Sunday, August 31, 2014

Counting Crows at Irving Plaza

Vocalist Adam Duritz and guitarist David Bryson formed Counting Crows in 1991 in San Francisco, California. They began as an acoustic duo, playing gigs in Bay Area coffeehouses. Counting Crows grew to a stable lineup by 1993, and the band's first album that year sold seven million copies. Counting Crows seventh studio album, Somewhere Under Wonderland, was released on September 2, 2014. The band consists presently of Duritz, Bryson, Dan Vickrey (lead guitar), David Immerglück (guitar, banjo, mandolin), Charlie Gillingham (accordion, keyboards), Millard Powers (bass) and Jim Bogios (drums).

Counting Crows performed a free concert at Irving Plaza tonight. Fans learned about ticket distribution locations by following tips offered through the band's social media. The concert was streamed online as well. The first thing to note was that the stage lighting was brilliantly bright and that the sound was exceptionally crisp to where every voice and instrument was heard clearly at all times. The band performed old songs and new, but did not play anticipated songs like "Mr. Jones," Counting Crows' first hit. Appropriate for New York, the performance began with "Sullivan Street," named after a street in the Greenwich Village neighborhood which Duritz now calls home. (Later, "Washington Square" also recalled the same locale.) Duritz sang soulfully, mostly with his eyes closed, as the band played a soft rocking country-styled backdrop. Next, a Romany Rye cover, "Untitled (Love Song)," a little more electrified, leaned towards southern rock. Performing 22 songs in 90 minutes, the concert showcased all of the band's finer abilities. Duritz was a thoroughly passionate singer, evoking hope and melancholy even when the message of his lyrics proved puzzling. The other musicians' warm multi-part harmonies and stinging, biting rock and roll accompaniment spun on Duritz's axis. The tapestries were woven tightly and pleasantly. Duritz's charming anecdotes and song introductions further endeared the fan base. Together, all these features made the show felt like a very special evening with a classic rock band.

Visit Counting Crows at www.countingcrows.com.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Modern Life Is War at the Bowery Ballroom

Jeffrey Eaton
Modern Life Is War formed as a melodic hardcore band in 2002 in Marshalltown, Iowa. The band released three albums before announcing its breakup in 2008. The band reunited in 2012 and released its fourth studio album, Fever Hunting, in 2013. Although the band experienced mid-career personnel changes, the reformed band hosts its original members: Jeffrey Eaton on vocals, John Paul Eich and Matt Hoffman on guitars, Chris Honeck on bass and Tyler Oleson on drums.

Modern Life Is War confirmed its reputation as a unique hardcore band tonight at the Bowery Ballroom. Familiarly born of youthful anger and despair, orchestrated with brutally intense musical arrangements, many songs fueled moshing and stage diving. Nevertheless, the overall sound was darker than most hardcore punk music. Eaton harshly screamed and growled some uncommonly vulnerable lyrics while the band played a dirge-like wall of sound that often approached death metal. The slower pace and light melodies combined with the thrusting assault of the instruments turned many of the songs into epic- sounding anthems of youthful resilience. This was primal angst, as abrasive and aggressive as it is supposed to be.

Burlap to Cashmere at the Bitter End

Vocalist/guitarist Steven Delopoulos assembled a theater project for his final exam at a theater and dance school in New York. He later asked his then-14-year-old guitarist cousin, John Philippidis, to join him in the show, and together with a childhood friend, drummer Theodore Pagano, they formed Burlap to Cashmere in 1994. Additional musicians were added, and two years later the folk rock and world music ensemble began performing regularly at the Bitter End. Burlap to Cashmere made a splash with two albums in 1998, but road fatigue split the promising band apart. Delopoulos recorded two solo albums, Philippidis did session work, and Pagano worked as an interior designer. A tragedy brought them back together years later. In 2005, Philippidis fell victim to a road rage incident near his home in Brooklyn and was beaten nearly to death; he spent a month in a coma and required radical facial reconstructive surgery. As he recovered, he and his former comrades wrote and sang songs together. The old spirit was recaptured. The reformed Burlap to Cashmere released a self titled album in 2011.

Burlap to Cashmere has returned to performing regularly at the Bitter End, and a hometown crowd eagerly awaits each time. There is no contemporary band quite like Burlap to Cashmere. Imagine Simon and Garfunkel singing to the music of the Gipsy Kings. Delopoulos and Philippidis sang crisp and vibrant harmonies to  Delopoulos' inspirational and poetic lyrics, Philippidis played speedy flamenco-style acoustic guitar, and the band backed them with hot, driving, foot-stomping Mediterranean rhythms. The song selection included many of their spiritually-driven compositions, including "Anybody Out There", "The Other Country" and "Basic Instructions." Altogether, Burlap to Cashmere excelled in melding folk and world music to a 21st century audience.

Visit Burlap to Cashmere at www.burlaptocashmere.com.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Red Moon at the Biter End

The Bitter End seems to be the club in New York to find classic-rock style bands. Tonight Red Moon was a gritty-sounding New York-based power trio performing original songs influenced by many contemporary sounds. Bronx-born vocalist/bassist Scott Fanzo offered gutsy, bluesy vocals over his funky bass progressions. Guitarist Rene Ferrer intoned the hard rock riffs and jazz-rock leads into the mix. Drummer Sergio Leccese kept the rock and roll beat. The trio tonight invited Cara Delevingne to sing a sultry cover version of Prince's "Kiss." Red Moon brought back the innovative rock spirit that dominated the same venue some 40 years ago.

Joanna Gruesome at the South Street Seaport

Alanna McArdle
Joanna Gruesome was formed in 2010 in Cardiff, Wales, and is comprised of Alanna McArdle on vocals, Owen Williams and George Nicholls on guitars, Max Warren on bass and David Sandford on drums. Much about the band's reported origins rub more like fiction than fact. The musicians claim that the band originated in an anger management counseling group. During the course they were taught that writing, making music, dancing or painting could relieve tension and help reduce feelings of anger. In one exercise, they were assigned as a group to compose and perform a song to perform in front of other participants. According to the tale, they initially found each other infuriating but gradually discovered a musical chemistry and continued working as a band outside of therapy. Joanna Gruesome began recording and performing live, allegedly twisting the band name from indie harpist Joanna Newsom's name. The fuzz-pop quintet created music that bore no similarity to Newsom's literary folk modes, however, instead drawing influence from the C86 scene and shoegaze guitar tones. Joanna Gruesome released several singles and EPs before the debut album, 2013's Weird Sister, was written, allegedly in a seedy occultist hotel.

Joanna Gruesome closed the South Street Seaport's outdoor summer concert series tonight and upon taking the stage quickly scared away many middle-aged middle-of-the-road types who came in lawn chairs hoping for pleasant music under the stars. The noise-pop band put on a short but energetic live show that bordered on indie art pop, riot grrrl, garage rock and discordant feedback dissonance. McArdle both spit out hardcore punk grunts and sang whispering melodic vocals to jangling guitar chord rhythms and fast primal-punk drumbeats. The band's attempt to bring a few brief breaths of delicate tenderness to its utterly aggressive brashness was clashingly cute. Songs with titles like "Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers," performed at high volume and velocity, showcased a unique sound that may win over the followers of Veruca Salt and Savages.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Reigning Sound at the Bowery Ballroom

Greg Cartwright
After playing in a list of garage rock bands including the Oblivians and the Compulsive Gamblers, vocalist/guitarist Greg Cartwright formed Reigning Sound in 2001 in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. Then in 2004, Cartwright re-located his family to Asheville, North Carolina, and revamped the band lineup. About three years ago, Cartwright was asked to record a promotional EP with help from organist Dave Amels in Nashville, Tennessee. Cartwright had lined up two local friends to round out the band, but both cancelled at the last minute. Amels’ band mates in the Brooklyn soul group the Jay Vons— Mike Catanese (guitar), Benny Trokan (bass), Mikey Post (drums) —  flew to Nashville, learned the songs, and recorded them with Cartwright in a couple of days. This quintet remains the band's current lineup. Reigning Sound’s sixth studio album and first album in five years, Shattered, was released on July 15, 2014.

Once known as a fiery garage rock band, Reigning Sound performed a more than polished set at the Bowery Ballroom tonight. The quintet was even joined by a violin and cello player for the early part of the set. Reigning Sound performed most of the current album, launching with the upbeat "North Cackalacky Girl." Fortunately for fans of an earlier era, driving Elvis Costello-styled rock and roll remained the evening's most prevalent genre. The raw guitar licks of Cartwright's past rave-ups were evident, but were now more contained and calculated, as he often sang closed-eyed with his best Van Morrison rhythm & blues vocal licks. On several songs, Cartwright kept alive a taste of country blues as well. Perhaps it is a sign of middle-aged maturity, but Reigning Sound has begun muting and taming its wilder side, seemingly gravitating towards Americana.

Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens at the Bowery Ballroom

As a child, Naomi Shelton sang with her sisters at their small church in Midway, Alabama. As an adult, she moved to Brooklyn, New York, and became a self-employed apartment cleaner and organizer. She never stopped singing, however. On Saturday nights she sang both spiritual and contemporary soul songs in local nightclubs under the name Naomi Davis, but on Sunday mornings she sang the rock of ages in church. In 1999, she recorded two singles, now collectors' items among funk-music disc jockeys. Ten years later, now in her 70s, Shelton released her first album. Her second album, Cold World, was released on July 29, 2014.

Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens brought a vintage gospel soul to the Bowery Ballroom tonight as the opening act for Reigning Sound. The rock music fans in the audience were introduced to the roots of rhythm and blues, where the heavenly met the earthly to make a sparse and fresh pop sound. Shelton and her three backing vocalists date-stamped a sound that was popularized by the Staple Singers in the 1960s. In some cases, socially-conscious and hard-times lyrics were given an inspirational boost and framed in an uplifting vocal arrangement. The set was comprised of soul music that was informed by the church. The simplicity of the musical arrangements, with rolling organ and funky groove, along with the soulful charm of the senior citizen at the main microphone won over the rock fans.

Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens perform every Friday night at Fat Cat.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chevelle at Terminal 5

Pete Loeffler
Chevelle formed in 1995 among three brothers, when Pete Loeffler started playing guitar and singing while Sam Loeffler began playing drums in their parents' garage in Grayslake, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Their youngest brother, Joe Loeffler, joined on bass. The brothers had a passion for fast cars and named the band after the Chevrolet Chevelle. The band performed at small outdoor concerts and clubs around Chicago, with Joe being only 14 years old. Chevelle recorded a demo in 1997, and released its first album in 1999. Within a few years, Chevelle went on to sell four million albums in the United States. Joe parted with the band in 2005, and eventually was replaced by the Loefflers' brother-in-law, Dean Bernardini. Chevelle's seventh album, La Gárgola, was released on April 1, 2014.

Chevelle headlined Terminal 5 tonight and the hard rocking trio opened with songs from its most recent album, "An Island" and "Take Out the Gunman," with barely a moment to breathe between songs. As flashing overhead and back lights blinded those fans against the front of the stage, Pete Loeffler ripped into gritty, repetitive guitar riffs and sang with angst-filled wallows and growls, backing away from the microphone stand for a couple of short blasts of lead guitar. By the third song, "Sleep Apnea" from the Sci-Fi Crimes album, the band's formula was concretized -- amid flashing lights, start a song with a hard, crunching, mid-tempo riff, soften the attack for the first verse, build intensity with a bridge, and then growl or scream while pounding the opening riff again for the chorus. Bernardini asked the cheering audience if it wanted to hear old songs. The band played "The Clincher" and "The Meddler" with much the same formulaic composition. Throughout the 16-song set, Chevelle performed an appealing but clearly-defined hard rock style. Each song sounded like a mainstream anthem that could be used as a rallying cry at a sporting event.

Visit Chevelle at www.getmorechevelle.com.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rubblebucket at the Mercury Lounge

Kalmia Traver
Annakalmia (Kalmia) Traver (vocals, saxophone) and Alex Toth (trumpet, band leader) first met as fellow music majors at the University of Vermont. Toth had been developing a dance band that fused psychedelic indie rock, upbeat dance rhythms and odd musical arrangements. Upon graduating in 2006, they moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where Kalmia modeled nude for art classes and Toth worked with marching bands. There they formed Rubblebucket, were joined by Adam Dotson (trombone, euphonium, vocals), David Cole (Drums) and Ian Hersey (guitar) and released a debut album in 2008 under the name Rubblebucket Orchestra. The band later relocated to Brooklyn, New York, and is filled out by Darby Wolf on keyboards and synthesizers and Jordan Brooks on bass. Rubblebucket's fourth album, Survival Sounds, was released today.

Rubblebucket brought its quirky music to the Mercury Lounge tonight, turning the venue into a party room. Traver often sang light pop songs that unexpectedly twisted into Baroque-sounding poly-rhythmic jamborees. Similarly, New Orleans-style brass section introduction led to art-rock with syncopated horns. Traver's vocals were soft and talky, but then she blew deep into a baritone sax or made electronic noises on a small synthesizer, giving the songs a more wiry sound. All along, the band kept the audience bouncing to the steady grooves and rhythms. This music may be too bizarre for the general public, but it already has drawn a fair number of believers.

Visit Rubblebucket at www.rubblebucket.com.

The Planets at Arlene's Grocery

Soon after graduating high school in 1971, Brooklyn native Binky Philips formed a band called the Planets and played all of New York's rock circuit. While earning a meager living working a day job at a record store in the East Village, his nights were dedicated to the Planets, opening shows for up and coming bands like the New York Dolls, Kiss, the Ramones and Blondie. While many glam and punk bands eclipsed the Planets, the Planets never broke past that local club circuit. Watching new clubs open and close for 20 years, the Planets finally packed up their guitar cases permanently. Philips wrote a well-received memoir, My Life in the Ghost of Planets - The Story of a CBGB Almost-Was, and continues to reminisce as a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. Recently, more than 40 years after it all began, Philips revived the Planets and down-scaled his former rock and roll ambitions; these day he simply hopes the Planets can draw enough paying customers to pay for the next few rehearsal times. The Planets presently consists of Philips on guitar and lead vocals, Nolan Roberts on vocals, Desmond Sullivan on guitar, Mike Greenberg on bass and Bobby Siems on drums.

At Arlene's Grocery tonight, it was obvious that Philips still listens to the Who's Live at Leeds album. In the 1970s and 1980s the Who was an inspiration for many local bands, but in the 21st century this influence is rare among bar bands, and the Planets utilized it very well tonight. Occasionally Philips even stood with his feet wide apart and swung his arm over his guitar like a speedy windmill, looking very much a Pete Townshend technique. Roberts was not Roger Daltrey, however, when he swung his microphone just one time and dropped it. Roberts is young and new, and hopefully in time will learn to work the audience rather than sing with his eyes closed like an emo vocalist. Throughout the set, the band was rock solid. The Planets performed mostly Philips' songs, ranging from compositions dating to the band's CBGB's/Max's Kansas City era to songs written earlier this month. The band also performed a song from Philips' 1976 solo album and a very rocked-up cover of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' "If You Don't Know Me By Now" (although a puzzled listener might wonder why). The Planets lined up well tonight for some good old-fashioned classic rock sounds, and it felt like old times at the long-defunct Coventry, the Mercer Arts Center and the Hotel Diplomat glam-rock music stages.

The Planets perform at Arlene's Grocery on September 30 and the last Tuesday of every month through the end of 2014. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The AfroPunk Festival at Commodore Barry Park, Brooklyn

There was a time when being black and playing or listening to rock music was a novelty. White teens had embraced black artists since Little Richard in the 1950s, but only occasionally did we find black youth playing hard rock until Jimi Hendrix and Sly & the Family Stone in the late 1960s. When hardcore punk and heavy metal gained widespread popularity in the late 1970s, some of it was even linked with white supremacy, further isolating black rockers. Then came Bad Brains, several of Vernon Reid's bands, including Living Colour, TV on the Radio, Fishbone, and even Death, Lenny Kravitz and Thin Lizzy in similar rock genres. The Black Rock Coalition formed in New York to promote, support and encourage the multi-cultural potential in alternative music.

The AfroPunk Festival was founded in 2002 and occurs each summer in Brooklyn. This year's main attractions included Sharon Jones & the Dap Tones, Bodycount featuring Ice-T, Bad Brains, D'Angelo, Meshell Ndegeocello, Shabazz Palaces, Fishbone, Alice Smith, Valerie June, Unlocking the Truth, over 100 artists in total. The two-day event also hosted an Activism Row, where the public could learn about local community action groups, a Spin Thrift Market for clothing and other goods, the Green Light Bookstore, and a variety of food options.

Alice Smith showcased an amazing vocal range through sultry soul songs.
Los Angeles' Trash Talk returned this year to play more fierce, moshing hardcore punk.
Chiara de Blasio, daughter of New York mayor Bill de Blasio,
introduced foundational punk and reggae artist Bad Brains.

Bad Brains had several vocalists substitute for original singer H.R.,
including Cory Glover of Living Colour.
Ice-T was beyond a rapper as he led a hardcore Bodycount.
Fishbone performed a wild set mixing rock, funk, punk and ska.
Sza sang rhythm & blues.
Syd the Kid sang soft jazz and trip-hop with the Internet.
D'Angelo infused electronica into his rhythm & blues songs.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Arcade Fire at the Barclay Center

Win Butler and Josh Deu met at high school in Montreal, Canada, and continued an exchange of musical ideas into their university years. The two university students founded Arcade Fire around 2001, soon adding a fellow music student, Régine Chassagne. The trio recorded a set of demos and began performing live in the second half of 2001. Numerous musicians came and went, including Deu, but presently the band's core line-up is husband-and-wife team Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, Win's brother Will Butler, Richard Reed Parry, Tim Kingsbury and Jeremy Gara. The band continues to be a collective of sorts, as various core and extra musicians switch between guitar, bass guitar, piano, keyboard, synthesizer, drums, violin, viola, cello, double bass, xylophone, glockenspiel, French horn, accordion, harp, mandolin, and hurdy-gurdy. The band's fourth and most current album is 2013's Reflektor.

Arcade Fire headlined Brooklyn's Barclay Center for three nights. The audience was treated to the extravagance of Arcade Fire's circus-like show, but the audience also was designed to be part of the entertainment. First off, the admission tickets asked the public to come in formal attire or costume. Hundreds of fans complied. The main floor had no seating, giving the costumed fans adequate space to dance or perform. Also, in a very unusual move, the evening did not end with Arcade Fire's performance; a disc jockey came on after the headliner and the audience was invited to stay and dance for another hour.

On the second night, after two opening acts, the stage curtain fell and more than a dozen musicians came on stage, including a horn section, string ensemble and several percussionists. Several unidentifiable people wearing huge Mardi Gras-style papier-mâché heads resembling the main band members appeared as a fake band, dancing to the disco-pop "Rebellion (Lies)." Across the floor from the main stage, a smaller hydraulic platform was raised sporadically for use as a side show stage. During “We Exist,” a song about coming out as gay, four male dancers in high heels were elevated on the platform and they imitated the song's video with a choreographed dance. During “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus),” Chassagne appeared on the platform, surrounded by writhing dancers in skeleton suits, facing the main stage. Butler sang to her and she sang back her countermelody with the fans literally caught in the middle of the interplay. During “Afterlife,” a sole figure in a head-to-toe mirrored space suit turned slowly on the platform, reflecting light around the room. For the encores, the fake band took the B-stage for a cover of the Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer." Marky Ramone then joined Arcade Fore on the main stage for covers of the Ramones' "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement" and "I Wanna Be Sedated." Periodically through the set, cannons sprayed massive amounts of confetti onto the audience. The surprises never stopped.

The problem was that if the fans came to hear good music, that element was sorely missing. For all its worth, the Barclay Center did not have the acoustics for music to be appreciated. The venue was an echo chamber, and the sound was simply too loud and muddled, even near the sound board. Any nuance in the music and any interesting musical arrangements were overpowered simply by a wall of boom-boom rhythms and melodies. Perhaps this was complicated by the sheer number of musicians on the stage, usually about 13 and sometimes numbering as many as 25. Enjoying the visual stimulations of the sensory-loaded spectacle was easy, but the Arcade Fire audience could only enjoy the actual music if by familiarity the fans were singing along or listening to the recorded versions of the songs in their heads.

Visit Arcade Fire at www.arcadefire.com.

Friday, August 22, 2014

X at City Winery

Exene Cervenka & John Doe
Billy Zoom saw the Ramones perform in a Los Angeles suburb in 1977 and the former rockabilly guitarist realized he wanted to play similar music. Bassist John Doe was already a fan of the new punk music scene. Both musicians submitted want ads to the same publication using nearly the exact same wording. They responded to each other’s classifieds and performed a few shows with various drummers. Doe met Exene Cervenka, a newly-relocated Floridian, at a poetry reading in Venice Beach and liked her poems so much that he offered to perform them in his band. Cervenka told him that if anyone was going to perform her poems, it would be her, and she joined the band. Doe saw D.J. Bonebrake play in a band called the Eyes and recruited him. X was formed before the end of 1977. The band recorded seven studio albums, the most recent of which is 1993's Hey Zeus! X went on hiatus during the mid to late 1990s and reunited in the early 2000s.

X returned to New York this week for four nights at City Winery, each night dedicated to performing the entirety of one of the band's first four albums. Tonight was the second night, and X performed its second album, Wild Gift, named 1981's Record of the Year by Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and the Village Voice. Wild Gift featured short and speedy songs and preceded the band's wider exploration of punk-country-folk, and so tonight's performance was mostly pure primal punk, X style. Cervenka and Doe's individual vocals were rather ordinary, but together their slightly off-kilter signature harmonies still splendidly recalled a raw version of Jefferson Airplane's Marty Balin and Grace Slick. Zoom played stingingly clear and crisp rockabilly guitar leads and Bonebrake hit the drum beat hard. After performing nitro-powered versions of the 13 songs from Wild Gift, X mixed songs from its other three early albums: three songs from 1980's Los Angeles; six from 1982's Under the Big Black Sun; and five from 1983's More Fun in the Real World. In the end, the evening was a live retrospective of what made X a great band, with 28 archival X songs played loud and fast. The public has not heard a new songs from X in more than 20 years, however; hopefully the success of this series will inspire the band to write and record new songs.

Visit X at www.xtheband.com.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Biohazard at Webster Hall's Marlin Room

Billy Graziadei
Guitarist Bobby Hambel was among the founders of Biohazard in 1987 out of Brooklyn, New York. Early on, vocalist/guitarist Billy Graziadei joined and turned the trio into a quartet and Biohazard released its first demo in 1988. Danny Schuler replaced the original drummer after that demo. Many personnel changes later, Scott Roberts played lead guitar in Biohazard from 2002 to 2005, and rejoined the band in 2011 as bassist. Biohazard's ninth and most recent album, 1992's Reborn in Defiance, was released worldwide with the exception of North America.

Biohazard was one of the earliest bands to fuse hardcore punk and heavy metal with elements of hip hop and controversial social and political commentary. After more than 25 years of heavy-bottomed punk metal, Biohazard maintained its legacy with a pit-bull bite tonight at a long-awaited hometown gig in Webster Hall's Marlin Room. Utilizing the entire width of the large stage, the three front men ran, jumped and bounced as they opened with "Shades of Grey" from the 1992 Urban Discipline album. This was followed by more high-energy manifestos in "What Makes Us Tick" from the 1994 State of the World Address album, then the title track from Urban Discipline. Biohazard performed its 17 angriest songs, and all but one were from the band's first three albums, covering 1990 to 1994. The sole exception was featured smack in the middle of the set, "Vengeance Is Mine," from the most recent Reborn in Defiance album. The explosive eruption of Biohazard's scorching music remained clean and clear throughout the blistering set. On many songs, Graziadei sang, shouted and spit the lyrics originally sung by former band leader Evan Seinfeld at no sacrifice to the integrity of their foundation. But there was the rub as far as the future progress and trajectory of Biohazard. There seemed to be enough fire to keep the band going -- the prognosis was good for life after Seinfeld. Tonight's show indicated that the band could be massive if it resumed its former write-record-tour ethic.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Johnnyswim at the Bowery Ballroom

Abner Ramirez trained as a musician at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in his native Jacksonville, Florida. Amanda Sudano spent summers touring the world as a backing singer for her mother, Donna Summer. Ramirez and Sudano met in a coffee shop after Sunday service at a church in Nashville, Tennessee. Four years later Sudano attended a songwriting workshop held by Ramirez and became interested in writing songs with him. The two began writing and singing together and discovered similar influences of folk, soul, and rock. The pair formed a songwriting partnership in 2006 and called themselves Johnnyswim. Following three earlier EPs, Johnnyswim's debut album, Diamonds, was released on April 29, 2014. Sudano and Ramirez married in 2009 and are based in Los Angeles, California.

Who does not respond favorably to a bit of southern charm and elegance? Johnnyswim's headlining engagement tonight at the Bowery Ballroom was packed with an exuberant cordiality, a magnetic positivity and an engaging wholesomeness. Johnnyswim's set was hinged on rich, mesmerizing two-part harmonies and unadorned, low-key musical arrangements, much like the Civil Wars. Often staring each other in the eyes, Ramirez and Sudano were so in sync with each other that sometimes it was tasking to tell their voices apart. With Ramirez strumming an acoustic guitar and backed by an electric guitarist, bassist and drummer, the songs mined folk, soul, blues and pop for a lily-soft, blended sound, even when they took a turn at foot-stomping and hand-clapping country towards the end of the set with "Home." Ramirez and Sudano invited the audience both into their music and their lives. The duo introduced many songs with personal anecdotes, always related with an amusing spin; the story about Ramirez's proposal was longer than the song it produced, "Paris in June." With a knack for feel-good songs, mutually-enhancing vocals, a cross-section of musical styles and enjoyable banter, Johnnyswim's performance was almost like a variety show. Could Johnnyswim become the next generation's Sonny & Cher?

Visit Johnnyswim at www.johnnyswim.com.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Echo & the Bunnymen at Irving Plaza

Ian McCulloch
Ian McCulloch was born in Liverpool, England, and as a teenager integrated into the local music scene at Eric's Club. Upon turning 18, the budding singer-songwriter formed his first band, the Crucial Three, with Julian Cope and Pete Wylie, but the band never got beyond rehearsals. Wylie left, the band split, and a year later in 1978 McCulloch and Cope formed the short-lived A Shallow Madness, which similarly never recorded or performed. Cope then sacked McCulloch from the band, A Shallow Madness changed its name to The Teardrop Explodes, and McCulloch joined with guitarist Will Sergeant and bassist Les Pattinson to form Echo & the Bunnymen in 1978. Supplemented initially by a drum machine, Echo & the Bunnymen soon debuted at Eric's Club as the opening act for The Teardrop Explodes. Since Echo & the Bunnymen's debut album in 1980, the band has released 11 studio albums; after a five-year hiatus, the fan-funded Meteorites was released on June 3, 2014. McCulloch and Sergeant presently fill out Echo & the Bunnymen with touring musicians.

Echo & the Bunnymen returned to Irving Plaza tonight for the first of a two-night headlining engagement. As usual, McCulloch stood at his microphone stand and remained almost motionless throughout the concert, bathed in darkness. Never was a spotlight shone on him, making photographs a challenge. The band opened with the title track of the new album, and McCulloch, wearing dark pants, shirt, sports jacket, shades and unkempt hair, appeared as a silhouette singing dark, brooding vocals. His Jim Morrison-style of singing became more evident with a medley of "Rescue" and "Broke My Neck." Three songs later, he sang the Doors' "People Are Strange." It was this voice on which the show centered, more so than any of the musicians' contributions. New songs were received well, including "Holy Moses" and "Constantinople," but 36 years into its stage life, the show built up to the haunting, synthesizer-driven "Bring on the Dancing Horses," a bombastic medley of "Villiers Terrace" and the Doors' "Roadhouse Blues," a lighter "The Killing Moon" and a harsher "The Cutter." For the first encore, the band joined a soft, acoustic "Nothing Lasts Forever" to adaptations of Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" and Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour." The show ended with the better known "Lips Like Sugar" in extended form and a modest final encore of "Ocean Rain." The classic drama-pop masters kept the music alive and energetic, and despite McCulloch's subdued visual appearance, his voice was what made it all interesting.

Visit Echo & the Bunnymen at www.bunnymen.com.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Red Wanting Blue at the Bowery Ballroom

Scott Terry
Originally from New Jersey, singer/songwriter Scott Terry formed Red Wanting Blue (also known as RWB) as a rock and roll band in 1995 with classmates at Ohio University in Athens. The band released two albums while still in school, and after college the band relocated in 1999 to Columbus, Ohio. Terry is the sole remaining original member of Red Wanting Blue; the band’s current lineup consists of Terry on vocals, ukulele and guitar, Mark McCullough on vocals and bass, Greg Rahm on guitar, Eric Hall on lap steel and guitar, and Dean Anshutz on the drums. Red Wanting Blue's 10th album, Little America, was released on July 1, 2014.

Red Wanting Blue brought the heart of middle America, complete with an on-stage display of on-the-road bumper stickers and truck-stop novelty items, to the Bowery Ballroom tonight. The music was similarly driving, with many lyrics painting the life of musicians who live on a tour bus. It was blue collar rock and roll with a taste of country and southern rock for flavor. Terry's husky, masculine voice delivered well, with all fervor and little nuance, lending a sense of depth and integrity to the sometimes oblique tales he spun in his reflective lyrics. He told the audience that he was afraid to sing the new song "Leaving New York" in New York, but took off his hat and sang the soft ballad earnestly and beautifully. Throughout the set, the energetic musicians played tightly and enthusiastically; although the feel of the music was loose, in reality there was little wiggle room for jamming until the end of the set. Opening act and long-time friends The Alternate Routes joined Red Wanting Blue on stage for the show's finale, a rousing seven-minute southern-rocking cover of Oasis' "Champagne Supernova," complete with dueling guitars. This was the sound of a young, working class America.

Red Wanting Blue will perform at Irving Plaza on November 20. In the meantime, visit Red Wanting Blue at www.redwantingblue.com.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Miss Fairchild at the Bowery Electric

Growing up in a small town as the son and grandson of preachers, Travis Richard (or "Daddy Wrall") discovered a yearning to command the stage and sing. Teaming in 2004 with two Boston-based friends, producer Samuel Nice (or Sammy Bananas) and arranger Schuyler Dunlap, Travis became the voice of a studio project called Miss Fairchild. A live band was formed around the song and dance man by 2005. Miss Fairchild released its third album in 2013, Show Band.

Miss Fairchild performed a super-slick, almost cabaret-style rhythm and blues show at the Bowery Electric tonight. Richard captured the 1960s soul sound in his vocals and as a charismatic front person was fully committed to the entertainment aspect of the show. Everything clicked together. Joyful pop songs with a funk groove were powered by blue-eyed soul singing, smooth melodies and bubbly arrangements. Richard engaged the audience to sing along to catchy choruses in "Train Wreck" and other tunes. The songs were given greater depth through keyboard leads and sax fills, creating a groove that moved the audience, including Liza Colby of popular local band the Liza Colby Sound, to dance to the rhythms. The set swayed sweetly with a sassy sashay.

Visit Miss Fairchild at www.missfairchild.com.

The Revivalists at Watermark

David Shaw
David Shaw was on his porch singing and strumming an acoustic guitar in 2007, just two weeks after moving from Ohio to New Orleans, Louisiana. Zack Feinberg, a guitarist in search of a band, rode by on his bicycle and stopped to listen. The two struck up a friendship and the Revivalists were born. Shaw recruited drummer Andrew Campanelli, whom Shaw had met at Tipitina's Sunday Music jam sessions. Campanelli’s college friend, George Gekas, became the bassist. Feinberg invited saxophonist Rob Ingraham from their music classes at Tulane University.  After a fortuitous meeting at French Quarter Fest, Ed Williams joined on the pedal steel guitar. Multi-instrumentalist Michael Girardot played sporadically with the Revivalists until becoming a full member in 2009. The Revivalists re-released the 2013 City of Sound album with eight bonus live tracks on Mardi Gras, March 4, 2014.

The Revivalists brought a bit of New Orleans to Watermark, a new waterfront restaurant and outdoor concert venue jutting out into the East River on Pier 15. Like many earlier bands from NoLa, the seven-year-old Revivalists served a jambalaya of American music, simmering with soulful vocals and rock and funk instrumental jams. The Revivalists' variation included often having a lone saxophonist rather than a full horn section, and having a pedal steel or a synthesizer driving many of the leads. As the name of the band implies, the Revivalists were rooted in the golden age of rock and roll. Frequently the rhythm section led a funk groove, Shaw started crooning a soul song and then Shaw stepped back as the band fed into extended jams, led by guitar, keyboard, pedal steel or sax. As a result, everything sounded somewhat familiar, yet fresh and exciting. Several times, Shaw descended from the stage and sang from the audience, and Williams added to the stage dynamics by frequently standing at his pedal steel, lifting his end and tilting it towards the audience during his frenzied solos. The performance was a gumbo filled with spicy good sounds that motivated the audience to dance in place under the moonlight.

The Revivalists will headline Irving Plaza on November 20. In the meantime, visit the band at www.therevivalists.com.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kristopher Roe at the Studio at Webster Hall

Kristopher Roe began his music career in 1995 by writing and recording demos of original songs on a four-track in his bedroom in Anderson, Indiana. The first lineup of the Ataris was formed quickly thereafter, but when Roe relocated in 1997 to Santa Barbara, California, the band's lineup began changing rapidly and often. Roe has been the only constant member of the punk rock band, but the Ataris brand has released five studio albums, with 2003's So Long, Astoria certified gold. The most recent album is 2007's Welcome the Night.

Kristopher Roe headlined a solo acoustic show at the Studio at Webster Hall tonight. Clues were evident that this would be a trip back to the 1990s, when the Ataris were most popular. As Roe walked on stage and was setting up for his set, he sang along with the Built to Spill track played by the disc jockey. Roe also wore a My Bloody Valentine t-shirt. Strapping on an acoustic guitar upside down, Roe strummed and sang many of the songs he wrote and recorded with the Ataris. He opened with a stripped down version of one of the Ataris' most popular songs, "In This Diary." He then sang "12/15/10," a lesser known song that appeared on a later Ataris EP, then returned to the title track of So Long, Astoria, and then a cover of the Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait," which appeared on the Ataris' 2012 Live in Los Angeles album. This was how it went, a set mixing familiar and not-as-familiar songs. More importantly, this was a bare bones presentation, with minimal effects and all vocals in the forefront. It was not as exciting as an electric Ataris set, but it was a new way to appreciate these songs.

Gasoline Heart at the Studio at Webster Hall

As a youth, Louis DeFabrizio watched and admired his grandfather, father and uncles jamming on the Who and Led Zeppelin songs at family parties on Long Island, New York. As a young adult, he relocated to Orlando, Florida, and played bass and guitar in a long series of short-lived bands. He started writing songs at age 25, and formed Gasoline Heart to be their vehicle. The line-up has changed often, but DeFabrizio's passion for straight-ahead rock and roll has remained constant. Now based out of Brooklyn, New York, Gasoline Heart's fourth and most recent album, Thanks for Everything, was released independently in 2012. DeFabrizio also established a career as a mover with his company, Lou Moves You.

Opening for Kristopher Roe at the Studio at Webster Hall tonight, DeFabrizio and Gasoline Heart stayed true to their 4/4 roots. The half-hour set sparked with DeFabrizio's rousing powerhouse rock anthems, which were pivoted on classic rock arrangements, but overloaded with energy and bombast. DeFabrizio sometimes appeared to be sentimental in his earnest lyrics and soulful singing, but then the cursing and clowning between songs unmasked the Brooklyn in him. Nah, this is a pure and dirty American rock and roll band blasting a big sound and sporting a reckless Sopranos attitude.

For good music, visit Gasoline Heart at www.gasolineheart.com. If you are moving, however, visit DeFabrizio at www.loumovesyou.com.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Randy Jackson at the Bowery Electric

Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Randy Jackson started playing piano and guitar at age five. In 1973, at age 18, he played locally in Shepards Bush as lead guitarist with bassist Felix Hanemann. They formed Zebra in 1975 with drummer Guy Gelso, and Jackson became the lead vocalist for the hard-rocking power trio. Zebra played New Orleans bars for two years, then relocated to Long Island, New York, to a thriving club circuit. Zebra's self-titled debut album went gold, and its five albums and five videos sold more than 2,000,000 products. Zebra was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2012. Aside from Zebra, Jackson is the featured vocalist in a symphonic program, "The Music of Led Zeppelin," which has morphed into "The Music of Pink Floyd" and similar packages with orchestras in Florida, Georgia, and Virginia. Jackson also performs solo, and released Empathy for the Walrus, Music of the Beatles, on February 4, 2014; Jackson produced and engineered the album, played all instruments and sang all the parts.

As part of a northeast club tour, Jackson performed a solo acoustic show at the Bowery Electric tonight. Considering the diminutive size of the venue and the small number of attendees, Jackson's acoustic guitar and vocals were highly over-amplified. Considering the booming volume, it would be hard to call this presentation "unplugged." Jackson sat on a stool and began by singing and strumming and finger-picking wailing leads on several Zebra songs. Even in this downsized presentation, these songs were still poignant. "Tell Me What You Want" featured the recurring line that echoed the anger, frustration and bitterness of the aftermath of an argument with a lover. Zebra's rock often was compared to Led Zeppelin, and Jackson's fine vocals tonight continued to recall Robert Plant. Zebra was also known, especially initially, for its wealth of cover material, and tonight's presentation included blasting many Beatles songs. This was the ultimate downfall of the night; the Beatles songs were done better by the Beatles. With this tribute out of his system, hopefully Jackson will return soon to rocking.

Charles Bradley & the Extraordinaires at Damrosch Park

Charles Bradley's mother abandoned him when he was eight months old, so he was raised initially by his maternal grandmother in Gainesville, Florida. When he was eight years old, his mother took him to live with her in Brooklyn, New York. He was 14 years old when his sister took him to the Apollo Theater to see James Brown perform. Bradley was so inspired by the performance that he began to practice Brown's style of singing and stage mannerisms at home. Bradley ran away from home and slept nights in subway cars for two years. Later, Bradley worked odd jobs in Maine, New York, California, and Alaska, and sang  whenever he could get a gig. In 1996, Bradley moved in with his mother in Brooklyn and began singing as a James Brown impersonator in local clubs under the name Black Velvet. Despite more hard times, he finally lived his dream. In 2011, at 62 years old, Bradley released his debut album, No Time for Dreaming. Bradley's second album, Victim of Love, was released in 2013. Bradley's life journey is the subject of a documentary, Soul of America.

Headlining the final night of this year's Lincoln Center Out of Doors and also the week of AmericanaFest free concert series, Charles Bradley & the Extraordinaires was nostalgia for the seniors and an education for the juniors in the audience. Do not call Bradley retro soul, because he is not a novelty artist mining an old sound. On the contrary, he has simply never changed his style over the course of 50 years. As the band played an overture of funky rhythm and blues instrumentals, "the Screamin' Eagle of Soul" was introduced to applause and came on stage wearing a vintage suit that looked like it was purchased at Times Square's former Superfly Boutique. He bowed from the waist, blew kisses and waved his arms like he was trying to fly, then sang pleadingly and sorrowfully a hypnotic burner. The bulk of the set was comprised of heart-wrenching love songs and funky groove shakers from his two albums, but it never mattered what he sang; it mattered more how he sang. He may have learned much by imitating many soul singers over the years, but tonight his passionate singing originated from his own heart. As the 66-year-old showman sang, shouted and danced, he inspired more and more of the audience to leave their chairs to sing and dance with him at the lip of the stage to his sweet soul music. He expressed gratitude to the audience for giving him in his senior years the career he always wanted, and at the end of his sizzling performance, instead of walking backstage, he walked into the audience to meet and hug his fans.

Visit Charles Bradley at www.thecharlesbradley.com.

St. Paul & the Broken Bones at Damrosch Park

Paul Janeway
Paul Janeway, a native of the small town of Chelsea, Alabama, was raised in a non-denominational, Pentecostal-leaning church and wanted to be a preacher. He began moving away from this youthful path in his late teens and went from singing in church choirs to singing in bar bands. He bonded with bassist Jesse Phillips in a rock group in the mid-2000s and they entered a recording studio together in 2012. As they began working around Janeway's voice, they realized that the songs sounded like rhythm and blues. The duo filled out the band and recorded a four-song EP, Greetings from St. Paul and The Broken Bones, before ever playing a live show. "St. Paul" was a wry allusion to Janeway’s church roots. Based in Birmingham, Alabama, the band began performing on weekends only, waiting for the horn players to graduate college before embarking on more extensive touring. St. Paul & the Broken Bones is composed of Janeway, Phillips, Browan Lollar (guitar), Andrew Lee (drums), Al Gamble (keys), Ben Griner (trombone), and Allen Branstetter (trumpet) . A debut album, Half the City, was released on February 18, 2014.

Opening for Charles Bradley & the Extraordinaires at Lincoln Center's AmericanaFest at Damrosch Park, St. Paul & the Broken Bones seemed to juxtapose a classic soul music revival with an evangelical revival. Browan Lollar led the band in revue-style instrumental music for several minutes before Janeway came on stage wearing a buttoned two-piece suit, an open-necked white shirt with cufflinks, and black horn-rimmed glasses. He looked like he meant business, but his affairs were not in a briefcase; they were in his gut. The band played well, could probably have stretched out musically a bit more, but the center of attention was always Janeway. He sang passionately like he possessed the spirit of 1960s soul singer Wilson Pickett and moved like James Brown. Tossing the microphone stand and pulling it back by the chord, dropping to his knees, sliding his foot, kicking his legs, Janeway’s extroverted performing style imitated the stars of the Apollo Theater in its heyday. Sometimes it sounded like church. In the end, however, it was probably closer to last call on Saturdays than sunrise services on Sundays.

Visit St. Paul & the Broken Bones at www.stpaulandthebrokenbones.com.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Rosanne Cash at Damrosch Park

Rosanne Cash was born in 1955 in Memphis, Tennessee, just as her father, future country music legend Johnny Cash, was recording his first tracks at Sun Records. Rosanne was five years old when her parents separated, and Rosanne and her sisters were raised in California by their mother. After graduating from high school, Rosanne joined her father's road show for two and a half years, first as a wardrobe assistant, then as a background vocalist and occasional soloist. She launched a solo career in 1978 and in the 1980s had 21 Top 40 country singles and two gold records, and won a Grammy Award in 1985. After a 13-year marriage with Rodney Crowell in Nashville, Tennessee, she moved to New York in 1991, remarried in 1995, underwent brain surgery in 2007, parented her children, wrote books and newspaper articles, participated in charity work and recorded albums. The River & the Thread, released on January 14, 2014, is Cash's first album in more than four years.

Just a short taxi ride north from her Chelsea apartment, Cash tonight headlined a free Lincoln Center Out of Doors AmericanaFest concert at Damrosch Park. She opened with the lead track from her current album, "A Feather's Not a Bird," a song inspired by a recent drive from Mississippi to Alabama. The road trip continued with another poetic new songs set in an Arkansas locale, "The Sunken Lands." The first 11 songs of her set comprised the entirety of her new album, all songs in order. The only songs she performed that were not from her current album were the last five of the evening, "Radio Operator" from her 2006 Black Cadillac album, covers of Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe" and Hank Snow's "I'm Movin' On," and closing with her biggest hit, "Seven Year Ache." For an encore of Ray Price's "Heartaches by the Number," she invited openers Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale and the Lone Bellow to come from backstage and sing verses. Overall the concert was mild at best. The best aspect was that Cash did not package her songs for mass acceptance or radio play, but as extensions of her soul. The least compelling aspect was that most of the set was a wash of the same cloth, featuring rather plain vocals, melodies and musical arrangements. Most of the dynamics came not from Cash, but from her excellent guitarists. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant country evening in the city.

Visit Rosanne Cash at www. rosannecash.com.

The Lone Bellow at Damrosch Park

Zach Williams first came to songwriting via near tragedy. Williams’ wife was injured in a horseback riding accident in his native Georgia. Physicians initially told Williams that, at best, his wife would leave the hospital a paraplegic. After months of rehab she ultimately regained the ability to walk. Throughout the ordeal, Williams had been scribbling his thoughts into a journal. A friend suggested he turn his writing into songs. Having experienced something close to a miracle, a revitalized Williams learned how to play the guitar and composed deeply personal songs -- tender but frank tales of romantic rupture and hard-fought redemption -- rooted in the country, folk and gospel of his Southern youth. Williams and his wife decided to pursue their creative paths in New York. Williams met with a fellow Georgian guitar-player and college classmate, Brian Elmquist, at the Brooklyn diner where Elmquist worked. Williams then invited mandolin player Kanene Pipkin, who just returned to New York from living in Beijing, China, to join Zach Williams and the Bellow. The trio renamed itself the Lone Bellow and released its self-titled debut in January 2013.

Opening for Rosanne Cash tonight as part of the Lincoln Center Out of Doors AmericanaFest at Damrosch Park, the Lone Bellow gained a new, larger audience. Performing  original songs ranging from the quietest, tightest three-part-harmony-into-one-microphone acoustic songs to rip-roaring barn-burners backed by a band, the Lone Bellow embodied the earnest, ambitious and hope-filled spirit of twenty-something Americans. The homey wardrobe and the casual demeanor of the musicians and the rich feel of the emotive lyrics, soaring melodies and soulful harmonies echoed the world beyond the skyscraper-laden metropolis behind the stage; they nearly transported the listeners to southern small town life. Many in the audience responded especially to the rave-ups at the end of the performance, rushing to the open space in front of the stage to jump, stomp and dance to the driving indie-rock-like anthems.

Visit the Lone Bellow at www.thelonebellow.com.

Friday, August 8, 2014

King's X at Stage 48

Greg X. Volz of the Christian rock band Petra brought bassist Doug Pinnick of Joliet, Illinois, and drummer Jerry Gaskill of Bridgeton, New Jersey, to help him in a musical project in 1979 in Springfield, Missouri. The project never happened, but Pinnick and Gaskill continued working together as rhythm section for another Christian rocker, guitarist Phil Keaggy. Gaskill, Pinnick, and local guitarist Ty Tabor, originally of Mississippi, eventually formed the Edge, playing classic rock and Top 40 covers. They changed the name to Sneak Preview in 1983 when they began recording their original songs. By 1985, the group moved to Houston, Texas, changed its name to King's X and transitioned from radio-friendly rock to a heavier, progressive rock by King's X's first album in 1988. The original line-up of King's X has remained together and has released 19 albums. Gaskill suffered a major heart attack and pneumonia in 2012, and King's X released its most recent album, Burning Down Boston: Live at The Channel 6.12.91, to help offset Gaskill's medical expenses.

The relatively small crowd at Stage 48 had to wonder why King's X is not a huge band. The hard rocking power trio tempered hard rock with a taste of progressive rock, metal, funk, soul and British Invasion styled vocal harmonies. Several of the band's lyrics were intriguing, spun on positive, spiritual themes or the members' struggles with faith and self-acceptance. (Tabor and Gaskill are Christian; Pinnick is agnostic and gay.) Pinnick's strong bass-led grooves drove the songs, and his compelling, bluesy lead vocals energized the melodies, even as Tabor ripped into frequent guitar solos and Gaskill pounded the steady and occasionally odd rhythms. As a three-piece, the ensemble playing was stripped to basics, showcasing the three individuals' stellar craftsmanship. Highlights of the 14-song set included 1989's "Over My Head," where towards the end Pinnick sat on a monitor at the edge of the stage and listened to the audience sing along, the set closer of "We Were Born to Be Loved," and the double encore of "Go Tell Somebody" and "Dogman." It was a strong performance by a first class rock band, yet the band's audience tonight was only slightly larger than when the band first performed at New York's Cat Club in the late 1980s.

Visit King's X at www.kingsxrocks.com.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Temples at Pier 84

James Edward Bagshaw
Singer-guitarist James Edward Bagshaw and bassist Thomas Edward James Walmsley had played in a band called the Moons in their native Kettering, England. They recorded new music in a home studio in 2012. The duo uploaded four self-produced tracks to YouTube under the name Temples and then enlisted local drummer Samuel Lloyd Toms and keyboard player Adam Smith in order to form a band. Temples released a self-produced debut album, Sun Structures, on February 5, 2014. Fellow British rockers Johnny Marr and Noel Gallagher noted Temples as the best new band in Britain, and Gallagher criticized British radio stations for Temples' relative lack of airplay.

Temples closed the free outdoor River Rocks 2014 summer concert season at Pier 84 tonight. The four musicians came on stage wearing hairstyles and wardrobe similar to psychedelic pop stars from the mid-1960s, and the music closely resembled that sound as well. Using special effects on synthesizer and guitar, the band opened with the title track of the Sun Structures album, with Bagshaw singing light melodies and short lead guitar blasts between verses, building up to a lengthier solo towards the end of the song. And so it went for the rest of the 65-minute set (eight songs from the album plus two non-album B-sides) -- retro melodies and guitar sounds at the front of the band's experimental-prog-noise space jams. Temples did not simply copy a sound, however; Temples successfully introduced imaginative layers of freshness to a vintage sound. Temples' set was as picturesque as the Hudson River skyline behind the stage.

Temples will perform at Irving Plaza on October 27. In the meantime, visit Temples at www.templestheband.com.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Hatters at the Bowery Ballroom

Adam "Tree Adams" Hirsh and Adam Evans
While attending university in 1988 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Adam “Tree Adams” Hirsh (vocals, guitar), Adam Evans (guitar), Billy Jay Stein (keyboards), Jon Kaplan (bass), Tom Kaelin (drums) and Bill Rives (drums) formed a jam band called the Mad Hatters. The band, later renamed the Hatters, grew a following in New York's jam band scene, recorded three albums, and then toured the country as part of the jam band circuit. The band split in 1996.

Thanks to fan encouragement on social media, the Hatters reunited tonight at the Bowery Ballroom to perform live for the first time in 18 years. After the band's demise, all six members remained in the music industry, so the chops remained sharp. Onstage, the Hatters blended energetic funk, bluesy Southern rock and extended Allman Brothers Band–like guitar and keyboard jamming like it was, well, 1996. Hirsh sang well, mostly on the bluesy side, but with a joking smile on "Potato Head Boyfriend." The band maintained a balance of sweet melodies and thick but gentle grooves, one element never getting in the way of the other as they shared the forefront. Interestingly, as the spotlight flowed from guitar solo to keyboard work, a good part of the audience shifted eye focus and kept the hips dancing to the feel-good music. At the end of the two-hour set, the band members soaked in the applause and thanked the fans, but never hinted as to whether or not the Hatters would ever play again.

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell at Damrosch Park

Country music purists Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell first met and began collaborating in 1974. Harris began recording many of the songs that Crowell wrote, and Crowell joined her backing musicians, the Hot Band, and toured with her for years before launching a solo career. Over the years, Harris recorded about 20 of Crowell's songs and sang backup on his debut album. They often spoke about recording a duet album. Nearly 40 years after those talks began, their duet album, Old Yellow Moon, was released in 2013 and won them Grammy and Americana Awards in 2014.

Fans overflowed even into neighboring spaces with no sight lines as Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell performed together tonight at a free outdoor concert in Damrosch Park, part of the Lincoln Center's Out-of-Doors AmericanaFest week. Harris sang lead on most of the songs, but Crowell sang many and harmonized alongside Harris on most of the other songs. The hidden star of the night, however, was their guitarist, Jedd Hughes, who lit up the opening song, "Return of the Grievous Angel," with the first of many fluid rockabilly leads throughout the evening. The Harris and Crowell shimmery harmonies became more evident in the second song, "Wheels," a country highway tune, and were plentiful thereafter. The rest of the 17-song set proved that Crowell is a gem of a writer (although not all songs were written by him) and Harris is a master stylist, as they interpreted lilting hard-luck tales as in "Love Hurts", slow country waltzes including "Old Yellow Moon" and country stompers like "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues." Harris added personality to the show by reminiscing about how she was a "horrible waitress" in New York and performed her first gigs on a New York stage at Gerde's Folk City and later with Gram Parsons at Max's Kansas City. The evening was a delight; hopefully it will not take 40 years to regroup the sterling pair of Harris and Crowell in a duet set.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Offspring at Terminal 5

After hearing a T.S.O.L. album at a party, and following a riot at a 1984 Social Distortion show, guitarist/vocalist Bryan "Dexter" Holland (who was a drummer at the time) and bassist Greg Kriesel started playing music together in a garage in Cypress, California. School janitor Kevin "Noodles" Wasserman (formerly of Clowns of Death) joined as a second guitarist in 1985, allegedly because he was old enough to purchase alcohol for the other members, who were under the legal drinking age. The band initially was called Manic Subsidal, changing to the Offspring in 1986. The Offspring helped revive punk rock in the 1990s and brought this newly-polished adaption into the pop mainstream, selling over 40 million records worldwide and becoming one of the best-selling punk rock bands of all time. Since 2007, the Offspring has Pete Parada on drums. The Offspring's ninth studio album, Days Go By, was released in 2012.

Celebrating 30 years as a band and the 20th anniversary of the multi-platinum Smash album, the Offspring is presently headlining the Summer Nationals Tour, featuring fellow punk-rockers Bad Religion, Pennywise and the Vandals. At Terminal 5 tonight, the first of a two-night engagement at the large venue, the Offspring performed the entire Smash album, then played later singles and fan favorites, including "All I Want", "Why Don't You Get a Job?", "The Kids Aren't Alright"  and "Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)." (Yeah, they actually played that one.) The Offspring's songs were frequently about personal relationships or sarcastic commentaries on the degradation of politics and society, often chorused with "whoas", "heys", or "yeahs." Although the Offspring has been reported to have been in the studio working on new material, tonight's set was all about the past. It was fast, clean and slick, enjoyable for the masses, and yet very much unlike what angry, raw punk music was originally designed to be.

Visit the Offspring at www.offspring.com.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Boris at the Bowery Ballroom

The Japanese experimental metal band Boris took its name from a song on the Melvins' Bullhead album. Although relatively unknown in its native land, the sludge/doom rock trio has a cult following in the United States that has followed the band through about 20 very different sounding conceptual projects since 1996. Boris' debut album, for instance, was one 65-minute feedback-heavy drone exploration, ultimately falling between psychedelic rock and heavy metal. The musicians in Boris go by singular names; drummer-vocalist Atsuo, bassist-guitarist-vocalist Takeshi, and guitarist-vocalist Wata.

During set-up at the Bowery Ballroom tonight, roadie's placed a tray of foot pedals around Takeshi's microphone, far more distortion devices than the average bassist would use. The crew then placed a larger tray of devices in front of Wata's microphone, and then added more pedals to the left and right. It is no wonder she hardly moved, as she was surrounded on three sides by foot pedals. Once the band came on, Boris' music was about as bizarre as rock can get. Combining tidal waves of heavy metal riffs with shoe-gaze minimalism, the band triggered an often sparse, loud and hypnotic soundscape. The rhythms were sometimes in odd time signatures, and would move from gentle ambience to the more frequent head-banging industrial-sounding eruptions. The soft vocals were largely insignificant, but the adventurous musical collaborations were arresting, particularly when led by Wata's slow, grinding guitar lines. Few psychedelic doom metal bands are as daringly uncompromising as Boris in concert.

Visit Boris at www.borisheavyrocks.com.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Supersuckers at the Gramercy Theatre

Supersuckers was formed in 1988 by high-school friends in Tucson, Arizona. Originally known as The Black Supersuckers (the name inspired by a pornographic novel), the band played the local music club circuit for about a year. Exhausting the circuit, the band relocated to Seattle, Washington, where the local grunge scene was starting to explode globally, and shortened its moniker. After establishing itself as the self-proclaimed "Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World," the band also recorded country music and played country shows under various names, including the Supersuckers. In 2009, the band officially announced a hiatus, after which vocalist/bassist/co-founder Eddie Spaghetti recorded and toured under his own name. Supersuckers regrouped in 2011 and in 2014 released a new album, Get the Hell. Presently, Supersuckers is comprised of Spaghetti (born Edward Carlyle Daly III) on lead vocals and bass, Dan "Thunder" Bolton and "Metal" Marty Chandler on guitars, and "Captain" Christopher "Chango" Von Streicher on drums.

Headlining tonight at the Gramercy Theatre, Supersuckers walked onstage with guitars and a bass that looked like they were made of gold lamé, the shimmering choice fabric of 1950s rock and rollers. The four musicians launched into a high-octane set that reflected the band's 25 years of pedal-to-the-metal roar. The band's standard party-all-the-time lyrics and Spaghetti's rough, snarling vocals often were buried in the mix, but that hardly mattered; the quartet rocked ferociously, and the sonic barrage of loud guitar-heavy punk-fueled rock and roll anthems never relented. Firmly rooted in straight ahead rock and roll, the band played at two speeds, fast and faster. Even Motorhead would have a task keeping up with these guys.

Visit Supersuckers at www.supersuckers.com.

Ten Ton Mojo at the Gramercy Theatre

Percolating under the more visible indie scene in New York is a blues rock undercurrent led by the Dirty Pearls, Killcode, Thornes and a dozen or so other bands. Ten Ton Mojo is among the leaders of this revival, thoroughly playing out the local club circuit since 2010 -- is there any club yet that the band has not played? Ten Ton Mojo is comprised of vocalist Ernie Papp, guitarists Scott Lano and Gabe Mera, new bassist Stan Esposito and drummer Paul Kane. The band has recorded one album, Ten Ton Mojo.

Opening for the Supersuckers tonight at the Gramercy Theatre, Ten Ton Mojo was ready to win new fans with an old sound. The tall and barefoot Papp brought his Alabama roots to the forefront, singing soulfully and gracefully while Lano and Mera traded gritty southern-tinged guitar solos. Some of the songs leaned towards a heart-pumping head-banging metal, but most of the set was spun on hard and dirty classic-rock-sounding swagger. Ten Ton Mojo deserves a salute for swinging the pendulum back to the sound of early FM radio.

Visit Ten Ton Mojo at www.tentonmojo.com.