Tag Archives: Velvet Underground


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


The Black Angels Return to Brooklyn Steel on Thursday Night

April 2nd, 2018

Taking their name from the Velvet Underground tune “The Black Angel’s Death Song,” psychedelic garage-rockers the Black Angels formed more than a decade ago in Austin, Texas. The band—Stephanie Bailey (drums), Christian Bland (guitar, drone machine and organ), Alex Maas (vocals, bass, drone machine and organ), Kyle Hunt (keys, percussion, bass and guitar) and Jake Garcia (guitar)—put out a fifth long-player, Death Song (stream it below), last spring to some of the best reviews of their career. Paste said it “is both unlike anything they’ve done before and also the most purely Black Angels album they have released. It’s as if the Texas psych-garage mainstays have now fully mapped the edges of their sound and that this process has allowed them to return with an extreme vengeance to the dead center of what they are.” And the Guardian called the full-length “a menacing return to form,” while Glide added: “The album gains momentum with each song and gets better with each subsequent listen.” The Black Angels (above, performing “Currency” live in studio for WFUV FM) have teamed up with Atlanta garage-punk outfit Black Lips this spring and the play Brooklyn Steel on Thursday night.


Calpurnia Leave Them Screaming for More at Rough Trade NYC

January 16th, 2018

Calpurnia – Rough Trade NYC – January 12, 2017

If you’re Finn Wolfhard, life is pretty great. From playing Mike Wheeler on the Netflix binge-worthy series Stranger Things to a starring role in last summer’s cinematic reboot of Stephen King’s It, the 15 year old is riding high, but it doesn’t stop there. Boy signed a deal with Royal Mountain Records in late November for his band, Calpurnia. As they’re currently recording their debut EP, what they played at a sold-out Rough Trade NYC on Friday night was an evening of surprises. To fully set the scene, a gaggle of preteen girls lined the entrance to the performance space in the back. When the doors opened to the stage, the screams were palpable and would go on throughout the short, yet varied set. Although bassist Jack Anderson and rhythm guitarist Wolfhard took the lead addressing the crowd, lead guitarist Ayla Tesler-Mabe stood out thanks to her impressive prowess. Her look and skills had me thinking she could be the new baby Haim sister.

The Vancouver, B.C., quartet debuted material from their forthcoming EP, including the punky “Wasting Time,” and played a slew of covers. The Velvet Underground’s “Here She Comes Now” was dedicated to Lou Reed and Hulk Hogan. I doubt half of those in attendance knew who Reed was. Certainly not the young ladies in the front swooning over the actor-singer, but perhaps their supportive parents in the back. Wolfhard confessed Calpurnia’s shared love for Twin Peaks before the band honored their label-mates with a take on “Butterfly.” The crowd sang along to Pixies“Where Is My Mind” in between extended squeals, of course. And Anderson throbbed the bass on a rendition of Weezer’s “El Scorcho” to close the set. A resounding “one more song” chant called the young band back to the stage to encore with a new original tune. Oh, what it’s like to be a teen again. —Sharlene Chiu



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


The Black Angels Bring New Music to Brooklyn Steel on Tuesday

May 1st, 2017

Taking their name from the Velvet Underground tune “The Black Angel’s Death Song,” the psychedelic garage-rock band the Black Angels formed more than a decade ago in Austin, Texas. The group—Stephanie Bailey (drums), Christian Bland (guitar, drone machine and organ), Alex Maas (vocals, bass, drone machine and organ), Kyle Hunt (keys, percussion, bass and guitar) and Jake Garcia (guitar)—recently released their fifth long-player, Death Song (stream it below), to some considerable praise. Paste says it “is both unlike anything they’ve done before and also the most purely Black Angels album they have released. It’s as if the Texas psych-garage mainstays have now fully mapped the edges of their sound and that this process has allowed them to return with an extreme vengeance to the dead center of what they are.” And the Guardian calls the full-length “a menacing return to form,” while Glide adds: “The album gains momentum with each song and gets better with each subsequent listen.” Touring behind the new music, the Black Angels (above, performing “Half Believing” live on French TV) play Brooklyn Steel on Tuesday, and Brooklyn trio A Place to Bury Strangers open the show.


Ultimate Painting Headline The Bowery Ballroom Tomorrow Night

December 6th, 2016

Ultimate Painting’s show at The Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday is part of the fast-rising band’s sixth tour of the United States—they’re hooked and so are we, and why not? Dusk (stream it below), the English duo’s third full-length album, released earlier this fall, firms up Ultimate Painting’s credentials as artisans of tunefully fractured pop and indie rock. (Or is that fractiously tuneful?) It’s subversive but not overcomplicated, chewable if not too smooth, subdued but not quiet. The Velvet Underground come up often as a descriptive association, as do a multitude of other bands, from the Byrds to Television. All of which is to say that Jack Cooper (formerly of Mazes) and James Hoare (formerly of Veronica Falls) are established craftsmen of not-overdone but hard-to-pin-down pop statements, some of which come grinded out (the Dusk closer, “I Can’t Run Anymore,” being a prime example), and some of which hide pointed edges in soft acoustics (“I’m Set Free”). You’d call them dreamy only if you’re feeling lazy. They’re dreamy the way the Velvets were contemplative. “I think we were hoping to make something more cohesive,” Cooper recently told Track Record about Dusk. “Something that worked more as an album rather than a collection of songs.… It’s difficult to describe the sounds and frequencies that we both respond to but stylistically, we’re pushing for more space.” Get to this Bowery show. They’re billing it as their biggest-ever U.S. appearance, but you can feel free to look at it as the last time you’ll see them in a room this small. And as an added bonus, Juan Wauters and EZTV open the show. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson


Two Chances to Catch the Jesus and Mary Chain at Terminal 5

September 23rd, 2015

Inspired by bands like the Sex Pistols, brothers Jim Reid (vocals) and William Reid (guitar and vocals) formed the Jesus and Mary Chain in their native Scotland more than 30 years ago. “By blending the Beach Boys’ sunny pop with the Velvet Underground’s black-leather cool,” the distortion-loving shoegaze pioneers—currently rounded out by Phil King (bass), Brian Young (drums) and Mark Crozer (guitar)—would go on to become one of the biggest alternative-rock acts in the world on the strength of six studio albums, smash hits, like “Head On” and “Just Like Honey,” and several international tours. But it wasn’t meant to last, and the Jesus and Mary Chain broke up in the late-’90s. Fortunately, that didn’t take either, and the band reunited in 2007, going on to make several appearances over the next few years. But to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their blistering landmark debut album, Psychocandy (stream it below), the Jesus and Mary Chain (above, performing “Just Like Honey”) are back out on the road, playing the album in its entirety. And you’ve got two chances to see them locally when they play Terminal 5 tomorrow and Friday.


Matthew E. White Hits Another Home Run in Brooklyn

August 10th, 2015

Matthew E. White – Rough Trade NYC – August 7, 2015

Matthew E. White has been making himself pretty comfortable in Brooklyn this year. Friday night’s set at Rough Trade NYC was his third trip to the borough in 2015, and judging how the show went, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was another one in the not too distant future. Before White and his band took the stage, though, they joined the crowd in enjoying the eye-opening warm-up set from Sleepwalkers, who almost immediately won over the crowd with a slick one-two opening segue and kept it going with an impressive array of high-energy genre hopping.

Returning dressed in suits, White and his band were instantly at home again, opening with a noodle-y two-guitar intro to “Tranquility,” off of his new Fresh Blood LP. Alan Parker matched White on guitar as the song took form before the rest of the band kicked in to the mix. “One of These Days” was an early set tutorial in the highs and lows of White’s sound, his whispered vocals became impassioned screams and back again, the groove whipped to a puree by the blender bass of Cameron Ralston, and extended instrumental passages reaching multiple peaks. Although it felt impossible to top that climactic second song, they did their best, following with “Vision,” which opened with White softly singing, “Nobody in the world is better than us,” and finished with drummer Pinson Chanselle slamming his way through a rocking jam-out.

The remainder of the set balanced deep grooves and ecstatic rock, each song taking things to the warning track, most of them sailing easily over the fence. A cover of the Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat” opened into a lengthy, exhilarating noise jam that flipped to the sexy, bedroom soul of “Take Care My Baby,” followed by “Steady Pace” and an ensuing, intense Marvin Gaye–meets–the Who moment. Things grew even more raucous for “Feeling Good Is Good Enough,” White inviting members of Sleepwalkers up for an unplanned sit-in, leading the crowd in a boisterous sing-along before Parker hopped on the floor to engage in a fiery guitar duel. Finally closing with an everybody-dance-now version of “Rock & Roll Is Cold,” the comfort level was at an all time high for White and Brooklyn both. —A. Stein | @Neddyo


Har Mar Superstar and the Pizza Underground Tonight on the LES

December 3rd, 2014

For more than 10 years, Har Mar Superstar (above, performing “Lady You Shot Me” on French television) has been known for his onstage antics—whether it’s slowly stripping or break dancing or even doing both at the same time—at his sex-charged energetic live shows. But what’s most noticeable about him is that he’s a supremely talented singer and songwriter, aptly evident on his fifth album, last year’s Bye Bye 17 (stream it below). According to Filter, Har Mar’s “silken, Otis Redding–reminiscent vocals anchor funky, horn-driven R&B beats that match the swagger of Motown.” Emerging from the anti-folk scene, comedy-rock outfit the Pizza UndergroundMacaulay Culkin (kazoo, percussion and vocals), Austin Kilham (tambourine and vocals), Deenah Vollmer (percussion and vocals), Matt Colbourn (guitar and vocals) and Phoebe Kreutz (glockenspiel and vocals)—do parody versions of Velvet Underground material with pizza-themed song names and lyrics. The New York City five-piece has been out on the road with Har Mar Superstar, and they all return home, alongside singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Toby Goodshank, to play The Bowery Ballroom tonight.


Smoky Troubadour Jolie Holland Plays Music Hall of Williamsburg

June 23rd, 2014

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jolie Holland grew up in Texas with an affinity for folk, blues, jazz, country and rock. Her debut studio album, Escondida (stream it below), arrived in 2004 and it did not go unnoticed. It was a blend of genres held together by Holland’s smoky vocals. AllMusic said the album gives listeners an “experience that is singular, startling and soulful.” Over the ensuing years, she continued to record, tour extensively and collaborate with others. But, inspired by the live-studio recordings by the likes of Neil Young, the Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground, Holland (above, her video for “Waiting for the Sun”) sought out a different sound on her newest full-length, Wine Dark Sea (stream it below), which came out last month. “The approach on this album is more about bandleading than anything else. On past albums, I couldn’t get people to do what I wanted them to do. More volume helped; getting more people onstage and not being polite,” she tells Mother Jones. Wine Dark Sea leans less on folk and country acoustics while embracing grungier guitars. Per AllMusic, “It’s a raw, often raucous presentation, balanced by Holland’s mature poetic vision and her continued exploration of American musical forms. She effortlessly links them, one source to another, as seemingly disparate performance styles are filtered through a universal language, the love song, and all 11 tracks here are just that.” See Jolie Holland play Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow night. Shy Hunters, a Brooklyn pop duo, open the show.


Cate Le Bon Sells Out

January 17th, 2014

Cate Le Bon – Mercury Lounge – January 16, 2014

(Photo: Andie Diemer)

Cate Le Bon’s 2014 is off to a solid start. With her fantastic 2013 release, Mug Museum, finding its way onto several year-end best-albums lists (including Bradford Cox’s list), Le Bon’s supporting the album with a string of U.S. shows, many of which are selling out, including last night’s early show at Mercury Lounge. The venue was practically at capacity for the final songs of opening set by Kevin Morby, bassist of the fantastic band Woods.

Unlike many other singer-songwriter Brits, Le Bon’s accent finds its way into her singing voice, adding a certain degree of endearing charm to her airy alto voice floating above her band’s treble-filled syncopated guitar lines. It has traces of Nico’s singing voice with the Velvet Underground, just in a slightly higher register. For those who have ever listened to her recordings and wonder where the high backing vocals come from, it’s not Le Bon’s voice double tracked but the falsetto voices of her all-male backing band. There’s something pretty astounding about watching three guys sing backup harmonies in falsetto.

And it’s all the more astounding considering they can pull it off live while playing other instruments, like on the jaunty guitar riffs carrying out the end of the wonderfully catchy “Are You with Me Now?” The multitalented Le Bon switched between guitar and organ throughout the set. One song even featured a recorder solo (yes, those recorders), after which she made the audience promise not to publish any photographic proof of it because “that’s just not fair.” Le Bon wraps up the remainder of her January with the second half of her U.S. tour before returning to England for a string of shows. So catch her while you can, just make sure not to Instagram any recorder pics.—Dan Rickershauser


A Top Five Look Back at 2013

January 10th, 2014

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

My Top Five Favorite Shows
The Postal Service, Barclay Center, June 14
My decade-belated live date with the Postal Service finally culminated at Barclays Center, where rabid fans, like myself, roared as Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello hit the stage. As if acting out lyrics from “Nothing Better,” Gibbard and Jenny Lewis shimmied close for the duet. Old friends reunited onstage never felt so good.

2. Haim, Webster Hall, September 3
I was late to this bandwagon, as fellow House List contributor Alex Kapelman shortlisted Haim last year for his Top Five Bowery Presents Shows of the Year. I knew I was in for a good one when I could barely find a spot in the rafters to catch the three sisters, who charmed with their onstage banter and wicked musicianship

3. Jessie Ware, The Bowery Ballroom, January 17
Straight off her Jimmy Fallon taping backed by the Roots, the British songstress elated the crowd with her effortless, down-to-earth stage demeanor. Her star quickly rose with American audiences, as she sold out shows at Webster Hall, Music Hall of Williamsburg and Irving Plaza throughout the year. I was glad to have caught her earlier in the more intimate venue.

4. Basia Bulat, Bowery Ballroom, November 23
I’ve been a fan of Basia Bulat since I heard her cover Sam Cooke’s “Touch the Hem of His Garment.” This show on a cold night wasn’t sold out, which made me a little sad since she’s quite the talent. But those who were there were enraptured by her prowess on autoharp to the point that you could hear a pin drop during her solos.

5. Daughter, Bowery Ballroom, April 30
Somehow Elena Tonra manages to disguise heartbreak behind soulful lyrics and melody. She has a knack for turning happy dance songs into somber endeavors. The band mashed-up Bon Iver and Hot Chip’s “Perth/Ready for the Floor” that evening. Check out Tonra’s somber retake of Daft Punk’s hit “Get Lucky” for further proof. —Sharlene Chiu

My Top Five Shows I Never Thought I Would See
1. Desaparecidos, Webster Hall, February 26

Desaparecidos (and really any Conor Oberst project) were my bread and butter back in the early aughts, and for a while they seemed to be a one-off, a politically minded side project firmly planted in the past. Fortunately (and unfortunately) the global state of affairs remains messed up enough for the band to regroup to write protest songs for a new decade. It was a nostalgic, sweaty and inspired performance.

2. Shuggie Otis, Music Hall of Williamsburg, April 19
Shuggie Otis began putting out music in the mid-’70s, followed by a long period of laying low. Content to groove along to songs like “Ice Cold Daydream” at home, I never really thought about the possibility of a Shuggie Otis tour in 2013. But when I found out, I was there. And “Ice Cold Daydream” is even better in person.

3. The Flamin’ Groovies, The Bowery Ballroom, July 6
Instead of discovering the Flamin’ Groovies in a smoky San Fran club in the ’60s, I was introduced to their catchy psychedelia on a Nuggets compilation more than 30 years later. Who’d have thought they’d still be going strong in 2013 and that I’d be dancing right alongside some old school fans at this fun summer show.

4.  John Prine, Beacon Theatre, September 26
John Prine has been active since the early ’70s, but unlike Shuggie Otis, he never really went away, writing and recording songs at a steady pace throughout the years. But I still always thought of him as an artist too legendary for me to see in person—or that tickets would be too out of reach. But John Prine put on an amazing show, highlighting his singular skills as a songwriter and storyteller.

5. The Julie Ruin, Music Hall of Williamsburg, October 25
I was late to the party for the original riot-grrl movement, but I became an admirer of Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna during her time in Le Tigre. She’s dealt with some debilitating health issues in the past few years, but I had no doubt she’d continue to make art and music. So I was happy to learn of her latest project, the Julie Ruin, and her energetic show did not disappoint. —Alena Kastin

My Top Five Shows
1. Yo La Tengo, Town Hall, February 16

I don’t like to pick a favorite, but my last.fm account tells me I’ve listened to Yo La Tengo more than any other band since 2007. At Town Hall, they performed an acoustic set and an electronic one, doing two versions of “Ohm,” my favorite song of the year. And then I ran into Tim Heidecker from Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job! Had the Red Sox not won the World Series, this would’ve been my favorite night of the year.

2. Killer Mike/El-P, Webster Hall, August 14
I don’t care what anyone says: The best two rap albums of 2012 came from Killer Mike and El-P. And in 2013 they topped them, coming together as one entity, Run the Jewels. The night included a set from El-P, a set from Killer Mike and a combined set with both. El-P’s ingenious production plus Killer “I bleed charisma” Mike equals one concert I will never forget.

3. Foxygen, The Bowery Ballroom, October 21
With Foxygen it occasionally feels like shit could fall apart at any moment. And sometimes it does. But when their shows don’t come unhinged they deliver that sweet thrill of relief, like narrowly avoiding a car crash. And on this Halloween-themed night, the band made a weird show even weirder with homemade costumes and pseudo spooky vibes.

4. Steve Earle, Music Hall of Williamsburg, May 8
You can just tell some people are genuine, and Steve Earle is certainly one of them. Forever wearing his heart on his sleeve, that same energy bleeds right into his music, which he played alongside what he’s calling “the best band he’s ever had.”

5. Meat Puppets, Mercury Lounge, April 4
Not only are the Meat Puppets still kicking (after living through some serious shit), but also they’re thriving. And as much as I respect their legacy, seeing them play for more than two hours with the intensity you’d expect of a band 20 years their junior makes me respect them that much more. Long live the puppets of meat! —Dan Rickershauser

My Top Five Shows
1. Dessa, Union Hall, May 5

There are few performers I feel can move mountains with their vocal chords, and Dessa is one of them. This performance was an eruption of defiant lyrics and bold beats. A sizable crowd of young girls knew all of her lyrics, giving the show a chant-like feel. The only female member of Minnesota’s Doomtree collective practically vibrates with energy, and it’s completely contagious.

2. Kishi Bashi, Irving Plaza, September 12
Kishi Bashi sounds even better live than he does recorded. And he delivered a dazzling set with profuse vocal looping and an excellent backing band. Kauro Ishibashi has a supercharged, effusive aura, and his music embodies that persona. This set took a rowdy turn that involved crowd surfing, strobe lights and an outright jam session.

3. Panama Wedding, CMJ Music Marathon
I happened upon newcomers Panama Wedding three different times during CMJ: Initially, opening for NONONO at Mercury Lounge on the first night. Since the band had only released one song, “All of the People,” I was eager to see what would unfold onstage. Their set was so tight that I caught the fantastical pop group the following night at Pianos and then again at a showcase at Santos Party House.

4. You Won’t, Rockwood Music Hall, October 30
The live iteration of You Won’t is a spectacle to behold. I watched eagerly as Josh Arnoudse and Raky Sastri wielded a slew of instruments with ease, quickly fascinating the audience. The duo took their jaunty music into the audience a couple of times to break the barrier and enlisted some extra vocal support by encouraging us to all to sing along.

5. James Blake, Terminal 5, November 6
In this spellbinding live performance, complete with plenty of vocal looping and haunting electronica, James Blake made a cavernous room filled with people feel intimate. And that he’s such a dapper-looking fellow only helps boost his appeal. I’m still transfixed by this performance nearly two months later. James Blake’s music has some serious lasting effects. —Schuyler Rooth

My Top Five Shows with Regard to Lights, Visuals and Production
1. Umphrey’s McGee, Brooklyn Bowl, January 20

Kick-ass creative lighting
and Brooklyn Bowl don’t usually go hand in hand, but Umphrey’s McGee lighting guru Jefferson Waful turned the room into a thing of beauty.

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

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

4. The Flaming Lips/Tame Impala, Terminal 5, October 1
It was almost as fascinating to watch the Lips’ spectacle getting set up as it was to see it in action—confetti, strobes, LEDs and, well, pretty much everything. And Tame Impala’s projections were no slouch either.

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

My Top Five Albums
1. Phosphorescent, Muchacho
I’d only seen Phosphorescent once before listening to Muchacho for the first time. And while much of Matthew Houck’s previous work is country-tinged (not that there’s anything wrong with that), this album, ostensibly about a breakup, covers more territory, from the meditative sounds of “Sun, Arise (An Invocation, an Introduction)” and “Sun’s Arising (A Koan, an Exit)” to the jammy, driving “Ride On/Right On” to softer fare, like “Muchacho’s Tune,” all centered on Houck’s evocative voice. I still can’t stop listening to it.

2. Foxygen, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
Foxygen’s third full-length, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, comes off as a loving mash note to ’70s rock. You’ll hear bits of the Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground and David Bowie, but the album expertly manages to sound like something whole and new rather than something derivative.

3. White Denim, Corsicana Lemonade
Upon the first couple of listens, I found White Denim’s latest, Corsicana Lemonade, to be too singer-songwriter-y, but I continued to give it a chance, and it opened up to something much bigger, with genre-hopping songs like “Let It Feel Good (My Eagles)” and “Pretty Green”—not to mention some searing guitar parts—grabbing me by the throat.

4. Futurebirds, Baba Yaga
Admittedly, I didn’t know anything about Futurebirds, out of Athens, Ga., before writing a preview of their late-May show at The Bowery Ballroom. But while listening to their second LP, Baba Yaga, as I wrote, I became totally enamored of the album—half twangy Southern rock and half spacey reverb.

 5. Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze
I love Kurt Vile’s Wakin on a Pretty Daze so much, that I can’t believe it’s only No. 5. Labeling it stoner rock, as many have done, is lazy. Although I supposed me calling it laid-back rock isn’t any better. But the fact of the matter is there might not ever be a better album to listen to while walking the streets of New York City with headphones in your ears. —R. Zizmor


A Patti Smith Birthday Celebration

December 31st, 2013

Patti Smith – Webster Hall – December 30, 2013

Patti Smith celebrated her 67th birthday last night by performing for a sold-out crowd at Webster Hall, opening with a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” in tribute to the late Lou Reed—a deliberate and respectful rendition. Although the loss of Reed, one of Smith’s contemporaries, is no doubt still fresh, the song didn’t set a mournful tone. Instead, Smith was in good spirits, spouting playful banter as she and her band navigated through an eclectic set list, with songs from 2012’s Banga (“Fuji San,” “Mosaic”) taking their place beside early numbers like “Dancing Barefoot,” off the Patti Smith Group’s 1979 album, Wave, and “Free Money,” from Smith’s debut album, 1975’s Horses.

Despite the joke “Yes it’s my birthday, I am now 422 years old,” Smith proved she’s still quite in touch with pop culture, performing a soulful rendition of Rihanna’s hit single “Stay” as well as “Capital Letter,” a tune Smith wrote for the newest Hunger Games soundtrack. Not too many 422 year olds can claim that level of connectedness with the millennials in the crowd. Later in the sett, Smith was presented with a gift and a birthday cake by her daughter Jesse and friends (including Michael Stipe), as the crowd sang “Happy Birthday.” A surprise cascade of balloons was released from the ceiling, and Smith seemed just as delighted by her gift: seven pairs of socks.

Before the show’s end, Smith treated us to favorites like “Because the Night” and “Pissing in a River,” before bookending the set with another Reed song, “Perfect Day.” Leaving us with a New Year’s tiding, the auteur announced that 2014 is in fact the year of the horse—promising that it will be “a very strong year.” As evidenced once again by her powerful performance, Smith’s words carry conviction. We should all be inclined to believe her. —Alena Kastin


The Dandy Warhols Play Terminal 5 Tomorrow Night

May 30th, 2013

Formed in mid-’90s Portland, Ore., the Dandy Warhols—frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor, drummer Brent DeBoer, guitarist Peter Holmström and keyboardist Zia McCabe— immediately earned heady comparisons to the Velvet Underground with the release of their debut full-length, Dandys Rule OK?, in 1995. But it was actually their second album, The Dandy Warhols Come Down, which came out two years later, that really put the band on the map. Not only did their music begin appearing in movies and in television, but the quartet began to have a bit of international success, too. The Dandy Warhols (above, doing “Bohemian Like You” on Later … with Jools Holland) eventually supported David Bowie on a European tour and then appeared in the documentary Dig! alongside the Brian Jonestown Massacre. But despite this success, the group continues to record new material every couple of years, including 2012’s This Machine (stream it below). Next month they release a remastered version of their biggest album, Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, but tomorrow night they play Terminal 5.


Veronica Falls, Surfin’ USA

March 11th, 2013

Veronica Falls – The Bowery Ballroom – March 8, 2013

(Photo: Andie Diemer)

I should mention up front that no one in Veronica Falls is named Veronica, let’s just get that cleared up right now. But the English quartet has me questioning some of the basic fundamentals of rock geography: Bands out of London aren’t supposed to sound cheery. There’s not much surfing off the British Isles and thus their rock bands aren’t supposed to be “surfy” or “sunny.” In fact, music from across the pond is supposed to be the antithesis of these things, with the folk-rock British Invasion of the ’60s essentially putting the nail in the coffin for California surf rock. This is not to say that Veronica Falls’ sound is anything particularly unusual, it’s just odd to hear an English band that’s so damn good at the rock things we consider quintessentially American.

Touring behind the recently released Waiting for Something to Happen, an album so catchy it hurts, Veronica Falls came to The Bowery Ballroom on Friday night as part of a month of American tour dates. Walking the line between indie rock and charming pop (think the Strokes produced by Phil Spector—with a female lead), there were moments in every song that rewarded careful listening, little nuggets of guitar riffs that wormed their way into your brain to take up permanent residence.

Basic drumming patterns with a seldom used cymbal took a note from the Velvet Underground playbook, setting a simple rhythm for songs like “Tell Me” for shoegaze guitars to dance around. A variety of harmonies worked their way into most songs, soothingly blissful on “Teenage,” a call-and-response on “Found Love in a Graveyard” and even boy-meets-girl vocals on “My Heart Beats.” And spearheading it all was the lead-singing guitarist, the fantastically named Roxanne Clifford, who made it no secret that she was having a great time onstage. —Dan Rickershauser