Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Ramblin' Kind at Rodeo Bar and Grill

Historically, New York has not been able to sustain a country music radio station, although attempts have been made for decades. Many if not most touring country acts skip New York City and perform upstate. A country music scene is blossoming in a most unlikely place, however -- Brooklyn! The Ramblin’ Kind, led by music journalist Jim Allen, is part of the new breed of straight-up country bands being spawned in that borough.

At Rodeo Bar & Grill tonight, the Ramblin’ Kind impressed by its simple authenticity. Unlike many contemporary country bands, the band showed that it was not striving to land a rotation on the tourist circuit by not incorporating corny “shtick” banter or matching suits that would endure itself to a more cabaret-seeking audience. The band also was not performing the modern alt-country, country-rock or disco-country that might win it a commercial recording contract. The performance was simply about loving and living country in the big city. The band showcased original songs but also acknowledged its roots by performing songs originally recorded by the genre’s giants. The show was a breath of freshness, but it still feels odd to hear songs about freight trains when our reality is our subway system.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Heaven's Basement at Bowery Electric

British hard rock band Heaven's Basement has stormed European stages since 2008 and finally crossed the Atlantic Ocean to tour Canada with Buckcherry in January. Any hard rocking, hard-touring band needs to break the U.S. market, however. To help launch this effort, Heaven’s Basement performed a showcase at Bowery Electric tonight for an audience largely comprised of affiliates of Red Bull Records, which recently released the band’s debut album, Filthy Empire.
Although new to the American stage, Heaven’s Basement demonstrated tonight that it not only performs good hard rocking music well, but that it is destined for much larger stages; the small stage confined the high energy band. The band brought back the heyday of MTV rock, trading blistering riffs, solos, melody and groove with dynamic sing-along choruses featuring two and three-part harmony. This was a throwback to the era of Poison, Def Leppard and Aerosmith, with a brief dash of thrash, rap and even blues to modernize the sound. Heaven’s Basement returns to New York with a date at Irving Plaza on May 23.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Hives at Irving Plaza

Meet the Hives, a Swedish garage rock band that is larger than life and over the top. On an arena tour opening for Pink, the band gets 45 minutes on stage. On a day off from that tour, the band performed for nearly two hours at Irving Plaza. That not only allowed the band a chance to flesh out more of their song catalogue for its core New York fans, but also gave the flamboyant lead singer Howlin' Pelle Almqvist more of an opportunity to let go on stage. This was a great live experience.
And this is a great live band. To say that the band has a theatrical flair is an understatement, as seen at Irving Plaza. Dressed in black and white tuxedos, the musicians worked up a heavy sweat through a high energy performance. The band’s catchy punk-rock sound hasn't much strayed from its roots over the past 20 years; this was simple rock and roll at its best, a sonic boom with gravity. Almqvist's stage persona was very much like a circus ringleader or southern preacher, engaging in amusingly boastful tongue-in-cheek humor and biting wit between songs, yet masterfully stirring the crowd with his singing while the band rocked. Pictured above, Almqvist commanded the standing audience to sit down on the floor; he then surfed halfway into the crowd before commanding the audience to stand up and surf him back to the stage.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Bubble at the Living Room

Guitarist Dave Foster and drummer Tom DeVito founded Bubble as an indie pop band in Brooklyn in 1994. Bubble had a future shaping experience in 2005, however, when the group performed the BeatlesRevolver for Classic Album Night at Arlene's Grocery. Thereafter Bubble made a career of performing Beatles music for adults and their children through the "Bubble Do the Beatles" series. The band is best known for performing kiddie matinees of Beatles covers, but occasionally the group does its own music for a club date.

The font of creativity exhibited at the Bubble performance at the Living Room tonight drew from a well of love for the Beatles and similar pop radio fare. The songs were presented in singer songwriter fashion, but verses always led to a simple chorus. It was family friendly music, with a few children in the audience to certify its authenticity.

Colorform at Arlene's Grocery

Vocalist/acoustic guitarist Kate Logan and cellist Matt Logan created the band Colorform (formerly KMBS) in Brooklyn in 2005. The rock band features female vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, cello, bass, drums, as well as live improvised art. Since 2006, Sarah Valeri has used pastels to draw while inspired by the music and energy in the room.
Some people seem to be just born angry. Turned to the arts, this could make for interesting music. Whether or not this is her actual state of being, this was the impression given tonight by Kate Logan, who fronts Colorform. The band, particularly the cellist, didn’t sound angry, however, creating a tense dichotomy. Meanwhile, the band’s introverted and introspective lyrics wrestled with the extroverted and energetic performance in the onstage dynamics. This makes for interesting art both on stage and on the floor.
Colorform will perform at Bowery Electric on April 24.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

KMFDM at Irving Plaza

KMFDM (originally Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid, a grammatically incorrect phrase loosely translated as "no pity for the majority") is a techno-industrial band led by German multi-instrumentalist Sascha Konietzko, who founded the group in Paris in 1984 as a performance art project. In the early days of KMFDM, Konietzko incorporated not only visuals such as burning beds and exploding televisions, but also non-musical devices used as instruments, such as vacuum cleaners. KMFDM has released eighteen studio albums, achieving sales of more than two million recordings worldwide. The group presently consists of Sascha Konietzko and American singer Lucia Cifarelli, British guitarists Jules Hodgson and Steve White, and British drummer Andy Selway.
At Irving Plaza tonight, KMFDM played to the delight of their fans. Konietzko growled, Cifarelli sneered, their hook lines sometimes both cynical and sarcastic, as when they encouraged the audience to chant “KMFDM sucks.” Flanked by numerous electronic programming devices, Konietzko and Cifarelli’s programs and Selway’s drums consistently provided ultra-hard-and-heavy beats which often instigated jumping and pushing within the crowd. The two guitarists filled out the sounds but were hardly spotlighted, as the electronic programmers powered a full frontal assault through crunching industrial grooves. The nearly two-hour performance was a rhythmic explosion.

Colwell at Upstairs at Pianos

Colwell are cousins and longtime best friends Clayton Colwell and Jeb Colwell. The two have been a songwriting team since their early teens, and started performing as teenagers in coffee houses in Tucson, Arizona. Colwell tonight began a residency of four Thursday nights at Upstairs at Pianos, concluding on April 11, and admission is free.
Perhaps because the cousins no longer have a band (the two left the Albany-based Hector on Stilts in 2008), Colwell recalled the days when folk musicians first discovered commercial radio in the 1960s. Accompanied by their two guitars and a rhythm track, the cousins traded vocals and harmonized on original tunes that sounded a bit like the Association, the Cyrkle, even the Beach Boys – with a drum program. It helps if you have a sense of humor, which I seem to lack, because their lyrics contain wit and comic sensibility on songs like “Chicks for a Change.” Let us see if they gain a following over these next few Thursdays.

Wolf Van Elfmand at the Living Room

The Living Room was expected to have closed its doors earlier this year, but a stay of execution until the end of April has allowed more singer-songwriters to be graced on its stage. This includes Colorado-based Wolf van Elfmand, who was among the presenters tonight. Though dozens of solo artists showcased their material this week, Elfmand stood out because he finger-picked his acoustic guitar in traditional blues and folk fashion rather than the more prevalent strumming of contemporary pop and rock. He will perform at Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn this Sunday, March 23, and the admission is free.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Anberlin at Irving Plaza

Vocalist Stephen Christian prepares to crowd surf.
Anberlin formed in Winter Haven, Florida in 2002. Since the beginning of 2007, the hard rocking band has consisted of lead vocalist Stephen Christian, guitarists Joseph Milligan and Christian McAlhaney, bassist Deon Rexroat, and drummer Nathan Young. The band has recorded six albums, of which Vital is the most recent, released in October 2012.
Anberlin’s nearly 75 minute set at Irving Plaza tonight was perhaps harder and more energetic than their headlining gig at the Best Buy Theater last summer. On Anberlin’s albums, the music is slick and polished; live tonight the songs were still tightly wrapped, but not nearly as polished – and that is a good thing. Through older fan favorites like “Paperthin Hymn”, “Never Take Friendship Personal” and “Feel Good Drag” and newer material including newer material like “Self Starter” and “We Owe This to Ourselves,” Stephen Christian’s high vocals live were rougher than they have been in the studio. Meanwhile, the musicians’ high speed performance was intense, powered by Milligan and McAlhaney’s electrifying guitar riffs. The band’s high energy, adrenaline-pumping performance ultimately was matched with Christian’s personable showmanship, as he repeatedly commended the fans and slapped the palms of the crowd surfers until he himself surfed the crowd at the end of the show.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fountains of Wayne at Bowery Electric

Formed in New York in 1996, Fountains of Wayne took its name from an iconic lawn ornament store in Wayne, New Jersey. That same year, bassist Adam Schlesinger wrote the Academy Award-nominated title song for the film That Thing You Do!. (He later co-wrote many of the songs for the Josie and the Pussycats film and soundtrack.) The band was nominated for two Grammys, including a Best New Artist nod in 2003. The band still consists of its original lineup of Chris Collingwood (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Adam Schlesinger (bass, keyboards, backing vocals), Jody Porter (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Brian Young (drums).
At the Bowery Electric tonight, Fountains of Wayne showcased the best and worst of pop music. The band performed its catalog of slick, finely honed tunes with hooks. However, it needed a heavy dose of kick-ass. The songs were pop with bop, encouraging some toe-tapping, but with minimal guts or passion. The performance came very close to bubble-gum.

The Pompadoors at Bowery Electric's Map Room

Josh Wyper (vocals, keyboards) with brothers Carl Davis (guitar, vocals) and Eric Davis (drums, vocals) began playing music clubs in a Vancouver-based band called the Left in 2002, but last year “left” to form the Pompadoors and relocated to Hollywood, California. A brief tour to promote a debut album, Into the Sierra Madre, brought the Pompadoors to the Bowery Electric’s Map Room tonight and will bring the band to Wicked Willy's tomorrow night, March20.
At the Map Room, Wyper sang like a soul stylist, almost Rod Stewart raspy. The music behind his singing was pop radio rhythm and blues. The songs were centered around catchy grooves, with Carl Davis interjecting short and sweet guitar licks. Imagine Hall & Oates fronting the Band. This was a very impressive New York debut.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Laura Ortman & Michael Garofalo at the Delancey

Arizona-born, Brooklyn-based Laura Ortman played violin in symphonies and formed an all Native-American orchestra, and also entered the genre of experimental electronic music. Brooklyn-based Michael Garofalo is an experimental musician and radio producer who performs electronic sounds. At the Delancey tonight, the gear was plentiful; for instance, Garofalo at one point played a virtual keyboard on his iPad on the table while fiddling with a larger programming device on the floor. The duo traded a soft wash of synthesized sounds off of each other. No vocals, no rhythms to tap your feet, just tiny bursts of low volume riffs that transcended all expectations of what was coming next. Always subtle, never overpowering, the blips, blatts and occasional reverbs of each composition seemed to reflect the inner sensitivities of the musicians. Is this the new jazz?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Danny's Devil's Blues at Otto's Shrunken Head

Rock and roll will never die. On any given night, a music lover in Manhattan can find a dozen bands playing original music that is rooted in the early rock and roll sounds of a half century ago. Although singer Danny Biondio led hardcore punk and hair metal bands while in his youth in Washington, D.C., the New York-based singer’s current band, Danny’s Devil’s Blues, formed in 2007, is among the many bands playing standard roots-based rock and roll, perhaps in his case accentuating the blues over rockabilly.
At Otto’s Shrunken Head tonight, Danny’s Devil’s Blues played a set of smoldering body-moving rock and roll songs. Dressed in all-black rock maverick bravado, Biondio snarled his mostly-original songs with a sneering rebel attitude, backed by Dave White of Stumblebunny playing a sizzling guitar, Kev Shaw on bass and the ever-powerful Jeanne Carno-Rosenberg of Ingrid & the Defectors on drums. The band rocked like the early rock and roll pioneers, only harder, faster and dirtier.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Woody Pines at Rodeo Bar & Grill

New Hampshire-born singer-songwriter Woody Pines has been playing music since he can remember. Pines began busking on the streets of New Orleans in 1998, moving to Athens, Ohio, in 2002, and later, to Asheville, North Carolina. Over time, he tapped into American backwoods roots music and developed a southern-influenced, down-homey blend of hillbilly, folk, country swing, country blues, rockabilly, ragtime and New Orleans-style jazz. He has recorded four albums.
St. Patrick’s Day weekend is a tough gig, but the revelers who paid attention at Rodeo Bar & Grill tonight enjoyed Pines’ fast-paced, lively performance. With two backing minstrels, Pines and company performed a musical tapestry, evoking post-Civil War acoustic blues, Bill Haley rockabilly, Bob Dylan folk and more, a hootenanny where the songs epitomized the stomp and swing, jump and jive born in the earliest days of rock and roll. It was an evening of old-timey feel-good Americana music led by a budding young reinterpreter.

Soilwork at the Gramercy Theatre

Björn "Speed" Strid
Melodic death metal band Soilwork formed in Helsingborg, Sweden, in 1995. Originally under the name Inferior Breed, the band changed its name in late 1996 to Soilwork (meaning "working from the ground up"). Vocalist and founder Björn "Speed" Strid remains the last original member. Three days ago, Soilwork launched its world tour in North America, marking the band’s first time headlining in this territory in almost three years. The extensive trek through the U.S. and Canada, “North American Infinity Tour 2013,” stopped at the Gramercy Theatre tonight.
In the days after hardcore punk joined thrash metal to form metalcore, bands experimented with a variety of sounds, including rap, electronics and even banjos to take the music to the next level. At the Gramercy Theatre, Soilwork was back to basics, however. The band’s guttural vocals and power-groove riffs adopted a more melodic sound and somewhat lighter melodies. While it translated into a more accessible live performance, the sound was unchallenging and sounded like familiar adrenalin-pumping metalcore we have heard many times before. Especially for the moshers, Soilwork’s concert tonight was an enjoyable concert, but not completely unique.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Every Time I Die at Irving Plaza

Every Time I Die started out in Buffalo, New York, in 1998 as a hardcore punk band. Over the years, the band’s musical style evolved by incorporating more metal and mathcore elements. The band has recorded six albums.
You may never see a more intense band on stage than Every Time I Die. At Irving Plaza tonight, vocalist Keith Buckley and guitarists Jordan Buckley and Andy Williams in particular moved in like a tsunami and transferred their waves of bombastic energy directly to the crowd below.  The music was fast and furious, and the wild audience responded with more aggressive moshing and pushing than Irving Plaza has seen in a while. Pictured here at the end of the concert, Buckley carried his microphone and stand, climbed upon a speaker cabinet high above the audience near the balcony level, and at the end of the song, turned his back on the audience, tilted backwards, dropped himself into the crowd and crowd-surfed back to the stage.

Soulfly at the Gramercy Theatre

Max Cavalera with Soulfly at the Gramercy Theatre
Max Cavalera parted with Brazil’s pioneer thrash metal band Sepultura in 1996 and formed Soulfly in 1997, based out of Phoenix, Arizona. Soulfly incorporated thrash metal with Brazilian tribal and world music and sang about spiritual and religious themes, with later albums encompassing other themes including war, violence, aggression, hatred and anger. Soulfly released eight studio albums, one tour EP, several singles, and one DVD video. Cavalera remains the only constant member of Soulfly.
At the Gramercy Theatre tonight, Soulfly played extreme grindcore with blasting beats (by Max’s son, Zyon Cavalera), groove-driven riffs and guttural war cries. While some of the band’s albums have been criticized by metal fans for mixing too many styles and not being heavy enough, the live performance brought those influences together and made them all ultra-heavy. The band crunched, and unlike many metalcore bands that dismiss a lot of lead guitar in favor of power chords, Soulfly showcased Marc Rizzo’s speedy guitar licks. I wish I could have stayed for the whole set, but I wanted to catch some of Every Time I Die’s concert at Irving Plaza.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co. at Rodeo Bar & Grill

What is a bunch of hillbillies doing in the tough town of New York? Is this a scene from Deliverance or O Brother Where Art Thou? It is a good thing for them that the street crime rate is down, or these would be picked off as easy targets immediately. Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co., also known by its acronym, SIT & Die Co., is a New York-based hillbilly trio, performing old-time rockabilly with period-perfect instrumentation and arrangements. They sound like they look.
Vocalist and lead guitarist Michael McMahon and bassist Garth Powell formerly played punk rock clubs in the 1980s as the country-western Last Roundup. They now fill out their band with rhythm guitarist Jon Hammer. Together, they live out the band’s motto, "ballads, boogies & blues," and that is what they offered at the Rodeo Bar & Grill tonight. The group made old country songs sound new and new ones sound old. Most of the tunes were originals, a few were covers, and all performed period-perfect with McMahon playing jazzy licks and country twang on his hollow body guitar, Powell keeping the bottom up on his upright bass (with the absence of drums) and Hammer filling out the sound. With matching suits and state-fair-style between-song banter, the presentation was part satire and part homage to the early 50s hillbilly songwriting that they replicated so authentically. SIT & Die delivered an image and musical set that was as corny as it was enjoyable.
Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co. performs at Rodeo on the second Wednesday of every month, and at Otto’s Shrunken Head on the last Thursday of every month (this month on March 21, however).

Finch at the Gramercy Theatre

Three music artists have taken the name Finch. Finch was a rock band in Australia in the 1970s, a Dutch progressive rock band, and the on-again off-again post-hardcore band from California that performed at the Gramercy Theatre tonight. After disbanding in 2006, reuniting in 2007 and disbanding again in 2010, this last Finch reunited late last year to prepare this year’s tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of the release of its debut album, What It Is to Burn. The band members have not stated clearly whether they are back together solely for the tour or if they will resume working together again.
At the Gramercy tonight, Finch was comprised of original members Nate Barcalow on vocals, Randy "R2K" Strohmeyer on lead guitar, Alex "Grizzly" Linares on rhythm guitar and Alex Pappas on drums, with later member Daniel Wonacott on bass. The group played hard and tight but, oddly, the repertoire was difficult to neatly categorize. The music was rooted in hardcore punk, but often incorporated elements of grunge, metal and even emo. The audience, more familiar with the band’s music than I was, apparently was far more ready than I was to change gears every few minutes. Considering this might be the end of Finch, the group put on a wickedly lively set for its fans, but for the newcomer like me the performance was a bit puzzling.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Alexcaliber at Arlene's Grocery

Alexcaliber, the brainchild and alter persona of Alex Gulla, is more than music. Perhaps it is performance art rock. Mostly it is meant to shock or arrest the viewer’s attention. Often clad only in red underwear with a target pinned to cover the groin area, he sings to aggressive hard rock music and incorporates props and wild athletic gyrations into his live show. He has a Monday residency at Arlene’s Grocery throughout March, and admission is free.
Tonight at Arlene’s Grocery, the stage was once again littered with props that were utilized in various songs. Singing to prerecorded tracks, Gulla jumped and rolled around the stage and through the audience. The music was a blast to the head, a cross between Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Joy Division and Suicide. The lyrics were Jim Morrison-styled, dark and mysterious. The performance was not limited to the stage, however. For most of the set, Gulla traveled as far as his microphone cord allowed, which was nearly to the back of the room. Audience members kept a cautious eye on him -- or risked getting kicked in the head during one of Gulla’s wild spins. Oh, and he kept his pants on tonight.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Gary "Nesta" Pine at the Canal Room

Jamaican-born Gary “Nesta” Pine began singing professionally in 1989 as the lead singer for City Heat and, after emigrating to the U.S., became part of New York’s reggae scene. Pine then sang with the Wailers for eight years beginning in 1998. He has had some success as a solo artist since 2006. Tonight he offered his fans a free concert at the Canal Room in support of his new CD, From Jahmaica to de World.
Backed by a seven-piece band, Pine was the main attraction, no longer one member of an ensemble. His 50-minute set was a showcase of pure reggae, with no hyphens or hybrids. Pine’s songs sounded ready for reggae radio, slick and commercial with easily sing-able hooks. Singing in a soulful and slightly raspy voice, his thin figure working the small stage, Pine crooned love songs and commanded justice on political songs. To his credit, Pine did not perform Bob Marley-era Wailers songs, though they would have been crowd-pleasers. His own songs stood on their own and were pleasing enough.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Scott Weiland at Irving Plaza

Since the early 1990s, Scott Weiland has juggled his work with the Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver with his intermittent work as a solo artist. His singing career repeatedly has been interrupted by issues with substance abuse, arrests, probation and jail time. With Velvet Revolver on hiatus and the Pilots firing him early this year, Weiland has taken to the road on his own.
His performance at Irving Plaza concert tonight proved he was better off with either of his previous groups. Although a fair amount of his repertoire was familiar from his past successes, his solo performance was flamboyant yet lame. When he crooned, as on David Bowie's "Jean Genie," he just did not have the voice for it live. When the band peformed some of Weiland's earlier grunge songs, they lacked the aggressive edge of that era. While the crowd enjoyed seeing him perform many of his radio staples, overall the evening was more like him singing karaoke than a restart of his career with a new band. The sole standout was his first encore, a strong reworking of the Doors' "Roadhouse Blues."

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Michael Des Barres at Bowery Electric

British-born Michael Des Barres was on the verge of rock stardom several times, with Silverhead (1971-1974), Detective (1975-1978), the Chequered Past (1982-1985), the Power Station (1985) and as the leader of his own band, the Michael Des Barres Band. Beginning in the 1960s, he juggled his music with an acting career that included roles in the movies To Sir with Love, Ghoulies, Pink Cadillac and Midnight Cabaret, and in television shows including WKRP in Cincinatti, the Rockford Files, Hart to Hart, MacGyver, Roseanne, Seinfeld, L.A. Law, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Northern Exposure, Ellen, Nash Bridges, Melrose Place, Charmed, Gilmore Girls, Frasier, JAG, Alias, Nip/Tuck, NCIS and Bones. He returned to music in 2012 with the album Carnaby Street.

Des Barres returned to New York tonight and sang with a pickup band at Bowery Electric. He’s still got it, folks. His blues-rock set included his newer music, a song from his days with Detective and covers of the Velvet Underground’s “White Light, White Heat,” Humble Pie’s “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong (Get it On),” and Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally.” It was all standard rock and roll from the 4/4 beat to the 12-bar blues song structure, with Des Barres singing and playing guitar well. There is still life in this 64-year-old rocker.

Enter Shikari at Irving Plaza

Post-hardcore is a generic term used to describe any music that has evolved from 1980s hardcore punk roots. Enter Shikari is a British band formed in 2003 that fits that description, but raises a question first related to the new brand of former-punk djs like Skrillex: is it still hardcore if you find yourself jumping to a dance groove?
At Irving Plaza tonight, the band combined electronic music and programming with dubstep, hip hop and industrial hard beats, all with a punk attitude. Roughton "Rou" Reynolds did double duty, fronting the band center stage as he sang and chanted like a rocker, then retreating into the background to play his programmer, keyboards and synthesizer. Liam "Rory" Clewlow chopped into metal-derived breakdowns with his heavy, chugging guitar. Chris Batten introduced bass wobbles borrowed from dubstep. Rob Rolfe kept the fast pace on drums. All performed to enthuse the crowd, with Reynolds climbing speakers to get into the balcony, walking to the back of the balcony and then climbing back down into the audience and walking through the audience to get back on stage.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Choir Diary at Rockbar

Both originally from the Florida panhandle, Wiley Gaby and Teresa Jimenez first sang together as Dorothy (Jimenez) and the Lion (Gaby) in a high-school production of The Wizard of Oz. As adults, both pursued music careers, playing in various bands until they reunited in New York. They recently formed the Choir Diary with fellow Floridian Jeffrey Doker and Luke Notary as the rhythm section.
The Choir Diary tonight headlined the monthly country music night at Rockbar. The opening George Jones song set the tone for the evening. The quartet seemingly took a page from a 1965 country music songbook. Even their original songs and a Lucinda Williams cover sounded like traditional roots music, from the days before country discovered the disco beat. Gaby and Jimenez sang their own songs, focusing through harmony on how the power of two is greater than one. It made sense to sing a Dolly Parton/Porter Waggoner duet. The set was too short, at only 45 minutes, but hopefully the Choir Diary will be back for the April country music night.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Daniel Lowetz at the Map Room

The driver for Pretty Boy Floyd needed a name and was given Lowetz. Decades later, his grandson is breaking into the singer-songwriter circuit sans a mob. Daniel Lowetz performed to just a handful of listeners at the Map Room of Bowery Electric tonight, but expect his audience to grow. With a repertoire of original songs and covers (Jeff Buckley and Lesley Gore), Lowetz offered clever lyrics, his singing often climbing into the falsetto range. Meanwhile his acoustic guitar remained very busy, as he quickly finger-picked and hand-strummed with one hand and rapidly changed chords with the other. Lowetz will be performing at ZirZamin on February 15.

Delta Rae at Irving Plaza

Americana music is the relatively new label for music that combines elements of folk, country, rhythm and blues, gospel and other American-rooted sounds yet does not fit neatly into any one of those genres. So it is for Delta Rae, a six-piece band that created harmony-filled blue-eyed rock and soul from within a North Carolina house in the woods. Delta Rae consists of three siblings, Brittany Hölljes (vocals), Eric Hölljes (vocals, guitar, piano and keys) and Ian Hölljes (vocals and guitar), plus Elizabeth Hopkins (vocals), Grant Emerson (bass guitar) and Mike McKee (percussion). The band released a self-titled debut EP in 2010 and a debut album, Carry the Fire, in June 2012.
At Irving Plaza tonight, Delta Rae showcased well its blend of gospel, folk, country, blues and pop influences. The songs recalled the deep-rooted American tradition of storytelling and folklore. Imagine the Civil Wars combining with the Fleet Foxes at a southern state fair. The first four songs of the set featured a different lead singer backed by a four-part gospel-influenced harmony that made them sound like a full choir. Concluding a rousing 60-minute set with an encore, they sang an acoustic song from the center of the audience, pictured here.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls at Bowery Ballroom

Englishman Frank Turner started his professional music career singing in the post-hardcore band Million Dead from 2001 to 2005. When the group split, Turner embarked upon an acoustic-based solo career, forming a touring band later on. Constant touring and exposure at several festivals helped develop a strong following in the UK and the USA. His fifth solo album, Tape Deck Heart, is due for release on April 22nd.

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls’ performance at Bowery Ballroom tonight sounded so very American for a British band. The music was like a gumbo with a pinch of southern country, a garnish of New York Leonard Cohen-esque folk and a super-heavy broth of Asbury Park. The comparison is inevitable, singer/guitarist Frank Turner could be this generation’s Bruce Springsteen, right down to the rolled up sleeves of his button down white shirt. He introduced one song as a singalong, but they were all catchy, singable songs that were anthems to the working class person sorting out the meaning of life. Watch this artist become hugely popular.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Baron Misuraca's Vampire Lounge at Otto's Shrunken Head

Baron Misuraca’s Vampire Lounge returned to Frank Wood's Wind Down Sundays at Otto's Shrunken Head tonight. First impression: Misuraca was visually striking, wearing white-face, a tuxedo, and his black ponytail hanging slightly below his knees. Second impression: Wow, he really sang those old standards! He looked like a ghoul but sang baritone like an angelic being. Backed by pre-recorded instrumental tracks, his vocal delivery was amazing, from Fred Astaire’s "Puttin' on the Ritz" to Dean Martin’s “Sway” to Frank Sinatra’s "Fly Me to the Moon" to Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea” and, well, beyond. In his other incarnation, Misuraca is the writer and main character of the In Flesh and Spirit comic book series and leads a Gothic metal band called Vasaria.

Friday, March 1, 2013

PUi at Irving Plaza

PUi Ritual IV at Irving Plaza tonight was more than a concert by the band PUi (also known as the PUi Tribe) celebrating its debut album, Neo-Primal. Pui Ritual IV was a party that included several bands, art exhibits, live percussionists playing along with the disc jockeys and scantily-clad body-painted dancers. Want a little controversy as well? Just days after Dov Hikind, a state assemblyman from Brooklyn, was roundly criticized for wearing blackface to a Purim costume party, PUi lead singer/guitarist Nazimcan Shuva, dressed bare-chested with a leather kilt and looking like a cast member of the movie 300, wore black body paint over his entire body. The event was filmed for an IndiMusicTV show.

Describing a band as unique or original is difficult today in a music world where everything goes, but PUi’s performance at Irving Plaza was challenging to niche. The music was loud and heavy yet melodic, fell into a groove led by three men playing percussion, and mixed in Middle Eastern sounds and soulful rock vocals. Maybe I will not be the first to label it “gypsy groove metal.” The band calls it “neo-primal.” PUi returns for the second part of PUi Ritual IV at Irving Plaza tomorrow night.