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Archive for January, 2012

Mornin’ Playtonics,

It’s a new year, but I’m still up to my old ways. 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… Next month I will be contributing reviews for the following shows:

2/3: Nicolas Jaar @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

2/17: Saul Williams @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

2/25: Sharon Van Etten @ Bowery Ballroom

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

The band played in relative darkness, with a screen projecting shimmering gold dots providing the only light onstage. And, against the background, they looked like backlit shadows. The figures created sound, but their performance couldn’t be seen—all the better for Cass McCombs. The reportedly elusive singer-songwriter delivered his literal and personal lyrics with as much anonymity as possible.

Camera flashes provided brief glimpses of the frontman, but on the whole, his voice came from a silhouette. He sang about creatures and passwords written on sticky notes similar to Charlie delivering secrets to his angels. The audience listened attentively for instruction and information. And, for his part, McCombs was a purveyor of both.

During such upbeat numbers as the opener, “Love Thine Enemy,” McCombs tossed off aphorisms and advice. But the tone shifted mostly to midtempo country and folk. The comfortably laid-back sound, pervasive in the current indie-music scene, sounded effortless coming from McCombs and company. It is, after all, his signature. So when they finished with the 2011 lauded single “County Line” and left the stage, the lights immediately came back on. No needs to hide once you’ve left the stage.

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

“Brooklyn, wake the fuck up,” the man repeated. He moved from the middle of the pack to the front of the stage. The demand seemed out of place. The crowd, mostly still, focused on each selection. Some brought out their iPhones to identify foreign songs. Madlib, for his part, barely noticed. The “DJ first, producer second and MC last,” literally danced to his own beat. With only a few interspersed comments and saluting gestures, Madlib created a thoughtful and eclectic mix.

Pulled from his Madlib Medicine Show imprint, the set highlighted his expansive grasp of music history. “Who knew rock was black?” he asked after a string of esoteric Nigerian tracks. The selections seemed designed for education as much as enjoyment. For perspective, “Crying” by the Edgar Broughton Band played after a muffled Busta Rhymes track. And there were at least a dozen more examples of juxtapositions.

But in the middle of his set, Madlib invited recent collaborator Freddie Gibbs to the stage. And, with his time, the Gary, Ind., rapper left an unshakable impression. Opening with the Madlib-produced track “Thuggin’,” Gibbs went on to steal a blunt from the audience and the room’s collective attention. He frequently rapped, skillfully, without a beat, and he reminded the audience of his gangster past (present?). All appeared to revere or at least respect his effort. For this show, he proved worthy of Madlib’s beats and time.

Additional pictures I took from the show after the jump: (more…)

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

1. Jeff Mangum, Town Hall, October 29
I never imagined I’d get to see Jeff Mangum in concert. Neutral Milk Hotel, his iconic pysch-folk band, shut it down years ago and he disappeared with them. But this year, Mangum performed a few shows across the country and his Town Hall date was my favorite show of 2011. From the boisterous sing-along of “The King of Carrot Flowers”to the reverent silence that followed each song, it was both memorable and chilling.

2. Sharon Van Etten, Music Hall of Williamsburg, April 16
It was a rainy April night and I had little motivation to trek to Williamsburg. Luckily, I sucked it up and went. Sharon Van Etten stunned me like few other performers have this year. Her melancholy love songs, devastatingly beautiful, permanently impacted the audience. Or, at least this humble observer.

3. Deerhoof, Music Hall of Williamsburg, September 20
Deerhoof left me speechless. I struggled to write my review, because, hours afterward, adrenaline still coursed through my veins. Greg Saunier, the band’s drummer and founder, is a show within a show. His dynamic logic-defying drum play is easily worth the price of admission. I’m still trying to twist my mind around this concert.

4. Flying Lotus, The Bowery Ballroom, June 20
This year I was most excited to see Brainfeeder’s showcase at the Bowery Ballroom. The label, started by innovative producer Flying Lotus, houses some of my favorite artists, including TeebsThundercat and Flying Lotus himself. For his set, Flying Lotus was accompanied by Thundercat, the bass phenom whose 2011 album, The Golden Age of Apocalypse, is one not to sleep on, and jazz-keyboard prodigy Austin Peralta. The whole night was a pleasure and I look forward to Brainfeeder’s output in 2012.

5. Levon Helm Band, SummerStage, July 18
In the pouring rain, I sang “The Weight” with Levon Helm. How can you top that?

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

We waited together, packed shoulder to shoulder. The band was onstage but its fundamental element was missing, the SJ to the backdrop’s SJDK—because, quite simply, Sharon Jones makes Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. It’s her presence and voice that give the band an identity. Without her, the Dap-Kings are a talented nine-piece band in similar suits. So when Jones finally appeared, wearing a golden brown ruffled sequin dress, the collective mood noticeably shifted. We finally saw whom we came to see.

For her part, Jones performed with abundant focus and energy, harkening back to soul singer/performer extraordinaire James Brown. Even before the music started, guitarist Binky Griptite announced each of Jones’s notable songs to a short band review, identical to the sequence of a Brown show. And, like Brown, Jones sings, dances and emotes herself to the point of exhaustion. After a performance of the ancestry dance song, a long narrative explanation of her dance style, she huffed and paced. But like Muhammad Ali in the ring, her display seemed as such a part of the performance as it was a breather. She quickly recovered.

Photos courtesy of Alexis Maindrault | rockinpix.com

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