Thursday, October 29, 2015

Youth Lagoon at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Youth Lagoon
Trevor Powers was born in San Diego, California, and raised in Boise, Idaho. He started composing music while still in high school, and while in college in 2010 began recording his songs in his bedroom, a kitchen, and a four-car garage. Powers took Youth Lagoon as his alias in 2010 and in 2011 posted his dream-pop music online to positive response. He released his third album, Savage Hills Ballroom, on September 25, 2015.

At Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom tonight, Powers commanded the spotlight over his three backing musicians. Hunched tightly over his keyboard for much of the performance, periodically stepping away to work the audience from the edge of the stage, he whispered, crooned and belted songs from his three albums. Much of the music veered towards lo-fi experimentation, especially when the other instruments were near inaudible and Powers unraveled his psyche in a high tenor and falsetto over his electric piano and sampled dreamscapes. Even when the band gave the songs a skeleton of muscular beats or lilting rhythms, Powers' vocals rested in a spacey atmosphere, circling back for the choruses. Perhaps because most of the lyrics drew from his anxiety disorder and other struggles and troubles, the delivery of the performance seemed intimate and cathartic. If a music fan was looking for happy rock and roll, however, this was not the place to find it.

Visit Youth Lagoon at

Combichrist at the Marlin Room at Webster Hall

Andy LaPlegua
Ole Anders Olsen, known professionally as Andy LaPlegua, was born in Fredrikstad, Norway, and started his music career there in hardcore bands. Phasing through various bands, he gradually explored hip hop, metal, industrial, trance, and psychobilly music. In 2003 he formed his most successful project, Combichrist, as a melting pot of many of these sounds, recording solo but performing live with a band. Combichrist specializes in aggrotech, an evolution of electro-industrial and dark electro that in the mid-1990s began fusing elements of EBM, industrial, noise, trance and/or techno music. Combichrist's sixth and most recent album, We Love You, was released on March 25, 2014. Combichrist is currently based in Atlanta, Georgia.

At the Marlin Room at Webster Hall tonight, LaPlegua’s hardcore past and electronica present merged into a powernoise spectacle. Backing LaPlegua's frequently acidic vocals, Combichrist scraped an explosive barrage of industrial-led beats and buzz-sawing guitar riffs over prominent stabs of lead synth lines. The result was a marriage of dark, gothic singing intertwined with raw headbanging and floor -stomping rhythms. Throbbing and thrusting, it was a sonic battery with such bare-toothed aggression that it had the potential to loosen eye sockets and dislodge ear drums. With so many nu-metal bands sounding so alike these days, this metallic foray into industrial-techno music was as brutal as it was engaging.

Visit Combichrist at

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Misfits at the PlayStation Theater

Jerry Only
As the burgeoning punk rock scene was exploding in New York City in 1977, vocalist/pianist Glenn Danzig was in Lodi, New Jersey, formulating Misfits as a punk rock band similar to the Ramones. Danzig named the band after actress Marilyn Monroe's final film The Misfits (1961). Bassist Gerald Caiafa, later known as Jerry Only, replaced the original bassist early on and survived through dozens of personnel changes. In the early 1980s, Misfits evolved into a hardcore punk band (and later a heavy metal band), and along the way became increasingly committed to exploiting the horror movie angle, both in song composition and appearance. Misfits disbanded in 1983 and Danzig went on to form Samhain and then the eponymous Danzig. Misfits (and especially Misfits t-shirts) became even more popular after the band's demise. After a series of legal battles with Danzig, Only and his bandmate brother, guitarist Paul Caiafa (renamed Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein), regained the rights to record and perform as Misfits and formed a new version of the band in 1995. The band dissolved in 2000, but Only reformed yet another Misfits, this time taking on the lead vocals in addition to the bass. Misfits has recorded seven studio albums, the most recent being The Devil's Rain in 2011. The band presently consists of Only, his son Jerry Caifa, Jr. on guitar and Eric "Chupacabra" Arce on drums.

Misfits annually tours around Halloween, and with no current album to promote this year, the Static Age Revisited tour promised a return to the band's early punk roots. Select cities, including New York, were promised a revisit to 1982’s Walk Among Us and 1983’s Earth A.D. albums in their entirety. As the house lights dimmed at the PlayStation Theater tonight, the band's skeletal mascot, the Crimson Ghost, sauntered hauntingly past the graveyard motif displayed on the stage. Wearing zombie face paint, the three Misfits then walked on and performed an astounding 39 songs in about 90 minutes. In addition to most of the two promised albums, the set also included six songs from Famous Monsters, four songs from Static Age and a few other songs. Only also introduced Alicia Vigil, bassist of the She Demons, to play bass during a newer song, "Vampire Girl." As promised, this was a revisit to the band's hyperspeed blasts and bombastic assault. The music was not nearly as raw as it used to be, however: Only has taken vocal lessons, the younger Caiafa's guitar leads were impressive, and Arce skillfully played a decent drum kit. Despite the seeming limitations of continually creating fresh horror punk without exhausting the factory, Only so far has found a way to keep the franchise alive.

Visit Misfits at

The She Demons at the PlayStation Theater

Priva Panda
Jerry Only of the Misfits posted an audition notice in April 2015. He sought five women to form a band that, like the Misfits, would mix horror themes with punk, but also would cross the Ramones with the Ronettes. He selected vocalist Priya Panda, guitarists Constance Day and Kiki Wongo, bassist Alicia Vigil and drummer Jessica Goodwin, all of whom had played in bands in Los Angeles, California. Even without an album to promote, the She Demons, named after a low-budget 1958 horror film, then took to the road, opening for the Misfits.

At the PlayStation Theater, Only enthusiastically introduced his pet project. The She Demons then skillfully filled the huge stage with sight and sound. Visually, the youthful women were attractive, wore eye-catching rock star wardrobe, and worked the audience well. Sonically, the band brought punk energy and metal power to cute 1960s pop covers (the Ronettes' "Be My Baby", the Crystals' "He's a Rebel") and newer horror-themed compositions ("Fresh Blood", "Once Bitten", "She Demon"). Like the Runaways, Suzi Quatro, Girlschool, Fanny and many similar all-women rock bands, the She Demons took hard rock and roll and gave it a feminine touch. The musicians displayed impressive talents, but like actors interpreting a script, they were still working on building their own common voice. The newborn band needs time to live in its own skin, but already shows promise.

Visit the She Demons at

Monday, October 26, 2015

Autre Ne Veut at the Bowery Ballroom

Arthur Ashin has both an anxiety disorder and a masters degree in psychology.  His healing is coming not from his studies but through his singing. When the Brooklynite began recording music, he adopted a new moniker and a new identity. The professional name Autre Ne Veut (French for "I want no other.") came from an inscription he read on a 15th-century British dress ornament on display at the Cloisters museum in New York City. Autre Ne Veut's third album, Age of Transparency, was released on October 2, 2015.

At the Bowery Ballroom tonight, Autre Ne Veut looked like a homeboy, in backwards cap, saggy pants and t-shirt. He pulled only his head through his hoodie, so that most of the garment draped over his shoulders like he forgot to finish dressing. His staging and music was pretty close to naked, however. On a no-frills stage design, the band was subtle, playing smooth ambient and funk grooves, occasionally punctuating a song with backup harmonies. Contrastingly, Autre Ne Veut's vocals were far from subtle. His eyes and fist were often tightly clenched, and his mouth seemed locked in an eternal grimace. He spent much of the show in a L position, standing bent at the waist, from where he generated the most gut-wrenched yearning ever heard. His vocals had few bridges or crescendos; instead, a powerful rasp wrung exaggerated emotion into every single word he sang, launching from a peak and carrying on like a baby goes from tantrum to exhaustion. Was Autre Ne Veut's extreme delivery drawing on Ashin's raw wounds or his cathartic healing? He sounded like he was suffering longer than a Chicago Cubs fan. Whatever it was, it developed into a unique and mesmerizing performance.

Visit Autre Ne Veut at

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Disclosure at Madison Square Garden

Howard Lawrence
Howard Lawrence and his younger brother Guy Lawrence grew up in a musical household in Reigate, England. Howard started playing bass at the age of eight and Guy started playing the drums at the age of three. They now comprise Disclosure, an electronic music duo. The duo had their first UK hit in 2012 with "Latch," which featured Sam Smith on vocals. Disclosure sustained its momentum into 2013: the duo was voted into the BBC Radio 1xtra 'Hot Ten For 2013' and scored two consecutive top 10 hit singles in "White Noise" with AlunaGeorge and "You & Me" with Eliza Doolittle. Disclosure released its second studio album, Caracal, on September 25, 2015.

Headlining for the first time at Madison Square Garden tonight, Disclosure brought a high-tech visual presentation. As the set began, each brother stepped into a u-shaped bank of electronic equipment that included keyboards, computers, samplers, MIDI controllers, cymbals and drums. Guy was stationed on the left, mostly playing drum pads and keyboards; Howard, on the right, twiddled with dials and occasionally reached for a bass guitar to play a steady line. Four times they were joined by guest vocalists from their albums — not the A-listers, however, but instead Eliza Doolittle on "You & Me," Kwabs on "Willing & Able," Lion Babe on "Hourglass" and Brendan Reilly on "Moving Mountains." These vocalists were as much visual candy as the light show behind the performers, but did not stand out as musical highlights. The trouble with the show was that with much of it pre-programmed, including the vocals of the A-listers, one had to wonder if the tracks were backing the musicians or vice versa. Members of the audience who simply wanted to hear the hits got what they came for, especially with the final encore, "Latch." Those who were hoping for a more cutting edge live experience may have been disappointed.

Visit Disclosure at

Friday, October 23, 2015

Bob Gruen's 70th Birthday Party at Exile

Bob Gruen has been among the most celebrated rock photographers in New York since the 1970s. Gruen is perhaps best known for being the personal photographer of John Lennon and Yoko Ono during their years in New York; he shot the iconic images of Lennon wearing a New York City t-shirt and standing in front of the Statue of Liberty making the peace sign in 1974. Gruen celebrated his 70th birthday at Exile.
Jesse Malin, owner of Exile, opened the evening with two songs.

Robert Gordon sang the Yardbirds' "Heart Full of Soul."

Walter Lure sang three songs from his days in the Heartbreakers, including "Chinese Rocks" and "Too Much Junkie Business."

Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators sang the MC5's "Kick Out the Jams."

Debbie Harry of Blondie dueted with Handsome Dick Manitoba on Sonny & Cher's "I Got You, Babe."

Adrenaline O.D. at the Bowery Electric

Although based out of Elmwood Park, New Jersey, Adrenalin O.D. was born in the New York hardcore punk movement of the early 1980s. Adrenaline O.D. existed from 1981 to 1990, and was known for playing extremely fast music accompanied by humorous lyrics. For the band's first vinyl release, a six song EP entitled Let's Barbeque, Adrenalin O.D. could only afford 15 minutes of studio time, so the musicians recorded all six tracks in one take with no overdubs. Adrenalin O.D.'s first album, The Wacky Hijinks of Adrenalin O.D. showcased the band's blazing speed-punk and sarcastic lyrics about suburban experience. The band's fourth and most recent studio album, 1990's Ishtar, was so named because, like the movie of the same name, it went way over budget and was only available for a short time before the label folded. Adrenaline O.D. reunites periodically; the present personnel includes original members Paul Richard (vocals, guitar), Jack Steeples (bass), Dave Scott Schwartzman (drums) and long time member Bruce Wingate (guitar).

At the Bowery Electric tonight, Adrenalin O.D.'s four musicians paused between many songs, perhaps to catch their breath as well as to indulge the audience in light-hearted chats. Occasional heavy chords leaned towards thrash metal, but with infrequent leads and bridges, the music remained rooted in primal punk, conducive to moshing. Unlike many of the bands from that period, Adrenaline O.D. did not evolve far; some 35 years after the band started, Adrenalin O.D. still performed with the force, speed, stamina and integrity of old.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Opeth at the Beacon Theatre

Mikael Åkerfeldt
In the 1970s, a young Mikael Åkerfeldt was in Stockholm, Sweden, listening to progressive rock and heavy metal bands. He started playing in a band called Eruption as a teenager, but in 1990, at age 16, he accepted an invitation to join the newly forming band Opeth. The band changed personnel often, and vocalist/guitarist Åkerfeldt has remained Opeth's last founding member. The current band consists of Åkerfeldt, guitarist Fredrik Åkesson, keyboardist Joakim Svalberg, bassist Martín Méndez and drummer Martin "Axe" Axenrot. Opeth's 11th and most recent album, Pale Communion, was released on August 26, 2014.

To celebrate its 25th anniversary as a band and the 10th anniversary of its groundbreaking album, 2005's Ghost Reveries, Opeth performed a select few shows where the album was played in its entirety, followed by a second retrospective set. In years past, Opeth's hybrid sound was sometimes labeled progressive death metal. At the Beacon Theatre tonight, even that genre was inadequate, as much of the music was quite soft. Not purists to any form of music, Opeth tested the boundaries of many styles of progressive rock, hard rock, death metal, acoustic folk, classical, ambient, and jazz. Frequent shifting time signatures and key and chord changes manipulated each movement's mood, and intricate and innovative prog-metal oddities, particularly from the keyboards, generated curious twists. The lengthy compositions came out sounding somewhat like King Crimson with an occasional death growl. The question remains as to whether the band's original death metal fans will continue to follow Opeth's chameleon sound.

Visit Opeth at

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Joe Jackson at the Town Hall

David Jackson was born in Burton-on-Trent, England, but grew up in the South Coast naval port city of Portsmouth.  A skinny, asthmatic kid, he loved books and originally wanted to be a writer.  At age 11, however, he joined a school violin class in order to escape gym class. Jackson soon switched to piano, mainly because of his new ambition: to be a composer. He began playing in bars at the age of 16 and won a scholarship to study musical composition at London's Royal Academy of Music. During this time, he played in various pop and cabaret bands and was given the new name Joe Jackson, the nickname based on his perceived resemblance to the puppet character Joe 90. He recorded his early albums under the name the Joe Jackson Band beginning in 1979, which attracted punk rock audiences, but Jackson quickly moved onto other genres. With an eclectic catalogue that includes punk, reggae, swing, Latin, jazz, classical and pop albums, Jackson released his 20th and most recent album, Fast Forward, on October 2, 2015. After living in New York from 1984 to 2006, Jackson now lives in Berlin, Germany.

At the Town Hall tonight, Joe Jackson was his own opening act, performing five songs solo on the piano before bringing the band on stage with him. He opened with a sparse, emotive rendition of 1979's "It's Different for Girls" and concluded this mini-set with a cover of the Beatles' "Girl" and the title track of his current album. The band members then subtly walked on one by one, starting with longtime bassist Graham Maby thumping out the recognizable bass line to "Is She Really Going Out with Him?" Songs that Jackson popularized decades ago, including "Real Men", "You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)", "Chinatown", "Sunday Papers" and "Steppin' Out" were all reworked as singer-songwriter pieces, rocking heavier as the show progressed thanks to stinging guitar work from Teddy Kumpel and driving percussion from drummer Doug Yowell. Jackson and band also rocked a season-appropriate cover of David Bowie's "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)" and began his three encores with a cover of Television's "See No Evil."  The concert ended with the band playing "A Slow Song," during which the musicians left the stage one by one, leaving Jackson to conclude the show much like he started it, alone at the piano. From elegant piano ballads to racing rockers, the 61-year-old Jackson was in fine voice, and his set was a class act.

Visit Joe Jackson at

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Kate Nash at the Bowery Ballroom

Kate Nash was born to an English father and an Irish mother in London, England. She wanted to study acting, but was rejected from several drama colleges and universities, so she worked for a fashion retailer and a restaurant chain. In 2005, she broke her foot in a fall, leaving her homebound, so she started recording demo tracks at home, uploaded her music to the internet, and became instantly popular. Nash's 2007 debut album was a hit in the United Kingdom and she was named Best Female Artist at the 2008 BRIT Awards. This led to acting roles in four movies and a relocation to Los Angeles, California. Nash released her third and most recent album, Girl Talk, in 2013.

At the Bowery Ballroom tonight, Nash seemed to be equal parts sensitive singer-songwriter and riot grrl. Backed by a female guitar/bass/drums trio, Nash both sang gentle songs and rocked out to stripped-down power pop songs. She alternated between a smooth voice for the softer numbers and a harsher, grittier voice for the rockers. Both voices were rather plaintive. She commanded attention, however, especially when she moved away from her guitar and keyboards to work the stage with only her microphone. The simplicity of her voice and her musical arrangements suggested that her potential audience may be found largely among teen females and their dates.

Visit Kate Nash at

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Concert Highlights from the CMJ Music Marathon 10/15/2015

Loose Buttons at the Alphabet Lounge
Based in New York City, Loose Buttons performed good-time pop rock at the Alphabet Lounge.

The Ruen Brothers at East Village Social
Brothers Henry Stansall (left) and Rupert Stansall are from Scunthorpe, England, but were honed in American roots rock like the Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison. They mixed these influences with British skiffle in an acoustic set at East Village Social.

Sunbeam Sound Machine at Leftfield
Nick Sowersby (right) led his dreamy quintet, Sunbeam Sound Machine from Melbourne, Australia, through a pillow-soft pop set at Leftfield.

French Horn Rebellion at Pianos
French Horn Rebellion are Robert and David Perlick-Molinari, two brothers born and bred in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and currently residing in Brooklyn, New York. Backed by locals vocalists and musicians, they delivered hot beats and 1980s-styled dance music -- with an occasional blast of French horn.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Concert Highlights from the CMJ Music Marathon 10/14/2015

Ninet Tayeb at Fat Baby
Ninet Tayeb is one of the most famous entertainers in her native Israel, but here she was singing in a small New York club to less than 100 people. The pop singer sang soulfully while her trio rocked hard.

Nikki Hill at Carroll Place
Bred in North Carolina and based in New Orleans, Louisiana, Nikki Hill was backed by a jamming trio and offered a gritty spin on roots rock and roll like a gospel singer reinterpreting the Rolling Stones.

Palehound at le Poisson Rouge
Palehound is a trio based around Boston led by guitarist/vocalist Ellen Kempner. She sang softly about her heartbreaks and played noodling leads while the rhythm section gave the songs some muscle.

The Jungle Giants at Berlin
An indie rock quintet from Brisbane, Australia, the Jungle Giants performed speedy, bouncy pop tunes.

Lex Sadler's Rhythm & Stealth
Born in Australia and based in New York City, Lex Sadler on synthesizers was joined by a powerful drummer (and a trumpeter for one song) for dizzying electronica that was heavy on soundscapes, throbbing bass lines and driving percussion.

Buhu at Niagara
Buhu is a synth-pop trio hailing from Austin, Texas. Juan Pablo Mendez played synths and guitar like it was 1980s Brit-pop, backed by a sturdy rhythm section.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Concert Highlights from the CMJ Music Marathon 10/13/2015

For 35 years, the annual CMJ Music Marathon has been energized by the excitement of discovery. Hundreds of musicians fly into New York City from all over the world hoping for an opportunity to expand their audience. Hundreds of conference participants hope to learn that little extra knowledge that will help establish their career in music. Nearly 100 local venues open their stages to new and barely known artists. Yes, we are energized by the excitement of discovery in the music capital of the world!

The Heaters at Elvis Guesthouse
The Heaters from Michigan performed psychedelic shoegaze at Elvis Guesthouse.

Ginette Claudette at the Drom
Uptown New Yorker Ginette Claudette and her two musicians performed emotive soft pop slow jams.

Step-Panther at the Cake Shop
Step-Panther flew in from Australia to play lead guitar-loaded garage rock.

Nina Sky at Arlene's Grocery
Nicole and Natalie Albino were a vocal tag team with their New York-born urban electronica jams.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Hollywood Undead at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Jorel Decker (J-Dog) and Aron Erlichman (Deuce) posted an original song online in 2005 and its popularity led them to start a rock rap band. Based out of Los Angeles, California, Hollywood Undead presently consists of multi-instrumentalists Jorel "J-Dog" Decker, Matthew "Da Kurlzz" Busek, Dylan "Funny Man" Alvarez, George "Johnny 3 Tears" Ragan, Jordon "Charlie Scene" Terrell  and Daniel "Danny" Murillo; Deuce and the band parted ways in 2010. Hollywood Undead has sold over two million records in the United States, and about three million records worldwide. The group's fourth studio album, Day of the Dead, was released on March 31, 2015.

At Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom tonight, Hollywood Undead's six members came on stage wearing individualized goalie masks. They removed the masks after a few songs, but it still was challenging to keep tabs on who was doing what, as they moved constantly and rapidly between microphones and musical instruments. Many of their songs featured three and four rappers in rotation. Likewise, the genre-hopping music behind the raps ranged between sweet pop, harder alternative rock and howling nu metal, some propelled by growls and heavy riff breakdowns. From one song to the next, the lyrics jumped from pensive street poetry to light-hearted party-time hoopla. Hollywood Undead opened with the new "Usual Suspects," and minutes later had the audience joining them in chanting the humorous lyrics to "Undead." The scope was so wide that if one did not like one song, one only had to wait for it to end and the next song to begin. Perhaps because each of the six rappers presented his character to the fore in continuously kinetic bursts of breathless pacing, the performance remained exciting and riveting.

Visit Hollywood Undead at

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Blitzen Trapper at the Bowery Ballroom

Eric Earley
The band that would become Blitzen Trapper began as an experimental progressive psychedelic band called Garmonbozia in 2000 in Portland, Oregon. By 2003, Garmonbozia evolved into the more country and folk rock quintet Blitzen Trapper, presently consisting of Eric Earley (vocals/guitar/banjo/harmonica/keyboard), Erik Menteer (guitar/keyboard), Marty Marquis (guitar/keyboard/melodica), Michael Van Pelt (bass), and Brian Adrian Koch (drums/harmonica). Blitzen Trapper achieved initial success with 2007's Wild Mountain Nation album. Blitzen Trapper released its eighth studio album, All Across This Land, on October 2, 2015.

At the Bowery Ballroom tonight, Blitzen Trapper held close to its new album, only touching down lightly on the four mid-career albums that established the band. Performing 23 songs, Blitzen Trapper honed in largely on country-rock twang and yet spread out from soft acoustic songs to blazing, hard-pounding southern rock. Bandleader Eric Earley, who began playing music at the age of three, wrote most of the band's music, but the set included covers of the Beatles, Townes Van Zandt and Thin Lizzy. Guitar licks that recalled the Grateful Dead and an occasional funky Band-like groove occasionally gave way to chunky Lynyrd Skynard-styled hooks. Early often sang with fiery urgency, a tone that was sporadically lightened by his fellow band members' multi-part harmonies. Menteer on guitar and Marquis on organ frequently filled out the songs with rolling leads. Bordering on jam band ethos, Blitzen Trapper mined the sounds of America and balanced inventive ensemble arrangements for a rocking set.

Visit Blitzen Trapper at

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Winery Dogs at the PlayStation Theater

In 2011, bassist Billy Sheehan (Steve Vai, David Lee Roth, Talas, Mr. Big) and drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Avenged Sevenfold, Adrenaline Mob) were ending a tentative project and looking for a vocalist/guitarist for a new project . That Metal Show host Eddie Trunk suggested they contact Richie Kotzen (Poison, Mr. Big). The Winery Dogs became a rock super-trio and released a self-titled debut album in 2013. The Winery Dogs' second album, Hot Streak, was released on October 2, 2015.

At the PlayStation Theater tonight, the staging was minimalistic: to one side, a Hartke bass rig; on the opposite side, a Cornell guitar rig; in the center, a modest (for Portnoy) drum kit; a simple backdrop of the band’s logo hung on the back wall. No blinding lights, fog or other gimmicks introduced the band, save for George Clinton’s "Atomic Dog" blasting through the sound system. Portnoy, Sheehan, and lastly Kotzen walked out on stage and similarly avoided rock star trappings and concentrated only on the music that three super-talented musicians could make together. The classic-sounding rock trio charged cohesively into "Oblivion" and "Captain Love," the first two tracks from the new album. The band's 16-song set, eight songs from each of the band's two albums, showcased the three members' musical acrobatics individually and corporately. Each performed an extended solo with tasteful grace. Kotzen shined particularly with masterful finger-picking on his electric guitars; he also played an acoustic guitar on a new song, "Fire" (perhaps the only song in which he used a pick), and a keyboard on "Think It Over." While the musical virtuosity was mind-blowing, the band demonstrated two liabilities that has stunted it from supergroup mega-audiences: Kotzen's soulful, smoky vocals were often strained, and the band's well-tempered tension-and-release songs often were overshadowed by their prominent musical proficiency. Despite these weaknesses, the sonic big picture was astounding.

Visit the Winery Dogs at

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Atreyu at Irving Plaza

Alex Varkatzas
Reaching age 14 in Orange County, California, vocalist Alex Varkatzas formed the punk rock group Retribution in 1996 with guitarist Dan Jacobs and drummer (and later co-vocalist) Brandon Saller. Over the next two years, Retribution developed a heavier metalcore style and changed its name to Atreyu, after the character of the same name from Michael Ende's fantasy book The Neverending Story. Rhythm guitarist Travis Miguel joined in 2000 and bassist Marc McKnight joined in 2004. Atreyu achieved success but went on hiatus in 2011 and reunited in 2014. Atreyu's sixth album, Long Live, released on September 18, 2015, is the band's first album in six years.

Headlining at Irving Plaza tonight, Atreyu performed an energetic, hard hitting metal set featuring 15 songs from the band's catalogue. Varkatzas frequently launched the band into a pounding rocker with aggressive vocals, but then many of the songs would interject a more melodic interlude, often sung by the drummer. The set included Atreyu's fierce cover of Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name," originally featured on the soundtrack to the film Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Several times during the set, Varkatzas sang at the stage barriers to connect with the fans in the front line, and at the end of the set he crowd surfed over them. The songs were powered by strong guitar riffs, although there were few extended solos; the regular set ended with the two guitarists momentarily playing behind their heads, but this was for show purposes only. While not breaking new ground, Atreyu's overall performance nevertheless engaged its fans by smoothly and dynamically detonating rough and melodic forces alternately.

Visit Atreyu at

Bridget Barkan at Overthrow New York Boxing Club

Native New Yorker Bridget Barkan has been acting since childhood, most recently in a recurring role as the one legged hooker on Law & Order: SVU. As a vocalist, she performs in cabaret productions and toured as a backup vocalist for the Scissor Sisters for almost three years. Barkan also is a teaching artist with Carnegie Hall’s Music Connections, working incarcerated youth. Barkan's Dear Stranger album was self-released in 2012.

Barkan debuted her new single, "Danger Heart," with a concert staged in the ring of the Overthrow New York Boxing Club. Taking full advantage of the theme, Barkan had two "boxers" introduce each song as another "round." The two men engaged her songs with costumes and choreographed moves, and one song featured a female weightlifter. Barkan herself changed outfits to fit the theme of each song. An animated artist, Barkan sang well, and her songs were catchy pop tunes. In the end, this was more than a music concert; it was a well-designed musical theater piece.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Kurt Vile & the Violators at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Kurt Vile
Kurt Vile started playing music as a child in his home town of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He first played trumpet in fourth grade. At the age of 14, he learned how to play the banjo given to him by his bluegrass-loving father. The following year the teenager got his first guitar and began writing songs. By age 17, Vile was creating lo-fi home recordings of these songs and giving the demo discs to friends. After two years as a fork-lift driver at a warehouse in Boston, Massachusetts, Vile returned to Philadelphia, where in 2003 he met Adam Granduciel, who had  relocated from Oakland, California. The duo formed The War on Drugs in 2005, and also played together in Kurt Vile  & the Violators. Vile left the War on Drugs after one album, and Granduciel years later left the Violators, as both Vile and Granduciel focused on their own music. Kurt Vile & the Violators presently consists of Vile on vocals and guitar, Jesse Trbovich and Rob Laakso on guitars and bass, and Kyle Spence on drums. Vile's sixth album, b'lieve I'm goin down..., was released on September 25, 2015.

Earlier Vile recordings were indie pop, often with more than a touch of psychedelic guitar; at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom tonight, the first of two consecutive sold out nights, Vile demonstrated that he has gravitated to a softer and slower foundation. A few light bulbs scattered about the stage set offered a dark ambiance, and the overhead stage lights remained dim throughout most of the set. The performance was similarly subdued, with the songs now steering away from the lively in favor of a balmy folk style. Usually looking down so that his long wavy hair covered his face, Vile gently finger picked his guitars as quickly as an aerobic exercise, and his subtle singing often reflected his youthful obsession with Bob Dylan. Seven of the 13 songs performed were from the new album; the remaining six songs were drawn from the three previous albums. New for the band, the more recent repertoire sometimes featured the Violators lightly playing keyboards. As Vile and company moved further away from garage rock to a more wistful and whispering Americana, perhaps a coffeehouse or theater setting would have been more appropriate than a ballroom. The songs deserved a closer listen, but for anyone expecting a rocking concert, this performance was rather dull.

Visit Kurt Vile & the Violators at

The Lighthouse and the Whaler at the Studio at Webster Hall

Michael LoPresti
Michael LoPresti studied literature and theology in college but after graduation became a vocalist and guitarist. He formed the Lighthouse and the Whaler in 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio. The band's name was inspired by chapter 14 of Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Since its creation the band has moved from a folk trio to a rock quartet. The band now consists of Michael, Mark Poro on mandolin, violin, guitar, piano and glockenspiel, Ryan Walker on bass and Michael's brother Matthew LoPresti on drums. The Lighthouse and the Whaler's third album, Mont Royal, was released on August 28, 2015.

The Lighthouse and the Whaler headlined at the Studio at Webster Hall tonight, performing a curious brand of indie compositions. Michael LoPresti in a wistful high register sang introspective lyrics exploring self discovery and identity, fully embodied by rolling waves of shimmering electronics and strings. A fifth musician, Molly Connolly, added violin, synthesizer and guitar to the songs. Frequently a musician moved from one instrument to another mid-song to add another layer of sound. The spacious arrangements ranged from atmospheric to plush. Alternating between brooding and bouncy, the band's overall soft wash of sound was low key and laid back yet engaging.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Korn at Irving Plaza

Jonathan Davis
In Bakersfield, California, a band called L.A.P.D. morphed into pioneering nu metal band Korn (stylized as KoЯn) in 1993.  Over the next 20 years, Korn recorded 11 studio albums that sold over 35 million units world-wide. The band's current lineup includes founding members Jonathan Davis (vocals, bagpipes), James "Munky" Shaffer (guitar), Brian "Head" Welch (guitar, backing vocals), and Reginald "Fieldy" Arvizu (bass), along with Ray Luzier (drums), who in 2007 replaced the band's original drummer, David Silveria. The band's most recent album is 2013's The Paradigm Shift.

Korn celebrated belatedly the 20-year anniversary of its 1994 self-titled debut album by performing the collection track by track at smaller venues, including at a sold-out Irving Plaza tonight. The musicians came on stage slowly, one by one, and then charged brutally into the album's opening track, "Blind," with the audience chanting the lyrics so loud that it was hard to hear Davis sing. The two-decades-old songs, originally written from a place of traumatic hurt and raging anger, retained their volatile performance, with hard and heavy beats emphasized by the waist-to-head headbanging of the musicians. "Ball Tongue" included snippets of Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock's "It Takes Two" and Slick Rick's "La Di Da Di." Several songs later, Davis played a bagpipe to introduce "Shoots and Ladders." Korn ended the main set with a haunting rendition of "Daddy," a song inspired by the sexual abuse Davis experienced as a minor from his neighbor. The set ended with deafening dissonance, until roadies stationed Davis' custom-designed H.R. Giger microphone stand and the band returned on stage to perform five songs from later albums. It was not a greatest hits show, but a memorable show for Korn fans.

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Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Vibrators at the Bowery Electric

John "Eddie" Edwards
One of punk rock's longest running bands, the Vibrators will be celebrating 40 years in a few months, although only one original member remains. The band first emerged in the British music scene in 1976 and shared stages with other first wave punk bands, including the Sex Pistols. The Vibrators had frequent personnel changes beginning in 1977 and split in 1980, but the original lineup regrouped in 1982. The current trio consists of original drummer John "Eddie" Edwards, along with bassist Pete Honkamaki and guitarist Darrell Bath. The Vibrators released its 20th album, Punk Mania: Return to the Roots, in 2014.

At the Bowery Electric tonight, the Vibrators played old fashioned punk rock that today probably would be reclassified as garage pop. The three-piece ensemble used minimal effects to produce a stripped-down guitar-fueled charge, often sounding like a speedy roots rock and roll band. All three members sang lead, offering a template of three similar flavors of jam. When they sang gang-vocals, they sounded like latter-day Clash. The musicians were proficient at their instruments as well. Although considered a one-hit wonder in 1970s England, the Vibrators still rock.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Colony House at the Mercury Lounge

Caleb Chapman
Caleb Chapman (vocals/guitar) and Will Chapman (drums) began making music together in early childhood, playing with their dad, contemporary Christian pop singer Steven Curtis Chapman. In 2009, while in high school in Franklin, Tennessee, the two brothers bonded with guitarist Scott Mills to form a band. Originally named Caleb, the trio changed its name to Colony House in 2013 after an apartment complex where each of them had lived at some time. Colony House self-released three EPs before releasing a debut album, When I Was Younger, on July 22, 2014.

Colony House recently toured as the opening act for NeedtoBreathe and Switchfoot, but headlining at the Mercury Lounge tonight Colony House had the opportunity to play an extended set. The band was joined by bassist and keyboardist Parke Avery. Caleb Chapman was a smooth vocalist, and this style fit well with the band's indie-pop approach to the singer-songwriter genre. His songs were peppered with uplifting messages of faith, hope and perseverance with heart-on-sleeve honesty. The arrangements were loaded with tight harmonies, clever instrumental fills and a sharp melodic sensibility employing well-segued hooks and crashing crescendos. A few arrangements were a bit aggressive, but most were made for a wider appeal. Much like Kings of Leon or the Killers, Colony House did justice in bringing together well crafted songs with a wall-of-sound alt rock.

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