Formed in Austin, Texas, in 1965, the 13th Floor Elevators were psychedelic pioneers, influencing the likes of the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin, “led by outsider genius Roky Erickson, who combined offbeat spiritualism with crude R&B,” according to Allmusic. “Many have cited them as the first true psychedelic rock band, and if they weren’t, they certainly predated most of the San Francisco bands that gave the sound a global audience. The Elevators played a bracing fusion of garage rock and genre-defying musical exploration powered by Roky Erickson’s feral vocals and rhythm guitar.” Erickson and his bandmates were known as vocal proponents of mind-expanding drugs, and when the frontman was arrested in Texas for the possession of just one joint, he pleaded insanity rather than go to jail for up to a decade. Erickson spent three-and-a-half years in a mental institution and was subjected to electroshock therapy and Thorazine treatments before being released in 1972. He eventually became a notable recluse along the lines of Syd Barrett, Brian Wilson, Daniel Johnston and Skip Spence. But Erickson (above, performing “Don’t Shake Me Lucifer” and “Two Headed Dog”) still occasionally found time to record and even tour. His most recent solo release, True Love Cast Out All Evil (stream it below), backed by Okkervil River, came out in 2010. “A tumultuous history hasn’t stopped the former 13th Floor Elevator from achieving greatness,” said NME. And Pitchfork added: “On this affecting and ultimately triumphant album, Erickson comes out on top.” His new tour launches today, and Erickson plays Rough Trade NYC on Tuesday and Wednesday. L.A. experimental rockers Death Valley Girls open both shows.
Tag Archives: Janis Joplin
At just 16, Joss Stone (above, covering Stone Temple Pilots’ “Interstate Love Song”), and her big, soulful voice, first rose to fame with the release of her debut LP, The Soul Sessions (stream it below)—reinterpretations of classic soul songs—in 2003, earning her heady comparisons to Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin in the process. The award-winning singer has remained in the public eye ever since, appearing in films and TV shows and releasing six more studio albums, three EPs and a host of singles. Her most recent LP, Water for Your Soul (stream it below), came out last summer, impressing the folks at Paste, who call her a “modern queen of the timeless old-school soul,” adding that she “walks a tightrope between real-world consciousness and Hacky Sack hippie oblivious. But throughout, Stone maintains her soulful vocals without resorting to diva histrionics.” A consummate performer, Joss Stone plays the Space at Westbury tomorrow night.
Tags: Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Joscelyn Stoker, Joss Stone, Live Music, Music, Preview, Space at Westbury, The Soul Sessions, Video, Water for Your Soul
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Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers – The Bowery Ballroom – August 28, 2015
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
Tags: Aaron Stein, All These Dreams, Allman Brothers Band, Andrew Combs, Andy Falco, Bowery Ballroom, Funkadelic, Grace Slick, Gram Parsons, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Live Music, Love Wild Lost, Music, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, Review, Stevie Nicks
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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