Tag Archives: Funkadelic

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The Bowery Ballroom Gets Hit by a Force of Nature

August 31st, 2015

Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers – The Bowery Ballroom – August 28, 2015

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The giant image of a clearing in the woods—echoing the album cover of Nicki Bluhm’s new LP, Loved Wild Lost—that hung at the back of the stage on Friday night added a touch of mystery to The Bowery Ballroom. But there was nothing mysterious about Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers’ appeal as they easily won over the crowd with a high-energy performance of originals and covers. Before they took the stage, Andrew Combs offered an excellent opening set of country music unleashed. Playing songs like “Slow Road to Jesus” and “Suwannee County” off his new album, All These Dreams, Combs and his band mixed harmonies and groovy playing to get the audience warmed up and then some.

Afterward, Bluhm followed her bandmates onstage, immediately a towering presence standing there in a low-cut white jumpsuit, her hair blown constantly by a fan. The ’70s-sex-appeal look matched her voice and the band’s sound, which straddled country, rock and soul with natural ease. They opened with “Heart Gets Tough,” off the new album, Bluhm belting out the lyrics while the Gramblers settled in. Throughout the set, she was a powerful mix of Grace Slick, Stevie Nicks and Janis Joplin, shining on the high-energy, high-volume material like “Mr. Saturday Night,” and just as powerful on the quiet, tender side, on songs like “Only Always.” The Gramblers were a seasoned complement, a rocking force that allowed Bluhm to strut and dance around the stage, picking up strategically placed tambourines and other percussion instruments along the way.

Bluhm and the Gramblers are well-known for their Van Sessions—online videos of covers performed while on the road—so it’s no surprise that the show featured several great picks, including a this-song-is-a-perfect-fit rendition of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love.” Funkadelic’s “Can You Get to That” was done acoustically in front of a single microphone, country meeting funk and getting along swimmingly. Afterward, when everyone moved to go back to their original spots onstage, Bluhm was having none of it: She called them back for a fun sing-along take on the Grateful Dead’s “Deal.” Later, they invited Combs and his entire band out for a hootenanny of a jam session on Gram Parsons’ “Ooh Las Vegas.” Still, Bluhm and Co. weren’t yet finished, saving their best all-out rocking and jamming for the show’s final stretch, which included a romp on “Little Too Late” and Andy Falco sitting in on a double-guitar, Allman Brothers–esque take on “Jetplane,” before finally ending the set with “Kill You to Call,” Bluhm at full strength, a force of nature that the Gramblers were only barely able to corral. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

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Landlady Holiday Spectacular: Great Night of Music for a Great Cause

December 9th, 2014

 The Landlady Holiday Spectacular – Mercury Lounge – December 8, 2014

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I walked into Mercury Lounge last night to a festive holiday party already in progress. There were blinking lights, multiple trees and decorations throughout the room, a jar labeled FREE CANDY offered candy canes, and Santa Claus had just hopped off the stage to lead the room in “Silent Night.” Far be it from me to call Santa a liar, but the Landlady Holiday Spectacular would turn out to be anything but a silent night. In fact, with a makeshift second stage set up on the side of the room, there was almost no pause in the music for three-and-a-half hours, with brass bands big and small to indie-rock quartets to bluegrass trios, folk duos, large Afrobeat ensembles and almost anything else you could imagine. The sets were quick: two to four songs each, so if you didn’t like what you were hearing, you didn’t have to wait long, but that was rarely the case. It would take too long to even try to list the proceedings, probably about a dozen bands played in all, but there were Zula mixing Latin rhythms in an indie rock thing, the Westerlies adding Christmas songs to originals arranged for two trombones and a trumpet, the avant drum-and-guitar duo Star Rover expertly going post-post-rock, and Zongo Junction getting everyone boogieing down with their big, funky Afrobeat.

The audience constantly rotated between the front and the side, where little impromptu groups would spring up in between the more established ones, like when Rubblebucket’s Kal Traver joined the man of the hour, Adam Schatz, on a nice bluesy sax-and-vocals duet. Although the room was full, at times it felt like there were more musicians in the crowd than paying customers, a constant stream of saxophones and guitars fighting their way one of the stages. If this party were a movie, Schatz, who amazingly made the evening work while sitting in on sax with almost everyone, would’ve filled the director, producer and lead-actor roles. Still, by the time his band, Landlady, took the stage there was a risk that it would be anticlimactic after all that had already come. Not to worry, there wasn’t a chance of that happening. They opened with “Under the Yard,” off their new album, Upright Behavior, and raised the energy a few notches, mixing harmonies and offbeat rhythms with Schatz’s unique songwriting. The music was a groovy, progressive New Wave, a Talking Heads for the 21st century, with Schatz gesticulating lovingly at the front on keyboards. But even as he led Landlady through their repertoire—the title track and “Dying Day” were early set highlights—he was directing the show, prompting a horn section on the side stage to enter the fray at just the right moment.

Of course, with so many friends in the house, you had to expect even more collaborations, guests and permutations, and Schatz quickly ceded the stage to Jared Samuel (leading the band in a nice cover of George Harrison’s “Awaiting on You All”), Sam Cohen, Xenia Rubinos and Luke Temple. This highlight stretch turned Landlady into an expert house band primed for late-night talk shows, slipping between genres as easily as flipping through LPs at the record store. As if to punctuate the point, Landlady invited pretty much everyone onstage for a closing climactic one-two punch of covers by Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love” and Funkadelic’s “I Got a Thing.” With horns, guitars, drums and what seemed like the whole room singing along, spectacular doesn’t even begin to describe the festivities. It should also be noted that the whole night was a benefit for the Bushwick School of Music, which provides music education to kids who wouldn’t otherwise receive it in school. It was a worthy cause, indeed. Guys like Adam Schatz just don’t appear beneath the Christmas tree, you know. —A Stein | @Neddyo

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Get Psychedelic with Goat Tomorrow Night at Webster Hall

June 17th, 2014

The mysterious psychedelic collective Goat hail from Middle-of-Nowhere Sweden, and according to the Guardian, they mash together “funk and tribal rhythms, kraut and prog-rock repetition/extrapolation, psych freakery and astral/acid folkisms…. It’s a superjam involving Faust, Funkadelic, Fairport Convention and Fela Kuti.” Their lone full-length, World Music (stream it below), came out in 2012 to some considerable acclaim. According to BBC Music, upon listening to the album, you’ll find “that being a casual bystander simply isn’t an option: It’s all too captivating, too delirious and too gosh-darn wonderful for you not to join the fray. So surrender your mind, body and soul to the Goat and one of the year’s best albums so far.” Of course it’s worth mentioning that Goat are not just about their recorded material. In fact, their relentless performances—or “live rituals,” as they call them—are more like psychedelic costume parties, masks and all. And fresh off Bonnaroo, Goat play Webster Hall tomorrow night. Austin, Texas, garage-psych five-piece Holy Wave open the show.