Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Gwar at Irving Plaza

Beefcake the Mighty & Blothar the Berserker
In the early 1980s in Richmond, Virginia, Dave Brockie met two university students who were making costumes for a science fiction movie they never actually completed. Brockie borrowed the costumes and had Death Piggy open for itself as a barbaric band from Antarctica, staging mini-plays and using crude props while playing nonsense songs and sacrificing fake animals. People came to see the joke band, named Gwaaarrrgghhlllgh, and left immediately after the set, so Brockie transformed Death Piggy into a theatrical punk metal band called Gwar, an abbreviated version of the other band's original name. As Gwar's costumes grew more elaborate and grotesque over time, so did the band's science fiction storyline, constructing new characters with each change in personnel. Brockie died of a heroin overdose in 2014; Gwar continues with no original members. Gwar presently consists of vocalist Michael Bishop (Blothar), lead guitarist Brent Purgason (Pustulus Maximus), rhythm guitarist Mike Derks (Bälsäc the Jaws ‘o Death), bassist Jamison Land (Beefcake the Mighty), drummer Brad Roberts (Jizmak Da Gusha), and backing vocalists Matt Maguire (Sawborg Destructo), Bob Gorman (Bonesnapper), and Don Drakulich (Sleazy P. Martini). Gwar's 14th and most recent album, The Blood of Gods, was released on October 20, 2017.

Real-life horror happened earlier in the day with a terrorist attack in lower Manhattan. It was Halloween night, and rock fans came to Irving Plaza for the controlled and simulated horror of Gwar. Indeed, minutes after Gwar opened the set with "War on Gwar," two characters were decapitated, spewing copious fake blood deep into the audience. Blazing metal music screeched and wailed, and the set continued with more over-the-top costumed characters simulating violence and bloodshed. The massively costumed Blother the Berserker returned to Gwar as the new vocalist after an 18-year absence, and sprayed the audience through two mutant penises. Mutated versions of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were slaughtered during "El Presidente." Gwar ended the evening's performance with a cover of AC/DC's "If You Want Blood (You've Got it)," perhaps the sole radio-friendly song in the set, during which a cannon looming above the crowd sprayed fans with blue liquid. Gwar's concert showcased a well-choreographed integration of extreme music, comedy and visuals, and the Gwar audience wanted it no other way.

Visit Gwar at www.gwar.net.

Setlist:
  1. War on GWAR
  2. Hail, Genocide!
  3. I'll Be Your Monster
  4. Death to Dickie Duncan
  5. Saddam a Go-Go
  6. Womb With a View
  7. Sexecutioner
  8. Viking Death Machine
  9. Bring Back the Bomb
  10. El Presidente
  11. Swarm
  12. Black and Huge
  13. The Sordid Soliloquy of Sawborg Destructo
  14. Mr. Perfect Intro
  15. The Morality Squad (Instrumental and extended)
  16. F*ck This Place
Encore:
  1. Phantom Limb
  2. If You Want Blood (You've Got It) (AC/DC cover)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Renaissance at the Town Hall

Annie Haslam
The original Renaissance was born in 1969 when two former members of the Yardbirds, Keith Relf and Jim McCarty, moved away from the British blues rock of their previous band to form an experimental progressive rock band with classical influences. Personnel changes happened often and quickly, and less than two years later, Renaissance featured none of its original members. Annie Haslam, who joined in 1971, became the face of Renaissance, which then had success in America through the 1970s. The band split in 1987, and Haslam began a solo career. Since 1998, Haslam has reformed Renaissance several times using various musicians. Renaissance's 13th and most recent studio album was 2013's Grandine il vento, reissued as Symphony of Light in 2014 with three bonus tracks; Renaissance also released a live album in 2015. The present band in American-based and consists of vocalist Haslam, pianist Rave Tesar, guitarist Mark Lambert, keyboardist Tom Brislin, bassist Leo Traversa and drummer Frank Pagano.

Renaissance's headlining engagement at the Town Hall tonight was designed for old time fans, as the band launched the set with several of their most familiar compositions, "Prologue", "Trip to the Fair," and "Carpet of the Sun." Haslam's acrobatic multi-octave vocals led the charge, and prominent piano leads and intriguingly complex band arrangements made for a versatile fusion of classical, folk, rock, and jazz influences. Beginning with the third song, Renaissance was joined on stage with 10 additional musicians whom Haslam introduced as the Renaissance Chamber Orchestra. These musicians augmented the rich and lush production of "Mother Russia", "Carpet Of The Sun" and "A Song for All Seasons," all of which included an orchestra on the original recordings. In total, all but two of the evening's songs were from Renaissance's 1970s catalogue; this then begs the question as to whether the current music world would readily accept new Renaissance music or if Renaissance will continue to revive a bygone era.

Visit Renaissance at www.renaissancetouring.com.

Setlist:
  1. Prologue
  2. Trip to the Fair
  3. Carpet of the Sun
  4. At the Harbour
  5. Grandine Il Vento
  6. Symphony of Light
  7. Kalynda (A Magical Isle)
  8. Island
  9. Mother Russia
  10. A Song for All Seasons
Encore:
  1. Ashes Are Burning
Note: the 10-piece Renaissance Chamber Orchestra accompanied Renaissance on songs 3-10.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Lords of Acid at the Gramercy Theatre

Praga Khan and DJ Mea
During Belgium's New Beat period some 25 years ago, producer Maurice Engelen, known professionally as Praga Khan, used dozens of musical vehicles to produce various kinds of dance music. The acid house "I Sit on Acid" in 1988, attributed to the then-fictitious Lords of Acid, became an international dance club hit in part due to its sexually-explicit lyrics, and so Khan developed a concept, more music and a real band around it. "I Sit on Acid" was followed by two more sexually-charged singles, "Rough Sex" and "I Must Increase My Bust." The 1991 album Lust, again attributed to the Lords of Acid, was recorded especially for the American market, folding rock guitars into techo dance music. Additional albums would lean increasingly towards the new industrial movement, with more screaming guitars, dark danceable techno rhythms and risqué tongue-in-cheek lyrics shouted by women singers. Now based in America, Lords of Acid presently consists of Khan on synthesizers and programming, lead vocalist Mea Fisher (a.k.a. DJ Méa), guitarist Joe Haze (of <PÎG>), keyboardist Roland Turner, backing vocalist Devon Disaster, bassist DieTrich Thrall (of Doyle), and drummer Galen Waling (of <PÎG>). Lords of Acid's eighth and most recent album is 2017's Pretty in Kink.

Lords of Acid came tonight to the Gramercy Theatre on its first North American tour in six years and performed the 1994 album Voodoo-U in its entirety, plus a handful of additional songs. While Praga Khan was the mastermind behind the project, the audience was focused on vocalist DJ Méa, who danced, sang the raunchy lyrics and occasionally touched herself provocatively. The songs were constructed around deep electro-industrial grooves and outrageously sexual lyrics that made the concert fun. Méa came on stage dressed in fetish wear, brandishing a microphone in one hand and a leather belt in the other hand as she repeatedly whipped the stage and the butts of other band members. During "Rubber Doll," an inflated sex doll was tossed into the audience, which ripped it apart and threw it around for the duration of the song. Towards the end of the concert, keyboardist Roland Turner invited women from the audience to dance on stage to "Pussy." The fast, throbbing pulse of the set turned the night into a rave, as Lords of Acid provided the soundtrack for the R-rated party.

Visit Lords of Acid at www.lordsofacid.com.

Setlist:
  1. Voodoo-U
  2. Young Boys
  3. Dirty Willy
  4. Drink My Honey
  5. She and Mrs. Jones
  6. Mister Machoman
  7. Blowing Up Your Mind
  8. Do What You Wanna Do
  9. Out Comes the Evil
  10. The Crablouse
  11. Rubber Doll
  12. Rough Sex/Take Control
  13. Pussy
  14. Scrood Bi U
Encore:
  1. The Most Wonderful Girl
  2. I Sit on Acid

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Queens of the Stone Age at Madison Square Garden

Josh Homme
In 1987, when he was 14 years old, guitarist Josh Homme formed Katzenjammer, a punk rock-influenced heavy metal band, with schoolmates in Palm Desert, California. In due time, they changed the band's name first to Sons of Kyuss, then shortened it to Kyuss. The stoner rock band became known for heavy, down tuned, groove oriented music and garnered a cult following by the early 1990s, often performing isolated locations in the desert at "generator parties." After three albums, Kyuss split in 1995, and Homme joined the Screaming Trees as a touring guitarist. Disliking the band's continual disharmony, Homme left after one year and founded heavy rock band Gamma Ray, which became Queens of the Stone Age in 1997. Queens of the Stone Age presently consists of vocalist/guitarist Homme, who is the sole remaining original member, along with guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, bassist Michael Shuman, keyboardist Dean Fertita, and drummer Jon Theodore. Queens of the Stone Age's seventh and most recent album, Villains, was released on August 25, 2017.

Queens of the Stone Age's Villains Tour began in September in Port Chester, New York, and closed tonight with the band's first headlining gig at Madison Square Garden; the band previously opened there for Nine Inch Nails in 2005 and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2003. Homme said he was "stoked." The stage was littered with tall, thin LED light tubes that flickered and flashed to the music as stage lights strobed into the audience, matching the band's equally electrified riff-oriented, heavy rock. The musicians performed particularly well, but Homme remained the focal point, singing gruffly and sweetly and jamming intense, distorted guitar riffs. The 20-song set drew from all of the band's albums, with Homme introducing "Mexicola" as a song that was more than 20 years old, but leaned more heavily on the last two albums. Homme was especially personable between songs, and spent perhaps too much time on banter, including a long-winded scolding to two men who fought in front of the stage; these rambling, unfiltered stream-of-consciousness digressions more than likely cost the band, as the show went 20 minutes into overtime at the union-staffed venue; one encore song was cut from the set as well. Otherwise, Queens of the Stone Age more than capably matched melodic vocals with ferocious chops for a ripping two-hour hard rock performance.

Visit Queens of the Stone Age at www.qotsa.com.

Setlist:
  1. If I Had a Tail
  2. Monsters in the Parasol
  3. My God Is the Sun
  4. Feet Don't Fail Me
  5. The Way You Used to Do
  6. You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire
  7. No One Knows
  8. Mexicola
  9. The Evil Has Landed
  10. I Sat by the Ocean
  11. Smooth Sailing
  12. Domesticated Animals
  13. Make It Wit Chu
  14. I Appear Missing
  15. Villains of Circumstance
  16. Little Sister
  17. Sick, Sick, Sick
  18. Go With the Flow
Encore:
  1. Head Like a Haunted House
  2. A Song for the Dead


Monday, October 23, 2017

Lana del Rey at Terminal 5

Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, known professionally now as Lana Del Rey, was born in New York City and raised in Lake Placid, New York. She was a cantor in her church choir when she was a child. After graduating high school, she moved to Long Island with her aunt and uncle while working as a waitress. During this time, Del Rey's uncle taught her how to play guitar, and she began writing songs and performing in New York music clubs, where she called herself Sparkle Jump Rope Queen, Lizzy Grant & the Phenomena, and May Jailer. While a student at Fordham University, she lived in the Bronx and then North Bergen, New Jersey. After graduating university in 2005, she moved to Brooklyn, where she resided for four years. She became Lana del Rey and moved to London, England. As Lana del Rey, she won numerous music awards and scored number-one albums; her second album, Born to Die, sold 3.4 million copies in 2012, making it the fifth-best-selling album of that year. She released her fifth and most recent album, Lust for Life, on July 21, 2017, and it became her second number-one album in the United States. She now resides in Malibu, California.

Beginning in January 2018, Del Rey will headline an LA to the Moon Tour through North America. Perhaps her more intimate concerts at Terminal 5 tonight and tomorrow night were among the warm-ups for the arena tour. The stage was dressed with palm trees, other foliage and two swings, plus two sets of steps mostly for her two dancers/backup singers' choreography. In keeping with the tropical theme of the stage set and that which her name envisaged, del Rey opened with "13 Beaches." The set began with a slow torch song, and pretty much stayed there for the entire performance. The concert was intriguing in that except for a few songs that ventured into light rapping, the show was not rocking at all. Pianist Byron Thomas, guitarist Blake Stranathan, bassist Kevin McPherson, and drummer Tom Marsh played subtly behind del Rey, almost invisibly but providing the cleanest context for del Rey's compositions. Del Rey's repertoire consisted of light pop songs, but several cleverly deviated from the dynamic verse-chorus pattern desired by radio. Del Rey reportedly possesses an expansive contralto vocal range which spans three-plus octaves, but regrettably it was challenging to confirm that because the audience drowned her out for much of the performance. Much of the audience, largely young and female, seemed more intent on singing along than listening attentively, which speaks strongly of how del Rey's lyrics articulated the soulful experience of these fans.

Lana del Rey performs again tomorrow night at Terminal 5 (sold out) and then returns to the New York area for a concert at the Prudential Center on January 19, 2018.

Visit Lana del Rey at www.lanadelrey.com.

Setlist:
  1. 13 Beaches (Live debut)
  2. Diet Mountain Dew (tour debut; first live performance in six years)
  3. Cherry
  4. Shades of Cool
  5. Blue Jeans
  6. Born To Die
  7. White Mustang
  8. Lust for Life (tour debut)
  9. Music to Watch Boys To
  10. Ultraviolence
  11. Change
  12. Ride
  13. Love
  14. Video Games
  15. Summertime Sadness
  16. Get Free
  17. Off to the Races

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Soulfly at the Gramercy Theatre

Max Cavalera
Born and raised in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Massimiliano "Max" Cavalera and his family were in a state of financial crisis and family turbulence when he founded thrash/groove metal band Sepultura in 1984. In the early 1990s, Max relocated to Phoenix, Arizona, and introduced a side project called Nailbomb in 1994, but that project split after one album and two public performances in 1995. He remained Sepultura's lead singer and rhythm guitarist until 1996. He then initiated Soulfly as his main band in 1997, but later also launched several side projects, including the Cavalera Conspiracy in 2007 and Killer Be Killed in 2011. Soulfly has released 10 studio albums, the most recent being 2015's Archangel.

Nailbomb was a quick blip in the metal landscape and was abandoned for two decades until Cavalera announced in April 2017 that Soulfly would perform Nailbomb's Point Blank album on a five-week fall tour. That tour tonight came to the Gramercy Theatre, with a lineup that consisted of vocalist/guitarist Max Cavalera, lead guitarist Marc Rizzo, bassist Mike Leon, vocalist/synthesizer player Igor Cavalera  and drummer/percussionist Zyon Cavalera (the last two being Max's stepsons, both also in opening act Lody Kong). Soulfly played the entire Nailbomb album, extending it with a guitar solo during which only Rizzo remained on stage. For about 50 minutes, Soulfly hammered Nailbomb's brutal metal assault with its industrial beats and thrash guitar riffs. This was not typical Soulfly, in that the band stored away its signature tribal beats and world music influences, and instead became a Nailbomb tribute band. With Nailbomb co-founder Alex Newport absent, the concert felt more like a showcase for Max and the new generation of Cavaleras, with father and son frequently up front and alternating vocals and Igor's synthesizers dominating many sections. Nevertheless, it was a night of solid metal mayhem that pleased most anyone within earshot.

Visit Soulfly at www.soulfly.com.

Setlist:
  1. Wasting Away (Nailbomb cover)
  2. Vai Toma No Cú (Nailbomb cover)
  3. 24 Hour Bullshit (Nailbomb cover)
  4. Guerrillas (Nailbomb cover)
  5. Blind and Lost (Nailbomb cover)
  6. Sum of Your Achievements (Nailbomb cover)
  7. Cockroaches (Nailbomb cover)
  8. For Fuck's Sake (Nailbomb cover)
  9. World of Shit (Nailbomb cover)
  10. Exploitation (Doom cover)
  11. Religious Cancer (Nailbomb cover)
  12. Shit Piñata (Nailbomb cover)
  13. Sick Life (Nailbomb cover)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Red at the Highline Ballroom

Michael Barnes
Vocalist/pianist Michael Barnes became friends with guitarist Anthony Armstrong and bassist Randy Armstrong, identical twins, in the third grade in Linesville, Pennsylvania. After attending several Christian music festivals, they were inspired to become musicians. They became members of Ascension, playing covers of contemporary Christian music in youth centers around Erie, Pennsylvania. Eventually, they gravitated to hard rock. Upon finishing their education in 2002, they relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, where Barnes worked as a nurse and the Armstrongs worked in a mall. In 2004, they formed Red (also stylized R3D or RED), a name they chose because it was "short, meaningful, and easy to remember." Since 2014, the band's line-up has consisted of the core trio of the Armstrongs and Barnes with touring drummer Dan Johnson. Red's sixth album, Gone, will be released on October 27, 2017.

Red headlined at the Highline Ballroom last year on a tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of its debut album, and returned to the venue tonight to promote its new album. The set featured an overview of previous albums and introduced select new cuts, all showcasing a very emotionally-driven alternative hard rock that illuminated the complexities of the human experience. As such, each song was unique in how it delivered its potent message. Barnes frequently placed one foot on a stand and crunched at the waist with eyes clenched as he sang the high notes of a chorus,  and the band members were equally animated as they forged an alliance with Barnes' impassioned delivery. Yet, unlike many emo bands, this was not about wallowing in pain, but more about the healing and hope. Red's performance was a hard rock that was bright and beautiful.

Visit Red at www.redmusiconline.com.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Nekromantix at the Gramercy Theatre

Kim Nekroman is from Copenhagen, Denmark, and had served the Danish navy as a submarine radio operator for eight years when he started attending rockabilly festivals and considered starting a band. At age 25, he taught himself drums and played in a rockabilly band, but within three months he found that boring, so in 1989 he purchased a stand-up bass and formed a horror-themed psychobilly band with himself as the vocalist. The band took the name Nekromantix, and began writing and performing songs structured around monster and horror themes. After joining the European rockabilly circuit, Nekroman watched a video of an early Nekromantix concert and was inspired to make the show more visual by constructing a bass from a child's coffin. In 2002, Nekroman relocated to Los Angeles, California, where the band became part of the emerging west coast psychobilly movement. The Nekromantix presently consists of vocalist/bassist Nekroman, guitarist Francisco Mesa and drummer Adam Guerrero. The band's ninth studio album, A Symphony of Wolf Tones & Ghost Notes, was released October 21, 2016.

Psychobilly is rockabilly with a horror theme, so the Nekromantix tour was apt to come around close to Halloween. The Nekromantix headlined the Gramercy Theatre tonight with a fairly naked stage. Visually, there was Nekroman wearing a tall quiff (a hairstyle that combines the 1950s pompadour, the 1950s flattop, and a mohawk), slapping and dancing with his latest custom-built coffin bass. Other than that, the concert was a rollicking feast of dark and dirty rockabilly, infused with a gritty rock-and-roll and punk edge. Songs embracing monster, zombie, vampire, werewolf, and B-horror fiction were made to sound darkly romantic due to Nekroman's chilling baritone. Some lyrics were downright creepy yet always humorous, and the rhythms and grooves made the songs danceable and fun. This was music that very well could be enjoyed beyond Halloween.

Visit the Nekromantix at www.nekromantix.net.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Toadies at the Gramercy Theatre

Vaden Todd Lewis
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Vaden Todd Lewis grew up listening to country and bluegrass music until he was introduced to ZZ Top, Talking Heads and the Pixies. In 1989, Lewis formed Toadies with his record store co-workers, playing local concerts and recording demos in his bedroom. Toadies became a national success with the song "Possum Kingdom," but perceived lack of record company support led Toadies to disband in 2001. Toadies reformed in 2006. The band's seventh and most recent album, The Lower Side of Uptown, was released on September 8, 2017. The band presently consists of vocalist/guitarist Lewis, lead guitarist Clark Vogeler, bassist Doni Blair, and drummer Mark Reznicek.

Toadies first emerged during the grunge era, and at the Gramercy Theatre tonight, the band harbored some of that abrasive, slurring guitar framework. Vocals and melodies rode on top of these choppy riffs, such that the vocals and the loud guitars seemed to challenge each other as they whispered and roared together. These ups and downs happened so frequently that the compositions seemed to be built around the spacing of crescendos rather than the riding of a rhythm. Rhythms, rather, were fractured repeatedly to introduce more complex and sometimes jarring interludes. These intense peaks and valleys defined the band's sound. There were many instances, however, where the dynamic might have been more refined if the guitars were played much, much softer.

Visit Toadies at www.thetoadies.com.

Setlist:
  1. Take Me Alive
  2. Happy Face
  3. You'll Come Down
  4. You Know The Words
  5. No Deliverance
  6. When I Die
  7. I Come From the Water
  8. Broke Down Stupid
  9. Summer of the Strange
  10. I Want Your Love
  11. Song I Hate
  12. Possum Kingdom
  13. Mama Take Me Home
  14. Sweetness
  15. Polly Jean
  16. Tyler
Encore:
  1. I Put a Spell on You (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins cover)
  2. Rattler's Revival
  3. I Burn
  4. Breakdown (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Ministry at Terminal 5

Al Jourgensen
Alejandro Ramirez Casa was born in Havana, Cuba, but shortly thereafter moved with his mother to the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.  She remarried and her son became Al Jourgensen.  While in college, Jourgensen started as a club dj, and then in the late 1970s he played guitar in Special Affect and Silly Carmichaels before he formed Ministry in 1981. Ministry originally performed melodic new wave synth pop band, then electronic dance music, but soon its style grew harder and heavier, and Ministry evolved into one of the pioneers of industrial metal in the mid-1980s, with certified gold and platinum albums in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Ministry split in 2008, but Jourgensen revived the brand in 2011 with a new lineup. Now based in Los Angeles, California, Ministry presently consists of vocalist/guitarist Jourgensen, guitarists Sin Quirin and Cesar Soto, keyboardist John Bechdel, bassist Jason Christopher and drummer Derek Abrams. Ministry's 13th and most recent studio album is 2013's From Beer to Eternity (2013); a new album, AmeriKKKant, is due in 2018.

During the intermission at Terminal 5 tonight, Ministry fans applauded when stagehands inflated two giant balloons that looked liked golden-coifed chickens with anti-fascist symbols across their breasts. Once the live music began, Ministry's music was bristling with defiance and rebellion. Rather than focus on the band's most successful albums from 1988 to 1992, Jourgensen instead s;ected songs from various eras but focused for a while on political and social commentary. Older songs "LiesLiesLies," a commentary on post-9/11 conspiracy theories, "N.W.O.," a protest of the Persian Gulf War, and "Señor Peligro," a critical look at then-President George H.W. Bush, remained part of Ministry's revelry, and the two new songs, "Antifa" and "Wargasm," similarly were blunt and angry statements on contemporary politics. The accompanying music fit the message, with coarse, shouted vocals and massively crushing guitar riffs with a bombastic undercurrent as a foundation. The concert sounded like the soundtrack to a new American revolution.

Visit Ministry at www.ministryband.com.

Setlist:
  1. Let’s Go
  2. Punch in the Face
  3. Antifa
  4. Rio Grande Blood
  5. Señor Peligro
  6. LiesLiesLies
  7. Wargasm
  8. Bad Blood
  9. N.W.O.
  10. Just One Fix
  11. Thieves
  12. So What
Encore:
  1. Gates of Steel (Devo cover)
  2. Unknown (solo mix by Ministry's turntablist)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The California Honeydrops at the Bowery Ballroom

Left to right: Ben Malament, Lech Wierzynski,
Beau Bradbury, Lorenzo Loera
Lech Wierzynski was born in Warsaw, Poland, where he listened to contraband American records and imitated the vocal styles of Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and Louis Armstrong. Coming to the United States as a first-generation immigrant youth, where he was raised by Polish political refugees, he listened intensely to American rock and roll, soul, jazz and hip-hop recordings. During his teenage years, he studied trumpet and started playing blues and jazz at after-hours jam sessions in Washington D.C., and eventually launched a music career on the club circuit in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. In 2007, he formed a blues and rhythm and blues band, which played on the sidewalks and in the subway stations of Oakland. With Wierzynski as the vocalist and multi-instrumentalist band leader, and co-founder Ben Malament as the percussionist, the busking California Honeydrops' public party music quickly developed a passionate local following. The band's fifth and most recent studio album is 2015's A Higher Degree.

Headlining at the Bowery Ballroom tonight, the California Honeydrops' sound was bound by their New Orleans-rooted style of bluesy vocals, barrelhouse piano, and punctuating brass riffs. With virtually no guitars in the mix, the bubbling energy was sparked simply by the interplay of vocals, keyboards and four horn players. Crossing genres from Delta blues to southern soul with funk and a dash of Americana, the band’s shows featured extensive jamming, with many songs hovering around 10 minutes of length. Wierzynski made crowd interaction an integral element to the defining results, dissolving the boundaries between the band and the audience. In the end, this was more of a party than a concert, especially when Wierzynski surprised the audience by announcing that the band would take a brief break and return in a few minutes for a second set.

Visit the California Honeydrops at www.cahoneydrops.com.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Black Dahlia Murder at the Highline Ballroom

Trevor Strnad
The Black Dahlia Murder formed as a death metal band in 2001 in Waterford, Michigan. Absorbed with horror and gore, vocalist Trevor Strnad adapted the band's name from the 1947 unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, often referred to as Black Dahlia, who was bisected at the waist and left on display in a California parking lot in 1947. The Black Dahlia Murder currently consists of Strnad, guitarists Brian Eschbach and Brandon Ellis, drummer Alan Cassidy, and bassist Max Lavelle. The band's eighth and most recent album, Nightbringers, was released on October 6, 2017.

Sixteen years after first starting, the Black Dahlia Murder demonstrated tonight at the Highline Ballroom that the macabre may have no limits. A glance at the set list showed that the band was very much obsessed with grizzly tales of weird design. For those who followed the lyrics, they were uncompromisingly relentless in gruesome detail. A new song, "Matriarch," for instance, told of a woman who was unsuccessful in having a child, so she stalked a pregnant woman and cut the baby out of her. The band's hard and heavy music was equally merciless,  overflowing with growled vocals, barely discernible lyrics, speedy guitar riffs and thrashing, crashing rhythms. No doubt, this was an extreme metal concert, and not meant for the faint of heart.

Visit the Black Dahlia Murder at www.tbdmofficial.com.

Setlist:
  1. Widowmaker
  2. Statutory Ape
  3. Contagion
  4. I Worship Only What You Bleed
  5. Nightbringers
  6. Miasma
  7. In Hell Is Where She Waits for Me
  8. Abysmal
  9. A Shrine to Madness
  10. Matriarch
  11. Malenchantments of the Necrosphere
  12. Vlad, Son of the Dragon
  13. Everything Went Black
  14. Kings of the Nightworld
  15. What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse
  16. On Stirring Seas of Salted Blood
  17. Unhallowed
  18. Funeral Thirst
  19. Deathmask Divine
  20. I Will Return

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Mondo.NYC 2017

Mondo.NYC returned to New York City for its second annual music business summit and live music festival on October 4 - 8, 2017. Music and tech industry insiders, innovators, emerging artists and music fans connected in a shared mission of empowering artists and advancing ideas in an ever-changing music business. By day Mondo.NYC's numerous panels at New York University were incubators for music, technology, and radio industry professionals, and by night Mondo.NYC became a platform for more than 150 showcases at intimate music clubs in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Christopher the Conquered at Drom
Layne Montgomery Paper Company at Niagara
The Liza Colby Sound at the Bowery Electric
Laura Sauvage at the Map Room at the Bowery Electric
Blak Emoji at Pianos
Rench at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2
Manu Lanvin at Drom
Von Sell at Pianos
Talos at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2
Frank Bell at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 3
Ritual Talk at Pianos
Miss Velvet & the Blue Wolf at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2
Robbing Johnny at the Bowery Electric
The Skins at the Bowery Electric
Jeremy & the Harlequins at Pianos

Saturday, October 7, 2017

KMFDM at Irving Plaza

Sasha Koneitzko and Lucia Cifarelli
Sascha Konietzko, also known as Sascha K and Käpt'n K, was born in Hambug, Germany, but conceived what would become the industrial band KMFDM in 1984 as a performance art project at the opening of an exhibition of young European artists in Paris, France. KMFDM initialized the nonsensical and grammatically incorrect German phrase Kein Mehrheit für die Mitleid, which is typically given the loose translation of "no pity for the majority," a phrase Konietzko composed by cutting words from a German newspaper and randomly pulling them out of a hat. Konietzko soon returned to Germany, where various musicians moved in and out of KMFDM. In 1991, Konietzko moved to Chicago, Illinois, and KMFDM became part of the city's industrial music scene that included Ministry, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, and Revolting Cocks, until 1994, when Konietzko relocated to Seattle, Washington. KMFDM split in 1999, but Konietzko resurrected the brand in 2002 with a new lineup. American singer Lucia Cifarelli joined the revamped KMFDM; Konietzko and Cifarelli married in 2005 and relocated together to Hamburg in 2007. KMFDM released its 20th studio album, Hell Yeah, on August 18, 2017.

German band Lord of the Lost was to perform as an opening act for KMFDM's American tour, and two Lord of the Lost musicians were to perform in KMFDM as well, but delayed visas forced a cancellation. At Irving Plaza tonight, Konietzko and Cifarelli stood front and center at two podia, singing and playing electronic gear; they were backed ably by longtime drummer Andy Selway and a last-minute fill-in, Brooklyn-based guitarist Andee Blacksugar. The set consisted of seven songs from the new album, as well as one or two songs from nine other albums and EPs. Several songs featured politically-charged anthems of resistance and defiance to the band's trademark ultra-heavy beats. Konietzko and Cifarelli interlocked vocals, often leaving their podia to work their audience from the edge of the stage, to repetitive hard and heavy guitar and synthesizer riffs. Konietzko provided the grittier vocal style, counterbalanced by Cifarelli's comparatively sweet range. KMFDM's music was not as experimental as it was in the 1990s, but this newer mainstream version worked very well.

Visit KMFDM at www.kmfdm.net.

Setlist:
  1. D.I.Y.
  2. Freak Flag
  3. Hell Yeah
  4. Amnesia
  5. Light
  6. Rebels in Kontrol
  7. Total State Machine
  8. Animal Out
  9. Burning Brain
  10. Bumaye
  11. Glam Glitz Guts & Gore
  12. Shock
  13. Virus
  14. Murder My Heart
  15. A Drug Against War
Encore:
  1. WWIII
  2. Hau Ruck
  3. Godlike

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Skins at the Bowery Electric

Left to right: Daisy Spencer, Bayli Mckeithan, Kaya Nico Mckeithan
Three teenaged siblings, all students at the School of Rock, began jamming in their basement in Brooklyn, New York. The oldest of the three, Bayli Mckeithan, was interested in guitar but wound up singing, Kaya Nico Mckeithan, took to the bass, and baby brother Keef Cole Mckeithan played the drums. Schoolmate Daisy Spencer, a guitarist, saw a video of the Mckeithans covering Wolfmother and the Rolling Stones, and asked if she could jam. She brought schoolmate and guitarist Russell Chell. As the Skins in 2011, the School of Rock quintet played at school events and local gigs and released a three-song self-titled EP in 2012. Over time, the Skins scored opening slots on festival dates and national tours. The Skins' second EP, the five-song Still Sleep, was released on December 16, 2016.

The five musicians in the Skins are still quite young, aged 18 to 25, but they made a big, mature sound at the Bowery Electric tonight as part of the mondo.nyc festival. Perhaps due to the Skins' recent collaborations with producer Rick Rudin and rapper D.R.A.M., the band showed that it is drifting beyond its classic blues rock origins and closing in on more urban sounds, indulging now in a stronger taste for rhythm and blues, funk, and hip hop. The musicians grafted these sounds well for an intoxicating blend hard rock and smooth soul. The Skins' enthusiastic and effervescent spirit was very alive and enrapturing, as the audience chanted back lyric phrases to these newer songs. The combustion was hot; this ultramodern-sounding multi-genre quintet was on fire, and given the right window, the Skins will burst into the mainstream in a massive flame.

Visit the Skins at www.theskins.com.

Setlist:
  1. Intro
  2. Or Whatever
  3. Go Off
  4. I
  5. Runaway
  6. Bury Me
  7. FWM Heavy (?)
  8. Friends
  9. Kid
  10. Underneath
  11. Out for Love
  12. With My People


Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Devil Wears Prada at the Gramercy Theatre

Mike Hranica
The Devil Wears Prada formed as a metalcore band in 2005 in Dayton, Ohio. The musicians named the band after the novel because they believed the title made an anti-materialistic statement they liked; they had not read the book, however, and the popular movie based on the story had not been made yet. The band began by playing the midwestern Christian music circuit, ultimately gravitating to touring on secular bookings. The Devil Wears Prada currently consists of vocalist Mike Hranica, lead guitarist Kyle Sipress, rhythm guitarist Jeremy DePoyster, and bassist Andy Trick. The band currently is touring with two additional musicians, keyboardist Jonathan Gering and drummer Giuseppe Capolupo. The band's sixth full-length studio album, Transit Blues, was released on October 7, 2016.

Although the band introduced occasional soft melodies as a counterbalance, the Devil Wears Prada's set tonight at the Gramercy Theatre was total metal brutality, pulverizing mercilessly everything and everyone in its path. It seems that with each album and tour the band has reached its maximum violence, but in fact each album and tour seems to grow heavier and heavier. The set spanned the band's 12-year repertoire, and the result was that songs that were hard before were made even harder this time around. Hranica growled and grunted his lyrics, the guitarists built tension through distorted, crunching riffs, and the rhythm section pounded hard. The band mastered the art of crafting complex pieces that escalated to fever pitch and then looked down at the decimated vulnerable below. You had to be strong to survive this atomic assault.

Visit the Devil Wears Prada at www.tdwpband.com.

Setlist:
  1. Daughter (No Sun/No Moon Intro)
  2. Sassafras
  3. Assistant to the Regional Manager
  4. Planet A
  5. Worldwide
  6. Born to Lose
  7. Forever Decay
  8. Escape
  9. Survivor
  10. To the Key of Evergreen
  11. Kansas
  12. Transgress
  13. Supernova
  14. Dez Moines
  15. Reptar, King of the Ozone
  16. Danger: Wildman
Encore:
  1. Mammoth

Monday, October 2, 2017

Paul Weller at Irving Plaza

Paul Weller started playing guitar at age 11 in his native Woking, Surrey, England. After seeing Status Quo in concert in 1972, he formed his first incarnation of the Jam, playing bass on Beatles covers and original songs. The Jam came into its own during the punk rock revolution, but also appealed to the mods, such they branded Weller as the "Modfather." The Jam became popular in England, but less so throughout the rest of the world. Seeking to explore a more soulful, melodic style of music with a broader instrumentation, Weller disbanded the Jam in 1982 and formed the Style Council in 1983. The Style Council initially scored a few hits, but did not remain popular, so Weller ended the band in 1989 and launched a solo career, first with the Paul Weller Movement in 1991 and then under his own name in 1992. Weller was now a singer-songwriter, ultimately earning four Brit Awards, including the Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement award. His 13th and most recent solo album, A Kind Revolution , was released on May 12, 2017.

Paul Weller headlines arenas in his home country, but in New York he performed two nights at the 1,025-capacity Irving Plaza. While his previous associations were better known in this country, Weller performed only one Jam song and two Style Council songs on the first night. Performing 11 songs from his 1990s catalog and 12 songs from more recent albums, his audience witnessed the evolution of a troubadour who left behind his punk and mod epoch and now blended a rocking Britpop with jazz and rhythm and blues influences. Weller sang emotively and played electric and acoustic guitars as well as keyboards during his two-hour show. The musical arrangements by guitarist Steve Cradock, bassist Andy Crofts, drummer Steve Pilgrim, percussionist Ben Gordelier and keyboardist Tom Van Heel provided the flesh for Weller's musical vision. The band assisted significantly in distinguishing the various approaches of each song so that perhaps the concert's most engaging elements was that copious musical ground had been covered.

Visit Paul Weller at www.paulweller.com.

Setlist:
  1. Peacock Suit
  2. Nova
  3. I'm Where I Should Be
  4. My Ever Changing Moods (The Style Council cover)
  5. White Sky
  6. Long Time
  7. Saturns Pattern
  8. Long Long Road
  9. Going My Way
  10. The Weaver
  11. From the Floorboards Up
  12. Up in Suze's Room
  13. Shout to the Top! (The Style Council cover)
  14. Into Tomorrow
  15. Above the Clouds
  16. You Do Something to Me
  17. Woo Sé Mama
  18. Friday Street
  19. Porcelain Gods
  20. The Changingman
Encore:
  1. She Moves with the Fayre
  2. These City Streets
  3. Start! (The Jam cover)
  4. Come On/Let's Go
Encore 2:
  1. Broken Stones
  2. Whirlpool's End

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Stiff Little Fingers at the Gramercy Theatre

Jake Burns & Ali McMordie
As a schoolboy in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Jake Burns sang and played guitar in a cover band called Highway Star, named after the Deep Purple song. In 1977, at the height of the violent ethno-nationalist "Troubles" conflict in Northern Ireland, the band discovered punk and became Stiff Little Fingers, named after the Vibrators song. Upon achieving success on British radio, Stiff Little Fingers were at the forefront of the punk movement. Stiff Little Fingers relocated in 1979 to London, England, but then split in 1983. Burns reformed the band in 1987 with the idea of a short reunion, but although personnel changes continued, the band has continued touring and occasionally recording. Stiff Little Fingers presently consists of Burns, guitarist Ian McCallum, bassist Ali McMordie, and drummer Steve Grantley. Stiff Little Fingers' 10th and most recent album is 2014's No Going Back.

Stiff Little Fingers' 40th anniversary tour brought the band to a headlining date at the Gramercy Theatre tonight. The band's music was spit-shined compared to its earliest and grittiest days, and a careful listen suggested that much of this music could no longer be classified as punk by today's standards. The backbone of many of the songs were pop and quite a number of the melodies had what could be branded as an American country music slant. The band was tight, roaring with blazing energy, with clear vocals and rocking backup. The band opened with one of its earliest songs, "Wasted Life," which was about youth not having anything to do during the Troubles era in Northern Ireland. "My Dark Places" chronicled Burns' personal struggle with depression. "Guilty as Sin" was about sexual abuse. Many other songs featured political or social commentary. In the end, Stiff Little Fingers' old songs preserved a vital kick and the band's performance registered as solid and as strong as in the band's heyday. One can only hope that the band will continue to write and record new material.

Visit Stiff Little Fingers at www.slf.rocks.

Setlist:
  1. Wasted Life
  2. Just Fade Away
  3. Straw Dogs
  4. My Dark Places
  5. Safe as Houses
  6. Breakout
  7. At the Edge
  8. Barbed Wire Love
  9. Guilty as Sin
  10. Roots, Radicals, Rockers & Reggae
  11. When We Were Young
  12. Nobody's Hero
  13. Tin Soldiers
  14. Suspect Device
Encore:
  1. Johnny Was (Bob Marley & The Wailers cover)
  2. Gotta Gettaway
  3. Alternative Ulster