Thursday, December 29, 2011

Brooklyn Industries Mega Band Night January 6, Lafayette St Location

Brooklyn’s own clothier of record Brooklyn Industries has an exciting event coming to their SoHo store in the New Year. Brooklyn Industries Mega Band Night will be rocking their Lafayette Street location on January 6, 2012 from 7-9pm and there are loads of reasons to come out and party.

Brooklyn Shakedown’s own Zoe Wilder will be guest hosting the event and Mega Band Night doesn’t get more mega than with Brooklyn’s own electro-dance-punk band Tayisha Busay.

The Mega Band Night will also feature a Mega sale in effect for all to enjoy. There will be giveaways, drinks provided by Sixpoint, snacks provided by Brooklyn Salsa, and an all-around night of Mega Fun.

As part of the lead in to this event Brooklyn Industries is hosting the MEGA BKI Twitter Giveaway. Between now and January 6th Tweet “@BKLNIndustries how you style your plaid for #MEGABANDNIGHT” for your chance to win all kinds of cool prizes.

You’ve got to Tweet to enter and you’ve got to be at Mega Band Night to win so come on out!

Brooklyn Industries SoHo - 290 Lafayette St


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dar Williams at the Bell House Brooklyn

Dar Williams is one of the most prolific folk singers in the American popular/folk market. A longtime favorite of mine, she never takes the easy road and has been rewarded for it with loyal followers and ardent supporters. Williams has taken a long and tumultuous journey for her turn in the spotlight. In early November 2011 I was fortunate enough to be able to interview her and we spoke at great length about many things. She told me of the choices she has made, the road less traveled, her devotion to and from her fans, and even her struggles with depression.

But on this night after Christmas 2011, out in what appeared to be some of the less traveled spaces in Brooklyn, there was nothing but positive energy in the room. For those loyal enough to cross over 4th Avenue and head out to this vacant industrial area, you were rewarded. The Bell House was the space and Dar was here to spread her gospel according to her acoustic strumming. By the time Williams hit the stage the energy had reached its own organically mellow vibe.

The setup of the room we were in at The Bell House really took me back to my mid-90's ska infatuation as these shows were always invariably in stone floored former warehouse spaces. The Bell House had a small stage elevated maybe four feet with microphones, musical instruments, floor spotlights, and tangled cords. The connection with the audience and the performers was immediate though; audience could quite literally reach out and touch the performers from the floor.

That said the seating at The Bell House was not really any seating at all. Audience stood and before things got going in a large section of the floor simply sat around in cross-legged clusters of 2-10.

I stood off to one side and took in the whole of the space. Audience formed an ever-growing semicircle around the front of the stage. At the apex of Williams set there were maybe 250-300 people in the crowd. Above the stage there was cross paneled frontage, crossing wood beams which ran the length of the room, and a buffalo image on a six foot semi-circle. On the other end of the space from where I was sitting there was a bar. Towards the rear of the room there was also an elevated portion which had a few tables and chairs. Hanging above were two ghostly chandeliers which cast their glow on the crowd.

The evening started out energetically enough with Pearl and the Beard. They were a trio of two girls on standup bass and a snare and tom-tom drum and a guy with a beard who played acoustic and electric guitar. All three musicians also sang.

I had never heard these three perform before and while their energy started off toe tapping enough; they quickly reached back towards indulgent world music melodrama. I felt like I was listening to 8 ½ Souvenirs meets Fleet Foxes.

A couple of their songs involved an accordion player/violinist. One song in particular with the accordion was memorable. The standup bass player began doing some kind of a slap technique which punctuated the bleak waxing and waning of the accordionist.

If I were going out to see Pearl and the Beard, I may have been satisfied with their set (they also came on later and played with Dar) though for an opening act who didn't even begin their set for a full 10 minutes later than the shows scheduled starting time, their set was two or three songs too long.

When Dar finally came out onstage, she looked great. She was dressed in black leggings, black boots, and a short sleeved blouse peppered with sparkly glitter. She hustled onstage and seemed almost out of breath. She began the set with 5 boroughs favorite "Spring Street."

She right away began telling the stories that we all love her for. Her cadence was rhythmic and breathy and familiar. Before the second song she spoke of her own "very folkie songs which come back to this world." She then gave a particularly tender and poignant reading of "The Beauty of the Rain."

For those who have seen Dar before (which was most everyone at The Bell House) her command of the room was a controlled chaos which was very admirable. Rather than dictating from her bully pulpit her set seemed more like a conversation. While she did have an open notebook with what was presumably her set list, she seemed satisfied to let the audiences sway have their say.

Before bringing out Pearl and the Beard she spoke about her choice to sign with an indie label (Razor and Tie), her connection with her husband, her alumnus Wesleyan (and how 100% of her graduating class moved to Brooklyn), and her decision to write her forthcoming album based on Greek mythology.

Some more tunes from her set included "The Easy Way, "Buzzer," old-favorite "The Babysitters Here," and her newest song "Crystal Creek."

Unfortunately for me I don't live in Brooklyn so the pressing need to wake up tomorrow prevented me from enjoying all of what Dar had to offer tonight. But the whole of the evening was a satisfying enough engagement and was an enjoyable end-cap to an exhausting Christmas weekend. The Bell House is a space which I will definitely return to. Stay tuned for whatever's next from our favorite flummoxed folkie; check out her Facebook page for all the latest news that's fit to print.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rich Robinson at City Winery; 10/11/11

Rich Robinson is a musician whose licks you know, even if the name draws a blank. If you were presented with him, you'd definitely be able to identify his brother, Chris. The brother tandem head out the band "The Black Crowes ." Rich Robinson shot up to fame at a very young age and rather suddenly came back down to earth. Robinson has suffered his own set of setbacks; travails which are faced square on in his new solo record, "Through a Crooked Sun." Robinson's solo music was the name of the game for his recent set of shows at City Winery .

Robinson's early show at City Winery was full of pathos as he tried out some new material on the uniformly enthusiastic audience. The crowd was densely packed and rather animated for a Tuesday night early show in October. While the City Winery space at 155 Varick Street certainly wasn't full at the outset, by the time the set was well underway many of the empty spaces had filled in. As I surveyed the scene I surmised that The Black Crowes appeared to be some of the livelier songs in the collections of this crowd. Many of the audience were done up in work shirts and dainty dresses but once the music got thumping, this audience let the band whisk them away.

Robinson appeared onstage basically on time. He was dressed in drab corduroy or some kind of beaten down denim, button up shirt, jacket, and comfortable looking flat footed shoes. His hair was tied back and he appeared ready to lead a Sunday school class. Maybe the look was all part of the lull; get people thinking they're going to get one thing and then attack them with something else.

While Robinson's shaggy haired keyboard player, Afro-haired drummer, and diesel looking bass player got set up, Robinson made some last minute adjustments and teased out the crowd. He commented on what the City Winery crowd were eating, drinking, and he tried to gauge the audience enthusiasm. Either he's a bad gauge or the audience held their ace in the hole because before the music kicked in, the audience seemed comatose.

That all changed when the beats came rollicking in though.

Before they began playing Robinson promised the audience that the music would be "loud." Boy was that an understatement. During the outfits first song the bass players grooves nearly tore a hole in the post which shielded me from him. Robinson played a jazzy/bluesy guitar at the outset which bordered on screeching mania by the time the song was over.

The bridge in the second song sent this listener into a redundant psychotic trance. Once the song got going it seemed to go into overdrive with Robinson taking the lead and showing off some lengthy chops. Robinson wound up trading licks with the underscoring of the ecstatic organ line. This occasion would not be the last for this to happen. The "thunk/thunk/thunk" of the bass drum kept on like a heartbeat and directed Robinson's solo from going too far afield.

On Robinson's new album, "Through a Crooked Sun," the bandleader does a cover of the Fleetwood Mac song "Station Man." He and the band played this tune in his City Winery appearance. Fans of both bands appeared to be in the audience and both were very pleased.

Many of the songs this evening felt as though lurching along while one of the members of the band showed off their best. Robinson was the consummate bandleader though; acknowledging the keyboardist for when to take his turn, cutting off the drummer to his rear and at one point even extending the song by waving his hand in a small circle and indicating he wanted to go again.

Let me be clear though; Robinson behind the microphone is not his brother. With his straight up delivery, Robinson could almost be called brother Chris' inverse. That may be some of the reason why Rich decided to get off on his own for a while. If The Black Crowes and Chris Robinson's delivery could be described as pleading with Rich's guitar playing and pleading with the audience then his own singing personage honors the guitar skills and gets out of the way of things.

I really liked Rich Robinson's solo show and will likely get his record. A few notes though about the show; it was very loud. City Winery is not a restrictive, sheltered, or really all that small of a space. Still, the way Robinson had everything cranked up to the hilt, it made the modest City Winery space feel like his concert should be playing the bigger stages of Madison Square Garden. Only reinforcing that was the fact that Robinson had a stagehand bringing him out a different guitar for every song. He's been playing a long time and he likes what he likes but all the tweaking seemed, to me, unnecessary (probably because everything was so loud!)

Still Rich Robinson is out on his own and for that he should be commended. It probably would have been easy for Robinson to retreat and take the solitary road. The fact that Robinson has lain it all out there on the line and offered up himself and his story for his audience only makes the catharsis that much more real coming out into the crooked sun of the new day.

City Winery is located at 155 Varick Street.


www. richrobinson .net
www. citywinery .com

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eddie Vedder Ukulele Songs at Beacon Theatre

Eddie Vedder has been a musical, spiritual, and social leader in his 20 years in the public spotlight. As the frontman for Pearl Jam, Vedder and his band mates helped carry the grunge/alternative rock banner forward into the new millennium. Vedder has done everything that anyone in a rock and roll band could possibly want; except do a solo tour with his microphone and a ukulele. Now the grunge rocker has got that chance.

We were lucky enough to break it out here at the Beacon Theatre on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to see the Ukulele Songs tour; headlined by ukulele master and Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder. Music has always been in Vedder's bones having fronted Pearl Jam for the last 21 years. The singer has played guitar with his band for many years and is now ready to break out on his own for this summer set.

Eddie Vedder's temperament towards performing has certainly evolved over the last several years. Many of Vedder's one-off recordings or solo works for soundtracks and such have taken a much wider view of things. He's older, a little more reflective, but no less passionate and energetic. This is where this Ukulele Songs tour fits in so well with the evolution of the performer. Much of the strum of the ukulele is passive and very tropical feeling; don't be mistaken though, Vedder still tears that ukulele up during songs on this tour.

The playbill for the show revealed "Eddie's Gear" consisting of 6 electric guitars, 8 acoustic guitars, 5 different ukuleles, a mandolin, and a banjo. I lost count but I'm pretty sure Vedder didn't break out all 21 pieces of equipment. He did fall back on the mandolin, a couple ukuleles, an electric and acoustic guitar or two each. Also onstage with him was a suitcase, a large stuffed toy bat (the animal), two very old looking speakers, an organ and a reel to reel.

The evening began with a few ukulele songs which were not very well received. Much of the crowd was talking throughout and pleading with Vedder to play one song or another. The first song he played off the ukulele was the Neil Young collaboration "Long Road," from Merkinball. That song wound up being a sing along.

"Long Road" actually wound up as a call and response which was pretty neat. Vedder also played "Sometimes," (sing along), "Better Man" (sing along), "Rise" (mandolin-sing along), and a bunch of other songs; all of which were sometimes over powerfully sung along by the enthusiastic audience.

Just then it occurred to me that this was the first time I'd ever seen any of Pearl Jam play live. I'd seen their second drummer, Dave Abbruzzese play at a Modern Drummer event, but I'd never seen any live performances in the flesh before. And I've been a fan since the beginning. I used to think I was going to be the next Eddie Vedder. Luckily for us there is but one Eddie Vedder; even if many of his fans seem bored through his performance at times.

When he began telling the story of the first show he'd ever seen as a 16 year old in Chicago, dozens of audience members finished the story for him; relaying his Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band experience as though they had heard it before; because they had heard it before.

Eddie Vedder is playing tomorrow night in Manhattan at the Beacon Theatre and a few more places including Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Diego, before winding up in Seattle at the end of July. If he's in your neck of the woods you should check him out.