Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Brain Cloud at Hill Country Barbeque + Market

Hill Country Barbecue + Market brings an authentic spirit of Austin, Texas, to New York City. The live music is rife with side-slapping Americana roots and the menu is heavy with lip-smacking barbecue sauce. The next time I come I will have to bring my appetite, as the ever-present scent of the southern cuisine was nearly intoxicating.

Tonight, the Brain Cloud played western swing. Featuring Tamar Korn on vocals and Dennis Lichtman on mandolin, fiddle and clarinet, the band's songs sounded like country music from a time long before its modern pop and rock hybrids. Look for Korn and members of the Brain Cloud to play at Barbes in Brooklyn every Monday night and at Rodeo Bar & Grill in Manhattan on the first Wednesday of each month.

For Today at Irving Plaza

Christian metalcore quite possibly has never been this fierce. For Today formed in Sioux City, Iowa, in 2005, and brought its music and message to New York's Irving Plaza tonight. Lead vocalist Mattie Montgomery (pictured above) is a beast whose aggressive singing over the band's bone-crunching music was rivaled only by his passion for telling his audience that this was all about the saving power of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Old Soul Revival at Bowery Electric's Map Room

The main bands play the basement of Bowery Electric but, on several nights each week, a small back room on the main floor becomes a stage called the Map Room. Now this is a small room! The stage is only slightly larger than a queen-size bed and the distance from the edge of the stage to the back of the room is about eight feet.

Old Soul Revival, pictured above, is the Wednesday night house band at the Map Room, playing early rock anthems originally recorded by the likes of the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Each Wednesday, the band also invites a half dozen singer songwriters and local rockers to showcase their music. Admission is free.

ESG at Bowery Electric

One block north of where the legendary CBGB & OMFUG reigned from 1973-2006, a former lighting store has become a bar and live music club. Singer-songwriter Jesse Malin, who himself has played the local rock clubs for more than 25 years, is a part owner of the new Bowery Electric. Having played CBGBs many times himself, he has been bringing back many of the old bands that time almost forgot.

Among the groups that got its start at CBGBs was ESG (Emerald, Sapphire and Gold), a band that formed in the South Bronx in 1978 and has performed worldwide, including recent dates in France and Sweden. Over the years, ESG influenced many other artists with its raw hard beats. Hip-hop artists including the Beastie Boys, Big Daddy KaneTLCTricky, the Wu-Tang Clan, and indie rockers Unrest and Liars reportedly borrowed ESG’s riffs.

One block north from where ESG found its original audience, the band played its farewell concert at Bowery Electric tonight. Imagine a band rocking without guitars or keyboards. At Bowery Electric, ESG performed its primitive funk music accompanied simply by bass and percussion. The lyrics were often just a few words repeated again and again. At the end of the concert, the bassist encouraged the packed audience to clap for an encore. Maybe if we clap louder we can persuade the band to perform another farewell tour.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Strummerville Benefit Concert at Bowery Electric

In honor of the late Joe Strummer of the Clash, more than a dozen local rockers staged a benefit tonight at Bowery Electric for Strummerville, the charity that was formed by his friends and family in the year after his death to offer support, resources and performance opportunities to artists who would not normally have access to them. I was not present for the entire concert, but the artists who were scheduled to appear included H.R. of Bad Brains, Brian Fallon (pictured right) of Gaslight Anthem, Jesse Malin, Willie Nile, Tad Kubler of the Hold Steady, Walter Lure of the Waldos and the Heartbreakers, the So So Glos and many more New York favorites.

Eric Burdon at J&R Music World

I was in the sixth grade when the Beatles and the whole British Invasion happened in the early 1960s. Earlier, no one in America seemed to care what was happening in in England. Now television's Ed Sullivan Show and Top 40 radio stations showcased all the new British bands, and I was buying fan magazines. This music was revolutionizing the culture forever.
Among the best of these new British bands was Eric Burdon and the Animals. Burdon's gritty, bluesy voice powered hit songs like "House of the Rising Sun" and "It's My Life." I enjoyed his concerts in the 1970s and 1980s and interviewed him once for a local newspaper.
He's now back with a bluesy album called 'Til Your River Runs Dry and tonight sang a mini-concert at a retail store, J&R Music World, backed by an acoustic guitar player and a keyboard player. It was a great joy to hear him sing "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and "We Gotta Get Outta This Place," songs he popularized nearly 50 years ago. Honestly, he really did not sing as well. I am glad he is still performing, though.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Reel Big Fish at Irving Plaza

Ska music originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s, as musicians playing Caribbean mento and calypso began incorporating American jazz and rhythm and blues. Ska was the dominant music genre of Jamaica in the 1950s and 1960s, after which rocksteady and then reggae became the signature sounds of that nation. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, British bands including the Specials, the English Beat and Madness popularized the music within the punk movement. Beginning in the late 1990s, bands like California’s Reel Big Fish revived the music to new, younger audiences through the Warped Festival and other exposures. Although interest in the music generally seems to have waned again, Reel Big Fish rocked Irving Plaza tonight with its jumpy guitar and horn section. The band plays the Brooklyn Bowl on Monday, February 4th.

The Wives at Arlene's Grocery

Periodically, music swings back to the two- or three-chord gritty rock and roll, and probably no one does it as fast as the Wives, who ended a residency at Arlene's Grocery tonight. Their music harks back to 1960s groups like the Seeds or the Music Machine and today's groups like Gasoline Heart. The band's aggressive music may stem from aggressive personalities. Halfway through the set, the two guitarists fought on stage, broken up by one of their friends who jumped on stage to separate them; between songs later on the two literally kissed and made up on stage.

Chris Riffle at the Living Room

Chris Riffle was born in a one-room cabin deep in the woods of Washington state. Almost six years ago he moved to the East Village and started working in a local coffee shop. Among his passions, however, was the writing songs on his acoustic guitar and performing them for his friends, many of whom are also his customers. Two albums and two EPs later, he performs his original songs at neighborhood music clubs like the Sidewalk Cafe and tonight, the Living Room. The music is among the quietest I have ever heard. Riffle nearly whispers his lyrics. He either finger picks or strums his acoustic guitar with his thumb. His music is dream-like; no, make that sleepy soft. Living in a big, noisy city, sometimes we need that kind of serenity in our ears.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sabrina Stone at the Living Room

Sabrina Stone is making the local singer/songwriter circuit on the stages of the Rockwood Music Hall, the Sidewalk Café, the Bitter End and other local music clubs. She has recorded an album entitled My College Degree & Me, an EP entitled Sabrina Stone and a children’s album with songs about the environment, Global HeartWarming: the Album. At the Living Room tonight, while I was not interested in listening to a 24-year-old sing songs about drinking whiskey or breaking up with her boyfriend, her set was captivating for her impressive jazz-styled singing.

Myra Flynn at Pianos' Upstairs Lounge

Once again introduced to an impressive new music artist through the discovery of a captivating video performance on the internet, I ventured to listen to Myra Flynn live at Pianos' Upstairs Lounge tonight. My hunch was rewarded. At Pianos, Flynn sang impressively as if she was an old-time crooner of classic r&b songs -- but backed by a rock band. Making a name for herself in the singer-songwriter circuit in her native Vermont, the young artist is courting a New York audience with a series of showcases promoting her second album, For the Record. She will perform as part of the weekly Old Soul Revival at Bowery Electric on February 6 and at the Rockwood Music Hall on February 23.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Nickcasey at the Living Room

Doing a new music search online, I happened to catch an interesting video by Nickcasey. Yes, that is one word, derivative of the first names of the two front men, Casey Spindler and Nicholas Webber. At the Living Room tonight, the band was more rocking than what I usually hear at this venue, with the musicians playing pop music with a country edge, probably more Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers than the Eagles. Given the right opportunities, Nickcasey could become a very popular music act. Look for Nickcasey to play at the Living Room next Saturday night as well.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Graveyard at the Bowery Ballroom

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, hundreds of British rockers coveted old American blues and transformed it into the prevailing rock sound of the era. A new band from Sweden named Graveyard has taken a trip back to that period, bringing to the Bowery Ballroom tonight what sounded like the next chapter of bands like Ten Years After, Savoy Brown and Foghat. What was common then is unique now, and it took a group from Sweden to show us that. The group will be playing the Music Hall of Williamsburg this Sunday night.

Robert Earl Keen at Irving Plaza

Robert Earl Keen brought a bit of his native Texas to Irving Plaza tonight. Playing the live circuit since 1984, the 57-year-old singer songwriter has refined his good-time outlaw country music. His vocals are sometimes reminiscent of Bob Dylan, but overwhelmingly his music is similar in sound to that of Jerry Jeff Walker and Waylon Jennings. His songs have been recorded by George Strait, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Lyle Lovett and the Dixie Chicks. I have a feeling that Robert Earl Keen is going to be around for awhile. He is playing at City Winery on Monday, January 28.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Olly Murs at Irving Plaza

Good golly, Olly! I happened to walk past Irving Plaza about 2:30 p.m. and saw more than 50 people already on line for tonight's Olly Murs concert there. The temperature had just crawled out of the teens, and so perhaps 10 of these music fans scattered throughout the line were wrapped in blankets. First I wondered how they did it, then I wondered why they did it. Who is Olly Murs?
The four young women shown under the blanket below were eager to tell me that Oliver Stanley Murs is a 28-year-old English singer-songwriter and reality television personality. Murs was the runner-up in The X Factor in 2009, he recorded two albums that have sold five million copies worldwide and he published his autobiography last October. I would have listened to them tell me more, but the wind chill factor was getting to me and I thought I had better get home quickly and get under my own blankets.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Stonesour at Terminal 5

Stonesour was formed in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1992 and disbanded in 1997. Some of the members joined another fast-rising Des Moines group, Slipknot. Stonesour then reunited in 2002 and became more popular the second time around, earning Grammy Award nominations in 2003, 2004 and 2006. At Terminal 5 tonight, they performed their brand of radio rock with an occasional touch of thrash. A little for all tastes, vocalist Corey Taylor even sang and played unaccompanied on guitar for a few minutes. Ready for large audiences, Stonesour will be playing international music festivals this summer.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Precious Metal Nights End at the Lit Lounge

After six years at the Lit Lounge, the Precious Metal series ended tonight with four of the best new extreme metal bands, Hivesmasher, Fashion Week, Flaming Tusks (pictured above) and SOS. Where this music scene will gravitate now is anyone's guess, as Curran McReynolds seemed to be the only local concert broker interested in nurturing this below-the-radar music scene. For instance, the two singers of Hivesmasher spent most of their performance wrestling with each other and throwing themselves at the members of the audience around them. Not many promoters will tolerate that.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Annual Reunion Concert at the Continental

The Continental was one of the best rock music clubs for about 15 years, but it stopped having live bands in 2006. Once a year, however, many of the local musicians return for a reunion concert, as they did tonight. The music started in the mid-afternoon and continued until just after midnight. Among the performances was the return of the Waldos, featuring Walter Lure. They played a tight rock and roll set, highlighted at the end by four songs Lure used to play with Johnny Thunders in the Heartbreakers.

Morgan O'Kane at Union Square Park

I had planned to catch Morgan O'Kane at The Living Room but wound up missing him. A few days later, on what might have been the last mild day of winter 2012-2013 in New York, I happened to catch him playing alongside Union Square Park. O'Kane plays a blazing banjo, using a bottleneck slide on his left pinky. His soulful singing slurs along with the slide. For his percussion, his left boot slams into a tambourine and his right boot works a pedal that hits the suitcase he sits on. His sidewalk performance brought to a stop a large crowd of scurrying shoppers, joggers, dog walkers and mommies with strollers, and probably collected more donations than he would have earned in any area music club.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Almost at the Studio at Webster Hall

Aaron Gillespie was the last remaining original member of progressive thrash metal band Underoath. Reportedly, the music was getting increasingly too heavy for his tastes. He left the group in 2006 and started working on a side project called the Almost. It was not really a band yet, though; he had to form the band later on. The Almost now has recorded several albums and performed fast and furious pop music at the Studio at Webster Hall tonight. The set was cut short because the hall had to be cleared out for another event.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Hollywood Undead at Gramercy Theater

Hollywood Undead is a rap group that came together in Los Angeles in 2005 and quickly became known not only for its music but for hiding the faces of the rappers and musicians with creepy hockey masks. The masks are off now and the focus is all on the music. Hollywood Undead plays real instruments, not simply a record player or a laptop. They rocked hard and they rocked well at the Gramercy Theater tonight.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Soundgarden at Terminal 5

Soundgarden reunited in 2010 and last year released its first album in 16 years. This year, the Grammy Award winning pioneers of grunge music are playing a tour of large clubs, including Terminal 5 tonight. Despite its 1984 origins, the group performed its live music raw, as if all the songs were written just a few days ago. Under all that hair is lead singer Chris Cornell. I took dozens of photographs, but it was impossible to take a photograph where his hair did not cover his face.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Underoath at Irving Plaza

Heavy metal music has moved in so many directions that it has become difficult to find defining categories for many of the bands. Underoath (stylized as Underøath) from Tampa, Florida, is among the leaders of a progressive metalcore scene that includes The Devil Wears Prada, As I Lay Dying and August Burns Red. On two sold out nights at Irving Plaza, current lead singer Spencer Chamberlain both growled and screeched as the band shredded some of the heaviest and fastest music around. With no original members left in the band, Chamberlain announced that this was the popular group's final tour before breaking up.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Jar'd Loose/Precious Metal at Lit Lounge

Extreme metal bands have a devoted following, and a scene was nurtured for them for the past six years by curator Currin McReynolds on Monday nights at the Lit Lounge in the East Village. These Precious Metal nights have been more than a stage, they have been the building of a dynamic niche music community. As the Precious Metal nights wind to an end next Monday, tonight's showcase included a punk metal band from Chicago named Jar'd Loose, pictured above.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Pete Ayres Band at National Underground

Keyboard player Pete Ayres was a jazz major at Webster University, but the New York-based Pete Ayres Band is more of a soul and pop band, with maybe just a touch of smooth jazz. The band played an enjoyable set of covers and originals tonight at The National Underground.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Li'nard's Many Moods at Groove N.Y.C.

One moment the waitress was asking me if I wanted a table. A moment later she was on the stage of Groove N.Y.C., invited by Li'nard's Many Moods to perform a rap tune, and she was excellent. Groove N.Y.C. is a Greenwich Village rhythm & blues club, and several bands play on a rotation. Li'nard's Many Moods is distinct in that the band not only plays soul music well, but it incorporates humor into its music. In the middle of one song, the band broke into an "I want my BET" chant, parodying the "I want my MTV" jingle.

Sweet Georgia Brown at Arthur's Tavern

Confined to a cramped performance space between a wall and three bars, Greg Lewis begins playing his Hammond B3 organ, Stew Cutler hits some funk chords on his guitar, the rhythm section falls into place and it does not take long for Sweet Georgia Brown to start kicking in on smokey blues and r&b tunes. Singing since childhood, Georgia has performed with Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson, Fathead Newman, KoKo Taylor and Stanley Turrentine. She can be crude, she can be witty, but it is her husky, soulful singing that grabbed my attention at Arthur's Tavern in the West Village.

Puma Perl at the Parkside Lounge

The cutting edge in downtown culture in the late 1950s and early 1960s was created by the "beatniks." Some of these moments were relived more than fifty years later when the Parkside Lounge hosted Krebs & Apfel's Endless Party tonight featuring poetry by Puma Perl, pictured here. Puma read her poems passionately while accompanied intermittently by a saxophonist. They were followed by a rockabilly band, Krebs & the Maynard G's, who dressed and played like it was 1963 again.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Hudson Hornets at the National Underground

Rockabilly acts are hard to come by, and rockabilly bands led by a woman with a beautiful voice are even rarer. Listening to Carrie Bonnell sing “All Shook Up” is a whole new way of taking in a 50-year-old rock and roll standard. The New York-based Hudson Hornets played a rocking set of mostly obscure 1950s covers at the National Underground tonight.

Mike Shohet at Parkside Lounge

Folk singers gave way to the singer-songwriter trend in the early seventies with the rise of artists like James Taylor. The folk era probably died before Mike Shohet was born, but the small man with a deep voice sang songs that harked back to Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton and Tim Buckley at the Parkside Lounge tonight.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Peter Brainin at The Fat Cat

What is a live music fan doing in a pool hall? The Fat Cat is a large billiards hall in the West Village which also has ample tables for ping pong, shuffleboard and foosball as well as booths for checkers, chess and scrabble. Live music fans will locate, off to one side, a space, not a stage, for performances by some of the best local jazz musicians.

I caught Bronx-born Peter Brainin playing fine saxophone and clarinet with his instrumental Latin jazz combo tonight. The music was so good that it inspired several couples to find floor space for dancing in the pool hall.

Melodie Nicholson/BET Music Matters at S.O.B.'s

BET Music Matters is the BET television network’s multimedia campaign highlighting music by promising acts. The artists are showcased on the station’s television, website and social media outlets, and share the stage at various venues. Melodie Nicholson headlined tonight’s performance at S.O.B.’s. What was it she sang during her brief set? Was it blues? Soul? Gospel? It was hard to categorize; perhaps it was all of the above, but it was tremendous. What a powerful voice!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Ghost Limb/Precious Metal at the Lit Lounge

Curran Reynolds curated the Precious Metal heavy metal series in the basement of the Lit Lounge on Monday nights since May 2006, but after over 300 events, the series will end on January 21. Week after week, he booked local bands as well as bands from Australia, Iceland and Italy, and created a small New York City metal hangout. The remaining Precious Metal nights are this Monday, January 14, with Jar'd Loose, Gentlemen, End it and DJ Mike SOS, and the finale on January 21, a benefit for South Sound featuring Hivesmasher, Fashion Week, Flaming Tusk, SOS and DJ Zeena Koda.

I caught Ghostlimb, pictured above, a three-piece band from Los Angeles featuring Graf Orlock guitarist Justin Smith, on January 7. The trio performed a short but impressive set, mixing metal riffs with a bit of cacophony, similar to the Chariot.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Ukuladies at the Rodeo Bar and Grill

The Rodeo Bar and Grill on the corner of Third Avenue and E. 27th St. claims to be New York’s oldest honky tonk. Honky tonk is not a clearly defined kind of venue or music, but you know it when you are submerged in it – and having a grand time of it.

The Ukuladies may have widened further the meaning of honky tonk women when the touring quartet from Regina, Canada, played the Rodeo tonight. Equal parts cowboy love songs, cabaret and comedy act, memorable songs included the clever “I’m Getting Gay Married in June” and “A..hole in an SUV,” all sung with Andrews Sisters harmony and many involving visual aids, props or audience participation. I took a dozen photographs and in each frame the array of compact music instruments changed, including banjo, fiddle, spoons, flute, toy concertina, washboard, and, of course, various ukuleles. The largest instrument probably was a musical saw. A honky tonk good time was had by all.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Jared Saltiel/Jeremiah Birnbaum at the Living Room

When I was growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Ludlow Street was a quiet neighborhood street behind busy Orchard Street. The shops were Mom and Pop shops, but you could buy envelopes or a musical instrument. Look at that street now! Musicians carrying cases will often intersect on the corner of Ludlow and Stanton Streets as they move to or from the various music clubs in the area.

The Living Room on Ludlow Street has been a mecca for the New York-based singer songwriter since 1988. The club’s back room nightly presents several singer-songwriters. Norah Jones, Minnie Driver, Martha Wainwright and Colbie Caillat have been on the stage. Budding musicians shake hands, assemble mailing lists and exchange telephone numbers between performances. Sirius XM airs many of these musicians performing live in its “From the Living Room to the Loft” series.

Co-owners Steve Rosenthal and Jennifer Gilson will be closing the Living Room on January 31. Rent control does not exist for storefront establishments, and landlords take notice when what was once a quiet community becomes a bustling neighborhood. The Living Room may one day re-materialize where the rent is reasonable, but does such a neighborhood exist anymore?

I caught two of the evening’s five showcases tonight, and both were quite impressive. Jeremiah Birnbaum played solo on acoustic guitar, singing soulfully. He was followed by Jared Saltiel, pictured above, who played acoustic guitar and piano and was periodically accompanied by a pianist and violist. The club seldom charges admission, so the musicians passed a bucket soliciting donations.

Yes, a music mecca can be this simple. The local community will miss the Living Room.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Teddy Geiger at the Gramercy Theater

Teddy Geiger was a teen-ager when he appeared on VH1’s In Search of the New Partridge Family in 2004. He had acting roles on the CBS/VH1 television series Love Monkey in 2006 and in the movie The Rocker in 2008. Last month he was featured on the USA Network's Royal Pains. His recorded music has placed on the Billboard charts. Not surprisingly, I had never heard of him.

I was one of what seemed to be only a handful of males at his concert at the Gramercy Theater tonight. Playing acoustic guitar and electric keyboard, Geiger performed light songs, many about falling in and out of romantic relationships. His teen-aged fans, however, loved him so much that after his last song they lined up outside on the sidewalk for the opportunity to reenter the theater and get his autograph. I passed.