Live at Denver’s Larimer Lounge, the British trio charmed all in attendance with their tuneful indie-pop.
BY TIM HINELY
Hey, I’m liking these early shows. This North London trio, who were opening for Porches (a band I hadn’t heard of but must be some kinda big deal as the show was sold out) so they hit the stage at 8 PM sharp. Huzzah!
Back to Girl Ray, much has been written about these three young ladies. Poppy Hankin on guitar/vocals, Sophie Moss on bass and Iris McConnell on drums (they also had a male on keyboards/second guitar as well) who had recorded a slew of singles before they even graduated from high school. Then, last year Moshi Moshi Records released the band’s terrific debut LP, Earl Grey and I was truly surprised (but excited) to see Denver on their tour. I’m not sure what I was doing when I was 19 but I sure as hell wasn’t touring another continent with a band (it all must be a bit surreal for them).
They opened up with the low-key “Stupid Things” (where the keyboardist came in handy) and from there played plenty off off said debut like “Ghosty,” “Preacher,” “Just Like That” and as well as a few of their early singles like the great “Trouble,” “Don’t Go Back at Ten” and they even pulled out a few new songs (none of which I caught the names of).
I’m not sure what song it was but Hankin and Moss did this neat little dance/spin around and then spun back the other way. It was as perfect a move as when Stephen Malkmus would wiggle his butt in early Pavement gigs.
The songs are well-crafted and have a certain uniqueness about them. Sure, you can tell there’s a bit of C-86 influence as well a some folk music too (and let’s not forget the band proudly calls bands like Pavement, Hefner and Gorkys Zygotic Mynci among their faves), but the never go for the easy hook as the songs have fun starts/stops and choppy bits all over the place. Plus Hankin’s vocals sound wise and mature beyond her years (though they all appeared very shy on stage).
I’m really glad I left the house on this Monday evening. If they ever make it back here I’ll be front and center again and if they don’t, well, I can say that I was there in 2018.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band tore through an almost two and a half hour two set opener in the first night of two at the Capitol Theater. Opening the show with “Do I look Worried”, from the album made up my mind. The band went through a nineteen song set list. A highlight from the first set was a great cover from Neil Young’s “Alabama”. Susan’s voice was as always nothing short of amazing. Another highlight was the song “Until You Remember”. The sound in the Capitol Theater was amazing. Derek’s guitar work echoed the walls of the Capitol without taking away from the rest of the band. An incredible work of musicianship the dual drummers and the smooth base blended so nicely with the horns and backing vocals. After a short break TTB opened the second set with a scorching version of “Statesboro Blues”. The crowd was more than ready for the second set, and the band did not disappoint. Playing a few cover songs the one that stood out the most was “You Don’t Know How it Feels”, by Tom Petty. Being such a fresh blow to music fans, the song took on a new meaning to me that night, RIP Tom Petty. The show was great and the fans made me think the “Wheels of Soul” will be spinning for a long time to come.
I’ve been a fan of Canadian Whitney Rose since her sophomore release, 2015’s Heartbreaker of the Year, but I’d missed the last time she played in Denver. This time I was determined not to miss it. Plus it gave me a chance to check out the Goosetown Tavern, which is right across the street from the venerable Bluebird Theatre. The Goosetown used to be called the Across the Street Café, a venue that I saw Richard Buckner in on my first trip to Denver in ’97, but I digress.
Another early show and as we walked in about 8:30 PM she was a few songs in (per the doorman) and the venue, though small, was pretty packed for the charismatic Canadian. She had a full band including two guitarists, a rhythm section and of course Rose who only sang on most songs, but did bust out an acoustic guitar for a few numbers. Also, she’s a talker, loves talking to the crowd and told some funny stories.
Her latest record, Rule 62, came out last year via Six Shooter Records/Thirty Tigers and it’s got 11 slices of some real nice countrypolitan with terrific songwriting (also, it was co-produced by Raul Malo and Niko Bolas, two guys who know what they’re doing). It’s a bit glossy but not the typical county Nashville gunk
Off said new record we heard classic cuts like “I Don’t Want Half (I just want out),” “Arizona,” “Wyoming” and the single, “Can’t Stop Shakin’” (which Rose talked about it inspired at least in part, by her bouts of anxiety).She tossed in a few covers as well including a Tom T. Hall (“Harper Valley P.T.A.”) and from the Heartbreaker.. We heard “The Devil Borrowed My Boots” and “There’s a Tear in My Beer.”
Just before 10 PM she called it a night, no encores but the crowd seemed satisfied. Her merch table has everything from cds and vinyl to t-shirts to a rack of assorted clothing that she got a local thrift stores. A veritable pop-up store! Not much else to say, really, Rose has a great voice, terrific songs and an uber-talented band. They’re definitely worth leaving the house for.
The scene of the crime was the Hard Rock Café, and on a rainy night, following an opening set from hometown act God Hates Unicorns, the instrumental headliners slayed.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY TIFFINI TAYLOR
Hard Rock Café Pittsburgh welcomed John5 and the Creatures on a rainy February night. Anyone that enjoys great guitar playing would have completely enjoyed this show. John5 is a guitar virtuoso for the ages. He can switch from an electric guitar to an electric mandolin to a banjo and keep rocking. This is a tour not to be missed.
Since I was young, I can remember listening to the sounds of guitars. To me they were magnificent. (I can play some, but not superb, far from it.) I enjoy guitar solos, the longer the better. When I first heard John5 play, I was awestruck. This is what I wanted to listen to. This is someone who I enjoyed watching play. He and genuinely enjoys playing, one can see it in his emotions and face. It is a wonderful sight.
Rain was coming down as I arrived at Hard Rock Café in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Once inside, I knew that it would be a good show. The opening band, God Hates Unicorns, took to the stage. An interesting name for a band, the name reminded me of Deadpool for some reason. Anyway, God Hates Unicorns hail from Pittsburgh. They were playing to hometown crowd, that is always nice for a band. The audience kept growing and growing. This was a sold-out show. A very fun opening band. Now for the main event.
John5 took to the stage from the Hard Rock Café kitchen. That is correct, John5 came running up the ramp to the stage from the kitchen. This is very cool. The band itself, known as the Creatures, is Rodger Carter on drums and Ian Ross on bass. John5 joins the band already on stage who are surrounded by blow up creatures. There is Frankenstein and a couple of Grim Reaper style blowups. A simple stage, that is all. This is nice to see because the music is why I came—an all instrumental show was performed, and performed well.
Some may not be into instrumental shows, but this is the type that would change their minds quickly. The uniqueness of this band along with adding country to rock to metal to pop to blues to bluegrass is incredible to see. The guitars themselves can be very entertaining; an illuminated Fender at the end of the show is beautiful and sounds fantastic. Then there is the electric mandolin—a surprise, and one which John5 plays fantastically. And also a banjo— who plays banjo in a metal band?!?
Seriously, the guitars, mandolin and banjo brought out the diverse talents John5 really has. To bring in the banjo was unexpected by most in attendance but it was well received by the crowd. The mandolin is not often thought of as an instrument in metal but he uses it incredibly. All the instruments were played well by talented musicians, showing what hard work and dedication and a little love can achieve. Music can be a beautiful thing.
It was nice that the crowd sang along too. Yes, this is instrumental but a couple of songs that were played were covers and it was fantastic. I will never forget this line and I quote John5: “Guitars, tits, and monsters” (the title of a song on the recently released Live album). “Beat It” was played and the medley is something that one does not want to leave early and miss. The show was extremely entertaining, from the light on the guitars to the quick change to masks, as well as the glow mouth that John5 does so well. Altogether, a beautiful and well thought out show. You’ll be thrilled you saw it.
This maestro’s not your typical electric bluesman, either. Live at Toronto’s Cadillac Lounge on Jan. 29, the Ellis trio blew out the sky. Following the review, check out a selection of smokin’ audio and video.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY ERIC THOM
I don’t know about you, but my measure of a professional musician is measured by the degree of what the artist invests into a show, regardless of audience size. Tinsley Ellis plays for his fans – and, given their elevated expectations, he simply doesn’t mess around by ever calling it in. Such was the scenario on a very snowy night in Toronto as Ellis, drummer Erik Kaszynski and bassist Kevan McCann ripped a tidy hole in the ozone above this smallish club that, nonetheless, teemed with potential. Sixteen songs later, that potential was realized, convincingly so.
Local hero Al Lerman (Fathead) began the night with a set of mostly self-penned acoustic blues supplemented by his smile-inducing asides, adding the zest of his superior harp-playing to songs like “A Few More Miles To Go”, Jimmy Reed’s “You Don’t Have to Go” and a head-turning closer in “You Sure Look Fine To Me” – a tribute to mentor Sonny Terry.
Tinsley Ellis arrives with much critical acclaim, yet true fans justifiably think of him as being light years beyond the narrow category of blues-rocker that seems to dog his hefty catalogue. Guitarist, singer, songwriter and force of nature behind 20+ releases, Ellis channels everyone from B.B. and Freddie King to Muddy Waters, Carlos Santana, Robin Trower, Robert Cray, Rory Gallagher and Peter Green across an equally diverse choice of guitars, each with their different voices. Everything that goes into the Ellis blender comes out distinctively Ellis-like and, given his rich, southern heritage, it’s little surprise you’ll find clips of him onstage with the Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes and Albert Castiglias of this world. Part of the thrill of seeing him live is the fact that you’re never really sure ‘which Tinsley’ you’ll get in a live setting as he has so many points to draw from. On this occasion, Tinsley and band came on strong, sporting the powerful lead track off his latest album (Winning Hand). “Sound of a Broken Man” might well be the quintessential Ellis track, its mid-tempo groove setting up his trademarked, razor-sharp leads, well-matched to his equally emotive, rough-hewn vocal rasp. Divided into two sections by searing solos, Ellis leans into his trusty wah-wah pedal, turning something old into something new again. In no time, this meaty trio had driven up the room temperature.
Jumping directly into “The Other Side” from ‘09’s Speak No Evil, Ellis’ tough guitar lines, again offset by his throaty baritone, provided the trio something equally solid to bite into. “Saving Grace” from the new album, provided an opportunity to slow things down considerably – when Ellis’ creative fretwork shines its brightest and works best with his surprisingly soulful vocals – the song assuming a definitive Trower-esque vibe. Clearly in warm-up mode and suffering from some laryngitis, Ellis’ vocals were uncharacteristically rough in the top end, yet he soon regained control for the balance of the show, evidenced in his powerful take on Mel London’s Chicago classic, “Cut You Loose” (Storm Warning) – encouraging the audience to clap along with his jaunty, amped-up version.
Tracks from Storm Warning continued with the muscular “To The Devil For A Dime”, stretching it out to showcase Kazynski’s fat drum sound while adding more wah-wah back into the mix. More Storm Warning with “A Quitter Never Wins” proving, once again, that Ellis’ 6-stringed ferocity is at its best when things slow down, allowing him time to dig deep with equal parts shred and simmer – the song’s blistering solos offering a warming antidote to the wintery bluster outside. Cue Tough Love’s upbeat “Midnight Ride” – a boogie with a lighter touch – as stinging leads worked to offset Ellis’ lack of top-end vocal range. Problem solved with the jaw-dropping rendition of the delicious “Catalunya” – a Latin-tinged, Santana-esque show-stopper from Ellis’ all-instrumental Get It! – that proved one the evening’s highlights. As he is also a longtime Freddie King fan, “Double-eyed Whammy” from ‘89’s Georgia Blue proved the perfect vehicle for his lower-register growl as the rhythm section dug deep and Ellis offered one-handed solos, spellbinding, single note sustains and leads triggered by altered tunings. Another showcase tune was “Gamblin’ Man” from the new release – its slow pace setting up a solid, heartfelt vocal performance and more standout solo work which, at one point, conjured the effect of crying sounds from distant seagulls. Despite missing the substantial B3 contributions of keyboardist Kevin McKendree on the album version, there was zero compromise in what was presented live – reminding all that the caliber of sounds generated by this three-piece sounded like so much more.
Without so much as a break, Ellis underlined his role as the last of the southern gentlemen by asking if the audience would mind if he switched over to a satisfy an acoustic request or two on his National Steel. Incredible – would we mind? Buoyed by the crowd’s favorable response, Ellis told insightful stories of meeting Muddy Waters, B.B. King, James Cotton and almost meeting the darkly intimidating Howlin’ Wolf – again, to great audience response, rendered all the more special given that Ellis seemed honestly surprised by the positive reaction. A rousing version of Muddy’s “I Can’t Be Satisfied” chased Burnett’s “Little Red Rooster” and, because he seemed to be having so much fun on this acoustic sidebar, the newly-anointed King of Just One More added his own “Shadow of Doubt” from Moment of Truth, teased with plenty of slide.
Without skipping a beat, the band returned to an electric barrage with Live! Highwayman’s title track, a wah-wah-driven boogie that pushed Ellis’ vocal to the breaking point, quickly redeemed by the hearty, harder-edged “Pawnbroker” from ‘89’s Fanning The Flames. The ensuing encore coaxed a stirring version of “Rockslide” from ‘09’s Speak No Evil, bringing the evening of inventive, smoldering guitar, bass and drums to its inevitable climax. There was nothing more for these talented players to do but to absorb their well-earned drinks and meet ’n’ greet the party faithful before heading back out into the snow to make their way on to Chicago.
Make no mistake. This is not your typical night of electric blues – and far from anything as restrictive as that imposed by the ‘blues-rock’ category. Tinsley Ellis is nothing less than the many influences and styles he continuously and rigorously morphs into what has become his own very personal, inimitable identity. Forever the music fan, Ellis’ natural discovery of British invasion blues and his deep love for America’s original blues heroes joins his southern heritage and natural affection for southern rock, soul, r ’n’ b and country. Add this to his impressive arsenal of self-penned originals, a studied blend of multiple guitars each possessed of their own distinctive voices in addition to his own and, adding in a sea of imaginative effects, you’ve just had a night to remember.
Ed. note: Ellis has been dealing a winning hand for several decades now and he simply gets better and better – I say this as a longtime fan who used to see him at the tiny-but-venerable Double Door Inn in Charlotte, NC, way back in the ’80s. It’s eternally gratifying to know that he continues to tour and record and make fans across the globe. (-FM) For tour dates and more: http://www.tinsleyellis.com/
Live at the Lost Lake Lounge, the Glasgow combo may have been the opening act, but they stole the show.
BY TIM HINELY
It was a major treat hearing that this young, Glasgow, Scotland band were gonna not only be touring the states but making a stop in the Mile High City (not a lot of the indie pop bands seem to stop here). Not only that they were opening for Diet Cig (who I didn’t stay for) and Great Grandpa (who I stayed for a few songs and wasn’t into). I’m all about the early nights.
I discovered the band last year on their second album, 2015’s Try To Be Hopeful, which shows a young bunch of folks with passion and fire in their bellies ….oh and great, catchy songs as well. What’s not to like?
They hit the stage at 8 PM sharp at this 16 and over show (Lost Lake is usually 21 and over but they occasionally have shows to let the young ‘uns in) and it was sold out. The dark-haired guitarist proudly proclaimed that “We’re a queer band so thank you for supporting us” (or something to that effect) and many of the topics of the bands songs relate to that subject (as well as transgender issues).
He and the female bassist were both totally low-key, but the curly-haired guitarist jumped all over the place and the drummer was absolutely hilarious! This guy, well, he didn’t make the show as the band was terrific anyway, but definitely added to it with his between song comments (before taking his shirt off , tossing out funny one-liners and professing his love for our dear city).
They opened with the opening song from their latest album (Could It Be Different? out over here on the always reliable Slumberland label) “Still Alive” with the great chorus of “Fuck you I’m still alive!” and then proceeded to crank out many of their best songs including “Keep in Touch,” “Less Than Perfect,” “Best of Intentions” “I Only Dance When I Want To,” “Speak When You’re Spoken To” and plenty more. The set was ther perfect length, a little over a half hour and it seemed like the fans there to see them were happily satisfied and they even won over some newbies as well.
Being an opening band there was no encore but the band seemed more than happy to be out on the road, meeting fans and being able to spread the word. It was great fun and if they come to your town please be front and center. You won’t regret it.
Live on a Sunday evening at Philly’s Union Transfer venue, there was a whole lotta sonic sanctification goin’ on… (Photo by Matt Rea, via the band’s Facebook page.)
BY JOHN B. MOORE
The Wood Brothers have not received a lot of mainstream press coverage over the years. You’d be hard pressed to find their music on the radio. And still the band managed to pack Philly’s 1,200 seat Union Transfer on a cold Sunday in January recently. And it took just two songs from the neo-folk, blues, Americana revivalists to realize why.
The band started off the set with the stellar “The River Takes the Town,” off their just released album, One Drop of Truth (reviewed HERE), followed by “Keep Me Around” from 2013’s Muse. And that was all it took to win over the crowd that stayed with the band throughout the impressive set.
The trio, comprised of brothers Chris and Oliver Wood, along with drummer Jano Rox, played a blistering set that managed to fill the cavernous venue, despite only having three musicians up there (and two of them playing acoustic instruments). Although Oliver is technically the guy in front of the microphone, his brother Chris, deftly handling the stand-up bass, was the main focus throughout, swaying, dancing and playing his bass with both a bow and plucking at it like a rockabilly legend. You have to go back to the Stray Cats’ Lee Rocker in his mid-80s prime to find a bass player that can steal a show like Chris. Even Rox got off his stool for part of the set, picking up an acoustic guitar and playing it like a drum with open handed slaps and steel brushes.
Midway through the show, the trio huddled around an antique microphone to play through a series of solid traditional folk and blues numbers, including a remarkable take on “Midnight Special,” surrounded by members of Nashville’s Stray Birds, the show openers that night.
With little press or airplay, The Wood Brothers have managed to build a fervent fan base over the past decade thanks to little more than great songs and night after night of memorable shows. The Philly set proves that formula is still working remarkably well for the trio.
“Nothing like a song”: a night of kinship and love at LA’s historically-marked Lodge Room.
BY SUSAN MOLL
Azure Ray’s first live appearance in five years happened not in Omaha, not in Birmingham, but more than 2000 miles west of their onetime Southern base, and sold out one of the newest and best music venues in Los Angeles’ eastern quadrant. Dedicated in 1923 as the Highland Park Masonic Temple, the Renaissance Revival space, which occupies spot #282 on the roster of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments, reopened as the stunning Lodge Room after a lavish renovation. It was an occasion many traveled long distances for on this, an unseasonably chilly winter night made to burn and shiver.
Much has happened in the time since Azure Ray last performed: Maria Taylor, now a Californian, settled down into marriage and motherhood and made two more solo records, Something About Knowing and In the Next Life. Orenda Fink cut another solo album as well, Blue Dream, and, more recently, a second O+S outing titled You Were Once The Sun, Now You’re The Moon. Their sisterly kinship is as strong and as true as ever, and the devotion of their fans has never wavered. The two brought along a three-piece string section to a stage festooned with candles and white lilies. (Bonus: cocktails in cans!)
Also on the evening’s bill: Blake Sennett and a revived Elected, silent since their 2011 Vagrant release Bury Me In My Rings. Former Rilo Kiley bandmate Mike Bloom chipped in harmonica, lap steel and guitar… Whispertown, led by onetime Elected collaborator Morgan Nagler, recently concluded a tour with M. Ward and will soon be a fixture on this year’s summer festival circuit as well. Its fourth album, I’m a Man, is out now courtesy of the Graveface imprint…
While there’s no word on future Azure Ray recordings at this point, Taylor is set to embark on a solo tour of Europe next month. Fink has teamed up with her sister, Christine, and several Saddle Creek alumni in High Up, whose first full-length, You Are Here, its first LP, will arrive Feb. 23 via Team Love. In the meantime, feast your eyes:
Live at the Marathon Music Works, and a good time was had by all.
BY MARK JACKSON
There is a good chance that by now you have heard of Milky Chance, but you may not have had the chance to hear the next break out artist hailing from Scotland by the name of Lewis Capaldi. Lewis has already had over 7 million views of his song “Bruises” between the live acoustic version seen here and the audio version. If you have ever been in a painful relationship or had someone leave you this song will cut right through you. I don’t know who hurt Lewis, but it must have cut very deep. Luckily for us, he has channeled these feelings into pure beauty. He also has other great songs such as “Lost on You”, “Mercy” and “Fade”.
Lewis’s voice has a heavy Scottish accent, but his powerful voice comes thru and gets right into your emotions. I first heard of Lewis Capaldi from the Bonnaroo lineup for 2018 where he will have a featured set. He immediately became one of the must see acts for me at Bonnaroo. His music is raw and stripped down and is easy to just sit back and let it just pour over you. I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed he was out on tour with Milky Chance and coming to Nashville. The majority of the crowd was of course at the show to see Milky Chance, but as Lewis began to sing I could see that the crowd was really tuning in to his awe-inspiring voice. I predict that you will soon be hearing a lot more about Lewis Capaldi.
Up next it was time for Milky Chance to give the crowd the night that they will remember for some time. This night was the biggest dance party that I have seen in a smaller venue. With Clemens Rehbein’s voice, on point instruments, and a two drum kit setup delivering ample bass beats and an exciting and colorful light show that would rival many festival stages, this was a fun concert night! It’s a rarity to get a harmonica solo at a concert, unless you are at a Blues Travelers show, but I think Antonio Greger could give John Popper a run for his money.
Milky Chance, from Germany and labeled as a German folk band, has steadily been moving up the ranks in the U.S. alternate rock scene. Milky Chance is best know for their feel good hit song “Stolen Dance”.
The guys have a few more dates in the U.S. before heading out of the county so check their website to see if you are lucky enough to see them before they are gone for a while.
Photos and text By Mark Jackson: @MarkJacksonPhotography1
At Club Berlin, the Tucson-based sonic hypnotists conjured a full desert moon of classic psych, trance-inducing Krautrock, and much, much more… Exclusive photos and live video, below.
BY JONATHAN LEVITT
When news arrived that Tucson’s The Myrrors would be stopping by NYC for a pre-European tour concert, I was thrilled. (Me too, having previously lived, as you did, Jonathan, in Tucson for an extended spell.—Geography Ed.) I came across the Myrrors from the fine folks at Britain’s Cardinal Fuzz Records, and I’m here to tell you people they do not disappoint either on record or in a live setting.
Having carved out a niche somewhere between Tucson psych luminaries Black Sun Ensemble, the Sun City Girls, and Savage Republic—and owing a heap of gratitude to Amon Duul II—the band creates layer after hypnotic layer that had my mind exiting my body multiple times during the hour-long set. The band pulled mostly from their 2016 Entranced Earth LP, with a smattering of other tracks. (The most recent release is Hasta la Victoria, on the esteemed Beyond Beyond Is Beyond label.) It was in fact Otto Terrorist, the drummer for Tucson’s Black Sun Ensemble, who pointed out that one of the tracks they played was by Amon Duul. God bless his Krautrock sensitive soul.
Multiple times during the set someone from the tiny yet enraptured audience would begin speaking in tongues and start spinning violently like some drug addled whirling dervish. Paramedics had to be called to revive several people in attendance as the music and its opium fog cast a spell over people, giving them the hit of their young adult lives. Indeed, there was no need to vape at this concert, and I fear a random drug screening will have me working at Burger King for the foreseeable future. But alas, I digress.
The Myrrors were firing on all cylinders as they rotated around the talented skin smashing of Grant Beyschau and Nik Rayne’s hypnotic guitar emanations. Violist Miguel Urbina, added some nuanced beauty into the mix, as did the bassist who doubled as chanter in chief. The concert burned the house down and gives me hope for the future of psychedelic music and the rather difficult Tucson music scene. (Ed. note: Check out this superb-sounding small-bar show from 2015 or this one from the same year in France f you need further encouragement.)
Blurt Audio Exclusive: Thin White Rope "The Fish Song" (from 2018 remaster of The Ruby Sea