Postcards from the Pit: Fall Out Boy / NK, House of Blues Boston, 5/26/13

In which I went to Boston for Fall Out Boy, and it was an awesome, sweaty, raucous festival of joy.

But to back up a little bit: Up first was NK, which is Ryan Hunter and Brian Byrne (Envy on The Coast) and Billy Rymer (Dillinger Escape Plan), and they’re currently touring with Isaac Bolivar and Matt Fazzi (Taking Back Sunday).

They have a heavy rap-rock Rage Against The Machine vibe going. I didn’t know any of their songs but I could nonetheless appreciate the barely controlled surge and snarl of their drums and guitars. I’m pretty sure it isn’t possible to listen to their set and not suddenly find yourself banging your head.

Some highlights:

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This really is Ryan Hunter (Envy on the Coast). He cut all of his dreads off!
 
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Joe Trohman and Isaac Bolivar, headbanging.
 
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The right side of the stage . . .
 
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Postcards from the Pit: Black Veil Brides / William Control / Wildstreet, 1/25/2013

This was not my first show of the new year, but it was the one I looked forward to for days in a state of nervous, fluttery happiness. It was also my second Black Veil Brides event in one week; the first one was a viewing of Legion of the Black, the movie that accompanies / amplifies their new record, Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones.

I say accompanies/amplifies because the movie both illustrates and provides a narrative structure for the record. You can listen to and enjoy the record without ever watching the film, but it’s somewhat like listening to the official soundtrack of a Broadway show and never seeing the stage play itself.

I got watch five minutes of the movie at the listening party in December; having now experienced the rest I can tell you it is interesting, conceptually and thematically, but I’m holding off on making detailed commentary until I can watch it again when it gets a wider re-release in the spring.

Meanwhile, onwards to the show:
 
Wildstreet, of New York, were up first. They have a new record out. Here are some pictures of (most … Continue reading

Postcards from the Pit: The Felice Brothers / Yellowbirds / Mail the Horse, Mercury Lounge, 12/31/12

And now, at long last, the promised pictures from the Felice Brothers’ New Years Eve show.

Starting from the beginning, with Mail the Horse:
 
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Yellowbirds were up next; they’re also from Brooklyn, and were an odd little burst of power-pop in the middle of a twangy, fuzzed-out evening:
 

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And then, The Felice Brothers, who played a bunch … Continue reading

Postcards from the Pit: Ceremony, Webster Hall, 12.02.12

Ceremony were not the headliners for this show – that was Titus Andronicus – but they were the band I liked best. The first opener was Lemuria, who were pleasant but didn’t really turn my crank, and as for Titus Andronicas, I just wasn’t feeling it this time. Everyone else was having the best possible time and losing their collective minds, though, so I think it was me, not them.

Ceremony was a surprise in a number of ways. First they were American punks when I had been expecting British goths1 – some day I will learn to read band bios before shows – and second, the previously placid pit exploded the moment their first note sounded.

The reason most of the pictures are a little bit blurry is because the floor beneath me was vibrating from the force of the audience’s enthusiasm. I was mainly hanging on to the barrier as tightly as I could and occasionally ducking stage divers.

Their music is ferocious and beautiful. It sounds like both the end and the beginning of the world, and like something complex and spiky being annealed in the blue core of a fire.

 
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Postcards from the Pit: Father John Misty / La Sera / Jeffertitti’s Nile, Bowery Ballroom, 10/24/12

My post-show summary of Jeffertitti’s Nile was that they were loud and swirly, but pretty, and on reflection I think that sums them up pretty well. Their songs were almost entirely instrumental, and, were, well, psychadelic kaledeiscopes of notes. And yes, that is Father John Misty you see perched behind their drums; he was sitting in with them for the tour.
 
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The second opener was La Sera. They started out kind of sweet and twee and then somewhere around song two or three abruptly kicked into gear, sprouted some harder edges and jumped several notches on my approval matrix. They also got bonus points for a partial cover / interpolation of an Elvis Presley song, because there really should be more punk/rockabilly Elvis covers.

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Postcards from the Pit: The Darkness / The Dirty Pearls / Sweatheart, 10/22/12

This show fell into the time period I refer to as “Halloween or Tuesday?”, in which, due to New York’s ah, vibrant populace, it is sometimes hard to tell if the person / group of people wearing what appear to be costumes are on their way to/from a Halloween party, or if they customarily rig themselves out in, say, top-hats, tails and corsets just to make a quick run up to the store.

So when Sweatheart came out in their vaguely Medieval-looking outfits, you could probably see the Hmmm thought bubble floating above the crowd. I wasn’t really sure but was willing to come down on the side of Halloween. (I was also wondering what The Darkness would come up with as Halloween costumes.)

As soon as the next band came on, though, it became apparent that we were not at a Halloween show, and snakeskin bodystockings, furry cuffs and monk robes were just Tuesday for Sweatheart. (Or Sunday night, as the case may be.) I appreciate that kind of ridiculousness in a band. They had excellent tunes, too, raunchy and hilarious in equal measure and driven by big crunchy riffs. And to top it all off they had … Continue reading

Postcards from the Pit: JJAMZ and Beast Patrol, the Studio at Webster Hall, 10/19/12

One of these years I will get myself together and actually acquire a CMJ pass. This year was not that year. That said, while I only saw two CMJ sets, they were very good sets.

The event I attended was the CAA Showcase in the Studio at Webster Hall, and the first band was Beast Patrol, from Brooklyn. Beast Patrol are much heavier, aggressive, and face-melty live than they are recorded. Seriously, the music they have on-line is a shadow of their live show. They can shred.
 
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Sample track:
 
Disbeliever by beastpatrol
 

And then, switching genres at CMJ’s traditional breakneck speed, it was time for JJAMZ, of Los Angeles, who were their usual delightful power-poppy selves:
 
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Postcards from the Pit: Fiona Apple / Blake Mills, T5, 10/16/12

This show was part pilgrimage, because I had never seen Fiona Apple play live before, and part penance, for largely the same reason.

The show started with music from her band, led by Blake Mills, who sang some of his delicately lovely pop songs and put on something of a master class in the fine art of the electric guitar:
 
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Here is what I learned, about Fiona Apple‘s shows: every single one of them is a cage match between the spirit of rock n’ roll and her demons. She does not so much sing a song as conduct a jazz cabaret-inflected exorcism.

It’s incredible and intense; I actually spent several long stretches standing mostly still, eyes closed, just letting the chords bounce and crash around my head while her voice – her big, brazen, smokey, flexible, magnificent voice – washed over me.

I am, as usual, completely useless with things like set lists. I recognized several from The Idler Wheel, including Every Single Night, Daredevil, Anything We Want, Left Alone and Fast As You Can, but what really defined the evening for … Continue reading

Postcards from the Pit: Johnny Hallyday, Beacon Theater, 10/7/12

The last time Johnny Hallyday played a show in New York was in 1962. He was on a cruise ship (!) and Jackie Kennedy (!!) was in the audience.

This time around he was on dry land and I don’t know if there were any luminaries lurking in the Beacon or not. Probably, I guess; New York is that kind of town.

I was there because I’ve been conducting some extremely idle and non-scientific research on the subject French rock and roll, from which I learned that Hallyday is France’s equivalent / answer to to Elvis Presley, and I wanted to see what he was all about.

The show began with some dramatic images, such as this one:

 

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Not long after I took that picture the wall in the middle crumbled dramatically and unleashed flames and flying skulls.

Then Johnny Hallyday walked out on stage:

 
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His band and back-up singers also appeared:
 
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Postcards from the Pit: Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls / Larry and his Flask / Jenny Owen Youngs, Webster Hall, 9/29/12

Once again I went to a show having not heard a note of anyone’s music beforehand. What can I say, sometimes I like to live dangerously. Plus the show was part of my friend’s birthday party, and since she has generally excellent taste in music I was willing to bet it would be a good night. Spoiler alert: I was right!

Jenny Owen Youngs was up first, by herself with her guitar. She was at the opposite end of the stage from me, so the pictures are kind of awkward. But here’s one anyway:
 
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Larry and his Flask were up next. When they came out with a banjo, electric mandolin and an upright bass, but yet also a drum set, I expected they’d continue the mellow tone of the evening and play up-tempo but still sedate bluegrass-inflected folk-rock.

Instead they unleashed a whirlwind of bluegrass-inflected punk rock that was one of the finest musical experiences I’ve ever had. Here they are in action:
 
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