Friday, December 25, 2009

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

Fortunately, I planned ahead and caught the sold-out Ted Leo and the Pharmacists show on Sunday, December 6th at The Bowery Ballroom; " can count on one hand the amount of live acts currently playing venues like that one better than the Pharmacists." The Village Voice. And, like every time I've seen Ted Leo in the past, the show was energized and arresting. And this show was that and more, a lot more. Teddy and the band played 23 songs and were on stage for 90+ minutes. I never did follow Ted Leo's first number of bands (Puzzlehead, Animal Crackers, Citizens Arrest or Chisel), though I believe I did see the short lived incarnation of Sin-Eaters at Brownies back in the mid-nineties -- I think he performed with his youngest brother Danny at that show (full disclosure: I'm good friends with Teddy's two younger brothers both exceptional songwriter/musicians in their own right). However, I have been a long-time fan of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, ever since their second record The Tyranny of Distance (2001). Since then, I've seen TLatP a dozen times and he never disappoints. This show featured a ton of older familiar material; he opened with 3 songs from the album Shake the Sheets (2004), closed with two songs off Tyranny of Distance and mixed in 5 songs from Hearts of Oak (2003). All first rate recordings capturing Ted Leo's unique brand of three-chord pop punk reminiscent of bands like The Jam, Buzzcocks and Green Day (another former Lookout! Records act). But the real highlight may have been all the new material Ted featured from the upcoming The Brutalist Bricks LP. "New songs included 'The Mighty Sparrow' (sounds pretty mighty), 'The Stick' (punk!), 'One Polaroid A Day' (woozy), the old/new 'Where Was My Brain,' 'Bottled and Corked,'" and the soon to be fan favorite"Even Heroes Have to Die", Matador has made this track the lead single and downloads can already be found online. You can also check out a recording of the entire 12/6/09 show at nyctaper. If there's one show I guarantee won't disappoint, it will be Ted Leo and the Pharmacists tour to support the upcoming album The Brutalist Bricks. And, be sure to plan ahead. I will.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Marcellus Hall and the Hostages

All right! So, I saw Marcellus Hall and the Hostages last Friday night at Union Hall and, at the risk of sounding too cute, the band held me hostage for their entire set. Yeah, too cute. Of course, I was a already a fan of both Mr. Hall's previous incarnations, Railroad Jerk and White Hassle. Those bands embraced a more punk blues vibe. His new work has dropped the punk and added more soul with a greater hint of southern gothic. A sort of "neo-soul" in the spirit of Bon Iver, M. Ward and Langhorne Slim. The energy and soul Marcellus Hall brings to all his music is entertaining and inspiring. Until recently, he had been performing solo and I believe most of the songs are born out of that period. However, by abandoning his solo politic and adding a band, the Hostages, it seems he has added a more rocking and uptempo sound to what are a very smart and sweet collection of songs ("Some people like to stick to their own kind, but love is elusive and blind." Broken Phone, or, "Well your the only one in this world that I adore and I'm always laughing with you, I'm not laughing at you anymore." Laughing With You). Marcellus mentioned he's going to record with the Hostages soon. I can't wait. And, I hope it means they'll be playing out in New York more soon. You will not be disappointed. It should also be mentioned that Mr. Hall is a very fine illustrator with a few New Yorker covers under his belt. Check that work out too. Like his music, it is entertaining and inspiring.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sleigh Bells

Yes! I saw for the second time the best new band, Sleigh Bells, last night at Le Poisson Rouge and I'm still smiling! The big buzz has not been overstated; the band is going to be huge, like their sound. The duo is made up of one-half delicious diva Alexis Krauss and the other half, former hardcore maestro (Poison the Well) Derek Miller -- as their bios will eventually confirm, they met one night when Derek waited on Alexis and her mom at the Brazilian restaurant he was working. I wish I could say I "discovered" this band -- two people, one booming guitar and an iPod -- but I can't. Though I have seen two of the only four live shows they have ever done, I first read about the Brooklyn based electro dance-pop band in The New Yorker -- they're Sasha Frere-Jones favorite current New York band. What I can say with the utmost confidence is that they are awesome. Words like "epic", "sonic", and "massive" don't seem to be descriptive enough. How about "epsonssive"? Ok, too cute but it's a bigger word than those puny ones and does seem to capture the heft of what's going on here. As for what Alexis is singing about, that seems almost besides the point. Her "ahh-ahh-ahhs" are the best part. You'll be so mesmerized by her "business of bouncing", and dazed by Derek's "caveman beats", that the lyrics will feel and sound right regardless of whether they're audible or logical. Sleigh Bells brings everything from The Ting Tings and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Run-DMZ and PJ Harvey, but they do it their way with their own curvy, glossy pop drama. And, don't let the distortion and sub-woofers throw you that's what we like. So lie back, or get up and clap and dance, whatever you do check this party out.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Jesus Lizard

After a 10 year "retirement", The Jesus Lizard is back on the road. I saw the show last night at Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza. I never really followed the band in the early 90's. My attention was drawn more toward the likes of Nirvana, a band that I believe shares a lot in common with TJL including a producer, Steve Albini. In fact, rumor has it that TJL was a favorite band of Kurt Cobain's and that he once refused to follow a TJL performance insisting that Nirvana play first. I loved show last night. The original grunge, post-punk. The music was fast and hard and surprisingly groovy, and, David Yow crowd surfed during virtually ever number. After a summer of Dirty Projectors, Wild Beasts, Yeasayers, and Grizzly Bears (all bands I adore by the way), it was nice to get back -- way back -- to something as raw and rocking as TJL. I never did get to see Nirvana live, amazingly since I've seen The Stooges, Pearl Jam, The Breeders, the Pixies, Smashing Pumpkins et al.. However, after last night's performance, I feel like I may have seen the next best thing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The beginning

Ok. So I love music, especially live shows. And all kinds of music (rock, pop, singer/songwriters, experimental, electronic, et al.) and all kinds of live shows (free, intimate, clubs, outdoors, et al.). I'm not sure yet exactly why, but I feel compelled to write about and share these experiences. I'm not sure why I feel this way, maybe it's ego, companionship, money or boredom. Whatever it is, it will start here. At least I think it will. I will post the following day of every show I see. I'll offer observations, opinions and criticisms of the artists, their music and the experience. I hope someone, aside from myself, will find these posts amusing or informative. We'll see.