Saturday, July 30, 2016

D Generation at Irving Plaza

Jesse Malin
D Generation (also known as DGen) evolved out of the hardcore punk scene in New York City in the 1980s. Vocalist Jesse Malin led Heart Attack as a teenager in the late 1980s, along with guitarist Danny Sage. They formed D Generation  in 1991, a band that would blur the lines between punk rock, glam rock and garage rock. The band's three albums in the 1990s became critics' darlings, but after low sales, DGen splintered in 1999. The band reunited several times beginning in 2008, and presently consists of the classic line-up of Malin, Sage, guitarist Richard Bacchus, bassist Howie Pyro and drummer Michael Wildwood (Sage's brother). D Generation  released its fourth album, Nothing Is Anywhere, on July 29, 2016; it is D Generation's first album in 17 years.

On the day of the new album's release, D Generation signed copies and rocked an in-store set at Vintage Vinyl in Fords, New Jersey. A day later, the reunited band rocked its home town at Irving Plaza. Performing 12 songs from the 1990s albums and five from the new album, the band performed ferocious rock and roll from beginning to end. As in his other bands, Malin never stopped moving, flinging his microphone stand and anything else in his path. Sage's frenetic lead guitar work stung like an insect bite. Where the band might have missed a step was that the show was thoroughly bombastic, leaving no room for nuance or reprieve, except when Malin shared an anecdote to introduce a song. D Generation's  wall of sound boldly and unmistakably announced "We're back!"

Visit D Generation at www.dgeneration.us.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Eli "Paperboy" Reed at Hearst Plaza

In 2002, Eli Husock graduated high school in Boston, Massachusetts, and moved to Clarksdale, Mississippi, immersing himself in the juke joint culture of the Deep South. After a year, he relocated to Chicago, Illinois, where he studied sociology in college, hosted a soul-music radio show on the college radio station, and played organ and piano in a church. A year after that, the renamed Eli "Paperboy" Reed returned to Boston, where he launched a career as a recording artist strongly influenced by late 1960s/early 1970s Chicago soul music. He now lives in Brooklyn, New York. His fifth album, My Way Home, was released on June 10, 2016.

Headlining a free Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors concert at Hearst Plaza this evening, Reed moved from rhythm & blues to spirituals, showing himself to be a disciple of vintage African American music. Backed by organist J.B. Flatt, bassist Michael Montgomery, and drummer Noah Rubin, Reed played bluesy guitar licks and sang from the gut like he was leading an evangelical church choir. The songs sounded old-school, but the flame setting them free blazed like a sudden wildfire. Reed's music was retro, but demonstrated that roots music is timeless.

Visit Eli "Paperboy" Reed at www.elipaperboyreed.com.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Rocket from the Crypt at Irving Plaza

John "Speedo" Reis
Vocalist/guitarist John "Speedo" Reis is perhaps the king of the punk rock scene in San Diego, California. After the breakup of his post-hardcore band Pitchfork (1986-1990), he formed both Rocket from the Crypt (1989-2005) and Drive Like Jehu (1990-1995). Rocket from the Crypt adapted its name from the then defunct 1970s punk band Rocket from the Tombs. Rocket from the Crypt achieved popularity with the albums Scream, Dracula, Scream! (1995) and RFTC (1998). Reis then formed Hot Snakes (1999-2005) and Sultans (2000-2007). Rocket from the Crypt disbanded in 2005, reunited for a one-time appearance on the television program Yo Gabba Gabba! in 2011, and reformed in 2013. The band presently consists of Reis, guitarist Andy "ND" Stamets, saxophonist Paul "Apollo 9" O'Beirne, trumpeter Jason "JC 2000" Crane, bassist Pete "Petey X" Reichert and drummer Mario "Ruby Mars" Rubalcaba. The band's sixth and most recent studio album is 2001's Group Sounds.

Headlining at Irving Plaza tonight, Rocket from the Crypt lived up to its reputation for an energetic live show, blasting away rock and roll tunes with punk dynamics. Reis coarsely sang the band's better known songs, including "Middle", "Born in '69", and "I'm Not Invisible" with gruff and grit, using the limitations of his vocal range to best use. The horn section accented the kick in many of the songs. Then, during an extended version of "Come See Come Saw," Reis threw his microphone at Rubalcaba, seemingly hitting Rubalcaba in the head. The song ended, the band exited the stage, and that was the sudden end of the concert.

Visit Rocket from the Crypt at www.rftc.com.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Panorama Festival, Day 3 at Randall's Island

Panorama was a unique music festival experience. In addition to two live music stages and a smaller stage for electronic or dj sets, the area in between the stages included several air-conditioned spaces featuring high-tech music-based installations. The Lab was a playground of seven interactive art, music and technology installations and a massive 360º planetarium-styled theater. Despacio featured a sound system designed by James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem, DFA) and David and Stephen Dewaele (Soulwax/2manydjs) with recording engineer John Klett, delivering nearly 50,000 watts of power through seven stacks of customized McIntosh amplifiers each standing 11 feet tall. More impressively, the area between the stages featured many upscale food kiosks, cooling stations and elegant air-conditioned bathroom trucks rather than portable toilets.

Prinz George
Black Madonna
Flatbush Zombies
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
The Front Bottoms
Sza
Kurt Vile & the Violators
Rufus du Sol
Run the Jewels
Grace Potter
Sia
LCD Soundsystem

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Panorama Festival, Day 2 at Randall's Island Park

AEG Live settled on the Randall's Island site after the New York City Parks Department denied a permit for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. Panorama came less than two months after the Governors Ball festival at the same location. The Electric Zoo Festival also will return to Randall's Island over Labor Day weekend.

Melanie Martinez
Ex Hex
The Julie Ruin
Oh Wonder
Tokimonsta
Daughter
Foals
Anderson .Paak
Blood Orange
Flosstradamus
Alunageorge
The National
Sufjan Stevens
Kendrick Lamar

Friday, July 22, 2016

Panorama Festival, Day 1 at Randall's Island Park

AEG Live, the promoter behind Coachella, assembled a lineup of 62 artists for the first-ever Panorama festival at Randall's Island Park on July 22-24, 2016. Arcade Fire, Kendrick Lamar, and LCD Soundsystem headlined the festival’s Friday, Saturday, and Sunday respectively. The National, Sufjan Stevens, Sia, A$AP Rocky, Run the Jewels, the Alabama Shakes, Grace Potter and Major Lazer were among the better known supporting artists. Three-day passes went on sale in March for general admission at $369, and VIP at $769.

Here We Go Magic
Algiers
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
De Lux
Lindsay Stirling
Silversun Pickups
Broken Social Scene
Major Lazer
FKA Twigs
Alabama Shakes
Schoolboy Q
Arcade Fire

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Super Furry Animals at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Gruff Rhys
Based in Cardiff, Wales, actor/vocalist Rhys Ifans, bassist Guto Pryce and drummer Dafydd Ieuan performed as a techno group in the early 1990s. Guitarist Huw Bunford and keyboardist Cian Ciaran (Ieuan's younger brother) joined, Gruff Rhys replaced Ifans as vocalist/guitarist, and the band became Super Furry Animals in 1993. Mixing soft pop and folk with ambient sounds and angular solos, the band was labeled as psychedelic pop and gained an underground following. In 2010, after nine cult-favorite albums, Super Furry Animals began a hiatus. In 2015, the band reformed for several concerts, including the 4knots Festival in New York, to promote a reissue of the 1990 album Mwng, which had been out of print. Since reforming, Super Furry Animals has released only one new song, "Bing Bong," writtem to celebrate the Wales national football team's qualification in the UEFA Euro 2016.

Headlining tonight at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom, Super Furry Animals performed on a dimly lit stage fitted in white hazmat suits. Rhys occasionally wore an oversized helmet that made him look like a Power Ranger, and barely spoke to the audience, instead choosing to communicate via signage that read "APPLAUSE!", "LOUDER!", and "THANK YOU." With no new album to promote, the band performed a comprehensive retrospective. The songs were backed by looped film clips (bombs dropping, a figure skater skating, a newborn shrieking) and kaleidoscopic geometrics. The sound was experimental music that captured a rhythm. Hypnotic grooves were laced with flighty synthesized layers, as if Radiohead had been joined by Brian Eno. Elements of trip-hop framed some of the songs, while some of the songs that were sung in Welsh recalled a folkier root and others gravitated into swirling looped feedback. After these seemingly wayward ventures, the songs often circled back to more traditional rock sounds with melodious refrains, only to veer off into space again. Far from mainstream music, the experimentation and the challenges presented in Super Furry Animals' odd song structures were designed for the most adventurous music tastes. The concert ended with the musicians dressed in long wigs and super furry yeti costumes for the last song, then Rhys holding up signs reading "FIN", "THE END" and "RESIST PHONY ENCORES."

Visit Super Furry Animals at www.superfurry.com.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Patti Smith at Damrosch Park Bandshell

Patti Smith was born in Chicago, Illinois, and spent her early childhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, before her family moved to Pitman, New Jersey, and later to Deptford Twp., New Jersey. In 1967, the 20-year-old moved to Manhattan and joined its underground music and art scene. By 1974, Smith began transforming her poetry into music, initially with guitarist and fellow rock journalist Lenny Kaye, and gradually evolving into incorporating additional musicians to form a full band. Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Smith has released 11 albums, the most recent being 2012's Banga.

Tonight's concert at Lincoln Center's Out-of-Doors series was billed as A Night of Words and Music with Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye, and Tony Shanahan, but in essence turned out to be a Patti Smith band concert with only a few minutes of readings by Smith. Smith began by welcoming the audience, reading from her 2010 memoirs, Just Kids, and singing "Wing" accompanied by her daughter, Jesse Paris Smith, on piano and Tony Shanahan on bass. Again she read from Just Kids, then from Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl." From there it was a concert, with Smith accompanied by guitarists Lenny Kaye and Jack Petruzzelli, bassist Shanahan and drummer Jay Dee Daugherty. Jesse Paris Smith played piano at the beginning and end of the performance. The 90-minute set included some of her better-known songs, "Dancing Barefoot", "People Have the Power" and "Because the Night," and covers of Prince's "When Doves Cry," the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time" and the Who's "My Generation." Smith's spoke frequently with a punkish, rebellious attitude, but the set was far from the experimental punk arrangements of her early days. Smith has matured, and now straight, driving rock and roll fare sandwiched a large chunk of smooth, tender songs. Some of her rambling admonitions to members of the audience between songs were abrasive, but her crisp singing and her melodic lyrics were endearingly passionate. Aided by slickly polished arrangements and musicianship, Smith was as real as an artist could be, warts and all.

Visit Patti Smith at www.pattismith.net.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Zakk Wylde at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

 Jeffrey Wielandt was born in Bayonne, New Jersey, and grew up in Jackson. He started playing the guitar at age eight, and as a teenager he would practice almost non-stop between coming home from high school and leaving the house the next morning, subsequently sleeping through the school day. He played locally with his first band Stone Henge, then later with another local band Zyris. He sent Ozzy Osbourne a demo tape in 1987 and was hired; renamed for rock star purposes, Zakk Wylde played in Osbourne's band until 1995. Based in Los Angeles, California, Wylde led Lynyrd Skynhead and Pride & Glory from 1991 to 1994, auditioned for Guns N' Roses in 1995, released a solo album in 1996, then formed Black Label Society in 1998. He returned to Osbourne's band in 2001 while continuing Black Label Society. Wylde's second solo album, the acoustic Book of Shadows II, was released on April 8, 2016.

Wylde is known for his wild guitar playing in Osbourne's band and Black Label Society, but his skills were used differently tonight at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom. As the lights dimmed and his band came out, fans cheered a silhouette of a man with a long beard, long hair and a tall top hat. Members of Black Label Society comprised the band: guitarist/keyboardist Dario Lorina, bassist John DeServio and drummer Jeff Fabb. They launched the set with an extended version of "Sold My Soul," with Wylde ripping at his trademark Warhammer guitar for about 10 straight minutes, including playing it behind his head and with his teeth like Jimi Hendrix. Halfway through the set, Wylde refueled with a 15-minute "Throwing It All Away," during which he walked through the audience while playing dizzying lead runs. The entire program was culled from his two solo albums, so most of the concert was surprisingly much milder than his reputation suggests; the audience was introduced to a softer, more introspective Wylde. Several songs featured Wylde on piano or acoustic guitar, and even on the electric songs the tempos were slow. The evening was not the concert of a metal master, but of a southern-style singer-songwriter with mean guitar licks.

Visit Zakk Wylde at www.zakkwylde.com.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Feelies at Rumsey Playfield

Glenn Mercer
In the early 1970s, vocalist/guitarist Glenn Mercer, bassist Bill Million, and drummer Dave Weckerman played in a band called the Outkids, based in Haledon, New Jersey. By 1976, the Outkids evolved into the Feelies, the name taken from a fictional entertainment device described in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. The Feelies created shimmering soundscapes with multiple guitar layers that set them apart from most of the punk/New Wave bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The band recorded four albums and ultimately disbanded in 1992. The classic mid-1980s line-up of the Feelies (Mercer and Million on guitars and vocals, Brenda Sauter on bass, Stanley Demeski on drums and Weckerman on percussion) reunited in 2008, and in 2011 released the band's most recent album, Here Before, the band's first album in 20 years. The Feelies reunite sporadically to play concerts.

Headlining a Summerstage concert at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park tonight, the Feelies reveled in its vintage sound, performing 11 songs from its 1980s albums. The jangly guitars, garage-rock rhythms and talky vocals that made way for later bands like R.E.M. were still the backbone of the Feelies sound. The grooves were hypnotically repetitive, interrupted by a droning lead vocal or a swash of lead guitar. The sound that the Feelies mined 40 years ago became the basis of many future indie bands, but after 16 original songs, the Feelies paid tribute to its own inspirations in the encores with covers of songs by the Modern Lovers, the Rolling Stones, the Velvet Underground, the Beatles and Television. The Feelies concert shone light on the history of rock before and after the golden era of punk.

Visit the Feelies at www.thefeeliesweb.com.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cowboy Junkies at City Winery

Margo Timmins
When a band called Hunger Project fell apart in Toronto, Canada, guitarist Michael Timmins and bassist Alan Anton recruited Michael’s sister, singer Margo Timmins, and brother, drummer Peter Timmins. The quartet became Cowboy Junkies in 1985, combining folk and rock instrumentation with Margo's bluesy vocals. The band released 16 albums between 1986 and 2012 and had a platinum album in the United States in 1988. Cowboy Junkies released its most recent product. Notes Falling Slow, on October 30, 2015; it is a box set that contained re-mastered versions of three previously released albums and a fourth disc with new recordings of songs written during the making of the earlier albums.

For the three shows at the City Winery, Cowboy Junkies included multi-instrumentalist Jeff Bird, who played acoustic and electric mandolins, harmonica, percussion, and samples. The musicians took to the dimly-lit stage and barely moved, with Margo's right arm leaning on her microphone stand for much of the set, obscuring her face from the audience. Generally soft music matched the somber mood, but occasionally spun into elegant, cutting guitar runs or harmonica riffs. While Margo's soulful singing was the center of gravity on every song, the instrumental breaks between her lyrics were more innovative, expansive and enchanting. Nonetheless, the tone retained a consistently passive tranquility, with this instrumentation sometimes injecting rolling waves of subtle intensity. If this was rock at all, it was alternative Mom-rock.

Visit Cowboy Junkies at www.cowboyjunkies.com.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Michael Franti & Spearhead at the PlayStation Theater

Michael Franti
Michael Franti was born in Oakland, California, but began his journey into music by writing poetry while attending college in San Francisco. Shortly thereafter, he purchased a bass at a pawn shop and started creating music inspired by the hip hop, punk, and reggae that was being played on the campus radio station. He formed the Beatnigs in 1986, and released an album and an EP before the band split in 1990. The following year Franti formed the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, expanding his vision of social commentary set to a fusion of industrial music and hip hop until that band split in 1993. Franti formed Spearhead in 1994, leaning initially on funk and soul sounds and later on hip hop and reggae. The band was renamed Michael Franti & Spearhead in 1999. The San Francisco-based band presently consists of Franti on vocals and guitar, guitarist Jay Bowman, keyboardist Mike Blankenship, bassist Carl Young, and drummer Manas Itiene. Michael Franti & Spearhead's ninth and most recent album, SoulRocker, was released on June 3, 2016.

Headlining at the PlayStation Theater tonight, Michael Franti probably spent as much time on the stage as he did in the audience. By the beginning of his third song, the barefoot Franti was already singing, strolling, high-fiving and hugging fearlessly through the audience, finding his way to a small platform and microphone stand in the center of the room. His delivery was all about connecting with his fans, and repeatedly taking his time through the audience was more than a token gesture. Franti sang songs from his four most recent albums (eight songs from his most recent album) and eschewed his first five albums entirely. His vocal range was truncated, and he sounded off-key on many songs, but the positive energy he projected made it easy for his fans to forgive these trespasses. Many of his newer songs embraced electronic dance music, and fans responded by jumping to the rhythms with him. There were serious moments as well, some of which featured him playing solo on acoustic guitar. During a quieter period, the chatty Franti alluded to recent dark national events, encouraging his listeners to positivity over despair. Perhaps that aspect of who Franti is, the social activist, cool dad, and all-around upbeat guy, in the end was even more endearing than his musical performance.

Visit Michael Franti & Spearhead at www.michaelfranti.com.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Ray Wylie Hubbard at Hill Country Barbecue + Market

Ray Wylie Hubbard was born in Soper, Oklahoma, but moved as a youth with his family to Dallas, Texas. There he learned to play guitar, eventually forming a folk group with fellow aspiring musician Michael Martin Murphey. During his college years, Hubbard formed a trio named Three Faces West and spent the summers playing in Red River, New Mexico. Upon the breakup of Three Faces West, Hubbard toured the Southwestern coffeehouse circuit as a solo artist, then formed another short-lived group, Texas Fever. During his time in New Mexico, Hubbard wrote "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother," which Jerry Jeff Walker recorded and turned into an outlaw anthem in 1973. Hubbard gained cult status within progressive country circles, and assembled the also short-lived cowpunk blues band Ray Wylie Hubbard & the Cowboy Twinkies. Hubbard rode the post-Nashville progressive outlaw country wave of the 1970s and beyond as a respected name but with minimal album sales. Currently based in Wimberly, Texas, Hubbard released his 16th album, The Ruffian’s Misfortune, on April 7, 2015.

If it sounds like Texas, it deserves to headline at Hill Country Barbecue + Market. The 69-year-old Hubbard came to the venue tonight with his 23-year-old guitar playing son, Lucas Hubbard, and drummer Kyle Snider. Perhaps Hubbard was promoting his memoirs, A Life ... Well, Lived, published on November 5, 2015; the trio played a two-hour set, but quite a lot of the time was spent on Hubbard chatting a humorous spin on his career. Hubbard delivered the timing and pitch of a professional comedian on these anecdotes. His lyrics similarly often exhibited his wit, but also the moving, introspective life of a lonesome cowboy on the road. The set was grounded on country music, but many of the songs were straight-forward blues. The set was kept jumping by his vast catalogue of rowdy barroom honky-tonk songs, however. The elder Hubbard impressed on slide guitar, but the younger Hubbard was even more impressive with a subtle yet sharp picking style. If everything is bigger in Texas, then New York needs to make more room for this elder statesman of outlaw music.

Visit Ray Wylie Hubbard at www.raywylie.com.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Sick of It All at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Lou Koller
Sick of It All formed in 1986 as a hardcore punk band in Queens, New York. The following year, the band built a local following by performing the  Sunday afternoon matinee series at CBGB's. The band's current lineup consists of brothers Lou Koller on vocals and Pete Koller on lead guitar, Craig Setari on bass, and Armand Majidi on drums. Sick of It All's 11th and most recent album is 2014's Last Act of Defiance.

Sick of It All's 30th anniversary tour packed Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom tonight, reviving the New York hardcore punk that thrived three decades ago less than 10 city blocks south at CBGB's. Eighteen of the set's 23 songs were from the 1990s. Lou Koller shouted throaty anthemic rants as the three-piece band clobbered beats with aggression. This hardcore music was not about speed as much as it was about hanging anvils to angry, rallying chants. The evening was particularly celebratory because it was a homecoming, with Sick of It All headlining perhaps its largest local venue. Black balloons were released from the ceiling as the concert drew to a close with "Step Down" and "Built to Last," during which time the stage was filled with well wishers and Pete Koller played guitar while riding on the shoulders of Jimmy Gestapo of Murphy's Law. The original New York hardcore scene morphed into several sub-genres, but tonight its pioneering veterans were feted as local heroes.

Visit Sick of It All at www.sickofitall.com.

4knots Music Festival at the South Street Seaport

The Village Voice's sixth annual 4knots Music Festival returned to the South Street Seaport today and, perhaps more importantly to area music fans, returned to free admission. Participants gathered at two music stages and one DJ stage under a cloudy, forbearing sky to listen to new and old indie, funk, hip hop, electronic  and garage rock. Attendees were also treated to free snacks and soft beverages from several promotion booths.

Electronic musician Roger Sellers from Austin, Texas, who goes by the singular name Bayonne, performed solo at the Fulton Street stage, singing, tweaking his rhythmic synths and hitting his percussion for a lively performance.

From Agoura Hills, California, Shaun Fleming has taken on the name of Diane Coffee. Coffee has drummed for Foxygen, but is also a singer-songwriter and guitarist. The androgynous Coffee and crew adopted naval attire and performed indie-rock songs at the Fulton Street stage.

Car Seat Headrest is originally from Leesburg, Virginia, but is currently based out of Seattle, Washington. Led by vocalist/guitarist Will Toledo, the band performed bright indie-folk songs on the Fulton Street pier.

Mild High Club is from Los Angeles, California. Led by guitarist/vocalist Alexander Brettin (pictured above), the band performed mellow indie pop on the Fulton Street stage.

Protomartyr, hailing from Detroit, Michigan, injected blistering postpunk energy with vocals by Joe Casey (pictured above) that recalled Pere Ubu and Hüsker Dü at the Fulton Street pier.

Girlpool, a duo comprised of guitarist Cleo Tucket and bassist Harmony Tividad of Los Angeles, California, provided perhaps the most subdued set of the day combining raw, indie folk punk with girl-gang harmonies at the Fulton Street stage.

The Strumbellas, who hail from Ontario, Canada, performed Lumineers-style roots music that ranged from folk rock to alternative country at the Fulton Street pier. The vocals by Simon Ward (pictured above) enhanced the six-piece band's earthiness.

From Dayton, Ohio, led by vocalist (and sole original member) Robert Pollard (pictured above), indie-rock veterans Guided By Voices reunited yet again in 2016 after breakups in 2004 and 2014. Headlining the Fulton Street pier, the band performed an impressive 27-song set that included a few songs from Pollard's other music projects, Boston Spaceships and Ricked Wicky.