Alone & Together – Music Hall of Williamsburg – December 15, 2017
Sometimes you hear or read about an impromptu jam session—a bunch of musicians get together for a friendly set of music in a studio somewhere—and you think, “Man, I wish I could’ve been there to see that.” Of course, it would be a rare treat to get to peek in on such a gathering, but that’s just what it felt like at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday night when Sam Cohen, Eric D. Johnson, Elvis Perkins, Josh Kaufman and Joe Russo, performing under the Alone & Together moniker, could’ve as easily just been some friends hanging out in a basement somewhere. The central concept of their show is that they play one another’s songs, so at the outset Perkins sang one of Cohen’s tunes and then Cohen sang “So Long” by Johnson’s band, Fruit Bats.
This led to some interesting dynamics among the musicians and with the crowd. I imagine it might be pretty weird to sing backing harmonies on your own tune if not feel like an out-of-body experience, to see your musical self from the outside. Similarly, depending on their familiarity with the original version of each song, audience members might’ve had a uniquely personal appreciation of each performance. Regardless, the spirit was one of camaraderie, of friends who are also huge fans of one another’s creative output. While the idea behind the show may sound like a bit of a gimmick, albeit one that works quite well, as the set went on, that central concept felt less and less important. The players sang some of their own songs—Perkins doing “Doomsday,” Johnson singing “Humbug Mountain Song”—and with their looseness and the lead-the-way rhythm section of Kaufman and Russo, these actually felt more like covers than the songs they’d swapped. The band made small changes in instrumentation that brought out subtle shifts in sound and energy, particularly from Cohen, who swapped between pedal steel and electric guitar throughout the night, pushing each song to its musical limit.
Regardless of who was singing with whom, it was the songs that were always in the spotlight. There was an understated political thread weaved through the evening on tracks like “Doomsday,” and toward the latter third of the two-hour show, when Kevin Morby, who has also toured as part of the group, came out for a guest appearance highlighted by his “Beautiful Strangers.” It was felt most strongly during a brand-new song from Perkins, “There Go the Nightmericans,” which was a powerful opus of our current political state. The set closed with a rollicking take on Johnson’s “When U Love Somebody,” with lead vocals from Perkins punctuated by Russo’s handclap percussion. In a show filled with what might technically be called covers, there were true covers as well, selections from Willie Nelson and Paul Simon that fit in with the general songs-first spirit of the night. The three-song encore closed with a joyous take on George Harrison’s “Awaiting on You All.” The long set seemed to have flown by, but that’s what usually happens when you’re having fun hanging out with friends. —A. Stein | @Neddyo
Tags: Aaron Stein, Alone & Together, Brooklyn, Elvis Perkins, Eric D. Johnson, Fruit Bats, George Harrison, Joe Russo, Josh Kaufman, Kevin Morby, Live Music, Music, Music Hall of Williamsburg, New York City, Paul Simon, Review, Sam Cohen, Williamsburg, Willie Nelson
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Making punky pop-inflected garage rock, Matt Friction (vocals and guitar), Jon Decious (bass) and Bob Ferrari (drums) formed the Pink Spiders nearly 15 years ago in Nashville, Tenn. Before going on an extended hiatus in 2009, they put out three studio albums in as many years, including 2006’s Ric Ocasek–produced Teenage Graffiti (stream it below). “The Pink Spiders have a rather unique sound for today, when every band sounds like Fall Out Boy, the Pink Spiders mix classic punk, rock and roll, power pop and pop punk,” said Sputnik Music. “This album is full of youthful energy and is extremely catchy. Every song has the capability to stick in your head all day.” The band reunited in the summer of 2016 (above) to celebrate the LP’s 10th anniversary, and with talk of a new album, the Pink Spiders have released some new singles and embarked on a December tour, which brings them to Rough Trade NYC on Tuesday night. Lancaster, Pa., post-hardcore five-piece Carousel Kings and Baltimore rad-pop quartet the Great Heights Band open the show.
Tags: Bob Ferrari, Brooklyn, Carousel Kings, Fall Out Boy, Great Heights Band, Jon Decious, Live Music, Matt Friction, Music, Pink Spiders, Preview, Rough Trade NYC, Sweat It Out, Teenage Graffiti, Video, Williamsburg
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DJ-producers Dorian Lo and César de Rummel became fast friends in grade school and, influenced by such blues-rock acts as Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and the White Stripes, started a rock band in their early teens. But then upon becoming deeply interested in house music, the two formed the DJ duo Ofenbach three years ago in Paris, becoming known for mixing traditional rock with electronic pop. Their single “Be Mine” gained them attention across Europe and Asia in 2016, and this year Offenbach made some noise with their remix of Portugal. The Man’s “Feel It Still” (above). Come dance to the music when their North American tour finishes on Saturday night at Rough Trade NYC. Brooklyn sample-based electronic trio Pool Cosby open the show.
Tags: Brooklyn, César de Rummel, Dorian Lo, Led Zeppelin, Live Music, Music, New York City, Ofenbach, Pool Cosby, Portugal. The Man, Preview, Rolling Stones, Rough Trade NYC, Video, White Stripes, Williamsburg
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Mashing together trap rhythms, filthy basslines and an off-kilter sound design, Montreal electronic producer and DJ Snails (above, performing live) has been making a name for himself since his first single, “Bubble Gun,” arrived in 2012. Three years later, his appearance at a number of EDM festivals earned him eager fans, thanks to his upbeat, engaging performances. Snails’ first LP, The Shell (stream it below), dropped this past October. “Your debut album should be a thesis statement on who you are as an artist. For Snails, that means a whole lot of disgusting noise, face-scrunching bass and killer features designed to get the party bumping so hard, you just might vomit. There’s absolutely no way you’ve heard anything like this,” says Billboard. “There are no dull moments, but there is diversity. There are some dub waves, some drum ’n’ bass rhythms, some bright chords and plenty of drops so hard, you’re gonna black out.” His current tour brings him to Terminal 5 on Saturday night with a three bass-heavy acts, 12th Planet, FuntCase and Yookie.
Tags: Al Doyle, American Dream Brooklyn, Brookyn Steel, DFA Records, Gavin Rayna Russom, Gregg Greenwood, James Murphy, Korey Richey, LCD Soundsystem, Live Music, Matt Thornley, Music, Nancy Whang, Pat Mahoney, Photos, Tyler Pope
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On Saturday at Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s Kevin Devine performs his newest LP, We Are Who We’ve Always Been—a stripped-down photo-negative reimagining of last year’s Instigator—followed by a full-band take on 2004’s Put Your Ghost to Rest. The show is already sold out, but if you’d still like to go, you can try to Grow a Pair of tickets from The House List. Just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, email address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (Kevin Devine, 12/16) and a brief message explaining what you love so much about his music. Eddie Bruiser, a fan of rocking locally, will notify the winner by Friday. Good luck.
Tags: Brooklyn, Contest, Eddie Bruiser, Free Tickets, Grow a Pair, Instigator, Kevin Devine, Live Music, Music, Music Hall of Williamsburg, New York City, Put Your Ghost to Rest, We Are Who We’ve Always Been
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Influenced by the likes of the Beatles, Harry Nilsson and Frank Zappa, the guys in Thank You Scientist—original members Salvatore Marrano (vocals) and Tom Monda (guitar, synths and vocals) now with Ben Karas (violin), Cody McCorry (bass, theremin and saw), Joe Fadem (drums), Sam Greenfield (sax) and Joe Gullace (trumpet)—met as part of the music program at Montclair State University and began making progressive rock together in 2009. Their debut full-length, Maps of Non-Existent Places (stream it below), dropped three years later. “To say there’s very little Thank You Scientist can do to improve is an absolute credit to the musicianship of this spectacular septet and every bit indicative that they should be an absolute pleasure to observe as they develop over time. Get in on the ground floor now or kick yourself later,” said Sputnik Music. Thank You Scientist (above, performing “The Amateur Arsonist’s Handbook” for Audiotree TV) returned with their sophomore release, Stranger Heads Prevail (stream it below), in 2016. Consequence of Sound called the it a “wild ride of an prog-rock album,” adding that the LP is “for fans of Coheed and Cambria and comprehensive mind-fucks.”
Another large group founded at a school in 2009, Bent Knee—Courtney Swain (vocals and keys), Ben Levin (guitar and vocals), Chris Baum (violin and vocals), Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth (drums), Jessica Kion (bass and vocals) and Vince Welch (synths)—formed in Boston at the Berklee College of Music. The experimental art-rock sextet (above, doing “Way Too Long” for Audiotree TV) has put out four albums, including this past summer’s Land Animal (stream it below), which shows “how fearless the six-piece is in grabbing hold of different sounds and making them their own,” raved Consequence of Sound. “The band has used Land Animal to look at the state of the world and figure out how to reconcile all the darkness with art.” Get your weekend started early when both of these terrific acts lay it down live on Thursday night at Rough Trade NYC.
Tags: Beatles, Ben Karas, Ben Levin, Brooklyn, Chris Baum, Cody McCorry, Coheed and Cambria, Courtney Swain, Frank Zappa, Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth, Harry Nilsson, Jessica Kion, Joe Fadem, Joe Gullace, Land Animal, Live Music, Maps of Non-Existent Places, Music, New York City, Preview, Rough Trade NYC, Salvatore Marrano, Sam Greenfield, Stranger Heads Prevail, Thank You Scientist, Tom Monda, Video, Vince Welch, Williamsburg
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Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – Music Hall of Williamsburg – December 10, 2017
Ted Leo has always fought the good fight. After grinding away in hardcore bands for years and then fronting the underrated Mod-revival band Chisel, his politically charged brand of folk meets punk (or the other way around) with his band, the Pharmacists, has always had a little more tenderness and grace than the rest of his peers. His records cover a lot of ground as his style owes as much to the brash angular sound of Revolution Summer–era Dischord Records as much as they do to both the Jam and Thin Lizzy. As a songwriter, Leo takes the same “the only road is the high road” approach as Billy Bragg, with lyrics that shed light on global injustice and as a plea for understanding in uncertain times. With the release of The Hanged Man, after a seven-year absence, Leo has covered new ground by turning his lyrics inward to wrestle with some of his own personal demons. The LP is his first proper solo album and finds him entering new musical territory that he may have never tried with a backing band written next to his name down the spine of the record.
He and the Pharmacists rolled into town for two packed nights at Music Hall of Williamsburg to treat fans to both new songs and classics from his long career. Hometown garage-rock heroes Big Huge opened the second show last night, electrifying frontman Dan Regelski making it his sole mission to shake the sleepy crowd out of their Sunday comas. The band released their debut album, Cruel World, on Don Giovanni Records over the summer and sounded as great as ever. Next time you see their name listed on a marquee, make sure to check them out.
For longtime fans of the Pharmacists, this current lineup is a little more special than previous iterations of the band. With the addition of keys, saxophone and a third guitar player, the band was able to pull off The Hanged Man’s rich layers as well as add more firepower to some of Leo’s older material. On the last night of their tour, Leo was as hilarious and charismatic as ever, taking sips from a Dixie cup of whiskey and telling stories in between songs. With one of the strongest catalogs in indie rock, Leo and Co. treated the crowd to a review of such old favorites as “Where Have all the Rude Boys Gone,” “Parallel or Together,” and “The Angels’ Share.” It was a marathon set that highlighted the best of what makes Leo such a hero in this tiny corner of the indie-rock world. For the encore, the Pharmacists left the stage for the beginning of the Tyranny of Dissonance classic “Timorous Me,” only to return to finish it with full-band force. The show closed with “Little Dawn,” from Shake the Sheets, which had fans still singing along following the band’s nearly two-and-a-half-hour set. It was a welcome return for Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and one that made you never want to take them for granted again. —Pat King | @MrPatKing
Tags: Big Huge, Billy Bragg, Brooklyn, Chisel, Cruel World, Dan Regelski, Dischord Records, Don Giovanni Records, Hanged Man, Jam, Live Music, Music, Music Hall of Williamsburg, New York City, Pat King, Review, Revolution Summer, Shake the Sheets, Ted Leo, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Thin Lizzy, Tyranny of Dissonance, Williamsburg
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SZA – Brooklyn Steel – December 10, 2017
The newly minted five-time Grammy nominee SZA has had a great 2017. Her response to her nominations on her Instagram account tells it all: “This entire thing puts my wildest dreams to shame. I️ dunno what to say cause I️ dunno how to accept its even happening to me lol ? I’ve never won anything in my life even until this week (THANK YOU SOULTRAIN AWARDS!!) it all just feels strange somehow BUT IM SO OVERWHELMINGLY GRATEFUL FOR THIS STRANGENESS!!” The singer only released her debut album, Ctrl, back in June, and it’s since gone gold, with two platinum-selling singles in tow. She performed both of them on SNL the evening before her very sold-out concert at Brooklyn Steel last night.
Jaunting onstage with a bright pink puffer coat, SZA opened the performance with “Supermodel.” She called upon a choir to join her, exclaiming that they might look familiar from their Saturday night debut. The singer then tossed off her coat to reveal a cropped tank, which, paired with yellow parachute pants, brought visions of TLC’s Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. The discarded clothing was perfectly timed with the lyrics of “Drew Barrymore,” “Warm enough for ya outside baby, yeah.” After the first snowfall of the holiday season just the day before, the song resonated especially.
Prefacing “Normal Girl” with a poll of whether people in the audience knew they were popular in high school, SZA admitted she was not and that she tried to just be “normal.” The songwriter had an easy rapport with the crowd, even offering the front row bottled waters. The best were saved for last with SZA’s two platinum singles, the timely “The Weekend” and an extended version of “Love Galore.” She capped off the night with the melodic lullaby “20 Something,” which was the age range of the majority of the folks piled into the former manufacturing plant. On the cool, crisp evening, fans flooded out onto Frost Street with an uplifted spirit from a truly gifted performer clearly at the cusp of breaking wide open. —Sharlene Chiu
Photos courtesy of Pip Cowley | pipcowleyshoots.com
Tags: Brooklyn, Brooklyn Steel, Ctrl, Lisa Lopes Live Music, Music, New York City, Photos, Pip Cowley, RCA Records, Review, Sharlene Chiu, Solána Rowe, TLC
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Tags: Adela Loconte, Barry Burns, Dominic Aitchison, Every Country’s Sun, John Cummings, Live Music, Martin Bulloch, Mogwai, Music, New York City, Photos, Stuart Braithwaite, Terminal 5, Video
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