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.
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!
I waited until the last minute to decide to go to this show. The night before Built to Spill played here and lots of my friends were at that one (or at Ty Segall at the Ogden across town) so I decided to chill on the Thursday night and head on out this Friday to see Phoebe Bridgers. Been hearing lots of good things about her so what was not to like.
Openers Daddy Issues hail from Nashville and have been on the scene a few years. You have to be careful as a few bands have that same moniker but none as good as this all-female trio who really brought the noise to the Gothic. A lot of the reviews I’d read on them kept mentioning “grunge” so I was a little hesitant (that word’s not a compliment when I hear it) but the writers who use that word are a little off base, me thinks. The band had a low growl but with pop hooks all over the place. The crowd sure appreciated ‘em and yes, they did bust out of their cover of Don Henley’s “Boys of the Summer” (slowed down version).
Phoebe and her band bounded on stage at exactly 10 PM, they were dessed to the nines (all the men in suits and Phoebe looked lovely as well in a dress). The drummer was up front to the right as was the female bassist on the left, Phobe front and center and the keyboardist and pedal steel/multi-instrumentalist hidden in the back.
Her debut , Stranger in the Alps , was released late last year on the Dead Oceans label to mucho critical acclaim and she’s been on the road ever since. Bridgers is young but she seems like she’s an old soul as many of her songs focus on love, life and especially, death. Apparently she spent some time busking on the streets of Los Angeles and was discovered by Ryan Adams. So there you go.
Opening with “Chelsea” then going into “Demi Moore” and then “Steamroller.” After that third song she took a break and chatted with the crowd a bit , thanking everyone for coming and jabbing “because I know if it was this fucking cold I’d wouldn’t go out to a show. I’d be at home!”
She and the band certainly did justice to a Tom Petty cover (“It’ll All Work Out”) then into her hit “Motion Sickness” and they ended the set with a goegeous version of “Scott Street.”
She opted for two covers for encores, Mark Kozelek’s “You Missed My Heart’ and ended it with Sheryl Crows’ “If It Makes You Happy” (not a cover I would’ve expected but ok).
With this much talent her fan base will keep growing and I could see her playing a place twice this size next time (though not sure if I’ll be there, as talented as she is, not sure I’d need to see her again, at least not right away).
Location: Harbourfront Centre Theatre, Toronto, Ontario
Live at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre Theatre, with opening act Ken Yates. Check out some videos following the review.
BY ERIC THOM
You don’t just open for Rose Cousins at the convenience of some promoter. You’re carefully selected and, in essence, become part of her family. One listen to Ken Yates’ 7-song set made complete sense to her fans on this special night as his smart songwriting was evident from the opening chords of “Grey Country Blues”, his exceptional voice and guitar-playing finesse serving up an impressive start to this show.
If the London, Ontario native seemed slightly nervous given the larger-than-usual, acoustically sound room – he had no reason to be, quickly winning over the crowd with two additional ‘new’ songs before leaning into four more from his second release, the award-winning “Huntsville”. The title track was set up with a hilarious tale about proposing on a camping trip while the song itself revealed an innate sensitivity and uncommon storytelling finesse. “Keep Your Head Down” exposed a highly talented finger-picker while his vocal on this more aggressive song revealed a distinctive country edge that might play itself forward at such an early phase in his career. Other highlights included the darker “Roll Me On Home” (bearing a distinct resemblance to a Cousins-calibre composition) and the somewhat offbeat, yet uncommonly satisfying, “Leave Me The Light On”.
As Rose Cousins took to the stage, the fact that something special was about to happen had already been communicated – without the need of words. The stage, arranged in a semi-circle with multiple music stands, chairs and microphones for eight or more, suggested that we were about to be presented with even more than expected. Armed with little more than her acoustic guitar, Cousins took no time in warming the crowd, asking whether we were first-timers and where we were from, launching into her amiable Atlantic Canada patois as her audience erupted into intense laughter. This is a big part of Rose Cousins’ personality – she can pack a week’s worth of Netflix comedy specials into her stage presence as clearly as she can draw tears of emotion with her original compositions of love lost, tragic disappointment and inner strife. She’s well aware of her darker side and perhaps it’s a way to compensate – letting us know she’s anything but the person her music might seem to project. With so much of her introspective material cloaked in raw shades of black and grey, her more comedic side delivers a welcome, cauterizing antidote. “Let’s see now… we’ve covered devastation, betrayal, heartbreak, added a touch of encouragement and some torment….what else can we do?”
Accompanied herself on guitar for the opener, “Dreams” (which included a hilarious variation on a patented, Pete Townshend-type ending), Cousins is joined by her band (Asa Brosius – Pedal Steel; Zachariah Hickman – Bass; Joshua Van Tassel – Drums) and they fit like a well-worn garden glove. The upbeat “Freedom” (from her Grammy and Juno-nominated Natural Conclusion) becomes putty in their hands as the seasoned foursome blend elements of Indian music into its gospel core.
Calmly referring to the obvious innuendo of “Lock & Key”, the frisky foursome quickly steered it into jazz territory, Cousins moving over to piano, the song warmly bathed in Hickman’s rich acoustic bass. Cue the wings as four additional players took to the stage to support a fresh arrangement (compliments, Drew Jureka) of “White Flag“: Rebecca Wolkstein and Praime Lam (both on violin), Kathleen Kajioka (viola) and Lydia Munchinsky (cello). (OMG, it’s The Rose Cousins Orchestra!) This lush instrumentation only served to lift “White Flag”’s piano-driven excursion further into full-on, Wuthering Heights territory, freeing Cousins’ dynamic vocals to soar in heavenly proportions above the full, goosebump-inducing tapestry created by her eight talented musicians.
Introducing “Tender Is the Man” with a half-chuckle (“it’s okay, guys…”), the strings seemed to afford each composition added gravitas, as the subtle weeping of Brosius’ pedal steel and Cousins’ beautiful piano bolstered the intensity of each lyric. “Go First”, from We Have Made A Spark, mines Cousins’ ability to pen strong elements of pop artistry, breathing added life into each gut-wrenching exposé. Here, the string section helped plunge the knife of a spent relationship even deeper – with stirring results. Followed by the equally disastrous loss realized in “My Friend” – Brosius’ pedal steel shared centre stage with its equally poignant lyric. (“Sad songs – yeah [catcall]!”).
As the string quartet retreated from the stage (no doubt in tears), Cousins & band took a funky detour with the upbeat “Chains” (Natural Conclusion) – a showcase for the rhythm section (a buoyant blend of Van Tassel’s uncommon drum patterns and Hickman’s tight, uptown sound) and a natural gear-shift towards Cousins’ strong R&B leanings. Cue The Send Off’s “White Daisies” – her self-admitted “Emmylou song” (and one of her best) – as Cousins returned to guitar, reminding all of her uncanny ability to imbue her less-than-subtle sense of melody with indelible hooks. Back on piano (as her beleaguered sound man struggled to keep up), the stunning highlight of “Farmer’s Wife” (from ‘’2014’s Stray Birds) – an ode to her mother and sister and the farm life left behind –– revealed vocal pyrotechnics reminiscent of, at times, Laura Nyro, as Cousins’ deft piano-playing skills were on full parade.
Known for her spirit of collaboration, Cousins leans toward co-creating and exploring the art of writing and performing with an impressive cast of talented others. As if to offer a break from – let’s call it Part One, Cousins introduced us to Ria Mae – a well-decorated, fellow Haligonian (and co-comedienne). Sharing the piano stool, they embarked upon the uplifting “All The Time It Takes To Wait” which, in turn, merged into Mae’s own, rap-hued “Bend” from last year’s My Love. Next up, another friend and collaborator, Donovan Woods – a burly, yet surprisingly soft-spoken bear of singer-songwriter who simultaneously taps folk and country to support his rich storytelling. Cousins’ duets on “I Ain’t Ever Loved No One” from his upcoming Both Ways, debuting it here.
As Woods remains, Mae returns, together with opener Ken Yates and singer-songwriter Charlotte Cornfield, to join Cousins in an elegant version of the bittersweet “Grace” (its enlarged chorus succeeds in making inner anguish sound appealing), followed by Sparks’ “What I See”. As her guests file out, the string quartet returns, resulting in a riveting, if not jaw-altering, epic version of “The Grate” – one of Natural Conclusion’s brightest….err….darkest gems. At the same time, as the music swells behind her, Cousins’ unleashes the power of her voice (and piano accompaniment), flying high above the room with other-worldly power. Back to guitar and, with the support of the strings, Spark’s “All The Stars” offers its ever-hopeful reprieve. The relatively hushed, if not somber, “This Light” shows Cousins at her best – accompanying herself on piano, her tender yet robust voice winging skywards, propelled by another sympathetic string arrangement. Following this and back on guitar, “Chosen” – her poster child for self-doubt, gets a similarly sumptuous read.
As the show approaches its natural conclusion, the final song is, appropriately enough, “Coda” – a fitting close to a lovely night that has married gut-wrenching introspection to musical bliss, adding significant colour to the black and white rawness of her highly emotional fare.
The rousing ovation from the house was successful in its bid for more. Always the showman, Cousins returned to the stage decked out in a pair of dark sunglasses as she sat behind her piano to do her best Corey Hart impersonation. What better to follow the main course if not a little dessert as she lit into Hart’s deliciously camp “Never Surrender”? With its defiant message of never giving up on yourself, we’re reminded that such a takeaway is all too apt. Winston Churchill couldn’t have said it any better.
All-in-all, Cousins is a powerhouse of a singer-songwriter. Her talents on piano – alone – could still any room while her pure, distinctive vocals serve to reveal each layer of an emotional landscape few others could begin to fathom, let alone share. At the same time, like a musical prism, she mines light from life’s darkest of corners, refracting it forward in a show of strength over frailty. Hope over despair. The way she appears to leave the door open on her vulnerability is never asking for more trouble. Only by taking such risks does she earn the richest rewards. It’s life – and she’s living it more honestly than most. Such accounts for her monumental appeal.
The Upshot: A guaranteed party starter that hails from Tucson but extends its sonic tendrils to New Orleans and beyond.
BY FRED MILLS
First couple of tunes in, Tallsome Tales, by Tucson group the Carnivaleros, immediately set my Spidey sense (tarantula, natch) tingling. It’s a damned delightful desert disc, part-Tex-mex, part-N’awlins, part folk- and indie-rock, all quality stuff. Who are these guys? For starters, they are fronted by accordionist/vocalist Gary Mackender (well, he also plays drums, percussion, and additional keyboards), and featuring bassist Karl Hoffman, drummer Les Merrihew, and guitarist/fretmaster Joe Fanning, plus a slew of Tucson kith and kin pitching in (backing vocalist Bjorgvin Benediktsson is also now listed as being an additional guitarist). Together, the stir up a giant melting pot of sonic chorizo gumbo that will leave you demanding encores. Or second helpings, take your pick.
Indeed, from the noirish polka pop of “The Die Was Cast” and the surreal, Tom Waitsian hectic blues of “Liquor, Vice, and Sin” to the sensual spaghetti western romance that is “Belinda Bonita” and the outrageous Los Lobos-meets-Little Feat “Justified Fitting End” (which should be turned into a crime novel – check out the lyrics here), Tallsome Tales is a guaranteed party starter. This group effortlessly bridges genres and thwarts preconceptions, period.
Incidentally, it occurs to me that timing can be everything: I left Tucson in the summer of 2001, having spent 10 wonderful years in the city (family business called me back home), but if I’d stuck around just a few more years I might have been privy to the early stirrings of the Carnivaleros—Tallsome Tales marks the band’s sixth album; and if it’s a reliable indicator of Mackender and company’s sonic mastery, I can state without any reservation that I would have been sorely tempted to stick around the Old Pueblo. Tucson is one of the planet’s richest musical centers, and the Carnivaleros are nothing less than proud ambassadors.
DOWNLOAD: “Justified Fitting End,” “Belinda Bonita,” “The Purple Door” (instrumental)
Ry Cooder is, by any and every definition, an American icon. Revered as much for the indelible impression he’s made on modern music — he’s performed with everyone from Taj Mahal, with whom he co-helmed the legendary band the Rising Sons, to such notables as the Rolling Stones, Captain Beefheart, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, the Doobie Brothers and dozens more for whom he’s offered his support — he’s consistently made a point of stretching his musical boundaries without regard as to where he’s been either before or since. Granted, his music is based in the blues and other vintage variations of purely American music, but he’s never hesitated to venture out in new and different directions when it befits his muse.
In a very real sense then, The Prodigal Son lives up to its title, a return to his earliest archival sounds. “Gentrification” retraces the jaunty whimsy of his work with Taj Mahal (although the carefree rhythms and well-heeled brass also bring to mind the multicultural excursions of Paul Simon as well), while the age old blues standards “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” and “Straight Street” provide apt reminders of just how adept Cooder always is when indulging in traditional standards. Mostly though, these are songs that reflect reverence and reflection, and so it’s not surprising that “The Prodigal Son,” “Harbor of Love” “You Must Unload” and “I’ll Be Rested When the Roll is Called” temper their sentiments with a sincere sense of revival, making them songs that are celebratory even in the subtlest sense. Indeed, the faith and fervor are contagious.
That then is why Cooder is so much more than a master musician. He’s an artist who takes pride in furthering the sounds that are so essential to the broader scope of American music. (Simply listen to his stirring original “Jesus and Woody” for all the evidence neededThat in itself is well enough reason to welcome the prodigal son home.
DOWNLOAD: “Straight Street,” :Gentrification,” “I’ll Be Rested When the Roll Is Called”
The Upshot: Live record is a perfect introduction to the uninitiated and a reminder to longtime fans of why you keep coming back.
BY JOHN B. MOORE
The Seattle alt weekly The Stranger, years ago referred to John Craigie as the “Lovechild of John Prine and Mitch Hedberg.” I’ve just spent 25 minutes in front of my keyboard trying to come up with a more apt – or clever – descriptor and realize I simply can’t. They’ve nailed it and that becomes even more apparent after listening to Craigie’s latest (and second, if you’re counting) live record, Opening for Steinbeck.
Recorded over two nights in Portland late last year, the album gives a perfect introduction to the uninitiated and a reminder to longtime fans of why you keep coming back. Much like fellow folk troubadour Todd Snider, whose stories and one-liners between songs are almost as crucial as the music itself, this live record is crammed with a slew of hilarious asides introing many of the songs. His monologue before “Presidential Lining” is sadly extremely relatable, and “Pants in England” is funny enough to steal as your own story. Meanwhile “Talkin’ Leviticus Blues,” one of his newest songs, is a fantastic fuck off to homophobia.
Constantly on the road, Craigie has toured and played with everyone from the aforementioned Snider to Jack Johnson, Trampled By Turtles and just about every festival with “folk” or “Americana” in the title. Until you get a chance to catch him live, Opening for Steinbeck will tide you over nicely.
The Upshot: For beautifully turned melodies, set in soft, enveloping arrangements that keep every instrument clear, here’s your album.
BY JENNIFER KELLY
Laura Veirs’ songs have an eerie clarity, a precision in the pitch and the playing that sharpens the contours of her often dream-like scenarios. Her background as a scientist, as well as an artist, enables her to describe natural elements with an exactitude that doesn’t dispel their mysteries, but rather puts them into focus. Cuts like “Margaret Sands” and “Seven Falls” invoke ocean and forest life in luminous colors, soft criss-crossing vocals and tremulous arcs of pedal steel creating a serene and meditative space. The Lookout, her 10th album, threads the needle between folk rock and dream pop, the folk elements coming to the fore in lattices of acoustic picking and lilting melodies, the dream pop ones enveloping these tunes in a soft glowing light.
Veirs has said in interviews that this album celebrates protection, both the giving and the receiving of safe harbor and shelter. “Everybody Needs You,” with its syncopated rhythms and restless motion touches on the varied and continual demands on a young mom and songwriter, the expectations of listeners just as insistent as those of her young child. She is supported in both endeavors by husband Tucker Martine, her producer on this and other albums, who brings in a diverse array of percussive and orchestral textures to underline her ideas. Here and in “The Meadow,” the string arrangements are particularly fine. Sufjan Stevens makes a cameo in “Watch Fire,” whispering counterpoints to Veirs’ argument against a (relatively) rowdy background of big punchy beats and swinging, skipping melody.
Veirs has a very recognizable aesthetic now, after 20 years of making music, and The Lookout doesn’t make any waves or upset any expectations. If you want to be surprised, look elsewhere, but if you like beautifully turned melodies, set in soft, enveloping arrangements that keep every instrument clear, this is another good one.
The Upshot: One of sonic auteur Jaime Fennelly’s best and most brightly colored albums yet, with familiar collaborators plus a Freakwater assist – and from one of the best indie labels on the planet.
BY JENNIFER KELLY
Mind Over Mirrors’ Jaime Fennelly wrote this seventh full-length for a full band and also to be performed under a revolving cloth, metal and light sculpture called a zoetrope hung seven feet above the stage. The band is the same one, more or less, that he convened for last year’s Undying Color, that is drummer Jon Mueller and violinist Jim Becker again, but with Janet Beveridge Bean of Freakwater swapped in for Circuit Des Yeux singer Haley Fohr. This time, however, they sound more monolithic and in tune with one another, especially in the longer pieces, puzzle-box intoxicating “Matchstick Grip” and dream-kraut “Vermillion Sands” with wild loops and slashes of violin. Fennelly himself downplays the Indian harmonium that dominated his earlier recordings in favor of the otherworldly precision of a brace of Oberheim synths. This work this time around is in constant motion, antic animation rather than spiritual solace its main flavor.
And yet, the spiritual does enter in, in the blur-edged deliriums of Beveridge Bean’s unearthly vocals, in the overwhelming interlocking profusion of details that coalesce into transporting unities. Working and reworking themes of light and color, Fennelly and his cohorts find a balance between the organic and the mechanical. “Zeitgebers,” for instance, is named after natural (though chemical processes) that regulate time in living organisms, circadian rhythms and such. The cut itself pulses with friction-y mechanical sounds, a boxy rhythmic enclosure that opens into clear natural tones of keyboard, a factory’s repetitive process that churns out glowing living tones.
Late in the album, in “Oculate Beings,” Jim Becker (who has worked in Califone and Iron & Wine) slips a reeling country fiddle into the mix while Mueller wallops the twos and fours. It’s a surprising moment where the Can-like haze of motorik precision clears and a bit of Americana slips in.
It’s hard to say exactly how the visual elements of this multidisciplinary project influenced the music, or vice versa, but undeniable that Bellowing Sun is one of Fennelly’s best and most brightly colored albums yet. Let the great drum spin, let the harmonium roar and the synthesizer dance in an ecstatic mesh of mind and matter and sensation.
Kyle Evans and his band Echo Bloom, on their latest release, Green, have created an album that is like a summer drive through Tennessee. And even though he now calls New York City home, there won’t be any moments where you yell out, “This stuff is made in New York City…get a rope”. The album—which for me, has tinges of Doug Hoekstra and Golden Smog, as well as the Judybats—is simply fantastic.
“Fire In Your Eyes” is a tune bursting with passion as singer/songwriter Evans sings, “You’ve got a fire in your eyes that I will follow through the night.” I get a sense of a relationship that’s hit some bumps that he’s trying to put in the rearview mirror, especially when he sings the line, “Baby we will be all right.” This is a sentiment we can all relate to. The PR firm marked off a few songs on the press release, that I guess are the focus tracks, but interestingly, it was numbers like “The Swimmer,” where Evans sounds like a countrified Stuart Staples from The Tindersticks, and the closing track “Unchanged,” that I found the most compelling. In fact, “Unchanged” is a track in search of a film; I can see it in my mind’s eye, it would either be the closing credits, or a transitional sequence of shots as the protagonist makes his way down the road towards an unknown destination. It’s a beautiful, contemplative number, where the guitar work really shines. Much like the beautiful cover art that covers the CD, this album is a well-wrought piece of art, with its amazing musicianship and production. I look forward to exploring more of their music.
DOWNLOAD: “Unchanged” “The Swimmer” “Fire In Your Eyes”
A Blurt Boot Video Exclusive: Simon Bonney & Bronwyn Adams (Live NYC) 5/14/2019 WARSAW
Filmed by Jonathan Levitt. Check out Bonney's latest record "Past, Present, Future" http://smarturl.it/SimonBonney
A Blurt Boot Exclusive: Psychedelic Furs "Only You and I" (Live Costa Mesa CA 7-19-18
Tribute: Tony Kinman (R.I.P.) and Rank And File - Video from "Long Gone Dead"
Blurt Audio Exclusive: Thin White Rope "The Fish Song" (from 2018 remaster of The Ruby Sea