Monday, March 18, 2019

The Flesh Eaters; Porcupine @ Bowery Ballroom

The Flesh Eaters; Porcupine
@ Bowery Ballroom
New York, NY - March 17, 2019

With seemingly every gig these days fitting right in with the Dystopia in which we are living, none could fit more than one with the Flesh Eaters. Chris D's assembly of Los Angeles' finest playing as the Jazz-Country-Punk-Blues-Tex-Mex band from Heck could probably only be matched by Devo for prescience in mood if not content. Julie Christensen supplied the classical vocals needed to span the breadth of all sounds while Steve Berlin played the beautifully half-discordant sax in front of the driving repetitive (in a good way) percussives of DJ Bonebrake and Bill Bateman, the bass to end all bass from the one and only John Doe and the blinding guitar talent of Dave Alvin. Perhaps the most amazing sneak attack the band pulled off was that one didn't even feel the need to drink the blues away this night, the music did the job.

Porcupine are straight out of the 90's and straight out of Minneapolis and most importantly their bass player is Greg Norton who is straight out of Husker Du making for a night of regular folks who happen to be legends at the same time. Good opener.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Metric; Zoe; July Talk @ Kings Theater

Metric; Zoe; July Talk
@ Kings Theater
February 18, 2019

Metric are back with a classically strong record and a renewed sense of spirit. Amazingly, for perhaps the first time in the band's history, they've unloaded their raw punk new wave talents during a decrepit period in our lives with a positive mindset (during Bush, things were bleak, Emily was bleak about it, and out came the ROCK; during Obama, things were better, Emily and co. were feeling better about things, the sound slightly merged with their original electro style; now during Trump, they're back to ROCK but they're hopeful - that's good because I'm not).
Pulling mostly from Fantasies to now (exceptions for Combat Baby and Dead Disco, the latter of which remains one of the greatest songs ever put together and will never sound dated in any time period for as long as humanity carries on), and making the most of the elegant proper theater confines (the band will always be ideal for club acoustics), Metric could not miss a beat. Not unlike how Ash described the Alien - they are the perfect organism.

Zoe appear to be the U2 of Mexico with a dash of Phoenix. I say this based on observation of the good 15-20% of the crowd present exclusively for them. The show in fact verged on something like a double bill or at least felt like it. It was an educational experience.

July Talk are a Toronto outfit whose lead singer rich, deep voice would be ideal for punky blues.

Jon Spencer and the Hitmakers; Bodega @ Rough Trade

Jon Spencer and the Hitmakers; Bodega
@ Rough Trade
Brooklyn, NY - January 31, 2019

On a bone chilling night in Brooklyn, the Master brought forth his new record, some past passions, a good Trump rant, and all the usual swagger and vibrancy we come to expect. So much so that there isn't much else to say about it.

Bodega are a young up and coming art punk collective (if art punk can still have up-and-coming bands) who channel the best of the best. Their record last year was my favorite release of 2018. They tell it like it is, play it like it should, and have a good time doing it. How did this happen indeed.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Hold Steady (and Ted Leo) @ Brooklyn Bowl; Reverend Horton Heat (and Junior Brown and the Blasters) @ Stage 48

The Hold Steady; Ted Leo
@ Brooklyn Bowl
Brooklyn, NY - November 28, 2018

Reverend Horton Heat; Junior Brown; the Blasters
@ Stage 48
New York, NY - December 7, 2018

Yours truly attended these shows consecutively and fittingly so. Not just because they each contained personal favorites of all time (pretty much everyone on the collective bills really - heck Junior Brown too why not he's a damn legend). But because these shows are repeats of exactly one year ago. It's happening - our rock n roll warriors are doing that thing - Annual Residencies. Annual events. Themed thingies. We're all that old now. Allman Brothers level old. That's OK.

Another sign of age? The Wednesday night edition of the Hold Steady's four night run featured not one mosh pit. Because it was a Wednesday? Maybe. Also our backs. Oy our backs. And for the second year in a row, the more subdued stylings of Horton come Christmas also did not lend itself to anything more than some light couples dancing and bobbing heads.

Ted Leo, guitar in hand, kicked off things with a sweet set of near-and-dear tunes including the recent newbies that are fresh and furious. Then the Hold Steady took to Stay Positive for its 10th year anniversary. It was great of course but they still can't save the one or two tracks that didn't work for me then or now. Does it matter? No don't be a fool. You know how the rest of this show went, it's the Hold Steady dammit.

As to the Hayride, I corrected last year's snafu and showed up on time. I was rewarded for my diligence with thoroughly perfect sets by the Blasters and Junior Brown. Junior had to tell the house guys how to quiet things down for their set which is similar to the last time I was at this shop and Horton had to sternly tell the house guys something. Have to be blunt - Stage 48 is not good for rock n roll shows. It's a dance club and the folks appear clueless how to handle a rock crowd. A nice, old, genteel rock crowd. Ha. Horton and Co. had an effective Christmas set, once again joined by Big Sandy with his impeccable voice and great songs.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Autumn and Rest of 2018

Bad Moves - One Thing
Lucero - For the Lonel Ones
Murder by Death - True Dark
Sharon Van Etten - Comeback Kid
The Dip - She Gave Me the Keys 
King Tuff - Raindrop Blue
Wimps - Garbage People
Bloods - Feelings
Caroline Rose - Bikini
Dude York - Moon
Eels - Today is the Day
Israel Nash - Rolling On
Jenn Champion - O.M.G. (I'm All Over It)
Natalie Prass - Oh My

Monday, October 08, 2018

Fear @ Gramercy Theatre

Fear; LES Stitches; Cuidado
@ Gramercy Theatre
New York, NY - September 21, 2018

Lee Ving's just a big old softy isn't he?

Opening acts were well suited.

Summer 2018

Shannon & the Clams - The Boy
Bat Fangs - Turn It Up
Nico Vega - Little Operator
Guided by Voices - Space Gun
Public Access TV - Lost in the Game
Albert Hammond Jr. - Far Away Truths
Bloods - Feelings
Caroline Rose - Bikini
Dude York - Moon
Eels - Today is the Day
Hop Along - How Simple
Israel Nash - Rolling On
Jenn Champion - O.M.G. (I'm All Over It)
Joshua Hedley - Mr Jukebox
Natalie Prass - Oh My
Liza Anne  - Small Talks
Long Neck - Elizabeth
oso oso - gb ol h nf
Restorations - The Red Door
Tancred - Queen of New York
The Beths - Future Me Hates Me
The English Beat - How Can You Stand There
The True Loves - The Dapper Derp
Twin Shadow - Saturdays (feat. Haim)
Very Be Careful - Dos Corazones
Wimps - Garbage People
Metric - Dark Saturday

Bodega - Endless Scroll

Monday, August 06, 2018

Toots & the Maytals @ Brooklyn Bowl

Toots & the Maytals ; Royal KhaoZ
@ Brooklyn Bowl
Brooklyn, NY - August 4, 2018

The striking thing about seeing Toots for a first time is how intimate it is. Not just the size of the venue. But how up front Toots is with his crowd. A father of reggae. A founder of a sound. Still playing in and just like a club act. The hits - all of 'em - in full and wonderful.

Opening act Royal KhaoZ carrying on the tradition.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

U2 @ Madison Square Garden

@ 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

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

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

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.