Monday, October 31, 2016

The Dickies at Berlin

Leonard Graves Phillips
Stan Lee saw the Damned on the British band's first American tour in early 1977. Collaborating with other area musicians, this concert inspired him to form a new band. The Dickies debuted in September of the same year, and was among the first punk rock bands to emerge from Los Angeles, California. The ever-changing band members were the clown princes of L.A. punk, gaining a reputation for their humorous Ramones-like songs and zany shows, which featured goofy costumes, hand puppets, and a midget roadie. The Dickies recorded seven albums, the most recent being 2001's All This and Puppet Stew. The band presently consists of original members Leonard Graves Phillips on vocals and Stan Lee on guitar, along with Ben Seelig on guitar, Edward Tatar on bass and Adam Gomez on drums.

The Dickies headlined two sold-out shows at the Bowery Electric over the pre-Halloween weekend, where the longstanding veterans performed their first two albums, one each night. The Dickies then performed an unadvertised show at Berlin on Halloween, where the band played a little of everything. At Berlin, the Dickies opened with the theme music for the low-budget sci-fi/horror comedy Killer Klowns from Outer Space. The Dickies fit 23 songs into the set because the songs were short, tight and to the point, with about half of the set dedicated to the first two albums. The stage was so small that the musicians could hardly move, but nevertheless the show included its usual array of props (masks, an inflatable love doll, several hand puppets) and racing, hardcore-interpreted cover tunes (the Moody Blues' "Nights in White Stain," the Left Banke's "Pretty Ballerina," a babbling version of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid," the Who's "See Me, Feel Me," the Isley Brothers' "Nobody But Me," and the theme songs to the cartoons Gigantor and Banana Splits). In essence, it was another greatest hits show, and the Dickies engaged the New York fans-in-the-know with a third campy Halloween trick or treat.

Visit the Dickies at

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Damned at the Gramercy Theatre

Dave Vanian
Born in Hemel Hempstead, England, David Lett changed his name to Dave Vanian in early life after working as a gravedigger – Vanian being a play on "Transylvanian." Vanian wore dark and otherworldly clothing both on stage and off. He and Captain Sensible (Raymond Burns) were members of the short-lived London-based band Masters of the Backside, which also included future Pretenders front woman Chrissie Hynde. Vanian and Sensible went on to form the Damned in 1975, one of the first punk rock bands and a proto-gothic band. The band split and reunited in various configurations many times, with Vanian the sole consistent member, but since 2004 the Damned has consisted of Vanian on vocals, Sensible on guitar, Monty Oxymoron on keyboards, Andy (Pinch) Pinching on drums and Stu West on bass. The Damned's 10th and most recent album is 2008's So, Who's Paranoid?.

New York area fans count on the Damned coming around every year around Halloween. This time, however, the band was celebrating its 40th anniversary with a two and a half hour set. For this tour, Vanian toned down his vampire-like appearance onstage, going on stage without chalk-white makeup and wearing a less formal suit and seeming no lacquer in his combed-back hair. The Damned moved through several genres over the decades, but tonight the band was clearly a speedy rock and roll band, far more polished than its early garage punk days. The current sound fell somewhere between Billy Idol and the Cult, with Vanian putting on his best Jim Morrison. Generally speaking, the set seemed to begin with some of the band's later, calmer songs and ended with furious songs from its earliest days. While the concert was 40 years removed from its days opening for the Sex Pistols, the Damned demonstrated that a pioneer band can move forward and still be connected to its past.

Visit the Damned at

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Temples at the Rose Bar

James Bagshaw and Thomas Walmsley (background)
Vocalist/guitarist James Edward Bagshaw and bassist Thomas Edward James Walmsley played together as well as in rival bands in their hometown of Kettering, England. They started Temples as a home studio project in 2012, uploading four self-produced tracks on the internet. In order to play live, they recruited keyboardist/rhythm guitarist Adam Thomas Smith and drummer Samuel Toms. Temples' second album, Volcano, was released on March 3, 2017.

A day before headlining at the Bowery Ballroom, Temples performed an invitation-only seven-song mini-set at the Rose Bar at the Gramercy Hotel. As on the rest of the tour, Temples opened with "Colours to Life" and "A Question Isn't Answered," before introducing a new song, Roman God-Like Man." In all, the set consisted of five songs from the band's 2014 debut and two new songs, including the album opener, "Certainty." The musicians are young, but they mastered an old psychedelic rock sound. Skipping in and out of a wash of shoegaze effects, Temples cascaded noodly guitar leads behind fading vocals. The arrangements had a penchant for hypnotic trance, but did not dwell too long on any stoner groove for the listener to get lost in it. Temples gave a remarkably fresh facelift to a vintage sound.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Red at the Highline Ballroom

Michael Barnes
Vocalist Michael Barnes and two twin brothers, guitarist Anthony Armstrong, and bassist Randy Armstrong, grew up together in a small one-gas-station town in Pennsylvania. They wanted to form a hard rock band of national stature, so they relocated to Nashville, Tennessee. There, they formed Red (also stylized R3D or RED), a band that gained traction first in Christian rock circles before developing a wider audience. To date the band has won six GMA Dove Awards. Red's fifth album, Of Beauty and Rage, was released in 2015.

With no new album to promote, Red toured as a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the release of its debut album, End of Silence. The band's core trio was joined by touring musician Dan Johnson. Playing that album and the best songs from the band's other albums, Red found the rare balance of metal and melody. Whether the musicians leaned towards hard-hitting alternative metal or post-grunge, Barnes' vocals were clear and hearty, a fiery centerpiece piercing the band's thick wall of sound. Between songs, he occasionally introduced the songs by describing the pain or the victory that inspired the lyrics. As a result, the songs were strikingly framed with both emotional vulnerability and unabashed passion, two engaging elements often missing in metal. If there was any weakness at all, it was not in the music but in the production; the blinding, flashing light system, perhaps designed for larger venues, grew quickly annoying within the confines of such a small room.

Visit Red at

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Delbert McClinton at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill

Delbert McClinton was born in Lubbock, Texas, but at age 11 relocated with his family to Fort Worth, Texas. There, he played in a bar band, the Straitjackets, who backed several blues legends including Sonny Boy Williamson II, Howlin' Wolf, Lightnin' Hopkins, and Jimmy Reed. McClinton in 1962 played harmonica on Bruce Channel's "Hey! Baby," and on a British tour with Channel, McClinton instructed John Lennon on blues harmonica. Relocating to Los Angeles in 1972, McClinton partnered with fellow Texan Glen Clark to record two country-soul albums, then launched a solo career. Although now based in Nashville, Tennessee, McClinton was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2011. The three-time Grammy award winner will release his 25th studio album, Prick of the Litter, on January 27, 2017.

The 76-year-old country blues rocker headlines at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill two or three times a year, and each time proves that he is still a leader in his ever-shrinking field. While his voice has weathered over the years, tonight it was as stirring and convincing as ever. McClinton sang, played harmonica, and led his band through robust blues rock jams and barreling country honky tonk tunes, filling out his original songs with guitar, organ and horn runs. As usual, McClinton ended his 90-minute set with his one Top 40 hit single, "Givin' It Up for Your Love." The house had been rocked.

Visit Delbert McClinton at

Friday, October 21, 2016

Kadhja Bonet at Ludlow House

Kadhja Bonet and her five siblings were raised in the East Bay area of San Francisco, California, where their opera singer father and cellist mother steeped them in classical music. Kadhja (pronounced "kah-dya") and her siblings learned to play instruments. Kadhja mastered violin and viola, and learned flute and guitar. During her college years, she jumped from long distance runner to film student to recording artist in short time. Relocating to Los Angeles, California, her genre-defying music generated a strong local buzz. She recorded and releasing her songs online one by one until she finally had enough songs to release an EP in 2015. Her debut album, The Visitor, was released on October 21, 2016.

Performing a brief set tonight at the exclusive members-only Ludlow House, Bonet was accompanied by two musicians who played various instruments. Although herself a multi-instrumentalist, she delivered steadfastly at the microphone only on the very dimly-lit stage, often singing with her eyes closed. Her performance was soft and slow, mixing originals with cover tunes including the Beatles' "Yesterday." Her vocals were a velvety, airy pillow-talk, sometimes leaning towards a folky pop and sometimes a soulful jazz. The difference between her music and a lot of the current neo-soul artists is that most of those rising artists are accompanied by electronic waves of sound and Bonet has chosen to back her mellow sound with the richness of natural instruments. This should get Bonet some special attention.

Visit Kadhja Bonet at

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Foy Vance at the Bowery Ballroom

Foy Vance was born in Bangor, Ireland, but during his formative years his family relocated with his preacher father to Oklahoma, Alabama and other parts of America's Deep South. There he was exposed to the rich music of America's heartland, a passion he developed and remained with him when he moved back to the United Kingdom (after some time in London, England, he now lives in Aberfeldy, Scotland). Vance began writing songs that combined elements of Irish folk music with American roots music. His career in music was a slow brew, however, with Vance recording his first album at age 32 and his second at age 38. These albums led to tours and strong professional relationships with the much older Bonnie Raitt and the much younger Ed Sheeran. Vance released his third studio album, The Wild Swan, on May 13, 2016, which led to summer tours with Elton John and Josh Groban.

Headlining at the Bowery Ballroom tonight, the flatcap-wearing, twirling-mustached Vance unveiled his reflections on life as he heartily sang his story-filled lyrics while playing piano and guitar. Backed by a softly-playing band, Vance's strength was in how he belted songs to a meditative background. Often, his vocal thrust and the bending of syllables coincidentally recalled another Irish singer-songwriter, Van Morrison. More evident, however, was his genuine appreciation of American blues, folk and country, which birthed a homespun sound that sometimes climbed to sing-along power choruses. It may not be long before Foy Vance is known as more than Ed Sheeran's opening act.

Visit Foy Vance at

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Shovels & Rope at the Bowery Ballroom

Cary Ann Hearst was born in Mississippi and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, until 1997 when she enrolled in college in Charleston, South Carolina. While in school, she began performing as a solo artist in local venues. After graduating she toured, recorded and performed with various groups. Michael Trent was born in Texas and was raised in Denver, Colorado, but in 2002 relocated to Charleston, where he performed with his band the Films. Hearst released her first solo album in 2006 and Trent released his first solo album in 2007. In 2008 Hearst and Trent teamed for an album called Shovels & Rope, not intending to become a permanent duo. Hearst and Trent married in 2009 and continued to perform and record solo albums. In 2012, the pair committed to their joint venture and released an album together under the Shovels & Rope moniker. By 2013, the duo had won two Americana Music Association awards. The band's fifth joint album, Little Seeds, was released on October 7, 2016. Hearst and Trent have a year-old daughter and raise chickens at their home on Johns Island, South Carolina.

Shovels & Rope is simply Hearst and Trent, alternately playing guitars and drums with some keyboards and mandolin thrown in, and so at the Bowery Ballroom tonight the engaging beauty of the music was its raw, loose and scrappy basement sound. The two musicians shared more than instruments as they blended traditional folk, country, bluegrass, rock and roll, and cowpunk for an eclectic stew. Most songs were sung in unison, sounding somewhere between Johnny Cash with June Carter, X and Lucius. Both musicians intertwined their distinctive voices and yet their vocal chemistry originated from a shared intimacy, a special harmonization that allowed them on softer songs to sing from the same microphone as if they were romancing each other. The performance captured a joy-filled front-porch hootenanny feel. Opener Matthew Logan Vasquez of Delta Spirit joined Shovels & Rope on one song.

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SSHH at the Django

Sharna Liguz, also known as Sshh Liguz, sang in bands in her native Bondi, Australia. At an Oasis show in Australia, she befriended the band's drummer, Zak Starkey, son of the Beatles' Ringo Starr. Later, while in Mexico, Starkey telephoned a guitar riff to Liguz in Australia; she added vocals, leading to their first song together being recorded over a long-distance telephone call. They started releasing material in 2006 under the name Pengu!ns Rising, with Shane Devany on guitar, and Tatia Starkey on bass. The group began playing live together in 2008, but by 2011, the touring Pengu!ns Rising lineup consisted solely of Liguz and Starkey as a duo. The duo became SSHH, a band that started as a raw, primal electro-punk ensemble but soon evolved into a guitar-punk band. SSHH will release Issues, a debut album of 11 cover songs, on November 11, 2016. All proceeds from the album will benefit Teenage Cancer Trust.

When SSHH first performed in New York in 2015, the band was a trio with Liguz on vocals, Starkey on guitar and a drummer. This time around, SSHH was a quartet, with Liguz, Starkey, bassist Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols and drummer Clem Burke of Blondie. In 2015, the band was very guitar-driven, sounding more like the White Stripes or T. Rex; this time, not so much. At the Django tonight, SSHH was more of a power pop band backing Liguz' punkish, snarling and sometimes pouting vocals. The seven-song set was comprised of covers, including Blondie's "One Way or Another" and the Sex Pistols' "Problems." This was not a karaoke band, however; the band gave the songs unique interpretations, from haunting to poppy. Liguz's vocals were interesting but Starkey's guitar sounds were remarkably adventurous, and perhaps should have been accentuated more. SSHH demonstrated a promising future.

Visit Sshh at

Monday, October 17, 2016

Switchfoot at the PlayStation Theater

Jon Foreman (left) and Drew Shirley
While still in high school in 1996, vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Jon Foreman, his bassist brother Tim Foreman, and drummer Chad Butler founded an indie rock band called Chin Up in a garage in San Diego, California. After playing only a few shows, the band became Switchfoot, taking the name from a surfing term. The band grew to include keyboardist Jerome Fontamillas  in 2001 and lead guitarist Drew Shirley in 2005. After early successes in the Christian rock scene, Switchfoot gained mainstream recognition with the inclusion of four songs in the 2002 movie A Walk to Remember and became a million-selling band. The band's seventh album, Hello Hurricane, won a Grammy Award in 2011. The band's 10th studio album, Where the Light Shines Through, was released on July 8, 2016.

Switchfoot usually invites a charitable agency to its concerts; at the PlayStation Theater tonight, the benefactor was Cure International, which helps children with treatable disabilities in 29 countries. Having a charity present at its concerts is part of the character of what it is to be Switchfoot. Many of the band's songs presented the world view that life presents difficult challenges but the response must be hope. These songs included perennial inclusions such as "Meant to Live" and "Dare You to Move" along with newer songs "Where the Light Shines Through" and "If the House Burns Down Tonight," all of which wrapped around uplifting themes. Similarly, an acoustic all-around-one-microphone version of "Hello Hurricane," a song inspired by the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, professed "you can't stop my love." Several times in the concert, Jon Foreman connected with his listeners by reaching over barricades to them, walking through the audience and, during the new song "Float," body-surfing over the fans. Foreman sang with an earthy appeal, and the band rocked smoothly over anthem-driven melodic pop songs, but the most pleasant part of the performance was the positive spin that permeated everything for an hour and a half.

Visit Switchfoot at

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Doyle Bramhall II at the Bowery Ballroom

Guitarist/vocalist Doyle Bramhall II was born in Austin, Texas, and lived half of his life in Northern California. His father, Doyle Bramhall, Sr., played drums for bluesmen Lightnin' Hopkins and Freddie King and was a lifelong collaborator with his childhood friends Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmie Vaughan. When the younger Bramhall was 18, he toured with Jimmie Vaughan's band, the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Two years later he co-founded the short-lived blues-rock band Arc Angels with Charlie Sexton and members from Stevie Ray Vaughan's rhythm section, Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon. Bramhall began releasing solo albums in 1996, gaining the attention of future collaborators Eric Clapton and Roger Waters; Bramhall wound up recording and touring with both. He has collaborated with many other artists, including the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Bramhall released his fourth studio album, Rich Man, on September 30, 2016.

Doyle Bramhall II has performed in New York many times, but usually in someone else's band. Tonight at the Bowery Ballroom, Bramhall played guitar, while also showcasing his songs and singing them as he led a band. Bramhall's set list stayed close to his new album, playing 10 of its 13 tracks, including for an encore his interpretation of Jimi Hendrix's "Hear My Train a Comin.'" Bramhall also performed a cover of Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "Lovin' You" and his own "So You Want It to Rain" from a 2001 album. The performance was grounded in swampy southern blues, and Bramhall sang soulfully and rocked his guitar, notably towards the end of the set. Bramhall played left-handed, but with his guitar strung upside-down with the high E on the top, leading him to bend the strings by pulling them downwards rather than upwards. Generally speaking, however, there was very little dynamic radiating from the stage, rendering the music perhaps too laid back. Bramhall is an accomplished singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer, but is still working on becoming a front person that would energize or excite an audience.

Visit Doyle Bramhall II at

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Upper Crust at the Bowery Electric

The Lord Bendover and Count Bassie
Since forming in 1994 in Boston, Massachusetts, the musicians known collectively as the Upper Crust have adopted the personae of 18th century European aristocrats while playing hard-edged "rocque" and roll. The look includes white powdered faces and wigs and period costumes, and the attitude is that of snobbish noblemen performing before a rabble of plebeians. Since 1996, the quartet has consisted of the Lord Bendover (Nat Freedberg) and the Duc d’Istortion (Dave Fredette) on guitars, Count Bassie (Chris Cote) on bass and Jackie Kickassis (Jim Janota) on drums. The Upper Crust's fourth and most recent studio album is 2009's Revenge for Imagined Slights.

Headlining at the Bowery Electric tonight, the Upper Crust sounded like a band from the 1970s but looked like a band from the 1770s. There was no chamber music here, however. Equal parts rock and mock, the witty lyrics presented the supposed perspective of the Ancien Regime, but seriously headbanged along the lines of rock royalty like early AC/DC and Kiss. Keeping in character, the foppish dandies in big-buckled shoes, velvet knee breeches and ruffled shirts lightened with levity as they raised their pinkies and spoke down to the hoi polloi in fake British accents between songs. All this would have been an overplayed joke if the music had not been solid, but this privileged chaste of musicians rocqued well and proved to be most entertaining.

Visit the Upper Crust at

Discharge at the Marlin Room at Webster Hall

J.J. Janiak
Discharge formed as a hardcore punk band in 1977 in Stoke-on-Trent, England. By 1980, Discharge was among the British punk bands that began leaning more towards thrash metal, featuring more grinding and distorted guitar sounds and faster, heavier percussion. The stylistic transition made by these bands was a trend known as "UK 82" or Second Generation UK Hardcore. The punk genre of d-beat was named after Discharge's distinctive drumbeat. This intense d-beat influenced the birth of thrash metal, black metal, crust punk, grindcore and various extreme metal subgenres. Over the years, the lineup in Discharge changed frequently, and the band went on hiatus at least twice. Discharge presently consists of vocalist Jeff "J.J." Janiak, guitarists Anthony "Bones" Roberts and Terence "Tezz" Roberts, bassist Royston "Rainy" Wainwright and drummer David "Proper" Caution. Discharge's seventh and most recent studio album, End of Days, was released on April 29, 2016.

Headlining tonight at the Marlin Room at Webster Hall, Discharge continued to cross the genres of hardcore punk and speed metal. J.J. Janiak is the newest member of the band, joining in 2014, but he was the focal point for the band, pacing the stage incessantly while coarsely shouting the lyrics as the nearly steadfast musicians around him scorched their fingers and drumsticks at blinding speeds. Although impossible to decipher, Discharge made social statements in "Drunk with Power", "Hatebomb", "Fight Back", "Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing", "Protest and Survive" and "New World Order." An angry, defiant anarchistic demeanor fed these songs, but it was the fast and ferocious brutal assault that defined the performance.

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Jacuzzi Boys at Max Fish

Gabriel Alcala
The Jacuzzi Boys formed in 2007 as a duo, guitarist/vocalist Gabriel Alcala and drummer Diego Monasterios, two Venezuelan-born youth who attended the same high school in Miami, Florida. They found that their first few live performances and home recordings were lacking, so they invited Cuban-American Danny Gonzales to join them on bass. The three musicians have given up their day jobs in the restaurant and flooring businesses and have hit the highway. The Jacuzzi Boys will release a fourth album, Ping Pong, on October 21, 2016.

Max Fish is a bar with no stage, so bands play in a hallway at the bottom of a staircase. Despite the lack of safe space, the Jacuzzi Boys' garage punk set increasingly saw more and more listeners pogoing and slamming against one another. Honing a raw psychedelic acid rock sound similar to the 1960s' Seeds and Leaves, the Jacuzzi Boys' raucous live set induced kinetic abandon like a fast-spreading virus. Closing in on a microphone from behind a curtain of black hair, Alcala snarled cryptic lyrics and played a bright, stinging guitar to Gonzales' deep bass grooves and Monasterios' crashing drums. If they played more than three chords, those extra chords were unnecessary. Surprisingly, though the songs were intrinsically basic, the band was able to make each song sound fresh and unique. The Jacuzzi Boys is a band worth discovering.

Visit the Jacuzzi Boys at

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Airbourne at the Gramercy Theatre

Joel O'Keeffe
In Warrnambool, a small Victorian country town on the southwestern coast of Australia, an 11-year-old Joel O'Keeffe was singing and learning to play guitar. Shortly afterwards, his younger brother, Ryan O'Keeffe, got his first drum kit. A few years later, Joel met David Roads when the two worked at a local hotel. The two brought their guitars to work and, after their shifts, jammed on song ideas. The O’Keeffe brothers invited Roads to join their rehearsals at their house. Adding a bassist, the quartet became the hard rocking Airbourne in 2003; Justin Street replaced the original bassist early on. In 2004 the four-piece won a statewide band competition in Melbourne, Australia. The band relocated to Melbourne in 2005, and to the United States in 2008. Airborne released its fourth studio album, Breakin' Outta Hell, on September 23, 2016.

At the Gramercy Theatre tonight, Airbourne stripped down their hard rock to its basic parts: a flashy, bare-chested, throaty vocalist, hardy party lyrics, and fist-pumping rock and roll anthems. What could go wrong? What could go wrong would be the obvious and inescapable comparisons to AC/DC. Airbourne's music sounded all too close to that of their fellow Australians. Nevertheless, Airbourne's sound also recalled other rocking bands like Thin Lizzy, Motorhead, Status Quo and another Australian band, Rose Tattoo. None of those bands were around tonight, so the audience enjoyed a formidable concert by a potent up-and-comer underdog, Airbourne. Airbourne took the stage with high energy fury and a good-time vibe, roaring through head-bangers with a sharp bite and a rock and roll fury. Fun? During the concert, Joel opened beer cans by repeatedly hitting them against his head. Towards the end of the performance, he played guitar on top of the bar in the center of the theater, then hopped down and poured himself a draft beer before returning to the stage. Both in sight and sound, Airbourne embodied a most compelling rock and roll spirit.

Visit Airbourne at

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Fantastic Negrito at the Mercury Lounge

Xavier Dphrepaulezz (pronounced “dee-FREP-ah-lez”) was born in western Massachusetts, the eighth of 15 children. When Dphrepaulezz was 12 years old, his family moved to Oakland, California, where he entered foster care and joined the world of street gangs, guns, drug dealing and home invasions. Looking for a way out at age 18, Dphrepaulezz posed as a student to access a college's practice rooms and taught himself to play piano by copying the scales that others were practicing. Shortly thereafter, Dphrepaulezz began writing songs and playing guitar. One day, at age 20, after purchasing arms, he himself was robbed by armed thieves. The next day he hitchhiked to Los Angeles with $100 and a keyboard, looking to start a career in music. In 1996 he had a neo-soul debut album that went nowhere. He played briefly in several bands but gave up shortly after a near-fatal automobile accident in 1999 put him in a three-week coma. He returned to Oakland in 2008, where he started a family and worked a quarter-acre farm. Eventually he started playing music again, busked in Oakland and San Francisco and rebirthed himself as a neo-blues musician renamed Fantastic Negrito. After a debut UP in 2014, Fantastic Negrito's debut album, The Last Days of Oakland, was released on June 3, 2016,

Countless musicians have joined rock and blues, but Fantastic Negrito gave this marriage a new twist tonight at the Mercury Lounge. He did this by bridging the blues of the Lead Belly and Muddy Waters variety with other root sources, including plantation songs, and also the more modern styles of funk, punk, soul and hip hop. As such, the set was eclectic, but Negrito's soul and spirit were the threads that stitched the tapestry together. His authenticity came not only from his musical creativity, but because his new-found identity came armed with a message and a meaning. Yes, his songs were laced with reflective insights on love and relationships, but he also sang about experiences and misfortunes with poverty, racism and societal disenfranchisement. His life passages informed and graced his blues with riveting passion. Negrito's performance was a strong and revelatory bugle for our times.

Visit Fantastic Negrito at

Saturday, October 8, 2016

F.O.L.D.! at Forest Hills Stadium

New Yorker Nile Rodgers had his initial hits in the 1970s with Chic, then became a producer-on-demand for dozens of top artists. Several years ago, Rodgers was diagnosed with cancer, and this led to a renewed effort at writing and creating. In 2015, he launched the two-day Fold! Festival in Riverhead, New York, featuring Beck, Pharrell, Keith Urban, Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Chic and other artists. The acronym FOLD! stands for "Freak Out Let's Dance!"

Rodgers hosted a similar three-day festival in June 2016 in London, England. Beck, Chic, Angie Stone, Alison Moyet and the Thompson Twins' Tom Bailey were among the performers there.

The festival returned to New York on a rainy night at Forest Hills Stadium on October 8. In addition to Chic, this evening's performers included Bette Midler, Earth, Wind & Fire, the Village People, Glee's Alex Newell, DJ Cassidy, DJ Nicky Siano of Studio 54. A portion of each ticket sold benefitted the not-for-profit We Are Family Foundation.

Rodgers told NY1 that he was thrilled to be performing at Forest Hills Stadium. “I get to play in the same spot the Beatles played in,” he said. “I get to play the same spot where Arthur Ashe played. Yeah, that’s a big deal.”

Nile Rodgers and his band, Chic, backed most of the artists and also performed their classic dance hits, "Le Freak" and "Good Times."

Bette Midler performed four songs, backed by Rodgers and band.

Earth, Wind & Fire closed the night with a full set.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Navy Gangs at Berlin

Vocalist/guitarist Matthew Tillwick, guitarist Noah Kohll, and drummer Gavin Cordaro began making music together in 2012 while in high school in Omaha, Nebraska. They worked for two months at a local zoo until they had enough cash for one way bus tickets to New York City, where they moved in temporarily with Kohll's grandmother. In New York, they met their bassist, Wilson Keithline from Providence, Rhode Island. Together they became the indie-pop Navy Gangs and recorded a four-song debut EP (release date: October 14, 2016) in said grandmother's apartment.

Launching a month of Friday night gigs at Berlin, Navy Gangs tonight seemed totally Brooklyn. The four musicians wore both expressionless wardrobe and expressionless faces as they performed a brief set of original compositions. The dynamics were in the music, not in the movements, as matter-of-fact vocals and jangly guitar chords led to smooth guitar leads and pop-flavored songs were powered by garage rock arrangements. Navy Gangs returns to Berlin on October 14, October 21 and October 28. 

Rips at Berlin

Several bands have used the name Rips, and there is little information on the web about the Brooklyn band Rips. The indie pop quartet consists of Dan and Bono on guitars and vocals, Gary on bass, and Henry on drums. If they have surnames, these have not yet been formally revealed. One member is from upstate, one is from New Jersey and two are from Texas. They met while working in a restaurant and formed a band. Austin Brown of Parquet Courts is producing tracks for a Rips album, and two songs are already on the web.

Opening for Navy Gangs at Berlin tonight, Rips played a bare-bones set of songs that recalled late 1970s garage rock. Comparisons have been made to Television, and rightly so, both in vocals and guitar style. Rips is a young band with potential for a bright future.

Visit Rips at

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Diarrhea Planet at the Bowery Ballroom

The original members of Diarrhea Planet met in 2009 while attending university in Nashville, Tennessee. Bored by the serious music-business ladder-climbing aspirations of their classmates, they set about creating the brashest rock and roll experience they could muster. In short time, an arsenal of four relentless, high-energy guitars blazed across the band's music and unleashed a signature sound. Diarrhea Planet released its third and most recent album, Turn to Gold, on June 10, 2016. The band presently is composed of vocalist/guitarist Jordan Smith, guitarist/vocalist Emmett Miller, guitarist Evan Bird, guitarist/vocalist Brent Toler, bassist Mike Boyle, and drummer Ian Bush.

Diarrhea Planet plays rowdy live shows, and tonight the Bowery Ballroom had a rock and roll cyclone wash through the room. The four guitarists lined up at the beginning of the concert and ripped into massive and frenetic stadium-sized riffs, backed by a locomotive rhythm section. Each guitarist offered his own style, but never mind, the whole experience was a cascading assault occasionally interrupted by lyrics. A bombastic torrent of boom remained raw and explosive throughout the set, grinding a groove beyond its natural limits with chunky, fuzzy riffs. Maybe this was silly, maybe it was stupid, but it was fun.

Visit Diarrhea Planet at

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Tedeschi Trucks Band at the Beacon Theatre

Derek Trucks was playing guitar in the Allman Brothers Band in 1999 when he met the opening act, guitarist/vocalist Susan Tedeschi; they married in 2001 and had two children. Although Tedeschi led the Susan Tedeschi Band since 1993 and Trucks had led the Derek Trucks Band since 1996, they combined their bands and music in 2007 to form Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi's Soul Stew Revival. This led in 2010 to the formation of the Tedeschi Trucks Band in Jacksonville, Florida. The Tedeschi Trucks Band's debut album in 2011 won a Grammy Award for Best Blues Album; the band's third and most recent studio album, Let Me Get By, was released on  January 29, 2016.

The 12-person Tedeschi Trucks Band returned to the Beacon Theatre for its annual residency, with promises of guest artists and unique set lists over the six-night run. On the fourth night, reviewed here, guitarists Jr. Mack, Luther Dickinson and Jorma Kaukonen joined the Tedeschi Trucks Band onstage, but these were not the most riveting moments. The stars of the performance were Tedeschi's powerful vocals and Trucks' guitar picking, which complemented each another wondrously. The set explored traditional blues infused with southern soul and other American roots music. On this night, 10 of the 16 songs were cover songs, including the Box Tops' "The Letter," the Grateful Dead's "Sugaree," and the Beatles' "I've Got a Feeling." No matter the song, the band took ownership by injecting passionate vocals and fiery guitar to make the performance unique. The band's rendition of the Allman Brothers Band's "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" was perhaps closest to its origin, but remained a house burner. At the end of the evening, the only thing better was knowing that a return on another night would produce yet another stellar blues jam.

Visit the Tedeschi Trucks Band at

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tyler Glenn at the Mercury Lounge

In 2004, Tyler Glenn's father suggested he play music the son of one of Glenn's father's friends. In 2005, the two musicians moved from California to Provo, Utah, where in 2007they founded a pop rock quartet, Neon Trees. The band succeeded with three hit albums. In 2014, Glenn came out as gay to Rolling Stone, discussing his experience as a closet gay within the Mormon religion. On April 28, 2016, Glenn released his debut single as a solo artist, the electro pop single "Trash." The video shows Glenn drinking alcohol from a bottle and spitting on an altered image of Joseph Smith (founder of the Mormons). Glenn's debut solo album, Excommunication, will be released on October 21, 2016.

At the Mercury Lounge tonight, Glenn was dark-haired and bearded, unlike his platinum-blond and clean-shaven persona in Neon Trees. His demeanor was unlike the bubbly singer of the pop band. He was very serious and spoke of his seven years with Neon Trees as a past event, suggesting he may no longer be a member in that band. He also stated that he recently discovered his religion was false, and that his motive for this album was not sales but instead a resource of comfort for LGBTQ youth. Onstage alone, pacing before a tall, illuminated X and singing to prerecorded tracks, Glenn showcased a scant 35 minutes of new material, with no further reference to Neon Trees. The performance initially was deep in electro-dance grooves, but when he emphasized his lyrics, they seemed to circle around a period where he experienced a crisis of faith, the emptiness of doubt and the darkness of a one-man rebellion. The lyrics, born in pain, were the most provocative and personal he has ever written, even as they clearly denounced everything he ever believed in for 32 years. Although these songs may be his road to healing, the lyrics invited listeners to enter into a deep wound, and the performance at times felt more unnerving than soothing. May Glenn triumph over this turbulent chapter in his life.

Visit Tyler Glenn at

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Meadows Music and Arts Festival at Flushing Meadows Park, Day Two

Shortly after its Governor's Ball on Randall's Island this summer, Founders Entertainment announced the inaugural Meadows Music and Arts Festival, held in a parking lot in Flushing Meadows Park outside of CitiField, on October 1 and 2. From noon to 10 p.m., the festival featured live music and a food fair. Although the original Saturday headliner, the Weeknd, cancelled due to scheduling conflicts with Saturday Night Live, the concerts across four stages included Kanye West, J. Cole, Chance the Rapper, Kygo, Grimes, The 1975, Pretty Lights, Bryson Tiller, Savages, Empire of the Sun, Chromeo, Metric,  Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley, Thomas Jack, Sylvan Esso, Kamasi Washington, Cage the Elephant, Mr. Twin Sister, Zhu, Twin Shadow (performing Purple Rain), and many more.

The Meadows Music and Arts Festival donated a portion of its proceeds to several local Queens organizations as well as the families of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.  Benefactors included, the Queens Library, the Far Rockaway RBI Little League, the Neighborhood Dinner, and Answer the Call. In addition, concertgoers could earn free tickets to the festival in exchange for volunteering at Masbia Soup Kitchens, resulting in more than 300 hours of community service in the weeks leading up to and after the festival.

Kanye West, Sunday's headliner, ended his performance after 35 minutes, citing a family emergency. Later news revealed that his wife, Kim Kardashian, had been bound and robbed in France.

Jack Garratt

Pusha T



Bryson Tiller

Mac Miller


Cage the Elephant

Chance the Rapper

The 1975

Twin Shadow


Kanye West

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Meadows Music and Arts Festival at Flushing Meadows Park, Day One

Shortly after its Governor's Ball on Randall's Island this summer, Founders Entertainment announced the inaugural Meadows Music and Arts Festival, held in a parking lot in Flushing Meadows Park outside of CitiField, on October 1 and 2. From noon to 10 p.m., the festival featured live music and a food fair. Although the original Saturday headliner, the Weeknd, cancelled due to scheduling conflicts with Saturday Night Live, the concerts across four stages included Kanye West, J. Cole, Chance the Rapper, Kygo, Grimes, The 1975, Pretty Lights, Bryson Tiller, Savages, Empire of the Sun, Chromeo, Metric,  Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley, Thomas Jack, Sylvan Esso, Kamasi Washington, Cage the Elephant, Mr. Twin Sister, Zhu, Twin Shadow (performing Purple Rain), and many more.

The Meadows Music and Arts Festival donated a portion of its proceeds to several local Queens organizations as well as the families of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.  Benefactors included, the Queens Library, the Far Rockaway RBI Little League, the Neighborhood Dinner, and Answer the Call. In addition, concertgoers could earn free tickets to the festival in exchange for volunteering at Masbia Soup Kitchens, resulting in more than 300 hours of community service in the weeks leading up to and after the festival.

Miami Horror

Miami Horror


Frightened Rabbit

Kamasi Washington




Sylvan Esso

Damien "Jr. Gong" Marley

Thomas Jack

Empire of the Sun



J. Cole