Tag Archives: Steve Gunn

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Steve Gunn Kicks Off Tour at Home at Music Hall of Williamsburg

June 10th, 2016

Steve Gunn and the Outliners – Music Hall of Williamsburg – June 9, 2016

Steve Gunn and the Outliners – Music Hall of Williamsburg – June 9, 2016
Steve Gunn is a guitarists’ guitarist, much in the same way that there are comedians’ comedians (Bill Hicks, Lenny Bruce, Louis CK). He’s earned the respect and admiration of Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis, Wilco and the guy who I buy strings from in the guitar shop off Carmine St. Gunn falls somewhere on the guitar family tree under John Fahey, the legendary master of Americana ragas, and he certainly shares his ability to hold down meditative rhythms while stringing a different melody through them. That he’s able to sing on top of it all (something Fahey rarely did) makes the skill all the more impressive. Back from a recent European tour, Gunn returned home to Brooklyn—at Music Hall of Williamsburg—last night, kicking off his American tour in promotion of the excellent Eyes on the Lineshis Matador debut.

Gunn began as a guitarist for Kurt Vile’s Violators, and Vile got his own start as a guitarist for the War on Drugs. If this tradition holds up, stay tuned for an amazing debut from Jim Elkington, who embellishes Gunn’s tunes with artful twangs of his slide guitar. Elkington and Gunn proved to be impressively skilled, trading guitar solos in an epic call-and-response session off the jams of “Park Bench Smile.” Both made use of racks of guitars and a healthy number of pedals to bleed just the right sound out of their noodling. “Ancient Jules” showcased some of the finest riffs to have come out thus far in 2016, searing through a steady on-the-road flowing rhythm. Mid-set, the crowd started yelling, “More Steve!” “More Steve?” replied Gunn. “What does that even mean? Oh, turn me up?”

The set wound down with just Elkington and Gunn on acoustic guitars for a stripped-down version of the beautiful “Wildwood.” The full band returned for the encore with “Way Out Weather” with Gunn’s guitar drifting in and out of the song like a gentle breeze.
—Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks

Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com

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A Top Five Look Back at 2014

December 31st, 2014

Colourful 2014 in fiery sparklers

Top Five Albums
1. The War on Drugs, Lost in the Dream
2. Total Control, Typical System
3. Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2
4. Coldplay, Ghost Stories
5. Parquet Courts, Sunbathing Animal —Charles Steinberg

Top Five Memorable Shows
1. Feist, Tarrytown Music Hall, 4/10
When I heard Feist was doing a tiny solo acoustic tour, I forked over ducats for this one. There were bits of stand-up-like banter with the audience as she stripped down the material. But what really made the night was a mini-reunion with former bandmate (and ex) Kevin Drew as they dueted on the Broken Social Scene classic “Lover’s Spit.”
2. (tie) Rhye, Webster Hall, 2/21
This performance was a bit misleading because although singer Milosh and producer Robin Hannibal are the members in Rhye, the latter member doesn’t tour. But Milosh’s ethereal voice really is the heart and soul of the pair, and it shone greatest for the hit “Open.” His deceptively androgynous voice sounds at times like Sade or even Antony Hegarty.
(tie) Max Richter, The Bowery Ballroom, 12/7
When I saw that the German-British composer was playing Bowery, I had to hop to it. As Richter usually plays symphony concert halls, it was an interesting choice to play such a smaller venue. The Ballroom felt like a recital hall with the audience entranced. What can I say: I’m a sucker for artists playing unorthodox venues.
3. Glass Animals, The Bowery Ballroom, 7/7
I was recently reminded of this concert when my yoga instructor played “Gooey” in class. Pretty fitting, right? In addition to infectious dance melodies, frontman Dave Bayley’s gangly limbs flayed erratically that evening, bringing to mind another dude named Thom Yorke. The two lads have great music and dance moves to boot. Coincidence? I think not.
4. Phox, Knitting Factory, 7/22
The buzz swirling around this Wisconsin band post-SXSW had me tuned into their album all spring and into the summer. Frontwoman Monica Martin was definitely a bit tipsy, but that didn’t detract from her lush vocals or onstage camaraderie. (Check out Schuyler Rooth’s review of their Mercury Lounge gig.)
5. (tie) Mr. Little Jeans, Rough Trade NYC, 5/10
Opening for Sohn, Norwegian singer Monica Birkenes, aka Mr. Little Jeans, overshadowed the headliner for me. It’s rare when that happens, but this lady has a knack for übercatchy dance-pop songs that streamed through my head all summer. She mentioned how she often came here as a child and was really craving a good slice of pizza. What’s not to love?
(tie) Alvvays, Rough Trade NYC, 7/28
New York City summers are packed with free outdoor gigs throughout the boroughs, but this in-store performance with Alvvays stood out amongst the rest. Their infectiously happy songs illuminated the dark back room of Rough Trade but had folks departing into the night with an extra bounce in their step. —Sharlene Chiu

Top Five Just a Man and His Guitar Solo Sets (chronological order)
1.
Dustin Wong (opening set), The Bowery Ballroom, 4/21
2. Plankton Wat, Trans Pecos, 5/8
3. Steve Gunn, Mercury Lounge, 5/18
4. Willie Watson, Mercury Lounge, 5/21
5. Leif Vollebekk (opening set) The Bowery Ballroom, 11/21 —A. Stein | @Neddyo

Top Five Memorable Shows
1. Sylvan Esso, Rough Trade NYC, 9/11
Both my favorite album and my most memorable live show of 2014 came from Sylvan Esso. Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn possess unwavering emotive energy, and every single lyric and beat has sunk into my psyche . I saw the duo perform live twice this year, most recently at their headlining show at Rough Trade NYC. The duo’s erudite electronica boosted the audience as they performed the entirety of their self-titled debut album plus and few clever covers.
2. Broods, Mercury Lounge, 3/3
Comprised of New Zealander siblings Caleb and Georgia Nott, Broods blend melodic melancholia with sparkling synths and glitchy beats. After getting wrapped up in their self-titled debut EP, I simply had to see them live. Broods played their first NYC show to an incredibly enthusiastic sold-out crowd at Mercury Lounge.
3. Hozier, The Bowery Ballroom, 5/13
Hozier’s rich voice and ardent lyrics sit front and center in his compositions. When he headlined The Bowery Ballroom back in May, he was flanked by equally talented musicians who created dazzling harmonies with choral echoes and rock hooks. Hozier and his bandmates mesmerized the audience, including me.
4. Dan Croll, The Bowery Ballroom, 4/17
Dan Croll’s brand of pop is highly addictive, and his live show is equally intoxicating. He fuses lilting pop, wonky electronica and tribal beats and tops it all off with clever lyrics and airy vocals.
5. Kishi Bashi, The Bowery Ballroom, 6/4
Kishi Bashi has what so many musicians seek, and that is an astounding live presence. It’s as if this guy belongs onstage. Kishi Bashi played back-to-back sold-out New York City shows this past June and stunned audiences with his whimsical finesse and astute lyrics. This picture and my review prove that Kishi Bashi’s live performance is one big euphoric dream sequence. —Schuyler Rooth | @Schuylerspeak

Top Five Albums
1. Under the Pressure, the War on Drugs
Channeling Dylan and Springsteen beneath Adam Granduciel’s vocals and personal struggles to stunning effect, this Philly six-piece put out, for me, far and away the top album of the year.
2. Benjamin Booker, Benjamin Booker
From the very first listen, Benjamin Booker’s self-titled debut sounds familiar, not like you’d previously heard its influences, but rather you’d actually already heard this album. The music is lived in and alive and a joy to listen to again and again.
3. 77, Nude Beach
Eighteen songs that sound like the love children of late-’70s Tom Petty and Elvis Costello. You’ll smile the whole time you listen to it.
4. Dancin’ with Wolves, Natural Child
Recording for the first time as a five-piece, and moving away from gritty garage rock to
a more full-band bluesy country sound (with a side of boogie), these Nashville boys took a huge step forward.
5. Morning Phase, Beck
Six years removed from his previous offering, Beck’s slow-building emotional relative of Sea Change captures you from the very first note. —R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog

Top Five Memorable Shows
1. Pearl Jam, I Wireless Center (Moline, Ill.), 10/17
Playing a small (for them) venue (for the first time) on a Friday night in the middle of nowhere, Pearl Jam put on the best show by any band I’ve seen in the past four years. They performed No Code in its entirety and covered Pink Floyd, John Lennon, Van Halen and Neil Young. Frontman Eddie Vedder put it best, comparing the appearance to a blind date: “You get there and she opens the door, and it’s like, she’s hot!”
2. My Morning Jacket, One Big Holiday (Riviera Maya, Mexico), 1/29
I could’ve chosen any of MMJ’s performances from this run, but the last night was the longest show and it particularly stood out thanks to the perfect weather, the we’re-on-vacation-in-the-middle-of-winter party vibe and carefully chosen covers (including Jim James singing, “Something, something, something” in “Rock the Casbah.”)
3. the War on Drugs, The Bowery Ballroom, 3/20
I absolutely loved, loved, loved Under the Pressure and was extremely excited to hear it live. The War on Drugs did not disappoint, plus they even threw in a stellar rendition of “Mind Games” to boot. (As an added bonus, the night began with Drive-By Truckers at Terminal 5 and closed with green sauce and salt-baked goodness at New York Noodletown.
4. Jonathan Wilson, Music Hall of Williamsburg, 2/14
It was a Friday night and Valentine’s Day. But if you were expecting something quiet and romantic, you’d have been way off. Jonathan Wilson and Co. delivered 16 jammed-out (but not self-indulgently) songs over the course of two-and-a-half hours.
5. Deer Tick, Allen Room, 3/6
As part of the American Songbook series, Deer Tick played an incredibly intimate, seated show in front of a wall of windows revealing Columbus Circle below. It was one of those moments that makes you grateful to live in New York City. —R.Z.

 

 

 

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Guitar Maestro Steve Gunn Celebrates New Album in Brooklyn

October 13th, 2014

Steve Gunn – Rough Trade NYC – October 12, 2014

sg-in-the-park-2There was an old kind of guitar nerd who would go cross-eyed from a solo of Malmsteenian technical skill muttering in awe, “How does he do that?” But nowadays, there’s a new kind of guitar nerd that was out in full force at the Steve Gunn show last night at Rough Trade NYC. These ladies and gentlemen still appreciate the technical skill, which was to be found aplenty throughout Gunn’s set, but along with and really beyond the proficiency, there is an emotional connection that goes deeper. Gunn and his soul-probing band seemed to be performing therapy by six-string, wowing the crowd and then asking, “And how does that make you feel?”

He was an unassuming guitar maestro in denim, his banter was almost accidental and his vocals were understated (part mumble, part moan), but got the job done and counterbalanced the music behind them. The set began with a quick in-line sound check that itself was pretty great, reminiscent of a 1973 Grateful Dead jam, the band tossing around a melody like no big thing. Once the set got swinging, though, it was a cascade of musical emotion, jubilant, cathartic, evocative. The songs were mostly from Gunn’s excellent new album, Way Out Weather—with one or two of the longer jams drawn from older material—the show serving as a release party (with Gunn the type of musician who drinks water at his own Sunday night celebration). Each seemed to evoke a feeling, from the nostalgia of “Wildwood” to the bickering of “Milly’s Garden.” The latter, Gunn explained, was basically about an asshole neighbor, and his guitar and lap steel went back and forth in musical argument, building to an angry crescendo.

Later, those same two instruments overlapped again on “Way Out Weather.” This time the guitars felt like they were in deep, respectful conversation, the jam moving from quiet and beautiful to fiery, the whole band expertly coming together. Whatever the feelings evoked, it was Gunn’s guitar as the source. Impossible amounts of notes poured from his instrument, acoustic and electric, his fingers moving effortlessly up and down his fretboard, like a minimalist masseuse who knows the exact location of each melody’s pressure points. The notes layered into nonlinear masterpieces that stretched out in time and filled the room with a steady hypnosis. After the “session,” a big hug felt appropriate, but a deserved ovation and a soul-searching encore did the trick as well.  —A. Stein

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Steve Gunn Headlines a Great Showcase at Mercury Lounge

May 19th, 2014

Steve Gunn – Mercury Lounge – May 18, 2014

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Last night Mercury Lounge hosted the kind of show you’ll easily find during CMJ week, but is rare most of the rest of the year. Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records have put out a steady stream of fascinating, enigmatic music over the past couple of years, and there was no reason to expect anything less in the live version with multiple acts on the same bill. Things got rolling with the acoustic duo Worthless. There seemed to be a resonant theme with reverberating six- and 12-string guitars, echoing vocals and stark shadows formed by the LCD projector. It was a crunchy sound, slightly comforting, very engaging. Devonian Gardens followed, and at various times they featured a harp, a flute, finger cymbals, a harmonica and a possibly intentional aqua blue–instrument scheme. At this point, things began to simmer as Drippy Eye Projections filled the stage with swirling bubbles of light. Given all that, the set was actually heavy duty rather than cutesy esoteric, characterized mostly by a pounding bass drum and not-much-less-pounding electric bass. There were plenty of frisky little space jams, off-kilter vocal harmonies, weirdo-psych-punk ragers tied one end to the other and, on average, about one hair-on-your-chest guitar solo per song.

The penultimate slot went to Prince Rupert’s Drops, guitarist Leslie Stein began the set wondering if they would get a trippy backdrop as well. (As if she had to ask!) Still, they hardly needed the visuals to get the brains turning, immediately charging into psychedelic territory led by Chad Laird’s slow-drip bass grooves. The set was a mix of old and new material, the newer stuff characterized by an exciting, darker edge. One of these featured some fancy overlapping guitar riffs, the band showing a new level of skill and maturity. A tune introduced as the “mellow” number for the night began as a dreamy sitar-esque jammer before flipping into a nicely played crescendo jam, drums, bass, guitars and organ working together. Altogether, the material showed a nice mix of both prog and psych rock, most songs featuring several sections or movements with Laird and Steve McGuirl on drums leading them from one to the next smoothly. The set closed with a 10-minute version of “Run Slow,” a long raging jam combining of old Genesis and Led Zeppelin.

Steve Gunn isn’t actually on the BBIB label, but he still perfectly capped off the bill. Playing solo acoustic, he announced things would be mellow but that it was OK because it was Sunday night. (Someone probably should have informed the rest of the bands, but then again, we all have different definitions of mellow and Sunday appropriate.) Gunn’s Sunday night was filled with gorgeous acoustic guitar playing: exotic reverberations, beautiful tones and compelling narratives. He opened with a long meandering thing that drifted in and out of verses and guitar excursions, like a helium balloon filled with blues music that floated halfway across the globe and up into the outer shells of the atmosphere. Although all the songs felt like instrumental pieces with sung verses layered on top, the one true instrumental was a highlight. It was a stunning bit of acoustic music, almost-over-the-top decadent, the room totally saturated with the sound of his guitar. If some of the strings were out of tune, he somehow worked this to the music’s advantage, only enhancing the otherworldly affect. It was a perfect ending to a night of great music. —A. Stein