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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Johnny and the Applestompers/The Misery Jackals/The Dad Horse Experience at Now That’s Class, Cleveland, OH, 9.6.12

 

Johnny and the Applestompers

 

Many fledgling bands find that audiences respond better to their cover songs than their originals. While, sure, part of the reason for that is that people are creatures of habit who love what is familiar, another part of it is that bands in their early stages are also more comfortable with what is familiar, finding it easier to let loose on a song they’ve been listening to for years than one they wrote in the garage last week. Johnny and the Applestompers, whose singer appears to be mostly comprised of sticks and who have the gamest bass player I’ve ever seen, are one of those rare young bands who rock their originals even more confidently than their covers. While they covered everyone from Merle Haggard to Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers, it was their originals, based firmly in Americana traditions, about drinking whiskey and pretty girls not giving them the time of day that were the most compelling.

 

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Postcards from the Pit: Lita Ford / Poison / Def Leppard, Jones Beach, 7/13/2012

It was a Friday night, hot, muggy and still. The buses to the show – now reinstated, THANK YOU, NASSAU COUNTY – were jam packed with music fans and people coming up off the sand. Mostly I was hoping it wouldn’t rain. The Jones Beach Ampitheater doesn’t have a roof and unless there’s lightening, the show goes on.

By the time we finally got there, Lita Ford was already on the stage, though I don’t think I missed more than a song and a half. This is one of my favorite pictures from the evening. Look at that grin!
 
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Though I’m fond of these two as well. Lita Ford is a bad-ass, y’all.
 
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And one last one, taken during Close Your Eyes Forever, her (in)famous duet with Ozzy Osbourne, which she sang by herself because as she wryly pointed out, he wasn’t there to help. Her chords crashed majestically, though. It … Continue reading