Friday, October 17, 2014

J Mascis at the Bowery Ballroom

J Mascis (born Joseph Donald Mascis, Jr.) in 1982 formed and played guitar in the hardcore punk band Deep Wound while attending high school in western Massachusetts. Deep Wound broke up in mid-1984 and, as Mascis' interest in music had expanded, he formed a very short-lived band called Mogo which, according to Mascis, was designed to play "ear-bleeding country." By late 1984, Mascis formed an alternative rock trio Dinosaur, later renamed Dinosaur, Jr., with bassist Lou Barlow, who had played in the previous two bands, and drummer Emmett Patrick Murphy, or "Murph." The line-up changed several times, the band split and reunited, and Mascis recorded solo albums and played in other side bands over the years. His most recent solo album, the acoustic Tied to a Star, was released on August 26.

At the Bowery Ballroom tonight, Mascis performed solo, seated on a stool, singing in his trademark creaky voice, switching between acoustic guitars and stepping on an array of foot pedals for distortions, effects and loops. This avenue showcased a very different Mascis. Contrasting the roaring, blasting rock guitarist of Dinosaur, Jr., this solo artist was a country-ish front-porch picking Mascis. Beginning with "Listen to Me," a song from an earlier solo acoustic album, the evening's catalogue continued in mixed order with five songs from Mascis' new solo album, seven acoustic renderings of songs originally recorded by Dinosaur, Jr., one song originally recorded by one of Mascis' side projects, J Mascus + Fog, and two cover songs, Mazzy Star's "Fade into You" and the Cure's "Just Like Heaven." The net result was the presentation of a less-than-celebrated facet of the renowned guitarist and songwriter. Indeed, he is a wizard at the six string guitar, even a hollow body Martin. He is expert at manipulating unimaginable sounds from these guitars through electronic gimmickry. His folky approach revealed a more subtle interpretation of his lyrics. Even his somewhat rigid position on a stool brought more focus to his intentions. Talented? Extremely. Able to sustain audience interest? Questionable. Mascis did not command full audience attention through his hour-long set. The audience listened and applauded generously, but this was a bar, not a concert hall, and there was an enormous volume of conversations going on in the room. Mascis' acoustic set was a commendable diversion for fans only. It is safe to guess that his audience would have roared if he had strapped on an electric guitar and brought out a band after the acoustic set.

Visit J Mascis at www.jmascis.com.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Royal Blood at Webster Hall's Marlin Room

Mike Kerr
Royal Blood began as a duo in Australia in 2012, with bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Matt Swan. Kerr returned to his native England in 2013 and reformed the concept with a childhood friend, drummer Ben Thatcher. The reunited musicians had one day's rehearsal and performed its first concert for friends in Brighton two days after Kerr's return to England. Royal Blood began releasing singles by the end of the year and created an instant buzz in British rock circles. A self-titled album released in August 2014 became the fastest-selling British rock debut album in three years in the United Kingdom.

Word of mouth from England helped sell out in advance Royal Blood's headlining concert tonight at Webster Hall's Marlin Room. The two musicians came onto a mostly bare stage without any calculated music and lights fanfare and began its opening song, "Hole." Immediately the duo became an enthralling curiosity. How was it that the bass sounded so much like a guitar? As Thatcher attacked his drums with steady, furious beats, Kerr launched each of the 12 songs of the night with a unique riff, sometimes leading to power chords and extended leads, all sounding like they came from a guitar. Forging Jack White-styled modern garage rock and classic blues rock, Royal Blood played its entire album plus two additional songs in an energetic 50 minutes. Kerr's smooth singing contrasted engagingly with his crunching, guttural bass grooves. On the faster songs, he hopped to the rhythms and charged to the Thatcher's drum kit across the stage. He hardly spoke a few words or even looked out to the audience, focusing on what he was doing with his bass and microphone. Thatcher, ironically, came out from behind the drum kit to rally an audience cry. Waving as they walked offstage after the closing mid-tempo "Out of the Black" (and no encore), the two members of Royal Blood summarily offered little showmanship in order to maximize its impressively innovative minimalistic music.

Visit Royal Blood at www.royalbloodband.com.

Blues Magoos at the Bowery Electric

Geoff Daking, Peppy Castro, Ralph Scala
The band that would become known as Blues Magoos formed as the Trenchcoats in 1964 in the Bronx, New York. The Trenchcoats performed regularly in Greenwich Village coffee houses and by 1966 changed its name to fit in with the then-current psychedelic trend, first to the Bloos Magoos and soon afterwards to Blues Magoos. The band had a hit song in 1966 with "(We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet," but for the most part disappeared a few years later. Blues Magoos released its first album in more than 40 years, Psychedelic Resurrection, on October 14, 2014. Blues Magoos presently consists of two original members, Peppy Castro (born Emil Thielhelm) on vocals and rhythm guitar and Ralph Scala on vocals and keyboards, one near-original member, Geoff Daking, on drums, and new members Mike Ciliberto on lead guitar and Peter Stuart Kohlman on bass.

Gene Cornish of the Rascals introduced Blues Magoos at a record release party tonight the Bowery Electric. Other 1960s musicians were in the audience, including Carmine Appice of Vanilla Fudge and Jay Black of Jay & the Americans. Castro joked about how the band was back after taking a 47-year break. Although individually each member matured into other types of music over the years, on this occasion they were back to playing songs from the 1960s. Most of the songs were from their early albums (and many re-recorded for the new album), including "Rush Hour", "Pipe Dream", "There's a Chance We Can Make it", "(We Ain't Got) Nothing Yet" and "Tobacco Road." The set also included two 1960s covers, the Seeds' "Pushin' Too Hard" and Them's "Gloria." Castro told 50-year-old anecdotes and sang well; Scala did not sing as well, but played the familiar organ runs nicely. Did this bluesy garage rock stand the test of time? Probably not, but it was fun to revisit the days of black lights and lava lamps without actually having to get all that stuff.

Monday, October 13, 2014

JEFF the Brotherhood at Santos Party House

Jake Orrall
Brothers Jake Orrall (guitar) and Jamin Orrall (drums) are the sons of singer/songwriter Robert Ellis Orrall and have been playing music together since they were children growing up in Nashville, Tennessee. They became a duo called JEFF (later JEFF the Brotherhood) in 2001, while still in high school. JEFF the Brotherhood has released seven studio albums; the most recent, Hypnotic Nights, was released in 2012. JEFF the Brotherhood on September 30 released a Dig the Classics EP featuring covers of songs by Pixies, My Bloody Valentine, Beck, Teenage Fanclub and others.

JEFF the Brotherhood returned to Santos Party House tonight, this time as a quartet with an added bassist and guitarist, and Jake played a six-string rather than his usual three-string guitar. The added musicians did not help to define the music, however. Alongside an overactive fog machine and constantly roving back lights, JEFF the Brotherhood played a loud, pounding, grungy, garage-punk, with Jake focusing more on guitar noise than on vocals. When the music slowed for a moment, the fuzz and reverb on the guitar sounded like psychedelic stoner rock. Highlights included the raucous guitar jams propelled by extremely hard slamming beats on "You Got The Look", "Heavy Krishna", "Sixpack", "Mellow Out," and "Ripper" leading into a cover of Rush's "Working Man."

Visit Jeff the Brotherhood at www.jeffthebrotherhood.com.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jane's Addiction at Times Square/Third Annual CBGB's Music & Film Festival

Perry Farrell
Perry Bernstein was born in Queens, New York, spent his grade-school years in Woodmere, Long Island, and in his teens moved with his family to Miami, Florida. His father was a jeweler; his mother was an artist who committed suicide when Perry was three. Following graduation from high school, Perry boarded a bus to Los Angeles, California, to live as a surfer. There, he lived in his car and made money working construction and waiting tables. He also became the vocalist for the post-punk band Psi Com until its demise in 1985. During this period, Bernstein chose the pseudonym Perry Farrell as a play on the word "peripheral" and formed Jane's Addiction. The new band was dubbed "Jane's Addiction" in honor of Farrell's housemate, Jane Bainter, who was the muse and inspiration for the band. Jane's Addiction became a leading force in 1990s alternative rock and released three albums  before breaking up in 1991. Beginning in 1997, Jane's Addiction has had several reunions with various line-ups. The band's most recent album is 2011's The Great Escape Artist. The alternative rock band again consists of its classic line-up of Perry Farrell (vocals), Dave Navarro (guitar), Stephen Perkins (drums) and Chris Chaney (bass).

Headlining a free outdoor concert as the closer of the Third Annual CBGB's Music & Film Festival , Jane's Addiction rocked harder than anything that ever hit Times Square, even Bon Jovi. As the familiar bass line started the opening song, "Up the Beach," Farrell came on stage wearing a three piece suit and fedora, and he spent more time playing up to the audience than singing. It was just as well, as his voice sounded strained. Navarro's guitar playing was monstrous, however, and shredded crisp and clear blasts on each song, but Farrell commanded much of the attention, even crowd surfing early in the set. In all, Jane's Addiction performed in succession nine of the 11 songs of the 1988 breakthrough Nothing's Shocking album. Particularly towards the end of the set, Farrell rambled about it being Friday (it was Sunday), spoke about Jewish observances ("we Jews love you!"), put on a yarmulke handed to him by a photographer in front of the stage, cursed the stock market and its followers, and spoke graphically and extensively about the band members' sexual appetites. Considering the festival was billed as family-friendly and a large amounts of tourists were walking past the stage as they traveled to and from Times Square destinations, the language Farrell used was altogether outrageous. For the final song, "Stop!," two lingerie-clad dancers hung over the stage, spinning around to show that they were swinging from two rods piercing their backs behind their shoulder blades. Farrell insisted on singing another song, "Three Days," but it was curfew and the sound was unplugged while he was speaking. Some 25 years after all this music was first performed live, today's Jane's Addiction concert was still shocking.

Visit Jane's Addiction at www.janesaddiction.com.

Devo at Times Square/Third Annual CBGB'S Music & Film Festival

Devo first gained popularity with the new wave movement in the late 1970s, but the art-rock band actually pre-dated the movement, forming in 1972 between Kent and Akron, Ohio. The concept of "Devo" was a satirical social commentary professing that instead of continuing to evolve, humankind had regressed or "de-evolved", as evidenced by the herd mentality of American society. The band experienced several personnel changes, but the classic line-up of the band included two sets of brothers, Mark Mothersbaugh and Bob Mothersbaugh, and Gerald Casales and Bob Casales, along with Alan Myers. Devo was active mostly from 1973 to 1991. The band has reunited many times with different line-ups since 1996. The band's ninth and most recent album, 2010's Something for Everybody, was an unsuccessful comeback after 20 years away.

Performing a free outdoor concert in Times Square today during the Third Annual CBGB's Music and Film Festival, Devo recreated its kitsch science fiction stage show, including the wearing of simulated chemical-protection uniforms and, for one song, round, ziggurat-shaped "energy dome" hats. The band's often discordant pop songs featured synthetic instrumentation and unusual time signatures that, while once unique, now fit in well with the indie scene. The smart and tight set was largely comprised of songs from 1978 to 1982, including "Girl U Want", "Whip It", a quirky cover of the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", "Uncontrollable Urge", "Mongoloid" and one of Devo's earliest songs, "Jocko Homo," which raised the band's ongoing question, "are we not men?" (Audience response: "We are devo.") The show ended with an appearance of the band's mascot, Booji Boy. Devo's intricate yet catchy music and deadpan surrealist humor were as enjoyable in today's world as they were 35 years ago.

Visit Devo at www.clubdevo.com.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Murphy's Law at the Bowery Electric

Jimmy Gestapo
Murphy's Law formed in 1982 in Queens, New York, and quickly became a staple of New York's hardcore punk scene. Vocalist James Drescher, better known as Jimmy GJimmy Spliff and Jimmy Gestapo, is the only remaining member of the original band. Murphy's Law released five albums, of which the last, 2002's The Party's Over, was about Mayor Giuliani's clean-up campaign.

Performing at the Bowery Electric as part of the Third Annual CBGB's Music and Film Festival tonight, Murphy's Law remained true to its punk roots while also becoming more of a party band. Reprising many of its usual themes with songs about pot, beer, girls, cars and partying, the band neither introduced new songs nor broke new ground. Instead of stage diving (an impossibility on the club's low stage), fans came onstage to sing along and consume the band's alcohol. New York has changed, the hardcore punk scene has evolved, yet Gestapo and his crew have performed the same set for more than a decade. The difference is that now the band is less angry and more fun.

The Black Dahlia Murder at Irving Plaza

Trevor Strnad
Vocalist Trevor Strnad was looking for a fearsome name for a melodic death metal band in 2000 in Waterford, Michigan. He learned about the gruesome unsolved murder of an aspiring actress, Elizabeth Short, often referred to as Black Dahlia, who was bisected at the waist and left on display in a California parking lot in 1947. He named his band The Black Dahlia Murder. The band is presently comprised of Strnad, guitarists Brian Eschbach and Ryan Knight, bassist Max Lavelle and drummer Alan Cassidy. The Black Dahlia Murder's sixth and most recent studio album is 2013's Everblack.

Tonight's Black Dahlia Murder's concert at Irving Plaza was broadcast live on Yahoo Live. There was little left of the Black Dahlia Murder's early metalcore influence tonight. The band's melodic death metal was wrapped around high speeds, blast beats, growled vocals and barely-discernible macabre lyrics. The music was harsh, brutal, sledgehammer rock, slightly softened occasionally and briefly by lyrical guitar licks. The band began with "In Hell Is Where She Waits for Me," the opening song from Everblack and the only song to refer directly to Short's murder, written from the point of view of her killer attending her funeral anonymously and admiring his trophy. Subsequent songs were equally grim, including "Everything Went Black," which referred to the finality of death. The technical inventiveness of the band was more evident in the compositions, where the band mastered complex arrangements without ever sacrificing speed or thrust. For the less attentive members of the audience, however, there was more than enough intensity at the basic level to encourage moshing and crowd surfing.

Jessie J at the Gramercy Theatre

Jessica Cornish was born in London, England, and was destined for show business quickly thereafter. At the age of four, she was in ballet classes, followed by modern and jazz dance and then acting classes. By age seven, she and her two older sisters formed a girl band. By age 10, she was Andrew Lloyd Webber's West End production of Whistle Down the Wind. Meanwhile, she suffered a heart condition that had her spending time in Great Ormond Street Hospital, sometimes being allowed out on day release with her heart monitor to attend rehearsals. She subsequently joined the National Youth Music Theatre and appeared in their 2002 production of The Late Sleepers. In 2003, at age 15, she won Best Pop Singer in the TV show Britain's Brilliant Prodigies, and realized that maybe it was music, not theatre, that would be her future. At 17 she joined a girl group named Soul Deep for two years. She wrote lyrics that were recorded by Chris Brown and Miley Cyrus, including "Party in the U.S.A.," before embarking on a solo career as Jessie J. Now 26 years old, she is a superstar in her native England, being the first British woman to score six top ten singles from one album. Jessie J also served as coach and mentor on the television talent show, The Voice UK, in 2012 and 2013. Her third album, Sweet Talker, will be released on October 14, 2014.

Headlining a sold out album release concert at the Gramercy Theatre tonight, Jessie J exhibited a fair amount of skin and, more importantly, soulful vocals and an extended vocal range backed by contemporary rhythm & blues, pop, electro-pop, and hip-hop beats. She opened with "Sexy Lady" and her biggest American hit, "Domino," before covering  DJ Cassidy's "Calling All Hearts." She often sang a single syllable of lyric and cascaded it through several different notes. By the end of the night, closing with the anti-materialistic "Price Tag" and the pop hit "Bang Bang," there was not any new ground covered but all one could say was "wow, what a voice!"

Visit Jessie J at www.jessiejofficial.com.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Limp Bizkit at the Best Buy Theater

Fred Durst performed "East You Alive" from the audience
While growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, Fred Durst was interested in breakdancing, hip hop, punk rock and heavy metal. He began to rap, skate, beatbox and deejay. While mowing lawns and working as a tattoo artist, Durst was in several unsuccessful bands, until he convinced bassist Sam Rivers from one of these bands to start a new rap/rock band with him in 1994. Rivers recruited his cousin, drummer John Otto. Guitarist Wes Borland joined a year later. Limp Bizkit quickly became popular in the local underground music scene and then gained international success with albums in 1999 and 2000. The band has sold 40 million records worldwide. Limp Bizkit's long-delayed seventh studio album, Stampede of the Disco Elephants, is awaiting an imminent release date.

The light bulbs blazed in Limp Bizkit's large backdrop sign at the Best Buy Theater tonight and Durst, came onstage in a full bard, an untucked white button-down short-sleeved dress shirt, camouflage cargo pants, sneakers and a white Los Angeles Kings cap. Borland, on the far right side, seemed to be wearing a black rubber body suit, black leather boots and head-covering black mask, although some reports claim a lot of this was body paint; either way, he was almost invisible on the dark stage. The band members launched into "Why Try" with the appropriate opening lyric "Oh no, guess who's back." Durst announced towards the end of the song that he was going to kick it old school and "we're going to party like it's 1999," adding that they were going "retro." He asked the fans to put away their cell phones and he and Rivers repeatedly doused water on all those near the stage who were photographing. Limp Bizkit then performed Ministry’s "Thieves," a cover song rumored to be on the forthcoming album. This led to "Rollin'", "My Way", "Rearrange", "My Generation" and a cover of George Michael’s "Faith," among other songs. The band performed many of the expected songs (no "Nookie," however), but threw in unexpected moments as well , such as a "Master of Puppets" jam and covers of Rage against the Machine's "Killing in the Name" and Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" (Durst claimed Axl Rose was in the audience) . During "Eat You Alive," Durst walked through the audience shaking hands with the fans. Interludes included recorded segments by Ludacris, DMX and 50 Cent. The musicians played like a rock band, but mostly due to Durst's vocals, the Limp Bizkit show was more hip hop than metal. Closing with "Break Stuff," Durst waved to the fans, singing an extended a cappella chorus of the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" before walking off the stage. Maybe that lyric was a fitting closing statement from the 30-year-old band.

Visit Limp Bizkit at www.limpbizkit.com.