Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Silversun Pickups at Terminal 5

Brian Aubert and Nikki Monninger
Brian Aubert began playing guitar on a cheap acoustic when he was a seven-year-old in Topanga, California. When he was 18 years old, he met Nikki Monninger on a flight from Los Angeles to London; Aubert reportedly noticed Monninger sitting across the aisle from him stealing alcohol from the drink cart by distracting the flight attendant. In 2000, back in Silver Lake, California, they started Silversun Pickups as an alternative rock band. The band is currently composed of vocalist/guitarist Aubert, bassist Monninger, keyboardist Joe Lester and drummer Christopher Guanlao. Silversun Pickups' fourth and most recent album, Better Nature, was released in 2015.

One minute into "Panic Switch," at Terminal 5 tonight, Aubert interrupted the song and explained to the audience, We’re stopping this right now. My pedal is broken, and we’re not playing this half-assed for you." A few seconds later, the quartet regrouped and roared back into the song from the beginning. At another point, he shared lightheartedly with the audience some of his recent mishaps; he was suffering the effects of a flu and also was playing guitar with his broken arm in a cast. Despite these obstacles, Silversun Pickups gave pop melodies a booming sonic force with heavily cranked guitar work and propulsive rhythms. The band has matured, to where the distorted, fuzzy guitar textures ironically sounded remarkably crisp and slick. Aubert's vocals matched the music's soft-to-loud peaks, often ascending from a soft delivery to a snarl and ultimately to a shout. Monninger sang a bit too, but usually concentrating on loading the bottom drive while jumping to the rhythms. Silversun Pickups still had a raw edge, but honed in on a more measured and spit-shined dynamic that will allow the band's appeal to widen to a larger audience.

Visit the Silversun Pickups at

Monday, November 13, 2017

Oz Noy at the Bitter End

Guitarist Oz Noy started playing Beatles songs and Israeli songs at age 10 in his native Israel and moved to bebop jazz, blues, pop and heavy metal by age 13. By age 16, he was playing with top Israeli musicians and artists. By age 24, he was one of the most established studio guitar players in the country. He was also in the house band on Israel’s top-rated television show for more than two years. Noy arrived in New York in 1996, and since then has played many residencies, particularly at the Bitter End, where he plays in a trio or quartet most Monday nights. Noy's band changes almost weekly, but often includes the top tier of New York session musicians, including Anton Fig, Will Lee, and Bernard Purdie. Noy has released eight studio albums and six instructional videos; his most recent album, Ozone Squeeze, a collaboration with keyboardist/vocalist Rai Thistlethwayte and drummer Darren Stanley, was released on September 15, 2017.

At the Bitter End tonight, Oz Noy led a trio that included keyboardist Brian Charette and drummer Eric Kalb in a smooth blend of instrumental jazz, funk, rock, blues, and rhythm and blues jams. Together, they locked into grooves as funky as James Brown or the Meters and as smooth as George Benson or Wes Montgomery. Occasionally, Noy's virtuoso guitar work was as fiery as Jimi Hendrix and as bluesy as Stevie Ray Vaughan. Noy used some effects, but never to the point of distortion; his harmonically inventive fret work led to entrancing sonic textures without much help from the pedals at his feet. His fast and tastefully complex finger work was the centerpiece of each composition, yet on every song he switched to rhythm guitar to allow his musicians to share the spotlight and improvise spontaneously. The set was rock-jazz magic.

Visit Oz Noy at

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Crazy Mary at Otto's Shrunken Head

Emma Zakarevicius & Charles Kibel
Guitarist Charles Kibel played New York's rock club circuit with Stumblebead in 1988-90 and with the Dead Heroines from 1996-98 before forming Crazy Mary in 1998 with drummer Nick Raisz, a coworker at the Bronx Zoo. In 2002, Crazy Mary recruited the assistance of violinist Walter Steding, a pioneer of the 1970s no wave movement. High energy vocalist Emma Zakarevicius joined in 2007, and became the band's new focal point. Bassist Armand "The Wizard" Milletari joined in 2013. Crazy Mary's seventh and most recent studio album is 2016's Ripples of Chaos.

Crazy Mary is a recurring attraction at Frank Wood's Wind-Down Sundays series at Otto's Shrunken Head, and tonight performed as part of the Five Nights of Wood celebrating promoter Frank Wood's birthday. Crazy Mary is a curious band, in that the quintet played rock and roll but did not play it straight. Kibel's guitar chords sometimes took an unorthodox scale, or Steding's fretless violin changed abruptly from sweet to atonal. Meanwhile, Zakarevicius jumped, twirled and swirled non-stop to the band's primal/tribal rhythms, reminding the audience that even with these flourishes of heady experimentation, Crazy Mary is a party band that inspires some rock and roll dancing.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Benyaro at the Bowery Electric

Ben Musser was schooled in jazz, rock, classical guitar and voice, and furthered his musical growth by immersing himself in artist communities in Nashville, Austin and New York City. Musser played guitar and drums for several bands before dedicating himself to his current indie-acoustic roots project. He started Benyaro in New York City, but the band currently is being nourished in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Benyaro performs most frequently as a duo where Musser sings and plays guitar, kick drum, hi-hat, shaker, and harmonica while being accompanied by an upright bass player. Benyaro's third original full-length album, One Step Ahead of Your Past,  was released on September 8, 2017.

At the Bowery Electric tonight, Musser used his two hands to play his acoustic guitar, although his right hand would occasionally swing away from the guitar to slap a high-hat cymbal. His right foot played a bass drum. Sometimes his head would tilt down so his mouth could blow into a harmonica that hung from his neck brace. He sang soulful, rootsy songs that hearkened to early blues, and yet were jittery and off-kilter enough to qualify as indie-rock. Between songs, Musser joked with his sole accompanist, Leif Routman, who played an upright bass and sporadically provided vocal harmony. The result was a curious blend of organic, earthy songs that sounded equally inspired by Americana and indie musics.

Visit Benyaro at

The Hipp Pipps at the Map Room at the Bowery Electric

Originally from a town outside Boston, Massachusetts, Matt Langone began playing guitar as a youth after seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. He played the New England circuit with the Peytons and the Trademarks until he relocated to the New York area. Since then, he has played lead guitar in several local rock bands, including the Gotham Rockets, the Trash Mavericks, the Cynz and the Waldos. For the past few years, his main project has been the Hipp Pipps with bassist Kevin Shaw (formerly of the BMTs, presently in the Wraycyclers) and Frankie Pipps (presently in the Pipptones). The Hipp Pipps released a self-titled album in 2015.

Zoe Stark presents a monthly concert series at the Map Room that frequently features the Hipp Pipps. On those occasions, such as tonight, the power trio fire straight-forward rock and roll from all engines. The Hipp Pipps' performance tonight was a roots rock set with no hyphens or hybrids. The set included a Chuck Berry cover and an Eddie Cochrane cover and about 10 original songs that sounded like they could have been written by those same pioneers. The energy was higher and the rhythms were speedier than the songs would have been a half century ago, but the songs were just as pure as the sounding fathers of rock and roll would have liked them. Langone's gritty vocals contrasted Shaw's pillow-talk vocals, but the driving spirit united the two vocal sides of the Hipp Pipps. If New York's future scene ever experiences a rock and roll revival, it will begin with the Hipp Pipps.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Prayers at the Bowery Ballroom

Author, artist and musician Rafael Reyes was born in Cotija, Mexico, and was raised in San Diego, California. While still a teenager in San Diego, he joined a street gang in order to save his father's life after a skirmish at a local market. Upon graduating high school, he opened San Diego's first vegan/vegetarian Mexican restaurant with his father and operated the restaurant for 18 years. In 2011, he wrote and published Living Dangerously, a  roman à clef about his life as a gang member. He also began showing his artwork in San Diego and Los Angeles. In 2011, Reyes formed his first band, Baptism of Thieves, followed by the pop-goth Vampire. In 2013, he reinvented himself under an alter ego, Leafar Seyer, which is his full name spelled backwards, and created Prayers with Tijuana-born synthesizer player Dave Parley, formerly of Latin Lovers. Seyer and Parley began recording immediately upon meeting, and completed the first Prayers CD in three days. Prayers won Best Alternative Band in the 2015 San Diego Music Awards. Prayers will release its third album, Baptism of Thieves, on November 24, 2017.

Prayers brought to the Gramercy Theatre tonight the music that its originators have defined as Cholo goth. Seyer's presentation was very much like slam poetry, closer to rapping than singing, couching poetic phrases and dark images with emotionally-charged dynamics. Seyer's lyrics explored harsh gang life and gothic themes over throbbing beats and swirling synthesizers. Parley, on the left side of the stage, framed Seyer's expressive deliveries with stark, uncluttered electronic rhythms that circled around the perimeter of industrial music. Together, the duo created an innovative sensory experience that should work itself out of the gothic underground and into the wider alternative music scene.

Visit Prayers at

Monday, November 6, 2017

Dhani Harrison at the Knitting Factory, Brooklyn

Dhani Harrison, son of the Beatles' late George Harrison, was named after the sixth and seventh notes of the Indian music scale, dha and ni and is pronounced "Danny." He grew up with his parents in Henley-on-Thames, England, but attended university in Providence, Rhode Island, where he studied industrial design and physics. He first ventured into music on his father's final album in 2001 (which earned him a Grammy Award in 2004), then in 2002 formed his own band, thenewno2. In 2010, Harrison, Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur joined together to form the short-lived supergroup Fistful of Mercy. Over the years, Harrison has participated in several big-marquee tributes to his father. He also has collaborated on projects with Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne, Wu-Tang Clan and Pearl Jam, and has scored several films and television series. Harrison released his debut solo album In///Parallel on 6 October 2017.

Dhani Harrison performed his first-ever solo concert at the Panorama Festival this past summer and returned to New York tonight to headline at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. Those who came hoping to hear Beatles redux must have been disappointed; backed by a small rock band, Harrison's music was far more experimental and far less commercial than the familiar Beatles catalog. Harrison sang in a distinct voice and blared on electric guitar, which boomed loudly in part to his reliance on pedals and distortion effects. There was no distinctive genre to give his music a label; the sounds were multi-layered, and the arrangements were eclectic and adventurous. All of this creativity made the performance intriguing and gripping for those in the audience open to new music that was clever and uncommon.

Visit Dhani Harrison at

  1. Summertime Police
  2. My Eye
  3. #WarOnFalse
  4. So Vain (thenewno2 song)
  5. Ulfur Resurrection
  6. Poseidon (Keep Me Safe) (duet with Mereki)
  7. Downtown Tigers
  8. The Sharp Knife (Paul Moran & Jacqui Hicks cover)
  9. Make It Home (thenewno2 song)
  10. Yomp (thenewno2 song)
  1. Admiral of Upside Down
  2. All About Waiting (duet with Camila Grey of Summer Moon)
  3. I Wanna Be Your Dog (The Stooges cover, with members of Summer Moon)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Pathway to Paris at Carnegie Hall

Patti Smith, Michael Stipe, Joan Baez, Flea, Cat Power, Talib Kweli, Tenzin Choegyal, Tanya Tagaq, and an array of speakers and musicians joined hands and voices as a call to action against climate change with a concert at Carnegie Hall tonight. Jesse Paris Smith and Rebecca Foon, founders of the effort they entitled Pathway to Paris, curated the event in partnership with the United Nations and in order to launch the 1000 Cities campaign, which petitions major cities to transition from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy by 2040. Speakers Bill McKibben, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Achim Steiner, and Olafur Eliasson educated about this cause.

The Pathway to Paris concert for climate action briefly illuminated Carnegie Hall with both people power and solar power. Bill McKibben paused the show to allow attendees to write letters to New York's senior senator, Charles Schumer. Olafur Eliasson asked the audience to open a box placed under its seats and turn on solar-energy lights to illuminate a darkened Carnegie Hall, then announced that these lights would be sent to Puerto Rico to help those still lacking power following Hurricane Maria.

The concert featured rare moments. Patti Smith bragged with pride over the social action trajectory taken by her daughter, Jesse Paris Smith. Michael Stipe covered the Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning." Patti Smith covering Cat Stevens' "Where Do the Children Play." Joan Baez danced with Talib Kweli, who was backed on the bass guitar by Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Later, Patti Smith danced with Baez. For the finale, all the performers and speakers joined Patti Smith on stage for "People Have the Power."
Patti Smith
Jesse Paris Smith
Joan Baez
Michael Stipe
Cat Power
Tenzin Choegyan
Patti Smith setlist at program start
  1. Nature Is What We See (Emily Dickinson cover with Jesse Paris Smith and Rebecca Foon)
  2. Mother Nature's Son (The Beatles cover with Tony Shanahan and Andy York) -> Unknown poem -> Where Do the Children Play? (Cat Stevens cover) (with Tony Shanahan and Andy York)
  3. Peaceable Kingdom / People Have the Power (with Lenny Kaye, Tony Shanahan, Jay Dee Daugherty, and Andy York)
  4. Mother's Prayer (poem during Flea bass composition)
Patti Smith setlist at program end
  1. After the Gold Rush (Neil Young cover) (with Tony Shanahan and Jesse Paris Smith)
  2. People Have the Power (finale with everyone from the concert)
Joan Baez setlist
  1. Another World (Antony and the Johnsons cover)
  2. The President Sang Amazing Grace (Zoe Mulford cover)
  3. Imagine (John Lennon cover)
  4. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (Fisk Jubilee Singers cover)
Michael Stipe setlist
  1. Nature Boy (Nat King Cole cover)
  2. It Don't Come Easy (Ringo Starr cover)
  3. Photograph (Ringo Starr cover)
  4. Sunday Morning (The Velvet Underground cover)
Cat Power setlist
  1. Nothing Really Matters
  2. Norma/Names
  3. Maybe Not
Talib Kweli setlist
  1. Get By (with Flea on bass)
Tenzin Choegyal setlist
  1. Elemental Prayer (with Jesse Paris Smith and Rebecca Foon)
  2. Heart Strings (with Jesse Paris Smith, Rebecca Foon, and Tibetan elders)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Ariel Pink at le Poisson Rouge

Ariel Rosenberg was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and began writing, singing, and playing original compositions at around 10 years of age. As a young adult, he worked in a record store, gaining an encyclopedic knowledge of contemporary music and an avid appreciation for underground artists. Rosenberg released his first album in 1999 under his given name, but then beginning in 2000 his albums were credited to Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti. His first album as simply Ariel Pink was released in 2014. His 11th and most recent studio album, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, was released on September 15, 2017.

In some circles, Ariel Pink has been revered as a songwriter, but tonight at le Poisson Rouge, this claim was challenging to confirm. Pink's band drowned out his lyrics throughout the entire performance. Pink's smooth pop and sometimes quirky vocal melodies defined the foreground and the texture of the overall production. This would have been more effective if the musicians had provided their uptempo lo-fi grooves and riffs, which were repeated incessantly, further in the background. What traditionally would have been a backdrop was very much front and center. Pink interspersed nine of the new album's 13 tracks between older songs, but what were the words? Online videos of recent tour stops verify that this matter was consistent in other cities.

Visit Ariel Pink at

  1. Nighttime Is Great! (Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti song)
  2. Bobby Jameson
  3. I Wanna Be Young
  4. White Freckles
  5. Time to Meet Your God
  6. Thespian City
  7. Dreamdate Narcissist
  8. Kinski Assassin (Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti song)
  9. Time to Live
  10. Another Weekend
  11. Put Your Number in My Phone
  12. Menopause Man (Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti song)
  13. A Tomb All Your Own
  14. Alisa
  15. Jagged Carnival Tours
  16. Baby (Donnie & Joe Emerson cover)
  1. Death Patrol
  2. Bubblegum Dreams
  3. Do Yourself a Favor
  4. Round and Round (Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti song)

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Elbow at Terminal 5

Guy Garvey
In 1990 in Bury, England, a teenaged guitarist, Mark Potter, invited a 16-year-old schoolmate, Guy Garvey, to sing in Mr. Soft, a band he was in with bassist Pete Turner and drummer Richard Jupp. Mark's brother, keyboardist Craig Potter, soon turned the band into a quintet. They shortened the band name  to Soft, then changed it a third time in 1997 to Elbow, inspired by a line in the BBC TV drama The Singing Detective in which a character described the word "elbow" as the loveliest word in the English language. Elbow has won esteemed accolades in the United Kingdom while struggling to gain comparable recognition in the United States. Elbow's fourth studio album, The Seldom Seen Kid, sold over a million copies and won the Mercury Music Prize in 2008. In 2009 the band won the Brit Award for Best British Group , a Meteor Award for Best International Band, an NME Award  for Outstanding Contribution to British Music, and two Ivor Novello Awards. After 25 years in Elbow, Jupp left in 2016. Now a quartet, Elbow's seventh and most recent studio album, Little Fictions, was released on February 3, 2017.

Elbow headlined Terminal 5 tonight, supplemented by a touring drummer and two violinists/backing singers, and appropriately opened with "New York Morning," a song of admiration of the dreamers who built the city. Elbow's rather soft-rocking and word-heavy set highlighted an inherent bruised optimism that equally penetrated both the lyrics and the melancholy tone of the concert. The songs became prisms that reflected fragmentally the human condition of a lifetime of struggles. The violinists enriched this element with their subtle but lush orchestration. Elbow closed its set with its best-known anthem, "One Day Like This," milked for all it could contain with an extended audience sing-along, then returned for an encore performance with "Lippy Kids" and "Grounds for Divorce." The future continues to look bright for the band that finds much of its inspiration in angst.

Visit Elbow at

  1. New York Morning
  2. The Bones of You
  3. Fly Boy Blue / Lunette
  4. Head For Supplies
  5. My Sad Captains
  6. Station Approach
  7. Switching Off
  8. Any Day Now
  9. All Disco
  10. Magnificent (She Says)
  11. Mirrorball
  12. The Birds
  13. Little Fictions
  14. Kindling
  15. One Day Like This
  1. Lippy Kids
  2. Grounds for Divorce