Tag Archives: Phish

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Twiddle Need No Introduction at the Space at Westbury on Wednesday

November 27th, 2017

Twiddle – the Space at Westbury – November 22, 2017


At some point, up-and-comers on a hot streak don’t just keep coming up—they arrive. And in the past two years, that’s happened to Twiddle, the Vermont quartet that through aggressive touring and a relentless, old-school, word-of-mouth approach to fan-base cultivation, has earned a place in the conversation of groups that define this next generation of jam bands. They may not be for everybody, as someone once said about another Vermont foursome heavy on improvisational chops, left-of-center songwriting and a constellation of influences. But they do what it is they do in earnest, and what they do is take quirky, friendly rock, funk, reggae and boogie tunes—written with both a free-associative innocence and a knowing wryness—and stretch them wide, wringing out their jammy possibilities, whether that takes five minutes or 45.

And man, Twiddle are infectious: Singer-guitarist Mihali Savoulidis, keyboardist Ryan Dempsey, bassist Zdenek Gubb and drummer-percussionist Brook Jordan are obviously having so much fun together that you get the sense they’d be doing this regardless of whether crowds showed up. As it happens, crowds do show up, and the Space at Westbury’s packed assembly was a typically lively one on Wednesday night, the first of three local Thanksgiving shows to close Twiddle’s fall tour. The band was smiley and loose—are they ever not smiley and loose?—and indulged one long, shape-shifting headliner set like they had all the time in the world. Shows like Twiddle’s are defined by ephemera—this moment, these players, played like this, with these progressions, asides and hairpin turns, and all in a way that by definition will never happen the same way again.

Twiddle built their Space at Westbury set around two expansive suites, one involving the exhilarating jam vehicle “Amydst the Myst,” and the other around fan favorite “Doinkinbonk!!!,” allowing all four members ample room to stretch out over Gubb’s roiling bass in a series of chameleonic jam segments. The band customarily threw in some guests too, including guitar prodigy Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, a frequent Twiddle-in–New York sit-in, who stepped out for a shredding “Syncopated Healing,” and keyboardist Josh Dobbs, of local favorites Cats Under the Stars, for the Beatles’ “Rocky Raccoon.” Twiddle have hit a point now where any show they play is a good introduction, and this was a fine specimen. But based on the roars of appreciably larger crowds, we’re past the introduction stage. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson

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Tweed and the McLovins Play Late at Mercury Lounge This Weekend

August 3rd, 2017

Philly four-piece Tweed—AJ DiBiase (guitar and vocals), Joe Vela (drums), Jon Tomczak (synths and vocals) and Dan McDonald (bass and vocals)—have been getting people to the dance floor with their infectious mash-up of funk, rock and electronics, not to mention their improvisation-filled high-energy live performances. And following Phish at the Garden, you can keep the good times going with Tweed (above, covering “You Can Call Me Al”) playing late night at Mercury Lounge on Friday night. Brooklyn progressive-funk quartet the Phryg open the show.

Another improvisational quartet, the McLovins (above, doing “Buildin’ It Up”)—Jake Huffman (drums and vocals), Jason Ott (bass and vocals), Justin Berger (guitar and vocals) and Atticus Kelly (keys and vocals)—also do late-night duty after Phish this weekend, playing Mercury Lounge on Saturday night. The Hartford band’s most recent album, a self-titled affair (stream it below), out in 2015, is filled with the progressive mix of rock, funk, jazz and soul you can expect to witness live on Saturday night.

 

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Sylvan Esso Triumphantly Return to Celebrate Brooklyn

July 27th, 2017

Sylvan Esso – Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell – July 26, 2017


(Sylvan Esso play My Morning Jacket’s One Big Holiday on 3/2-6.)

Killer squirrels be damned, last night Sylvan Esso returned to Prospect Park, almost two years to the day since they’d last performed there. Not even signs around the park warning of our now infamous and unusually aggressive squirrel with a taste for human flesh could tamp down the mood of an otherwise beautiful night for music. “We had a lovely weekend in your city. Last night we saw Phish. It was my first time,” said singer Amelia Meath. “And my 22nd,” added Sylvan Esso producer and beat-master Nick Sanborn. “I get it, I got it, I got it. I think I got it,” said Meath, referring to the Phish “thing.”

For anyone unfamiliar with a Sylvan Esso live show, it’s important to note that Meath can fucking dance. “Man, she’s GOING for it,” said a woman next to me two songs into the set. Slithering, snaking her body through a web of beats, whipping around a ponytail, Meath can make a big stage seem somehow not big enough for two people: They own it. Outdoor shows can make everything seem bigger, but providing the backdrop for this dance-y performance mutated their bedroom pop songs into downright pop anthems—and they’re pop anthems the world seems to need right now.

“This song is about feeling good and making yourself feel good. Whether it’s in your own skin or your mother-fucking country, we stand with you everyday,” said Meath introducing “Dress.” Something about this musical duo has made sense from Day One. Meath’s silky smooth voice contrasts beautifully against Sanborn’s choppy, scattered beats. “Signal,” maybe the craziest beat of any of their songs, had Meath’s voice split into octaves harmonizing with itself. Their megahit, “Coffee,” came out as the mid-set stimulant, complete with “get up, get down” sing-alongs. Just two albums in and Sylvan Esso already have an impressive roster of insanely catchy songs, like “Just Dancing,” “Hey Mami” and “H.S.K.T.” The twosome closed the set with their first single off their second album, “Radio.” It’s a huge amount of pop songs to be written by a duo. Most other pop acts get, at best, a few singles off each album, worked many times over by massive teams of the world’s most renowned producers in music. But Sylan Esso are a David in a world of pop Goliaths, and Goddamn can that David dance. —Dan Rickershauser |@D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Pip Cowley | pipcowleyshoots.com

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RAQ Play Late After Phish at Mercury Lounge on Friday and Saturday

July 20th, 2017

The guys in RAQJay Burwick (bass and vocals), Chris Michetti (guitar and vocals), Todd Stoops (keys and vocals) and Scotty Zwang (drums)—formed the experimental, improvisational jam band in Burlington, Vt., at the turn of the century. They’ve been winning over fans ever since thanks to their complex song structures and quirky-yet-accessible lyrics. And with Phish kicking off 13 dates at Madison Square Garden beginning tomorrow night, RAQ (above, doing “Beauregard”) will be handling late-night duties on Friday and then again on Saturday at Mercury Lounge.

 

 

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Animal Collective Stretch the Limits at Brooklyn Steel on Tuesday

May 24th, 2017

Animal Collective – Brooklyn Steel – May 23, 2017


We have arrived at the stage where there is absolutely no telling what you’re going to get at an Animal Collective show. Essentially, they are the computer-generation equivalent of the Grateful Dead and Phish when it comes to live-performance unpredictability. Impulse and whim stir together with rote knowledge of every song in their nearly 15 years of recordings that have traveled through woods and rocketed into the space age. Their familiarity with one another’s moves from playing on- and offstage is such that the holy triumvirate of Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist can wander off trail to blaze another, then find their way back without a compass. The collective experience akin to being tugged into velvet, open-lake waters, a first time water skier on their rippling currents of electronic sound.

Last night, Animal Collective swam about the confines of Brooklyn Steel like betas in a fish bowl, stretching the limits. Releasing a deluge of strawberry electro jams that oozed outward like they’d been left out in the sun, the band treated the opportunity as kids would a new neighborhood playground, sonically leaping and bounding and beckoning others to join in the frolicking. Over the course of the run of shows since releasing last year’s Painting With, it’s been each member at his control station of sound backed by a drummer. The character of their live performances, without fourth member Deakin, has then taken on the more cubic and elastic tone of Painting With, which didn’t feature Deakin.

From the quicksand of cosmic slop Animal Collective create emerged the type A–personality bounce of “FloriDada” and “Hocus Pocus,” and staying in that key, the wild bunch stretched out their legs on the subsequent The Painters EP by hurling “Peacemaker” into the room to bounce about in a manner resembling Atari’s Breakout. Avey Tare and Panda Bear’s vocal interplay formed a snake dance on “Lying in the Grass” before the gang took us back to older fare like “Summertime Clothes” and “Guys Eyes.” Songs melted into one another as an up-tempo trance-hop version of “Bees” spread over the sizeable room. On some of the set’s jumpier tunes, Tare came forth to dance loosely along with his animalistic vocal calls. When Animal Collective returned for the encore, it was to extend the evening for as long as they could hold their breath under their water world of experiments. Thanking friends and family for coming out to see them at a new playground, the band plunged back in, to the delight of all. On this night, Brooklyn Steel was where the wild things were. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

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Spafford’s Hot Streak Continues at Music Hall of Williamsburg

April 14th, 2017

Spafford – Music Hall of Williamsburg – April 13, 2017

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The jam-band scene is a happy-eyed, self-sustaining beast: Young bands grow to become veteran and vanguard bands—just as they did a generation earlier in the post–Grateful Dead afterglow—and then do their part to support the next generation of improvisers and torchbearers. Fans do the same: Word of mouth does wonders for long-term support of a fledgling jam band like in no other pocket of the music scene, especially as buzz builds and what was seemingly moments ago a regional favorite is now a headliner with national buzz, collecting believers left and right.

And so, as of April 2017, goes Spafford, the Arizona-based four-piece on a true hot streak, coming off a summer tour opening for Umphrey’s McGee, and now, as evidenced by a slam-bang show last night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, well worthy of the spot atop bills. Despite mounting their first national tour less than a year ago, Spafford are a band with “future vanguard” written all over them. They played until well after midnight: two sets of shape-shifting, rigorously funky groove music that hit all the hallmarks—segues, guests (what up, Todd Stoops!), well-chosen covers that added but didn’t dominate, plus lengthy, unhurried workouts on songs with names like “Slip and Squander,” “Electric Taco Stand” and “In the Eyes of Thieves,” that last one a hot groover that emerged from a spookily psychedelic place and built to peak after hammering peak with screaming guitar.

People have grabbed on to Spafford early because there’s a lot to grab. I liked the patient builds and forward-looking improvisations, which didn’t feel like extended vamps—didn’t revel in ambient noise—and seemed to have a destination in mind even as they slowly unfolded. “America,” a chugging, panoramic road trip, was a great example. I liked their Dead cover, “Feel Like a Stranger,” soaked in keys and perfect for who the band is. I liked the filthy disco of “Ain’t That Wrong,” with Stoops spider-handing the keys. I liked “Beautiful Day,” an anthemic stroll that hit somewhere among Phish, Ben Harper and Bill Withers. It segued into “Leave the Light On” to close the second set—lilting, a little tentative, and then building into one more jammy release. I like that these guys trust one another and can demonstrate, astonishingly well sometimes, a deeply connected understanding of where they want to take a song, instead of just surrounding the guitar player and letting him cut loose every four minutes.—Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson

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Ween Throw a Raging Party at Terminal 5 on Thursday Night

April 15th, 2016

Ween – Terminal 5 – April 14, 2016

Ween – Terminal 5 – April 14, 2016
It was clear even before these Terminal 5 shows sold out immediately that Ween’s return to New York City would be a capital-E Event. The band’s recent years were messy, with a full-blown breakup in 2012 and then a range of interesting commitments for each member until the rumor mill began to churn and whispers of a reunion turned into possibilities, then confirmations, then hard tickets and, finally, actual shows played, in the form of a three-night run in Colorado back in February. Now it’s NYC’s turn, and the first show of another three-night run, this time at a sold-out Terminal 5, was a raging party. In this season of can’t-believe-it reunions, from LCD Soundsystem to Guns N’ Roses, Ween’s might be the tastiest of all, at least to those who know every iota of songs like “Roses Are Free,” “Bananas and Blow,” “You Fucked Up” and “Help Me Scrape the Mucus Off My Brain.”

You don’t so much embrace Ween’s diabolically diverse catalog as reckon with it. Their repertoire culls from some nine different studio albums, covers, obscurities and new songs, too, and they do a remarkable job during their live show of splaying it all out there, multifaceted as it is, without losing energy or muddling the pace. Opening night at Terminal 5 moved—pinballed, really—from the giddy grooves of “Roses” and smart-alecky island maneuvers of “Bananas and Blow” to the sludgy, stomping rock of “The Grobe,” the curled-lip honky-tonk of “Japanese Cowboy” and the cheeky whimsy of “Boys Club.” The song count topped 30, as it often does at Ween shows that, like this one, stretched to two-and-a-half hours. One moment we were in the twisted-Beatles pop of “Little Birdy,” another we were singing along to the rage-burnt folk of “Baby Bitch.” Another still we entered the Floyd-ian psychedelic muck of “Mushroom Festival in Hell,” which flirted with a full devolution into noise rock in a hail of guitar fire.

The hard-partying crowd went wild for almost every song, and the band—throwing knowing smiles and shit-eating grins at the audience like the smart kids in the back of the class they’ve always been—seemed genuinely touched by the hero’s welcome. Ween are part of a rock lineage that’s brutally hard to define but you know it when you see it. Whatever that thread is that connects Frank Zappa and the Aquarium Rescue Unit to Phish and Gogol Bordello—dazzling musicality, technical prowess and songwriting depth beneath a sense of humor, heaps of personality and a few high jinks here and there—it’s in Ween’s stitching, too. A Ween-less world is a less exciting place, and what a happy thing that the band remembers that, too. —Chad Berndtson | @cberndtson

Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com

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The Capitol Theatre Hosts a Matisyahu Anniversary Tonight

March 11th, 2016

Some stories seem like you’ve heard them before. But Matisyahu’s is probably a little more uncommon. As a teenager on Phish tour, Matthew Miller had an interest in hip-hop and reggae. Later he grew interested in the strict Lubavitch Hasidic sect of Judaism and joined a synagogue where his musical ambition was encouraged. Soon enough Miller had a talented backing band and—under the name Matisyahu—he became an engaging performer of his own mash-up of dancehall, hip-hop, beatbox, reggae and rock. Eventually, Matisyahu decided to go beardless, saying, “No more Chassidic reggae superstar. Sorry, folks, all you get is me…. I am reclaiming myself. Trusting my goodness and my divine mission.” But despite the change in his appearance, Matis’s music remains as good as ever. And he’s currently out on the road celebrating the 10-year anniversary of his acclaimed second studio album, Youth (stream it below). “While what Matisyahu does might be unique, there’s nothing shticky about it,” according to the A.V. Club. “Matisyahu’s willingness to draw influences from outside his comfort zone bodes well for his future, as does the unshakable sense that he’s created everything here out of joyous obligation. In any genre, God only rarely gets grooves this good.” Join the celebration when Matisyahu (above, performing Youth’s third track,  “Time of Your Song” live at Stubb’s in Austin, Texas) plays the Capitol Theatre tonight.

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Acid Mothers Temple Keep On Going

April 24th, 2014

Acid Mothers Temple – Mercury Lounge – April 23, 2014

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We all know looks can be deceiving. But sometimes the look is actually dead-on accurate. And last night’s late show at Mercury Lounge was proof enough of that. Close your eyes and listen to the opening act, Perhaps, and you might imagine a bunch of very talented young guys in T-shirts and jeans jamming out like they can’t believe they’re getting paid to do this. Open your eyes and that’s pretty much exactly what you’d have seen. The image was enhanced a bit by the fact that the bassist was wearing a Phish T-shirt and the guitarist’s T was for Morphine (the band or the drug—I’m not 100 percent sure—I believe the former, but either works in this case). The Boston quintet married thrashing rock and roll with a jazz-fusion mentality and drawn-out, high-energy improvisation to good effect. They’re a band to keep your eye on, so to speak.

Close your eyes once more for the headliner, Acid Mothers Temple, and listen to the music, and in your mind’s eye you might see a quintet of long-haired bearded Japanese wizards casting enchantments, causing minor explosions of psychedelic rock. Of course, that’s exactly what was going down onstage, the veterans of the psych-rock revival from before there was a psych-rock revival returned to the Merc with a nonstop torrent of guitars and bass. Their set was a long-form freak-out, entrancing the full house with a hypnotic cascade of jamming. This was a band that does nothing in moderation: Their first piece began loud and angry and grew louder and angrier, without a pause for contemplation or introspection (appropriately, one dude in the middle of the floor passed out almost immediately after the music reached full-strength). The second song had a groovier feel, the bass filling the room almost completely, guitars oozing into any nooks they could find.

When things quieted down enough to allow one of the band members to play a fluorescent plastic-recorder-type thing, there was some incoherent chanting going on—which is all to say, Acid Mothers Temple did slow down, but mostly just to get weird. By the fourth piece, the set was already 40 minutes long and showed no signs of relenting. This song was an epic masterpiece, beginning quietly with some nice guitar picking and then building into a long, glorious, there-goes-Jupiter, who-brought-the-snacks? voyage. It was easy to get lost in your own brain as the tune built and built in a glorious droning jam, fractions of an hour ticking by in what felt like no time at all. The piece eased through multiple sections, each highlighting the band’s veteran prowess and propensity to just keep on going, with very little complaint from the crowd as the clock reached midnight. Eventually, the song concluded some 20 minutes later, but the set kept going. And for all I know, they’re still jamming out, but at some point I had to close my eyes once again. —A. Stein

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Mike Gordon Shares New Toys at Webster Hall

March 3rd, 2014

Mike Gordon – Webster Hall – March 1, 2014

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During his sold-out show at Webster Hall on Saturday night, Mike Gordon explained that he was like a kid in a candy shop thanks to all the new toys he had at his disposal. Some of them, he said, were the new songs off his recent release, Overstep, and others were the new visual technologies employed throughout the two-set show. The former included a first-set “Surface” with a syncopated-jam section and a show-closing “Long Black Line” with a long improvisation that settled on many themes between Gordon, guitarist Scott Murawksi and keyboard player Tom Cleary. The latter included light-up guitars and a set of oversized “keys” that front-row audience members got to “play” during one jam like some interactive exhibit at a children’s museum. While all of these toys were great to hear and fun to look at, it was clear watching the Phish bassist guide his solo project throughout the night that the band was one big plaything for Gordon.

Gordon not only got to satisfy his polymath urges, but he also got to be the frontman, banter included. So when there were some technical difficulties, Gordon tried to explain moiré patterns to the audience (which were employed on the arty walls onstage), quickly dropping into a homophone tangent about moray eels (acoustic or electric?) before flipping that into the more traditional thank-the-label thing. The set list with its myriad jams and straight bouncers zigzagged with equal dexterity. And the highlight cover of the night was
a rendition of the Flaming Lips’ “Are You a Hypnotist?”—a perfect fit for the band with its bass-driven, off-center melody, building the song out of bird whistles, keyboard electronica and ambient guitar.

The second set was anchored by three powerful jammers: “Morphing Again,” off 2008’s The Green Sparrow, began with a country bounce before a beautiful, full-band major-key jam took hold—while “555,” a new Phish song, went the opposite route, Murawksi leading a darker funk-rock excursion with a distorted-wah tone—and the aforementioned set-closing “Long Black Line.” But for the Phish fans in the room, the surprise of the night was a bust out of “Spock’s Brain,” a long-shelved rarity filled with prog-rock twists and changes that seemed to fit right in for Gordon and his band. The crowd ate it up as they had all night, clearly thankful that Gordon is the kind of kid who shares his toys with others. —A. Stein

 

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A Top Five Look Back at 2013

January 10th, 2014


Ten days into the New Year, The House List looks back at 2013 with some Top Five lists.

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.

2. Föllakzoid/Holydrug Couple, Mercury Lounge, March 21
What better way to enjoy some old school psychedelic music than with some old school liquid projections courtesy of Drippy Eye.

3. Plaza: Portugal. The Man, Irving Plaza, May 20
Freakin’ lasers!

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.

5. Phish, Atlantic City Boardwalk, October 31, November 2
Phish’s fall tour found lighting director Chris Kuroda playing the Willy Wonka of eye candy all over the East Coast. —A. Stein

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

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We’ve Got Your Late-Night Action This Weekend

December 27th, 2013

It’s the time of year when people really want to spend quality time with their friends. And along those lines, there’s lots of great shows this weekend, whether you’re going to Phish at the Garden or one of our shows. But either way, no one really wants the party to stop early. So not to fear because we’ve got your late-night festivities, beginning tonight with Rocky and the Pressers at Mercury Lounge. And tomorrow we’ve got even more options: the Talking Heads tribute Start Making Sense at The Bowery Ballroom and the Spring Standards at Mercury Lounge. And then we’ve got the Invisible Familiars at Mercury Lounge on Sunday and then Alex Bleeker and the Freaks (above, doing “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad” for Relix) there on Monday night. Get involved. It’s gonna be fun.

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Trey Anastasio Band Are Firing on All Cylinders

January 24th, 2013

Trey Anastasio Band – The Capitol Theatre – January 23, 2013


Just a little more than 20 years ago, Trey Anastasio led Phish through two sold-out shows at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, N.Y. That weekend was equal parts present talent and future potential. And two decades of nearly constant playing later, potential fulfilled and then some, Anastasio returned to the historic, restored venue—the same, but different: better—for another two sold-out nights, with a second, completely different band also well on their way to maximizing their possibilities. Last night’s show opened with “Cayman Review,” setting an upbeat, major-key celebratory mood. Anastasio isn’t the lead guitarist in this group, he’s the bandleader, modeling himself, the band (percussion and a horn section that doubled as backup singers along with the traditional guitar, bass, drums, keyboards) and the music after other big bands of yore: shades of Tito Puente on the Latin-tinged opener; classic big jazz band for “Magilla”; James Brown’s heyday group in “Push On ’Til the Day”; and even notes of full orchestral music on the prog-rock “Scabbard” and “Goodbye Head,” both of which showed the prowess of an ensemble that’s grown along with Anastasio’s solo career.

Throughout two full sets, the band had plenty of opportunities to show off their wares, and like a good bandleader, Anastasio was generous with the spotlight: James Casey added a perfect dollop of flute to “Heavy Things”; Jennifer Hartswick nailed the vocals to the Gorillaz cover “Clint Eastwood”; Natalie Cressman rocked the Knopfler on trombone during the “Sultans of Swing” encore; Ray Paczkowski’s organ pushing and prodding the guitar solo in “Simple Twist Up Dave”; bassist Tony Markellis laid down the shag-carpet groove in “Push On”; and percussionist extraordinaire Cyro Baptista did a little bit of everything. Of course, what I meant to say was that Anastasio isn’t merely the lead guitar player in his own band. The show was obviously loaded with Biggie Size comes-with-fries-and-a-Coke guitar solos and jams to satisfy an audience giddy to gobble up more. In this way, the true model for the band might be Santana’s mid-era bands. The highlight jams came in “Money Love and Change,” with the group going full on jam band, scintillating guitar work leading the way.

During second-set opener “Sand” the show finally turned darker, the lights starting to find the nooks and crannies of the venue and Anastasio flexing his six-stringed muscle through the signature techno groove and the full-bore rock and roll tilt coming out of “Alaska.” Quiet moments also found their way into the set list: “Architect,” a ballad from Anastasio’s newest album began quietly, slowly building to a soaring climax, and the band’s wonderful “Ooh Child” cover was a feel-good sing-along highlight. Anastasio was chatty throughout the night, joking about how he was gung ho to play the show’s original date (the day after Hurricane Sandy struck) without realizing how big a storm it was and also extolling the virtues of the new and improved Capitol Theatre. So why stop there? I’m guessing it won’t be another 20 years until the next visit back to Port Chester. —A. Stein

(Don’t miss seeing Trey Anastasio Band play The Capitol Theatre tonight and The Wellmont Theatre tomorrow.)

 

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After Midnight, We’re Gonna Let It All Hang Down

December 31st, 2012

Alex Bleeker and the Freaks/Prince Rupert’s Drops – Mercury Lounge – December 29, 2012

Alex Bleeker and the Freaks

There’s an old “Your father used to tell you” saying: “Nothing good happens after midnight.” But I think we can all agree that’s demonstrably false. Take Saturday’s late-night after-party double bill at Mercury Lounge put on by Dog Gone Blog for those coming from earlier shows. This one was an extrasensory delight with old school projector and Day-Glo liquid light show and some deep, mind-altering psychedelic music. First up, Prince Rupert’s Drops played music from their excellent debut album, Run Slow. The pulsing colors behind the band nicely matched the music, strong candy-coated pop one moment—like the single-ready “Almond Man”—and then stretched out taffy-like, with jams like the title track lasting the better part of 10 minutes, the next.

Finishing the night, Alex Bleeker and the Freaks played a decidedly open-ended set with perfectly pitched ambient late-night groove instrumentals mixing with some crowd-pleasing covers. The wee morning suited Bleeker and Co. well: It was as good as I’ve seen them play, nailing a rocking “Sweet Virginia” and a great “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo.” But the highlight was a cover of Phish’s “Bathtub Gin,” which launched a long, coherent space jam that went beyond Phish or Dead territory to the after-midnight place where maybe nothing good ever does happen. Just don’t tell your pop. —A. Stein

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Mercury Lounge and Dog Gone Blog Have Your Late-Night Needs

December 27th, 2012

As 2012 winds down, there’s still a whole lot of nightlife left, which means you very well might want to fit in more than one concert a night. So whether you’re hitting My Morning Jacket, Phish or something else, Mercury Lounge and Dog Gone Blog have your back. Saturday night, they welcome Prince Rupert’s Drops and Real Estate bassist Alex Bleeker’s solo offshoot, Alex Bleeker & the Freaks (above, doing “Never Goin’ Back” for the Fader Fort). The Village Voice says of their psychedelic-tinged folk: “The melodies now have a campfire quality that adds a new layer to the nostalgic pop we’ve come to expect.” And Sunday, Antibalas tenor saxophonist Stuart D. Bogie brings Superhuman Happiness to Mercury Lounge. The seven-piece band (below, doing “Needles & Pins” for the Bridge Sessions), known for high energy shows, will certainly have you spending your last Saturday night/early Sunday morning of 2012 dancing along to their joyful noise.

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