Sunday, November 30, 2014

Death (DTA Tours) at the Best Buy Theater

Max Phelps & Steve DiGiorgio
Vocalist/guitarist Chuck Schuldiner founded the pioneer death metal band Death in 1984 in Orlando, Florida. Death's 1987 debut album, Scream Bloody Gore, was perhaps the first death metal record, leading to the group ultimately becoming the world's best-selling death metal band. The band featured countless members over the years but ceased to exist when Schuldiner died in December 2001 after a battle with pontine glioma, a rare type of brain tumor. Since 2012, however, the brand named has lived on in the form of Death (DTA Tours), also known as Death to All. Schuldiner's estate has emphasized that Death (DTA Tours) is a tribute celebrating the life and music of Schuldiner and Death by the people who knew Schuldiner - his musicians, family & manager - and is not an attempt to re-launch the band without Schuldiner.

Many former members of Death have participated in the recent Death tribute tours. The current month-long Swamp Leper Stomp '14 tour features vocalist/guitarist Max Phelps, guitarist Bobby Koelble, bassist Steve DiGiorgio and drummer Gene Hoglan, who joined after Sean Reinert left after a few shows for health reasons. Performing songs from the Death catalogue, Death (DTA Tours)'s performance tonight at the Best Buy Theater showed that Death was extreme in its day and continues to be relevant in today's metal scene. The music performed was rooted in the late 1980s, when Motorhead, Metallica, Slayer, Venom and other metal bands were foraging new ground, but Death's music was more vile and deadlier than these peers. When the vocals were gruff and the guitars and rhythm section were ripping, the crowd responded with moshing and hair-whipping. The songs frequently were complex, however, featuring intricate guitar progressions and changing rhythms more often than many jazz fusion bands. For fans of extreme metal, this effort to keep alive the music of Death was an epic event that archived what was once the avant garde.

Visit Death (DTA Tours) at

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds at the Bowery Ballroom

Arleigh Kincheloe a.k.a. Sister Sparrow
Arleigh Kincheloe was born and raised in the Catskill Mountains of New York, where she began singing in her parents' band at the age of nine and writing songs by her teen years. As her songwriting matured, she imagined a big sound behind her songs. She became Sister Sparrow, and with a seven-piece soul/rock band behind her, the ensemble became Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds in 2008. As the Brooklyn-based band developed a following, its successes included a five-month Saturday night residency at the Rockwood Music Hall in 2009, a self-titled debut album in 2010 and a tour in 2011. The band's most recent product is 2013's Fight EP.

At the Bowery Ballroom tonight, Kincheloe was a big voice in a small frame as she belted out original songs about love or loss, happiness or heartbreak. While she was a commanding presence on stage, smoldering embers burned behind her. She brought the swagger and the musicians brought the twang. The soaring vocalist was ably supported by her brother Jackson Kincheloe on a wailing harmonica and Sasha Brown driving a hard-edged lead guitar, along with a bright horn trio and a rhythm section. The band harkened back to the days before synthesizers, when musicians stretched out on a simple rhythm and blues song by jamming wildly and cohesively on natural instruments. This proved to be more than backup, this was a tight and powerful collective playing sassy, brassy and classy grooves ranging in style from sharp New Orleans funk to muddy Memphis soul.

Visit Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds at

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pepper at Irving Plaza

Vocalist/guitarist Kaleo Wassman and vocalist/bassist Bret Bollinger were friends since middle school in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. Playing a combination of dancehall, reggae, hip-hop, and pop, they formed Pepper in 1996 and convinced drummer Yesod Williams to join the band. Pepper relocated in 1999 to San Diego, California. Pepper released its sixth studio album, Pepper, in 2013.

Pepper brought sunny beach rhythms to a cold winter night at Irving Plaza tonight. Originating from a simple combination of vocals, guitar and rhythm section, Pepper's music surfed a wave of grooves and melodies. The sparse, flowing sound allowed for audio clarity and so encouraged dancing and singing along. To the trio's credit, the variety of influences prevented the musicians from sounding repetitive, but this undercurrent also tugged away from the band attaining a uniquely signature sound. The buoyant songs ranged from soft reggae and funk to hard-edged guitar rock, always sounding clean and direct, even when the lyrics were not as wholesome. Pepper was all about diving into a lively party spirit that did not require the bar to serve drinks with little umbrellas.

Visit Pepper at

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Julian Casablancas + the Voidz at the Hammerstein Ballroom

Julian Casablancas
Vocalist Julian Casablancas co-founded the Strokes in 1998 in New York City, playing Lower East Side clubs like the Spiral, the Luna Lounge and the Mercury Lounge. Since the release of the Strokes' debut album in 2001, the group sold over five million albums and helped revive the garage rock movement. Casablancas released a solo album in 2009 and formed Julian Casablancas + The Voidz as a side project in 2013. The Voidz consists of Casablancas, guitarists Jeramy "Beardo" Gritter and Amir Yaghmai, keyboardist Jeff Kite, bassist/synthesizer player Jacob "Jake" Bercovici , and drummer Alex Carapetis. The band's debut album, Tyranny, was released on September 23, 2014.

Julian Casablancas + The Voidz headlined the Hammerstein Ballroom tonight and bore little resemblance to the Strokes or even Casablancas' solo material. Even before the Voidz came on stage, the intermission music, comprised of eerie hip hop and tribal sounds, forecasted the forthcoming left-of-center assault. Casablancas' new band came on stage and launched into ambitiously experimental music that was heavy on deep, sprawling grooves, extended hypnotic jams and jarringly odd arrangements. As the musicians exercised most of the heavy lifting, Casablancas often remained in the background with his back to the audience, barely registering a presence. No spotlight ever shone on Casablancas; his silhouette remained in the dark for the entire set. When he sauntered forth to sing, he often crouched from the waist, making it difficult for the audience to get a good look at him. He sang and spoke into a low-fidelity microphone that deliberately muffled his vocals, such that his singing sounded tinny and fuzzy. The Voidz set consisted of nine songs from the band's debut album, plus "River of Brakelights" from Casablancas' solo album, and two Strokes songs, "Ize of the World" and "I'll Try Anything Once" (a variant demo version of the Strokes' "You Only Live Once"). Overall, with all its cascading, dizzying music on the fringe of cohesion, the concert performance at best was eccentric and curious and at worst was a scrappy, avant garde assembly of noise, simply weird for weird's sake.

Visit Julian Casablancas + the Voidz at

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ace Frehley at B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill

Paul "Ace" Frehley was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. Frehley received an electric guitar as a Christmas present in 1964 at age 13, and taught himself how to play the instrument. Frehley's early bands started earning a series of paying gigs, but he held a string of short-term jobs—mail carrier, furniture deliverer, messenger, and liquor store delivery boy. In late 1972, Frehley answered an advertisement for a lead guitarist and auditioned for Wicked Lester members Paul Stanley (rhythm guitar), Gene Simmons (bass) and Peter Criss (drums). About three weeks later, the band named Frehley as their lead guitarist. By 1973, Wicked Lester decided on a new name – Kiss. While Kiss spent their early days rehearsing and playing in empty clubs, Frehley took a job as a part-time cab driver to pay his bills. He was the lead guitarist of Kiss from its inception in 1973 until 1982. After leaving Kiss, Frehley embarked on a solo career, both under the name Frehley's Comet and under his own name. This was put on hold when he rejoined Kiss in 1996 for a reunion tour. Frehley remained in Kiss until the band's purported farewell performance at the 2002 Winter Olympics. His first album in five years, Space Invader, was released on August 19, 2014, and debuted at #9 on the Billboard 200 Chart - the highest position ever reached by a solo Kiss member.

Frehley and his band came on stage at a jam-packed B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill tonight to the sound of the instrumental "Fractured Mirror" from Frehley's 1978 debut solo album. Guitarist Richie Scarlett, bassist Chris Wyse and drummer Scot Coogan provided the backup as Frehley opened with a rocking "Rip It Out" from the same album. This set the tone for the show -- short on theatrics, long on guitar-driven rock and roll. Frehley dedicated the show to the late Eric Carr, Kiss' drummer in the 1980s; Frehley noted that today was the anniversary of Carr's death in 1991. Frehley and his band performed 20 songs, and half of them were Kiss songs, sung well either by Frehley or other members of the band. Anton Fig, a longtime Frehley collaborator, played on "Breakout," a song from their days together in Frehley's Comet. By the triple encore of "Detroit Rock City", "Cold Gin" and "Deuce," the audience had kome as klose to a klassik Kiss koncert as possible.

Visit Ace Frehley at

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Black Veil Brides at the Best Buy Theater

Andy Biersack
Vocalist Andy Biersack formed heavy metal glam band Black Veil Brides in 2006 in his native Cincinnati, Ohio. He relocated to Los Angeles, California, and in 2009 formed a new band there, continuing to use the moniker Black Veil Brides. Inspired by the stage persona of the early glam periods of Kiss and Mötley Crüe, Black Veil Brides stood out from contemporary bands by wearing black makeup, body paint, tight black leather and studded clothing, and jet black hair. Before long, the band had the second biggest selling t-shirts in the country, Revolver awarded the band Best New Artist at the Golden Gods Awards in 2012 and Kerrang! named the band Best Newcomer. The band won in 20 categories in the 2013 Alternative Press Readers Poll. The band is currently composed of Biersack, Jake Pitts (lead guitar), Jinxx (rhythm guitar, violin), Ashley Purdy (bass, backing vocals), and Christian "CC" Coma (drums). The band's fourth and most recent album, Black Veil Brides IV, was released October 27, 2014.

Black Veil Brides headlined the Best Buy Theater tonight to an audience that consisted largely of teenage girls in front and their parents in the back. The girls squealed at everything spoken or sung by Biersack while the parents squirmed at his barrage of f-bombs liberally peppered through the show. Although the black make-up flourishes, the long hair, the extensive tattoos and the black shredded clothing helped make the musicians appear like post-apocalyptic rock stars, the fans seemed to find them adorably and cuddly cute. Beyond the larger than life metal boy-band image, however, the music was solid and the "primp" and circumstance stage act was killer. Amidst bright lights, the front line of pretty boys played up to the cheers of the audience by frequently running onto the risers at the edge of the stage and smiling at the crowd below. Biersack's voice was raspy when he spoke between songs, but any vocal shortcomings were disguised by the volume and intensity of the musical accompaniment. The songs were fast and fierce, with well-played guitar leads and plenty of opportunities for sing-along choruses. For 90 minutes, the audience witnessed a glam metal explosion.

Visit Black Veil Brides at

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Trigger Hippy at the Gramercy Theatre

Jackie Greene & Joan Osborne
On break from the Black Crowes, drummer Steve Gorman was jamming with an old friend, bassist Nick Govrik, in Nashville, Tennesee. They had jammed many times before, but this time it felt like the beginnings of a band. They collected a few musicians and Trigger Hippy made its live debut in 2009. Several combinations later, Trigger Hippy became an Americana supergroup with three additional known quantities: vocalist Joan Osborne, guitarist/keyboardist Jackie Greene and guitarist Tom Bukovac. Trigger Hippy's self-titled debut album was released on September 30, 2014.

Trigger Hippy performed as a well-credentialed roots-rock powerhouse at the Gramercy Theatre tonight. Opening with the "Turpentine," the quintet played a rousing set of gritty guitar-infused rock wrapped in sublime country blues vocal harmonies and a rich, soulful texture steeped in earthy Americana roots. Greene and Osborne often traded strong vocal leads on the verses and then harmonized on the choruses. Whether a song veered more towards blues or rock, it all sounded organically southern. Once the musicians started jamming, a song could last 10 minutes. Most of the set was comprised of original songs from Trigger Hippy's debut album, plus covers of Bob Dylan's "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You," Don Bryant's "99 Pounds," Delaney & Bonnie's "When the Battle Is Over" and an encore of the Beatles' "Don't Bring Me Down." The result was an honest, classic, vintage package. Supergroups sometimes fail to meet their potential, but this collective of seasoned musicians was greater than the sum of its individual parts.

Visit Trigger Hippy at

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

St. Lucia at Terminal 5

Jean-Philip Grober
Jean-Philip Grobler, known by his stage name St. Lucia, was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and sang in the Drakensberg Boys' Choir, learning everything from Bach to minimalist opera. Grobler experimented with rock music but, after 10 years, he grew bored with it and looked to the 1980s music from his childhood that had first inspired him. He moved to Brooklyn, New York, experimented with these new influences and the synth-pop St. Lucia was born in 2010. St. Lucia's one album, When the Night, was released in October 2013.

St. Lucia headlined two nights at Terminal 5 and turned the cavernous venue into a dance party. After a nearly year-long tour, Grobler acknowledged that this engagement was a special homecoming that most of the songs were either written in New York or inspired by New York. Singing, playing guitar and keyboards and backed by four musicians, including his wife, keyboardist Patti Beranek, St. Lucia was all about lush, dreamy, high-energy, nostalgic pop. The band performed all of its debut album plus a few songs from previous EPs. While the songs were relatively new, the sound was a revisit to decades-old dance-pop music. The songs were driven by simple vocal melodies and layered synthesizer runs that repeated thickly to build crescendos. By the time the confetti canons shot during "Elevate," it already felt like New Year's Eve.

Visit St. Lucia at

In This Moment at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Maria Brink
Vocalist Maria Brink and lead guitarist Chris Howorth met through common friends and began writing songs together in Los Angeles, California. They formed a band called Dying Star, then changed directions and formed the theatrical metal band In This Moment in 2005. The new band built a following and the Revolver Golden God Awards in 2010 named Brink the Hottest Chick in Metal. In This Moment currently is comprised of Brink, Howorth, rhythm guitarist Randy Weitzel, bassist Travis Johnson and drummer Tom Hane. The band's fifth and most recent album, Black Widow, was released on November 17, 2014.

Tonight's concert at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom was a free concert for SiriusXM subscribers and was broadcast live across SiriusXM’s Octane channel. Listeners were unable to witness the spectacle of an In This Moment concert, however. The show opened to the sound of sirens and tribal rhythms. Fog jets were launched and masked dancers moved on platforms before the band came on stage to perform "Sick Like Me" with melodic metal thunder. Brink wore a headset microphone, freeing her to join in choreographed moves with her dancers, but despite all the costume changes, props and other theatrics, this was a far cry from a Britney Spears show. The musicians played searing, scorching metal, though mostly in the dark as Brink, was the ringleader of this circus. "Black Widow" was introduced with a recorded voice narrating the dangers of the spider, followed by Brink appearing on stage in a burlesque-style nurse's outfit and her dancers using giant syringes as props. Each song was packaged with grandiose visuals too numerous to recount, and the musicianship remained consistently rock solid. The 75-minute set mostly featured songs from In This Moment's two most recent albums, but also included a medley of songs from Metallica, Slayer, and Pantera, as well as a full cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Closer." In the end, however, radio listeners only caught half the fun, as In This Moment is a band to both hear and watch.

Visit In This Moment at

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dina Regine at the Bowery Electric

Depending on the circles you travel, native New Yorker Dina Regine may be known as either a longtime photographer, a disc jockey or a musician. Her photographs have been published in publications, in books, and on record covers, and have been exhibited in museums and galleries. Her DJ credentials include launching the Guggenheim Museum's First Fridays series, Richard Gere’s benefit concert for the Dalai Lama, Keith Richards' surprise 50th birthday bash and the Saturday Night Live 25th anniversary party. Her music career also has had its shining moments, like when she auditioned as a backup singer for Bruce Springsteen and he suggested that she should front her own band. She took his advice. After leading three bands (the Dina Regine Band, Naked Grape and Swamp Honey), Regine went solo. She released two homespun CD's in 1999 and 2005 and will soon release Right On, Alright.

Gene Cornish of the Rascals introduced Dina Regine at the Bowery Electric. Steve Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and Jesse Malin were in the audience. Regine proudly wore her classic rock roots. She is a singer-songwriter, but her arrangements showed that she knows more than a little about blues chord progressions, country harmonies and rock and roll rhythms. Regine's chilling vocal and delivery punctuated her original songs, many of which were about troubled relationships. For most of the set, she played a four-string tenor guitar, rarely seen in contemporary music. The highlight of the evening was when she brought out two of the Uptown Horns for the last two songs of her set, resituating her into what sounded like a mid-1970s Rolling Stones concert. Rock and roll will never die.

Visit Dina Regine at

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ian Mellencamp at the Bowery Electric

Indie-rock rookie Ian Mellencamp grew up in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio. Music is in the Mellencamp bloodline; Ian's father, Joe Mellencamp, is a musician who began bringing Ian on stage when Ian was just five years old; Ian's cousin Eric Mellencamp owns a small record company; and his uncle is a Hall of Fame rocker, John Mellencamp. While working a full-time day job in his father's company, Ian by night wrote songs in his bedroom and soon began playing in local bands. Eventually Ian moved to New York, became a top fashion model and began performing in small clubs like Pianos, first with a band called Isadora. As a solo artist, Ian has released one three-song concept EP, Visions.

At the Bowery Electric tonight, Ian Mellencamp's music was a far cry from the famous Mellencamp. Rather than John's earthy connection to America's heartland, Ian, playing guitar left-handed and backed by a keyboardist and drummer, played indie music that swayed from near-pop to experimental. Sometimes his vocals were jarring. Precisely because creativity was more important to him than adopting commercial or traditional sounds, Ian's performance was captivating.

Visit Ian Mellencamp at

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ryan Adams at Carnegie Hall

David Ryan Adams, known professionally as Ryan Adams, was born in 1974 in Jacksonville, North Carolina. At the age of 14, Adams began playing the electric guitar that his mother and stepfather bought him, and shortly afterward joined a local band named Blank Label. He played in local bands in north Florida and finally started a professional music career recording three albums with the alternative country-rock band Whiskeytown. Adams left Whiskeytown in 2000 to release his first solo album. He also released five albums with the rock band Ryan Adams & the Cardinals and under various pseudonyms recorded punk rock (as the Finger and Pornography), hip hop (various pseudonyms), black metal (as Werewolph) and hard rock (as Sleazy Handshake). Adams published Infinity Blues, a book of poems, and Hello Sunshine, a collection of poems and short stories. He released his 14th album, Ryan Adams, on September 9, 2014.

Ryan Adams first played an acoustic solo show at Carnegie Hall in 2011; this year's itinerary included two acoustic solo concerts at Carnegie Hall and two electric concerts with his current band at the Hammerstein Ballroom. The series began tonight with a 22-song set of hits, rarities and surprises. The selections were an eclectic collection, in that the young and prolific songwriter has amassed a catalogue of a few hundred songs over the past dozen years or so and, performing solo, he was not limited to the songs he rehearsed with a band. Adams opened with his first single in three years, "Gimme Something Good," with dark lyrics pondering the possibility of a new beginning. He followed on acoustic guitar and harmonica with "Oh My Sweet Carolina," his longing-filled ode to his home state. The set included one song, "Avenues" from his Whiskeytown days and three songs from his Cardinals days. Among his better known songs, he performed his "New York, New York," accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica, followed by "Let It Ride." Between songs, the audience laughed as he bantered free-form about whatever came to mind. He rambled amusingly about the Terminator movies, listening to R.E.M. while tripping, "Ryan time" being impacted by potential overtime charges at Carnegie Hall, and how he felt like “the scuff on a clean shoe” at the prestigious venue. At one point he moved to the piano, improvising a tune about Billy Ocean in a faux Michael McDonald voice before singing "Sylvia Plath." For a newcomer, a two-hour acoustic set might have been too much; Adams' set tonight was designed for fans to hear more nuanced versions of his songs.

Visit Ryan Adams at

Butch Walker at Carnegie Hall

Bradley "Butch" Walker grew up in Cartersville, Georgia, and in the 1980s and 1990s played guitar in Southgang, Floyd's Funk Revival, the Floyds and Marvelous 3 and other rock bands. Walker then launched a solo career in 2002, while singing in 1969 and Butch Walker & the Black Widows. Walker has co-written or co-produced songs for Fall Out Boy, Weezer, Anberlin, Saosin, Avril Lavigne, Tommy Lee, Sevendust, Pete Yorn, the All-American Rejects, The Academy Is..., Never Shout Never, Dashboard Confessional, All Time Low, Katy Perry, and P!nk. In 2007, Walker lost all of his possessions, including the masters to every song he had ever recorded, when the home he was renting from Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers burned down in a Southern California wildfire. Walker published an autobiography entitled Drinking with Strangers: Music Lessons from a Teenage Bullet Belt in 2011 and starred in 2012's Out of Focus, a documentary on his life and music. Walker's seventh album, Afraid of Ghosts, produced by Ryan Adams, will be released on February 3, 2015.

Walker has performed on New York stages many times over the years, including shows at the Highline Ballroom and Joe's Pub, but tonight was special in that he was the opening act for Ryan Adams at Carnegie Hall. Performing solo on acoustic guitar, he sang only five songs, but the brief performance was impressive. The opener, "21+," from his forthcoming album, articulated the frustrations of wanting to grow out of a small town life. He closed with "Father's Day," exploring misunderstandings with his father, who passed away last year. Walker sang songs of angst from a wounded place deep within himself, but between songs he was light, personable and humorous. Tonight's singer-songwriter approach served as a revealing insight into a performer who usually rocks a band.

Butch Walker again opens for Ryan Adams both at Carnegie Hall on November 17 and at the Hammerstein Ballroom on November 22 & 23. Visit Walker at

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Rural Alberta Advantage at the Bowery Ballroom

Nils Edenloff and Amy Cole
Indie rock trio the Rural Alberta Advantage (also known as the RAA) came together in 2005 at an open stage in Toronto, Canada. A year later vocalist/guitarist Nils Edenloff, keyboardist Amy Cole and drummer Paul Banwatt released a self-titled EP and began performing a wider circuit. The band's third and most recent album, Mended with Gold, was released on September 30, 2014.

Headlining tonight the second of two nights at the Bowery Ballroom, the Rural Alberta Advantage proved that a Canadian trio perhaps could widen the Americana genre. Led by Edenloff's earnest, unpolished vocals and hard strums on the acoustic guitar, the band often sounded like a folk rock band. His heartfelt, plaintive lyrics pondered universal themes like love and loss, but with a backdrop noting the conditions and concerns of plain folk who experience long, cold winters. In many songs, the words were plentiful, but the easy-going melodies saved them from seeming excessive. Cole's keyboards charmingly magnified the melodies with an indie pop gloss, and Banwatt's energetic drummer gave the songs a driving rock flavor. The collaboration yielded cleverly-arranged music that was delivered with gritty integrity and plain-folk honesty. The band concluded the final encore, a bare bones acoustic "Good Night," by singing in the midst of the audience. By the end of the night a listener could have been convinced that indeed there are advantages to being a rural Albertan.

Visit the Rural Alberta Advantage at

Kat Dahlia at the Studio at Webster Hall

Katriana Huguet's parents emigrated from Cuba to Miami Beach, Florida, but her French surname came from her paternal great-grandparents who came to Cuba from Lebanon. Kat performed her first solo at a benefit when she was eight years old and started writing her own songs at age 15, ripping instrumentals from YouTube in lieu of a band. Kat saved money from waitressing jobs and moved to New York in 2010 in search of a music career. She settled in North Bergen, New Jersey, and became Kat Hue. Currently known as Kat Dahlia, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter and rapper will release her debut studio album, My Garden, on January 13, 2015.

At the Studio at Webster Hall tonight, Dahlia showed an impressive range of music, including lively pop-rock, smoky soul stirrers and excursions into reggae, Latin and rap. Several of her story-songs originated from her life experiences, both from being raised in a poor and fractured family and from later living in a toxic romance as a young adult. Her songs revealed that she remains somewhat broken and vulnerable but has emerged strong and confident. Part of her appeal live was that these sentiments are universally relatable and also inspire hope. The rest of her appeal was that she sang with a strong, sultry singing voice that subtly said both "get into my life" and "get out of my life." Her concert was therapy for the broken-hearted.

Visit Kat Dahlia at

Echosmith at Webster Hall's Marlin Room

Sydney Sierota
Four siblings born in the 1990s grew up playing musical instruments in a musical household in Los Angeles, California. They formed a pop band called Echosmith in 2009, and their first single, "Tonight We're Making History", was featured in an NBC promotional advertisement for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Lead vocalist Sydney Sierota (17) also plays keyboards. Noah Sierota (18) plays bass. The oldest member, Jamie Sierota (21), plays guitar. The youngest member, Graham Sierota (15), plays drums. Echosmith's debut album, Talking Dreams, was released in October 2013 and spawned a platinum hit in "Cool Kids."

Fresh off the Honda Civic Tour with American Authors, Echosmith tonight was supposed to headline at the Studio at Webster Hall, but the show was moved to the venue's larger Marlin Room. "Last year we played the little room downstairs," Sydney Sierota told the audience. "Not only was it an upgrade … we’re headlining tonight!"

Echosmith's original songs featured melodies and arrangements that recalled 1980s dance-pop bands. The band even covered Talking Heads' "This Must Be the Place" and Modern English's "I Melt With You," songs that were popular a decade before anyone in Echosmith was born. Sydney then introduced their closing song, saying "This song has changed our lives." She dedicated "Cool Kids" to "all the outcasts" and "to anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t fit in," affirming that "It's okay to accept yourself for who you are and for who you aren't." The band ended its performance with the reggae-tinged "Nothing's Wrong" as an encore. Throughout the night, the band performed with youthful energy and professional showmanship. Safe and simple pop music is not for everyone, but Echosmith did it well.

Echosmith will perform at the Fresh 102.7 Holiday Jam at the Beacon Theater on December 10. Visit Echosmith at

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Anberlin at Irving Plaza

Stephen Christian
While still in high school in 1998, vocalist Stephen Christian formed a punk band called SaGoh 24/7, which released two albums. Eventually changing direction to alternative-rock, the band evolved into Anberlin in 2002, based out of Winter Haven, Florida. There were a few personnel changes, but since 2007 the band has consisted of vocalist Stephen Christian, guitarists Joseph Milligan and Christian McAlhaney, bassist Deon Rexroat, and drummer Nathan Young. After 14 years and seven albums, Anberlin released it final album, Lowborn, on June 23, 2014.

Yahoo! Live streamed Anberlin's concert from Irving Plaza tonight, as the band shared its first of three New York farewell concerts with the world. Shouting out a cry of "New York," Christian and crew ripped into a career retrospective beginning with "Never Take Friendship Personal" and "We Owe This to Ourselves." On the third song, "Paperthin Hymn," Christian hopped across the photo pit and stood on the rail of a barricade, holding a microphone to his mouth with one hand and balancing himself with the other by holding the outstretched hands of the fans below him. Throughout the 20-song, 90-minute set, Anberlin honed its refined sound, which blended an energetic power-chord-driven hard rock base with sweet melodies and Christian's soaring vocals. The pace slowed mid-set with "(The Symphony of) Blasé", "Take Me (As You Found Me) and "The Unwinding Cable Car," the latter song performed acoustically and dedicated to the musicians' wives. Beyond that, Anberlin returned to its muscular radio-ready rock, finally ending with Christian crowd surfing at the end of "Feel Good Drag" and an appropriate encore of "(*Fin)." Anberlin ends its tour and its career in two weeks, and the band made every second count.

Anberlin performs again at Irving Plaza on November 16 and will perform the album Cities at the Gramercy Theatre on November 17. Visit Anberlin at

Monday, November 10, 2014

Whitechapel at the Gramercy Theatre

Phil Bozeman
From Knoxville, Tennessee, deathcore band Whitechapel formed in 2006 and is named after the Whitechapel district in London, England, where Jack the Ripper committed a series of murders. The group presently consists of vocalist Phil Bozeman, guitarists Ben Savage, Alex Wade and Zach Householder, bassist Gabe Crisp, and drummer Ben Harclerode. The band's fifth studio album, Our Endless War, was released on April 29, 2014.

Whitechapel returned to New York tonight as a headliner at the Gramercy Theatre after opening for Devildriver at Stage 48 only five months ago. Whitechapel proved itself this time around with a brutal metal performance. Bozeman growled in front of a thunderous avalanche of breakdowns and metal riffs. The band came on stage to the recorded sound of the instrumental "Rise" and then launched into "Our Endless War" with manic force, as Bozeman's growling vocals articulated an angry message citing the failure of the American system. Throughout the hard banging performance, the music remained uber-intense and dynamic enough to spin one's head. The band's greatest weakness, however, was that although the band has three guitarists, the music failed to feature a high level of guitar leads.

Visit Whitechapel at

Saturday, November 8, 2014

He Is Legend at the Studio at Webster Hall

Heavy metal band He Is Legend formed in 2000 by several graduating high school students in Wilmington, North Carolina. The band name was adapted from the title of Richard Matheson's 1954 vampire novel I Am Legend. The band presently consists of vocalist Schuylar Croom, guitarists Adam Tanbouz and Denis Desloge, bassist Matt Williams and drummer Sam Huff. He Is Legend released its fourth album, Heavy Fruit, on August 19, 2014.

Headlining at the Studio at Webster Hall tonight, He is Legend performed a compelling mix of classic and nu metal styles, combining bluesy vocals with fast, crunching guitar riffs and pounding percussion. Croom's vocals verged on screamo while rooting itself on a basic rock and roll foundation. The overall sound was raw, gritty and forceful, and yet sometimes interjected art-rock-styled mini-suites where the music slowed and lightened significantly before reengaging with a sledgehammer. At a time when so many metal bands sound alike, He Is Legend's non-traditional and experimental hard rocking performance was refreshing.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Hozier at Irving Plaza

Andrew Hozier-Byrne, known simply as Hozier, was born on St. Patrick's Day 1990 in Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland. The son of a musician, he taught himself to play guitar and piano, and was already fronting a soul band when he was 15 years old. Later, he attended Trinity College in Dublin to study music and joined the Trinity Orchestra, but dropped out midway through his first year in order to record demos in a simple studio he created in his attic. In 2013 he recorded a four-track EP, Take Me to the Church, playing most of the instruments and singing all the parts. The title track became his breakthrough song after its video showing a hate crime against a same-sex couple went viral on YouTube. Hozier followed with the 2014 EP From Eden. Hozier's self-titled debut solo album was release globally in October 2014.

When Hozier booked his 2014 North American club tour, his breakout single "Take Me to Church" was still at the buzz stage. He performed at the Bowery Ballroom in May and six months later closed his tour with two headlining nights at Irving Plaza, even as his March 2015 theater tour sold out in advance. Hozier started his set plucking off notes to the gentle, brooding Irish-folk-sounding "Like Real People Do" on a hollow-bodied guitar. Mid-song, his band began accompanying him, playing softly in the background. The excited audience was unable to match the quiet reverence, cheering loudly and repeatedly through the song. In the darkness of the room, Hozier continued with a similarly dark and jazzy "Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene," also from his first EP. As steam rose from his cup of hot tea, Hozier displayed little flare, chatted briefly with the audience between songs in what sounded like a humble mumble, and generally made the performance exceptionally homey. Mid-set, Hozier's love of American blues was established with his cover of Skip Jones' "Illinois Blues," which he played, along with a couple of original songs, solo on a nylon-string acoustic guitar. His songs articulated emotional aching and longing, and his haunting vocals matched the tone well. Hozier concluded his main set with his signature song, "Take Me to Church," his anthem about worshipping a lover, and returned for two encore songs, a cover of Amerie's "1 Thing" and his own "From Eden," performed in quintuple time signature. Hozier showed he was an artist with the skill to craft solid songs, present them with a charming, minimalistic musical arrangement and sing with enough raw manly-yet-sensitive emotion to make for an appealing performance.

Visit Hozier at

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Richie Kotzen at B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill

Richie Kotzen began playing piano at age five and (inspired by the band KISS) guitar at age seven in his home town of Reading, Pennsylvania. As a teen-ager, Kotzen played guitar with local bands and recorded his first solo album by the age of 18. A year later, in 1989, he created the video Rock Chops, highlighting many of his formative techniques, and appeared on the cover of Guitar World magazine.  Kotzen moved to Los Angeles in 1991 at age 21, and joined glam-rock band Poison. In 1996 Fender Musical Instruments launched two signature model guitars bearing Kotzen's name.  Kotzen joined the mainstream rock band Mr. Big in 1999 and currently plays guitar and fronts the Winery Dogs with bassist Billy Sheehan and drummer Mike Portnoy. Kotzen recently curated a career retrospective collection from his 18 solo albums; The Essential Richie Kotzen was released on September 2, 2014.

The Winery Dogs performed at B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill just a few months ago, but tonight Kotzen's trio (with bassist Dylan Wilson and drummer Mike Bennet) returned to the venue to feature his solo work. Kotzen made a splash as soon as he came on stage wearing red MC Hammer-type parachute pants, black high top sneakers and a black tank top exposing tattooed biceps. Opening the show with "War Paint," a new track on his latest release, Kotzen showed his bluesy roots both in his guitar playing and in his soulful vocals. The song exploded with hard and heavy riffs and not one but several guitar solo intervals -- and Kotzen was finger-picking, not using a pick. Kotzen showcased fluid legato and arpeggio sweeps using his bare fingertips. In a traditional classic rock style, he used minimal electronic effects and foot pedals, focusing more on what pure sounds he could wring out of his Fender guitar. The songs were well composed and Kotzen sang them well, occasionally climaxing with a soulful screech followed by similar sounds in his wailing, melodic guitar licks. The further he went into his two-hour performance, the deeper he went into his bluesy guitar runs. One can only wonder why he is not a better known guitarist.

Visit Richie Kotzen at

Monday, November 3, 2014

Lucero at the Bowery Ballroom

Ben Nichols
Country-rock jam band Lucero formed in 1998 in Memphis, Tennessee. Caught between rock and country, the band played punk clubs due to a lack of proper venues for mixed-genre artists. The band toured hard and with time crafted a niche audience. Lucero's 10th album, Lucero: Live from Atlanta, is a double-CD, career-spanning retrospective of 32 songs recorded over three nights in Atlanta’s Terminal West. Lucero is presently comprised of vocalist/guitarist Ben Nichols, guitarist Brian Venable, keyboardist Rick Steff, bassist John Stubblefield and drummer Roy Berry.

On this By The Seat Of Our Pants Tour, Lucero headlined three nights at the Bowery Ballroom and opened for itself, starting each night by playing an acoustic set of deep cuts and songs not often performed live with the full band. On the first night, the set list for the first half of the show was scribbled on a flat brown paper bag, and the looseness on stage made one wonder if this set list was more fact or fiction. Between sets, several band members smoked and chatted with fans outside the venue. The second set rocked more and featured horns. The attraction was not the individual songs, however, but the spirit in which they were delivered. Nichols' deep, gravelly vocals led the charge and the party began. Nichols sang heartfelt songs with vivid, panoramic tableaus of life, love, partying and taking the road. Lucero rocked and twanged accordingly, seldom defining a clear boundary, as if the band was comprised of anti-pop bohemians. The band demonstrated its flexibility, successfully fusing its alt-folk, alt-country, alt-punk and alt-rock sounds.

Visit Lucero at

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Born of Osiris at the Gramercy Theatre

Ronnie Canizaro
Deathcore band Born of Osiris was formed in 2003 in Palatine, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. The group underwent several name changes, including Diminished (2003–2004), Your Heart Engraved (2004–2006), and Rosecrance (2006–2007), before finally settling on Born of Osiris in 2007, basing the name on the tale of Horus, the son of the Egyptian deity Osiris. Born of Osiris' third and most recent album, Tomorrow We Die Alive, was released in 2013. The band presently consists of vocalist Ronnie Canizaro, guitarist Lee McKinney, keyboardist Joe Buras, bassist David Da Rocha and drummer Cameron Losch.

After more than 10 years as an opening act, Born of Osiris finally is headlining concert halls. At the Gramercy Theatre tonight, the band opened with "Empires Erased" from the band's first EP, The New Reign. Surpisingly, the band performed five of the eight songs from that 2007 collection. No songs were performed from 2009's debut A Higher Place album. The rest of the set was from 2011's The Discovery album and from the 2013 Tomorrow We Die Alive album. Like far too many metal bands nowadays, the stage was lit from behind, making the band nearly invisible except for silhouettes throughout the show. Canizaro exhorted the audience to raise their hands, but one doubts he could have seen much of the audience in the darkness that was pierced only by roving lights. As the audience moshed, an energetic Canizaro screamed his growls, the keyboards lent an epic and sometimes symphonic sound, the guitars chugged rich riffs and the breakdowns were executed well. Was it nu metal or was it deathcore? Was it progressive or technical? While the band seemed to have found an interesting way to mix several modern metal influences, the problem is that this overall field of music is so flooded right now that standing out is extremely difficult. A less distracting lighting design that spotlighted the musicians might have helped the audience focus more on the music than on the moshing.