Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Aloe Blacc at Santos Party House

Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III, better known by his stage name Aloe Blacc, was born in 1979 to Panamanian immigrant parents in suburban Orange County, California. Growing up in Laguna Hills, he turned to music with a rented trumpet in third grade, later learning to play guitar and piano. In 1995, Blacc formed Emanon —"no name" backwards—the name inspired by the title of a Dizzy Gillespie song. Emanon released three hip hop albums combining break-beat loops and jazz samples. Blacc also toured and recorded with the members of the hip hop collective Lootpack and worked with the French jazz ensemble Jazz Liberatorz, among other collaborators. Blacc switched from rap to singing, launched his career as a solo artist in 2003 and released his first solo album in 2006. His profile increased in 2013 when "I Need a Dollar" from his second solo album became the theme song to the HBO series How To Make It in America. Blacc's voice also was featured on Avicii's international dance hit, "Wake Me Up." Blacc's most recent album, 2014's Lift Your Spirit, featured the hit "The Man."

At Santos Party House tonight, Blacc sang a silky and pleasantly grooving mix of old-school funk and soul with a light pop sway. While many of the lyrics revealed Blacc's social consciousness, the songs were delivered in smooth pop packages. There was no hint of cynicism or anger in the lyrics, but rather an attempt to preach the positive. Backed by a soul band that powered the songs with guitar frills, keyboard rolls and horn blasts, Blacc's smile encouraged others to grin as well.

Visit Aloe Blacc at www.aloeblacc.com.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Augustines at the Bowery Ballroom

Augustines concluded the show unplugged
on the sidewalk outside the venue
After the breakup of their former band, Pela, in August 2009, vocalist/guitarist Billy McCarthy and multi-instrumentalist Eric Sanderson formed Augustines, originally based in Brooklyn, New York, and now in Seattle, Washington. The band derived its name from the month of August, as both McCarthy and Sanderson were born in that month. Other bands had the same or similar names, so McCarthy and Sanderson changed the moniker to We Are Augustines before the release of their first album in 2011, but returned to Augustines in August 2013. With the addition of drummer Rob Allen, the band became a trio. The band's self-titled second album was released on February 4, 2014.

Augustines returned home to New York for a headlining show at the Bowery Ballroom tonight. With a series of songs that started with a crescendo and built higher, Augustines brought the energy of Bruce Springsteen and U2 to pendulum-like melodies and story-lyrics that sometimes sounded like they originated as sea shanties. After the opening song, "Headlong into the Abyss," McCarthy told the audience, "It’s good to be home. We’re going the distance." From then on, it became a house party, as McCarthy gave shout-outs to friends in the audience. A few songs in, after "Cruel City," McCarthy offered an apology: "I might say some bad things about this town in the songs, but I got love for you all." McCarthy sang with a husky yet yearning voice and Sanderson filled out the chiming sound on keyboards, synthesizers and bass with Allen forcing the adrenalin-fueled rhythm on drums. The songs could be so intense that the audience's response with chants of "whoa-whoa" felt like a release. The band concluded the two-hour show unplugged in the audience and then several more songs on the Delancey Street sidewalk next door to the ballroom.

Visit Augustines at www.weareaugustines.com.

The Bots at the Bowery Ballroom

Vocalist/guitarist Mikaiah Lei, 20, and his younger brother, drummer Anaiah Lei, 17, started playing music together as the Bots when they were 12 and nine. Originally based out of Los Angeles, California, now living in London, England, the bi-racial Black Asian duo has completed two Vans Warped tours, two Afropunk Festival tours, one Coachella festival and several European festivals in addition to its own tours. The band's fourth album, Pink Palms, will be released on October 14.

Opening for Augustines at the Bowery Ballroom tonight, the Bots received respect with its dynamic, soulful, raw garage-punk set. The low-fi guitar/drums duo inevitably compared to the White Stripes and the Black Keys, but the sound was distinct enough to not become the Gray Keystripes. Jumping around the stage while playing fierce guitar leads and chords, Mikaiah found his way to the microphone, closed his eyes to sing a few bars, then returned to the hopping and strumming. Anaiah kept a steady beat while keeping an eye on his animated older brother. These were hefty jams sparked by grimey blasts of punky, rocking riffs that connected into songs. For all their youth, the Bots played an impressively innovative set.

Visit the Bots at www.thebotsband.com.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Needtobreathe at the Best Buy Theater

Bear Rinehart
William Stanley "Bear" Rinehart III was named after University of Alabama football coach Bear Bryant. While attending Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, William proved to be a standout wide receiver for the football team, winning the 2002 Banks McFadden trophy for South Carolina football player of the year. Meanwhile, he and his brother, Nathaniel Bryant "Bo" Rinehart, who were raised in their father's church in Possum Kingdom, South Carolina, and later moved to Seneca, formed a band and started performing concerts at the school. After graduation, football faded and music became their joint passion. As Needtobreathe, the brother guitarists, drummer Joe Stillwell and bassist Seth Bolt released independent albums recorded in Bolt's studio. Needtobreathe gained a Christian audience. The growing popularity nearly fell apart a year ago, however, due to the pressures of promoting the band. When Needtobreathe performed at the Bowery Ballroom a year ago, Stillwell was leaving the band and the two brothers needed separate dressing rooms in order to remain civil. Since then, healing took place and the band chronicled this experience in its fifth album, Rivers in the Wasteland, released on April 15, 2014.

Needtobreathe closed its Rivers in the Wasteland tour at the Best Buy Theater tonight on a stage that was given a western motif, including three teepees, but also was emblazoned with many blinding LED back lights. The three members of Needtobreathe were backed by touring members Josh Lovelace on keyboards and Randall Harris on drums. Bear sang appealingly in a husky, earthy voice, often while strumming his guitar, while Bo played fluid lead guitar snatches that lit the band's Americana-styled songs on fire. Personable and vulnerable, Bear introduced one of the last songs, "Brother," performed acoustically, as the peacemaking moment after a bitter period of silence when he and Bo agreed that being brothers was more important than leading a successful band. Another highlight was when Needtobreathe invited onstage the opening band, the Oh Hellos, and together sang " Place Only You Can Go" and a cover of Ben E. King's "Stand by Me." Needtobreathe is on its way to becoming a mammoth band.

Visit Needtobreathe at www.needtobreathe.com.

Friday, September 26, 2014

G.B.H. at the Gramercy Theatre

Colin Abrahall
G.B.H. formed as a street punk band in 1978 in Birmingham, England. Upon learning that there was a metal band by that name, the punk band changed its name to Charged G.B.H. When the metal band split in 1984, the punk band resumed using the shorter name G.B.H. The initials originated from a term used in British courts, "grievous bodily harm," although music fans have argued that they stand for Great Britain Hardcore or Great Big Haircuts. G.B.H. released one 12" and two EPS in 1981, but when they went out of print, the songs were compiled as Leather, Bristles, No Survivors and Sick Boy. G.B.H.'s most recent album is 2010's Perfume and Piss. Presently, two original members, vocalist Colin Abrahall and guitarist Colin "Jock" Blyth, are joined by nearly-original bassist Ross Lomas and drummer Scott Preece.

G.B.H. stopped at the Gramercy Theatre tonight on its 35th anniversary tour to a rowdy, body-slamming audience. After opening with a fast, pounding two minutes of "Unique," a track from the veteran band's 2010 album, GBH performed the 15 songs of Leather, Bristles, No Survivors and Sick Boy in order. The set concluded with 10 more songs, most of which were from the band's 1980s albums (though "Kids Get Down" was also from 2010). While some of the band's mid-period albums flirted with metal, the band returned to its hardcore punk roots, with each song packing a powerful wallop within three minutes. Some songs featured a short guitar solo; most featured none. Abrahall, bleached blond spikes and wearing a black leather biker jacket (removed nine songs into the set), still looked the part, and the rallying three-chord songs he grunted were saturated with unfiltered punk energy. This was hardcore punk for purists.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Unlocking the Truth at the Studio at Webster Hall

Brooklyn-based vocalist/guitarist Malcolm Brickhouse, 13, and drummer Jarad Dawkins, 12, met in church when they were toddlers and became reacquainted as children at a birthday party in 2005. They were elementary school students by the time they began jamming in the Brickhouse family's basement in 2007, imitating the heavy metal sounds they heard in Japanese anime and wrestling videos. Sensing the need to add more sound, they taught their friend, Alec Atkins, now 13, to play bass in 2012. Two years ago, passersby catching Unlocking the Truth busking on Times Square and in Washington Square Park posted videos on social media and these videos went viral. Although the musicians are still in middle school, the heavy metal trio was offered a lucrative major label recording contract, and this past summer the band played Coachella, Vans Warp Tour and the Afropunk Festival. The band released a 2014 EP, Free As You Wanna Be.

Unlocking the Truth proved at the Studio at Webster Hall tonight that the band is not your typical boy band. These boys have not been groomed for success by an industry mogul. The band members performed original, genuine metal jams that recalled the early days of speed and thrash metal. They bounced wildly to the grooves onstage propelled by the music rather than in calculated, choreographed moves. Whereas in the past the band's set was comprised of rocket-fueled guitar-crazy instrumentals, Brickhouse sang enough chorus and verse to call the jams a song. By the end of the night, there was only one question to ask: how did musicians this young learn to play so well that they could embarrass veteran musicians five times their age?

Visit Unlocking the Truth at www.unlockingthetruthband.com.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

After the Burial at the Gramercy Theatre

Anthony Notarmaso
Guitarists Trent Hafdahl and Justin Lowe met in high school in Twin Cities, Minnesota. They founded After the Burial in 2004 and posted an ad on a local hardcore message board. Bassist Lerichard "Lee" Foral responded and joined the progressive metal and "djent" band. The band has experienced two vocalist changes and two drummer changes and presently includes vocalist Anthony Notarmaso and drummer Dan Carle. After the Burial's fourth and most recent album, Wolves Within, was released on December 17, 2013.

After the Burial built up a following with its first two albums, but slickened its music for a broader audience with its third album, turning off many of the band's original fans. Perhaps in regret, the band reissued its older music while working on its return-to-basics fourth album. At the Gramercy Theatre tonight, After the Burial succeeded in blending tracks from the four albums into one sound. Amid flashing back lights blinding the fans in front, the band launched its set with "A Wolf Amongst Ravens," the closing track from the new album. Between harsh vocal verses, Notarmaso calmly surveyed the audience, as the band played a down-tuned mid-tempo groove leading to a high-end guitar lead. This was brutal metallic djent. An older song, "Cursing Akhenaten," then revived the band's former breakdown-laden percussion-thrashing machine gun style. By the third song, "My Frailty," both the musicians and the audience were bouncing high to the rhythms. There were accessible melodic lines, djenty grooves, searing chugs, patchwork riffs, coarse breakdowns, breakneck guitar solos and gruff vocals. After the Burial were experts in cohesive metalcore and grindcore.

Visit After the Burial at www.aftertheburial.net.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Shovels & Rope at the Bowery Ballroom

Mississippi-born, Tennessee-bred Cary Ann Hearst and Texas-born, Colorado-raised Michael Trent were building solo careers  when they met in 2002 at a gig in Charleston, South Carolina. Hearst and Trent released the album Shovels & Rope in 2008 as a co-bill under their individual names, not intending to form a permanent musical duo. The name of the album came from murder ballads where some characters were hanging and others were burying. The two married in March 2009, but continued to perform and record separately. The couple finally committed to Shovels & Rope as a joint venture in 2012 and released a second collaboration, O' Be Joyful. The Americana Music Honors and Awards in 2013 named Shovels & Rope as Emerging Artist of the Year and named the semi-autobiographical "Birmingham" as song of the Year. Shovels & Rope released its third album, Swimmin' Time, on August 26, 2014.

Shovels & Rope brought a deadly southern charm to the Bowery Ballroom tonight: deadly in that the songs often described perilous times, and charming in that the sweet harmonies made danger sound like fun. The opening song, "Swimmin' Time," with its catchy refrain of "I can see it coming," forecasted a devastating flood or tsunami, for instance, while the two troubadours turned to face each other and looked longingly into each other's eyes. The couple frequently appeared to be lovey-dovey, but the blue collar story narratives were far from romantic. Drawing from solo albums as well as Shovels and Ropes albums, the lyrics were often snapshots of ordinary Americans having extraordinary challenges or experiences. While the two usually sang entire songs together, Hearst's brash and booming Dolly Parton-esque voice dominated, and Trent's harmonies just made the songs sound more interesting. Nathan Koci came out to play trumpet on a few songs, but otherwise Shovels & Rope remained a twosome. Throughout the evening, Hearst and Trent switched places, one person on guitar, the other with a foot on a bass drum pedal, a left hand hitting a snare drum and a right hand playing bass lines on a small keyboard. It was a two-person jamboree of traditional folk duet singing, bluegrass-styled lyrics, country rock melodies, Delta blues guitar licks and a healthy dose of rock and roll attitude, all rough around the edges.
Shovels & Rope had established itself as riveting ambassadors of knee-slapping, foot-stomping, minimalistic acoustic Americana music by the time they were joined on stage by Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius for a slowed down version of Nick Lowe's "(What's So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding?"

Visit Shovels & Rope at www.shovelsandrope.com.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Stiff Little Fingers at Irving Plaza

Jake Burns
As a schoolboy in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Jake Burns sang and played guitar in cover band called Highway Star, named after the Deep Purple song. The band switched to punk rock in 1977, at the height of the Troubles in the band's homeland, and renamed itself Stiff Little Fingers after a Vibrators song. Stiff Little Fingers recorded politically-charged songs and became a pivotal punk band, but split acrimoniously in 1982 after six years, four albums and many personnel changes. Burns revived the brand five years later and remains the sole original member, but early bassist Ali McMordie rejoined in 2006. The current band also consists of guitarist Ian McCallum and drummer Steve Grantley. Stiff Little Fingers released its 10th album, No Going Back, on August 11, 2014.

At Irving Plaza tonight, Stiff Little Fingers mixed the punk of its earlier years with the pop of its later years. The band excelled most with its earlier catalogue, however, like "Wasted Life", "Nobody’s Hero", "Barbed Wire Love", "Alternative Ulster" and a 10-minute version of "Johnny Was." The band also fared well with new songs "My Dark Places," a song originating from Burns' personal bout with depression, and "When We Were Young," which leaned in the direction of country music. Burns sang well, was often personable between songs (although he angrily told one constantly-shouting fan to pipe down while he spoke), and generally injected maturity into the 37-year-old band's performance.

Visit Stiff Little Fingers at www.slf.com.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sam Smith at the United Palace Theater

Sam Smith's parents were impressed when they heard their eight-year-old singing along to Whitney Houston’s "My Love Is Your Love" one morning on the drive to school in the rural county of Cambridgeshire, England. They placed their son in formal vocal training with a local jazz singer. Much of the boy's childhood and adolescence thereafter was spent in choir and theater rehearsals and performances. Six managers promised the teen-ager a stardom that did not happen. Smith moved to London at the age of 18, tended bar in Essex, and began writing songs. Smith sang with Disclosure and Naughty Boy, and released an EP in 2013. He scored big with his debut album, In the Lonely Hour, released in May 2014, featuring songs which he recently confessed originated in unrequited love: "a guy that I fell in love with last year, and he didn’t love me back." The album's third single "Stay with Me" was an international success.

The United Palace Theater opened in 1930 as a movie palace and became Reverend Ike's church in 1969. Its ornate interior design fit well with Sam Smith's class act tonight. The 22-year-old singer appeared on stage in a black suit and a white buttoned-down shirt and sang -- really sang. The approving audience seldom sat in the theater's red velvet-covered seats. Smith opened with the sultry, haunting, piano-driven "Nirvana" from his EP. He followed this with a song he originally sang for Disclosure, "Together." After that came Smith's specialty -- a lengthy series of emotionally-charged heartbreak songs, beginning with the trifecta of "Leave Your Lover", "I'm Not the Only One" and "I've Told You Now." Smith's luscious, soulful voice sounded best on these songs, as he flowed from alto to falsetto with ease. Sitting on a stool, Smith admitted his love of divas before covering Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know," transforming the song from dance tune to an emotive, melancholic pop song. This style was limiting, however, because for all his talent as a singer, the set was largely comprised of sappy songs that sounded like they were born in a pre-rock era. For encores, Smith began with a slow, acoustic version of "Latch," which he originally sang for Disclosure, then segued into "Make It To Me," which he described as a "massive mating call," and "Stay With Me," on which the audience sang back to him. Accompanied by backup singers and a violin quartet, Smith cornered the market on contemporary schmaltz.

Visit Sam Smith at www.samsmithworld.com.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ty Segall at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Ty Segall was raised by the surf in Laguna Beach, California, but settled in San Francisco after college. The gritty psychedelic-punk and garage-rock scene in San Francisco had a profound effect on the music he created with numerous local bands, including the Epsilons, the Traditional Fools and Sic Alps. Although he has contributed to many side projects, Segall was destined to be a prolific solo artist, however, and has released seven wide-spanning solo albums; Manipulator was released on August 26, 2014.
Tonight at the first of two headlining shows at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom, Ty Segall and his band (Charles Moonheart on guitar, Mikal Cronin on bass, Emily Rose Epstien on drums) played a spirited rock set that cultivated moshing from the beginning. A metal barricade initially sectioned off a photo pit and kept fans from the stage, but it quickly started to tip in under the pressing crowd. An increasing force of security guards tried to push the barricade erect, but after a few songs, Segall asked the audience to step back so the barricade could be safely removed. From then on, stage diving ruled; even Segall leapt into the crowd three times.
Segall opened with the lo-fi title track of his current album, snarling lyrics and playing crazy guitar leads to the band's heavy-bottom backup. Over the next 80 minutes, Segall performed 13 songs from the 17-track double CD before launching into nine older songs and a cover of Wand's "Fire on the Mountain." Contrary to the increasingly soft takes on his albums, Segall's live set was a high-energy guitar-powered assault. Segall recreated '60s guitar tones, played with reverb and feedback, making his fierce, ballsy fretwork a stomping counterpoint to his soft pop vocals and pop hooks. Segall did this with all the grace of a Laguna Beach surfer.
Visit Ty Segall at www.ty-segall.com.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Accept at the Gramercy Theatre

Mark Tornillo
The origins of heavy metal band Accept can be traced to a band called Band X in 1968 in Solingen, Germany. Numerous personnel changes plagued the band's professional aspirations until Accept performed at one of Germany's first rock festivals in 1976. Accept achieved commercial success with its fifth studio album, 1983's Balls to the Wall, and played an early role in the development of speed and thrash metal in the mid-1980s. Accept split in 1989, regrouped in 1993, split again in 1997, reunited briefly in 2005, and reunited again in 2009 with Mark Tornillo, formerly of New Jersey's T.T. Quick, replacing original vocalist Udo Dirkschneider. Accept presently consists of Tornillo , original members Wolf Hoffmann on lead guitar and Peter Baltes on bass, Herman Frank on rhythm guitar, and Stefan Schwarzmann on drums. This version of Accept released three albums, Blood of the Nations (2010), Stalingrad (2012) and Blind Rage (2014).

The refitted lineup debuted at the Gramercy Theatre in May 2010, Accept's first American concert in 15 years. Accept returned to the scene of the crime tonight for a one-off East Coast warm-up concert in preparation for a fall tour of Europe. The two-hour concert centered mostly on newer songs, but sprinkled in older songs as well. The band opened with "Stampede" from the new album, "Stalingrad" and "Hellfire" from the 2012 album, and "200 Years" from the current album. Only after establishing that the new songs rocked as hard as the vintage breed, the band revisited songs from the 1980s, including "Losers and Winners", "London Leatherboys" and "Starlight." All the while, Tornillo rasped and roared and worked the crowd, and Hoffman likewise played stunning guitar licks while playing up to the audience. Enormous riffs dominated, and repeated catch phrases left no doubt as to the titles of the anthem-like songs. Schwarzmann's familiar double bass drum attack launched "Fast As A Shark," which closed the proper set. For an encore, the now shirtless Tornillo led Accept in a suite of old songs, beginning with "Metal Heart," where cheerleader Hoffmann led an audience choir of "whoa whoas," followed by "Teutonic Terror" and "Balls to the Wall," the last one eliciting yet another singalong. Accept's European warm-up was a successful evening of classic pedal-to-the-metal.

Visit Accept at www.acceptworldwide.com.

Raven at the Gramercy Theatre

John Gallagher & Mark Gallagher
Two brothers, vocalist/bassist John Gallagher and guitarist Mark Gallagher, and drummer Paul Bowden formed Raven in 1974 in Newcastle, England. Rooted in British hard rock and progressive rock, the power trio became part of the burgeoning New Wave of British Heavy Metal and began to develop into what would become speed, thrash and power metal. Raven relocated to New York and had a minor hit with "On and On" in 1985. Virginian Joe Hasselvander (ex-Pentagram) joined the Gallagher brothers as drummer in late 1987, and the revamped trio continued recording and touring until 2001, when a wall collapsed on Mark, crushing his legs. Raven went on hiatus for nearly four years, from 2001 to 2004, while the guitarist rehabilitated. Raven resumed performing in 2004 with Mark in a wheelchair. Raven's 12th and most recent album is 2009's Walk Through Fire.

Raven returned to the New York stage tonight opening for Accept at the Gramercy Theatre. Raven opened with 1983's "Take Control" and continued with a set from the early 1980s, from 1981's "Rock Until You Drop" to 1986's "Speed of the Reflex." John Gallagher spoke extensively to the audience between songs, establishing Raven's credentials as longtime metal heads and engaging the audience to clap or move. He screeched the songs while playing a heavy bottom on his bass. Mark Gallagher filled out the songs with extended leads. Hasselvander kept the thick rhythm even when the Gallagher brothers stopped playing or rubbed their guitar and bass necks together for noise. Together, Raven was a sonic battering ram. With the scarcity of classic metal bands these days, the minor 40-year-old thrash band sounded pretty major.

Visit Raven at www.ravenlunatics.com.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Lorde at Pier 97

Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor, known by her stage name Lorde, began performing as a child in Auckland, New Zealand. At age 5, she followed her friend into a drama group and discovered a love of singing and acting. She began singing cover songs publicly at age 12, began writing songs at age 14, and performed her original songs publicly at age 15. Lorde chose her stage name because she was fascinated with "royals and aristocracy," but felt the name Lord was too masculine, so she added an "e" to make it more feminine. "Royals," a song from her debut The Love Club EP that mocked the glamorous lifestyle of the rich, became a number one song internationally in 2013 when she was 16 years old. The track won Best Pop Solo Performance and Song of the Year at the 2014 Grammy Awards. Lorde's debut album, Pure Heroine, released in September 2013, strengthened her public appeal. Time in 2013 listed the self-identified feminist among the most influential teenagers in the world, and Forbes in January 2014 placed Lorde on their "30 Under 30" list of young people "who are changing our world."

Earlier in her career, Lorde performed in New York music clubs, but at Pier 97 tonight, it appeared that Lorde's audience has grown increasingly younger, with many pre-teens in attendance. Lorde performed 15 songs, including covers of Kanye West's "Flashing Lights" and Bon Iver's "Heavenly Father." Backed by a synthesizer player and a drummer, the music was sparse, focusing attention on her alto and mezzo-soprano ranges. Beyond the bubble machines and confetti canons (shooting out little drawings of Lorde), there was very little spectacle. From the opening "Glory and Gore" to the closing "A World Alone," put on a low-key performance, singing sweet and sultry songs and responding to the rhythms with twitchy non-choreographed dances. Her floating dream-pop melodies were alluringly mystifying without ever booming beyond the electronic musicscape. Although still a teen-ager, Lorde showed that her art pop was made of mature substance.

Visit Lorde at www.lorde.co.nz.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bob Mould at the Bowery Ballroom

Guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Bob Mould was born in 1960 in Malone, New York, but attended college in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he formed Hüsker Dü in 1979. Hüsker Dü was a leading first-wave punk power trio, but broke up acrimoniously in 1988 over members' drug abuse, disputes over songwriting credits and musical direction, and the suicide of the band's manager. Mould launched a solo career in 1989,then formed the loud pop trio Sugar in 1992, releasing two albums before breaking up in 1995, and finally returned to solo projects in 1996. Relocating to New York City in the late 1990s, he took a detour into dance music and electronica, worked as a live dance club disc jockey, appeared in Bear Nation, a movie about gay culture, in 2010, and published his memoirs, See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody, in 2011. Mould's most recent solo album, Beauty & Ruin, was released on June 3, 2014.

The phrase "hüsker dü" in Danish means "do you remember?" Headlining the first of two nights at the Bowery Ballroom, Mould helped his audience remember much of his musical legacy. Leading yet another trio with bassist Jason Narducy and drummer Jon Wurster (of Superchunk), Mould opened his 23-song set with two nitro-powered Hüsker Dü songs, "Flip Your Wig" and "Hate Paper Doll" and a Sugar song, "Changes." Balding and white-bearded, and wearing black horn-rimmed glasses and a wrinkled button-down shirt, Mould did not look like an indie star, but the 53-year-old did not succumb to tame daddy-rock. He made smart use of his 1987 Lake Placid Blue Fender Stratocaster, ripping into wall-of-noise guitar licks as he darted across the stage, bounced in place and worked up a sweat throughout the set. Mould began his tour of solo songs with "Star Machine" and "The Descent" from the 2012 Silver Age album before introducing "I Don't Know You Anymore" from his current album. Mould overlooked his electronica-dance epoch so that his set consistently rocked hard and loud, with well-crafted melodies and hooks powered by sonic savagery. Finally, after more Hüsker Dü, Sugar and solo songs, Ryan Adams helped end the evening by joining Mould's band as a rhythm guitarist on a four-song encore of Hüsker Dü songs. Mould sang well, smiled a lot and seemed to enjoy himself and much as the audience enjoyed him.

Visit Bob Mould at www.bobmould.com.

Cymbals Eat Guitars at the Bowery Ballroom

Joseph D'Agostino
The year after graduating high school in New Jersey in 2006, guitarist Joseph D'Agostino was making music in Cymbals Eat Guitars. The name of the indie rock band came from a Lou Reed quote describing the sound of the Velvet Underground. Based out of Staten Island, New York, Cymbals Eat Guitars first gained buzz in 2009 with a self-released debut album Why There Are Mountains. Since 2009, Cymbals Eat Guitars consists of D'Agostino, bassist Matthew Whipple, keyboardist Brian Hamilton, and drummer Andrew Dole. Cymbals Eat Guitars released a third album, Lose, on August 26, 2014.

Opening for Bob Mould at the Bowery Ballroom tonight, Cymbals Eat Guitars combined a raw garage band sound with shoegaze and emo. A few slow-burn songs hosted a contemplative side of the band, others exhibited angst and loss, but most of the set was rocket-fueled riffing that was intentionally monotonous for climaxing tension-and-release effect, with D'Agostino frequently shouting and distorting his guitar leads with his whammy bar. While some songs sounded more accessible than others, Cymbals Eat Guitars was grounded in experimentation and noise.

Visit Cymbals Eat Guitars at www.cymbalseatguitars.com.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Buzzcocks at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Steve Diggle & Pete Shelley
British college student Howard Trafford posted a notice looking for musicians sharing a liking for The Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray." Fellow student Peter McNeish responded. Trafford renamed himself Howard Devoto, McNeish renamed himself Pete Shelley, and they recruited a series of drummers and bassists to form The Buzzcocks in 1975. Stabilized with bass guitarist Steve Diggle and drummer John Maher a year later, the Buzzcocks opened for The Sex Pistols in Manchester, England, and became among the leaders of the nascent British punk rock movement in 1976. Devoto left the band early on and Diggle joined Shelley as co-singer/songwriter/guitarist. After three successful albums, the Buzzcocks disbanded in 1981, but reunited several times beginning in 1989. Since 2008, the Buzzcocks consists of Shelley, Diggle, drummer Danny Farrant and bassist Chris Remington. The band's ninth studio album, The Way, was released in Great Britain in May 2014 but is not yet available in the United States.

At Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom tonight, the Buzzcocks stormed through 25 songs in 80 minutes. The set opened with "Boredom," a song from early in the band's career that announced punk's attitude through a musical minimalism of three high speed chords and a two-note guitar lead. Older songs "Fast Cars" and "I Don't Mind" and new songs "Keep on Believing" and "People Are Strange Machines" followed with very British-sounding pop  vocal lines backed by a fast and pounding rhythm section. While the set was comprised mostly of older songs, the new songs were crafted from the same fabric. A handful of songs featured extended guitar solos, including "Nothing Left," but most were verse-chorus-repeat powered by high-octane rapid-fire guitar riffs. The formula carried the band through to the encores of "Harmony In My Head", "Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)" and "Orgasm Addict." As one of the forefathers of the early punk rock scene, the Buzzcocks recreated a very authentic revival of a 35-year-old music revolution.

Visit the Buzzcocks at www.buzzcocks.com.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Twisted Sister at the Best Buy Theater

Dee Snider
In late December 1972, a glam band called Silver Star was trying to stabilize its lineup in order to become a New Jersey version of the New York Dolls. Manhattan resident John Segall joined and pushed to change the band's name. Two months later, the band became Twisted Sister, and Segall changed his name first to Johnny Heartbreaker and later to Jay Jay French. The band adopted costumes and began performing in bigger and bigger New Jersey and Long Island clubs, while the band's line-up changed countless times. By 1976, Twisted Sister moved in a heavier direction, performing hard rock cover songs, and hired vocalist Danny Snider (Dee Snider). The band's line-up stabilized in the 1980s with Snider, French, guitarist Eddie Ojeda, bassist Mark Mendoza and drummer A.J. Pero. Twisted Sister also evolved its feminized image into a more grotesque look, and began introducing original hard rock and heavy metal songs. After a decade of being rejected by every record company, Twisted Sister finally broke internationally with "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock." After more personnel changes, Twisted Sister disbanded in January 1988, but the members' solo projects were unsuccessful. Twisted Sister reunited after the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 at a benefit concert for the NYPD and FDNY Widows and Orphans Fund; the band's classic line-up now reunites annually to perform at European rock festivals. The band officially stopped wearing make-up and costumes in 2009.

Twisted Sister ended its brief 2014 tour tonight at the Best Buy Theater with a benefit concert for the Pinkburst Project for Uveitis Research in association with the Ocular Immunology and Uveitis Foundation. Jay Jay French's daughter, Samantha, has uveitis. Before Twisted Sister’s set, French, his daughter, and her doctor, Dr. Stephen Foster, thanked the audience and spoke about the treatable disease. "That Metal Show" co-host Don Jamieson hosted the benefit concert, and opening acts Adrenaline Mob and Killcode also donated their time and talent for the cause.  A.J. Pero played drums for both Twisted Sister and Adrenaline Mob tonight.

As the lights dimmed, the audience sang along to AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)," a fitting theme for Twisted Sister. Twisted Sister re-emphasized the theme with two rousing openers, "Stay Hungry" and "The Kids Are Back." With long curly hair falling onto his "Stop Talking Selfies" t-shirt, gripping his hot pink microphone stand, Snider moved non-stop, welcoming the audience to the band's long-awaited homecoming concert. Besides the charity, the band had one center of gravity, identified clearly through the anthemic "You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll", "I Believe in Rock 'n' Roll", "I Wanna Rock" and a cover of the Rolling Stones' "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)." All the musicians played well, but Snider and his gravelly voice commanded the attention, with so much banter that the last two songs listed on the set list had to be cut due to a curfew, "Come Out and Play" and "Tear It Loose." A seemingly semi-retired Twisted Sister has not released an album since 2006, but the concert tonight proved that when the rare concert appearance comes along, the fire still burns.

Visit Twisted Sister at www.twistedsister.com.

Adrenaline Mob at the Best Buy Theater

Mike Orlando & Russell Allen
Adrenaline Mob is a heavy metal supergroup formed in 2011 by vocalist Russell Allen (Symphony X), guitarist Mike Orlando and drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater). With the addition of bassist Paul Di Leo (Fozzy), and rhythm guitarist Rich Ward (Stuck Mojo/Fozzy), Adrenaline Mob performed its first live performance in New York in 2011. Ward and Di Leo left in 2012 and Portnoy left in 2013, all due to scheduling conflicts with their other commitments. Adrenaline Mob is presently Allen, Orlando, bassist Erik Leonhardt and drummer A. J. Pero of Twisted Sister. The band's second album, Men of Honor, was released on February 18, 2014.

Adrenaline Mob was among the artists performing a fundraiser concert tonight at the Best Buy Theater for the Pinkburst Project for Uveitis Research, in association with the Ocular Immunology and Uveitis Foundation. Adrenaline Mob opened with some fierce rhythms and guitar licks before Allen came on stage wearing a black leather sports jacket, fedora and sunglasses. He worked the audience for a few moments and then began singing "The Mob Is Back," setting the tone for a raucous evening of hard hitting rock and roll. In time, he removed his hat and shades, as his singing grew grittier, gruffer and huskier, matching the muscular ruggedness of the ripping music. As the sole guitarist, Orlando was about settling the crunch riffs and then extending flashy guitar licks on "Dearly Departed", "Hit the Wall", "Let It Go" and "Come On Get Up" and other tunes. Towards the end of the set, Jeff Scott Soto, the lead singer of Talisman from 1990 to 2007 and the vocalist on Yngwie Malmsteen's first two albums, came onstage with the band to help sing a cover of the Black Sabbath's "The Mob Rules." Adrenaline Mob's performance was as dynamic as it was incendiary.

Visit Adrenaline Mob at www.adrenalinemob.com.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sonata Arctica at Stage 48

Elias Viljanen, Pasi Kauppinen, Tony Kakko
Sonata Arctica began in 1995 as a hard rock band named Tricky Beans in the forested northern hamlet of Kemi, Finland (population: 23,000). Tricky Beans released three demos. By 1997, the band gravitated towards power metal, renamed itself Tricky Means and released a fourth demo. The demo consisted of fast, melodic metal with heavy keyboards and clean high vocals. Finally the band renamed itself Sonata Arctica upon signing a record contract in 1999: "sonata" for the music and "arctica" for their home (northern Finland). This latest transformation emphasized keyboard melodies and an easily distinguishable rhythm line maintained both by the bass and the guitar. Sonata Arctica's current line-up consists of singer, keyboardist and songwriter Tony Kakko, guitarist Elias Viljanen, bass guitarist Pasi Kauppinen, keyboardist and keytarist Henrik Klingenberg, and drummer Tommy Portimo. Portimo is the only remaining member from the original band, although Kakko has been in since 1996. Sonata Arctica has eight albums; the most recent, Pariah's Child, was released on March 28, 2014. Sonata Arctica also re-recorded its debut Ecliptica album as Ecliptica - Revisited (15th Anniversary Edition), scheduled for imminent release.

Tonight at Stage 48, Sonata Arctica showed a 21st century audience what 20th century metal was like. Radio-friendly melodic songs featured strong, high, sometimes shrilling vocals and clean guitar leads. Some songs offered a wisp of symphonic metal or progressive arrangements, and the set included several power ballads. In today's metal world of growling vocals, breakdowns and distorted guitar sounds, Sonata Arctica might be considered soft metal, but this was the state of heavy metal in the days before thrash and death metal. While this more traditional brand of heavy metal has not dominated the market since the 1980s, Sonata Arctica's small audience seemed to bring twice the enthusiasm of a larger audience. Sonata Arctica commanded the sound perfectly. It would have been virtually impossible to hear the difference between Sonata Arctica and a veteran classic-metal arena band.

Visit Sonata Arctica at www.sonataarctica.info.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Ada Pasternak at the Bitter End

Ada Pasternak was born in Moscow and in 1996, at the age of six, immigrated with her family to Fairfield, Connecticut. Pasternak began studying violin with her aunt, New York Philharmonic violinist Asya Meshberg, and continued her studies with Albert Markov at the Manhattan School of Music. Pasternak won the grand prize in her first music competition at age 11. She then won other competitions and awards, including the Concerto Competition at the Manhattan School of Music and the Greater Bridgeport Symphony's Carlson Horn Competition. By age 16, however, Pasternak was diagnosed with tendonitis and thought she would never play music again. At the urging of a guidance counselor, she applied to the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Pasternak performed at her audition and was awarded a Presidential Scholarship -- a full ride. Pasternak began writing songs, moved to Brooklyn and has released a six-song EP entitled Ada.

Tonight at the Bitter End, Pasternak performed her original songs plus a violin-led rendition of Sam Smith's "Stay with Me." She fashioned herself in the pop singer/songwriter mode, borrowing a bit from light jazz and classical music, and bordering on cabaret. The frequent use of violin, both bowing and picking, demonstrated her virtuosity, and her backing quartet's occasional quirky arrangement was curious. Break-ups seemed to be her major source of lyricism; rather than articulate vulnerability or hurt, however, her lyrics more often seemed to tell a worthless former suitor to disappear. Pasternak is petite but she is tough.

Pasternak performs again at the Bitter End on September 10 & 17. Accompanying Pasternak in all performances are Pier Luigi Salami on piano, Andre Vasconcelos on guitar, Jude Cuchifrito Kimon bass and David Cornejo Alegre on the drums.