongside such other like-minded Massachusetts bands as Dinosaur Jr. and the Lemonheads. While they never reached the same commercial success as the latter group, Buffalo Tom have arguably taken the slow-and-steady-wins-the-race approach by quietly delivering great albums that stay true to their sound. The band just released their fantastic new long-player, Quiet and Peace, and rolled through Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday night to play a packed St. Paddy’s Day show.

Led by Dave Hill, Brooklyn power-pop band Valley Lodge opened, putting on a tight set with the comedian/WFMU radio host unleashing some insane leads and providing hilarious banter in between songs. By the time Buffalo Tom walked onstage, it was clear the crowd was getting loose for the holiday and ready for a party. The band obliged and treated fans to an almost two-and-a-half-hour show that highlighted their entire catalog. The power trio ripped through most of the classic album Let Me Come Over, delivering blistering renditions of songs like “Larry” and “Taillights Fade.” Main songwriter and guitarist Bill Janovitz’s voice was as powerful as ever on the former and stopped you in your tracks when he hit those high notes in the chorus. More known these days as a rock writer, you can tell Janovitz is a student of the classics as he windmill-strummed power chords like Pete Townshend and captivated the crowd with his deep, emotive croon.

The new songs sounded great and in line with Buffalo Tom’s robust catalog. The best of them was “Roman Cars”—sung by bassist Chris Colbourn—and it sounded like early Wilco covering the Jam. After a long set of would-be anthems, the band returned for a short encore before saying goodnight. The Janovitz-fronted number, “Freckles,” rose to new heights live, its slow build and clashing guitars were both transfixing and transcendent. Buffalo Tom closed the show with a faithful cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy in New York” that sounded like a last call from a bartender who wanted to keep pouring beers long after closing. —Pat King | @MrPatKing

 

 

 

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Beth Ditto Is a Force to Be Reckoned with at Brooklyn Steel

March 15th, 2018

Beth Ditto – Brooklyn Steel – March 14, 2018


Beth Ditto is a force to be reckoned with as she sets forth sans her former band, Gossip. Pulling from her Southern roots for her first solo album, Fake Sugar, Ditto leaves behind power dance-punk for a more pop-rock sound that continues to showcase the “fat, feminist, lesbian from Arkansas” (her words). NPR Music put it best: “It’s become standard procedure to look askance at underground artists who take big swings at stardom. But if Beth Ditto becomes a full-blown mainstream star—as a queer plus-sized outspoken feminist with her own fashion line—it’ll come at the expense of every norm she’s spent her career working to tear down. Fake Sugar may be just the Trojan horse she needs.”

After an unfortunate cancelation of last year’s Rough Trade NYC appearance, Ditto returned healthy and ready to go for her show at Brooklyn Steel last night. Dressed in what she described was a “harlequin frog” jumpsuit, hammering basslines made way for the opener, “Oh My God.” The performance was a mix of the siren’s solo work and her past catalog with Gossip. “In and Out,” with harmonies that reminded me of Lucius, was a break from the largely dance-heavy set list, thanks to old favorite “Yr Mangled Heart” as well as new gems “Ooh La La” and the synth beats of “Open Heart Surgery.” As the spunky singer delighted the crowd with her humor, Ditto jiggled and pranced onstage affectionately referencing the burrito she had for dinner.

After reciting the tenets of a “Beth sentence”—never take yourself seriously and don’t do well in school—she led the audience in a sing-along of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One.” All kidding aside, Ditto has used her music to define moments. Telling her story about being in London when the news of Trump’s presidential win hit, the Southern woman exclaimed that it’s the people who keeping moving on that define the times. “Power to the people,” declared Ditto before ending her set with “Standing in the Way of Control.” Following a brief stage exit only to return in gold sequins, the firecracker encored with a trio of “Heavy Cross,” “Fire” and a cover of “Dream a Little Dream.” —Sharlene Chiu

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Joan as Police Woman Celebrates New Album at Rough Trade NYC

February 27th, 2018

Joan as Police Woman – Rough Trade NYC – February 26, 2018

(Photo: David A. Fitschen)

Joan Wasser has been creating music by the stage name Joan as Police Woman for more than a decade, but her life before then was already remarkable. Largely a violinist, first with the Dambuilders, she joined Antony and the Johnsons and then toured with the likes of Rufus Wainwright and Joseph Arthur. Her voyage into solo work was largely an answer to the sudden death of then boyfriend Jeff Buckley—more than two decades ago—as a coping mechanism. Fast-forward to Wasser’s fifth studio album, Damned Devotion, which she celebrated with an album-release party last night at Rough Trade NYC.

Playing the newly released record front to back, the singer-songwriter donned red leather pants and opened with the downtempo groove of “Wonderful.” It was refreshing to see a seasoned artist in her element sharing her latest work without too much nervousness, but rather a genuine thankfulness for the collective that helped produced the work. Throughout the set, she expressed her gratitude for everyone from session players to those who helped with videos and artwork.

Wasser also shared inspirations for songs, like how a recording from last year’s Women’s March turned into “The Silence” and a quote from her dad, who passed last year, became “What Was It Like.” Music has indeed become the solace for loved ones who have died. Her all-male band of drummer Parker Kindred, bassist Jacob Silver, and keyboardist Jared Samuels provided a backing choir on the album’s closing tracks. Without leaving the stage, an encore of fan favorites “Eternal Flame” and “Run For Love” concluded the festivities. —Sharlene Chiu

 

 

 

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Phoebe Bridgers Backs Up the Hype at Music Hall of Williamsburg

February 26th, 2018

Phoebe Bridgers – Music Hall of Williamsburg – February 23, 2018


L.A. musician Phoebe Bridgers has been dubbed an artist to watch for good reason. Having released an initial 7″ on Ryan Adams’ label, Pax-Am, back in 2015, the singer-songwriter’s first full-length album, Stranger in the Alps, debuted last fall to strong acclaim. She supported the similarly attuned Julien Baker on her 2016 East Coast tour and will open for Bon Iver in early March at a pair of London shows, broadening her presence across the pond. Her music has been described as “impeccable—warm, cool, conversational, gently slurred—but her songs also swim in the self-aware obsessions and messy meanderings of an unquiet mind.” Selling out two shows at Music Hall of Williamsburg, this ebb and flow of composition was primed for the second show, on Friday night.

Opening with “Smoke Signals,” the heart-aching singer was dimly lit by twinkle lights wrapped around her microphone stand in front of her debut-album cover as a backdrop. The performance turned woozy thanks to guitarist Harrison Whitford’s gentle attention at the lap steel on “Funeral.” Same as the night before, “good friend” Conor Oberst joined on “Would You Rather” to the audience’s glee. Prior to a solo career, Bridgers played bass (but not well, she said) for her friend Haley Dahl’s band, Sloppy Jane, and covered “Wilt” with the songwriter watching in the wings. The room erupted for the rumbling “Motion Sickness,” introduced as “the song for Ryan Adams.” Opener Soccer Mommy and Oberst returned to finish the set with “Scott Street” as gigantic black balloons launched into the crowd while the disco ball fully spun. Covers of Mark Kozelek and Jimmy LaValle’s “You Missed My Heart” and Ednaswap’s “Torn” served as an encore to close out the show. —Sharlene Chiu

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At Brooklyn Steel, Not Much Has Changed for Portugal. The Man

February 21st, 2018

Portugal. The Man – Brooklyn Steel – February 20,2018


Somewhere in the middle of last night’s set at Brooklyn Steel, Portugal. The Man frontman John Gourley sang, “We won’t sell you nothing you can’t use” as part of “Modern Jesus,” which just about perfectly summed up a show that had so much coming at those in the sold-out crowd: lasers and other assorted psychedelic imagery, an onstage dance duo, a Grammy-winning song, deftly placed covers, cheeky humor projected on the backdrop and as much guitars, bass, drums, keys and vocals as the room could handle. Portugal. The Man served up quite a bit over the course of the show and yet, for everyone in attendance, there was nothing there that wasn’t put to good use.

By the time they had gotten to “Modern Jesus” so much had already transpired. With both “Don’t Sleep Till Brooklyn” and “Unchained Melody” playing in full over the PA before the band even took the stage, and then a lengthy hard-core opening jam that weaved through Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall,” the opening “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” already felt like an explosive release for the audience. The song’s title used to accurately describe their show’s visual color palette, but Tuesday the display featured lasers of nearly every hue bouncing over the heads of the crowd. Even with the success of an all-timer breakout hit, not much has changed for PTM.

In fact, it was less surprising that they had a Grammy-winning song to anchor the midpoint of the set than the fact that it fit right in with some of their most far-reaching material, transitioning directly with little distinction into “All Your Light,” which, in recent years, has swallowed some of their oldest jams and repurposed them for the big rooms. Alternatively, “So American” and “People Say” both drew a powerful response from the audience and felt just as award-worthy. By the time the band reached the too-soon encore, “Holy Roller” encompassed it all, laser-abetted Floydian-freak-outs and chest-thumping metal meltdowns that still, somehow, perfectly accommodated breakdancing onstage. It’s a formula that keeps working for Portugal. The Man, as Gourley also sings in “Modern Jesus”: “The only faith we have is faith in us.” —A. Stein | @Neddyo     

 

 

 

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First Aid Kit Have Love in the Air at the Beacon Theatre on Tuesday

February 14th, 2018

First Aid Kit – Beacon Theatre – February 13, 2018


It was the night before Valentine’s Day and love was certainly in the air inside the Beacon Theatre for First Aid Kit’s sold-out show. The sister duo of Klara and Johanna Söderberg took the stage to a heartbeat rhythm from their band and kicked off the set with “Rebel Heart,” the opening track off their just-released album, Ruins. On cue, the stage backdrop was immediately illuminated with floating animated hearts to match the icon on the bass drum as the sisters’ voices paired with pedal steel to fill the historic venue. Throughout the show the love came in all varieties, but first and foremost it was those two voices. Separate, they were quite lovely, but for much of the show, they came together, as if their own thinking entities, deeply enamored with each other, creating an explosive chemistry on new songs like the country-ish instant-classic “Postcard,” pastel imagery and blue sky lights enhancing the gorgeous soundscape, and “Ruins,” accompanied by kaleidoscopic animations to bring out the singing’s hallucinogenic effects.

The Söderbergs’ vocals also brought out love from the band. Pedal steel, keys and drums, with occasional bouts of trombone and electric guitar, all helped carry those harmonies into every corner of the room. But most of all, the full house was clearly, deeply enamored with the music being made. Whether spontaneously jumping out of their seats to move their bodies or impromptu mid-show standing ovations were the norm throughout the show. Random shouts in response to banter or requesting songs were done out of pure, can’t-help-myself affection, and when the sisters asked for clapping or, as on the older “Emmylou,” help singing along, there was not a hesitant man, woman or child in the audience.

Ironically, the songs were typically not of the loving variety, and a highlight stretch in the middle began with “Stay Gold,” moved through a gorgeous ambient segue into a snarling “Lion’s Roar” and ended downright angrily with “You Are the Problem Here,” followed by a passionate monologue on the current state of women speaking out and taking control … which the audience uniformly loved. Of course, Valentine’s Day means hearts, and what better than an actual Heart cover? The whole band rocking a perfect rendition of “Crazy on You,” about which there was little not to love. During the encore, they brought out opener and good friend Van William to play “Revolution,” which features First Aid Kit on his album and also, coincidentally or not (I vote not), opens with the lyric “Lost my Valentine.” They finished with “My Silver Lining,” a victory lap for those lovely voices and pedal steel, keys and drums: so much to love. —A. Stein | @Neddyo 

 

 

 

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Typhoon Make Sold-Out Music Hall of Williamsburg Feel Intimate

January 29th, 2018

Typhoon – Music Hall of Williamsburg – January 27, 2018


“My friends, how are you?” inquired frontman Kyle Morton of the Music Hall of Williamsburg audience as Typhoon took the stage. The outsize band with an outsize sound before a sold-out room on a Saturday night somehow immediately turned the show small and intimate. That was the mood of the evening, big swells of sound coupled with moments of quiet introspection. To pull it off, the sound needed to be just right—each lyric as important to hear as the swaths of violin and guitars winding their way through an ecstatic two-drummer rhythm section. With their dedicated sound system taking up valuable real estate in the middle of the packed room, this was not a problem. So when they opened with “Common Sentiments,” off the 2013 release White Lighter, lines like “I began hearing these voices in the dial tone” were as clear as Shannon Steele’s emotive violin playing, with the crowd already singing along to make the band feel even bigger.

At times Typhoon felt like a big folk band that had fallen, comic book–style, into a vat of acid, taking on superhuman strength in the process. “Hunger and Thirst” was explosive in its two-guitar-two-drummer chug. Other times, they were more like a prog-rock band with plainspoken, poetic lyrics, complex orchestral dynamics paired with a heavy dose of humanity. Despite a brand new album, Offerings, just a few weeks out of the bag, the set list was democratic in its selections from the band’s history. Regardless of new or old, the audience was eager to participate, dancing, singing and clapping along at the right moment, calling out requests in anticipation of the next song.

The band goofed on starting “Possible Deaths” over and over again throughout the set, half tease and half prank as a nice change of pace for a group whose music feels quite serious all of the time. The set found its powerful climax with “Empircist,” off the new record, everything about the preceding set, rolled into one piece. Morton and Co. paired quiet and loud, big and small, heavy rock with beautiful violin melodies and moved through multiple sections, each their own composition, the crowd singing along at times, at others taking in lyrics like “So blow out your past lives like they’re candles on the cake” clear and as intimate as a “How are you?” from a friend. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

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Tennis Show Off Their Full Power at a Sold-Out Brooklyn Steel

January 24th, 2018

Tennis – Brooklyn Steel – January 23, 2018


A few years ago, I saw the newish band Tennis play the Bowery Ballroom. The material was there and the show was good, but it wasn’t, in my opinion, necessarily “They’re going somewhere!” good. But fast-forward to last night’s sold-out show at Brooklyn Steel, featuring a confident band in complete control of their four-LP catalog and the sizable room, and I couldn’t have been more wrong about that. They took the stage to the theme to the original Star Trek playing over the PA, an introduction that seemed a little incongruous at first. As the set unfolded, Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley leading the band with their retro-futuristic sound—what one might have imagined pop music would sound like in the future 30 years ago, maybe the “to boldly go …” part made sense … a little.

Every live show has its own arc, and for Tennis last night it mirrored their own career arc: each song seemingly a little better than the previous. Leaning heavily on material from last year’s Yours Conditionally, the band was immediately in a pulse of guitar-synth groove, the room awash in jelly-bean lights. The theme of the night was Moore’s near-death brush with the flu, the performance filled with anecdotes and one-liners about her steroid treatment making her extra sexy and, rather hilariously, passing out in a Whole Foods. While Moore’s voice did strain at moments, the additional crackle in the vocals was a welcome one. By mid-set, things were in full swing, the giggling energy of Riley’s guitar finding intricate melodies to explore and the bass a thick molasses of funk.

The stage bathed in blue beams, Moore’s voice on “Timothy” seemed to multiply magically, whether by backing tracks or perhaps real magic. “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar” dedicated, with a slight swipe at Bono, to the “feminization of rock and roll,” was a late-set highlight, a bitchin’ funk, Tennis showing their full power and exactly why they sold out their self-professed “biggest show of our lives.” The three-song encore ended with Moore sitting at the stage’s lip, accompanied only by a quiet guitar from her husband, singing “Bad Girls,” savoring the moment as she sang, “If it were physical it would show, if it were spiritual I would know.” —A. Stein | @Neddyo

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Calpurnia Leave Them Screaming for More at Rough Trade NYC

January 16th, 2018

Calpurnia – Rough Trade NYC – January 12, 2017


If you’re Finn Wolfhard, life is pretty great. From playing Mike Wheeler on the Netflix binge-worthy series Stranger Things to a starring role in last summer’s cinematic reboot of Stephen King’s It, the 15 year old is riding high, but it doesn’t stop there. Boy signed a deal with Royal Mountain Records in late November for his band, Calpurnia. As they’re currently recording their debut EP, what they played at a sold-out Rough Trade NYC on Friday night was an evening of surprises. To fully set the scene, a gaggle of preteen girls lined the entrance to the performance space in the back. When the doors opened to the stage, the screams were palpable and would go on throughout the short, yet varied set. Although bassist Jack Anderson and rhythm guitarist Wolfhard took the lead addressing the crowd, lead guitarist Ayla Tesler-Mabe stood out thanks to her impressive prowess. Her look and skills had me thinking she could be the new baby Haim sister.

The Vancouver, B.C., quartet debuted material from their forthcoming EP, including the punky “Wasting Time,” and played a slew of covers. The Velvet Underground’s “Here She Comes Now” was dedicated to Lou Reed and Hulk Hogan. I doubt half of those in attendance knew who Reed was. Certainly not the young ladies in the front swooning over the actor-singer, but perhaps their supportive parents in the back. Wolfhard confessed Calpurnia’s shared love for Twin Peaks before the band honored their label-mates with a take on “Butterfly.” The crowd sang along to Pixies“Where Is My Mind” in between extended squeals, of course. And Anderson throbbed the bass on a rendition of Weezer’s “El Scorcho” to close the set. A resounding “one more song” chant called the young band back to the stage to encore with a new original tune. Oh, what it’s like to be a teen again. —Sharlene Chiu