Thursday, April 21, 2016

Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons at the Mercury Lounge

Jerry Joseph
Jerry Joseph grew up in the area around San Diego, California, and started playing guitar professionally at age 15 while living in New Zealand. He later relocated to Arcata, California, where he formed the rock/reggae band Little Women in 1982. After the breakup of Little Women in 1993, Joseph began recording albums under his own name. In 1996, Joseph relocated to Utah and formed the band Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons. Joseph also began an intermittent side project called the Stockholm Syndrome in 2003. Joseph released By the Time Your Rocket Gets to Mars on April 15, 2016.

While Joseph has recorded acoustic albums in the past, his present band is playing all-out rockers. Performing at the Mercury Lounge tonight, Joseph's smoky vocals flavored the emotional core of the songwriter, igniting his thoughtful lyrics with passion. Bald-headed and white-bearded, Joseph's integrity blossomed from the wisdom culled from his maturity. His bluesy lead guitar work was equally enflamed with a richness that came from the soul. Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons may be a treasure to be discovered by fans of classic rock.

Visit Jerry Joseph at www.jerryjoseph.com.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

August Burns Red at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Jake Luhrs
Metalcore band August Burns Red was formed in 2003 when all the members were in high school in the farmlands of Manheim, Pennsylvania. The band rehearsed in an old egg house and began playing shows around Lancaster. The band presently consists of vocalist William Jacob "Jake" Luhrs, lead guitarist John Benjamin "JB" Brubaker, rhythm guitarist Brent Rambler, bassist Dustin Davidson and drummer Matt Greiner. August Burns Red's sixth and most recent album, Found in Far Away Places, was released on June 29, 2015.

Closing a tour tonight at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom, August Burns Red was solid but only marginally innovative. Bald and muscular Luhrs shouted and growled for the entire set, seldom mixing in clean vocals. Songs featured technical forays, with odd meter riffs, blast beats and breakdowns. Songs were built upon soaring guitar leads, sometimes highlighting twin guitars in harmony. The set consisted of five songs from its newest album and two songs from each of four earlier albums. While the fast and pounding set was performed well, August Burns Red could not help that the unique chemistry that defines and erupts into metalcore required commonly used elements.

Visit August Burns Red at www.augustburnsred.com.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong at the Gramercy Theatre

Greg Ormont
Vocalist/rhythm guitarist Greg Ormont was in musicals and plays while growing up in Port Washington, New York. He attended college in College Park, Maryland, where on the first day of school in 2006 he met and jammed with lead guitarist Jeremy Schon of Pikesville, Maryland. Schon introduced Ormont to Phish, the jam scene and funk. Ormont and Schon were still a duo when they named the band they did not yet have. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong was a phrase in their psychology textbook, referring to an experiment by behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner. The band is presently based in Baltimore and consists of Ormont, Schon, bassist Ben Carrey and drummer Alex Petropulos. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong has released one studio album, 2014's Psychology.

Headlining at the Gramercy Theatre tonight, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong combined electro funk grooves and extended psychedelic jams for a sound that would liven any party. Ormont's soulful vocals offered authenticity to the funk grooves, while Schon's fancy fretwork gave many songs a jazzy calling. Many of the songs featured complex arrangements, inclining towards progressive jazz, but once the jams got into high gear, the categories dissolved and all that was left was fine musical interplay with a hip-shaking rhythm. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong is still an underdog in the jam band arena, but look for word of mouth to increase the band's visibility.

Visit Pigeons Playing Ping Pong at www.pigeonsplayingpingpong.com.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Napalm Death at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Mark "Barney" Greenway
Napalm Death is an extreme metal band formed in 1981 in Meriden, England, initially inspired by the anarcho-punk movement. Napalm Death became among the pioneers of the grindcore. The last original member of Napalm Death left in 1987, but vocalist Mark "Barney" Greenway, guitarist Mitch Harris, bassist Shane Embury and drummer Danny Herrera have comprised the band since 1981. Napalm Death released 16 studio albums, the most recent being Apex Predator – Easy Meat, released on January 26, 2015.

At Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom tonight, Napalm Death's performance was akin to a series of explosions. Every song was abrasive, aggressive and volatile, furthering hardcore punk and extreme metal to produce a thick wall of noise. Between songs, Greenway offered commentary on social injustices, human rights and current politics, including a jab at Donald Trump, but once the songs began, the music's intensity could not possibly be more in your face. This was brutal violence as Greenway howled, guitar chords blurred and the rhythm section pounded mercilessly. Occasionally the band offered a metal riff as an anchor, but more often the sound was like a tornado with a beat. Thirty five years in, Napalm Death is still a viable threat to humanity.

Visit Napalm Death at www.napalmdeath.org.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Kvelertak at Irving Plaza

Erlend Hjelvik
Kvelertak was formed in 2007 in Stavanger, Norway. The band's name is Norwegian for "stranglehold" or "chokehold." Drawing inspiration from rock and roll, black metal and punk rock, the band wrote songs in its native language. The band's self-titled debut album was certified gold in Norway for selling over 15,000 copies and won two Spellemann Awards—a prestigious Norwegian music award similar to the American Grammy Award—for Best Newcomer and Best Rock Band. Now based in Rogaland, Norway, Kvelertak presently consists of vocalist Erlend Hjelvik, guitarists Vidar Landa, Bjarte Lund Rolland and Maciek Ofstad, bassist Marvin Nygaard and drummer Kjetil Gjermundrød. The band's third album, Nattesferd, will be released on May 13, 2016.

Kvelertak is barely known outside its native country, but that could change soon. At Irving Plaza tonight, long-haired, tattooed, sweaty, bare-chested Hjelvik came on stage covering his head with a mounted owl with outstretched wings. How is that for an opening? Too bad the stage lights were so dim that it was difficult to clearly see the oddity. Carrying forth, Hjelvik was an impressive shouter and animator as the musicians played riff-driven, hard-hitting, dirty rock and roll spiked by a three-guitar wail. The energetic music was basic and followed simple chord changes, roaring along at head-banging speed. The small country of Norway has produced yet another noteworthy band.

Visit Kvelertak at www.kvelertak.com.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Abbath at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Abbath Doom Occulta
Olve Eikemo, better known by his stage name Abbath Doom Occulta, is from Lysefjorden just outside Bergen in Norway, where as a young boy, he was a great fan of Kiss. His musical career started with the band Old Funeral, and later the death metal band Amputation in 1989, which evolved into the black metal band Immortal. Immortal split in 2002, reunited in 2006, and split again in 2015. Occulta was also in two side projects, a Motörhead tribute band called Bömbers in 1996 and a band called I in 2006. Following his departure from Immortal in 2015, Occulta formed a new band under the name Abbath with Occulta on guitar and vocals and King Ov Hell from God Seed on bass. Abbath the band released its debut self-titled album on January 22, 2016.

At Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom tonight, Abbath was rounded out with guitarist Ole André Farstad and drummer Gabe "Creature" Seeber. As the house lights dimmed, the four musicians came on stage to an orchestral-sounding fanfare amidst a billowing dry-ice fog and blinding red lights wearing corpse face-paint and black apocalyptic wardrobe. As the band has recorded only one album, the 13-song set relied heavily on Immortal songs, which were likely more familiar to the audience. Abbath specialized in mid-tempo drudges that often erupted into volatile, hair-spinning moshers. Occulta played up the sinister image, often confronting the audience with seemingly menacing poses, adding a bit of light humor to otherwise dark and heavy music. Occulta's snarling growl was ever present, but unfortunately some of the bright extended guitar leads were buried in the mix, sometimes resulting in a thudding, repetitious three-chord groove. In all, it seemed that Abbath seamed where Immortal left off, which will thrill many extreme metal fans.

Visit Abbath at www.abbath.net.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Fear Factory at the Gramercy Theatre

Burton C. Bell
Guitarist Dino Cazares and drummer Raymond Herrera recruited vocalist Burton C. Bell (ex-Hate Face) in 1989 in Los Angeles, California. The new band was originally named Ulceration, but changed its name to Fear Factory in 1990 to reflect the band's new death metal sound. Fear Factory disbanded in 2002 following some internal disputes, but soon after a new line-up took the brand name. The present band consists of Bell, Cazares (who returned in 2009), bassist Tony Campos and drummer Mike Heller. Fear Factory released its ninth studio album, Genexus, on August 7, 2015.

As Fear Factory came onstage at the Gramercy Theatre tonight, Bell announced "This is Demanufacture." The band and its fans were celebrating the 20th anniversary of Demanufacture, a futuristic science fiction concept album about a man's struggles against a machine-controlled government. A kick drum pattern coupled with the opening guitar riff launched the album's self-titled lead track, and Fear Factory performed the album to the final riffs of "A Therapy for Pain." A seven-song encore consisted of two songs from the most recent album and five fan-favorites from early albums. Throughout, Bell alternated between clean vocals and death growls, while the crunching guitar riffs and blast beats powered songs rooted in grindcore and industrial metal sounds. The down point was that in order to recreate the album faithfully, several songs included excessive click tracks and prerecorded keyboards. Nevertheless, the band gave the audience what it wanted -- angry, abrasive and somewhat experimental metal -- but it may have been more interesting to have heard all the music live.

Visit Fear Factory at www. fearfactory.com.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Sadies at Hill Country Barbecue + Market

Dallas Good and Travis Good are the sons of Bruce Good and nephews of Brian and Larry Good, who are members of the Canadian country music group The Good Brothers. Guitarists Dallas and Travis played in the Good Brothers before forming the Sadies as a rock & roll and country & western band in 1994 in Toronto. More than 20 years later, the original quartet has stayed intact, with upright bassist Sean Dean and drummer Mike Belitsky. The band's most recent studio album, Internal Sounds, was released in 2013.

One of the Sadies' biggest supporters, John Doe of X, performed with the Sadies at Hill Country Barbecue + Market in 2015. This time around, the Sadies performed without any guests, and rocked the basement venue with raucous rock and roll that leaned heavily on 1960s garage, surf, rockabilly and psychedelic rock. Both Dallas and Travis sang lead and played lead guitar, sizzling when the vocal and guitar harmonies were just right. There was plenty of country twang guitar, but couched in hard-stomping rhythms and projected at high volume for a versatile rock set. Most of the thunderous set was a blistering rave-up, impacting like a jackhammer with barely a break between songs. For those who wanted their rock scrappy and noisy, the Sadies was the band of choice.

Visit the Sadies at www.thesadies.net.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Avett Brothers at Madison Square Garden

Scott Avett & Seth Avett
Scott Avett was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and his brother Seth Avett was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. They were raised in a small hobby farm in Concord, North Carolina, where Scott wanted to be a musician but Seth wanted to be an astronaut. They studied piano, guitar, and banjo, and discovered pop, rock, and Americana music. Although they played music together since childhood, the brothers began their partnership in the late 1990s with the merger of Seth's high school rock band, Margo, and Scott's college group, Nemo. After releasing three albums as Nemo, the Avetts started experimenting with acoustic music with some friends at night. Nemo split, and Scott and Seth continued to write acoustic music together. Now based in Mount Pleasant, North Carolina, the folk-rock band known as the Avett Brothers presently consists of Scott Avett on vocals and banjo, Seth on vocals and guitar, bassist Bob Crawford and cellist Joe Kwon. Drummer Mike Marsh, violinist Tania Elizabeth and keyboardist Paul Defiglia are touring members of the band. The Avett Brothers' ninth studio album, True Sadness, will be released on June 24, 2016.

Headlining Madison Square Garden tonight was the achievement of a personal goal for the Avett Brothers. "It’s an honor to be on this stage. It’s an honor to be in front of you all tonight," Scott Avett told the audience. "It’s a dream come true. Thank you, thank you, thank you." The Avett Brothers performed 21 songs within a one hour and 45 minute set. The set list included songs from past albums and live EPs, plus three new songs from the forthcoming album, two Merle Haggard covers ("Mama Tried" and "My Favorite Memory"), and a Doc Watson cover ("Country Blues"). The set opened with Marsh’s steady kick drum and an arena of hand claps, as the Avett Brothers launched into the fast-rapping opening to the lively "Talk on Indolence" from 2006’s Four Thieves Gone: The Robbinsville Sessions. Although rooted in Americana, the band easily could have been categorized as either country or rock, performing an expansive set that effectively blended bluegrass, honky tonk, folk, pop, rock and roll, and indie rock. The spotlights followed the energetic musicians, who playfully made great use of the large stage. Mid-set, the brothers played stripped down versions of a few songs without the entire band on a runway that extended deep into the general admission floor area. Opening act Brandi Carlile joined the brothers on the apron for a sweet and gentle harmony-rich rendition of "Murder in the City." To add spectacle to the set, Seth Avett at one point strolled into the audience's standing area playing his electric guitar. The high-octane evening ended with a two-song encore of "Laundry Room" and "I And Love And You." With surprises every few minutes and vibrant flight energizing the set, the Avett Brothers provided an exceptional showcase.

Visit the Avett Brothers at www.theavettbrothers.com.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Disturbed at Irving Plaza

David Draiman
In 1996 in Chicago, Illinois, a two-year-old band called Brawl lost its lead singer and sought a replacement via a classified advertisement in a local music publication. David Draiman answered the advertisement after going to 20 other auditions that month, and both parties found their match. The band was renamed Disturbed and the alternative metal band went on to sell over 12 million records before going on hiatus in 2011. Over the next four years, Draiman, guitarist Dan Donegan, bassist John Moyer, and drummer Mike Wengren worked with other bands. Disturbed then secretly reunited in 2015 and released its sixth album, Immortalized, on August 21, 2015.

For a couple of minutes at Irving Plaza tonight, fans watched a trailer collage of fast-changing video images of Disturbed in concert. The screen then rose and the live band launched into 2005's "Ten Thousand Fists." While many contemporary bands drown the vocalist with guitar riffs, Disturbed recognized that Draiman's thick voice is the band's strongest element and brought it out front and center. Throughout the set, the band empowered its classic-sounding hard rock tunes with crunching nu metal riffs, but Draiman's husky, melodic vocal delivery were the center point of every song. The 17-song set reviewed the past 20 years of Disturbed, and also rallied the fans with a 10-minute medley of covers consisting of Nine Inch Nails' "Closer," U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," the Who's "Baba O'Riley" and Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name," which featured guest vocals from Elias Soriano of opening act Nonpoint. The moshing paused as the band sat on stools for a haunting,  acoustic version of "The Darkness" and the eerily dramatic cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s "The Sound of Silence." In all, Draiman's contrasting deep and soaring vocals succeeded in accentuating penetrating depth and vivid dimension within Disturbed's rocking set. The concert was a fine welcome back to a Disturbed world.

Visit Disturbed at www.disturbed1.com.