Neil deGrasse Tyson Wilbur Theatre Boston, MA January 15, 2015

Posted by Andrew on 16th January 2015 in Lecture

Neil deGrasse Tyson is a astrophysicist with celebrity leanings that have included hosting the new run of Cosmos, an appearance on Big Bang Theory and appearances across the late night circuit. Besides being a renowned scientist, he also knows how to play to a crowd. His lecture at the Wilbur Theatre (the second of two nights) was fantastic. Despite starting the night by asking how many people in the audience knew they had come to a science lecture and not a show, he put on an amazing show. Focusing largely on the history of scientific inquiry across the world, science and the cosmos was less the topic and more the backdrop by which he framed the talk. The periodic table and printed currency were centerpieces of the first half of his three-hour lecture and what they tell us about the importance of scientific inquiry in the time periods and regions of the world that they represent and who was making those discoveries then. When he flipped in the second half to who is still making discoveries and where the center of scientific inquiry is heading, the tone darkened. But fans of Tyson shouldn’t be surprised. Not only does he have a great sense of humor, he perceives a great sense of purpose for scientific inquiry. He took on a self-identified “Pluto-lover” to explain why Pluto was not a planet and was miscategorized in the first place and delved into the impact of space exploration and the first moon landing on the perception of the world. He finished his set with a lengthy Q&A, in which he deftly addressed the meaning of life asked by a six-and-three-quarters year old (“stay curious”) and why even the President of the United States needs to know some science. It was a brilliant and tightly-woven talk by a man who is as comfortable carrying out scientific inquiry as he is advocating for it.

Todd Barry, Davis Square Theater, Boston Comedy Festival, Somerville MA November 7, 2014

Posted by Andrew on 7th November 2014 in Comedy

Todd Barry is best associated with Flight of the Conchords or Louie, neither of which I have seen more than five minutes of. So I had zero expectations. He delivered. Whether he was riffing on being a picky eater (pizza yes, egg salad no, sushi never again), or his take on toilet humor (literally, the punchline is a “virgin” toilet), his dry delivery, offered with a squint and pregnant, well-timed pauses, were sharp and full of laughs. His best prepared bit involved a hotel comforter and a thief and it played to long laughter.

He’s also big on audience interaction and spent a chunk of his set talking to, and tearing apart, people in the crowd. When he asked who had gone to Harvard University, the answer came from a woman in the back who was trying to tell him that someone in the front row had raised their hand. So he proceeded to not only play off the tattletale but then turned to the woman who went to Harvard Law School and skewered her for an attempt at repartee. It was equal parts of fabulous and hysterical, especially since neither woman could keep themselves for talking back to him, which just fed his one liners. That he could think on the fly (audience interaction is a big part of his routine) was impressive and the punchlines came fast and furious. A killer set.

Spirits of the Red City – October 31, 2014 – South Main Gunnison, Gunnison CO

Posted by Dara on 31st October 2014 in Folk, Goth

[America] I had been meaning to pay my respects to this new venue/endeavor at the southern end of town (1/2 mile from the center of town) for a long time. They’ve been hosting inventive parties and, most importantly, bringing bands in from out of town. My expectations were entirely exceeded. An enchanting amalgam of hippie spirituality, hardware art, and Gunnison chumminess – I was particularly overcome by the exceedingly organized array of tools and odds and ends. Prefaced by a blessing from TheLeader and a stirring ode to redheads and faieries from a local storyteller, the band numbered at least seven. They were possibly most definitely the first band I have ever seen with three upright basses. They also had 2 guitars, a fiddle, an accordion… The bassists alternated in clarinets and saxophones, with the clarinet even harmonizing with the accordion. The guitarist alternated in a banjo, which he played in a kind of stunted plucking style. By their looks, I expected gypsy punk but they were more gothic folk. Their truly talented lead vocalist/guitarist broke the stereotype of collective-izing musicians in order to mask individual mediocrities. His guitar-playing was intricate and emotive. His voice often reminded me of Cat Stevens… he even had a song about troubled father-son relationships (a la Cat’s in the Cradle … which it turns out has nothing to do with Cat Stevens because it’s by Harry Chapin – google webpage “5 Famous Songs Everyone Thinks Are by the Wrong Artist”). My head hurts just looking at a singer/songwriter but he made me believe he could make it even without his bandmates – not that he should. I overlooked the intentionally uncombed hair because I understand young artists have to make it clear they’re young artists. When I’d get disappointed by their Mumford & Sons moments, they’d counter with some Godspeed You grandeur. Some Spanish guitar and waltz too. When I solicited an opinion from ElPrimoHaole, he thought for a while and said “… impressive … appropriate,” which essentially meant: “eh.” I guess it’s not everybody who’s comforted by the sounds of infinite sadness.

Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue – October 25, 2014 – Banks Street Bar and Grill, New Orleans LA

Posted by Dara on 25th October 2014 in Country

[New Orleans, LA] She was beautiful and righteous. Rockboy was incongruously disappointed she’d cut off her long girly hair into a flop-mohawk. They mostly did very proficient covers of classic honky tonk – Rockboy was in his nirvana and we danced until his arm gave out. Her voice is outstanding and her band is excellent. Rockboy said she would provide lots of information about each song and did she ever – I like that in a girl (or a boy). Rockboy would like me to add that they do have originals.

Valerie Sassafras – October 25, 2014 – Banks Street Bar and Grill, New Orleans LA

Posted by Dara on 25th October 2014 in New Wave, Performance

[New Orleans] A middle aged lady with a short spiky haircut in skinny pink corduroy jeans on a keyboard, wailing new wave style. She was kind of art pop – something about girls going out at night… I don’t know. Her sincerity made it all the more bizarre. And then two average-joe guys jumped on stage and started dancing behind her – my shock at her transferred to shock at their asshole frat behavior. But then she dirty-danced them and completely incorporated them into her show, and I stopped being sure that it wasn’t all part of her show. She took breaks from the keyboard and the boys to shadow dance behind a folding screen on the stage. I’ve seen a lot of weird shows but this one left me speechless. We retreated to the sanity of the benches outside, and she reappeared. Loading her equipment (for a good frazzled thirty minutes) into an SUV with a sign on it advertising herself. The mysterious male backers were helping. The folding screen went into the SUV too. One hour later, Valerie Sassafras was back doing a psychy arm wave dance to honky tonk music. Clearly, Mid-City is the new hot neighborhood in New Orleans.

Hazy Ray – October 24, 2014 – Gasa Gasa, New Orleans LA

Posted by Dara on 24th October 2014 in Jazz, Pop, Rock and Roll, Soul

[New Orleans, LA] We were heading out to escape this inferno of soft music – got into a conversation with the door guys – told them we were only in town for a few nights and looking to see some heavier music. The door guy assured us the next band would satisfy us – he was so convincing, we chuckled at the raving fools we’d been and went back on in. And, of course, the door man was in the next band and we were Not Satisfied. They described themselves as “horn-driven rock” which was pretty accurate – maybe New Orlean’s version of a jam band, though I thought that was an unnecessarily harsh estimation of them from Rockboy. They weren’t that bad – it was mostly a lack of genre fit. Even if I were really into ragged horn rock, I’d still say they lacked some polish and finesse. They were college rock, like OAR – except I like OAR. To continue the disaster that was this night, I insisted we head down to another neighborhood to see the pre-block-party at Hey Café! for tomorrow’s block party that I knew was going to be headlined by the very hard Screaming Females – frantic to prove my obsessive planning bears fun fruit. We got down there and there was a sign on the door saying it had moved. Bust – we were done.

Kaboom! – October 24, 2014 – Gasa Gasa, New Orleans LA

Posted by Dara on 24th October 2014 in Pop, Singer/Songwriter

[New Orleans, LA] Singer/songwriter pop. Just two guys I think? I was dying. Particularly after chatting with a sweet suburban Southern lady who was there to see Emily Kopp, a singer who got famous on something like The Voice. I’d orchestrated this show, after some serious what’s-going-on-in-New-Orleans research, and it was a massive bust. We had two nights in the city to see non-bluegrass and this just wasn’t far enough away. The headliners (Brian Hyken & the Wanderlust) were purportedly psych rock but we didn’t make it that long.

Garden District Trio – October 24, 2014 – Houston’s Restaurant, New Orleans LA

Posted by Dara on 24th October 2014 in Jazz

[New Orleans, LA] The classic classy jazz trio. A baby grand piano, upright bass, and big drum set in a posh restaurant. Three late middle aged guys – they were very enthused by my enthusiasm for them, and probably didn’t realize it was mostly enthusiasm for New Orleans.

Tori Amos, Boston Opera House, Boston MA August 15, 2014

Posted by Andrew on 15th August 2014 in Alternative Rock, Art Rock, Singer/Songwriter

This isn’t the setlist I would have chosen for my perfect Tori Amos concert but I have to say that it was surprisingly satisfying all the same. Tori doesn’t play for the casual fan anymore (I’m on the fence if she ever did). The casual fan gets dragged by their spouse or bestie and sits in the audience and gets chewed up by the experience and spit out. Tori is a beast.

The entire show was solo piano (except some interesting back tracks but I’ll get to that.) But even solo, it isn’t just the piano. It’s the organ and the keyboards and Tori herself. She reworked some of the numbers into remarkably unrecognizable shape (the set opener Parasol and creepalishious iieee) and others she just banged out with abandon (Mr. Zebra.) Bliss is a song I’ve always loved live and this fell into the latter category.

There was lot of old stuff in the set, and only a few newer songs. It’s the kind of setlist where you hear songs you haven’t listened to in ages and realize you know every word like the gorgeous haunting rendition of Jackie’s Strength. This why people love Tori. She also played my favorite obscure-album-track-played-live Dragon to perfection. I’m obsessed with this song. Occasionally she detours off the beaten path melodically before nailing it in the same song (Another Girl’s Paradise).

The Lizard Lounge covers were amazing. She’s been doing a lot of mashups on this tour and the groovy backing track transformed When Doves Cry / Edge Of Seventeen into a psychedelic disco prom night.

Then came Cornflake Girl and the show jumped the shark. Tori has been playing this as her main set closer in the States so it’s clearly a purposeful presentation. The backing track for Cornflake Girl and the encore Wedding Day included the entire recording, drums, bass, loops, vocals and all. It went straight off the rails and it was one of the craziest, worst thing I’ve witnessed on stage. Whether or not Tori was actually playing piano during those songs or doing any singing, you couldn’t tell. Her live performance was completely swallowed up by the prerecorded song to the point where it was comical and horrible all at once. You could see her banging on piano keys and singing into the mic and there was no connection to what you were hearing. Bringing it down to earth again for Hey Jupiter – a song I usually enjoy – was a relief but a little too late.

Tori Amos setlist
Caught A Lite Sneeze
Beauty Queen/Horses
Secret Spell
Baker, Baker
Jackie’s Strength
Mr. Zebra
Please Come To Boston/More Than A Feeling
When Doves Cry/Edge Of Seventeen
Black-Dove (January)
Black Swan
Little Earthquakes
Another Girl’s Paradise
Cornflake Girl
Wedding Day
Hey Jupiter

Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou, Boston Opera House, Boston MA August 15, 2014

Posted by Andrew on 15th August 2014 in Singer/Songwriter

From the opening notes of Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou’s 30-minute set, the reaction was visceral and immediate. I wanted to crawl out of my skin. And it wasn’t just me. My friend went to get beers, came back after an extended time and mouthed, “They’re still here?” The giggle-team in front of us (granted, it was the M&Ms – maybe) were fidgeting in their seats. The girls behind us were weeping – okay maybe they enjoyed the show a little too much.

If all of this seems unnecessarily harsh for an adorable singer-songwriter duo from England, know that I totally agree with you. Their musical talent was undeniable. Their affection for one another was evident. That the songs were crafted with care and thought is without question. It just didn’t translate. And that’s putting it mildly.

First it was the decision to share one mic. Then it was the harmonica slung over his neck. It was the coffeehouse compositions with lyrics that seemed designed to either make us feel bad or describe someone else feeling bad and couldn’t we spare “tuppence a bag”? It was the one water bottle on stage as if they couldn’t afford to buy two. Everything about it screamed talent show. It was the pretentious album plug for their new record, La Ferme De Fontenaille and the deep loathing I felt for her admission that they recorded it in a barn in the farmlands of northern France. It was the post-set meet and greet selling CDs out of a guitar case. It’s the bio on their website that starts with “Dear Listener” and goes on to describe how they toughed it out among “fertile and fragrant plains” to make the new record. No, just no.

The music droned. The songs seemed endless. Both of them can sing, and there was clear, clear intentions with the harmonies and the dueling guitars and occasional crash crash of the tambourine. It fell flat.

Maybe the venue itself was a little to blame. The Opera House only in the last year or two started booking concerts. It was almost exclusively used for big Broadway musicals, leaving concerts and stage plays for the smaller venues. Maybe in an intimate venue, their act would have seemed playful and artistic instead of shapeless and interminable.

Of the six or seven tracks they played (it was hard to tell where one ended and the next began) A Proud Surrender had some life. The set closer The Day the Rebel in Me Dies was the standout. There was something playful and melodic about it and the harmonies were more inviting. The rest, including the woeful U.S. single For a Minute There was just bland and forgettable. And The Stargazers’ Gutter? No, just no.

Locust Honey – August 5, 2014 – iBar Ranch, Gunnison CO

Posted by Dara on 5th August 2014 in Americana, Bluegrass

[Asheville, NC] Three cute girls – everyone had their favorite – on banjo, fiddle and guitar. And a guy with an evolution of man tattoo on his forearm on upright bass. One girl in an old-fashioned innocent sundress (turned out to be a wry woman from Boston), another in a modern short flouncy sundress (probably dating EvolutionTatoo – she was the flirty young one), and the third deliciously 90-ed out in a vintage blue country girl dress topped by a flannel shirt (turned out to be from New York City – odd mix of girly dress, serious muscle, unserious bangs, and deep voice). From the liberal mecca of North Carolina – seriously, I just tested it and Asheville pops up when you google ‘liberal mecca of North Carolina.’ In addition to sharing that trait with Austin, their sound was reminiscent of Austin. They were rootsy but not exactly bluegrass – I’d hazard a guess that they were doing old-time or Appalachian style music. Among their songs were covers of “He Ain’t No Good,” “I Ain’t Your Horse Buggy” and “Henry Lee.” Band member Chloe is also writing original songs for the band – two albums of covers and originals already released. They did some breakdowns, a gospel song, and two murder ballads. “He Ain’t No Good” was my favorite. They’re on the verge of being a really good band – allllmost reminded me of Those Darlins – they’re all extremely proficient musicians and more spirited or original singing could push them over into greatness. I should mention they had just driven some 30-40 hours to get to Gunnison.

Gription – July 9, 2014 – Lost Lake Lounge, Denver CO

[Wisconsin/Boulder] Gumption was what I heard. First impressions, they’re depraved nerds or ex-heroin addicts. They covered Rolling Stones & Sublime to warm up. They have great stage energy – the lead particularly borrows from the stylings of Michael Stipe & Chris Robinson, which supports one description I saw of them as a boogie rock band. They claim punk & metal influences, which oddly weren’t completely far-fetched – particularly 70s punk (like Radio Birdman). Their second song was a good cover of “For What It’s Worth” and they ended with “No Sugar Tonight.” The lead singer’s got a genuinely good voice but sometimes made the mistake of doing silly mimes for every song line – but overall he is a firecracker of a performer. At first I couldn’t place their sound for the life of me which made me like them. They lead my mind to Blues Travelers (in a big way on some songs unfortunately), OAR, glam metal, Robyn Hitchcock, Def Leppard, Hunter S Thompson, southern rock, shoegaze. The crowd really disappeared but it was sort of a weak crowd to start with. I’d x the ‘six cylinder…’ song but keep the ‘take down a notch’ song. Perhaps the very best part of the show was the drunk frat boy at the lip of the stage having the time of his life – he kept shouting ‘Wisconsin!’ (the band’s from there) but I kept hearing ‘West Compton!’ and getting confused – one song had a line on ‘the parties we’ve been to when someone has died’ and he nodded grimly – and then he threw some metal horns but got so transfixed by his flexed bicep he lost track of it. The lead singer became determined to start every song with a profanities-laced indictment of some social issue (e.g., the government hates him, we all need to be free, fuck socialism, typical CO libertarian bullshite). I found him irritating because he pretended to be caustic but ultimately still believed – nihilism’s really the only thing that’s gotten me off for a long time now. I lost my patience when they dedicated a song to Johnny Cash, ‘a fuck you to Nashville,’ and then proceeded to do some Blues Travelers-sounding number – if you’re going to dedicate a song to a legend, at least have some sense of what he sounds like.

Breaching Existence – July 9, 2014 – Lost Lake Lounge, Denver, CO

Posted by Dara on 9th July 2014 in Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal, Prog Rock

Virgin Exquisite was what I heard. It was their first show ever… I had no idea which says a lot for them… They’re prog metal – the drama voice – big, full, and melodificul. They were so proggy the lead singer would walk off the stage in the middle of a song to go get a drink and watch the band from the sidelines for a while. He introduced the next song as “Part 2″ – at least he’s honest. They’re gloomy and slow – kind of Tool. I was disappointed when the crowd didn’t react to the lead guitarist using both hands to finger the guitar neck. If anything I kept waiting for some excitement – I really really like sludgy metal but there was something lacking – they either need a more robust sludge or to crisp up and build some climactic moments like Iron Maiden. Like I said, it was their first show and I never would have guessed it – the boys done good. I’d never been to this venue before – I enjoyed the hipster/Ryan Gosling bartender with the tag of his little beach shirt ripped out violently – I was disappointed they used one of their stages as a staging ground for equipment instead of having the bands set up on alternate stages for a faster turnaround – I rolled my eyes at the hipster next to me in tattoos and a Jimmy Buffet sunhat who annoyed Gosling by being all coy with his order “I’ll have tequila please” “What kind?” “Ohhhh, how about silver? And a beer… an American beer…” “What kind of American beer?”

June 27, 2014 – Singer Songwriters in the Round, Gunnison Arts Center

Posted by Dara on 27th June 2014 in Americana, Singer/Songwriter

Typically, singer/songwriters make me want to prick myself with a pin just to feel alive again. But, as times go, I need girl friends so I volunteer around town now (volunteer selfishly obviously). My little volunteering gig tonight fortuitously took a turn toward music-watching, and with the plethora of bluegrass options in Gunnison, s/ss didn’t look so bad. Plus the arrangement was just right for a Dara: four s/ss on stage, talking to the crowd, talking to each other, and (this is key) limited to two songs each in a turn. Four songs from a band I really like can set me to yawning – I like to switch up, in nearly all aspects of life. Not to mention, the switching up enabled me to discern actual differences in s/ss for the first time in my life maybe. None of them, except maybe Kevin Walter, had great voices – but I imagined they were Kristoffersons. And if you’ve ever wondered what Gunnison is like, the personalities of these four s/ss pretty much encapsulates it.

Chris Coady: [Gunnison, CO] A slight man, worker man jeans, a dress shirt covered in guitars. He plays with a pretty well known local band 18 Mile Radius. Gentle loner mountain man. His sound varied from Tom Petty to Townes (that’s a stretch – some of his songs had a lonesome sound at least). Simple spare guitar. Genuine heartfelt lyrics – hearing his song on youtube right now is actually kind of giving me a cringing toothache, but there’s no denying he’s a sweet and good man.

Alan Wartes: [Gunnison, CO] A pretty man, except that he was in 80s jeans, a long sleeved red knit shirt covered by a black vest, and red Converse (which he mentioned). He was the one on the stage I’d never heard of but apparently plays with a pretty well established band Avalon Road. He is the enlightened spiritual leader. He was a lighter version (if that’s possible?) of Cat Stevens and Gordon Lightfoot. His guitar playing was a relevation after Chris’ – not sure if it was a difference in guitars (Alan’s had the roundy back) or in the playing – but Alan’s guitar sound was round and rich and intricate – he does more picking than strumming. Most of his songs told stories of family and average life – every one of his songs described him crying. He went into a tirade about how there haven’t been protest songs since the 60s – this false nostalgia is a pet peeve of mine and I was forced to degrade him into the self-righteous category. He followed this tirade up with a song about the pains of working too much and not having time for family (hello Cat Stevens), and this was about when I had to revoke his rights to be moved into a better category. He also over-emoted while watching the others play. Despite our personal differences ;), he was polished and confident, and I liked his round sound a lot.

Evelyn Roper: [Gunnison, CO] Another pro – beautiful, calm and confident – respectable jeans, a sparkly sexy top toned down with a long sleeved gauzey top. She’s at the center of Gunnison’s music scene, playing solo shows, organizing musical kid events –respected – never had seen her. She’s the strong unpretentious woman who runs deep. In contrast to the whines and simpaticos that preceded her, she was raucous on her guitar (as racous as acoustic gets). She often swayed country but was so metaphorical and literate, she also reminded me of Dar Williams. Her music was full of metaphors: men as tumbleweeds. She also incorporated a lot of desert imagery, which I enjoyed as a former desert girl. She’s the rare breed who is a poet that gets things done.

Kevin Walter: [Gunnison, CO] ElPrimoHaole has often waxed fond over this performer, purportedly recently returned to Gunny after some messy love affairs – alt-country, rowdy, engages the crowd in insults. He was by far the youngest on the stage – baggy clothes, baseball cap pulled low throughout the show, and consistently eager to have a beer close at hand. Radiated nervous intensity. Whereas the others prefaced their songs with poignant stories, he tried and finally said, “I hate this…” It was refreshing. I was nervous for him, what with his nervousness, but he totally pulled it out. His guitar was just so much louder – bluesy, rocking – he was Almost a one-man band (a la Scott H Biram) rather than a s/s. There was definitely some 90s sound there (Cracker, Marcy Playground) but also some country rowdiness (Kid Rock) and then this weird great British rocker snarl (Pete Doherty – yum). Lyrics were rawer than the others but real and honest. I really liked him.

Proper etiquette as a s/s in a round: 1) nod head to beat (when there is one) to communicate appreciation, 2) nod more forcefully when a lyric strikes you as insightful or particularly truthful, 3) before playing, compliment your fellow players and express doubt as to whether you are even qualified to follow them up

Full Moon Radio – June 21, 2014 – Pride Festival, Olympia WA

Posted by Dara on 21st June 2014 in Alternative Rock, Goth, Grunge, Punk, Thrash

[Olympia, WA] It was a teenage Olympia dream come true! Thrashing all girl band, vintage clothes, magenta hair: riot grrrl! An unexpected follow-up to the previous band, which was a male singer in a beglittered cap backed by hard bodied fly boys with handkerchiefs for underwear, i.e., their handkerchief underwear being their ‘outfit.’ For some reason, K Records (out of Olympia) is one of the labels I remember from my youth. For some reason, I thought Babes in Toyland (complete goddesses) were on K Records. At least, in my head, during this show, it was all perfect. And then, no lie, we drove past a Sleater-Kinney exit on the freeway. (Their youtube songs sound more post-punk…)

Jaggery, Oberon, Cambridge MA June 12, 2014

Posted by Andrew on 13th June 2014 in Art Rock, Performance, Singer/Songwriter

Fronted by Mali Sastri, Jaggery came to the Oberon ahead of their stateside tour to record a live album. The five-piece band (sporting, at the moment, two drummers) was in great form for the ninety-minute set. Part pop music, part symphony, Jaggery is anchored by Mali’s stunning range and acrobatic vocals. The band at times seemed to gel disparate sounds into one grand orchestra and the results were divine. The setlist spanned the band’s decade-long career, from the Ten Paintings​/​Ten Songs tracks (the haunting Garden and War Cry) performed for the first time with the full band to a ridiculously affecting performance of Come with harmonies by harpist Petaluma Vale.

The music was arresting and ethereal. Daniel Schubmehl and newcomer Dylan Jack traded time on the drum kit (it was interesting to observe their matching enthusiasm for the songs and the band despite a history with Jaggery at opposite ends of the spectrum). Tony Leva played (mostly) an upright bass although he swapped out a guitar for some songs and even a three-stringed Moroccan guimbiri (which he explained the origins of) which looks like a cricket bat. Rachel Jayson played viola (and sat at the keyboards while Mali floated through the audience for a ghostly performance of Elfin Arrietty) and occasionally took to the mic to speak directly to the audience, talking about the band’s working method and synergy (one word: chocolate). The set included the whimsical O Scorpio and pounding, cathartic 7 Stone which absolutely brought down the house. Mali debuted a wintry new track (if there was a title, I didn’t catch it) for the performance, playing solo on the keyboards with only Petaluma’s backing vocals.

Jaggery setlist
War Cry
Walls are Windows
Venus in Transit
Those Who
O Scorpio
Elfin Arrietty
7 Stone

Mary Bichner and Planetary Quartet, Oberon, Cambridge MA June 12, 2014

Posted by Andrew on 13th June 2014 in Quartet, Singer/Songwriter

Mary Bichner and Planetary Quartet were sensational. Playing songs arranged for a double-viola string quartet (Mary explaining the double-viola allowed for more harmonious benefits, especially in the lower range) with Mary on keyboards or guitar, the thirty-minute set was a joy from end to end. The compositions were suitably operatic, on subject of Sailor Moon (including the cradlesong Throw Stones), a treatment of the Edgar Allan Poe’s To Helen, and an original composition by Beck Why Did You Make Me Care? repurposed for the quartet. Mary’s voice is otherworldly, a sublime mix of Kansas farm girl (the energetic set opener Today is the Day) and Joan Sutherland (Finale). No where was this more evident, then on the Sailor Moon-inspired set closer, a pop-confection Route Venus sung in Japanese.

Rapidgrass – June 10, 2014 – I Bar Ranch, Gunnison, CO

Posted by Dara on 10th June 2014 in Bluegrass, Folk, Jazz

[Colorado/Texas] All the usual suspects: mandolin, fiddle, banjo, guitar, upright bass. They were solid. I was most intrigued when they segued into some gypsy jazz numbers. The group spokesman, Alex Johnstone, was very good at being enthusiastic (with an admittedly small and quiet crowd) without being cheesy.

The Punknecks – May 9, 2014 – Gunnison Brewery, Gunnison CO

Posted by Dara on 9th May 2014 in Americana, Punk, Rockabilly

[Nashville, TN] I was enthused about this show solely on the basis of their poster – they’ve got a look – or more to the point, they’ve got a look that isn’t seen around the likes of here: rockabilly/street punk. I’m sad to report I really really did not like them. There was just nothing pleasant about their music – and I know that’s kind of their point – the guy has tattoos from his scalp to his toenails and clearly wasn’t looking to butter us up. But they’re cowpunk and I kept expecting something more like The Tombstones. But it was mostly abrasive and irritating. The girl was slapping on a single low-grade drum. The guy’s voice wasn’t great. They were working hard to put on a live show but everything was more gimmick than quality. I just kept thinking they’re the sort of band you’d really like if you passed them playing a corner on Bourbon Street or something. Truth be told, I was way too tired to be out – and this venue’s sound system may not have been up to snuff for a band like them. The girl was a knockout and could really sing. They’re actually a married couple touring in a cute little silver trailer. They were great to the crowd, mingling before and after the show… But to get back to being a snobby jerk, I don’t like their name. Jokes about poor white people are only slightly less ech to me than jokes about poor black people. I was distracted by the braids on the side of the girl’s head which really mucked up her ‘look.’ The guy disappeared for half of the set, leaving the girl alone to do covers that weren’t necessarily bad [“In the Pines (Where Did You Sleep Last Night?)” and “Wagonwheel” (all right, I take back the not bad – if I hear Wagonwheel one more time in this town, I will stab myself in the neck with a fork)] but did seal the fact that they don’t have a band identity. I drifted outside mid-set – I returned for the end of the set and most everybody else had drifted off – I couldn’t blame them. Thanks to ElPrimoHaole for tracking the covers for me and recommending the best of their recorded stuff.

Palehound, Great Scott, Allston MA May 3, 2013

Posted by Andrew on 4th May 2014 in Alternative Rock, College Rock

I knew I liked this band before we ever stepped foot into the tiny venue. Great Scott, with its mix of bar and concert venue was the perfect place for this four-piece band fronted by Ellen Kempner.

Ellen had her wisdom teeth out and was still in discomfort but none of that showed during the half-hour set. The band was lively, her vocals were spot on (although occasionally drowned out in the mix.) The entire band used every inch of the minuscule stage to full effect. They have the energy of the B-52’s (pre-Good Stuff) with a drop of grunge in the indie pop brew. It all added up to a great set. Buried beneath some of their stylings were some serious melodies that would make a great pop record. (It’s much more evident in their studio recordings).

They closed the set with their fan fav Pet Carrot.

Palehound – May 3, 2014 – Great Scott, Allston MA

Posted by Dara on 3rd May 2014 in Alternative Rock, Grunge

[New York] A reunion with TheIdeaMan! The originator of all this and so much more – we debated whether this was the first joint venture of Concert Central’s two primary contributors – my records show that on January 15, 2010, we saw Monarchs (??) at the Hole in the Wall in Austin – boom. My records also show that on March 20, 2004, I compared Scout Niblett to him (looks-wise) in a review of a show he was not at. This comparison looks to be based on faulty information as I am unable now to detect even a distant resemblance. TheIdeaMan and I go back to 1998 – i.e., we’re getting really really old. Also got to meet the very suitable and instantly loveable DeepWatersRunSilly. So, to the review. Hello, Sub Pop. Breathy unpredictable 90s indie rock. Ultimately very Weezer but they also obviously spend time listening to Meat Puppets, Nirvana, Liz Phair, Cracker, Primus, Daisy Chainsaw. Totally derivative but I really liked them. And I liked them a lot despite being super tired. Even though I’m pigeonholing them, they were diverse – quality songwriters. She had a stocking cap and an I-am-a-minor ‘X’ on her hand. “Pet Carrot” is a standout – rare for me to remember a new song after one listening.

Gramatik – April 19, 2014 – Western State College University, Gunnison CO

Posted by Dara on 19th April 2014 in Dance, Electronic

[Slovenia] I wasn’t even planning to go until I heard he was on the Pretty Lights label – I am familiar with the ‘band’ Pretty Lights thanks to my CousinWithTheBestShoes. Not to mention the event was about two blocks from my front porch. Not to mention Gramatik hails from Slovenia, my homeland – I remain mystified at how this tiny school gets pretty big-name artists to headline this annual event. The stage was all mysterious and dark – he was in a hoodie and jacket slouched over his stuff – no idea what he looks like. The light show was just short of being seizure-inducing. We were also dodging glitter bombs and small firecrackers. He is soul and funk samples over heavy dupstep bass. In one of the greatest parts of the show, his sidekick DJ accompanied some songs with a flute and then a trumpet (I mean the real instruments). In another great part of the show, my Slovenian roots stood up and clapped when he did a gypsy punk number that I’m sure was a tribute to our homeland – maybe I’m just delusional – but my delusions make me happy. The third great part of the show was the smell – Spring grass, grass wafting through the air, incense – the smells of Gunnison in basic. The kids were all over it – waving their cell phone wands and potted plants (I am speaking literally here) – unfortunately I was flanked by two grumpy old men who were harshing my mellow.

Two Faces West – April 19, 2014 – Western State College University, Gunnison, CO

Posted by Dara on 19th April 2014 in Hard Rock, Southern Rock

[Gunnison, CO] Locals who won the opening slot through a battle of the bands. Solid – they’re southern rock, Black Keys, Chili Cold Blood. Put on a big stage show – even some behind-the-back guitar playing. Also did a Gunnison Blues song dedicated to our winters.

M.I.L.L.K. – April 12, 2014 – Brick Cellar, Gunnison CO

Posted by Dara on 12th April 2014 in Funk, Reggae, Ska

[Gunnison, CO] This band needs a bigger stage. The second they started playing, strumming, hitting, blowing, etc. a happy glow fell over the room – heads bobbing, shoulders swaying. Partiest happiest band I’ve seen in a long time. They are five guys and a girl – saxophone, keyboard, drums, trumpet, guitar, bass (substitute bassist tonight). Multiple band members sing. Classic sounding funk with some reggae-ska funk songs thrown in. They did at least one cover (“Tell Me Something Good”) but rumor says their keyboardist writes a lot of their songs. They make me want to know a whole lot more about funk. All strong musicians and the synergy is there – big thick sound. And this was like their third gig ever – Gunnison’s lucky to have them.

Tedo Stone – March 15, 2014 – Side Bar, Austin TX

Posted by Dara on 15th March 2014 in College Rock, Psychedelic

[Atlanta, GA] At Side Bar again because of a bust due to schedule changes, but happily reunited with CameraSmoothie after many many months. This band was unremarkable psych-y jam-y indie pop. I called them “pub rock” which is never a compliment in my book.

Jimmy Whispers – March 15, 2014 – Spiderhouse, Austin TX

Posted by Dara on 15th March 2014 in Art Rock

[Chicago, IL] What? We thought it was a joke or a mistake. Just a solo fellow wailing on the mike. I almost like him now that I see him singing into a corn dog on a Chicago cable access show.

Anya – March 15, 2014 – Spiderhouse Ballroom, Austin TX

Posted by Dara on 15th March 2014 in Hip Hop

[Austin, TX] Smart girl-power rap. Mellow. She was backed by a DJ and accompanied by a guy rapper on some songs. She reminded me of Erykah Badu but less a songstress and more a rapper. Very good. Most of her stuff was conscious rap but she did one party-hard song that she kind of chuckled over before she started. She was extremely sweet and gracious with the crowd. Internet says her abilities are founded in her dad teaching her to say MLK’s dream speech with rhythm.

Endless Bummer – March 15, 2014 – Spiderhouse, Austin TX

Posted by Dara on 15th March 2014 in Heavy Metal, Psychedelic

[California] This band had inexplicable charm. There was the awfully big fellow, Josh Homme looking. The female drummer, always a good thing. And the swishy blonde haired surfer dude. They apologized for being from California and then threw beach balls into the crowd – and the crowd loved it. They chided the crowd for not sharing and a guy shuffled to the front and potted them. Rockboy was totally mystified as to how they were so excellent when he had found them disgusting in his research – turns out there’s an Endless Bummer from Baltimore who are abrasive screamo. Whereas this Endless Bummer is spaced out hardcore – psych metal – and maybe some grunge and rockabilly. Canned voice a la The Ponys. We both liked them an awful lot. And their name is evocative of teen angst and California mellow all at the same time.

Kap G – March 15, 2014 – GPEN Annex, Austin TX

Posted by Dara on 15th March 2014 in Rap

[Atlanta, GA] Far and away the best rapper I saw. A mix of styles (stoner, southern, street) done very well over slow heavy bass. Genuis mix of cultures and emotions – Mexican pride, self-effacing humor, serious social statement, and rap bravado. He went from rapping about la familia and his mama to tattoos and cocaine. Jose got no tacos. And the crowd was dancing through all of it. He’s already associated with people like Pharrell and Wiz Khalifa so everyone but me knows…

Atlanter – March 15, 2014 – Cedar St Courtyard, Austin TX

Posted by Dara on 15th March 2014 in Arena Rock, Modern Rock, World Music

[Norway] We were in the Warehouse District at 11am specifically to see this band. It turned out to be a set of Nordic shows with free breakfast tacos – Rockboy was pleased (by the tacos). 4 males on 2 guitars, a bass guitar, and a drum. They had a big dense lush sound – melancholy – a little bit of Godspeed You but more Calexico. They mixed atmosphere with hard beats. When they got really anthemic, they reminded me of U2. They were charming fellows. The guitarist mouthed along to his own guitar picking. Another had a blonde Norwegian hipster moustache. The lead singer told the crowd: “Our songs stretch out so we don’t have time to play many” – and at first I thought he was describing the music very aptly with metaphor but then realized his English was just a little sketchy. In reference to the rainy morning: “Lone Star state… with all this humidity… god is making love to us right now.” He really said that.

Pell – March 15, 2014 – Red Eyed Fly, Austin TX

Posted by Dara on 15th March 2014 in R&B, Rap, Underground Hip Hop

[New Orleans] R&B infused hip-hop – he was backed by some five DJs or back-up groovers at least. One in particular danced like he was interpreting the song in sign. He’s got that flat kind of monotonic style – something of an Odd Future sound. L.D., a little sweetheart, was with him for a few songs. He mostly seemed really young and nervous – especially when he told the crowd to cheer for drugs and then to put their middle fingers up, but I think he has potential.

Protomartyr – March 15, 2014 – Beerland, Austin TX

Posted by Dara on 15th March 2014 in Alternative Rock, Modern Rock, Punk

[Detroit, MI] This band was on both of our lists, and deservedly so. The show was kind of mellow but they’re the real deal – a band I would actually listen to and so a top SXSW show. The lead singer was in a dumpy suit and brought despair and death to mind. They’re clang guitars, quiet tribal drums, well-paced flat vocals. A little atonal. I heard Hold Steady, Minor Threat, Dinosaur Jr., Swans, and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry. Rockboy heard The Fall and disagreed with every band I heard. My original description of this band was apocalyptic folk punk which is just about right.