Postcards from the Pit: Black Veil Brides / William Control / Wildstreet, 1/25/2013

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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 of) them:       … Continue reading

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

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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 … Continue reading

Postcards from the Pit: Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls / Larry and his Flask / Jenny Owen Youngs, Webster Hall, 9/29/12

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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 … Continue reading

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

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  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.     The Misery Jackals   I’m going to admit right now that the Misery Jackals just aren’t my thing, but I have no problem giving them props for being a tight, hard-working band who seem like … Continue reading

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

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TESLA, 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:   The left half of Built by Stereo: Brandon Hood (bass) and Daniel Espinoza (vocals, guitar).   And the right half, with part of the left: Daniel Espinoza again, and also Derek Diesen (drums) and Tony Ricker (guitar).   And then it was time for TESLA. In the early ’90s they got lumped in with other “hair metal” bands largely, I suspect, because they had long hair. … Continue reading

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

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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. Taylor Hood and Steve Ford   Nick Clinch   Next up was Foxy Shazam, who have become somewhat ubiquitous (omnipresent?) in my concert-going adventures in the last couple of years or so. The first time I … Continue reading

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

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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 a snippet of Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”, which essentially set the tone from the evening. (We were jammed in too tight to really dance, but there was definitely a great deal of enthusiastic jumping up and down.) … Continue reading

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

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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 – part commercial … Continue reading

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

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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 … Continue reading

Postcards from the Pit: Woods

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The evening I saw them, Woods was the last band of a four-band show at the Bowery Ballroom. They shared the bill with Widowspeak (ethereal on top, solid and dark on the bottom, very good); White Fence (high quality surf punk, even better when I wasn’t being moshed into a wall); and Ducktails (he has a new record out). I had gone out mainly to see White Fence;  by the time Woods came on it was late, it was also Saturday, so I resolved to hang out at least for a little while – two or three songs, maybe – and see if I liked them. Readers, I loved them. Woods are delightful, and I stayed for their whole set. Many of their tunes were sweet, delicate indie-pop confections, but woven carefully between the hand-clapping sing-along songs were darker, more psychedelic instrumental numbers that functioned as the aural equivalent of a palate cleanser. I enjoyed every minute of their time of the stage, and I strongly encourage you to get a-hold of their new record, Sun and Shade. I have had it on my iPod more or less since the show, and their songs never fail to lighten my mood … Continue reading