Tag Archives: Beatles

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Thank You Scientist and Bent Knee Play Rough Trade NYC Thursday

December 12th, 2017

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.

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Twiddle Need No Introduction at the Space at Westbury on Wednesday

November 27th, 2017

Twiddle – the Space at Westbury – November 22, 2017


At some point, up-and-comers on a hot streak don’t just keep coming up—they arrive. And in the past two years, that’s happened to Twiddle, the Vermont quartet that through aggressive touring and a relentless, old-school, word-of-mouth approach to fan-base cultivation, has earned a place in the conversation of groups that define this next generation of jam bands. They may not be for everybody, as someone once said about another Vermont foursome heavy on improvisational chops, left-of-center songwriting and a constellation of influences. But they do what it is they do in earnest, and what they do is take quirky, friendly rock, funk, reggae and boogie tunes—written with both a free-associative innocence and a knowing wryness—and stretch them wide, wringing out their jammy possibilities, whether that takes five minutes or 45.

And man, Twiddle are infectious: Singer-guitarist Mihali Savoulidis, keyboardist Ryan Dempsey, bassist Zdenek Gubb and drummer-percussionist Brook Jordan are obviously having so much fun together that you get the sense they’d be doing this regardless of whether crowds showed up. As it happens, crowds do show up, and the Space at Westbury’s packed assembly was a typically lively one on Wednesday night, the first of three local Thanksgiving shows to close Twiddle’s fall tour. The band was smiley and loose—are they ever not smiley and loose?—and indulged one long, shape-shifting headliner set like they had all the time in the world. Shows like Twiddle’s are defined by ephemera—this moment, these players, played like this, with these progressions, asides and hairpin turns, and all in a way that by definition will never happen the same way again.

Twiddle built their Space at Westbury set around two expansive suites, one involving the exhilarating jam vehicle “Amydst the Myst,” and the other around fan favorite “Doinkinbonk!!!,” allowing all four members ample room to stretch out over Gubb’s roiling bass in a series of chameleonic jam segments. The band customarily threw in some guests too, including guitar prodigy Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, a frequent Twiddle-in–New York sit-in, who stepped out for a shredding “Syncopated Healing,” and keyboardist Josh Dobbs, of local favorites Cats Under the Stars, for the Beatles’ “Rocky Raccoon.” Twiddle have hit a point now where any show they play is a good introduction, and this was a fine specimen. But based on the roars of appreciably larger crowds, we’re past the introduction stage. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson

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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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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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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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A Double Dose of Circa Waves’ New Music This Week

June 6th, 2017

Influenced by bands like the Strokes and Arctic Monkeys and formed in the Beatles’ hometown, Kieran Shudall (vocals and guitar) and Sam Rourke (bass), Colin Jones (drums) and Joe Falconer (guitar) formed the lively, melodic quartet Circa Waves four years ago in Liverpool, England. Their debut full-length, Young Chasers (stream it below), came out in 2015. “A gleefully frenetic, youthfully exuberant collection of catchy, guitar-based indie rock,” described AllMusic. “They make an urgent, angular style of stripped-down pop that touches upon ’80s dance-punk and ’90s slacker rock without ever giving in too much to either.” Circa Waves (above, performing “Fire That Burns” for BBC Radio 1) returned with their follow-up release, the weightier Different Creatures (stream it below), this past March, again impressing AllMusic: “Part of what makes Circa Waves so compelling is that they are able to match the sound of their influences while still believably making the results sound their own. They’ve grown into an assured rock entity, but they’ve retained their fundamental sense of working-class Liverpudlian blues.” Back in America, they play Rough Trade NYC on Wednesday and Mercury Lounge on Thursday.

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The Lemon Twigs’ Modern Take on a Throwback Sound in Brooklyn

May 30th, 2017

Teen brothers Brian D’Addario (vocals and multiple instruments) and Michael D’Addario (vocals and multiple instruments) formed the baroque-pop group the Lemon Twigs with fellow Long Island high school classmates Megan Zeankowski (bass) and Danny Ayala (keys) two years ago. Their debut full-length, Do Hollywood (stream it below), produced by Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado, came out last fall to considerable acclaim for their modern take on a throwback sound. “They grew up obsessively ingesting records by the Beach Boys and the Beatles, but you have to think somewhere in there Ariel Pink, Sparks and even the Mothers of Invention were cunningly slipped in, because the Lemon Twigs aren’t afraid to let their freak flag fly,” said Exclaim. “The goal seems to be to write timeless pop songs, but also to not let a good tangent go to waste.” The Guardian referred to it “like a missing Todd Rundgren album from 1972,” while the Line of Best Fit added: “It’s an endlessly exciting, slightly surreal trip through some of the 20th century’s best sounds.” And before heading to Europe later in June, the Lemon Twigs (above, performing “I Wanna Prove to You” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert) kick off an American tour on Thursday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg. New York City’s Sam Doom open the show.

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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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Nick Hakim Celebrates New Album at The Bowery Ballroom

May 18th, 2017

Nick Hakim – The Bowery Ballroom – May 17, 2017


Brooklyn-based Nick Hakim grew up in Washington, D.C., and matriculated from the famed Berklee College of Music before settling in New York City. He has a throwback feel to his vocals, with R&B grooves and good ol’ Motown sensibilities. Jazz influences are also heard, which makes sense as he recently completed a short residency at the Blue Note. And his pair of EPs, Where Will We Go, Pt. 1 and Pt. 2, have garnered considerable praise. Hakim’s upcoming full-length album, Green Twins, was born in a Brooklyn bedroom, and he’s described its influences as “if RZA had produced a Portishead album.”

Last night—two days before his LP’s release—Hakim graced the stage of The Bowery Ballroom. Opening with the title track, he quickly enraptured fans as his mellifluous voice lulled the room. The singer-songwriter managed to dip into his older material, producing “Cold” and the crowd-pleasing “I Don’t Know.” Hakim had lost his glasses and remarked that he couldn’t see, but who needs to see when you have an R&B voice that transmutes hefty doses of soul. Guitarist Joe Harrison took the “oldie” away with a soaring solo.

Midway through the set, pianist Jake Sherman offered up a heavily Auto-Tuned rendition of the Beatles“Yesterday.” The remainder of the performance was largely an introduction to his soon-to-be release, from the lilting “Needy Bees” to “Farmissplease,” which had the audience bopping to the percussion. There would not be an encore, but it’s plain to hear that the the Brooklynite’s neo-soul styling’s ushered in a unique take for this summer’s soundtrack. —Sharlene Chiu

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Bonobo Dazzles a Sold-Out Terminal 5 with Wide-Ranging Sounds

May 1st, 2017

Bonobo – Terminal 5 – April 28, 2017

(Photo: Dan Rickershauser)

Simon Green, better known as Bonobo, has always dealt in big sounds. His musical universe seems to expand with each new release, and it now includes full string sections, brass sections, guest vocalists, even guest entire other bands. So how do you tour to meet the demands of such a maximalist sound? (Even the Beatles gave up on touring for Sgt. Pepper’s.) The answer is you bring everyone along for the journey.

Friday’s show—Bonobo’s second sold-out appearance at Terminal 5—featured a stage full of widely talented musicians, all finding a home in Bonobo’s world. Szjerdene’s soulful voice smoothed out the electric arpeggios of “Towers.” Nick Murphy, the artist formerly known as Chet Faker, made an appearance to sing “No Reason,” his reverb-y vocals carrying through the cavernous venue. The sound mix was perfectly layered with the many rich textures of Bonobo’s sound, not an easy feat on a stage filled with as many as 11 musicians playing at the same time.

The swirling string orchestrations of “Kiara” were loud enough to drive the song. The bass never managed to drown out a flute part, the brass band cut through electronic haze like the stage lights through the smoke-filled venue. Grey Reverend mellowed the night for the slow-building burn of “First Fires” before the Morroccan band Innov Gnawa came out to kick off “Bambro Koyo Ganda” with their harmonizing chants. The set ended with the frantic “Kerala,” followed by an encore that included the infectious polyrhythms of “Know You.” —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

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Portugal. The Man Are Well Worth the Wait at The Bowery Ballroom

November 8th, 2016

Portugal. The Man – The Bowery Ballroom – November 7, 2016

Portugal. The Man – The Bowery Ballroom – November 7, 2016
It’s been a while since New York City has gotten a proper headlining show from Portugal. The Man. While there have been some coheadlining bills to keep their fans (slightly) satisfied over the past couple of years, the packed house at The Bowery Ballroom last night was justifiably antsy awaiting the Portland, Ore., band. That wait was filled with a psychedelic variety show of openers from stand-up comedy to German rappers. PTM have filled their tour with an upside-down assortment of friends, giving the entire affair a family feel that extended to the sold-out audience. Indeed, to be a fan of the group has a part-of-the-club feel and the room felt filled with diehards hoping their heroes would deliver.

Not to worry: Portugal. The Man’s set was well worth the wait. They opened with the title track to their 2007 album, Church Mouth, which hasn’t been in their repertoire for many years but still sizzled with up-to-date energy. The even older “Chicago”—its frenetic blasts of punk-prog, frontman John Gourley singing, “Burn this motherfucker down”—followed, and it was clear that this was a PTM that NYC hadn’t seen for quite some time. The rest of the set list was an expertly designed back and forth through the Portugal. The Man songbook, old and new, alternating from beautiful to cathartic to pure evil accompanied by unique bulbous lights, spheres of colors giving the effect of a sci-fi rock show. The crowd reveled in the invigorated set, the band artfully stringing together multiple songs, finding new places to insert extra guitar excursions and strobe-light climaxes.

“All Your Light” has long been a set centerpiece, but last night it seemed to realize its full potential as a triumphant suite with multiple bass-drum-guitar-keys rock-outs, eventually peaking with the outro to the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” feeling very much like it could have been a PTM original. Along the way, they still managed to hit all the beloved sing-alongs and pretty much all of their most recent Evil Friends album, although with plenty of impressive reinvention throughout, stretching the set well past the 100-minute mark. They finally finished with an expert pairing of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” with their own “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,” everyone in the crowd triumphantly singing, dancing and waving their hands in the air, hoping it won’t be too long before the next one. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

Photos courtesy of Pip Cowley | pipcowleyshoots.com

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A Psychedelic Saturday with Mystic Braves at Rough Trade NYC

September 19th, 2016

Mystic Braves – Rough Trade NYC – September 17, 2016

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Brooklyn got a glimpse of two sides of Los Angeles on Saturday night with an entertaining bill at Rough Trade NYC. After a warm-up from local rockers the Colorines, the crowd was treated to Jeffertitti Moon’s new project, the Dream Ride. He self-describes the music as “electro-magnetic dream-disco,” and I don’t think I could improve much on that. The set felt like listening in on dance music from the very near future. Style was as important as sound, Moon dressed in a bedazzled white suit, tie-dyed sci-fi images projected on the screen behind him. With a drummer and dueling keys/synth players, and Moon’s vocals getting a dose of reverb and digital effects, the music had a funky warmth. He revealed they had been detained at the Canadian border, indeed thrown in a cell, and joked that they wrote a couple of songs while locked up, which turned out to be covers of “Crimson and Clover” and later a fun take on Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.”

I was surprised to learn that his backing band featured members of the headliner, Mystic Braves, when he introduced them. That gave the between-set transition an almost Clark Kent–in-a-phone-booth feel as the deep synth transformed into the Mystic Braves unmistakably throwback ’60s psychedelic palette. There are many bands working with in this sound, but typically there is some qualifier, some update or twist. With these Angelenos, the only qualifier is that you didn’t need to invent a time machine to hear it. With shaggy haircuts, beautiful vintage guitar and basses, and songs like “Desert Island,” the quintet was a perfect simulacrum of a summer-of-love rock band, nailing the surf-psych-garage sound to exhilarating effect.

Each song featured almost constant guitar-noodle rips, packing a wealth of notes and layers of sound into each without meandering or lollygagging. The set picked up steam as it went along, hitting on material from all three of their releases, the influences of the Beatles and the Byrds on, for example, “Spanish Rain,” eventually providing a launching point for more psychedelic explorations. The final half of the show was filled with musical twists and turns, the after-midnight crowd finding their dancing feet. “Cloud Nine” was a centerpiece, with a central-casting organ whirl and a double-time guitar solo folded in the middle. The show culminated in a raucous full-band jam to close out “Bright Blue Day Haze,” a final glimpse of days long gone and a small slice of L.A. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

 

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Cage the Elephant and Portugal. The Man Provide a Glimpse of Summer

May 17th, 2016

Cage the Elephant/Portugal. The Man – SummerStage – May 16, 2016

Cage the Elephant

Cage the Elephant

Those waking up on Monday morning in the NYC area probably had a tough time believing that summer was almost here. With temperatures in the unseasonably low 40s, seeing music outdoors wasn’t an obvious activity for later that evening. But when showtime rolled around, the wind had died down, and Central Park’s SummerStage was packed with people who were more than comfortable as they kicked off the summer-concert season with plenty of temperature-raising rock and roll from the stage.

As far as double bills go, the pairing of Cage the Elephant and Portugal. The Man was relatively inspired. In fact, at times the two sets seemed to echo each other, as if the bands were two sides of the same sheet of paper, each providing answers to the questions posed by the other. Portugal. The Man got things rolling: In contrast to the last time they performed at SummerStage, with lasers and clouds of smoke, they played mostly in daylight, but their set was anything but sunshine. Delving deep into a set list built largely from their Evil Friends and In the Mountain in the Cloud albums, frontman John Gourley and the band found new life in the tour-tested material, adding pockets of serrated guitar to songs like “Holy Roller (Hallelujah)” and extraterrestrial synth to “Head Is a Flame (Cool with It).” The crowd sang along and everyone found their mid-July dancing form, truly enjoying the band’s first NYC appearance in more than a year and a half. A new song was synth-psych Motown, Gourley singing about “coming in hot like it’s summer in the city we’re living in.” The sound dialed in about halfway through their hour-long set, building to a crescendo that peaked as the sun set with “All Your Light,” a fireworks display that opened into four distinct well-choreographed jams of varying intensity that eventually returned to a completely redesigned final verse leading to a blistering take on the outro riff from the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).”

With the sun fully set, Cage the Elephant began to build the energy even higher. Their opening number, “Cry Baby,” was like a distorted-guitar so-heavy Beatles, lead singer Matthew Shultz bounding and thrashing across the stage. By the second song, “In One Ear,” the audience was ready to clap, sing and dance along as the this-is-a-rock-show lights were in full bloom of the purple, yellow, reds and blues of Portugal. The Man’s set closer. At some point, someone in the crowd threw a phone onstage and got a unique-vantage photo, the summer’s-almost-here party vibe making its annual pilgrimage into the hearts and minds of young rockers everywhere. From there, the show was a dark and smoky dance party, shades of solstice sunshine in “Trouble” with its central core of “ooowoowoo.” Instead of singing about “evil friends,” Shultz warned that there “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” The sold-out audience basked in the reds and blues and white strobe lights as the band worked through material off Tell Me I’m Pretty and Melophobia, with occasional rock-out explosions to match the mood. When the show finally concluded and the lights came back on, it was merely mid-spring again, but as the intermingling music of Cage. The Man still buzzed in the Central Park air, it was clear that summer is almost here.
—A. Stein | @Neddyo

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

(Cage the Elephant and Portugal. The Man play SummerStage again tonight.)

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An Evolved White Denim Sound at The Bowery Ballroom

April 27th, 2016

White Denim – The Bowery Ballroom – April 26, 2016

White Denim – The Bowery Ballroom – April 26, 2016
You know what they say, “The more things change the more they stay the same.” That old adage was proved true last night at The Bowery Ballroom. It was certainly true for Sam Cohen, who opened the show fronting a new self-titled band and yet still continuing his asymptotic approach to psych-pop perfection. With a thick slab of dreamy synth and McCartney bass added to his own spiral-sliced guitar, Cohen raved up songs from last year’s Cool It release. As the crowd continued to fill the room, the band filled it with a new, mutated version of Cohen’s characteristic reverberating sound on songs like “The Garden” and “Unconditional Love.” The set ended with a long, chaotic version of “Let the Mountain Come to You,” synth and guitar providing a proper headspace for the headliners.

Change is definitely nothing new for White Denim, who returned to New York City for two sold-out Bowery shows with a new lineup and a new album. And while, yes, the band has sacrificed a little finesse for a lot of muscle, the feeling in the room was that, as far as their live set is concerned, this was the same old White Denim. New material from the recently released Stiff album meshed quite literally with the old, James Petralli, Steve Terebecki and crew stitching together several songs at a time, giving the audience little chance to catch their breath, in classic White Denim fashion. The opening stretch bounced between blues strut, Beatles swirl, breakneck prog and Rhodes-disco soul with a balance of gale-force rock and roll and laid-back aw-shucks ease. Two-guitar instrumental passages glued together Petralli’s Southern-soul singing, satisfying all the left-brain/right-brain tendencies of the boogie-down crowd. Midway through, Cohen returned to the stage for “Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah),” off Stiff, the presence of his third guitar like that of a pistol in the first act, eventually going off in a great back and forth with Petralli. “At Night in Dreams,” off 2013’s Corsicana Lemonade, was representative of the evolved White Denim sound: jazz groove exploding into monster rock and roll in Banner-to-Hulk fashion, quite literally leaving shredded denim in their wake. As has been the case for nearly all of their NYC appearances going back to their trio days, the set was filled with long stretches of dizzying which-song-goes-where? segues and jams to the packed crowd’s delight. And if at some points—like midway through “I Start to Run,” off 2009’s Fits—it felt like things were just short of an out-of-control stampede, all the better.

After 80 minutes of this, the set finally capped off with a concise, rocked-out “Shake Shake Shake,” from their debut album, but the show was far from over. Returning to the stage with Sam Cohen (not just the guy, but the whole band), the now nine-strong ensemble treated the crowd to a perfectly arranged Prince tribute medley. Starting with “Let’s Go Crazy!” (complete with spoken intro from Cohen), they worked through portions of “Delirious” and “Controversy” with superfun WD-style segues and Petralli doing an admirable job on the vocals. Somehow the sound remained groovy, not too top heavy with all the doubled-up musicians onstage and a little jam opened up before they expertly brought it back for the closing riff of “Let’s Go Crazy,” which definitely wasn’t the same old, same old for White Denim. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

Photos courtesy of Jeremy Ross | jeremypross.com

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Ween Throw a Raging Party at Terminal 5 on Thursday Night

April 15th, 2016

Ween – Terminal 5 – April 14, 2016

Ween – Terminal 5 – April 14, 2016
It was clear even before these Terminal 5 shows sold out immediately that Ween’s return to New York City would be a capital-E Event. The band’s recent years were messy, with a full-blown breakup in 2012 and then a range of interesting commitments for each member until the rumor mill began to churn and whispers of a reunion turned into possibilities, then confirmations, then hard tickets and, finally, actual shows played, in the form of a three-night run in Colorado back in February. Now it’s NYC’s turn, and the first show of another three-night run, this time at a sold-out Terminal 5, was a raging party. In this season of can’t-believe-it reunions, from LCD Soundsystem to Guns N’ Roses, Ween’s might be the tastiest of all, at least to those who know every iota of songs like “Roses Are Free,” “Bananas and Blow,” “You Fucked Up” and “Help Me Scrape the Mucus Off My Brain.”

You don’t so much embrace Ween’s diabolically diverse catalog as reckon with it. Their repertoire culls from some nine different studio albums, covers, obscurities and new songs, too, and they do a remarkable job during their live show of splaying it all out there, multifaceted as it is, without losing energy or muddling the pace. Opening night at Terminal 5 moved—pinballed, really—from the giddy grooves of “Roses” and smart-alecky island maneuvers of “Bananas and Blow” to the sludgy, stomping rock of “The Grobe,” the curled-lip honky-tonk of “Japanese Cowboy” and the cheeky whimsy of “Boys Club.” The song count topped 30, as it often does at Ween shows that, like this one, stretched to two-and-a-half hours. One moment we were in the twisted-Beatles pop of “Little Birdy,” another we were singing along to the rage-burnt folk of “Baby Bitch.” Another still we entered the Floyd-ian psychedelic muck of “Mushroom Festival in Hell,” which flirted with a full devolution into noise rock in a hail of guitar fire.

The hard-partying crowd went wild for almost every song, and the band—throwing knowing smiles and shit-eating grins at the audience like the smart kids in the back of the class they’ve always been—seemed genuinely touched by the hero’s welcome. Ween are part of a rock lineage that’s brutally hard to define but you know it when you see it. Whatever that thread is that connects Frank Zappa and the Aquarium Rescue Unit to Phish and Gogol Bordello—dazzling musicality, technical prowess and songwriting depth beneath a sense of humor, heaps of personality and a few high jinks here and there—it’s in Ween’s stitching, too. A Ween-less world is a less exciting place, and what a happy thing that the band remembers that, too. —Chad Berndtson | @cberndtson

Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com