Thursday, October 31, 2013

We Came as Romans at Irving Plaza

We Came as Romans began as a band called This Emergency in 2005, comprised of several high school seniors in Troy, Michigan. The band first performed in metro Detroit venues, experienced several personnel changes, changed its name in 2006 and began recording. The band has three full-length albums, including 2013’s Tracing Back Roots. The current line-up is Kyle Pavone and David Stephens on vocals, Joshua Moore on lead guitar, Lou Cotton on rhythm guitar, Andy Glass on bass and Eric Choi on drums.

At Irving Plaza tonight, We Came as Romans proved to be a melodic metalcore band in that many of the songs would have passed for simple pop tunes if not for the thunderous musicianship behind them. Until the current album and tour, Pavone usually handled the clean vocals and Stephens growled the unclean vocals. Indicating a new direction for the band, tonight’s performance featured both singers providing more clean vocals than growls. Despite the lighter vocal touch, the hard and heavy music still demanded intense jumping and moshing from the fans. With a mix of dance beats, synthesizer licks, breakdowns and anthemic choruses, it was difficult to determine if this was a metal band or a pop radio band.

Visit We Came as Romans at www.wecameasromans.com.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black at the Bowery Electric

The centerpiece for the band known as The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black is Kembra Pfahler, a songwriter, singer, performance artist, filmmaker and actress from Hermosa Beach, California. The daughter of surf pioneer Freddy Pfahler, Kembra started in show business as a child actress, appearing in several television commercials. Turning 18, Pfahler moved to New York City in 1979 to start her creative career, became a known figure in performance art, modeled apparel for a major clothing line and acted in low-budget horror and soft-core pornography films. After ten years of making Super 8 horror films and visual and performance art, Kembra and Samoa Moriki (her husband at the time) formed a band and theatrical troupe in 1990 as a soundtrack to their art. Entitled The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black in homage to actress Karen Black, the band has recorded three albums, the latest of which is 1998’s Black Date.

When is a concert more than a concert? When it comes with costumes and props for every song. As the show began tonight at the Bowery Electric, the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black’s guitar, bass and drums team pounded out basic, driving, punk rock. Four backup singers came out wearing very little beyond body paint and large black bouffant wigs. Pfahler then made her entrance, also wearing a teased over-sized wig, blacked-out teeth, black stiletto heel boots, and black underwear, her nearly-nude body painted red. As music alone, or as theater alone, the show might have been unimpressive, but the package was more – a shock rock presentation featuring elements of hard and heavy rock, performance art, vaudeville and burlesque. In a song about cleaning out her underwear drawer, for instance, Pfaler sat on a tall bureau and reached into its top drawers, throwing underwear into the audience. How do you end a show like this? Pfaler stood on her head, legs spread wide, while one of her singers smeared lots of a pasty substance onto Pfaler’s crotch, buttocks and inner thighs. One can only expect the uncommon visual and aural assault with the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tribal Seeds at the Gramercy Theatre

Steven Jacobo
Based in San Diego, California, Tribal Seeds is a reggae band headed by two brothers, both of whom played instruments since early childhood. The lead singer and rhythm guitarist Steven Jacobo writes the lyrics for the group, and his brother, keyboardist Tony-Ray Jacobo, writes all their music along with the other band members. The other band members are Tony Navarro, guitarist; Vitor Navarro, bass; Carlos Verdugo, drummer; and Jose Rodriguez, keyboards and percussion. The latest EP, Soundwaves, was released in 2011 and peaked at #2 on the Billboard Reggae Charts.

It seems odd that the two American reggae artists making the biggest splash these days derive from less than anticipated ethnic sources. Matisyahu is an orthodox Jewish man from Brooklyn, and Tribal Seeds are largely Latino-Americans from the west coast. Nevertheless, both artists have studied Jamaican reggae music well and have mastered it. At the Gramercy Theatre tonight, Tribal Seeds sounded thoroughly rooted in Bob Marley, Steel Pulse and other Jamaican acts. Many of the lyrics were spiritually driven, and all were infused with a roots style of reggae music rather than the more commercial and polished pop reggae that makes its way to Caribbean radio programs. The dreadlocked California band’s authentic sound was mild, mellow and honest. Jams, often including electronic sound effects, extended many songs, making them more groove music than lyrical compositions, and the stand-up audience responded by swaying to the rhythms. The lack of a horn section perhaps forfeited some punch to the songs, but nevertheless allowed the smooth chill to pervade. Judging by the frequently recurring scent of marijuana in the air, the fans were more than willing to chill with the band’s music.

Visit Tribal Seeds at www.tribalseeds.net.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ill Niño at the Gramercy Theatre

Cristian Machado of Ill Niño
Drummer Dave Chavarri formed Ill Niño (originally El Niño for a brief period) in New Jersey in 1998 with the idea that the band would be “as heavy as possible and as melodic as possible -- with a Latin twist." Most of its members are of South American descent, resulting in crunchy heavy metal infused with Latin rhythms and lyrics that alternate between English and Spanish. The line-up currently consists of Cristian Machado on vocals, Ahrue Luster and Diego Verduzco on guitars, Lazaro Pina on bass, Chavarri on drums, and Oscar Santiago on percussion. Ill Nino's sixth and most recent studio album, Epidemia, was released in 2012.

At the Gramercy Theatre tonight, Ill Niño was more metalcore than ever.  Here was a band that mastered how to melt rap and hardcore punk into its crunching heavy metal. The Latin influence may have diminished some, as the extra percussionist was often unheard, but the soup was stirred and everything in it was tasty and picante (spicy). The long-dreadlocked Machado alternated between growls and clean vocals easily, and between songs encouraged the fans to watch out for one another and to maintain the love. "How Can I Live?" and “Forgive Me, Father” even brought a bit of tenderness to an otherwise bashing show. Ill Niño proved to be a storming band.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

orbé orbé at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe

Cristina Orbé left her native New York in 2001 and relocated to Seattle, Washington, making three self-declarations: to live alone; to stop watching television and to teach herself how to play guitar. Within three months, she had written her first song and within six months, she was on stage. In the past decade, Cristina has been a spoken word poet, songwriter, singer in a soul-folk band, and a performance artist, and has produced a shadow puppet opera. She is also the co-founder and executive director of an innovative youth food justice program, helping teenagers to become leaders in their schools and neighborhoods through cooking, education and political advocacy. She is also the leader of orbé orbé, which in 2012 released a debut album, Invisible Kingdoms.

orbé orbé was one of many artists performing in the WORDS: Hip Hop & Poetry Showcase & Open Mic program tonight at the Nuyorican Poets Café. In a program and a venue that presented a plethora of poets and rappers, orbé orbé stood out as a left-of-center act. With no live musicians, Christina Orbé sang three songs to her music tracks, accompanied by two dancers. Ten minutes was not enough time to develop what seemed to be a concept presentation, but the sense was that this performance was part pop music and part underground theater. What if the Supremes presented a dark, mystical theater piece? For just a few minutes, orbé orbé merely hinted at such an improbability. It will be interesting to see where this leads.

Visit orbé orbé at www.orbe-orbe.com.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Jesse Malin at the Bowery Electric

Growing up in New York City, Jesse Malin aspired to rock. At age 12, he fronted a hardcore band called Heart Attack that performed at CBGB’s. He went on to front several bands, including the glam punk band D Generation for eight years, which recorded three albums before disbanding in 1999. Eventually, he recorded and performed under his own name. Along the way, he collaborated with Ryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen and members of Green Day. His most sixth and most recent studio album is 2010’s Love It to Life. Becoming a neighborhood entrepreneur in recent years, Malin owns the Bowery Electric music venue and the Niagara bar in the East Village.

In recent times, Malin has been on area stages only sporadically as a guest. Tonight he returned to the Bowery Electric with his own band to play what is becoming an increasingly rare full set. He explored a wide range of music, beginning with several folk and countrified Neil Young-type songs to full blown punk with covers of the Ramones’ “Rock and Roll Radio”, the Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer” and Reagan Youth’s “U.S.A.” towards the end of the set. Malin’s own songs are honest, he sang well and his performance was electrifying. The stage was too small for his seemingly uncontrollable energy, however; his roadies constantly had to fix the two microphone stands he brutalized, and the audience had to make way as he charged suddenly and repeatedly throughout the venue.

Visit Jesse Malin at www.jessemalin.com.

Lindi Ortega at SubCulture

Lindi Ortega would not be an obvious country singer. She was born in Toronto, Ontario, of an Irish-American mother and a Mexican father. Nicknamed "Indie Lindi" over a decade in the Toronto music scene, she recorded her first independent album in 2001. It was country music from the southern United States that called her, however, so she relocated to Tennessee and, closer to the music that inspired her, released her Tin Star album on October 8.

Headlining at SubCulture tonight, Ortega was faithful to a mix of old and new country music styles. With a soulful soprano voice that often sounded like Dolly Parton, she served up a sound that hauntingly recalled the pre-outlaw styling of Hank Williams and yet sounded as contemporary as any modern pop singer. With a brassy look and spunky personality, Ortega could easily move into cabaret, but her songwriting seemed too honest for that. Her performance was more about baring her soul through music, with only a touch of show business shtick for flavor. Backed by a bare-minimum trio of musicians, Ortega's solid songwriting became a brilliant showcase for her outstanding country blues voice.

Lindi Ortega headlines SubCulture again tomorrow night. Visit her at www.lindiortega.ca.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Counting Crows at the Bowery Electric

Singer Adam Duritz and guitarist David Bryson formed Counting Crows in 1991 in San Francisco, California, originally as an acoustic duo, playing gigs in and around the Bay Area. By 1993, Counting Crows grew to become a full band, recorded its first album and went on to sell more than 20 million records worldwide. The band presently consists of Duritz (lead vocals, piano), Bryson (guitar), Charlie Gillingham (accordion, keyboards), Dan Vickrey (lead guitar), David Immerglück (guitar, banjo, mandolin), Jim Bogios (drums) and Millard Powers (bass). The band’s most recent studio album is 2012’s Underwater Sunshine. Echoes of the Outlaw Roadshow, a collection of live tracks recorded on the band’s 2012 North American tour, will be released on November 12th.

Counting Crows performed a secret acoustic show at the Bowery Electric tonight, announced only a few hours before show time. Word got around and the venue was packed. Billed only as Sonic Cow Grunt (an anagram of the band’s true name) or as the Outlaw Roadshow and performing as a four-piece (Duritz, Vickrey, Immergluck and Gillingham), the performance brought the band back to its small club origins. Rather than leading a greatest-hits-unplugged set, the show featured a few familiar songs, as-yet-unrecorded songs, and covers. Counting Crows opened with 2008’s “When I Dream of Michelangelo” and ended with “Rain King,” which was folded into a revamped version of the traditional “Oh Susanna.” The set also included several covers that showcased the band’s inspirations, including Teenage Fanclub’s “Start Again”, the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” and an encore of Bob Dylan’s “You Ain't Goin' Nowhere.” Throughout the set, especially in the new songs that the band introduced, Duritz sang with his eyes closed, seemingly in touch with every wrong ever done him. Without the full band thrust behind him, he seemed like the most vulnerable guy in the world. For Counting Crows fans, this was the show to see. For the majority who missed the event, homemade videos have been posted on the internet.

Visit Counting Crows at www.countingcrows.com.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Red at the Gramercy Theatre

Towards the end of the Red concert, Michael Barnes
left the stage and sang while balancing on a barrier.
Red (also stylized as R3D) formed in 2004 in Nashville, Tennessee, and within two years had a debut album nominated for a Grammy Award in the Rock Gospel category. The band rocked hard enough to cross over to secular audiences, although not with the degree of success it has enjoyed in the Christian market. Red has released four studio albums, the latest of which is this year’s Release the Panic. The band's lineup presently consists of singer Michael Barnes, guitarist Anthony Armstrong, bassist Randy Armstrong and drummer Joe Rickard.

When Red headlined the Gramercy Theatre in May 2013, the band performed for 75 minutes. Opening tonight for Filter at the same venue, Red cut its show almost in half. Red’s current stage set was stripped down as well; gone were the risers, graffiti-strewn backdrops and rows of lights. Nevertheless, Red’s performance tonight was every bit as fiery and energetic as the spring concert. Red rocked as hard as thunder. Barnes sang and screamed the lyrics with stunning clarity and continually paced the length of the stage, commanding it well, while the guitar-bass-drums backing pulsed and throbbed loud and strong behind him. The abbreviated show seemed to focus more on the harder and more current songs like "Release the Panic", "Perfect Life" and "Die for You." The encore, "Breathe into Me," was the softer and more melodic song that put the band on the musical map in 2006, but tonight it seemed almost out of context following all the head-banging rhythms earlier.

Visit Red at www.redmusiconline.com.

Otherwise at the Gramercy Theatre

Adrian Patrick of Otherwise
Born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, two-year-old Adrian Patrick begged for his guitar at bedtime and plucked the strings until he fell asleep. He started playing in bands in the early 2000s and in 2005 launched Otherwise with his brother, guitarist Ryan Patrick, playing the local hard rock club circuit. Adrian became the featured male co-singer with Maria Brinks on the song “The Promise” from In This Moment’s 2010 album A Star-Crossed Wasteland. His subsequent national tour with In this Moment opened opportunities. Otherwise has produced two albums and an EP; the newest album is True Love Never Dies.

At the Gramercy Theatre tonight opening for Filter and Red, Otherwise seemed to feed off of the bright lights and broken dreams of Las Vegas. Avoiding standard hard rock posturing, Otherwise bravely ventured into sensitive lyrics backed by powerful riffs and pounding drum beats. Whether through hard-hitting heavy rock songs with screaming vocals or Queen-styled melodic ballads, the band’s sound was built upon clearly-heard lyrics that were about love, loss, struggle, survival, overcoming adversity and redemption. The band’s music was aggressive and even dark, consistently powerful and dynamic. Each song featured Adrian Patricks passionate soul along with his strong voice and stage presence. He sang fearlessly and optimistically about persevering through life’s many trials and tribulations, and promoted that positive message in between-song introductions. The song “Soldiers” was a metaphor for the battle that unsigned bands go through to get their message heard as artists, but also was a rallying anthem for everyone living on the difficult frontlines of life.  Other highlights included “Vegas Girl” and “1000 Pictures (I Don’t Apologize).” Honest, heart-felt and hopeful, the band’s performance will be rewarded with a loyal fan base.

Visit Otherwise at www.otherwiserock.com.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Alice Cooper at the Capitol Theater


Alice Cooper, born Vincent Furnier in 1948 in Detroit, Michigan, was every mother’s nightmare and every rebellious teenager’s idol in the early 1970s. His shock rock lyrics and concert theatrics, with a stage show that featured a huge boa constrictor, a straight jacket, an electric chair, a guillotine, fake blood and decapitated baby dolls, made for a macabre concert experience for legions of fans. Future bands, particularly Kiss, applied Cooper’s groundbreaking theatrics to good effect and Cooper’s popularity eventually waned. He is still recording and touring, however, and his 26th and most current album is 2011’s Welcome 2 My Nightmare.

Tonight at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York, Cooper looked and sounded great for a 65-year-old rocker. The stage show was as fantastic as ever, with his trademark straight jacket, guillotine and other over-the-top horror imagery still part of the show. He sang “I’m Eighteen”, “School’s Out”, “Billion Dollar Babies”, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and newer songs with the same snarly delivery of the past, and his present band, featuring three guitarists, may be his best band ever. The show rocked non-stop from beginning to end; there was no “Only Women Bleed” or any other ballads. Times have changed over the decades, however, and by today’s standards all the once-controversial antics now seemed tame. That did not make them any less enjoyable. Cooper is an outstanding showman and rocker.

Visit Alice Cooper at www.alicecopper.com.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Owl at Arlene's Grocery

The origins of Owl can be traced to upstate New York, where bassist Chris Wyse and drummer Dan Dinsmore played together as teenagers in a local band called East Wall. Wyse relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a music career and in 2006 joined the Cult. After a few tenuous starts, Wyse and Dinsmore united with guitarist Jason Mezilis in 2007 and became a hard rock power trio called Owl. Owl released an eponymous debut in 2009 and a second album, The Right Thing, this year.

Owl may be part of a revival of the power trio, a genre that was the hallmark of pioneer hard rock bands like Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience in the late 1960s. At Arlene’s Grocery tonight as part of the CBGB’s Festival, Wyse proved to be more than an adequate singer and bassist, Mezilis was a dazzling guitarist and Dinsmore was a star drummer. Wyse occasionally plays the upright bass with the Cult, but a thin electric model has become his trademark in Owl. He occasionally played it with a bow, often using delays and sound effects to further expand the band’s sound. Overall, the band managed to combine pop hooks, a straightforward hard rock sound and curious musical experimentation, all without sacrificing integrity for radio dreams. It made the band sound familiar yet fresh. Wyse remains loyal to the Cult’s recording and touring commitments, but he has a very hot side project in Owl.

Owl plays the Mercury Lounge on November 30. Visit Owl at http://www.owltheband.net.

Pat DiNizio at the Cake Shop

Pat DiNizio is a solo artist and lead vocalist of the Smithereens, the group he helped form in New Jersey in 1980. In 2000, he was also a politician, campaigning an unsuccessful run for the United States Senate, and in 2001 he was a host and program director for XM Radio. In addition to the Smithereens' albums, DiNizio has also released four solo albums, the latest of which is 2009’s Pat DiNizio Sings Buddy Holly.

DiNizio performed solo, accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, at the Cake Shop tonight as part of the CBGB’s Festival. He is a big man with a greatly imposing stature, and yet he sang his baritone softly and strummed his guitar delicately. The Smithereens specialized in three-minute/three-chord pop tunes, and DiNizio maintained the tradition. His set consisted primarily of short and simple songs, including the Smithereens’ “Only a Memory” and other fan favorites. Surprisingly, however, he also covered Black Sabbath’s heavy metal “Paranoid,” which possibly he alone in history could turn into a slow, sensitive ballad. DiNizio is a well-rounded performer in more ways than one.

Visit Pat DiNizio at www.patdinizio.net

Arto Lindsay at the Bowery Electric

Arto Lindsay was born in the United States on May 28, 1953, but spent many years in Brazil with his missionary parents and came of age during the 1960s eclectic Tropicália movement of Brazilian culture. This time of cultural experimentation and artistic cross-pollination impacted the young Lindsay. In New York during the launch of the punk rock scene in the late 1970s, Lindsay co-formed the seminal “no wave” group DNA. In the early 1980s, Lindsay’s aggressive guitar work was featured in John Lurie's "fake jazz" outfit, the Lounge Lizards, as well as the Golden Palominos. These groups combined rock, pop, improvisational jazz and avant-garde experimentalism. Lindsay also collaborated with John Zorn, playing in several of his ensembles, including Locus Solus. Lindsay later formed the Ambitious Lovers, whose music was more pop influenced and featured a link to Brazilian music, but the band’s three albums of genre-bending pop never caught fire and the band disbanded in 1991. Lindsay launched a different solo career in the early 1990s, significantly more oriented toward his Brazilian roots and electronica. His most recent solo album in 2004’s Salt.

At the Bowery Electric tonight as part of the second annual CBGB’s Festival, Lindsay played solo, accompanying himself only on electric guitar. Most of the audience looked as if it had not been born yet during his first excursion into music, but all were brought to a hush when he began singing and playing guitar. His music was immediately striking. Reading from handwritten notes on a music stand, he sang softly and interjected the guitar as a percussion instrument, hitting the strings and neck to produce a cacophonic assault. Basic guitar techniques such as picking or strumming were avoided completely in favor of choppy blasts of noise and distortion. I was able to handle only about 20 minutes of this noise rock experimentation and exited.

Visit Arto Lindsay at www.artolindsay.com.

Killswitch Engage at Santo's Party House

Vocalist Jesse Leach has returned to Killswitch Engage
Killswitch Engage became a founding metalcore band when formed in 1999 in Westfield, Massachusetts. The musicians adapted the band’s name from an episode of the television series The X-Files entitled "Kill Switch." The band has recorded six studio albums, the latest being Disarm the Descent, released in April 2013. Killswitch Engage's current lineup consists of vocalist Jesse Leach, guitarists Joel Stroetzel and Adam Dutkiewicz, bassist Mike D'Antonio and drummer Justin Foley.

What happens when a heavy metal band plays a venue that usually hosts hip hop events? The stage was so dimly lit that the audience could barely see the musicians and the audience was submitted to blinding by hundreds of constantly flashing lights overhead. Unless you were right up against the stage, the lighting was extremely annoying. That said, Killswitch Engage's performance at Santo's Party House as part of the second annual CBGB Festival was a blast. In some ways, Killswitch Engage's music was standard metalcore brutality, with growling vocals, crushing guitar riffs, power chords, dual-guitar harmonies, double bass drums and plenty of stop and go breakdowns. Rhythmic shifts seemed to build and then relieve internal pressure in short, abrupt explosions. The songs never went too extreme, however, and lent themselves to sing-alongs – or more appropriately, howl-alongs. Killswitch Engage’s performance, which was a benefit to fund cancer research, was raw metalcore at its tidiest.

Visit Killswitch Engage at www.killswitchengage.com.

My Morning Jacket at Times Square

Jim James (born James Olliges, Jr.) formed My Morning Jacket in 1998 in Louisville, Kentucky. The band’s sixth and most recent studio album, Circuital, was released in 2011. My Morning Jacket presently consists of James (vocalist, guitarist), Tom “Two-Tone Tommy” Blankenship (bassist), Patrick Hallahan (drummer), Carl Broemel (guitarist, pedal steel guitarist, saxophonist, vocalist), and Bo Koster (keyboardist, percussionist, vocalist).

My Morning Jacket headlined the closing day event of the second annual CBGB Music & Film Festival with a free outdoor concert in Times Square. The street fair also featured live performances by the Wallflowers, Grizzly Bear, Divine Fits and Lisa Loeb, as well as a DJ set by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and several blocks of vendors. While My Morning Jacket has been known to play as long as four hours in concert, at Times Square this evening the concert was less than an hour. The band opened with “Circuital,” the title track of the band’s best selling album, but from there did not play a “greatest hits” selection. Perhaps the only other anticipated tune in the eight-song set was “I’m Amazed.” The band covered a Fela Kuti song, “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am,” with guests Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, Merrill Garbus of TuNeYaRds and Antibalas’ horn section. My Morning Jacket also brought out Jakob Dylan of the Wallflowers for a rousing version of “Baby Don’t You Do It,” originally written for Marvin Gaye in 1964 and later popularized by the Band as “Don’t Do It” in the film The Last Waltz. Many of the songs included wailing instrumental sections, as the band deftly merged blues rhythms with space rock. It was an odd but satisfying set by My Morning Jacket, highlighting the diversity of the band’s influences while also spotlighting its capacity to add its signature to a rocking blend of tasteful jams.

Visit My Morning Jacket at www.mymorningjacket.com.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Hanni El Khatib at the Bowery Ballroom


Hanni El Khatib was born Palestinian and Filipino descent, the first American in his family, raised in San Francisco, California, where he performed music on the side while working as creative director at the skateboard fashion label HUF. He relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter and musician. His second album, 2013’s Head in the Dirt, was produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.

El Khatib has described his songs as being for anyone who has ever been shot or hit by a train. While his music is not quite that violent, at the Bowery Ballroom tonight, El Khatib’s musical style percolated with a rawness that embraced garage rock and grungy blues. Guitarist/keyboardist Hayden Tobin, bassist Adrian Rodriguez and drummer Ron Marinelli helped El Khatib realize this sound, supporting him as he fuzzed his guitar leads or heightened the magnitude of a groove by playing one chord over and over again. At times the music sounded like it was inspired by a 1960s garage band, yet at times it leaned towards a Cramps-like punk sound. El Khatib is primarily a singer-songwriter, however, so the mash-up jams were meant to fortify his songs, not vice versa. Nevertheless, it was likely the passion of his delivery and the thrash of his rhythms that had his audience clamoring for more.

Visit Hanni El Khatib at www.hannielkhatib.com.

Puss N Boots at the Bowery Electric

Puss N Boots consists of Norah Jones on lead guitar and vocals, Sasha Dobson on rhythm guitar and vocals and Catherine Popper on bass and vocals. Jones has won nine Grammy Awards and has sold over 50 million albums worldwide, making her the biggest-selling female artist of the 2000s. Dobson has recorded solo and has performed regularly at local folk clubs like the Living Room. Popper has played with Ryan Adams and Grace Potter. Together as Puss N Boots, the trio performs occasionally in area music clubs and is in the studio now recording its first album.

Puss N Boots performed tonight at the Bowery Electric as part of the second annual CBGB’s Festival, which the band members jokingly called “Punkstock.” The joke was that Puss N Boots’ performance was about as far as the musicians could get from CBGB’s signature punk rock. The trio performed vintage-sounding country ballads as softly and tenderly as possible. The set featured original songs but also showcased many little-known songs by Doc Watson and other old-time folk and country composers. Much of the audience may have come to hear Jones, but she seemed content with being just one of the ladies. Each member had the opportunity to sing lead, and individually each singer approached her songs with muscle, but the outstanding gem was when they sang in three-part feather-light harmony. Puss N Boots is a promising act which will attract large audiences as soon as the cat is out of the bag.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

CBGB's Festival at the Bowery Electric

The second annual CBGB’s Festival is a four-day series featuring hundreds of music acts, films and panel discussions. While many of the events relate more to the spirit of CBGB & OMFUG, New York’s premiere punk rock music venue of the late 1970s and early 1980s, tonight’s marathon concert at the Bowery Electric brought together many of the artists who were regulars at the club. Nearly 25 acts performed sets approximately 20 minutes long. Here are some of the highlights.
Poet and performance artist Lydia Lunch sang covers of songs by Lou Reed and others and told a detailed tale of a sexual encounter with Richard Hell before she sang his "Blank Generation."
Russell Wolinsky led his humorous band, the Sic F*cks, featuring the F*ckettes, Tish and Snooky Bellomo, through "Chop Up Your Mother" and other tongue-in-cheek songs.
Glen Matlock, formerly of the Sex Pistols and the Rich Kids, performed alone with his acoustic guitar. He made songs by both bands, including "God Save the Queen" and "Pretty Vacant" sound very tame. He also performed the Monkees' "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" and other tunes.
The Waldos continue to relive the spirit of the late Johnny Thunder's Heartbreakers. For "Chinese Rocks," bandleader Walter Lure led the vocals, but was joined by several guests, including Glen Matlock (above) and one of the actors from The Sopranos.
Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith Group and the Lenny Kaye Connection performed a reworking of Patti Smith's own reworking of Van Morrison's "Gloria." During the song's elongated narrative, he credited many of the original CBGB's bands.
Cheetah Chrome, the guitarist of the now defunct Dead Boys, invited Bebe Buell, another CBGB's fixture, to sing "Sonic Reducer."
Sylvain Sylvain of the New York Dolls accompanied himself only on guitar. He said he had been drinking since yesterday. He forgot the lyrics to many of his songs, but the audience helped him with "Give Him a Great Big Kiss" and other songs.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cheetah Chrome at the Left Field Bar

Cheetah Chrome was born Eugene O'Connor on February 18, 1955, in Cleveland, Ohio. He became the guitarist of the Dead Boys, which relocated to New York in 1976 and was among the first wave of punk bands at CBGB & OMFUG. The Dead Boys split in 1979, and Chrome played in several bands, occasionally reuniting with the Dead Boys and also with his earlier band, Rocket from the Tomb. In the 1990s, he relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, where he now lives with his wife and son. Chrome authored an autobiography, Cheetah Chrome: a Dead Boy's Tale from the Front Lines of Punk Rock, published in September 2010, and became the Creative Director of A&R/Director of Special Projects for the Nashville-based Plowboy Records in February 2012. The company released his first-ever solo EP, Solo, on October 8. The forthcoming movie CBGB’s features Cheetah being played by Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter films) and a cameo by Chrome himself.

The second annual CBGB’s Festival welcomed many veteran musicians to the New York stage, and Chrome was among them. At the Left Field Bar tonight, Chrome performed with backing from guitarist Pete Marshall (Iggy Pop, Samhain), bassist Enzo Penziotto (Joan Jett) and drummer Frank Ferrer (Guns N' Roses, Psychedelic Furs). In an eclectic set, Chrome mixed his old punk songs with his new country-tinged tunes. His singing was hoarse and barely audible, and his musicians worked around repeated problems with their amplifiers shutting off, yet for the small yet faithful audience, Chrome made up for these limitations with punk-like passion. The end of the set was Chrome at his most memorable, featuring a short blast of fast and furious songs like the Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer.” Tomorrow night Chrome will perform a CBGB Fest show at the Bowery Electric with other punk legends Lydia Lunch, Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols), Sylvain Sylvain (New York Dolls), Lenny Kaye (Patti Smith Group), Richard Lloyd (Television), Andy Shernoff (Dictators), Tuff Darts and others from the original CBGB’s era.

Visit Cheetah Chrome at www.cheetahchrome.com.

Switchfoot at the Gramercy Theatre

Jon Foreman, singing from the audience
Jon Foreman and his brother Tim, along with Chad Butler, formed the low-fi, guitar-driven, alternative hard rock band Chin Up in 1996 in San Diego, California. The name was soon changed to Switchfoot, a surfing term. Switchfoot had early success in the Christian rock scene, then gained mainstream recognition when four of the band’s songs were featured in the 2002 movie A Walk to Remember, starring singer and actress Mandy Moore, who sang Switchfoot's "Only Hope" in the film. Switchfoot has recorded nine albums, including the forthcoming soundtrack to Fading West, a travel documentary that documents the musicians’ passion for music and surfing. Switchfoot presently is Jon Foreman (lead vocals, guitar), Tim Foreman (bass guitar, backing vocals), Chad Butler (drums, percussion), Jerome Fontamillas (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), and Drew Shirley (guitar, backing vocals).

Since Switchfoot's debut album in 1997, the band's sound has evolved significantly. Switchfoot is now a power rock radio band. Imagine a singer songwriter who decides to write only anthems. At the Gramercy Theater tonight, even if one had never before heard the band’s music, by the end of most songs one was able to sing the chorus. The songs were slick and catchy pop tunes, without a lot of instrumental flourish by ways of solos, although many of the compositions retained the left-of-center indie arrangements of the band’s early days. The lyrics had depth, often reinforcing positive messages about self worth and hope. Jon Foreman proved to be a passionate singer and crowd motivator.  He mentioned several times that the band was hoping to bring a California campfire feel to the show, and he succeeded in making the show feel like a kum-ba-ya group hug. Early on the show, even before removing his hat and coat, he sang two songs from various areas of the audience, standing on the fan’s chairs, and later announced that the organist was in California for the birth of his second child today. Awww. The band members answered questions from the audience, and for one encore even brought onstage a mandolin player from the audience whom they had seen perform in a park earlier that day. Double awww. It was a wholesome show, and really wonderful at that. The only complaint is that even with two songs for an encore, the show was only an hour long.

The opening act, so to speak, was a showing of the band’s documentary, Fading West, which will be released commercially this winter. Switchfoot will perform another sold out show at the Gramercy Theatre tomorrow night; the film will be the opening act.  Visit Switchfoot at www.switchfoot.com. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Marky Ramone's Blitzkreig at Irving Plaza

The four men who started the Ramones (Joey Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny Ramone and Tommy Ramone) were the pioneers of punk rock music when the scene began in New York in the late 1970s. Marky Ramone (born Marc Bell on July 15, 1956) was not in the original band, but replaced original drummer Tommy Ramone in 1978 and played with the band off and on for 15 years and is the sole living member of that lineup. Marky also played in Dust, Estus, Wayne County and the Backstreet Boys, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, and the Misfits. Marky now carries the torch for the Ramones with Marky Ramone’s Blitzkreig, which tours the world playing a 32-song set of Ramones songs. He is also a disc jockey on Sirius/XM satellite radio, hosting Marky Ramone’s Punk Rock Blitzkrieg.

On the current tour, including Irving Plaza tonight, Andrew W.K. is the featured vocalist. While the set was all Ramones, the band did not look or sound like the original band of 35 years ago. For his part, W.K. did not dress like Joey Ramone or affect Joey’s vocal style or reticent stage appearance. W.K.’s proven style has been in leading party rock, and had done so previously several times at the same venue with his own band. He learned the Ramones catalogue and led the charge in his own style, powered by 57-year-old Marky’s powerful and fast drumming. Like the Ramones of years gone, the songs pile-drived one after the other with barely breathing room between songs. W.K. led the quartet through “Rockaway Beach”, “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker”, “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”, “Beat on the Brat”, “Rock 'N' Roll High School”, “The KKK Took My Baby Away”, “I Wanna Be Sedated”, “Blitzkrieg Bop” and about 25 more songs in just 90 minutes. It just wasn’t the same without the original band, but it was fun. Yet, for those who never saw or who grieve the loss of this gateway band, this was an opportunity to relive and respond to the early days of punk.

Visit Marky Ramone’s Blitzkreig at www.markyramone.com.

The TarantinosNYC at Otto's Shrunken Head

The TarantinosNYC are not to be confused with the Tarantinos, a British seven-piece band that operates from a similar premise, playing music that either was or should have been in director Quentin Tarantino’s movies. The TarantinosNYC is a local quartet that formed in 2005 and frequently performs at Unsteady Freddy’s Surf Shindig at Otto’s Shrunken Head on the first Saturday of each month. The TarantinosNYC recorded a CD, 2009’s Super Sounds of the Cinema. The band is comprised of Tricia on bass, Paul Tarantino on guitar, Brian Tarantino on keys and rhythm guitar, and Joey Tarantino on drums.

At Otto’s tonight, The TarantinosNYC cross-faded 60's-70's surf, spy and spaghetti western music with original instrumentals. They gracefully moved, for instance, from an original composition, “Fistful of Reverb,” to cinema’s “Fistful of Dollars.” With no lyrics to be heard, the overall sound was powered by echoing guitar leads. One might expect then that most of the set would have sounded all too similar, but Paul Tarantino played enough of a variety of styles to keep the show interesting and the audience grooving. Plus, answer a movie quiz question and you take home the yellow lei that hung from the microphone stand. More than a novelty band, the TarantinosNYC is a cleverly-conceived music event – a soundtrack to a night at the movies without sorting through the film’s plot intrigues.

Visit the TarantinosNYC at www.tarantinosnyc.com.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Emiliana Torrini at the Apple Store Soho

Emilíana Torrini  was born May 16, 1977, in Iceland, the daughter of an Italian father and an Icelandic mother. Torrini grew up in Kópavogur, where, at the age of seven, she joined a choir as a soprano, until she went to opera school at the age of 15, and worked at her father’s well-known Italian restaurant, Italia, in Reykjavík. After releasing three albums in her native Iceland, she was “discovered” singing in the restaurant and relocated to London to launch an international career. She joined forces with Tears for Fears' Roland Orzabal to produce her first widely released effort in 1999. Film director Peter Jackson invited Torrini to voice "Gollum's Song," the finale music for 2002's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, a job that Björk had previously accepted before backing out due to pregnancy. Torrini also composed three songs and contributed vocals to Thievery Corporation's 2002 album The Richest Man in Babylon and co-wrote two songs on Kylie Minogue’s 2003 album Body Language, including the number one hit single, "Slow." Torrini is best known for her 2009 European hit single, "Jungle Drum." Torrini’s fourth internationally released album, Tookah, is now available.

Torrini is a well-known singer/songwriter in her home country, where she holds the record for the most weeks at the number one album spot, but she is just beginning to launch a career in the United States. At the Apple Store Soho tonight, the soft-spoken Torrini sang with a cool, otherworldly croon while her band embraced elements of folk with a touch of electronica and trance. Torrini’s appearance was homespun, and her melodies were similarly slow and simple, like mom speaking to a child at bedtime. The execution of her poetic language fluttered between the singer-songwriter tradition and a more spacious and hypnotic modernity. It was all velvety mellow, and here was the drawback. Despite her smiles and chatty warmth between the songs, her performance lacked an energetic and dynamic reach. With all the bright lights on in the store and no spotlights on the stage, it was easy to drift off and become mindful of everything except her low-impact concert.

Visit Emiliana Torrini at www.emilianatorrini.com.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tame Impala at Terminal 5

In 2007 in Perth, Australia, multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker moved his blues/jazz/psychedelic rock band, the Dee Dee Dums, in a new direction. He recruited a new drummer, replaced the two-guitar attack with a simplified guitar/bass/drums foundation, and renamed the band Tame Impala, referring to the medium-sized African antelope (not the Chevrolet sedan).  Tame Impala garnered attention in 2010 with the release of its debut album, Innerspeaker, and received critical acclaim for its 2012 album Lonerism, which was named best album of the year by Rolling Stone, Filter magazine, Great Britain’s New Music Express (NME) and other music outlets. Tame Impala is presently Parker on guitar and vocals primarily, Dominic Simper on bass and Jay Watson on drums, although Parker played most of the instruments on the band’s two albums.

According to the band’s website, Tame Impala claims to make “psychedelic hypno-groove melodic rock music.” At Terminal 5 tonight, the claim proved to be true. Amid eerie lighting, the band played experimental music, alternating between cascading instrumental tracks and their more identifiable rock jams, all the while playing with sounds as well as with the ears and heads of the audience. Not all of the noodling music was outstanding, but the extended jams were hypnotic and fascinating. Parker in particular led the mind assault by constantly distorting, smudging and phasing his lead guitar melodies, using an array of floor pedals. His compositions recalled the origins and brief lifespan of this genre of music during the late 1960s, but the newer technology and dance beats gave the sounds a crisper, sharper edge. Much of the set consisted of trance-like songs, but then the guitar ripped in as to awaken the dream-like grooves. Unconfirmed rumors are circulating that Roky Erickson of the 13th Floor Elevators, a pioneer band in the 1960s psychedelic movement, is interested in playing with Tame Impala. Judging by tonight’s performance, the rumor appears to be very fitting.


Visit Tame Impala at www.tameimpala.com.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Streetlight Manifesto at Irving Plaza

Tomas Kalnocky of Streetlight Manifesto
Streetlight Manifesto came together as a collection of musicians who had previously played with ska punk bands Catch 22 and One Cool Guy in the New Brunswick area of New Jersey. Streetlight Manifesto released its debut album in 2003 and then played sold out shows at Rutgers University and the famed Stone Pony in Asbury Park. At present, the band’s fifth album, The Hands That Thieve, is unreleased due to a public dispute between the band and its record company over royalty payments. The band also announced that the present tour is its last, and will end it on November 15-16 at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey. Streetlight Manifesto will continue to record independently but perform only on occasional dates.

Streetlight Manifesto’s current tour is called “The End of the Beginning.” The beginning of what? That is unknown, but it is the end of 10 years of constant touring. The tour stopped tonight at a sold-out Irving Plaza. Streetlight Manifesto delivered well as a brass band that mastered uptempo rock but with a specialty in third wave ska. Founder/vocalist Tomas Kalnoky led the songs with his voice and guitar, but it was the four-piece brass section that made the songs come alive. The set was comprised of music from the band’s 10-year history, including compositions from the as-yet-unreleased album, and a Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution cover, “What a Wonderful Life.” The ensemble played tightly enough to keep the songs powered and organized, yet loosely enough to let the horn players contribute freely. This was music at its liveliest, leading fans to dance the skank throughout the performance.

Visit Streetlight Manifesto at www.streetlightmanifesto.com.

Needtobreathe at the Bowery Ballroom

Bear Rinehart
Named after the acclaimed University of Alabama football coach Bear Bryant, Bear Rinehart and his brother Nathaniel Bryant "Bo" Rinehart were born and raised in rural Possum Kingdom, South Carolina, where their father, a pastor, ran a church camp. After moving to nearby Seneca, South Carolina, the two siblings started playing instruments. The core of Needtobreathe is comprised of Bear on lead vocals, guitar and piano, Bo on guitar, and Seth Bolt on bass. The band has recorded four studio albums, the latest of which is 2011’s The Reckoning.

At the Bowery Ballroom tonight, Needtobreathe started with a bang and the show only got better as it moved along. The band opened with a hard-driving “Oh Carolina,” ultimately interweaving its “squeeze” lyrics with the chorus of the Who's "Squeezebox." The Americana influences became more evident as the show moved on, with a blues inflection on “Wanted Man” and the gospel feel of “Washed by the Water.” Later songs introduced banjo and mandolin for a series of songs that sounded like they were born in the southern hill country. Bear sang with a forceful achy-breaky gut passion, and Bo harmonized well as only a sibling could. Closing the set with “Keep Your Eyes Open” and “Difference Maker” reinforced the message that the musicians are about making uplifting statements, and the music was about feeling positive about oneself. For the one encore, the musicians gathered tightly at the lip of the stage and performed an acoustic version of the band’s popular “Something Beautiful,” singing with no microphones or other amplification. As roots rock and roll increases in popularity, Needtobreathe is the working class band to watch.

Visit Needtobreathe at www.needtobreathe.net.