Monday, October 28, 2019

Sum 41 at the Hammerstein Ballroom

In 1995 in Ajax in Ontario, Canada, a few high school friends formed a NOFX cover band called Kaspir. Vocalist/guitarist Deryck Whibley was 15 years old at the time. !n 1996, on the 41st day of their summer vacation, the musicians changed the band name to Sum 41. In 2001, Sum 41's debut album went platinum in the United States and triple platinum in Canada. In 2003, Sum 41 won Canada's Juno Award for Group of the Year, and in 2005, the album Chuck won the Juno Award for Rock Album of the Year. Following several personnel changes, Whibley remains the band's sole original member. Sum 41 currently consists of Whibley, guitarist Dave Baksh, guitarist/keyboardist Tom Thacker, bassist Jason "Cone" McCaslin, and drummer Frank Zummo. The band's seventh studio album, Order in Decline, was released on July 19, 2019.

While websites had speculated that the Sum 41 tour would celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Chuck album and/or the release of the most recent album, the band played neither album in full tonight at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Instead, the set consisted of 22 songs spanning six albums. Like many later-day punk bands, the songs largely pivoted on power pop vocal melodies and fast, bombastic wall-of-sound backing. Whibley's powerful, urgent vocals were the key, and they held strong despite a considerable amount of shouting. Whibley was also very present to the fans, constantly pacing the edge of the stage and eliciting responses from the approving audience. During the song "Pieces," he sang while walking through the audience all the way to the back of the room. As often happens at Sum 41 concerts, the band concluded its performance by returning to the stage as its alter ego, Pain for Pleasure. The band played a speed-metal jam in three takes, each more energetic than the preceding take. While power-pop punk bands proliferated in the 1990s and 2000s and typically sounded similar, Sum 41 added an element of audience-pleasing spectacle to make the performances memorable.

Setlist:
  1. Turning Away
  2. The Hell Song (2.0)
  3. Motivation (The Bitter End outro)
  4. Over My Head (Better Off Dead)
  5. Fake My Own Death
  6. We're All to Blame
  7. Some Say
  8. Out for Blood
  9. The New Sensation
  10. Walking Disaster
  11. No Reason
  12. Underclass Hero
  13. Pieces
  14. Welcome to Hell
  15. In Too Deep
  16. Still Waiting
  17. 88
Encore:
  1. Never There
  2. Fat Lip
Encore 2:
  1. Pain for Pleasure
  2. Pain for Pleasure (Take #2)
  3. Pain for Pleasure (Take #3)

Friday, October 25, 2019

Psyclon Nine at Stimulate at dröm

Inspired by industrial and electronic metal bands, Marshall Goppert created a project called Defkon Sodomy in 1999 in San Francisco, California. He performed twice under that name before changing it to Psyclon Nine. The new name was a malapropism of Zyklon B, the trade name of hydrogen cyanide used in the gas chambers during the Holocaust, and Nine because of the number's significance in Aleister Crowley’s numerological writings. Goppert also changed his name to Nero Bellum, taken from the Roman Emperor Nero Caesar and the Latin word for war. Personnel changes were frequent and Bellum occasionally placed the project on hiatus; the revamped quartet currently consists of vocalist Bellum, Marilyn Manson guitarist Tim Sköld, keyboardist Rotny Ford, and IAMX drummer Jon Siren. Psyclon Nine released its sixth and most recent studio album, Icon of the Adversary: Act 2, on August 24, 2018.

Psyclon Nine started as an electronic aggrotech band, and quickly moved more in the direction of industrial metal and black metal. Following sets by Missit Toys, Justin Symbol, and Striplicker tonight at Stimulate's 11th Annual Halloween Demon Ball at dröm, Psyclon Nine's music was as extreme as it could get. Bellum's voice was a constantly abrasive growl, except when it transformed into a haunting screech. The crunching rhythms behind him were played harshly and violently. Song after pounding song, the mood was darker than midnight. With no nuances or subtleties, this super-aggressive music took industrial and EBM (electronic body music) to the deepest levels of blackness.

Starset at the Gramercy Theatre

Originally from Salem, Ohio, Dustin Bates earned degrees in electrical engineering and avionic engineering. He worked as a research associate in aerospace technology for the U.S. Air Force, and taught engineering at the International Space University in Paris, France. All the while, he followed his calling to rock music, and co-founded a band called Downplay, which started as a cover band and recorded an album of original songs in 2005. Consistent with his passion for astronomy, Bates conceived a science fiction theme for his new band, Starset, in 2013 in Columbus, Ohio. Expanding on a science fiction platform, Starset's cinematic music and multimedia launched from a mysterious "Message" received from space foretelling the details of the human race's imminent demise. Starset's third studio album, Divisions, was released on September 13, 2019. Starset presently consists of vocalist/guitarist Bates, lead guitarist Brock Richards, bassist Ron DeChant, and drummer Adam Gilbert.

Starset returned to the Gramercy Theatre tonight after a two-year break, furthering the band's fantasy concept while blending symphonic hard rock, riff-centered guitar work, and ambient electronica. Starset's dystopian narrative was now set in a tech-enslaved Earth in 2049, and so the band members replaced their spacesuits with post-apocalyptic battle fatigues for most of the set. Aided by Siobhán Cronin (violin, keyboards), Mariko Muranaka Friend (violin, cello), and numerous back screen projections, the transmission (Starset lingo for "concert") opened with "Manifest," the first single from the new album. Half of the 16-song set featured songs from that album, along with seven songs from the previous two albums, plus a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." Bates commanded attention with strong vocals that climbed from whispers to angst-driven shouts. The band's music similarly escalated from violin and cello introductions to bombastic djent-guitar explosions. Missing, however, was a discernible storyline; throughout the concert -- sorry, transmission -- only those in the know could comprehend the "Message."

Setlist:
  1. Manifest
  2. Monster
  3. Echo
  4. Where the Skies End
  5. It Has Begun
  6. Telekinetic
  7. Kashmir (Led Zeppelin cover)
  8. Perfect Machine
  9. Trials
  10. Interlude 1
  11. Carnivore
  12. Bringing It Down
  13. Telescope
  14. Other Worlds Than These
  15. Frequency
  16. My Demons

Thursday, October 24, 2019

My Life with the Thrill Kill Cult at le Poisson Rouge

Frank  Nardiello
Based in Chicago, Illinois, vocalist Frank Nardiello started his music career in 1979 in a power pop band called Special Affect. After one EP and album, the band split and Nardiello relocated to London, England, where he joined a gothic band called Drowning Craze. While in London in the early 1980s, Nardiello noted a tabloid headline, "My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult." Upon returning to Chicago, he recruited keyboardist Marston Daley for a film project to be called Hammerhead Housewife and the Thrill Kill Kult. Soon, their work on the soundtrack overarched the film project, which was never completed, and the musicians in 1987 gave their music project a name, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, often shortened to Thrill Kill Kult or TKK. Collaborators have come and gone but Nardiello, renamed Groovie Mann, and Daley, renamed Buzz McCoy, are the core members. My Life with the Thrill Kill Cult released its 14th and most recent studio  album, In the House of Strange Affairs, on February 14, 2019. The band presently consists of Mann, McCoy, bassist Mami Sato (a.k.a. Mimi Star), and drummer Justin Bennett (a.k.a. Justin Thyme).

At le Poisson Rouge tonight, My Life with the Thrill Kill Cult performed four songs from the current album, but mostly embraced the band's 1990s catalogue. Mann's gruff vocals were matched by aggressive and adventurous arrangements. The set married remnants of the band's original grinding industrial sound to edgy guitar riffs, hard beats and electronic soundscapes. Club music including disco, house, and funk influenced the overall sound. Humorous and satirical lyrics added to the party spirit. Ultimately, hard dance grooves and clever, silly lyrics bring the fun to every Thrill Kill Kult.
Setlist:
  1. Strange Affairs
  2. Neon Diva
  3. Do You Fear (For Your Child)?
  4. Rivers of Blood, Years of Darkness
  5. A Daisy Chain 4 Satan
  6. The International Sin Set
  7. Glamour Is a Rocky Road
  8. Badlife
  9. Forbidden Saints
  10. The Kult Konnection
  11. Delicate Terror
  12. Hand in Hand
  13. The Chains of Fame
  14. Lucifer's Flowers
  15. The Days of Swine and Roses
Encore:
  1. Burning Dirt
  2. Year of the Klown
  3. Electrical Soul Wish
  4. After the Flesh

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Granny 4 Barrel at the Bowery Electric

Granny
The origins are a mystery. A few years ago, somewhere in upstate New York, an unnamed rocker was playing in a rock band. He had been fixated on the role of Bette Davis in the 1976 horror film Burnt Offerings. His band had a gig on Halloween and the rocker knew he wanted to dress up. Granny 4 Barrel was born. He has maintained the geriatric character, although today he looks more like Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies. Granny 4 Barrel has released three music videos, and a long-delayed debut album, Deal with the Devil, is in the wings.

At the Bowery Electric tonight, a wooden rocking chair was placed center stage. Granny came onstage in a long Victorian dress, a gray bun held in place with knitting needles, and a black cane. Granny stayed in character for the entire set, occasionally rocking in her chair. She was accompanied by a top coat-wearing violinist, Chase Potter, guitarist Marc Malsegna, and drummer Jared Pease. Granny sang hard rock and heavy metal songs in a gravelly low register while the band raged, blending bluegrass elements with industrial metal. The songs were not what you would expect from an old granny. "Freak Flag" was about embracing your weirdness, and "Nitro Sexy" was about the thrill of a racing car. The set opened with a Van Halen cover and closed with a Donna Summer cover. Many of the songs also featured the violin as the lead instrument. Granny 4 Barrel is a most unique hard rock act.

Setlist:
  1. Eruption (Van Halen cover)
  2. Monolithic
  3. Freak Flag
  4. Dog Bite
  5. Art of Deception
  6. Nitro Sexy
  7. I Feel Love (Donna Summer cover)

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Bros. Landreth at Mercury Lounge

Joey Landreth and David Landreth were raised in a music family in Winnipeg, Canada, where they followed the steps of their dad, veteran musician Wally Landreth. The brothers spent their early careers independently performing as hired musicians for other artists. After one particularly long and challenging tour, Joey called his older brother and proposed they collaborate on their own music. The Bros. Landreth formed in 2013. In 2014, the Bros. Landreth won the Canadian Folk Music Award for New/Emerging Artist of the Year, and in 2015 the band won the Juno Award for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year. The Bros. Landreth's second album, released on September 27, 2019, is titled ’87, recalling the year the two became brothers.

Headlining at Mercury Lounge tonight, accompanied by keyboardist Liam Duncan and drummer Mike Carbone, the Bros. Landreth performed a silky-smooth set of harmony-laden down-home country-folk music. Joey played lead guitar and was the primary vocalist, and David played bass and also sang lead on a few songs. The songs were written from the heart and specialized in sad heart wringers. The brothers' sibling harmonies heightened the intensity and passion of the crescendos, and Joey's slide guitar further carried the melodies. The band's honest integrity became the key that unlocked the doors to southern rockers and soulful ballads. Although rooted in Americana, the Bros. Landreth packed enough pop vocals and arrangements to cross over to the mainstream market.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Jahn Xavier at the Treehouse at 2A

As a six-year-old in New York City, Jahn Xavier was backstage at numerous rock concerts at the Fillmore East thanks to his godmother, a booking agent for many of the leading rock bands in the 1960s and 1970s. By age seven, Xavier began learning to play guitar and drums, and started playing in bands when he was 12 years old. At age 15 he took on the name X Sessive and began hanging at CBGB's, playing briefly in the Blessed and then the Ghosts. At age 16 he became the roadie for Richard Hell & the Voidoids and in 1979 wound up playing bass in the band. In 1980, Xavier started his own rock and soul band, the Nitecaps, which played the local circuit, recorded two albums, and opened for U2 on a six-week tour of the United Kingdom in 1983. In 1990, several Nitecaps resurfaced as Jahn Xavier & the Preachers. More recently, Xavier leads Jahn Xavier & the Bowerytones, releasing an album in 2012. Xavier recently has performed several area concerts as a solo acoustic act.

In a little-advertised gig tonight at the Treehouse at 2A, Jahn Xavier performed with only an acoustic guitar and a big voice. Better said, it was a massive, booming baritone that could be heard clearly on the sidewalk outside the club. Many songs started with a whispering voice singing reflective and confessional lyrics, his eyes pressed tightly closed as he soulfully conjured his life story into melodies. Once he belted the song's refrain, his mouth seemed to open wider than his head and his raw emotion filled the room. While the concert did not rock like when he performs with a band, Xavier's take on classic folk and soul music was spellbinding and riveting.

Friday, October 18, 2019

High Waisted at Mercury Lounge

Jessica Dye
Recovering from a broken relationship, Brooklyn-based Jessica Dye retreated to Manhattan music clubs, where she would have a few beers, listen to bands, meet musicians, and record notes and poetry in a notebook. By 2014 Dye had become a vocalist/guitarist and formed a band called High Waisted, the name originating from a nonsense phrase she had doodled into one of her notebooks. High Waisted began performing at these same clubs and started organizing and promoting its own shows in warehouses and on rooftops and yachts. High Waisted has released a series of experimental recordings; The Acid Tapes Vol. 4 was released today, October 18, 2019. High Waisted presently consists of Dye, lead guitarist RJ Helton, bassist Andrea Scaniello, and drummer/co-founder Jono Bernstien.

Every High Waisted concert is designed to be a party, and tonight's Mercury Lounge record release performance for the release of the new album was no exception. Prior to the set, fans shared glow sticks and party hats. Dye came on stage holding high an umbrella amply covered inside and outside in billowing cotton and wearing a similarly billowing dress so long and full that it partially restricted her movements. While the band's recorded work shows a wider breath of musical aspirations, from straight surf to dreamy pop, the live performance was a romping rock and roll show with waves of lo-fi surf, psychedelia, garage, and punk. Dye sang triumphant lyrics to 1960s-style pop melodies while three musicians surrounded her with jingly, reverberating guitar leads, fuzzy bass lines, and driving drumbeats. Uptempo and summery, a good-time spirit permeated all the songs. Near the end of the set, Dye reminded the audience that this indeed was a party, and large balloons bounced to the stage. In the end, High Waisted brought a little sunshine into the nighttime.

Sylvia Black at Berlin

Lydia Lunch (left) sang one song with Sylvia Black (right)
Born in Alabama, Sylvia Black lived in California, Texas, and Massachusetts before settling in New York City. Although she initially aspired to be an actor, music became her calling. At age 17, her first singing job was a three-month residency at a resort hotel in Japan. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, under the name Sylvia Gordon, she sang and played bass in Kudu, a New York City- based electronic pop-rock trio that blended jazz, soul, and electronica. Several collaborations later, Black moved into session work and songwriting for television programs in the United States and Germany. Her better-known work includes co-writing the Black Eyed Peas' "Meet Me Halfway" and the winning songs in Germany's The Voice and German Idol. More recently, as Betty Black, she held a Friday night residency at New York's Roxy Hotel. In 2018, her rendition of "I Put a Spell on You" was featured in the premiere episode of television's Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The first album under the name Sylvia Black, Twilight Animals (Originals and Covers for Tortured Lovers), was released today, October 18, 2019.

Sylvia Black performed tonight at Berlin, accompanied by guitarist Ruddy Lee Cullers, vibraphone/synthesizer player Yusuke Yamamoto, and drummer Parker Kindred. No-wave and spoken word artist Lydia Lunch, who appears on Black's new album, introduced Black at the start of the performance and the two sang the opening song as a duet. The approximately 30-minute set was too short to adequately showcase the width of Black's repertoire, but she demonstrated that she can sing, play bass and reinterpret a cover song with curious twists and curves. The songs were mostly rooted in electro-soul and jazz-noir, but there were evident links to rock and punk. Black concluded the set with a cover of Fat White Family's "Touch the Leather," giving the song a sultry gloss. Black's concert pointed to a bridge that connected experimental music to mainstream indie.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Fleshtones at the Bowery Electric

In 1976, Keith Streng found musical instruments left behind by a previous tenant in the basement of a house he was renting in Queens, New York. This happened during the start of the first wave of punk rock, a time when anyone and everyone could be a rock star, with no musical proficiency required. Neighborhood friends including Peter Zaremba started coming around for basement parties and the Fleshtones was born. The garage rock band became regulars on the local music circuit and had a few national breaks, appearing in the British punk/new wave concert film Urgh! A Music War in 1980, Dick Clark's popular American Bandstand television program in 1982, the soundtrack of two movies Bachelor Party in 1984 and I Was a Teenage Zombie in 1987, and on the final episode of Andy Warhol's short-lived MTV show, Andy Warhol's Fifteen Minutes, in 1987. Nevertheless, the Fleshtones developed only a cult audience and minimal commercial success. An authorized biography in 2007, Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones, America's Garage Band, and a feature documentary in 2009, Pardon Us for Living, but the Graveyard Is Full, did not significantly increase the band's profile. Now based in Brooklyn, New York, the band since 1990 has been vocalist Zaremba, guitarist Streng, bassist Ken Fox, and drummer Bill Milhizer. The Fleshtones' 19th and most recent studio album is 2016's The Band Drinks for Free; the band plans to release The Face of the Screaming Werewolf in 2020.

While many other first wave punk, new wave, and garage rock bands have disappeared and reunited, the Fleshtones never went on hiatus. Returning to the Bowery Electric tonight, the Fleshtones dug into catalogue material and also played newer songs, including the forthcoming "The Face of the Screaming Werewolf." The show matched primitive-sounding rock and roll with high energy and tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Zaremba sang like an old rhythm and blues vocalist, occasionally played harmonica and organ, and led the quartet's wild carousing. Although Milhizer was tied to his drum kit, the other musicians repeatedly carved a path and performed in the audience. The set included no moody or meditative moments. Instead, it was a start-to-finish set of raw bootstrap rock and roll party tunes. The Fleshtones demonstrated that old bands do not need to slow down.