Category Archives: Concerts

DISTAFF VERSE CHORUS DISTAFF VERSE: Speedy Ortiz Live

Live at The Root Cellar one fine May evening, 5/16/18, indie rock and hip-hop/punk — courtesy opening act Nnamdi Ogbonnaya—ruled, okay!

BY JENNIFER KELLY

An odd pairing, the hyper-verbal, slant-riffed, feminist indie pop of Speedy Ortiz and the complicated hip hop/punk/math rock adventures of Chicagoan Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, but that’s what’s on tap at the Root Cellar on a mid-May evening in bucolic Greenfield, Massachusetts, and we’re lucky to have it.

I arrive with Ogbonnaya already mid-set, bouncing antically through the first few rows of the audience with a mic cord trailing. Ogbonnaya made a big splash last year with his full-length Drool, a slinky, slippery, verbally dexterous set of songs anchored around the performer’s voice, but lavished with all manner of instruments and samples. It seems to have been a rule, somehow, that all writers, no matter how much they liked the record, had to include the word “weird” in the lede, so let’s just get it out there, Ogbonnaya has carved out a very eccentric niche.

 

Sadie Dupuis explains later on that Drool was one of her favorite albums last year, but that Ogbonnaya set is very different — equally wonderful, but its own thing— and indeed, for much of the set, what Ogbonnaya and his band are doing is more like math-y punk rock than hip hop. It is complicated and frenetic, anchored by a good drummer and bass player and with one guitar and sometimes two (Ogbonnaya plays guitar sometimes), very much in the rock idiom. Because of the acoustics, it’s hard to hear the lyrics, and so, hard to pinpoint which songs he played, but the set gains momentum as it goes and the last three songs are awesome.

Then it’s on to Speedy Ortiz, whose Twerp Verse, released in late April, is a sharper, sweeter, more pop-friendly iteration of the band’s off-kilter art. It’s a home field, more or less, for Sadie Dupuis, who earned an MFA in poetry at nearby U. Mass Amherst and lived for a while in Northampton. As always she channels the vibe of liberal arts prof crossed with the smartest tweener you ever met, long pigtails trailing, short shorts and pink and aqua tinted guitars at the ready. Her band includes bassist Darl Fem, her long-time drummer Mike Falcone and new guitarist Andy Monholt (Devin McKnight has gone on to form Maneka).

The set begins as Twerp Verse does with the churning, buzzing bass of “Buck Me Off,” that’s tall, striking Fem, who midway through the cut joins Dupuis in exultant full-body hops, straight up and down. It’s as good an introduction as any to Speedy Ortiz’s latest album, with its meandering verse and big pop pay-off, the whole thing knocked silly and sideways by the way that Falcone whales on the drums. Dupuis nimbly injects feminist discourse and cultural references into her effervescent songs, skewering digital dating mores in “Buck Me Off” and giving Sheryl Sanders the side-eye in “Lean in When I Suffer.”  Yet though politically pointed, the songs are anything but didactic. In the big single “Lucky 88,” Dupuis trades vocals with Fem, her acerbic asides punctuated with the bassist’s high girlish counterpoints.

The set borrows heavily from the latest album, but takes a detour towards the past with “The Graduates” from 2015’s Foil Deer and “Plough” from her long-player debut Major Arcana. This latter song she wrote while living nearby in Northampton, she explains, though it was mostly about drinking at the Boston pub, The Plough and Stars.

 

The rest of the show mixes old and new, the simmering vulnerability of “No Below,” the stretchy tempo’d snap and pop of “I’m Blessed,” the blaring punk rock fuzz of early single “Taylor Swift” and the off-balance tunefulness of Twerp Verse’s “You Hate the Title.”  Heard side by side, the old songs sound leaner, tougher, less ingratiating than the new material; the new songs are giddier and more euphoric. And yet, even at their fizziest, Speedy Ortiz’s songs carry a sting. They’re smart, articulate and absolutely onto male/female foolishness, even as they bounce and entice.

 

 

Moon Taxi 5/16/18, Port Chester, NY

Dates: May 16, 2018

Location: Capitol Theater, Port Chester, NY

Jammin’ at the always-dependable (and legendary) Capitol Theater, natch.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY GREG KELLY

Never having seen Moon Taxi, I was looking forward to a good blend of music from some talented musicians, who were touring for their latest release, Let the Record Play—and the crowd was eager to hear the new material. The band, clearly, were just as happy to be playing for their fans at the legendary Capitol Theater. A really nice blend of alt-rock, a touch of reggae, and a little jam band. I really felt that the band has a bright outlook on things, and it was clearly heard and seen in their performance. A great highlight of the night was when 15 year old Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, an amazingly gifted—and young—guitar player joined the band for a cover of “All Along  the Watchtower.” (Look out for Taz in the future.) Moon Taxi played an inspiring set, and I see this band branching out to reach a potentially much bigger fan base in the future.

Parkway Drive 4/29/18, Memphis

Dates: April 29, 2018

Location: New Daisy Theatre, Memphis

Live at the New Daisy Theatre for a crowd ready and willing for a night of metal.

PHOTO AND TEXT BY: MARK JACKSON

Parkway Drive is out touring for their new album Reverence and played to a packed house at New Daisy Theatre on Sunday night. Formed in Australia in 2003 Parkway Drive had completed and released their first album in 2005 called Killing with a Smile. Parkway Drive is no stranger to touring and has played many big-name Festivals, such as Danny Wimmer Presents festivals Rock on the Range and Louder than life which was my first experience with the powerful voice of Winston McCall. Winston commands the crowd’s attention and pulls them in deeper with every song. From great vocals to piecing screams, tight hard riffs, and pounding drums Parkway Drive is a Metalcore band at its roots, but has just enough rock to win and keep the not so hard rock fans coming back for more.

The crowd at the New Daisy was ready and willing for a night of metal music. It didn’t take long for the seas to part and the mosh pit to be in full effect! One after another crowd surfers made their way to the front like a blow up wavy arm car lot advertisement man. The show had to be stopped twice due to injuries, the first being a security guard who twisted his back trying to catch a crowd surfer. The show was stopped for about 10 minutes while paramedics tended to the guard and waited for an ambulance. Winston came down to the pit and checked on the injured Security Guard, who was later released from the hospital with no serious injuries. The second time the show was stopped was for a girl who hit her head on the front barricade while crowd surfing, this was during the encore. When Winston noticed the injured girl he stopped the show again and announced that this was the end of the show. Safety Tip Kids: Crowd Surfing Can Be And Is Dangerous!!! The band wasn’t upset, it was just near the end of the show and wanted the staff and medical to be able to tend the girl.  Look for Parkway Drive out on tour now starting with a spot on the Carolina Rebellion lineup.

 

King Krule 4/25/18, Denver

Dates: April 25, 2018

Location: Ogden Theater, Denver CO

Live at The Ogden Theater, the King did come.

BY BEN CURNETT

Rock and roll belongs forever to the young. Sure, with age comes wisdom, but the wise tend to sleep on audacious geniuses who make stunning art out of shit that’s just lying around. In the case of Archy Marshall, the man behind King Krule who lit up the Ogden Theater in Denver on April 25, that was equal parts brit dub, blue jazz guitar, guttural baritone sax, and a London accent fished out of can of wet cigarette butts.

The band, washed in hollowed-out reverb over off kilter electronics from DJ Connor Atanda, dove one after another into five songs from the louder side of the catalog including the single “Dum Surfer” from last year’s essential LP The OOZ (a play on Krule’s previous moniker Zoo Kid) before settling in and slowing it down for a solid 30 minutes. During that time, Marshall seamlessly transitioned the music and the crowd over to the keyboard, where he showed off soulful songwriting chops that could stand shoulder to shoulder with any Winehouse torch song you’d care to mention.

Marshall is a crooner at heart, but a decidedly two-thousand-and-teens one. He stands the genre on its head, at once pulling in modern and disparate house elements while lingering on drawn out lyrics like some east-end Bing Crosby. But then he’s a producer, too, and it shows in King Krule’s live set. Throughout the night, brilliant live elements not available on King Krule’s records kept popping up, like the driving rhythm when the drums came in on “Easy Easy” after the achingly long build up. It’s a little something you want so badly on the studio recording and proves perfect in front of a crowd.

Marshall put his mark all over the show with his signature barbaric AAARRRUUGGGHHH! It’s an aching wail that turned King Krule’s echoing, aching songs into a wild display of genre bending brilliance on stage, captivating to beat poets and b-boys alike.

setlist:

Has This Hit?

Ceiling

Dum Surfer

A Lizard State

The Locomotive

Cadet Limbo

Cementality

Biscuit Town

The Cadet Leaps

Logos

Rock Bottom

Little Wild

Midnight 01 (Deep Sea Diver)

Emergency Blimp

(A Slide In) New Drugs

Badoom The Ooz

iPhone (My) X

Half Man Half Shark

Baby Blue

Easy Easy

Encore: Out Getting Ribs

 

Ghost 5/15/18, Port Chester NY

Dates: May 15, 2018

Location: Capitol Theater, Port Chester NY

Capitol Theater plays host to the Ghost!

TEXT & PHOTOS BY GREG KELLY

Cardinal Copia and the nameless ghouls took over the sold out crowd at the Capitol Theater. Seeing Ghost a few times now I was highly anticipating this show. The band has a highly devoted fan base and tonight was no different. This would turn out to be by far the most theatrical show I have seen at the Capitol. The stage was set up like an altar with stain glass windows and a stair case to the floor. The lighting was amazing and the crowd could not peel their eyes off of it. The band opened with “Ashes” and quickly went into their new single “Rats”. Cardinal Copia had his followers willing to do what the church asked. I found myself being drawn in more to the service.

Introducing a few new songs from their upcoming album and the name of it is called “ Prequelle” and a mix of past material the band finished Act  I of II. Taking a short set break the crowd was just as eager for Act II. The curtains open and the band started with “Spirit” from the album “Meliora” and the night service continued. In between two songs Cardinal Copia had a small sermon about the female orgasm, which was quit entertaining, the crowd seemed to agree.

Again mixing some new and old material, a point of the show that really stood out was the cover of the Roky Erickson song “ If You Have Ghosts,” a great original that the band made their own. The band finished with the highly entrancing “Monstrance Clock” the evening was incredible both sonically and visually. If you have a chance to join the congregation, I advise you do. Amen!

 

 

 

Messthetics / The Van Pelt / Tiers 5/17/18, Easthampton MA

Dates: May 17, 2018

Location: The Flywheel, Easthampton MA

Live at the Flywheel, in which erstwhile Fugazi-guys brought the noise.

BY JENNIFER KELLY

Fifteen years ago, Fugazi played a benefit for the Flywheel at the Holyoke War Memorial, a show that has become legendary (you can view it in its entirety here) but which I remember mostly as something that sold out before I had even heard about it. The show came about a year before Fugazi’s hiatus, and while Ian MacKaye has been back as Evens since, other members of the band have not. The news that Messthetics, comprised of Fugazi’s Joe Lally and Brendan Canty plus guitarist Anthony Pirog, had booked a show at the Flywheel was therefore exciting. The trio’s self-titled LP, released this spring on the Dischord label, is a monumental jam, proggier and shreddier than you’d maybe expect (that’s Pirog) but powered by monstrous pummeling rhythms.  It’s the kind of record that you hear and immediately want to experience live, and here was a chance.

To add to the appeal, The Van Pelt, a much revered 1990s post-hardcore band out of New York City, was also on the bill, as well as a space rock/shoe-gaze-y trio from Brooklyn called Tiers. My first thought: how great that they’re playing the Flywheel. My second: I hope to hell we can get in. (Dischord very kindly put me on the list, though that has been known not to work on occasion.)

Long story short, we do get in. It’s a nice size crowd but nothing crazy.

The tiny stage is stacked with electronics, an Akai AX 50, a couple of Rolands, a sampler and a drum pad. Tiers, as it turns out, sculpts its eerie, shoe-gazing sound largely from keyboards and synths. Glen Maryanski, who is also the drummer in post-punk Love as Laughter offshoot Cult of Youth, presides over the largest rack of electronic instruments; Jennifer Mears, the singer, makes due with one Roland synth and occasional whacks at the drum pad. Chad Dziewior, who also plays in Minneapolis hardcore band Threadbare, plays a trebly atmospheric guitar, alternating between pick and e-bow.

 

Tiers recorded a 12-inch with Hand Drawn Dracula’s Artificial Records imprint in 2013 but seems not to have left much of an internet trail since. Their music is full of cathedral sized synth swells and hypnotic drifts of vocals, anchored by hard, four-on-the-floor beats. It’s a very dream-pop, shoe-gaze-y vibe, with echoes of the Cure (those Roland synths) and Cocteau Twins, but also a dance-y post punk vibe a la New Order.

The next band is the Van Pelt – original members Chris Leo (whose brother Ted may be familiar to you) on guitar and vocals, guitarist Bryan Maryanski, bassist Sean Greene and drummer Neil O’Brien aka Foggy Notion. The Van Pelt emerged out of a mid-1990s NYC post-hardcore scene and made two records—Stealing from our Favorite Thieves in 1996 and Sultans of Sentiment in 1997—before disbanding. In 2014, after a long hiatus, the band re-formed and released Imaginary Third, a collection of previously unreleased material and also reissued the two original albums.

The Van Pelt let loose an onslaught of hard, Minuteman-ish punk, the bass thudding antic, off-kilter lines while Leo unspools strings of hallucinatory beat poetry. “Here it is, plain and simple,” chants Leo coolly over a heated mesh of mathy rock, as “Nanzen Kills a Cat” sputters to life. Indeed, it’s hard to reconcile the explosive bass-drum-ruckus of live Van Pelt with the chillier temperatures of their recorded output. “Young Alchemists” comes closest to what you hear on Sultans of Sentiment, liquid and pensive as it contemplates trading the mystic for the scientific,  while “We Are the Heathens” brings on colliding waves of dissonance and hurtling stop-start rhythms. This is a band that’s clearly glad to be there, banging out the same complicated, poetic shards of chaos, 20 years on from the heyday. There’s some grey hair on display and Greene’s bass looks like it’s been through a war, but all four of them are tossed in the same waves of sonic vibration, bobbing and nodding in unison as these side-slanting riffs kick in. The set closes with “The Speeding Train,” the final track from their post-hiatus album, and it’s a blistering, pummeling, hypnotically propulsive song, the train rattling on towards wherever, bolts flying, destination uncertain, the motion itself everything.

And now, it’s time for Messthetics whose set up is basic – bass, drums, guitar – but whose sound is unclassifiable. The set starts, as the self-titled record does, with “Mythomania,” a relentless, unstoppable, muscular chug of bass and drums, layered over with Pirog’s vaulting guitar. Live it becomes apparent how fundamental Pirog is to Messthetics, even though we writers tend to spend more time on the ex-of-Fugazi hook. He plays wild, shreddy solos and works loops and effects with the pedals; he’s the color and light in Canty/Lally’s monumental architecture.

Messthetics follows album order for this show. “Mythomania” segues into faster, squallier “Serpent Tongue,” then the liquid lyricism of “Once Upon a Time,” a Sonny Sharrock cover. The impossibly note-stuffed “Quantum Path,” is just as frenetic in concert as it is on the record. All three of the musicians are very good in distinct ways – Joe Lally is compact and contained, eliciting blistering basslines with a minimum of visible effort. Brendan Canty is flushed with concentration, working furiously over his kit with an athletic abandon (at one point, he’s playing eighth notes on the kickdrum for so long that my ankle starts to hurt in sympathy). And Anthony Pirog has the air of an introverted virtuoso, pulling off complicated things and then peering out under his hat bill to see if anyone appreciates the difficulty.

It’s a great show, and though of course lots of people came because of the Fugazi connection, Messthetics has made its own case by the end. Though really 15 years is a long wait. I hope they’ll be back again before that next time.

 

Jason Isbell + Richard Thompson 5/8/18, Knoxville

Dates: May 5, 2018

Location: Tennessee Theater, Knoxville TN

Isbell and his 400 Unit team up with the British legend at the Tennessee Theater.

By Lee Zimmerman / Photos by Alisa B. Cherry

Though some members of the audience might have had some reservations about a 50 year musical veteran like Richard Thompson playing a solo opening set for a comparative newcomer like Jason Isbell and his band the 400 Unit, the commonality in terms of their songwriting styles helped ensure a seamless evening.

Thompson, armed with only his guitar and his subtle sense of humor, was consistently communicative with the audience, albeit in a self-mocking manner. “Some say that my music is almost devoid of emotion,” he joked. “Can you believe that? It may be depressing but it varies from slow depressing to medium depressing. Now here’s some fast depressing,” and with that he launched into an uptempo take on “Valerie.”

“I’m quite old, at least compared to you frisky young people,” he wryly remarked, before catching a glimpse of the mostly middle aged crowd and causing him to correct himself. “Oh I take that back,” he joked. Nevertheless, a touching take on “Who Knows Where the Time Goes,” written by and dedicated to Fairport Convention co-founder Sandy Denny brought some sobriety to the proceedings, before being upended by the rousing “Feel So Good,” one of the most rollicking tunes in the Thompson repertoire.

Introducing his classic “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” Thompson credited Del McCoury for turning the song into a hit on the bluegrass charts, while also noting that though he originally referenced the rolling hills of England in the lyric, the imagery could just as well have referred to East Tennessee.

Nevertheless, it was evident that the crowd was there to see Isbell and his crew, and the recognition that greeted his hour and half- long set — much of it drawn from his remarkable new album The Nashville Sound — was both rowdy and receptive. Isbell showed off his skill on lead guitar, but it was his sheer presence alone – an image that suggested a cross between Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle – that had the most riveting effect. A journeyman musician of the working class variety, his songs evoke both persistence and pathos, and when the band went full throttle on songs such as “Anxiety,” “Hope the High Road,” “Last of My Kind” and “Something More,” they did so with a ferocity that was absolutely anthemic in proportion.

 

That said, Isbell kept his comments to a minimum, thanking the crowd for coming, introducing the band and noting his admiration for his surroundings — no surprise considering the historic theater’s regal environs. Mostly, he dug into the melodies, extracting every bit of energy and intensity he could ply from his delivery. By the time the band reached the second offering of the two song encore, he was content to simply ply some emotion. The tender and touching “If We Were Vampires,” a song about the fleeting time span of lifelong romance, ended the set on a thoughtful note, a compelling contrast to the intensity he and his bandmates exuded earlier.

Contact photographer Alisa B. Cherry: alisabcherry@gmail.com

 

 

 

Franz Ferdinand 4/13/18, Philadelphia

Dates: April 13, 2018

Location: Fillmore, Philadelphia PA

Live at The Fillmore!

BY JOHN B. MOORE

It’s been more than a decade since Franz Ferdinand’s self-titled debut took over just about every radio with songs like “Take Me Out” and “This Fire,” earning the Scottish dance rock band platinum status here in the U.S. But the years since have done little to temper the enthusiasm from diehard fans who turned out to see the band 14 years later, and just two months after the group put out their fifth record.

Opening with “Always Ascending,” the title track off their latest – a song that seems to have morphed into an instant classic with fans despite the short amount of time it’s been out – the band played with the enthusiasm and energy of a group headlining stadiums (rather than the 2,500-capacity club they packed that night). On the surface the band seemed to be checking off all of the boxes on the Rock and Roll Cliché Live Show list (Constant namechecks of the city you’re in: “Are you ready to feel the love Philadelphia?” Check; holding the mic out to the crowd to sing the chorus? Several times; bringing up an audience member to play on a song? More about that in a minute, but yup). But none of that seemed to matter as the band played a brilliant set and seemed to genuinely be enjoying themselves, rather than simply running through a game of modern rock band bingo.

About two-thirds into the set, singer Alex Kapranos spotted a sign being held up by someone in the audience that read “I want to play drums on ‘Michael’”). Kapranos brought the fan on stage and drummer Paul Thomson handed her his sticks and got up from the drum stool. The fan than led the band into likely the most spirited version of that song the band has ever played, (I apologize in advance for this) with the sit-in drummer not missing a beat. It could not have been scripted better.

The set included a decent mix across their catalogue, including “Come On Home,” (a song they rarely play live) but they rewarded the crowd for sticking around saving the biggest hit, “Take Me Out” toward the end of the show. They closed out with a blistering version of “This Fire”.

The band’s music may not be nearly as ubiquitous today as it was in 2004, but to anyone at this Philly show, it’s clear that Franz Ferdinand is still just as impressive now as they were then.

Moose Blood 3/29/18, Dallas

Dates: March 29, 2018

Location: Gas Monkey Bar & Grill, Dallas, TX

Gas Monkey Welcomes Moose Blood!

An Emo band from Canterbury, Kent UK came to Gas Monkey Bar and Grill to play and what a show it was. A cool night at the end of March was the setting for Moose Blood to take over the outside stage at Gas Monkey Bar and Grill in Dallas, Texas. The crowd began to come in early for the show and kept getting larger and larger. I had heard their music but never seen the band live. I was very impressed with the performance. It was nice to be out of town to see my best friend, Nicole, and then to see a good show was even better. No matter what one thinks of emo music, it has a fandom all its own. It is one of the most productive of all music genres. There were all ages at this show, from the very young to the old. All were there enjoying a good band play a good show.

Moose Blood is one of those bands that is emo punk and does it right. The new song is “Talk in Your Sleep” and it has feelings behind it. This is what emo is. The band formed in 2012 and have had a nice career on the emo punk music scene ever since. This night in Dallas they gave a great performance. It was well received by the audience and Moose Blood has a following of fans of all ages.

There is nothing like attending a concert with your best friend. It makes great memories and reminds you of the bond that you have. Attending an emo concert is more of an emotional experience than it is just a concert. No matter what band it is, there is a connection with the audience that the band is playing for. A cool night had many in long sleeves but the feeling was there. The special feeling you get when seeing a good live band. Moose Blood took the stage in hoodies and there was a roar from the crowd from the get go. From the first chord strummed to the last it was a night to remember for many.

Blue, White and purple lights cycling through illuminated the stage throughout their set. The colors complimented the songs that were played. One of the most popular song form Moose Blood is titled “Honey”. This is a song that also received the 2016 Kerrang! Awards nomination for best track. This is the way to begin the set that caught the attention of the audience with them even singing along. There were other songs that were sung along by the audience throughout the show. One of my favorite song is called “Cherry” to see it performed live for the first time was one of those special moments that is a great memory for life.

Moose Blood is a band that can go to any town on any stage and put feeling into their music. There fans are the kind that show up to see just that. An outside stage in Dallas, Texas seeing a good band with my bestie, life is good. Rock On!