Friday, 22 May 2015

Live review: Mac McCaughan played Baby's All Right

Originally posted on Free Williamsburg HERE.

While Mac McCaughan's debut album is called, Non-Believers, he made the stage at Baby's All Right his pulpit and very much preached to the converted on Saturday night. Mixing new tunes with discography classics and a few covers thrown in for good measure, the crowd lapped up every note.
And the Kids
I was won over by And the Kids pretty quickly. The Massachusets trio is fronted by guitarist/vocalist Hannah Mohan, whose voice belts out across the venue, it's an impressive performance, and even more so as it comes across as if maybe she doesn't realise just how good her voice is. The songs are catchy and there is some extra endearing quality to the band that is hard to put into words.
Flesh Wounds
Flesh Wounds played a 70s-influenced British Punk set that at times almost felt like a tribute act, as if the band could rip into a Chelsea tune at any moment. Their set gave little room to pause, when singer Montgomery Morris wasn't hunched over the mic he was bouncing around the stage.
We'd see Flesh Wounds again pretty swiftly as they are Mac's backing band on this tour, and that tightness helps with what must be pretty fresh material for everyone involved.
With two guitars, bass and drums, some songs need substantial reworking for the live band. Only Do  is filled with synths on the record, to pick one example. While some of the nuance is lost, it's nice to hear the band getting creative with the melodies. With its Yoda-like chorus of there is no try, there is only do, it's one of the many catchy hooks peppered across the album.
Mac gave his band a rest and played about 1/3 of the set on his own, there's an art to playing solo-electric and not everyone can do it well but he really pulls it off with aplomb. Superchunk favourites such as Driveway to Driveway get the crowd whopping and hollering with glee. Superchunk fans are nothing if not enthusiastic, and there's definitely a lot of adulation in the room.
The rest of the band come back on stage to finish up the show, including the single from the record, Box Batteries.
Earlier in the set someone from the crowd called out for Noisy Night, and the Portastatic "cover" (it's hard to call it a cover, given that it's Mac's other solo project!) duly ended the set.
An encore of covers including The Undertones' Teenage Kicks ticks over nicely, but it's their choice of closer that really goes down a treat, with Toy Love's Pull Down the Shades getting Mac amped up enough to go into the crowd and bop around. It shouldn't be surprising to hear him cover this tune, given that Merge Records release a bunch of those classic New Zealand artists.
There's a bit of a chaotic scrum for the merch table afterwards but I eventually leave clutching a copy of Non-Believers, and you know what, all the best music is actually made by heathens. 
Lost Again
Only Do
White Wave
Angels of Sleep
Come Upstairs
Driveway to Driveway
Breaking Down
Popular Music
Home at Dawn
Naked Pilseners
Drill Me
Box Batteries
Noisy Night
Teenage Kicks
San Andreas
Pull Down the Shades

Live review: Mikal Cronin played Bowery Ballroom

Originally posted on Free Williamsburg HERE.

Mikal Cronin celebrated the release of his third solo record with a packed Bowery Ballroom on Tuesday night. The new album (helpfully titled MCIII) has a fuller, more lush sound than its predecessor, with strings and keyboards more prominent, while his ear for a pop hook is still on top form.
Openers EZTV play a laidback, almost horizontal blend of twee indie pop, deliberately never getting out of second gear. It's endearing and the twin guitars work well with each other. The band have recently signed to Captured Tracks and are set to release a debut 7".
William Tyler
Up next was William Tyler, who is probably best known for his work in Lambchop, but the minute he started playing his acoustic guitar, the noisey chatter that had been present until this point stopped immediately. For the opening two numbers, Tyler mesmerised the audience with his virtuoso guitar playing. It almost seemed a shame when he switched to electric afterwards, crafting soundscapes and loops while reminiscing of how The Eagles' Hotel California produces a Clockwork Orange-like response in him. I know I have to fend off the urge to vomit every time I hear that song, too. If ever there was a beacon of mediocrity, it's Hotel California. Tyler definitely had the crowd's attention and I'm sure made many new fans.
Mikal Cronin has a different band behind him since I saw him last, but there didn't seem to be any early-tour jitters or looseness about them, fresh from a performance on Conan, the band played a large part of the latest record, with a healthy sprinkling of earlier material.
The latest promotional video for the record, Turn Around, parodies Natalie Imbruglia's Torn, and it has already been met with approval from the Aussie herself, much to the delight of Cronin.
The sound at Bowery is usually pretty reliable, but there's a bit too much boom echoing around the room tonight, belying the record's bright and shiny production. The band give it their all, and Cronin breaks one of his 12-strings during the first song (last time I saw him at Webster Hall he ended the show with only 2 left).
A well deserved encore sees the band race through Change from MCII and it seems like a race to the merch table ensues to pick up his latest effort. With an impressive growing discography and performances like this, you start to wonder just how far he can go, it seems as though the sky is the limit.
Mikal is back in New York for the 4 Knots festival in July (further details here), full tour dates are below. MCIII is out now on Merge Records.
05/28/15 Barcelona Spain Primavera Sound
05/29/15 Nimes France This Is Not A Love Song Festival
05/31/15 Paris France Maroquinerie
06/01/15 London United Kingdom 100 Club
06/02/15 Brussels Belgium Botanique
06/05/15 Ravenna Italy Beaches Brew Festival
06/06/15 Athens Greece Plissken Festival
06/08/15 Berlin Germany Lido
06/09/15 Cologne Germany Gebäude
06/10/15 Amsterdam Netherlands Bitterzoet
06/20/15 Chicago, IL Subterranean
06/21/15 Chicago, IL Wicker Park's Green Music Fest
07/11/15 New York, NY 4 Knots Festival Add to google calendar
07/12/15 Los Angeles, CA Hollywood Bowl w/ Death Cab For Cutie, Tune Yards Add
08/22/15 Los Angeles, CA FYF Fest
09/05/15 Seattle, WA Bumbershoot Sep 5-7
09/16/15 Montreal, QC Pop Montreal

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Live Review: The Mountain Goats played Webster Hall

Originally on FreeWilliamsburg HERE.

mountain goats
The Mountain Goats had to scale heady heights to battle the noise coming from another show downstairs at Webster Hall on Thursday night, but the sold out crowd would not be deterred either. The band were celebrating the release of their 15th studio album, Beat the Champ, which came out on Merge Records on the 7th of April.
holy sons
Holy Sons opened the show, replacing Ides of Gemini at short notice due to an injury to drummer Kelly Johnston. I enjoyed the band's Crazy Horse-esque set, guitarist Emil Amos plays with a great tone and has a good voice to match.
The Mountain Goats started things off with Southwestern Territory, the opening track from Beat the ChampIt made for a bit of a low-key start, but the segue from Slow West Vultures (from 2004's We Shall All Be Healed) into The Legend of Chavo Guerrero seemed like an inspired combo.
Whatever show was going on downstairs was threatening to ruin the more intimate moments, particularly when John Darnielle played solo; lyrics like "I think I'll stay here, til I feel whole again, I don't know when..." don't have the same effect when the floor is rumbling and  the sound is bleeding through.
mountain goats 2
Downstairs became less of an issue during the second half of the show, which was mostly upbeat rockers. We were also treated to some additional brass musicians, which John said would just be for tonight. They certainly helped round out the sound on Foreign Object.
Mountain Goats fans are certainly enthusiastic, and every song turns into a singalong. even the obscure unreleased songs. Over the course of the night, seven of the thirteen tracks from Beat the Champ get an airing. While lyrically the album centres around professional wrestling, some of the lyrics and themes come across as universal.
There's something perfect about ending a set with 1000 people screaming I am gonna make it through this year, if it kills me, as the band end with This Year from 2005's The Sunset Tree. One of the more passionate calls for an encore I've heard in New York causes not one, but two encores.
Twenty-two songs, two encores, blood, sweat and tears, and all done by 10:30pm. But for the unwanted emo remix from the other room, the show was fantastic. With the strength of the band's discography there will always be songs you'd like to hear that don't get played, but their aren't many acts that can trot out unreleased obscurities and still have the whole room singing.
Mountain Goats are on tour through June (current dates).
Southwestern Territory
Slow West Vultures
The Legend of Chavo Guerrero
Game Shows Touch Our Lives
The Young Thousands
Get Lonely
Stabbed to Death Outside San Juan
From TG&Y
Until I Am Whole
Love Love Love
Never Quite Free
Werewolf Gimmick
Up the Wolves
Foreign Object
This Year
Amy AKA Spent Gladiator 1
The Ballad of Bull Ramos
Cry for Judas
Second Encore:
The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton
Blood Capsules

Live review: Deerhoof played Webster Hall Marlin Room

Originally on FreeWilliamsburg HERE.

Deerhoof brought their current tour to a close with a career-spanning party at the Marlin room on Saturday night.
I prefer the Marlin Room to the Studio downstairs (and the ballroom, naturally), it's a nice sized space with a low ceiling and good sight lines, there is some sound bleed from the other rooms, but aside from that the sound was fine. Although it does suffer from extortionate liquor prices!
I enjoyed openers, Zula , their dance-fused tunes are much more rock-oriented than their recorded output. For a time I wondered if I was just thinking of a completely different band than I was expecting. They featured an additional percussionist which rounded out the sound further.
Perfect Pussy
Perfect Pussy were up next and I was surprised to find out I hadn't seen the band since they burst onto the scene two-and-a-half years ago. I'm not entirely sure how that happened given how frequently they play. They've lost a little bit of intensity since that show at The Flat, but that might have been more down to the size of the stage (I still picture them on that 10'x10' space). The crowd seemed a little lukewarm but the band really ploughed through their 20-minute set like it was the last thing they were ever going to do.
Tonight was all about Deerhoof, though, the band are still riding high on the back of last year's La Isla Bonita, with 6 of the 10 tracks featured tonight. The rest of the set featured tracks from a range of releases, covering as much of their discography as seems humanly possible in a setlist.
There's not a great deal of interaction between songs, but their doesn't need to be. They have songs to play! The interplay between John Dieterich, Ed Rodriguez and Greg Saunier is captivating, and they need to be, otherwise you'd never stop watching Satomi Matsuzaki as she pulls off a myriad of dance moves and pogoes all over the stage. This marriage of technical brilliance and punk energy is at its best with the set closer, Exit Only.
Drummer Greg Saunier assumed the role of frontman on Oh Bummer for the encore, with Satomi on drums. Although given how impressive a drummer he is, as well as being stationed at the front of the stage, he is more of a frontman than your average dummer as it is.
The band rattled through Come See the Duck with appropriate guster, ending another chapter in the band's career. Although given the band's work ethic* it's unlikely we'll have to wait long at all before seeing them again.
SetlistI Did Crimes For You
Buck and Judy
Dummy Discards A Heart
Paradise Girls
Last Fad
Fresh Born
We Do Parties
Mirror Monster
Twin Killers
The Perfect Me
There's That Grin
The Tears and Music of Love
Bad Kids to the Front
Exit Only
Oh Bummer
Come See the Duck
*I did enjoy reading this article by guitarist Ed Rodriguez.

Live review: Swervedriver played Music Hall of Williamsburg

Originally on FreeWilliamsburg HERE.

One of Oxford's finest show that reunions are not just for cashcows going through the motions.  After 18 years, I Wasn't Born to Lose You sounds like the band never went away. Most reunion albums don't capture the magic of how things were first time around, but Swervedriver have bucked that trend and then some. I'd put this record up there with anything the band put out.
gateway Drugs
Openers Gateway Drugs played a spellbinding set of neo-psychedelia (they class themselves as Drug Pop, which also sounds like a good description); the band consist of three siblings (Noa, Liv and Gabriel Niles) and Blues Williams. I bought their album, Magick Spells, from them after the show and I'm not sure I've met a band more kind and appreciative for the support before.
Swervedriver made a somewhat low-key entrance, but their performance was anything but. Kicking off with Autodidact, which also opens the album, 7 of the 10 tracks from I Wasn't Born to Lose You are performed tonight, which goes to show the band's faith in the material. The rest of the set is a veritable best-of, with the likes of Never Lose That FeelingRave DownThese Times and Son of Mustang Ford all reinforcing the strength of their discography.
The band often got lumped in to the shoegaze movement the same way Soundgarden got thrown in with all the grunge bands. Swervedriver rocked harder than any of their supposed contemporaries, the proof of which is how often Swervedriver is used as an adjective for other groups; guitarist Jimmy Hartridge uses his pedal array to cook up a storm.
Filling in on bass for this US tour is Mick Quinn from fellow Oxford band, Supergrass, whom I consider one of the great singles bands. I hope it isn't 17 years before they get back together!
The sprawling guitars of I Wonder? closes the set as it does the album, and the band came back for a justified 3-song encore, starting with the dreamy Everso from the new album, finishing off with Last Train to Satansville and Duel from 1993's Mezcal Head.
On the evidence of these shows, and a cracking album behind them, hopefully the band won't leave everyone waiting so long ever again. With Ride also touring this year, and Radiohead back in the studio, Oxford's heavyweights are reminding everyone of a time when the city was up there with the very best of them all.
For Seeking Heat
Never Lose That Feeling
Last Rites
Setting Sun
Rave Down
These Times
For a Day Like Tomorrow
MM Abduction
Lone Star
The Birds
Deep Wound
Son of Mustang Ford
I Wonder?
Last Train to Satansville

Live review: Max Richter played Le Poisson Rouge

Originally on FreeWilliamsburg HERE.

Max Richter Acme
Max Richter brought his Infra work from 2010 to life for an evening that was at times exhilarating. Originally planned for the 20th of March at St Ann in Brooklyn Heights, I'm always thankful for not having to go to a church, so welcomed the switch to Le Poisson Rouge.
The opening set was a performance of The Leftovers, the latest show on HBO from Damon Lindelof of Lost fame, which I believe just got picked up for a second season. To be honest, the set needed a ruthless edit, some of the music was exuberant, but too many short pieces (of what is presumably incidental music in the show) and by-the-numbers passages of music got in the way. It wouldn't have been so noticeable if the whole thing was played without pause, but a 45-second piano ditty followed by silence doesn't add anything to proceedings. If anything, the audience seemed confused at times whether or not to clap; the enthusiasm that met some of the longer, more effective pieces, should serve as feedback.
Max Richter
After a brief intermission, the players returned to perform Infra, and the contrast between the two sets could scarcely have been more different. Where The Leftovers came across as uneven, Infra really is a work of the utmost quality, making every second count. Backed by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME, for short), their 5-piece setup produced an incredibly clean and concise sound, the clarity of each instrument cut through with astounding nuance. My favourite track from the work is probably Infra 5 and the roar of applause after it was performed seemed to suggest I'm not the only one.
After the final notes of Infra 8 rang to a close, the group took their bows and made an exit. At this point I'm reminded once again of New Yorkers pathetic disdain for encores, something I just don't understand, especially if that means denying oneself the pleasure of hearing something like On the Nature of Daylight
Max Richter Acme2
Having been at the same venue the night before to see A Winged Victory for the Sullen, it was interesting to see what appears like two methods of work at play. A Winged Victory seem to feel their way around their compositions, the pieces are more emotive, whereas Max's style comes across as more studied and thought out. That's not to say one is better than the other. If anything, the two nights showed the importance of appreciating those differences.

Live Review: A Winged Victory for the Sullen played Le Poisson Rouge

Original post on FreeWilliamsburg HERE.

Winged Victory
A Winged Victory for the Sullen showed that you can serve up maximum intensity with minimal sound, their performance on Tuesday night at Le Poisson Rouge will live long in the memory.
The group consist of two ambient heavweights, Dustin O'Halloran and Adam Wiltzie, who met backstage at a Sparklehorse gig in 2007 (of whom Wiltzie was a member). Their self-titled release from 2011 was a work of beauty, blending neo-classical with ambient and drone. An impatient 3-year wait (from this listener) was rewarded in 2014 with the release of Atomos, an original score to a dance piece choreographed by Wayne McGregor. The hour-long, 11-piece score is simply exquisite and will appeal to a fan of any genre I've mentioned above.
Canadian ambient artist Loscil opened, using visuals of ocean waves to embellish his oscillating sounds, the occasional heavy bass notes physically pound my shirt. It's like a shot of adrenalin whilst swimming in treacle.
I saw A Winged Victory for the Sullen at Joe's Pub last year and while that was a very good show, this was on another level. You felt the sound, every long note teased through the air and left you hanging for more. Aside from the odd clinking glass from the bar, this was the most politely attended show I think I have ever been to. Every single person seemed appropriately captivated, there was no need to applaud between songs as each piece bled into the next. From the moment the musicians took their place on stage to the final notes of the set, no-one made a sound.
While O'Halloran has a more apparent role in what you see and hear, taking to the piano for the majority of the set, and also layering samples, Wiltzie plays electric guitar which adds subtle textures even further. The duo are joined by a string trio from Belgium, who as you can imaging are integral, two violins and a cello seemingly make the sound of an orchestra. It's an incredible experience seeing them up close, everybody loves seeing musicians play fast, it's an obvious talent, but the discipline of holding a note and playing slowly is incredibly underestimated.
Atomos is an emotionally draining piece, movements build to a crescendo before slowly drifting down a precipice. I have not seen the dance to which it was scored, but the music serves as a reminder that life is filled with moments of beauty but also despair. At some point, as with everything, they will end, but pay attention and experience in the ride in the meantime.
Winged Victory2