Friday, October 31, 2014

The Damned at Irving Plaza

Captain Sensible & Dave Vanian
The Damned formed at the beginnings of the punk rock movement in 1976 in London, England, debuted onstage supporting the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club, and in 1977 became the first British punk band to tour the United States. By 1978, the band had its first of many break-ups, personnel changes and farewell tours. Since 2004, the band's line-up has consisted of original members vocalist Dave Vanian (David Letts) and guitarist Captain Sensible (Raymond Burns), plus keyboardist Monty Oxymoron, drummer Pinch (Andrew Pinching) and bassist Stu West. The Damned's 10th and most recent album is 2008's So, Who's Paranoid?

The Damned has a tendency to tour around Halloween (the band last headlined Irving Plaza in October 2011, part of its 35th anniversary tour), and it seems appropriate. Tonight, Vanian appeared gothic with a long black coat and white and grey make-up exaggerating his facial lines, Sensible wearing a red beret and a white sports jacket emblazoned with large black letters (spelling out "old age punk" and profanities), and West dressed in a black skin-tight fetish outfit. Songs like "13th Floor Vendetta," performed under dim blue lights, and Vanian's Jim Morrison-style crooning on "Curtain Call" had a spooky, ominous feel. The set was based out of an old punk sound, but taken in a goth direction for a hard to define and fairly unique sound. With no new songs to introduce, the Damned played a predictable set including "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", "Machine Gun Etiquette", "I Just Can't Be Happy Today", "Wait for the Blackout", "Smash It Up", "Neat Neat Neat" and other songs that had kept the band going through its earlier, creative period. It did seem like a retro show, but it was energetic, wild and colorful, all adding to the Halloween fun.

Visit the Damned at www.officialdamned.com.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Misfits at Irving Plaza

Jerry Only
Glenn Danzig formed the Misfits in 1977 in Lodi, New Jersey, early in the punk rock movement. Early on, he recruited 18-year-old bassist Gerard Caiafa, Jr., who had just received his first bass as a Christmas present. Caiafa changed his name to Jerry Only, and as the band developed its horror punk identity with white and black face makeup and Only established his "devilock" hairdo, the other members of the line-up changed frequently. The Misfits were not especially well known by the time of the band's first breakup in 1983, but achieved more fame retrospectively after Danzig successfully moved on to harder rock bands Samhain and Danzig. Only won the Misfits name from Danzig in a court battle and maintained the brand through numerous personnel changes from 1995 until another breakup in 2000. Only formed a new band and became the lead vocalist in 2001. The Misfits most recent album is 2013's Dead Alive! The band's current lineup consists of Only on bass, Dez Cadena (of Black Flag) on guitar, Eric "Chupacabra" Arce (of Murphy's Law) on drums, and the most recent addition, Only's son, Jerry, Jr., on second guitar.

The spirit of the original Misfits was kept alive at Irving Plaza tonight. Although this was not the line-up that mined the horror-punk niche, the performance was more about sustaining an iconic legacy than about breaking new ground. The music was a tempest, thunderous and lightning fast, with catchy melodies that softened the blow. The songs were short, and often featured no lead guitar or change in chord patterns. Particularly effective this close to Halloween, Only sang from a microphone stand adorned with a human skeleton, and the musicians' macabre make-up helped fuel a larger-than-life punk-rock party. The night was all for fun and not to be studied seriously. Afterwards, the two Jerrys stayed in the photo pit for quite a while, meeting the fans, posing for photographs and autographing admission tickets.

Visit the Misfits at www.misfits.com.

Jasta at Irving Plaza

Jamey Jasta
Heavy metal vocalist Jamey Jasta (born James Shanahan) is the lead vocalist of the metalcore band Hatebreed, the sludge metal band Kingdom of Sorrow, and the hardcore punk band Icepick. He released a solo album entitled Jasta in 2011. He also owns Stillborn Records, a hardcore and metal-based record label in his native West Haven, Connecticut, and a rock themed apparel line called Hatewear. Jasta was the host for MTV's Headbanger's Ball from 2003-2007, and this summer launched his newest venture, interviewing metal and punk icons on a weekly podcast called The Jasta Show.

Jasta recruited a pickup band and appeared as the opening act for the Misfits at Irving Plaza tonight. The bottom line -- the four-piece band played crunching metal well, but Jasta sang poorly. He sounded better when he growled. Nevertheless, as a front man, he entertained and rallied the crowd with his spunky attitude, while the band ripped into heavy rock riffs. The industrial and rapcore influenced "Mourn the Illusion" from his solo album was possibly the most interesting song of the set.

Visit Jasta at www.jameyjasta.com

Monday, October 27, 2014

Temples at Irving Plaza

James Edward Bagshaw
Psychedelic rock band Temples began as a home recording experiment in 2012 by singer-guitarist James Edward Bagshaw with his friend, bassist Tom Warmsley, both from Kettering, England. The duo previously worked together in the Moons. The duo uploaded four self-produced tracks to YouTube to encourging response. Forced to form a band around their tracks, Bagshaw and Walmsley enlisted Kettering drummer Samuel Lloyd Toms and keyboard player Adam Smith and started rehearsing as a band. The four bonded over the mystical writing of Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary, the films of Kenneth Anger, and the music of the Byrds. Temples' debut album, Sun Structures, was released in February 2014.

Returning to New York for a headlining show at Irving Plaza, Temples looked like a 1960s West Coast psychedelic band, and the music fit the image. The quartet performed nine songs from its sole album plus two older songs, all referencing the dreamy, droning grooves and extended guitar leads of early stoner rock. Temples is only two years old, but the retro-futuristic musicians mastered a mix of old and new sounds. The vocals were light, the hard, bouncy rhythms alternated between gritty, glam, and folky, and the prominent guitar and keyboard-fueled sound was all imaginative. Backed by a primitive light show on a screen behind them, the concert was a romp through time and mind space.

Visit Temples at www.templestheband.com.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

CMJ Music Marathon 2014

Hundreds of music artists performed at many venues in Manhattan as part of the CMJ Music Marathon 2014 on October 21-25. These are a few of the highlights.

Eddie & the Hot Rods at the Bowery Electric
Eddie and the Hot Rods formed in 1975 in Essex, England, and came up in the burgeoning punk scene, although the band was more of a pop and rock and roll band. The band split up in 1981, but has reformed several times, with singer Barrie Masters as the only constant member. Masters still sounds great, and the band's traditional rock and roll sound was timeless.

Daddy Long Legs at the Bowery Electric
Formed in St. Louis, Missouri, and now based in Brooklyn, New York, Daddy Long Legs belted speedy, primal-sounding blues harmonica and guitar licks like the three musicians were deep in the Delta.

The Bloodshots at the Bowery Electric
Formed in 2012, the Bloodshots is a three-piece rockabilly band based in Brooklyn, New York. Little Lesley steals the show singing like a sassy country singer and slapping her big bass.

Christian McNeill & Sea Monsters at the Bowery Electric
Christian McNeill & Sea Monsters has made a name for itself as a music collective in Boston, Massachusetts. The band featured strong, soulful singing backed by a funk-jazz groove and blaring horns.

Caveman at the Bowery Hotel
From Brooklyn, New York, Caveman performed a dreamy wash of synth-and-percussion-based songs, often to a dance beat.

Byzantine at the Studio at Webster Hall
Byzantine is a heavy metal band from Charleston, West Virginia that formed in 2000, split in 2008, and reunited in 2010. Byzantine performed technical, aggressive and melodic metal that was refreshing in that it avoided excesses and stereotypes and instead just simply rocked.

Ryn Weaver at the Bowery Hotel
Born and raised in southern California, Ryn Weaver is a New York transplant whose soprano vocals injected feminine angst into light three-minute pop songs.

Rene Lopez at the Slipper Room
One of the pleasant surprises of CMJ was discovering New York musician Rene Lopez and his Latin soul band. Complete with horn and violin, the band's full electro-funk sound prompted lots of hip swaying.

The KickDrums at Arlene's Grocery
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, now based in Brooklyn, New York, Alex Fitts is The KickDrums. He records as a one man band but performs live with additional musicians. He fused electronic with indie rock and trip-hop.

Popstrangers at the Mercury Lounge
From Auckland, New Zealand, now based out of London, England, Popstrangers combined light pop singing with a jangly guitar sound and booming rhythm section.

Dirty Lungs at the Lit Lounge
Based out of Birmingham, Alabama, the garage rock quartet known as the Dirty Lungs included tasty influences from surf rock and 1960s psychedelic music.

Little Daylight at the Studio at Webster Hall
Little Daylight formed in 2012 and is based in Brooklyn, New York. The band played a set of electro pop songs with danceable hooks.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Arch Enemy at the Best Buy Theater

Alissa White-Gluz
Raised in Halmstad, Sweden, Michael Amott began playing guitar as a young teenager, copying hardcore punk, thrash/speed metal and classic metal from his record collection. He helped form the death metal band Carnage in 1988 but after one album and constant lineup changes, Carnage split in 1990. He then played in Carcass from 1990 to 1993, leaving to form a classic rock influenced band, Spiritual Beggars. Still heavily into extreme metal, Amott formed a melodic death metal supergroup, Arch Enemy, as a side project in 1996. Arch Enemy was comprised of musicians from Armageddon, Carcass, Carnage, Eucharist, Mercyful Fate, and Spiritual Beggars. Arch Enemy became Amott's most successful band, releasing its 10th studio album, War Eternal, in June 2014. Arch Enemy's current line-up consists of Amott on guitars, Daniel Erlandsson on drums, Sharlee D'Angelo on bass, Nick Cordle on guitar, and Alissa White-Gluz on vocals.

At the Best Buy Theater tonight, Arch Enemy introduced its new lead singer with a catalog of mostly older songs. In near total darkness, a recorded symphonic instrumental from the newest album, "Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude in F minor)," a Latin phrase which translates as "Time Heals Nothing," played through the sound system. Strobe lights flickered from the stage floor, and the band ripped into 2001's "Enemy Within." The new petite singer stood on a raised platform, crouched into her microphone, growled a few lyrics and spun her long blue hair. Although White-Gluz has been in Arch Enemy for less than six months, she took a commanding stand. While her roaring growl recalled death metal, the band often fluctuated between classic metal and thrash metal sounds, making for an engaging mix of brutal crush and melodic flow. The songs were often grounded in fist-pumping rhythms, but also infused an impressive range of technicality, sometimes approaching symphonic measures. It was perhaps too rough for traditional metal fans, but provided them with a cross-able bridge to more extreme metal.

Visit Arch Enemy at www.archenemy.net.

Kreator at the Best Buy Theater

Millie Petrozza
Kreator originally formed as Tyrant in 1982 in Essen, Germany, composing music similar to German thrash metal compatriots Destruction, Sodom and Tankard. A name change to Tormentor in 1984 yielded two demos, but as there were other bands using that name, the band became Kreator in 1985. By this time, the band performed a speed metal style with Venom influences. As heavy metal fell in popularity in the 1990s, Kreator ventured into death metal, industrial metal and gothic metal from 1992 to 1999 before returning to thrash. Kreator's 13th and most recent studio album, Phantom Antichrist, was released in 2012. Kreator presently consists of original members Miland "Mille" Petrozza  on vocals and guitar and Jürgen "Ventor" Reil  on drums, with Christian "Speesy" Giesler  on bass and Sami Yli-Sirniö on guitar.

Opening for Arch Enemy at the Best Buy Theater tonight, Kreator's set consisted mostly of songs from its two brightest periods, the thrash metal decades of the 1980s and the 2000s, along with three songs from the 2012 album. The set included the title tracks of the Endless Pain, Pleasure to Kill and Extreme Aggression albums early in the band's career, as well as songs from the later Violent Revolution, Enemy of God and Phantom Antichrist albums. The slicker 1990s MTV songs "Toxic Trace", "Betrayer", "When the Sun Burns Red" and "People of the Lie" were not heard. Kreator delivered a nonstop brutal concert with fast and furious heavy music. The problem was that although the band performed well and generated moshing and crowd surfing, much of what Kreator is by definition is cliché. The thrash was genuine and strong, but the violent and anti-Christian song titles and lyrics seemed to stagnate the band in its past. Perhaps due to its reversal of direction after the lack of success of its mid-period experimentation, the 32-year-old band seemed to be a prisoner of its own macabre identity. Meanwhile, the recurring fog, the blinding strobe lights into the audience and the dim red and blue lights backlit onto the musicians made it difficult to see more than silhouettes onstage, possibly decreasing audience connection.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Live at the Gramercy Theatre

Chris Shinn
The rock band that came to be known as Live initially formed for a middle-school talent show in York, Pennsylvania. The quartet remained together throughout high school, playing new wave covers under various band names. Under the new name Live, the band recorded a debut album, 1991's Mental Jewelry. Live achieved worldwide success with 1994's Throwing Copper album, which sold eight million copies in the United States and more than 20 million albums worldwide. Live's original lead singer Ed Kowalczyk left the band in 2009. The band returned from a nearly three-year hiatus in 2012, with Chris Shinn, formerly of Unified Theory, as the new lead singer. Live is composed presently of Shinn and three original members, guitarist Chad Taylor, bassist Patrick Dahlheimer  and drummer Chad Gracey. The band's first album featuring Shinn, The Turn, will be released on October 28, 2014.

At the Gramercy Theatre tonight, Live came on stage dressed in black but looking like they were hit with a bag of white flour. The band introduced four new songs, but the remaining 12 songs were all from the 1990s. Live rebooted its mega hits, including "Lightning Crashes", "I Alone", "All Over You", and "Lakini's Juice," all of which were pillars of the nineties. The songs fused sometimes spiritual lyrics with heart-tugging melodies and rocking arrangements. This is another decade, however, and except for their nostalgic value, the songs sounded tame, dated and entirely too predictable. New vocalist Chris Shinn was a good singer and show man, but even the new songs were formulaic with obvious build-ups and safe bridges and choruses. Live's last three albums with Kowalczyk bombed perhaps because the audience tired of corporate-sounding hard rock, and the new line-up failed to further these boundaries.

Visit Live at www.freaks4live.com.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Unearth at the Studio at Webster Hall

Trevor Phipps
Metalcore band Unearth formed in 1998 in Winthrop, Massachusetts. The band tried to recruit vocalist Trevor Phipps while he recovered from appendicitis, but he was reluctant to join. However, when Phipps showed up to a jam session for one of guitarist Ken Susi's side bands, Unearth was practicing instead. Phipps agreed to join after hearing the song "Shattered by the Sun." The band's sixth album, Watchers of Rule, is due for release on October 28, 2014. The band is presently comprised of Phipps, guitarists Buz McGrath and Ken Susi, bassist John “Slo” Maggard and drummer Nick Pierce.

Headlining the Studio at Webster Hall tonight, Unearth gave its fans a relentless hour of pure headbanging metalcore. The core of the fist-pumping music was rooted in harsh growling vocals, neck-breaking guitar riffs and fast drums, powered occasionally by either harmonic guitar lines or burly breakdowns for an aggression-filled combination of death metal and thrash metal. Unearth provided a non-stop barrage of hammers to the skull.

Spin Doctors at B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill

Chris Barron
A New York based band called Trucking Company changed personnel and then its name to Spin Doctors in 1988. Spin Doctors began playing jam band clubs like New York's Wetlands Preserve and hit commercially in 1992 and 1993 with "Two Princes" and "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong." Several personnel changes began in 1994. In 1999, singer Chris Barron lost his voice to a rare acute form of vocal cord paralysis that severely affected his ability to talk, let alone sing. He was told he had a 50 per cent chance of ever talking or singing normally again.  Spin Doctors soon disbanded. Barron's voice returned in early 2000, and he began performing with his band Chris Barron & the Give Daddy Five. The original line-up of Spin Doctors reunited for the first time since 1994 to play at the closing week of Wetlands Preserve in 2001. Odd shows followed in 2002 through 2005. Spin Doctors played one-off live shows in the U and Europe in 2008 and celebrated the 20-year anniversary of its debut album, Pocket Full of Kryptonite, with a United Kingdom and United States tour in 2011. The band released its sixth studio album, If the River Was Whiskey, in 2013. The current personnel is the classic early line-up of vocalist Chris Barron, guitarist Eric Schenkman, bassist Mark White and drummer Aaron Comess.

Spin Doctors easily brought a party atmosphere to B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill tonight. The band performed old favorites, newer songs and deep cuts. The show opened with "What Time Is It?" and "Traction Blues" before revving the crowd with "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong." Most of the set was funky and upbeat with a taste of southern rock guitar. Surprises included seldom-performed songs like Prey to Bears" and the first full version of "Hey Dick" since 1993. (A more recent attempt in 1994 was foiled when Barron forgot the lyrics and the band aborted the song.) The band played well and Barron spoke frequently with the audience between songs, but the real attraction was more than the music -- the attraction was that Spin Doctors puts on a fun show.

Visit Spin Doctors at www.spindoctors.com.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Amon Amarth at the Best Buy Theater

Johan Hegg
Amon Amarth is a melodic death metal band from Tumba, Sweden, founded in 1992. The band took its name from a volcano in J. R. R. Tolkien′s science fiction novels. Amon Amarth's lyrics largely re-imagine Norse mythology and history, resulting in the band often being branded as playing "Viking metal." The ensemble comprises vocalist Johan Hegg, guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg, bassist Ted Lundström and drummer Fredrik Andersson. Amon Amarth has released nine studio albums; the most recent, Deceiver of the Gods, was released in June 2013.

Headlining the Best Buy Theater tonight on the Deceiver of the Gods tour, Amon Amarth's stage set included the prow of a Viking longship, complete with smoking dragon head and beaming red eyes, jutting from center stage. The backdrop, a scale drawing of the band's most recent album cover, depicted Ragnarök, the last battle between the Æsir gods and Loki, accompanied by the army of the dead. Amid flashing lights, fog, and cheers, Amon Amarth took the stage and opened with "War of the Gods" from the 2011 Surtur Rising album. Johan Hegg, the band's large, long-haired, log-bearded bellower, was an imposing, hulking front man. By the end of the second song, "Runes to My Memory" from an earlier album, Hegg was singing from inside the bow of the ship as the colored lights on the fog added a mysterious flavor. Throughout the set, Amon Amarth played a haze of epic-sounding thrash aggression with decimating force, while songs were held together with melodic guitar leads, contrasting Hegg's growling roar. After 22 years as a band, Amon Amarth still delivered crushingly brutal metallic fury.

Visit Amon Amarth at www.amonamarth.com.

Sabaton at the Best Buy Theater

Joakim Brodén
Melodic heavy metal band Sabaton formed in 1999 in Falun, Sweden. The band is best known for lyrical themes based on historical battles, including World War II's Battle of Kursk, Warsaw Uprising and Battle of Midway; the Winter War; the Thirty Years' War; the Great Northern War. In 2012, four members left the band and formed another, Civil War, while vocalist Joakim Brodén and bassist Pär Sundström continued with new members Chris Rörland and Thobbe Englund on guitars and backing vocals. Drummer Hannes van Dahl joined last year. The band's seventh and most recent album, Heroes, was released on May 27, 2014, and switched focus from battles to celebrated individuals or single units, including America's iconic WWII veteran/actor Audie Murphy and the Polish soldier/concentration camp resistance leader Witold Pilecki.

Coming on stage at the Best Buy Theater to the recorded sound of "The March To War," the five members of Sabaton wore similar camouflage pants and black shirts. Charismatic front man Brodén wore a sleeveless faux-armor-plated shirt, mirrored aviator sunglasses and a close cropped Mohawk haircut. (The rest of the front line was comprised of avid hair spinners.) The band played seering metal, and Brodén sang gruffly, backed by bombastic gang vocals on the choruses. He seemed to smile for the whole set, enjoying the rabid response from the cheering audience. Beginning a career retrospective with "Ghost Division," the band played power metal tightly and smoothly. As he did when Sabaton opened for Iced Earth at the same venue in April, Brodén poked fun at the band's wardrobe, referencing the Village People and getting the metal heads singing along to a few bars of "YMCA." Later he jokingly claimed that Sabaton was as Viking as the evening's headliner, Amon Amarth, before charging into another story song of war and valor. In a cluttered field of sound-alike look-alike metal bands, Sabaton curated a unique and memorable performance.

Visit Sabaton at www.sabaton.net.

Friday, October 17, 2014

J Mascis at the Bowery Ballroom

J Mascis (born Joseph Donald Mascis, Jr.) in 1982 formed and played guitar in the hardcore punk band Deep Wound while attending high school in western Massachusetts. Deep Wound broke up in mid-1984 and, as Mascis' interest in music had expanded, he formed a very short-lived band called Mogo which, according to Mascis, was designed to play "ear-bleeding country." By late 1984, Mascis formed an alternative rock trio Dinosaur, later renamed Dinosaur, Jr., with bassist Lou Barlow, who had played in the previous two bands, and drummer Emmett Patrick Murphy, or "Murph." The line-up changed several times, the band split and reunited, and Mascis recorded solo albums and played in other side bands over the years. His most recent solo album, the acoustic Tied to a Star, was released on August 26.

At the Bowery Ballroom tonight, Mascis performed solo, seated on a stool, singing in his trademark creaky voice, switching between acoustic guitars and stepping on an array of foot pedals for distortions, effects and loops. This avenue showcased a very different Mascis. Contrasting the roaring, blasting rock guitarist of Dinosaur, Jr., this solo artist was a country-ish front-porch picking Mascis. Beginning with "Listen to Me," a song from an earlier solo acoustic album, the evening's catalogue continued in mixed order with five songs from Mascis' new solo album, seven acoustic renderings of songs originally recorded by Dinosaur, Jr., one song originally recorded by one of Mascis' side projects, J Mascus + Fog, and two cover songs, Mazzy Star's "Fade into You" and the Cure's "Just Like Heaven." The net result was the presentation of a less-than-celebrated facet of the renowned guitarist and songwriter. Indeed, he is a wizard at the six string guitar, even a hollow body Martin. He is expert at manipulating unimaginable sounds from these guitars through electronic gimmickry. His folky approach revealed a more subtle interpretation of his lyrics. Even his somewhat rigid position on a stool brought more focus to his intentions. Talented? Extremely. Able to sustain audience interest? Questionable. Mascis did not command full audience attention through his hour-long set. The audience listened and applauded generously, but this was a bar, not a concert hall, and there was an enormous volume of conversations going on in the room. Mascis' acoustic set was a commendable diversion for fans only. It is safe to guess that his audience would have roared if he had strapped on an electric guitar and brought out a band after the acoustic set.

Visit J Mascis at www.jmascis.com.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Royal Blood at Webster Hall's Marlin Room

Mike Kerr
Royal Blood began as a duo in Australia in 2012, with bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Matt Swan. Kerr returned to his native England in 2013 and reformed the concept with a childhood friend, drummer Ben Thatcher. The reunited musicians had one day's rehearsal and performed its first concert for friends in Brighton two days after Kerr's return to England. Royal Blood began releasing singles by the end of the year and created an instant buzz in British rock circles. A self-titled album released in August 2014 became the fastest-selling British rock debut album in three years in the United Kingdom.

Word of mouth from England helped sell out in advance Royal Blood's headlining concert tonight at Webster Hall's Marlin Room. The two musicians came onto a mostly bare stage without any calculated music and lights fanfare and began its opening song, "Hole." Immediately the duo became an enthralling curiosity. How was it that the bass sounded so much like a guitar? As Thatcher attacked his drums with steady, furious beats, Kerr launched each of the 12 songs of the night with a unique riff, sometimes leading to power chords and extended leads, all sounding like they came from a guitar. Forging Jack White-styled modern garage rock and classic blues rock, Royal Blood played its entire album plus two additional songs in an energetic 50 minutes. Kerr's smooth singing contrasted engagingly with his crunching, guttural bass grooves. On the faster songs, he hopped to the rhythms and charged to the Thatcher's drum kit across the stage. He hardly spoke a few words or even looked out to the audience, focusing on what he was doing with his bass and microphone. Thatcher, ironically, came out from behind the drum kit to rally an audience cry. Waving as they walked offstage after the closing mid-tempo "Out of the Black" (and no encore), the two members of Royal Blood summarily offered little showmanship in order to maximize its impressively innovative minimalistic music.

Visit Royal Blood at www.royalbloodband.com.

Blues Magoos at the Bowery Electric

Geoff Daking, Peppy Castro, Ralph Scala
The band that would become known as Blues Magoos formed as the Trenchcoats in 1964 in the Bronx, New York. The Trenchcoats performed regularly in Greenwich Village coffee houses and by 1966 changed its name to fit in with the then-current psychedelic trend, first to the Bloos Magoos and soon afterwards to Blues Magoos. The band had a hit song in 1966 with "(We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet," but for the most part disappeared a few years later. Blues Magoos released its first album in more than 40 years, Psychedelic Resurrection, on October 14, 2014. Blues Magoos presently consists of two original members, Peppy Castro (born Emil Thielhelm) on vocals and rhythm guitar and Ralph Scala on vocals and keyboards, one near-original member, Geoff Daking, on drums, and new members Mike Ciliberto on lead guitar and Peter Stuart Kohlman on bass.

Gene Cornish of the Rascals introduced Blues Magoos at a record release party tonight the Bowery Electric. Other 1960s musicians were in the audience, including Carmine Appice of Vanilla Fudge and Jay Black of Jay & the Americans. Castro joked about how the band was back after taking a 47-year break. Although individually each member matured into other types of music over the years, on this occasion they were back to playing songs from the 1960s. Most of the songs were from their early albums (and many re-recorded for the new album), including "Rush Hour", "Pipe Dream", "There's a Chance We Can Make it", "(We Ain't Got) Nothing Yet" and "Tobacco Road." The set also included two 1960s covers, the Seeds' "Pushin' Too Hard" and Them's "Gloria." Castro told 50-year-old anecdotes and sang well; Scala did not sing as well, but played the familiar organ runs nicely. Did this bluesy garage rock stand the test of time? Probably not, but it was fun to revisit the days of black lights and lava lamps without actually having to get all that stuff.

Monday, October 13, 2014

JEFF the Brotherhood at Santos Party House

Jake Orrall
Brothers Jake Orrall (guitar) and Jamin Orrall (drums) are the sons of singer/songwriter Robert Ellis Orrall and have been playing music together since they were children growing up in Nashville, Tennessee. They became a duo called JEFF (later JEFF the Brotherhood) in 2001, while still in high school. JEFF the Brotherhood has released seven studio albums; the most recent, Hypnotic Nights, was released in 2012. JEFF the Brotherhood on September 30 released a Dig the Classics EP featuring covers of songs by Pixies, My Bloody Valentine, Beck, Teenage Fanclub and others.

JEFF the Brotherhood returned to Santos Party House tonight, this time as a quartet with an added bassist and guitarist, and Jake played a six-string rather than his usual three-string guitar. The added musicians did not help to define the music, however. Alongside an overactive fog machine and constantly roving back lights, JEFF the Brotherhood played a loud, pounding, grungy, garage-punk, with Jake focusing more on guitar noise than on vocals. When the music slowed for a moment, the fuzz and reverb on the guitar sounded like psychedelic stoner rock. Highlights included the raucous guitar jams propelled by extremely hard slamming beats on "You Got The Look", "Heavy Krishna", "Sixpack", "Mellow Out," and "Ripper" leading into a cover of Rush's "Working Man."

Visit Jeff the Brotherhood at www.jeffthebrotherhood.com.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jane's Addiction at Times Square/Third Annual CBGB's Music & Film Festival

Perry Farrell
Perry Bernstein was born in Queens, New York, spent his grade-school years in Woodmere, Long Island, and in his teens moved with his family to Miami, Florida. His father was a jeweler; his mother was an artist who committed suicide when Perry was three. Following graduation from high school, Perry boarded a bus to Los Angeles, California, to live as a surfer. There, he lived in his car and made money working construction and waiting tables. He also became the vocalist for the post-punk band Psi Com until its demise in 1985. During this period, Bernstein chose the pseudonym Perry Farrell as a play on the word "peripheral" and formed Jane's Addiction. The new band was dubbed "Jane's Addiction" in honor of Farrell's housemate, Jane Bainter, who was the muse and inspiration for the band. Jane's Addiction became a leading force in 1990s alternative rock and released three albums  before breaking up in 1991. Beginning in 1997, Jane's Addiction has had several reunions with various line-ups. The band's most recent album is 2011's The Great Escape Artist. The alternative rock band again consists of its classic line-up of Perry Farrell (vocals), Dave Navarro (guitar), Stephen Perkins (drums) and Chris Chaney (bass).

Headlining a free outdoor concert as the closer of the Third Annual CBGB's Music & Film Festival , Jane's Addiction rocked harder than anything that ever hit Times Square, even Bon Jovi. As the familiar bass line started the opening song, "Up the Beach," Farrell came on stage wearing a three piece suit and fedora, and he spent more time playing up to the audience than singing. It was just as well, as his voice sounded strained. Navarro's guitar playing was monstrous, however, and shredded crisp and clear blasts on each song, but Farrell commanded much of the attention, even crowd surfing early in the set. In all, Jane's Addiction performed in succession nine of the 11 songs of the 1988 breakthrough Nothing's Shocking album. Particularly towards the end of the set, Farrell rambled about it being Friday (it was Sunday), spoke about Jewish observances ("we Jews love you!"), put on a yarmulke handed to him by a photographer in front of the stage, cursed the stock market and its followers, and spoke graphically and extensively about the band members' sexual appetites. Considering the festival was billed as family-friendly and a large amounts of tourists were walking past the stage as they traveled to and from Times Square destinations, the language Farrell used was altogether outrageous. For the final song, "Stop!," two lingerie-clad dancers hung over the stage, spinning around to show that they were swinging from two rods piercing their backs behind their shoulder blades. Farrell insisted on singing another song, "Three Days," but it was curfew and the sound was unplugged while he was speaking. Some 25 years after all this music was first performed live, today's Jane's Addiction concert was still shocking.

Visit Jane's Addiction at www.janesaddiction.com.

Devo at Times Square/Third Annual CBGB'S Music & Film Festival

Devo first gained popularity with the new wave movement in the late 1970s, but the art-rock band actually pre-dated the movement, forming in 1972 between Kent and Akron, Ohio. The concept of "Devo" was a satirical social commentary professing that instead of continuing to evolve, humankind had regressed or "de-evolved", as evidenced by the herd mentality of American society. The band experienced several personnel changes, but the classic line-up of the band included two sets of brothers, Mark Mothersbaugh and Bob Mothersbaugh, and Gerald Casales and Bob Casales, along with Alan Myers. Devo was active mostly from 1973 to 1991. The band has reunited many times with different line-ups since 1996. The band's ninth and most recent album, 2010's Something for Everybody, was an unsuccessful comeback after 20 years away.

Performing a free outdoor concert in Times Square today during the Third Annual CBGB's Music and Film Festival, Devo recreated its kitsch science fiction stage show, including the wearing of simulated chemical-protection uniforms and, for one song, round, ziggurat-shaped "energy dome" hats. The band's often discordant pop songs featured synthetic instrumentation and unusual time signatures that, while once unique, now fit in well with the indie scene. The smart and tight set was largely comprised of songs from 1978 to 1982, including "Girl U Want", "Whip It", a quirky cover of the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", "Uncontrollable Urge", "Mongoloid" and one of Devo's earliest songs, "Jocko Homo," which raised the band's ongoing question, "are we not men?" (Audience response: "We are devo.") The show ended with an appearance of the band's mascot, Booji Boy. Devo's intricate yet catchy music and deadpan surrealist humor were as enjoyable in today's world as they were 35 years ago.

Visit Devo at www.clubdevo.com.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Murphy's Law at the Bowery Electric

Jimmy Gestapo
Murphy's Law formed in 1982 in Queens, New York, and quickly became a staple of New York's hardcore punk scene. Vocalist James Drescher, better known as Jimmy GJimmy Spliff and Jimmy Gestapo, is the only remaining member of the original band. Murphy's Law released five albums, of which the last, 2002's The Party's Over, was about Mayor Giuliani's clean-up campaign.

Performing at the Bowery Electric as part of the Third Annual CBGB's Music and Film Festival tonight, Murphy's Law remained true to its punk roots while also becoming more of a party band. Reprising many of its usual themes with songs about pot, beer, girls, cars and partying, the band neither introduced new songs nor broke new ground. Instead of stage diving (an impossibility on the club's low stage), fans came onstage to sing along and consume the band's alcohol. New York has changed, the hardcore punk scene has evolved, yet Gestapo and his crew have performed the same set for more than a decade. The difference is that now the band is less angry and more fun.

The Black Dahlia Murder at Irving Plaza

Trevor Strnad
Vocalist Trevor Strnad was looking for a fearsome name for a melodic death metal band in 2000 in Waterford, Michigan. He learned about the gruesome unsolved murder of an aspiring actress, Elizabeth Short, often referred to as Black Dahlia, who was bisected at the waist and left on display in a California parking lot in 1947. He named his band The Black Dahlia Murder. The band is presently comprised of Strnad, guitarists Brian Eschbach and Ryan Knight, bassist Max Lavelle and drummer Alan Cassidy. The Black Dahlia Murder's sixth and most recent studio album is 2013's Everblack.

Tonight's Black Dahlia Murder's concert at Irving Plaza was broadcast live on Yahoo Live. There was little left of the Black Dahlia Murder's early metalcore influence tonight. The band's melodic death metal was wrapped around high speeds, blast beats, growled vocals and barely-discernible macabre lyrics. The music was harsh, brutal, sledgehammer rock, slightly softened occasionally and briefly by lyrical guitar licks. The band began with "In Hell Is Where She Waits for Me," the opening song from Everblack and the only song to refer directly to Short's murder, written from the point of view of her killer attending her funeral anonymously and admiring his trophy. Subsequent songs were equally grim, including "Everything Went Black," which referred to the finality of death. The technical inventiveness of the band was more evident in the compositions, where the band mastered complex arrangements without ever sacrificing speed or thrust. For the less attentive members of the audience, however, there was more than enough intensity at the basic level to encourage moshing and crowd surfing.

Jessie J at the Gramercy Theatre

Jessica Cornish was born in London, England, and was destined for show business quickly thereafter. At the age of four, she was in ballet classes, followed by modern and jazz dance and then acting classes. By age seven, she and her two older sisters formed a girl band. By age 10, she was Andrew Lloyd Webber's West End production of Whistle Down the Wind. Meanwhile, she suffered a heart condition that had her spending time in Great Ormond Street Hospital, sometimes being allowed out on day release with her heart monitor to attend rehearsals. She subsequently joined the National Youth Music Theatre and appeared in their 2002 production of The Late Sleepers. In 2003, at age 15, she won Best Pop Singer in the TV show Britain's Brilliant Prodigies, and realized that maybe it was music, not theatre, that would be her future. At 17 she joined a girl group named Soul Deep for two years. She wrote lyrics that were recorded by Chris Brown and Miley Cyrus, including "Party in the U.S.A.," before embarking on a solo career as Jessie J. Now 26 years old, she is a superstar in her native England, being the first British woman to score six top ten singles from one album. Jessie J also served as coach and mentor on the television talent show, The Voice UK, in 2012 and 2013. Her third album, Sweet Talker, will be released on October 14, 2014.

Headlining a sold out album release concert at the Gramercy Theatre tonight, Jessie J exhibited a fair amount of skin and, more importantly, soulful vocals and an extended vocal range backed by contemporary rhythm & blues, pop, electro-pop, and hip-hop beats. She opened with "Sexy Lady" and her biggest American hit, "Domino," before covering  DJ Cassidy's "Calling All Hearts." She often sang a single syllable of lyric and cascaded it through several different notes. By the end of the night, closing with the anti-materialistic "Price Tag" and the pop hit "Bang Bang," there was not any new ground covered but all one could say was "wow, what a voice!"

Visit Jessie J at www.jessiejofficial.com.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Limp Bizkit at the Best Buy Theater

Fred Durst performed "East You Alive" from the audience
While growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, Fred Durst was interested in breakdancing, hip hop, punk rock and heavy metal. He began to rap, skate, beatbox and deejay. While mowing lawns and working as a tattoo artist, Durst was in several unsuccessful bands, until he convinced bassist Sam Rivers from one of these bands to start a new rap/rock band with him in 1994. Rivers recruited his cousin, drummer John Otto. Guitarist Wes Borland joined a year later. Limp Bizkit quickly became popular in the local underground music scene and then gained international success with albums in 1999 and 2000. The band has sold 40 million records worldwide. Limp Bizkit's long-delayed seventh studio album, Stampede of the Disco Elephants, is awaiting an imminent release date.

The light bulbs blazed in Limp Bizkit's large backdrop sign at the Best Buy Theater tonight and Durst, came onstage in a full bard, an untucked white button-down short-sleeved dress shirt, camouflage cargo pants, sneakers and a white Los Angeles Kings cap. Borland, on the far right side, seemed to be wearing a black rubber body suit, black leather boots and head-covering black mask, although some reports claim a lot of this was body paint; either way, he was almost invisible on the dark stage. The band members launched into "Why Try" with the appropriate opening lyric "Oh no, guess who's back." Durst announced towards the end of the song that he was going to kick it old school and "we're going to party like it's 1999," adding that they were going "retro." He asked the fans to put away their cell phones and he and Rivers repeatedly doused water on all those near the stage who were photographing. Limp Bizkit then performed Ministry’s "Thieves," a cover song rumored to be on the forthcoming album. This led to "Rollin'", "My Way", "Rearrange", "My Generation" and a cover of George Michael’s "Faith," among other songs. The band performed many of the expected songs (no "Nookie," however), but threw in unexpected moments as well , such as a "Master of Puppets" jam and covers of Rage against the Machine's "Killing in the Name" and Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" (Durst claimed Axl Rose was in the audience) . During "Eat You Alive," Durst walked through the audience shaking hands with the fans. Interludes included recorded segments by Ludacris, DMX and 50 Cent. The musicians played like a rock band, but mostly due to Durst's vocals, the Limp Bizkit show was more hip hop than metal. Closing with "Break Stuff," Durst waved to the fans, singing an extended a cappella chorus of the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" before walking off the stage. Maybe that lyric was a fitting closing statement from the 30-year-old band.

Visit Limp Bizkit at www.limpbizkit.com.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Camilla Sparksss at the Penthouse

Barbara Lehnhoff lived her early life on Native American reserves along the Great Lakes in northwestern Ontario, Canada. Finding her path in life, she moved to Switzerland, studied economy and graphic design, and became a filmmaker. She began playing electronic music, writing songs and singing, and by 2012 had developed an avant garde art pop experiment called Camilla Sparksss. Camilla Sparksss released a debut album, For You the Wild, on September 23, 2014.

Camilla Sparksss is more than an electronic art pop music project, however; Lehnhoff is a performance artist. In an abbreviated set tonight in the Penthouse at the Standard Hotel, East Village, Lehnhoff played throbbing dance beats and thick synthesizer runs while she abrasively shouted and screamed her lyrics. There were hints of mystery and horror in her performance. A young woman danced at her side. In her final number, Lehnhoff began whispering into the microphone, set her synthesizer on loop and walked stalkingly through the audience shouting vulgarities. The song ended with Lehnhoff and her dancer both wrestling  and caressing on the floor. Camilla Sparksss 20-minute set was odd and captivating.

Visit Camilla Sparksss at www.camillasparksss.com.

Alex June at the Penthouse

Alejandra Felmer, better known by her stage name Alex June, is a French-born and Chilean-raised musician who relocated to Paris in 2007 to study fine art and start a career as a draftswoman. She also enjoyed playing in a band until her two band mates returned to Chile. She then gravitated to creating a solo electro pop project. June released her first album, Big Bang, in 2013.

Tonight at the Penthouse at the Standard Hotel, East Village, June teamed with another synthesizer player and presented a few original songs in a 20-minute wash of dreamy synth-pop music. Soft, minimalistic and pulsating, the set was more art house or indie than dance-club groove. With shoegaze music becoming increasingly popular in the United States, the French musician may find an American audience.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Rival Sons at Irving Plaza

Jay Buchanan and Scott Holliday
Black Summer Crush split up when vocalist Thomas Flowers rejoined his previous band, Oleander. Guitarist Scott Holliday was ready to continue the band with bassist Robin Everhart and drummer Mike Miley. Miley earlier has played briefly with vocalist Jay Buchanan in a band called Buchanan. With the skeptical vocalist recruited, the revamped hard rock band was renamed Rivals Sons in 2009 and quickly self-released its debut album, Before the Fire. Everhart left the band in August 2013 and was replaced by Dave Beste. The band's fourth album, Great Western Valkyrie, was released in June 2014.

At Irving Plaza tonight, Rival Sons played a blues rock sound that was common circa 1972 but is rare today. Buchanan belted soulfully in a voice that sounded uncannily like Paul Rodgers of Free and Bad Company, and Holliday's chunky guitar leads recalled Deep Purple, Blackmore's Rainbow and Dio. Opening with a heavy guitar riff, "Electric Man" from the new album was the start of a vintage-sounding hard rock set highlighting the most important keys to rock and roll mastery -- loud, bluesy guitar virtuosity and soulful singing matched with memorable songs. Rival Sons filled a void in hard rock music that has been missing since 1979.

Visit Rival Sons at www.rivalsons.com.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ricky Byrd at the Bowery Electric

There have been many notable men named Richard or Ricky Byrd. There was the 19th century politician, the polar explorer and aviator, the Olympic athlete, the basketball player and coach, the football player and most recently, the Bronx-born, Queens-bred guitarist who played in Joan Jett & the Blackhearts from 1981 to 1991 (including the iconic riff in 1982's "I Love Rock & Roll"). That Ricky Byrd also recorded and toured with Roger Daltrey and Ian Hunter and released a solo album, Lifer, in 2013.

In the past year, Ricky Byrd performed as a singer-songwriter at the Bowery Electric, the Bitter End and B.B. King's  Blues Club & Grill with simply a microphone and an acoustic guitar. Byrd returned to the Bowery Electric tonight with a rhythm section and demonstrated that he is also a fine blues singer and electric guitarist. Byrd's musical influences were 1970s British blues-rock bands and maybe this was a throwback Thursday, because his set featured many old-time blues covers. He sang well from the gut and played impressive chops that probably would not have worked in Jett's band. Byrd still loves rock and roll, but now with some deep American roots.

Visit Ricky Byrd at www.rickybyrd.com.