Tag Archives: Review

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The War on Drugs Are in Fine Form at Brooklyn Steel on Sunday Night

April 9th, 2018

The War on Drugs – Brooklyn Steel – April 8, 2018

Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.com

While Adam Granduciel described the show as a sort of one-off warm-up for Coachella, the War on Drugs played their sold-out Sunday show at Brooklyn Steel with a Saturday ferocity and the confidence and skill of a band at the end of a long tour. Granduciel asked if “Everyone’s feeling good?” before launching into an opening set of songs—“Brothers,” “Pain” and “An Ocean in Between the Waves”—that interlaced stoner-poetry lyrics with crackling guitar rock-outs. The recent Grammy winners brought best-rock-album energy to the show, often lit by bright white shafts of light that added an arena-strength visual to the set. For a while it seemed like each tune would top the last, longer jams and more of them.

Midway through, Granduciel promised a “big reveal,” a special guest, after a couple of songs that had the crowd buzzing with who-could-it-be? anticipation. Finally, they brought out Craig Finn, who shared vocals, leading the War on Drugs through a cover of Warren Zevon’s “Accidentally Like a Martyr,” which shifted the tone and gave the band a new space to work out figure-eight excursions. After Finn left the stage, the energy shifted in a more exploratory direction with a powerhouse stretch that stitched “Holding On,” the ambient space-out “The Haunting Idle” and “In Reverse” into a single psychedelic medley, the mood enhanced by beams of pastels swirling around the stage. The encore opened with an not-played-too-often cover of Tom Petty’s “Time to Move On,” a perfect fit for the time, place and band as the War on Drugs head out West, probably not needing it, but indeed, fully warmed up for Coachella and whatever else lies ahead. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

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Ought Find Magic at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday Night

April 9th, 2018

Ought – Music Hall of Williamsburg – April 6, 2018

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

Montreal’s Ought still feel like the kind of band that’s this wonderful secret you can’t wait to tell someone about. Their fans, who have gradually grown in number and in their affections since the quartet’s 2014 debut, More Than Any Other Day, all seem to share that sparkle of knowing about greatness yet to be widely discovered. As it turns out, there are a bunch of those fans in New York City, as evidenced by Ought packing them into Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday night. “Into the Sea,” off Ought’s latest and most impressive album, Room Inside the World, sent an instant jolt into the air with its churning, essentially post-punk bassline that implored the bodies in the room, helpless to its charms, to bounce and sway. That energy kept mounting as the show continued in a blissful blur, picking up steam with other striking post-punk-revival delights off the new album, like “Disaffectation,” “These 3 Things” and “Take Everything.”

To bring heart rates down some, the bluesy gospel stride of “Desire” provided respite. For a song recorded with and carried by a 70-piece choir, the live rendition was still decidedly full and radiant, due to precisely synced musicianship and frontman Tim Darcy’s sonorous bellow. His stage presence was also undeniable. It’s meant as a great compliment to describe him as a grown and elongated version of the boy protagonist of Moonrise Kingdom, Sam. (Ought are also clearly influenced by Wes Anderson favorites like the Velvet Underground, the Clash and the Ramones, to name a few.) As he swung a guitar around in awkward angularity, occasionally flipping back his hair with a quick on-beat head shake, Darcy easily won over everyone in the crowd.

Of course, the music took care of that, too, thanks to the band’s consummate professionalism. Behind Darcy, bassist Ben Stidworthy, keyboardist Matt May and drummer Tim Keen played so fluidly as to sound like the music wasn’t being performed with effort and strained focus, so much as it was imagined into existence in the way the group ideally wanted it to sound. No beat was skipped or note rushed as songs from earlier records populated the back half of the show, some stretched and probed in extended forms, as if searching for a bit of ephemeral magic. There was plenty to be found, especially on the irresistible grooviness of “Habit.” By the encore, it felt like the room was in a collective trance and the very gracious Ought happily played a few more for an audience not shy in showing appreciation for them. And dancing loosely with a grin, you kind of thought that Ought were a secret you wish you could keep. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly

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Yo La Tengo Satisfy a Sold-Out Brooklyn Steel with Two Sets on Friday

April 9th, 2018

Yo La Tengo – Brooklyn Steel – April 6, 2018

Photos courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | gregggreenwood.com

Not too many rock acts out there even attempt to play two full sets of music every show, filling a set list with different songs from across their catalog each night. Even fewer do it after almost 35 years as a band and rarer still that such an outfit would do so while also promoting a brand-new album that’s as strong and vital as any of the newest music being put out today. All of which makes Yo La Tengo a unique band. The trio has played something like 10 shows in New York City over the past year—from a free-jazz freak-out to their free-form Hanukkah shows to a free show in Central Park. They seem to invert everything about rock and roll, just playing a regular old club gig is the rarity. But that’s where Yo La Tengo found themselves, in the middle of a regular old tour, playing a sold-out gig at Brooklyn Steel on Friday night. The date happened to fall on the venue’s first birthday, one year since opening its doors, which somehow felt appropriate—as NYC’s live-music landscape changes with each passing year, Yo La Tengo have been a constant.

That consistency was on full display throughout their show. The eight-song first set played like a single entity, a group meditation that held the audience in complete attention. The band—Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew—moved around the stage to different instruments, a ballet of guitars, bass, drums and keyboards. Regardless of who was playing what at any time, the mood was one of utter relaxation, the music alternating between Zen loops, crunchy guitar melodies and whispered singing. Quietude was the overarching theme and the crowd followed along: A huge rock club in complete silence is the rarest of all things, but with Yo La Tengo leading along on songs like “She May She Might” and the lovely “Ashes,” it felt completely natural. Everyone was happy to luxuriate in the peace the band was offering. The real joys were found in between the songs, the veterans lingering on interstitial themes and setting up new ambient spaces in the segues.

The second set quickly flipped the script: “Flying Lesson (Hot Chicken #1)” unleashed Kaplan’s guitar into a gesticulating chaos while McNew and Hubley chugged along. The restraint of the first set dissolved into a host of rock-outs, building to a peak in “Ohm,” which found Kaplan passing his guitar into the crowd, held aloft like a rock star, feedback filling the room. The set-closing “Pass the Hatchet I Think I’m Goodkind” was a patient jammer, epic in length and intensity, Kaplan soloing and singing while lying on the stage. A Velvet Underground–cover-heavy encore showed off other facets of Yo La Tengo’s upside-down rock and roll and kept their local and loyal fans satisfied until the next encounter. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

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Ravyn Lenae Brings New Music to a Sold-Out Rough Trade NYC

April 5th, 2018

Ravyn Lenae – Rough Trade NYC – April 4, 2018


Ravyn Lenae is a workhorse. In the past year, she graduated from the Chicago High School for the Arts, provided support on R&B sensation SZA’s Ctrl tour and released her third EP, Crush, to rave reviews. Now, she’s touring behind the new music, which brought her to Rough Trade NYC on Wednesday night. Such a rapid ascent might shake the average performer, but 19-year-old Lenae seems to only have been buoyed by it. She opened with “Venezuela Trains,” off her first EP, Moon Shoes. The song, like many to follow, felt looser and lighter than its production-heavy recording. Even “Closer (Ode 2 U),” the evening’s first track off Crush, played jazzier than expected: The album’s producer is the Internet’s Steve Lacy, the man behind Kendrick Lamar’s Damn.

Lenae herself was an ebullient presence, with red hair and a red boa–wrapped microphone to match. Her astonishing vocal range dominated the evening—a rendition of OutKast’s “Prototype” transformed the Atlanta duo’s funky love song into something beautifully heartfelt. But the singer really came into her own on “The Night Song,” also off Crush. She sang, “I wanna be no one but me/ And all I really need is my own company.” Lenae remarked on the number’s deep relevance, saying it’s especially important “in this social climate” that women feel beautiful on the inside and outside. The song is just that—a joyous celebration of women feeling themselves: “Ooh I love my body, tellin’ everybody.”

“Sticky,” the single off Crush, followed, and was the audience favorite by far—a delicious, sultry dance track with Lacy’s fingerprints all over it. Lenae closed the set with a classic Chicago house song, an ode to her hometown and certainly to her influences. But leave it to the classical-music major to opt for the unexpected, ever the eclectic, the singer, ended the performance with an encore, singing a classic French chanson. Bonne nuit, indeed. —Rachel Brody | @RachelCBrody

 

 

 

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S. Carey Thrills Rough Trade NYC with New Music on Thursday Night

March 30th, 2018

S. Carey – Rough Trade NYC – March 29, 2018


Growing up in Wisconsin, Sean Carey was literally born into music as a son of a music teacher and singer. Upon graduating from the college in 2007, he was in the right place at the right time having heard a little album by fellow Wisconsinan Justin Vernon and was inspired to learn all of the songs. He got the opportunity to sing for Vernon backstage and then his acceptance into Bon Iver was complete. A musician in his own right, Carey wrote his first album, All We Grow, under the moniker S. Carey, during a break in touring. After the release of his debut in the fall of 2010, Carey joined the Tallest Man on Earth as his opener. Since then, Carey has put out his third record, Hundred Acres, last month, and he landed at a sold-out Rough Trade NYC last night to serenade fans with the new material.

Following her opening slot, the very talented Gordi joined Carey and his band for the headlining set. Fitting in like she’d been in the group all along, her vocals nicely rounded out their harmonies. “Hideout” and the new single “Yellowstone” kicked off the show, and most of the set was comprised of the latest release. Carey took his comfortable seat behind the drum kit first on “Emery,” but would swap with guitarist Zach Hanson throughout the night. The evening’s supporting-player award went to Ben Lester on pedal steel, as his mastery of the instrument wove a sultry country twang throughout.

While Carey was tuning his guitar, Lester led the band in a rendition of Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk,” which instantly drew applause from the crowd. A trio of back-catalog gems, the Yosemite-inspired “Fleeting Light,” a bittersweet “Alpenglow” and oldie but goodie “In the Stream,” came toward the tail end of the set to the glee of longtime fans. An encore included Gordi’s “I’m Done” with the frontman dueting from behind the drums, and a cover of Tom Waits’s “Take It With Me” by a solo Carey. —Sharlene Chiu

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Darlingside Embrace Four-Part Harmonies at Rough Trade NYC

March 29th, 2018

Darlingside – Rough Trade NYC – March 28, 2018


The power of multiples was on display last night in Williamsburg. Instead of playing just one show, Boston quartet Darlingside decided two would be better and so we found ourselves at a late set at Rough Trade NYC on Wednesday night. Because it was the later show, they announced it would be the “loose” one, and the crowd definitely did their best to lighten the mood with plenty of whoops and call-outs. Still, with the way the band played, sharp and composed, the music felt anything but loose. The group employed multiple permutations of sounds and instruments over a variety of genres and influences to deliver a set that could best be described as harmonious.

Early on, “Eschaton”—off their new album, Extralife—combined violin and guitar with a harrowing synthesizer to create a cool room-filling effect. But it was the vocal harmonies of the group’s four voices that enraptured the audience, almost unnaturally pure, if you didn’t see them singing, engaging as a group around a single microphone, you might not even believe it was real. Those voices echoed a multitude of influences, evoking the past and the present, the Beach Boys, the Postal Service, Sufjan Stevens.

The combinations of instruments worked different moods and feels into the set. “Hold Your Head Up High” pulsed with violin and kick drum into ethereal spaces, while “Harrison Ford” felt light and limber on a mandolin melody and “Orion” was pensive in cello, violin, bass and banjo. While the band stayed loose, the music was tight, instruments and voices locked in like the perfect studio take. This extended even to the lights, the band bringing their own rig. When they sang about “white horses,” the stage was awash in the brightest white, and when they sang about the “yellow sun,” well-timed rays of yellow streamed between their faces. At times, the lights cast patterns on the ceiling, flowers and squiggles, transforming the room into an otherworldly place to match the voices resonating off the walls, a harmonious multiplicity of sight and sound. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

 

 

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The Strypes Do Their Part to Keep Rock Alive at Rough Trade NYC

March 28th, 2018

The Strypes – Rough Trade NYC – March 27, 2018

Photos courtesy of Silvia Saponaro | www.saponarophotography.com

During the initial explosion of British rock bands in the early ’60s, it was pretty common for young groups to begin as carbon copies of the influences they were desperately trying to emulate. The first few Stones records, after all, leaned heavily on Chicago-blues covers, and the majority of the Who’s first album was a love letter to Motown. Each of these bands had templates they referenced before they mastered their crafts and created something completely different. The Strypes, out of Cavan, Ireland, started similarly. They experienced early success thanks to their throwback style that owed a huge debt to the early British pub-rock scene that predated the punk explosion of ’77. Bands like Dr. Feelgood, Nick Lowe and Dave EdmundsRockpile, and Graham Parker and the Rumour were all the template for them—and what made it most impressive was that these kids were all in their early teens. And man could they play.

Their newest album, last year’s Spitting Image, finds the Strypes expanding their sound a little bit more with a focus on lyric-heavy pop-conscious songcraft—not unlike their heroes Lowe, Parker and Elvis Costello. And it brought them to Rough Trade NYC last night in Williamsburg. To put it lightly: I was not prepared for what I was about to witness. The band tore into their set by absolutely pulverizing the classic blues standard “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.” They’re such a tightly wound force with drummer Evan Walsh thunderously dismantling his kit with each hit, bassist Peter O’Hanlon constantly pacing and jumping all over the stage, lead guitarist Josh McClorely stoically unleashing one perfect solo after another and lead singer Ross Farrelly—clad in a workman’s jumpsuit and big black sunglasses—commanding the crowd with a calm and cool I’ve-seen-it-all demeanor. The Strypes had it down, an image they could present and the skills and tunes to back it up.

The set flew by as they played material from across their catalog. You could tell each era of the young band’s career was specifically defined, as the pop hooks of new songs like “Behind Closed Doors” jumped out in the middle of their older bluesy rave-ups. The Strypes played for about an hour and a half before coming out for a brief encore that began with an incendiary version of Nick Lowe’s “Heart of the City.” If you are familiar with the Rockpile’s live versions of this song, then you know that I am not saying it lightly that the Strypes did it justice. The final number of the night was their early hit “Blue Collar Jane” before the band bid Brooklyn goodnight and turned off their blazing hot amplifiers. Maybe rock isn’t dead after all? —Pat King | @MrPatKing

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Lucius Soar at Town Hall on Thursday Night

March 23rd, 2018

Lucius – Town Hall – March 22, 2018


Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of the band Lucius struck quite an arresting image onstage at Town Hall during last night’s sold-out show, with their matching platinum-blonde wigs aglow under a large, color-changing neon sign bearing the band’s name. Incredible aesthetics aside, Lucius’ real impact comes the moment that Wolfe and Laessing begin to sing. As they stepped up to a shared microphone center stage to perform their first song, “Go Home,” they immediately created a sense of intimacy within the large concert hall.

That sense of intimacy is a key element to the band’s new record, Nudes, featuring acoustic and reimagined versions of songs from their catalog, along with some covers, which the musicians recorded with the goal of drawing listeners in and furthering the connection between the artist and listener. Last night, songs like “Tempest,” “Right Down the Line” and “Turn It Around,” were adorned by nothing more than acoustic guitars and drums, with Wolfe and Laessig’s unison vocals and harmonies soaring throughout the room. Cover songs were also prominently featured in the set list, including a sweet version of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” plus the Kinks’ “Strangers” and Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You in the End,” which the band blended into a rendition of their own “Two of Us on the Run.”

It was clear that the commitment to creating a connection with the audience was foremost on the band’s mind, and Wolfe and Laessig also devoted several minutes during the show to speak frankly to the crowd, expressing their gratitude, reflecting on the importance of their collaboration in their career as a band, and sharing some personal experiences, both happy and sad, that had recently touched their lives. By night’s end, Lucius seemed to have achieved their goal—delivering an impactful performance in sound, style and sentiment. —Alena Kastin | @AlenaK

 

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Shabazz Palaces Offer a Glimpse of a Hopeful Future at Boot & Saddle

March 19th, 2018

Shabazz Palaces – Boot & Saddle – March 18, 2018


If now feels dangerous, it’s time to expand our minds. It’s time to imagine new possibilities. We want Black Panther’s Wakanda. We want to shift the boundaries of discussion, and music can be our messenger. Space is needed. Today is cluttered. But through clever lyrics and rich soundscapes, Shabazz Palaces move through the void. They inspire thoughts on an astral plane, somewhere beyond the earthly concept of what is possible to what can be imagined. They are steeped in art, from their dress to visual displays. On Sunday night at Boot & Saddle, the duo of Ishmael Butler (aka Palaceer Lazaro) and multi-instrumentalist Tendai “Baba” Maraire stood behind a projection of thought-provoking imagery. Even when the screen went blue, with a NO SIGNAL icon dancing about, it felt intentional. More so, clips of rocket travel, African tribes and a tense scene with Christopher Plummer.

The whole room was wrapped in sound, the low end rumbling against the walls. And the songs spanned the group’s entire catalog, including last year’s third and fourth LPs—centered on our relationship to devices—Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star and Quazarz vs. the Jealous Machines. The content of those two albums was woven in between standout tracks from previous recordings, such as songs from their debut release, Black Up, which received some of the loud crowd’s wildest applause. It was interesting to see such a cozy venue host such an immersive hip-hop group. With limited lighting, the two were backlit by the screen. We saw occasional flashes of a face, a necklace or a metal plate like armor. There were shadows of a drum machine. It was like ghosts in the machine: The voices and the grooves, space to imagine, boundaries pushed and a glimpse of a hopeful future. —Jared Levey | @Playtonic

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Buffalo Tom Play New Tunes on St. Patrick’s Day at Music Hall

March 19th, 2018

Buffalo Tom – Music Hall of Williamsburg – March 17, 2018


With nine albums over the course of three decades, Boston’s Buffalo Tom have remained dependable underdogs in the world of indie rock. Releasing their self-titled debut album 30 years ago on the legendary punk and hardcore label SST Records, they cut their teeth alongside such other like-minded Massachusetts bands as Dinosaur Jr. and the Lemonheads. While they never reached the same commercial success as the latter group, Buffalo Tom have arguably taken the slow-and-steady-wins-the-race approach by quietly delivering great albums that stay true to their sound. The band just released their fantastic new long-player, Quiet and Peace, and rolled through Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday night to play a packed St. Paddy’s Day show.

Led by Dave Hill, Brooklyn power-pop band Valley Lodge opened, putting on a tight set with the comedian/WFMU radio host unleashing some insane leads and providing hilarious banter in between songs. By the time Buffalo Tom walked onstage, it was clear the crowd was getting loose for the holiday and ready for a party. The band obliged and treated fans to an almost two-and-a-half-hour show that highlighted their entire catalog. The power trio ripped through most of the classic album Let Me Come Over, delivering blistering renditions of songs like “Larry” and “Taillights Fade.” Main songwriter and guitarist Bill Janovitz’s voice was as powerful as ever on the former and stopped you in your tracks when he hit those high notes in the chorus. More known these days as a rock writer, you can tell Janovitz is a student of the classics as he windmill-strummed power chords like Pete Townshend and captivated the crowd with his deep, emotive croon.

The new songs sounded great and in line with Buffalo Tom’s robust catalog. The best of them was “Roman Cars”—sung by bassist Chris Colbourn—and it sounded like early Wilco covering the Jam. After a long set of would-be anthems, the band returned for a short encore before saying goodnight. The Janovitz-fronted number, “Freckles,” rose to new heights live, its slow build and clashing guitars were both transfixing and transcendent. Buffalo Tom closed the show with a faithful cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy in New York” that sounded like a last call from a bartender who wanted to keep pouring beers long after closing. —Pat King | @MrPatKing

 

 

 

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Beth Ditto Is a Force to Be Reckoned with at Brooklyn Steel

March 15th, 2018

Beth Ditto – Brooklyn Steel – March 14, 2018


Beth Ditto is a force to be reckoned with as she sets forth sans her former band, Gossip. Pulling from her Southern roots for her first solo album, Fake Sugar, Ditto leaves behind power dance-punk for a more pop-rock sound that continues to showcase the “fat, feminist, lesbian from Arkansas” (her words). NPR Music put it best: “It’s become standard procedure to look askance at underground artists who take big swings at stardom. But if Beth Ditto becomes a full-blown mainstream star—as a queer plus-sized outspoken feminist with her own fashion line—it’ll come at the expense of every norm she’s spent her career working to tear down. Fake Sugar may be just the Trojan horse she needs.”

After an unfortunate cancelation of last year’s Rough Trade NYC appearance, Ditto returned healthy and ready to go for her show at Brooklyn Steel last night. Dressed in what she described was a “harlequin frog” jumpsuit, hammering basslines made way for the opener, “Oh My God.” The performance was a mix of the siren’s solo work and her past catalog with Gossip. “In and Out,” with harmonies that reminded me of Lucius, was a break from the largely dance-heavy set list, thanks to old favorite “Yr Mangled Heart” as well as new gems “Ooh La La” and the synth beats of “Open Heart Surgery.” As the spunky singer delighted the crowd with her humor, Ditto jiggled and pranced onstage affectionately referencing the burrito she had for dinner.

After reciting the tenets of a “Beth sentence”—never take yourself seriously and don’t do well in school—she led the audience in a sing-along of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One.” All kidding aside, Ditto has used her music to define moments. Telling her story about being in London when the news of Trump’s presidential win hit, the Southern woman exclaimed that it’s the people who keeping moving on that define the times. “Power to the people,” declared Ditto before ending her set with “Standing in the Way of Control.” Following a brief stage exit only to return in gold sequins, the firecracker encored with a trio of “Heavy Cross,” “Fire” and a cover of “Dream a Little Dream.” —Sharlene Chiu

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Mike Gordon Dazzles Brooklyn Steel with Two Sets on Saturday Night

March 12th, 2018

Mike Gordon – Brooklyn Steel – March 10, 2018


Photos courtesy of Dan Salimbene | northfieldproductions.com

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

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

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

Injury Reserve Close February with a Wild Show at Rough Trade NYC

March 1st, 2018

Injury Reserve – Rough Trade NYC – February 28, 2018

(Photo: Matt Kaplan)

There’s still room in rap for surprises and an Injury Reserve show is chock full of them. Last night, the Phoenix rap trio (two rappers and a redhead on beats) took to the Rough Trade NYC stage hiding beneath sheets, rapping through some verses over a haunted, witchy beat. The surprise here wasn’t that they were hiding under those sheets but that when they dropped a beat, jumped out and launched into “Oh Shit!!!,” the venue broke out into one giant mosh pit like a bomb had gone off in the place. Oh shit, indeed.

Injury Reserve may have the craziest white-boy fans of any group in any genre right now. Second song into the set and multiple guys already had their shirts off. The moshing occurred for more numbers than it didn’t, even for slower ones like “Washed Up.” Songs would begin, a circle would open and at the drop it would collapse into a pile of sweat, spit, limbs and fans spitting bars. This energy even took Injury Reserve a little by surprise—at one point Parker Corey took out his phone to record videos of the crowd. After a tiny intermission, the trio returned for a slowed-down jazzy rap version of “S on Ya Chest” then sped up the song in its second half. There’s something pretty hilarious about watching the audience selectively sing along to the lines: “What you know about a young nigga like this? What you know about a young neighbor like this? I did the second one for the white kids, ’cause I know you want to say it, but that ain’t right kid.”

Injury Reserve’s Stepa J. Groggs and Ritchie with a T beautifully complement each other, with the former’s loud boom of a voice contrasting with latter’s raps like yin and yang. But Corey’s beats are the secret sauce that brings the dish together, weird when it’s needed, hook-y on songs that call for a sing-along chorus. The rest of the show was one hard-hitting hit after another, running through “Boom (x3),“Yo,” “Ttktv” and, after tossing out a stack of money into the audience, ending with “All this Money.” There just might have been a riot if they hadn’t returned for an encore, so Injury Reserve (with a shirtless Groggs) came back for an even more amped-up version of “Oh Shit!!!” If the night had any overarching theme it was definitely no shirts and oh shits. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

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Jawbreaker Take No Prisoners at Brooklyn Steel on Tuesday Night

February 28th, 2018

Jawbreaker – Brooklyn Steel – February 27, 2018


Photos courtesy of Greg Pallante | gregpallante.com

Out of all of the beloved disbanded cult groups of the ’90s, Jawbreaker seemed like the last ones holding out on a reunion. But that all changed last summer, as the influential Bay Area punks reunited to headline Chicago’s annual Riot Fest to thousands of fans, many of them not even alive during the band’s initial tenure. In their absence, Jawbreaker’s legacy as one of punk’s most sacred best-kept secrets has grown into monolithic proportions. If you bring up their names in conversation, chances are the person you’re talking to has either never heard of them or they are that person’s favorite band. A friend of mine once drunkenly declared that Jawbreaker’s chief songwriter, Blake Schwarzenbach, was his Dylan.

Prior to Riot Fest, Schwarzenbach hinted that there was a 90-percent chance the band would be playing NYC after the festival. And so tickets went insanely fast once this three-night run at Brooklyn Steel was announced, as fans from all over hoped to flock to see the Jawbreaker reunion no one ever thought would happen. Tuesday was their second night in Kings County, supported by local comedian Clare O’Kane and a “surprise guest,” which turned out to be Waxahatchee, a perfect fit, as singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield has always had the same kind of world-weary emotional detail to her lyrics as Schwarzenbach does. Along with a four-piece band, including her sister Allison on guitar and keyboards, they played a short set running through most of last year’s great Out in the Storm.

A giant Jawbreaker banner was raised, and eager fans could finally rest assured that this was all really happening, as Schwarzenbach, bassist Chris Bauermeister and drummer Adam Pfahler walked onstage. The sold-out crowd, bathed in the house lights, exploded as Schwarzenbach strummed the opening riff to the classic single “Boxcar,” and from then on, the band took no prisoners. The set was mainly comprised of songs from their two best-loved albums, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy and their one dance with major-label success, Dear You. Jawbreaker sounded fantastic as they ripped through songs like “Save Your Generation,” “Jinx Removing” and “Sluttering (May 4th),” like they were long-lost anthems from a parallel world where there was a healthy sense of justice. Schwarzenbach joked throughout that they were filming the show as a “Netflix comedy special,” and with how funny some of his banter was, it didn’t seem too unrealistic.

Jawbreaker closed the main set with a blistering version of “Condition Oakland” and returned to play a couple more. They opened their encore with one of their earliest songs, “Want,” which had the entire crowd singing it’s “Ay-yay-yay-yay I want you” chorus in complete unison. The band then closed out the performance with their brilliant ode to drunken, unrequited love, “Kiss the Bottle,” with Clare O’Kane resurfacing from backstage to crowd-surf on top of the passionate audience. When it was all over, fans poured out onto the streets still amazed by what they had just seen. —Pat King | @MrPatKing

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Joan as Police Woman Celebrates New Album at Rough Trade NYC

February 27th, 2018

Joan as Police Woman – Rough Trade NYC – February 26, 2018

(Photo: David A. Fitschen)

Joan Wasser has been creating music by the stage name Joan as Police Woman for more than a decade, but her life before then was already remarkable. Largely a violinist, first with the Dambuilders, she joined Antony and the Johnsons and then toured with the likes of Rufus Wainwright and Joseph Arthur. Her voyage into solo work was largely an answer to the sudden death of then boyfriend Jeff Buckley—more than two decades ago—as a coping mechanism. Fast-forward to Wasser’s fifth studio album, Damned Devotion, which she celebrated with an album-release party last night at Rough Trade NYC.

Playing the newly released record front to back, the singer-songwriter donned red leather pants and opened with the downtempo groove of “Wonderful.” It was refreshing to see a seasoned artist in her element sharing her latest work without too much nervousness, but rather a genuine thankfulness for the collective that helped produced the work. Throughout the set, she expressed her gratitude for everyone from session players to those who helped with videos and artwork.

Wasser also shared inspirations for songs, like how a recording from last year’s Women’s March turned into “The Silence” and a quote from her dad, who passed last year, became “What Was It Like.” Music has indeed become the solace for loved ones who have died. Her all-male band of drummer Parker Kindred, bassist Jacob Silver, and keyboardist Jared Samuels provided a backing choir on the album’s closing tracks. Without leaving the stage, an encore of fan favorites “Eternal Flame” and “Run For Love” concluded the festivities. —Sharlene Chiu