Friday, June 30, 2017

Flat Duo Jets at Hill Country Barbecue Market

John Michael Dexter Romweber was born in Batesville, Indiana, and played in his first band, Crash Landon & the Kamikazes, at age 11 while attending junior high school. He later teamed with a drummer and the two musicians became the Flat Duo Jets, naming themselves after hearing Gene Vincent speak about his Gretsch Duo Jet guitar. The Flat Duo Jets began recording in 1985 and relocated to Athens, Georgia, where the band was featured in the film Athens, GA: Inside Out. The Flat Duo Jets moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and then split in 1999 after eight albums. Romweber subsequently released solo albums and formed the Dexter Romweber Duo, which for a time included drummer Crash LaResh, who performed with Romweber in various outfits from 1995 to 2005. In the 2008 documentary It Might Get Loud, Jack White played the Flat Duo Jets' version of the traditional "Frog Went A-Courtin'" for Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and U2's The Edge, and discussed the impact that the Jets had on him and his music. In 2009, a documentary about Romweber's musical journey, Two Headed Cow, featured testimonials from White, Exene Cervenka of X, Cat Power and Neko Case. Flat Jets Duo's most recent album is 2008's soundtrack from Two Headed Cow.

Dexter Romweber and Crash LaResh reunited, this time as Flat Duo Jets, tonight at Hill Country Barbecue Market, playing rootsy garage rock and roll from America's south and borrowing generously from traditional blues, rhythm & blues, rockabilly and country. The sparse guitar/drums arrangements created spine-tingling eruptions that were abrupt, coarse, and blazing. LaResh, ostentatious with his multiple tattoos, bleached blond dreads and oversized sunglasses, forcefully played his drum kit while standing, and seemed to be energized by the mad riffs and deep grooves played by Romweber. Romweber, on the other hand, dressed more conservatively in an opened white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, seemed consumed by his playing and nothing else, as he played nearly the entire set with his eyes closed and his back to the audience. Romweber sang soulfully and tenderly, yet kept his vocals as raw as his guitar playing. Romweber spoke little, except at the end when he begged off playing an encore.

Setlist:
  1. A Face In the Crowd
  2. Crazy Woman
  3. Blind Man
  4. Curse Of Little Bastard
  5. Paradise
  6. The Search
  7. New York Studio 1959
  8. Southern Drums
  9. The Lonesome Road
  10. Big Sandy
  11. A Theme For Charlie Dick
  12. Wild Wild Lover
  13. Is That You, in the Blue?
  14. Breakout!

Raging Slab at the Map Room at the Bowery Electric

Greg Strzempka
Guitarists Greg Strzempka and Elyse Steinman met in 1983 in New York City and discovered that  they shared a common passion for 1970s heavy rock and blues boogie and 1980s punk rock groups. The couple enlisted like minded musicians and Raging Slab began playing its first shows in Manhattan rock clubs. As the band gained a following, it also wound up having endless lineup changes; about 20 drummers can claim to have had membership in Raging Slab. The band was also plagued with ongoing record company resistance and lack of support. In 1990, Strzempka and Steinman purchased a rural property in Hooversville, Pennsylvania, where they built a recording studio they named Slabby Road. The members of the group lived together on the farm in a communal relationship. Raging Slab went on hiatus in 2002, but Strzempka and Steinman reformed a new line-up in 2004. Steinman lost a three year battle with cancer on March 30, 2017.

The Raging Slab concert tonight at the Map Room at the Bowery Electric was a memorial to Steinman. Attendees were welcomed with a food spread, and also with photographs of Steinman from childhood to rocker along the walls. The audience cheered when after a few songs Strzempka strapped on his United States-shaped guitar. The band reunited Strzempka with former lead guitarist Mark Middleton and former bassist Alec Morton. Paul Sheehan played drums for the first few songs and then Bob Pantella replaced him for the rest of the set. Tom "5" Guay, formerly of White Zombie and Angel Rot, played guitar on "Sir Lord Ford." Pamela Le Grand sang a cover of Mountain's "Mississippi Queen." Vocalist Liza Colby of the Liza Colby Sound and guitarist Daniel Rey, producer of Iggy Pop, the Ramones and Raging Slab, joined Raging Slab for the Jeff Beck Group's "I'm Going Down," and Rey also played guitar on a cover of Bad Company's "Shooting Star." The Raging Slab songs were not the same without Steinman, but Strzempka and a series of guest vocalists and musicians performed with the blunt energy and fierce excitement that comes from playing raw hard rock. The jams borrowed from southern rock and stoner rock but remained knit in the boogie tradition. Raging Slab may have to rebuild once again, but it would be a shame for the band not to rock again in some form.

Visit Raging Slab at www.ragingslab.com.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

U2 at MetLife Stadium

The Edge, Adam Clayton, Bono
Curiously, U2's performance at Metlife Stadium opened with vocalist Bono, guitarist The Edge, bassist Adam Clayton, and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. unceremoniously walking the long, descending catwalk of the Joshua tree's "trunk" to the smaller shrub-shaped second stage surrounded by fans; bands usually wait until a strategic mid-point in a show to use a B stage, but this was where the band chose to launch its pre-Joshua Tree mini-set. The two-hour performance began on this smaller stage with four of the band's earliest and most iconic songs, "Sunday Bloody Sunday", "New Year's Day", "Bad," and "Pride (In the Name of Love)," played in the sequence in which they were released and each played much as the audience expected to hear them.

As the band sauntered back up the runway to the main stage, the video screen illuminated with the Joshua tree silhouette against a blood-red background. The main event, the 11 Joshua Tree tracks in sequence, began with more U2 signature songs, "Where The Streets Have No Name," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and "With or Without You."

For The Joshua Tree portion of the show, the band performed on the main stage against a backdrop of visuals on the video screen. If the show was not already a spectacle, the realistic, seemingly three-dimensional visuals became intrinsic to the multi-media totality, immersing the audience deeper into The Joshua Tree. "Where the Streets Have No Name" was accompanied by a slow tracking shot of a desert highway, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" with a forest of trees, "With or Without You" with images of Zabriskie Point, and "Trip Through Your Wires" showed the Edge's wife, choreographer Morleigh Steinberg, dressed as a cowgirl while an American flag was painted on a wooden shack. Some of the videos were interludes that served as introductions of songs rather than backdrops; prior to "Exit," a clip from the 1950s television series Trackdown was shown, in which a con man named Trump visits a western town and promises to build a wall around the citizens to ensure their safety. Every song had its calculated visual partner.

Like most concerts, U2's set began and ended with better known songs, either setting a frenzy of excitement or concluding with a memorable blast. The middle of the U2's set consisted of lesser-known songs, or what would have been known as the B side of the album. These included songs never-before performed ("Red Hill Mining Town") and rarely performed live ("In God's Country", "Mothers of the Disappeared").

After the main set, U2 returned to the small stage for the encore of post-Joshua Tree songs, and Bono went full on with his social messages. The band began the encore with a stirring rendition of "Miss Sarajevo," a song dramatizing the Bosnian War in 1995, but now repurposed to the civil unrest in Syria. On screen, amidst bleak images of urban destruction, a 15-year-old Syrian in a Jordanian refugee camp said, through subtitles, "I would love to go to America, because it's a very beautiful country, and one can be happy there. It's a civil country. It's the land of dreams."

"Ultraviolet (Light My Way)" became an ode to women, including visuals of many groundbreaking women in contemporary history.

The show closed with "One." Prior to "One", Bono promoted the ONE Campaign by discussing the fight against HIV/AIDS. As the word "one" appeared on the screen in many languages, Bono at length acknowledged many of his peers in the fight against HIV/AIDS, many of whom he said were in the audience.

Bono also addressed the immigration controversy without overtly naming a political figure or the travel ban that took effect that night in the United States. Bono noted that America is a country of immigrants. "This city, this country have given us Irish safety and sanctuary for hundreds of years," Bono said. "We would like to say thank you." Indeed, Bono thanked the audience "for letting us into your country."

Bono also spoke of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in prayer form. "Dr. King, in a time of terror, keep us tolerant. In a time of fear, keep us faithful," Bono said.

Bono also urged members of the American media to remain "vigilant." "I would like to thank all of those that keep us vigilant, like journalists, in this country," Bono said.

Throughout the concert, the visuals, the underlying commentary and the musical performance were so interweaved that they were futile to fracture into compartments. The acoustical challenges of performing amidst outdoor elements perhaps hindered Bono's ability to make his singing sound unique, but the force and integrity of his delivery rallied even the fans dancing at their seats more than a half-mile away. The Edge's guitar work was smooth yet biting, and the rhythm section powered the songs admirably. In the end, this U2 concert was not about how cleverly the quartet reworked or updated the original compositions, but how effectively they masterminded a spectacle for thousands of fans to enjoy. This tour may have been the spectacle of spectacles for the rock history books.

Setlist
Preamble
  1. "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
  2. "New Year's Day"
  3. "Bad" (with a snippet of Simon & Garfunkel's "America")
  4. "Pride (In The Name Of Love)"
The Joshua Tree
  1. "Where The Streets Have No Name"
  2. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
  3. "With Or Without You"
  4. "Bullet The Blue Sky"
  5. "Running To Stand Still"
  6. "Red Hill Mining Town"
  7. "In God's Country"
  8. "Trip Through Your Wires"
  9. "One Tree Hill"
  10. "Exit"
  11. "Mothers Of The Disappeared"
Encore:
  1. "Miss Sarajevo" (Passengers cover)
  2. "Beautiful Day" (with a snippet of Patti Smith's "People Have The Power")
  3. "Elevation"
  4. "Vertigo" (with a snippet of Patti Smith's "Rock 'n' Roll N----r")
  5. "Mysterious Ways"
  6. "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)"
  7. "One"

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

James Maddock at City Winery

James Maddock, the son of a part-time jazz musician, was born and raised in a village called Countesthorpe, pretty much in the center of England. He sang in local bands including Fire Next Time, which released an album in 1988. In his 20s, Maddock relocated to London, England, where he formed an Americana-inspired quartet called Wood; understandably, the band had greater success in America than in the Brit-pop obsessed United Kingdom, and songs from Wood's sole 1999 album were featured on television shows like Dawson's Creek. Ultimately, this brought Maddock to New York City in 2004, where he launched a solo career. His 2009 solo album Sunrise On Avenue C won a New York Music Award for Best Americana Album. Maddock's fourth and most recent studio album is 2015's The Green. His next album, Insanity vs. Humanity, is anticipated later in 2017.

Bruce Springsteen and Willie Nile are fans of James Maddock, and at Maddock's debut headlining show at City Winery tonight it was easy to determine why; Maddock's music has grown to sound very much like that of those two singer-songwriters. Maddock's point of origin seemed to be an earthy folk aesthetic that went ballistic with powerhouse rock arrangements. Maddock's poetic lyrics and craggy vocals were given ammunition from his band mates, who loaded the songs with imaginative arrangements, sparkling piano fills and stinging guitar leads. Perhaps the singer-songwriter is in the process of outgrowing his folk and Americana roots, because the set took the vulnerability from which the songs were born and gave them turbo pop and mega kick. Whether his future performances continue at this fevered pace or they mellow back to his earlier style, either presentation is a musical event worth catching live.

Visit James Maddock at www.jamesmaddock.net.

Joy Askew at City Winery

Joy Askew grew up in Newcastle, England, and by age 14 was playing piano and singing around town in a blues band with her brother. She later attending a jazz college in London, where she studied tenor saxophone along with the piano and vocal classes. She heard American music and determined she would get there. This opportunity came when she joined the band Eye to Eye for an East Coast tour in 1982, which led to her relocating to New York City. She played keyboards and sang background on tours for Joe Jackson in 1982, Laurie Anderson in 1984, Rodney Crowell in 1991, and Peter Gabriel in 1992. Askew began working on a solo career in 1993. For her eighth and most recent album, Queen Victoria, released on May 11, 2017, returned to England and recorded with a traditional British brass band.

Over the past few years, Joy Askew's performances have gradually gravitated from accompanying herself only with a piano, to incorporating a folkie band, and recently to piano with rhythm section plus horns. For most of her set at City Winery tonight, Askew sat at a piano on the left half of the stage, and five horn players sat in a semicircle on the right side of the stage. This reworking of her songs to this final stage of piano and horns brought a new light to her songs. On many songs, Askew began with a sensitive, whispering delivery, but opened into a big, loud voice, equally passionate and resounding with richness. "Queen Victoria" in particular featured Askew playing accomplished piano melodies that built towards a rousing climax. The Americanized brass band consisting of tuba, French horn, trombone and two trumpets (French horns and trumpets are usually absent in traditional British brass bands) punctuated a moody, even mournful enormity to the piano-based songs. Headliner James Maddock joined her for the final song, "Knocking Around an Old Tin Can," adding a grittiness to an otherwise soft and fluid set. The piano/vocal/horn arrangements were brilliantly imagined and beautifully executed. The result was original and moving.

Visit Joy Askew at www.joyaskew.com.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Imelda May at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Born Imelda Clabby in Dublin, Ireland, the woman who would later be known professionally as Imelda May was by age 16 singing in bands and was occasionally barred from her own shows for being underage. She formed her own band in 2002, and in 2003 released her debut album, initially under her maiden name. After the release, May relocated with her then-husband, guitarist Darrel Higham, to London, England. Best known for her rockabilly revival styled music, she won the Best Female Artist of the Year award at the 2009 Meteor Awards and Album of the Year at the 2010 RTÉ Radio 1 Awards. Her fifth and most recent studio album, Life. Love. Flesh. Blood, was released on April 7, 2017.

Forget most everything you have heard about Imelda May. At Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom tonight, she revealed her new identity. She not only divorced her husband in 2015, she also divorced her rockabilly sound and look. Long, dark bangs and shoulder length hair have replaced her signature bi-colored pompadour and ponytail, and a black hole-pocked modern outfit replaced her tight vintage dresses. Her band similarly rocked with a classic rock sound, with the two guitarists only occasionally retreating to rockabilly licks, and her bassist only briefly playing an acoustic double bass. The set comprised all 11 songs from her new album, one song each from two of her previous albums, and several cover songs. The only sacred area left untouched was May's tremendous vocal ability, which soared on rock, blues and torch songs. With a powerful range that still occasionally channeled Patsy Cline and Billie Holliday, the bulk of her set was more akin to Pretenders or Fleetwood Mac. May may find a wider audience to wow with this material, but older fans will miss the old May.

Visit Imelda May at www.imeldamay.co.uk.

Setlist:
  1. Call Me
  2. When It's My Time
  3. Human
  4. Sixth Sense
  5. Big Bad Handsome Man
  6. Bad Habit
  7. Love & Fear
  8. How Bad Can a Good Girl Be
  9. Black Tears
  10. Flesh & Blood
  11. Should've Been You
  12. Leave Me Lonely
  13. The Longing
  14. Mayhem
  15. I'm Crying (The Animals cover)
  16. Johnny
  17. Girls U Used To Be
Encore:
  1. Remember (Walking in the Sand) (The Shangri-Las cover)
  2. Game Changer > Teenage Kicks (The Undertones cover)

Monday, June 26, 2017

NRBQ at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill

Terry Adams
Pianist Terry Adams spend his early musical years playing in bands in and around Louisville, Kentucky. NRBQ (New Rhythm and Blues Quintet, later Quartet) took root in 1965 in his home in Shively, Kentucky, but after a few local gigs relocated in 1966 to Miami, Florida. The original band splintered, and in 1967 Adams joined the Miami-based The Seven of Us until he reformed NRBQ in 1968 and moved the band to the northeast. Known over the years for its levity, the band hired professional wrestler "Captain" Lou Albano as its manager (for whom they penned a song in tribute), played sets while wearing pajamas, and exploded Cabbage Patch Dolls on stage. Adams developed stage 4 throat cancer in 2004, and NRBQ went on hiatus. As he recovered, Adams toured with Japanese rockabilly group the Hot Shots, the Louisville Sluggers and The Terry Adams Rock & Roll Quartet before reforming NRBQ in 2011. Its current members are Adams, guitarist Scott Ligon, bassist Casey McDonough, and drummer John Perrin. NRBQ's 21st and most recent album is 2014's Brass Tacks.

More than 50 years after forming, NRBQ is still proving that serious musicians can enjoy playing not-so-serious music. At B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, Adams' virtuosity at playing honky tonk-style piano was unblemished even as his animated band played silly pop songs alongside a wide-ranging musical repertoire of light-hearted rock, blues, country, jazz and Tin Pan Alley-inflected songs. The other musicians also sang lead and contributed ably to spontaneous jams. Shifting from Carl Perkins-styled rockabilly to Beatles-influenced pop to Thelonious Monk-inspired jazz, the thread that held it all together was a buoyant energy and a spirit of fun. Perhaps the charm of the performance was that despite all the changes in the music world over the past 50 years, this oddball bar band seems to exist outside of time and space.

Visit NRBQ at www.nrbq.com.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Pissed Jeans at Mercury Lounge

Matt Korvette & Brad Fry
In the early 2000s, several high school friends formed a ripping fastcore band called the Gate Crashers in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. By 2003, the Gate Crashers evolved into the Unrequited Hard-On, now based out of Allentown, Pennsylvania, and in short time, the Unrequited Hard-On changed its name to Pissed Jeans. The band members maintained their day jobs and performed live only occasionally, invisibly building an under-the-radar reputation and a rabid hunger among hardcore enthusiasts. Pissed Jeans presently consists of vocalist Matt Korvette, guitarist Brad Fry, bassist Randy Huth, and drummer Sean McGuinness. Pissed Jeans' fifth album, Why Love Now, was released on February 24, 2017.

In a rare live appearance tonight at Mercury Lounge, Pissed Jeans played an uncompromising set that sounded like it could have been the flag waver for a return to the loud, noisy hardcore of the 1980s and a revolt against the pop punk of the 1990s and the Warped festival bands. The rhythm section anchored a rampaging energy as Fry fiercely played atonal guitar licks and riffs and Korvette thrashed his body left and right while shouting incomprehensible lyrics. Most songs were fast and searing, others were plodding and droning, but all were aggressive, messy and bludgeoning. Between songs, Korvette occasionally simmered the ferocious rage with absurd commentary, indicating that the songs were rooted in acerbic sarcasm rather than in ripping apart structural systems. Hence, the world can relax; the band may not be as dangerous as it sounds.

Visit Pissed Jeans at www.whitedenim.com/pissedjeans.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Fast Romantics at Mercury Lounge

Matthew Angus
Matthew Angus was born in Kitchener, Canada and formed the Mood, a locally popular pop band, in Calgary, Canada. The Mood split in 2008, and three original members recruited a new drummer and formed Fast Romantics. In 2009, Spin Magazine and John Varvatos selected Fast Romantics as one of three global finalists in the magazine's "Free the Noise" competition. Fast Romantics won Pop Group of the Year at the Sirius XM Indies in 2014 for "Funeral Song." Fast Romantics also won the 2016 SOCAN Songwriting Prize for the song "Julia," which was voted the best song by emerging artists over the past year. Fast Romantics presently consists of Angus, vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Kirty, keyboardist Lisa Lorenz, guitarist Kevin Black, original bassist Jeffrey Lewis, and drummer Nick McKinlay. Fast Romantics' third album, American Love, was released on April 28, 2017. The band currently is based in Toronto, Canada.

At Mercury Lounge tonight, Fast Romantics' music was built from a singer-songwriter base and then was injected with a Frank Turner-like explosiveness that generated stadium rock intensity. On each song, the build-up was expeditious and meteoric, with unmistakable choruses that often appeared to be significantly longer than the verses, these repetitious hook lines were sometimes just a few words seemingly on a loop. While the set did not yet have the gravity of Bruce Springsteen or the earthiness of Tom Petty, the newer songs in particular seemed to be moving in these directions, albeit within pop structures. As such, Fast Romantics may be on its way to courting and scoring an audience beyond its Canadian following.

Visit Fast Romantics at www.fastromantics.com.

Mobley at Kola House

Based out of Austin, Texas, Anthony Watkins II says he was filling notebooks with melodic ideas and songs even before he knew how to play an instrument. Another account says he learned violin when he was six and trumpet when he was 13, giving him a solid foundation in music theory and structure. He matured beyond the sheet music upon getting a guitar at age 16. For a while, he fronted a band he named Mobley, but commitments are difficult on a low budget, and Watkins found himself without a team. Rather than play solo acoustic sets, Watkins took the name Mobley for himself and blossomed into a one-man band. Mobley has released three EPs; after scrapping two albums, his debut album, Fresh Lies, on which he sang and played all the instruments, is pending.
Mobley's tour brought him to four New York venues this month; tonight's set at a fine new restaurant in the Meatpacking District, Kola House, was Mobley's third local performance. Mobley's vision for his presentation was grander than most newcomers to music: the stage was littered with Mobley's musical instruments and lighting gear, and a large monitor across the room would align his short films with many of his songs. Mobley pressed a button and started the sound and lights. With the help of samples and other pre-programmed backing tracks, Mobley filled his pop-soul songs with cascading layers of grooves and imaginative flourishes, all while singing from the heart and moving from guitar to drums to keyboards. Even slight wardrobe changes (removal of sunglasses, switching of hats) seemed calculated for the young but consummate showman. None of this would be significant except that the songs mattered, with lyrics that examined the perplexity of human relations, both interpersonally and in the world at large. The performance was kinetic and electrifying for both the performer and the audience.

Mobley will perform at Berlin on June 27. In the meantime, visit Mobley at www.mobleywho.com.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Sebastian Bach at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill

Sebastian Philip Bierk, known professionally as Sebastian Bach, was born in the Bahamas and was raised in Peterborough, Canada. Bach joined the Canadian rock band Kid Wikkid in 1983 when he was 14 years old and stayed until 1985. Bach then joined Madame X from 1987 to 1988. In 1988, Bach replaced the original singer in Skid Row. The band sold 20 million albums worldwide before Bach was reportedly fired in 1996. In 1996, Bach formed the short-lived Last Hard Men, and launched a solo career in 1999, began performing in Broadway musicals in 2000, and began worked television reality shows in 2002 and sitcoms in 2003. Bach currently resides in Los Angeles, California. His third and most recent album is 2014's Give 'Em Hell.
At B.B. King Blues Club & Grill tonight, Sebastian Bach knew which side of the bread was buttered; nearly all of his repertoire was from Skid Row's platinum years. Backed by guitarist Brent Woods, bassist Rob De Luca, and drummer Bobby Jarzombek, the set started with the softer songs, but in short time revved up the motors for classic fist-pumping rock. The vocals were halfway muddled in the mix, and early in the show Bach asked the sound engineer for more volume on his vocals, but the engineer responded that everything was fine. The only time the vocals were loud and clear was when he seemingly spontaneously ripped into a cappella snippets from his role in Broadway's Jekyll & Hyde. Even when he was not heard well, however, Bach and his larger-than-life personality and his swinging, sweaty hair could not help but be the focus of attention. The area in front of the stage was cleared of tables for the evening, allowing the audience to press up against the stage, and Bach used that advantage to connect with the fans by touching them and speaking with them. In the end, however, while Bach is no longer leading the hair-metal pack, he kept his show lively and enjoyable.
Visit Sebastian Bach at www.sebastianbach.com.
Setlist
  1. Little Wing (The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)
  2. Breakin' Down (Skid Row song)
  3. 18 and Life (Skid Row song)
  4. I Remember You (Skid Row song)
  5. Big Guns (Skid Row song)
  6. Sweet Little Sister (Skid Row song)
  7. The Threat (Skid Row song)
  8. Piece of Me (Skid Row song)
  9. American Metalhead (PainmuseuM cover)
  10. Rattlesnake Shake (Skid Row song)
  11. This Is the Moment / Confrontation (snippets from Jekyll & Hyde)
  12. Monkey Business (Skid Row song) (with "Whipping Post," The Allman Brothers Band cover)
  13. Youth Gone Wild (Skid Row song)
  14. T.N.T. (AC/DC cover)

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Birthday Massacre at the Marlin Room at Webster Hall

Chibi
Rhythm guitarist Rainbow and vocalist Chibi met at a college fine-arts program and began composing music together in 1999 in London, Canada. Rainbow recruited childhood friend Michael Falcore to join on lead guitar since they had already been recording music together in high school. None of the three had been in bands before, but together they became Imagica, a name inspired by the 1991 fantasy novel Imajica. In 2002, the band became the Birthday Massacre in order to avoid confusion with a California death metal band with the same name. The Birthday Massacre in 2001 relocated to Toronto, Canada. The Birthday Massacre's seventh and most recent studio albums, Under Your Spell, was released on June 9, 2017. The band's current lineup consists of Chibi, Rainbow, Falcore, keyboardist Owen, bassist Nate Manor, and drummer Rhim.

At the Marlin Room at Webster Hall tonight, the Birthday Massacre looked like a gothic rock band, but the high-energy performance actually encompassed many shades of hard rock and even pop. Chibi occasionally sounded like she was singing a top 40 melody, but then would switch to a near death metal growl. Similarly, some of the accompaniment was rooted in synth melodies, but more often the band crunched nu-metal riffs. Dark wave chilled and industrial metal spiked several songs. A churning reworking of Tommy James & the Shondells' pop song "I Think We're Alone Now" was nearly unrecognizable for all its turbo speed and heaviness. The contrasts of light and dark, smooth and rough, airy and heavy were prevalent, and while this mix might not be to everyone's tastes, the experimental blend was a credit to the band's integrity.

Visit the Birthday Massacre at www.thebirthdaymassacre.com.

Setlist:
  1. Nowhere
  2. One
  3. Red Stars
  4. Looking Glass
  5. All Of Nothing
  6. Counterpane
  7. Destroyer
  8. Divide
  9. Superstition
  10. Lovers End
  11. Happy Birthday
  12. Video Kid
  13. Under Your Spell
  14. No Tomorrow
  15. Leaving Tonight
  16. Alibis
  17. Pins And Needles
  18. In the Dark
Encore:
  1. Blue
  2. I Think We're Alone Now (Tommy James & the Shondells cover)
  3. Broken

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Alice Smith at City Winery

During her childhood, raised between Washington, D.C. and a farm in Augusta, Georgia, Alice Smith was raised on a steady flow of gospel, pop, soul and a little go-go. She relocated to New York for college, became involved in the Black Rock Coalition and its Afropunk movement, and released her first album in 2006. Becoming a mother to a baby girl with recording artist Citizen Cope, Smith relocated to Los Angeles, California. Her second and most recent album is 2013's She.

Alice Smith's career has been hindered more than helped by recording contracts that held her music hostage. When she announced at City Winery tonight that she has a new album coming out, the applause and cheers from her fans were thunderous. Smith's set included older songs and newer songs, often delivered with her signature blend of bluesy, jazzy vocals and mid-tempo grooves. Accompanied only by a pianist and occasionally by a harmonizing backup vocalist, the sparse arrangements allowed her vocals to shine brightly. Many of her self-penned songs explored pensive reflections on the usual joys and tribulations of life, and her uncanny four-octave range subtly breathed vivid life into these lyrics. When she reinterpreted Screamin' Jay Hawkins "I Put a Spell on You" and the traditional folk blues song "House of the Rising Sun," she patterned her re-stylings from familiar versions but then injected so much unique phrasing that the troubling story-songs became her own. Despite the trauma she has suffered from music industry puppetry, Smith's talents are too large to stifle.

Visit Alice Smith at www.alicesmith.com.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Adrenaline Mob at the Marlin Room at Webster Hall

Russell Allen & Mike Orlando
Russell Allen was born in Long Beach, California, and was a jouster at a Medieval Times Dinner Theater before he started singing in the band Symphony X in 1995. Guitarist Mike Orlando, based out of Staten Island, New York, was Guitar Player magazine's Superstar Of The Year award in 2009. Demo sessions for what was planned to be Allen's solo album in 2011 turned into Adrenaline Mob, a band that has included drummers Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Avenged Sevenfold) and A.J. Pero (Twisted Sister), bassist Paul Di Leo (Fozzy) and John Moyer (Disturbed), and rhythm guitarist Rich Ward (Fozzy), among others. Adrenaline Mob presently consists of Allen, Orlando, bassist David "Dave Z" Zablidowsky (Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Jeff Scott Soto) and drummer Jordan Cannata. Adrenaline Mob's third album, We the People, was released on June 2, 2017.
Almost six years to the date after Adrenaline Mob debuted at the Hiro Ballroom, the band tonight headlined a few blocks away at the Marlin Room at Webster Hall. Adrenaline Mob had been mostly silent since shortly after the sudden death of drummer A.J. Pero on a 2015 tour, but the band is back, loud and wild as ever. Although the band was born decades later, here was textbook example of what late 1970s/early 1980s rock was all about: strong singing, dazzling guitar playing, hard-hitting riffs and grooves, a chest-thumping rhythm section and rock star showmanship. Most of the show was comprised of hard-edged rock and roll songs, with a few requisite power ballads for radio-tailored purposes. The set majored on heart and minored on rallying fist pumpers. These king-sized musical talents would do well to write a few more of the latter.
Visit Adrenaline Mob at www.adrenalinemob.com.
Setlist
  1. Mob Is Back
  2. Let It Go
  3. Hit the Wall
  4. Chasing Dragons
  5. Dearly Departed
  6. All on the Line
  7. King of the Ring
  8. Judgment Day
  9. Indifferent
  10. Undaunted
  11. The Mob Rules (Black Sabbath cover)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Quicksilver Daydream at Mercury Lounge

Adam Lytle/Quicksilver Daydream
Singer-songwriter Adam Lytle was born in Pontiac, Michigan, lived as a youth on a farm in Maineville, Ohio, and almost a decade ago moved to Brooklyn, New York. He led Wild Leaves through two EPS and many local performances, but with the band going on hiatus in 2016, Lytle began recording songs alone at home using an analog tape machine that he purchased from a dead man's estate. Under the alias of Quicksilver Daydream, he will release a debut album, Echoing Halls, on June 16, 2017.

When he performs solo with an acoustic guitar at local venues like Pete's Candy Store, Quicksilver Daydream is an intriguing although somewhat typical folk act. Performing tonight at Mercury Lounge as a band (with keyboardist Kramer Sanguinetti, bassist Brett Banks, guitarist Joey Deady, and drummer Cole Emoff), however, Quicksilver Daydream was a much more compelling outfit. Sanguinetti used a Mellotron for its electro-mechanical, polyphonic tape-replay ability, and the sound eerily recalled the earliest periods of psychedelic folk rock in mid-1960s. Over a set of nine songs, the band performed similarly soft, lilting songs with pop melodies and retro arrangements. Quicksilver Daydream even covered a song by Pearls before Swine, which was perhaps the little-known founder of the psychedelic folk movement. The only objection to the performance was that at approximately 30 minutes, the set was too brief.

Visit Quicksilver Daydream at www.quicksilverdaydream.com.

Setlist
  1. Sunrise
  2. See All
  3. Echoing Halls
  4. Waking Eyes
  5. Only Light
  6. North Wind
  7. Sail Away
  8. Holy Range

Encore

  1. Morning Comes Too Soon

Monday, June 12, 2017

Raúl Malo at City Winery

Raúl Francisco Martínez-Malo Jr., known professionally as Raúl Malo, was born in Miami, Florida, where he spent many nights in neighborhood music rooms watching local flamenco-styled guitarists and dancers perform their dramatic zarzuelas. Malo co-formed the country rock Mavericks in 1989, becoming the band's lead singer, guitarist and primary songwriter. The Mavericks began playing both the local punk and alternative bars and the trendy rock clubs of South Beach, and evolved into a Grammy-winning, multi-platinum band. The Mavericks disbanded in the early 2000s, and Malo pursued a solo career, leaning towards Americana music, and also participated in the Los Super Seven supergroup, which took a progressive approach to traditional music from Cuba, Mexico and Texas. The Mavericks re-formed in 2012. Malo's sixth and most recent solo album, Sinners and Saints, was released in 2010.

At the first of two shows at City Winery tonight, Raúl Malo performed solo, accompanied only by his acoustic guitar and, briefly, a piano. Nearly every song Malo sang has been performed by the Mavericks, but here these songs were given a stripped down interpretation. He seldom finger-picked his guitar strings; he mostly strummed chords. This simplicity allowed his rich baritone to ring out stronger than ever, and accented how he may be gifted with the most beautiful voice in contemporary music. Regardless of the lyrics, these intense vocals made every song, whether in English or Spanish, sound thoroughly romantic. Many songs sounded like they belonged in the Great American Songbook and others displayed a doo-wop leaning, two methods that prize both timbre and range, and Malo carried them well. Malo's pinnacle moments may have been in his covers of "I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City" (a Nilsson cover) and "Crying" (a Roy Orbison cover). Ultimately, a Mavericks show is longer, rocks harder and is more satisfying, but Malo was extraordinarily impressive as a solo artist.

Visit Raúl Malo at www.RaulMalo.com.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Zips at Otto's Shrunken Head

John Zip
After the 1977 demise of Road Angel, a pub rock band in Glasgow, Scotland, John McNeill (later to be known as John Zip) formed a punk rock quartet called the Zips in 1978. The band caught the tail end of the original punk rock movement, playing all the local punk venues and releasing a few singles and EPs. As history would have it, MTV and the 1980s killed punk in favor of the more commercial new wave movement and with nowhere left to play, the Zips pogoed into the sunset in 1981. Time has a way of turning failure into success, and Zips tracks later appeared on compilation albums and the original singles fetched up to $427 on eBay. John Zip reformed the Zips in 2001 and in 2006 released a debut album, 27 years after the debut single. The Zips' third and most recent album is 2015's Down with the Zips.

Backed by a trio of local musicians (guitarist Brian Morgan of the Carvels NYC, bassist Sean Sanders and drummer Joe Dugan), John Zip led this version of the Zips through a well-rehearsed set tonight at Otto's Shrunken Head. As in the past, it was four musicians, three chords, and two minute buzz bombs for an impressively executed punk rock performance. The songs were constructed around pop melodies played through bombastic blasts. This was nearly 40 years later, so the set may have lacked the anger that the original band may have exhibited, but the energetic thrust and the cleverness of the songs was mighty. Put these guys on the road!

Visit the Zips at www.thezips.co.uk.

Setlist:
  1. Barbara Wire
  2. Thin Blue Line
  3. 40 Years of Punk
  4. Over and Over
  5. Siren Song
  6. Morning Standard
  7. Govern Meant
  8. Don't Be Pushed Around
  9. 19 Forevva
  10. Victim

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Northside Festival 2017/Day 3

Northside returned to Brooklyn for its ninth year on June 7-11, 2017. By the end of the festival, Miguel, Thursday, Dirty Projectors, and Kamasi Washington headlined concerts in McCarren Park. Craig Leon & Martin Rev, Downtown Boys, Elvis Depressedly, Girlpool, Happyness, Hoops, The Hotelier, Jay Som, Lætitia Sadier, Lower Dens, Mary Timony, Mirah, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and PUP also will have performed. The festival also will have included nearly 300 lesser-known bands from around the world.

Northside Festival featured both innovation and music tracks, so conference attendees could attend panels during the day and concerts at night. Northside Innovation featured over 150 speakers leading panel discussions and workshops on emerging technology, media innovations, the future of original video content, startup pitch competitions, and dozens of other topics. Northside Music featured live and dj music in clubs, parks, rooftops and streets. The Northside Block Party today and tomorrow features a free community event that showcased art, crafts, food and local food.

Northside Media Group, the publishers of The L Magazine Brooklyn Magazine, and BAMbill, started the Northside Festival in 2009 showcasing 50 bands. Nine years later, the Northside Festival 2017 hosted more than 300 bands over the course of three nights in 34 venues from Greenpoint to Bushwick.
Quicksilver Daydream at Pete's Candy Store
Miguel at McCarren Park
Julia Holter at National Sawdust
No Ice at the Gutter
Lady Pills at Muchmore's
Mobley at the Knitting Factory
Oracles at the Knitting Factory

Friday, June 9, 2017

Northside Festival 2017/Day 2

Northside returned to Brooklyn for its ninth year on June 7-11, 2017. Miguel, Thursday, Dirty Projectors, and Kamasi Washington would headline concerts in McCarren Park. Craig Leon & Martin Rev, Downtown Boys, Elvis Depressedly, Girlpool, Happyness, Hoops, The Hotelier, Jay Som, Lætitia Sadier, Lower Dens, Mary Timony, Mirah, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and PUP were among the performers. Before the series ends on Sunday night, the festival will have also included nearly 300 lesser-known bands from around the world.

Northside Festival features both innovation and music tracks, so conference attendees could attend panels during the day and concerts at night. Northside Innovation featured over 150 speakers leading panel discussions and workshops on emerging technology, media innovations, the future of original video content, startup pitch competitions, and dozens of other topics. Northside Music features live and dj music in clubs, parks, rooftops and streets. The Northside Block Party this weekend will be a free community event that showcases art, crafts, food and local food.

Northside Media Group, the publishers of The L Magazine Brooklyn Magazine, and BAMbill, started the Northside Festival in 2009 showcasing 50 bands. Nine years later, the Northside Festival 2017 hosted more than 300 bands over the course of three nights in 34 venues from Greenpoint to Bushwick.
YeraSon at Kinfolk 90
Sammus at McCarren Park
Lydia Lunch at the Hall at MP
Bush Tetras at the Hall at MP
Ian Sweet at Warsaw
Kristen Kontrol at the Park Church Co-Op
Kelsey Lu at Saint Vitus
The Downtown Boys at Saint Vitus

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Northside Festival 2017/Day 1

Northside returned to Brooklyn for its ninth year on June 7-11, 2017. Tonight, Dirty Projectors and Kamasi Washington headlined a concert in McCarren Park. Miguel, Thursday, Craig Leon & Martin Rev, Downtown Boys, Elvis Depressedly, Girlpool, Happyness, Hoops, The Hotelier, Jay Som, Lætitia Sadier, Lower Dens, Mary Timony, Mirah, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and PUP will perform at various venues before the festival ends on Sunday night. The festival also includes nearly 300 lesser-known bands from around the world.

Northside Festival features both innovation and music tracks, so conference attendees may attend panels during the day and concerts at night. Northside Innovation features over 150 speakers leading panel discussions and workshops on emerging technology, media innovations, the future of original video content, startup pitch competitions, and dozens of other topics. Northside Music showcases live and dj music in clubs, parks, rooftops and streets. The Northside Block Party on the weekend will be a free community event that will showcase art, crafts, live music and local food.

Northside Media Group, the publishers of The L Magazine Brooklyn Magazine, and BAMbill, started the Northside Festival in 2009 showcasing 50 bands. Nine years later, the Northside Festival 2017 hosted more than 300 bands over the course of three nights in 34 venues from Greenpoint to Bushwick.
Ernie at Our Wicked Lady Rooftop
DOOMSQUAD at Cape House
Jackie Paladino at Terra Firma
Meatbodies at Alphaville
Salt Cathedral at Gold Sounds

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Mystic Braves at Mercury Lounge

Julian Ducatenzeiler
From 2001 to 2003, Mystic Braves was known as the Blackfeet Braves, until a letter from a former Lynyrd Skynyrd band member alluding to potential legal action persuaded the band members to change their name. Mystic Braves is vocalists/guitarists Julian Ducatenzeiler and Shane Stotsenberg, keyboardist Ignacio Gonzalez, bassist Tony Malacara and drummer Cameron Gartung. Some of the musicians were originally from San Diego and Murrieta, California, but the band meshed together in the Echo Park section of Los Angeles. The band's third album is 2015's Days of Yesteryear.

The Allah-Las and the Growlers are leading the current 1960s garage-psychedelic revival in Los Angeles, but Mystic Braves is not far behind. Mystic Braves' headlining gig tonight at Mercury Lounge was perhaps closer to the retro source, with a low-fidelity sound dominated by wispy, ethereal vocal harmonies, pop-infused melodies, shimmering post-surf guitar lines, and Farfisa-styled organ riffs. Several of the five musicians looked the part as well, playing antique-styled instruments and wearing vintage clothing and haircuts. Songs ranged from about three to seven minutes, depending on how deep the band ventured into guitar noodling and organ whirring, with the rhythm section keeping the songs light and dance-worthy. Although the band explored old rather than new sounds, the compositions were creative and imaginative and felt fresh and compelling. Contrasting most other contemporary music, Mystic Braves does sound mystic and brave.

Visit Mystic Braves at www.mysticbraves.com.

A2IM Indie Week 2017

New York City's mayor, Bill De Blasio, announced through his Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) on May 4 that June 2017 would be New York Music Month. The city would underwrite free and paid concerts, walking tours, workshops, conferences and utilities for musicians, including more than 2,000 hours worth of free rehearsal space. On June 6, MOME Commissioner Julie Menin attended A2IM’s Indie Week 2017 conference at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center to officially proclaim the day as "American Association of Independent Music Day."

A2IM (American Association of Independent Music) hosted Indie Week 2017 on June 5-8 with a series of conferences and networking events in the daytimes and concerts and presentations in the evenings. Keynote speeches, interactive panels and workshops offered independent labels and music industry personnel to gain a more profound understanding of developing trends that could advance independent music. The concerts allowed exposure to budding independent bands from around the world.

A2IM member organizations M for Montreal, Sneak Attack Media, Bandsintown, and Dutch Music Export & Dutch Culture showcased music acts from Canada (Lisa LeBlanc, Helena Deland, Ghostly Kisses, Beyries) and the Netherlands (Klangstof, Amber Arcades) at Pianos on June 6. Consequence of Sound hosted the Reeperbahn Festival-New York Edition showcase at Pianos on June 7, featuring Carnival Youth (Latvia), We Bless This Mess (Portugal), Leyya (Austria), Lydmor (Denmark), Albin Lee Meldau (Sweden), Megan Bonnell (Canada), and Olivier St. Louis (United States). The concluding event will be the Libera Awards at the PlayStation Theater, featuring performances by Nick Lowe, Ani DiFranco, Talib Kweli, Twin Peaks and Nick Hakim; Ted Leo will host the event, and A2IM will honor Nick Lowe with its Independent Icon Award and Ani Difranco with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

A2IM is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit trade organization headquartered in New York City that exists to support and strengthen the independent recorded music sector. Membership includes a coalition of more than 440 Independently-owned American music labels.
Ghostly Kisses
Klangstof
We Bless This Mess
Leyya
Albin Lee Meldau
Megan Bonnell

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wheeler Walker Jr. at the Bowery Ballroom

Although he may deny it from the stage, potty-mouthed country music singer-songwriter Wheeler Walker, Jr. appears to be the alter-ego of comedian Ben Hoffman. While many rappers and even the president of the United States have spoken more graphically about sexual subjects, Wheeler Walker Jr. is controversial firstly because this is country music and secondly because despite its humorous intent, nearly all his songs are entirely rife with sexually graphic content. Walker's first album in 2016 debuted in the top 10 of both comedy and country charts. Take him seriously or not, Walker reportedly said that the album was not comedy but "real life." Nevertheless, the album was the second best-selling comedy album of 2016. His second album, Ol Wheeler, was released on June 2, 2017.

At the Bowery Ballroom tonight, Wheeler Walker Jr. spoke little and let his lyrics do the talking while a crowd of rowdy urban cowboys sang the x-rated choruses in union with their novelty hero and spokesperson. Walker wore an acoustic guitar, but hardly played it, while his small band banged out the country grit and twang. The 17 songs moved quickly, and the deft instrumentation gave them authentic country credentials, but in the end, for the audience it was about how many tongue-in-cheek toilet jokes can we handle before we stop smirking. It helps if you have a sense of humor.

Visit Wheeler Walker Jr. at www.WheelerWalkerJr.com.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Governors Ball Music Festival 2017 at Randall's Island Park/Day 3

The seventh annual Governors Ball Music Festival (commonly known as Governors Ball or Gov Ball) returned to Randall's Island Park on June 2-4, with Chance the Rapper, Phoenix and Tool headlined the 2017 festival over approximately 60 performing artists. The festival also featured numerous food trucks and kiosks, as well as lawn games and other activities.

Four stages scattered throughout the park allowed for two artists to perform at any given moment. Timing was precise; as one band finished, another began on another stage. On all three days this year, the first bands performed for 30 minutes, the afternoon artists performed for 45 minutes and the evening acts performed for 75 minutes. Teens and college-aged youth dominated the audience on Friday and Saturday, when pop, rap and dance artists drew the larger audiences. Rock bands were largely relegated to Sunday, when Tool's first New York performance in over a decade drew many older, long-bearded fans.

The 2017 festival featured a few surprises. Lorde’s main stage performance featured a duet with Bleachers' Jack Antonoff on a cover of Robyn’s "Hang with Me," as they had done this past December during the Ally Coalition Talent Show at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom. On the smaller stages, Charli XCX was joined by rapper Cupcakke for a song, and Marshmello introduced EDM artist Slushii and Mini Mello, who dressed as a mini-me of the marshmallow-helmeted DJ.

Unlike several previous years, the weather held up for most of the event except for one quick rainfall and a drizzle most of Sunday afternoon. Plastic rain ponchos were available in the early afternoon. At the 2016 festival, heavy rains saturated the grounds on Saturday, and Sunday was cancelled due to predicted storms and safety concerns.

Governors Ball is produced annually by Founders Entertainment, a festival promotion company based in New York City, which also produces The Meadows Music & Arts Festival. The inaugural Governors Ball was held on June 18, 2011, on Governors Island in New York City. That initial one-day Governors Ball 2011 reportedly amassed the highest attendance of any event in the history of Governors Island. The majority of the 12 bands booked were danceable pop bands, with Girl Talk, Pretty Lights, and Empire of the Sun as the headliners. The following summer, Governors Ball moved further up the East River to Randall's Island in New York City in order to accommodate larger crowds. Expanding to a two-day event, the 2012 festival headlined Beck, Passion Pit, Kid Cudi, and Modest Mouse. Since then, Governors Ball has hosted Kanye West, Guns N' Roses, Kendrick Lamar, Outkast, Jack White, Vampire Weekend, the Strokes, Skrillex, and the Killers among its headliners.
Zane Lowe
Eden
Gryffin
Parquet Courts
Skepta
Warpaint
Mac DeMarco
Royal Blood
The Avalanches
Franz Ferdinand
Phantogram
Cage the Elephant
AIR
Logic
Wiz Khalifa
Tool