Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Mondo Cozmo at the Mercury Lounge

Joshua Ostrander began playing music in the group Ty Cobb in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He formed the alt-rock Radiohead-sounding band Laguardia in 2000, also based in Philadelphia, and released an album. His next band, an indie rock trio called Eastern Conference Champions (also known as ECC), toured and recorded from 2005 to 2015, and was the band that relocated him to Los Angeles, California, his present base. Ostrander launched a solo career under the name Mondo Cozmo in 2016, creating his name from the title of John Waters' film Mondo Trasho and his dog's name, Cozmo. "Shine" hit #1 on Billboard's Adult Alternative Songs chart in January 2017, but Mondo Cozmo has not yet released an album.

Backed tonight at the Mercury Lounge by the Philadelphia-based group Illinois, Cozmo performed a half hour of chorus-heavy folk-rock songs. Cozmo sang with the earthiness of an early Bob Dylan, yet sometimes rocked the walls like he was from Asbury Park. Songs built to a crescendo with choruses so repetitive that it would be hard not to know the title of the song by the time he was done. This was particularly emphasized with his last song, a seven-minute version of "Shine," on which he brought out a six-member choir to chant "let ’em get high; let ’em get stoned; everything will be alright if you let it go" for close to five of those seven minutes. The songs were epic in their performance, and promise to gain him a swift following. One can only hope that when he returns he will play more than six songs.

Visit Mondo Cozmo at www.mondocozmo.com.

Setlist
  1. Chemical Dream
  2. Sixes and Sevens
  3. Higher
  4. Plastic Soul
  5. Hold On To Me
  6. Shine

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Greensky Bluegrass at the PlayStation Theater

Michael Arlen Bont (banjo), Dave Bruzza (guitar), and Paul Hoffman (mandolin) began learning to play bluegrass together in 2000 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, playing in Bont's basement and also at parties and open mics. Greensky Bluegrass grew into a quintet and by 2005, the band was touring nationally. Greensky Bluegrass won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition in 2006, earning the band a spot on the main stage of the 2007 festival and augmenting the band's notoriety with each passing festival. Greensky Bluegrass presently consists of Bont, Bruzza, Hoffman, Michael Devol on upright bass and Anders Beck on resonator guitar. The band's sixth and most recent album, Shouted, Written Down & Quoted, was released on September 23, 2016.

With each tour, Greensky Bluegrass' New York City audience has doubled in size. Starting at the apartment-sized Sullivan Hall, the group went on to headline Irving Plaza on its previous tour, and tonight headlined the PlayStation Theater, unheard of for a bluegrass band in New York. The performance highlighted why this was possible; Greensky Bluegrass flat-picked like a traditional bluegrass band but performed with the dynamics and the spirit of a rock band. Performing two sets, the band started with a more traditional set of arrangements and ended deep in swirling Grateful Dead-style psychedelia before the night was over. Energetic songs glided into one another often, held together by a common mission to pick strings masterfully to a driving yet drum-less stomp. On this night, the band rendered semi-acoustic versions of Traffic's "Light Up or Leave Me Alone," the Beatles' "A Day in the Life," Bruce Springsteen's "Atlantic City," the Stanley Brothers' "How Mountain Girls Can Love," and J.J. Cale's "After Midnight," all surrounded by original songs and substantial string-band improvisation. This was jam-grass at its finest.

Visit Greensky Bluegrass at www.greenskybluegrass.com.

Setlist
Set One:
  1. Hold On
  2. Jaywalking
  3. Light Up or Leave Me Alone (Traffic cover)
  4. 33443
  5. 200 Miles from Montana
  6. Hit Parade of Love
  7. Better Off
  8. Who Is Fredrico?
  9. A Day in the Life (The Beatles cover)> Run or Die
Set Two:
  1. Atlantic City (Bruce Springsteen cover) -> Broke Mountain Breakdown > Miss September
  2. How Mountain Girls Can Love > Dustbowl Overtures
  3. Windshield > The Four > Take Cover
  4. Don’t Lie
Encore:

  1. Merely Avoiding > After Midnight (J.J. Cale cover)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Black Clouds at Pianos

Dan Matthews
There is a rock band called the Black Clouds in Seattle, Washington, and there was a band with the same name in Washington D.C.; the latter band is now called We Were Black Clouds. There is a third band named the Black Clouds, this one from Spring Lake, New Jersey, just south of Asbury Park. More influenced by the Seattle era than the Asbury Park sound, this band formed in 2004 and consists of guitarist/vocalist Dan Matthews, guitarist Neil Hayes, bassist Gary Moses and drummer Cory King. The Black Clouds' third album, After All, was released on January 6, 2017.

The Black Clouds set tonight at Pianos recalled the alternative hard rock of the grunge age, but it appeared the band was not completely locked into retro mode. Raw and heavy, with all amplifiers turned to loud settings, Matthew's vocals moved from softer melodic modalities to angst-ridden blasts. Meanwhile the band boomed its fury, embracing primitive punk and metal trajectories with sludgy, distorted guitar lines, deep bass lines and pile-driving drumbeats. Choruses often went in the opposite direction, however, floating with pop harmonies. The Black Clouds consistently hugged their 1990s influences, but were daring enough to inject a few interesting twists.

Visit the Black Clouds at www.theblackclouds.com.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Band of Heathens at City Winery

Gordy Quist & Ed Jurdi
Three songwriters - Colin Brooks, Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist - shared a Wednesday night residency in 2005 at a music club in Austin, Texas. They eventually started sharing the stage. A misprint in a local paper billed the act as "The Heathens" and so the three musicians began calling their collaboration the Band of Heathens. Achieving a local following at first, the band was voted Best New Band at the 2007 Austin Music Awards and soon received growing attention on Americana radio stations. The Band of Heathens' fifth studio album, Duende, was released on January 13, 2017. Brooks left the band in 2011, and so the Band of Heathens presently consists of Jurdi and Quist on vocals and guitar, keyboardist Trevor Nealon, bassist Scott Davis and drummer Richard Millsap.

Headlining at City Winery tonight, the Band of Heathens played a heartland rock set that was bigger than the musicians' native state. As the music began, the Band of Heathens sounded like a slick, commercial country band, but as the evening progressed, the music expanded into looser and thicker jams. Each of the five musicians seemed to bring distinctive flavors to the mix. Rooted in a southern-simmered gumbo, the music included some blues, some country twang and some barrel-house honky tonk. Some songs recalled the Band, while other songs pivoted on guitar work reminiscent of the Grateful Dead, but by the end of the set, the Band of Heathens was a full-fledged, high-energy rock and roll band.

Visit the Band of Heathens at www.bandofheathens.com.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Wednesday 13 at the Studio at Webster Hall

Joseph Poole, known professionally as Wednesday 13, is originally from Charlotte, North Carolina. A fan of campy horror, he named himself after the daughter in the Addams Family and the street address of The Munsters. Starting at age 16, Poole has played in Mizery, Psycho Opera, Maniac Spider Trash, Frankenstein Drag Queens from Planet 13, Murderdolls, Bourbon Crow, Gunfire 76, and the self-named horror punk band Wednesday 13. Wednesday 13's sixth and most recent album is 2015's concept album, Monsters of the Universe: Come Out and Plague. Poole currently lives in Los Angeles, California.

On stage tonight at the Studio at Webster Hall without his traditional face paint, Poole told the audience that he has wanted to do an Undead Unplugged Tour for years. Hence, the current tour features Wednesday 13 and Roman Surman sitting on chairs and singing to acoustic guitars. The set spanned Wednesday’s catalogue of music from his early bands to more recent recordings. Normally, 13's tongue-in-cheek lyrics are energized by hard rocking gothic, glam or metal; tonight the emphasis was on voice, lyrics and acoustic flourishes, presenting the catalogue in an entirely new light. The gritty Alice Cooper-like vocals remained, but all else was comparatively sedate. Nevertheless, songs like "Rambo" drew fist pumps and even a little head banging. Between songs, 13 recalled humorous road stories and dedicated several time segments to questions from the audience. After intermission, 13's outlaw country side project, Bourbon Crow, performed an acoustic set; Bourbon Crow tonight consisted of Poole under the alias of Buck Bourbon, Surman and guitarist Rayen Belchere under the alias of Jessie Crow. It was a chill night for the undead.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Smithereens at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill

Pat DiNizio
In Scotch Plains, New Jersey, a young Pat DiNizio became a music fan in 1964 after watching the Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. One night in the 1970s, DiNizio purchased an out-of-print Buddy Holly album, and listening to it inspired him to become a singer/songwriter/guitarist. Meanwhile, in nearby Carteret, New Jersey, drummer Dennis Diken, guitarist Jim Babjak and bassist Mike Mesaros met as high school students and jammed together throughout the 1970s. DiNizio and Diken met through a classified ad DiNizio placed in The Aquarian Weekly looking for a drummer. Initially they formed a new wave cover band called the Like but retired the band after just one gig. In 1980, DiNizio wanted to record demos of some original songs and needed a drummer, so he contacted Diken. Diken eventually recruited Babjak and Mesaros. The quartet became the Smithereens, adopting the name from the cartoon character Yosemite Sam’s catchphrase, "Varmint, I'm a-gonna blow you to smithereens!" The band's seventh and most recent studio album of original songs, 2011, was released in 2011.

The Smithereens headlined once again tonight at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, but this time was different. The first thing the audience noticed was that Mesaros was back in the band after a 10-year hiatus. Secondly, the audience could tell instantly that DiNizio’s arms appeared to be paralyzed. He later explained simply that he was having "work" done on his arms. (In 2014, DiNizio slipped on ice on his back porch and injured his hand.  A couple of weeks later, he slipped in his bathtub and crashed his elbow on the side of the tub. These injuries left him with extensive nerve damage.) As a result, DiNizio did not play guitar at this gig. He was in fine voice, however, and the band behind him, now operating as a power trio, sounded more like the Who than ever. DiNizio mentioned often how the band has played together for 37 years, but nearly the entire set hearkened back to the band's first decade of recordings. The band also revealed its early inspirations by covering Buddy Holly ("Well Alright"), the Beatles ("Please Please Me") and the Who ("Sparks"). Between songs, DiNizio shared amusing anecdotes on Smithereens history but said very little about his or the band's present or future. One can only hope that his arms heal so he can resume writing songs and playing guitar.

Visit the Smithereens at www.officialsmithereens.com.

Setlist:
  1. Behind the Wall of Sleep
  2. Top of the Pops
  3. Sorry
  4. Drown in My Own Tears
  5. Green Thoughts
  6. Listen to Me Girl
  7. Now and Then
  8. War for My Mind
  9. Miles from Nowhere
  10. Only a Memory
  11. Spellbound
  12. Blues Before and After
  13. Baby Be Good
  14. Maria Elena
  15. Well Alright (Buddy Holly cover)
  16. Long Way Back Again
  17. Love Is Gone
  18. Since You Went Away
  19. Yesterday Girl
  20. Room without a View
  21. Please Please Me (The Beatles cover)
  22. House We Used to Live In / Sparks (The Who cover)
  23. Time and Time Again
  24. Blood and Roses

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Bash & Pop at the Mercury Lounge

Tommy Stinson
Tommy Stinson learned the bass at the age of 11 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and soon played in a band that in 1980 would become the Replacements. The Replacements became one of the definitive American alternative rock groups in the 1980s before splitting in 1991. Stinson moved to vocals and guitar and formed Bash & Pop from 1992 to 1994 and Perfect from 1995 to 1998. He joined Guns N' Roses (1998-2016) and Soul Asylum (2005-2012), and rejoined the Replacements for a reunion tour in 2015. Along the way, Stinson recorded solo albums in 2004 and 2011. Stinson, now a solo artist based in Hudson, New York, in recent years played with various musicians live and in the studio. Listeners said his recent studio work reminded them of Bash & Pop, so he rebranded the name and is releasing the second Bash & Pop album, Anything Could Happen, on January 20, 2017, 24 years after the debut album. Bash & Pop presently consists of Stinson on vocals and rhythm guitar, Steve  Selvidge of the Hold Steady on lead guitar, Justin Perkins, formerly of Screeching Weasel, on bass, and Joe Sirois of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones on drums.

The sold out show at the Mercury Lounge tonight was the first Bash & Pop concert in New York City since 1992. The band performed songs from both Bash & Pop albums as well as songs from Stinson's solo albums and two covers, the Rolling Stones' "Rip This Joint" and Big Star's "Nighttime," but no Replacements songs. Bash & Pop's 1960s-style shiny red suits and black dress shirts aligned with their early pop musical arrangements. The songs were structured largely on a traditional verse-verse-chorus-bridge-guitar burst-verse-chorus, with gang harmonies on the choruses. The speedy tempos and the thrust dynamics were more 1970s punk than 1960s garage, however, leading to a small but unmistakably older-men mosh pit for a brief period. (Stinson jokingly admonished the moshers, saying "Hey, keep it down. We are a little too old for that!") The band, which on this night included Stinson's neighbor, keyboardist Tony Kieraldo, played 20 rocking pop songs in roughly 90 minutes, demonstrating that there is a lot more to Tommy Stinson than just the Replacements.

Visit Bash & Pop at www.BashAndPop.com.

Setlist:
  1. Not This Time
  2. Fast & Hard
  3. Rip This Joint (The Rolling Stones cover)
  4. On the Rocks
  5. Bad News
  6. Never Wanted to Know
  7. Tiny Pieces
  8. Come To Hide (Tommy Stinson song)
  9. Nothing
  10. Anybody Else
  11. Breathing Room
  12. He Means It
  13. Not A Moment Too Soon (Tommy Stinson song)
  14. Anything Could Happen
  15. Unfuck You
  16. It's A Drag (Tommy Stinson song)
  17. Encore:
  18. Destroy Me (Tommy Stinson song)
  19. Nighttime (Big Star cover)
  20. First Steps
  21. Never Aim To Please
  22. First Steps

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Streets of Laredo at the Rose Bar

Daniel Gibson
Dave Gibson was the vocalist of New Zealand's biggest rock band, Elemeno P, when in 2012 he started singing with his wife, Sarahjane Gibson, and his younger brother, Daniel Gibson, in Auckland. Daniel took to a guitar and lead vocals, Dave grabbed drumsticks, and Sarahjane reached for various percussion instruments, and after only one local performance, the Gibsons relocated to Brooklyn, New York. They took the band name, Streets of Laredo, from an old cowboy song. Presently the band consists of the three Gibsons plus lead guitarist Cameron Deyell, bassist Sean McMahon and trumpeter/synthesizer player Andrew McGovern. The Streets of Laredo's second album, Wild, was released on October 21, 2016.

Performing an invitation-only concert at the Rose Bar at the Gramercy Hotel, the Streets of Laredo showed what happens when folk songs adopt slick and poppy angles. The songs sounded like they started as simplistic, acoustic ditties written while the composers sat on the sofa by a fireplace. Through collaborations , the songs then matured with buttery vocal harmonies, stinging electric guitar leads, curious trumpet lines, and a soft rhythmic backbone. While sounding like the songs were rooted in Americana, maybe the fact that most of the band members are not American allowed for a more fluid introduction of other homespun flavors. The Streets of Laredo played honest music with clever hooks that should catch on with fans of the Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers.

Visit the Streets of Laredo at www.streetsoflaredomusic.com.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Cracker at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill

David Lowery
Vocalist/guitarist David Lowery enjoyed alternative rock success with Camper Van Beethoven in the 1980s, but the group disbanded in 1990. He then connected with lead guitarist Johnny Hickman, whom he had befriended as teenagers in the music scene in Redlands, California. They relocated to Richmond, Virginia, formed Cracker in 1991. Cracker rode the wave of guitar-driven alternative rock in the early 1990s; the band's first two albums were hits and the band later had tracks on film and television soundtracks. Camper Van Beethoven re-formed in 1999, so Lowery now performs in both bands. Cracker is based currently in Athens, Georgia, and consists of Lowery, Hickman, pedal steel player Matt "Pistol" Stoessel, bassist Bryan Howard, and drummer Carlton "Coco" Owens. The band's 10th and most recent studio album is 2014's double Berkeley to Bakersfield.

Cracker followed Camper Van Beethoven's set tonight at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill. The similarities in Lowery's two bands was that the songs spun on his frequently wry, clever lyrics, and both sets hinted at alt-country-rock roots. The notable difference was that Cracker sparkled with Hickman's brash, rocking guitar leads and Stoessel's sliding pedal steel. Lowery's folk-styled vocal delivery ranged from doleful to playful, and was core to each song, but the band's brawny contributions lifted the songs with oomph and color. Jonathan Segel of Camper Van Beethoven also played fiddle on a few Cracker songs. It also helped that the whimsical lyrics of "Teen Angst" and "Euro-Trash Girl" were still amusing after 20 years. Cracker's music ranged from grunge to Americana, but all of it uniformly light-hearted and sharp-witted, making Cracker a unique band still.

Visit Cracker at www.crackersoul.com.

Setlist:
  1. Loser (Jerry Garcia cover)
  2. Almond Grove
  3. One Fine Day
  4. Gimme One More Chance
  5. California Country Boy
  6. El Comandante
  7. Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)
  8. Wedding Day
  9. Low
  10. Sweet Potato
  11. This Is Cracker Soul
  12. Euro-Trash Girl
  13. Beautiful
  14. Another Song About the Rain
  15. Encore: Mr. Wrong

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Isley Brothers at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill

Ronald Isley (left) & Ernie Isley
Encouraged by their southern-raised parents, four young brothers, O'Kelly Isley, Jr., Rudolph Isley, Ronald Isley, and Vernon Isley began singing gospel songs in church in 1954 in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio. The Isley Brothers won a talent contest on a national television show and began a East Coast tour of churches. Then, the vocal quartet's lead vocalist, 13-year-old Vernon, died after a car struck him as he rode his bicycle in his neighborhood; devastated, the remaining trio disbanded. In 1957, the brothers decided to regroup and record secular music, with Ronald taking the lead vocals. The Isley Brothers moved to New York City and hit in 1959 with "Shout" and in 1962 with "Twist and Shout." The brothers then moved to New Jersey in 1964, during which time an as-yet-undiscovered Jimi Hendrix joined the band for a year. By the late 1960s, younger brothers Ernie Isley (guitar) and Marvin Isley (bass) began contributing to the music. Over the years, Rudolph left music to work in Christian ministry and O'Kelly and Marvin died. The two remaining Isley Brothers are Ronald and Ernie Isley. The Isley Brothers' 21st and most recent studio album is 2006's Baby Makin' Music.

Tickets were a whopping $125, but B.B. King Blues Club & Grill was packed tighter than ever. The Isley Brothers is the only artist to have had songs chart in Billboard's Hot 100 (in fact, that chart's top 50) during the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, so even with no new album to promote, the Ronald and Ernie had sufficient ground to cover. The 75-minute set opened with a rocking "Fight the Power" and "That Lady," with Ronald singing in a nasal Al Green-type tenor and Ernie wailing like Carlos Santana on the guitar. Tempos then simmered for the most of the performance, highlighting mid-career "quiet storm" hits such as "Between the Sheets" and covers of "Summer Breeze" and "Hello, It's Me." The Grammy Award-winning "It's Your Thing" sparked the set again and shortened versions of "Twist and Shout" and "Shout" were rousers. Ronald Isley demonstrated that he was still a smooth, classy vocalist, but the under-utilized Ernie Isley was the band's not-so-secret weapon, rocking the house by injecting melodic guitar leads into some songs. Perhaps the 63-year-old music act is obligated to give the audience a familiar catalogue, but the concert might have been better balanced with more Ernie-rock and less Marvin ballads.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Nathaniel Bellows at the Mercury Lounge

Nathaniel Bellows was born in Boston, Massachusetts, where he drew pictures and played piano as a youth. He attended a school where students were required to keep a journal, and he began to see writing as a natural extension of the arts. He relocated to New York City during his college years, and became a broadly published poet, novelist, and visual artist. He is the author of two novels, On This Day and Nan, and a collection of poems, Why Speak?, along with numerous short stories and poems. His debut album, The Old Illusions, will be released on January 22, 2016.

At the Mercury Lounge tonight, Nathaniel Bellows proved to be a pensive songwriter, a fine finger-picking guitarist, and a muscular vocalist. Accompanying himself solely on an acoustic guitar with no effects, he followed the tradition of early folk singers, but with content that was often more cerebral and more mysterious. Much like his drawings, his poetic lyrics and his unadorned vocals revealed an artist who expressed himself subtly and unobtrusively. The rich artistic juices continue to flow in Bellows; his set consisted of songs from his album and songs that have never been recorded, including at least one that made its public debut tonight. Bellows proved that it is possible to write and perform peaceful, meditative music in the midst of Mad City.

Visit Nathaniel Bellows at www.nathanielbellows.com.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Hazmat Modine & Alash Ensemble at the Highline Ballroom

Alash Ensemble & Wade Schuman
Wade Schuman began playing harmonica at age 10 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He moved to New York and in the late 1990s formed an eclectic blues and roots band, Hazmat Modine. "Hazmat" is a portmanteau of "hazardous material", and "Modine" is the name of a company that manufactures commercial heaters but may be used to refer to the heater itself. Hazmat Modine's varied combination of source music led to the band touring remote areas of the world. The band's second CD was awarded the Charles Cross award in France for best blues album of the year, and topped number one on the World Music Charts in Europe. When home in the New York area, however, Hazmat Modine usually performs in modest venues. Hazmat Modine released its third studio album, Extra-Deluxe-Supreme, on June 3, 2016.

Hazmat Modine is a large band -- tonight at the Highline Ballroom it comprised 12 musicians -- and it seemed each musician offered his or her own personal journey to the band's brew. As leader and main vocalist of the band, Schuman accentuated a southern barrelhouse blues and jazz, but then there was a musician playing a banjo and a banjitar, giving the same songs a country feel as well. The more dance-oriented songs had a touch of swing, and a trio from Tuva known as Alash Ensemble played their culture's folk music with native acoustic instruments as well. Hazmat Modine played the most intriguing music. It seemed like anything musical was possible and probable. Hazmat Modine is a roots band, but apparently the roots could draw from any culture and any time period.

Visit Hazmat Modine at www.hazmatmodine.com.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Lee Fields & the Expressions at Irving Plaza

Lee Fields
Elmer "Lee" Fields sang in Sunday church services as a boy in Wilson, North Carolina, but he grew up wanting to sing the rhythm and blues he enjoyed on the radio. Seeking a musical career at age 17, he packed a duffel bag and arrived in New York City with only $2 left in his pocket. He started earning money at his very first gig and was nicknamed "Little JB" for his physical and vocal resemblance with James Brown. Fields recorded his first single in 1969 and his first album in 1979, both to little commercial success. Since 2009, Fields has gained traction fronting Lee Fields & the Expressions; the band's fifth album, Special Night, was released on November 4, 2016. Fields, now 65 years old, is based in Plainfield, New Jersey.

The audience at a Lee Fields show comes to hear new songs with an old soul sound, and that is exactly what they experienced tonight at Irving Plaza. Fields did not venture through a time warp, but instead adopted the signature musical patterns of the Stax/Chess/Motown era and updated them into a contemporary context. As the very able Expressions backed him with horns, backup singers, and silky rhythms, Fields poured himself into his songs. Fields constantly moved around the stage, animating the audience by crouching and leaning into the audience and pointing to fans as he sang romantic lyrics. Fields sang the romantic songs with a clear, smooth voice that occasionally soared for the sky. For some of the funkier songs, his voice turned a bit more raucous without sacrificing tenderness. Some may have called this throwback, but it was what Fields has been doing consistently for nearly 50 years.

Visit Lee Fields & the Expressions at www.leefieldsandtheexpressions.com.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Nude Party at Berlin

Patton Magee
Guitarist Shaun Couture and keyboardist Zachary Merrill are brothers who in their youth moved from Michigan to Charlotte, North Carolina. There they met bassist Alec Castillo and drummer Connor Mikita in high school. A few years later, Mikita attended college in southern mountain town of Boone, North Carolina, where he met and recruited vocalist/guitarist Patton Magee. The quintet began jamming in 2013 at Castillo's house just off of Lake Norman in Mooresville, North Carolina. Percussionist Austin Brose joined the band later. The Nude Party released a second EP, Hot Tub, on January 1, 2016.

Headlining tonight at Berlin, the Nude Party played 1960s-styled garage rock. Reverberated vocals, jangly guitars and a rolling organ propelled the songs with simple, repetitive grooves. The guitar leads sounded like they came from surf or spy movies. Mixing tempos, sometimes in the middle of a song, the band weaved a thread that distinguished the songs from one another yet prohibited them from sounding alike. The primitive arrangements chugged pleasingly without crying for modernity or polish. It was fitting that someone projected a psychedelic light show onto a white sheet behind the band. But what was with the musicians having all their fingernails painted black?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Urgent Fundraiser for Church Street School for Music and Art at City Winery

The Church Street School for Music and Art, the only not-for-profit school for the arts in Manhattan south of Canal Street, called on TriBeCa celebrities to assist at a fundraiser tonight at City Winery. Sugarland vocalist Jennifer Nettles, Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo, actor/author Eric Bogosian, screenwriter/producer Ed Burns, and DJ Spooky’s Antartica Symphony performed at the benefit concert, titled Urgent Fundraiser for Church Street School for Music and Art. Another neighborhood activist, actor Harvey Keitel, currently in Los Angeles, sent a note of encouragement and support, read aloud to the audience by the school's director, Lisa Ecklund-Flores.

Between performances, Ecklund-Flores explained that the school is a victim of the transition between "old TriBeCa" and "new TriBeCa," and is "between a rock and a very hard place" due to escalating rents. The hope for the future is in how the local councilwoman and the community board are working towards acquisition, construction and renovation of a new space for the school. Fundraising now helps to stabilize the school's present programs and assists in creating a foundation for the future building.

Meanwhile, the mission goes on, as it has since 1990. Several of the performers spoke about how they are parents of students at the school. Ecklund-Flores told of a young student who registered for piano lessons but was afraid of the instrument. For a few weeks, teacher and student had their lesson under the piano, tapping its legs with drumsticks, until he was comfortable approaching the keyboard. Today, conductor/pianist Oliver Hagen is a master musician.

For more information about the school or to make a contribution, visit www.churchstreetschool.org.

DJ Spooky's Antartica Symphony
Eric Bogosian
Ed Burns & the Blue Jackets
Jennifer Nettles
Lee Ranaldo

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Joseph Arthur at City Winery

Joseph Arthur began writing and playing music in his early teens in Akron, Ohio, after inheriting an electronic keyboard from his aunt. At age 16, he played bass in a blues band called Frankie Starr & the Chill Factor. Days after his high school graduation in the early 1990s, Arthur relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, working by day as a guitar salesman, performing at night at local music clubs, and recording home demos whenever possible. Peter Gabriel heard Arthur's debut EP, signed Arthur to Gabriel's record company and released Arthur's debut album in 1997. Arthur led a band, the Lonely Astronauts, in 2006, and joined Ben Harper and Dhani Harrison in the trio Fistful of Mercy in 2010. None of these projects gained Arthur any significant commercial success. Arthur has since gone completely solo, accompanying himself in concert on guitar and piano and backing himself with looping techniques. Arthur released his 14th solo album, The Family, on June 3, 2016. He is based in Brooklyn, New York.

Joseph Arthur tonight performed his seventh annual New Year's Night gig at City Winery. Much like previous years, he performed as a one-man band, thanks to an array of foot pedals and other effects. Many of his songs were stripped down to just vocals and guitar or piano, but other compositions saw him looping vocals, guitar lines and guitar-slap percussion so that he could layer or harmonize with himself. The effect was fascinating, but only succeeded because his slurring vocals, poetic lyrics and fluid melodies were pleasingly solid. His set included covers of George Michael's "Freedom" and Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows," both of which Arthur pre-arranged and then played on his smart phone as he sang along. As usual, he also drew and painted a simple painting on a canvas while he sang a song. Joseph Arthur demonstrated his impressively imaginative and creative artistry with a multimedia palette.

Visit Joseph Arthur at www.josepharthur.com.