Postcards from the Pit: The Bottom Dollars / Leroy Justice / Rhythm and Stealth, Brooklyn Bowl, 5/6/14

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Rhythm & Stealth, who on this occasion were joined by LaToya Kennedy, Illspokinn and Rabbi Darkside, are a complex musical stew, incorporating elements of funk, soul, jazz, ambient electronica and hip hop. Highlights of the set: amazing powerful drums; La Toya Kennedy’s magnificent supple voice; the bass drop that was as loose and wild as it was elegant. If you are standing still during their set, you are doing something wrong. Leroy Justice were a little bit country, a little bit rock n’ roll and a little bit bluesy. They didn’t grab me at first but they got better as they went along. The Bottom Dollars also played rockin’ country blues, but theirs had a harder, heavier edge than Leroy Justice, and there were more bursts of jammy psychedelia. They also brought two of my favorite things: some ragtime filigree, and heavy hypnotic drums. (Fans of the Felice Brothers and The Districts: This is a band for you.) They’ll be back at the Brooklyn Bowl again on June 11-12 with Talib Kweli and Res, for the Northside Festival. Check ‘em out if you’re around.

Postcards from the Pit: Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s / Empires / Kate Myers, Bowery Ballroom, 5/3/14

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Kate Myers: beautiful voice; flashes of songwriting brilliance; not a terrible way to spend half an hour. Empires: The scrappy little band of my heart (Midwest division) has at long last come out of hibernation – their new record, Orphan, is due June 17 – and I’m pleased to report their garage rock grit is intact, but they’ve added some grown-up polish and flair. Their set was 100% new tunes – bold move! – so I was briefly concerned I had missed a record, somewhere along the line, but ultimately I didn’t really care because all of the songs were awesome. My final assessment: they are the aural equivalent of sex hair. They’re back in New York on June 18 at the Mercury Lounge, and, special notice to Columbus, Ohio: They’re playing the Afterparty of the Fashion Meets Music Festival in your town, August 29-31, 2014. Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s: They drift more towards the Eagles country-rock end of the spectrum; I gave them three songs, as I do for anyone, and when I decided I wasn’t feeling it I got off the rail so people who did love them could get closer.

Postcards from the Pit: The Used / Taking Back Sunday / tonightalive. / Sleepwave, Best Buy Theater, 4/15/14

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Because better late then never, I guess? Or just because this show took me a while to process. Going in, I thought it might be an era ending, the last shot at getting near a pit before my janky spine forced me out into safer, less unruly pursuits. Or at least to attend shows in venues with chairs. I say “near” because Best Buy Theater has three tiers, two stading, one seats, and there was no way I was getting on the floor for this show. I was still debating the issue with myself when I saw there was one last spot on the granny rail, between the seats and the real (soon to be constantly heaving) pit, and I took it. Sleepwave were up first. Led by Spencer Chamberlain, formerly of Underoath, they’re so new they don’t have a record out yet – that’s coming later this summer – but they came highly recommended by the ladies at the front who had seen several shows on the tour already. And they were indeed very good, playing the kind of gritty, grimy metal that is majestically uncomplicated, the kind of thing that makes the urge to bang your head curl … Continue reading

Postcards from the Pit: Self Defense Family / Pity Sex / Ovlov / Loss Leader / Deep Pockets, Santos Party House, 1/19/14

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Better late than never, pt 2! I suppose I should explain this venue too. The Santos Party House, which opened in 2008, is partially owned by Andrew WK, King of All Things Party-Related. This particular show was held in the basement, which is medium-swanky, as opposed to the upper levels which I have never seen but are at the “table reservations available” level of fancy. Anyway, onwards to pictures! Deep Pockets: I only caught about three of their songs, but what I heard I liked. They classify themselves as indie grunge on bandcamp, but they sounded like a punk band with a refined pop sensibility to me. As it turned out they had the lightest vibe of the evening; it would get progressively darker and sludgier from there. Loss Leader: My notes on this one were “aggressively weird heavy droning rock and roll” and please know I meant that in the best possible way. I spent most of their set watching their lead guitar clamber all over the stage – and one point I lost him, only to realize a few seconds later that he was perched on the top of a nearby wall – and the end of their … Continue reading

Postcards from the Pit: The Dirty Nil / Weird Womb / Phone Home, Shea Stadium Brooklyn, 2/20/14

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Ok, so first I have explain the venue. Shea Stadium Brooklyn is, uh, not the ballpark, which used to be a few miles north in Queens, until it was demolished in 2009. It’s actually the opposite of a stadium: one cozy room with comfortable couches scattered around the edges and affordable drinks. The vibe is very punk-rock clubhouse, largely because that is what it is; it was founded by members of the SoSoGlos, also in 2009. It’s also unlike other venues in that every performance is recorded and made available on the internet for free. The process takes about a week, so if you’d like to hear the show I went to, check their website this weekend. Now, onwards to the show. Note: the one thing Shea Stadium Brooklyn does not have is strong stage lights. So some of these postcards are very blurry postcards. Phone Home was first, and they played what I can only describe as a torrent of heavy jammy-psychedelic noise. If you clicked on that link back there, and I encourage you to do so, know that they are 200% louder and more viscerally intense live. Here they are in action:   Next was Weird Womb, … Continue reading

Postcards from the Pit: Panic! at the Disco / The Colourist / X Ambassadors, Roseland, 2/4/2014

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It’s a rare thing, getting to watch a band grow up. My first (indoors) Panic! at the Disco show was at Roseland Ballroom in May 2008. I say indoors because my actual first Panic! at the Disco show was at Bamboozle a few days earlier, and when I saw them I couldn’t really see them, because I had just broken my glasses in the Bouncing Souls pit. I could hear them just fine, though, and against all odds – they were in their hippie phase, wore lots of beige and had four tattoos between them – I loved them. But at Roseland I could see them, and they looked like sweet-faced deer in the headlights. Their stage presence was probably best described as “charmingly awkward.” But the songs still made me happy. And so, for good or for ill, I was in for the long haul. This past Tuesday night – six years, two records/style-shifts, and three line-up changes later – they were at Roseland again, one last time before the places closes down in the spring. The openers this time around were X Ambassadors and The Colourist. X Ambassadors had a dark dreamy-draggy-occasional-burst-of-thundering-drums vibe going, which I rather liked. … Continue reading

Postcards from the Pit: Andrew WK / Team Spirit, Irving Plaza, 12/31/13

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My first post of the new year goes to my last concert of the old year and/or first concert of the new year: Andrew WK and Team Spirit at Irving Plaza. The night began with punk rock heavy metal karaoke – live band, audience participation – which was more sublime than ridiculous, due mostly to the assembled crowd, which included multiple generations of headbangers, punks, and miscellaneous People In Black as well as others who had come down to capital-P Party with Andrew WK. I was there because, frankly, 2013 was kind of shit, and Andrew WK – in many ways heavy metal’s holy fool – is about fun in an uncomplicated way that I find very attractive. And that was how I wanted to start 2014, with uncomplicated fun. But back to karaoke. There were a lot of beautiful moments: the dude in the Lil Bub hoodie who led us in a sober, stirring rendition of War Pigs; the girl who grabbed Oh Bondage Up Yours! by the throat and made it her own; the girl and the guy who led a gleeful sing-along of Fight For Your Right to Party; the last dude, who slammed through Communication Breakdown … Continue reading

Postcards from the Pit: The Architects / DeathSpells / The Scandals, the Knitting Factory, 11/19/13

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I went to see the Architects, DeathSpells and the Scandals at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn this past Tuesday, and it was awesome. The Scandals are from Bayonne, New Jersey, and they play Jersey punk at breakneck speed.         DeathSpells is a new venture from Frank Iero (My Chemical Romance) and James Dewees (Reggie and the Full Effect, The Get Up Kids) and is more pop-industrial than punk. And by “pop-industrial” I mean it’s weird experimental noise you can dance to – well, stomp-sway and headbang and bounce a little – which the crowd and I did, enthusiastically. Sadly Frank Iero’s voice got a little bit lost in the mix; this may have been because I was right up on the rail and too close to a speaker. But their songs worked great as instrumental pieces, too, so that was okay.       The Architects are at a transitional period, musically; up until now they’ve played thrashy punk mostly – to quote Brandon Phillips – “about drugs and law enforcement.” Their most recent record goes in a little bit of a different direction – I’ve already written about how much I like it – and has … Continue reading

Postcards from the Pit: Adam Ant & The Good The Mad & The Lovely Posse / Prima Donna, Irving Plaza, 8/17/2013

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Before we get started, here is what you need to know about Adam Ant: he is, was, and ever shall be a rock star. He was the original Dandy Highwayman, a cultural lightning rod and, first with a band as Adam & the Ants and then as a solo artist, (unwillingly) associated with New Romantic movement. Captain Jack Sparrow looks like him, not the other way around. In 1985, he left the music business to be an actor, and did not return to the musical stage for almost a decade. From 1993 onwards, he enjoyed some musical successes and weathered many non-musical trials and tribulations, until 2011, when he returned in earnest. All of that is to say, when I saw his name float up in my concert listings a few months ago, I was surprised he was playing again – I missed it when he came through in 2012 – and more so that he was appearing at Irving Plaza. I love the place, but it is a shoebox. Actually he did two nights at Irving Plaza. I went to see him on the second one, and it was amazing. The openers were Prima Donna, from California. They were … Continue reading

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

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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:   This really is Ryan Hunter (Envy on the Coast). He cut all of his dreads off!     Joe Trohman and Isaac Bolivar, headbanging.     The right side of the stage . . .     . . . and the left. And then it was time for the main event. Fall Out Boy came out in a burst of light and noise and kicked it off with Thriller – their Thriller, not Michael Jackson’s – which was an absolute perfect choice … Continue reading