Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Jesse Malin at Coney Island Baby

Raised in Whitestone, New York, Malin gravitated to New York's punk rock scene at age 12. From 1980 to 1984, Malin sang in a hardcore band, Heart Attack, playing CBGB's regularly even though the musicians were only 12 to 16 years old. Four years later, the band split. Malin worked as a gas station attendant, a health food store clerk, and a "man with a van." Malin returned to the stage with the glam-punk band D Generation from 1991 until 1999, and ultimately launched a solo career in 2001. His most recent studio albums, New York Before the War and Outsiders, both were released in 2015.

In October 2018, Malin performed a residency of four Tuesday nights at Coney Island Baby, a rock club he co-owns. He has returned for a residency of three Wednesday nights in January 2019, in which he plays his early solo albums in their entirety. Tonight, on the first of these nights, he and his band (guitarist Derek Cruz, keyboardist Rob Clores, bassist Catherine Popper, and drummer Randy Schrader) performed Malin's first solo album, 2002's The Fine Art of Self Destruction, plus 10 other songs over the course of two hours. Malin engagingly introduced most of the songs with an anecdote describing their origins and situating these insights in the cultural context of the time. Once the music started, however, Malin was a rocket-fueled performer, balancing pure rock and roll energy with heartfelt sensitivity. He ignited the songs by singing passionately, and the band provided the extra power to make the engines blast. The residency continues on January 16 and January 31. 


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Popa Chubby at the Loft at City Winery

In the Bronx, New York, a 13-year-old Ted Horowitz began playing drums until his parents told him they were too loud. His dad then took him to a Chuck Berry concert, at which point the youth committed himself to playing guitar. Inspired by classic rock and blues guitarists, he started playing in rock bands by age 15. Horowitz's first professional gigs, however, were in the downtown punk rock circuit as a guitarist in a horror-movie inspired show by performance artist Screaming Mad George. In his early twenties, Horowitz also backed punk rock poet Richard Hell. Returning to the blues, Horowitz took on the name Popa Chubby and started the Popa Chubby Band in 1990, which became almost the house band at blues club Manny’s Car Wash. Chubby gained national attention after winning the New Artist of the Year award in a blues talent search sponsored by a public radio station in Long Beach, California, which led to an opening spot at the Long Beach Blues Festival in 1992. Since 1994, Popa Chubby has released 26 studio albums, the most recent being 2017's Two Dogs; an anthology entitled Prime Cuts was released on September 21, 2018.

Popa Chubby was an imposing figure at the Loft at City Winery. Fixed to his stool for the entire two-hour performance, Chubby's oversized frame was accented with a shaved head, tattooed arms, a long goatee, and a red bandana that barely tied around his thick neck. To the left of his neck, Chubby's guitar strap displayed a large upright middle finger at the audience. As he started to sing, his husky, soulful vocals were acutely commanding. Then he leaned back from the microphone, grimaced his jaw, closed his eyes, and wailed speedily and fluidly on the strings of his guitar. Original songs and cover songs received similar treatment, flying alternately from clean running guitar melodies to chunks of gritty wah-wah-laden chords. The trio of keyboardist Dave Keyes, bassist Paul Loranger, and drummer Tom Curiano tempered the blues boogie, keeping an eye out for cues from Chubby directing them to lighten or tighten the stride. Chubby's performance did not break new ground, but instead preserved and showcased a species of late-1960s blues rock not often heard anymore. Cubby accomplished this, like much of what he does, in a big and brash manner.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Red Wanting Blue at City Winery

Scott Terry
Born in West Milford, New Jersey, Scott Terry sang in choirs and a cappella groups while growing up in Moorestown, New Jersey. While attending university in 1995 in Athens, Ohio, he formed Red Wanting Blue (also known as RWB). Red Wanting Blue released two albums while the band members were students. After college, the musicians relocated in 1999 to Columbus, Ohio, and began recording and touring full time. Terry is the sole remaining original member of Red Wanting Blue. The band’s current lineup consists of Terry on vocals, ukulele and guitar,  Greg Rahm on guitar, Eric Hall on lap steel and guitar, Mark McCullough on bass, and Dean Anshutz on drums. Red Wanting Blue's 11th studio album, The Wanting, was released on April 27, 2018. Terry currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

The Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) held its annual conference in New York shortly after the start of the new year and hosted numerous showcases, some of which were open to the public. One such showcase featured Red Wanting Blue at City Winery. With five artists on the bill, the band performed a shorter set than usual, but nevertheless capably demonstrated the dynamics of a solid rocking heartland band. The band performed eight songs from its more recent catalogue, starting with the newer "High and Dry," in which Terry sang uplifting lyrics in a rich, deep voice: "I want to stand on my own two feet again / And when I mess up / That’s when I hope my friends will pick me up." Overall, the earthy feel-good songs highlighted Terry's rugged, passionate baritone, the band's light melodic arrangements, and a blue-collar sensibility that seemed to say "We are you, and you are we." Maybe that message was an appropriate reminder for the industry professionals attending the performance.

Setlist:
  1. High and Dry
  2. Walking Shoes
  3. I've Got a Feeling It Hurts
  4. Younger Years
  5. Hope on a Rope
  6. My Name Is Death
  7. Finger in the Air
  8. Hitchhiker's Lullaby

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Jimmy & Immy (James Maddock with David Immerglück) at the 11th St. Bar

James Maddock, originally from Countesthorpe, England, sang and played guitar in Fire Next Time in the 1980s and in Wood in the 1990s before going solo and relocating to New York City in 2003. David Immerglück played mandolin, pedal steel guitar, and keyboards with bands in the San Francisco Bay area, including Polymorph, the Mod-L Society, the Ophelias, Camper Van Beethoven and the Monks of Doom in the 1980s and with John Hiatt and Counting Crows in the 1990s. Maddock and Immerglück began performing together as Jimmy & Immy in New York in 2008. The acoustic duo released live albums in 2012 and 2016.

The Jimmy & Immy show at the 11th St. Bar might have been only for those in the know. Both of the musicians have performed in much larger venues, so this informal concert was more like making music for friends in their living rooms. Sitting in chairs, conversing with each other and with audience members between songs, Maddock and  Immerglück did exactly what they enjoyed best. Maddock sang all his favorite songs and played acoustic guitar and harmonica, while Immerglück alternated between acoustic guitar and mandolin. They were accompanied by bassist Drew Mortali.
This set was much more low-key than Maddock's rocking full-band concerts at City Winery, for example. In this sparse setting, Maddock's gravelly voice gave deep texture to his beautiful lyrics, and Immerglück's contributions gracefully added color to the uncluttered arrangements. Like most shows at the 11th St. Bar, admission was free; towards the end of the nearly three-hour performance Maddock circulated the club's tip bucket so the musicians could get paid. They might have earned enough to take a taxi home, but the music they played was priceless.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The 15th Annual New Year's Hank-O-Rama at Coney Island Baby

The Lonesome Prairie Dogs presented the 15th annual New Year’s Hank-O-Rama, New York's longest running musical tribute to Hank Williams, at Coney Island Baby on January 1, 2019. The New York City-based band, led by guitarist/vocalist Steve Strunsky and bassist/vocalist Heidi Lieb, curates the Hank-O-Rama events annually on the anniversary of the country music maverick's death.

Sean Kershaw & the New Jack Ramblers interpreted Hank Williams songs for an opening set. After an intermission, the Lonesome Prairie Dogs performed two sets as the house band. Members of the Lonesome Prairie Dogs and local country music artists Travis Whitelaw, Shannon Brown, Monica Falcone, Jack Grace, Cliff Westfall, Tom Clark, Monica Passin, and Lindy Loo Hill sang Williams songs. The Lonesome Prairie Dogs consists of Strunsky, Lieb, lead guitarist Mike Dvorkin, pedal steel player Lenny Kaye, and drummer Jeff Somerstein. Fiddler Greg Holt joined for the evening as he has for the past several Hank-O-Ramas.

Born in Mount Olive, Alabama, Hiram King "Hank" Williams recorded 35 singles (five released posthumously) that reached the Top 10 of the Billboard Country & Western Best Sellers chart, including 11 that ranked number one (three posthumously). He died at age 29 in the back of his Cadillac en route to a New Year’s Day gig in Canton, Ohio, on January 1, 1953. Despite his short life and recording career, Williams is among the most celebrated and influential popular musicians of the 20th century, especially in regards to country music. Williams was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (1961), the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1970), and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987).

Sean Kershaw & the New Jack Ramblers setlist:
  1. Move It on Over (Hank Williams cover)
  2. Settin' the Woods on Fire (Hank Williams cover)
  3. Honky Tonkin' (Hank Williams cover)
  4. I Won’t Be Home No More (Hank Williams cover)
  5. Lonesome Whistle (Hank Williams cover)
  6. Tear in My Beer (Hank Williams cover)
  7. My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It (Hank Williams cover)
  8. Lovesick Blues (Hank Williams cover)
  9. I’m Satisfied with You (Hank Williams cover)

The Lonesome Prairie Dogs setlist
Set 1:
  1. Lost Highway (Leon Payne cover)
  2. Moanin' the Blues (Hank Williams cover)
  3. I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You) (Hank Williams cover)
  4. The Blues Come Around (Hank Williams cover)
  5. You Win Again (Hank Williams cover, with Travis Whitelaw)
  6. Pills I Took (Those Poor Bastards cover, with Shannon Brown and Travis Whitelaw)
  7. I Want to Live and Love (Hank Williams cover)
  8. Weary Blues From Waitin' (Hank Williams cover, with Monica Falcone)
  9. Cold Cold Heart (Hank Williams cover)
  10. I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive (Hank Williams cover, with Jack Grace)
  11. You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave) (Hank Williams cover, with Jack Grace)
  12. Alone and Forsaken (Hank Williams cover)
  13. Honky Tonk Blues (Hank Williams cover, with Cliff Westfall)
  14. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry (Hank Williams cover)
  15. Mind Your Own Business (Hank Williams cover)
Set 2:
  1. Long Gone Lonesome Blues (Hank Williams cover)
  2. Wedding Bells (Hank Williams cover, with Tom Clark)
  3. Your Cheatin' Heart (Hank Williams cover, with Tom Clark)
  4. Ramblin' Man (Hank Williams cover)
  5. Baby, We're Really in Love (Hank Williams cover, with Monica Passin)
  6. Cold, Cold Morning
  7. Jambalaya (On the Bayou) (Hank Williams cover)
  8. Luke The Drifter (Lenny Kaye cover, with Lenny Kaye)
  9. Kaw-Liga (Hank Williams cover, with Lindy Loo Hill)
  10. Hey Good Lookin' (Hank Williams cover, with Lenny L - karaoke raffle winner)
  11. Family Tradition (Hank Williams, Jr. cover)
  12. I Saw the Light (Hank Williams cover, with all performers)
The Lonesome Prairie Dogs
Lenny Kaye
Greg Holt
Travis Whitelaw
Shannon Brown & Travis Whitelaw
Monica Falcone
Jack Grace
Cliff Westfall
Lenny Kaye & Tom Clark
Monica Passin

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Handsome Dick Manitoba & the Wanderers at the Bowery Electric

Handsome Dick Manitoba
Is a comeback possible for a rocker whose history has gone so wrong so many times? Bronx-born Richard Blum, better known as Handsome Dick Manitoba, started a music career in 1973 as a roadie for the Dictators, a seminal punk rock band inspired by the Detroit rock style of the MC5 and the Stooges. He became the band's lead singer in 1975, but in 1981, after three albums, the main songwriters left. In 1986, Manitoba along with some former Dictators formed Wild Kingdom, released a 1990 album as Manitoba's Wild Kingdom, and then reformed as the Dictators in 1991. From 2004 to 2018, Manitoba hosted The Handsome Dick Manitoba Radio Program, and sporadically from 2005 to 2012, Manitoba fronted the reformed MC5. In 2012, he led a new band, Manitoba, which in 2013 became the Dictators NYC. In 2017, the band name reverted to Manitoba due to legal threats by ex-Dictators. In 2018, Manitoba was imprisoned on domestic violence charges, he was fired from his radio post for insensitive and politically incorrect rants, a rift developed between him and his most recent Dictators line-up, and his stake in Manitoba's, the East Village bar he co-owns, has an uncertain future. Handsome Dick Manitoba‘s first solo album, Born in the Bronx, is pending release and he is hoping to launch a podcast series. Is there a road to success when so many bridges have been burned?

If anything, Handsome Dick Manitoba has proven to be a survivor. At the Bowery Electric tonight, Manitoba performed with a solid band of pickup musicians whose names he did not remember: guitarists Matt Langone (the Hipps Pipps, Gotham Rockets) and Mike Dudolevitch (the Nuclears), bassist Mike Dee (the Carvels NYC, the Thrill Sergeants), and drummer Joe Vincent (Gotham Rockets). Together, they played songs from throughout Manitoba's catalog plus songs from his projected release. Known for his larger than life personality and lengthy off-the-cuff rambling between songs, the new band held back the reigns by starting a song if Manitoba spoke too long. Between songs, Manitoba perhaps over-shared some of his recent personal struggles, but interestingly framed them in an amusing or victorious light, and he sang with bursting energy while the band rocked. It may take a while for many of the locals to forgive Manitoba for some of his massive errors of late, but he has solid new songs and is a thoroughly enthralling entertainer, so in time a comeback very well may be possible.

Setlist:
  1. (I Live for) Cars and Girls (The Dictators song)
  2. The Perfect High (Manitoba's Wild Kingdom song)
  3. The Party Starts Now (Manitoba's Wild Kingdom song)
  4. Supply and Demand (The Dictators NYC song)
  5. Baby Let's Twist (The Dictators song)
  6. Eve of Destruction (Barry McGuire cover)
  7. Callie May
  8. Teenage Head (Flamin' Groovies cover)
  9. The Soul Punk King of New York City
  10. New York, New York (Manitoba's Wild Kingdom song)
  11. Stay with Me (The Dictators song)
  12. Faster and Louder (The Dictators song)
  13. Who Will Save Rock and Roll (The Dictators song)
  14. California Sun (Joe Jones cover)
  15. Kick Out the Jams (MC5 cover)

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Little Lesley & the Bloodshots at Otto's Shrunken Head

Lesley Swift is a farmer’s daughter from upstate New York who began playing piano and singing old-time country songs in backwoods bars at age eight. She moved on to guitar, wrote songs and played in traditional bands until she met her guitar-playing future husband, Brian Swift, in Nevada. He turned her on to rockabilly, she moved to upright bass, they relocated to New York City, and together formed a roots-rockabilly trio called the Bloodshots in 2012. Over the past two years, the Swifts relocated to Greenville, South Carolina, and the band personnel has been reworked without the hubby, who is pursuing other projects. Lesley reverted back to guitar, and the band has become a quartet renamed Little Lesley & the Bloodshots. The band's second and most recent album, Heartbeat, was released February 9, 2018.

Little Lesley & the Bloodshots returned to Otto's Shrunken Head tonight to perform at Phantom Creep Radio's monthly Midnite Monster Hop. This time, the band featured Swift on vocals and acoustic guitar, Long-Island guitarist Johnny Cola, New Jersey bassist Jeff Feinberg, and New England drummer Jeremy Kroger. The new line-up maintained the Bloodshots tradition of smart and sassy rockabilly with a high-energy show. Whether or not it was intentional, the lighting was particularly bright on Swift and dark on the rest of the band, which emphasized Swift's role as an accomplished singer/songwriter with a gift for twangy rock compositions. Though never in the spotlight, Cola in the background ripped brilliantly on reverb-soaked rockabilly licks. Concluding a fine set, Little Lesley had a treat for the band's followers; Brian Swift was in the audience and so she invited him to come on stage and rock the guitar with his wild playing for the final songs. Welcome home, Little Lesley & the Bloodshots!

Visit Little Lesley & the Bloodshots at www.thebloodshots.com.

Gov't Mule at the Beacon Theatre

Warren Haynes (left) and Jimmy Vivino
Born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, Warren Haynes began playing guitar at age 12. In 1980, at age 20, he joined David Allan Coe's band for four years. Shortly after, Haynes worked with the Nighthawks, and began working with Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers Band in 1987. In 1989, The Allman Brothers Band reunited, and Betts recruited Haynes to join the band. In 1994, Haynes formed Gov't Mule (pronounced Government Mule) as a side project during breaks from the Allman Brothers Band. Haynes left the Allman Brothers Band in 1997 to focus solely on the side project, but in 1999 joined Phil Lesh and Friends for three years and also rejoined the Allman Brothers Band from 2000 to the band's breakup in 2014. Gov't Mule presently consists of Haynes, keyboardist Danny Louis, bassist Jorgen Carlsson, and drummer Matt Abts. The band released its 10th and most recent studio album, Revolution Come… Revolution Go, on June 9, 2017, although since then nearly every concert that Gov't Mule has played was recorded and sold online.

Gov't Mule brought its 20th anniversary tour to the Beacon Theatre for two nights, where the band typically plays on and before New Year's Eve. The band performed old and new songs and a few covers, but it hardly mattered what song was being performed. Haynes sang sharply with bluesy gusto, but these brief lyrical structures largely proved to be simply launching pads for Haynes to wail on extended guitar solos and for the band to flesh out the jams. The sets largely pivoted on numerous hard riffing songs, but occasionally a sweeter, softer jam would land the plane, a fleeting reprieve while preparing for another high flying takeoff. Improvisational virtuosity fueled the performance, and local musicians Danny Draher, Oz Noy, Jimmy Vivino, and Paul Ill added to the fire by jamming with Gov't Mule at different times during the night. The second set included the band's recent single, "Stone Cold Rage," inspired by the current political climate. Gov't Mule followed that song on a lighter note with "Thorazine Shuffle," featuring the Thorazine Shuffle Dancers, women from the audience who were invited to dance at stage right. Showing the band's influences, the night ended with a cover of Derek & the Dominos' "Why Does Love Have to Be So Sad." Had Derek & the Dominos not split in 1971, the band might have come to sound like Gov't Mule today.

Visit Gov't Mule at www.mule.net.

Setlist
Set 1:
  1. World Boss
  2. Lola, Leave Your Light On > Mr. High & Mighty
  3. Mr. Man (with Mule tease)
  4. Pressure Under Fire
  5. Slackjaw Jezebel
  6. Things Ain't What They Used To Be (Duke Ellington cover, with Danny Draher)
  7. Funny Little Tragedy [with teases of The Bed's Too Big Without You (The Police cover), Runnin' Down a Dream (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers cover), and Message in a Bottle (The Police cover)]
Set 2:
  1. Larger Than Life
  2. Thorns of Life
  3. No Need to Suffer
  4. Unblow Your Horn
  5. Red Baron (Billy Cobham cover, with Oz Noy)
  6. Stone Cold Rage
  7. Thorazine Shuffle (with the Thorazine Shuffle Dancers)
Encore:
  1. Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad (Derek & the Dominos cover, with Jimmy Vivino & Paul Ill)

Friday, December 28, 2018

Of Clocks and Clouds at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2

Born and bred in Brooklyn, Joe Salgo began teaching himself to play guitar at age 12. During his high school years, he played in his first band, the punk rocking Wastebaskets. While playing in bands after college, he began exploring with electronic sounds and began writing songs for what would become Of Clocks and Clouds with drummer Ross Procaccio in 2013. The band presently also includes bassist Max Devlin and keyboardist Dylan DeFeo. The band's second and most recent album is 2016's Better Off.

As a psychedelic electronic jam band, Of Clocks and Clouds is an adept name for this quartet. Performing a late-night Phish post-party tonight at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2, Of Clocks and Clouds' steady grooves ticked with precision, yet the jazzy improvisations were atmospheric jams. Salgo sang lyrics to frame several of the compositions, but large portions of each song were devoted to guitar-wailing and jamtronica-sailing interludes. Some songs were more melodic, other strived for a more high-tech sound, and a lot of it sounded like jazz fusion with a hook. The musicians were very present to the moment, giving the impression that no two Of Clocks and Clouds performances would ever be exactly the same. Of Clocks and Clouds has gained a jam band audience, but the music is far more than that.

Visit Of Clocks and Clouds at www.ofclocksandclouds.com.

Phish at Madison Square Garden

Trey Anastasio
Phish formed as Blackwood Convention in 1983 by four college students in Burlington, Vermont, but the band initially had a rocky start. After only a couple of shows, guitarist/vocalist Trey Anastasio was suspended from school following a prank he had pulled with a friend, putting the band on hiatus for about a year. During the suspension, Anastasio returned to his hometown of Princeton, New Jersey, and wrote songs. He returned to Burlington in late 1984 and resumed playing with Blackwood Convention, soon renamed Phish. The jam band's regional quickly spread throughout New England, eventually going global, by word of mouth, the exchange of live recordings, and sales of over 8 million albums and DVDs. The current line-up—Anastasio, bassist Mike Gordon, drummer Jon Fishman, and keyboardist Page McConnell—performed together for 15 years before going on hiatus in 2000. The band resumed touring in 2002, disbanded in 2004, and reunited in 2009. The band's 16th and most recent studio album is 2016's Big Boat.

Bigger than Phish's return to Madison Square Garden tonight (the band's 57th concert there, and the first in a series of four that concludes on New Year's Eve) was the fan culture that absorbed more than listened to the music. Moments of improvisational greatness were often followed by extended shoegaze non-events, and yet the sea of swaying bodies throughout the arena never missed a beat. When the stage lights brightened, the cheering soared and glow sticks sailed through the air. The set consisted of mostly songs from the 1990s, allowing for fresh jams to fill the extensive spaces between lyrics. The first set was noticeably mellower than the second, which peaked several times on high-energy summits. The band played 21 songs over the course of three hours, and with a late start and an intermission, the happy audience left about midnight, many ready to return for more the following three nights.

Visit Phish at www.phish.com.

Setlist
Set 1:
  1. We Are Come to Outlive Our Brains
  2. Martian Monster
  3. Axilla > Free
  4. The Wedge
  5. Meat
  6. Ghost > Sparkle
  7. If I Could
  8. Maze
  9. Walls of the Cave
Set 2:
  1. Set Your Soul Free  (Trey Anastasio song)> Swept Away > Steep
  2. The Final Hurrah
  3. Fuego > Shade > Bathtub Gin (with snippet of The Little Drummer Boy) > Possum
Encore:
  1. Bouncing around the Room
  2. Slave to the Traffic Light