Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Neon Trees at Irving Plaza

Tyler Glenn and Branden Campbell
Vocalist Tyler Glenn and guitarist Christopher Allen grew up in Murrieta, California, but in 2005 formed Neon Trees after both had relocated to Provo, Utah. Several personnel changes later, the band stabilized as a quartet in 2006 with bassist Branden Campbell and drummer Elaine Bradley. Glenn took the band name from the lighted trees on a sign at a burger restaurant. Neon Trees hit with its debut album in 2010, and maintained a thriving career as a pop radio staple. The band's third studio album, Pop Psychology, was released on April 22, 2014.

Just hours after taping an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Neon Trees headlined a sold out concert at Irving Plaza tonight; the live show was part of a two-month fan-centered "An Intimate Night with Neon Trees" tour in which the band is playing smaller venues than usual. Neon Trees opened with its recently-released non-album single, "Songs I Can't Listen To," and then followed with 14 catalogue songs in near chronological order plus two cover songs. Much too intense and often blinding backlighting frequently left the band in silhouettes, but despite the obstacles Glenn was a charismatic and commanding front person, dancing in place, pacing the stage and talking to the audience between many of the songs. Aided by a touring guitarist, David Charles, Neon Trees performed a series of fan favorites, highlighted by Glen and Bradley singing duet on "Mad Love." The most humorous moment in the performance was after Glenn left the stage briefly during "Love in the 21st Century" and came back on stage with a shirt tied around his waist; after the song, he explained that the seam in his pants split during the song, then quickly turned around and lifted the shirt to flash his bare bottom under the split. Neon Trees then performed an Amy Winehouse cover, "Love Is a Losing Game." The 90-minute set ended with a not-so-faithful cover of Dexy's Midnight Runners' "Come On Eileen." The high-octane show presented big pop in all its pageantry, with rich vocals, catchy sing-along choruses and an energetic band performance. The performance was classy and rocking enough to appeal beyond Neon Trees' base audience of screaming teenage girls.

Visit Neon Trees at www.fameisdead.com.

Milky Chance at Rumsey Playfield

Clemens Rehbein
Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Dausch met in an Advanced Music course in high school in Kassel, Germany. Until their graduation in 2012, they performed together in a jazz quartet. When the drummer left and the band disbanded, Rehbein and Dausch continued to collaborate, combining electronic production with acoustic guitar and their own vocals and lyrics. After performing only two live shows as Milky Chance over two weeks in 2013, the duo recorded songs in a simple home-made studio in Rehbein's childhood home. The group posted songs on Soundcloud and YouTube. A video for "Stolen Dance" became an immediate viral hit, attracting millions of views. Released as a single, the song hit number one throughout Europe. The debut album, Sadnecessary, was released in the United States on October 14, 2014, a year after its release in Germany.

At Central Park's Rumsey Playfield tonight as part of the SummerStage series, Rehbein (vocals and guitar) and Dausch (electronics and bass) were joined by Antonio Greger (harmonica and guitar). Breezes flourished in the outdoor venue, matching the easy-flowing summery sound of Milky Chance. Rehbein's soft but coarse vocals accompanied his nimble strides on the guitar, with Dausch and Greger providing gently supportive soundscapes. Rehbein's folk-style compositions, frequently reggae-infused, and his compelling melancholy vocals were the main ingredients; everything else was spice. Never overpowering or overwhelming, the set balanced poetic musings with subtly lilting grooves. Milky Chance harnessed a unique sound -- a majestic sound ironically lush in its very simplicity.

Visit Milky Chance at www.milkychanceofficial.com.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Tuxedo at le Poisson Rouge

Funk-disco band Tuxedo is a side project for both vocalist Mayer Hawthorne (nee Andrew Cohen) and keyboardist/producer Jake One (nee Jacob Dutton). Hawthorne was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and in 2006 relocated to Los Angeles, California. He has recorded three solo albums. One is from Seattle, Washington, where he started playing keyboard in 1992. Like Hawthorne, One also relocated to Los Angeles, issuing his first album in 2008. Tuxedo released its self-titled debut album on March 3, 2015.

Headlining tonight at le Poisson Rouge, the members of Tuxedo indeed wore tuxedos; the backing musicians wore white outfits, but Hawthorne and One wore a more garish powder blue suit with tails. Tuxedo looked like a band you might expect in a casino lounge, and the music was not far from that. Tuxedo specialized in light funk with smooth grooves, the kind that gets the disco ball spinning from the ceiling and the dancers on the floor. The slower songs were bedroom songs. Hawthorne sang softly and soulfully, and while One's synthesizer-heavy leadership seemed to be the glue that held the rhythms together, the guitarist occasionally broke into a stinging solo. Tuxedo recreated this retro sound respectfully well, but did not spark new enterprise with it like Daft Punk or Pharrell Williams. For further success, Tuxedo will have to do more than embrace this post-disco sound; the band will have to marry it to the 21st century.

Visit Tuxedo at www.tuxedofunk.com.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Owl at Lucille's Grill

Bassist Chris Wyse was born in Queens, New York, and soon relocated to the Albany area, where as a teenager he played in a local band with drummer Dan Dinsmore. Wyse later moved to Los Angeles to pursue a music career, secured gigs both in bands and in the recording studio, and in 2006 joined the Cult. Wyse also started a side project with Dinsmore and recruited guitarist Jason Mezilis in 2007 to form a hard rock power trio called Owl. Wyse maintained his position in both the Cult and Owl, and also played bass for Ozzy Osbourne and Ace Frehley. Owl releases its third album, Things You Can't See, on July 28, 2015.

At Lucille's Grill tonight, Owl showed a healthy appetite for the irregular and unusual. With years of experience in popular bands, Wyse could have chosen to perform safe hard rock songs for a sure-fire audience. Instead, Owl performed an adventurous hard rock set, where imaginatively-composed songs had enough traditional structure to make them sound familiar, but always included some bold and ambitious left-of-center detours. These lush and lavish detours showcased instrumental intricacy with Mezilis playing dazzling extended guitar leads and Dinsmore hammering his drums ferociously. Wyse sang passionately, and commanded visual attention when he played a thin stand-up bass with a bow, often using delays and sound effects to further enrich the band’s ambitious sound. As the musicians moved between mellower singer-songwriter songs to heavier, noisier pieces, this was unbridled and ambitious rock for musically mature fans.

Owl opens for Philm at the Mercury Lounge on August 10. In the meantime, visit Owl at www.owltheband.net.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Ike Reilly Assassination at the Mercury Lounge

Ike Reilly
Michael Reilly was born in Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, and raised in nearby Libertyville, where he continues to live. He started writing songs and playing the harmonica while in middle school, booking his first paying gig at age 13. Reilly learned to play guitar while working summer jobs at a cemetery, where he cut grass and dug graves. As he began playing in bands, Reilly dropped the M from his first name and became Ike Reilly. He started recording in 1998 and released his debut album in 2001. His seventh studio album and first album in five years, Born on Fire, was released on June 16, 2015. The Ike Reilly Assassination presently consists of Reilly on vocals and guitar, guitarist Phil Karnats, pianist Adam Krier, bassist Pete Cimbalo and drummer Dave Cottini.

Performing the first of two nights at the Mercury Lounge tonight, Reilly was a bedrock storyteller who used dynamic rock music as his vehicle much like Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp and Elvis Costello. Reilly favored his new songs rather than attempt to cover the breadth of his work; of the 12 songs he played, seven were from Born on Fire. Nevertheless, the selections revealed much about the identity of this working class American troubadour with street-poet swagger, as he chronicled episodes of despair, rage, irony and humor in rock, punk, blues and rhythm & blues-rooted music. The opening song, "Two Weeks-a-Work, One Night-a-Love," demonstrated his affinity for late 1960s Chicago-styled electric blues, loaded with gritty grooves, soulful vocals and a honking harmonica. Other songs sounded like beer-chugging chants for the late-night closing of an Irish pub. Reilly ended the set with a pile-driving head-banger, "When Irish Eyes Are Burning." In the end, the Ike Reilly Assassination sounded like Libertyville might be a musical suburb of Asbury Park.

Visit Ike Reilly at www.ikereilly.net.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Hot Sardines at the Bowery Ballroom

Fast Eddy, Miz Elizabeth and Bibs
Elizabeth Bougerol, born in Paris, France, was living in New York City, working as an editor at a travel website by day and attending jazz concerts at night. She occasionally asked the jazz bands if she could sing with them and was consistently rejected for not having any experience. One day in 2007, she slipped out of a holiday party from her day job to go to an open jazz jam. There she met Evan "Bibs" Palazzo, a New York-born pianist who longed to play stride piano and lead a traditional jazz band. After a brief conversation, he played and she sang a Fats Waller song and the bond was sealed. Months later at an open-mic night at Banjo Jim's, they teamed with a tap dancer, Edwin "Fast Eddy" Francisco, whose feet provided percussion along with Bougerol's washboard. This was the start of the Hot Sardines, a band that plays old jazz like it was contemporary pop. The Hot Sardines presently consists of Bougerol (renamed Miz Elizabeth), Palazzo, Francisco, Evan "Sugar" Crane (bass), Alex Raderman (drums), Nick Myers (reeds), Jason Prover (trumpet), and Mike Sailors (cornet/trombone). The Hot Sardines' debut self titled album was released on October 7, 2014.

Fitting for a Bastille Day celebration at the Bowery Ballroom, the Hot Sardines performed old tunes and originals in English and French. Followers of the band dressed in flapper-era outfits and danced in the aisles to swing, ragtime, boogie-woogie and Dixieland, all given a modern twist. The set was rich in standards from the Prohibition/Great Depression to World War II eras, but the intent was to present a contemporary rather than old-timey performance. Miz Elizabeth was a salty singer, unrefined enough to provide both grit and glamour to the songs. Miz Elizabeth looked and acted like Ellen DeGeneres, a genial host who danced joyfully to the music whenever she leaned away from the microphone. Meanwhile, Palazzo on the piano (draped in a French flag) played frenetically with his left hand while his right hand played syncopated melodies and improvisations. Layered in vintage New Orleans, Chicago and Harlem roots, the smoking horn section then blasted hot jazz and Latin fills. The Hot Sardines closed with a rendition of "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen," and then an encore which had the band play through the audience and onto the sidewalk outside the venue.

Watch for the Hot Sardines to roll in a new Roaring Twenties. In the meantime, visit the Hot Sardines at www.hotsardines.com.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Johnny Thunders Birthday Bash at the Bowery Electric

Fashioned after the long-running annual Joey Ramone Birthday Bashes, the Johnny Thunders Birthday Bashes are now in their fifth year. Thunders helped form a new sound and movement in New York music in the 1970s, first with the New York Dolls and then with the Heartbreakers. The Queens native died of drug-related causes in 1991 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The birthday bashes are meant to keep alive the spirit and the legacy of Thunders. Tonight's concert featured newer bands, many of whose members were barely alive yet when Thunders died. Each band was assigned at least three Thunders songs to reinterpret. The night ended with the a full set by the Waldos, led by Walter Lure of the Heartbreakers.
Rebel Factory
The Sweet Things
The Shakes
Krebs & the Maynard G's
The Waldos

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Rezillos at the Gramercy Theatre

Fay Fife
The Rezillos formed as a garage pop band in 1976 by art students in Edinburgh, Scotland. The band name was adapted from the name of a club called "Revilos" that appeared in the first issue of the DC Comics publication The Shadow in 1973. Although emerging during the punk rock movement, the Rezillos preferred a light-hearted pop approach rather than the nihilism and angry social commentary of the contemporaries. The band released its 1978 debut album, Can't Stand the Rezillos, received considerable attention, and then split apart four months later. Vocalists Fay Fife and Eugene Reynolds formed a new band, the Revillos, which hosted an ever-changing line-up until that group split in 1985. The second wave of the Rezillos began with a reunion in 2002 for a hometown New Year's Eve concert. The band presently consists of Fife and Reynolds, guitarist Jim Brady, bassist Chris Agnew and original drummer Angel Paterson. The Rezillos' sophomore studio album, Zero, was released on March 9, 2015, 27 years after the first album.

The Rezillos headlined at the Gramercy Theatre tonight, only the band's third-ever New York concert (after CBGB's in 1978 and the Bowery Electric in 2012). The vocalists played up to the audience with dances, howls, and chatter, and the male/female vocal delivery was reminiscent of the grungier side of the B-52's, X and the Cramps. The garage-rock songs were guitar-driven, however, with Ramones-like chords powering the melodies and noisy leads filling between lyrics. With punk rock speed, volume and energy, the Rezillos performed most of its two albums, plus a cover of "River Deep, Mountain High," originally recorded by Ike & Tina Turner. The set ended with another cover, Fleetwood Mac's "Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight," the song that revived the Rezillos when it was featured in the soundtrack of a Jackass movie. The Rezillos' sound was rooted in 1960s pop, but it was raucous enough to jar a few heads in 2015.

Visit the Rezillos at www.rezillos.rocks.

tobyMac at the Great Lawn

Kevin McKeehan, better known by his stage name tobyMac, was born in Fairfax, Virginia, and grew up in nearby Falls Church. As a youth, he would frequently take the commuter train to Washington, D.C. so he could purchase the newest rap records. Inspired, he began experimenting with two turntables and a microphone. While attending Liberty College in 1987, he formed the Christian pop rap trio DC Talk; by the time the group split in 2000, DC Talk had sold eight million records. Launching a solo career in 2001, he quickly gained Billboard, Grammy and American Music Awards and sold another three million records. TobyMac's sixth studio album, This Is Not a Test, (stylized as ***This Is Not a Test***) will become available on August 7, 2015.

TobyMac headlined before 60,000 cheering fans at the closing event of Luis Palau's evangelic crusade in the Great Lawn of Central Park tonight. This was tobyMac's largest New York area audience since he opened for Pope Benedict XVI at a 2008 youth rally at St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers. Backed by his seven-piece funk rock band, Diverse City, tobyMac sang and rapped an electrifying mix of pop, rock, hip hop, Latin, and funk on "Eye on it", "Boomin'", "Made to Love", "Lose My Soul" and "Speak Life." With lyrics that examined the intersection of life and spirituality, tobyMac sang passionately about hope and redemption, while his energetic band played crunching rock beats, possibly the loudest, hardest beats ever played in Central Park's Great Lawn. The live sound was spectacular, but thousands in the audience were a quarter-mile from the stage and so watched the performance via projection; fans in more than 100 countries, however, watched the concert close-up via simulcast but missed the bright live sound. TobyMac, with his uplifting songs and upbeat band, made for an excellent performance in the park.

TobyMac headlines the Theatre at Madison Square Garden on November 13. In the meantime, visit tobyMac at www.tobymac.com.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Rosie Flores at Hill Country Barbecue + Market

At age 64, Rosie Flores is still twanging her rockabilly guitar. She was born in San Antonio, Texas, but at age 12 moved with her family to San Diego, California. There, her brother taught her to play guitar and she formed her first band while in high school. In the 1970s, Flores played the local nightclub circuit in the alt country band Rosie and the Screamers, then joined an all-female "cow-punk" band called Screamin' Sirens in the 1980s. Flores went solo in 1987. Since then, her guitar playing has garnered feature stories in Guitar World, Premiere Guitar and Guitar Player magazines. She was also the first female Latina country artist to ever enter the Billboard country charts. She currently resides in Austin, Texas, where the Austin City Council declared Rosie Flores Day on August 31, 2006, and where she was inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame in 2007. Flores' 13th and most recent album is 2012's Working Girl's Guitar.

At Hill Country Barbecue + Market tonight, Flores looked like a rockabilly queen, with her black cowboy boots and red sequined-and-fringed cowgirl vest, but her music was more than that. Her set included traditional country, honky tonk, western swing and even surf music. Adventurous? Well, she performed a countrified version of the Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant." The neo-traditional vocalist sang heartily with an authentic although somewhat ordinary country lilt, yet on the guitar she unequivocally wailed. She alternated leads with her backup guitarist, frequently ripping boldly into sturdy solos and unapologetically bringing on the noise like a riot grrl. After the fiery licks, she always circled her songs back to their Americana roots. Flores rocked the house, locked within the essence of her down-home, old-time Texas twang.

Visit Rosie Flores at www.rosieflores.com.