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Archive for July, 2011

Afternoon Playtonics,

For those of you who don’t know, in addition to writing semi-daily for Playtonic Dialogues, I am also a contributing photographer and writer for The Bowery Presents The House List. Since moving to New York, I have written reviews for Animal Collective and Arcade Fire, as well as many other concerts produced at all New York venues currently booked by The Bowery Presents, including the Mercury Lounge, the Bowery Ballroom, Webster Hall, the Music Hall of Williamsburg, Terminal 5, the Brooklyn Bowl, and more… This month I will be contributing reviews for the following shows:

8/2: Wet Hot American Summer @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

8/11: Cut Copy @ Prospect Park          

8/20: the War on Drugs @ Mercury Lounge           

8/23: Live Trilogy Mixtape Jam @ Mercury Lounge

8/26: Sun Araw @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

Look out for my reviews and photos which will be on The Bowery Presents The House List as well as this site.

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Last week, myself and Playtonic Dialogue’s contributor Charles Steinberg covered Animal Collective at Prospect Park Bandshell. Check here for the review and after the jump you can see additional pictures from the show taken by Charles: (more…)

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Hey Playtonics,

I am thrilled to report that my fifth article for Tiny Mix Tapes’ Delorean blog was posted today! For those of you who don’t know, I, under the moniker “Playtonic J”, write for the online music magazine Tiny Mix Tapes’ Delorean blog. Previously, the Delorean section used to solely consist of reviews for older music. However, with TMT’s redesigned website (and ethos?), the ‘Delorean Blog’ will now be a place where I can write about almost anything: track reviews, lists, Beatles conspiracy theories, etc.

My first article was a kitsch nod to the holiday and film Groundhog Day with a review of the Manic Street Preachers’ song “Groundhog Day.” For my second article,  I continually listened to and painstakingly researched Talking Heads’ 1983 album Speaking in Tongues. Now, after a sizable break from my last article, I decided to write about Levon Helm and Emmylou Harris’ performance of “Evangeline,” a song written by the Band’s Robbie Robertson and immortalized in the concert film The Last Waltz. Click the link below to read my thoughts on “Evangeline”:

http://www.tinymixtapes.com/delorean/levon-helm-and-emmylou-harris-evangeline

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(Editor’s Note: This piece appears on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here)

In 2007 on Eye to Eye with Katie Couric, Levon Helm made a surprising confession. When asked by interviewer Anthony Mason how throat cancer affected his status as a singer, Helm responded, “I’ve always thought of myself as the drummer and I’d take my turn to sing whenever I’d have to, but my joy is to play the drums.” This sentiment is not a coping strategy. In fact, Rolling Stone ranked him No. 91 in the list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. Rather, Helm, a drummer for more than 50 years with acts ranging from the Hawks to his career-defining stint with the Band, seems quite pleased to continue drumming into his 70s, even if his voice is faltering. And on Monday night at Central Park’s SummerStage, he steadily manned his band’s rhythm section, contented by a workman’s approach and delighted with a broad smile.

Joined by openers Hayes Carll and seminal country musician Emmylou Harris, the Levon Helm Band played from nightfall to rainfall. In the beginning, Helm offered his vocals on the Band classic “Ophelia.” Fans showed great appreciation for the effort, a reminder of Helm’s rare ability to simultaneously sing and drum exceeding well. And despite being able to sustain vocal duties, the rest of his extraordinarily talented band compensated for the loss, singing and harmonizing beautifully throughout the show.

Renditions of country standards “Long Black Veil” and “Deep Elem Blues,” made popular by the Grateful Dead, shared similarities to the original versions but took on a unique, lively character when played by the Levon Helm Band, a reflection of the band’s namesake. So even as rain poured down on the all-ages crowd, Helm and his band’s energy overcame the elements. And when the band closed with “The Weight,” joined by special guests Shawn Colvin, Joan Osborne and David Bromberg, all in attendance forgave the weather and sang along. We’re more than happy to share vocal duties with Helm.

Photo courtesy of Gregg Greenwood | www.gregggreenwood.com

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(Editor’s Note: This piece appears on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here)

Concentrated expressions flickered in and out of visibility. Eyes fixed on a stage bathed in often-clever lighting. Never mind the forced intimacy, strangers pressed shoulder to shoulder. Only pauses broke the imaginative spell, whereby the sound of a laboring wall fan cut through vital silence. The space intended for rest, balance to bass-heavy vibrations, felt as musical as any melody, and the man who crafted these moments showed increasing confidence in his instincts. Even when the house lights periodically darkened, his presence lingered, voice echoing with processed intonation.

James Blake, one part songwriter, one part sound sculpture, shows restraint, the ability to produce unburdened music. This sets him apart. But what connects him to tradition is his voice, painstakingly beautiful and subtly emotive. Voices such as Blake’s draw adoration the same way athletes do. Others want to experience one using his talents extraordinarily well. And on Wednesday night at Webster Hall, Blake, joined by Rob McAndrews (also known as UK producer Airhead) on guitar and sampler and Ben Assiter on drums, justified his capacity crowd.

Drawing from his debut album, James Blake, and previous EPs, Blake presented the best of his material. When the enigmatic lyrics “My brother and my sister don’t speak to me/ But I don’t blame them,” sounded, fans, recognizing it to be “Never Learnt to Share,” gave appreciative applause. Similarly well received were other James Blake highlights, “To Care (Like You)” and the Feist cover “Limit to Your Love.” But perhaps the best moments came when Blake and company fleshed out “CMYK,” an earlier dance track converted into an expansive live version. Four months ago, Blake didn’t have the practice or inclination to include such a song in his set. Now, he couldn’t possibly exclude it.

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(Editor’s Note: This piece appears on The Bowery Presents The House List. Check it out here)

Animal Collective’s mass appeal is inexplicable. Rising from relative obscurity to commercial viability with the single “My Girls,” the group does not pander. Their live show is notoriously inaccessible, often exploring new songs, fragmentally, and foregoing better-known works. Pop sensibility aside, their music, often classified as experimental, electronic or freak folk, is plain weird. The components of most songs consist of yelps and discordant sounds. The band members are reclusive, hiding behind aliases and taking extended hiatuses. And yet, on Tuesday night at the Prospect Park Bandshell, a sold-out crowd gathered and experienced, wittingly or unwittingly, a brilliant concert.

Most immediately, the stage set drew attention. According to Twitter, friends and label mates of Animal Collective, Prince Rama, assisted in designing the backdrop, which looked like a combination of Superman’s fortress of solitude and a kindergarten classroom. Amidst hanging papier-mâché bats, light-up crystals and a giant skull with video screens for its eyes and mouth, the four current members of the band manipulated both digital and analog instruments. To some, this configuration of personnel and apparatus looked new. On their last tour supporting the album Merriweather Post Pavilion, only band members Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist performed live and their instrumentation consisted chiefly of samplers and mixers. But now with their original guitarist Deakin back on the road, the focus appears to be on a robust sonic approach.

During their hour-long set, a few familiar tunes were woven in among a bulk of yet unheard, often amorphous material. But taken as a practice in discovery, the band performed beautifully. Animal Collective’s albums clarify otherwise inaccessible musical expression, and judging from the sampling of new songs, the next offering looks to be an interesting progression of their sound.

Photo courtesy of Charles Steinberg

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Hey yall, hello hello.  After a couple month hiatus I’m back in the Playtonic D’s universe to share my newest foray into multimedia literacy.  I put together these music videos using stock footage from the public domain that I found on archive.org – a great archival site for live music, stock footage, and a cornucopia of other great public shit.

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