Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Cro-Mags at the Highline Ballroom

John Joseph McGowan
Soon after starting in 1982, the Cro-Mags became one of the reigning stars of the New York hardcore punk scene. Internal disputes splintered and reformed the band several times, and hostilities remain incendiary when any of the principal members are interviewed. The violence peaked in 2012, when founder and former member Harley Flanagan was arrested for slashing two of the current members backstage at Webster Hall before the band was scheduled to perform. The Cro-Mags recorded five albums, the most recent being 2000's Revenge, and the current touring band features no original members. The touring band consists of vocalist John Joseph McGowan, guitarist A.J. Novello, bassist Craig Setari and drummer Maxwell "Mackie" Jayson.

The Cro-Mags controversy continues, but tonight's performance at the Highline Ballroom was above that because it raised funds for a good cause. All proceeds went to assist a three-year-old boy suffering with neurofibramatosis, which causes painful tumors throughout the body. Nevertheless, there was still the problem that the Cro-Mags concept was designed by musicians no longer present, and much of the set was comprised of 1980s songs performed by another four musicians. McGowan has been the public face and voice of the Cro-Mags for most of the band's history, however. In the end, the fans came not to argue the validity of the band but to support the charitable cause, hear the old punk anthems and relive the experience of 1980s thrash punk. McGowan shouted the lyrics, and the band played the music hard and heavy. For now, there is no other Cro-Mags, and these guys performed the score well.

The Undead at Tompkins Square Park

Bobby Steele & Diana Steele
Horror punk rock is a small and easily unnoticed subgenre of music, led by the Misfits and some of the band's offshoots. One of those fragments is the Undead, formed in 1980 in New Milford, New Jersey, when vocalist/guitarist Bobby Steele was fired from the Misfits. Steele moved to Manhattan and the Undead became the first band of the New York hardcore (NYHC) punk scene to sign a recording contract with a prominent label. The group went on hiatus in 2002 and Steele reformed it in 2006 with new members. During another hiatus, Steele released a solo album in 2009. He reformed the Undead again in late 2012 with yet another lineup. Over the past 36 years, the Undead released eight albums; the most recent, The Morgue... The Merrier, was released in October 2015. After many personnel changes, the Undead presently consists of Steele, keyboardist/vocalist Diana Steele, bassist Paul Mauled and singularly-named drummer Boris.

The Undead today headlined the annual free concert at Tompkins Square Park hosted by Chris Flash, the anarchistic newspaper the Shadow, and Time Warp Zine. The Undead's music was still too pop-melodic to be considered hardcore by later standards (more Ramones than Agnostic Front), but the sonic blast, speed and attitude remained firmly entrenched in original NYHC birth rites. The fury seemed to increase as the performance progressed. The show was a legitimate throwback to the origins of NYHC just a few yards away at the former A7 club.

Visit the Undead at www.theundead.com.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Flatbush Zombies at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Meechy Darko
Rappers Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice and Erick "The Architect" Elliott, all of Jamaican descent, have been friends since they bonded over the Japanese anime Dragon Ball Z in grade school in the largely West Indian Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York. They formed the rap trio Flatbush Zombies in 2010, releasing two popular mixtapes and several music videos, rapidly building a following for the Brooklyn-based hip hop movement known as "Beast Coast." A debut album, 3001: A Laced Odyssey, was released on March 11, 2016.

Flatbush Zombies' two sold out tour-closing nights at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom were a study in what makes the Brooklyn trio unique in a world cluttered with would-be rappers. What attracted a packed hall full of white youth to see three Black Jamaicans perform? Why did the venue reek of marijuana from the first rap to the last? What was this message from the rappers to "open your mind" all about? There might not be any clear answers to these questions, but this might have been a warm-up to Flatbush Zombies leading its followers into a zombie apocalypse. A booming prerecorded voice introduced Flatbush Zombies, saying "in a world full of haters stands a single group who clearly separate themselves from the rest. Appearing on stage without a live band, rapping to pre-recorded tracks, Flatbush Zombies traded vocals in front of a screen that showed anime and psychedelic kaleidoscopic images as audience members chanted along and bounced their raised hands to the rhythms. The show veered away from the typical gangsta culture, although the trio did acknowledge several fallen fellow emcees early in the show. Otherwise, the raps dealt with topical issues, with numerous references to marijuana and other mind-bending experiences. Suburban parents, beware, your children may become disciples of Flatbush Zombies.

Visit the Flatbush Zombies at www.thegloriousdead.com.

Claudio Simonetti's Goblin at the Marlin Room at Webster Hall

Claudio Simonetti
Keyboardist Claudio Simonetti  was born in São Paulo, Brazil, but was raised in Italy. There he formed a progressive rock band called Oliver in 1972. The band was renamed Cherry Five for its first album, but then changed its name again to Goblin when given the opportunity to record the score of an Italian film in 1975. Goblin became a popular band, but became better known for its many soundtracks. Over the years, however, the personnel changed frequently, and many splinter groups emerged, including Simonetti's heavy metal band Daemonia. In recent times, different combinations of former members of Goblin have regrouped as Goblin, Back to the Goblin, New Goblin, Goblin Rebirth, the Goblin Keys, the Goblins and, nost recently, Claudio Simonetti's Goblin. When New Goblin split, Simonetti gathered its guitarist, Bruno Previtali, and drummer, Titta Tani, and recruited bassist Federico Amorosi from Daemonia to form Claudio Simonetti's Goblin. In 2014 Claudio Simonetti's Goblin released the album The Murder Collection, consisting of new, but faithful, versions of some of Goblin and Simonetti's most well-known compositions.

Claudio Simonetti's Goblin headlined tonight at the Marlin Room at Webster Hall, and the music was often accompanied by clips of the films from which they were born, including Suspiria and Dawn of the Dead. Indeed, many of the movies that Goblin scored were suspense or horror films, so there was more than sufficient gore on the screen as the music played. Led by Simonetti, the instrumental pieces were intricate, delicate compositions that ranged from soft aesthetic to raging thunder. Unlike much of today's progressive rock, the emphasis was not on odd time signatures or anything else that would be jarring. The emphasis was on fluid musicianship, where Previtali proved his worth as a tasteful, textured guitarist, and Simonetti demonstrated advanced skill in playing and arranging his keyboard sounds. Was this music a soundtrack for the film clips or were the film clips the accompaniment for the band's impressive music? The lines were blurred even more when a woman in a burlesque-styled outfit came on stage twice to dance to the music. While it was easy to get lost in the film clips or the dancer's moves, neither visual diminished the value of the quartet's ambitious music.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Edward Rogers & the Biba Crowd at the HiFi Bar

Singer-songwriter Edward Rogers was born in Birmingham, England. He was 12 years old when his family moved to Rhode Island and then New York City, coincidentally just as the British Invasion hit America's Top 40. Later, during the punk era, Rogers played drums in several garage bands. This was interrupted when in 1985 he fell between speeding subway cars and lost his right arm and right leg below the knee. Rogers soon turned to songwriting and discovered that he enjoyed singing and writing more than playing drums. Rogers has released five solo albums and two albums with a folk trio he founded called the Bedsit Poets. Rogers' sixth solo album, Glass Marbles, was released on March 11, 2016.

At the HiFi Bar tonight, Rogers was a folk-rocking troubadour, displaying both his British and American roots. Rogers' lyrics were well composed and meticulously arranged, little stories told in verses.  His talky singing came fitted with a melodic lilt to 1960s pop. Local guitarists Don Piper and James Mastro, along with bassist Sal Maida and drummer Konrad Meissneradded a colorful shimmer and driving spark to the resonance of the songs. Rogers' music deserves to be heard by a larger audience.

Visit Edward Rogers at www.edwardrogersmusic.com.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Apocalyptica at Irving Plaza

Apocalyptica formed in 1993 with four cellists at Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland. They adopted a neoclassical metal style without the use of guitars. Initially, they played Metallica covers, but soon covered Faith No More, Sepultura, and Pantera, and began composing original songs. Later songs introduced vocals. After a couple of line-up changes, Apocalyptica presently is comprised of classically trained cellists Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lötjönen, and Perttu Kivilaakso, and drummer Mikko Sirén. Apocalyptica has sold over four million albums, and is the first Finnish band to top the Billboard rock chart.

Headlining at Irving Plaza tonight, Apocalyptica embraced both its instrumental era and its vocal era, with Franky Perez coming on stage intermittently to lead the singing. On many songs, the cellos themselves seemed to sing. When the band roared into an eight-minute instrumental cover of Metallica's "Master of Puppets," however, it was the audience that sang along to words that were not there. In all, Apocalyptica performed four Metallica covers, including an as-yet-unrecorded cover of "Seek & Destroy," two Sepultura songs, and a metalized interpretation of Norwegian composer Edvard Greig's 19th century piece "Hall of the Mountain King." The set also included 10 original compositions. All were performed dynamically as complex progressive metal songs, often with classical bridges, with cellos that sounded identical to crunching thrash metal guitars and basses. Is this the future of cello concertos? Probably not, but Apocalyptica's testosterone-heavy headbanging performance may be remembered as the only cello concerto unique enough to generate rabid mosh pits.

Visit Apocalyptica at www.apocalyptica.com.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Joey Ramone Birthday Bash at the Studio at Webster Hall

Joey Ramone, the late vocalist of the ground-breaking punk band the Ramones, this year would have turned 65 years old on May 19. For several years before his death in 2001, he invited his friends and fans to a birthday party. For the past 16 years, this day has continued to be reserved for an annual Joey Ramone Birthday Bash tribute at a local venue, drawing many of his contemporaries and recalling the glory days of the late 1970s punk rock movement. This year the event was held at the Studio at Webster Hall.

Ramone's late mother, Charlotte Lesher, and brother, Mickey Leigh, organized the first Joey Ramone Birthday Bash one month after Ramone lost his seven-year battle with lymphoma in April 2001. Lesher and Leigh had promised Ramone that they would celebrate his 50th birthday. That first tribute was held at the Hammerstein Ballroom. The event has continued annually, drawing many of New York's original punk rockers to celebrate and perform Ramones songs.

This year's concert began with mini-concerts by David Peel & the Lower East Side, the Threads, the Queers, Tracy Thornton's Pan for Punks, Blue Coupe and Barb Wire Dolls. Craig Leon, the producer of the first Ramones album, answered questions from the audience. That Ramones album celebrates its 40th anniversary, so various performers took the stage to recreate the album with a house band consisting of guitarists Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys and Walt Stack of the Bullys, bassist Mike Watt of the Minutemen and the Stooges and drummer Clem Burke of Blondie.

All proceeds from the concert went to lymphoma research in memory of Ramone. Further donations may be contributed to the Joey Ramone Foundation for Lymphoma Research at P.O. Box 1107, Cooper Station, New York, NY 10276.

The Queers, a punk rock band formed in 1981, were inspired by the Ramones.

Blue Coupe features Albert Bouchard and Joe Bouchard of Blue Öyster Cult and Dennis Dunaway of the original Alice Cooper group. They covered BOC's "Don't Fear the Reaper"  and Alice Cooper's "School's Out."

Barb Wire Dolls, led by vocalist Isis Queen, is a punk band from Greece.

Craig Leon, producer of the first Ramones album, answered questions from the audience.

George Tabb of Roach Motel, False Prophets, Letch Patrol, Gynocologists, Iron Prostate and Furious George, sang "Beat on the Brat" while waving a plastic baseball bat.

Andy Shernoff, formerly of the Dictators, sang "Judy Is a Punk."

Mick Stitch of L.E.S. Stitches and the Threads sang "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend."

Richard Bacchus of D-Generation sang "Chainsaw."

James Boland, who plays Joey Ramone on HBO's Vinyl, sang "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue."

Mickey Leigh of the Rattlers sang "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement" from the audience.

Russell Wolinsky of the Sic F*cks sang "Loudmouth."

Evil Presly of the Independents sang "Havana Affair."

Albert Bouchard and Joe Bouchard of Blue Oyster Cult sang "Listen to My Heart."

Paul Zone of the Fast sang "53rd & 3rd."

Tim Heap of the band Heap sang "Let's Dance."

Joey Lanz of the Bullys sang "I Don't Wanna Walk Around with You" and "Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World."

Clem Burke of Blondie reunites with his old buddy, journalist Everynight Charley Crespo.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

American Nightmare at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Wesley Eisold
Wesley Eisold grew up moving between US army bases with his military father. Frequent relocations prevented long-lasting relationships to develop with his peers, so he adopted music as the one stable constant in his life. Born with one hand, however, he was unable to play stringed instruments or drums. In 1998, Eisold formed and became the singer of a hardcore punk band, American Nightmare, in Boston, Massachusetts. The band was embraced by the hardcore punk community, but a similarly named band sued for copyright infringement, and Eisold's group was renamed A.N., then American Nothing, and finally Give Up the Ghost. Give Up the Ghost released two albums in 2001 and 2003, then split in 2004. Eisold relocated to Los Angeles, California, writing poetry and running Heartworm Press, an independent publishing company. Since 2011, he has reassembled American Nightmare annually for a few live performances, although a darkwave synth-pop solo project called Cold Cave seems to be his priority.

Headlining the annual hardcore Black N' Blue Bowl tonight at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom, American Nightmare opened with "There's a Black Hole in the Shadow of the Pru" from the band's debut album. With hardly room for a breath of air between songs, the quartet crashed through a sonic assault of relentless, lightning-paced escalations, with Eisold shouting anger and anxiety into his microphone as he crouched over the audience by the edge of the stage. The few mid-tempo songs were ear-bleeding rather than heart-warming. The set included a cover of Black Flag's "Depression" and the brutal volatility ended with "Farewell." American Nightmare's hardcore had been as rabid as a mad dog.

Visit American Nightmare at www.americannightmare.net.

The Adolescents at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Bassist Steve Soto was terminated from the surf punk band Agent Orange in December 1979. A month later he formed a skate punk band called the Adolescents in Fullerton, California, a suburb of Los Angeles on the border of Orange County. The band's line-up changed many times, and Soto also broke up and reformed the band thrice. The Adolescents presently consists of Soto, vocalist Tony Cadena, guitarists Dan Root and Ian Taylor, and drummer Mike Cambra. The band's seventh and most recent album is 2014's La Vendetta.

Performing tonight at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom as part of the Black N' Blue Bowl, an annual all-day hardcore punk concert, the Adolescents played a fast, melodic brand of hardcore punk, with roaring guitar chords and gang vocal harmonies punctuating many choruses. At other times, stinging lead guitar riffs veered the band away from punk towards more traditional hard rock. Cadena's unrefined shouting, meanwhile, propelled the musicians' aggressive approach. The musicians, no longer adolescent, maintained the explosive fire of their youth. One can only marvel at  how it was possible, but the 36-year-old band performed with vintage vibrancy.

Visit the Adolescents at www.theadolescents.net.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Bikini Carwash at the Delancey

Lizzie Steelheart
Originally from Wilmette Illinois, Lizzie Steelheart Taubeneck came to New York for a college education. She became a hair stylist, a film actor (2011's We Are the Hartmans) and sang in many local bands, including the Fakes, Whiskey and Whores, Karen Curious & the New Professionals, and Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir. She now fronts Bikini Carwash, a rock/punk/pop quartet based out of Brooklyn, New York. The band consists of Steelheart on vocals, guitarist Alex Theoret, bassist Andy Shaw and drummer Carrie Kamikaze. Bikini Carwash released a self-titled EP on January 31, 2014.

At the Delancey tonight, Bikini Carwash often recalled girl-group pop melodies of the 1960s, except the music was rawer and coarser. It was all retro, except that the vocalist was in the early 1960s and the musicians were in the late 70s, with fast chord changes, grinding bass and crashing cymbals. Different shades of pop and punk history collided and in the end, clicked well together.

Bikini Carwash will perform at Otto's Shrunken Head on July 9.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Rides at B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill

Stephen Stills
Stephen Stills was pivotal to Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and also played briefly with a band called Manassas in 1972, but much of his 50+ years in music were playing as a solo artist. In 2013, he decided to fulfill a long desire to record a blues album, and began jamming with keyboardist Barry Goldberg, a founder of the Electric Flag blues band in 1967 and a studio musicians for the past 50 years. In time, they recruited guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd, a solo artist and winner of multiple prestigious music awards, with whom Stills had initially jammed at a private party before the 2007 Super Bowl. The Rides' second album, Pierced Arrow, was released May 6, 2016.

Stills is the better known name of the quintet, which included bassist Kevin McCormick and drummer Chris Layton, but Shepherd might have stolen the show tonight at B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill. Stills sang many songs with dynamic passion but limited range, while Shepherd's vocals were smoother and varied. Stills played a fine blues guitar, but Shepherd's fingers were acrobatic on his fret board. Sometimes they harmonized vocals or guitars, successfully making musical cohesion the optimum objective. The set included many songs composed by and for the Rides, but also included Stills' "Love the One You're With," Shepherd's "Blue on Black," and a slow burning version of Goldberg's hit for Gladys Knight & the Pips, "I've Got to Use My Imagination." The set also included covers of Elmore James' "Talk to Me Baby," Willie Dixon's "My Babe," and puzzlingly, Iggy Pop & the Stooges' "Search and Destroy." The encores ended with Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World." The Rides' set was a down-to-earth yet polished jam that highlighted the talents of each member, and that alone was worth a visit.

Visit the Rides at www.theridesband.com.

Honne at the Penthouse at the Standard Hotel, East Village

Andy
Vocalist Andy and keyboardist James (they do not reveal surnames) met while attending university and started making electro-soul music together in 2014 in London, England. They adopted the name HONNE – a Japanese word (本音) meaning "true feelings." The duo released three EPS leading to the debut album, Warm on a Cold Night, which was released on July 22, 2016.

Performing tonight at the Penthouse at the Standard Hotel in the East Village, HONNE was joined on several songs by Izzy Bizu adding female vocal harmony. Inspired by both classic soul and soft synthesizer rhythms, HONNE’s silky smooth lo-fi groove was for romantics. Repetitive hook lines accentuated pouting, smoldering vocals and lyrics that dwelt on longing and hopeful anticipation. Unlike other neo-soul electronic outfits, the emphasis here was on simplicity rather than multiple layers of sound. Synthesizers provided the subtle rhythm track, with piano and vocals being the primary colors on the palate. The mellow music sounded like the soundtrack for a dimly-lit evening on a leather sofa by the fireplace with a crystal glass of red wine in hand.

HONNE will headline at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom on August 15. In the meantime, visit HONNE at www.hellohonne.com.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Otep at the Studio at Webster Hall

Otep Shamaya
Otep formed as a metal band in 2000 in Los Angeles, California. The band's name was taken from vocalist Otep Shamaya's stage name and is an anagram for the word "poet." Before Otep had a recording contract, Sharon Osbourne caught a live performance and invited Otep to become the first female-fronted band to play the Ozzfest tours; since then, Otep has performed at several Ozzfests. Shamaya also is a spoken word artist, and appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry twice, recorded an unreleased poetry album and authored three books of poetry. She also authored a book of short stories and produced and directed an audiobook of one of the three stories. Otep's seventh album, Generation Doom, was released on April 15, 2016. The band presently consists of Shamaya, guitarist Aristotle Mihalopoulos and drummer Justin Kier; the live performances currently include touring bassist Andrew Barnes.

Headlining at the Studio at Webster Hall, Otep performed nu metal with elements of death metal and rapcore. Shamaya wore masks and handled a variety of props to articulate the messages in her songs; she held a Donald Trump mask on a spiked bat to begin "Lords of War," donned a Guy Fawkes mask for another song and spun a pig's head on a mic stand during "Blood Pigs." She recited poetry as prefaces to some songs. The band blasted bombastic chords, while Shamaya seemed equally comfortable with softer croons, hip hop raps and gutter screams. The set consisted of five songs from the new album, eight songs from earlier albums, and an odd cover of Lorde's "Royals" to conclude the concert. Otep ended up with a metal performance that was both artfully conceived and menacingly brutal.

Visit Otep at www.oteploves.me.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Tarantinos NYC at Otto's Shrunken Head

Formed in 2005 in Queens, New York, the Tarantinos NYC is a surf-rock quartet that borrowed its name from film director Quentin Tarantino. True to its name, the band plays instrumental music that either was or sounds like it should have been in Tarantino’s movies. The Tarantinos NYC released a second album, Surfin' the Silver Screen, on April 2, 2015. The band is presently comprised of guitarist Paulie Tarantino, bassist Tricia Tarantino, keyboardist Louie Tarantino, and drummer Tony Tarantino.

The Tarantinos NYC frequently perform at Unsteady Freddy’s Surf Rock Shindig, which has taken place at Otto’s Shrunken Head on the first Saturday of each month for the past 16 years. At Otto’s tonight, the Tarantinos NYC once again blended a sparkling dose of 1960's-1970's surf, spy and spaghetti western soundtracks with similarly-rooted original instrumentals. Paulie Tarantino mastered an authentic vintage twang to his guitar work, and manipulated a variety of subtle sounds and textures that kept the songs sounding unique. This was more than simply reverb on steroids. This was one case where the concert was more enjoyable than the movie.

Visit the Tarantinos NYC at www.tarantinosnyc.com. The Tarantinos NYC will perform next at Sidewalk on June 15.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Peter Wolf at the Bowery Ballroom

Raised in the Bronx, New York, a young Peter Blankfield aimed to be an artist, but in the late 1960s he reinvented himself as Peter Wolf, a radio disc jockey in Boston, Massachusetts. He also sang in a band called the Hallucinations before joining the rocking rhythm & blues group the J. Geils Band in 1967. The J. Geils Band remained popular throughout the 1970s and peaked when it began leaning new wave in the early 1980s. Wolf left in 1983 for a solo career, but has continued playing with the J. Geils Band on many reunion tours. Wolf's eighth solo album, A Cure for Loneliness, was released on April 8, 2016.

Peter Wolf's band, the Midnight Ramblers, is a roots band in a way that the J. Geils Band is not. At the Bowery Ballroom tonight, the Midnight Ramblers, firstly, were more countrified, and secondly, were a lot mellower overall. Was anyone ready for an acoustic bluegrass reinterpretation of the J. Geils Band's "Love Stinks?" This was followed by a cover of bluegrass veteran Bill Monroe's "When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold." Along the way, there were many low-key blues, rootsy rock and roll and rhythm & blues excursions, and a tribute to Merle Haggard. The biggest applause, not surprisingly, was reserved for J. Geils Band staples "Cry One More Time", "Musta Got Lost" and "Looking for a Love." At 70 years of age, Wolf has softened, but he still can belt out an energetic rocker or two.

Visit Peter Wolf at www.peterwolf.com.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Waldos at the Bowery Electric

Walter Lure
After playing in a cover band while in college, vocalist/guitarist Walter Lure first hit his hometown New York circuit with the glam-punk Demons in the 1970s. After leaving the Demons, Lure joined Johnny Thunders, Richard Hell and Jerry Nolan in the Heartbreakers in 1975. The Heartbreakers became the darlings of the burgeoning punk circuit, and a year later the band was opening the maligned Sex Pistols tour in England. The Heartbreakers split initially in 1977, but Lure continued playing with Thunders in many reunion shows until Thunders' death in 1991. Meanwhile,  Lure also played on three Ramones albums, recorded a single with the Blessed, and led several local bands, including the Hurricanes, the Heroes, and the Waldos. The Waldos released the Rent Party album in 1993. Since 1995, the Waldos has consisted of Lure and Tak Nakai on guitars, EZ on bass and Joe Rizzo on drums.

Three-fourths of the classic Heartbreakers line-up are dead (Thunders, Nolan and bassist Billy Rath), so seeing the Waldos is about as close as one can get to seeing the Heartbreakers. At the Bowery Electric tonight, what songs were not left over from the Heartbreakers days sounded very much like they should have been. Songs were played with a ragged rock and roll spirit that did not take itself too seriously. "Born to Lose", "Too Much Junkie Business" and "Chinese Rocks" may have been confessionals of the heroin-soaked New York scene of the mid 1970s, but were performed with a sense of humor rather than tragedy. The Waldos did not break new ground, although Lure pointed out that "Get Off the Phone" is more relevant today than back then. In concert, Walter Lure and the Waldos were pure rock and roll fun.

The Waldos will headline the annual Johnny Thunders Birthday Bash at the Bowery Electric on July 14.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Heart on Fire: Concert for Ivan Julian

Ivan Julian played guitar in Richard Hell & the Voidoids beginning in 1976 during the nascent days of punk rock. Recently Julian was diagnosed with cancer and began six months of treatment. Many of Julian's contemporary musicians rallied at City Winery for two benefit concerts to raise funds for his medical bills, even as a GoFundMe page was set up for public contributions.

The first benefit was on May 4 and included Debbie Harry (of Blondie) as master of ceremonies, Richard Hell, Vernon Reid (of Living Colour) & Burnt Sugar, Ian Hunter (formerly of Mott the Hoople), Garland Jeffreys, Willie Nile with Fred Smith (formerly of Blondie, Television), Bush Tetras, the Dictators NYC, Ira Kaplan (of Yo La Tengo), Lenny Kaye (of the Patti Smith Group), Richard Barone (of the Bongos), and others. The house band consisted of guitarists James Mastro (formerly of the Bongos, now in Ian Hunter & the Rant Band) and Nicholas Tremulis, keyboardist/guitarist Al Maddy (formerly of the Nitecaps), bassist Tony Shanahan (of the Patti Smith Group), drummer Steve Goulding (of Graham Parker & the Rumour, the Mekons) and percussionist Vinny DeNunzio (formerly of the Feelies).

Addendum: A second benefit concert on May 7 included Lydia Lunch as host with performances by Richard Hell, Thurston Moore, Lee Renaldo, Matthew Sweet, Vernon Reid & Burnt Sugar, Arto Lindsey, the Dictators NYC, Ira Kaplan, and others.

To contribute to the Ivan Julian Fund, go to www.gofundme.com/IvanJulianFund.

Debbie Harry introduced the musicians at the May 4 concert but did not sing, despite several requests from the audience.

Lenny Kaye began the first concert singing a cover of the Foundations' "Build Me Up Buttercup." He dedicated the ‘60s pop tune to Julian for being a "foundation of the New York rock scene." He then sang a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Walk on the Water."

Richard Barone covered Richard Hell & The Voidoids' "I'm Your Man" and the Bongos' "Numbers with Wings."

Cynthia Sley (left) of Bush Tetras and Felice Rosser (right) of Faith dueted on "I Can't Help Myself." Pictured behind them is Tony Shanahan, bassist of the Patti Smith Group.

Bush Tetras performed their "Things That Go Boom in the Night" and "Cowboys in Africa."

Garland Jeffreys sang "Wild in the Streets," then dedicated his cover of the Velvet Underground's "I’m Waiting for My Man" to his college classmate, the late Lou Reed, and Reed’s wife, Laurie Anderson.

Ira Kaplan covered the Beatles' "If You've Got Trouble" and Them's "I Can Only Give You Everything."

Willie Nile performed his "Vagabond Moon" and "Heaven Help the Lonely."

Ian Hunter sang his New York anthem "Central Park n' West" and covered Mott the Hoople's "I Wish I Was Your Mother."

"Handsome" Dick Manitoba asked for and received a kiss from Debbie Harry before he and members of his Dictators NYC performed "Stay with Me" and a cover of MC5’s "Kick Out the Jams."

Vernon Reid and the nine-piece Burnt Sugar performed tributes to Prince ("When Doves Cry", "Controversy") and David Bowie ("Rebel Rebel", "Let’s Dance").

Richard Hell sang three songs from his Voidoid days, "The Kid with the Replaceable Head", "Time" and "Blank Generation."

Ivan Julian came on stage at the end of the night to thank everyone.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Sevendust at the PlayStation Theater

Lajon Witherspoon
Bassist Vince Hornsby joined drummer Morgan Rose in 1994 in a band called Snake Nation in Atlanta, Georgia. John Connolly, then a drummer in another band, switched to guitar and joined Snake Nation. The trio recorded a demo, but upon playback realized they needed a stronger vocalist. Snake Nation spent a year searching for a new singer before finding Lajon Witherspoon. Six months later, guitarist Clint Lowery joined the band, and they renamed themselves Rumblefish, then Crawlspace, but discovered both times that these names were taken by other bands. The band members then renamed themselves Sevendust, inspired by the insecticide Sevin Dust. Sevendust earned three consecutive RIAA gold certified albums and sold millions of albums worldwide. The band's 10th album, Kill the Flaw, was released on October 2, 2015.

At the PlayStation Theater tonight, Sevendust began its opening song, "Not Today," from behind a white curtain, with the audience seeing the silhouettes of the musicians through green back-lighting until the screen dropped halfway through the song. Witherspoon sang in rough voice, as the musicians played hard melodic riffs. The 13-song, 70-minute set ranged from nu metal rapcore crunchers like "Face to Face" to softer, slower songs like "Angel's Son," which Witherspoon dedicated to the late Prince. Witherspoon introduced "Denial" by saying it would be the acoustic version; actually, the song was performed softly but not acoustically. Immediately after, the musicians cranked up the energy. Overall, Sevendust impressed in how it highlighted its strong song structures first and the appropriate accompaniment second rather than the reverse. Despite Sevendust's faithfulness to these merits, the band's liability is that its 1990s alt-metal no longer sounds as fresh as it did two decades ago.

Visit Sevendust at www.sevendust.com.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Darkness at Irving Plaza

Justin Hawkins
Vocalist Justin Hawkins was born in Chertsey, England, and studied music technology at college, wrote advert jingles, and fronted a heavy metal band called the Commander before forming the Darkness with his guitarist brother Dan Hawkins in 1999 in Lowestoft, England. The Darkness' debut album in 2003 won three Brit awards and sold over three million copies. Two years later, Justin completed drug and alcohol recovery and then quit the band in 2006. As a result, the remaining members formed Stone Gods in 2007, and Justin Hawkins in 2008 started another band, Hot Leg. In 2011, the four original band members of the Darkness reunited. The band presently consists of the Hawkins brothers, original bassist Frankie Poullain and new drummer Rufus Taylor, son of Queen's Roger Taylor. The Darkness' fourth album, Last of Our Kind, was released on June 2, 2015.

At Irving Plaza tonight, the Darkness dressed like a 1970s tribute band and sounded much like a glam rock band from that era. The concert would have seemed like a Steel Panther parody except that the songs and the musicianship successfully recreated the best elements of that time for a fresh and lively rock and roll show. Unlike most bands who feature their most album prominently in concert, the Darkness instead played most of its landmark debut album, Permission to Land, plus just two or three songs from the other three albums. The 16-song, 75-minute set was chock full of strong riffs, anthemic choruses and Justin Hawkins' unique high voice. More than the music, however, Hawkins was entertaining in an over-the-top way. Between songs, his humor was always in "on" mode, and he colored his performance with leaps from the drum riser, splits, stage diving and crowd surfing. The music was rocking but the showmanship was even more entertaining.

Visit the Darkness at www.thedarkness.co.uk.