RSVP HERE: Godcaster Play Baby’s All Right + MORE

Welcome to our weekly show recommendation column RSVP HERE – your source for the best NYC shows and interviews with some of our favorite local live bands.

After seeing Godcaster for the first time, I imagined they all grew up together on a purple mountain surrounded by space dragons on one of Saturns moons. Turns out I was half right: they have been playing music together since they were kids and called themselves a band before they even played instruments. Their members are split between Philadelphia and Brooklyn, and played 25 shows of their well-composed glam chaos in NYC  last year, landing themselves on Oh My Rockness’ list of Hardest Working Bands of 2019. Their first show of the new decade is on 1/10 at Baby’s All Right with many of the other bands on this list including Cindy Cane, Darkwing, Gesserit, Top Nachos, and New Myths. We chatted with Godcaster about flute solos, Europa and the hand seekers…

AF: What was your favorite moment of your 2019 shows? Who was the best dancer you saw at one of your shows? Where and with what band do you want to play in the next year that you haven’t yet?

GC: When the piston misfired in the old van / big wheelie across Utah. Best dancer: David! Who we want to play with: Deerhoof!

AF: How large is your collection of fringe jackets? What’s the most creative use of the fringe on your jacket?

GC: Keeping in terms with the hand seekers, we are big we are valid

AF: If you could play on any planet, moon, black hole or another celestial variety in the universe, where would it be & why?

GC: Europa the frozen moon with the elves!

AF: What is the most inspirational flute solo you have ever heard?

GC: Keeping in terms with the hand seekers! Delving quick and valid

AF: What are your plans for 2020 + beyond?

GC: Continue commencing big velocity undergoing valid dirth and keep rockin around!

RSVP HERE for Oh My Rockness Hardest Working Bands Showcase with Godcaster, Cindy Cane, Darkwing, Gesserit, Top Nachos, and New Myths @ Baby’s All Right. 21+ / $10

More great shows this week:

1/10 The Wants, Beeef, Gift @ Berlin. 21+ / $10 RSVP HERE

1/10 Emily Ritz, Anna Fox, Scout Gillett, Katy Rea @ The Broadway. 21+ / $12 RSVP HERE

1/11 Cup (feat. Nels Cline + Yuka C Honda), Anna Webber, Susan Alcorn, UNHOLY ROW, Helen Sung @ The Dance (Winter Jazzfest). $60 RSVP HERE

1/15 Futurebirds (Record Release) @ Bowery Ballroom. 21+ / $18 RSVP HERE

1/15 Hypemom, Premiums, Bad Weird, Minaxi @ Alphaville. 21+ / $10 RSVP HERE

1/15 Rhys Tivey (residency), Tiny Guns, beds @ C’mon Everybody. 21+ / $10-13 RSVP HERE

1/15 Shadow Monster, North By North, Desert Sharks, Lily Mao @ Our Wicked Lady. 21+ / $10 RSVP HERE

1/15 Thick, Gymshorts, Dropper @ Rough Trade. 18+ / $10 RSVP HERE


RSVP HERE: Combo Chimbita and Sun Ra Arkestra Play Knitting Factory + MORE (Holiday Edition)

Welcome to our weekly show recommendation column RSVP HERE – your source for the best NYC shows and interviews with some of our favorite local live bands. This week we’ve doubled up and listed the best shows from 12/20-New Years!

My favorite show of 2019 was Combo Chimbita at Ace of Cups in Columbus, Ohio, so I’m so happy to be ending this year’s RSVP HERE column with an interview with them! The NYC-via-Colombia tropico-psychedlia meets cumbia rock band has a live set that takes you to another dimension of afro-futurism punk. Combo Chimbita consists of vocalist Carolina Oliveros, Prince of Queens on analog synths, Niño Lento on guitar and Dilemastronauta on a drum set that includes unique percussion instruments and crazy looking cymbals. Frontwoman Carolina Oliveros’ voice is so powerful it will make you cry and the way she plays the guacharaca is so intense it’s almost scary – I seriously thought she might slice someone’s head off. On their latest release Ahomale, which is a Yoruba word that means “adorer of ancestors,” Oliveros set out with the intent to connect with ancestral cosmology, a spirit that becomes animated in their live show.We spoke with the band about their Sun Ra Arkestra, music in Colombia, and inspirations behind their live show…

AF: What were some of your favorite cities you visited and shows you played while on the road in 2019?

Dilmeastronauta: LA, San Juan, NY

Niño Lento: San Juan, PR/Chicago/LA

Prince of Queens: This year we went to so many places! Playing in San Juan in January was amazing, LA, Chicago and Austin is always great for me – so many friends and the crowds are always amazing. One of my favorite shows was in Berlin for Día de los Muertos with Turbo Sonidero; that was an incredible party.

Carolina Oliveros: Berlín, Barcelona e Italia, LA, Chicago

AF: What are your favorite records to listen to while on the road?

D: SunRa “Nuclear War is a Mother Fucker,” Concha Buika “Don’t Explain”

NL: Bocanada (Gustavo Cerati), Lejos de Mi Amor (Polibio Mayorga)

PoQ: When you spend so much time on the road you listen to too much music sometimes… I like silence honestly! But I think always at some point during tour we hit that moment where we listen to classic rock and español and we all sing soda stereo really loud with the windows down.

CO: Me gusta mucho escuchar mucho afrobeats. Me pone alegre y contenta.

AF: What are the differences in the way the direction of music is going in Colombia vs the US?

D: Both cities offer something unique. I feel like NY provides me with access to witness more of the Caribbean diaspora music while Colombia offers its own roots plus, rock, metal etc.

PoQ: I think music in the US might be driven more by the diaspora and the immigrant experience. A lot of amazing music coming out from Colombia feels more focused on re-imagining and inspired by tradition and roots music. I think they are both super relevant and in many ways crossover.

CO: Se que colombia musicalmente en este momento es un gran referente, siento que se está haciendo mucha música que está conectada a las raíces.

AF: What are your favorite percussion instruments to use during your set?

D: Timbal!!!

PoQ: I don’t play it but the Carolina’s guacharaca is special.

AF: What is the inspiration behind the synth sounds you use?

PoQ: I love techno and sound design in general. I always try to approach synth playing more as a sound design tool than a traditional keyboard per se. I love analog sound and just unexpected freak out moments of synth.

AF: What are some of the biggest inspirations and influences on your live show? What are you looking forward to most about your show with Sun Ra Arkestra?

D: I look forward to witnessing the legacy of Sun Ra among the members of his band, their ability to improvise and to be colorful.

PoQ: Too many inspirations! I’m inspired by artists than transcend time and generations. Sun Ra Arkestra, los Wemblers, tabou combo, BIG sound on stage and full on rhythm. I’m not really a religious person but music is spiritual and powerful sound and stage presence can take you places far and deep. That’s what I am into. Honestly just meeting them and hearing them play. So much to learn and experience.

CO: Me gusta muchos lxs artistas que son únicxs y espontánexs y que proponen algo diferente en vivo, que no tienen miedo a explorar y dar creatividad para sus shows. James brown, Janis Joplin, mayra Andrade, La Lupe , celia cruz , concha buika. Tocar con Sun Ra será una de las experiencias más impactantes de mi carrera. Agradecida con tu interés de tocar con el combo .. sera una noche memorable, para ser feliz y hacer vibrar al público. Si quieren candela, candela le vamo a dar !!

AF: What are your plans for 2020 and the next decade?

D: I wanna tour in Latin America, it has become a dream I would like to fulfill.

PoQ: Travel to South America, write some new music and keep exploring, searching and interpreting those energies that keeps us together making music.

CO: Seguir poniendo sabor en el fogón. Haciendo beats poderosos , mucha letra que conecte y retumbe , muchos lugares para conquistar y mucha Alegría y nuevos amigxs

RSVP HERE for Combo Chimbita & Sun Ra Arkestra @ Knitting Factory on 12/28. All Ages / $25-$30

More great shows this week:

 2/20 Tall Juan (single release), Future Punks @ Knitting Factory. All Ages / $15 RSVP HERE

12/20 Surfbort, Bodega, Weeping Icon @ Market Hotel. All Ages / $15 RSVP HERE

12/20 Dinowalrus, Clone, It’s Over @ Trans-Pecos. All Ages / $10 RSVP HERE

12/21 Varsity (NYC debut), Emily Reo, Winter, Lunarette @ Market Hotel. All Ages /$15 RSVP HERE

12/22-12/30 The 8 Nights of Hanukkah with Yo La Tengo @ Bowery Ballroom. 18+ / $40 RSVP HERE

12/27 Veda Rays, No Ice, The Due Diligence @ Alphaville. 21+/ $10 RSVP HERE

12/28 GWAR @ Warsaw. All Ages / $25 RSVP HERE

12/28 Death By Sheep Holiday Party: Deli Girls, Dreamcrusher, Grooming, & more @ Trans Pecos. All Ages / $10 RSVP HERE

12/29 Deer Tick: Tick Tock @ Brooklyn Bowl. 21+ / $35 RSVP HERE

12/29 New Bomb Turks, The Atom Age, Spite Fuxxx @ Saint Vitus. 21+ / $25 RSVP HERE

12/20 Godcaster, Fantasy, Bug Fight, Water From Your Eyes @ The Broadway. 21+ / $12 RSVP HERE

12/31 The Strokes, Mac DeMarco @ Barclays Center. All Ages RSVP HERE

12/31 Priests (last show before hiatus), Russian Baths, Anti Ivry-Block @ Rough Trade. 18+ $25 RSVP HERE

12/31 Wavves @ Baby’s All Right. 21+ / $40 RSVP HERE

12/31 Gnarcissists, Native Sun, Max Pain and The Groovies, Sunflower Bean (DJ set) @ The Broadway. 21+ /$20 RSVP HERE

12/31 The Jesus Lizard @ Brooklyn Steel. 16+ / $65 RSVP HERE

12/31 Cloud Nothings, Field Mouse, Patio @ Knitting Factory. All Ages / $35-$40 RSVP HERE

12/31 Rubblebucket, Guerrilla Toss @ White Eagle Hall. 21+ $25 RSVP HERE

Vanessa Silberman plays The Broadway & Premieres ‘Don’t’ Music Video

Welcome to our weekly show recommendation column RSVP HERE – your source for the best NYC shows and interviews with some of our favorite local live bands.


Fresh New York City transplant and DIY queen Vanessa Silberman is playing at The Broadway this Thursday 11/21 with Nihiloceros, Top Nachos, and Sharkswimmer. We are psyched to premiere her colorful stop-motion music video for “Don’t,” off her new EP Brighter Than Bloom that recently recently released on her own label. We spoke with Vanessa about her heavy touring schedule, running her own label, and what keeps her motivated, organized, balanced…

AF: You recently relocated to NYC from LA. How do you like New York so far? What are the advantages to having home bases in cities like New York and LA?

VS: I love it! I love the music scene and people here. It’s thriving, inspiring and there are so many venues! I love LA too but it’s very different. I was in LA for so many years but was really just ready for growth and a life change, especially for when I’d be coming off tours. I just wanted a different place to come home to and always wanted to try New York. Over the last few years I had been spending quite a bit of time in NYC and on the East Coast working with a lot various artist/bands recording in-between touring and really enjoyed it!

Some of the biggest advantages I see to being based in ether of these cities is the multitude of opportunities and business for people. There’s a lot of music in both cities too. I think people can only go so far in smaller cities depending on their goals. NY has an amazing advantage of being so close to so many other states and cities, making it easier for an active artist to get out and play out of town shows but not have to drive far. You also don’t have to own a car – I’ve been walking a lot and making up for all the insane hours of siting in the car on tour! NYC has this magic too – I have no idea what it is but just walking through the city you feel it. Its a very exciting city that’s fast paced, which I love and matches what I am very used to.

On the other hand, I do love things about LA, Hollywood and the magic that is there. It’s just really easy to live there and the LA weather is so beautiful. There’s a lot of opportunity in the music business there especially for someone starting out, depending on your goals, or for an artist/band who has the pieces but is ready to go to the next level. Though, I do think it’s up to an individual to cultivate and create what they want wherever they are. With the internet you can do that from a lot of places these days.

AF: You do everything yourself and wear pretty much all the hats in the industry. How do you balance songwriting, leading a band, booking, touring, producing/engineering other musicians, running your own label, etc.?

VS: I definitely use a lot of to-do lists and plan a lot in advance. Even when it is a juggle it somehow just feels right doing everything. I love music so much and I love playing as well as helping other bands and artists. I also think in this day and age it’s imperative for artists to be multi faceted (like a brand) and be able to be visionaries, creating their career before bigger people get in the picture.

Some of it is learning how to balance as you go. I was on the road for over 3 1/2 years and I didn’t have a home because I was touring so much (plus recording, doing co-writing and my label work in between being on the road). I love it but also the more people involved the more moving pieces there are. I think it’s hard to stop once you have been out that long and balancing so much. I have had a couple moments where I have needed to just say to myself “Okay, I need a spiritual break to collect myself, to rejuvenate, take a minute off touring, rest, exercise, have quiet time, expand as a human, just experience life in one place so I can re-balance.” I put out a lot of energy and it’s hard for me personally to allow myself to stop but it is needed for expansion, assessment and growth as an artist so one can produce really good material. I think also working for other bands and artists gives me a very good perspective.

I do start to feel uneven or even stagnant if I’m just focusing on one of thing for too long. Like if I’m just playing shows, booking, promoting (basically running a tour) I feel so self-reliant and extremely fulfilled but I do miss creativity in recording so I like to record other artists in between playing or even mix and co-write from the road. Then on the other hand if I’m just in the studio I absolutely miss the road and feel like I need to get out into the world. Same thing too with business/admin work – too much of it and I feel very unbalanced, but as soon as I play I feel a lot better. I think I’m the happiest doing everything and plus I have multiple streams of income. I spent a couple years just mainly working like 12-14 hours in the studio and then going to shows late at night to get out. I just have a lot of energy! I love having a label too and it is really fulfilling to help build artists’ careers. Everyone I have ever been inspired by has wore a lot of hats in the music business and were also artists and/or producers. I feel a complete knowingness around what I am supposed to do on my life path. I think the only tough thing that truly has ever been hard to balance is a personal life. Relationships are challenging.

AF: How long have you been a touring musician and what have you seen change over the years? What’s your favorite part about touring and what keeps your motivated in general?

VS: I did my first tour in 2005 (when I played under my old band moniker Diamonds Under Fire). When I first started there were only yahoo maps and we had to print them out! There are so many more resources now, it’s incredible. Everything from venue resources to food, hotel and cheap gas station apps. You name it! I also feel like now more than ever you can really find so many different avenues of reaching people and getting people to shows. There are a lot of options, especially if you’re willing to put in the work. You can actually make a living DIY touring. You don’t need a label, agent or a lot of money to tour. I love waking up every single day and playing for people, traveling and connecting to music fans about life and learning about different places.

What keeps me motivated? Wanting to change the world in a positive way through music is an absolute motivation – it’s like a fire that won’t burn out. I just want to impact and motivate people through music, whether I’m playing live, putting out someone’s record or producing them. I want to get people excited and make them feel. I just want to make things happen and amplify everything.

RSVP HERE for Vanessa Silberman with Nihiloceros, Top Nachos, and Sharkswimmer @ The Broadway Thursday 11/21! 12+ / $12

More great shows this week:

11/15 Tall Juan and Wild Yaks @ Baby’s All Right. 21+ / $12 RSVP HERE

11/15 High Waisted (Birthday Show), Close Talker, Seafoam Walls, and Wooter @ The Sultan Room. 21+ / $12 RSVP HERE

11/16 Leftover Crack, Days N Daze, Cop/Out, Alexander Agent Orange @ Market Hotel. 21+ / $20 RSVP HERE.

11/16 Goon, Big Bliss, Monograms @ The Broadway. 21+ / $12 RSVP HERE

11/17 AUDIOFEMME RELAUNCH PARTY! We’ll see you at the Rosewood Theater with sets from Zola Jesus, Mothica, Purple Pilgrims, Jess Williamson, tarot readings, a tattoo booth, and more! 21+ / $25 / 7:30pm RSVP HERE

11/17 Emmerson & Her Clammy Hands (Acoustic Residency) with Shilpa Ray, Odetta Hartman, and Joanna Schubert  @ The Footlight. 21+ / Free / 3pm RSVP HERE

11/18 Blood, Tredici Bacci, Cindy Cane, Poppies @ Baby’s All Right. 21+ / $10 RSVP HERE

11/18 Drug Couple (Record Release), Moon Kissed, Color Tongue, Atlas Engine @ The Broadway. 21+ / $12 RSVP HERE

11/20 Mikal Cronin, Shannon Lay @ Bowery Ballroom. 18+ / $18 RSVP HERE

11/21 Combo Chimbita (Doc Martins Presents) @ Barbes. 21+ / Free RSVP HERE

LIVE REVIEW: Jukebox the Ghost @ Bowery Ballroom


At Jukebox the Ghost’s Tuesday night Bowery Ballroom show, the commentary was as entertaining as the music itself. As the DC-based power-pop trio known for its intricate piano intros and energetic hooks performed a combination of old hits, tracks from its 2014 self-titled album, and not-yet-released numbers, vocalist/pianist Ben Thornewill narrated the evening with a self-awareness that broke the unspoken musical fourth wall, creating a concert and comedy routine rolled into one.

The fourth wall isn’t a concept typically applied to concerts, since it’s customary for bands to acknowledge they’re in front of an audience. But there is an invisible boundary — a sort of fifth wall — that dictates what band members do and don’t mention during live performances. It’s the wall Thornewill broke in the beginning of the set when he said, “This is being recorded, so f*ck me” and again later when he announced, “We’re gonna play a song we haven’t played in a while, and then we’re gonna get weird.”
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This “weirdness” took the form of a wheel with song titles all around it, which an assistant named “Dinky blossom blossom” spun to determine what the band would play. One item on the list was “Steve’s choice,” relying on the assumption that there’d be a Steve in the audience (there wasn’t). Another was “Hold It In (Supreme),” a rendition of the infectiously peppy track from the band’s 2008 debut album in which the members swapped instruments. While that performance was inevitably a bit sloppy, Thornewill admitted he was proud they even got through it, and the gimmick was worth the compromised quality.
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This is a band with consideration for its audience — and not just the imaginary “Steve.” At your typical concert, the headliner will get up, play its set, and expect applause unconditionally. But between dancing in their seats, joking about doing taxes backstage, and telling attendees they were “doing great for a Tuesday,” Jukebox the Ghost’s members worked hard to retain their fans’ attention. Thornewill even put himself in the crowd’s shoes. “I know it’s scary because you paid to be here and it could suck,” he said before playing the delightfully catchy unreleased “Keys in the Car.” “But that’s a risk you’re willing to take.”
Before closing the show, Thornewill broke the fifth wall once again by announcing, “I’m not talking to you like you’re dumb. There’s more than one song left” and explaining how the encore would work.
After 13 years of making music, Jukebox the Ghost is picking up speed and gaining popularity — at least if the head-bobbing fans who sang along to poppy crowdpleasers like “Girl” and “Postcard” were any indication. My only hope is that as the band rises to fame, it never ceases to break concert conventions and “get weird.”



Berkeley-born and Brooklyn-based trio POP ETC are back with Souvenir, a follow up to 2012’s eponymous release.

In the last three years, the band has traversed in an even poppier direction, almost a little cheesy. But in a time when “pop” is considered an obscenity, a genre to be left for the tweens, POP ETC makes something shimmer on Souvenir.

The first single, “What Am I Becoming?” stands out as one of my favorite tracks, right next to the relentlessly catchy “Vice,” where lead singer Chris Chu sings, “You’ve got that vice that I like/No matter how hard I fight/It takes a hold of me right now.”

“Your Heart is a Weapon” and “Running in Circles” most clearly relay the 80’s synth-pop feel dominating the album. Slowing it down, “I Wanted to Change the World But the World Changed Me” (apart from being a mouthful of a title) is set in motion by a catchy guitar hook immediately reminiscent of “No Scrubs” by TLC.

The album is sprinkled with bits of R&B influence throughout, and it’s fair to assume these guys have spent some time listening to the likes of both Duran Duran and Mariah, and everything in between.

Perhaps that explains where the “et cetera” comes from.

There’s a clearly deliberate cohesion on Souvenir that was lacking on the overdone POP ETC.  Simplifying the production and easing up on the auto-tune makes for a delightful listen, and a pretty good dance party playlist for fans of other contemporary indie pop artists like Ra Ra Riot or Washed Out.

The boys are currently on tour with Oh Wonder, and will be playing Music Hall of Williamsburg this Friday and Bowery Ballroom on Saturday.

LIVE REVIEW: Cass McCombs @ Bowery Ballroom


Of the many adjectives one could foist upon musicians, “pure” does not top the heap. And yet no word could ring more true when describing Cass McCombs’ set at the Bowery Ballroom last Thursday. And when I say “pure,” I do not mean chaste or innocent, but pure in form. Unadulterated. Music for music’s sake, void of frills, gimmicks, and needless chatter.

Opening the evening were Soldiers Of Fortune, a band (or as their bandcamp page declares, an ANTI-BAND!) with incredible stamina given their 12-year history. Often described as a sort of “indie rock supergroup” (Brooklyn Vegan), Soldiers Of Fortune includes members of already successful bands such as Oneida, Interpol, and Chavez to name just a few. Wordlessly taking the stage, they built a layer cake of sound over a span of 45 minutes. Without stopping. Drummer Kid Millions (Oneida) was a sort of charismatic focal point-an odd role for a drummer to be sure. Kid jostled around with a playful Davey Jones air, yelping inspired nonsense throughout the epic “song.” I’d hate to describe SOF as a jam band, due to the horrendous connotations (PHISH!), however it is difficult to think of any other brand with which to stamp them. I suppose this is why labels are so discouraged in the arts.

In a pre-show interview, again from Brooklyn Vegan, McCombs expressed a desire for the evening to be a warmer for the cold weather…a kind of “wintertime orgy,” as he put it. Unfortunately for McCombs, the only sex appeal omitted that night was provided entirely by him. Watching from dead center of the balcony, I cast a wide sight on the at-capacity crowd, and much to the dismay of a hopeful orgy conductor, things were a bit stiff. (No. Not like that, perverts.) Aside from Cass’s effortless magnetism, the most sensual antic the audience could muster came from the boisterous woman to my right, shout-singing the lyrics to “Proud Mary” over a song that was anything but. Meeeeowww.

But I digress. Wasn’t this show about the purity of form? The Music? That’s right. Much like SOF, McComb’s played a nearly banter-less set, pausing between songs only a couple of times for a “thank you” or “peace.” So the fact that he and his band (including Jon Shaw, Dan Iead, and not one, but two drummers) played a two-hour-plus selection of tunes. Thrown in the mix were such greats as “Robin Egg Blue,” “Brighter,” and “Big Wheel.” Naturally, the encore was as aimless and unpredictable as a troubadour like McCombs would have it – just one big “jam.” McCombs actually is a big Phish fan, which might dock his sexy points. But not that much.

But Phish or no Phish, shouting par-drunken fans falling into me or not, nothing can spoil McCombs’s allure, let alone detract from the quality of his songs. He truly has what makes a great musician, solely on these grounds, but goes further with regards to value. He recently threw a benefit for Bernie Sanders, and his ballad for Bradley Manning surfaced on the acclaimed news program Democracy Now. Sex appeal and substance? Yes please.

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LIVE REVIEW: Albert Hammond, Jr. @ Bowery Ballroom

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Ysabella Monton for AudioFemme.
Ysabella Monton for AudioFemme.

Any fans of The Strokes can recognize early on that Albert Hammond, Jr.‘s rhythm guitar was a heavy influence on driving the band’s distinct garage rock sound, so it’s great to see him have room to shine on his own.  Since he last performed in New York City two years ago at Webster Hall, he’s back with another fantastic full album under his belt that showcase his evolved sound and personal growth.

After flawlessly belting “Cooker Ship” towards the beginning of the set, some sound issues with the bass allowed for a toned down, impromptu performance of “Blue Skies,” just Albert with his guitar (which wasn’t on the setlist).

Many of the new songs from Momentary Masters are far more energetic than his other work, so it was fun to see Albert and his band get into the groove of songs like “Touché” and “Caught By My Shadow.” It being my second time seeing him perform, I was happy to hear old favorites, like “Everyone Gets A Star” sounding just as beautiful as ever, and “Rocket,” a surprise at the end.  And witnessing the entire crowd sing along, not missing a beat, to “In Transit” shows just how loyal his fans are.

As he’s known primarily for his guitar prowess, it’s easy to overlook that his voice packs some real power behind it as well. With the backup band doing most of the guitar work, his vocals take center stage, and he impresses the crowd with a great range and the facial expressions to match.

That isn’t to say, however, that his guitar skills don’t shine as well.  The crowd stilled for the instrumental “Spooky Couch,” an old favorite from his second album, which highlighted his incredible showmanship and attention to detail.  Another detail important to note was the fantastic light design, red to counter the band’s all black outfits, which is all done by his wife, Justyna.

And he couldn’t have thought of a better way to close out the show:  after the encore, he takes a letter from a fan in the front row. When it doesn’t fit in his vest pocket, he shoves it right down the front of his pants, and walks off the stage like nothing happened.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

LIVE REVIEW: Courtney Barnett @ Bowery Ballroom


“There’s not enough songs about Squash.” Are there not? Not according to Australian singer/songwriter Darren Hanlon. On paper, Hanlon wouldn’t entice me all that much. Solo artist. Acoustic guitar. Singer/songwriter. Cheeky and cheerful folk numbers. Australian. With those keywords I’d fear a Southern Hemisphere Jack Johnson. But, there are exceptions to everything, and it doesn’t hurt that Hanlon is impossibly charming. Even better, his style of songwriting is truly original, merging jaunty folk melodies with lyrics of the most heightened wit and whimsy. In a blurb Hanlon calls to mind Billy Bragg (if he’d never been angry).

Having just released his fifth studio album, Hanlon is doing well for himself, opening for Courtney Barnett on her streak of sold-out shows at Bowery Ballroom. If charisma has any hand in success, Hanlon should be well on his way to it. His banter is enviably candid and hilarious, his lyrics no less of either. “If I had a dollar for every time I should have been paid…then I would have been paid.”

Next up were Seattle all-girl group Chastity Belt, who’ve just released their second full length Time to Go Home on Sub Pop subsidiary Hardly Art Records. Their set was tight and inspired, with just an appropriate dose of nonchalance and snark. There wasn’t much banter to be had-it is difficult to follow up Hanlon’s act in that department-but the gals were focused, fun, and very badass. Lead singer Julia Shapiro bobbed her frizzled mane around while rattling off shouts in her blasé, slightly grungy tone. Guitarist Lydia Lund was on point with tangy, Johnny Marr-ish surf licks while bassist Annie Truscott bopped around the stage in rhythm with her own thumping strings.

Before Courtney Barnett could even take the stage, the crowd had filled out to maximum capacity. With only one full-length album and merely 26 years on this earth, Barnett seems to be doing very well for herself in the realm of music (and not having to suffer a day job). Her debut Sometimes I sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit has garnered rave reviews from the likes of KEXP, Pitchfork, and BBC 6 Music alike. It’s a simple record, but one that is overflowing with neat little hooks and ripe with witty lyrics. Barnett’s peculiar phrasing could be likened to Jonathan Richman of the Modern Lovers-at once of kilter and oddly relatable.

Live Barnett fronts a three piece, which creates much more volume than the eye would suspect. Though her demeanor is no match for her wailing guitar riffs-she is surprisingly short of words on stage. Less coy was the audience, who were bawdy and excited, shouting lyrics, requests, and compliments to a shy and deflecting Barnett. She played a sizable chunk of her latest release, as well as covers of The Breeders’ “Cannonball” and “Being Around” by The Lemonheads.

With a first record and big US tour going this well, it’s hard to imagine Courtney Barnett will be slowing down any time soon. Well, at least we hope she doesn’t.




Those Darlins

“I am a woman from the South. If that’s what country is then I guess we are!” For Jessi Zazu of Nashville rock ‘n’ roll band Those Darlins, self-acceptance comes from art, be it found through her drawings or genre-defying hits created collectively with band members Nikki Kvarnes and Linwood Regensburg. Zazu speaks (and sings) with a rawness that’s honest and insightful – while maintaining a rough boldness that can catch you off guard. Prior to a show with Adia Victoria at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade Jessi took a moment to catch up with AudioFemme, and we were so impressed we decided to make her our Artist of the Month, then paired cowboy boots with Armani and shook our asses.

AF: How’s the tour going?

JZ: It’s going great. [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Adia Victoria] is a good friend of mine, and the people in her band as well, so it’s fun. I’m just a huge fan of her music, and I’ve been watching her since she did solo night at writer’s night. It’s been really cool to watch her grow and take over.

AF: How’d you guys get hooked up with her?

JZ: She was at one of our shows when we were opening for Dan Auerbach. She saw us at Bowery Ballroom I think, and she just really liked us, and a couple years later she moved down here [Nashville]. My friends have a venue and I put on a few shows to help promote it, and she came up to me and said ‘I like your dress’ or something, and I remember thinking ‘Oh gosh, I don’t know who this girl is, but I like her!’ We became friends pretty quickly.

AF: What a dream come true for her. So how do you guys travel on tour: van, bus, or fly?

JZ: We have a van, a 12-passenger van. We drive around, we crash people’s houses.

AF: Who drives?

JZ: We take turns, but I would say Linwood drives the most.

AF: Any wild stories from the most recent run?

JZ: There was this one night where this guy was being kind of a douche bag. Everyone was pretty pissed at him…and I’m pretty sure that he was about to get it.

AF: Was he a fan?

JZ: I don’t know! I don’t really get it! He stood in front of me the whole set and seemingly enjoyed it, but he kept saying really rude things, it was kind of, I don’t know… I think part of him really liked it because it was good, haha! But I think the other part of him was something that deep down inside of him couldn’t accept that there were girls on stage. It was just very strange. And he was particularly kind of like trying to provoke me and stuff. He ended up getting kicked out of there though. He was also really wasted.

AF: Does that happen often, sexism from people in the crowd or music industry?

You know, not all the time, but it happens occasionally. Most people aren’t that aggressive, subtle stuff is more common.

AF: What recommendations do you have at the moment from the Nashville music scene?

JZ: Adia [Victoria] is my favorite new artist from Nashville at the moment. It’s been interesting over the past five years, because they say there’s like 85 people a day moving to Nashville. It was kind of weird whenever people started saying ‘Oh yeah, I moved here from LA, New York, and we’re like ‘Oh wait, what?’ It used to be the opposite. People from Nashville moved to LA and New York. But there’s just been more and more bands.

AF: Is the country sound – one a lot of people associate with Nashville – one you embrace?

JZ: When we started our band the first album was country, but it wasn’t like….Nashville country. It was something totally different. I think we found pretty quickly that we didn’t really fit within that world because it’s kind of traditionalist world, and what we were doing we felt was a little bit more punk, it terms of playing country, but not being reverend to what country is supposed to be. Just doing our own thing. We eventually started moving out of that towards garage rock. But ever since then we’ve always been categorized as country. I mean, I’m from Tennessee. I’ve got a country accent, and when I sing it’s pretty obvious. So no matter what genre I’m singing I’m still going to have a country accent. So I don’t really think of us as country music, but I do think of us as a band from the South. I don’t feel like I’m one kind of artist or another; I just feel like I make music, and that music is a reflection of who I am.  I am a woman from the South. If that’s what country is then I guess we are!

AF: I’m curious about your art, will you tell me about that? I know you’ve had some art shows. 

JZ: Well both my parents are visual artists. I grew up doing visual art before I even started playing music. It’s really kind of like my foundation. Nikki’s the same way. So I’ve always done art alongside music A couple years ago when I was working on our last album Blur the Line, and in the same way that the album was much more about self examination than our first album, it was a little more personal and vulnerable. And I was doing a lot of self portraits around that time. The show was called Spit and it was mostly self portraits, but there was a few portraits of others sprinkled in there too, my friends and family. I just sort of got to this point where I was drawing myself a lot because it helped me bring up a lot of stuff about myself that I was wanting to tackle. I called them “demons” at the time. Things that I didn’t like necessarily or things that I had done. Things that had been done to me. And I just had been going through a weird time with my body, I was sick for a while and I got really skinny. I would draw ugly pictures of myself and I would draw more masculine features. Just like all these ideas I had about myself in my head to get it out there. I’m working on another show now, but it’s going to be a while before I get it done.

AF: That’s such a beautiful description of art as therapy. 

JZ: Well, I’ve always used art as therapy. Before I ever started playing music. And I always kept sketchbooks growing up. Both my parent were artists as I’ve said, but my mom was very…we’re both kind of nuts, honestly. And she’s like, ‘If you don’t do art, you’ll be crazy.’ And that’s how I am – I have all this stuff, and if I don’t get it out in some way, if I’m not constantly creating I just don’t function. I need to constantly process everything to function.

AF: How does it feel to get your emotions out through your art as opposed to your song writing? 

JZ: Art is a very singular process. I’m by myself and it’s one on one. And that [Spit] was my first show ever so that was really intense because for so long I had been doing this stuff in private and I didn’t know what it would feel like to put it out there to the world. So that was intense. For the most part it just feels like a much more private – and the thing is when you draw a drawing it’s just drawn. You just do it and it’s done. With music, in the beginning for me it is still one on one with myself writing, but then I take it to my band members and it changes, and for me I’ve got to be a little bit more open about it. It’s a collaborative experience. But I think both mediums are very scary – if you’re writing or drawing. To create pieces based on your own inner dialogue.

AF: What are you working on at the moment?

JZ: As a band we’ve been demoing new songs, and we’re kind of taking a little break from it since we’ve got these shows, which I’m feeling good about, because my brain needs a break! But yeah, we’re at the stage of: ‘Here’s a song, what do you want to do with it?’ It’s a weird phase because the songs aren’t quite there. It can be frustrating sometimes; it can be exciting sometimes. As far as art work I’ve been doing a lot of commissioned work for other people. And Adia and I just released a book, it’s like a double book where one side’s my book and one side’s her book. It’s poetry, both of our poetry, and then I illustrated. We’re going to be selling them at our shows. Her book’s called Lonely Language and my book’s called Purge.  And they’re both Volume Iwe’re going to do a second volume.

AF: So much art going on!

JZ: I try to keep myself busy all the time. No breaks! But I’ve got to slow down sometimes.


LIVE REVIEW: Public Service Broadcasting @ Bowery Ballroom

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Photography by Julie Halpert
Photography by Julie Halpert

Arriving at the ballroom halfway into Kauf’s set, I weave through the intoxicated crowd towards the bar so that I can start catching up. The air is hot and muggy and Kauf is using that to his advantage, mixing tunes that feel submerged in the deep. This one-man synth show has a surprisingly sweet, almost folksy, voice that makes girls cry, “I love you!” from the audience, giving him a chance to show off his boy band smile.

When I notice a man wearing a NASA shirt with two full cups of beer I know that we’re all ready for some PSB. The London duo Public Service Broadcasting recently released their album The Race for Space, an electro-funk sampling of live transmissions from American and Soviet space stations during the late fifties to early seventies. They come dressed in tweedy suit and tie like professors, as if ready to give us kids a history lesson. Or at least it seems so at first. As they speak to us exclusively via pre-recorded sound bites, it becomes clear that these professors are no more than impish Pucks, teasing us with each deadpan repeat of “Thank you.” The girls still cry, “I love you!” but this time they are met with a clear “Simmer down.”

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Photography by Julie Halpert
Photography by Julie Halpert

Indeed it’s strange there is no singing. Combine that with the abstract video projections of archival footage this makes for more of a performance art piece than a rock concert. We’re inducted into a new kind of space, one ruled by celestial psychedelic robots commanding us to dance. J. Willgoose, Esq. as the main puppeteer of the Voice mouths along to the words of Leslie Howard and JFK, such that his own voice remains a complete mystery to us, even his breath being inaudible. I begin to wonder how our relationship to voice dictates our experience of intimacy, and whether or not PSB have stumbled onto some secret of celebrity.

On “You’re too kind! New York!” we bid adieu to our conquerors. We leave with our eyes clearer, our heads a little higher in the clouds. Cigarettes taste better at this altitude. We might never come down.


LIVE REVIEW: Mutual Benefit @ Bowery Ballroom

What started off as a raging race around Lower East Side for a parking spot turned into a placid, serene anchorage at Bowery Ballroom. Bellows, Soft Cat and the halcyonic Mutual Benefit played a hell of a show at one of our favorite spots on Delancey.
It was beyond remarkable to see the whole live band of the evening playing these harmoniously tranquil yet riveting orchestral songs. Vocalist Jordan Lee was definitely not shy at the show, playing alongside his sister. I was lucky to have been a part of the family reunion, for Lee is known for traveling with ever-changing band members. I love the Bowery for its capability of housing a few New York City blocks while keeping its intimacy for fans. Even while posting up back-in-center or front-right, the violin resonated in the joints of my body as though they were being bowed. They opened with “Strong River” and played my favorites “Auburn Epitaphs” and “Advanced Falconry.” “Golden Awake” was as harmonic performed on stage as it was listening to it on my headphones in my quiet home. That was impressive in itself, the audience muted like Central Park’s ‘quiet zone’ to appreciate every band member’s piece.
Mutual Benefit performs live with a sensitivity and tranquility on par with their poetic lyrics. Their 2011 EP, I Saw the Sea, was primarily about the ocean and its alternating and dynamic beauty, as described by Lee. Being a part of the performance washed that grace over me; I was nothing short of mesmerized by the perfect patting on the long bongos or the violinist fiddling with his hands shaking the bow and fingering infinitely with Lee as their captain.

LIVE REVIEW: Baths & Young Fathers at Bowery Ballroom

“We just announced a new EP today. This is the title track and it’s about dead people,” Will Wiesenfeld stated before launching into the darkly expansive “Ocean Death.” Contrary to the somber introduction, Wiesenfeld, better known as electronic musician Baths, was all smiles. It could be that he’s excited to release the five-track collection, a companion piece to last year’s widely praised Obsidian. Or maybe the fact that, at the age of 24, he’s selling out a headlining show Bowery Ballroom on the merits of what initially amounted to a solo bedroom recording project has something to do with his good cheer. Either way, the crowd hung on Wiesenfeld’s lush washes, thudding bass beats, and cheered in encouragement during the expectant breaks and builds. That his audience’s familiarity and excitement over this ultra-new material made it seem like he’d been playing this song for ages speaks to the resonance of Baths’ music. It underscores something universal despite the honest and unabashed references to Wiesenfeld’s personal life.

Baths’ new material is certainly in keeping with the sound of last year’s moody Obsidian. Wiesenfelds’s trademark falsetto haunts the mix like a specter, floating ghostly above churning rhythms and samples of wave noises. What words one can pick out as the lyrics loops back on themselves are at once morbid (there are references to graveyards) and grandiose (“I am the ocean”). Wiesenfeld slips easily back and forth between the serious, searching quality that lends gravity to such declarations and the warm, carefree nature he exudes between songs, thanking his fans for filling the venue “On a Friday! New York City!” when, as he goes on to note, there are so, so many options.

That dichotomy gave Wiesenfeld some hesitation when it came to presenting the follow up to 2010’s Cerulean. As a debut, Cerulean introduced Wiesenfeld as a bright, bubbly beatsmith given to bouts of romanticism. His Los Angeles address drew automatic comparisons to like-minded producers Flying Lotus and Nosaj Thing, though he hadn’t really come up in any sort of scene; he’s classically trained but is also something of a savant when it came to recording his own electronic compositions, a habit he got into as early as thirteen. In many ways, Obsidian was a departure for the artist, focused on the sinister aspects of human relationships, or at the very least, bitter realism with regards to them. It’s a move that showed maturity and gained Baths plenty of accolades, but more importantly, it’s a sphere that Wiesenfeld feels absolutely confident in. His set on Friday mixed in favorites like “Lovely Bloodflow” but by and large, his more recent work dominated. Though it might seem like the heft of that material would be out o place in a live setting, it actually makes perfect sense – Obsidian (and likely the entirety of Ocean Death) is more performance-based, with a much greater emphasis on Wiesenfeld’s vocals. And the boy can certainly wail.

Baths play Bowery

In the interim between Cerulean and Obsidian, the popularity of electronic music skyrocketed. While that meant that Baths would have greater shoes to fill, it also made electronic musicians a staple at many festivals. It’s clear that Wiesenfeld is intent on rising to the challenges that both truths present. He’s done so by bringing back that human element into his electronic compositions. And far from simple sampling, DJing, or playing tracks from a laptop, Wiesenfeld recreates these pieces in their entirety while also playing his role as charismatic frontman, even if his companions on stage consist of one other performer (Morgan Greenwood of Azeda Booth) and a bevy of complicated-looking synths rather than a full band in the traditional sense. More than once, Wiesenfeld’s falsetto erupted into something more akin to screamo, his whole body trembling. These outbursts lent a personality to songs like “Phaedra,” criticized for sounding like  more wounded Postal Service. His deft renditions of the piano interludes on “No Past Lives” also served as proof of his authenticity as a true musician.

Anticon labelmates Young Fathers face the same sort of hurdles when it comes to translating their alternative hip-hop project from mixtape to stage, but they had more than enough energy to get the crowd pumped. Fronted by three MCs of eclectic backgrounds with both live and electronic drums punching up the back-up tracks, highlights of the set included the wonky stop of “Rumbling” and “Get Up” from this year’s Dead LP (the group’s debut studio recording). The Edinburgh, Scotland-based trio alternately croons and raps, the voices of members Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole, and ‘G’ Hastings blending and bending around the others’ as often as lead verses emerged with aggressive, intelligent delivery. Bankole had a particularly spastic strut he liked to do as the sonic pace picked up; Massaquoi kept things pretty serious, a long black trench coat enshrouding his extremely tall frame.

Young Fathers play Bowery

Both Baths and Young Fathers have some growing to do, but they’re making huge strides early on in their careers. It’s noteworthy that despite the popularity of their works in the digital realm, both are set on raising the bar when it comes to delivering their compositions in a live setting. That’s a good thing, as their tour continues throughout the next month.

LIVE REVIEW: Falls @ Bowery Ballroom

The Falls

Performances by Australian group Falls revolve around the vocal magic trick that happens when Simon Rudston-Brown and Melinda Kirwin harmonize. Lightly highlighted with a string section, Rudston-Brown’s guitar and the occasional melodica solo from Kirwin, Falls create a lush and mysteriously reassuring soundtrack to the development–and breakdown–of their relationship. The two were once a couple, and, when they began playing music, found that writing songs together was a natural extension of their extra-musical connection. Just before recording their debut EP Hollywood, though, the pair fought, made up, and then broke up for good, continuing to play and write together all the while.

Most of the audience gathered to hear Falls open for Delta Rae at the Bowery Ballroom last week seemed to know the story–judging by how they were able to sing along to the words as the pair performed, Falls has already accumulated a fair following since releasing their EP as Hollywood in Australia last year, and as Into The Fire in the U.S. this month–but even if no one had known Kirwin and Rudston-Brown’s backstory, their on-stage rapport would have been obvious. The duo were visually almost opposites–Kirwin stood front and center a little shakily, thin and bird-like in a white dress that hung down her forearms as she gripped the microphone stand. She handled most of the between-song banter–peering smilingly at the crowd from behind a thick set of dark bangs–while Rudston-Brown stood beside her with his guitar. He was a sharp, kind of rugged dresser with a shiny black belt buckle and a brown vest, like a particularly dapper cowboy.

The string section seated behind the duo neatly held down their parts so precisely they seemed polite.  The orchestration sounded classical and complexly put together, supplying an emotional surge for each chorus that was well-timed and pretty, if occasionally a little saccharine. The already-sentimental lyrics were better bolstered by the sparse instrumentation of Rudston-Brown’s guitar, and on the songs performed without the strings–most of them in the first half of the group’s set–the pared-down, acoustic feel of the performance actually heightened the emotion, which was palpable from the duo’s vocal harmony alone.

“Girl That I Love” was a special highlight of the performance, coming about halfway through the set. Rudston-Brown and Kirwin have said it’s still a tough one to perform. “There’s the girl that I love,” Rudston-Brown sing-songed through the opening bars, “There’s the girl that makes me mad as hell.” It was a large-scale, complicated performance that expanded and ebbed in mood, alternating between mournful verses and the tidal, instrument-heavy refrain.

But even through their darker material, Kirwin and Rudston-Brown were all smiles on stage. Their career, while already established in Australia, is still shaping in the U.S., and they were visibly thrilled to be touring. They whipped through their mature, expansive set list with the skill of a much more established band, holding attention with their music’s quietly powerful presence.

LIVE REVIEW: Skaters @ Bowery Ballroom


Skaters have spent the last year building up a dedicated fan base who have been practically salivating in anticipation of the band’s debut full-length, Manhattan, so it was about time for this album release show to come around. The Bowery Ballroom slowly filled up with girls all clad in Skaters’ merchandise, leaning patiently on the edges of the stage in anticipation of the main act.

But first up were femmes fatales, Bad Girlfriend, who appeared on stage giggling casually. The foursome’s cool and sweet demeanors put Skaters in danger of not being the heartthrobs of the night. Their sound held a lot of surfy guitar licks and captivating hooks, and the vocals—alternating between deep, Nico-esque tones and more high-pitched, sugary ones—reinforced their ’60s femme image. They were a good choice for opener, acting as foils to the main show by oozing girly, west coast cool.

The So So Glos were on next, their entrance accompanied by the Wu Tang Clan’s “Bring Da Ruckus”—an ideal choice. They said a simple hello with “Yo, it’s good to be in the city,” and dove right into their raucous set. The Bowery Ballroom’s acoustics lent themselves perfectly to lead singer Alex Levine’s raking vocals, and the band’s general attitude on stage reeked of classic rock ‘n roll. They were absolutely thrashing, conjuring images of The Clash shows-that-once-were, and it seemed the crowd simply couldn’t keep up with their raw energy. “We’ve been all around the world preaching about how New York dances so much,” commented Levine at one point, “…we were just lying.” But within a couple of songs, and particularly when the band broke out the song “Black and Blue” from their eponymous 2013 album, onlookers became moshers. They certainly did an admirable job of warming up the audience.

By the time Skaters appeared on stage (they came on to the Ghostbusters’ theme song, obviously), the room was packed with the band’s supporters and friends. The crowd was strictly Manhattanite—a perfect setting for the album being celebrated—and the atmosphere was comfortable and intimate. The band opened with “Symptomatic,” the seventh track off their new record, and this time the crowd didn’t need to be coaxed into dancing.

About halfway through the set, the quintet broke into their popular single, “I Wanna Dance (But I Don’t Know How),” which was clearly the crowd favorite and instantly recognizable from its raunchy bassline. Skaters played at their leisure, even wishing a friend in the front row a happy birthday at one point, proving that the night was truly a family affair. Another highlight of the show was the band’s fairly true to form rendition of The Smiths’ “This Charming Man,” which was dedicated to another friend in the audience.

It was the best possible way to celebrate Skaters’ highly anticipated debut—a night as energetic and quintessentially New York City as the album itself.

LIVE REVIEW: Nicole Atkins @ Bowery Ballroom


By mid-February, NYC concertgoers have grown just about impervious to the slushy trek from subway to venue. Anyway, I wasn’t about to miss Nicole Atkins‘ set at the Bowery Ballroom on Thursday on account of what I’ll optimistically say was a “wintry mix.” It rained, it snowed, it rained again; puddles as deep as kiddie pools menaced every corner of every block, making street-crossing a kind of Choose Your Own Adventure where the worst case scenario always meant plunging calf-deep in ice bath (or falling in it, God forbid, which I haven’t yet seen somebody do, but I’ve heard stories). In the Lower East Side, I walked gingerly along the beams of some dismantled wooden packing crates an enterprising person had propped up as bridges over the teeming slush rivers. But all that would have been fine—standard, even—if the actual apocalypse hadn’t occurred on Thursday, about an hour and a half before Nicole Atkins was slotted to go on stage. For about ten minutes, the snowfall dipped into a theatrical, pummeling, rainstorm, with lightening that lit up the whole island and claps of thunder that brought one man flying at the door of his apartment building in a panic as I passed by. He thought we were being bombed.

I’m going to try my best to resist making puns about weird weather patterns and the absolutely killer set that was brewing over the Bowery—but jokes aside, Nicole Atkins’ performance was, uh, electrifying. In a seventies-inspired, color-saturated kimono, she took the stage before the (relatively) few but faithful to ecstatic applause, and launched promptly into the passionate, glamorous “Vultures.” It turned out to be one of the only songs of the night off Mondo Amore. The overwhelming majority of the set list came off Slow Phaser, the New Jersey singer/songwriter’s February 4th release. Next up came “Who Killed The Moonlight,” the opener off the new album, with all the vocal drama and tempo-pushing guitar work of the studio version. Atkins stuck to vocals for the length of the set, leaving instrumentation in the capable hands of her six-piece backing band, which featured a grand total of three Daves and two Zachs (!), as well as a rogue Sam. They kept in synch with each other—and Atkins—with the momentum of a single, powerful machine. Atkins brought back up vocalists into a track or two as well, adding to the playful surge of glam-rock power that has always lined Atkins’ work.

“Girl You Look Amazing” was a feel-good highlight of the night, as Atkins bounced around the stage and pointed flirtatiously at women in the front row as she sang the line from which the song takes its title. Atkins told NPR in an interview that she got the idea for that line– “Girl, you look amazing,” after half-singing her praises for a tasty-looking plate of sushi, and then had a dream in which the song had been turned into a dance hall glam hit. I imagine that might be typical of Atkins’ songwriting style—the numbers she performed on stage felt like kaleidoscopic collages of different snatches of imagery and turns of phrase, half experienced and half dreamt up. Slow Phaser comes across this way. It’s easy to submerge yourself in its powerful, sometimes otherworldly, orchestration, but at the same time, the focal point never drifts far from Atkins’ voice.

“It’s Only Chemistry,” followed by “The Tower” as an encore, closed out the night. As comfortable in the new material as she was in the old, Atkins made a virtual showcase out of Slow Phaser on Thursday. The endeavor was a little risky, but garnered enthusiastic response—the new album might be Atkins’ most ambitious, broad-spanning album to date, and the blazing vocal lines and catchy, powerful beats translated sparklingly to live performance.

Listen to “It’s Only Chemistry,” off Slow Phaser. This song made for a great finale on Thursday night, although I did miss the banjo line that only appears in the studio version:

LIVE REVIEW: Ed Schrader’s Music Beat / Future Islands @ Bowery Ballroom


The word of the night? Engaging. The instrument behind this captivation? Voice.

The Ballroom crowds always linger in the downstairs bar area throughout the opening acts. Such was the case for Guardian Angel, who filled in for Lonnie Walker in a last minute switch. But when Ed Schrader’s Music Beat took the stage people must have been intrigued by the rolling drums that shook the Sierra Nevada in their plastic cups. They flocked to the front of the floor with palpable excitement.

Ed Schrader was just a guy with a drum, until he joined forces with Devin Rice in 2009 and created the occasionally minimalist, almost animalistic, mostly energizing “Music Beat”. Their stage presence was forceful, but accessible. Ed Schrader stood in front of a floor tom with a t-shirt draped over the top, and Rice still with a bass in his hands. Schrader called for the lights to be turned off after making a few jokes. He stepped on a pedal that lit his drum from within, casting his upper body in a spooky yellow light, and making Rice just barely visible.

They started with a heavier punk sound – harsh drum beats, quick, steady plucks on the bass, and repetitive nasal vocals – before smoothly transitioning into softer, more focused melodies. Ed Schrader has a unique, lulling voice. Up on the stage with his shirt torn off and the light of his drumbeats bouncing off his face he appeared like a mystical Ian Curtis. One who makes a lot of jokes.

Future Islands

Future Islands, originally part of the Wham City scene (a group of artists who collaborate, or not, to make performance pieces, music, festivals, books, etc), became one of the most popular, influential synth bands around with their 2011 album On the Water. They’re currently on tour to promote their newest album (coming out March 2014), Singles. As fun as their recorded music is, seeing them live is the real pleasure.

Before Future Islands, when much of the band was part of Art Lord, they were all about theatricality. That charisma has carried over, infused with what can only be described as raw emotion, into a whirlwind of truly danceable tunes.

Samuel Herring has an incredible voice. It’s belting, cathartic, and registers as almost inhuman. The combination of this powerful tone and lyrics that center around anger and heartbreak can be a bit overwhelming. It rides the line between confessional and personal. I wonder how much confession is too much? Though the band is mesmerizing, the crowd may not always be able to enter this inviolate space.

The energy level of the band is out of this world. Herring is constantly dancing, twisting, and contorting himself around the microphone, making it nearly impossible to look away from him. Other band members are so still and expressionless that there’s somehow a balanced atmosphere. The keyboard builds a great sense of atmosphere and the beat is subtler than most dance music, but still manages to work its way into the body. Usually crowds are split between dancers and the too serious or too shy. But everyone seemed to brought together in the spirit of letting loose at the sound of Herring’s voice.

Check out Ed Schrader’s Music Beat’s album Jazz Mind and look out for Future Island’s Singles this March.



LIVE REVIEW: Bosnian Rainbows at The Bowery Ballroom

Bosnian RainbowsThe Bowery Ballroom is a place I only remember through other people’s experiences. I’ve picked up at least two friends from the venue, each emerging from the darkness with tales of music, drink and being hit on by skinny hipsters. New York has an uncanny ability to recreate memories for you, and as I walked into the space I was immediately greeted by a few dejavu’s: the solemn look of the audience as they wait for the opener, the look of contempt from the people you share a couch with, and that beautiful look whiskey gives off…under any circumstance.

We sat in a back room with the light bulb twisted off (the overhead brights were too much to take) waiting for the opener; Rye Coalition had unexpectedly cancelled so it was up to Sacramento band Sister Crayon to bring the initial heat. Lead singer Terra Lopez’s voice cuts through ambient sounds to deliver clear, borderline operatic vocals; her dynamic with Dani Fernandez, who plays backing tracks, is arresting. Terra almost always sang in the direction of Dani, allowing the music to build seamlessly throughout the set. There isn’t a great deal of show in Sister Crayon, the feeling of watching the group ran parallel to the way they were lit: single colors, dark, unfocused; the perfect music for reflection.

The highlight of the set for me was Sister Crayon’s stellar performance of their single “Floating Heads”; the song has the right combination of the bands best traits: moody undertones, backed by the power of Lopez’s voice: “You can keep the past away. You can keep the past away. Mouthing mantras to make me calm, look at what I’ve done.” The band has gone through a lot of changes in the two years since their initial formation; Lopez and Fernandez performed as duo Silent and Clementine for the first year, before bringing in keys player Genarro Ulloa and drummer Nicholas Suhr. Lopez said of band’s name change: “I didn’t want to be shy anymore, and I wanted to have a name that was bolder, and a completely different alter ego”.

Bosnian Rainbows may relate to the feeling of changing alter egos. The band was created when ex-Mars Volta/At the Drive-In guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López invited Teri Gender Bender (Le Butcherettes), Deantoni Parks and Nicci Kasper (KUDU) to perform material off of Rodríguez-López’s Octopus Koolaid; it was during impromptu jam sessions that the group first saw the potential of starting a new band. Rodríguez-López said of the group “It’s completely different in that it’s completely collaborative. All four people are composing. We all have input on everything. A track can start from anything. It can go from a phrase that somebody likes lyrically to a track that the rest of us flesh out and flip around. The idea was to put together a group of four band leaders, four producers, four composers…Nobody has a reason to be here except wanting to serve the music”

The first time I saw Bosnian Rainbows live I watched Teri Gender Bender punch herself in the throat while singing. It is a moment that has come to epitomize the band for me: a group of artists who normally push back even in collaboration, finding a common ground to build upon. My own anticipation of their performance was apparent as I sucked down my whiskeys and talked excitedly beside dull-faced strangers.

“Eli, Eli, you can’t tell left from right
Eli, Eli, your eyes are black and white
Why, why, why, why do you smile at me?
Oh, why do you smile at me?”

In Gender Bender’s first moments on stage she stands like a rock; the music drifting around her body as she slowly bends, her voice expelling the words. The band works like a well-oiled machine: no lyric, no note out of place. The audience connects to the music through Gender Bender; it’s her hands they get to touch, her body that is flung out into the crowd, her bare feet moving lithely across the stage. “I use my body as an instrument”, she has said of her movements; indeed the way that she contorts her body throughout a performance has the power of speech. Just as she is the only band member who sings lead, she is also the only one who speaks between songs; her ‘thank yous’ are sweet and disarming, very different from her on stage persona.

The inclusive nature of the group is apparent within the scope of this debut album; it isn’t an album where one could pick out who wrote what. It has a great deal of range between singles, but the arc is decidedly spooky and popish. Bosnian Rainbow’s next project is a Spanish version of the same album. The group hopes that this will open up new doors in Latin Rock, as many concert venues in Latin America only allow acts that play in Spanish. Whether their next show is in Spanish or English, I know that I will be there.

The show was solid; entertaining; introspective and dangerous all at the same time. It’s music that forces your body to move, even though I doubt anyone would call it dance music. But I did dance. I danced to the beats of ‘Dig Right In Me’; I bounced to the hypnotic, sinister ‘I Cry For You’; I swayed to the lovelorn feel of ‘Turtleneck”.

Bosnian Rainbows doesn’t do encores. And as far as I can tell, there is no need for them to start. By the end of a Bosnian Rainbow show the audience is exhausted, drunk from the performance as well as the whiskey gingers.

SHOW REVIEW: Reptar w/ Stepdad & Rubblebucket

I first saw Reptar when they opened for Foster the People on their fall tour last year. It takes a lot for me to notice a band that is opening for an artist or group whose album I have memorized from the first to last notes, but Reptar possesses exactly that kind of high energy, enthralling dynamic that makes you wonder who you even came to see in the first place.

A year later, I’ve gained a more intimate relationship with their tunes and finally got the chance to see the Athens, Georgia quartet again. This time around, they were accompanied by Stepdad and Rubblebucket at the The Bowery Ballroom on a freezing cold November evening. In between my  first to the second experience, the band has grown – both in the musical quality and the number of musicians on stage. What was once a show featuring a few boys with their instruments on stage has turned into a fuller experience complete with blaring horns and some vocal distortion.

It’s reminiscent of the way they grew after their first EP, Oblangle Fizz Y’all!, which feels minimalist in comparison to the lush layers of sophomore release Body Faucet. The new music tastes like ’80’s kitsch on a funky plate and, like their older songs, is yummier when experienced live. The band radiates a neon-bright vibrance when on stage and with additional members joining them on tours, everything feels even more like a clusterfuck of childish excitement which their name already throws back to.

Sweeping through songs off of both releases, Reptar bounced and screamed and danced and invited the entire audience to the strange frat party they seemed to be throwing at that very moment. Several times throughout, lead singer and guitarist Graham Ulicny’s twangy screams of lyrics would become a complete mess of syllables and sounds that helped build their charm. They’re messy, dirty, and ridiculously fun, and that’s what makes Reptar.

By the end of the night, Stepdad and Rubblebucket had joined Reptar on stage for an enchantingly chaotic few moments of communal good vibes. And maybe that’s always Reptar’s goal by the end of the show – to share their good vibes with a room full of people where it doesn’t matter what song is playing as long as you’re dancing. The audience has felt it both times I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. In a smaller space, a show with this band feels like a group hug that ends in entangled bodies screaming and jumping up and down. It’s psychotically fresh and exactly what a live show should be.

While their music is better heard raw, unfiltered, and live, their initial EP and full-length album are as sweetly funky as they perform on stage. Check out these boys all over the web (and huge props to the genius who designed their throwback website) and make every effort to dive right into the middle of a Reptar dance pit when they come to town.

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