Jerry Joseph is an old-school rock iconoclast, the type for whom opinionated is a politely remote descriptor, but then fades away into a hail of guitar and the spiked delivery of a particularly on-point lyric. And when he’s on—and with his trio, the Jackmormons, there’s no fear of off—he’s a ferocious live show, like Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty fronting Crazy Horse, and with a world-weary purview that’s emotional, heavy and leaves just enough room for slivers of optimism. Joseph is above all prolific. He has more than 30 albums to his name and some 250 potent original songs, which will form the bulk of what’s sure to be a barn burner of a set at Rough Trade NYC tomorrow night. This time around, he and his Jackmormons (above, performing “Savage Garden”)—Steven James Wright on bass and Steve Drizos on drums—come slinging Weird Blood (stream it below), Joseph’s third album in as many years with Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools as a shrewd producer. Joseph is the first to admit the Weird Blood songs evoke a time of year and a state of mind. “I rented a tiny house about a mile from my home so I could write but be home for dinner and kid bedtime,” he writes in the album’s accompanying notes. “I ended up writing a fistful of songs. It was cold early January but a perfect place to write. Weird stuff was happening in general, one of those weeks where I had my copy of Black Star and David Bowie died. I tend to do the mad scribble thing when I write.” Indeed, Weird Blood runs the Josephian gamut: “Sweet Baba Jay” and its spooked folk rock, “3-7-77,” which feels like it’s trying to escape from its own untidy blues-rock framework, “Wild Wild West,” a tune of his that’s been around for more than two decades and really unfolds live, and “Think On These Things,” a common Joseph show opener but tender enough an anthemic rock song that it’s willing to let in just enough light to be called uplifting. You’ll get a range of styles, plus snatches of songs from one or more of Joseph’s constellation of influences, from Leonard Cohen to Bob Marley. But most of all you’ll get Joseph, who’s earned the right to be called an original, and if you’re in the right frame of mind, could front the best band in the world on any given night. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson
Tag Archives: Bruce Springsteen
We’re in another golden age of string bands: traditional, progressive, genre-smashing, fleet-fingered, young, old, awesome. In that vanguard is the Michigan-bred Greensky Bluegrass, who formed in 2000, broke out in 2006 after winning the Telluride Bluegrass Festival band competition and have spent much of the last decade shoring up a national fan base adoring of their ridiculously fun live shows. They’ve won their success the old-fashioned way—town by town, venue by venue, fan by fan. In New York City, especially, they’ve graduated to larger venues almost every year and are now fit enough to headline PlayStation Theater in Times Square for two weekend nights, this Friday and Saturday. By all accounts 2017 was another watershed year for the fivesome, for the first time selling out Red Rocks, outside Denver, and continuing to tour behind their best album to date, 2016’s Shouted, Written Down & Quoted (stream it below). Anders Beck (dobro), Mike Devol (upright bass), Paul Hoffman (mandolin), Dave Bruzza (guitar) and Michael Arlen Bont (banjo) collaborate with a level of simpatico obvious before they even pluck a note. They’ve created a formidable body of work by adhering to bluegrass, roots and string-band traditions while comfortably subverting them with no small amount of rock and roll mojo. “We just speak the same language, and it’s been that way since I started in the band,” Beck told JamBase last September. “A lot of it is how we all came to music. We weren’t raised bluegrass players.” What you’re guaranteed is a varied set list, from Greensky originals like “Living Over” (above, live) and “Wings for Wheels” to songs by everyone from Bruce Springsteen and the Grateful Dead to Peter Tosh and traditional railroad tunes like “Reuben’s Train.” They hold it all together with staggering improvisational chops tight as a constrictor knot but aggressively energetic. Don’t be surprised if you’re still dancing three hours later. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson
Tags: Anders Beck, Bruce Springsteen, Chad Berndtson, Dave Bruzza, Grateful Dead, Greensky Bluegrass, Live Music, Michael Arlen Bont, Midtown, Mike Devol, Music, New York City, Paul Hoffman, Peter Tosh, PlayStation Theater, Preview, Shouted Written Down & Quoted, Video
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The Mountain Goats – Brooklyn Steel – November 12, 2017
John Darnielle might be the hardest-working man in indie rock. This is not to say he comes from the same school as Bruce Springsteen—playing epic four-hour shows every night with sweat soaking through his American flag bandanna. But as the singer-songwriter of the beloved band the Mountain Goats, he’s consistently churned out a thoughtful and varied body of work at such a dependable pace that you might take him for granted. While other prolific artists may have a high volume of toss-away moments in their catalogs, Darnielle’s lyrics have always seemed intensely labored over and essential. Once called “America’s best non-hip-hop lyricist” by The New Yorker, he’s able to cover an impossible amount of ground from verse to verse, all while releasing albums with the band and somehow also managing to write two critically acclaimed novels. How about that for work ethic?
The band’s latest album, Goths, was released this year, and the Mountain Goats’ tour brought them to town for a packed show at Brooklyn Steel on Sunday night. The LP explores Darnielle’s early ’80s teen fascination with this genre in the same way that 2015’s Beat the Champ paid tribute to his heroes of professional wrestling. In pure Mountain Goats fashion: always sincere and never with irony. Mothers, out of Athens, Ga., opened the show with a brief yet powerful set. Afterward, fans roared as Darnielle and Co. walked onstage. Backed by longtime bassist Peter Hughes, multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas and indie-rock drum royalty (and half of the comedy duo Scharpling & Wurster) Jon Wurster, the band leaned heavily on Goths, pulling off the new songs’ complex instrumentation with finesse. As this material is much more layered than the Mountain Goats’ usual bare-bones acoustic-punk material, Darnielle mostly stuck to playing the tunes on a Rhodes keyboard while Douglas would fill in the space with reverbed-out flourishes on either tenor sax or flute, eliciting huge crowd reactions in response. It was a thrill to watch the band gracefully pull off these new tunes live.
Some of the best moments of the night, however, were when Darnielle picked up his acoustic guitar to dust off some of the old sing-alongs from the band’s long career. Songs like “This Year” and “Against Pollution” had everyone at Brooklyn Steel singing in unison with Darnielle as he marched back and forth across the stage like an unplugged Angus Young. For the final number of their second encore, the Mountain Goats played a full-band version of the All Hail West Texas masterpiece “Best Ever Death Metal Band out of Denton,” with its rallying cry of “Hail Satan” filling the rafters and the hearts of everyone in the room. —Pat King | @MrPatKing
Tags: All Hail West Texas, Angus Young, Beat the Champ, Brooklyn, Brooklyn Steel, Bruce Springsteen, Goths, John Darnielle, Jon Wurster, Live Music, Matt Douglas, Mothers, Mountain Goats, Music, New York City, Pat King, Peter Hughes, Review, Scharpling & Wurster
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Upon bonding over music after meeting at one of her solo performances, Jasmyn Burke (vocals) and Morgan Waters (guitar) began recording demos in the former’s Chinatown apartment in Toronto. As they continued to flesh out more and more material, the twosome became a foursome with the addition of Spencer Cole (drums) and Zach Bines (bass), broadening their sound and launching Weaves with the release of several singles in spring 2013. The four-piece soon became an important member of TO’s thriving DIY scene, AllMusic calling their music “sharp and angular, but with a genuine sense of fun and exploration.” Their eponymous debut long-player (stream it below) arrived last year. “Exciting Toronto outfit builds on deconstruction, a remarkable feat of explosive chemistry,” said Consequence of Sound. “Weaves have put themselves at a compelling intersection of pop, noise and rock. They’ve created their own unique sound, and their self-titled record features more than a handful of fun, exciting songs.” Weaves (above, performing “#53” and “Walkaway” for Stiegl Hidden Sessions Studio) returned with their sophomore LP, Wide Open (stream it below), last week, finding the “quartet immersed in the world of stadium rock, cribbing plenty of influence from the likes of Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen,” said Exclaim. “It’s a fairly drastic change, but one they’re able to effectively reconcile with their latent avant-garde tendencies.” The good people at DIY were also impressed: “Flinging open the entrance to yet more invention, there’s no stopping this lot spinning their oddball yarn.” Weaves make their last U.S. stop on their North American tour in Brooklyn tonight at Rough Trade NYC. Tancred open the show.
Tags: Brooklyn, Bruce Springsteen, Jasmyn Burke, Live Music, Morgan Waters, Music, Neil Young, New York City, Preview, Rough Trade NYC, Spencer Cole, Tancred, Video, Weaves, Wide Open, Williamsburg
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Before ultimately growing up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, singer-songwriter Foy Vance spent five years in the American Bible Belt with his dad, a traveling minister. And so he’s as equally influenced by Otis Redding and Nina Simone as he is the Belfast Cowboy, Van Morrison—Vance’s music a winning mash-up of blues, soul, jazz, rock and British folk. After fronting several bands, Vance (above, performing “She Burns”) finally put out his debut solo full-length, Hope (stream it below), which AllMusic notes is “as optimistic and mood-lifting as its title suggests,” in 2007. He’s since remained busy and in demand, releasing a slew of EPs and touring with the likes of Ed Sheeran. His third long-player, The Wild Swan (stream it below), out last year, was produced by Elton John and Sheeran and earned the musician comparisons to Bruce Springsteen. “The Wild Swan finds Vance offering up another master class in contemporary, Emerald Isle–infused roots rock,” says AllMusic. And like Springsteen’s catalog, Foy Vance’s music is best experienced live. Sunday’s show is already sold out, but you can catch him live on Monday at Roulette.
Tags: Brooklyn, Bruce Springsteen, Ed Sheeran, Foy Vance, Hope, Live Music, Music, New York City, Nina Simone, Otis Redding, Preview, Roulette, The Wild Swan, Van Morrison, Video
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Patti Smith and Her Band – SummerStage – September 14, 2017
“Most of these songs I wrote for Fred, with Fred or about Fred,” said Patti Smith last night on Central Park’s SummerStage. It would have been the 69th birthday of Fred “Sonic” Smith, Patti’s late husband and the father of her two children, Jackson Smith and Jesse Paris Smith. Patti Smith has been part of New York City royalty for decades now, her role in the art world, contributions to music and writing, her ability to find herself by chance in the midst of history’s cool and famous since she first stepped foot here in the late ’60s. But the intimate knowledge of her personal life is relatively recent news for her fans. Smith’s memoirs, Just Kids and M Train, share stories about the love and loss of her best friend, Robert Mapplethorpe, and her husband. They also let in the world on the person behind the art, her uncanny ability to find the sacred in everything and even just a good cup of coffee in a local diner. Knowing this is how she experiences the world made a noteworthy performance to honor and remember her late husband all the more special and intimate.
With her son on guitar and daughter on keyboards, Smith played through a catalog inspired by or written with her husband, gone since 1994 but an inspiration ever since. “Fred, this is the product of many day dreams,” she said as an introduction to “Because the Night” (written with Bruce Springsteen). Smith shared how “Looking For You (I Was)” was penned for their anniversary, a love song written for the city of Detroit, her home in the early years of her married life, written while she was in NYC. The show was full of memorials for others, too. Smith dedicated “Ghost Dance” to the activists who took a stand at Standing Rock; “Dancing Barefoot” to Amy Winehouse, who would have turned 34 on Thursday; “Peaceable Kingdom,” to Hüsker Dü’s Grant Hart, who passed away earlier in the day; “Pissing in a River” dedicated to legendary writer Sam Shepard, a close friend who passed away earlier this year. Despite all of these memorials, the performance never stopped feeling like a celebration. Messages sprinkled throughout were delivered with a sense of urgency: “We are free!” and “The people have the power!” Later, triumphantly holding aloft her guitar, Smith yelled, “This is the only fucking weapon we need!”
These are the messages Patti Smith was born to spread. Joined by her now adult children, she took some moments to try to embarrass them a little, noting her daughter’s willingness to always give her mom her bobby pins. She’s also still wickedly funny, ending some stage banter with: “What am I talking about? I just turned 70. You know when you turn 70 your mind works … in mysterious ways.” But she remains the no-bullshit punk rocker she always was, bringing out the rock and roll animal inside her to dominate the stage for the set-closing “Land.” Even when performing other people’s songs, like Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” the message felt as much hers as theirs. R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, a longtime fan and friend, joined Smith to sing happy birthday to Fred and also to close the show with “People Have the Power.” It was a perfect way to end a night that remembered a powerful artist and reminded everyone there of the most powerful message of all—delivered by the woman he loved. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks
Photos courtesy of Silvia Saponaro | www.saponarophotography.com
Tags: Amy Winehouse, Bruce Springsteen, Central Park, Dan Rickershauser, Fred Smith, Grant Hart, Hüsker Dü, Jackson Smith, Jesse Paris Smith, Just Kids, Live Music, M Train, Michael Stipe, Music, Neil Young, New York City, Patti Smith, Photos, R.E.M., Review, Robert Mapplethorpe, Sam Shepard, Silvia Saponaro, Standing Rock
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John Moreland – The Bowery Ballroom – June 7, 2017
John Moreland writes songs of redemption, songs written for the downtrodden that are so white hot with purpose they straddle the line between cautionary tales and gospel. Armed with a voice that conjures up how the Boss might sound after a bad night and the vindicated pessimism of Townes Van Zandt, Moreland doesn’t tug at your heartstrings as much as he eviscerates them. In his interview on the podcast Walking the Floor with Foo Fighters lead guitarist—and country music aficionado—Chris Shilett, Moreland explained that he had cut his teeth on punk and hardcore early in life, but everything had changed as soon as he heard the music of Steve Earle. After listening, Moreland quickly got it into his head that he could write songs that could equal Earle’s power and started recording and touring the country nonstop. After years of paying his dues, the Tulsa, Okla., singer-songwriter recently signed with 4AD for his third album, Big Bad Luv, and brought his tour to a packed Bowery Ballroom last night.
Will Johnson played solo to open the show. With a deep D-tuned guitar and a voice as rough as a tree trunk after a chainsaw exposed its bare wood, he mesmerized the audience with songs from his solo career as well as his criminally underrated band Centro-matic. The highlight was his meditation on loss, “Just to Know What You’ve Been Dreaming,” with the refrain “But when you’re not around, nothing makes a sound” landing like a slow moving haymaker. And then when John Moreland began, you could practically hear teardrops falling into beer glasses between the notes throughout the Bowery Ballroom. Accompanied by fellow singer-songwriter John Calvin Abney on lead guitar, harmonica and piano, Moreland ran through his songbook with efficiency, barely taking the time to address the crowd. Not that the audience needed anything more from him as everyone in the venue was completely captivated as soon as he sat down in his chair to play.
Moreland’s songs did the heavy lifting, and he showcased old favorites from In the Throes, High on Tulsa Heat as well as Luv. The best song of his main set was the new song “Lies I Chose to Believe,” which took on a new life live, stripping away the full-band arrangement and allowing his words to dig in deeper than they could on record. Moreland’s brief encore consisted of two songs from his breakthrough, In the Throes, “Break My Heart Sweetly” and “I Need You to Tell Me Who I Am,” which had the crowd clamoring for more. After the show, the audience quickly formed a massive line heading down to the merch table on the first floor. It was easy to see that if anyone had never heard of Moreland before this show, they had just been converted. —Patrick King | @MrPatKing
Tags: 4AD, Big Bad Luv, Bowery Ballroom, Bruce Springsteen, Centro-matic, Chris Shiflett, Foo Fighters, High on Tulsa Heat, In the Throes, John Calvin Abney, John Moreland, Live Music, Lower East Side, Music, New York City, Patrick King, Review, Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, Will Johnson
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Drive-By Truckers – Westbury Theater – February 10, 2017
In their earlier days, Drive-By Truckers were tagged alt-country, Southern rock and even country rock, but let’s call them what they are: no-bullshit rock and roll, anxious and unfiltered, and on their best nights, one of the best live bands of the last two decades. Still more remarkable is that despite major lineup changes, they seem to get better and better, the old songs aging gracefully but with more than a bit of veteran grizzle, and the new songs finding darkness, humor and poignancy in quotidian angst without sounding topical for topical’s sake or shading (too far anyway) into rock-protest sanctimony. Truckers characters are people you know: lived-in, loaded and lumpy. Their problems are your problems. Their shots at redemption are understandable and their failures disappointing.
This mature balance—the ability to be present and unflinchingly direct about news making matters of the age without being thin or pedantic—is so crucial to the current Truckers tour, filled with set lists that focus heavily on last year’s American Band, their most overtly political album. In Westbury, Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley and Co. gave us hails of guitar, clattering drums and passionate vocals that came from somewhere deep to frame stories of shootings in Oregon on a beautifully sunny day (“Guns of Umpaqua”), an ill-fated Mexican teenager (“Ramon Casiano”) and the long-lingering ghosts of the Civil War (“Surrender Under Protest”). Some of these songs (“Darkened Flags on the Cusp of Dawn” or “What It Means,” which addresses racism head-on) didn’t require much interpretation. Many were loud, with a sticking finger in your chest, although still others, such as Cooley’s “Once They Banned Imagine,” included acoustic guitars and had the world-weariness of protest-folk without decoupling from the band’s rambling, gnarly rock-ness. And it’s worth noting that politically potent Truckers tunes with a “to hell with this crap” edge aren’t anything new: “Puttin’ People on the Moon,” played fourth, is more than a decade old and its small-town family tragedy has never felt more acute. Same deal with “Sinkhole,” the Truckers’ epic of social class, murder and family values.
As they’ve gotten leaner—the band is now Hood, Cooley, drummer Brad Morgan, multi-instrumentalist Jay Gonzalez and bassist Matt Patton—Drive-By Truckers have gotten meaner, filling more space with paint-peeler guitar solos and working up huge, rambunctious rackets. What’s never quite changed is how they pace a show—peaks and valleys of hard-rocking defiance and melancholy resignation that eventually give way to a runaway train of concert warhorses and an explosive finale. The last 30 minutes on Friday night served up the wry-sad “Buttholeville” with a dovetail into Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper,” along with “Zip City” and “What It Means.” “Love Like This,” Hood’s fist-pumping “Let There Be Rock” (greasy with the saluted nostalgia of the Truckers’ many forebears, from AC/DC to the Replacements) and the anthemic “Shut Up and Get on the Plane.” Hood told us there would be no encore—they haven’t played any on this tour, choosing to barrel through rather than pause, lest any of the loaded tension dissipate too soon—and the Truckers left with “Grand Canyon” and its protracted guitar meltdown. It was ragged and right, as the Truckers always are. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson
Tags: AC/DC, American Band, Brad Morgan, Bruce Springsteen, Chad Berndtson, Drive-By Truckers, Jay Gonzalez, Live Music, Mike Cooly, Mike Patton, Music, Patterson Hood, Replacements, Review, Westbury Theater
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Although they hail from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and the United States, Max Dunn (bass), Jung Kim (guitar and keys), David Le’aupepe (vocals and keys), Joji Malani (guitar) and Donnie Borzestowski (drums) formed the baroque-pop five-piece Gang of Youths five years ago in Sydney. Rolling Stone called their first full-length, The Positions (stream it below)—a vivid celebration of life following some seriously dark times—an “emotionally charged debut” and made comparisons to Kings of Leon and Bruce Springsteen. Last year, Gang of Youths (above, performing “Poison Drum” for World Cafe) returned with the EP Let Me Be Clear (stream it below). “The expectation of a sophomore slump can be enough by itself to throw off the career of the most promising bands, and it would have been easy for Gang of Youths to keep churning out string-tinged rock songs,” according to Sputnik Music. “Instead … they’ve shown an insatiable thirst to keep building and transforming their sound.” Find out how they sound live when Gang of Horses play Mercury Lounge on 2/13 and 2/20 and Rough Trade NYC on 2/27.
Tags: Brooklyn, Bruce Springsteen, David Le’aupepe, Donnie Borzestowski, Gang of Youths, Joji Malani, Jung Kim, Kings of Leon, Let Me Be Clear, Live Music, Lower East Side, Max Dunn, Mercury Lounge, Music, New York City, Preview, Rough Trade NYC, The Positions, Video, Williamsburg
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Lucius return to New York City to play SummerStage in Central Park on Friday night, and Holly Laessig, one half of the band’s lead-vocals tandem, rang up The House List, from Oklahoma where she and Jess Wolfe were rehearsing for singing background for Roger Waters at Desert Trip, to answer Five Questions.
Plenty of musicians change their sound from album to album. Was that a clear intention in moving from the folkier Wildewoman to the poppier Good Grief? Or was that just how your sound evolved? It’s funny. People comment on how different the two are. But Wildewoman was recorded over a few years, and we were in no rush at the beginning because we didn’t have anything to be rushing for—we were just starting out. And we took our time and made it right. We came out with Wildewoman and we had kind of put the band together throughout and after making that record. So when we toured on it, things started to change, and the sound started to change. And the show got a lot more energetic, and the audience was reacting a lot more to the show than the record. People commented a lot how the live show and the record sounded so different, and that the live shows were so much more energetic. I think by the time we got to the end of that cycle, it was where Good Grief was picking up naturally, but from just listening from a record standpoint, there does seem to be a bigger difference than it felt like.
How was recording Good Grief different than recording Wildewoman? We took a different approach to it. We got off the road—we had been touring for, like, a year-and-a-half straight. And we were exhausted, and we decided to go to L.A. to kind of decompress and start writing. So Jess and I took a few months to write, just the two of us. And we would send the guys rough demos and then they would do their own versions of the same song—and kind of build arrangements around them. So when we went into the studio, we had at least two versions of everything. And we worked with Shawn Everett—he did the Alabama Shakes record with Blake Mills—he’s like this crazy alien angel person [laughing]. He’s one of our really closest friends, and he’s always got these wild ideas. So we were really excited to get into the studio with him. He had an idea to make communication easier with five very strong personalities in the studio. To kind of smooth things over and to get everyone’s voice heard, he thought it would be helpful to come up with a bunch of reference tracks: “For each track that we’re gonna work on, think of a song that you think could influence this.” So it could be “I like the sound of the tone on this Rolling Stones track.” Or “I like the way these vocals were recorded on this West African tune.” And we would all pick one or two songs and put ’em in a box, and he would pick them out one by one—it was all anonymous. And we would listen to everything, like 10 to 15 songs, and write down on a dry erase board everything we like about each one. It could be very specific, as far as a recording technique, or it could be more vague, like a feeling. And once we had this dry erase board of notes, we would then start working on the song. So it was a really interesting way of going about it, and I think we got a lot of good stuff we would’ve normally not even considered.
How did your appearance on Roadies come about? And any chance you’ll be adding “Willin’” to your set list? I mean, I don’t think we could top singing that with Jackson Browne, so probably not. Fair. Rafe Spall, who is one of the actors on Roadies—so the story goes: Rafe’s friend Rafe, which is hilarious to me. The first Rafe I ever met, and I met two of them in one day. His friend recommended our music to him, and he was playing it one day on set. And Cameron was like, “Who’s this?” And Rafe said, “This band Lucius.” And he said, “Well, let’s get ’em in here. See if they want to do an episode.” So we met him, and he’s the nicest guy ever. And we said, “Yeah, absolutely, we’d love to do this.” It was a really cool experience. It was really inspiring to see Cameron Crowe as a director and a leader. Everybody who was there, from the actors to the makeup people to the crew people to catering—everybody—was like, “Yeah, we work really hard, sometimes we work late hours, but we’re happy to do it because Cameron’s the man.” And he really was. We had some lines, and I was incredibly nervous about it because it’s not what we do normally. So there was this one line, and I was like, “This isn’t how I’d normally phrase this.” And I was trying to get my head inside it so I could say it the right way. And I asked him, and he said, “Let’s go over it.” And he dropped everything and took me aside, and he would’ve gone over this, like, one line with me for as long as I wanted—very, very patient. It was great, and we got to sing with Jackson Browne, and Jim James was on the set. It was cool.
For some bands, live shows are like a theater piece in that the set doesn’t change much, but the performers are aware of the subtle nuances each night. And for others, every night’s show is different than the one before. Where do you land on that spectrum? Like as far as each night being different? Yeah, I mean, a band like U2, they play pretty much the same set most nights, but it’s not the same show obviously. But someone like Bruce Springsteen or Pearl Jam, they change their set every night. I guess for each leg of a tour, we tend to stick generally to the same set. Some songs we change a little bit, but it’s nice once you get into a groove to stick with it, the transitions go more easily. But every show’s different regardless, especially because of the audience—not to put it all on the audience—but the vibe and the venue and the city, everything can really make a break a show for the performer. If your audience is really giving back to you, and you’re bouncing off of that, sometimes we have funny banter or things can change, or we’ll decide let’s do this song instead because they’re liking the up-tempo ones. So occasionally, it’s just, like, fly by the seat of your pants. But it’s definitely nice to get into a groove.
What new music have you been listening to? We’ve been listening to the new Angel Olsen record a lot. It only came out a couple weeks ago, I think. We’re excited to be playing with Big Thief in Central Park. And I’m stoked to see them ’cause I love that record. I love Alabama Shakes. We went to see that show at the Greek, and it was so good. That’s a good one to groove to, for sure. Was that with Kurt Vile? Yeah, and I love that record too. And Kurt Vile’s on the bill for One Big Holiday in February. Oh, yeah. That’s gonna be so fun! —R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog
Tags: Angel Olsen, Big Thief, Blake Mills, Bruce Springsteen, Cameron Crowe, Central Park, Desert Trip, Five Questions, Jackson Browne, Jess Wolfe, Jim James, Kurt Vile, Lucius, My Morning Jacket, One Big Holiday, Pearl Jam, Preview, Rafe Spall, Roadies, Roger Waters, Rolling Stones, Shawn Everett, SummerStage, U2
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Frightened Rabbit – Terminal 5 – May 5, 2016
From the Department of Nobody Feels Sorry for You: I limped into Terminal 5 last night to see Frightened Rabbit banged up from a solid week of having too much fun and not enough sleep, unsure of how long I’d last. But then a funny thing happened on my way to find a place to lean. Watching the band take the stage in almost total darkness and open with a one-two punch of “Get Out,” off the just-released Painting of a Panic Attack, and “Holy,” from 2013’s Pedestrian Verse, I began to perk up thanks to their uplifting songs about downer topics. Five albums in, and Frightened Rabbit—Scott Hutchison (vocals and guitar) and brother Grant Hutchison (drums and vocals), plus Billy Kennedy (bass, guitar and keys), Andy Monaghan (guitar and keys) and Simon Liddell (guitar and keys)—now have a considerable catalog of passionately rambunctious anthems of heartache and pain, fighting and fucking, and, of course, getting fucked up. But it’s too many songs to play in one night.
“I don’t have whatever drugs Bruce Springsteen has. I can do a 90-minute show, maybe an hour-forty-five. I only have regular-person drugs,” said the affable frontman before the band launched into The Midnight Organ Fight’s “The Modern Leper.” It was the first time—but not the last—the packed crowd would enthusiastically sing along. And so, regardless of my disposition upon arrival, it was impossible to not get swept up in the building wave of emotion. Resistance was futile. I quickly surrendered, and then my lingering fog began to do the same. By the sixth song, “Living in Colour,” off The Winter of Mixed Drinks, shafts of blues and reds, and, later on, strobe lights, cracked through the darkness—my own and the venue’s—more clearly revealing a giant version of the new album’s cover as the stage backdrop. Throughout the performance, Scott Hutchison’s endearing chattiness, rolling Scottish brogue and easygoing comfort lent the show an intimacy despite the size of the room.
Although Frightened Rabbit didn’t play anything from their debut full-length, Sing the Greys, the set was an even mix of their other four albums. The newer stuff relies more on electronics than their previous material. So some songs featured three synths, like “Lump Street”—which proved to be one of the more jammed-out songs of the night—while others were driven by three guitars. And at the heart of the matter, that’s really what makes Frightened Rabbit go: the guitar. It’s soaring, melancholic arena rock with literary lyrics that stay with you. Not many bands could have nearly 3,000 people singing, “It takes more than fucking someone you don’t know to keep warm.” But there we were as the five-piece closed out the set with The Midnight Organ Fight’s “Keep Yourself Warm.” They quickly returned for a three-song encore: Scott doing a solo acoustic “Die Like a Rich Boy”—the line “Want to die like a rich boy/ Even if we’re as poor as we are now” eliciting hardy applause—and then full-band takes on “The Woodpile,” perhaps their most well-known tune, and “The Loneliness and the Scream,” the audience so lustily clapping, stomping and singing along, it felt more like an amped-up crowd at a rowdy soccer match. And so it was only fitting that live music, which had kept me out too late too many nights in a row, would rescue me in the end. —R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog
Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com
Tags: Aaron Dessner, Andy Monaghan, Billy Kennedy, Bruce Springsteen, Caveman, Frightened Rabbit, Grant Hutchison, Gregg Greenwood, Live Music, Midnight Organ Fight, Music, New York City, Painting of a Panic Attack, Pedestrian Verse, Photos, R. Zizmor, Review, Scotland, Scott Hutchison, Simon Liddell, Sing the Greys, Terminal 5, the National, The Winter of Mixed Drinks
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Drive-By Truckers – Music Hall of Williamsburg – March 6, 2016
Seems hard to believe that Drive-By Truckers have been doing their thing for 20 years now, and it’s even harder to believe that they’ve been able to maintain the same high level of rocking over that period. Judging by their limit-testing, sold-out show at Music Hall of Williamsburg last night, there is really only one level that they can operate at, and that is turned up all the way. They took the stage shortly after 9, facing the audience, arms raised, triumphant for the musical victories of the last two decades and the one they were about to declare over the amped full house. The Truckers opened the set with “Tornadoes,” off their The Dirty South album from 2004, lead singer Patterson Hood’s distinctive Southern voice already competing with everyone in the crowd singing along at the top of their lungs.
While the backdrop behind the band was the cover art for their 2014 release, English Oceans, the set list covered an even distribution of their vast catalog. “Sink Hole” was an early highlight, showing off the Truckers’ ability to mix layered storytelling with three-guitar Southern-rock rage, both the lyrics and the jamming more complicated than they might appear at first. Hood’s voice is perfect for spinning yarns, and he took several opportunities to go off on tangents, whether it be talking about sneaking out to see Bruce Springsteen when he was a kid or remotely yelling at his mother (and maybe, by extension, the rest of the country), “Mama, if you’re listening on the Internet right now … if you vote for Donald Trump, you’re going to a fucking nursing home!” New songs off an upcoming album fit right in with the old material, “Ever South” was particularly strong with an extragroovy kick from the bass and electric piano.
By the set’s closeout section, the guitars were turned up all the way and the crowd was good and rowdy. Drive-By Truckers rewarded their energy with a sprawling six-song encore that added an extra 30 minutes to the performance. And “Let There Be Rock” seemed to encapsulate the room’s mood, a song for those who would rock out for more than two hours on a Sunday night without worry about the Monday to come, almost everyone in the audience pumping their fist as they sang along with Hood. The band finished with “Angels and Fuselage,” which built to one last droning jam before each band member left, one at a time, triumphant once again, another victorious night in a long career filled with them. —A. Stein | @Neddyo
Tags: Aaron Stein, Brad Morgan, Bruce Springsteen, Drive-By Truckers, English Oceans, Jay Gonzalez, Live Music, Matt Patton, Mike Cooley, Music, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Patterson Hood, Review, The Dirty South
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The folk- and classic rock–loving group Mail the Horse (above, performing “Flowers, Keys & Gasoline”)—Donny Amidon, Michael Hesslein, Chris May and Brendan Smith—first laid roots in coastal New Hampshire before making the move to Brooklyn. They’ve become known locally as a DIY band not to miss. They open for the Cactus Blossoms tonight at Mercury Lounge, and the guys answered Five Questions for The House List.
As a touring band, what’s the best part of staying local to play Mercury Lounge? And do you ever notice if your music is received differently at home versus on the road?
Mercury Lounge has been good to us, and it’s still one of the best places to see music in the city. They pride themselves in establishing solid artist relations, which is something we appreciate. It’s great to see familiar faces but also nice to not know anyone in the crowd and let go a little more. Bottom line is that we like to play and we like to make people feel as many different emotions as possible during our sets. That’s what we pride ourselves on.
Planet Gates came out about a year ago. Are you guys working on anything new? And do you ever fine-tune music live before recording it?
We’ve been writing and are about to start recording in the spring. We performed about half of the tunes on Planet Gates before we recorded them. Studio is always different than a live performance so there are always adjustments to be made. We look forward to seeing where the next set of sessions take us.
What bands have influenced your music?
We all spent a real decent chunk of our formative years listening to way too much of the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan obviously, the Band, Flying Burrito Brothers, the Byrds and other “cosmic” American bands from the ’60s and early ’70s, but we also dig in deep with the Stones—all eras—and on tour our playlists and our tastes tend to be very, very eclectic. We listen to straight up Journey and then we listen to Pharoah Sanders and then we listen to Ryan Adams, then we listen to Gene Clark demos from the late ’70s on YouTube. But we also all listen to a ton of contemporary stuff. There’s an album coming out this week by this band Murals that we’ve been looking forward to for months.
Do you have any crutches when writing a song—are there certain words or styles you feel you lean on too much?
It’s OK to have something to lean on because it gives you confidence in your abilities,= and you can make it your thing. But it’s very important to step outside the box and challenge yourself musically—or in life in general. Most of the time when you find yourself leaning on something, it means you’re honing in on something. And then once you get closer to it, maybe you catch it, and then move onto something else. Sometimes you never catch it, or sometimes it morphs into something new. It’s like chasing something that you can’t see but can feel. Also, we wrote a few songs over the years with recurring lines about dead dogs. I think all the songs are great, but maybe it’s something else’s time to die!
Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song? Is a song better when it really happened to you?
Some of the best songs ever written are stories that don’t relate to the songwriter. It always helps to feel a certain way, but it’s fun putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Singing/ playing with conviction is the most important aspect or no one is going to believe you either way. Two of us had a fiction professor tell us a quote: “Write about what you know, whether it happened to you or not.” If your goal is expressing emotional truth, the facts can become irrelevant. Bruce Springsteen didn’t drag race all those cars himself, right? But “Racing in the Street” sure rings true. Big time.—R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog
Tags: Bob Dylan, Brendan Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Byrds, Cactus Blossoms, Chris May, Donny Amidon, Five Questions, Flying Burrito Brothers, Gene Clark, Grateful Dead, Journey, Mail the Horse, Mercury Lounge, Michael Hesslein, Pharoah Sanders, Planet Gates, Preview, Ryan Adams, the Band
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After a solid upbringing in the Midwest, singer-songwriter Israel Nash headed to New York City to make a name for himself as a folk musician almost 10 years ago. His debut album, 2009’s New York Town (stream it below), earned him comparisons to early Bruce Springsteen and Ryan Adams. His follow-up, Barn Doors and Concrete Floors (stream it below), arrived two years later. After that, he left the Big Apple for a small town in Texas, and that move fueled his third full-length release, Israel Nash’s Rain Plans (stream it below), out last year. “These songs are all about moving from New York to the reaches of the Hill Country and what those hills represent to me, which is greater than just nature. It’s about my life and home. I really wanted to go new places and abandon any rules that had made me cautious before. It’s about creating an environment that is so much bigger than any individual,” says Nash (above, performing “Just Like Water” live in studio for KEXP FM). According to Relix, “there is an easy-rolling, outdoorsy, relaxed feel to the songs here.” But, of course, the very best way to experience those songs is live and in person, which you can do at the early show tomorrow night at Mercury Lounge.
Tags: Barn Doors and Concrete Floors, Bruce Springsteen, Israel Nash, Israel Nash’s Rain Plans, Mercury Lounge, New York Town, Preview, Ryan Adams, Video
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Top Five Albums
1. The War on Drugs, Lost in the Dream
2. Total Control, Typical System
3. Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2
4. Coldplay, Ghost Stories
5. Parquet Courts, Sunbathing Animal —Charles Steinberg
Top Five Memorable Shows
1. Feist, Tarrytown Music Hall, 4/10
When I heard Feist was doing a tiny solo acoustic tour, I forked over ducats for this one. There were bits of stand-up-like banter with the audience as she stripped down the material. But what really made the night was a mini-reunion with former bandmate (and ex) Kevin Drew as they dueted on the Broken Social Scene classic “Lover’s Spit.”
2. (tie) Rhye, Webster Hall, 2/21
This performance was a bit misleading because although singer Milosh and producer Robin Hannibal are the members in Rhye, the latter member doesn’t tour. But Milosh’s ethereal voice really is the heart and soul of the pair, and it shone greatest for the hit “Open.” His deceptively androgynous voice sounds at times like Sade or even Antony Hegarty.
(tie) Max Richter, The Bowery Ballroom, 12/7
When I saw that the German-British composer was playing Bowery, I had to hop to it. As Richter usually plays symphony concert halls, it was an interesting choice to play such a smaller venue. The Ballroom felt like a recital hall with the audience entranced. What can I say: I’m a sucker for artists playing unorthodox venues.
3. Glass Animals, The Bowery Ballroom, 7/7
I was recently reminded of this concert when my yoga instructor played “Gooey” in class. Pretty fitting, right? In addition to infectious dance melodies, frontman Dave Bayley’s gangly limbs flayed erratically that evening, bringing to mind another dude named Thom Yorke. The two lads have great music and dance moves to boot. Coincidence? I think not.
4. Phox, Knitting Factory, 7/22
The buzz swirling around this Wisconsin band post-SXSW had me tuned into their album all spring and into the summer. Frontwoman Monica Martin was definitely a bit tipsy, but that didn’t detract from her lush vocals or onstage camaraderie. (Check out Schuyler Rooth’s review of their Mercury Lounge gig.)
5. (tie) Mr. Little Jeans, Rough Trade NYC, 5/10
Opening for Sohn, Norwegian singer Monica Birkenes, aka Mr. Little Jeans, overshadowed the headliner for me. It’s rare when that happens, but this lady has a knack for übercatchy dance-pop songs that streamed through my head all summer. She mentioned how she often came here as a child and was really craving a good slice of pizza. What’s not to love?
(tie) Alvvays, Rough Trade NYC, 7/28
New York City summers are packed with free outdoor gigs throughout the boroughs, but this in-store performance with Alvvays stood out amongst the rest. Their infectiously happy songs illuminated the dark back room of Rough Trade but had folks departing into the night with an extra bounce in their step. —Sharlene Chiu
Top Five Just a Man and His Guitar Solo Sets (chronological order)
1. Dustin Wong (opening set), The Bowery Ballroom, 4/21
2. Plankton Wat, Trans Pecos, 5/8
3. Steve Gunn, Mercury Lounge, 5/18
4. Willie Watson, Mercury Lounge, 5/21
5. Leif Vollebekk (opening set) The Bowery Ballroom, 11/21 —A. Stein | @Neddyo
Top Five Memorable Shows
1. Sylvan Esso, Rough Trade NYC, 9/11
Both my favorite album and my most memorable live show of 2014 came from Sylvan Esso. Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn possess unwavering emotive energy, and every single lyric and beat has sunk into my psyche . I saw the duo perform live twice this year, most recently at their headlining show at Rough Trade NYC. The duo’s erudite electronica boosted the audience as they performed the entirety of their self-titled debut album plus and few clever covers.
2. Broods, Mercury Lounge, 3/3
Comprised of New Zealander siblings Caleb and Georgia Nott, Broods blend melodic melancholia with sparkling synths and glitchy beats. After getting wrapped up in their self-titled debut EP, I simply had to see them live. Broods played their first NYC show to an incredibly enthusiastic sold-out crowd at Mercury Lounge.
3. Hozier, The Bowery Ballroom, 5/13
Hozier’s rich voice and ardent lyrics sit front and center in his compositions. When he headlined The Bowery Ballroom back in May, he was flanked by equally talented musicians who created dazzling harmonies with choral echoes and rock hooks. Hozier and his bandmates mesmerized the audience, including me.
4. Dan Croll, The Bowery Ballroom, 4/17
Dan Croll’s brand of pop is highly addictive, and his live show is equally intoxicating. He fuses lilting pop, wonky electronica and tribal beats and tops it all off with clever lyrics and airy vocals.
5. Kishi Bashi, The Bowery Ballroom, 6/4
Kishi Bashi has what so many musicians seek, and that is an astounding live presence. It’s as if this guy belongs onstage. Kishi Bashi played back-to-back sold-out New York City shows this past June and stunned audiences with his whimsical finesse and astute lyrics. This picture and my review prove that Kishi Bashi’s live performance is one big euphoric dream sequence. —Schuyler Rooth | @Schuylerspeak
Top Five Albums
1. Under the Pressure, the War on Drugs
Channeling Dylan and Springsteen beneath Adam Granduciel’s vocals and personal struggles to stunning effect, this Philly six-piece put out, for me, far and away the top album of the year.
2. Benjamin Booker, Benjamin Booker
From the very first listen, Benjamin Booker’s self-titled debut sounds familiar, not like you’d previously heard its influences, but rather you’d actually already heard this album. The music is lived in and alive and a joy to listen to again and again.
3. 77, Nude Beach
Eighteen songs that sound like the love children of late-’70s Tom Petty and Elvis Costello. You’ll smile the whole time you listen to it.
4. Dancin’ with Wolves, Natural Child
Recording for the first time as a five-piece, and moving away from gritty garage rock to
a more full-band bluesy country sound (with a side of boogie), these Nashville boys took a huge step forward.
5. Morning Phase, Beck
Six years removed from his previous offering, Beck’s slow-building emotional relative of Sea Change captures you from the very first note. —R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog
Top Five Memorable Shows
1. Pearl Jam, I Wireless Center (Moline, Ill.), 10/17
Playing a small (for them) venue (for the first time) on a Friday night in the middle of nowhere, Pearl Jam put on the best show by any band I’ve seen in the past four years. They performed No Code in its entirety and covered Pink Floyd, John Lennon, Van Halen and Neil Young. Frontman Eddie Vedder put it best, comparing the appearance to a blind date: “You get there and she opens the door, and it’s like, she’s hot!”
2. My Morning Jacket, One Big Holiday (Riviera Maya, Mexico), 1/29
I could’ve chosen any of MMJ’s performances from this run, but the last night was the longest show and it particularly stood out thanks to the perfect weather, the we’re-on-vacation-in-the-middle-of-winter party vibe and carefully chosen covers (including Jim James singing, “Something, something, something” in “Rock the Casbah.”)
3. the War on Drugs, The Bowery Ballroom, 3/20
I absolutely loved, loved, loved Under the Pressure and was extremely excited to hear it live. The War on Drugs did not disappoint, plus they even threw in a stellar rendition of “Mind Games” to boot. (As an added bonus, the night began with Drive-By Truckers at Terminal 5 and closed with green sauce and salt-baked goodness at New York Noodletown.
4. Jonathan Wilson, Music Hall of Williamsburg, 2/14
It was a Friday night and Valentine’s Day. But if you were expecting something quiet and romantic, you’d have been way off. Jonathan Wilson and Co. delivered 16 jammed-out (but not self-indulgently) songs over the course of two-and-a-half hours.
5. Deer Tick, Allen Room, 3/6
As part of the American Songbook series, Deer Tick played an incredibly intimate, seated show in front of a wall of windows revealing Columbus Circle below. It was one of those moments that makes you grateful to live in New York City. —R.Z.
Tags: Adam Granduciel, Alvvays, American Songbook, Antony Hegarty, Beck, Benjamin Booker, Best Coast, Bowery Ballroom, Broken Social Scene, Broods, Bruce Springsteen, Caleb Nott, Dan Croll, Dancin’ with Wolves, Dave Bayley, Deer Tick, Drive-By Truckers, Dustin Wong, Elvis Costello, Feist, Georgia Nott, Glass Animals, Hozier, Jim James, John Lennon, Jonathan Wilson, Kevin Drew, Kishi Bashi, Leif Vollebekk, Max Richter, Mercury Lounge, Milosh, Monica Birkenes, Monica Martin, Morning Phase, Mr. Little Jeans, My Morning Jacket, Natural Child, Neil Young, No Code, One Big Holiday, Pearl Jam, Phox, Pink Floyd, Plankton Wat, Rhye, Robin Hannibal, Sade, SOHN, Steve Gunn, Terminal 5, Thom Yorke, Tom Petty, Under the Pressure, Van Halen, War on Drugs, Webster Hall, Willie Watson
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