LIVE REVIEW: Sharps, Jessica Audiffred, G-Rex at Hollywood Palladium

When we last caught up with Mexico City-based DJ Jessica Audiffred in 2016, she was putting out high-energy, catchy tracks like the future bass masterpiece “Higher,” the trappy “K.O.,” the intense “GTFB,” and her infectious remix of Marshmello’s “Alone.” Since then, she’s played at some huge festivals including EDC Vegas and Tomorrowland Mexico and released the EP Nice to Meet You, along with a number of singles like “This Ends Now,” a collaboration with Austin-based DJ Crizzly, and the fast-paced, chaotic, bass-boosted “Like What the F.”

Audiffred paid a visit to Los Angeles for a show alongside Riot Ten, Cookie Monsta, G-Rex, and Sharps on Saturday, February 29 at the Hollywood Palladium, and her set demonstrated not only the colorful range of music she’s been putting out as a DJ and producer but also how well she’s mastered the art of getting a crowd riled up.

Even though it was just a one-night event, people showed up decked out in festival gear, from face glitter to colorful bras, and the line stretched through the block outside the Palladium. The night started off with Seattle-based DJ Sharps, whose bass-heavy set got people jumping and bouncing as the background screen displayed knives (ostensibly a play on his name). People head-banged to the music and even formed a mosh pit in the center of the dance floor and threw themselves at one another. Just when it seemed like the energy couldn’t get higher, Sharps announced, “Make some noise for Jessica Audiffred.”

Female DJs are still unfortunately and unreasonably among the minority in festival and show lineups, but Audiffred proved that audience members, male and female alike, will support women on stage just as much as men, if not more. People shouted “Jessica!” and “We love you!” from the crowd and sang along to any and all vocals she sampled.

Part of Audiffred’s success is stems from her ability to put on a great live show. She throws her head back and forth and dances with her fists in the air while performing in front of delightfully quirky imagery, from Beavis and Butt-Head cartoons to dogs in sunglasses and images of her own face breathing fire. She also made the show interactive, prompting people to put on their cell phone lights and wave them in the air at one point, then turning around and having someone on stage take a photo of her with all her fans in the background later on.


Throughout Audiffred’s set, which embodied the interesting mix of upbeat and dark vibes that characterizes her music, she sampled “Sicko Mode,” elicited head-bangs with the Latin-inspired beats in “K.O.,” and produced some epic drops in “This Ends Now.”

G-Rex followed her with music reminiscent of what you hear in a haunted house and corresponding imagery of skulls, creepy baby faces, and ghost-like hands that appeared to be crawling out of the screen. His set featured voices warped both low and high, scratchy beats, and high-pitched clicks and clacks. While his music was similarly intense, G-Rex lacked the stage presence that Audiffred exudes, but he did create a mood that was spooky and thrilling.

I left before Cookie Monsta and Riot Ten came on; I couldn’t rally up the energy to stay out long past 11. But in my mind, I’d already seen the main act, which was Audiffred. Hopefully, more venues will soon be smart enough to make her the headliner.


LIVE REVIEW: Best Coast @ The Novo


Best Coast, the LA-based alt-rock duo consisting of singer, songwriter, and guitarist Bethany Cosentino and multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno, released their latest album Always Tomorrow in February and began the album’s tour in their home state, making their second stop at LA’s Novo on Friday, February 28.

After Philadelphia-based indie punk band Mannequin Pussy opened with raw, head-banging tracks like “Drunk II,” Best Coast began with an old favorite, the exultant eponymous track off 2015’s California Nights: “California nights / Make me feel so happy I could die / But I try to stay alive / I never wanna get so high / That I can’t come back down to real life / And look you in the eyes and say ‘Baby, you are mine.'” Next came the chill, uplifting breakup song “For the First Time,” with catchy bass tunes and infectious harmonies.

Cosentino, who took the stage in a blue pantsuit, has a clean, clear, emotive voice reminiscent of Neko Case and Jenny Lewis. She sings in an animated, almost theatrical style, swaying from side to side, gesturing with her hands, and enunciating each word as if she’s telling a story. Bruno was equally dynamic, jumping up and down as he strummed his guitar. They were joined by Joe Bautista on guitar and keyboard, Brett Mielke on bass and background vocals, and Dylan Wood on drums.

Cosentino exudes a rare combination of rockstar energy and relatability. She spoke to the audience throughout the show in a refreshingly honest manner. “I was really in my own head, like, no one’s gonna fucking come to this show,” she admitted before performing a crowd favorite, “The Only Place,” speaking some of the lyrics, with the audience singing along to the refrain: “Why would you live anywhere else?”

The band’s frontwoman took on an angrier tone for “Seeing Red,” singing about a different side of a breakup than “For the First Time” presents: “It’s so hard / When everything you’ve ever known is gone / And it’s okay to feel weak / It’s okay to be shaky / But god, I wish that I could just move on.”

Before performing an emotional “No One Like You,” a song about persevering through relationship issues, Cosentino announced that she was playing a love song and advised the singles in the crowd to love themselves. “You’re the nicest,” she said as the audience cheered.

Best Coast gave the crowd a taste of their latest album with “Rollercoaster,” which has the same beachy rock-and-roll vibes as their old music, before treating them to the catchy “Feeling OK” and revisiting the new album with the energetic “Make It Last” — with Cosentino screaming the lyrics “We can’t let this go on any further” and “I just want you to be happy with another” — and the angsty, guitar-heavy “Graceless Kids.”

Then, Cosentino gave the audience a heartfelt thank you, referencing the turn from her anxiety-ridden party girl persona to finding sobriety in 2017, a major theme on Always Tomorrow: “You guys fucking loved me when I hated myself and didn’t know how to love myself, and you just fucking lifted my ass up. I don’t know you, but you are the sweetest.”

Of course, the crowd beckoned the band back up for an encore, during which they played two classics: Cosentino started off the fun, cheerful “When I’m With You” slowly with just her voice and guitar, then the band joined in and picked up the pace. “What do we have? Fun!” she playfully prompted the audience to yell. They closed the show with the wistful “Boyfriend.”

After people trickled out of the venue, they blasted Best Coast’s music on the street outside the Novo. I left feeling as if I’d truly gotten a glimpse into the soul of Cosentino and her bandmates. The show captured the spirit of the first song they played: through their music and performance, they’d created another breathtaking California night.

LIVE REVIEW: Lower Dens with Ami Dang @ The Roxy

Indie pop band Lower Dens has built up a loyal following since its 2010 inception, with hits like 2015’s ’80s-inspired “To Die in L.A.” and 2016’s introspective “Real Thing” not just providing catchy music but also making people think. They released their fourth album The Competition in September and have since been touring with ambient sitar player and vocalist Ami Dang. On Thursday, February 27, they stopped by LA’s famous Roxy Theatre to perform for an intimate but enthusiastic crowd.

Dang prefaced each of her songs with an explanation of what inspired them, revealing deep meanings behind each. One song’s lyrics came from an old Muslim poem about “how we can not only respect and tolerate one another but find places where spiritually we align,” and another was based on One Thousand and One Nights, setting the stories to music with no lyrics to reclaim whitewashed translations. Behind Dang’s soaring, dream-like voice was a thunderous electronic sound that made my body vibrate. Her huge sitar and passionate, chant-like singing against a background of synths and electronic beats provided a sound that was both modern and spiritual.

Photo credit: Joey DeRusha

The setting was as quirky as the performers themselves, with blue lights cast by a disco ball and confetti sprinkled across the ground. The light on the stage turned from red to purple to orange as Lower Dens performed.

The main act played some of the songs off its latest album, including “Lucky People,” a mellow but dark ballad reminiscent of The Cure, and “I Drive,” an honest and relatable ode to troubled family relationships. The show also featured music from 2015’s Escape from Evil, like the slow, pleading “Ondine,” as well as the haunting “Brains” all the way back from 2012’s Propagation.

Lower Dens have built up their following through their innovative music and artful, poetic lyrics as well as lead singer Jana Hunter‘s outspokenness on issues like gender identity and racism in the music industry. But not all of these appeals translate well into live performances. Hunter’s style of singing often involves swallowing his words, leaving the audience unable to glean their intricate meanings.

The heavy backtracks made it even more difficult to make out the melodies and lyrics, and the band’s performance style was understated, with little movement or displays of emotion, which made the show feel low-energy. While this shoe-gaze style has been done to make a statement in the past, the way the Lower Dens presented themselves felt more like an attempt to play it safe, an unwillingness to commit to any statement — a surprising contrast to Hunter’s boldness in his writing and interviews.

Nevertheless, the band played for an excited crowd of people, who cheered when hits like “To Die in LA” came on and swayed along to the music throughout the performance. As someone who was familiar with Lower Dens but had not followed them closely, I wished they hadn’t buried so much of their music’s profound meaning and emotion. But the show did inspire me to listen to and research their music online when I got home, and perhaps that was the best way to experience its full depth.

Photo credit: Joey DeRusha

LIVE REVIEW: HARD Day of the Dead Festival Mixes EDM and Spirituality

On Saturday, October 26, I attended a San Pedro ceremony. With a group of fellow journeyers, I drank the extract of a psychedelic cactus sourced from Peru, danced around a circle to live music, shook rattles, played drums, lay down to focus on my own insights and visions, and had drug-induced heart-to-hearts with other participants.

The following Saturday, November 2, I went to the HARD Day of the Dead festival in downtown LA. I microdosed some iboga and met others on their own substances of choice, whether that was weed, alcohol, MDMA, or something else. We danced together, sang along to the music, went on our own inner journeys as we swayed to the electronic beats, and talked to one another by the food stands. It struck me how similar this experience was to the one I’d had a week prior.

EDM festivals are modern-day shamanic ceremonies: People use music, dance, and often substances to connect with one another and achieve a higher state of consciousness. With the occasion of the Day of the Dead, which is already full of spiritual rituals meant to connect with ancestors, this association was extra prominent at the HARD Day of the Dead festival.

The afternoon and evening included many diverse manifestations of the EDM genre. Early in the day, Vietnamese-American DJ Softest Hard bound the festival-goers together by inspiring them to sing along to remixes of well-known tunes from Travis Scott’s “SICKO MODE” featuring Drake to t.A.T.u.’s “All the Things She Said.” Then, new-beat producer 1788-L delivered a delightful combination of trappy rhythms and unexpected interludes of classical piano and other instrumentals.

Later on, electropop artist Elohim took the stage for the trippiest set of the evening, with technicolor images of pills and the definition of “hallucination” on the screen behind her. It was during her act that the connection between EDM and psychonautic exploration was made clearest. In “Braindead,” she sings about drugs and spirituality: “All I know is I know what I don’t know / And what I don’t know could fill up a whole bible.” She also played an unexpected and musically fascinating cover of Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta,” her breathy voice gently drawing out lyrics punchingly shouted in the original.

Another highlight of the evening was Blacklizt, Zhu’s deep house/techno alter ego, who blasted haunting sounds alongside a creepy collection of mannequins in front of a screen showcasing eerie images like scissors. His set reached its climax when he played “Faded (Baby I’m Wasted),” prompting the audience to belt out the lyrics, “Baby I’m wasted / All I wanna do is drive home to you / Baby I’m faded / All I wanna do is take you downtown.”

The headliner was Dog Blood, a collaboration between Skrillex and Boys Noize, ending the night on a high note with fast-paced electro-house beats and R&B influenced songs like “Midnight Hour.”

Despite the performances’ mystical undertones, it would be a stretch to say the festival honored the holiday’s spiritual traditions. Its representation of the Day of the Dead was fairly surface-level and came off a bit culturally appropriative given the poor representation of Latinx artists in the lineup. The event’s nods to the holiday and Mexican culture were essentially the symbols white America is most familiar with: a giant skull, a mariachi band, a stage flanked by skeletons.

What it did represent well was the spiritual culture of EDM: one full of trance-inducing songs, drug-facilitated connections, and crowds that move like one giant being. Whether or not it accurately celebrated the Day of the Dead, it was — like all music festivals — a celebration of life.

REVIEW: Lizzo Speaks Her Truth at Final Stop of Cuz I Love You Too Tour

Lizzo press photo by Luke Gilford, courtesy of Atlantic Records.

Midway through the final show of the Cuz I Love You Too tour, Lizzo let the crowd know where she stands on the drama surrounding the iconic line on “Truth Hurts.” From her purple pulpit with golden robes a-flowing, our patron saint of self-love was not mincing words. “Recently I’ve been getting a lot of letters…from past fuckboys.” She then offered any future fools a warning: “Thou shalt not fuck with Lizzo because thou shalt come back two years later, bitch.”

“Truth Hurts” is a resounding hit and has been a huge part of the massive momentum behind Lizzo’s rising star – enough to sell out the first leg of the tour supporting her most recent LP, Cuz I Love You, and extend it two more months, wrapping up at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on Sunday. But with this success comes some dispute. Everyone wants their cut of “Truth Hurts,” whether they deserve it or not.

Like a game of telephone, the tale of the traveling lyrics – “I just did a DNA test / Turns out I’m 100% that bitch” – crosses international waters, through singers and producers, reminding us once again that women, especially black women, have to fight hardest for what is rightfully theirs. Lizzo recently gave a writing credit and rightful compensation to British songwriter Mina Lioness, who initially tweeted the line in 2017 (in response to an embarrassing tweet from Demi Lovato claiming her 1% African DNA) and Lioness says that she and Lizzo are on good terms.

Litigation continues between Lizzo and three white male producers – whose names I really don’t feel like giving any more attention to, but OF COURSE two of them are named Justin – and they are demanding 20% of the song’s profits. They claim that the demo Lizzo recorded in their studio, “Healthy” which includes the DNA line, is something they created together, and they deserve writing/producing credit. There’s no doubt that intellectual property and artists’ creative rights matter and are legally, rightfully protected. Today’s collabs though, continue to blur these boundaries. When sharing, sampling, curating is everywhere, where is the line? Well, the line here is money, and the Justins want some.

Lyrics are important and fundamental to the songs we love and remember. 100%. But you know what else is important? Delivery. Ask anyone who’s ever been to karaoke night or watched The Voice. The Justins of the world can keep trying to steal her shine, but right now on this planet, there is no human being delivering more starpower and talent than one Melissa Vivianne Jefferson. All 8,500 of us at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium felt that love on the tour’s final stop. Even for San Francisco, the crowd was noticeably diverse. Humans of all kinds came to worship at the church of Lizzo and we were not disappointed.

Backed by DJ Sophia Eris and her dancers, the Big Grrls, the vibe was loose and playful. The last show of a long, blockbuster tour, their bodies gave us every bit of talent left in the tank. The bedazzled Patron bottle made an extended appearance as did, of course, the glorious diva Sasha Flute. Warming us up with “Heaven Help Me” and “Worship Me,” breaking our hearts with “Cuz I Love You,” and setting some hella clear boundaries with “Exactly How I Feel” and “Jerome,” Lizzo came prepared with her biggest hits. On “Like A Girl,” she added new lyrics, extending the self-acceptance even further: “If you feel like a girl then you real like a girl – if you feel like a boy then you real like a boy – if you feel like neither then, bitch, do you! Do you, period. PERIOD. Do your thing and run the whole damn world.”

She wrapped up the party with her record-breaking bangers “Truth Hurts,” “Good As Hell,” and “Juice,” coming down into the crowd to get closer to us. There were moments where she would pause and catch her breath, visibly soaking it all in, alone on stage in between songs, her brown eyes earnest and open, big smile beaming. It’s been one hell of a ride for this band geek and classically trained flautist from Minneapolis. Six years since self-releasing her first album, Lizzo has arrived and she is just getting started.

Between last-show hugs and tequila shots, she left us with clear goals for 2020: “You know what I realize, at the time when I was dealing with these people, with these fuckboys? I thought I was the problem, I thought it was me. But I’m here right now to let you know – I don’t know who needs to hear this message – it’s not you, bitch. It’s not you. It’s them. You are 100 PERCENT that bitch. We are no longer dealing with fuckboys in 2020, ok? No fuckboys, no fuckgirls, no fuckthems, no fucktheys. We are free from the fuckery, Amen?” To which all 8,500 of her new best friends agreed: AMEN.

ONLY NOISE: I Can’t Remember All the Shows I’ve Seen. Does It Matter?

A collection of ticket stubs are often more reliable than memories. Photo courtesty of Liz Ohanesian.

ONLY NOISE explores music fandom with poignant personal essays that examine the ways we’re shaped by our chosen soundtrack. This week, Liz Ohanesian wonders what it means when her musical memories start to blur together.

My first concert was Morrissey in 1991, a week or so before I finished eighth grade, at an amphitheater in a Southern California suburb at least an hour away from the one where I grew up. I went with my mom, aunt and sister. Getting there was an ordeal that began the moment tickets went on sale – and managed to sell out in minutes – but we made it. The venue seemed enormous and it was packed with kids dressed in black, carrying lunch boxes covered with band stickers and wearing Doc Martens over their striped tights. I screamed during the whole show; maybe everyone did. When we got home, I taped up the ticket stub in my bedroom. I still have a t-shirt bought that night. A sticker I picked up from the local, alternative radio station at the concert is still fixed to my dresser.

The most recent show I saw was the night before I finished writing this essay. I went with my husband to an art space across the street from a strip club in a part of downtown L.A. that gentrification has yet to meet. It was a night of underground electronic music and video installations and we went mostly to support the another local DJ’s new band. I bought the tickets – two QR codes that popped up via text message – online earlier that day. The closest thing we had to a hassle was finding a parking spot, but even that was a breeze by L.A. standards. The venue was tiny and crowded with kids dressed in black. I danced a little, as best as I could in a tight crowd. My mementos are video clips and pics, some shared later on Instagram.

In the 20-whatever years between those two events, I’ve seen hundreds of shows. That’s not an exaggeration. There were the hot ticket events, where we would line-up outside malls and record stores at horribly early Saturday morning hours, and free, local band nights. There were shows in beautiful outdoor venues with picnic areas and grimy downtown warehouses. There were the ones my friends played and the ones where I was the DJ. I’ve taken road trips across Southern California and flown out of state to see certain bands. And then there are the festivals, the house shows and everything in between. At this point, I can’t remember every show I’ve attended, let alone every band I’ve seen live, and I’m not sure that it matters.

I know I’m not alone living in this haze of music and memory. My husband and I have talked about it often enough. We met at college in the late ’90s and have been to countless shows together. Neither one of us remembers what was the first one we saw as a date. It’s come up in conversations with friends. Did we see this band together? How about that one? Was that the same show or two separate ones? On Facebook, I recently asked friends how well they remember the shows they’ve seen. Some say they have a pretty good recollection. Others are a lot like me.

There are pieces of a paper trail packed deep in boxes, the few ticket stubs I saved, some photos snapped on a disposable camera, sporadic diary entries and some articles I wrote that never made it on to the web. I haven’t attempted to organize them into a proper archive. Just thinking about that is exhausting. At least for now, those pieces of personal history, much like my brain, will remain a cluttered mess.

I’ve tried to make myself remember. While writing this essay, I began jotting down bands I’ve seen more than once, but grew frustrated quickly. In a way, I feel guilty, as if I’ve taken music for granted. Should I be able to recall set lists from a decade ago or what someone was wearing on stage last month? If I can’t, does it mean that I don’t appreciate the work enough? I think the answer to both questions is no.

By the time I hit college, music was my life. I got involved with the college radio station pretty quickly, which led to DJing at clubs and both of those gigs led to writing for zines. And then I just kept following the beat to wherever it took me. On some level, shows have been a part of my work for a very long time, but they’re also how I choose to spend my free time. Music, to me, is like food. I crave its nourishment. And I can’t remember every meal I’ve eaten either.

For some people, music is a non-essential. Maybe they’re fine with whatever song is playing in the background. Maybe they have distinctive taste, but consider concerts a splurge reserved for when superstars play stadiums or when festivals give them an excuse to travel. I prefer the smaller shows, the ones where tickets are $20 or less and much of the crowd doesn’t arrive until right before the headliner hits the stage. I also like getting there on the early side, having the chance to check out the bands I haven’t heard before. All that adds up to a lot of music.

There will be times when those memories come back. I’ll stand in a venue I know all too well and flash back to a scene on stage that happened years earlier. I’ll hear a song in passing and remember what it sounded like live. Even if I can’t give you a detailed recount of what happened that night, I can remember the sensations. I might remember the bass rumbling down my spine, the smell of lingering sweat and spilled cocktails or the voice of the person who sang every lyric of every song from the crowd that night. Maybe that’s more important than remembering all the details.

INTERVIEW: How Team Dresch is Living the Dream

Team Dresch pulls a fan on stage to sing “Hate The Christian Right” at Union Transfer. All photos by Amanda Silberling.

Before Team Dresch performs their 1995 anthem “Hate the Christian Right” at Philadelphia’s Union Transfer last week, singer and guitarist Jody Bleyle pulls a longtime fan from the crowd on stage. 

As the queercore legends get ready to rip into the next song on their long-awaited reunion tour, the fan – Marlene – yells into the microphone, breathless: “I want you all to know… Dreams do come true.” Seconds later, she’s dancing on stage, playing air guitar back-to-back with Kaia Wilson, screaming the decades-old (yet still relevant) anti-authoritarian lyrics: “You never wanted to care/You kill, you kill, you kill!”

Reunion is in the air these days  – there was Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill, and now, Team Dresch. As someone who spent the Riot Grrrl movement in diapers, I sometimes feel like the significance of these “triumphant returns” is lost on me. In the crowd, I listen to queer punks wax poetic about how it felt to discover Team Dresch – an all-lesbian punk band – in the ’90s, and how surreal it is to see them perform so many years later (only this time, they had to pay for babysitters). Whether you’re an old fan or a newbie, Team Dresch shreds – but now, a week after the show, I’m most affected by how it felt to watch Marlene’s “dream” come true – to see someone derive so much pure joy from the love of music.

Team Dresch plays Union Transfer. All photos by Amanda Silberling.

I find myself feeling jaded these days, which is worrisome, because I’m only as old as Team Dresch’s second record, Captain My Captain (1996). I work at an art museum – something I’ve dreamed of for all of my life – yet, something feels off when I listen to my coworker tell me about her exciting visit to another gallery last weekend. 

“Do you ever get tired of going to museums?” I ask her. “Since, you know, we spend so much time in one?”

“Oh, god no,” she says. 

It’s not that I’ve lost my passion (just recently, a Bruce Naumann sculpture made me openly weep). It’s just that the older I get, I find myself less excited about the things that I love so fiercely. I’m terrified. I used to line up outside of concert venues hours early, yet now, going to shows can feel like a chore, no matter how much I still do – and always will – love music. 

This is on my mind when Des Ark opens the show, reluctantly coming out of a sort-of-retirement as an homage to Team Dresch, a band that frontperson Aimée Argote credits with “saving [her] life.”

After years of touring – pushing through the physical and mental toll of being a full-time punk musician – Argote woke up one day in 2016 and realized she was burnt out. She tells IndyWeek, “I sat up and was like, it’s gone. It’s gone. It’s gone. That thing that you have inside of you that says, go to work, make music, do your thing. There’s nothing there.” Despite leaving the precarious, unrewarding lifestyle of punk rock behind, Argote’s appreciation for her longtime idols was still enough to get back on stage for one last mini-tour before she quits music for good.

Des Ark performing at Union Transfer. All photos by Amanda Silberling.

What must it be like to achieve “the dream” – to “make it” in music, develop a fan base, and perform night after night – only to discover that in this dream, something indiscernible feels wrong, and it’s kind of a relief to wake up in the morning? What does it mean that, for Marlene, the dream is to get on stage just once, yet for Aimée, living the same dream night after night isn’t as glorious as it seems? Is our collective dream – of spending day after day surrounded by our passions – one that deteriorates as you approach it, like when you get to the best part of your dream, only to wake up suddenly? 

During Des Ark’s set, Aimée Argote takes a moment to preface “Ashley’s Song,” a song about processing a sexual assault. The crowd is silent as Argote explains the pain of telling people what happened. Then, a voice shouts from the back of the room: “We believe you.” 

What’s so special about the bands who played that night – Team Dresch, Screaming Females, and Des Ark – is that, if you’re a fan, you’re probably not an asshole. So, if you showed up to their gig, you’re probably not an asshole. And maybe “the dream” isn’t so much about the music itself, but rather, the dream is to spend as much time as we can with people who aren’t assholes. 

Jody Bleyle says: “Every night I feel like I get more inspiration to just continue… being alive, but also just doing the work of being a person in the world that is on the left, and a freak, and fighting fascism, and having to live in this world that we’re living in right now, going into the streets, fighting climate change… All the shit we have to do day to day when you’re not at a show.” 

It’s tempting to view Des Ark’s farewell and Team Dresch’s reunion in contrast with one another, but they aren’t. Maybe the dream, like any progress, is not linear, nor is it static – I sympathize with Argote’s decision to leave music, especially given the misogyny that still infects even the most “alternative” of spaces. Even Bleyle openly admits: “Mental health issues drove me away from full-time rock.” Yet at the same time, even decades after their emergence, I feel immensely relieved to have a band like Team Dresch back on the road and recording a new album. We need more bands like Team Dresch (and Screaming Females, and Des Ark) in our lives to remind us of why we fell in love with music in the first place, and why every once in a while – even if you’re exhausted from the 9-to-5 grind – it’s worth it to get yourself out to a show.

When Marlene tells us, her fellow fans, that dreams come true, maybe she doesn’t mean that all of us will one day get to perform on stage with our favorite bands. Maybe the dream is more simple: to merely surround ourselves with the right people. And thank god that some bands have a knack for bringing the right people together.

Team Dresch performing at Union Transfer. All photos by Amanda Silberling.

Find the rest of Audiofemme’s chat with Jody Bleyle and Donna Dresch below

AF: What was your dream when Team Dresch began, and how has that changed after deciding to record another album after 23 years?

JB: I feel like, to me, the dream is similar to what it was when we started the band when we were younger, which was just… the need to find similar people, the need to find dykes to play music with, and not just any music, but the kind of music that I love. I think we all felt like we needed to find people that really, we could relate to, in terms of loving the same bands, in the way that you have that burning desire, but also dykes. It really felt like life or death. Like, “I don’t know how I’m going to move forward into life if I don’t find this.” And it doesn’t feel like that anymore, but it feels like the dream is the same in terms of just wanting to be with these people – wanting to play music with these people, having that be such a big part of being able to be happy, and feel good about yourself in the world. It’s definitely not about anything more than just wanting to connect with people, and being able to play shows, and being able to connect with everybody who comes to the show. 

AF: Each band on the lineup – Team Dresch, Screaming Females, and Des Ark – really did seem to have a knack for connecting with the audience. It was such an emotional moment when Des Ark introduced “Ashley’s Song,” and she was talking about coming to terms with an assault, and someone shouted, “We believe you.”

JB: Let’s assume that most people in that room have people at this point in our lives who believe us, but to have that next level where you’re in a room with some people that you know, but mostly strangers, who you can have that same feeling of intimacy and connection with – it’s just so deeply powerful and comforting. I don’t know, every night I feel like I get more inspiration to just continue… being alive, but also just doing the work of being a person in the world that is on the left, and a freak, and fighting fascism, and having to live in this world that we’re living in right now, going into the streets, fighting climate change… All the shit we have to do day to day when you’re not at a show. It’s hard! It’s crazy! 

AF: It’s tempting to say that all these bands from the Riot Grrrl era are reuniting because of who is President now, but I think they would have reunited either way, because there is always something to fight for. 

JB: It’s all the same river, and we’re all in it together. It never ends. Sometimes, people will talk to us and be like, “Can you believe that we’re still fighting the Christian right?” but you know, it never ends – the struggles to be seen, and help other people… It’s been going on for thousands of years, and it will keep going on. It’s in the river. 

AF: Is it weird to go between a day job and punk rock?

DD: I like my day job! I go there every day! 

JB: I like my day job too. I don’t mind the balance, like… your life might not be exactly as you planned that it would be or whatever, I don’t know. As I got older, I personally started to really feel like I really needed and appreciated having balance in my life, of different things. It’s always a question of figuring out how much I need at a minimum of which different things, and to just kind of keep it all in balance, you know? Like, I don’t have to play music with Team Dresch every day of the year, but if I didn’t play at all, I’d be really sad. But I like having my day job too, because, I don’t know, when I was only playing rock, it drove me over the edge. I’d already had two surgeries from rock music by the time I was 26, and I was like, “Whoa, I’m not going to make it!” And I have kids, and I really appreciate being home with them. I think it would be really hard. Even in my other job, I don’t choose to travel, so I feel like I have a good balance going, and I think a lot of people as they get older appreciate that balance, because there’s always going to be more than one thing in your life. Although, at that age, I do remember being like… You just give your life to music and nothing else matters. Your health doesn’t matter, your girlfriend doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter whether you have kids… It doesn’t matter if you die by the time you’re 29. Nothing matters but writing the next song. But then you’re like, you know what else is fun? Buying a down comforter and having a really cozy bed. 

AF: Full-time rock is hard!

JB: Mental health issues drove me away from full-time rock. 

AF: Was it difficult to bring the band back together?

DD: We hang out all the time anyway. This is my family. If I need to talk to my best friend, I call Jody. We get together, like, one of us has an idea like, “I want to play in Brazil,” and once a year, every other year, we learn the songs again and play them.

AF: Now that you’re recording a new album, what have you learned since the last record you released? 

JB: We learned a lot of things that you just learn as you get older. We have to be patient with each other, we have to practice with each other and understand who we are and respect each other. We have to be better with our communicating, we have to be better with our boundaries, and we have to learn things that lucky people learn when they’re 14, but we learn when we’re in our mid-to-late 30s, possibly 40s. Of course, taking a break, you appreciate it more – because we don’t play full time, we don’t take it for granted. It’s so special to get to play these shows with people. It’s so incredible to hear people sing songs you wrote, to have people give you the love they say you’ve given them… It’s incredible. We’re really lucky.


LIVE REVIEW: Incubus @ Radio City Music Hall

Ten years ago, I saw Incubus at Radio City Music Hall. It was also 10 years after my favorite album of theirs, Make Yourself, came out. Though I first fell in love with the band back in high school, we’d grown apart since, and we rekindled our romance that summer, one-sided as it was. I’d been going through an existential crisis of sorts and found meaning in tracks like “Make Yourself” and “The Warmth,” where the band’s spirituality and wisdom shine through infectious intros and intensely dark lines. On this album, frontman Brandon Boyd sings about resisting capitalism and conformity, becoming the pilot of your own life, and staying optimistic amid a world that’s “fucked up and cold.” Taken together, the songs made me feel connected to something greater, something transcendental yet wholly my own — and, of course, to the band itself.

Last week, 10 years after that pivotal concert and 20 years about Make Yourself’s release, I returned to Radio City for a show celebrating this two-decade anniversary. It opened with a montage of footage of the band’s members discussing the album’s significance, explaining that it marked the point when Incubus found their unique style and broadcast it to the world — where they made themselves, one might even say. Then, the band took the stage with the same contagious electricity they emitted 10 years prior, the kind that makes you want to jump up and down and bob your head until your hair bounces along with Boyd’s.

The set opened with “Privilege,” the metal-influenced album opener with forceful guitar riffs and cutting lyrics like “Isn’t it strange that a gift could be an enemy? / Isn’t it weird that a privilege could feel like a chore?”  They stayed true to the album tracklist, playing Make Yourself beginning to end, with Boyd ad-libbing a few lines from The Cars’ “Drive” to the Incubus hit of the same name, with turntablist and keyboardist Chris Kilmore mixing the music on a DJ board. The band also opted to take a new route with “Pardon Me,” starting the angry anthem slow and acoustic.

One of Incubus’s unique talents is selecting the perfect imagery to accompany its songs — unsurprising given that Brandon Boyd is also an artist — and this show was no exception. As the band performed, biological imagery on multiple scales, from cells to oceans to planets, floated across the screen behind them, the shapes morphing and colors bleeding into one another. “The Warmth” was accompanied by a design resembling the inside of a brain, illustrating the themes of appreciating human potential and taking control of your reality through your dominion over your own mind.

The enthusiastic crowd spanned all genders and age groups, singing along to famous lines like “And if I fuck me / I’ll fuck me in my own way” and “whatever tomorrow brings, I’ll be there with open arms and open eyes.” After completing Make Yourself with “Out From Under,” the band moved on to newer songs like “Into the Summer” and “Are You In.” An Incubus concert would not be complete without Brandon Boyd’s bare torso, and he delivered on that as well, eliciting squeals from the audience as always.

When the set closed, it was still gnawing at me that they hadn’t yet played “Wish You Were Here.” As if reading my mind, they came back for an encore, closing the evening with the dreamy, ambient single from 2001’s Morning View, bidding farewell to the crowd with the line, “Wish you were here.” I was glad I was. May they solve existential crises with screamed swear words and head-bangs for years to come.

The Make Yourself & Beyond tour continues tonight in Philly. See all remaining tour dates below.

10/7 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Met Philadelphia
10/8 – Boston, MA @ Boch Center Wang Theatre
10/9 – Portland, ME @ State Theatre
10/11 – Mashantucket, CT @ The Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino
10/12 – Washington, DC @ Warner Theatre
10/13 – Washington, DC @ Warner Theatre
10/15 – Toronto, ON @ Sony Centre for the Performing Arts
10/16 – Detroit, MI @ Fox Theatre
10/18 – Chicago, IL @ Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom
10/19 – Omaha, NE @ Orpheum Theatre

LIVE REVIEW: Man Man @ Brooklyn Bowl

Honus Honus singing onstage in an orange blazer.

Man Man’s tech rider must read like a sideshow’s inventory.

  • 6 sparkly purple capes
  • 5 bouquets of paper roses
  • 2 black boxing gloves
  • 4 sets of keys
  • 1 human skeleton (authenticity optional)
  • 2 white fur coats
  • 1 taxidermied deer head
  • 24 jumbo feathers, red
  • An assortment of hats
  • 1 signing plastic owl

That all or any of this could be incorporated into a performance without making it stink of student theater would be a minor miracle. Fortunately, Honus Honus and his band of merry pranksters are miracle men. It’s been four years since Man Man played New York, and six since they released an album, 2013’s On Oni Pond. In the meantime, it seems they’ve done nothing but rehearse, write new music (they released the two-song single “Bleach” earlier this year), and perfect a stage show fit for a traveling circus cult.

Man Man played a generous 90-minute set at Brooklyn Bowl Tuesday night, but before the six-piece took to the stage, opening act GRLwood threatened to steal the show. The rowdy two-piece from Louisville, Kentucky peddle what they call “SCREAM-POP,” summoning a roar with only drums, guitar, and vocals. Singer/guitarist Reg Forester has a shriek that could shred paper, and the wit to match. Forester and percussionist Karen Ledford gave brief, droll introductions to their songs, which included “I Hate My Mom,” “Wet,” “Bisexual,” “Nice Guy,” and “I’m Yer Dad.” The latter two tracks were the best, addressing abusive men of different stripes (overtly machismo vs. inconspicuous predators) with incisive humor. Both songs included improvised rants about everything from pizza rolls to Facebook stalking that are sadly absent from GRLwood’s 2018 LP Daddy.

Aside from their infectious energy and sly quips, one of the most intriguing things about GRLwood was Forester’s double life as a singer; one minute, she’d be tearing her vocal chords to meat scraps, and the next, piercing the ceiling with a pristine falsetto that inched toward the whistle register. You can’t help but wonder if this self-described “Kentucky fried queerdo” has a secret history singing  in church choirs.

Forester might’ve sang like an angel, but Man Man mastermind Honus Honus commanded the audience like the messiah himself—or at least a convincing impostor. Before Man Man descended onto the stage from Brooklyn Bowl’s lofted greenroom, a purple-caped saxophone player led the crowd through a group exercise designed to rid us of our inhibitions and emotional baggage. Then he coaxed his bandmates down with a blow on his horn. 

The rest unfurled like a trapeze act. No one stayed in the same place for very long, except for the drummer, who was burning more calories seated than most expend on the treadmill. He was also the only band member with a clear job description. The others were a dizzying collection of multi-instrumentalists; the saxophonist switched to what looked like an electric clarinet, the xylophone player put down his mallets to jump through a guitar strap, which was held out by the guitarist as he made his way to play keyboard. There were maracas, and melodicas, a double guitar, and a trumpet—and those were just the recognizable instruments. 

Instead of the typical banter between songs, Man Man opted for endless theatrics: shaking clusters of keys on “The Ballad of Butter Beans;” wearing a mask of Shia LeBeouf; holding a fur-coated skeleton in the air before setting it out to crowd surf during “Loot My Body.” Honus Honus has perfected the art of ritualistic performance, sprinkling holy water on the audience, and brandishing a deer head above us like Rafiki holding Simba atop pride rock in The Lion King. He had us singing back up and baaing like sheep, and I can’t remember a time I’ve been so willing to participate.

After a brief absence, Man Man returned to the stage for a three-song encore. The sax player once again cajoled them with his instrument, simulating the lure of a snake charmer. They closed the night with an extended version of “Whalebones,” the final track on 2008’s Rabbit Habits. As the ragtime nocturne slinked along, the band left the stage one by one, while the crowd and remaining members sang the song’s unanswerable coda: “Who are we to love at all?” 

LIVE REVIEW: Chris Cohen @ Non Plus Ultra

All photos by Suzannah Weiss

They say getting there is half the fun, and that was definitely true for indie art-rock artist Chris Cohen’s latest show at Non Plus Ultra in LA. The underground venue’s address is ever-changing, as I discovered when I arrived at the one listed online and found only houses. Thankfully, I made some new friends who were looking for the same show, and we finally found the right place together.

It was worth it: Not only did I meet new people; I found myself at a visually fascinating warehouse-like building that looked more like an art gallery than a concert venue. Graffiti covered the walls, colorful jellyfish hung from the ceiling of the bar, and even the bathrooms were artfully painted.


The show was scheduled for 8 p.m., but it started around 9:30 with an experimental set by multi-instrumentalist Sam Gendel, who mixed music on his computer while speaking, singing, and beat-boxing into a microphone. As his voice warped against jazzy piano tunes in the background, animations of snakes, ballerinas, and other cartoonish figures appeared on a screen behind him. His unique style fit the artsy undercurrent of the whole event.

Next, indie folk artist Ruth Garbus performed several songs on vocals and guitar with the vocal accompaniment of Julia Tadlock, their voices harmonizing on poetic lyrics like “we’re waiting on the sun.” Garbus played part of the set alone, her voice operatic and airy and a bit reminiscent of Kimya Dawson, painting scenes of squirrels and other natural imagery. At one point, Gendel accompanied her on the saxophone.

At last, Cohen took the stage around 11:30 p.m., beginning with the slow-paced, dreamy “Edit Out.” The audience swayed as he crooned, “I rub my eyes and look around / You can hardly tell at all / Estimated what they’d edit out / Maybe nothing there at all.” Chimes filled the room with psychedelic echoes as he sang “No Time to Say Goodbye,” and the screen behind him matched, with gorgeous technicolor outdoor scenes that made it feel like I was inside a video game. Cohen doesn’t give the most animated performances, yet his expressionless face and gentle rocking compliment his mellow tunes. He picked up the pace to close the night with “Heavy Weather Sailing,” building on the event’s fantastical atmosphere as he sang, “Put the brakes on if you can / Weigh the world on a scale / Tell any story to suit you / Like Jonah swallowed the whale.”

Personally, I’d been hoping for him to play some of his more energetic and upbeat songs, like “Torrey Pine” and “Drink From a Silver Cup,” but I’ll take whatever he’ll give me, and his selections fit the dream-like setting of Non Plus Ultra’s tucked-away wonderland.

Chris Cohen’s self-titled LP is out now.

SHOW REVIEW: The Mountain Goats @ Anaheim House of Blues

all photos by Suzannah Weiss


Indie folk band The Mountain Goats has been around for nearly 30 years, but its members are still going strong. They released their 17th studio album In League With Dragons in April, and they’re currently touring around the country, stopping at the House of Blues in Anaheim, California (best known for its Disneyland resort) on Monday, September 16.

The evening began with a set by singer-songwriter Lydia Loveless, who sang a collection of heartfelt songs with country and folk influences. Her soulful voice told stories of the ups and downs of relationships with vivid lyrics like “I was thinking of things I’d do if I had the time/Until my fingers smell like pussy and Lucky Strikes” as she accompanied her own vocals on the guitar and keyboard. Her voice was a bit whiny for my taste at times, but she ended on a good note with a fast-paced and catchy tune that set the stage for the rest of the show.

After a short interlude, the Mountain Goats opened with a slow, staccato “An Antidote for Strychnine,” from their most recent album. Lead singer John Darnielle’s distinctive voice sounds just like it does on recordings. There’s something almost foreboding in the way it quivers as it lingers on certain lyrics, and the songs sound almost like spoken stories as he clearly enunciates each word. Watching the band perform feels almost like hearing a friend tell anecdotes from their life — except it’s a friend who speaks in poetic verses with infectious melodies.

The band’s quirks shined during the performance; Darnielle cracked jokes about dragons and politics, an unexplained snake and apple rested on the keyboard for the duration of the set, and pianist Matt Douglas treated the audience to several saxophone solos. Darnielle played part of the set alone, and his band joined him for the beginning and the end.

“Sax Rohmer #1” off 2008’s Heretic Pride was a crowd favorite. People shouted as Darnielle belted “And I am coming home to you / With my own blood in my mouth / And I am coming home to you / If it’s the last thing that I do.” Another highlight was “Wear Black” from 2017’s Goths, which featured canorous harmonies and dreamy keyboard tunes.

With their spirited dancing and enthusiastic head-bobbing, it was clear that the band hasn’t gotten bored of live performances, and it was just as evident from the crowd’s cheers that their fans haven’t gotten bored of them either.

INTERVIEW: The Blue Stones Confirm An Album Is On The Way

The Blue Stones

Hailing from Windsor, Ontario, alt-rock duo The Blue Stones performed at Bunbury Music Festival earlier this month after wrapping up their headlining North American tour. This year, vocalist / guitarist Tarek Jafar and drummer Justin Tessier have followed up their 2018 debut album, Black Holes, with several live music releases, including a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and album hit “Black Holes (Solid Ground).”

The pair is currently gearing up to hit the studio in preparation for a new album, set to drop next year. While they’re still in the planning stages, the guys shared some new details about their “swagger-filled” album with Audiofemme to get us excited.

AF: You guys just finished up your Be My Fyre Tour. How was it?

Really, really great.

AF: And it was your first headlining coast to coast tour?

It wasn’t really coast to coast, but it was definitely our first tour through the majority of the North American places that we’ve wanted to play. We missed a lot of places—like Texas—we didn’t get a chance to go there. We want to. Next time we’ll do more of the South.

AF: That’s a big milestone!

It was great. It’s nice to have actually gone out and done it. You don’t really know what to expect. Like Seattle, I’ve never been there before, but there’s a bar full of people that know your music. So it’s really, really nice to have that and that was most of the stops, so we really appreciated that.

AF: You guys have released two bodies of live music this year, one through Audiotree Live and one through SiriusXM Studios. Are you currently recording any new music?

Yeah, we’re constantly developing new stuff. We have a pocket of songs right now that we are actually going to be taking to the studio.

AF: So a full project is in the works?

Yeah, I mean nowadays you record a batch of songs and then put it out and [you] keep doing that, but that’s going to be coming up in the early fall. We’ll be putting out new stuff and then next year the full album will be ready.

AF: You guys have such a special energy when you are performing live on stage – is that what made you want to release live tracks?

Partly, yeah. Other than that, we were just given really good opportunities to do that so we just took it. But yeah, we didn’t have any good quality live stuff from our recent set, so we wanted to make it.

AF: Anything else you can tell us about your upcoming album?

It’s been cooking for a long time, we can say that. I mean, the last time we were in the studio was 2014.

AF: So it’ll be songs from a few years ago and new music?

Yes, songs from years ago to two weeks ago.

AF: For fans that have been with you since the beginning, what will they notice on future releases?

It’s kind of hard to frame right now, but definitely an in-your-face, energetic, swagger-filled batch of songs.

AF: Should we be on the lookout for any visuals?

We’re starting to transition to the new stuff. Like, we’re going to the studio in the next couple months. We love doing cool videos, cool visuals, it’s important. It kind of ties the whole idea of an album together. We take care in making sure that works out.

The Blue Stones
The Blue Stones. Photo by Bill Meis.

LIVE REVIEW: Xiu Xiu @ The Chapel

Xiu Xiu, touring with members of Swans’ live ensemble, played SF’s The Chapel on 5/28. Photo by Shomei Tomatsu

“Loner,” Thor Harris murmurs matter-of-factly, temporarily seizing the mic from Xiu Xiu frontman, Jamie Stewart. “Lonerrrrrr.” It’s a fitting accusation to thrust into this particular sea of transfixed eyes, as it’s just about halftime and the notion of being little more than jumbled limbs in a heaving crowd has been hastily forgotten. Not long after Xiu Xiu’s sonic slink into the ether, the average schmuck is far too agog to notice the quivering mass of those that are surely sweating on arms and breathing on necks. No, we’ve collectively embraced a healthy dose of social apathy, and we’ve got Stewart’s yowling to thank for it. So when Harris calls out for the loner, we silently respond en masse. Of course, he’s simply reading the first few lines of “Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy,” the fifth track off of Xiu Xiu’s latest album, Girl with Basket of Fruit. But it feels as if he’s addressing each one of us directly, rubbed raw by Stewart’s aching bellows and the throbbing bassline of guest bassist Christopher Pravdica, best known as the longstanding bassist of Swans.

The Chapel (a former funeral home in the San Francisco Mission District) possesses the warmth and coloring of an internal organ. Indeed, the Suspiria-red walls fractured by Blue Velvet-hued lighting creates the sort of glow one might discover if they were to slip through a pulmonary artery. However, Xiu Xiu appear to be right at home. They graciously open with perhaps their most well-known song, “I Luv the Valley OH!” and Stewart ensures that that shriek of an OH! is just as gloriously cathartic as it is on the recorded track. Following this nod to their 2004 album, Fabulous Muscles, the trio eagerly launches into their latest, including the aforementioned “Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy” (sadly performed without the intoxicating vocal contributions of lyricist Angela Seo), “It Comes Out as a Joke,” “Scisssssssors,” and the album’s namesake track.

Wasting no precious energy on mindless banter between songs, Stewart commits to the performative purge: jumping, jerking, and writhing onstage. His characteristically precarious wail travels from bellowing roar to splitting shriek to curious quack to seductive whisper and back again. In short, the man is seriously well-equipped. The instruments Stewart samples over the course of the show span an equally compelling range (including a slide whistle and what appears to be a makeshift maraca), and his cowbell clanging and cymbal slamming during “It Comes Out as a Joke” is absolutely no nonsense. Thor Harris, Xiu Xiu’s congenial drummer (like Pravdica, known for his work in Swans), also scrambles standard instrumental roleplay. In addition to his spoken word-esque reading of the “Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy” (which nonchalantly closes with “And I am kind of a dopey-ass goofball weirdo so I can get why some people don’t like me”), Harris bashes a gong and samples wooden claves. Pravdica, too, is not confined to the bass guitar. One would be remiss to forget his brief affair with those castanets during the encore performance of “Sad Pony Guerilla Girl” (A Promise, 2003).

In pathetic sum, language seemed pretty superfluous by the time I stumbled out of The Chapel, lulled into an awe-bitten, catatonic state. I haven’t even mentioned the lolling lament of “Get Up,” (FORGET, 2017), the absolute blessing of “Clowne Towne” (Fabulous Muscles, 2004), and Stewart’s literal use of snapping scissors as percussive party to the performance of “Scisssssssors.” Fellow affected attendees sucked on cigarettes outside the venue, speechlessness the rule. Given the glaring limitations of the English language, perhaps it is best to refer now to the absurdist bio supplied by Xiu Xiu for their show listing, excerpted from “Ice Cream Truck” on Girl with Basket of Fruit:

“It could be handfuls of reds,” it begins, followed by absurdities that vacillate between the disturbing and the delicious. “It could be mescal in a bottle & baby on a boob, hair dyed blonde for nobody, nobody move.”

It could be that the act of writing this review was an exercise in futility.

It could be that was the best twenty bucks I ever spent.

When Push Comes to Shove: Etiquette in the Mosh Pit

The live music experience is a major part of music fandom, and anyone who attends concerts regularly can attest that there’s an unspoken sense in the air of how to behave and interact with one another at most shows. In venues of any size, hosting any band, of any genre, there is simple etiquette that one makes a contract to uphold as soon as they enter the venue’s doors. Sometimes though, for whatever reason, folks in the audience just don’t get the message, ignoring body language, personal space, and common decency, which can make for an unpleasant experience for everyone around. Here, we lay out the do’s and don’ts of show-going, explicitly stating that unspoken language once and for all.

Photo by Sarah Knoll

First, let’s go through some of the people you may encounter at shows. This does not go for all shows or all genres, but as a photographer and writer who covers live music often, I’ve become familiar with certain types of folks I often share space with. It’s important to identify these people so you know how to deal with them at your next show.

Photo by Sarah Knoll

Here With Friends

This person is typically just along for the ride, more than likely traveling in a pack and sticking with them through the entirety of the show. These people are generally harmless – just be on the lookout if they start to hype each other up a bit too much throughout the band’s set. But even that is better than a big clump of people only there to shmooze, who talk throughout the show about things unrelated to music – especially if the set is quiet. Though they may not talk to anybody else in the crowd, random conversations can be distracting; if it seems like this is going to be the case, seek refuge away from the group.

Die-Hard Fan

If the show is at a larger venue or is a really noted act, you might get those die-hard fans who will go early and wait in long lines to see their favorite band from a prime position. They will be at the front of the stage, screaming every lyric of every song, their unconditional love for whatever act they’re seeing undoubtedly noted by the freshly-purchased merchandise they’re wearing or some attempt to drop random facts about the act between songs. They may get wild, but it’s all for love of the music – generally you can count on this person to promote positive vibes in the folks around them, whether they’re alone or with a friend.

Wacky Flailing Arm Inflatable Tube Man

You will probably see this person in the middle of the venue, as they are often a part of the pit – maybe even the pit starter. Common at hardcore, punk, and even certain types of hip-hop shows, they flail their arms and legs all over the place to build a circle around them and are not to be reckoned or reasoned with. If they’re getting a pit started that you don’t want to be involved in, try and stay safe while giving them space to do their thing. It’s a little more awkward when someone’s just flailing for no apparent reason, but oftentimes these are the people who will be most offended when confronted, so subtle glaring or switching up your spot is all you can really do.

IPA Dude

Outside of shows, you’ll see this person at bars, at coffee shops, at Whole Foods, or walking across the street with their fixed-gear bike. They hold on to their beer like it’s their lifeline and probably won’t stray far from the bar of the venue so they’re able to order again quickly. If they’re not already friends with the bartender, they will be by night’s end, and will hopefully remain chill even if they have one or two too many. They might be very vocal with their opinions on beer, coffee, or even the music, but they can be cool to hang around with if you just want to enjoy your time by the bar, removed from the crowd.

Arms on Lockdown

Similar to IPA Dude, this person is very chill. Usually coming by themselves, they keep their arms and legs to themselves and inside of the ride at all times. They’re just there to enjoy the music, and not be bothered. Just like a bee, if you leave them alone, they’ll be harmless, but it’s likely they take things very seriously – seriously enough that if they’re standing next to Wacky Flailing Arm Inflatable Tube Man or a group of loud talkers there might be a showdown.

Surf’s Up!

We all know those who crowd surf. It is a sport and a gift to those who are comfortable enough to be lifted up by complete strangers and passed along sweaty palms to prove their love and joy of the band. Sometimes they barrel to the front to jump off the stage and into the crowd; other times, they’ll get bystanders to hoist them up and surf toward the stage. They may not appear so before the opening song, but those first few riffs transform them into a thrill-seeker. Once they’re up, it’s hard for them to control where they go or what they’re doing with their own limbs, so if you’re anywhere in their path, stay alert! Doc Martens to the forehead do not feel good.

The Photographer

As a photographer myself, I’ll say this: even though some of us are working, we are just fanatical as anyone else. We typically love the bands we shoot, we love the thrill of a live act, and we love to document that. We have to be near the stage to get good shots, and with that comes some risks. We dodge crowd surfers, flailing arm people, pit-pushers, and more, often with expensive equipment that we’d prefer not to break. A good photographer shouldn’t distract you from the main act – most will get in and get out once they’ve got what they need. If you’re near an amateur with an iPhone who sees a need to record video of every song in its entirety, that’s another story – politely remind them that they’re blocking your view when they do that and ask them to keep documenting the event to a minimum, and hope that they’ll oblige.

Push Pops

At some shows, there may the tamer cousin to the mosh pit – the push pit. The push pit mostly contains people jumping up and down and having a good time. It is a uniform mass and is easy to get in and out of. Those who decide to be a part of this mass are usually not aggressive, but have a gigantic love and appreciation for the band, and let that excitement show with high-energy movements. Joining in can be really fun, and it’s great cardio too!

Photo by Sarah Knoll

Needless to say, a crowd encompasses many types of people, and works almost like its own organism, reacting to the same stimuli. No matter what type describes your own show-going persona, there is some behavioral protocol that should be followed when attending a show. We all want to enjoy the experience, get our money’s worth, and leave happy. But one or two unpleasant folks can sour the mood for everyone, instead bringing negativity and sometimes even danger to the audience around them. Here are some best practices to be conscious of when you’re at a show.

Most importantly: R-E-S-P-E-C-T isn’t just a song by Aretha Franklin (RIP), it’s something that everyone in general life should exhibit, both spoken and silent. In the close quarters of a sold-out venue, this goes double, and the easiest way to tell if a given behavior is acceptable is to look around you. Observe the crowd – if no one’s dancing or moving around at all, it’s probably not an appropriate time to start up a pit and start pushing people around. Though it seems like common sense, unfortunately, some people are lacking of that.

Respect also comes in the form of respecting physical boundaries. Although sometimes show-goers are packed like sardines into a venue, it does not mean that someone should be touched without permission and personal space should always be 100% respected, as best you can. Even a tap on the shoulder can make someone feel uncomfortable, and shoving people aside to get a spot in front of the band is pretty rude. If someone’s in the pit it’s probably safe to say they’re open to the types of touching that come along with that, but – especially for people in the pit periphery who aren’t active participants, keep your hands to yourself.

Photo by Sarah Knoll

The pit can be an amazing experience to be a part of, but it’s also a complicated one. Unfortunately, the pit is heavily dependent on social cues, therefore communication can be misinterpreted. For the most part, even folks who appear aggressive want everyone to have a good time too, and there’s a good deal of helping people up when they fall or doing some protective pushing around smaller moshers.

If you do not want to participate in jumping around, possible pushing, fist-pumping or any of that action, it is recommended that you find a small space where you will not be affected by said pit. Standing along the wall or in corners is a great option as these provide pockets of space where the pit will more than likely not open up, yet you’re able to see the action both on stage and off. If someone keeps pushing you or trying to throw you into the pit from the sides, feel free to tell them to back off, but don’t act hostile about it since you don’t want to start beef with someone who can put you in harm’s way.  If you’re not dying to see the act up and close, going to the back of the venue can put you in the arms of safety. It allows you to be close to the exits and possibly the bar, so you don’t have to interact with the pit people at all.

Photo by Sarah Knoll

If you’re going into the pit, don’t do anything more aggressive than you’d want done to you. If you don’t want to get punched, don’t punch people. It’s as simple as that. It’s sad that this has to be said, but countless times, people have been more aggressive than they need to be. If you’re in a pit and other people are knocking into each other and pushing around, cool. But if people are starting to grab one another by their shirts, push people down to the ground or grab anyone to the point where that person is out of control, don’t hesitate to notify someone. A lot of shows at bigger venues have competent security. Some bands have even been known to call out bad behavior they see in the audience. But whether it’s happening to you or someone nearby, don’t just do nothing. The more aware that people are about a potentially violent or offensive person, the safer that environment can be.

Photo by Sarah Knoll

Be observant of the venue around you, too. Be aware that the space needed for a pit can push other people into uncomfortable nooks and crannies. Assess your space before you decide to flail your arms everywhere or bring the pit further into the back or sides of the venue. Sometimes it’s appropriate and other times it’s not.

The pit can be a unique and fun experience if people can observe behavior and assess before they act. It takes at most five seconds to turn around and look at the people to your left and right and anticipate their next move. You’d do the same if you’re about to turn a corner on a street, so bring those same principles to a show.

Be a Conscious Observer. 

Safety should always be your main concern, even if that doesn’t seem “cool.” Observe and assess your surroundings; with violent events at concerts on the rise, it’s important to know where to go in case of emergency. Also, don’t be afraid to say hello to whoever is nearby you, and make sure they are aware of your presence. Whether offering a simple wave or friendly eye contact, noting your neighbors may help you in the long run if something were to happen, and even if nothing does, you might make a new friend.

It’s also important to note other people’s behaviors. Pit or no pit, some people may act in an unruly or uncomfortable way that can not only effect yourself, but other people in the crowd. Don’t be afraid to speak up if someone is making you or another person uncomfortable. Talk to the bartender, security, someone next to you, the box office attendant, even the band. Try to prevent a person from doing something potentially threatening and dangerous without direct conflict.

Photo by Sarah Knoll

Don’t Be An Asshole.

Pit ettiquette boils down to that one simple phrase. If you wouldn’t want it done to yourself, don’t do it. It’s very easy to be nice, but’s also easy to cross that line when you’re in the midst of your favorite song.

Courtesy extends to the bands providing the music; unless they have asked for requests, don’t heckle them with suggestions for their set list. Bands put time and thought into crafting their set list and try to get a good range of music played to make their audience happy. Sorry if that one obscure song from their very first album wasn’t played – ask yourself if you really wanted to hear it, or if you’re just posturing for those around you so that they know what a longtime fan you’ve been (FYI: no one cares, and true fans come to hear what the band is interested in playing). At the end of the day, though the band is hopefully grateful to have an audience to play for, it’s also an opportunity to play what they’re excited to play, and recycling the same old tunes can get boring on a long tour. Just because you paid money to see them perform does not give you the right to dictate how and what they should play.

Here’s an important one, if you are tall. Please. Let. Short. People. FORWARD. If you’re plagued with the short gene like I am (I’m 5’1”) then it can become difficult to see the band through a sliver of space between two people who are much taller than you, and no one wants to stare at someone’s shoulders and neck all night.

Photo by Sarah Knoll

Bottom line: show-goers want to get the most out of the shows that they go to, and the bands that play want to see their audience have fun. If “fun” entails pushing people around in a mosh pit all night for some, and standing by the bar with arms crossed for others, remember: there’s room for all types of fandom, but all are governed by a golden rule. It’s easy to be nice, so why not do it? You’re there for the music, sure – but also for the experience of being in the midst of a living, breathing crowd, so taking it all in and putting out positivity in turn is the best way to make sure everyone has a blast.

LIVE REVIEW: Lydia Lunch Retrovirus @ Rickshaw Stop

The No Wave scene of 1970’s New York City was altogether bowel borne, the sickened spasm of a nihilist made nervous by the violent void of the Lower East Side. It was a pocket of time and space that knew no law nor order. Rather, it was poverty-ridden and putrid, little more than a decaying plane of filth and illness occupied by scum-soaking bums.

Enter Lydia Lunch – No Wave’s mainstay and New York’s bristling brat among rats. A runaway at 16, Lunch fled her family home in Rochester, New York, in favor of the gurgling gutter of NYC, licking the lyrical coattails of Jean Genet, Hubert Selby Jr, Marquis de Sade, and Henry Miller. In an interview for the Women of Rock Oral History Project, Lunch explains that the works of these writers stoked her drive to confront the trials of her own riotous reality, meaning mundanity was no longer a viable existence. Finally, the filth supplied by a sour mouth would be flavored female (although she’d likely contest the confinement of gendered categories).

Unsurprisingly, Lunch’s confrontational energy was highly anomalous among the saluted dudes of the local underground music scene at the time. In fact, many of her younger comrades thought her to be a “teenage terrorist,” with the exception of a few “weird old men,” including guitarist Robert Quine, who collaborated with the likes of Lou Reed, Richard Hell, and Brian Eno.

Thankfully, Lunch would go on to terrorize the masses through many mediums, including spoken word performance, literature, film, and music. A self-described “musical schizophrenic,” she incited delicious din in the ever-seminal No Wave group Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, and proceeded to rasp her way through a number of bands over the course of her career: Beirut Slump, 8-Eyed Spy, Harry Crews, Big Sexy Noise, and finally, the live and writhing Retrovirus

Retrovirus is Lunch’s current outfit, along with drummer Bob Bert, bassist Tim Dahl, and guitarist Weasel Walter (also of Cellular Chaos). The self-described “sonic brutarians” recently took the stage at San Francisco’s Rickshaw Stop. As Lunch rarely makes her rounds in the United States, I was eager to secure a ticket. My excitement was not misplaced.

Shortly after her stealthy entry, Miss Lunch greeted the audience with her special cocktail of snarl and stoicism, oozing authority and anti-appeasement. What occurred next could only be described as an all-out aural confrontation. Whilst Bert maintained a steady tremble on drums, the fingerwork of Dahl and Walter was at once phlegmatic and panic-ridden. Lunch punctuated their sonic thunder with fierce ease, a seeming conductor to the cauldron of clamor.

Towards the close of their all too short-lived set (“Snakepit Breakdown,” “Afraid of Your Company,” and “Mechanical Flattery” among the highlights), Lunch did not pussyfoot the expectation for an encore. “This is our last song, trust me. You can beg all you want. We’re not doing another one. We have one song, we’re doing that.” And so it was over. Quick and dirty, like a racy romp in one of her Richard Kern features. Despite my desire for another dose of din, the nonchalance of her dismissal proved startlingly refreshing in this age of social masquerade and appeasement sleaze. Don’t waste your cheerleading on this one.


ONLY NOISE: Marjorie’s

On Sunday, in a part of town I rarely get to visit, I sat on a hard wooden bench staring at a wall. From beyond that wall I could hear trumpet, bass, and a drum kit played by invisible musicians. Their presence was confirmed not only by the sound, but by the rows of people sitting in fold up chairs in front of me, who had a better view of the action. The only musician I could see was an elderly woman in a close-cut purple sheath dress, hunched over a piano. She sat framed by a doorway, and if I craned my head to the right, the discomfort in my neck was worth what I could see.

The woman in the purple dress was Marjorie Eliot, and she was playing in the Harlem apartment she’s lived in for 36 years. For 25 of those years, Eliot has hosted a weekly Sunday afternoon jazz concert in her parlor, free of charge and open to whoever can get there on time. This magnitude of kindness is unusual coming from anybody, but especially someone like Marjorie Eliot, who has endured more tragedy than most – even for a decades-long New Yorker. The concerts began as a way for her to ease the pain of losing her son Phil to kidney failure; fourteen years later she lost another son, Michael, to meningitis. Another son briefly went missing in 2011 – Shaun Eliot, who suffers from an undisclosed mental illness, boarded a bus en route to a transition house on Wards Island and wasn’t heard from for over a month, when a nurse at Metropolitan Hospital finally identified him and let Marjorie know he was safe.

I learned about Marjorie Eliot’s personal tragedies days after I left her home at 555 Edgecombe Avenue in Harlem. But I was already well aware of the events’ popularity, however. When my roommate brought me and a couple of friends to Harlem for Marjorie’s March 11th performance, he was somehow under the impression that her cover of obscurity had only recently been blown (isn’t it just like a white man to think they are the first to notice something special?). The fact of the matter is, The New York Times wrote about Marjorie’s in 1996, and NPR in 2006. Marjorie’s weekly shindig has pages on Yelp, My Secret NY, Facebook, and Place Matters. The cat is, as they say, “out of the bag,” and has been for quite a while. And that’s okay.

One of the most remarkable things about Marjorie’s was how gorgeous and unspoiled it was by the sheer volume of people in attendance. The apartment was packed like a sardine can. There were people crammed into the kitchen, peeking out from behind the doorjamb. Several rows of metal folding chairs held folks with far better views than mine, but this was the shared fruit of their punctuality. The sturdy wooden pew I perched on seemed to extend all the way down the hall, where more people simultaneously watched the band and waited to pee. And in the last grasp for a place to listen and maybe look, a string of guests lined the doorway and wrapped around into the outside hall, waiting for people to give up their seats. It was one of the few times in life I felt that the old saying, “the more, the merrier” actually applied. I occasionally wondered if the apartment was at capacity, or if Marjorie ever got hassled by the fire department, but not knowing only enhanced the experience – like there was some grain of mischief in music again.

Because Marjorie enlists a rotating cast of musicians on Sundays, the music is nonstop. She relinquishes the piano to a man in a fedora, so she can host and greet friends. Trumpet and sax players emerge from the parlor to rest, and beyond the wall another set of woodwinds and brass picks up. Most songs are instrumental, but Marjorie and a few male vocalists pepper in gospel and jazz standards here and there. I feel fortunate that these songs are rare, as it becomes increasingly difficult not to cry during them. For those of us who don’t do church, this is about as close as we get to seeing God.

Marjorie’s Parlor Jazz presented not only one of the most transcendent experiences I’ve had in my nine New York years, it was also one of the most wholesome, which is probably why the comparison to church springs up (not to mention the Lord-forward lyrics Marjorie sang). It felt so inexplicably wonderful to sit quietly for over an hour, not only not touching my phone, but witnessing dozens of phone-free people marveling at this exquisite music we were hearing, free of charge.

When I was in Paris last summer, my French friends and I ended up at a house party. Sadly, I can’t tell you which arrondissement we were in. By then I had imbibed two beers spiked with some kind of diabolical walnut liqueur, and all I remember is being invited to the party on the street. On the street is how most things begin in Paris, in my experience. Once inside the party, my friend told me that it was “nice luck” that we got invited, as seeing the inside of a Parisian’s apartment is a very rare thing. This moment rushed back to me as I sat in Marjorie’s home. It is just as special to see the inside of a New Yorker’s abode, given the premium put on personal space and privacy in this bustling burg.

While the Parisian soiree was fueled by cheep beer and menthol cigarettes, I was just as thrilled at Marjorie’s party favors. About an hour into my stay, an impeccably dressed woman in her 70s came around with a tray full of granola bars, and later one lined with Dixie cups of orange juice. In a city where the best stories are usually born in the wee drunken hours, it felt good to sit in an old woman’s home, drinking OJ in the middle of the day, accepting the enormous gift she gives the city, every week.

PLAYING COLUMBUS: Kizzy Hall & Diet Cig @ Ace of Cups

All photos by Kaiya Gordon

“Y’all Ohioans know how to do rock bands in a way the rest of the country is trying to catch up to,” said Caleb Cordes of Sinai Vessel on Sunday night at the Ace of Cups. The band was following Columbus’ own Kizzy Hall, who opened the show with a fast-paced set that, yes, did reek of rock-and-roll.

It was clear that the crowd took pride in their Ohioan roots, cheering as Cordes gave his shout-out, and dancing with vigor throughout the night. As the night opened, hometown fans crowded the stage to sing Kizzy Hall’s lyrics back to the band, taking selfies and, later, collecting set-lists.

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Kizzy Hall

When headliners Diet Cig finally took the stage, Ace of Cups was vibrating with enthusiasm.

“I feel like Ohio gets a bad rap,” said singer Alex Luciano, as she opened the set. “But every time we’re out here, I [/fusion_builder_column][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”][think] this is the best place in the world.” She continued: “We’ve played at the Ace of Cups a few times and each time has been dreamy…y’all are so nice and cool here, and good looking, and punk!”

Diet Cig is notorious for their high-powered live performances, and though Luciano was hindered by a torn ACL, the duo still played with force. On drums, Noah Bowman is unassuming but relentless, driving Luciano’s guitar riffs to their peaks. And Luciano, regardless of dancing ability, is magnetic onstage. As she sways, twists, winks, dips, and–of course–makes her signature high-kick, it’s hard not to look on with glee.

“Raise your hand if your crush is here,” said Alex, at the beginning of  “Maid of the Mist.” “During this quiet song you can look at them and wink. Or, if you can’t wink…blink twice.” Later in the set, during what Luciano called the “makeout interlude,” she said: “if you blinked at someone earlier, now is the time to kiss them.”

Though critics of Diet Cig find fault in the band’s saccharine qualities, I found it moving to be in a space where I could trust the musicians onstage to go to bat for each other, and for the crowd.

“A lot of times women, and queer folks, and trans folks, and non-binary folks get told that their voice doesn’t matter,” said Luciano at the end of their performance. “But it does matter. Thank you for coming and for taking up space here.”

Luciano also thanked survivors of sexual assault, saying, “It’s a radical act to be out at a show right now.”

Space, or lack of it, is a constant theme in Diet Cig’s work, and while I think it is all too easy to step on somebody else’s toes in the name of taking space, without considering the ways that one is structurally set-up to inhabit that space already, watching Luciano move freely around the stage is joyful. And I am grateful for the attention that the duo pays to creating a “safer space” at their shows.

Standing in the crowd, relieved to be done with the pressured social niceties that come with Thanksgiving, and thankful to be watching a band that is always so entirely themselves, I felt prepared to take on the world for the first time in a week.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

LIVE REVIEW: Sean Nicholas Savage & Dinner @ Baby’s All Right

The disco balls were in full force at Baby’s All Right last Saturday, where the night’s festivities could have easily marched under one banner: Night of the Weirdos. That is of course, the highest order of compliments coming from my fingers, and while I knew from firsthand experience what a bizarro Canadian crooner Sean Nicholas Savage is, I was delighted to find a kindred kook in Dinner.

Comprised of Danish singer/songwriter Anders Rhedin, with the assistance of a live guitarist affectionately referred to only as “Fielder,” Dinner was intent on making their set as fun as humanly possible. Rhedin succeeded. An angular New Romantic in a split-open, black blouse, the artist expertly intertwined goofs into his deadpan delivery. “This is a song about going out,” Rhedin droned before announcing, “This song is called ‘Going Out.’”

Prior to a banging rendition of “Girl” from 2015’s Three EPs, Rhedin instructed the entire room to “sit down,” before treating us to a sulky serenade from the center of our crouching bodies. Rhedin stood over us, a sparkling shroud of cloth dripping from his head, and then joined us on the ground for a good wriggle-around. As he rejoined Fielder onstage, Rhedin announced that “the genius Sean Nicholas Savage” was to join him onstage… only Sean was nowhere to be found. “Sean! SEAN!” he shouted, and the crowd followed suit, eventually succeeding in our beckoning.

The resulting duet was exceptional – contrasting Rhedin’s somber baritone with Savage’s gutsy falsetto. Savage swayed dreamily as Rhedin danced in typical Dinner fashion – which reads like someone getting ready in front of the mirror on prom night in an ‘80s film. On Saturday night, I can safely say that Dinner was served hot.

Sean Nicholas Savage is a much less kinetic performer than Dinner, for certain, but his command of a crowd is not reliant on bouncing around. In fact, he stays remarkably still while performing, his pipes doing most of the movement for him. In his early moments onstage he stood in blue-striped track pants and a dingy tank top. His closely cropped blue hair was the exact hue of his pant stripes by no accident. A saxophonist stood to his left, injecting even more sex appeal into Savage’s already sultry material.

Unfortunately, the saxophonist retreated offstage before long, leaving Savage with his only accompaniment: the backing tracks he plays from his phone. It may be a modern technique, but I’m certain that only a performer with the talent and charisma quotient of Savage could effectively pull it off. I still long for the day I can see him with a full band. Then again, if that day never comes, I’ll still gladly attend his gigs.

Ostensibly there to present new material from latest LP Yummycoma (released one day prior) Savage also swept through crowd favorites like “Chin Chin,” and “Everything Baby Blue” with his snarling and sweet voice, occasionally taking requests and reading the odd poem, (or “rant” as he labeled “Tarot Boys”). A pared down version of Alphaville’s “Forever Young” truly brought the house down, as did Savage’s encore: the strange and self-aware “Music” from 2016’s Magnificent Fist.

“I knew he was going to end with that!” a man in the audience joyfully shouted. And I knew that Sean Nicholas Savage would keep on keeping it weird.

LIVE REVIEW: Dead Leaf Echo @ Knitting Factory

There is no doubt about it – Brooklyn band Dead Leaf Echo’s brand new LP Beyond Desire is a fabulous stew of shoegaze, ’77 punk, pedals and reverb. Released late last week by PaperCup Music, the band’s sophomore album is expertly produced and mixed, resulting in a sonic meal you can really chew on. It was for this reason I was excited to attend their record release gig at Knitting Factory Brooklyn last Friday (the 13th, of course).

Opening band Parlor Walls – a local duo led by the charismatic Alyse Lamb – were a delight with their art rock set reminiscent of Talking Heads, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and The Slits. Lamb bounced around the stage in black sequin hot pants like a delinquent Rockette. The band’s most recent LP Opposites was released in March, 2017, and is certainly worth a listen. Glancing at their Bandcamp page, I notice a genre tag more relevant to their sound (and far catchier) than any I’ve mentioned or thought of: “trash jazz.” It’s just a shame it wouldn’t work as knuckle tats.

Dead Leaf Echo took the stage and plunged into their web of sound. Unfortunately, the mix for the evening was a bit murky, and it was difficult to distinguish front man LG’s 12-string guitar from Ana B’s six string riffs. This of course, was not the band’s fault, and is a frequent setback when playing New York’s smaller venues (and sometimes its bigger ones, too. See: Terminal 5).

As much as I enjoy their new record, Dead Leaf Echo’s stage presence left something to be desired on Friday night. Their performance seemed a bit stilted and self-important, which surprised me given the inherent silliness of their music videos. Then again, one less-than-rapturous gig doesn’t say anything about Dead Leaf Echo’s career as a whole, and it certainly doesn’t tarnish the fantastic collection of songs that is Beyond Desire.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Market Hotel Is Back, NYC’s Cabaret Law & More


  • Market Hotel Ends Their Hiatus

    Bushwick’s Market Hotel will host shows again starting on November 1st, with yet-unannounced special guests playing the grand reopening show. It’s been out of commission while Todd P. and his crew secure the proper licenses t0 turn the longstanding DIY club into a legit venue (in the eyes of NYC officials), but will soon be back with a new sound system. The next batch of announced shows include Tera Melos with Speedy Ortiz, The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die with Rozwell Kid, Pile with Bad History Month, Titus Andronicus, Black Marble, and Royal Trux. See the full schedule and buy tickets here!

  • NYC May Finally Repeal Its Cabaret Law

    In 1926, the Cabaret Law was created to forbid dancing in certain spaces without a license. Many have pointed out the racist implications of the law, which mostly targeted black jazz clubs in Harlem and required its musicians and employees to submit to a background check. In modern times, the law has added a mountain of paperwork to bars and clubs that want to host events with dancing, but hopefully not for much longer; the Mayor’s office has expressed support for repealing the law, as long as certain clubs are required to install more security cameras. NYC, get ready to dance!

  • Other Highlights

    Yoko Ono will voice a character in Wes Anderson’s latest stop-motion feature, Isle of Dogs, Rolling Stone is up for sale, Morissey joins Twitter and announces new song/album, women are keeping guitar makers in business, new videos from Bjork, Downtown Boys, Leonard Cohen and Torres, Avril Lavigne is apparently very, very dangerous, please don’t try to make out with musicians while they’re on stage, Taylor Swift may end up in court yet again, and ICYMI, the Juggalos marched on Washington.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Bushwick’s New Venue, St. Vincent’s New LP & More

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Elsewhere Photo by Sam Gold

  • Glasslands Founders Debut New Venue, Elsewhere

    When Kent Avenue’s DIY hotspot Glasslands closed in 2014, its founders seemed to hint that they’d open another spot eventually. Turns out that spot will be Elsewhere, a warehouse in Bushwick that will double as a community space complete with an art gallery and rooftop access. Dates have already been announced for shows as early as November. Read what the founders have to say about Elsewhere here.

  • Get Ready For A New St. Vincent Album

    It’s been a busy year for Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent: she’s directed a horror short (and will soon direct her first feature film), covered the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” for the new Tiffany & Co. campaign, and is about to release her next album and embark on a tour. Check out her cover of the Fab Four’s classic, as well as her new video for “New York” below. There’s no official name or release date for her album yet, but according to a recent New Yorker interview, the LP’s main themes will be “sex, drugs and sadness.”

  • Simpsons Composer Alf Clausen Fired

    He’s been using a 35 piece orchestra to compose the wacky, classic songs that make The Simpsons for 27 years, but not anymore. His work won two Emmys (in ’97 and ’98), and received 21 additional nominations, but according to Variety, Clausen was told by the show’s producer that they wanted a different kind of music. Seems like an interesting choice to make.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

NEWS ROUNDUP: RIP Glen Campbell, A Celebrity Reptile & More

  • Country Star Glen Campbell Dies

    After a tough battle with Alzheimer’s – chronicled publicly in heartbreaking 2014 tour documentary I’ll Be Me – country and pop star Glen Campbell died on Tuesday, at age 81. He was heralded for his songwriting, vocal and guitar abilities, and many stars paid tribute to him this week after the news of his death: unlikely friend Alice Cooper, his fellow country star and former partner Tanya Tucker, Jimmy Webb, and John Mayer. Timely enough, an old Radiohead cover of Campbell classic “Rhinestone Cowboy” was recently unearthed. Listen below.

  • The Crocodile Named After Motörhead’s Lemmy

    The late bass player was recently honored by scientists, who dubbed a prehistoric crocodile Lemmysuchus obtusidens. Apparently, good ol’ Lemmysuchus was a nasty, brutal, violent, animal that was one of the biggest predators of its era with huge teeth and a spiked tail. When Lemmy wrote “Love Me Like A Reptile,” he probably wasn’t thinking of this.

  • Webster Hall Begins Major Renovations

    One of the city’s most beloved venues will be closed for major renovations starting today, after being bought by Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment and AEG Presents. The process, which will include turning one of the hall’s performance rooms into a waiting room, is going to take an estimated 18 months. 

  • Other Highlights

    Taylor Swift begins testimony, learn about the Transparency in Music bill, a new song from Bully, Alice Glass (of Crystal Castles) returns, read about some groundbreaking country artists, MTV is bringing back TRL, Liam Gallagher is very, very sorry,  pop as propaganda, Mean Girls: the musical, and the 20th anniversary of Backstreet’s Back.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Warped Tour Controversy, DIY In NYC & More

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photo by Daniel Pagan

  • What’s Up With The Warped Tour?

     Last year’s Warped Tour brought controversy by allowing  a pro-life tent on the festival grounds. This year, founder Kevin Lyman explained why he thinks this is a cool, punk rock thing to do: “I use them to drag out the pro-choice groups… We couldn’t get the pro-choice groups out until we had a pro-life group out here. That’s been the thing to stir it up a little bit. That’s what punk rock was always about.” The fest has received even more negative press for the misogynistic onstage rant unleashed by the Dickies’ frontman against an audience member who held up a sign protesting the band’s controversial lyrics, banter, and general attitudes. Read a full account of the incident written by War On Women’s Shawna Potter here.

  • Silent Barn Gets A Liquor License, But Needs Your Help

    Yes, it’s true: you can legally buy shots next time you visit the Bushwick DIY venue. That’s good for you, if you like to drink, but we can also assume it’s good for the venue, because they’ll be earning money from an uptick in alcohol sales. Speaking of money, in order to keep operating, they need it. It’d be incredibly sad if Silent Barn went the way of Shea Stadium or Palisades, so if you have a moment, consider reading about their financial situation, which was presented in depth (and somewhat bluntly and humorously) this week. An important takeaway from the piece:

    The lemonade stand needs to close, and in its place we need to open a Jamba Juice franchise, essentially…When that moment comes, I will gladly sip my stupid Jamba Juice in defiance of all the things that almost prevented us.”

  • Other Highlights

    RIP John Blackwell and Pierre Henry, watch Nirvana perform in a RadioShack, the muppet and hip-hop mashups continue with Sesame Street + the Beastie Boys, check out a surreal video from Japanese Breakfast, rock legends get their own comic book covers, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes forms new supergroup, a Biggie Smalls basketball court is coming to NYC, is Soundcloud floundering? and Kesha is back.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

PREVIEW: Audiofemme x Glamglare Official Northside Showcase

It’s that time of year again!  Northside Festival is just around the corner, and we’ve put together another showcase of awesome artists with the help of Glamglare! Join us Saturday, June 10th at Knitting Factory Brooklyn for music by Blonde Maze, Gold Child, Letters to Nepal, Kinder Than Wolves, GIRL SKIN, and Josh Jacobson.  Sets start at 12:15 pm, so come say hi and hear some of our favorite new tunes!

12:15 pm – Blonde Maze

The nome de plume of singer/songwriter Amanda Steckler, Blonde Maze recently dropped the infectious electro-pop gem “Antartica.”  The follow-up single to her 2015 debut EP Oceans, “Antarctica” is lovely and forlorn.  We can’t wait to hear it live on Saturday!

1) What record have you been listening to on repeat lately?

Sylvan Esso’s new album! Heard it for the first time a few weeks ago, I love the sounds.

2) You came out with your last single, “Antarctica” late last year; what are you working on now?

Right now I’m polishing up a single for release soon… keep an eye out!

3) Your music is so atmospheric – if you could perform live in any setting (an arena, aquarium, space shuttle, etc.) where would it be?

Thank you! That’s a brilliant question.. Hmmm. An igloo in Antarctica under the Northern Lights!

4) You originally studied film before dedicating your life to music 100%.  Have you ever thought about writing film scores?

Yeah totally. When I was studying film, I took a few film scoring classes. I don’t think scoring is so much for me, but I love the idea of writing a song that could be put to a film scene or story. I also love when I see people put my music to their own videos!

5) What sets are you most excited to catch this weekend at Northside Festival?!

I would love to catch Salt Cathedral, Letters to Nepal (which won’t be too hard considering they’re part of the showcase!), Hoops, Psychic Twin, just to name some!

1:oo pm – Gold Child

Brooklyn’s Gold Child (aka, our favorite country sweethearts) have released some killer new music in the past couple of months, including “Me and You” and “Tides.”  Singer/songwriter Emily Fehler is sure to stun you with her graceful stage presence and angelic pipes. Get ready for a dreamy set with enough slide guitar to melt your heart.

1) You’ve been described as (or perhaps you coined the term) “Mermaid Country.” We like the sound of that! What does it mean to you?

Our music is hard to put into one genre category so when I started the project, I was describing it as “mermaid country” to kind of get across an image to describe it. It’s become slightly less country these days but that element is definitely still there along with the ethereal vibe that inspired the “mermaid” factor.

2) Who are some of your favorite Brooklyn bands right now?

9/10 of my friends are in Brooklyn bands that I love. My besties Gracie and Rachel are killing it though and are about to release an album next month!

3) What is a recurring theme that tends to pop up in your songs?

I’m from Colorado and grew up being outside in nature a lot. I really miss it there while I’m in the city so I write a lot about that and feeling like I’m not rooted to any one place.

4) What is Gold Child currently working on? A full length record, perhaps?

We are constantly writing and recording at the moment for what will definitely be a body of work that we hope to release soon, whether it will be an EP or LP.

5) What gigs are you catching at Northside Festival this weekend?!

I’m going to try and catch Julia Holter, Lower Dens playing ABBA, and Beverly.

1:45 pm – Letters To Nepal

“Chillstep” Siberians Letters to Nepal recently released the single “Come Find Me” as a follow-up to 2016 LP LUX.  We can’t wait to hear their beautifully somber set this weekend; come prepared to sway.

1) You came to New York in 2013 by way of North Carolina (and by way of Siberia before that!); what has changed the most in the music scene since you arrived in NY?

Our life is a musica­l journey. We have bee­n living in different­ cities and countries­ and they give ­us different kinds of energy and inspiration, which changed our sound from post-r­ock to an electronic sou­nd. We hope to con­tinue this way of l­ife.

2) What was the inspiration behind your latest single, “Come Find Me”?

Honestly, the sound number 19 in Roland JUNO D. Kidding, of course. The song was inspired by the atmosphere around us and the sense of defenselessness in the huge universe. In this song we respect people who are trying to fight for their rights. So maybe, sound organ number 19 of Roland was very connected to it.

3) If you could collaborate with any living artist in the world, who would it be?

Anton: Rammstein, with YMusic Orchestra.

Evgeniya: Maybe with James Blake, he is a really cool musician.

4) Tell us about any big projects Letters to Nepal has coming up!

We are in the process of creating new music. This time we are doing everything in a different and new-to-us way: new sounds, styles, atmosphere. And we don’t want to follow any rules of style. We’ll see…Very soon, we will release our new single “Our Hands Are One.” And we are currently planning our second tour for this fall.

5) What live shows are you seeing at Northside this weekend?!

Big Thief.

2:30 pm – Kinder Than Wolves

Orlando’s Kinder Than Wolves is comprised of three audio engineers/musicians, so it’s no surprise that they’re able to lay down such lush soundscapes.  Their 2016 record Mean Something was met with acclaim from the likes of The Big Takeover and we can’t wait to hear what they’ve been working on since their debut!

3:15 pm – GIRL SKIN

Locals GIRL SKIN craft songs that are hard to define by genre, but are gorgeous nonetheless. The handful of singles preceding their upcoming EP blend folk, pop, and soul, and certainly leave us wanting more.

1) You guys have a very rich sound – what were some of your points of inspiration while writing the songs on your most recent recordings?

Well the last five or six songs we’ve written have all been on the piano, not sure why…. well I do know why; it’s because I just bought a piano. Also possibly because I’ve been listening to a lot of Nick Cave.

2) You composed a great track for Valley Eyewear…are there any other upcoming collaborations you’re looking forward to?

I just composed something for Victoria Secret. Pretty strange, not sure if I’ll do that again.

3) What bands are you digging right now that we should check out?

Benjamin Booker’s new album.

4) Any big summer plans for GIRL SKIN?

We’ll be releasing a few music videos and an EP also playing live a ton.

5) What gigs are you catching at Northside Festival this weekend?!

Elvis Depressdly, Big Thief.

4 pm – Josh Jacobson

Josh Jacobson writes neo-soul music that is both vulnerable and strong. A multi-instrumentalist, producer, songwriter, and singer, Jacobson wooed us with his latest singles “Polaroids” and “Not Alone.”  Come slow dance to Jacobson’s headlining set at our showcase on Saturday!

1) Your self-proclaimed genre is “Future Soul;” what does that mean to you?

I’m inspired by a lot of different sounds, from jazz to dance music, and ‘future soul’ is my way of bringing it all together. At the core I’m a piano singer-songwriter, but I sing over this soundscape built from my own mix of both live instruments and electronics.

To me, soulful music is about saying something from deep within, and trying to share your own voice in a direct way. Jazz and soul music have always spoken to me, and I think that sound is the most obvious influence in the records I make. I also like to voice my ideas through sound design itself, so my production style is continually evolving and doesn’t really fit into any neat label. That’s the ‘future’ aspect.

2) Given your numerous talents, what is your favorite part of the process, from songwriting, to recording, to performing live?

Performing is really what I live for the most. I’ve been an instrumentalist way longer than anything else, so I just have this lifelong love for the feeling of being on stage with other musicians and creating something together that is completely of the moment.

I really dig being in the studio and exploring every idea to the fullest through those long days and nights too, but the music comes alive in a new way for me when I get to play it out with a full band and share that live energy with an audience.

3) There seems to be a lot of mindfulness behind your music. What do you hope to inspire in your listeners?

Right on! Creating music is very meditative for me, and I’d like for people to also feel that kind of rejuvenation when they listen to my music, in their own way.

I get a lot of my inspiration from nature, and I think that comes across in my music too. When I’m out in the woods or on the water, I just feel like a kid again. Something about that environment makes me feel connected to my purpose and the things that are actually important to me, and distant from the fucked-up-ness of the world and my own troubles and fears.

Music also makes me feel that way, so I think those experiences are deeply linked in my mind. Everyone has different things that move them, so I hope my music inspires people to find that feeling in whatever way is right for them, and to create the life they want to live.

4) Your first instrument was the piano, and now you play everything from the harp to the trumpet.  Are there any instruments you’re still dying to learn?  Which ones?!

Sometimes I feel like I was born to be a bass player! Many of my songs are very bassline-driven, and that’s often what I hear first when I listen to music. I could listen to “Voodoo” all day on repeat and just vibe to the way Pino locks in with Questlove’s drums. It’s amazing.

I love laying down parts on my Moog, but can only play basic lines on bass guitar so it’d be cool to take some time and get actually good at it. I’ve been learning mallet percussion lately for my live show, which is a lot of fun too! Pretty much just like playing a keyboard but much more physical, and it inspires different kinds of melodies and riffs.

I’m really more of a keyboard player than a multi-instrumentalist to be honest, but I do love hopping on new instruments and seeing what sounds I can find! My mom is a professional violinist and she’s been taking harp lessons for the last couple years for fun, so whenever I’m back home upstate I get to sit down and improvise on her harp. The way the wood resonates with the vibrations of the strings and fills the room with sound is very powerful and healing – kind of like a grand piano, but better.

5) What shows are you definitely checking out at Northside Festival this weekend?!

Def want to catch my favorites Dirty Projectors, Kamasi Washington and BJ the Chicago Kid. Also looking forward to Synead, OSHUN and a bunch of others. I’ll be exploring the festival all weekend, see y’all in the ‘burg!