Sunday, December 31, 2017

Television at the Bowery Ballroom

Tom Verlaine, Billy Ficca and Jimmy Rip. Fred Smith is not shown.
Tom Verlaine (Tom Miller renamed himself Verlaine after the French poet) and Richard Hell were schoolmates in Hockessin, Delaware, and separately moved to New York in the early 1970s, both aspiring to be poets. In 1972, they formed the Neon Boys, consisting of Verlaine on guitar and vocals, Hell on bass and vocals and Billy Ficca on drums. In 1973, they recruited Richard Lloyd as a second guitarist, renamed themselves Television, and helped birth New York's alternative rock revolution. Hell left the band in 1975 to co-found the Heartbreakers, later forming Richard Hell & the Voidoids. Fred Smith, briefly of Blondie, replaced Hell as Television's bassist. Television achieved critical acclaim but not commercial success, and split in 1978. The band reformed in 1992 and released its third and most recent studio album, Television. Jimmy Rip replaced Lloyd in 2007.

Concluding a two-night engagement at the Bowery Ballroom on New Year's Eve, Television celebrated by performing most of its debut album and improvising songs and poetry on the cuff. On a dimly lit stage under static red and blue lights, the accent was on the unpredictability of the music. The band started as it often does by turning tuning into a spontaneous, cerebral introduction to the set. As it flowed and floated, perhaps even the musicians had no idea how long it would last. This led to the more structured "Prove It" and "Elevation," both of which featured the band's trademark interlocking guitars, blurring the distinction between lead and rhythm guitars. True to his name, Rip provided the more conventional shreds while Verlaine usually added the more eclectic scales and leads. Verlaine spoke little to the audience, often singing at the microphone with eyes closed or casting his eyes upward. In the midst of one song, he repeatedly interjected the word "security," hoping to get someone to handle a disruptive audience member in front. Otherwise, he seemed pensive, as the tense garage-rooted music increasingly spiraled into heady intellectual jams featuring lengthy, interweaving instrumental sections. Chiming guitars and angular rhythms gave way to fluid leads as the two guitarists spurred each other to experiment further with their craft, possibly leading the audience to ask "where is this going?" Neither the venue nor the band was well prepared for midnight, however. There was nothing resembling balloon drops or confetti cannons; Rip counted off the last 10 seconds and support act Eleanor Friedberger sang a completely inaudible "Auld Lang Sine." Sloppy as it was, the Television concert was one of the best places to be to end 2017 and launch 2018.

Setlist:
  1. Intro
  2. Prove It
  3. Elevation
  4. 1880 or So
  5. Torn Curtain
  6. Venus
  7. Friction (false start)
  8. See No Evil
  9. (Unknown) (poem)
  10. Auld Lang Syne (Robert Burns cover) (with Eleanor Friedberger)
  11. Psychotic Reaction (Count Five cover)
  12. Persia
  13. I'm Gonna Find You
  14. (Unknown) ("Rattlesnake")
  15. Marquee Moon
Encore:
  1. Friction

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill

Eddie Palmieri
Only a handful of the leaders of the golden age of salsa (approximately 1969-1979) remain alive, and 10-time Grammy winner Eddie Palmieri is perhaps the best known. Born in Spanish Harlem and raised in the Bronx by Puerto Rican parents, the 81-year-old Latin jazz pianist, composer and band leader has been performing for more than 70 years. As a youth, Palmieri played piano at talent shows at age eight, debuted at Carnegie Hall at 11, played timbales in his uncle’s orchestra, at 13, and formed his first band at 14. At 25, he revolutionized the Latin music scene with Conjunto La Perfecta, where Palmieri replaced Latin music's traditional trumpets and violins with two trombones for a heavier sound, and blended the rhythms of his Afro-Caribbean heritage with the complexity of his jazz influences: Thelonious MonkHerbie Hancock, and McCoy Tyner. After the breakup of La Perfecta, Palmieri expanded into soul, funk, and rock and adapted them to his New York salsa and jazz fusion. Palmieri continues to record and perform both for jazz and salsa audiences. His most recent album is Sabiduría/Wisdom, was recorded five years ago but was released on April 21, 2017.

Eddie Palmieri recently has been performing jazz venues with the Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Septet, but tonight at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill he returned to full-on salsa dance music with the 15-member Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra. From the first notes, this set was high-powered big band salsa, driven with descargas (improvised jam sessions) on old gems like 1964's "Muñeca." Palmieri's leadership on piano, three vocalists, and first-rate horn and percussion sections kept the music percolating with Caribbean rhythms for a fiery salsa that was loud and tight. With so many instrumentalists contributing their best shots, it was sometimes challenging for a listener to focus on individual contributions, but the overall sound was bright and the effect was dance-inducing. Palmieri's big band never fails to get a party started.

Visit Eddie Palmieri at www.PalmieriMusic.com.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Petula Clark at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill

Born in Epsom, Surrey, England, Sally Clark's stage name was invented by her father; he joked it was a combination of the names of two former girlfriends, Pet and Ulla. Petula Clark began singing as a child in 1942 on BBC Radio during an air raid in World War II. Nicknamed the "Singing Sweetheart," she performed for King George VI and Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and was considered a mascot by the British Army, whose troops plastered her photos on their tanks for good luck as they advanced into battle. She hosted her own television show and appeared in feature films beginning in the 1940s, and started her singing career in the 1950s recording in German, French, Italian and Spanish. Americans came to know her when she rode the British Invasion during the early 1960s; the number one "Downtown" was the first of 15 consecutive Top 40 hits Clark achieved in the United States. Clark's most recent English language album, From Now On, was released in October 2016. Clark is presently based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Petula Clark's career in entertainment has spanned eight decades, but at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill the 85-year-old vocalist limited her retrospective to her music and adventures from the 1960s while also introducing songs from her most recent album. Significantly autobiographical and presented as cabaret, Clark relayed charming anecdotes prior to most songs, telling of her interactions with Fred Astaire in the musical film Finian's Rainbow, Charlie Chaplin on the soundtrack to the film A Countess from Hong Kong, Glenn Close in the stage version of Sunset Boulevard, and John Lennon, with whom she sang backup on "Give Peace a Chance." Backed by a quintet, Clark sang her hits and cover songs. Her vocals were limited in range, but she knew what to do with it, lowering her pitch when the original versions rose too high. She changed "My Love" into a country hoedown, combined "I Know a Place" and "A Sign of the Times" into a medley, and engaged the audience in a singalong for "Downtown." One may never again hear a swinging octogenarian with such a high-flying spirit.

Visit Petula Clark at www.petulaclark.net.

Setlist:
  1. You and I / Meant To Be
  2. Don't Sleep in the Subway
  3. Fever (Peggy Lee cover)
  4. Look to the Rainbow
  5. How Are Things in Giocca Morra?
  6. My Love
  7. From Now On
  8. Blackbird (The Beatles cover)
  9. Imagine (John Lennon cover)
  10. With One Look (Andrew Lloyd Webber cover)
  11. Who Am I / Colour My World
  12. This is My Song (Charlie Chaplin cover)
  13. Living For Today
  14. I Know a Place / Sign of the Times
  15. While You See a Chance (Steve Winwood cover)
  16. I Couldn't Live Without Your Love
  17. Downtown
  18. Rainbow

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Rhett Miller at City Winery

Rhett Miller is a seventh-generation Texan, born in Austin and raised in Highland Park, a suburb of Dallas. He started taking guitar lessons when he was 12 years old and started writing songs when he was 13. He attempted suicide at age 14, and as part of his recovery Miller turned to music and started to play in bands while still in high school. He became a folk artist, and played his first gig at age 15 in Dallas. In 1989, while still in high school, Miller self-released a limited-edition album called Mythologies. In Dallas in 1990, Miller formed a power-pop trio called Sleepy Heroes, who released one album before disbanding. Miller was the lead singer of various bands in Dallas between 1990 and 1993: Rhett Miller's Third Eye, Buzz, Rhett's Exploding, and Retablo. In 1993, Miller formed Old 97's initially as an acoustic trio, but soon added musicians and electrified the sound. In 1997, Miller moved from Dallas to Los Angeles, California. then in 2000 moved to New York City, three blocks south of the World Trade Center and was home on 9/11. Miller now lives in the Hudson Valley area of New York state. Miller remains the leader of Old 97's, who have released 16 studio albums. Miller's fifth and most recent solo studio album is 2015's The Traveler.

Rhett Miller tonight headlined his fifth annual Holiday Extravaganza at City Winery. This show featured Miller performing alone on acoustic guitar and introducing stand-up performances by Jen Kirkman, Todd Barry and Janeane Garofalo. Oddly, while the comedians kept the holidays somewhere in their scope, much of Miller's set was comprised of uptempo songs that dwelled on discomfort. His performance was animated and this high-energy stage manner was thoroughly engaging, even on the darkest songs. Miller sang well, projecting his husky voice into the angst of his songs, particularly on a song about suicide. Although the show was billed to be holiday themed, Miller performed only three Christmas songs, two of which were self-penned and hardly about holy days. The show closer was the evening's sole traditional song, "A Holly Jolly Christmas," which Miller seemed to perform mockingly. Miller proved he was a talented lyricist and performer, but perhaps his unorthodox holiday spirit begged the question of what holiday he was celebrating. The show was a lively celebration of whatever.

Visit Rhett Miller at www.RhettMiller.com.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Robert Gordon at the Bowery Electric

At the age of nine in Bethesda, Maryland, Robert Gordon was so inspired by the Elvis Presley song "Heartbreak Hotel" playing on the radio that he decided then to pursue a career as a rock and roll musician. Gordon debuted as a singer at age 15 at a summer camp singing Jackie Wilson’s "Lonely Teardrops." In his late teens he sang in several local bands, recording for the first time at age 17 with the Confidentials, which after several lineup changes became the Newports. Gordon married at age 19, and fathered two sons. In 1970, the family moved to New York City, where he opened a clothing store. In the mid-seventies Gordon became the lead singer of the Tuff Darts, which became a popular rock and roll band in the local punk rock circuit. Just as the band was about to break, Gordon went solo, recording rockabilly songs  initially with Link Wray and then Chris Spedding. Bruce Springsteen wrote "Fire" for Gordon and played keyboards on it, but the Pointer Sisters quickly covered the song and that version eclipsed the Gordon version. Gordon eventually had a moderate hit with Marshall Crenshaw's "Someday Someway" in 1981. Gordon's 11th and most recent album is 2014's I'm Coming Home.

Returning to the Bowery Electric, just one block north of CBGB's, where Gordon got his New York start, Gordon brought his longtime bassist, Rob Stoner, plus guitarist Barry Ryan and drummer Phil Cimino, all veterans of the local music scene. Gordon laid on the floor a large sheet with titles of 26 songs, but was not planning on doing them in order; the first song, a cover of Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas," was oddly among the last on the list. Similarly, the entire set was played loosely, with Gordon occasionally responding to requests from the fans, and the band was a team of professionals capable of jumping into any song with a moment's notice. Style-wise, Gordon drew his parameters, and so the band confidently confined itself within classic rock and roll margins. Gordon's baritone was as smooth, muscular and masculine as it was in his early days, and he sang the bad boy boogie songs convincingly. This was fine roots rock and roll all the way.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Shadow of Intent at the Gramercy Theatre

Ben Duerr
Vocalist Ben Duerr and guitarist Chris Wiseman formed Shadow of Intent in 2014 in Milford, Connecticut. The duo took its name from the Halo science fiction computer game, in which Shadow of Intent is a CAS-class assault carrier of the Sword of Sanghelios formerly assigned to the Covenant fleet. The duo's music was as an internet-based project which evolved into a band. Shadow of Intent's second and most recent album, Reclaimer, was released on April 27, 2017. The band currently consists of Duerr, Wiseman, bassist Keith Kohlhepp and drummer Matt Kohanowski.

The Slaughter Before Christmas, as tonight's program at the Gramercy Theatre was called, featured seven bands, headlined by Shadow of Intent. Perhaps the length of the combined show was why Shadow of Intent performed for less than 40 minutes. Shadow of Intent merged death metal and metalcore into deathcore, punctuated by growls, breakdowns, progressive leads, melodic riffs and occasional pre-recorded symphonic introductions and codas. The strength that the band exhibited in juggling all these elements was that each of these facets was kept brief and sharp rather than excessive and plodding. This clever approach made the musical progressions fascinating and particularly unique in a field where so many bands are derivative. Shadow of Intent is a young band, but noting that maturity and refinement gradually will develop, the performance forecasted a very promising future for the band.

Visit Shadow of Intent at www.shadowofintent.bigcartel.com.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Red Wanting Blue & Alternate Routes Quartet at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2

The members of two Americana-rooted rock bands, Red Wanting Blue and the Alternate Routes, were mutual admirers of the other's music. Red Wanting Blue, based in Columbus, Ohio, has released 10 studio albums; the Alternate Routes, from Bridgeport, Connecticut, has released five studio albums. The musicians repeatedly crossed paths and suggested that they should work together. The joint project finally materialized as the tentatively named Red Wanting Blue & Alternate Routes Quartet, featuring two core members of each band, Scott Terry (vocals, ukulele) and Eric Hall (guitar, lap steel guitar, mandolin, vocals) of Red Wanting Blue, and Tim Warren (vocals, guitars) and Eric Donnelly (guitars) of the Alternate Routes. This collaboration is on a seven-date tour, and the concerts are being recorded for CD and DVD.

The unique collaboration of two bands allowed for the musicians to perform songs from their own catalogues as well as the catalogues of the other band, sometimes alternating verses and singing harmony. Without the presence of a full band, the songs were centered largely around acoustic instruments. The evening also consisted of stories, as the musicians introduced their songs with anecdotes. The presentation was cool and casual, seemingly as leisurely as a back porch gathering. Lyrics could be heard clearly, and they painted vivid panoramas of the joys and struggles of working class Americans. The songs were riveting and passionate because of the inspired honesty of the four vocalists and musicians. Sensitive lyrics, beautiful melodies, moving vocals and sparkling musical arrangements together highlighted the hearts and the strengths of both Red Wanting Blue and the Alternate Routes. Hopefully the CD and DVD will capture the majesty of this brief but special collaboration.

Visit Red Wanting Blue at www.redwantingblue.com and the Alternate Routes at www.thealternateroutes.com.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Los Lobos at City Winery

David Hidalgo
David Hidalgo (vocals, guitar, accordion, fiddle, requinto jarocho) and Louie Pérez (vocals, guitar, drums, jarana huasteca) met while in high School in East Los Angeles, California, and began jamming together in 1973. They enlisted fellow students and formed a band called Los Lobos del Este (de Los Angeles) ["The Wolves of the East (of Los Angeles)"]; the name was quickly shortened to Los Lobos. Cesar Rosas (vocals, guitar, bajo sexto) and Conrad Lozano (vocals, bass, guitarron) joined early, and Steve Berlin (keyboards, woodwinds) and Enrique González (drums, percussion) later completed the present lineup. Performing at hundreds of weddings and dances between 1974 and 1980, the band mixed pop and rock with the traditional Mexican music most of the members heard as children. Los Lobos achieved national and international success when the band recorded several Ritchie Valens covers for the soundtrack of the film La Bamba; the title track became a number one single for the band. Los Lobos has won three Grammy Awards. The band's 16th and most recent studio album is 2015's Gates of Gold.

Returning to City Winery for a three-night run, Los Lobos performed a signature mix of rock and roll, Tex-Mex, country, zydeco, folk, blues, brown-eyed soul, and traditional Latin American music including cumbia, boleros and norteños. Los Lobos was a lively band, mixing bouncy originals with uptempo covers, crossing the border a few times for songs in Spanish. While many songs hearkened back to classic good time rock and roll, others featured charango, accordion and maracas for a more authentic Mexican sound. Simply put, Los Lobos lit the party spirit with its exuberant take on American and Mexican roots music, and as if one set was not enough, the band came back for a second set of fun-tastic rockers.

Visit Los Lobos at www.loslobos.org.

Setlist:
Set 1:
  1. Angel Dance
  2. Manny's Bones (>) Revolution (>) Rattlesnake Shake (Fleetwood Mac cover) (>) Maricela (César Rosas on maracas)
  3. The Town
  4. Shakin' Shakin' Shakes
  5. Evangeline
  6. My Baby's Gone
  7. I Walk Alone
Set 2:
  1. Will the Wolf Survive? (Louie Pérez on charango)
  2. Teresa (Los Super Seven cover) (Louie Pérez on charango)
  3. Chuco's Cumbia (Louie Pérez on charango and two women offstage on güiro)
  4. Angels with Dirty Faces
  5. Set Me Free (Rosa Lee)
  6. Anselma (David Hidalgo on accordion)
  7. Volver, volver (Vicente Fernández cover) (David Hidalgo on accordion)
  8. Marie, Marie (The Blasters cover)
  9. Don't Worry Baby
Encore:
  1. Más y más (>) She's About a Mover (Sir Douglas Quintet cover) (César Rosas on maracas)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Steve Conte at the Bowery Electric

Steve Conte was born in New York City to a musical family (his mother, Rosemary Conte, is a New Jersey jazz singer) and began playing drums at age seven. At 10 years old, he started composing songs on his brother John Conte's guitar. One year later the Conte brothers recorded their first "album" in the family living room with Steve writing the songs, singing, playing guitar and drums, and "producing." Throughout his school years, Conte played guitar at church "folk" masses, teen dances and school variety shows, and more professionally backed his mom in Jersey Shore venues. During his college years, he and his bass playing brother formed a jazz-rock band, Conte Brothers Fusion. Upon graduation he moved back to New York City and toured in Blood, Sweat and Tears. He later became a session musician and played in many local bands, many with his brother. Perhaps his highest profile gigs were with Paul Simon, the New York Dolls and Michael Monroe. Conte's most recent album, International Cover-Up, released on June 9, 2016, is a collection of cover songs.

Steve Conte loves to play guitar, so his local gigs are frequent, often at the Bowery Electric. Backed tonight by bassist Keith Christopher and drummer Phil Stewart, Conte sang some of his favorite originals and several covers. Originals like "Junk Planet", "Gypsy Cab" and "OK DJ" often wind up in his live set, but the covers (a rocking version of Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz," Tom Waits' "I Don't Wanna Grow Up," Chuck Berry's "Little Queenie," Fleetwood Mac's " Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonite," and the Rolling Stones' "Happy") were more revealing in that they acknowledged the sources of his inspiration. Conte played stinging leads like those found in 1970s classic rock, but they are not nostalgic. His leads were new and fresh, and they sizzled and smoked from the first song to the last. Conte's set was a timeless rock and roll nugget.

Next up, Steve Conte & Blues Deluxe will pay tribute to Rod Stewart & the Faces by playing Stewart's entire Every Picture Tells a Story album at the Highline Ballroom on January 20, 2018.

Visit Steve Conte at www.stevecontenyc.com.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Reverend Horton Heat at Irving Plaza

Jim Heath
Jim Heath was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, where in high school he played guitar in a cover band called Southern Comfort. A few years later, he dove into a full time music career when he joined a touring cover band called Sweetbriar. His musical approach changed upon seeing New York psychobilly band the Cramps and the Los Angeles roots-rock band the Blasters perform in Dallas, Texas. Heath and his wife had a child, and Heath temporarily became a sound technician at music clubs rather than a performer, but in 1985 he was inspired to form a psychobilly roots-rock band he called Reverend Horton Heat. The band's 11th and most recent studio album in 2014's REV. Reverend Horton Heat presently consists of Heath, bassist Jimbo Wallace and new drummer Arjuna "RJ" Contreras; the core trio is frequently augmented by keyboardist Tim Alexander.

Reverend Horton Heat brought its Holiday Hayride to Irving Plaza on a snowy night. The evening began with a 60-minute set by the Blasters, and concluded with Reverend Horton Heat performing a two-hour set. The Holiday Hayride show was Christmas-themed, and so it started with an instrumental surf-rock version of "We Three Kings," and in short time also included a Gene Autry-styled cover of "Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer," Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolf Run" and a mashup of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and the Batman theme. For the final 40 minutes or so, Reverend Horton Heat backed Robert "Big Sandy" Williams of California's western swing and country boogie band Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys. Throughout the set, Reverend Horton Heat used rockabilly as a platform to mix elements of country, surf, punk, and big band swing into loud, fast and furious songs with often-humorous lyrics. Between songs, Heath similarly shared humorous anecdotes, including a tale about the time Reverend Horton  Heat jammed with the late Lemmy Kilmister before dedicating the next song to him, a show-closing cover of Motörhead’s "Ace of Spades." Big Sandy rejoined the band for the two-song encore. Reverend Horton Heat stayed true to its high-energy roots-rock traditions, but the few outside ventures, like "Ace of Spades," made the hayride even more fun.

Visit the Reverend Horton Heat at www.reverendhortonheat.com.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Metalfier at Irving Plaza

Andrew Janda
A native of Rzeszów, Poland, Andrew Janda formed Metalfier in New York City in 2007 and soon after the band began playing the local club circuit. Numerous personnel changes have occurred, and currently Janda is the band's sole remaining original member, with guitarist Christian Cos, bassist Reda Woodcock and drummer Ignacio Orellana. Metalfier released its second seven-song EP, Into the Unknown, on May 5, 2017.

Headlining at Irving Plaza tonight, Metalfier recalled the 1980s, when hard rocking bands were outgrowing their blues roots and playing metal for the sake of metal alone. Metalfier showed little interest in more modern genres that often have hyphens in their descriptors. Janda squinted his eyes and crouched a bit into a low microphone stand as his gritty vocals were released from his gut. Metalfier's original songs showcased Janda's fluid guitar leads while the rhythm section played a tight back end. The band also performed a few covers, with Judas Priest's "Breaking the Law" rallying the audience into chanting the chorus with Janda. There is an audience nostalgic for the simpler days of hard rock, and Metalfier may become the band to reunite these old-school metalheads.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Yo La Tengo at the Bowery Ballroom

Guest harpist Mary Lattimore with Ira Kaplan
Born in Queens, New York, Ira Kaplan in his 20s wrote about music for local publications and worked as a soundman, roadie and backup musician for several New York-area bands. He and drummer/pianist/vocalist Georgia Hubley formed Yo La Tengo (often abbreviated as YLT) as an indie rock band in 1984 in Hoboken, New Jersey. They chose the name Yo La Tengo (Spanish for "I have it" or "I have her") in an effort to avoid any connotations in English. In its early years, the band went through 14 bassists but then stabilized with current bassist James McNew in 1992. Yo La Tengo's 14th and most recent album is 2015's Stuff Like That There.

After a five-year hiatus, Yo La Tengo revived its long-running Eight Days of Hanukkah concert series, this year at the Bowery Ballroom. Each night the opening music acts and comedians were unannounced in advance; on this, the second night, Los Straitjackets and Neil Hamburger were the support acts. Yo La Tengo tonight opened its set with two instrumentals with Los Straitjackets, and harmonious with the luchador-masked surf rockers, the members of Yo La Tengo also wore masks for those songs. Renowned harpist Mary Lattimorealso joined the band for the entire set. The concert showed the two distinct sides of Yo La Tengo; much of the first half of the set featured hushed ambient soundscapes, often sprinkled with Hubley's soft atmospheric vocals, and the latter half rocked with Kaplan's sprawling feedback-driven noise jams. These extremes between dreamy and abrasive shoegaze embraced elements of pop, folk, punk and experimental music was ever eclectic, such that it made sense only in Yo La Tengo's multi-faceted musical world. The evening was capped with the introduction of John Doe of X for the encore; Doe performed a five-song set with Yo La Tengo as his backup band.

Visit Yo La Tengo at www.yolatengo.com.

Setlist:
  1. The Evil That Men Do (with Los Straitjackets)
  2. Run Run Run (The Velvet Underground cover) (with Los Straitjackets) (instrumental)
  3. New Song
  4. Green Arrow
  5. Today Is the Day
  6. Gentle Hour (Snapper cover)
  7. Pablo and Andrea
  8. The Sea Horse
  9. Stupid Things
  10. Big Day Coming
  11. We're an American Band
  12. The Story of Yo La Tango
Encore:
  1. The New World (X cover) (with John Doe)
  2. My Darling, Blue Skies (John Doe cover) (with John Doe)
  3. Pressing On (Bob Dylan cover) (with John Doe)
  4. Let's Get Rid of New York (Randoms cover) (with John Doe)
  5. Adult Books (X cover) (with John Doe)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Perfume Genius at the Bowery Ballroom

Mike Hadreas was born in Des Moines, Iowa, and grew up in the suburbs of Seattle, Washington, where he was the only openly gay student at his school. He received death threats which were not addressed by the administration, and later, as a young adult, he was attacked by several young men in his neighborhood. He then moved to Brooklyn, New York, and worked as a doorman at an East Village nightclub. In 2005, Hadreas returned home to Seattle and began recording music under the name Perfume Genius. His music explored sexuality, domestic abuse, the dangers faced by gay men in contemporary society, and his personal struggle with Crohn's disease. Perfume Genius' fourth and most recent album, No Shape, was released on May 5, 2017.

Headlining at the Bowery Ballroom tonight, Perfume Genius' performance was a curious blend of cabaret and art rock that was intriguing and even mysterious, diving quickly from shushed tones to a vast and blasting wall of sound. Often deviating from melodic expectations, Hadreas' sweet vocal flow and the electronic backing often went in unorthodox directions. Rhythms often stopped and changed, yet except for a brief period when he sat in a chair, Hadreas hardly ever stopped pacing and dancing. Even in the chair, however, he wiggled until his chest was on his knees. Shimmering and writhing to his feather light but angst-ridden vocal delivery, he spun the vulnerability inherent in his project into a celebration of identity and defiance. Yet, even with the inclusion of a string quartet on many songs, this catalogue was essentially too personal for the mainstream but will appeal to a large underground network of music fans.

Visit Perfume Genius at www.perfumegenius.org.

Setlist:
  1. Otherside
  2. Longpig
  3. Fool
  4. Wreath
  5. Go Ahead
  6. Valley (with string quartet)
  7. Just Like Love (with string quartet)
  8. Normal Song (with string quartet)
  9. Every Night (with string quartet)
  10. Body's in Trouble (Mary Margaret O'Hara cover)
  11. Grid
  12. My Body
  13. Run Me Through
  14. Die 4 You
  15. Slip Away
Encore:
  1. Learning
  2. Alan (with string quartet)
  3. Too Bright (with string quartet)
  4. Hood
  5. Queen

Cody Melville at the Bowery Electric

Cody Melville was born in Brooklyn, New York, but during his formative years, his family moved to Detroit, Michigan. He returned to Brooklyn as a young adult, but both cities played equal parts in his development as a prolific singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer. Brooklyn fed his street-savvy world view lyrics and Detroit helped him find his soulful groove. On many of his recordings, he plays the majority of the instruments and has produced his own work as well. Melville released his 10th album, Bonds Eye, on December 8, 2017.

Melville celebrated the release of his newest album with a headlining performance tonight at the Bowery Electric. From the first song, Melville demonstrated that he was a serious singer/songwriter, yet one that was gifted with a resounding rock and roll heart. His compositions were birthed as pensive prose, then given a new wind with a strong backbeat, searing guitars and rolling keyboards. Melville's band served the repertoire well in most cases, although in a few cases early in the set the musicians tended to smother the songs by lending a bit too much boisterous energy. Melville's vocals were passionate, with a delivery that balanced vulnerability and bravado. Thoughtful lyrics delivered like this ultimately made for a compelling performance. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Hiss Golden Messenger at the Bowery Ballroom

Vocalist/guitarist MC Taylor grew up in Irvine, Los Angeles, where his father had been a member of a local band, the Settlers. Taylor then rocked with multi-instrumentalist Scott Hirsch in the hardcore punk band Ex-Ignota and then the indie rock band The Court & Spark, both of which were based in San Francisco, California. In 2007 he moved again to study folklore at a university in Durham, North Carolina. There he started the concept for his folk music persona, Hiss Golden Messenger, which Taylor describes as not so much a band as a musical approach. Hiss Golden Messenger's ninth and most recent studio album, Hallelujah Anyhow, was released on September 22, 2017.

Hiss Golden Messenger has no firm line-up, but at the Bowery Ballroom for a two-night series the musicians consisted of Taylor, Ryan Gustafson on guitar, Phil Cook on keyboards and harmonica, James Wallace on organ and percussion, Mike Lewis on saxophone, Skylar Gudasz on vocals, Michael Libramento on bass, and Darren Jesse on drums. Together, they provided earthy backup for Taylor's unrefined vocal delivery, Bob Dylan-esque phrasings and bright country-rock melodies. When Taylor was not singing, much of the set's extended instrumental breaks had a rambling, almost shoegaze feel in that the compositions breezed along on a plateau rather than climbed to a summit. This effect situated the songs in a pleasant and relaxed groove that was as comfortable as a fleece wrap. The songs that did build, however, especially towards the end of the set, were all the more invigorating because they engaged the band's grooves into a louder and faster body. Hiss Golden Messenger has developed a new and interesting twist to homespun back porch jams.

Visit Hiss Golden Messenger at www.hissgoldenmessenger.com.

Setlist:
  1. When the Wall Comes Down
  2. Saturday’s Song
  3. Jenny of the Roses
  4. Biloxi
  5. Gulfport You’ve Been On My Mind
  6. Blue Country Mystic
  7. Mahogany Dread
  8. Don’t Let Me Down [The Beatles cover]
  9. Like A Mirror Loves A Hammer
  10. Red Rose Nantahala
  11. Highland Grace
  12. Caledonia, My Love
  13. Domino
  14. I Won’t Back Down [Tom Petty cover]
  15. Lost Out In the Darkness
  16. I’m a Raven (Shake Children)
  17. I Am the Song
  18. Southern Grammar
  19. John the Gun
Encore:
  1. Friendship [Roebuck "Pops" Staples cover]
  2. Drum

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Jake Bugg at the Town Hall

Jake Kennedy was born in a musical family in Nottingham, England; his parents separated when he was young and he took his father's surname and renamed himself Jake Bugg. He started playing guitar at the age of 12 after being introduced to the instrument by his uncle. By the age of 16, he was writing and performing his own songs. Bugg was selected to perform on the "BBC Introducing" stage at the 2011 Glastonbury Festival at age 17. Bugg won Best New Act at the 2013 Q Awards, Best Solo Artist at the 2015 NME Awards, and Best Male at the 2015 Silver Clef Awards. His fourth album, Hearts That Strain, a largely acoustic effort, was released on September 1, 2017.

Bugg did not cheat on his solo acoustic concert at the Town Hall tonight. He finger-picked and strummed a plugged-in hollow acoustic guitar and sang into the one microphone on the stage, with no assistance from additional musicians, tape loops or electronic gimmickry. Early in his career, Clash magazine celebrated Bugg as a "precocious talent fusing retro folk with blistering contemporary rock riffs," but this was his tour is his opportunity to show that his songs can stand alone as simply as they were written. His signature snarly voice made the songs distinctly his own, but his intricate finger work proved he is also a very accomplished guitarist. Traces of the retro rocker were in evidence in Bugg's dynamic delivery, but he fared well as a self-contained busker on a naked stage.

Visit Jake Bugg at www.jakebugg.com.
  1. Hearts That Strain
  2. How Soon the Dawn
  3. Saffron
  4. Strange Creatures
  5. Slide
  6. Southern Rain
  7. Simple as This
  8. Trouble Town
  9. Country Song
  10. Me and You
  11. Nevermind
  12. There's a Beast and We All Feed It
  13. Slumville Sunrise
  14. Broken
  15. Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues (Danny O’Keefe cover)
  16. In the Event of My Demise
  17. The Love We're Hoping For
  18. Seen It All
  19. Two Fingers
  20. Waiting
  21. Lightning Bolt

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Greta Van Fleet at the Bowery Ballroom

Josh Kiszka
Three brothers, vocalist Josh Kiszka, guitarist Jake Kiszka and bassist/keyboardist Sam Kiszka, formed the hard-rocking Greta Van Fleet in 2012 in the Kiszka family garage in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Danny Wagner replaced the original drummer in 2013. The band chose its name when one of its members heard a relative mention Gretna Van Fleet, an elder resident of Frankenmuth; she gave approval for the band members to adapt a variation of her name. This year the band has garnered national attention. In October 2017, the band won Best New Artist at the Loudwire Music Awards. The band has recorded three EPS; the most recent, a double EP entitled From the Fires, was released on November 10, 2017.

On Greta Van Fleet's third visit to New York in 2017, the band sold out two nights at the Bowery Ballroom, a commendable merit especially since the band has not yet recorded its debut album. The band's limited catalog has received radio play and word on the street has been strong, principally because everyone seems to be saying the same thing -- Greta Van Fleet sounds very much like Led Zeppelin. Indeed, judging by this week's rocking live sets, Greta Van Fleet has studied the Zep remarkably well. Josh's Robert Plant-styled vocal wails were particularly arresting, simultaneously sounding so familiar and yet also so new, and Jake's guitar riffs and the rhythm section's bombastic approach was so classic rock, even down to the hopeful hippie lyrics. A cover of Howling Wolf's "Evil" was a distant cousin to "Ramble On," but "Lover Leaver Taker Believer" was a kissing cousin to "Whole Lotta Love." Hard rock fans have been waiting nearly 50 years for a Led Zeppelin reunion, but it is not going to happen -- ever -- and this has opened the market for the birth of a smoking doppelganger, Greta Van Fleet. The next tour could be an arena tour.

Visit Greta Van Fleet at www.gretavanfleet.com.

Setlist:
  1. Talk On The Streets
  2. Black Smoke Rising
  3. Edge of Darkness
  4. When The Cold Wind Blows
  5. Flower Power
  6. You're the One
  7. Evil (Howlin’ Wolf cover)
  8. Mountain Of The Sun
  9. Watching Over (dedicated to Tom Petty)
  10. Lover Leaver Taker Believer
Encore:
  1. Highway Tune
  2. Safari Song

Saturday, December 2, 2017

M.A.K.U. Soundsystem at Dröm

Transplanted in New York City, two natives of Bogotá, Columbia, guitarist Camilo Rodriguez and drummer Andrés Jimenez, met at a workshop on traditional music from the northern coast of Colombia. They played together for nearly four years before they arrived at a concept for M.A.K.U. Soundsystem. This would be a band that would fuse traditional Colombian rhythms and 1970s West African afrobeat with reggae, hip-hop, funk, and jazz. They adapted the band name as a tribute to the Nukak Maku, an indigenous tribe in their native country that lived with no outside contact until the late 1980s. Formed in 2010 in Queens, New York, M.A.K.U. Soundsystem presently consists of Rodriguez, Jimenez, vocalist/bassist Juan "Prodigio ArribetiaoOspina, also of Bogotá, and two natives of Barranquilla, Colombia,  vocalist/percussionist Liliana "Lana Baja" Conde and percussionist Moris Cañate. M.A.K.U. Soundsystem's third and most recent studio album, Mezcla, was released on May 27, 2016.

M.A.K.U. Soundsystem performed a midnight set at Dröm tonight, melding tribal vocals, psychedelic guitar, hoodoo rhythms, and a dance-party spirit into a genre-defying trance-like jam. Many of the lyrics were in Spanish, but many times the choruses seemed to be repetitious interjections designed to boost the band's prominent percussion-led grooves. Particularly now that the band no longer has a horn section or a synthesizer player, the scaled-back band relied more on sway than punch, and the now simpler arrangements were smooth, bouncy and hypnotic. Ultimately, this was a borderless world music for freeing the mind and shaking the body.

Visit M.A.K.U. Soundsystem at www.makusoundsystem.com.

Steve Miller, Jimmie Vaughan & Charlie Musselwhite at the Rose Theater

Steve Miller (left) and Jimmie Vaughan
Steve Miller was born into a family of musicians in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and at age five learned his first guitar chords from his godfather, electric guitar pioneer Les Paul. In 1950, the Miller family moved to Dallas, Texas, where blues legend T-Bone Walker taught the nine-year-old Steve to play lead guitar. As a young man, Miller moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he further developed his blues chops, playing with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, and Paul Butterfield. After leading several blues-rock bands, in 1966 Miller formed the Steve Miller Band (initially called the Steve Miller Blues Band) and enjoyed a series of hits in the 1970s. Miller was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.The Steve Miller Band's 17th and most recent studio album is 2011's Let Your Hair Down.

Miller moved to New York three years ago and is the curator for a series of nine blues concerts for Jazz at Lincoln Center. The third program, entitled The Blues Triangle: Memphis, Texas, Chicago, sold out two consecutive nights at the Rose Theater and featured a shared collaboration with guitarist Jimmie Vaughan (The Fabulous Thunderbirds) and harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite. They were joined by pianist Shelly Berg, organist Mike Flanigin, trumpeter Michael Rodriguez, alto saxophonist Patrick Bartley, tenor saxophonist Craig Handy, baritone saxophonist Lauren Sevian, bassist Yasushi Nakamura, and drummer Sonny Emory. Together, they took the audience through a concert program inspired by Miller's own musical footsteps. Between songs, Miller offered a condensed history of the blues and explained the differences between the music created in the three blues hubs decades ago. Hence, rather than showcasing new songs and flashy musical prowess, the program was committed to the education and preservation of an American art form. As such, the program succeeded, in that Miller and company ably performed personalized treatments of obscure and vintage compositions.