Angel Olsen (above, performing “Give It Up” live on Conan) is a two-faced musician … in the best way possible. Her music is both emotionally plainspoken and honest, something to listen to and contemplate, and her music is gritty and rocking and groovy, something to move your body to. Appropriately, she now has two relatively new records out, 2016’s proper studio album, the highly acclaimed My Woman (stream it below), and the recently released Phases (stream it below), an assembly of B-sides and demos. While the latter is a stripped-down living-room affair often featuring little more than Olsen’s voice and the former a fully realized, full-band vision, they both manage to show off her two sides. Luckily Olsen’s touring band is adept at both featuring her depth, allowing the singer-songwriter space when needed and then digging in to get the crowd moving. Luckier still, she will be showcasing her two faces in two different boroughs in two different rooms in this city, with two nights—Wednesday and Thursday (which is already sold out)—at Town Hall and then Friday night at Brooklyn Steel (which is also already sold out). While each venue might naturally better lend itself to one side of Olsen’s talents or the other, she’s sure to show off all she’s got each night. San Francisco quartet Heron Oblivion open each night. —A. Stein | @Neddyo
Tag Archives: Town Hall
Feist – Town Hall – June 12, 2107
The prolific Leslie Feist has always been in touch with her emotions (she wrote a song entitled “I Feel It All,” after all), and on her new album, the evocatively titled Pleasure, the Canadian musician is again focused on channeling some big feelings into her music. On Monday night, the last of three consecutive shows at Town Hall, Feist and her band played the new record from start to finish, taking the crowd on an impassioned voyage both musical and emotional. Following the piercingly sad “Wish I Didn’t Miss You,” the singer-songwriter set the scene for the next number: “After that, you kind of need to chill out and, like, go to a lake and sit at the end of a dock and write a song like this,” she explained, shifting gears into the mellow and groovy “Get Not High, Get Not Low.”
Before performing “Lost Dreams,” Feist instructed us to think of an old dream or idea that may have been holding us back and to shake it off. Later, as she introduced the wistful “Any Party” (a song that contains the excellent lyrics “You know I’d leave any party for you/ ’Cause no party’s so sweet as a party of two”), we were asked to think of the show as an awesome party (not difficult to do), to consider the person we wanted to leave with and to “fortify that intention” as we sang along. But the participation didn’t end there—volunteers were later invited onstage to slow dance to the cautiously optimistic album-closing “Young Up.” Pleasure’s lyrical ups and downs were mirrored through Feist’s vocals and body language, punctuating lines with a yelp or a jump, lowering her voice to a near-whisper and cracking an occasional playful smile. Even the stage lights pulsed and flickered along with the musical dynamics.
After the conclusion of Pleasure, Feist dug into her back catalog, performing crowd favorites like “My Moon My Man,” “Sea Lion Woman,” “Anti-Poineer” and “Let It Die”—a collection of songs bursting with many of the same feelings as her new material: pain, joy, sadness, curiosity. Part of the pleasure for the listener was simply being taken along on Feist’s journey as she sorted through it all, transforming big feelings into beautiful sounds. —Alena Kastin | @AlenaK
For more than two decades, Transatlanic Sessions has periodically been bringing together a gathering of folk heroes for collaborative live performances by leading folk and country musicians from Scottland, Ireland and North America, as part of an award-winning BBC TV series. And now going on its seventh season, Transatlantic Sessions begins a new chapter with a U.S. tour with the likes of Jerry Douglas (above, performing “Route Irish”) and Aly Bain, featuring such special guests as Rosanne Cash, Mary Chapin Carpenter, John Paul White, Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan, Declan O’Rourke and Karen Matheson. And while this might sound like the kind of thing you could only see on PBS, you can actually watch this incredible mix of traditional and contemporary music with elements of country, bluegrass, Cajun and Celtic folk live tomorrow night at Town Hall.
Tags: Aly Bain, Aoife O’Donovan, Declan O’Rourke, Jerry Douglas, John Paul White, Karen Matheson, Live Music, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Music, New York City, Preview, Rosanne Cash, Sarah Jarosz, Town Hall, Transatlantic Sessions
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Mogwai – Town Hall – January29, 2017
I can’t speak for the rest of the audience that packed Town Hall last night to bear witness to Mogwai perform their score for the documentary Atomic, Living in Dread and Promise, but anyone with any amount of identification whatsoever with humanity had to have been leveled. The 2015 documentary directed by Mark Cousins strung together archival footage of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the disasters of Chernobyl and Fukushima, and the Three Mile Island accident, also showing the subsequent protests and revelations of the Cold War era. Mogwai performed their score for the film live to close out the Edinburgh International Festival in 2016, and have been touring with it through North America to begin 2017. With an equally impressive magnitude of output and precision of timing, they played in lockstep with the large-screen projection of the film above and behind them last night. Two touring members joined the band’s core, guitarist Stuart Braithwaite, keyboardist Barry Burns and drummer Martin Bulloch.
I think I can unequivocally say, without hyperbole, that I’ve never before been impacted by art’s power to alter consciousness, both in the aspect of being sensationally evocative and also provocative of motivation. It quickly got to a point where my eyes were fixated on the utterly devastating footage of the by-products of the inception of atomic energy. The band appeared to just dissolve into the surrounding darkness. At times during the breaks in the score that made audible the remarks of people who lived during that time and dealt directly with its consequences, all onstage seemed as though they were bowing their heads in memory and silence. The music brought together an ensemble of electric guitar, keyboards and drums in one massive, scorching onslaught, blowing up the normal paradigm of the concert experience. It was no place for children or those faint of tolerance.
In my opinion, Mogwai have now passed into a rarified class of musicians who recognize the influence harnessed in their compositions and find applications to a cause larger than their own. The performance was all the more disquieting now that we are all that much closer to something going disastrously and irreparably wrong. Our newest president and anyone remotely associated with nuclear proliferation should be strapped down and made to see this show. Absolutely, Mogwai’s performance of Atomic is an agent for a message with enormous significance, escorting it to a place where it is impossible to ignore. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly
Tags: Atomic, Barry Burns, Charles Steinberg, Edinburgh International Festival, Live Music, Living in Dread and Promise, Mark Cousins, Martin Bulloch, Mogwai, Music, New York City, Review, Stuart Braithwaite, Town Hall
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When he was just 13, guitar-virtuoso Steve Vai began taking lessons from another New Yorker who would become known as a shredder, Joe Satriani. But Vai’s first foray into the professional music world was working with Frank Zappa when he was still just a teen. Of course, he’d go on to become what AllMusic calls “a fast-fingered guitar god who’s considered one of rock’s greatest musicians.” He’s since worked with a variety of bands and musicians and in array of genres, guested on countless albums, toured endlessly and even conducted master classes, all the while still finding time to do solo work. His most recent release, the adventurous Modern Primitive (stream it below), which Ultimate Guitar calls “simply stunning,” arrived earlier this year, as did a remastered 25th-anniversary edition of his breakthrough album, Passion & Warfare. And Vai (above, doing “Gravity Storm” live) celebrates the milestone with a pair of local shows, tonight at Town Hall and on Saturday at the Space at Westbury.
Tags: Frank Zappa, Joe Satriani, Live Music, Modern Primitive, Music, New York City, Passion & Warfare, Preview, Space at Westbury, Steve Vai, Town Hall, Video
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Milk Carton Kids – Town Hall – September 11, 2015
To get to Town Hall in Manhattan, you first have to navigate your way through the glitzy, flashy capitalistic minefield that is Times Square. Stepping off the street into the simple, historic theater is to experience two facets of this city in stark relief. That dichotomy perfectly set the stage for the Milk Carton Kids show there on Friday night. The duo flipped between goofy, hilarious comedy and simple, gorgeous Americana music with the ease of just stepping off the street and into a comfortable theater seat.
After a warm-up set from Kacy and Clayton, sounding like two-thirds of Peter, Paul and Mary and a fun, surprising intermezzo set of jazz, the Milk Carton Kids—Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale—took the stage with two acoustic guitars and a single microphone between them. They reeled off beautiful folk tunes, like “Shooting Shadows,” from their recently released LP, Monterey. Town Hall was originally a venue for conversations, dialogue and debate, which was a good fit for the Milk Carton Kids. Their music felt like a conversation: voices going back and forth in sweet two-part harmony, the guitars engaging in searching dialogue, and Pattengale’s long, flowing solos finding counterarguments in Ryan’s accompaniment. While Ryan played the straight man during the beautiful guitar parts, the roles were flipped for the between-song banter, which was more vaudeville comedy routine than “How ya doin’” pleasantries.
Expounding on the duo’s children—born and unborn—the proper intro to “Poison Tree” and a host of other topics, Ryan drew hearty laughs from the crowd. Still, it was the music that kept the audience in an awed hush over the course of a set highlighted by “The Ash & Clay,” “Asheville Skies” and the new record’s excellent title track. A standing ovation brought back the pair for an encore that opened appropriately with “New York,” off 2011’s Prologue, their sound at its most Dylan-esque. After effusive thanks, the Milk Carton Kids closed with a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” Ryan and Pattengale made the well-known material their own, drawing out its heart and beauty. While the song may be one of the all-time sing-alongs in the history of the acoustic guitar, the crowd barely stirred, sitting as attentive, pin-drop silently as they had been all night. —A. Stein | @Neddyo
One of the biggest names in British folk rock, Richard Thompson has been making music for nearly 50 years, earning plaudits all along the way, including Rolling Stone naming him one of the top 100 guitarists of all time: “Richard Thompson has been one of rock’s most dazzling stylists since his days with Fairport Convention, a British folk-rock band that veered into English traditional music. Shooting out life-affirming riffs amid lyrics that made you want to jump off a bridge, he combined a rock flatpick attack with speedy fingerpicking.” His just-released 16th studio album, Still (stream it below), was produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, who also appears on the LP. And while it was technically a solo album, Thompson (above, doing “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”) is supporting it by performing as a trio, with Michael Jerome on drums and Taras Prodaniuk on bass. Catch the Richard Thompson Trio tomorrow night at Town Hall. As an added bonus, Thompson will do a solo acoustic set to open the show.
Tags: Doug Paisley, Fairport Convention, Jeffy Tweedy, Live Music, Michael Jerome, Music, Preview, Richard Thompson, Richard Thompson Trio, Still, Taras Prodaniuk, Town Hall, Video, Wilco
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Folk-influenced singer-songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield has teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Seth Avett, one of the lead singers and founding members of the North Carolina folk four-piece the Avett Brothers, to pay tribute to the beloved, departed Elliott Smith’s work with Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith, due out next week. NPR calls Smith “the most erudite, sophisticated songwriter of his generation.” And furthermore, “Though the accompaniment is sparse, each of these 12 covers dwells in an atmosphere that’s somehow linked to (or at least glances in the direction of) the Smith original. Mayfield and Avett didn’t seek to reinvent Smith’s songs. They simply want to honor them, and this collection is governed, from one whispered note to the next, by humility.” “Everyone who’s an Elliott Smith fan takes the lyrics and relates them to themselves,” says Mayfield. “When Seth is singing, I forget for a moment that they’re Elliott Smith songs, and when I’m singing them it’s the same thing. I’m singing the lyrics as if it were my own song.” See Mayfield and Avett performing together—playing highlights from their joint album and their individual catalogs—tomorrow at Town Hall.
Tags: Avett Brothers, Elliott Smith, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Preview, Seth Avett, Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith, Town Hall, Video
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After 10 years hosting the Peabody Award–winning The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Craig Ferguson has returned to his standup-comedy roots. His most recent comedy album, I’m Here to Help (stream it below) came out in 2013. But now without the time constraints of doing a nightly talk show, the Scottish-American comedian can do a proper North American (Hot & Grumpy) tour, which brings him to our fair town to perform at Town Hall on Friday and twice, early and late, on Saturday.
After a three-year hiatus, singer-songwriter Aimee Mann’s annual Christmas tour returns, and this time she’s bringing fellow singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ted Leo, her bandmate in the Both (above, doing a medley of TV show themes for Vulture), along with her. With such talented, funny people at the helm, it’s safe to expect a variety show with Christmas classics, original music, video, sketches and all sorts of music and comedy guests over the course of two nights, at the Space at Westbury on Friday and Town Hall on Saturday night. And while most of each night’s guests are of the surprise, to-be-announced variety, we can say that the Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs, singer-songwriter Jonthan Coulton and—straddling the Venn diagram overlap of comedian and musician—Fred Armisen will join Mann and Leon at Saturday’s performance. The holiday season is here, and this is a pretty great way to embrace it.
Yo La Tengo – Town Hall – December 3, 2014
Thirty years ago a little band named Yo La Tengo played their very first show, at Maxwell’s—in their hometown, Hoboken, N.J. Their very first song was a cover of the Urinals’ “Surfin’ with the Shah.” Three decades later, and the band began their encore with that very same song, this time joined onstage at Town Hall with more than 15 fellow musicians, friends and ex-band members all playing along. Other bands take note: This is how you celebrate a band-iversary.
It says something about Yo La Tengo that they’re still friends with former band members, which is a pretty rare thing. Sure it might make for a boring episode of Behind the Music, but it also means that they were able to reach far back into their catalog last night, pulling out songs like “Tried So Hard” and “Can’t Forget,” off their 1990 album, Fakebook, alongside the old friends who helped record them. For Yo La Tengo diehards, this was the show to see them bring out everything they’ve got. As frontman Ira Kaplan explained, they are celebrating the release of their “brand new 21-year-old record,” the expanded rerelease of Painful, but beyond that, the performance was a rare chance to pull from anywhere in the band’s discography. There were tender songs on acoustic instruments, like the opener, “My Little Corner of the World,” sung beautifully by drummer Georgia Hubley. There were blisteringly loud squealing Kaplan guitar solos, an all-body attack on the instrument that came out for the likes of “The Story of Yo La Tengo,” “Blue Line Swinger” and others. Very few bands do loud so well, or soft so well, and very very few bands can do both.
The night was filled with many little special moments. It’s easy to forget that at the heart of this band is a husband-and-wife duo (plus bassist James McNew). When they wrapped up “Nowhere Near,” Kaplan remarked how it felt like just yesterday that he’d first heard Hubley play the song for them, kind of like an older couple looking at each other and asking themselves, “Where does the time go?” A good concert is one remembered fondly by the audience, but a truly great show is equally special for the band. And last night was special for all. So expect great things for their 50th anniversary, because if any band can make it there, it’s Yo La Tengo. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks
Singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek formed the dreamy, melancholic band Red House Painters 25 years ago in San Francisco. The group put out six full-length albums, but when a series of label mergers led to a three-year delay in the last one’s release, Kozelek began working on more accessible folk-influenced music under the name Sun Kil Moon (the name is a tribute to a South Korean boxer). The group’s first album, Ghosts of the Great Highway (stream it below), came out in 2003, earning comparisons to Neil Young. “His basic sound hasn’t changed much: Ghosts of the Great Highway still highlights Kozelek’s angst-ridden voice and his slow-flowing interplay of folky acoustic guitars and thick, scorching electric guitars,” per the A.V. Club, “but the album drops the abrasion level to near-zero.” And now 11 years later, with the release of the raw and personal Benji (stream it below), Kozelek (above, performing “Carissa”) is still getting just as much critical love: Pitchfork calls the album “astonishing,” while PopMatters opines, “One of modern music’s master storytellers has returned with the nostalgic and intensely personal Benji.” Do yourself a favor and head to Town Hall tomorrow night for an evening with Sun Kil Moon.
Lake Street Dive – The Bowery Ballroom – April 1, 2014
I had never heard—or even heard of—Lake Street Dive prior to their appearance at last September’s Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis at Town Hall, when their rousing performance of “You Go Down Smooth” had polite concertgoers stirring in their seats, excitedly whispering to one another. Rachael Price (vocals), Mike Calabrese (drums and vocals), Bridget Kearney (upright bass and vocals) and Mike Olson (guitar and vocals) met while studying jazz at music school in Boston. And while the band, which has since moved to Brooklyn, is certainly jazz-centered, their rock, pop and R&B influences are plainly noticeable. Something else obvious about Lake Street Dive is the considerable buzz behind them since the start of the year (a write-up in Rolling Stone, appearances on the The Colbert Report and Letterman, a Questlove shout-out, Price performing “The Star Spangled Banner” on House of Cards). And then suddenly this band that had been at it for nearly a decade was an overnight success.
Taking the stage last night at a sold-out Bowery Ballroom to the dulcet tones of “What’s New Pussycat,” the quartet launched into “Got Me Fooled,” off their 2010 self-titled album, and then “Stop Your Crying,” from the recently released Bad Self Portraits. “We can’t tell you how happy we are to be at home,” said Price to applause. And while she and her breathtaking vocals and commanding presence (she’d be at home on a Broadway stage) were front and center, each bandmate was given the chance to shine: Kearney’s upright-bass solos gave “Henriette” and “Bobby Tanqueray” a bit of a funky kick, Olson’s impressive trumpet work bolstered a lively, extended “Hello? Goodbye!” and “Neighbor Song,” and Calabrese’s feisty drumming and added vocals on “Seventeen” elicited cheers from most of the women in the room.
While their set, filled with plenty of four-part harmonies, mainly consisted of material from their two full-lengths, Lake Street Dive also played three new songs. About halfway through, Bad Self Portraits producer Sam Kassirer joined in on their breakthrough album’s title track and then stuck around for a few more tunes. They closed the show with the crowd-pleasing “You Go Down Smooth” before returning for a one-song encore, Hall & Oates’s “Rich Girl,” with the audience enthusiastically singing along. For now, Lake Street Dive should continue to soak up the valuable experience of playing night after night on the road because bigger rooms, bigger crowds and bigger things await. —R. Zizmor
Tags: Bad Self Portraits, Bowery Ballroom, Bridget Kearney, David Letterman, Hall & Oates, House of Cards, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lake Street Dive, Mike Calabrese, Mike Olson, Questlove, Rachael Price, Review, Sam Kassirer, The Colbert Report, Town Hall
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