Tag Archives: Aaron Stein

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The War on Drugs Are in Fine Form at Brooklyn Steel on Sunday Night

April 9th, 2018

The War on Drugs – Brooklyn Steel – April 8, 2018

Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.com

While Adam Granduciel described the show as a sort of one-off warm-up for Coachella, the War on Drugs played their sold-out Sunday show at Brooklyn Steel with a Saturday ferocity and the confidence and skill of a band at the end of a long tour. Granduciel asked if “Everyone’s feeling good?” before launching into an opening set of songs—“Brothers,” “Pain” and “An Ocean in Between the Waves”—that interlaced stoner-poetry lyrics with crackling guitar rock-outs. The recent Grammy winners brought best-rock-album energy to the show, often lit by bright white shafts of light that added an arena-strength visual to the set. For a while it seemed like each tune would top the last, longer jams and more of them.

Midway through, Granduciel promised a “big reveal,” a special guest, after a couple of songs that had the crowd buzzing with who-could-it-be? anticipation. Finally, they brought out Craig Finn, who shared vocals, leading the War on Drugs through a cover of Warren Zevon’s “Accidentally Like a Martyr,” which shifted the tone and gave the band a new space to work out figure-eight excursions. After Finn left the stage, the energy shifted in a more exploratory direction with a powerhouse stretch that stitched “Holding On,” the ambient space-out “The Haunting Idle” and “In Reverse” into a single psychedelic medley, the mood enhanced by beams of pastels swirling around the stage. The encore opened with an not-played-too-often cover of Tom Petty’s “Time to Move On,” a perfect fit for the time, place and band as the War on Drugs head out West, probably not needing it, but indeed, fully warmed up for Coachella and whatever else lies ahead. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

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Yo La Tengo Satisfy a Sold-Out Brooklyn Steel with Two Sets on Friday

April 9th, 2018

Yo La Tengo – Brooklyn Steel – April 6, 2018

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

Not too many rock acts out there even attempt to play two full sets of music every show, filling a set list with different songs from across their catalog each night. Even fewer do it after almost 35 years as a band and rarer still that such an outfit would do so while also promoting a brand-new album that’s as strong and vital as any of the newest music being put out today. All of which makes Yo La Tengo a unique band. The trio has played something like 10 shows in New York City over the past year—from a free-jazz freak-out to their free-form Hanukkah shows to a free show in Central Park. They seem to invert everything about rock and roll, just playing a regular old club gig is the rarity. But that’s where Yo La Tengo found themselves, in the middle of a regular old tour, playing a sold-out gig at Brooklyn Steel on Friday night. The date happened to fall on the venue’s first birthday, one year since opening its doors, which somehow felt appropriate—as NYC’s live-music landscape changes with each passing year, Yo La Tengo have been a constant.

That consistency was on full display throughout their show. The eight-song first set played like a single entity, a group meditation that held the audience in complete attention. The band—Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew—moved around the stage to different instruments, a ballet of guitars, bass, drums and keyboards. Regardless of who was playing what at any time, the mood was one of utter relaxation, the music alternating between Zen loops, crunchy guitar melodies and whispered singing. Quietude was the overarching theme and the crowd followed along: A huge rock club in complete silence is the rarest of all things, but with Yo La Tengo leading along on songs like “She May She Might” and the lovely “Ashes,” it felt completely natural. Everyone was happy to luxuriate in the peace the band was offering. The real joys were found in between the songs, the veterans lingering on interstitial themes and setting up new ambient spaces in the segues.

The second set quickly flipped the script: “Flying Lesson (Hot Chicken #1)” unleashed Kaplan’s guitar into a gesticulating chaos while McNew and Hubley chugged along. The restraint of the first set dissolved into a host of rock-outs, building to a peak in “Ohm,” which found Kaplan passing his guitar into the crowd, held aloft like a rock star, feedback filling the room. The set-closing “Pass the Hatchet I Think I’m Goodkind” was a patient jammer, epic in length and intensity, Kaplan soloing and singing while lying on the stage. A Velvet Underground–cover-heavy encore showed off other facets of Yo La Tengo’s upside-down rock and roll and kept their local and loyal fans satisfied until the next encounter. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

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Ahead of New Album L.A. Salami Plays Rough Trade NYC Thursday

April 4th, 2018

In the decade or so I’ve been attending Newport Folk Festival, each year there’s that one artist who sticks out, who catches you off guard, who makes you think, “I’ve got to see him again!” For me—and many others I spoke to—last year that artist was L.A. Salami (above, performing “Anything’s Greener Than Burnt Grass” live in studio for WFUV FM). Charming and witty and thoughtful and inviting, the London native’s demeanor and, of course, his voice, songwriting and progressive folk sound seemed to signal the start of something, the tip of an iceberg. And with his newest release, The City of Bootmakers, due to arrive in mid-April, Salami is back Stateside and coming to Brooklyn this week, appropriately playing at Rough Trade NYC on Thursday night. It’s a chance for his fans to get reacquainted with his music and for those who haven’t had the chance yet to say, “I’ve got to see him again!” by the time the night is through. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

 

 

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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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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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Alone & Together Win Over Music Hall of Williamsburg

December 18th, 2017

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

 

 

 

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An Evening with David Rawlings (and Friends) at Brooklyn Steel

December 1st, 2017

When the book is written on the all-time great musical couples, the chapter on David Rawlings and Gillian Welch (or is that Gillian Welch and David Rawlings?) will be one to dog-ear and go back to again and again. In fact, the first couple of Americana discovered they had enough great folk in them that putting it out just as Gillian Welch wasn’t enough, and so Dave Rawlings Machine was born, with the first release (stream it below) back in 2009. Now on his third album, Poor David’s Almanack (stream it below), Rawlings (above, performing “Cumberland Gap” live for KMCP FM) has dropped the Machine from his moniker but has actually grown a full band, featuring some of the genre’s truly best musicians sounding as good as ever. Rawlings’s superlative guitar playing and timeless songs are backed by Willie Watson, Brittany Haas, Paul Kowert and, of course, Welch. The group is back on tour with a stop at Brooklyn Steel on Tuesday, a chance to stomp your feet, hoot and holler, and see a pair of all-timers do their thing. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

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The Barr Brothers Delight Sold-Out Sinclair with New Music

November 30th, 2017

The Barr Brothers – The Sinclair – November 29, 2017


(The Barr Brothers play Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday night.)
 
The Barr brothers are a pair of siblings, of course—guitarist Brad Barr and drummer Andrew Barr—but the Barr Brothers is also a band, a fabulously shape-shifting one that operates in a unique middle ground made possible only by the combination of the unique talents in the group. The band has a new album out, The Queens of the Breakers, and their supporting tour brought them to a sold-out, mid-week show at The Sinclair in Cambridge, Mass., the Boston area being a sort of midway point between the Barrs’ hometown of Providence, R.I., and their current base in Montreal. Before they even took the stage, the packed room already warmly resonated with the sight of the instruments onstage: so many strings, a more-than-can-count-on-one-hand amount of guitars and basses, all bracketed by the looming harp on one side and a pedal steel guitar on the other.

The brothers and band took the stage to a hearty cheer and immediately opened with the new record’s title track, finding a quick ease with one another and the crowd. That mid-range sound was established right away, depending on the angle you took, it was folk or rock or even jazz. Brad Barr opened on an acoustic guitar, accentuated by the harp and steel on either side and then switched to a 12-string on the following “Hideous Glorious,” the ensuing coda of “Part 2” giving Sarah Pagé a chance to indulge the audience with twinkles from her harp. But it wasn’t just the guitars that changed for every song, each tune featured a brand-new combination of instruments, the music morphing and evolving in significantly new directions each time. At some point I finally lost count of the different instruments, but there were a dobro and banjo and at least one I-don’t-know-what-that’s-called instrument.

Ukulele, harp, pedal steel and upright bass created a dreamy soundscape atop hypnotic rhythms on “Look Before It Changes,” like some sort of jazz from the future. Another highlight was “Maybe Someday,” the bass and drums revealing a slinky groove that seemed to extend infinitely in all directions. Later Brad Barr and Pagé played an extended two-person intro, combining to sound more like sitar and tabla than slide guitar and harp. Playing pretty much all of the new album through the night, the Barr Brothers managed to work in some older material, punctuated by the crowd favorite “Beggar in the Morning” in the encore. As they did a few times during the set, the group appropriately sang it from the middle of the stage, brothers and band around a single microphone in their happy medium. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

 

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Don’t Miss Angel Olsen Live at Town Hall on Wednesday Night

November 27th, 2017

Angel Olsen (above, performing “Give It Up” live on Conan) is a two-faced musician … in the best way possible. Her music is both emotionally plainspoken and honest, something to listen to and contemplate, and her music is gritty and rocking and groovy, something to move your body to. Appropriately, she now has two relatively new records out, 2016’s proper studio album, the highly acclaimed My Woman (stream it below), and the recently released Phases (stream it below), an assembly of B-sides and demos. While the latter is a stripped-down living-room affair often featuring little more than Olsen’s voice and the former a fully realized, full-band vision, they both manage to show off her two sides. Luckily Olsen’s touring band is adept at both featuring her depth, allowing the singer-songwriter space when needed and then digging in to get the crowd moving. Luckier still, she will be showcasing her two faces in two different boroughs in two different rooms in this city, with two nights—Wednesday and Thursday (which is already sold out)—at Town Hall and then Friday night at Brooklyn Steel (which is also already sold out). While each venue might naturally better lend itself to one side of Olsen’s talents or the other, she’s sure to show off all she’s got each night. San Francisco quartet Heron Oblivion open each night. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

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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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Blitzen Trapper Return to Play Music Hall of Williamsburg Thursday

November 8th, 2017

And so we find ourselves in November, halfway between the cold canned beers of summer and the sweater-and-overcoat chill of winter, a perfect time to listen to Blitzen Trapper. The Portland, Ore., band’s music fits right into this seasonal space with thoughtful storytelling and a progressive country-folk-funk sound. Right on cue, they have just released their ninth studio album, Wild and Reckless (stream it below), and will be headlining Music Hall of Williamsburg on Thursday night (with Nashville, Tenn., singer-songwriter Lilly Hiatt opening). After some dabbles with a more experimental sound, Blitzen Trapper (above, performing “No Man’s Land” for KINK FM) are in a mature and confident space on the new record, concentrating on the songs themselves. The material will only bolster their already formidable live repertoire that, along with its subtleties and idiosyncrasies, totally rocks in concert, in November or any other time of year. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

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A Willie Watson and Colter Wall Sing-Along at Rough Trade NYC

October 26th, 2017

Willie Watson and Colter Hall – Rough Trade NYC – October 25, 2017


Sometimes at a concert you get a real feel for what things were like back when. Sometimes it’s because of the room: Walk into Carnegie Hall or Village Vanguard and you are transported back through decades of New York City live-music history. Other times it’s the performers themselves who seem to transport you back to a past heyday. Last night at Rough Trade NYC featured two such performers who transported the crowd back in time, evoking a country and folk music of another era as if it were brand-new today.

Colter Wall is a Canadian singer from Saskatchewan who evokes a country music of a time gone by. He began his set solo, with just enough croak in his vintage voice and acoustic guitar, singing, “If I’m being truthful, I only live at night” and covering Woody Guthrie’s “Do Re Mi” like he’d written it on his way from Canada. He was joined by a band—mandolin, dobro, bass—and continued to mix old-school covers by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Hank Williams with originals from his self-titled debut that evoked the same spirit with a little updating along the way. A cover of Blaze Foley’s “Oval Room,” perfectly fit into the set and had the crowd whooping and hollering. Audiences will clap or sing along and this one did that aplenty, but the stomp along is a bit rarer and felt natural at several points during Wall’s performance—you could imagine yourself back when in a barn somewhere hearing murder ballads like his “Kate McCannon” and stomping along.

Willie Watson has a voice and a love for folk music and, let’s face it, a name that makes it easy to imagine sitting around a campfire or revival tent hearing gospel numbers and old-timey songs mixed with storytelling and off-center humor. He opened with “Take This Hammer,” his voice infused with a slight warble as he stretched out syllables, letting them fill the room. “If you know this one, sing along” seemed to be implied from the start of his set, and the crowd joined in as he worked his way through a musical time warp. Watson has been playing and touring and recording these old folk songs for years—his new album is simply and aptly titled Folk Singer Vol. 2—and he sings them possessed of their original spirit. Tunes like “Samson and Delilah,” “Gallows Pole” and “Midnight Special” in their original form before they were turned into modern-day rock songs were stripped to their original bare essence in Watson’s hands. Switching between guitar and banjo (giving the audience what he referred to as a proper dose of “vitamin B”), the set was both raucous and poignant. Like any good folk show, there were sing-alongs, like “Stewball,” and murder ballads, like “Frankie and Johnny,” and, of course, songs about the feats of John Henry. Through them all, Watson’s love for the music and performing it shined through, taking the audience to way back when for just one night. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

(Tonight’s Willie Watson and Colter Hall show at Mercury Lounge is sold out.)