Shaun Fleming grew up in Los Angeles working on a variety of movies, TV shows and video games as a voice actor. Eventually he became Foxygen’s touring drummer, before Fleming launched his own solo musical project, Diane Coffee, upon relocating to New York City five years ago, when a vicious flu strain kept him homebound for several weeks in his new apartment. Drawing on what AllMusic calls “the same enormous canon of ’60s folk-pop, doo wop and bubblegum influences that inspired Foxygen and other like-minded contemporaries,” Fleming wrote and recorded the first Diane Coffee album, My Friend Fish (stream it below), which came out in 2013. “Packed with peace, love and jangly guitars, Diane Coffee’s debut LP, My Friend Fish, is an irresistible ode to ’60s psychedelia. After only a few listens, it’s hard not to slip into dreams of floral-crown-wearing hippies and cozy Haight-Ashbury cafés,” according to Paste magazine. “Lucky for us, his miserable experience created a 10-track collection filled with organs that hark to both a traditional gospel concert and a jubilant acid trip.” A second full-length, Everybody’s a Good Dog (stream it below), arrived in 2015. “Working with a large group of collaborators, including his Foxygen bandmates, and a larger palette of instruments that includes horns and strings, Fleming takes the intimate, loosely warped pop of My Friend Fish and blows it up into an expansive rainbow that includes elements of Motown, dub reggae, classic ’60s bubblepop, ’70s glam rock and psychedelic R&B,” per AllMusic. “An album this crazy and good deserves nothing but praise and adulation.” Fleming recently released a two-song 7″ called Peel and has hit the road. Catch Diane Coffee (above, doing “Mayflower” for KEXP FM) tomorrow at Rough Trade NYC. Vancouver, B.C., four-piece Peach Pit open the show.
Tag Archives: Foxygen
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.
Tags: Ariel Pink, Beach Boys, Beatles, Brian D’Addario, Brooklyn, Danny Ayala, Do Hollywood, Foxygen, Jonathan Rado, Lemon Twigs, Live Music, Megan Zeankowski, Michael D’Addario, Mothers of Invention, Music, Music Hall of Williamsburg, New York City, Preview, Simon Doom, Sparks, Todd Rundgren, Video, Williamsburg
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Influenced by psychedelia, classic rock and avant-garde music, Sam France (vocals) and Jonathan Rado (guitar) formed the band Foxygen more than a decade ago in a Los Angeles suburb while still in high school. After self-releasing a slew of EPs and singles, they broke into the mainstream with the much-acclaimed long-player We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic (stream it below), out in 2013—and followed by an international tour. Earlier this year, the band (above, performing “Follow the Leader” live on Conan) returned with their fourth studio album, Hang (stream it below), backed by a 40-piece orchestra. “Holding absolutely nothing back, Foxygen deliver an absurdly grandiose album that should not work nearly as well as it does,” raves PopMatters. “Hang is the type of album for which the sobriquet ‘pop masterpiece’ was intended.” Out on the road in support of their new music, Foxygen play Terminal 5 on Friday night. A pair of local acts, the trio Sunflower Bean and the duo Purr, open the show.
Tags: Foxygen, Hang, Jonathan Rado, Live Music, Music, New York City, Preview, Purr, Sam France, Sunflower Bean, Terminal 5, Video, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
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Five college friends formed Gardens & Villa in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 2008. At first it was just Chris Lynch (vocals and guitar), Adam Rasmussen (synths), Shane McKillop (bass) and Levi Hayden (drums), but they soon added Dustin Ineman (keys) for their live appearances. The band headed up to Oregon to record their first album, the upbeat but chill Gardens & Villa (stream it below), with Richard Swift, camping out in his backyard: “No shower, no kitchen, but all the magic you could ask for.” The A.V. Club said the group “belongs to the tradition of scruffy California rock bands that make music as big, breezy, weird and subtly sinister as their home state,” before comparing Gardens & Villa (above, performing “Minnesota” in studio for KJEE FM) to Beck, Ariel Pink and Grandaddy. Earlier this month, the quintet’s follow-up effort, the introspective yet danceable Dunes (stream it below), arrived on Secretly Canadian. Paste weighed in, saying the album “is an enticing amalgamation of contemporary dance-music sensibilities laid over familiar, primal roots. The pointed, salient synths of Adam Rasmussen mesh fluidly with the soft melodies of lead singer Chris Lynch’s bansuri flutes and falsetto cries. Innumerable intricacies layered into the background make for an encompassing wall of notes that pulls you into a unusual dance.” Dance along in person when Gardens & Villa play Music Hall of Williamsburg tonight. (Foxygen drummer Shaun Fleming’s Diane Coffee opens.)
Tags: Adam Rasmussen, Ariel Pink, Beck, Christopher Lynch, Diane Coffee, Dunes, Dusty Ineman, Foxygen, Gardens & Villa, Grandaddy, Levin Hayden, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Preview, Richard Swift, Secretly Canadian, Shane Mckillop, Shaun Fleming, Video, Yeasayer
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My Top Five Favorite Shows
1. The Postal Service, Barclay Center, June 14
My decade-belated live date with the Postal Service finally culminated at Barclays Center, where rabid fans, like myself, roared as Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello hit the stage. As if acting out lyrics from “Nothing Better,” Gibbard and Jenny Lewis shimmied close for the duet. Old friends reunited onstage never felt so good.
2. Haim, Webster Hall, September 3
I was late to this bandwagon, as fellow House List contributor Alex Kapelman shortlisted Haim last year for his Top Five Bowery Presents Shows of the Year. I knew I was in for a good one when I could barely find a spot in the rafters to catch the three sisters, who charmed with their onstage banter and wicked musicianship
3. Jessie Ware, The Bowery Ballroom, January 17
Straight off her Jimmy Fallon taping backed by the Roots, the British songstress elated the crowd with her effortless, down-to-earth stage demeanor. Her star quickly rose with American audiences, as she sold out shows at Webster Hall, Music Hall of Williamsburg and Irving Plaza throughout the year. I was glad to have caught her earlier in the more intimate venue.
4. Basia Bulat, Bowery Ballroom, November 23
I’ve been a fan of Basia Bulat since I heard her cover Sam Cooke’s “Touch the Hem of His Garment.” This show on a cold night wasn’t sold out, which made me a little sad since she’s quite the talent. But those who were there were enraptured by her prowess on autoharp to the point that you could hear a pin drop during her solos.
5. Daughter, Bowery Ballroom, April 30
Somehow Elena Tonra manages to disguise heartbreak behind soulful lyrics and melody. She has a knack for turning happy dance songs into somber endeavors. The band mashed-up Bon Iver and Hot Chip’s “Perth/Ready for the Floor” that evening. Check out Tonra’s somber retake of Daft Punk’s hit “Get Lucky” for further proof. —Sharlene Chiu
My Top Five Shows I Never Thought I Would See
1. Desaparecidos, Webster Hall, February 26
Desaparecidos (and really any Conor Oberst project) were my bread and butter back in the early aughts, and for a while they seemed to be a one-off, a politically minded side project firmly planted in the past. Fortunately (and unfortunately) the global state of affairs remains messed up enough for the band to regroup to write protest songs for a new decade. It was a nostalgic, sweaty and inspired performance.
2. Shuggie Otis, Music Hall of Williamsburg, April 19
Shuggie Otis began putting out music in the mid-’70s, followed by a long period of laying low. Content to groove along to songs like “Ice Cold Daydream” at home, I never really thought about the possibility of a Shuggie Otis tour in 2013. But when I found out, I was there. And “Ice Cold Daydream” is even better in person.
3. The Flamin’ Groovies, The Bowery Ballroom, July 6
Instead of discovering the Flamin’ Groovies in a smoky San Fran club in the ’60s, I was introduced to their catchy psychedelia on a Nuggets compilation more than 30 years later. Who’d have thought they’d still be going strong in 2013 and that I’d be dancing right alongside some old school fans at this fun summer show.
4. John Prine, Beacon Theatre, September 26
John Prine has been active since the early ’70s, but unlike Shuggie Otis, he never really went away, writing and recording songs at a steady pace throughout the years. But I still always thought of him as an artist too legendary for me to see in person—or that tickets would be too out of reach. But John Prine put on an amazing show, highlighting his singular skills as a songwriter and storyteller.
5. The Julie Ruin, Music Hall of Williamsburg, October 25
I was late to the party for the original riot-grrl movement, but I became an admirer of Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna during her time in Le Tigre. She’s dealt with some debilitating health issues in the past few years, but I had no doubt she’d continue to make art and music. So I was happy to learn of her latest project, the Julie Ruin, and her energetic show did not disappoint. —Alena Kastin
My Top Five Shows
1. Yo La Tengo, Town Hall, February 16
I don’t like to pick a favorite, but my last.fm account tells me I’ve listened to Yo La Tengo more than any other band since 2007. At Town Hall, they performed an acoustic set and an electronic one, doing two versions of “Ohm,” my favorite song of the year. And then I ran into Tim Heidecker from Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job! Had the Red Sox not won the World Series, this would’ve been my favorite night of the year.
2. Killer Mike/El-P, Webster Hall, August 14
I don’t care what anyone says: The best two rap albums of 2012 came from Killer Mike and El-P. And in 2013 they topped them, coming together as one entity, Run the Jewels. The night included a set from El-P, a set from Killer Mike and a combined set with both. El-P’s ingenious production plus Killer “I bleed charisma” Mike equals one concert I will never forget.
3. Foxygen, The Bowery Ballroom, October 21
With Foxygen it occasionally feels like shit could fall apart at any moment. And sometimes it does. But when their shows don’t come unhinged they deliver that sweet thrill of relief, like narrowly avoiding a car crash. And on this Halloween-themed night, the band made a weird show even weirder with homemade costumes and pseudo spooky vibes.
4. Steve Earle, Music Hall of Williamsburg, May 8
You can just tell some people are genuine, and Steve Earle is certainly one of them. Forever wearing his heart on his sleeve, that same energy bleeds right into his music, which he played alongside what he’s calling “the best band he’s ever had.”
5. Meat Puppets, Mercury Lounge, April 4
Not only are the Meat Puppets still kicking (after living through some serious shit), but also they’re thriving. And as much as I respect their legacy, seeing them play for more than two hours with the intensity you’d expect of a band 20 years their junior makes me respect them that much more. Long live the puppets of meat! —Dan Rickershauser
My Top Five Shows
1. Dessa, Union Hall, May 5
There are few performers I feel can move mountains with their vocal chords, and Dessa is one of them. This performance was an eruption of defiant lyrics and bold beats. A sizable crowd of young girls knew all of her lyrics, giving the show a chant-like feel. The only female member of Minnesota’s Doomtree collective practically vibrates with energy, and it’s completely contagious.
2. Kishi Bashi, Irving Plaza, September 12
Kishi Bashi sounds even better live than he does recorded. And he delivered a dazzling set with profuse vocal looping and an excellent backing band. Kauro Ishibashi has a supercharged, effusive aura, and his music embodies that persona. This set took a rowdy turn that involved crowd surfing, strobe lights and an outright jam session.
3. Panama Wedding, CMJ Music Marathon
I happened upon newcomers Panama Wedding three different times during CMJ: Initially, opening for NONONO at Mercury Lounge on the first night. Since the band had only released one song, “All of the People,” I was eager to see what would unfold onstage. Their set was so tight that I caught the fantastical pop group the following night at Pianos and then again at a showcase at Santos Party House.
4. You Won’t, Rockwood Music Hall, October 30
The live iteration of You Won’t is a spectacle to behold. I watched eagerly as Josh Arnoudse and Raky Sastri wielded a slew of instruments with ease, quickly fascinating the audience. The duo took their jaunty music into the audience a couple of times to break the barrier and enlisted some extra vocal support by encouraging us to all to sing along.
5. James Blake, Terminal 5, November 6
In this spellbinding live performance, complete with plenty of vocal looping and haunting electronica, James Blake made a cavernous room filled with people feel intimate. And that he’s such a dapper-looking fellow only helps boost his appeal. I’m still transfixed by this performance nearly two months later. James Blake’s music has some serious lasting effects. —Schuyler Rooth
My Top Five Shows with Regard to Lights, Visuals and Production
1. Umphrey’s McGee, Brooklyn Bowl, January 20
Kick-ass creative lighting and Brooklyn Bowl don’t usually go hand in hand, but Umphrey’s McGee lighting guru Jefferson Waful turned the room into a thing of beauty.
3. Plaza: Portugal. The Man, Irving Plaza, May 20
4. The Flaming Lips/Tame Impala, Terminal 5, October 1
It was almost as fascinating to watch the Lips’ spectacle getting set up as it was to see it in action—confetti, strobes, LEDs and, well, pretty much everything. And Tame Impala’s projections were no slouch either.
My Top Five Albums
1. Phosphorescent, Muchacho
I’d only seen Phosphorescent once before listening to Muchacho for the first time. And while much of Matthew Houck’s previous work is country-tinged (not that there’s anything wrong with that), this album, ostensibly about a breakup, covers more territory, from the meditative sounds of “Sun, Arise (An Invocation, an Introduction)” and “Sun’s Arising (A Koan, an Exit)” to the jammy, driving “Ride On/Right On” to softer fare, like “Muchacho’s Tune,” all centered on Houck’s evocative voice. I still can’t stop listening to it.
2. Foxygen, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
Foxygen’s third full-length, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, comes off as a loving mash note to ’70s rock. You’ll hear bits of the Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground and David Bowie, but the album expertly manages to sound like something whole and new rather than something derivative.
3. White Denim, Corsicana Lemonade
Upon the first couple of listens, I found White Denim’s latest, Corsicana Lemonade, to be too singer-songwriter-y, but I continued to give it a chance, and it opened up to something much bigger, with genre-hopping songs like “Let It Feel Good (My Eagles)” and “Pretty Green”—not to mention some searing guitar parts—grabbing me by the throat.
4. Futurebirds, Baba Yaga
Admittedly, I didn’t know anything about Futurebirds, out of Athens, Ga., before writing a preview of their late-May show at The Bowery Ballroom. But while listening to their second LP, Baba Yaga, as I wrote, I became totally enamored of the album—half twangy Southern rock and half spacey reverb.
5. Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze
I love Kurt Vile’s Wakin on a Pretty Daze so much, that I can’t believe it’s only No. 5. Labeling it stoner rock, as many have done, is lazy. Although I supposed me calling it laid-back rock isn’t any better. But the fact of the matter is there might not ever be a better album to listen to while walking the streets of New York City with headphones in your ears. —R. Zizmor
Tags: Barclays Center, Basia Bulat, Beacon Theatre, Ben Gibbard, Bikini Kill, Bon Iver, Bowery Ballroom, Brooklyn Bowl, Chris Kuroda, CMJ, Conor Oberst, Daft Punk, Daughter, David Bowie, Desaparecidos, Dessa, Doomtree, Drippy Eye, EL-P, Elena Tonra, End-of-Year Recap, Flamin’ Groovies, Flaming Lips, Föllakzoid, Foxygen, Haim, Hot Chip, James Blake, Jefferson Waful, Jenny Lewis, Jessie Ware, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Tamborello, John Prine, Josh Arnoudse, Kathleen Hanna, Kauro Ishibashi, Killer Mike, Kishi Bashi, Le Tigre, Matthew Hock, Meat Puppets, Mercury Lounge, Muchacho, Music Hall of Williamsburg, NONONO, Panama Wedding, Phish, Phosphorescent, Portugal. The Man, Postal Service, Raky Sastri, Review, Rolling Stones, Run the Jewels, Sam Cooke, Shuggie Otis, Steve Earle, Tame Impala, Terminal 5, the Holydrug Couple, the Julie Ruin, the Roots, Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show: Great Job!, Tim Heidecker, Town Hall, Umphrey's McGee, Velvet Underground, Webster Hall, Yo La Tengo, You Won’t
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Foxygen – The Bowery Ballroom – October 21, 2013
The stage at The Bowery Ballroom last night was covered with spider webs, gravestones and other Halloween paraphernalia. At little past 11, Jonathan Rado crept onstage, dressed as a mad scientist, fussing around with an old Moog synthesizer that spit out a collection of dissonant, creepy tones. Then came the rest of the band, a mummy, a zombie janitor, a “mystery janitor” and lead singer Sam France dressed convincingly as Beetlejuice. France grabbed an acoustic guitar and played through a song by himself, and then the band jumped right into “On Blue Mountain.”
It was in that moment that the venue got its first taste of what the show would be like, and it tasted delicious. The song came together in an instant like it was almost a lucky coincidence of everything falling into place. As France performed the hell out of every last inch of the song, twirling around a Christmas light–covered baton, the band powered through the song’s hairpin twists and turns, approaching the bone-deep hooks like a train plummeting through a brick wall and taking every last bit of it with them. Almost as good, and all the more unpredictable, were the moments between songs that included among other things, a band member chasing France with a fake dead rat, France polling the crowd on a series of banalities, like “What’s your favorite Web site?”
Then there was France telling the audience that Kanye West was in the building and that Disney hasn’t made a good movie since Toy Story 2, and a brief moment of the band randomly jumping into a few seconds of their Halloween rendition of “Seven Nation Army.” Poking fun at their reputation for their classic-rock sound, France finished off the sing-along chorus of “Shuggie” by announcing, “We’re Foxygen, playing you the greatest hits of the ’60s and ’70s!” With such unpredictability, it almost felt like the show could fall off the rails at any moment, but it never quite does. With France as the show’s train conductor on acid, every moment’s a spectacle in some way, and the train never slows down to let anyone off. —Dan Rickershauser
Photos courtesy of Peter Senzamici | petersenzamici.com
Tags: Beetlejuice, Bowery Ballroom, Foxygen, Jonathan Rado, Kanye West, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Photos, Review, Sam France, Toy Story 2, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
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Aquarium Drunkard Showcase – Mercury Lounge – October 16, 2013
While every night on the NYC live-music scene is a potential party, a night during CMJ takes it to the next level, like an over-the-top wedding reception celebrating the marriage between the music and the fans. Like every good wedding, it’s tradition to have something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. And last night’s Aquarium Drunkard showcase at Mercury Lounge had a healthy dose of each, running the gamut from vintage sounds, new directions and, yes, plenty of blues. It’s good to get to these shows early because you never know what gems you might find. After a tussle with traffic, I made it in time for the last few songs of Jacco Gardner’s set. Hailing from the Netherlands, he is riding the acclaim of his excellent Cabinet of Curiosities album. Gardner finished his set with “Chameleon,” proving to be a one-man wormhole (with backing band), reaching back to another time with gorgeous, lush melodies and a delicious psych folk.
Cotton Jones, from Maryland, came to New York City as a two-piece, frontman Michael Nau playing several solo songs and a few in duet with Whitney McGraw. This was a simple bluesy indie rock sweetened by Nau’s salted-caramel voice, which found perfect confluence with his lyrics, a highlight being “Blood Red Sentimental Blues.” This was easy-chair music: You felt like you could listen to these two sing forever, plus some A+ whistling. But the name of the game was quick turnaround—both the bands and the crowd seemed to swap out every 30 to 40 minutes, no time to get stale. The Zig Zags, blasting a go-fetch-some-earplugs, visceral punk metal at full volume, flipped the room 180 degrees from Cotton Jones. Playing their first NYC gig, the L.A. power trio made their presence felt with kicking music and dry wit: “This song is called ‘Magic.’ It’s about magic.” Riffs beget riffs beget not-bleeping-around riffs, at one point borrowing snippets of the Doors’ “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” to good effect.
Jonathan Rado’s band began their set in fun mode, seeming like the music and the crowd were just side effects of hanging out onstage. But after a couple of songs, the Foxygen frontman’s set got rolling, the music tightening up impressively. The highlight was “Oh, Suzanna!” which was decorated with excellent bass playing and a nice long, stretched-out, free-form bridge that found Rado on both guitar and keys.
White Denim, from Austin, Texas, headlined the showcase. And despite it being their third local show in fewer than four months, the set was from-the-garden fresh and new. Opening with “Pretty Green” off their imminent new album, Corsicana Lemonade, the music felt like it could explode at any moment, bubbling with fizzy energy. And it didn’t take long, the first few tunes like an avalanche sucking up more songs and parts of others until the now-packed venue faced an unstoppable force. Perhaps it was the midnight hour, but more than ever, the band seemed willing to open up things, with the spaces between sung verses a varying parameter with solos, long jams and full-on instrumentals filling the set—each musician pushing the envelope on songs like “Anvil Everything.” It was fitting that this dizzying evening of music from all over the rock and roll map came to a head with White Denim in monster rock-out mode on “I Start to Run” before making a smooth transition into the jungle groove of “River to Consider” and then into the blazing sing-along of “Drug,” bass, guitars and drums overlapping in triumphant glory. With their seamless segues and deft skill, Denim mocked the tight schedule of the early evening, making their 75-minute performance feel almost infinite, as a high-energy “Shake Shake Shake” and the brain-batter instrumental “At the Farm” highlighted the end of the superlative show, capping off a huge evening of music … or just another night of CMJ. —A. Stein
Tags: Aquarium Drunkard, Austin Jenkins, Cabinet of Curiosities, Corsicana Lemonade, Cotton Jones, Foxygen, Jacco Gardner, James Petralli, Jeff Tweedy, Jonathan Rado, Joshua Block, Mercury Lounge, Michael Nau, Review, Steve Terebecki, the Doors, the Zig Zags, White Denim, Whitney McGraw
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We’re teaming up with the good people at SPIN to offer one lucky winner a pair of tickets to six great shows this month: Unknown Mortal Orchestra at The Bowery Ballroom on 10/11, the Dismemberment Plan with Wild Cub at Terminal 5 on 10/18, Foxygen at Music Hall of Williamsburg on 10/22, Toro y Moi at Terminal 5 on 10/23, Frightened Rabbit at Webster Hall on 10/24 and Holy Ghost! at Terminal 5 on 10/31. You must be at least 18 to win, and we’ll choose a winner after noon on 10/10. Click for a chance to win.
Tags: Bowery Ballroom, Foxygen, Frightened Rabbit, Holy Ghost!, Musich Hall of Williamsburg, SPIN, Terminal 5, the Dismemberment Plan, Toro Y Moi, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Webster Hall, Wild Cub
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Foxygen – Mercury Lounge – May 15, 2013
Bicoastal buds Sam France (Olympia, Wash.) and Jonathan Rado (New York City) comprise the duo known as Foxygen. And after hearing their song “San Francisco,” this City by the Bay native couldn’t help but get hooked on the sounds reminiscent of late-’60s Haight Ashbury. After a close call at SXSW, the boys have rested and recovered to play a trio of New York City shows this week, culminating in a sold-out Mercury Lounge gig last night. Appropriately, the venue served as the breakthrough for the band since they passed along their Take the Kids Off to Broadway EP to eventual We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic producer Richard Swift (the Shins, Damien Jurado) at a Mynabirds show at the Merc in early 2011.
Amongst a largely male crowd, France greeted the crowd with an ecstatic “Wassup?” followed by a scream that opened into “Jesusss.” Clad in black, France pranced around stage singing “On Blue Mountain” and emphatically thrusting his fist into the air. His usual stage antics had him confessing, “I don’t care if I’m in trouble at all. I’m an idiot. I don’t care. I don’t blame you. I suck.” Fans soaked up his banter and rocked along to “In the Darkness” and “Make It Known.”
As bassist Justin Nijssen sipped from his bottle of wine, France took a moment to introduce his onstage cast of characters before getting into fan favorite “Shuggie,” to a sea of bobbing heads, and then Foxygen’s recent single, “No Destruction.” The remainder of the evening was set to a cacophony of France’s screeching vocals, organ chimes and heavy basslines. The frontman climbed atop amps and the drum kit for their recent LP’s title track, “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic.” No encore was played: “Our shit’s broken,” announced France. But that didn’t seem to bother exiting concertgoers. One even playfully concluded, “I want what they are on.” —Sharlene Chiu
Tags: Damien Jurado, Foxygen, Jonathan Rado, Justin Nijssen, Mercury Lounge, Photos, Review, Richard Swift, Sam France, Take the Kids Off to Broadway, the Mynabirds, the Shins, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
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Unknown Mortal Orchestra/Foxygen – The Bowery Ballroom – February 28, 2013
The first time I saw Unknown Mortal Orchestra (or UMO) a couple years back, they were a support act you could just tell wouldn’t be an opener for too much longer. So it felt like no coincidence that their big sold-out headlining show last night at The Bowery Ballroom would feature an opening band riding an acclaimed debut album and the justified hype to sold-out headlining gigs of their own before too long. That band, Foxygen, took the stage in a blaze of manic energy and echo-reverb ooh la la’s, twitching their way through pretty much all of their new We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic album. Those recorded tracks come off as retrofitted rock gems, but live they were a delightfully jagged and ragged set. Untethered from the studio, the sound felt like 1960s rock and roll in a blender: a juicy cocktail of Jagger’s vocals, McCartney’s bass, Morrison’s lithe, wild-eyed stage presence, the Who’s bombastic energy, an occasional dash of Dylan’s off-kilter harmonica, topped off with Neil Young’s hat. It was a delicious brew that the expectant crowd guzzled down happily, highlighted by whiplash versions of “On Blue Mountain” and “No Destruction.”
If Foxygen offered a look back for Unknown Mortal Orchestra, UMO returned the favor. Riding on a next-step sophomore album, simply titled II, the Portland, Ore., trio crackled with the confident, cohesive energy of a band in control. On paper, UMO are a standard power trio—guitar, bass and drums—but their sound has a subtle surrealistic edge. This is a power trio as painted by Salvador Dali, melting over the limbs of trees and walls in a distorted reality. They opened with a splash of older material, centered on the catchy, off-center “Thought Ballune,” every bit of music crunched through just the right amount of distortion. From there, they unveiled track after track from the new album, the heavy-hitter middle section of the show characterized by a nonstop, groove-rock bass playing from Jake Portrait, which propelled along each tune. Frontman Ruban Nielson, looking downright wizardlike in poncho and hat, took over from there, leading the band through the set’s final third, which seemed to get better with each passing riff. Centered on a surprising sing-along version of “From the Sun,” Nielson fit powerful guitar solos into perfectly orchestrated pieces, with each sound from the pummeling drumming of Riley Geare to Nielson’s vocals locked into place. That tune relented into a wonderful Frank Zappa section, which kept at it through the remainder: The band sounding as if Zappa were leading Zeppelin as a power trio through an updated psychedelic catalog.
While the late-night packed crowd thinned out a bit around midnight, those who remained to the end seemed to hear pretty much everything from both albums by the end of the night, from the just-weird-enough “Ffunny Ffriends,” off the self-titled debut to the soulful “So Good at Being in Trouble,” off II. I was struck by how much better the already-darn-good band had gotten since that opening hit, getting me to already contemplate their next time through town, as well as what the future brings for Foxygen. And of course, most important, who will be opening for them when they’re playing their big sold-out headlining show. —A. Stein
Tags: Bob Dylan, Bowery Ballroom, Foxygen, Frank Zappa, II, Jake Portrait, Jim Morrison, Jonathan Rado, Led Zeppelin, Mick Jagger, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Review, Riley Geare, Ruban Nielson, Sam France, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
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Aquarium Drunkard: No Jacket Required Showcase – Mercury Lounge – October 16, 2012
It’s that time of year again, when the weather gets cooler, the leaves start to turn and I somehow deceive myself into thinking I have the willpower to stay away from the candy corn I bought for Halloween. You guessed it—the CMJ Music Marathon is back, and artists from around the world have already begun to descend upon us for the most glorious five days of music New York City has to offer. Here’s what CMJ entails: bands play a slew of shows, trying to squeeze in as many gigs as possible into the short period of time that CMJ runs. In response, venues endeavor to stuff as many sets as possible onto one bill. Bands get onstage, play their 20- to 30-minute set and move on to the next venue. And that can be frustrating; just as you start to warm up to a group you like, they pull the plug and exit the stage as fast as possible.
But at Aquarium Drunkard’s No Jacket Required showcase last night at Mercury Lounge, Foxygen found a way to skirt the rules. After a solid set by Calvin Love, the talented solo act from Edmonton, Alta., Foxygen set up their equipment in a flash and hit the stage a full 15 minutes before their slotted set time. That eagerness epitomizes their energetic showmanship: If their most recent record, Take the Kids Off Broadway, sounds like a shaken-up bottle of soda ready to explode, their live show is what happens when someone finally unscrews the cap. Sonically, they resemble your dad’s favorite classic-rock compilation but reinterpreted in a highly frenetic, almost hardcore vein. It’s incredibly familiar while being undeniably fresh, and it came together perfectly in the intimate setting.
Lead singer Sam France’s mania emanated throughout the venue—he screamed, gestured and shook as if he had been possessed by some sort of rock and roll demon. At one point he asked, “Is it satanic?” about New York City. And judging by how riled up everyone was, it very well might have been. His band and the enraptured audience fed off of each other, and even stage banter received hearty applause and various yips from appreciative concertgoers. By the end of the set, after several full-fledged musical freak-outs, the demon of New York City had apparently been exorcised from France’s body—but I wouldn’t be surprised if it appears again later this week. —Alex Kapelman
Tags: Aquarium Drunkard, Bowery Ballroom, Calvin Love, CMJ Music Marathon, Foxygen, Jonathan Rado, Mercury Lounge, Piano's, Review, Sam France, Webster Hall
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Here in New York City, it’s the most musical time of the year because the CMJ Music Marathon, tomorrow through Saturday, is upon us (check out a selection of the bands you can see, above): five days and nights jam packed with bands playing in all sorts of places, including those you wouldn’t normally think would have a concert, plus plenty of the usual suspects. The Bowery Ballroom hosts CMJ lineups on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Mercury Lounge welcomes the Aquarium Drunkard: No Jacket Required lineup tomorrow, the Windish Showcase on Wednesday, the Merge Records Showcase on Thursday, a FREE late-night show with Ratking on Friday and the MezzoForte Showcase on Saturday. And, of course, Music Hall of Williamsburg is on in this, too, with the Captured Tracks Showcase on Thursday and the Fat Wreck/Rocks Off Showcase on Friday. And once again we’re throwing our annual day party at Pianos with seven bands downstairs and six upstairs on Saturday. Get involved with a whole day of great tunes plus bloody marys and margaritas.
Tags: Aquarium Drunkard, Ava Luna, Believers, Black Taxi, Black Wing Halo, Blessed Feathers, Born Ruffians, Bowery Ballroom, Calvin Love, Captured Tracks, Choir of Young, CMJ Music Marathon, Daughter, Dead to Me, Deadbeat Darling, Deap Vally, Dent May, Diana, Dignan Porch, DIIV, Doldrums, Duologue, Eleanor Friedberger, Emma Louise, Fat Wreck, Foxygen, Gabriel Bruce, High Highs, Hundred Waters, IO Echo, J. Thoven, Lagwagon, Little Green Cars, Mac DeMarco, Mac McCaughan, Mercury Lounge, Merge Records, MezzoForte, MNDR, Mount Moriah, Mozart’s Sister, MS MR, Murals, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Opossom, Pacific Air, Piano's, Preview, Quiet Company, Rafiq Bhatia, Ratking, Reigning Sound, Rocks Off, San Cisco, Savages, Skaters, Sky Ferreira, Solid Gold, Sphynx, Strange Talk, Tashaki Miyaki, Telekinesis, the Flatliners, the Frontier Brothers, the Modern Electric, the Orwells, Thieves Like Us, Useless ID, Video, Wild Adriatic, William Tyler, Windish Agency, Zulu Pearls
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