Tag Archives: Williamsburg

Contest

Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See Bahamas on 1/19

January 16th, 2018

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Toronto musician Bahamas has a new album coming out on Friday, and he celebrates its release that night at Music Hall of Williamsburg. The show is sold out, but The House List is giving away two tickets. Don’t already have any of your own and still want to go? Try to Grow a Pair. It’s easy. Just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, email address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (Bahamas, 1/19) and a brief message explaining what you most love about his music. Eddie Bruiser, a fan of Canadian rock and the Bahamas, will notify the winner by Friday afternoon. Good luck.

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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

 

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Karl Blau and Chris Forsyth Team Up to Take On Rough Trade NYC

January 9th, 2018

After years of recording, Karl Blau is finally having his moment. As a mainstay in the influential lo-fi folk scene built around K Records in the Pacific Northwest, he’s been churning out rock solid music that’s never followed the trends around him. Featuring his rich molasses-soaked baritone voice and effortless abilities to cross genres, each of Blau’s records is a rewarding journey that can just as easily bring listeners gratification as it can put you off guard. As great as these albums have been, Blau had been flying under the radar for far too long. But thanks to last year’s Introducing Karl Blau (stream it below), that all changed. With help from producer Tucker Martine and guests like Jim James, Jenny Lewis and Laura Veirs, Introducing found Blau reinterpreting classic songs by such artists as Townes Van Zandt, the Bee Gees and Link Wray. The results were absolutely breathtaking and the long-player brought him to a much wider audience, landing Blau (above, doing “Fallin’ Rain” live in studio for KEXP FM) a home with Bella Union for this year’s equally brilliant Out Her Space (stream it below). Comprised of all originals, the new album continues Blau’s winning streak and proves that one of underground music’s best-kept secrets is at the height of his powers. Blau plays Rough Trade NYC on Thursday with guitar mastermind Chris Forsyth—most known for his sprawling psychedelic work, like on this year’s Dreaming in the Non-Dream (stream it below)—and his Solar Motel Band, a truly great double bill that shouldn’t be missed. —Pat King | @MrPatKing




 

 

Contest

Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See Anthony Ramos on 1/13

January 9th, 2018

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After appearing on stage—a star-making turn as John Laurens and Philip Hamilton in the global smash Hamilton—and screen—taking on Spike Lee’s role of Mars Blackmon in the auteur’s She’s Gotta Have It Netflix reboot—talented Brooklyn singer-songwriter Anthony Ramos has turned inward: And with his politically charged debut EP, Freedom, due to arrive later this month, Ramos plays Rough Trade NYC on Saturday and Sunday. Some tickets still remain to his second performance, but if you already got shut out of Saturday’s sold-out show, you can still try to Grow a Pair of tickets from The House List. It’s easy, just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, email address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (Anthony Ramos, 1/13) and a brief message (that doesn’t involve alcohol) explaining your best advice for staying warm in these arctic temperatures. Eddie Bruiser, who’s currently laying low on the liquor, will notify the winner by Friday afternoon. Good luck.

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Ahead of New Album, Oshun Play the Late Show at Rough Trade NYC

January 8th, 2018

Expertly blending hip-hop with neo-soul, Washington, D.C., natives Thandiwe and Niambi Sala, who actually met at NYU, make what they call “Floetry meets Lauryn Hill meets Chief Keef” as the soulful R&B duo Oshun. “Niambi’s fast-punching lyricism weaves in and out of Thandi’s smooth, honey-like harmonies, creating something that neither one of them could have formed without the other,” says Fader. “The two friends use their music to share their reality, and no topic is left uncovered. Over subtle melodies that give a sense of steady calm, they expound upon current events, knowing your history, and the triumphs and tribulations of being young black women growing up in today’s society.” They put out several singles last year, including “Not My President.” And with their album, Bittersweet, Vol. 1, due to arrive, Oshun (above, performing “Gods” for KUTX FM), play the late show at Rough Trade NYC on Friday with High Class Hoodlums opening.

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It’s the End of the Year as We Know It

December 28th, 2017

With 2018 fast approaching, The House List takes a look back at 2017.

Adela Loconte, Photographer @adelaloconte
Top Five Favorite Shows
1.
At the Drive-In, Terminal 5, March 22
2. Arca & Jesse Kanda Live, Brooklyn Steel, July 6
3. The Flaming Lips, Terminal 5, March 9
4. PJ Harvey, Brooklyn Steel, April 20
5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kings Theatre, November 7

Chad Berndtson, Writer @cberndtson
Top Five Favorite Shows
No music fan sees everything, and so much depends on the time, the night, the conditions—my ephemeral joys might be your disappointments. That’s part of the fun, right? Among scores of shows I saw in 2017, here are five nights that stuck with me.
1. Drive By Truckers, The Space at Westbury, February 10
One of the great live bands of the last 20 years has gotten leaner and meaner, unafraid of political jabs or paint-peeler guitar solos.
2. Explosions in the Sky, Capitol Theatre, April 22
Ominous music, loaded with portent, staring into the abyss or looking with a smile at some triumph high in the sky. Heavy, cinematic and deep.
3. Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons, Mercury Lounge, April 30
A master class in old-school, highly emotional rock energy. Still don’t understand why more people don’t know him, 30-plus years into a career of rough-scuffed folk rock delivered sometimes with tenderness and sometimes with Crazy Horse–like abandon.
4. The xx, Forest Hills Stadium, May 19
OK, I’m buying: Hipster as hell, but what they did was paint an outdoor venue in darkly beautiful soundscapes. The most fun I’ve had getting lost in a band in some time. They turn large, unforgiving venues into intimate listening rooms—and get you dancing.
5. Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Music Hall of Williamsburg, November 20
Nelson has learned a lot from two musical dads: his actual dad, Willie, and also Neil Young, whom the Promise of the Real have backed on and off for years now. The type of show that defines the word swagger—a generous meal of rock, country, folk, blues and R&B by an old-school showman barely in his prime.

Dan Rickershauser, Writer @d4nricks
Top Five Favorite Albums
1.
Big Thief, Capacity
The one record I found myself returning to again and again. It was a shitty year, but something about this album soothed my sorrows. Adrianne Lenker’s songs feel personal yet completely pull you in. May she never let go.
2. Kendrick Lamar, Damn.
This may be my least favorite Kendrick Lamar record to date and yet it’s still the second best album that came out this year. The man’s a legend and the world seems to know it. It’s a good thing he’s so humble.
3. The War on Drugs, A Deeper Understanding
Adam Granduciel, the obsessive studio wizard, put out another beauty, this record even more gorgeous than the last. It’s the sound of rock perfection from a perfectionist.
4. Waxahatchee, Out in the Storm
Katie Crutchfield’s songwriting just keeps getting better. She comes out of the gates swinging with some dangerously catchy jams.
5. Grizzly Bear, Painted Ruins
Of all the great indie bands of the late Aughts returning with new albums this year, Grizzly Bear’s takes the cake. Way too many critics slept on this one!

Pat King, Writer @mrpatking
Top Five Favorite Albums
1. Jens Lekman, Life Will See You Now
I had never really given Jens Lekman a chance as a songwriter, but this year it finally clicked for me in a big way. I got laid off from a job that I thought I loved early on in 2017 and was feeling pretty lost and listless in life. I was taking the train from the city to upstate New York to help my dad with a few big projects and was feeling incredibly low sitting alone on Metro North. All of the sudden, I heard “To Know Your Mission” and was completely overcome with emotion. It was the perfect tune for me at that time and each song that followed helped me understand my situation a little more clearly. I couldn’t believe how wise and endearing Lekman is as a lyricist.
2. Mark Mulcahy, The Possum in the Driveway
Whenever the discussion veers toward musicians who have not been given their just dues, I always think of Mark Mulcahy. As the frontman of Miracle Legion and the Nickelodeon-sponsored Polaris (“ay-yay-yay-yi, Hey Sandy”), Mulcahy had been known for a certain type of feel-good college jangle pop that was certainly a product of the ’90s. What many people may not realize is that his solo releases have been more emotionally and musically rewarding than either of those old projects, and he’s been one of few artists who each album he releases is better than his last. Over the past couple of decades he has reinvented himself as one of the great American balladeers, with lyrics and a voice that can cut you down to the bone. This year’s the Possum in the Driveway is a brilliant testament to his powers as a songwriter and one that proves he is in a league of his own.
3. Pallbearer, Heartless
Pallbearer have always shown promise of being one the best doom-metal bands around. But with their self-titled third album, they’ve transcended the genre and gelled into one of today’s most exciting rock bands. The songs are slightly shorter (although still around eight minutes) but have somehow intensified their scope in a more epic way. With this LP, Brett Campbell has made his case for being one of the best singers in heavy music. His lines never reach the outrageous heights of some of his peers in metal but bring enough power to stop you in your tracks. The same goes for this record’s instrumentation. The songs never feel like they have too many parts or get played out to the point of metal parody. It’s just a front-to-back banger that finally cemented Pallbearer as one of the best around.
4. Björk, Utopia
There aren’t many artists who you could say are peerless in popular music. Björk is definitely one of those artists. Every time she releases a new album, fans wait with anticipation to see where she if she will be able to clear the bar she set for herself on the one before. Utopia is such a statement as a complete work as she tries to understand and find happiness in her life after exploring decimating heartbreak on her last release, Vulnicura. It’s amazing to hear her reach the same breathtaking heights as a visionary artist this far into her career. Bow down and give respect.
5. Robyn Hitchcock, Robyn Hitchcock
Robyn Hitchcock delivered the back-to-basics Soft Boys–style album that many of his fans had been longing for for years. Teaming up with producer (and ex-Raconteur) Brendan Benson, Hitchcock turned up the amps and delivered 10 near-flawless rock songs that reminded us why he is one of the most inventive songwriters around. His wit as a lyricist is still ever-present, but hearing him deliver guitar parts reminiscent of Underwater Moonlight on songs like “I Want to Tell You What I Want” and “Mad Shelley’s Letterbox” was one of the most welcome surprises of 2017 for me.
Pat King’s Top 20 Best of 2017 Playlist: https://open.spotify.com/user/126049064/playlist/2idgUHVCiGSJqKkwkfex8v?si=wewT–RFRfWWxEVV3rmWsQ.

Sharlene Chiu, Writer
Top Five Favorite Shows with “New” Artists
1. SZA, Brooklyn Steel, December 10

So if you haven’t yet heard of SZA, you won’t be able to escape her name anytime soon. Riding a debut album that has already produced two platinum singles, the singer played a very sold-out Brooklyn Steel the night after performing on SNL. Her vibrant stage presence was supported by the Sing Harlem Choir. Girl’s going places and you’ll see her next year at the Grammy’s, where she’s the most nominated woman with five nods.
2. Maggie Rogers, The Bowery Ballroom, April 11
When a video of Pharrell’s reaction to Ms. Rogers’ demo of “Alaska” went viral, she was on the up-and-up. Her performance at a sold-out Bowery Ballroom was not only a homecoming, but it was also a beginning of bigger stages and larger audiences. She became teary and confessional near the end of the set, reminiscing about the previous times she’d been to the venue as an audience member. After her pair of Bowery shows, she set off on a whirlwind international tour taking her to Europe, Australia and Japan.
3. The Cactus Blossoms, Mercury Lounge, July 12
The first time I caught the Cactus Blossoms’ noir-infused honky-tonk was at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco last year. When I saw they would be playing a late show at Mercury Lounge, I had to be there. Friends, I do not go out late on school nights, but for brothers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey, I made an exception. Their languid waltzes were the perfect soundtrack for steamy July.
4. Jay Som, Rough Trade NYC, June 6
A triad of Asian-American songwriters, including Mitski, Japanese Breakfast and Jay Som have been self-producing music since last year. The latter rolled into a sold-out Rough Trade NYC to charm the crowd with not only her skilled musicianship, but also with her charming wit. Som was recently shortlisted by NPR’s All Songs Considered in their year-end best of 2017.
5. Violents and Monica Martin, Rough Trade NYC, April 26
OK, this one isn’t technically new, but the pairing was. Monica Martin, best known as the frontwoman for the now-on-hiatus Phox, and producer Jeremy Larson aka Violents teamed up for this rare tour. Larson has collaborated with female vocalists before, but this one was special. Songs were paired with cinematic footage ranging from scenes from House Party to sweeping black-and-white scenery. What still sticks in my memory was a haunting cover of Frank Ocean’s “Self Control.”

 

 

 

 

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Two Nights of Diarrhea Planet Live at Rough Trade NYC

December 27th, 2017

Let’s get it out of the way: Diarrhea Planet (above, performing “Heat Wave” live in the studio for KEXP FM) may not be the most enticing name, but with their heady four-guitar rock attack, the Nashville six-piece—Evan Bird, Emmett Miller, Jordan Smith and Brent Toler (each on guitar), Mike Boyle (bass) and Casey Weissbach (drums)—win over people with what AllMusic calls a “’70s power pop meets ’90s grunge vibe” and a “potent and sometimes ridiculous mix of blistering garage rock, pop punk, metal and even Southern rock,” per NPR Music. Last year, the road warriors put out their second full-length album, Turn to Gold (stream it below), which “rolls forth like a stoner rock take on Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run being blasted out the windows of a dragon mural-encrusted boogie van,” according to AllMusic. “With Turn to Gold, Diarrhea Planet, a group with arguably one of the best-worst band names in rock history, have crafted their first truly great album.” And as good as their recorded stuff is, Stereogum calls Diarrhea Planet’s live show “reliably fucking awesome.” Find out for yourself when they play Rough Trade NYC on Saturday and then again on New Year’s Eve.

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Kevin Devine Plays Two Albums at His Last Local Show of the Year

December 18th, 2017

Kevin Devine – Music Hall of Williamsburg – December 16, 2017


The end is near—of 2017, at least. People are preparing treks to see family or readying their own home to be visited. At the same time, they’re also reflecting on a year that many of us would probably like to move past. And Kevin Devine’s final hometown 2017 show, at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday night, felt like the perfect coda. He put two albums on display, one that worries about where we’re headed and one that helps tell us how we got here. He began with the former, Instigator. Released a month before the 2016 election, it’s a loud, nervous record with a clear vision about the battles America is fighting, will fight and those already won or lost. While Devine is often flanked by a half dozen or more band members, he played this album as a trio. It was written that way, he says, and that raw sound only amplified the tension and the terror of lyrics in songs like “Both Ways” (“Our destiny, made manifest/ Oblivion and its endlessness/ Imagine our surprise when/ We actually had to pick up the check!”) or “No History,” a recalculation of 9/11’s impact on the country and its people through the hazy lens of our current troubles (“The blood and money didn’t fix anything/ We’ve grown accustomed to the depths of the danger/ This is the future/ Severe and always happening”).

While it’s all a bit dour, it’s a cathartic album to hear played live. Devine, though, seemed to rush through it the way one speeds through hard holiday conversations with family so they can get out and see old friends. No surprise, because he then moved on to the second album, 2006’s Put Your Ghost to Rest. For this one, he was joined by that ensemble of usual suspects, the Goddamn Band, as the shifting group of friends and musicians has always been called. The lyrics, written during—and often about—the Bush administration, were still challenging and surprisingly relevant. But the music grew more lush and beautiful, with violin and keyboard and shakers filling in the gaps that Instigator purposely leaves bare. Devine trades in hindsight and foresight, but he’s also a jester. He splashed the three-hour set with jokes and stories between tunes. Some were about why certain songs exist, and others were small nostalgic anecdotes he almost sounded embarrassed to share. Across the night, it was clear Devine is relieved to have survived 2017, is mourning those who haven’t, and is worrying and wondering about what 2018 will bring—just like the crowd of fans before him. —Sean O’Kane | @Sokane1

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com

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Alone & Together Win Over Music Hall of Williamsburg

December 18th, 2017

Alone & Together – Music Hall of Williamsburg – December 15, 2017


Sometimes you hear or read about an impromptu jam session—a bunch of musicians get together for a friendly set of music in a studio somewhere—and you think, “Man, I wish I could’ve been there to see that.” Of course, it would be a rare treat to get to peek in on such a gathering, but that’s just what it felt like at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday night when Sam Cohen, Eric D. Johnson, Elvis Perkins, Josh Kaufman and Joe Russo, performing under the Alone & Together moniker, could’ve as easily just been some friends hanging out in a basement somewhere. The central concept of their show is that they play one another’s songs, so at the outset Perkins sang one of Cohen’s tunes and then Cohen sang “So Long” by Johnson’s band, Fruit Bats.

This led to some interesting dynamics among the musicians and with the crowd. I imagine it might be pretty weird to sing backing harmonies on your own tune if not feel like an out-of-body experience, to see your musical self from the outside. Similarly, depending on their familiarity with the original version of each song, audience members might’ve had a uniquely personal appreciation of each performance. Regardless, the spirit was one of camaraderie, of friends who are also huge fans of one another’s creative output. While the idea behind the show may sound like a bit of a gimmick, albeit one that works quite well, as the set went on, that central concept felt less and less important. The players sang some of their own songs—Perkins doing “Doomsday,” Johnson singing “Humbug Mountain Song”—and with their looseness and the lead-the-way rhythm section of Kaufman and Russo, these actually felt more like covers than the songs they’d swapped. The band made small changes in instrumentation that brought out subtle shifts in sound and energy, particularly from Cohen, who swapped between pedal steel and electric guitar throughout the night, pushing each song to its musical limit.

Regardless of who was singing with whom, it was the songs that were always in the spotlight. There was an understated political thread weaved through the evening on tracks like “Doomsday,” and toward the latter third of the two-hour show, when Kevin Morby, who has also toured as part of the group, came out for a guest appearance highlighted by his “Beautiful Strangers.” It was felt most strongly during a brand-new song from Perkins, “There Go the Nightmericans,” which was a powerful opus of our current political state. The set closed with a rollicking take on Johnson’s “When U Love Somebody,” with lead vocals from Perkins punctuated by Russo’s handclap percussion. In a show filled with what might technically be called covers, there were true covers as well, selections from Willie Nelson and Paul Simon that fit in with the general songs-first spirit of the night. The three-song encore closed with a joyous take on George Harrison’s “Awaiting on You All.” The long set seemed to have flown by, but that’s what usually happens when you’re having fun hanging out with friends. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

 

 

 

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The Pink Spiders Bring New Tunes to Rough Trade NYC on Tuesday

December 15th, 2017

Making punky pop-inflected garage rock, Matt Friction (vocals and guitar), Jon Decious (bass) and Bob Ferrari (drums) formed the Pink Spiders nearly 15 years ago in Nashville, Tenn. Before going on an extended hiatus in 2009, they put out three studio albums in as many years, including 2006’s Ric Ocasek–produced Teenage Graffiti (stream it below). “The Pink Spiders have a rather unique sound for today, when every band sounds like Fall Out Boy, the Pink Spiders mix classic punk, rock and roll, power pop and pop punk,” said Sputnik Music. “This album is full of youthful energy and is extremely catchy. Every song has the capability to stick in your head all day.” The band reunited in the summer of 2016 (above) to celebrate the LP’s 10th anniversary, and with talk of a new album, the Pink Spiders have released some new singles and embarked on a December tour, which brings them to Rough Trade NYC on Tuesday night. Lancaster, Pa., post-hardcore five-piece Carousel Kings and Baltimore rad-pop quartet the Great Heights Band open the show.

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Ofenbach Close Out Tour on Saturday Night at Rough Trade NYC

December 13th, 2017

DJ-producers Dorian Lo and César de Rummel became fast friends in grade school and, influenced by such blues-rock acts as Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and the White Stripes, started a rock band in their early teens. But then upon becoming deeply interested in house music, the two formed the DJ duo Ofenbach three years ago in Paris, becoming known for mixing traditional rock with electronic pop. Their single “Be Mine” gained them attention across Europe and Asia in 2016, and this year Offenbach made some noise with their remix of Portugal. The Man’s “Feel It Still” (above). Come dance to the music when their North American tour finishes on Saturday night at Rough Trade NYC. Brooklyn sample-based electronic trio Pool Cosby open the show.

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Thank You Scientist and Bent Knee Play Rough Trade NYC Thursday

December 12th, 2017

Influenced by the likes of the Beatles, Harry Nilsson and Frank Zappa, the guys in Thank You Scientist—original members Salvatore Marrano (vocals) and Tom Monda (guitar, synths and vocals) now with Ben Karas (violin), Cody McCorry (bass, theremin and saw), Joe Fadem (drums), Sam Greenfield (sax) and Joe Gullace (trumpet)—met as part of the music program at Montclair State University and began making progressive rock together in 2009. Their debut full-length, Maps of Non-Existent Places (stream it below), dropped three years later. “To say there’s very little Thank You Scientist can do to improve is an absolute credit to the musicianship of this spectacular septet and every bit indicative that they should be an absolute pleasure to observe as they develop over time. Get in on the ground floor now or kick yourself later,” said Sputnik Music. Thank You Scientist (above, performing “The Amateur Arsonist’s Handbook” for Audiotree TV) returned with their sophomore release, Stranger Heads Prevail (stream it below), in 2016. Consequence of Sound called the it a “wild ride of an prog-rock album,” adding that the LP is “for fans of Coheed and Cambria and comprehensive mind-fucks.”


Another large group founded at a school in 2009, Bent Knee—Courtney Swain (vocals and keys), Ben Levin (guitar and vocals), Chris Baum (violin and vocals), Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth (drums), Jessica Kion (bass and vocals) and Vince Welch (synths)—formed in Boston at the Berklee College of Music. The experimental art-rock sextet (above, doing “Way Too Long” for Audiotree TV) has put out four albums, including this past summer’s Land Animal (stream it below), which shows “how fearless the six-piece is in grabbing hold of different sounds and making them their own,” raved Consequence of Sound. “The band has used Land Animal to look at the state of the world and figure out how to reconcile all the darkness with art.” Get your weekend started early when both of these terrific acts lay it down live on Thursday night at Rough Trade NYC.

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Ted Leo and the Pharmacists Close Out Tour Sunday in Williamsburg

December 11th, 2017

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – Music Hall of Williamsburg – December 10, 2017

(Photo: Mindy Tucker)

Ted Leo has always fought the good fight. After grinding away in hardcore bands for years and then fronting the underrated Mod-revival band Chisel, his politically charged brand of folk meets punk (or the other way around) with his band, the Pharmacists, has always had a little more tenderness and grace than the rest of his peers. His records cover a lot of ground as his style owes as much to the brash angular sound of Revolution Summer–era Dischord Records as much as they do to both the Jam and Thin Lizzy. As a songwriter, Leo takes the same “the only road is the high road” approach as Billy Bragg, with lyrics that shed light on global injustice and as a plea for understanding in uncertain times. With the release of The Hanged Man, after a seven-year absence, Leo has covered new ground by turning his lyrics inward to wrestle with some of his own personal demons. The LP is his first proper solo album and finds him entering new musical territory that he may have never tried with a backing band written next to his name down the spine of the record.

He and the Pharmacists rolled into town for two packed nights at Music Hall of Williamsburg to treat fans to both new songs and classics from his long career. Hometown garage-rock heroes Big Huge opened the second show last night, electrifying frontman Dan Regelski making it his sole mission to shake the sleepy crowd out of their Sunday comas. The band released their debut album, Cruel World, on Don Giovanni Records over the summer and sounded as great as ever. Next time you see their name listed on a marquee, make sure to check them out.

For longtime fans of the Pharmacists, this current lineup is a little more special than previous iterations of the band. With the addition of keys, saxophone and a third guitar player, the band was able to pull off The Hanged Man’s rich layers as well as add more firepower to some of Leo’s older material. On the last night of their tour, Leo was as hilarious and charismatic as ever, taking sips from a Dixie cup of whiskey and telling stories in between songs. With one of the strongest catalogs in indie rock, Leo and Co. treated the crowd to a review of such old favorites as “Where Have all the Rude Boys Gone,” “Parallel or Together,” and “The Angels’ Share.” It was a marathon set that highlighted the best of what makes Leo such a hero in this tiny corner of the indie-rock world. For the encore, the Pharmacists left the stage for the beginning of the Tyranny of Dissonance classic “Timorous Me,” only to return to finish it with full-band force. The show closed with “Little Dawn,” from Shake the Sheets, which had fans still singing along following the band’s nearly two-and-a-half-hour set. It was a welcome return for Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and one that made you never want to take them for granted again. —Pat King | @MrPatKing

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Haerts – Rough Trade NYC – December 8, 2017

December 11th, 2017


Photos courtesy of DeShaun Craddock | dac.photography

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Chad VanGaalen’s Unique Voice Is in Fine Form at Rough Trade NYC

December 7th, 2017

Chad VanGaalen – Rough Trade NYC – December 6, 2017


Since 2004, Canadian singer-songwriter Chad VanGaalen has been churning out records on his own terms. He generally plays all of the instruments, records the songs and even does the artwork for his albums. In fact, he may be more well known for his art as he is an award-winning illustrator and has animated all of his own music videos, plus some for other bands like J Mascis, Timber Timbre and Love as Laughter. Both VanGaalen’s music and his artwork take on a morbid sensibility as you can spot one of his songs right away from its detuned guitars, homespun recording quality and his high voice that often quivers like Neil Young’s ghost haunting an off season waterpark. He is truly a unique voice in today’s indie-rock scene and has put out a tremendous body of work that deserves more recognition. Playing New York City is generally pretty rare for VanGaalen, so his sold-out stop at Rough Trade NYC last night seemed all the more special.

The soul and post-punk fusion group Un Blonde opened the show, led by the eccentric guitarist and singer Jean-Sebastien Audet, who would stop his band at the drop of a dime with a single gesture and could ring out every ounce of soul from each song’s melody. They were extremely tight and VanGaalen even joined them toward the end of their set on flute for an extended free-jazz jam. And as soon as he returned for the headlining set, you could tell VanGaalen and his band were there to have fun. “We went to an arcade and got fucking wasted,” he joked with a playful smirk on his face. “We didn’t even play pinball! So is it cool if we just chill out?” From that declaration, it would be safe to think that this might be an off night for VanGaalen and Co. As It turned out, it was anything but.

The band played loose and heavy giving his bedroom DIY songs Sonic Youth–styled makeovers. VanGaalen’s voice was also in tremendous form, eliciting chills when he hit the height of his register. The singer-songwriter treated the crowd to much of his new album, Light Information, as well as career-spanning hits like “Clinically Dead” and “Heavy Stones.” VanGaalen’s main set ended with an extended noise jam during the Diaper Island track “Peace on the Rise,” which felt transcendent and inspired. For the encore, he played two numbers off his 2008 album, Soft Airplane, “City of Electric Light” and “Rabid Bits of Time.” The latter’s chorus, “No one knows where we go/ When we’re dead or when we’re dreaming,” sounded more triumphant than on record and was a truly powerful way to end the night. —Pat King | @MrPatKing