Tag Archives: Sam Cohen


Kevin Morby Sells Out The Bowery Ballroom Ahead of New Album

May 25th, 2017

Kevin Morby – The Bowery Ballroom – May 24, 2017

Kevin Morby’s upcoming album, City Music, is an ode to this country’s metropolises, especially New York City. Fulfilling a “dream come true,” he played a packed Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday night, featuring many songs from the new record and filling them with the tangled, contradictory energy of the city. Morby opened with the title track, singing, “Oh that city music, oh that city sound,” two guitars jostling like taxis down an avenue, the music setting the audience in that liminal space between sway and dance before finally kicking into a double-time, double-energy finish that pushed things over the edge. The rest of the show seemed to teeter like this, Morby and the band itself like a city between night and day, romance and stoicism, dreams and reality.

Morby got his start in Woods and it felt appropriate that his band was made up of musicians who either came from other groups or are on their way to solo careers, including Nick Kinsey (Kinsey) on drums, Meg Duffy (Hand Habits) on lead guitar and Cyrus Gengras on bass. Together they were formidable, as equally comfortable creating hypnotic soundscapes as they were unleashing full-on guitar jams. The highlights featured all facets and more, like “Destroyer,” “Harlem River” and “I Have Been to the Mountain,” each opening into a variety of surprises, funky or thoughtful or full-on psychedelic. As inspired as the band was, Morby’s songs stood on their own and “Beautiful Strangers,” played solo “for Manchester,” resonated with every lyric.

I couldn’t have been the only one in the sold-out room who picked up on shades of Bob Dylan and Lou Reed in Morby’s songwriting and voice as he sang songs about New York City, like “Parade” and the album-closing “Downtown’s Lights,” in New York City. So, it was not a surprise, but no less satisfying when he covered a song by each, closing the set solo on a Dylan-birthday tribute of “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You” and finishing the three-song encore with a cover of Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll.” For the latter, Morby brought out Sam Cohen on third guitar, creating an appropriately city-sized noise to end the night. —A. Stein | @Neddyo


Up-and-Comer Lucy Dacus Plays Rough Trade NYC Tomorrow Night

June 1st, 2016

Richmond, Va., singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus (above, performing “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” for Audiotree Live) has been getting a lot of love this year. In January, Rolling Stone labeled her a New Artist You Need to Know, adding that she “has a knack for writing disarmingly open indie rock songs, with plainspoken lyrics that hit even harder thanks to her soft, sturdy alto.” And that was before her debut full-length even arrived. No Burden (stream it below) came out in late February to a flood of praise. NPR proclaimed, “The power-pop songs are naturally rootsy, embodying an authentic Southern soul. Yet the 20-year-old singer-songwriter’s voice transcends her locale and her age, a confident blend of Sharon Van Etten’s aching power, Jenny Lewis’ cool drawl and Courtney Barnett’s bright wit.” While Pitchfork added, “Lead guitar lines pour in the like slow columns of sunlight, and Dacus’ voice itself is a comforting blur.” Find out what all the fuss is about when she plays Rough Trade NYC tomorrow night. Local favorite Sam Cohen opens.


Fruit Bats Return with New Music at Rough Trade NYC

May 13th, 2016

Fruit Bats – Rough Trade NYC – May 12, 2016

Do bats rise from the ashes like the mythical phoenix? All those in attendance for last night’s “We’re back, baby!” set at Rough Trade NYC know that Fruit Bats definitely do come back from the dead, witnessing Eric Johnson and band pick up like they’d never left two-and-a-half years after seemingly closing shop. Of course, Johnson never left, keeping plenty busy with solo work and other projects in the interim, but the sold-out crowd came out to see a proper Fruit Bats show and, undoubtedly, that’s what they got. With a new album, Absolute Loser, coming out on Friday, there were new songs, sure, but the set still leaned heavily on older, favorite material, the performance giving fans old and new a good look at Fruit Bats past, present and future.

Opening with “Featherbed,” off 2009’s Ruminant Band, Johnson sang, “Can’t give me too much love,” his arm halfway raised, as if part waving hello and part triumphant fist pump. The set coalesced at a deliberate pace, the band breaking the ice with songs old and new. Things turned up a gear with the addition of special guest Sam Cohen. Rather than muddying the crisp Fruit Bats sound, the third guitar created new space in the material, opening “Shivering Fawn” into a beautiful country shuffle and adding ethereal space-out grooves to “A West County Girl,” from Johnson’s solo EDJ album.

The quintet seemed to take flight for the set’s second half, Johnson’s voice as sweet and strong as ever coupled with twangy guitars and dance-ready rhythms. Each tune made the night for someone in the room, and requests included songs not yet released and old favorites. “Flamingo” found the band at their peak, Cohen returning to the stage, Johnson bringing the room to complete silence with his voice reaching the back wall unimpeded as the instruments all dropped out for a moment before returning with a bam! and then incrementally building to a rather epic rock-out, one of several. After a soulful solo version of “Singing Joy to the World,” during which even the bar went silent to listen, Fruit Bats closed out with their new single, “Humbug Mountain Song,” and one of their old hits, “When You Love Somebody,” everyone in the crowd getting down and smiling, having completely forgotten Fruit Bats had ever gone away. —A. Stein | @Neddyo


An Evolved White Denim Sound at The Bowery Ballroom

April 27th, 2016

White Denim – The Bowery Ballroom – April 26, 2016

White Denim – The Bowery Ballroom – April 26, 2016
You know what they say, “The more things change the more they stay the same.” That old adage was proved true last night at The Bowery Ballroom. It was certainly true for Sam Cohen, who opened the show fronting a new self-titled band and yet still continuing his asymptotic approach to psych-pop perfection. With a thick slab of dreamy synth and McCartney bass added to his own spiral-sliced guitar, Cohen raved up songs from last year’s Cool It release. As the crowd continued to fill the room, the band filled it with a new, mutated version of Cohen’s characteristic reverberating sound on songs like “The Garden” and “Unconditional Love.” The set ended with a long, chaotic version of “Let the Mountain Come to You,” synth and guitar providing a proper headspace for the headliners.

Change is definitely nothing new for White Denim, who returned to New York City for two sold-out Bowery shows with a new lineup and a new album. And while, yes, the band has sacrificed a little finesse for a lot of muscle, the feeling in the room was that, as far as their live set is concerned, this was the same old White Denim. New material from the recently released Stiff album meshed quite literally with the old, James Petralli, Steve Terebecki and crew stitching together several songs at a time, giving the audience little chance to catch their breath, in classic White Denim fashion. The opening stretch bounced between blues strut, Beatles swirl, breakneck prog and Rhodes-disco soul with a balance of gale-force rock and roll and laid-back aw-shucks ease. Two-guitar instrumental passages glued together Petralli’s Southern-soul singing, satisfying all the left-brain/right-brain tendencies of the boogie-down crowd. Midway through, Cohen returned to the stage for “Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah),” off Stiff, the presence of his third guitar like that of a pistol in the first act, eventually going off in a great back and forth with Petralli. “At Night in Dreams,” off 2013’s Corsicana Lemonade, was representative of the evolved White Denim sound: jazz groove exploding into monster rock and roll in Banner-to-Hulk fashion, quite literally leaving shredded denim in their wake. As has been the case for nearly all of their NYC appearances going back to their trio days, the set was filled with long stretches of dizzying which-song-goes-where? segues and jams to the packed crowd’s delight. And if at some points—like midway through “I Start to Run,” off 2009’s Fits—it felt like things were just short of an out-of-control stampede, all the better.

After 80 minutes of this, the set finally capped off with a concise, rocked-out “Shake Shake Shake,” from their debut album, but the show was far from over. Returning to the stage with Sam Cohen (not just the guy, but the whole band), the now nine-strong ensemble treated the crowd to a perfectly arranged Prince tribute medley. Starting with “Let’s Go Crazy!” (complete with spoken intro from Cohen), they worked through portions of “Delirious” and “Controversy” with superfun WD-style segues and Petralli doing an admirable job on the vocals. Somehow the sound remained groovy, not too top heavy with all the doubled-up musicians onstage and a little jam opened up before they expertly brought it back for the closing riff of “Let’s Go Crazy,” which definitely wasn’t the same old, same old for White Denim. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

Photos courtesy of Jeremy Ross | jeremypross.com


Jack Ladder & the Dreamlanders Play Rough Trade NYC Tomorrow

March 25th, 2015

Known for his low voice and a dark sense of humor, Australian singer-songwriter-guitarist Tim Rogers has been winning over fans—and earning comparisons to Nick Cave and Mark Lanegan—for a decade under the name Jack Ladder. He began making acoustic music prior to turning toward New Wave and then ultimately deciding to go in a bolder, more cinematic direction with the help of a new backing band, the Dreamlanders: Donny Benét (bass), Kirin Callinan (guitar), Laurenz Pike (drums) and Frank Sutherland (synths). Their latest effort, Playmates (stream it below), featuring Sharon Van Etten, came out in the States on Fat Possum Records last month. Rolling Stone gave the album four stars and mentioned “Ladder’s dark baritone sounds freshly liberated and focused.” Fresh off this year’s SXSW, Jack Ladder & the Dreamlanders (above, performing “Hurtsville” live in concert for MoshCam) play Rough Trade NYC tomorrow night. Brooklyn psych-pop trio Invisible Familiars and talented singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sam Cohen, also of Kings County (and Yellowbirds fame), open the show.


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

December 9th, 2014

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

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


Yellowbirds Sounded as Good as Ever on Friday at Mercury Lounge

August 26th, 2013

Yellowbirds/Landlady – Mercury Lounge – August 23, 2013

It was another fun, fun, fun late night at Mercury Lounge on Friday. First Landlady played an awesome, noisy art rock that may be best approximated by Talking Heads meets Frank Zappa with a very ’80s–Steve Winwood vocal from frontman Adam Schatz. Harmonies and weirdo polyrhythmic prog were all glued together by the drummer. They closed their set big, with Sam Cohen joining in, adding a mid-song two-guitar space out that broke down into a monologue from Schatz before a build-up sing-along, the whole crowd singing “Always!” Keep an eye out for Landlady.

Cohen’s Yellowbirds hit the stage at midnight and were sharp from the start. Their opening song featuring a noise jam that melted to a fantastic two-guitar section with melodic guitar from both Cohen and Josh Kaufman. In the past, the stage at a Yellowbirds show has been populated with extra instruments. But the present incarnation is just two guitars, bass and drums, and the simplicity seems to have enlivened the material. Cohen and Kaufman’s guitars were constantly anticipating and complementing each other, two old friends telling a single anecdote with perfect timing. The set bounced effortlessly between the new album, Songs from the Vanished Frontier, and the tried-and-true material from The Color. Bassist Brian Kantor and drummer Annie Nero, laying down the groovy before a nice double guitar bridge, were a highlight of “Julian,” while “The Honest Ocean,” was crunchy with whammy reverb from Cohen.

Late-night crowds can go in many directions, but Friday’s was the right mix of rowdy and appreciative, with an enthusiastic patron repeatedly and playfully yelling, “I love you” until Cohen hopped down from the stage to serenade the wooing fan with his guitar. Which is to say that the band was as animated as ever. Returning the favor, Schatz joined in on keyboards—and a guest vocalist came out—for a fun, decidedly after-midnight Serge Gainsbourg cover. The set closed with “Young Men of Promise,” Yellowbirds sounding as good as ever, perhaps more than a few in the crowd thinking to themselves, “I love you!” —A. Stein



With a New Album, Yellowbirds Play Mercury Lounge Tomorrow

August 22nd, 2013

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Sam Cohen is a talented, busy dude. In Boston, where the Houston native attended the famed Berklee College of Music, he formed the psychedelic-rock trio Apollo Sunshine. That would’ve been enough for some musicians. But Cohen is also a sideman in demand, appearing on albums for Shakira and Norah Jones, among others. That, too, would’ve been enough for some musicians. But not Cohen. No, he decided to go it alone with the solo project Yellowbirds in 2009. Filled with what Rolling Stone calls a mix of “rock, folk and weird bits of R&B filtered through a psychedelic lens,” the full-length The Color came out in 2011. Cohen toured in support of the album with drummer Brian Kantor, bassist Annie Nero and multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaufman, and Yellowbirds (above, performing “Julian” for BreakThru Radio) blossomed into a four-piece. Their follow-up, Songs from the Vanished Frontier (stream it below) has a bigger full-band sound and you can hear it tomorrow night at Mercury Lounge.


A Night in the Life of the Mercury Lounge Drum Set

August 24th, 2012

Yellowbirds/Gabriel & the Hounds/Shovels & Rope/Christopher Paul Stelling – Mercury Lounge – August 23, 2012


It was a full night of music at Mercury Lounge last night with four different bands playing in completely different styles and arrangements. Just think about how the Merc’s house drum set felt getting used and abused like that. Brooklyn’s Christopher Paul Stelling was up first. And as one guy with a guitar, he didn’t use the drums at all. Instead, his wildly rhythmic fingerpicking and tambourine-enhanced foot stomping provided all the percussion he needed. His set was summed up with the lyric “Come close … but beware,” as he went into a trance with each song, seemingly pulling his heartfelt music from another self buried deep inside. Most of the material came from his excellent Songs of Praise and Scorn (which he joked hasn’t gotten all the “praise” yet), plus a new one, “Every Last Extremist,” which spun a little politics into his dense lyrics and scintillating guitar playing.

The early-show headliner, Shovels & Rope—a Charleston, S.C., duo consisting of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst—played stripped-down, old school country music. Here, the drum kit was bastardized into just its snare and kick drum at the front of the stage, with the crash cymbal just within reach so Trent and Hearst (who took turns sitting in on drums) could hit it for effect. Opening with “Gasoline,” the music was a ragged, DIY sound mixing Dolly Parton-esque vocals with classic country songwriting and the denim-shirt demeanor to match. The set alternated between raucous foot-stompers about whiskey and travels and, in “The Winner,” the underdog and sweeter, more heartfelt material with lines about “hanging my heart on your barbed-wire fence.” The sold-out crowd ate up every bit. After a good chunk of their newly released O’ Be Joyful album, a cover of “Hail Hail Rock ’n’ Roll,” plenty of what Hearst called “chitty chatty” and a fair share of off-kilter banging on that old drum kit, they were still going strong.

Following an intermission (and a pastrami sandwich at Katz’s), the Ernie Banks “Let’s play two!” late set started with Gabriel & the Hounds. The stage now looked like someone had shaken up a Boggle set and the band was left to make words with the way things had fallen. Namesake Gabriel Levine was up front with guitar in hand—the way a bandleader should be—the bass player was tucked in the back corner, nearly hidden in shadows, and then there were two drummers sharing that single house kit, one guy with the snare and tom and the other guy with the bass drum and high hat, as well as a keyboard. It was a unique arrangement and the split drums fed the sound, a low-key, smoldering pop punctuated by Levine’s caramel crooning. By let everyone know it had been a “weird day,” but mostly let the music speak for him, with occasional outbursts of guitar and layered melody that required a little attention and patience from the audience but built as the set went on.

Last but not least, Yellowbirds finished the night with the drum kit finally back together, played by one guy backing a band that is in its gets-better-every-time phase. What once seemed like just Sam Cohen’s solo album, the superlative The Color, from last year, now has a full-fledged, road-tested band to match. The old stuff took on new heights, tighter arrangements and plenty of guitar-fueled excursions. But new material, characterized by organs and groovier bass, was just as good. The set was a strong offering of Cohen’s vintage sound; reverb, whammy bars and deft playing came in waves like a living, breathing Wes Anderson soundtrack. Songs like “The Rest of My Life” and “The Honest Ocean” transported the late-night crowd, and all the while the drums kept on beating. Just another night at Mercury Lounge. —A. Stein


Some Double Bills Are Better Than Others

August 22nd, 2012

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Sam Cohen is a talented, busy dude. In Boston, where the Houston native attended the famed Berklee College of Music, he formed the psychedelic-rock trio Apollo Sunshine. That would’ve been enough for some musicians. But Cohen is also a sideman in demand, appearing on albums for Shakira and Norah Jones, among others. That, too, would’ve been enough for some musicians. But not for Cohen. Instead, he decided to launch himself into another project, Yellowbirds (above, playing
“In Our World” for KDHX FM in St. Louis), in 2009. The group—although it’s really more of a solo project—put out the well-received The Color, filled with auto harp, fuzzy guitars and pedal steel, last year.

In a similar vein, upon returning to Brooklyn from Texas, Gabriel Levine began recording new material and then sought out a rotating lineup of friends to play the songs live under the name Takka Takka. But, again, it wasn’t enough. The singer-songwriter-guitarist had other stories to tell, this time about disappointment and the dissolution of relationships. So he started a new band, Gabriel and the Hounds (below, doing “What Good Would That Do” and “Just Not Like You” for La Blogothèque), and recorded a new album, Kiss Full of Teeth. It “was this really personal, small idea that became this record, and it felt great to do that,” he said. The sound, according to The Guardian, is made up of “a virtual indie orchestra, with guitar, bass and drums augmented by woodwind, French horn, trumpet, violin, trombone, cello and flute.” Want to know how that sounds live? You’re in luck because Yellowbirds and Garbiel and the Hounds play Mercury Lounge tomorrow night.


Spend Friday Night with Yellowbirds

February 16th, 2012

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Sam Cohen is a talented, busy dude. In Boston, where the Houston native attended the famed Berklee College of Music, he formed the psychedelic-rock trio Apollo Sunshine. That would’ve been enough for some musicians. But Cohen is also a sideman in demand, appearing on albums for Shakira and Norah Jones, among others. That, too, would’ve been enough for some musicians. But not Cohen. No, he decided to go it alone with the solo project Yellowbirds in 2009. Full-length The Color followed in 2011, and tomorrow night at Mercury Lounge you can see Yellowbirds (above, playing “In Our World” for KDHX FM in St. Louis) for yourself.