Sunday, July 08, 2018

U2 @ Madison Square Garden

U2
@ Madison Square Garden
New York, NY - July 8, 2018

Before the show, only have an inkling of what the most recent album sounds like, and based more on recent comments in the news made by Bono, I told my showmate "I wished they were angrier". The subsequent show proved yes, they could stand to be a bit angrier considering what they pride themselves on. They challenged my challenge with a disturbingly lengthy set of clips of Neo-Nazis at Charlottesville (followed by a much shorter clip of Martin Luther King and other civil rights icons - shouldn't the length of time been reversed? I said get angry not commit psychological terrorism). Avoiding The Joshua Tree (silly), the band treated fans to I Will Follow, Sunday Bloody Sunday, One and Elevation in addition to the somber and self-reflective Catholic guilt over their own success that is their current record on promotion.

Spring 2018

Bat Fangs - Turn It Up
Liza Anne - Small Talks
Long Neck - Elizabeth
Nico Vega - Little Operator
Guided by Voices - Space Gun
Public Access T.V. - Lost in the Game
Albert Hammond - Far Away Truths
Hop Along - How Simple
Tancred - Queen of New York
The True Loves - The Dapper Derp
Twin Shadow - Saturdays (ft. Haim)
Wimps - Garbage People
Joshua Hedley - Mr. Jukebox
Shannon and the Clams - The Boy
Caroline Rose - Bikini
Nap Eyes - Everytime the Feeling
Hinds - the Club

Albums:
Superchunk - What a Time to Be Alive
Bat Fangs -Bat Fangs
Neko Case - Hell-On

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Hop Along; Saintseneca; Bat Fangs @ Brooklyn Steel

Hop Along; Saintseneca; Bat Fangs
@ Brooklyn Steel
Brooklyn, NY - May 30, 2018

Frances Quinlan's scratchy, borderline wild voice makes her Philly act Hop Along stand atop any bands who still make sounds like post-Postal Service indie rock. Also the songs are well written, that helps. The set, at a big venue for the likes of them, meaning Frances and co. have hit the relative big time (good for them, well earned), began with a newbie and Hop Along's best song yet, "How Simple". The familiar but new but familiar vibe of the band works live, it's good to have these kids around.

Speaking of starting off with the best, Bat Fangs, my favorite band of the year, started with my favorite song of the year, "Turn It Up" and it was all rock n roll from there. Betsy Wright does with Bat Fangs what she does with Ex Hex, shred like the dickens and sing with ferocious, harmonious beauty. Any band she's in should be the number 1 band in the world.

In between was Saintseneca a long time band I never heard of before. Beautiful harmonies and well played songs help make them more than a Fleet Foxes/Mumford and Sons also-ran.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Early 2018

Bette Smith - I Found Love
The Hold Steady - Entitlement Crew
Rodney Crowell - Shake Your Moneymaker
Superchunk - What A Time To Be Alive
Reina Del Cid - Beverly
L7 - Dispatch from Mar-a-Lago
Hockey Dad - I Wanna Be Everybody
Penguin Prison - Turn It Up
Destroyer - Tinseltown Swimming in Blood
Bahamas - Way With Words
Dude York - Break Up Holiday
The Spook School - Best of Intentions
The James Huunter Six - I Got Eyes
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats - You Worry Me
Alex Lahey - Every Day's the Weekend
The National - Day I Die
Weaves - Walkaway
Stars - Real Thing
Calexico - End of the World With You
Jade Bird - Cathedral
Long Neck - Elizabeth
Brett Dennen - Already Gone
Hippo Campus - Traveler
Sufjan Stevens - John My Beloved-iPhone Demo
Metz - Cellophane
Daniele Luppi & Parquet Courts - Flush (feat. Karen O)
Roadkill Ghost Choir - Classics (Die Young)
Lissie - Blood and Muscle
Tom Misch - Movie
The Autonomics - Southern Funeral
The Social Animals - I Guess in America
Boulevards - DonezoNow Now - Yours
No Age - Soft Collar Fad
Karen O. featuring Michael Kiwanuka - Yo! My Saint
Wolf Parade - You're Dreaming
Inara George - Young Adult
Dan Croll - Tokyo
Erika Wennerstrom - Extraordinary Love
Ezra Furman - Love You So Bad
Goodbye June - Liberty Mother
Moby - Motherless Child
Gord Downie - A Natural
Rural Alberta Advantage - Brother
Brandi Carlile - The Joke
Lady Lark - Love
Sondre Lerche - I Know Something That's Gonna Break Your Heart (solo)
Orquesta Akokán - Mambo Rapidito
Glen Hansard - Roll on Slow
Mt. Joy - Silver Lining
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Mainland
Last Import - One a Day
Breckin' - The Story Bridge

Albums:
Superchunk - What A Time to Be Alive
Bat Fangs - Bat Fangs

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Elvis Costello and the Attractions @ Brooklyn Steel

Elvis Costello and the Attractions
@ Brooklyn Steel
Brooklyn, NY - March 7, 2018

Not rain nor sleet nor snow could keep Elvis and company and a strong number of fans from this rather intimate show at the 1800 person standing room only old warehouse off the beaten path (well, not that off the beaten path at all, just far away in 3 inches of slushy ice whipped by winds).

Playing from across the whole span of his career, E.C. had the boys in fine form, which usually means "it's like the Mocambo in '77!" but for the first time, one had the first whisps of Age. Only in that Elvis' penchant for rumination seems more like that of an older man than it ever has before and he's really starting to make use of that big sign of rock aging - youthful back-up singers (though his career-long love of all kinds of music should be factored into the presence of the singers). But Mellow Costello is still a rock n roll fiend. You get the vibe enough and you can feel that "Radio Radio" is coming after "Miracle Man". But that also means some surprises ("Green Shirt") and at long last, at least by this fan's lights and experiences", Blood & Chocolate, his last perfect record is finally getting its due with not one but two appearances ("I Want You", not an unfamiliar one but we also got "Blue Chair" which nearly had my knees buckling).

After the Imperial Bedroom do-up the year before last, it was good to hear from other records again. And the Face In the Crowd Broadway songs are definitely ready for their close-up. The cherry on top was the announcement that yeah why not let's make another record for old times sake. History indicates it will have at least one fan going "it's like the Mocambo in '77!"

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Top 25 Songs of 2017

25: Scott H. Biram - Long Old Time"
24: Ted Leo - "You're Like Me"
23: Bash & Pop - Not This Time"
22: Alvvays - "In Undertow"
21: White Reaper - "Judy French"
20: Future Islands - "Ran"
19: Joyce Manor: "Fake I.D"
18: The National - "Day I Die"
17: Shout Out Louds - "Oh Oh"
16: Surfer Blood - "Matter of Time"
15: Jaime Wyatt - "Wishing Well"
14: Ted Leo - "Anthems of None"
13: Chuck Prophet - "Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins"
12: Split Single - "Untry Love"
11: Sleaford Mods - "TCR"
10: Japandroids - "Near to the Wild Side of Life"
9: Teksti-TV 666 - "Silmät kiinni ja kädet ristiin"
8: Nikki Lane - "Jackpot"
7: Kevin Morby - "1 2 3 4"
6: Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs - "Tough"
5: Now, Now - "SGL"
4: Waxahatchee - "Never Been Wrong"
3: The Paper Kites - "Electric Indigo"
2: Lo Tom - "Overboard"
1: Superchunk - "Up Against the Wall"

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Autumn and the rest of 2017

The National - The Day I Die
The National - The System Dreams in Total Darkness
Alex Lahey - Every Day's The Weekend
Ted Leo - Anthems of None
Hold Steady - The Entitlement Crew
Weaves - Walkaway
Wolf Parade - You're Dreaming
Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs - Tough
Teksti-TV 666 - Silmät kiinni ja kädet ristiin
Lo Tom - Overboard
Stars - Real Thing
Destroyer - Tinsel Town Swimming in Blood
Sheer Mag - Meet Me in the Street
Trouble - Snake Eyes
Calexico - End of the World With You
Superchunk - Up Against the Wall
R. L. Boyce - R.L.'s Boogie
Kevin Morby - 1 2 3 4
Metz - Cellophane
Ted Leo - You're Like Me
Goodbye June - Liberty Mother
Shout Out Louds - Oh Oh
Dan Croll - Bad Boy
Waxahatchee - Never Been Wrong
Curtis Harding - On and On
Graveyard Club - Ouija
Jesse Malin - Meet Me at the End of the World
Alvvays - In Undertow
Daddy Issues - Locked Out
Inara George - Young Adult
Iron & Wine - Call It Dreaming
Alvvays - Dreams Tonight
Margo Price - A Little Pain
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings - It's a Matter of Time
Kasabian - Bless This Acid House
SGL - Now, Now
Jade Bird - Cathedral
Jenny Johnson - Solar Eclipse
Whitney Rose - Better to My Baby
Wolf Parade - Valley Boy
JD McPherson - Lucky Penny
Son Little - Oh Me Oh My
Stag - The Bedazzler
Hamish Anderson - Trouble
Langhorne Slim - Zombie
Worriers - The Possibility
Sweet Spirit - Pamela
Blitzen Trapper - Wild and Reckless
ГШ (Glintshake) - Убожество

Albums:
The National - Sleep Well Beast
Ted Leo - The Hanged Man
Alvvays - Antisocialites
Wolf Parade - Cry Cry Cry
Waxahatchee - Out in the Storm

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Reverend Horton Heat @ Irving Plaza

Reverend Horton Heat
@ Irving Plaza
New York, NY - December 15, 2017

Christmas time is not what it used to be but Horton, Jimbo, and their new (TWO!) helpers (including drummer RJ Contreras) made the most of it with their "Holiday Hayride". The Rev appears to be taking it easy these days, ceding singing duties to his pal Big Sandy this particular night (more on that later) and to new keyboardist Matt Jordan on "Martini Time" (what?) and telling stories in length greater than most of the set. Highlights include a Chuck tribute of "Havana Moon" (with Sandy), "Ace of Spades", "Jimbo's song" (accordingly)" and "Cowboy Love". Also there were Christmas songs.

A scheduling mishap resulted in missing the Blasters. The bill was mislabeled as Big Sandy did not play with his own band and Junior Brown I am told did not appear, leaving only the Blasters as openers, despite what the bill said. Yours truly didn't help matters by taking one's sweet time in the snow and so I missed Phil and the gang. This is beyond too bad. In addition to being favorites in this parish, it was a dream double bill. Horton spent of some his chatter remarking on early Rev visits to Los Angeles and seeing these cats who they very quickly looked up to and learned from. Sigh. 

Sunday, December 03, 2017

The Hold Steady @ Brooklyn Bowl

The Hold Steady; Patterson Hood
@ Brooklyn Bowl
Brooklyn, NY - November 29, 2017

The first of the four nights at Brooklyn Bowl for the Hold Steady started off with a "Positive Jam". A decade after their love affair with a strong fan base and considerable respect, a decade far removed from how the world looked (even though events of 2000 through 2008 merited much of the same vibes now in overdrive), the Hold Steady have revitalized themselves with a relatively new approach: Residencies in core cities (New York, Chicago), no seeming pressure to put out an album (a single will gladly suffice if it works and boy does the new one, "Entitlement Crew", work), and most importantly of all, the return last year of Franz Nicolay to the fold.

For some, Franz was the magic glue, the transcendental element that made Separation Sunday and Boys and Girls in America and Stay Positive and the Hold Steady as a band, stand out. When he left, some of the heart went out of it for some folks. His replacements were more than able, notably Steve Selvidge on guitar, but something was missing and it showed in performances and new records. But Franz is back. And Steve is still there, playing excellently. Craig Finn said it accurately at the show: this is the best line-up in band history (there haven't been that many line-up changes, far from it, he means they are now at full strength, reinvigorated and sounding better than ever. He is right).

Can't tell a lie - in a write-up of the National's Forest Hills show (and these two bands always seem to be complimenting each other), I alluded to bands of the same class who are already nostalgic for themselves, and I had the Hold Steady in mind. One was hesitant (and avoided this residency last time) about the band these days, even with Franz back. But One was stupid. The band, as far as this whole rock n roll thing goes, is still immediate. "Positive Jam" now serves as a history of what was to come. The Post-War Interstate Empire of Midwestern Cities, the promise and fall of the Baby Boomers, the turgidness of the 70's and 80's. "Constructive Summer", one of the all time anthems to end all anthems, now also has a chilling (no pun intended) note ("Work at the mill until you die") to the consequences of those bored days. Even "Stuck Between Stations" rings with a call to a dark fate. And the songs of Holly and the characters who make up the Craig Finn storybook, the mix of sex, drugs, and Jesus, has a canonical ring to the confused society in which we now reside. Will the ending be redemptive as in "How a Resurrection Really Feels"? Or we all going to stop short at a "Multitude of Casulties"?

Around that, it was the same old rock n roll nirvana. From "The Swish" and "Rock Problems" to "Hot Soft Light" (anytime that follows "Constructive Summer", it's like they put the setlist together just for me), "The Weekenders", and "Sequestered in Memphis". Opening act and GFOB (Great Friend of the Band) Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers, helped the boys out on a cover of AC/DC's "Ride On", a tribute to Malcolm Young, the late, not-so-unsung bedrock of that power house, though Craig and Co. keenly showed off AC/DC's one, technically speaking, slow song, a straight true blues. The Hold Steady are all about rock n roll legacy (while not being a Legacy Act...not yet...?) and the honor to the forefathers who were once the young standard bearers for the Greats before them, is how it's meant to be done, no matter what strange days we are in.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

The National @ Forest Hills Tennis Stadium

The National; Daughter
@ Forest Hills Tennis Stadium
Forest Hills, NY - October 6, 2017

The National have come to play. While some of their peers (much beloved) are already nostalgic for themselves in keeping with their rock nerddom, these fellas who used to be a "Brooklyn band" but are now a project of globe-spanning artists continue to look ahead. This is a recurrent theme but not without healthy doses of looking back. Their seventh album, Sleep Well Beast, is almost completely detached from that cringe-inducing genre label "chamber pop" thrust on the band (not totally incorrectly, far from it) when they reared their heads with Alligator and Boxer.

In fact, it may be too far removed. The new record features enough tracks with beeps and boops that one wonders if the Devendorfs were even around for some of it and hell maybe even one of the two Dessners. But no matter, come live time the five are still in cahoots along with their usual accompaniment of friends. And though they continue to look forward with their sound, they are also maybe for the first time a ROCK BAND, which is to say looking back to how they got to play music in the first place. The swagger, the showmanship, the recognition that they are a known commodity and not a secret hip thing playing a flower shop on Cortelyou Road. New material "Day I Die", "The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness" and "Guilty Party" are HITS in a Universe in which this kind of music would still be a hit. It could even turn out to be the case in this Universe.

They even do covers now. For this stop they too felt the need to acknowledge the Ramones (as others who play this box have done before). In keeping with the style of the time, they whipped out "The KKK Took My Baby Away".

And this was the other crossroads: the context for this half-quietly political band took them back and forth. "Fake Empire" has a different meaning now than it did 10 years ago. Ditto for "Mr. November". Berninger even found a way to recharacterize "Bloodbuzz, Ohio", wisely assuming a large chunk of the massive crowd were fellow Ohio ex-pats, urging them to go back and reclaim their homes from the hostage situation currently unfolding in this tattered Republic.

And while some of the new sounds and the crowd chatter and the demographics all scream "YACHT ROCK DAD ROCK" much sooner rather than later, if there is a band who is going to work it well and still be their own thing, it's the National.

Serious, shy but game English (with a twist of Swiss) outfit Daughter were a fine compliment to the headliners, mixing that...dare I say it...chamber pop (kind of) with dashes of pop-rock when applied.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Summer 2017

Superchunk - Up Against the Wall
Kevin Morby - 1 2 3 4
Teksti-TV 666 - Silmät kiinni ja kädet ristiin
Future Islands - Ran
Now, Now - SGL
Jamie Wyatt - Wishing Well
Waxahatchee - Never Been Wrong
Lo Tom - Overboard
Shout Out Louds - Oh Oh
Dan Croll - Bad Boy
Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs - Tough
Chemtrails - Deranged
Sweet Spirit - Pamela
Sheer Mag - Meet Me in the Street
Daddy Issues - Locked Out
Chuck Prophet - Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins
Boneyard - Fink
Surfer Blood -  Matter of Time
Low Cut Connie - Dirty Water
The Paper Kites - Electric Indigo
Trouble - Snake Eyes
Wolf Parade - Valley Boy
Jenny Johnson - Solar Eclipse
Coco Hames - I Don't Wanna Go
Les Big Byrd - Two Man Gang
Hoops - Rules
Los Colognes - Flying Apart
Old 97's - Good with God
Cody ChestnuTT - Have You Heard from the Lord Today? (feat. Raphael Saadiq)
White Reaper - Judy French
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - Hope the High Ground
Bash & Pop - Not This Time
The Buttertones - Matador
Spiral Stairs - Trams (Stole My Love)
Father John Misty - Total Entertainment Forever
Joey Dosik - Game Winner
Buyepongo - Vamos a Gonzar
Downtown Boys - Lips that Bite
Jolie Holland and Samantha Parton - Wildflower Blues
Rodney Crowell - It Ain't Over Yet
Jesse Malin - Meet Me at the End of the World
Lee Ronaldo - New Trim
Ala.ni - Old Fashioned Kiss

Albums:
Father John Misty - Pure Comedy

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Lost Bayou Ramblers @ Joe's Pub

The Lost Bayou Ramblers
@ Joe's Pub
New York, NY - September 29, 2017

From Lafayette, Louisiana to Lafayette Street came the Lost Bayou Ramblers, a Cajun rock syndicate highly recommended by a fellow barfly and native New Orleans boy. Perhaps they can do for their sound what the Pogues did for Irish music and they should: the fellas' put on a show mixing straight Cajun sounds with more lumbering rock dirges. They capped it off with an unplugged set walking the circumference of Joe's Pub, stopping for a round at the bar upon which they stood and offered cheers.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Seaport Music Festival: Ted Leo & the Pharmacists; Jean Grae; Azar Swan

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists; Jean Grae; Azar Swan
@ Seaport Music Festival
New York, NY - September 9, 2017

Admittedly it was looking grim. The revived Seaport Music Festival was moved from the large pier to the cramped corner outside the old Fulton Fish Market. The bands looked more like they were to be background to bros and broettes drinking their $15 dollar cocktails at the Massive Bank Sponsored Drinking Area while tourists made their way to Perfume-drenched Clothing Chains. Azar Swan, with their dark dreams and industrial-strength intensity definitely stood athwart the confines but the vibe was still suspect to say the least.

Then came Jean Grae.

Backed and sidekicked by Quelle Chris, Jean Grae confronted the awkward setting head on by...confronting everyone with their own awkwardness. It was a brilliant punk stroke to smash this plastic to smithereens and make it real. And she pulled it off. More than borrowing from her other kinds of work to pull in the crowd and displaying her eclectic world-of-20th Century Music education (more evidence later), Jean suddenly made this a proper show.

Ted Leo has a new solo-driven album, The Hanged Man, his first with his own name in many years. It's a strong record. But to take it out live, he needed his reinvigorated "expando band" Pharmacists. The band was T I G H T Tight. "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?" was given new life with a saxphone smoothness and later that saxophonist, Adrian (sp?) took that instrument to those wonderfully discordant New York places. Other gems from Hearts of Oak, including "The High Party" and the title track, were full of the classic Ted Leo oomph but with a fresh burst of soul. The new material worked well with the gang, namely the killer "Anthems of None", "You're Like Me" and "The Little Smug Supper Club". Jean Grae made an appearance early on the track she sang on the record - "Can't Go Back" - which made for one of the highlights of the night. Ted went the troubadour-route (and of course had to talk about it) for "The Nazarene" and the excellent "Lonsdale Avenue". He made note of using an acoustic guitar solo but thought nothing of it later for "Bottled in Cork". By the time it all ended with "Little Dawn", the sharply dressed Ted and his sharply crafted band had delivered a show to be remembered for a long time to come.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets @ Lincoln Center

Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets; Cut Worms
@ Lincoln Center
New York, NY - August 5, 2017

Nick Lowe brought those surf rock scallywags Los Straitjackets to Lincoln Center Out of Doors as the bandshell to put an old time rock n roll and country stomp on his classics from Jesus of Cool and Labor of Lust and elsewhere, including "Half a Boy and Half a Man" and that song asking what's so funny about you know what and all that.

Los Straitjackets were also given free reign to do their instrumental level best and kicked off the encore with the 60's Batman theme the way it was meant to be played.

Cut Worms out of Brooklyn very clearly take from the Nick Lowe school of songcraft, playing devout 60's power pop of the British and American variety, a slight hint of 70's country and just straight up Nick Lowe style work which exactly pulls from those sources.

Friday, July 28, 2017

C.W. Stoneking @ Mercury Lounge

C.W. Stoneking; Moist Paula's Bliss Station
@ Mercury Lounge
New York, NY - July 27, 2017

One of the genres attributed to being performed by C.W. Stoneking is "Hokum". And that is apt. There's a definite act to the otherwise authentically executed blues and rags by this Australian enigma. Like many a white boy before him, CWS wants to live of the life an American Southern Blues Man, at least on stage. If he can pull it off without being cringe worthy then hats off to him. And he pulls it off. So hats off to him. With a fine backing band and a repertoire of delights, C.W. turned an early show that could have been done in 40 minutes into a full peak-of-the-night event.

Fellow Australian Moist Paula brought her baritone saxophone to lead her Jazz combo Bliss Station for a serene set chock full of stories and a cover of the Seekers.