Tag Archives: Fiona Apple


Mike Gordon Dazzles Brooklyn Steel with Two Sets on Saturday Night

March 12th, 2018

Mike Gordon – Brooklyn Steel – March 10, 2018

Photos courtesy of Dan Salimbene | northfieldproductions.com

A happy byproduct of Phish’s now-nine-year 3.0 incarnation is that the mighty band’s resurgence has left enough creative fuel in the tank to support other projects too. Trey Anastasio, Page McConnell and Jon Fishman have all been busy—or will be, as the case may be—with non-Phish projects, but the band that really became a band in this era is Mike Gordon’s group, which played two sparkly weird and high-energy sets Saturday night at Brooklyn Steel. His solo compositions tend to step up to and peer down the rabbit hole, just short of falling down it. They’re a little—OK, a lot—quirky and often free associative, but they’re not often big, psychedelic, nebulous maybe-statements so much as they’re left-of-center pop and indie-rock tunes, delivered compactly.

OGOGO, which arrived last fall as his fifth solo album, has some angst to even out its breezier, groovier tracks. Gordon doesn’t mind things a little heavy—he’s a bass player after all, and not a shy one—and it comes through in tunes like “Victim,” “Crazy Sometimes,” “Marissa” and “Steps,” without weighing down their bendy, bug-eyed cool. Live, however, is when these tunes come delivered with some muscle—sinewy jams that pull at their already loose edges and drive the band into downright Phish-y territory at times, and into Brooklyn-y indie-rock crew with a synth-guitar-jamming jones in others. Almost every tune Saturday landed at that balance, from the opening “Victim” and an audience-participation oddity called “Trapezoidal Sunshine” to crowd-stoking versions of Phish’s “Destiny Unbound,” Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” and, in a nicely explored veer into left field, Fiona Apple’s “Sleep to Dream.”

The band is the not-so-secret ace, and Gordon’s been telling us that all along. He yields often to guitarist, singer and longtime partner-in-crime Scott Murawski (still going strong in Max Creek and other bands) and/or to keyboard professor Robert Walter, who picks his spots in this band and, among other highlights, turned the first set’s “Got to Be More Careful” into a showcase of whirling organ. And that’s before you get to the drums-and-percussion corps—John Morgan Kimock and Craig Myers—who have a lot of firepower between them and, you soon come to realize, are asked for all of it in the span of a Gordon show. Each was doing his thing and doing it well, all night, and in the end of the first set came “Tiny Little World,” about as good a capture of what Mike Gordon’s band sounds like these days. All the parts working, Gordon at the center playing stabbing bass, singing about how “nothing’s making sense/ So I shake and make it saucy.” It’s a fun world to visit. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson


Catch Up-and-Comer Adia Victoria Tomorrow Night at Mercury Lounge

May 18th, 2016

Singer-songwriter and guitarist Adia Victoria grew up in South Carolina with a church-provided education before attending public high school, where she began writing poems, influenced by the likes of Kurt Cobain, Miles Davis and Fiona Apple. Afterward, Victoria (above, performing “Dead Eyes”) tried out New York City and Atlanta before settling in Nashville. Last year, Rolling Stone labeled her a New Artist You Need to Know despite the fact that, at that time, she had only released one song. But now she has several more because her highly anticipated genre-blending debut studio album, Beyond the Bloodhounds (stream it below), came out just last Friday. AllMusic mentions her “melodious voice, which shifts between demure testimonies and fiery incantations at the drop of a hat” and that a “vivid crossroads of punk, blues, garage and folk mark the arresting debut.” Find out how it all sounds live when Adia Victoria plays Mercury Lounge tomorrow night. Lionlimb open the show.


Don’t Miss Blake Mills Tomorrow Night at Music Hall of Williamsburg

July 29th, 2015

A musician’s musician, California native Blake Mills is a talented dude, ably working as a singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and composer. And even if you don’t know his name (yet), plenty of big names in music do. “Eric Clapton recently called him ‘the last guitarist I heard that I thought was phenomenal.’ The producer Don Was says he is ‘one of those rare musicians who come along once in a generation,’” according to the New York Times. Mills founded his first band, the Dawes precursor Simon Dawes, with high school friend Taylor Goldsmith. When the group broke up, Mills went on to play in Jenny Lewis’s band and to tour with Band of Horses, Fiona Apple and Lucinda Williams, while managing to find time to do session work with the likes of the Avett Brothers, Norah Jones, Kid Rock, Neil Diamond and Lana Del Rey. As a means to drum up more session work, Mills (above, performing “Don’t Tell Our Friends About Me” for Public Radio International) put out his debut solo album, Break Mirrors (stream it below), in 2010, which led to him scoring producing work with acts like Conor Oberst, Alabama Shakes and Sky Ferreira. His sophomore effort, Heigh Ho (stream it below), arrived last year to some impressive reviews: “It moves through musical eras and genres without ever sounding out of place, too clever, or at all clumsy. Mills is as centered as a songwriter as he is a player and producer. There is nothing extra here and that’s as it should be. Heigh Ho puts on offer much of what he’s learned these past four years, and displays it all with acumen and openness,” per AllMusic. Currently winding down an East Coast swing, Blake Mills plays Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow night. Local jazz guitarist Julian Lage opens the show.


With a Revamped Band, Mike Gordon Goes over the Top at Cap

June 29th, 2015

Mike Gordon – Capitol Theatre – June 27, 2015

With much of the jam world’s eyes focused on Santa Clara, Calif., on Saturday night, a Mike Gordon show at the Capitol Theatre somehow felt a little bit under the radar, if that’s possible. Returning to the historic venue for the first time since Phish played there in 1992, Gordon and his revamped band gave the jubilant crowd plenty to keep them occupied with two stellar sets of jam-friendly music. After a warm-up opening of “Long Black Line,” the bassist led the band through a highlight-reel first set featuring standout versions of Gordon originals “Andelman’s Yard” and “Horizon Line,” the Phish rarity “Spock’s Brain” and two covers turned inside out. With the addition of Robert Walter on keyboards and John Morgan Kimock on drums, the band felt less like a spin-off side project and more like a high-quality jam-band hybrid: Walter utilizing his innate sense of the groove to get the crowd dancing, Kimock adding a daring ability to both follow and lead through uncharted passageways, Scott Murawski displaying a veteran hand on lead guitar and Gordon adding his unique Mike Gordon–ness to the low end.

While the Cap’s standard light projections often keep the crowd staring at the walls, Gordon’s stage production was an immersive trip on its own, perfectly enhancing the music. While the band took left turn upon left turn in “Andelman’s,” the lights paired colors in equally interesting combinations. During a space-funk version of Fiona Apple’s “Sleep to Dream,” a geometry lesson of shapes illuminated the band, adding cosmic effects while the audience’s front row played sound effects on a giant interactive “keyboard” at the front of the stage. When the band seemed to hit a particularly ecstatic climax in a jam, LEDs in Murawski’s and Gordon’s guitars lit up like the metaphoric light bulb signaling a Eureka! moment inside your mind. Toward the end of the first set, Gordon took his group and audience deep into the Flaming Lips’ “Are You a Hypnotist?” while tie-dyed fractal tunnels appeared on the backdrops, providing a mass hallucination just in case.

After a short break, Gordon and company returned for a second set that opened with a dark “Surface” and followed a set-list script but seemed to spend more time meandering and exploring through high-level jamming. The band flexed their collective muscles through multiple levels of improv, awakening all sorts of ghosts in the Cap’s walls. Late in the evening, Luke Temple made a surprise appearance, adding indie credentials by singing along to Gordon’s cover of his Here We Go Magic tune “How Do I Know,” which pushed the show over the top, if it truly needed the extra boost. Temple returned during the encore for his “Make Up Your Mind,” Gordon and Co. perfectly at ease playing backing band, adding a groovy oomph and maybe helping earn a few new Here We Go Magic fans along the way. The night-ending “Sugar Shack” felt superfluous after the preceding show, but Murawski’s lighthearted playing provided a welcome return to ground for the crowd.
—A. Stein | @Neddyo



Wardell Celebrate a New Release Tonight at Mercury Lounge

February 11th, 2015

Brother and sister Theo (a onetime House List writer) and Sasha Spielberg began making music as Wardell several years ago in Los Angeles. Influenced by the disparate likes of Led Zeppelin, Fiona Apple, the Strokes and Joni Mitchell, the bicoastal (he in New York City, she in L.A.) indie-folk duo put out their aptly named debut EP, Brother/Sister (stream it below), in 2013, with Sasha on vocals and Theo handling the instrumentation. Afterward, they really began to work on their sound while performing live, including a plum gig opening for Vampire Weekend and Haim at last year’s SXSW. Today, Wardell (above, doing “Funny Thing” and “Love/Idleness”) see the release of their debut full-length, the charmingly easygoing Love/Idleness (stream it below). And they celebrate its release tonight at Mercury Lounge. Bushwick dream-pop four-piece Arc Waves open the show.


A Remarkably Good Show at The Bowery Ballroom

April 10th, 2013

Chris Thile and Brad Mehldau – The Bowery Ballroom – April 9, 2013

Chaos theory states that a butterfly flapping its wings in Asia affects the weather here in New York City. Through some incomprehensible series of actions and reactions, the two completely unrelated phenomena essentially communicate with each other. I think a similar incomprehensible series of actions and reactions explains the communication going on between the seemingly unrelated musicians onstage last night at The Bowery Ballroom. In this scenario, the parts of the butterfly and the weather were jazz-pianist extraordinaire Brad Mehldau and mandolin aficionado Chris Thile.

From the beginning, high-level interplay was on display, a long introduction that felt like a free-form-improv instrumental provided the opportunity for both musicians to assume the role of the butterfly—multihued, delicate, light—and the weather—unpredictable, blustering, occasionally torrential. These long fugues were interrupted by lyrics and vocals on songs like “Chopped Down Your Shade Tree” from Thile, bringing the concept of song and composition to the music before disintegrating back into superlative two-man jamming and then back again. Pieces stretched to 10 minutes and beyond, the duo showing no signs of running out of things to talk about, themes to pursue and then deconstruct. One of the few fully instrumental songs pushed the limits of their talents, simultaneously layering an Irish reel with blues and free jazz, like Ornette O’Coleman from Memphis for mandolin and piano, shifting to a mandolin swing reminiscent of David Grisman and finally relenting to jazz-standard territory with Mehldau stretching the exercise to a full 20 minutes.

The highlights within an essentially highlight-reel show were the covers. Each began as if just an instrumental vamp on a familiar melody before fully exploring the material to its fullest. These included Gillian Welch’s “Scarlet Town” and an instrumental version of “Long Black Veil.” Anyone familiar with Mehldau or Thile wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the centerpiece of their show was an awe-inspiring, exploratory take on Radiohead’s “Knives Out,” which had both men in top form, weaving in and out of the song’s themes perfectly. The set closed with Fiona Apple’s “Fast as You Can,” featuring a vigorous back-and-forth between the two, the whole set coming to a head in deep musical conversation. Perhaps the best for last, the encore closed with a perfect version of Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” the jamming concise and on point, the audience, for once, literally not having to think twice about the chaos going on in front of them. It’s alright. —A. Stein




An Alluring Apple

October 18th, 2012

Fiona Apple – Terminal 5 – October 17, 2012

I can remember as a kid, waiting to record Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” off a radio broadcast. As much as it was already being played on the radio, MTV and everywhere else back in 1997, the strange allure of that song demanded that I have a copy of it for myself to play over and over again. I couldn’t get enough of it. Turns out, it wasn’t just this one song that had this strange allure—it was everything Fiona Apple did. And I wasn’t the only one that felt this way either. Fast forward a few albums and several years later, and Fiona Apple is no longer just a radio hitmaker but a full-on Artist with a capital A, selling out two nights at Terminal 5, mesmerizing fans of all ages that she’s hooked over the years.

Apple is a vocal contortionist of sorts, bending and twisting her vocal chords to get whatever sound she needs to back her beautiful songwriting with some emotional heft. On “Shadowboxer” her voice broke at the perfect moments, like the meanings behind her lyrics were doing their best to hold her back from singing them out. “Anything We Want” was sung with a voice so heavy in vibrato that it was like the butterflies-in-stomach feeling had gotten hold of her vocal chords. “Extraordinary Machine” came out in such a raspy Janis Joplin-esque low voice that when Apple sang, “I’ll make the most of it, I’m an extraordinary machine,” it sounded incredibly human, but then a verse later she lifted off into an insanely high pitch that sounded practically impossible for a human to create.

And while Apple was performing all these vocal gymnastics, she squirmed around the stage in a wonderfully spastic way. Sometimes she was in front of a microphone stand, leaning on it like she needed its support, and at others she just pounded away at her piano. Of course, some credit is also due to her backing band, which did a perfect job following her every step. Drummer Amy Wood led the way, playing through the songs’ rhythmic twists and turns, and guitarist Blake Mills, who opened the show, added a huge array of sounds that a couple of times became a song’s main event. But the night as a whole belonged to Apple. And all anyone else in Terminal 5 could do was sing along to her every word, hoping to capture for themselves just a fleeting second of that strange allure that is Fiona Apple. —Dan Rickershauser

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com


The Cap Is Officially Back

August 6th, 2012

A broke-down palace no more, the lovingly restored Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, N.Y., reopens for business on 9/4 (the headliner will soon be announced). Built in 1926, the venue once hosted the biggest musical acts of the day. Names like the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead, who once played the Cap 16 times in just 12 months. But the place eventually became a catering hall and special-events facility. No longer. Live music is returning! It will have “the best sound, the best lights and the best video-projection technology of any theater anywhere. Our plan is to turn the knob to 11 in every way possible,” says Peter Shapiro of Brooklyn Bowl. The beloved bowling alley/restaurant/music venue again teams up with Blue Ribbon for food and The Bowery Presents to book the bands. And once again, the calendar is filled with big names, including four shows with the Roots in September, three My Morning Jacket dates in December and the likes of Galactic, Fiona Apple, Warren Haynes, Al Green and a whole lot more in between. Some shows are already on sale and others will be soon, so check the calendar so you don’t get left out.


Fiona Apple Returns and Gives All

March 26th, 2012

Fiona Apple – Music Hall of Williamsburg – March 23, 2012

To say that the sold-out crowd on Friday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg was excited for Fiona Apple’s performance is an understatement. As the venue filled, fans were on a bit of an emotional roller coaster—frantic, eager, flabbergasted, ravenous—awaiting her first New York City performance in years. When the singer and her band appeared onstage, perhaps Apple sensed this loaded energy, negotiating with the crowd that if we refrained from chattering during the show (so as not to piss off fellow fans), she promised: “I will give you everything that I can possibly give you.”

Apple immediately made good on her end of the bargain, as a skittering drumbeat began the opening bars of “Fast as You Can” from 1999’s When the Pawn…, she attacked the vocals with intensity, danced frenetically over the urgent guitar line and then ran over to her piano to pound out the slow verses. Apple followed with a string of songs from the same album, performing powerful renderings of “On the Bound,” “Paper Bag” and “A Mistake.” In addition to these beloved older numbers, she performed several new songs from her forthcoming album (get ready), The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, including the slow-burning “Anything We Want” and the dramatic, cabaret-esque “Valentine.”

The vulnerability and personal insecurities Apple often explores in her music (coupled with some well documented public outbursts) often find the singer cast by the media as frail, fragile or volatile. However these simplistic renderings don’t give the singer enough credit for her own power and her authentic ability to express herself. To this end, Apple sang on Friday night with conviction, at times getting her point across with a clenched jaw, with her hands over her face, clutching her chest, wrapping her arms protectively around herself, looking at the crowd through wide, anxious eyes and, yes, occasionally smiling too—in command at all times, and decidedly not fragile. Following a satisfyingly intense performance of the crowd-pleasing “Criminal” and a lovely cover of country standard “It’s Only Make Believe,” we waited in vain for an encore, but it soon became clear. Apple’s performance was complete. She had rightfully given us her all. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Hilary J. Corts | www.hilaryjcorts.com