Archive for March, 2012

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

Frederick Nathaniel “Toots” Hibbert is the self-proclaimed inventor of reggae. As the story goes, his 1968 recording of “Do the Reggay” is among the first songs to use the word and classify the style of music. But regardless of whether he is the genre’s rightful originator, he is certainly one of its oldest and most successful practitioners. At 66, Hibbert is still creating and performing to critical acclaim and large audiences. And on Sunday night at Brooklyn Bowl, Toots and the Maytalsplayed with relentless energy to a sold-out crowd.

The set opened with Hibbert’s widely known “Pressure Drop.” In the years since appearing on the soundtrack to The Harder They Come, the song continues to stay in the public consciousness, with second life from covers by the Clash and other artists. For this show, the band’s straight-up midtempo performance established a solid foundation to build on. And as the group sped up and extended such hits as “Funky Kingston” and a “Louie Louie” cover, the crowd willingly followed suit, dancing and yelling with each call and response.

Throughout the show Hibbert stayed attentive to the band and the audience. “I have a big voice,” he told all, supporting the claim for close to two hours, closing with the semi-autobiographical crowd-favorite “54-46 (That’s My Number).” At the “Give it to me” part, Hibbert improvised and asked the crowd to “Give it to me 13 times.” After approximately thirteen responses of “Hey,” he responded with genuine surprise, “No one has ever done that,” he said. But as long as Toots Hibbert continues to perform, this record is sure to be broken: If he gives it to us, we’ll give it to him.

Photos courtesy of JC McIlwaine | jcmcilwaine.com


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

There are two types of bands, those that focus on recording and those that focus on live shows. It is the rare exception when both are an active priority, but Dr. Dog appears to strive for overall excellence. Last month the band released its sixth album, Be the Void. As is the case with previous discs, the consistent output contains kernels of pop brilliance: rock that extends the Beatles’ signature sound. The next step was to test the material on the road, and on Friday night, Dr. Dog stopped at Terminal 5 to work out new songs and revisit old ones in front of a sold-out crowd.

The set’s first two songs mirrored the new album’s first two, “Lonesome” and “That Old Black Hole.” Apropos of the band’s established formula, bassist Toby Leaman sang the first song while lead guitarist Scott McMicken sang the second. The trade off and interplay between vocalists is one of Dr. Dog’s more unique and compelling aspects. Leaman’s style is gruff and labored. He chugs through songs with physicality and maximum effort. Contrastingly, McMicken’s voice is brittle yet sweet. During a jubilant performance of “Shadow People,” the crowd pushed with its collective weight to hold up his relentless plea, “Where did all the shadow people go?”

The shadow people are unaccounted for, but the people who came on Friday night made themselves known. Many of those in attendance held on to secret (and not so secret) desires for favorite songs like a hopeful lottery-ticket holder. And the encore performance of “Heart It Races” looked to be a winner for many. But Dr. Dog possesses a deep catalog and most songs seemed to connect with the diverse audience.

Photos courtesy of Ahron R. Foster | ahronfoster.com

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

More and more the dance floor is becoming the preeminent destination for popular musical. In 2011, an expanding set of DJs pushed electronic, techno and the elusively defined dubstep to the top of charts and lineups. Hoards of underage high school students and slightly older college students pack venues, displaying their enthusiasm with neon shirts and multiple glow sticks. If it is a trend, it is a potent one. But, if it is a sea change, then it’s worth following the best of the bunch. And, currently, two Frenchmen literally stand above of the rest: Justice.

On Friday night at Terminal 5, Justice positioned themselves well above the crowd. The two members of the group, Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay, stood on an elevated platform with their signature cross glowing below. Marshall stacks towered on either side and sandwiched the two. The stage display reinforced their already intimidating position in modern dance music: They are a top-bill act and they know it.

Daft Punk, Justice’s predecessor and closest counterpart, is too elusive to maintain steady devotion. While that band’s legendary concerts and strong material make them must-see worthy, Justice actually can be seen. And for those who made it out on Friday night, the duo’s set aimed to capitalize on their burgeoning classics. New single “Civilization” seemed to lurk around every transition. “We Are Your Friends,” the repurposed fragments of Simian’s song of the same name, came in the encore, the place where everyone expected and craved it to be. So, while there are plenty of DJs to follow, the smart money is on seeing Justice. Catch them while you can.

Photo courtesy of Brian C. Reilly | www.briancreilly.com

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

We didn’t know what to expect. How could we? Last night was New Build’s first show in the US. But the facts were promising: assorted members of Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem playing in a side project at Mercury Lounge, the venue to catch acts with potential. If there was a time to see them, it was now. But what were we to see? The first surprise of the night came in the form of Reverend John Wilkins, a head-scratching yet excellent opener. New Build frontman Al Doyle later revealed the choice was as much about picking someone he wanted to hear as it was about proper billing. Regardless, Wilkins’s charismatic take on blues and gospel endeared him to the crowd and raised the collective mood. By the end of his set, a request for “foot stomping and hand clapping” seemed unnecessary because we were doing it all along.

Between sets it was quiet—not silent, but without house music playing in the background, the transition felt abrupt. The seven touring members of New Build eventually walked onstage to clusters of applause. Doyle, at first visibly nervous, made a passing remark about the peculiar entrance. The awkwardness hung in the air briefly, and then disappeared completely as the band’s percussionists began to play. Over the course of an hour-long set, New Build filled the cozy room with layers of rhythm and sonic texture.

At times, the sound felt like drinking a thick shake through a narrow straw: delicious yet incrementally satisfying. But New Build’s forthcoming album is a basket of treats. The first single, “Do You Not Feel Loved,” pulsed and swelled with calculated intent for the dance floor, while “Medication” was as Doyle described it, “a short poppy number.” The variety of sounds seemed natural for a band finding its footing. These are seasoned musicians, but this is new and a risk. Thankfully, they were as good as their lineage suggested. Truthfully, they were better. The bar is set high for concerts this year.

Photo courtesy of Mina K

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