Postcards from the Pit: JJAMZ, Webster Hall, 7/10/12

Alex Greenwald and Z Berg, during LAX

I’m putting this shot first mainly because it is my favorite from the evening. I’m fond of the song, too, even though at first Alex Greenwald + what seems to be a frilly love song = major cognitive dissonance.

But by his second verse – So I carved both our names into my pale white chest/Asked you to do the same/It seemed a reasonable request/I nearly lost it when you said yes. – things have taken a turn back towards familiar and deeply weird territory.

Overall feelings: It was a great show. They powered through a selection of tunes from their new record, Suicide Pact (out now!), including the title track, Heartbeat (now with super-creepy ’80s horror movie video!), Never Enough, Cleverly Disguised,Get What You Want and Square One, and also did an awesome cover of Elastica’s Connection.

They are on the road with the NYLON + Starbucks Summer Tour through the end of July, and after a few of their own shows will be headed out with the Superhumanoids in August. Check their … Continue reading

Postcards from the Pit: TESLA / Built By Stereo, Irving Plaza, 2/17/12

IMG_5237TESLA, on the 25th Anniversary of the Five Man Acoustical Jam.

 I waited 25 years for this show, and it was worth every minute. The experience was all the sweeter because I made new friends in the line, and they saved me a spot on the rail. So not only did I get to see a band I never thought I’d be able to see live, but I got to be up close and personal with them while I was at it. Best Valentine’s Day present I bought for myself ever!

Built By Stereo opened the show. They rocked as hard as they possibly could without falling off their chairs. I was especially impressed with their drummer, who brought some real power and pizzazz to their set. Here are some pictures of them:

IMG_5124The left half of Built by Stereo: Brandon Hood (bass) and Daniel Espinoza (vocals, guitar).


IMG_5121And the right half, with part … Continue reading

The Ridges at the Beachland Tavern, Cleveland, OH, 2.3.11


First, they grabbed the room’s attention by throwing everyone off a little. The Ridges mounted the stage in the Beachland Tavern… and then proceeded to file down through the thick crowd to the middle of the floor, where they formed a circle and played “Invented Love”, sans amplification. While the sound sometimes bounced off the walls and ceiling and sometimes was absorbed by the surrounding bodies, it did make people lean in and pay attention.

And that attention was held as the band again took to the stage to continue their set, chomping into the attention-grabbing “Not A Ghost” with abandon and electric energy, but never dropping their well-honed edge. Indeed, this is the overall impression of the Ridges live: a band tight, well-practiced, but not staid. The passion and fire radiates from them with strike-force power. (I had goosebumps at one point that night, and even watching them again in the below video, Victor Rasgaitis’ howl just gave me goosebumps all over again.)


“Not a Ghost”, “When the Bell Tolls”, “Dawn of Night”


Their set hit all points of their EP except “The Insomniac’s Song” and added “When the Bell Tolls”, “Dawn of … Continue reading

Postcards from the Pit: The Darkness / Foxy Shazam / Crown Jewel Defense, Irving Plaza, 2/4/2012


This past Saturday night I went to the third show of The Darkness’ current North American tour, which is their first visit to these shores after a six year hiatus. It was an amazing evening; one of the many highlights of my time in the pit was the multiple occasions the dudes around me started air-guitaring along with the band.

The setlist was a mixture of old and new songs, and included the entirety of their first record, Permission to Land. Highlights: One Way Ticket, Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us, Get Your Hands off My Woman, Love Is Only A Feeling, Everybody Have a Good Time and, of course, in I Believe In a Thing Called Love. If the new tunes are anything to go by, the record they’re working on right now is going to be a banger. I can’t wait to hear the rest of it.

And now, some pictures, starting with the first opener, Crown Jewel Defense, who have a record out.

IMG_4957Taylor Hood and Steve Ford

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Postcards from the Table By The Stage: Mud, Blood and Beer, The Lakeside Lounge, 1/5/2012


Mud, Blood & Beer is: Stephen Swalsky (bass), Jon Glover (guitar / vocals), Stephen Sperber (drums) and Jess Hoeffner (guitar / vocals) and last Thursday I kicked off my 2012 concert season with their show at the Lakeside Lounge. (There is no lake anywhere near the Lakeside Lounge.  Except maybe in the gutters by Tompkins Square Park in the spring, after a hard rain.)

Anyway, they play good old-fashioned rock and roll lightly infused with country, or else good old-fashioned country with sturdy rock and roll underpinnings, depending on how you want to look at things. However you want to file them, their songs feature everything I like: strong rhythm section, bursts of fancy picking, and the occasional pedal-steel filigree. As an example: their video for Mine the Light, from their brand new record, Gone for Good:


Mud, Blood & Beer – "Mine the Light"

Watch this video on YouTube


They’re playing a record release show on Feb. 4 at the Bitter End. If you’re in the NYC area that weekend, stop in and check them … Continue reading

JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound at the Beachland Tavern, Cleveland, OH, 12.1.11

Hey, kids! Trying to get back on the pony after a tumultuous time, so here’s my criminally-overdue review of an incredible show.

I was in love and angry that night I headed down to the Beachland to see JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound. In Cleveland, we know a lot about being in love and angry. It’s a way of life, from how we feel about our sports teams to how we feel about the way our local government treats our city to the personal stories that play out on every street, every day. And there are many ways to deal with this way of being – some constructive, some violent, some destructive in subtle ways.

JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound saw to it that I worked it out through physical abandon. What I’m saying is, dudes’ll make you dance.

It’s clear from the get-go that JCBUS come with the strong intent to grab the crowd and move it. Echoing charismatic performers who have come before, the Uptown Sound started the show by playing an intstrumental groove, a little appetizer to give a taste of what was coming. Then over the boogie, keyboardist Andy Rosenstein prepped the crowd … Continue reading

Postcards from the Orchestra: Tori Amos / Thomas Dybdahl, Beacon Theater, 12/3/2011



The last time I saw Tori Amos in concert was, I am pretty sure, somewhere around 1996, not long after she released Boys for Pele. So I may not have recognized very many of the songs on Saturday, but I can tell you this: her voice has only grown more beautiful with time. And while she’s not as angry as she used to be, she has lost absolutely none of the raw power that made (makes) her great.

On this particular tour, which is in support of her new record Night of the Hunters, she’s expanded her stage show to include the Apollon Musagète string quartet, and the overall effect is really, really lovely. The tour is still going; she’s in Toronto tomorrow (12/8) and will be swinging westward from there. Go see her if you can.


Meanwhile, here are some pictures from the evening:



IMG_3087 Continue reading

Postcards from the Pit: Patrick Stump, Starland Ballroom, NJ, 11/4/11

To the left, in the snazzy teal suit: Patrick Stump, formerly of Fall Out Boy. To the right, on the bass, Matthew Rubano, formerly of Taking Back Sunday. Also present are Michael Day on guitar, and Casey Benjamin (HEAVy) on keys and saxophone. (Skoota Warner of Ra is playing drums on the tour, he’s just not in this picture.)

Patrick Stump and friends – technically this is a solo tour for him – were the second of three acts in the show I went to last Friday. The  first opener was Foxy Shazam, the headliner was Panic! at the Disco, and I’ll get to back to them later. First I have to tell you that how Mr. Stump and his merry crew put on a defiant, triumphant, raucous roller-coaster ride of a show. I was actually really surprised at some of the pictures I was able to get, given the way the pit was heaving.

Like this one, for example:


The set started with … Continue reading

Notes on a Final Show: The Academy Is . . . (2003-2011)

The second night of the Fueled by Ramen 15th Anniversary celebration happened the Friday after Labor Day, the end of a week that had been both somewhat short and unbearably long. Summer was not quite done with Manhattan yet; it was hot, sticky, and close. I was tired and perhaps a little bit feverish, worn thin, or perhaps worn out.

I almost didn’t go.

But after a (slightly longer than planned) disco nap , I made my way down to T5 and eeled my way into the pit. Oversleeping meant I was further back than I really wanted to be, but it was early yet, and the crowd was loosely packed. I’ll move up as we go along, I thought, and I did, slipping into breaks in the ranks as the crowd shifted between sets.

Oversleeping also meant I missed the first band, so I started the evening with A Rocket To the Moon, and my notes on them were “So that’s who Halvo is” and “Oh, you’re the ones responsible for the Fueled By Ramen Holiday Sale song!” The former is their bassist, and is properly known as Eric Halvorsen; the latter is a remarkably infectious earworm … Continue reading

The Felice Brothers / Nicole Atkins and the Black Sea / Diamond Doves, Webster Hall, 9/29/11

It’s been almost approximately a year since I last saw the Diamond Doves (formerly the Dearland in Elvis Perkins and Dearland, now doing their own thing) and in that time they’ve changed: they’ve become tighter and more focused, and their drums are bigger and louder and roll like mighty waves.  They were good before, but they’re better now. I’m also pleased to report that they are still making the hipsters dance. Here they are in action:






Next up was Nicole Atkins and the Black Sea. I (once again) had never heard them before and had no idea what to expect. Ladies and gentlemen: this band rocks. Nicole Atkins has an amazing voice – powerful, flexible, commanding, and sultry at the same time – and she and the band bring some serious jams. If you haven’t experienced them yet, you should get on that right away.


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