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Posts Tagged ‘Music Hall of Williamsburg’

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

Deerhoof makes a ruckus. There is no denying it. If you forgo earplugs (which, come on, you should) it’s inevitable that your ears will start ringing a few songs into their show. On his lonesome, drummer Greg Saunier’s snare hits strike the deepest parts of the inner ear. But together with singer and bassist Satomi Matsuzaki, guitarist John Dieterich and guitarist Ed Rodriguez, the group creates a Street Fighter sonic boom—a full-on assault on the senses. And the energy behind their play is a double-shot espresso on a Monday night: a highly caffeinated treat with enough punch to power you through the week. If they don’t raise your heart rate, you should be checked to see if you have a pulse.

It is New York City’s luck that Deerhoof chose us for the start of their tour behind new album Breakup Song (which is kind of like if Elliott Smith had put out an LP called Fight for Your Right to Party). In one of Saunier’s moments of quirky stage banter, in which he knelt down to speak into Matsuzaki’s microphone, about two feet shorter than him, he mentioned the band’s love for playing here. And if the set list and two encores were any indication, New York City and Deerhoof have a symbiotic relationship: They give heaping spoonfuls of the favorites and we lose our shit.

For the final song, “Basketball Ball Get Your Groove Back,” Matsuzaki jumped, danced and, as much as she could, strutted around the stage, pointing the microphone toward the front row to respond with “OK!” in the chorus. The tune, like the band, is an odd pairing: a tiny Japanese woman doing bunny kicks while evoking a game for strong composed athletes. But Deerhoof is not about deep analysis or symbolic continuity. No, Deerhoof is the sound of a thousand people jumping in the air and shouting for joy. It is a noisy, life-affirming triumph.

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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)

As overused as the term psychedelic is when describing music, it’s worth noting that there’s a world of difference between music that might have a trippy-sounding synth line and music that carries listeners off into another world entirely. Wooden Shjips, drawing heavily on the latter, had its otherworldly sound on full display last night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.

Specializing in hypnotic guitar drones that push listeners deep into the rabbit hole, the quartet takes psychedelic rock reminiscent of late-’60s California and gives it a noise-rock update. Their heady jams had much of the audience dancing in a limb-flailing go-go dance you might expect to see in footage from Andy Warhol’s Factory. The projections behind the band showcased the blend of these two worlds, replacing the usual multicolored swirls of ’60s psychedelic projections with black-and-white pulsating pixels that looked like a cross between television static and raining glitter. The projections at times seemed to swallow the band whole, displayed over its members’ white shirts and reflecting off what looked like a tinfoil cape hanging from Nash Whalen’s organ.

Showcasing a minimalist restraint, the real allure of Wooden Shjips’ sound wasn’t derived from any one part in particular but in how these sonic elements combined and interacted with one another. Distortion-heavy guitar solos ripped through the repetitive thuds of basslines, and Ripley Johnson’s reverb-drenched vocals cut through eerie organ lines like an incoming radio transmission. The expansive noise-hypnosis of Wooden Shjips contrasted nicely with the opener, Birds of Avalon. The Raleigh, N.C., foursome mesmerized the audience with jam-band grooves that took sudden and unexpected turns toward rock-the-fuck-out heavy guitar riffs. For a cold and rainy autumn night in Brooklyn, music invoking nostalgia for the sunnier yesteryear of the American West was a welcomed retreat.

Photo and Words by Dan Rickershauser

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

To see Deerhoof live is to experience the effects of a roller coaster. Their songs propel forward, turn back and mercilessly pound against time signatures. A musical moment lingers and another speeds away. Guitar lines wind and bass notes rise while the drums keep you fastened to the beat. And, like the most adrenaline-inducing rides, there is the fear of things falling apart; a trick manufactured by the clever designers. They’re aware of the human desire for safety, but deny the impulse, building and resolving tension in a careful balancing act. It’s dizzying in one sense, thrilling in another.

But sometimes roller coasters malfunction, and Tuesday night’s concert shared this likeness too. During one song, guitarist Ed Rodriguez’s high E string snapped. Greg Saunier, the drummer and founder of Deerhoof, appeared to have multiple instrumental difficulties. And, while lesser bands would let these snafus affect their performance, Deerhoof barely missed a beat. As Rodriguez replaced his string, Saunier ad-libbed a hilariously disjointed story to stall. His sense of humor and logic defying drum play stood out as the most impressive characteristics of the night. But, like a roller coaster, individual moments stand out less than the ride’s unforgettable excitement, and over a full set and two encores, Deerhoof created an extraordinary ride.

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

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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:

5/10: Donald Glover @ Bowery Ballroom

5/17: Lykke Li @ Webster Hall

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)

April showers make it difficult to go to concerts. The urge to stay in and watch bad TV is strongest when the weather is least inviting. But with determination and proper rain gear, a lazy, waterlogged night is avoidable. And when a musician can make you forget the dreary conditions, seemingly transporting you away, a concert feels like the perfect haven from the elements.

On Saturday at Music Hall of Williamsburg, Sharon Van Etten, supported by guest vocalists and a backing band, transfixed an audience of weather-tested fans. Poised with a candy red Gibson guitar slung over her shoulder, Van Etten used both her incredibly powerful voice and earnest guitar work to enliven many beloved songs from her new album, Epic, as well as earlier demos.

Her songs, impressive as recorded material, are devastatingly beautiful in person. From the initial lyrics of her opening song to her solitary encore performance of “Damn Right,” Van Etten mystified the crowd, silencing all with the force and passion of her singing. And although some audience members called out requests between songs, Van Etten showed only appreciation and kindness toward all those in attendance. Even as a fan insistently yelled out some inaudible message, she cheerfully dedicated the next song, “One Day,” to that person. And over the course of the show, Van Etten proved she’s one of the select few singer-songwriters who can make the rain go away.

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

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