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 a puppet playing the keyboards:


The Dirty Pearls were next, and they swung the pendulum back a hair or two in the direction of Very Serious Heavy Metal. They also had great tunes, including a particularly good ballad. (Heavy metal love songs are my weakness, yes they are.)

And then it was time for The Darkness. I really love The Darkness. They have all of the things I love(d) about glam metal – sing along choruses, shredding, big riffs, ridiculous outfits – and they manage to, I don’t know – revive? celebrate? acknowledge? – the genre in a way that’s playful, knowing, and funny but not mocking. Attending their show is a genuine joy, from overhearing serious discussions about Poison in the line to joining the crowd in singing along to a A Thing Called Love.

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:




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:



His band and back-up singers also appeared:

I (still) don’t speak all that much French, so his song introductions and stage banter went completely over my head, but in rock concerts as with Mass, some things are universal and you can get by pretty well taking cues from your neighbors.

Most of my neighbors wanted to get up and boogie, which is kind of difficult in the Beacon. But we shook a tailfeather or two anyway.

About half-way through the show Hallyday switched gears, going from rock to rockabilly:


In addition to his own tunes Hallyday also did some classic rock covers. I definitely recognized Fortunate Son – which lost a crucial bit of snarl in the translation from English to French – and also Great Balls of Fire.

It was, overall, a fantastic show.

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:


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:


And then the gentlemen we had all been waiting for, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls. Mr. Turner and his merry crew are not quite as frenetic as Larry and his Flask; more folk rock than folk punk, though Turner’s hardcore roots are definitely tangible in their sound.

The crowd started jumping and singing with him as soon as he started to play, and while I did enjoy the music, it was also a pleasure to be around people that were that happy.

Other highlights:

1) The moment in the middle of the set the room went silent, or as silent as Webster Hall can be when it is full to bursting, while he sang Tell Tale Signs.

It’s new(ish), the third song in a trilogy, and its about love, and also about scars. It is raw and beautiful and left me a little bit breathless and almost kind of alarmed, like I had read something intensely personal that had accidentally been made public.

2) The end, when he closed down the main set with Photosynthesis. That one is a song about getting old and tired and the ways in which the world can pull you down, but also about resisting that drag.

The chorus is I will not sit down and I will not shut up / and most of all I will not grow up, and hearing a packed house sing those words at the top of their lungs was a kick in the pants that I very much needed.

And now, some pictures from the set:


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!

Though I’m fond of these two as well. Lita Ford is a bad-ass, y’all.

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 was one of those times that I could feel why it is that I love this kind of music. The way the notes ripple and surge and tangle and then finally descend in a waterfall of sound.

She closed down with Kiss Me Deadly; the crowd let out a tremendous yell as soon as she finished the intro, and during the song there were people dancing in the aisle. I turned that song up whenever it came on the radio, and I never expected I would be able to hear it live. Honestly, it was exhilarating hearing those defiant chords ring out and watching all of the women around me – and it was mostly women, my age and older – with so much joy on their faces as they sang and waved their arms and banged their heads.
Poison was up next. And, y’all, I think I may have lost track of the number of times I’ve seen this band – its either 6 or 7 – and every time is, well, it’s nothing but a good time. (I’m sorry, that was really bad. But true!)

I really do think Bret Michaels is a national treasure, glittery cowboy hat and permanently installed bandanna and all. He’s a rock star in a way that is out of style these days, which makes him easy to mock, but you know what, he knows what he is and he owns it.

He gets up there and glitters big, does his thing for people who love him, and he clearly loves them back. And the songs he’s singing are just as much fun today as they were the first time I heard them. I still get a tremendous charge out of listening to C.C. DeVille’s solos soaring upwards.


And then it was time for Def Leppard. I think I almost didn’t believe it was really going to happen until they walked out and started playing. They began with a new one, Undefeated, which flowed gracefully into Rocket as if they had been written days and not decades apart.

They played several new tunes, but a lot of older favorites, too, including Animal, Hysteria, Love Bites and Armageddon It.

Towards the middle of the show they came out and sat on the stage where it extends out into the pit, and became a tidy little Def Leppard-pod. I took a bunch of pictures of it, but this one is my favorite:

I’m fond of this one, too:

They closed down the main set with Pour Some Sugar On Me with the crowd singing along at the top of their lungs and dancing on every available free patch of ground; the encore was Rock of Ages. It was a fabulous show.

The tour resumes tomorrow, in Florida, and continues through mid-September.

JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, St. Louis, MO, 4.21.12

Nate Burrell has once again generously allowed us to feature his great photography here on NTSIB. This Record Store Day found JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound in St. Louis where they made an in-store appearance at Euclid Records, then played an intimate house party.

About the house party performance, Nate says, “It was a sweaty mess that saw an unfiltered JCB and crew pouring out energy over two air tight 45 minute sets. Although not on a stage…they performed like they were at the Apollo and had everyone in the room singing their praises by the night’s end.” (Which echoes my sentiments after seeing them play the Beachland Tavern back in November.)

Nate goes on to say, “St. Louis and KDHX helped break JCB into a wider audience, and our city shows them hella love every time they come around. And they show us love back by putting on these types of rare shows.”

Going a little experimental this time out, Nate used PX 600 Silver Shade film for Polaroid. I’m a fan of Polaroids, and I think you’ll agree that Nate caught some beautiful and dynamic shots.


[#1-5 = Euclid Records in-store]
[#6-20 = house party]


Photos by Nate Burrell, courtesy of KDHX

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.







And then there were The Felice Brothers, who are on tour right now. The crowd was a little bit flat at first – some of them perhaps hearing songs from Celebration, Florida live for the first time – but they perked right up and made the floor vibrate with their joy when the band launched into familiar favorites like Run, Chicken, Run, White Limosine and, of course, Frankie’s Gun.

The one I was waiting for, though, was River Jordan. It’s one of my favorites, mainly for the steady, thudding, mournful drums; the line about Fuck the House of Blues; and also the point near the end where either the band cuts Ian Felice loose or he breaks free, but either way he’s soaring.

This time it came at the end of the main set, and it was spellbinding, all the way down to the last two minutes or so when various band members stopped playing and walked back into the wings, until it was just the drums ringing out under the lights.

They came back, of course, and the mood changed. They did a cover of Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town that made that song expand and thrum with new energy, followed by a raucous rendition of Helen Fry, and then the show really was over. These are some of the pictures I took during the festivities:







And here is one more of the Diamond Doves (& friend), in their capacity as the Felices’ horn section: