Monday, September 29, 2014

Lydia Loveless @ The Studio at Webster Hall

Lydia Loveless; Nathan Xander; Xenia Sky
@ The Studio at Webster Hall
New York, NY - September 28, 2014

I've been calling this spate of shows The September to Remember Old Punks Concert Series. Lydia Loveless is by no means old and doesn't immediately qualify as punk and yet she is full on in the punk spirit of old.

Loveless's brand of alt outlaw alkie roadhouse country rock frequently sounds more like Ryan Adams than anything truly too far south of her native Ohio (in other words she aint Nashville and she never will be). Approximating the  human incarnation of a ball of fire, her music and her performance are sultry but tough. She's got a dark dont fuck with me demeanor but there is a vulnerability in her music. Witness tonight's performance of "Head" or "Wine Lips" from the recent record Something Else or from the work of Indestructible Machine (pity no "Can't Change Me") and Boy Crazy.

I should probably somehow tie this in to redheads and the tribulation-filled beauty thereof but I'll leave that for you to hash out.

Nathan Xander plays what I call night time on the highway country rock. Singer-Songwritery in good and bad ways, he needs a little zip. Cheer up man.

I only caught a few songs of the charming Xenia Sky. A couple of the songs were torch-like Jazzy numbers that showed off her peculiarly affecting voice and then she finished up with a country rock number. I wonder which she played more of and which I would have preferred.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

23 – “For Your Reconsideration”

The Sex Pistols – “The Great Rock n’ Roll Swindle”
A Flock of Seagulls – “I Ran”
Bow Wow Wow – “I Want Candy”
Neneh Cherry – “Buffalo Stance”
Greg Kihn Band – “The Breakup Song”
Glass Tiger – “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone)”
Scandal – “The Warrior”
The Strypes – “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”
The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Terrified”
They Might Be Giants – “Don’t Let’s Start”
Oasis – “Don’t Look Back in Anger”
Kate Bush – “Hounds of Love”
Desmond Dekker – “Israelites”
The Gap Band – “You Dropped a Bomb on Me”

Friday, September 26, 2014

Slaughter & the Dogs @ Grand Victory

Slaughter & the Dogs; The Stalkers; The 45 Adapters
@ Grand Victory
September 25, 2014

Ten years ago a friend with the exact same name as a star of Beverly Hills 90210 gave me a punk compilation cd. At the time I didn't dig any of it except one song - "Situations" by Slaughter & the Dogs. I played it over and over. I still play it over and over. 10 years running and I still play it like I just got into it. But I wasn't ready for the rest of it back then, after I picked up Cranked Up Really High. Then in the last year or two  - with a more expanded palate - I gave it all another shot and brother was it something.

A lot of that something was at hand with Barrett and the boys at the glossy shithole that is the Grand Victory. In addition to one of the greatest songs of all time (Top 5?), we heard "Hell in New York", "You're a Bore", "We Don't Care" (I think...), their twin covers of VU - a groovy version of "Waiting for the Man" (interrupted by Barrett's fury at someone in the front who had to be removed, someone who turned out to be a nerd girl, god knows what she did) and the nearly-as-good-as-"Situations" blast of "White Light White Heat", "Where Have All The Boot Boys Gone?" and "Cranked Up Really High" (which I like now). As expected, the band was full on intense - loud, raucous, but with the discipline of age.

I almost wondered if they were some other band because the crowd was too busy chatting away with itself well into the set - so maybe no one realized what the band looked like these days and the first couple songs were not immediately recognizable. It took about 3 songs before the crowd started singing along, confirming we had the Manchester guys in front of us.

I try not to write about crowd behavior anymore and it's been a pretty good run of late but a word here about the choices one had in the cramped, narrow club that outdoes CBGB in the "bathroom behind the Stage" department (right next to the band's equipment!). If one was up to it, they could involve themselves in the mosh pit/slam dance/crowd surf/stage dive/other chaost at the front (some of it made sense, some of it did not - hence that expulsion?). If not, then it was back at the bar where people would not shut up and even tried to scream over the music which was stifled back there anyway (presumably these people were let in for free because there was no way they would have paid $25 just to chat inanely about themselves and think it cute they donned leather and denim and Betty Page do's right? Right? No one has that kind of disposable income to waste that way right? right?)

Anyway - I think the other bands I saw were listed on the bill in proper order - so I assume the penultimate band was the Stalkers. They were a proudly thorough tribute to old punk (especially the 50's and 60's girl group and pop group influenced kind) and power pop gone to hell (great cover of Brian Eno's "Needle in the Camel's Eye") but there was a very annoying shtick to this band - namely the lead singer was not very good - not so much at singing but more at presentation. The old "I'm a really big fat man so it's fun when I do these things (say inane bullshit, smoke a joint on stage, spit on the stage, show my body, etc)" routine.

I caught a little bit of the 45 Adapters and liked most of what I heard but didn't see much because I had no idea the lead singer was in the crowd. It sounded like it was supposed to be manic and yet a tad melodic - which is a good way to go.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Black Keys @ Barclays Center

The Black Keys; Cage the Elephant
@ Barclays Center
September 24, 2014

It is somewhat still of a mystery why of all the rusty garage bands who came from the Midwest in the dawn of the 21st Century, the Black Keys would become the biggest arena rock act of their generation (or at least among their peers in their generation). They've changed their sound over the years only in that the rust has been traded in for slightly more polish but that does not mean there was any intention to tap into what actually makes for profit in modern music sounds. There is really no explanation why the Black Keys' second chapter - one of funky soul and occasionally acid blues -  would translate to being arena headliners.

But here we are. With extra band members and a big production value. We're a long way from the $5 plate of perogies at the Polish National Home in Greenpoint. But that's old news by now. We are fully in the midst of the Black Keys as POPULAR. So it figures most of the set would be later half hits (actual, bona fide hits in the true sense of the money making word, including gems like "Lonely Boy", "Gold on the Ceiling", and the recent "Fever"). But look out - there was "Your Touch" from the days when the turn was being made and "Leavin' Trunk" from the very beginning, giving a lesson to tens of thousands what it used to be like. (Dan said the first album was from 10 years ago, maybe older - and older is right - and there was a brief painful flash of "are they trying to make themselves seem newer than they are?" and then I decided to get over myself)

And for all the car commercial success, this is still ultimately in the vein of the shows in front of dozens or hundreds or nobody way back when. A couple of quiet, introverted Midwest guys who like Delta mud and a hot lick. But they committed the great concert faux pas, the big no-no: the encore was slow ballad jam time. That might have been an artistic decision but it does feel like that comes with the territory of where the band finds itself these days. It's complicated. But it's OK - I still bought a shirt.

Cage the Elephant are Kentucky guys playing a range of rock with dashes of punk and classic arena aplenty. They had at least one hit several years ago (the "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" with the "money doesn't grow on trees and what have you) and I have reason to suspect they've had a hit or two since. In as much as rock is a hit machine anymore, this one, unlike the Black Keys, does make sense - Cage sounds like every good time rocker you know. And in a good way.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Summer 2014

St Paul and the Broken Bones - "Call Me"
The Pack A.D. - "Big Shot"
Jetta - "Feels Like Coming Home"
Sugar Stems - "We Only Come Out at Night"
Cloud Nothings - "I'm Not Part of Me"
Cody Chesnutt - "Gunpowder on the Letter (ft Gary Clark Jr)
Wimps - "Secret Message"
Tennis - "Never Work for Free"
The Cumbieros - "Eso"
Broncho - "Class Historian"
People Get Ready - "Rainbow"
Tom Vek - "Sherman (Animals in the Jungle)
The Bamboos - "Helpless Blues"
Meshell Ndegeocello - "Conviction"
Twin Peaks - "I Found a New Way"
Peter Michael Bauer - "You are the Chapel"
Black Diet - "Nothing to Say"
Howler - "Indictment"
J. Masics - "Every Morning"
How to Dress Well - "Repeat Pleasure"
Frazey Ford - "September Fields"
Nikki Lane - "I Don't Care"
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - "Simple and Sure"
Delta Spirit - "From Now On"
Deers - "Bamboo"
Allah-Lahs - "Had It All"
Blooper - "Tinted Windows"
Amen Dune - "Lonely Richard"
Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 - "African Airways"
Adanowsky - "Dancing to the Radio"
Owl John - "Red Hand"
Spoon - "Rent I Pay"
The Rosebuds - "Blue Eyes"
Ought - "The Weather Song"
Thievery Corporation - "Depth of My Soul"
OK GO - "Writing on the Wall"

Benjamin Booker - Benjamin Booker
Parquet Courts - Sun Bathing Animal
Lake Street Dive - Bad Self Portraits
The Black Keys - Turn Blue
Bob Mould - Beauty & Ruin
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Only Run

22 – “33 1/3”

The Replacements – “Alex Chilton”
The Hold Steady – “Stevie Nix”
The Buzzcocks – “Orgasm Addict”
Broncho – “It’s On”
John Cooper Clarke – “Gaberdine Angus”
Man or Astro-Man – “Special Agent Conrad Uno”
The Pack A.D. – “Blackout”
INXS – “Don’t Change”
U2 – “The Miracle of Joey Ramone”
Bob Mould – “I Don’t Know You Anymore”
Slaughter and the Dogs – “White Light White Heat”
The Boomtown Rats – “I Don’t Like Mondays”
The Black Keys – “Just Couldn’t Tie Me Down”
Lydia Loveless – “Hurts So Bad”
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Higgs Boson Blues”
Paul Westerberg – “World Class Fad”

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Replacements; The Hold Steady @ Forest Hills Stadium

The Replacements; The Hold Steady
@ Forest Hills Stadium
Forest Hills, NY - September 19, 2014

It was a night in an alternate universe, one not unlike the one in "Alex Chilton". Children by the million singing along to performances of songs by a band that last I checked in this dimension, were known by few and remembered by fewer still. And yet, in this parallel world, it felt like a Springsteen concert in almost every sense (and if Springsteen was a little bit Groucho Marx and a lot bit Circle Jerks).

Throngs of superfans in a sport stadium, forsaking that rule about not being that guy who wears the band shirt to the band's concert. The only thing not happening was the tailgate party blasting the band's songs in countdown but that's because there wasn't any place to park (though there was a guy belting out "Unsatisfied" in a bar on the way back to the subway).

To be a fan of the Replacements is to be part of a special kind of band fan club. Like the supporters of a mid-level soccer team that could make the top tier if just a few things went right. Or like the Masons. Maybe more like the Stonecutters. Either way. To convene the New York Chapter of this long recessed association is to bring together all these disparate elements (and incidentally it was pointed out to me that this was also rather inexplicably a GINGERCON of redheads who normally don't go nuts to hardcore punk).

Towards the end of the Hold Steady's typically blistering performance, Craig Finn spoke about the full circle of which we were all a part: As a kid in Minneapolis, his favorite band was the Ramones. He met a guy on a tennis court (just like the giant tennis court we were all in right now). The guy said if one likes the Ramones, then one should check out this local band called the Replacements. Craig did. He then had a new favorite band. And now a childhood dream had come true. Opening for the Replacements. Both at home in the Twin Cities and now again in the Hold Steady's home of New York. Blocks from where the Ramones were birthed. Full circle indeed. And Cosmic. And not just for him.

I got into the Hold Steady when Boys and Girls in America launched them into a the trajectory they've been on ever since, the Ramones as the E Street Band, a style that spoke to me in just the right way at the right time. I played the hell out of that record. And Separation Sunday. And I played the hell out of (most of) Stay Positive. Their set tonight was a statement of where they want to be with us, fans of them and fans together of the Replacements. When they kicked off with "Constructive Summer" and "Hot Soft Light" it was their clarion call to Joy but more than the one they usually signal. "Chips Ahoy", "Your Little Hoodrat Friend", "Stay Positive", "Southtown Girls", and "Stuck Between Stations" were part of the collection, a celebration of what's been and what was to come.

During the time I discovered the Hold Steady, in learning more about them, I of course would read references to the Replacements ("ohhh so that's where Paul Westerberg comes from, he's not just the guy on the Friends soundtrack). "Bastards of Young" became both the primer and the primary. Then one day on the old RXP radio station, the great Steve Craig played "Alex Chilton". That did it. All the records digested in days. The kit as well as the kaboodle - from the mosh of Sorry Ma to the pop of All Shook Down.

And this is what we were given in Queens after the Replacements ran out Broadway style to "When You're a Jet". Doses of hardcore blasts ("Takin' a Ride", "I Bought a Headache", "Tommy Got His Tonsils Out"), country poke gems ("If Only You Were Only", "Waitress in the Sky"), dirty harmonica blues ("White and Lazy"), Power Pop ("Merry-Go-Round", "I'll Be You", "Can't Hardly Wait"), their old penchant for out-of-nowhere covers (Jackson 5's "I Want You Back"), sensible covers ("Maybellene", "Third Stone from the Sun"), off-kilter ballads ("Unsatisfied", "Swinging Party", "Androgynous") and anthems that last a lifetime ("Bastards of Young", "Alex Chilton", "Nowhere Is My Home", "Color Me Impressed", "I Will Dare", "Left of the Dial". "Kiss Me on the Bus" was done in the Tim style, not the demo assault. If had been the latter way, I'd have probably had to leave the premises from hyperventilation from being happy so it's probably better they didn't play it that way.

But who knows what else could have happened? For a lot, if not most, of us this was uncharted territory: a performance by Paul Westerberg. Those of us familiar with the post-Replacements musical world of Tommy Stinson knew what he'd bring to the stage. But Sweet St. Paul is still a cypher. Folksy yet intense, usually more Minnesota Ice than Minnesota Nice, but also a world class showman. With his sharp gaudy jacket (that someone in the crowd not me got to take home, dammit!), we got the Class Clown enjoying the School Day.

There have been plenty of life shaking concerts. It's usually about timing and place as much as the current shape of the bands themselves. 20 year reunion tours in big outdoor stadiums with less than 100% of the original line-ups normally don't have a spot on the list of life shaking concerts. But here come the Replacements again not conforming to the rules. They turned 20 years of hiatus into a grand reunion for some and a fresh start for others. A second chance for those who've seen it all and a first chance for those who've joined the insanity in later years via the records. They turned a tennis stadium into 7th Street Entry but reminded you they could play this size show for this size crowd, for these numbers of fans. Spiritual older brothers to the Hold Steady who themselves are the spiritual older brothers to many of us, the Replacements came to New York and pulled off an incredible trick - they turned the underground into a big party. 

(Apologies to Deer Tick for missing them open the show - I've heard good things - literally good things, AKA songs.)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Broncho @ Mercury Lounge

Broncho; EZTV; Low Litas
@ Mercury Lounge
New York, NY - September 18, 2014

I'll say a word first about Low Litas for good reason. The opening act, I found them a tad acrid. There were only a few crunchy grunge riffs. It was too dyspeptic a style for an opener for snappy Broncho. Well lo and behold this trio wound up being 3 of the 5 members of Broncho. 2 of these kids are lasses and I'll be damned if they look like the fellas in the pictures.

Broncho were spot on. Punchy to start with, then trending into the catchy stand-outs on their two records, both the punk flash of the debut and the power pop and grooves of the sophomore effort. The only problem was it was over too soon. Not even 40 minutes as a headlining act. So be it, take what you can get and don't ask for more (You hear that Scotland?).

EZTV are a Jackson Brownish garage trio who covered the Flamin' Groovies with some aplomb.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

21 – “Cleanse”

The Cumbieros – “Eso”
Nikki Lane – “I Don’ t Care”
The Rosebuds – “Blue Eyes”
Meshell Ndegeocello – “Conviction”
Chromeo – “Frequent Flyer”
AJ Davilia featuring Alex Anwandter – “Lo Que No Sera”
Reigning Sound – “Never Coming Home”
Denney and the Jets – “Water to Wine”
Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires – “The Company Man”
Amen Dunes – “Lonely Richard”
Thievery Corporation – “Depth of My Soul”
Ought – “The Weather Song”
Sarah Jaffe – “Some People Will Tell You”
In The Valley Below – “Peaches”
Parquet Courts – “Ducking & Dodging”

Friday, September 12, 2014

Man or Astro-Man?; The Pack A.D. @ Mercury Lounge

Man or Astro-Man?; The Pack A.D.
@ Mercury Lounge
New York, NY - September 11, 2014

I recently started re-watching the 1988 War of the Worlds television series, which I last saw when it first ran and I was 7. It is way worse than I remember.  Holy crud. But it served it's purpose in that what better way to prep for Man or Astro-Man than with shlock alien intrigues.

Ultimately what is Man or Astro Man but an act of sailing the sea of stars on the wings of Brian Blessed? That's the image I conjure when I hear their whipsnap surf punk, see their spectacle, take in their space suits, and witness their musicianship in the name of intergalactic progress (or subversive rebellion? Remember Servotron). And of course throughout this, refreshing my cranium with thoughts ranging from how are we going to colonize Mars to thinking of that boxing picture that Crow T. Robot thought featured Treat Williams. A real dilly dally of thoughts amidst a real rock n roll rumble. Which appears to be part of this band's plan. Typical.

Meanwhile back on Earth, The Pack A.D. are the rawest, readiest, real deal guitar-drum duo since you-know-who. This is insanely good rock n roll, acting on its potency in every note. I want to say this is the best thing to come out of Vancouver since the Canucks original logo but in fact it's the best thing to come out of Vancouver since Pointed Sticks. I have obsessively played "Haunt You" and "Big Shot", neither of which the duo played this night. And I wasn't even hungering for those songs afterwards because everything else was above and beyond the sustenance necessary for a head banging hip shaking rock n roll show.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"A Long Autumn": Why Yesterday Was a Great, And Also Sad, Day

Yesterday, The Replacements were on the Tonight Show, three decades after being banned for their performance on Saturday Night Live. Before they came on, Keith Richards promoted his new children's book, and a dentured-up Britney Spears put herself out there as single and available.

Also yesterday, Apple unveiled some new techno gadgets and with it the news of a new U2 record, instantly available, and the lead track of that record is a tribute to Joey Ramone. Apple also quietly revealed they were discontinuing the Ipod Classic.

It was a great day for a celebration of a dying art form: rock n roll. The Replacements pounded through "Alex Chilton" (a sideways applause of an obscure rock n roll legend, something the 'Mats have become themselves). Their upcoming NYC gig with the Hold Steady and Deer Tick was given full promotion (get your tickets now). Meanwhile, Keef sung his praises of his granddad and rock n roll legends before the Stones exploded and regaled with tales of Andrew Oldham and Sir Mick. The ultimate rock n roll granddad himself now, Keith is both inflicted with Cute Little Old Man Disease and is still a beautifully dirty bastard.

U2 keep finding ways to not only be relevant, but immediate. For all the excess and pomposity that make them a bit too much for rock n roll purists, U2 still bring out a rise (a good one for some, a bad one for others) in people who care about rock music. And the band will always think of themselves as nothing less than true legacies of authenticity - witness the wrapping of their identity with Joey Ramone (it's nice that Bono and I have the same rock n roll hero as much as any rock n roll musician should be a hero and not merely an idol).

On the other hand, Apple killed my Ipod. The conspiracy of the Cloud - a dangerous new technology for young whippersnappers is the death knell of my antiquated dinosaur early 21st Century device. What the hell am I going to do now? Apple is rushing headlong into the streaming limitless future and taking us with it but as we still live in a world of less than true high speed Internet and wireless universality (AKA not much faster than when we first plugged Ipods into our computers), I am less than thrilled.

Of course this is on me for being a freakier-than-freakish music freak. "Who needs all of their songs wherever they are all the time? Get Over It" says the strawman in my head. "It'all be there in the cloud, anyway, not that you need it". This non-existent sucker is both mocking me for being a nut about music and celebrating how I can still be a nut in a new way. Bah! Listen buddy, tell it to my day job. I'm a lover of old fashioned things but I can roll with new punches but not too new because it was better when it was just right for me. So change a little but not too much. One man's luddite is another man's technological revolutionary.

The Ipod Classic was the perfect instrument. It's the physical manifestation of what makes this podcast/blog what it is. It is the true Modern Mixtape. More so than streaming from the cloud. Of course this is subject to change and I could look back on this lament and laugh. But until then, a little shiva if you will for the Ipod.

On the Britney Spears matter - she was always a stain on the world of music but now in her years of perpetual irrelevance, there is a sadness about the sketch she did with Fallon last night. It didn't feel like a sketch. And she looked her age (which is to say my age) in some right ways and some wrong ways. That's code, by the way. Code for the Creeping Sense of Mortality. Almost as much as the discontinuation of the Ipod Classic is code for the Creeping Sense of Mortality.

I just heard Bob Mould say on WNYC's Soundcheck that at age 28 he felt he was about to enter the twilight of his years and that the winter period of his life was upon him. Now at age 53 he feels the same and there's been no change since age 28. He referred to this period of his life as a "a Long Autumn". That sounds about right. When the Replacements unknowingly play my 33 1/3 birthday party next week, it will be a small observance of my own Long Autumn. I'm taking solace in the idea of an Omega Point Universe while it happens (credit The Museum of Curiosity, Series 3, episode 1).

Oh yeah and the new Ryan Adams record came out yesterday and I even paid for it. What a world we live in.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

The Buzzcocks @ Webster Hall

The Buzzcocks; Titus Andronicus
@ Webster Hall
New York, NY - September 6, 2014

In what has proven to be the onset of what can best be described as The September-to-Remember-Old-Punks Concert Series, here's a treat: my first ever seeing of the Buzzcocks.

As someone who's introduction to the Buzzcocks was the ending credits of Shaun of the Dead, I have the inevitable novice perspective but that was nigh on a decade ago so what's my excuse? Too much listenin' to the Ramones, that was my problem. I also took in the discography in two very different ways, both of which were on display tonight: a playlist of songs like "Fast Cars" and the comp Singles Going Steady. I was almost of two opinions then but not now. This was good all around.

A healthy mosh pit o'scamps not much younger than the performers told the tale - this is still immediately visceral music. Witness the show stoppin' "Orgasm Addict". And singing to "I Don't Mind", "What Do I Get" and "Ever Fallen In Love" was a multi-generational set of rock n rollers: old punks in leather and denim with a disturbing amount of spending money, greying late comers like this dog, and even some young beauties full of authentic rock n roll spirit whom yours truly knew from old times.

Speaking of old times there was Titus Andronicus, a young band I've seen plenty but not in a long, long time. Despite some line-up change(s), it's still Patrick Stickles' show and the band is HOT. I don't think I ever dug them as much as the hipsterati did a few years ago but what good I remember was all out tonight. Their eponymous number is an anthem now and forever.

Side Note: kudos to the Webster Hall DJ for Eddie Murphy's "Party All the Time" between sets.

20 – “Willow My Whistle”

Liam Bailey – “On My Mind”
How to Dress Well – “Repeat Pleasure (Radio Edit)”
Peter Matthew Bauer – “You Are the Chapel”
The Bird and the Bee  - “Undone”
Rubblebucket – “Carousel Ride”
People Get Ready – “Rainbow”
Self – “Runaway”
Blooper – “Tinted Windows”
A Sunny Day in Glasgow – “MTLOV”
Operators – “True”
Deers – “Bamboo”
White Lung – “Face Down”
Owl John – “Red Hand”
Allah-Las – “Had It All”
OK Go – “Writings on the Wall”