Tag Archives: Elliott Smith


Grandaddy Prove to Be Worth the Wait at Rough Trade NYC

March 3rd, 2017

Grandaddy – Rough Trade NYC – March 2, 2017

Grandaddy – Rough Trade NYC – March 2, 2017
There are albums that define an individual at a certain time of life, and for me it was Grandaddy’s The Sophtware Slump. I was a recent college graduate figuring out adulthood and working a “dream job” at my local radio station. Something about Jason Lytle’s specific lyrics laid across a series of bleeps and electronic haze struck a chord in me. I was first introduced to them when they opened for a then rising British band, Coldplay. That evening was highlighted by the special guest appearance by a barely recognizable Elliott Smith, whom Grandaddy had toured with prior. When the group disbanded back in 2006, there were morsels released in the form of a solo album by Lytle and side projects in Admiral Radley, but Grandaddy would not resurface until 2012 with a few local California gigs and select festivals in the UK. On the eve of their long-awaited fourth album, Last Place, the Golden State band played a sold-out Rough Trade NYC last night.

Opening their set with an abstract film filled with landscape juxtaposed with pixels, the quintet surfaced to the stage as if no time had passed. The crowd quickly got into it as Grandaddy opened with back-catalog gems “Hewlett’s Daughter” and “El Caminos in the West.” The evening would satisfy longtime fans, while introducing newer material like their first single from their latest, “Way We Won’t,” and follow-up single “Evermore.” The frontman was barraged with several requests midway through their set, but none of them were on the list. One fan graciously offered, “Your choice, Jason,” in which Lytle took the opportunity to segue into the spacey favorite “The Crystal Lake.”

The room erupted when the whimsical intro to “A.M. 180” signaled the audience to bop along to the melody, but it was near the end of the set that Lytle wrapped the night with an extra special bow. Going from new track “I Don’t Wanna Live Here Anymore” to the slow-burner “Jed’s Other Poem (Beautiful Ground),” he initiated the climax with a revved-up “Now It’s On.” Although the set concluded with harp-like keys on “He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s the Pilot,” the enduring bandmates would return to encore with a pair, the new song “The Boat Is in the Barn” and oldie-but-goodie “Summer Here Kids.” Needless to say Grandaddy’s return was so worth the wait. Let’s hope there won’t be another decade-long hiatus. —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com


Alex G and Porches Close Out Tour at The Bowery Ballroom on Friday

April 18th, 2016

Alex G/Porches – The Bowery Ballroom – April 15, 2016

(Photo: Dan Rickershauser)

(Photo: Dan Rickershauser)

If you’re going to close your tour right, one of the best ways to do it is with two sold-out shows in New York City—on Wednesday at Music Hall of Williamsburg and then on Friday at The Bowery Ballroom. And if you’re going to end the finale right, one of the best ways to do that is to get all the bands onstage to jam on Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” Such is how Porches and Alex G ended their tour together on Friday on the Lower East Side. The two bands make for an interesting billing, although each have a knack for defying genres and are seemingly good friends. “This is our last show with Porches and Your Friend, which is good because they are the worst fucking bands,” joked Alex G.

This doesn’t mean the venue wasn’t jam packed for Porches’ set (it was). The band’s on a serious upward trajectory with the recent release of the much-acclaimed Pool—the album’s a departure from the sound of their previous release, Slow Dance in the Cosmos. And if you go to their bandcamp and chart their progress, you’ll notice that drastic changes in sound is kind of their M.O. Pool features a much synth-ier, down-tempo sound, although the songs played with a live band featured an added tinge of funkiness, making for easy dancing. “Let the booty do what the booty wants to do, because the booty gonna do what the booty wants to do,” singer Aaron Maine told the audience. And while this has been said at every Porches show I’ve ever attended, the new songs do make the booty shaking much more involuntary. “Mood” sounded almost tropical, with the synths nearly taking on a steel-drum sound. There’s no fat in Porches’ songs, as soon as you fall into the groove of “Mood,” it’s already on its way out. They played a few bars of Alex G’s “Walk,” easily the most Porches-sounding song in his catalog. And things got noticeably more up-tempo as the set went on, with the stop-and-start momentum of “After Glow” acting as the in-between. “Be Apart” started off within an industrial beat before shaking itself free of the rhythmic shackles for the refrain “I wanna be a part of it all.” The set ended with the hard-rocking “Skinny Trees,” by far their loudest tune of the night.

Alex G’s well-known for crafting songs close to their inspiration, lo-fi in the sense that they’re not entirely scrubbed of the weirdness they were born with. They’re sure to sound different played with a live four-piece, and it might not be apparent in their recordings how much his band loves to rock out. In these fine moments you could find Alex G slinking back and forth onstage, rocking out with his tongue out. The emotional honesty with which he writes his songs remained fully intact. “Black Hair” featured a calming lullaby of a melody interrupted by some unsettling squealing guitars before returning to its cheerful groove. “Mary” sounded like a downright upbeat pop song before collapsing into the final lines of “Mary is the girl that leaves you to rot, she says I am real and you are not.” And “Rules” sounded like Elliott Smith, who was also known for emotionally honest songwriting, could’ve written it. These are two bands led by guys with some serious writing chops, Aaron Maine of Porches and Alex Giannascoli of … well, Alex G. Expect much to come from both, haphazard covers of “Smoke on the Water” are just the beginning. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks



Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield Honor Elliott Smith at Town Hall

March 11th, 2015

Folk-influenced singer-songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield has teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Seth Avett, one of the lead singers and founding members of the North Carolina folk four-piece the Avett Brothers, to pay tribute to the beloved, departed Elliott Smith’s work with Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith, due out next week. NPR calls Smith “the most erudite, sophisticated songwriter of his generation.” And furthermore, “Though the accompaniment is sparse, each of these 12 covers dwells in an atmosphere that’s somehow linked to (or at least glances in the direction of) the Smith original. Mayfield and Avett didn’t seek to reinvent Smith’s songs. They simply want to honor them, and this collection is governed, from one whispered note to the next, by humility.” “Everyone who’s an Elliott Smith fan takes the lyrics and relates them to themselves,” says Mayfield. “When Seth is singing, I forget for a moment that they’re Elliott Smith songs, and when I’m singing them it’s the same thing. I’m singing the lyrics as if it were my own song.” See Mayfield and Avett performing together—playing highlights from their joint album and their individual catalogs—tomorrow at Town Hall.



Mutual Benefit Headline The Bowery Ballroom Tomorrow Night

September 12th, 2014

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jordan Lee founded his band, Mutual Benefit, in Austin, Texas, making experimental music influenced by folk and psychedelic rock that earned him comparisons to Elliott Smith, Sufjan Stevens and Animal Collective. But he soon decamped for Boston to record and play with some friends there. Lee has since made his way to Brooklyn, but he continues Mutual Benefit (above, performing “Animal Falconry” for KEXP FM) with a rotating lineup of talented musicians. The band’s debut album, Love’s Crushing Diamond (stream it below), came out last fall to rave reviews. “The songs are fully formed and finely detailed, each taking on a life of its own,” according to Consequence of Sound. “Much like a great book keeps a reader riveted until the last pages are turned, Love’s Crushing Diamond leaves a hope that it could continue on and on.” Baltimore chamber-folk ensemble Soft Cat and Brooklyn four-piece Bellows open.


Punch Brothers Take a Look Backward and Forward

December 31st, 2013

Punch Brothers – The Bowery Ballroom – December 30, 2013

The arrival of New Year’s Eve is the singular moment in the calendar when we’re equally looking backward and forward. This makes it the perfect time to catch the Punch Brothers, who take music and styles from the past and make them new and equally make modern sounds classic. Last night at The Bowery Ballroom was the second of three sold-out shows in what is taking root as an annual holiday tradition. A heavy curtain behind the stage played tricks with the light, the deep ruffles alternately absorbing and reflecting, evocative of another time and place. And as the band took the stage, Chris Thile wished the eager crowd a “happy New Year … almost!”

Punch Brothers opened with their version of Josh Ritter’s “Another New World,” a gorgeous silence filling the space between the instruments: banjo, mandolin, violin, guitar feeling as timeless as ever. A new song, “Magnet,” simultaneously felt both New Wave and bluegrass, Thile silly and suggestive. An instrumental was dark, the music a step of phase, like they wound a bluegrass breakdown a quarter turn to the left with impressive solos from Gabe Witcher on violin, Noam Pikelny on banjo and Chris Eldridge on guitar before a short back-and-forth between Paul Kowert on bass and Thile on mandolin. These profound moments of beauty alternated with looser bits, the Punch Brothers’ humor always of the inside-joke variety, large portions of the audience ready to participate on songs like “Patchwork Girlfriend,” shouting along at the right time without provocation.

It was two pairs of covers that summed up the Punch Brothers’ forward-and-backward dichotomy. Mid-set they established their indie cred with an Americana take on Elliott Smith’s “Clementine” and followed it with a fantastic modernized rendering of a Claude Debussy piece. The latter was an impressive display of talent, all five musicians immersed in the piece, making it their own. The encore paired a solo Bach piece from Thile with a cover of Americana legend John Hartford’s “Old Joe Clark.” Thile, who resisted taking too many outlandish solos during the set proper, let it all out during the Bach tune, signaling that if you’re going to be self-indulgent, you might as well go all the way. Watching him contort both the music and his body, making the difficult look easy and the very old feel very new, wasn’t just art but performance art. “Old Joe Clark,” on the other hand, was just some good old-fashioned picking, and lest we forget where these guys come from, they tacked on a strong bluegrass version of Gillian Welch’s “Back in Time.” From “Another New World” to “Back in Time.” Forward and backward—happy New Year … almost.
—A. Stein





A Birthday Gift for Elliott Smith

August 12th, 2013

Elliott Smith Tribute – The Bowery Ballroom – August 10, 2013

Last Tuesday would have been Elliott Smith’s 44th birthday, and it still feels strange to live in a world without him. Almost 10 years after his death, there was a palpable void on Saturday night at The Bowery Ballroom. Perhaps it was because so much else of Elliott was present: his family, friends, fans and, most important, his music to bring everyone together to honor a cause close to his heart. The night, emceed by Rhett Miller of Old 97’s, marked the end of a four-concert stretch of shows across the U.S. in honor of Smith’s birthday, organized by Smith’s sister Ashley Welch. All proceeds went to New Alternatives, a New York City–based organization to help homeless LGBT youth. Welch shared her personal story of how her brother was the first person she told she was gay. Welch knew him for his big heart, and she mentioned how when he was living in New York City, Smith would stuff bills into the shoes of homeless people he saw sleeping on the street, never anything less than a $20.

Saturday’s show featured many guest performers and friends—some who knew Smith well and others who knew him only through his music—sharing their stories. The night’s first set came from Smith’s former manager JJ Gonson’s band Meat Industry. Smith’s close friend Mary Lou Lord brought out with her the big star of the night, her 14-year-old daughter Annabelle, herself a big Smith fan, who sang and played through “St. Ides Heaven” and “I Figured You Out.” Young Hines traveled all the way from Nashville for the night, performing Smith’s most well-known song, “Needle in the Hay.” And Katarina Guerra sang her way through beautiful renditions of “Twilight” and “Between the Bars,” managing to bring out that haunting gorgeousness of Smith’s singing style.

The legendary Bob Dorough covered “Waltz #1” in addition to one of Smith’s favorites, a song he penned for Schoolhouse Rock!, “Figure 8.” Sirius XM DJ Jenny Eliscu shared her story about Smith’s inane ability to cheer up other people and how he stood by her side after her date stood her up at The Bowery Ballroom for a Neutral Milk Hotel show in 1998. Christina Courtin played two of the night’s biggest sing-alongs, “Angeles” and “Rose Parade.” Unannounced guests included Joseph Arthur, who played “Alameda” and was later joined by Pat Sansone of Wilco, who played “Waltz #2” and “Say Yes.” The night ended with everyone returning to the stage together to perform “Happiness” joined by every voice in the audience. There was only one missing. —Dan Rickerhsauser

Photos courtesy of Peter Senzamici | petersenzamici.com


A Noisy, Life-Affirming Triumph

September 18th, 2012

Deerhoof – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 17, 2012

Deerhoof makes a ruckus. There is no denying it. If you forego earplugs (which, come on, you should) it’s inevitable that your ears will start ringing a few songs into their show. On his lonesome, drummer Greg Saunier’s snare hits strike the deepest parts of the inner ear. But together with singer and bassist Satomi Matsuzaki, guitarist John Dieterich and guitarist Ed Rodriguez, the group creates a Street Fighter sonic boom—a full-on assault on the senses. And the energy behind their play is a double-shot espresso on a Monday night: a highly caffeinated treat with enough punch to power you through the week. If they don’t raise your heart rate, you should be checked to see if you have a pulse.

It is New York City’s luck that Deerhoof chose us for the start of their tour behind new album Breakup Song (which is kind of like if Elliott Smith had put out an LP called Fight for Your Right to Party). In one of Saunier’s moments of quirky stage banter, in which he knelt down to speak into Matsuzaki’s microphone, about two feet shorter than him, he mentioned the band’s love for playing here. And if the set list and two encores were any indication, New York City and Deerhoof have a symbiotic relationship: They give heaping spoonfuls of the favorites and we lose our shit.

For the final song, “Basketball Ball Get Your Groove Back,” Matsuzaki jumped, danced and, as much as she could, strutted around the stage, pointing the microphone toward the front row to respond with “OK!” in the chorus. The tune, like the band, is an odd pairing: a tiny Japanese woman doing bunny kicks while evoking a game for strong composed athletes. But Deerhoof is not about deep analysis or symbolic continuity. No, Deerhoof is the sound of a thousand people jumping in the air and shouting for joy. It is a noisy, life-affirming triumph. —Jared Levy