Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Owl City at Irving Plaza

Adam Young & Matt Thiessen
Adam Young was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, but raised in Owatonna, Minnesota, where he began composing melodies in his head while loading trucks at a shipping warehouse. Suffering from insomnia, he would come home from work and record these melodies in his studio in his parents' basement and upload the finished songs to social media under the moniker Owl City. Young compiled some of his songs first for an Owl City EP in 2007 and then a debut album in 2008, both of which received some national attention. Owl City gained mainstream popularity in 2009 with the six-time platinum single "Fireflies" and the platinum album Ocean Eyes. Owl City's sixth and most recent album, Cinematic, was released on June 1, 2018.

The stage at Irving Plaza tonight was littered with a vast array of musical instruments, all of which were played by Adam Young, even on the opening song. Throughout the evening, Young moved quickly from various synthesizers to keytar to guitar to vibraphone to drums and then back to keyboards, looping some of his riffs along the way in order to build multi-layered rhythms. Though Young established early that there was hardly a need for a band, he was accompanied by two nearly invisible musicians for part of the set, and opening act Matt Thiessen (of Relient K) dueted on vocals for the encore. The set was loaded with new songs, with Young playing 10 of the 15 songs on Cinematic, plus eight songs from previous albums. Young sang in fine voice, and his shuffling between instruments was almost acrobatic, keeping the stage show vibrant. With so many musical washes happening at once, Young's sailing melodies provided the anchor for his dense arrangements. Owl CIty's good-time brand of soft synth-pop indietronica could not have been executed any better.

Visit Owl City at

  1. Bird with a Broken Wing
  2. Verge
  3. The Real World
  4. Firebird
  5. Cloud Nine
  6. Montana
  7. On the Wing
  8. Hello Seattle
  9. Early Birdie
  10. Fiji Water
  11. Can You Feel the Love Tonight (Elton John cover)
  12. Be Brave
  13. Fireflies
  14. Not All Heroes Wear Capes
  15. New York City
  16. Madeline Island
  17. Cave In
  18. Cinematic
  1. All My Friends

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Hippo Campus at Public Arts

Jake Luppen
The members of Hippo Campus met as students in a performing arts high school in St. Paul, Minnesota. Vocalist/guitarist Jake Luppen and bassist Zach Sutton played in a band called Blatant Youth and guitarist/vocalist Nathan Stocker and drummer Whistler Allen were in a band called Northern, and the two bands sometimes played shows together. The two guitarists started jamming together secretly during senior year and ultimately formed a new indie rock band that would be called Hippo Campus in 2013. Trumpet player DeCarlo Jackson, who attended school with the other members, performs on the band's live dates. Hippo Campus released its second full-length album, Bambi, on August 23, 2018.

Hippo Campus headlined Public Arts tonight with a set of lively pop tunes that had more spring than a trampoline. Even a song with a morbid title, "Suicide Saturday," was packed with more rebound than a bounce house. The songs featured a full wall of sound, with carefully planted anthem-like crescendos designed for crowd sing-alongs. The arrangements also allowed for unexpected bridges and breaks, including several trumpet excursions and complex chord progressions. Below the overarching waves of happiness that flavored the entire set, these young musicians (all in their early 20s) crafted a conspicuous undercurrent of interesting vocals and intriguing musicianship that made the songs far more than Top 40 fodder. Hippo Campus is bound to be added to major festival lineups next summer.

Visit Hippo Campus at

Monday, September 17, 2018

The MC50 at Irving Plaza

Wayne Kramer
MC5 (an acronym for Motor City Five) formed in 1964 in Lincoln Park, Michigan. In contrast to the British Invasion pop music popular at the time, the teenagers who comprised the band (originally known as the Bounty Hunters) began incorporating free jazz into their garage rock, and with time also embraced the emerging hard rock, blues rock, and psychedelic rock trends. By 1967, the MC5 was known locally for its loud and energetic back-to-basics rock and roll, its radical leftist political ties, and its anti-establishment lyrics. The band first gained national notoriety after performing at the riotous protests outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois. The band gained additional national attention later that year when its debut album, Kick Out the Jams, included profanity. The MC5 was short-lived, however, and split in 1972. Decades later, reunions included various original members. This year, MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer formed a new band, MC50, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of MC5's debut album. MC50 also includes vocalist Marcus Durant (of Zen Guerrilla), guitarist Kim Thayil (of Soundgarden), bassist Billy Gould (of Faith No More), and drummer Brendan Canty (of Fugazi).

MC50's "Kick Out the Jams: The 50th Anniversary Tour" came to Irving Plaza tonight, and as promised the set consisted of the complete Kick Out the Jams album (which was only eight songs) plus a sampling from the band's less successful 1970 and 1971 albums. Despite the solid credentials of his musicians, the show seemed to be all about ringmaster Kramer. Appearing extremely happy throughout the set, the frequently smiling Kramer rocked extended lead guitar riffs that powered every song, and his flashy stage manner often dwarfed the showmanship of his vocalist. Kramer's glittering guitar work merited the attention, as it rebirthed the old songs with electrifying magnetism while the other musicians more than ably supported him and the vintage songs. The performance was far more than a revisit to a 50-year-old album; this was an opportunity for an exceptional ensemble to offer tribute to a landmark rock and roll rebellion.

Visit the MC50 at

  1. Ramblin’ Rose
  2. Kick Out the Jams
  3. Come Together
  4. Motor City Is Burning
  5. Rocket Reducer No. 62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa)
  6. Borderline
  7. I Want You Right Now
  8. Starship
  9. I Can Only Give You Everything (Them cover)
  10. Sister Anne
  11. High School
  12. Shakin’ Street
  13. Future/Now
  14. Call Me Animal
  15. The American Ruse
  1. Looking at You
  2. Let Me Try

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The The at Brooklyn Steel, Brooklyn

Matt Johnson spent much of his youth in or around his family's pub in London, England. At age 11, he was in a band, Roadstar, and at age 15 left school in order to learn his trade in a recording studio. In 1977, the teenager posted a classified ad in a local music newspaper seeking like-minded musicians to form a band with him. While trying to get his band going, in 1978 Johnson recorded a demo solo album. The The began performing live as a duo in 1979, using backing tape tracks for the drums and bass.  In 1981 Johnson became a solo artist using the group moniker. The The then became a full band in 1988, and then a duo in 2002, before Johnson went into recluse in 2003, quietly recording numerous film soundtracks. Some followers might argue that the The was always a singular entity, a nom-de-studio vehicle for Johnson. In any case, Johnson has been the The's only constant band member. The The's fifth and most recent non-soundtrack studio album released (in contrast to numerous albums that were recorded and never released) is 2000's Nakedself.

The The's first full tour in 18 years included New York shows at Brooklyn Steel and the Beacon Theatre, with a band that consisted of vocalist/guitarist Matt Johnson, lead guitarist Barrie Cadogan, keyboardist DC Collard, bassist James Eller and drummer Earl Harvin. The set comprised songs from each of the band's released albums, including "I Saw the Light" from a 1995 album of Hank Williams covers. What has changed is that the music was no longer new wave, post punk or any sort of alternative rock. The songs were performed in largely mellow and mainstream dad-rock arrangements, with Johnson's rich baritone leading the way and the band supplying the oomf to make them burnished and buoyant. Electronic, mechanical and synthesized sounds were diminished compared to earlier recordings and tours. Many of the social commentaries in the Thatcher-era lyrics remained relevant (1986’s "Heartland" included the lyrics: “Let the poor drink the milk while the rich eat the honey, let the bums count their blessings while the rich count the money"), but now the tone was more reflective than resistant. For nearly two hours the The performed a warm and classy set of songs with clever arrangements for the contemporary age.

Visit the The at

  1. Global Eyes
  2. Sweet Bird of Truth
  3. Flesh and Bones
  4. Heartland
  5. The Beat(en) Generation
  6. Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)
  7. We Can't Stop What's Coming
  8. Beyond Love
  9. Love Is Stronger Than Death
  10. Dogs of Lust
  11. Helpline Operator
  12. This Is the Night
  13. This Is the Day
  14. Soul Catcher
  15. Bugle Boy
  16. Slow Emotion Replay
  17. I Saw the Light (Hank Williams cover)
  18. Like a Sun Risin Thru My Garden
  19. Infected
  20. I've Been Waitin' for Tomorrow (All of My Life)
  1. True Happiness This Way Lies
  2. Uncertain Smile
  3. Lonely Planet

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Cold Waves NY

In the summer of 2012 in Chicago, Illinois, sound engineer Jamie Duffy, a key personality in the local electronic and metal music communities, committed suicide. In need of healing and hope, 14 bands gathered for a memorial concert to say goodbye and raise money for Duffy’s family. That concert launched an annual music festival called Cold Waves. Cold Waves is now a traveling multi-day festival celebrating Chicago's relationship with industrial music and, perhaps more significantly, a fundraiser for suicide awareness and prevention charities.

The Cold Waves festival expanded in 2017 from Chicago to Los Angeles, California, and in 2018 the Cold Waves festival came to New York City for two nights at Irving Plaza (September 13 & 14) and one night at Gramercy Theater (September 15). After the three New York dates, the festival traveled to Chicago (September 21-23) and Los Angeles (September 27-29). Performers in all three cities included Meat Beat Manifesto, Frontline Assembly, ohGr (aka Skinny Puppy’s Nivek Ogre and Mark Walk), Lead into Gold, Chemlab, and others.

Over the past seven years, some of the biggest acts in industrial, darkwave, cold wave and post-punk music have performed at the Cold Wave festivals. These have included KMFDM, Godflesh, Front 242, Stabbing Westward, Fear Factory, Prong, Pop Will Eat Itself, and <PIG>. The festivals also introduced newer acts, including High Functioning Flesh, Youth Code, HIDE, and Author & Punisher.

The festivals also connected and supported nightlife workers suffering from depression, addiction, suicidal tendencies and other mental health issues. A portion of the proceeds this year benefitted Darkest before Dawn, which connects mental health resources, emotional support, counseling, and community to nightlife, restaurant and music venue staff, whose late hours and isolated commutes leave them susceptible to depression, addiction and suicide. Data supports this demographic as having little to no mental health insurance options.

Visit Cold Waves at
Lead into Gold
Author & Punisher
Meat Beat Manifesto
The Black Queen
Frontline Assembly

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Killing Joke at Irving Plaza

Geordie Walker  & Jaz Coleman
Vocalist Jeremy "Jaz" Coleman  was born in Cheltenham, England, studied piano and violin until age 17, and was a member of several cathedral choirs in England. Coleman and drummer Paul Ferguson left another band in 1978 to form post-punk band Killing Joke in Notting Hill, London. Placing a classified ad in a local music newspaper, the pair recruited guitarist Geordie Walker and bassist Martin Glover (aka Youth), and debuted as a live band in 1979. Killing Joke's recordings and tours quickly became popular in England. After 10 albums, Killing Joke split in 1996, and then reunited in 2002. Coleman and Walker have been the only constant members of the band, but since 2008 the band has consisted of all four original members. Killing Joke's 15th and most recent studio album, is 2015's Pylon.

Killing Joke's tour celebrates the band's 40th anniversary. At Irving Plaza tonight, Killing Joke included touring keyboardist Reza Uhdin. The set married old songs with selections from more recent albums, providing a panorama of the band's history rather than locking on one period. This allowed the band to showcase many its styles, from brash industrial metal to more sedate synth-pop and gothic-rock. The bulk of the show inclined heavily on the denser, aggressive ragers that kept the audience bopping to frenetic beats. Coleman bellowed, Walker played icy riffs, Glover's overly-loud bass pumped scales, Ferguson hit tribal-sounding beats, and Uhdin's electronic wash provided an undercurrent of sleekness. Just as the grooves settled into the hypnotic, Coleman would interrupt with a savage shout. Kudos for a 40-year-old band that remains provocative and continues to reinvent itself.

Visit Killing Joke at

  1. Love Like Blood
  2. European Super State
  3. Autonomous Zone
  4. Eighties
  5. New Cold War
  6. Requiem
  7. Follow the Leaders
  8. Butcher
  9. Loose Cannon
  10. Labyrinth
  11. Corporate Elect
  12. Asteroid
  13. The Wait
  14. Pssyche
  1. S.O.36
  2. Primitive
  3. The Death and Resurrection Show
  4. Wardance
  5. Pandemonium

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Dead Boys at the Bowery Electric

Jake Hout
In 1974 and 1975, a band called Frankenstein, later Rocket from the Tombs, was adapting some of the new punk rock sound in Cleveland, Ohio. The time came in 1976 for the band to try its merit in the thriving New York City punk scene. The band adopted a new name, the Dead Boys, which came from the Rocket from the Tombs song "Down In Flames," and gained a rapid following at CBGB's. The Dead Boys moved to New York, recorded two studio albums, but commercial success did not happen and the band split in 1979, reuniting occasionally in the late 1980s. In 1990, vocalist Stiv Bators (Steve Bator)  died in France from injuries sustained after having been hit by a taxi; the remaining band members reformed for a few shows in 2004 and 2005. With the band's legacy still strong in 2017, lead guitarist Cheetah Chrome (Gene O'Connor), who had been playing Dead Boys songs live as part of his own set, and drummer Johnny Blitz (John Madansky) formed a new Dead Boys for a 40th anniversary tour. The new band also includes vocalist Jake Hout, who led a Dead Boys tribute band, rhythm guitarist Jason "Ginchy" Kottwitz and bassist Ricky Rat. The new band  released Still Snotty: Young, Loud and Snotty at 40, a re-recording of the Dead Boys' debut album, on September 8, 2017.

The Dead Boys' performance tonight at the Bowery Electric was the third time around in about a year, and it is likely that this 40th anniversary tour may last a few more years. Played no new songs, the new Dead Boys authentically revived the spirit of the original band but with a sound that was cleaner and slicker than the original band ever was. This in itself was both a blessing and a curse: a blessing because the audience enjoyed a driving concert by a band of real musicians, and a curse because, well, these seasoned professionals understandably could not thoroughly reproduce the daring creative experimentation of the original upstarts during the first wave of the punk rock era. The band started the set with its best known song, "Sonic Reducer," and transported the audience to an earlier epoch right through to "Son of Sam." Hout even provided moments of danger when he climbed to and swung into the audience from the overhead pipes. A good time was had by all. If the first Dead Boys had performed as tightly and as polished as the 2018 lineup, perhaps the originals would have crossed over to mainstream audiences.

  1. Sonic Reducer
  2. All This and More
  3. What Love Is
  4. Not Anymore
  5. Ain't Nothing to Do
  6. Caught with the Meat in Your Mouth
  7. Calling on You
  8. Flame Thrower Love
  9. I Won't Look Back
  10. I Need Lunch
  11. High Tension Wire
  12. Down in Flames
  1. Ain't It Fun
  2. Son of Sam

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Alice Cooper at the Beacon Theatre

Alice Cooper with Calico Cooper
As a child in Detroit, Michigan, Vincent Furnier dreamed of playing left field in the Detroit Tigers baseball team, but following a series of childhood illnesses, he moved with his family to Phoenix, Arizona. In 1964, 16-year-old Furnier formed a group for a local talent show. The high schoolers named themselves the Earwigs, dressed in costumes and wigs to resemble the Beatles, and performed several parodies of Beatles songs. The group won the talent show. Encouraged, the members decided to become a real band, the Spiders, and performed regularly around the Phoenix area until they relocated to Los Angeles, California. Seeking a gimmick to succeed, they chose the name Alice Cooper because it sounded wholesome, in humorous contrast to the band's horror-inspired shock rock stage show. In 1970, frustrated by Californians' indifference to the band, Alice Cooper relocated to Pontiac, Michigan, where the theatrical performances developed a Midwestern following. Alice Cooper achieved international success in 1971 with a series of hits beginning with "I'm Eighteen." The band split in 1974, however, and Furnier legally changed his name to Alice Cooper. He was now a solo act with an even bigger stage show, alongside cameo roles in movies and a recurring guest spot on television's Hollywood Squares and side identities as a golf celebrity, restaurateur, radio show host, Little League coach, and, as a running gag, presidential candidate. Among numerous notable awards, Cooper as an individual was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003, and the original Alice Cooper band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. Alice Cooper's 27th and most recent studio album, Paranormal, was released on July 28, 2017.

Alice Cooper's stage show constantly evolves, yet tonight's concert at the Beacon Theatre, was yet another romp in campy horror backed with solid hard rock music. Accompanied by guitarists Ryan Roxie, Nita Strauss and Tommy Henriksen, bassist Chuck Garric, drummer Glen Sobel, and Cooper's daughter, Calico Cooper, as dancer and "evil nurse," Cooper might have found his best band ever. Cooper sang in his snarly and raspy voice his tongue-in-cheek songs about monsters and teenage angst, and the exceptional guitar team played dazzling, head-spinning leads and crunching riffs. While the guillotine, straitjacket, Frankenstein monster and other props justifiably commanded attention, the musicians were respectably show-worthy on their own. There was never a dull moment visually nor sonically. In the end, there is nothing else in rock music quite like an Alice Cooper concert.

Visit Alice Cooper at

  1. Brutal Planet
  2. No More Mr. Nice Guy
  3. Under My Wheels
  4. Billion Dollar Babies
  5. Grim Facts
  6. Lost in America
  7. Serious
  8. Fallen in Love
  9. Woman of Mass Distraction
  10. (Guitar solo by Nita Strauss)
  11. Poison
  12. Halo of Flies (with drum solo by Glen Sobel)
  13. Feed My Frankenstein
  14. Cold Ethyl
  15. Only Women Bleed
  16. Paranoiac Personality
  17. Ballad of Dwight Fry
  18. Killer (partial)
  19. I Love the Dead (band vocals only)
  20. I'm Eighteen
  1. School's Out (interspersed with a snippet of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2"; Mike Myers joined near the end of song)

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Richard Thompson at the Loft at City Winery

Richard Thompson was born in West London, England, where he formed his first band, Emil and the Detectives, with classmate Hugh Cornwell, later lead singer and guitarist of the Stranglers, on bass guitar. At age 18, Thompson joined the newly formed Fairport Convention and debuted as a recording artist in that band in 1967. Thompson left Fairport Convention in 1971, did extensive session work, released his first solo album in 1972, and paired with his then-wife as Richard & Linda Thompson in 1973. The couple split in 1982, and Richard Thompson resumed a solo career in 1983. His 18th studio album, 13 Rivers, will become available on September 14, 2018. Since 1985, his home base has been in California.

Radio station WFUV hosted Richard Thompson’s solo acoustic performance tonight at the Loft at City Winery and recorded it for later broadcast. As such, the program lasted about an hour and included an interview facilitated by air personality Darren DiVivo. Thompson’s set consisted mostly of songs from his forthcoming album. Thompson's singing was superbly tasteful, highlighting earthy and deeply emotive tones that complemented the soft-spoken character he exhibited as he chatted between songs. The new songs further distanced him from his earlier, more personal lyrics, however; he humorously introduced a new song by saying that he did not know what the lyrics were about. The new songs did not feature Thompson's signature hybrid picking, where he plays bass notes and rhythm with a pick between his first finger and thumb, and adds melody and punctuation by plucking the treble strings with his fingers, but the encore of "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" featured this pick and fingers technique in abundance. While the performance and interview format was pleasnat, the 10-song set seemed skimpy for an admission priced at $50.

Visit Richard Thompson at

  1. Trying
  2. The Rattle Within
  3. My Rock, My Rope
  4. Bones of Gilead
  5. The Storm Won't Come
  6. Her Love Was Meant for Me
  7. Back Street Slide (Richard & Linda Thompson cover)
  8. A Love You Can't Survive
  1. 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
  2. Dry My Tears and Move On

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Orgy at the Gramercy Theatre

Jay Gordon
Born in San Francisco, California, vocalist Jay Gordon formed Orgy in 1998 in Los Angeles, California, Orgy hit immediately with a remake of New Order's "Blue Monday," as the track sold more than one million copies. After three albums, however, Orgy splintered in 2005, but Gordon reformed the brand with a new lineup in 2011. The present Orgy lineup consists of Gordon, guitarists Carlton Bost and Ilia Yordanov, bassist Nic Speck, and drummer Ryan Browne. Orgy released a single, "Army to Your Party," on May 11, 2018, ahead of its forthcoming album, at present entitled #newmusic.

"Orgy Tuesday," the only two words on the marquee of the Gramercy Theatre tonight, might have raised the curiosity of neighborhood residents, but the hard rockers and industrial music fans inside the venue knew the score. Orgy's Bring Your Army tour saw the revamped band play many of its best known songs plus its one new single. An animated Gordon sang the familiar mid-tempo pop melodies to the band's grinding riffs and banging beats, and the new song showed that Gordon viably used Orgy's signature sound responsibly to lead the new roster into trademarked territory. Orgy's set was tight and energetic, but without solos or playfulness from the musicians, the show seemed overly centered on the singer, as the musicians crunched the appropriate backing. On every song, Gordon incessantly and pointlessly paced the stage left to right and back again and again and again, dozens and dozens of times. This reviewer found this activity exceedingly aimless and annoying, and would have enjoyed the concert more if he was not constantly twisting his neck to follow the singer's non-stop side-to-side strides.

Visit Orgy at

  1. Suckerface
  2. Dissention
  3. Gface
  4. Suck It
  5. Talk Sick
  6. Fetisha
  7. Comeback
  8. Opticon
  9. Fiction (Dreams In Digital)
  10. Army to Your Party
  11. Revival
  12. Stitches
  13. Blue Monday (New Order cover)

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Etherius at Mercury Lounge

Hailing from Perth Amboy, New Jersey, Jay Tarantino was 13 years old when a friend started playing guitar. Tarantino wanted to learn to play drums so that they could form a band, but fearing the racket Tarantino's parents instead gave him an acoustic guitar and paid for his lessons. Tarantino played in the New Jersey metal circuit and received his first professional opportunity when virtuoso guitarist Angel Vivaldi hired him as his rhythm guitarist. After nine years with Vivaldi, Tarantino had collected a sufficient amount of original riffs and melodies and decided in 2016 to record demo tapes for a solo album. He sought musicians to help him realize his goal, but then the four musicians became an all-instrumental band, Etherius, in 2017. Etherius’ debut EP, Thread of Life, was released on August 24, 2018. Etherius presently consists of Tarantino, guitarist Jon Perkins, bassist Chris Targia and drummer Zaki Ali.

Etherius was a studio project before it ever became a touring band, so the performance tonight at Mercury Lounge proved limited in stage dynamics but protein-filled in musicianship. Although the audience was very close to the rather low stage, the band was disconnected. None of the musicians ever really acknowledged or played to the audience; instead they usually closed their eyes or looked at their instruments or at each other. The perfection of the music, on the other hand, was the ultimate take away. Tarantino's musical arrangements often latched onto power metal melodies and old school metal riffs. The compositions were strong and somewhat novel in today's market. Many songs were fast, but this was not necessarily the band's signature sound. The band fluidly embraced long-standing thrash, prog and neo-classical structures without resorting to the newer djent, electronic and symphonic elements trending in instrumental metal circles. As such, the songs were relatively short in length but long in shredding. Once the musicians learn to feel comfortable at working their audience, Etherius may grow far beyond niche status.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Underhill Family Orchestra at the Bowery Electric

Guitarist Steven Laney and vocalist Joelle Rosen conceived of the Americana-rocking Underhill Family Orchestra in 2010 in Mobile, Alabama. Underhill was a name in Laney's family tree, Family because that is what they hoped to build with both the other musicians and their audience, and Orchestra because at one time they had about 10 members in the band. Early on, the rapidly-changing lineup recorded two albums, but recently scrapped all of these early recordings and even the band's history from the internet so as to reconstruct a new identity with the release of the Tell Me That You Love Me album on May 4, 2018. The band’s roster presently consists of Laney, Rosen,  guitarist/mandolin player Ben Cook, bassist Joe Grove, and drummer Roy Durand.

Backstage at the Bowery Electric tonight, the band members as usual painted white stripes on their faces as a sign of solidarity. Onstage, this solidarity was articulated musically by Appalachian-styled four- and five-part harmony. The band performed a raucous set of uptempo stomp-and-holler folk tunes that sounded like they originated on a familial, rural back porch or in a barn. While not at all sounding old-timey, the performance had an organic, roots-infused grit that captured the essence of America's heartland. Big, soulful vocal arrangements and bombastic drums then turned many of these songs into anthem-like arena-rockers. Presumably, once the band gains a New York following, we shall see many in the local audience joining the family and painting white stripes on their faces.

Visit the Underhill Family Orchestra at

Friday, August 31, 2018

Howard Hewett at City Winery

Raised in Akron, Ohio, Howard Hewett started singing as a child fronting his older sisters in the Hewett Singers, touring the local gospel circuit, and as a teen, he sang in a funk band called Lyfe. In 1976, Hewett moved to Los Angeles, California, where he co-founded a show group called Beverly Hills and toured throughout Europe and Asia in 1977-78. In 1978, however, he was invited to join Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniel in Shalamar. From 1979 to 1985, Hewett sang lead on a streak of hit songs. When the trio split in 1985, Hewett launched a series of solo recordings, a trajectory which started with a bang but subsequently fizzled. In the mid-1990s, Hewett was back on the airwaves, singing on albums by Joe Sample, Brian Culbertson, George Duke, the Rippingtons, Teena Marie, and others. His most recent album, Howard Hewett Christmas, was released in 2008.

Howard Hewett returned to New York City after an extended absence to headline at City Winery tonight. Accompanied by a keyboardist and backing tracks, Hewett's concert pivoted on the sweetness of his tenor vocals. Operating now apart from Hollywood's music industry manipulators, Hewett's performance was all about who he is in real time. Throughout the set, Hewett's style transcended times and trends; although Shalamar started during the disco era, Hewett was always the classic balladeer, crooning romantic songs for those who beheld and believed in the mysterious power of love. Whether engaging the audience from the edge of the stage or sitting reflectively on a stool, his songs pondered and celebrated the draw and the challenges of an amorous relationship. Towards the end of his set, he began singing from the audience, singing to his fans almost eyeball to eyeball. When he concluded with a string of Shalamar hits, he sang the familiar lyric, "this is for the lover in you." Actually, his tender vocals had carried that message all evening.

Visit Howard Hewett at

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Plimsouls at the Bowery Electric

After leaving the Nerves, whose 1976 single "Hangin' on the Telephone" was later popularized by Blondie, vocalist/guitarist Peter Case formed the Tone Dogs, which became the Plimsouls. The Plimsouls started as a power pop trio in 1978 in Paramount, California, and shortly before recording an EP in 1980 the band added lead guitarist Eddie Munoz of the Skunks, a band from Austin, Texas. The Plimsouls achieved regional popularity first, then national popularity in 1983 when the song "A Million Miles Away" was included on Valley Girl's motion picture soundtrack. Case then left the band to pursue a solo career, effectively ending the Plimsouls until a variation of the band recorded a little-noticed album in 1996. Munoz periodically assembles a touring band to play the Plimsouls' music. The current band consists of Munoz, vocalist/guitarist Richard Dev Greene (Pale Moon Gang, Palmyra Delran), bassist Cait O’Riordan (The Pogues, Bitchface), and drummer Florent Barbier (The Road Runners, Ivan Julian). The Plimsouls' most recent album, Beach Town Confidential, recorded live in 1983, was released in 2012.

The Plimsouls returned to the Bowery Electric tonight, and did right by the brand's legacy. Deriving the set principally from the Plimsouls' first two albums, the band brought life to the 35-year-old songs. Slicker than the initial versions, the songs were now more polished guitar-led pop than the original garage rockers. Greene was an animated front person, keeping the visual element lively, and Munoz offered exuberant guitar blasts to electrify the old catalogue. The encore was different, however, with O'Riordan first singing the Pogues' "Haunted" and then the band covering Iggy Pop's "I Wanna Be Your Dog." Thirty five years later, the music of the Plimsouls is still all about rock and roll.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Dead Daisies at the Highline Ballroom

Marco Mendoza, Doug Aldrich, David Lowy, John Corabi
David Lowy played rhythm guitar in pub bands in his native Sydney, Australia, but spent most of his adult life as a successful business investor. In 2013, he co-founded the first line-up of the Dead Daisies, a collective of rotating musicians, to play classic rock-sounding original songs. Lowy has been the Dead Daisies' sole consistent and perhaps least known member, but solidly and successfully has maintained his vision of replacing departing members with seasoned rockers. The present personnel consists of Lowy, vocalist John Corabi (Mötley Crüe/The Scream), lead guitarist Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake/Dio), bassist Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy/Whitesnake), and drummer Deen Castronovo (Journey, Bad English). The Dead Daisies' fourth studio album, Burn It Down, was released on April 6, 2018.

The Dead Daisies did not exist until decades after the classic hard rock era of the late 1970s and early 1980s, but at the Highline Ballroom tonight, the band impressively mastered that epic vintage sound. Hard rocking songs, powered by sharp vocals, clear melodies, bluesy riffs, sizzling guitar work, and big choruses, the music had a familiar and even nostalgic sound, and yet the band's high-energy performance made it very present. Along with original songs from the Dead Daisies albums, the band sprinkled cover songs over the nearly two-hour set because, as Corabi explained to the audience, the musicians are fans of classic rock as well. These songs included Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son," the Rolling Stones' "Bitch" and the Beatles' "Helter Skelter." Each band member demonstrated matured skills from years of playing hard rock music, and so the individual musicianship was dazzling and the unified ensemble playing folded flawlessly together. For the encore, the band membership temporarily expanded to include the opener, keyboardist Dizzy Reed of Guns N Roses, who had been a member of the Dead Daisies from 2013 to 2016. "Once a Daisy, always a Daisy," commented Corabi.

Visit the Dead Daisies at

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Afropunk Festival 2018 at Commodore Barry Park, Day Two

The 2018 Afropunk Festival continued its legacy of recent years in creating a weekend-long event that celebrated alternative trends in Black-centric music, the arts, fashion, political activism and culture. The main attractions were the concert performances by Kaytranada, Miguel, Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae, Tyler the Creator, the Internet, and nearly 40 more performing artists, dance music sets by 25 disc jockeys, kiosks hosted by grassroots community activists, installations by artists, and food and merchandise sold by local entrepreneurs. The biggest draw, however, might have been the audience itself; it seemed like 60,000 people carefully planned their look for Afropunk 2018.

The Afropunk  Festival debuted in 2005 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where non-mainstream punk and rock bands featuring musicians of color showcased their music as an alternative to the largely white punk and rock scene. To attract a wider audience, the festival shifted increasingly to include hip hop, neo-soul , blues and other genres, expanding its initial cause along with its target demographic, and moved outdoors to Commodore Barry Park. Musical performers now represent a much wider variety of tastes, yet still primarily reflect breaking African-American artists.

This year, the festival hosted the bulk of its acts on the two larger stages, with a few additional artists on three other stages. One of these side stages was mostly devoted to disc jockeys and another was a block away from the main stages and featured punk bands and a skateboard competition. One section of the park was dedicated to visual arts, another to vendors of fashion and beauty aids, and yet another to community activists.

This year's event was not without its controversies, however. Some people questioned the booking of Tyler the Creator, a rapper reported to have a history of homophobia and lyrics normalizing rape. Also, three attendees were removed from the festival because one wore a t-shirt featuring a handwritten message critical of the event.

Day Two Headlines

  • Angela Davis, a long-time political activist and one-time member of the Black Panthers Party, read social commentary prose to music during Toshi Reagon and Nona Hendryx's PowerJam set.
  • Los Angeles-based hardcore band Trash Talk performed a late afternoon set. The band's vocalist, Lee Spielman, left the stage during the first song and sang most of the set from the center of the circle pit on the basketball court. Unlike a previous Afropunk gig, this year he did not climb high up the stage rigging.
  • Janelle Monáe's set was high on the visuals. She began her set sitting on a throne like a queen with dancers appearing like servants. Throughout the evening, she signaled thematic shifts via wardrobe and hat changes, including vagina pants which she and her dancers wore during “Pynk.”
  • Outrageous fashion was everywhere at Afropunk, but no one outdid Erykah Badu, who came on stage wearing a wide-brimmed hat with long fringes, making her look like a lamp and lampshade.
  • Afropunk 2018 ended with Erykah Badu and Janelle Monáe singing together in the audience.
Chanese Elife
Fuck You Pay Us
Nova Twins
Fantastic Negrito
Royal Sun
Densel Curry
Jacob Banks
Black Pantera
The Fever 333
PowerJam with Angela Davis & Nona Hendry

Pusha T
Trash Talk
Tyler the Creator
Janelle Monae
Twin Shadow
Erykah Badu

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Summer StrummerJam NYC at the Bowery Ballroom

Jesse Malin and his band led a tribute to the music of the late Joe Strummer and the Clash at the Bowery Ballroom on August 25, 2018. Celebrated four days after Strummer would have turned 66, Summer StrummerJam NYC benefited the Joe Strummer Foundation. This was the second of what is becoming an annual series; Malin led a similar event last summer in Asbury Park, New Jersey, which featured guest performances by Brian Fallon, Craig Finn, Ted Leo, and other musicians.

Malin's guest artists this year included Acacia (The Advertisers), Adam Weiner (Low Cut Connie), Cait O'Riordan (The Pogues), Don DiLego, Drew Stone (Antidote), Eugene Hütz (Gogol Bordello), Felice Rosser (Faith), Frank Iero (My Chemical Romance), H.R. (Bad Brains), Jack James, David Strange & Charlotte Kemp Muhl (Uni), Jared Hart (Mercy Union), Joe Hurley (Rogue's March), Joseph Arthur, Kris Gruen, Matty Carlock, Matty Hoboken, Nufolk Rebel Alliance (Pedro Erazo of Gogol Bordello & Leo Minimum Tek of Outernational), R.B. Korbet (King Missile, Pussy Galore), Steve Wynn (The Dream Syndicate), Suzi Gardner (L7), Tommy Stinson (Bash & Pop/The Replacements/Guns N Roses), Binky Griptite (The Dap-Kings), and Willie Nile. Malin and his band backed most of the guest vocalists.

  1. Coma Girl (Joe Strummer cover, with Jesse Malin)
  2. Lover's Rock (The Clash cover, with Cait O'Riordan)
  3. Hateful (The Clash cover, with Tommy Stinson)
  4. Lost in the Supermarket (The Clash cover, with Tommy Stinson)
  5. Complete Control (The Clash cover, with Matty Hoboken)
  6. I Fought the Law (The Crickets cover, with Frank Iero and Evan Nestor)
  7. Safe European Home (The Clash cover, with Drew Stone)
  8. I'm Not Down (The Clash cover, with Liza Colby and Kia Warren)
  9. Gates of the West (The Clash cover, with Jesse Malin)
  10. The Equaliser (The Clash cover, with Felice Rosser and Susan Mitchell)
  11. Janie Jones (The Clash cover, with Kris Gruen)
  12. (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais (The Clash cover, with Joe Hurley and James Mastro)
  13. Should I Stay or Should I Go (The Clash cover, with Uni)
  14. Brand New Cadillac (Vince Taylor and His Playboys cover, with Don DiLego)
  15. Rock the Casbah (The Clash cover, with Amanda Cross)
  16. Police and Thieves (Junior Murvin cover, with H.R.)
  17. White Riot (The Clash cover, with Matty Carlock)
  18. Johnny Appleseed (Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros cover, with Eugene Hütz)
  19. London Calling (The Clash cover, with Nu Folk Rebel Alliance)
  20. Brand New Cadillac (Vince Taylor and His Playboys cover, with Nu Folk Rebel Alliance)
  21. Stay Free (The Clash cover, with Jesse Malin)
  22. I'm So Bored with the U.S.A. (The Clash cover, with Acacia)
  23. Groovy Times (The Clash cover, with Joseph Arthur)
  24. Straight to Hell (The Clash cover, with Binky Griptite)
  25. Hitsville UK (The Clash cover, with Catherine Popper)
  26. The Guns of Brixton (The Clash cover, with Jared Hart)
  27. Tommy Gun (The Clash cover, with R.B. Korbet)
  28. Police on My Back (The Equals cover, with Willie Nile and Johnny Pisano)
  29. Train in Vain (The Clash cover, with Adam Weiner)
  30. Armagideon Time (Willie Williams cover, with Steve Wynn)
  31. Keys to Your Heart (The 101ers cover, with Suzi Gardner)
  32. Rudie Can't Fail (The Clash cover, with most of the guest performers)

Jesse Malin, Felice Rosser, Susan Mitchell
Jesse Malin, Kris Gruen
Jesse Malin, Joe Hurley
Jessie Malin, Uni
Jesse Malin, Don DiLego
Jesse Malin, Randy Schrager, Amanda Cross
Jesse Malin, Randy Schrager, H.R.
Jesse Malin, Matty Carlock
Eugene Hutz
NuFolk Rebel Alliance
Jesse Malin, Acacia
Jesse Malin, Joseph Arthur
Binky Griptite
Jesse Malin, Jared Hart
Jesse Malin, R.B. Korbet
Randy Schrager, Jesse Malin, Willie Nile, Johnny Pisano
Jesse Malin, Adam Weiner
Derek Cruz, Steve Wynn