Heather Bond Highlights Nashville’s Stellar Female Musicians with “The Mirage” Video Premiere

Photo Credit: Meg Sagi

In the middle of filming the video for “The Mirage,” Heather Bond decided to kick off her heels, not just for the comfortability factor, but to foster the intimate atmosphere she was aiming for. Surrounded by tall plants, dimly lit lamps, and paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling, Bond wanted to create a “relaxing, chill vibe” for the visual, premiering today via Audiofemme.

The song is Bond’s second co-write with accomplished bassist Viktor Krauss, and became a favorite on local indie radio station Lightning 100 – so much so it was named to the station’s top 100 songs of 2021. “It’s one of those reflective songs that I think everybody can relate to,” Bond explains. It was inspired by the nostalgia of thinking about past relationships, how they change over time, and how they shape us. “When you’re looking at everything in retrospect, suddenly everything is very clear, [even if] at the time it wasn’t, and it feels messy and muddy and you’re trying to figure out who you are and who you are in a relationship,” Bond says. “From a distance it’s very clear – wouldn’t that be nice if we could recognize that in the moment?” 

Bond had never performed the song live – until she assembled a supergroup of female musicians and background vocalists at The Studio in Nashville. Describing the experience as “surreal,” Bond reveals that it was an “emotional” day of filming, hearing her song come to life with such an exceptional group of players. “The energy was really cool,” she adds. 

Bond takes center stage with an iconic ’70s-inspired look: burnt orange leather pants and geometric patterned shirt to match. Accompanying Bond is Megan McCormick on guitar, Melissa Mattey at the piano, Elizabeth Chan on drums, Krauss on bass and Devonne Fowlkes and Emoni Wilkins serving up background vocals. “I have never played music with a whole group of women, so that was surprisingly a very powerful experience for me,” Bond expresses, citing them as “talented, beautiful and so kind.”

What makes the video particularly unique is the way Bond allows each person their moment to shine, the camera capturing each performer’s gifts and the way they light up the room, whether Mattey is grooving to the melody on keys or Chan is transfixed on Bond, while Fowlkes and Wilkins fall into a rhythm with the singer as they sway to the beat in synchronicity.

For Bond, it was important to give each person their moment in the spotlight. “I told Craig [Hill] that I really wanted him to focus on everybody. There are certain artists that really highlight their band members and I think it’s amazing – it’s my song and I’m singing this song, but the whole thing would not come together without each performer. So I wanted to highlight everybody, and they’re all so good,” she praises. “I love how I felt like each of them were so committed and connected to what we were doing in the moment.”

At one point, the camera crosses over Wilkins to find McCormick getting lost in the melody during her guitar solo, allowing the feeling of the song to take over her hands as she played. “I love that moment where she’s just grooving on the guitar. I’ve watched that quite a few times,” Bond says. “I get lost for a second. This was the first time hearing my songs with the full band, and so when there’s a moment that I’m not singing and it’s just the music and Megan is playing this gorgeous solo, I was able to sink in and lose myself for a bit.” 

Getting lost in the moment and overtaken by the music was one of Bond’s goals for the video, and it also reflects the ’70s and ’80s influences of her upcoming album, The Mess We Created, out February 25th. “We wanted it to match the way that the record sounds and feels. I wanted for it to feel relaxed, like a mix between a studio and living room thing where you feel like you’re in the room and hanging out with each player as they’re taking their turn on camera,” she describes.

She also wanted to bring a sense of solace to viewers after a chaotic couple years of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Life has not been easy for anybody, and the past two years have been pretty intense,” she says. “I’ve been very lucky in a lot of ways. I know people have had it much worse. I definitely need those times where I slow down and reflect and remind myself [that] it’s going to be all right. You’ve been through some stuff, you’re going to go through more, but right now, take it in and let go what you need to let go. So a lot of the songs on the record are like that for me, just accepting what has happened, letting it go and trying to move forward.” 

With a live EP to follow The Mess We Created on March 25th, Heather Bond is already looking ahead. She hopes listeners will do the same, while drawing a sense of tranquility and clarity from the song itself. “One of my favorite things when I’m listening to music is when I put on a song and it makes me feel nostalgic or makes me start thinking about my life and who I loved and who I’ve lost and I’m not even necessarily honed in on the specific lyrics, it’s just a feeling,” she observes. “So that’s how I hope that ‘Mirage’ translates – you’re listening to it and the feeling takes over and you’re able to reflect.” 

Follow Heather Bond on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for ongoing updates. 

Khari opens for Freddie Gibbs at The Thompson House

Khari / Photo Credit: Phil Dowdy

Live music in Cincinnati is back and Khari is taking full advantage. The Queen City-bred rapper opened for Grammy-nominated artist Freddie Gibbs last week at Newport, Kentucky’s Thompson House

“It meant a lot to open up for him,” Khari told Audiofemme after the show. “He’s someone who I respect as an artist and someone I’ve been listening to for a while now, and to be representing Cincinnati on the bill, I definitely took pride in the fact that I was able to open up for a Grammy-nominated artist.”

Khari performed several cuts from the latest installment of his This Is How We Feel EP series: Act 2 (Institutionalized), including “Hood Millennials” and crowd-pleaser, “Stupid.” The local talent also performed his verse from the 2019 Cincy posse cut, “Da Art of Ignorance (Remix),” before winding down to some conscious records. 

“Going into the show, I knew I wanted to show my versatility with my set, so that meant displaying my more upbeat tracks and then transitioning into some more soulful records,” Khari said. “Me and my team literally found out about four days before the show that Freddie’s management team liked the music and that we were in to do the show. So, I got with my DJ, and we rehearsed Sunday for about five hours, then Wednesday morning before the show for a couple hours.”

Besides performing a well-balanced set, Khari also proved his ability to engage the crowd. The rapper led audience members through a handful of T.I. classics to mark the beginning of Libra season and bolstered a powerfully unifying moment while rapping “Eve.” During the emotional track, which serves as his tribute to Black women, Khari called on the crowd to hold up their lighters and cellphone flashlights. 

“By far the biggest moment of the show for me was performing ‘Eve’ and seeing the entire venue [hold] their cell phone lights up as we put on for Black women,” he reflected. 

The crowd’s energy carried over into Gibbs’ headlining set, who performed a medley of cuts from his Grammy-nominated collab with The Alchemist, Alfredo. The Gary, Indiana native opened with “God Is Perfect” and continued through the night with tracks like “Thuggin’” from his and Madlib’s 2014 album Piñata, ESGN‘s “Eastside Moonwalker,” 2019’s Bandana cut “Palmolive,” and his most his recent collaboration with ScHoolboy Q, “Gang Signs.”

Gibbs’ stage presence was felt all the way in the balcony and his performance was repeatedly interrupted with fan-led “Freddie! Freddie!” chants. After waiting over an hour to see him perform, it would’ve been understandable for the audience to be a tad bit subdued by the beginning of his 11:15 pm set, but the crowd was clearly excited just to be at a live show again. Freddie also kept the energy up by jokingly ripping into his tour DJ Ralph, or DJ CaliNdaMix, by leading the crowd in “Fu*k you, Ralph!” chants. 

Freddie Gibbs / Photo Credit: Sha Rogers

All in all, the energy of Cincinnati fans, and performers, was a great reintroduction to live shows after a year of radio silence. Aside from Khari and Gibbs, Nashville’s Tim Gent and A.B. Eastwood also performed at the concert, which was put on by DJ Dabble’s Full Circle Presents.

“As far as feelings after the show – I felt great,” Khari reflected. “I knew I killed it and the response has been great. I gained so many new fans that have been hitting me in the DMs, listening to my music and made some valuable connections that will start to play out for me and my team here soon. So, I’m excited.”

Follow Khari on Instagram for ongoing updates. 

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: 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.


LIVE REVIEW: Honduras @ The Knitting Factory


Minutes before the band gets on stage, I watch the crowd come together. For some reason at Knitting Factory, it’s always a mix of people you wouldn’t imagine listening to the artists playing that night, trickling in from the bar or stumbling upon a cheap show with nothing else to do.

Brooklyn’s own Honduras took the stage, only a couple of months off the release of their first full-length, Rituals

They’re a punk band who sound something like the Sex Pistols with a dash of Blur (I keep feeling surprised Honduras aren’t from London), or perhaps their contemporaries, Parquet Courts, with that similar lo-fi feel.

The sound translates uniquely to the stage. There’s nothing too flashy about the performance, making you appreciate how clean Tyson Moore’s guitar work is juxtaposed with Josh Wehle’s gritty drums and Pat Philips’s muffled vocals.

It’s easy to pick up on the band’s subtle nuances. Paul Lizarraga likes to play his bass with the strap down low. Moore makes the most of his curly mop of hair, playing his Flying V with a ton of energy. And lead singer and rhythm guitarist Philips is the lovechild of Bradford Cox and Alex Turner. Tumbling on stage, his guitar strap falling off, there was something carnal about the way he clearly didn’t give a fuck.





The boys will be playing Knitting Factory again on December 14th, and Mercury Lounge on January 9th. Check out the music video for their first single “Paralyzed” here:

All photos by Ysabella Monton for AudioFemme.

LIVE REVIEW: Atlas Genius @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

Atlas Genius at Music Hall of Williamsburg

Just a month after the release of their second LP Inanimate Objects, Australian duo Atlas Genius, composed of brothers Keith (lead vocals, lead guitar) and Michael Jeffery (drums), got people moving at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg last night.

First openers Mainland were a fun group of NYC indie rockers, evidently young and still working out their stage presence. Brooklyn-based Dreamers followed soon after with a more seasoned sound and even catchier lyrics.  I’d easily peg Dreamers as a band to watch, and I can’t get their 90s pop-rockesque song “Waste My Night” out of my head.  Both bands got the energy up for the main event.

From the get-go in Atlas Genius’s set, for the majority of the synth and guitar-heavy songs, the vocals were being drowned out by the rest of the sounds.  Powerful harmonies in the song’s catchy choruses helped to carry the lead vocals out.

No less of a show was put on, however, as blinding strobe lights transported the crowd to the kind of dance club where you have room to flip your hair back and forth and wave your arms around like a madman.  It seemed as though everyone knew all the words from the very beginning, and Keith had no problem getting everyone to clap along to the beat to what seemed like every song.

Showcasing the band’s wide range of styles in their two-album repertoire,  songs like the bass-driven “Back Seat” and “Stockholm” were a little less indie pop and a little more rock show.  Contrarily, “Friendly Apes” and “Balladino” provided a nice slower change of pace without losing any energy.

Atlas Genius at Music Hall of Williamsburg

Most fun to watch wasn’t actually one of the brothers, but rather, Matt Fazzi on keys and rhythm guitar, clearly having the time of his life.  I also enjoyed watching a drunk fan wander on stage for their debut hit “Trojans,” only to be escorted off the stage by security.

The highlight of the night was a cover of Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),” giving the 80s synthpop hit a modern makeover. While the majority of the setlist was high-energy and danceable, the acoustic encore “Levitate” calmed things down and allowed Keith’s vocals to finally take center stage.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][fusion_soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/220994007″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

LIVE REVIEW: Public Service Broadcasting @ Bowery Ballroom

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

Photography by Julie Halpert
Photography by Julie Halpert

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

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

[/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”]

Photography by Julie Halpert
Photography by Julie Halpert

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

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



[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

Bryan Ramos, Benni Aragbaye, Josh "Quick" Ivey and Sir Izik of FRTNK rocking out at UC Riverside.
Bryan Ramos, Benni Aragbaye, Josh “Quick” Ivey and Sir Izik of FRTNK rocking out at UC Riverside.

I stumbled upon FRTNK [/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”][pronounced “FourteenK”] in the Voodoo Lounge at the House of Blues on Sunset. Their eclectic style (not to mention bare feet) caught my eye, and I was intrigued when the eight men took their places on stage. They were absolutely mesmerizing once the beats began flowing. Floating harmonies, beautifully on pitch with their vocals and instruments; I was hooked. It wasn’t a common venue space for them to play in with a small stage in the corner next to a blues bar, and the show itself was performed almost exclusively acoustic. In fact it was a happy coincidence that we ran into each other at all, and they encouraged me to attend their next concert at Seven Points in Downtown Los Angeles, a venue more typical for them so that I could truly understand their energy and sound.

I took their advice and there I stood, surrounded by fashionistas and men with beards wearing ironic t-shirts. I found myself speechless at the complex music resounding from the makeshift stage. Truly with a little more space FRTNK rocked the house. With so many exuberant members in FRTNK it is impossible not to be caught up in their positive energetic performances.

At the front stood the original members – Benni Aragbaye, B.J. and Bryan Ramos. They met in “The Gates,” which is their nickname for the cookie cutter gated community they grew up in. Boredom motivated them towards artistic expression and creating the grooving harmonies that is truly FRTNK. These three began developing their sound as early as 2009 and make up the core vocalists of FRNTK. The tenor-alto harmonization is stunning, and the in sync raps layered on top ties their sound together.

The rest of the band didn’t join until later in their career and the addition of the five musicians elevate FRTNK’s sound with style. Sir Izik was the first band member added as he joined three years ago. He plays bass, adding a consistent and creative backbeat, and with his relaxed island vibe it’s hard not to move with the beat. The other band members joined just one year ago, although they are so in step with each other it seems as if the entire group has been playing with each other for years. Along with Bryan there’s Raven Michael on guitar, both adding melodic tune (reminding me of beach rock) to each song. Not only are there two guitar players there are two keyboardists, Josh O’Connell and Caleb Ivey. These two create a sound just as synchronized as the vocals, they are also responsible for both the electronic and blues elements added into FRTNK’s sound. Finally there’s Josh “Quick” Ivey (yes, he’s Caleb’s brother) on the drums. Quick brings the concluding tone to the music, an ever changing jazz style drum beat. Normally I would attempt to name their genre but according to them it’s “undetectable” so I’ll leave it at that. Plus, with all these elements added together they are on the way to becoming one of the most unique and amazing group of sounds I’ve heard from an up and coming band.

Quirkily they divide their audience into “robots” (a.k.a. the people that just stand nodding their heads with their feet planted) and “aliens” (those who dance as hard as the performers) and interact with each group throughout the entire show. Working hard everyday on their sound, to them “music is a lifestyle” and that dedication shines through in their tight performance and deep sound. They produce their music in a homemade studio, which is simultaneously cheap and brings a “down to earth” element to their music.

As I stood on the wooden floorboards at Seven Points I was enchanted by FRTNK, a group that believes in the avoidance of perfection, represented by their slogan “live life impure.” To them the name FRTNK doesn’t just reference gold, it tells a story of a group of men bonded as tightly as brothers (some quite literally) who refuse to conform to the norms of society.

As said by B.J., “This is a time when impressive, magnificent things are occurring” and with the lyrical and musical depth presented by FRTNK I believe they are one of those magnificent things. The men of FRTNK are weird, loud, a little crazy and absolutely brilliant. They have a bright future to look forward to as more people are as lucky as I am and stumble upon one of their shows. Bringing a unique perspective and sound to the music industry, I am eager to follow FRTNK’s path and implore you to do the same. And you don’t have to wait long, if you don’t have plans for New Years Eve these wild dudes are hosting an all ages show at 9onVine in Downtown Los Angeles that should definitely make it on to your party-hopping list.

[fusion_soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/157042898″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

LIVE REVIEW: Xiu Xiu @ Glasslands

Xiu Xiu Glasslands

Xiu Xiu Glasslands

As the driving force behind experimental art rock outfit Xiu Xiu, Jamie Stewart has been known to push boundaries. Constantly reinventing himself (and his music), Stewart’s eccentric and sometimes violent themes are what ties the project together most readily, his fragile shout the crux of the band’s bursting, bloody heart. His line-up of touring musicians rotates regularly, so one never knows what to expect from a Xiu Xiu show, and given Stewart’s prolific output–which has included an album of Nina Simone covers, a collage of Caribbean folk songs and field recordings, a Record Store Day four-LP best-of comp, and Xiu Xiu’s ninth studio album Angel Guts: Red Classroom in just under a year–unpredictability is part of what makes the project so fascinating.

At Glasslands last Saturday, Stewart appeared with pioneering percussionist Shayna Dunkelman by his side. As a duo, the two performed assaultive selections from Angel Guts with an almost frightening intensity; the heightened confusion of “Cinthya’s Unisex,” the awkward desire of “Black Dick,” the almost danceable glitch of “Stupid in the Dark”–these tracks typify the aim of Xiu Xiu’s newest album.

Thematically, there’s the unwavering look at racialized fetishes, the intersections of death and sex, and the dissolution of gender identity that have often appeared throughout Xiu Xiu’s catalogue. Angel Guts is based on a 1979 Japanese film of the same title. Both the album and the movie hinge on unsettling aspects of eroticism and human sexuality, and Stewart’s always been a master of communicating society’s most twisted impulses in his own idiosyncratic manner.

Sonically, Angel Guts is a percussive tour de force, so it makes sense that Stewart would enlist Dunkelman’s unique talents. The Brooklyn-based musician isn’t a drummer in the traditional sense, and that worked out well in interpreting these songs for the stage. She bashes cymbals with kind of antagonistic joy, while the melodic tones from her xylosynth punctured the rapid-fire mish mash from her electronic kit. Stewart created the fuzz, bleeps, bloops, and other electronic miasma roiling like stormy waves under the prow of his characteristically quavering voice.

That Xiu Xiu has become a percussion-focused project as of late is not just an extension of Angel Guts but also of Stewart’s extracurricular activities. He spent September in NYC collaborating with conceptual artist Danh Vō on a series of performances entitled “Metal,” which featured Xiu Xiu’s percussion syncopating with the sound of Thai gold pounders creating the golf leaf Vō’s uses as a medium in real time. Vō and Xiu Xiu also worked together to present “Kling Klang” at the Dumbo Arts Festival, attaching 999 bright-pink vibrators to Vō’s copper We The People installation. The NYC appearance was their only US show before embarking on a European tour that will extend throughout November.

Finishing the set with crowd favorites “Sad Pony Guerilla Girl” and “I Luv the Valley OH!” Xiu Xiu was rushed off stage with no encore to make way for the ensuing dance party at Glasslands. In lieu of playing more songs, an apologetic Stewart told a long joke about a child who idolized clowns; if only it could’ve morphed into “Clowne Towne” the punchline would’ve been far more satisfying. Though songs from much of Xiu Xiu’s back catalogue were absent, it was one of the most inspired, kinetic Xiu Xiu sets I’ve seen, and the times I’ve made it a point to bask in Stewart’s disconcerting presence have been many, stretching all the way back to the early aughts. As challenging as Xiu Xiu can be for some to digest, Stewart remains one of the most extraordinary and important musicians of the last fifteen years, and though you never know what to expect from him, it’s safe to say he’ll be pushing boundaries well into the next decade.

LIVE REVIEW: Bombay Bicycle Club @ The Wiltern L.A.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

Bombay Bicycle Club
photo by Joyce Jude Lee for neon tommy.

The only thing that can really mend the wound of a lost Dodgers game in L.A. is a damn good concert. That might explain why there was a line around the block for hours leading up to Bombay Bicycle Club’s set at the Wiltern on Friday, even with the first round of playoffs going, and in triple digit heat, this was an act of commitment. Once inside, the pit filled up quickly, the crowd predominantly made up of 20-somethings with unusual haircuts. It was a very specific demographic, but a very enthusiastic one. So when first opening band Luxley took the stage, I could tell it was going to be a very involved audience.

Luxley is a New Orleans “wildfire dance rock” band. It’s the recording project of Ryan Gray, who dances all over the stage the entire duration of the set, getting into it, as the old adage goes, as if no one is watching. The music is definitely dance-y, but it’s a little hard to peg. It certainly has a pop rock vibe to it, due in part mostly to Gray’s vocal style, but it has a variety of elements, from electronic tempo and drops to some really primal drum sections. The crowd was fairly interested; it’s pretty hard not to be when you can see the band enjoying themselves as much as they were. They were a good way to get the energy going but were a bit of an odd fit for a Bombay Bicycle Club show. BBC is known to showcase their versatility in sound, and there wasn’t enough variety between Luxley’s songs to hold our attention; not to say it was bad, or that it wasn’t enjoyable, it just felt like we got several very similar songs all at once.

Milo Greene was the main opener, and what a pleasant surprise this quintet was. The Los Angeles “cinematic” pop band have such a soothing yet progressive sound, and so lithely executed that I consider them my newest love. What makes them unique is each member is a lead vocalist and also multi instrumentalist. For each song, the members trade off instruments, gliding seamlessly from guitar to bass to keyboards. The harmonies were rich from the range of vocal styles of each member. Marlana Sheetz, sporting a very Jenny Lewis-esque white pant suit, brings the whispy female range to the table, but male members Robbie Arnett, Graham Fink, and Andrew Heringer create that depth of vocal harmony that hearkens back to Fleetwood Mac. Musically, they couldn’t be more different, but they are certainly not lacking in that department. Drummer Curtis Marrero effortlessly binds it all together to create their tight-knit sound. They played a few songs from their full-length self-titled debut, such as “1957,” a beautifully crafted song that typifies their sound (and a song that I’ve been listening to on repeat since then). But they also have a new album due out in January, called Control, and took the opportunity to show off the upcoming material, full of technical guitar bits and big impact, more upbeat in tempo from Milo Greene.

Bombay Bicycle Club is a band that couldn’t possibly disappoint. Over the span of four albums, they have not lost the momentum that makes them who they are. Opening with “Overdone,” from their latest album, So Long, See You Tomorrow, released earlier this year, was an expertly planned ploy. That sludgy riff in the bridge will get anyone going, guaranteed. And the amazing part about BBC is that they are mercurial, shifting from some musically dense material right into their more atmospheric sound, in songs like “It’s Alright Now” and “Shuffle.” Their visuals featured a series of circles recalling the album art from their latest release. Onto the circles various images were projected for each song. It was executed so well; for songs like “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep” (my personal favorite BBC song) the circles became an evening sky, and the lyrics appeared in what appeared to be scribbled constellations, glowing and burning out as quickly as a shooting star. “Feel” had the most perfect visuals, with cobra serpents to reflect the sound of this very Arabian-esque song. This was probably my favorite performance of the night. That snake charming guitar lick that rings throughout the song was just magical in a live setting, and they really milked it for what it was worth. The tone on that particular riff is guitar perfection, so when the normal fade out ended with several more bars of that lick, I just about melted. “So Long, See You Tomorrow” was a great, pre-encore ender, because it literally left the crowd begging for more. It’s that song that burns inside of you, starting as a familiar warm ember within, and crawling down into every appendage until you are full of warmth and bliss. It crescendos just barely enough, so there was no way they could end on that note.

The encore was, in all respective senses of an encore, the last hoorah. They threw it back to “What if” from their 2009 debut I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose. The night ended on “Carry Me” which was a whirlwind of percussion and strobes, sing alongs, and some pervasively chilling tremolo guitar. This show at the Wiltern was one of the first stops on what will be a very extensive tour throughout most of the U.S. in October. It’s been hailed as the must-see tour of the season, so it is strongly advised that you catch them before they depart on their European tour in November.


LIVE REVIEW: Landlady @ Death By Audio


Landlady are more like the upstairs tenant making an excessive racket than the curmudgeonly old woman banging on the ceiling with a broom handle from downstairs that their name suggests. That being said, it would hardly be out of character for the Brooklyn-based band to incorporate the broom-banging technique into their already experimental percussion – in fact, it’s the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to songwriting that has garnered the band so much buzz of late. On the heels of releasing their much-praised sophomore record Upright Behavior and a grandiose appearance at Rough Trade last month that saw an additional 25 musicians added to an already effusive five-member lineup, Landlady kicked off the biggest tour they’ve yet undertaken last night at Death By Audio in Williamsburg.

The place wasn’t packed but it was profusely sweaty, prompting nearly half the band to remove their shirts after only a few numbers. Lead-singer Adam Schatz  was a bit more coy, promising to undo a shirt button for each tune played after beginning the set with “Under The Yard.” The song’s opening sing-along provided an almost religious call-to-arms; like the dimming of the house lights to signal the end of intermission, the harmonies were a clue that something major was about to happen. And that’s how Landlady approaches music-making: every moment of it is a life-altering event. They don’t shy away from anything, whether it’s a key-change or stylistic shift or unflinching lyrics. They just go with it.

Schatz appeared a bit jittery at first, his between-song banter more than a little self-conscious. But if the shout outs and introductions were a bit awkward, his vocal delivery was hardly that. “This is a song about what you’d do if your sex robot was malfunctioning,” Schatz sputtered, and the band launched into “Girl,” arguably one of Landlady’s most accessible jams. It’s as fidgety and anthemic as the rest of Upright Behavior, but manages to bottle up its mood swings and distill its movements in a more concise way than the record’s most sprawling efforts.

Landlady does extravagant very well, to be sure. There were very few moments during last night’s show that didn’t feel epic, and through the continuously shifting sonic motifs, “epic” was really the only constant.  There were lush harmonies, bouts of blues rock, funkified bass solos, hushed and folksy moments, dissonant breaks, even hints of post-punk here and there. If the band’s aim is to keep listeners on their toes with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it genre mish-mashing then they’re doing an excellent job, and there’s no idea they’re unable to tackle with gusto and talent. For some, that’s Landlady’s biggest asset.

For a listener with specific proclivities, though, the rapid-fire change-ups might not dovetail seamlessly. The someone who loves the watery reverb dripping through the pulsating, urgent percussion that propels “The Globe” might feel lost in that track’s meandering choruses – though “chorus” sometimes feels like too basic a term when talking about this band – wherein everything but Schatz’s eccentric vocals drop off, and further confused by the caterwauling build to the bridge. There’s something for everyone, yes, but at what point does it become an indecipherable melange that’s could be seen as pandering, banking on the fact that someone, somewhere, is going to like at least one part of any given song? Landlady are certainly more earnest and interested in their art for that to be the case, but either way it can be almost to exhausting to keep up with. If you’re not actively listening, you’ll lose the thread very quickly.

And it seems that active listening and audience participation truly are Landlady’s ultimate goals. Like someone nagging her tenants for rent, Schatz implored the scattered audience to move toward the stage, get close to one another, sweatiness be damned. He ramble-shouted about being thankful for the existence of Death By Audio, ruminating on the fine details that come together to run a DIY space in Brooklyn, thanking everyone from the in-house booking to the muralists who painted the walls. He asked the audience to interpret the room as a collective energy, and led everyone in a chant of “ALWAYS” as the band finished out the set with “Above My Ground” (at which point his now-unbuttoned shirt came flying off as promised). If felt more than a little schmaltzy, but Landlady isn’t a band to shy away from sentimentality. Like similarly sincere and self-aware band-of-the-moment Ought, Landlady ask their fans to exist with them in the very moment, eschewing the passive norm. Landlady give particularly powerhouse performances, and because their wide range of styles will appeal to pretty much everyone at least some of the time, their upcoming tour is not only their first, but likely their last before they start headlining huge venues and hitting the festival circuit.

Take a listen to “Above My Ground,” check out tour dates below and catch them while you can.

08/09/14 – Champaign, IL @ High Dive
08/10/14 – Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock Social Club
08/11/14 – Fargo, ND @ The Aquarium
08/13/14 – Billings, MT @ The Railyard
08/14/14 – Spokane, WA @ The Barlett
08/15/14 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile
08/16/14 – Portland, OR @ MusicfestNW – Tom McCall Waterfront Park
08/18/14 – San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel
08/20/14 – Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst
08/21/14 – San Luis Obispo, CA @ SLO Brewing Co.
08/22/14 – Visalia, CA @ The Cellar Door
08/23/14 – Los Angeles, CA @ Satellite
08/24/14 – Flagstaff, AZ @ The Green Room
08/26/14 – Austin, TX @ The Mohawk
08/27/14 – Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s Upstairs
08/28/14 – Baton Rouge, LA @ Spanish Moon
08/29/14 – New Orleans, LA @ Hi Ho Lounge
09/02/14 – Nashville, TN @ The Stone Fox
09/03/14 – Atlanta, GA @ 529
09/04/14 – Raleigh, NC @ Hopscotch Fest
09/05/14 – Richmond, VA @ Fall Line Fest
09/07/14 – Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery
09/24/14 – Columbus, OH @ Double Happiness
09/25/14 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Tavern
09/26/14 – Cincinnati, OH @ MidPoint Music Fest
10/15/14 – Knoxville, TN @ Pilot Light
10/16/14 – Memphis, TN @ Hi-Tone
10/17/14 – Norman, OK @ The Opolis
10/19/14 – Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress
10/20/14 – Phoenix, AZ @ Rhythm Room
10/21/14 – Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad
10/25/14 – Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
10/27/14 – Kansas City, MO @ Record Bar
10/28/14 – St. Louis, MO @ Old Rock House

LIVE REVIEW: The Jane Shermans @ Mercury Lounge

the jane shermans ML NYC
I’ve been wowed at Mercury Lounge on many an occasion, but seeing The Jane Shermans’ forty-five minute set last Monday easily topped the list of performances in the tiny venue that have blown me away. Powerhouse frontwoman Eulene Sherman owned her Explorer bass through the nine song set. Accompanied by guitarist Angelo Petraglia, also known for his work producing and co-writing songs for Kings of Leon, the Nashville duo delivered some blistering blues rock. I didn’t mind that latest single “Shotgun” reminded me a bit of KOL’s “Spiral Staircase;” for the most part, The Jane Shermans rocked an identity and style all their own. Alongside a horn section and a trio of back-up singers that could have been Uma Thurman’s Pulp Fiction stunt doubles, The Jane Shermans brought life and personality to the tune.
As pop, country, and classic rock ‘n’ roll sounds intersect and give rise to a new breed of crossover artists, bands that hybridize these genres stand to gain access to a huge fanbase. The Jane Shermans are the perfect example of such a band; their bluesy yet country-driven progressions and vigorous drumming really resonated with the Mercury Lounge crowd. Both Eulene and Angelo exhibit the kind of larger-than-life on-stage personas that have made stars of like-minded musicians – their stage presence is enthralling and their talent is undeniable. Eulene’s voice stands out as particularly mesmerizing: robust and heavy, sultry yet soothing. No where was that more apparent than on “I Walk Alone,” a track the band released almost two years ago on their debut record, finally available on vinyl as a b-side to the “Shotgun” 7″. The smoldering number sent me into an unapologetic swirl until their fiery encore with “Here Comes the Gun.”
The Jane Shermans haven’t announced the release of their next full-length, but with anticipation for it mounting, it certainly won’t be long until we’re hearing more from them. If nothing else, their visit to Mercury Lounge was a satisfying if brief taste of Nashville’s rock scene. Check out the video for “Shotgun” below.

LIVE REVIEW: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah @ MHoW

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Alec Ounsworth


Philly’s Clap Your Hands Say Yeah recently saw a change in lineup after the departure of three of its members, but do not fret, they are back as a duo and as good as ever. The band now consists of guitarist/vocalist Alec Ounsworth, and bassist Matt Wong, featuring Sean Greenhalgh as drummer on their newest project.  CYHSY is currently on tour promoting their fourth album, Only Run, and played a spectacular show Saturday night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, with funky brother-duo Stagnant Pools as opener.

CYHSY’s self-titled, self-produced and self-released 2005 album was nothing short of brilliant and made them beloved amongst bloggers of the day, heralding their instant indie-rock stardom. Tracks like the wildly fun “Clap Your Hands!” to the sweet (and personal favorite) “Blue Turning Gray” and the uber cool “Gimme Some Salt” had the makings of classic feel good, dance-like-nobody’s-watching tunes. Two albums and a few solo offerings from lead vocalist Ounsworth later, CYHSY have returned to prove that they still have the same energetic vibe that made them darlings early in their career.

Only Run features an array of synth-tunes, full of head bopping beats that will make you sway. “As Always” is a rhythm roller-coaster that alternates between simplicity and melodic chaos. Though you can hear slight differences on Only Run compared to their 2005 gem, the simplicity of this new album is marvelous enough that you don’t really notice the missing links.

On stage, Ounsworth’s voice radiates around a room like no other. His desperate, disheveled tone sings tunes that haunt and move. There’s no doubt that CYHSY is phenomenal on stage – they work a crowd like their lives depend on it, with enthusiastic strumming, drumming, and dancing; it’s difficult to not be blown away by their boundless skill. The vibe at MHoW was undeniably bustling, with everyone either rocking out or singing along. I invited a guest that had never heard of CYHSY before to accompany me, and by the time we left the venue she had fallen in love and was an instant fan. While the setlist drew heavily from Only Run, there was a healthy mix of perennial favorites like “This Home on Ice,” “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” from their debut and “Satan Said Dance” from Some Loud Thunder, a song they’ve played live since their earliest shows and a terrific showcase for Ounsworth’s signature warble.

When it was time for the encore, the crowd wasn’t ready to say goodbye, and it seemed as though the guys weren’t either. They launched into a shimmering rendition of their latest single “As Always,” moving into “Heavy Metal” with such a great, loud and contagious energy that it shook the house, proving that they can hold their own as a duo just fine.

CYHSY are taking a brief break from tour before embarking on another three-week journey, beginning in Pittsburgh later this month. See dates and watch the video for “As Always” below. Only Run is available now.

07-24 Pittsburgh, PA – Club Cafe
07-25 Cincinnati, OH – Fountain Square
07-26 St. Louis, MO – Old Rock House
07-27 Kansas City, MO – The Riot Room
07-28 Denver, CO – Bluebird Theater
07-29 Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge
07-30 Boise, ID – Neurolux
08-01 Vancouver, British Columbia – Biltmore Cabaret
08-02 Seattle, WA – The Crocodile
08-03 Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios
08-05 San Francisco, CA – The Independent
08-07 Los Angeles, CA – Troubadour
08-08 San Diego, CA – Casbah
08-09 Scottsdale, AZ – Pub Rock Live
08-11 Austin, TX – The Mohawk
08-12 Houston, TX – Fitzgerald’s
08-13 New Orleans, LA – One Eyed Jacks
08-14 Birmingham, AL – Bottletree
08-15 Chattanooga, TN – Miller Plaza
08-16 Asheville, NC – The Grey Eagle
08-17 Richmond, VA – The Camel

LIVE REVIEW: The Muffs @ Del Monte Speakeasy, Venice CA

The Muffs reunion


These days, it seems no one is impervious to nineties nostalgia, least of all Burger Records, who release Whoop Dee Doo on July 29th, the first album of new material from grunge-pop aficionados The Muffs in ten years. The three-piece, consisting of lead singer/songwriter/guitarist Kim Shattuck, bassist Ronnie Barnett, and drummer Criss Crass, is scheduled for several West Coast Burger-sponsored bashes, including this past weekend’s Burger Beach Party USA at the Del Monte Speakeasy located in the heart of Venice.

Arriving a bit late for sets from labelmates Audacity, The Tyde, The Aquadolls, and Collen Green, my peers and I descended into the dimly lit bar decorated with twenties style lamps and red leather couches. The crowd consisted of people of all different ages, sporting every style from summertime surf grunge to bohemian fifty-year old mom swag. Once The Muffs took the stage it became clear that they’re touring veterans; you could tell immediately that they have been performing together for years. Perhaps best known for having had their cover of “Kids In America” (originally by Kim Wilde) featured in one of my most favorite movies, Clueless, the band has gone through numerous lineups and released five records via Warner Bros. and Reprise Records, but have always retained a bouncy, feel-good vibe.

Kim had a huge smile on her face the whole show, aggressively singing upbeat surfer rock songs to a crowd of moshing admirers. Their new material, much in the vein of their early catalogue, is comprised of perfect riffs made with power chords we all know and love, hard hitting bass lines, and drum beats that make for some truly inspired head-banging. Though The Muffs’ set was about 45 minutes long, it felt like only fifteen minutes in which both the band and their audience had a blast. Kim’s banter in between songs consisted of making fart jokes and recalling times on past tours where she “made out with a lot of girls.” Their onstage presence perfectly accompanied their clever, humorous, and emotion- driven songs, which made for an incredibly enjoyable and satisfying show. There’s no word yet on whether a national tour will happen, but The Muffs are playing a few more Burger shindigs, listed below. In the meantime, check out lead single from Whoop Dee Doo, “Up And Down Around.”


Sunday, July 6 – Oakland, CA @ Burger Boogaloo (Mosswood Park)

Saturday, July 26 – San Diego, CA @ The Casbah

Saturday, Aug. 2 – Santa Ana, CA @ Burger a-Go-Go (The Observatory)


LIVE REVIEW: Kan Wakan @ Mercury Lounge


Sincerity is a trait I never tire of, and Los Angeles-based orchestral pop ensemble Kan Wakan exude it in abundance.  Forming in 2012, the band is impressively far along for its youth.  They’ve received excessive praise from LA’s KCRW, made it to SXSW, and played a sold-out show at the Mercury Lounge on Thursday night, just two days after the release of their debut record, Moving On.  Not bad for a bunch of Industry two-year-olds.

The band is a producer duo composed of composer/producer/founder Crooked Waters and guitarist/co-producer Peter Potyondy. Potyondy (formerly of Dayplayer) is extremely well versed in guitar and production. They collaborate with many vocalists, such as during this spectacular performance with Kristianne Bautista.

Seeing a group so dedicated to expert musicianship, enrapturing ambience, and textural compositions perform in such an intimate space is always a privilege, and Mercury Lounge suited the band wonderfully.  Whoever was mixing that night gets a tip of my hat.  Every layer of sound was crisp and articulate, and I almost felt as if I was breathing to the score of a James Bond/Spaghetti Western hybrid.  This is not the kind of music that floats around your ears…it penetrates your chest.  I was pierced with impressions of Lee Hazelwood, Mazzy Star, Portishead, and particles of Funk, Soul, and Jazz.  That’s a heady blend of influences for one band to summon.

The stage was as cluttered as the soundscape with keyboards, cords, synthesizers, a drum kit, and amplifiers. The only thing missing was a full orchestra, a supplement I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised to see at a Kan Wakan gig.  Each member was monastically focused on their performance, which resulted in the precise weaving of a sumptuous field of noise.  A saxophone was added to the outfit – something I haven’t encountered in any live video recording of the band -which supplied a shrill subversion of elevator music to the moody atmosphere.

At the visual center of the stage, Bautista proved her ability to captivate an audience.  Her voice was impressive – a velvety alto slinking between PJ Harvey and Fiona Apple – and her look was nothing short of stunning. She stood on stage draped in a black jersey dress that just scraped a heavy pair of leather boots, her right eye covered by a slice of charcoal hair.  It’s my firm belief that true beauty often exists in women that don’t behave solely to be considered beautiful. Bautista’s focus on her craft made her that much more lovely, not to mention a pleasure to listen to.

The band finished their set and immediately started loading out – you can’t imagine how much gear they had to haul.  As I left I nodded to the drummer and saxophonist who were trying to wedge everything into the back of a van: “Good set!”

They froze and looked at me wide-eyed as if I’d just handed them a tin tray of BBQ ribs.

“Thank you!”

In a city rampant with egotistical and blasé musicians, it was nice to encounter a little West Coast courtesy.

Kan Wakan’s new album Moving On is out now via Verve Music Group.



LIVE REVIEW: Spanish Gold @ Mercury Lounge


Some nights, there is absolutely nothing better than heading to a small concert venue in one of your favorite neighborhoods and being blown away by a band you’ve never heard before. This is what happened at Mercury Lounge on June 3rd at Spanish Gold’s gig.

Spanish Gold is made up of the joined forces of guitarist and singer Dante Schwebel (of Hacienda), guitarist Adrian Quesada (formerly Grupo Fantasma) and My Morning Jacket’s drummer Patrick Hallahan. The band’s debut album South of Nowhere is a wonderful example of funky and soulful rock n’ roll with an old-school feel. Schwebel has described the album as “watching a random hour of MTV programming circa 1986-1996” as it has elements of rock, R&B, soul and pop.

Their recent show had me and the intimate crowd engaged the entire time, which is not something easy to pull off.  The thing is, these are all extremely talented musicians who know what they’re doing, and the results are in the music. The album is an exploration of life in South Texas, which is where the band members grew up – most specifically near the Mexican border. When you hear the songs you start imagining a hot day in Laredo, driving in an old Cadillac convertible, smoking American Spirits and drinking tequila.

The show was fun too. Northern Faces, whose EP Southern Faces was released last year, opened for them and did just what any good opening band should do: get the audience excited. The Albany, NY based band is somewhat similar to Spanish Gold in the sense that it also has that true rock and roll sound. And it’s always refreshing to witness a band in its earlier stages because you know they’re truly giving it their all.

Spanish Gold came onstage and it was hard to know where to focus your attention. Schwebel’s voice made it hard to look away from him, but then I’d hear Quesada’s guitar tunes and he’d have my attention, until a drum solo from Hallahan would steal the show. From behind her keyboard, the lovely Silva Belle provided back-up vocals with a little help from Alysse Gafkjen. Though they were difficult to hear in the mix, they had some pretty great dance moves that added to the overall performance. Highlight of the show? When they performed a cover of Bell Bill Devoe’s “Poison;” at that point the audience just lost it.

After an hour and half of a solid performance from beginning to end, I can easily say that Spanish Gold knows how to deliver. These guys may have their individual kick ass projects, but when they are together as Spanish Gold, some really great rock n’ roll happens.

Check out the band performing their single “Out on the Street” on David Letterman:

LIVE REVIEW: The Menzingers @ Webster Hall

Menzingers Webster

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

Menzingers Webster
The Menzingers at Webster Hall, shot by Greg Pallante for Bowery Presents

Last Friday I rushed from my part time job to Webster Hall and made it just in time to catch The Menzingers‘ headlining show. A larger venue than they have played at in the past, I was really curious to see how these angsty pop-punkers would rise to the challenge. I am a relatively new Menzingers listener, but my obsessive personality definitely made up for lost time since their newest album, Rented World, dropped mid-April. The album is a perfect extension of the beloved sing-a-longs from their previous albums, and is chock full of catchy and head-banging tunes.

As I made my way up to the balcony to get a good view of the stage, I peered over to a sight of a sea of men in their late twenties waiting patiently as the members’ guitars were being tuned. With a Modelo in hand, a wave of alcoholic beverages and band-tee’d backs catapulted into the barricade while the lights dimmed. Without so much as a “Hi New York, we’re the Menzingers,” or a “Thanks for coming blah blah blah,” they dove right into their two most popular tracks: “I Don’t Wanna Be an Asshole Anymore,” and “Good Things.”

I found myself surrounded by the emotional family members of the band, screaming my favorite Rented World jams right alongside them. The Menzingers barely took a breath in between songs, each one crashing headlong into the last. Their energy was captivating, and so exciting to watch from above as the crowd and band’s energies bounced back and forth. One of the only pauses they took throughout the show was to explain how in awe they were, and that it was “the best night of their life.” They’ve always had a big, enthusiastic fanbase, but the scale of a sold-out Webster Hall crowd clearly blew their minds.

After all those mosh-worthy moments, The Menzingers closed out the show with one of their more heartfelt tunes, “Transient Love,” which was a fitting finale considering the song’s wistful lyrics. The guys returned for a three-song encore, which included “Gates” from 2012’s On the Impossible Past, the title track from their 2007 debut LP A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology, and 2011 single “The Obituaries.” How appropriate. After realizing it was only the second night of their Rented World tour, I finally understood how overwhelming having a sea of people screaming their new lyrics back at them must have been. It was a joy to share mutual exhilaration with such an appreciative act.

Check out The Menzingers in a city near you:

Menzingers Tour Dates[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

LIVE REVIEW: Chelsea Wolfe @ The Apollo Theater

Chelsea Wolfe

Chelsea Wolfe

“Thanks to everyone who listened and was respectful. And to those of you that talked through the whole performance: that was fucked up.” These parting words from Chelsea Wolfe, spoken in a rather resigned tone before she played the final song of her set opening for The Eels Sunday night at the historical Apollo Theater in Harlem, characterize everything that’s difficult about the reality of a being a supporting act. It’s often a bit of an uphill battle for attention, unless, of course you’re getting negative heckles or requests for songs from Lynard Skynard’s catalogue (note: “Play ‘Free Bird’!” is not even ironically funny anymore, idiots).

While no one requested that Wolfe play Southern rock classics, her ultra-early set made the full attention of the audience pretty hard to come by.  As I would come to learn after Wolfe played, fans of Mark Oliver Everett have a pretty myopic focus and a lowered capacity for interpreting anything less fluffy than “I Like Birds,” so perhaps Wolfe’s grandiose, noise-inflected baroque pop was simply over the heads of those attendees who were able to get a babysitter in time to hoof it up to Harlem to catch her performance. As the event was seated, Wolfe also had to contend with tardy folks who were innocently (if obliviously) trying to find their seats. It might be par for the course, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating, especially for a performer as artful and serious as Wolfe.

The tragedy here is that those who talked through Wolfe’s set or trickled in late missed a transcendent performance from a powerful artist. Accompanied by a violin and synths from two musicians bookending her on either side, Wolfe was able to fill the opulent space with a sound just as lavish. She played guitar through most of her songs, which at times meant picking spidery rhythms. But even more compelling was her ability to take droning chords that might have been abrasive in less deft hands and turn that textural noise into a thing of sublime, tortured beauty. As on her latest record, 2013’s veritable tour-de-force Pain is Beauty, Wolfe’s striking vocals were the truest thrill, sweeping and swelling and emotionally wrought, though never overly so; her sound was right at home in the ornate, neo-Classical surroundings of the Apollo, gleaming through her austere stage plot like the gilded balconies in the shadowy theater.

Side-by-side with the reverent, almost gospel-esque quality of Wolfe’s performance, The Eels seemed almost crassly kitschy. I should probably admit that my interest in The Eels has never really managed to stretch beyond bizarro alt-rock smash hit “Novocaine for the Soul” (which they didn’t actually play), but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t curious or optimistic about the set. Everett has a reputation for being a consummate, warm, and humorous performer and song-writer, and I gave his band more than the benefit of the doubt. But opening with a Jiminy Cricket song and ending with a cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Turn On Your Radio” places the band’s oeuvre in an all-too-accurate and rather unfortunate context. Singing a song called “It’s a Motherfucker” and having it still come off as cutesy is clearly The Eels’ bread and butter, and to some, I guess that’s impressive (though the mostly empty mezzanine wasn’t ultra convincing). Everett’s cavalier repartee cut directly into the dignity that the band’s elaborate set-up attempted to to approach, and seemed almost an affront to the hallowed venue. Early on, when he made a joke about the audience being the “whitest” Apollo has ever hosted, it rang too true for me not to wince at the nervous chuckles around me.

The moral of the story here is that it takes a certain kind of gravitas to pull off a show in such a venerated space, especially when you’re a cultural outsider. Wolfe rose to that challenge gloriously, giving her performance an essential weight and elegance. Maybe next time, more people will be paying attention.

INTERVIEW: A Chat with Grrrl Fest Organizers

Here at AudioFemme, we’re all about making spaces for women in the music industry, whether that’s as music makers or behind the scenes – booking and promoting shows, running sound, shooting bands, and, of course, bringing you top-notch journalism reviews. So we got super excited when we found out about Grrrl Fest, a day-long celebration of women in the creative arts. Organized by an inspiring group of young feminists, it features performances from a dozen or so up-and-coming bands that feature female musicians, short films, spoken word performances, zine-writing workshops, button making, a book sale and a silent auction, and that’s to say nothing of getting your tarot cards read and covering yourself in “glitter tattoos.” Not only are we pumped for Grrrl Fest to take over Silent Barn on June 14th, we were also so impressed with the scope of the event that we just had to learn more from two of its organizers, Ebun Nazon-Power and Bridget Malloy.


AudioFemme: In your words, what is the mission of Grrrl Fest?

Ebun Nazon-Power: Grrrl Fest is about supporting and empowering females (girls and women and anyone who identifies as such) in whatever it is that they do. However, Grrrl Fest is mainly focused on the creative fields such as music, bands, dance, spoken word and art. I think our mission is to reveal to all those young women out there that it is totally okay to be creative and self-expressive in an environment where people (not just females) are being supportive and helpful. We wanted to show girls that there is no one way of being a feminist–there are tons of different kinds and ways. So being in a place where people are coming from all over the city and elsewhere and are all about equality and feminism, it can be a life changing experience and hopefully have a positive effect.

AF: Who makes up the core group of organizers? How do you work together to organize the event?

Ebun: The “core” group I guess would be myself and my other classmates: Christopher Gambino, Savannah Galvin, and Clare Burden, Esme Ahsley-White, Abbie Hornburg and of course my art teacher Bridget Malloy. However, we have plenty of volunteers from different schools who are working with us. The core group organizes at The Beacon School and all the other volunteers are organized through social media like Facebook.

AF: How long have you been doing this?

Ebun: This is the very first year that we are doing this. We honestly began this enormous project like two months ago!!

AF: What inspired you to put Grrrl Fest together?

Bridget Malloy: Some students and I were hanging out in the art room during a free period and Ebun put on her band T-Rextasy. It was such a cool sound. It reminded me of some of the 90’s girl bands. At the same time, I was looking at Savannah’s artwork on the wall. It was this really cool text piece. It reminded me of writing on a bathroom wall. So then somewhere along the way I said, “We should do a ‘Girl Fest!’” Next thing you know we are planning, making calls, getting sponsors and the rest is history. People got right on board too. It was really great how it all just formed so naturally. It really felt like it was the right time for something like this and that many people wanted to see it happen.

AF: You’ve got tons of performers scheduled. What did you look for in terms of artists who you wanted to book?

Ebun: In terms of artists, we automatically knew who was going to play – She Monster, Petal War, and T-Rextasy (in fact, they were kind of the main reason grrrl fest started) which are all teenage girl bands. And then a lot of the people volunteering had some other artists they knew of that could possibly play. We also held auditions at The Beacon School for anyone who wanted to perform whether it be spoken word, dance, or music. We of course wanted mostly female artists, but since Grrrl Fest is not about excluding anybody, we also had several males in mind that were really excited to get involved such as Granted, Yabadum, The Backup Sticks, and Shemp. The only requirement is that every band performing has to do a cover of a female musician/band. We are really excited about this!

Bridget: Petal War, an all-girl band with some of the members being Beacon students and Willie Mae members, had played a show at SXSW and it just seemed like the right time to support all of these amazing young women!

AF: Besides great music, what else will be happening at Grrrl Fest?

Ebun: We will have activities (weather permitting) out in the garden of Silent Barn earlier in the day, from noon to 6pm. There will be tables with hands-on activities: button making, zine making, glitter tattoos, tarot card readings and more. The activities will teach and allow people to really participate in the event. Our sponsors will be in attendance to connect with the crowd too and get them involved in their organizations. There’s a silent auction which will help us to raise money for art in schools. And there will be art for sale benefiting young entrepreneurs with a portion of their sales going to various organizations at Grrrl.

AF: How did you go about getting sponsors for the event? Can you tell us a little bit about them?

Bridget: The sponsors for the event really happened so easily. First I have to say The Beacon School has truly supported this from the start. In addition, the people over at Silent Barn were behind this idea from the beginning. Nat Roe has been a dream to work with. He has been with us every step of the way and has supported pretty much anything we sent his way. He was the one that suggested we take the event into the night and have Pottymouth and the rest of the bands play later on in the evening. Originally it was going to be a six-hour event but now it’s about a twelve-hour event! As for the rest, we literally got on the phone and made calls or emailed people we thought could add to the event. BUST Magazine and Tom Tom Magazine were some of the first to back us up. Then Bennington [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][College] came in with a generous donation. They really supported us from the minute this whole idea began. Libby Hux was a huge player at Bennington she literally got right on it and made calls and wrote to people to make that happen. As for Planned Parenthood, Lower East Side Girls Club, Bluestockings, Center for Arts Education, CHiPS, Willie Mae, Makers… we just reached out and asked if they would want to participate. They all said yes! We were thrilled! We even had some people contacting us once people got word of the event.

Ebun: Getting sponsors was not even on my mind when we first started this event actually. It was not until one of the magazines (Tom Tom) e-mailed me asking if they were sponsoring the event and I was like “Oh, duh!” I had some connections with some of the organizations such as WIllie Mae Rock Camp for Girls which is an organization that supports girls in doing music and Tom Tom which is a magazine dedicated to female percussionists.

AF: What aspect of Grrrl Fest excites you the most?

Ebun: I am excited about almost everything! I am excited to see how everything is going to be pulled together. A lot will be going on between these 11 hours and hopefully every bit will be exciting. All of the bands and performers are INCREDIBLE, the crafts should be really fun, and the t-shirts and tote bags (made by classmate and friend Clare Burden) are absolutely phenomenal. Hopefully it will continue to happen every year, and even on a larger scale![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

LIVE REVIEW: Willie Watson Record Release @ Bootleg Theater


Three years ago I went to a concert in San Pedro, California. I had bought my ticket to see a British folk band, which shall remain nameless to keep focus of this article on the brilliant voice of Willie Watson, but I left the concert intensely curious about the band that had played alongside them. At that time Watson was playing with Old Crow Medicine Show and the vitality he brought to the stage was striking. He played banjo, guitar and sang; needless to say I was mesmerized by his artistry. Unfortunately a few years ago I had very forgetful tendencies and by the end of the set I couldn’t for the life of me remember his name. Then, a few months ago, I saw an ad for Willie Watson’s Record Release with a picture of him right in it. I jumped up and exclaimed with excitement; considering the fact that I was in the middle of a library my reaction probably wasn’t appreciated but was quite unpreventable.

I was ecstatic and honored to see Willie in action again, this time as a solo act, so on May 28th I strapped on my boots and headed to Hollywood with a big smile on my face. The show was at the Bootleg Theater, a venue I’d never attended before, and the dark wood floors with low lighting seemed to fit perfectly. The crowd was diverse in style and nature; one group had donned cowboy hats and boots while another rocked Vans and graphic t-shirts. Some of the people attending lived near Willie in Los Angeles and were there to support him. Others had been following him since his early days in music and sat waiting with stars in their eyes.

Willie was born in Watson Glen, New York and was introduced to great music at a young age, with Roy Orbison standing out from the crowd as Willie’s first vocal influence. Later on he became fascinated with Neil Young’s high singing register, which can be heard in Willie’s voice today. Willie spent time travelling around New York developing his sound with Ben Gould in their band The Funnest Game. The band dissolved when Willie met Ketch Secor and Critter Fuqua and they began to play around the “lively old-time music scene” in Ithaca, New York. The group busked around Canada and moved their way down to North Carolina where they officially formed Old Crow Medicine Show and were discovered by folk-country legend Doc Watson. After a long and fruitful career with OCMS, Willie split, saying that “it was time to move on and find a new situation.” I think that Willie’s time flying solo has been fruitful, with his first solo album seeing release on May 6th of this year.

Folk Singer Vol. 1 was produced by Acony Records in Nashville, Tennessee and is a mixture of classic folk and blues tunes with Willies’ personal touch added; the mix is brilliant. My favorites include “Keep It Clean,” a blues classic written by St. Louis singer Charley Jordan, and “Mother Earth” a blues song from 1951 originally recorded by Memphis Slim. While Willie was intimidated by the “singer-songwriter expectation” (meaning when he tells people that he didn’t write the songs he’s performing they seem less impressed), I think that Willie sticking to the roots of folk and blues is truly incredible. And as his old friend and producer David Rawlings has said, “Willie is the only one of his generation that can make me forget these songs were ever sung before.”

As he walked on stage the crowd erupted with hoots of delight, quickly replaced by Willie’s gritty voice and quick guitar riffs. Throughout the show Willie transitioned between banjo, guitar, and even harmonica. His performance had a sassiness to it; before one of his songs he asked the audience, “Would you folks like to hear a song about heartbreak or about a prostitute?” Of course the overwhelming response was wholeheartedly for the prostitute. When Willie performs, his voice matches his twangy back and forth gestures and recalls some combination of Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan (although he is much too humble to accept that). He had wanted this album to be “more of a listening experience” that will “take people through all walks of life,” and he’s certainly accomplished this goal during his performances by bringing in themes of heartbreak, scandalous sexual references, sing-alongs and even a bit of Willie Watson wisdom.

Many of the artists who Willie draws inspiration from have passed on, leaving only their amazing records and songs behind. To Willie these people are legends from the beginning of the folk and blues movement, and have left behind a thriving community in the artists they’ve inspired. I truly believe that Willie Watson (jerky dancing motion and all) is the next great voice revitalizing the world of folk music. I can’t wait to see what comes from him next.

LIVE REVIEW: Yoni Wolf & Serengeti in Santa Cruz

Yoni Wolf

Yoni Wolf

Best known as the lead singer for the emotionally evocative, genre-defying project WHY?, Yoni Wolf’s musical journey is as long and storied as his lyrically emotive catalogue. Beginning with Apogee, a live improvisational group formed with college acquaintances Doseone, Mr. Dibbs, and his brother, Josiah Wolf, Yoni cemented relationships with collaborative partners that would last for years as those partnerships evolved. With Doseone, he founded Greenthink, which became cLOUDDEAD when the duo enlisted producer Odd Nosdom. The three of them would partner in founding Los Angeles-based record label Anticon, which, as its website so eloquently states, “…stands as much for radical hip-hop as it does for pioneering electronic music, left-field rock and outsider pop.”

Most recently though, Yoni has been busy hosting a weekly podcast called The Wandering Wolf, in which he interviews musician friends and alt-lit writers and sometimes, even his own mother. Last month he put out a mixtape called Old Dope (Rap Tape) that revisits material spanning his entire career. As a long-time Anticon devotee, and a particularly avid a WHY? fanatic, I immediately jumped on the opportunity to be a part of the “street team” he enlisted via Twitter to help promote the solo tour he planned in support of the mixtape, specifically for his stop at a well-known Santa Cruz venue The Crepe Place. The tour would feature both Yoni and rapper Serengeti, another incredible artist on Anticon’s roster.

Leading up to the show, I decorated my quaint, little Santa Cruz with promo posters, recalling tender moments with my tenth-grade crush who introduced me to WHY? via “These Few Presidents” from 2008 album Alopecia. But it was Yoni who won me over when I realized his background consisted of spoken word, drumming, and freestyle rap. Lyrical lines like “even though I haven’t seen you in years / yours is a funeral I’d fly to from anywhere” struck me as both heartbreaking and heartwarming, and his voice, which had a very specific gritty yet soothing timbre, felt wholly original. Paired with rhythmically challenging beats that registered right in the pit of my stomach, Yoni’s genius musical compositions really had the power to bring on some serious feels. Over the years, Yoni has amassed a rather rabid following, and I strongly believe that he truly moves those who connect with his music because he allows himself to be incredibly vulnerable and honest. Many of his songs address his most intimate experiences dealing with Crohn’s disease, somehow making his trials with it seem universal – those dark thoughts that we all have, but are not quite sure how to articulate.

Now, I’ve seen WHY? a handful of times (and Serengeti once at the Echoplex in Los Angeles), so I was aware of their perfectly enthusiastic on-stage dynamics. But I really had no idea what to expect from a Yoni Wolf solo show. On May 17th, I headed to The Crepe Place, a small, intimate, and warm venue, feeling quite special since my dedicated efforts to drum up interest in the Santa Cruz set had landed me a spot on the guest list. Yoni and Serengeti casually chatted with fans by the merch table, the energy in the space mainly chill, but run through with a current of excitement.

Serengeti took to the low wooden stage, separated from the audience only by speaker monitors, and casually pressed play on his old-school iPod, proceeding to rap over his own instrumental tracks, many of which were produced by Odd Nosdam. He was a perfect combination of childish and classy as he moved to those familiar rhythms like he couldn’t control his bodily impulses, all the while sipping on a nice glass of red wine. I was fully consumed (in the best way) by his lyrical genius and practically preternatural sense of rhythm seemingly informed by improvised dance or even free jazz. The crowd’s head bobs and body sways made it clear that they were as enthralled by Serengeti as I was. His set featured some popular tracks like “Bang Em” from The Kenny Dennis LP, as well as “The Whip” from Family & Friends. Serengeti displayed a keen understanding of how to use his underlying instrumentals to create an undeniable, infectious groove, bouncing his vocal style on that foundation by manipulating his pronunciation of words and exaggerating certain verbal accents.

After Serengeti’s performance, Yoni chose to play The Dirty Projectors’ 2012 record  “Swing Lo Magellan,” a move that somehow created the most subtle and perfect transition between their two sets. As it turned out, Yoni’s performance was, in many ways, its own kind of live mixtape. One instrumental track played continuously as he gave a small bit of context before each song, placing each solidly in a timeline of his vibrant musical history. He included songs from his days with cLOUDDEAD as well as many WHY? tracks, with beats remixed by Yoni himself, as well as the likes of Boards of Canada, DNTEL, and of course, old friend Odd Nosdom. Although the set was simply Yoni alongside his computer, he has the presence and comfort on stage to create the most beautiful, thought-provoking and immersive environment.

His outrageously weird and wonderful dance moves were punctuated by intimate interactions with the audience. When someone asked where 2003 WHY? CDr Almost Live From Anna’s Cabin was recorded, Yoni responded with kindly humor, “It was recorded in Anna, my ex-girlfriend’s, cabin. . .that was an easy question.” I had to wonder if I was dreaming when I heard him interweave my name into one of his songs, as if to thank me for helping to promote the show. Being in the front row along with an eclectic group of fans, the energy was undeniably perfect. But it wasn’t just the high density of hardcore Anticon zealots like myself; undeniably, the vibe was mostly due to the mind-blowing, stomach dropping perfection resulting from both Serengeti and Yoni’s deliverance of their music. This is how you create community, build a fanbase, and give them something special to remember – by representing your truest, most authentic self.

LIVE REVIEW: Trans Am @ The Empty Bottle, Chicago


One of the most prolific bands in post-rock, Bethesda-based Trans Am, are still going strong with the release of their latest album, Volume X, which was the primary focus of their Sunday night show at Chicago’s The Empty Bottle. Opening for them were local favorites Kava and CAVE, who have a lot more in common than just very similar names. Both pedaling an appealing brand of psychedelic rock, Kava began the show with a more minimalistic take on the genre, while CAVE played a set of classic, repetition-based head-bobbers against a glowing, geometric curtain. Then it was Trans Am’s turn. Still anchored by the motorik-driven, krautrock aesthetic that’s been behind their signature style of sci-fi prog ever since their debut almost a quarter of a century ago, they just can’t let go of the past.

As their name suggest, the Thrill Jockey trio played a set driven mainly by the idea of an imagined, old-school 80s mixtape. Thrashy metal, “Kraftwerkian industrial complex” and “Devo does ballads” were all stylistic themes, making for a disjunct Walkman-era hodge-podge of a set. And while Trans Am are arguably the originators of cerebral, genre-defying electronic music, at this particular moment the band just seemed like they were experimenting with too many clashing aesthetics. The sheer talent of this experienced trio was probably the only thing that really kept the show on track, as everything else reminisced on cultural touchstones ranging from Depeche Mode to the Dallas theme song.

Though it felt distracted and discombobulated at points, it was at the very least an entertaining revisit to your parent’s cassette collection circa 1985. However, this also meant that it was quite clichéd in certain parts, due to an onslaught of computerized synths layered atop noodly guitar riffs and robocorder vocals. A touch corny, it was an entire mélange of throwback musical styles that felt messy and misplaced at times. It was like Trans Am took the chameleon approach a bit too seriously, because while it was admittedly fun, I was personally irked by the setlist’s short attention span and lack of overarching focus.
Simultaneously formulaic in its stylistic inspirations, said corn-factor made parts of the set feel like Garrett Hedlund spinning to the Tron soundtrack. And it all wasn’t really aided by the fact that an 80s-synth production was infused into almost every single song they played. Misplaced funk bits that just seemed like an exaggerated encouragement to groove didn’t really do much for the rest of the audience either, who kind of just jammed to themselves. Not a bad show by any means, just one that definitely deserves a more definitive musical direction.

Listen to “Futurworld” by Trans Am here via Soundcloud.

LIVE REVIEW: Chad VanGaalen @ The Empty Bottle, Chicago

Chad VanGaalen Jonathan Fisher

With his Lynchian aesthetic and fondness for romanticized macabre, Albertan singer-songwriter Chad VanGaalen performed a simultaneously tender and surreal set to a buzzy crowd at Chicago’s Empty Bottle last Thursday.

On tour with fellow Canadians COUSINS and Bry Webb of Constantines fame, VanGaalen’s performance brought a crushing sense of heartfelt sentimentality filled with his signature warble and fuzz-ridden lo-fi recordings, which continue to drive the sound of his most recent release, Shrink Dust. Drawing upon stylistic elements reminiscent of 2008’s lurid Soft Airplane and 2011’s spasmodic Diaper Island, VanGaalen’s latest effort is still peppered with hypnagogic lyrics, wind-in-the-willows whispers and enough synthesized reverb to swallow the entire room.

Lyrics full of allusions to disemboweling deaths and ghastly implications plucked straight out of an Un Chien Andalou-induced fever dream, VanGaalen is brilliant at fusing different melodic styles ranging from gentle, whirring balladry to rambly steel guitar folk. And despite a marked lack references to oozing vitreous humor, VanGaalen’s off-kilter banter in between songs, earnest smile and sweet, rambling stories made up for any disappointment involving a flashier stage presence and more of his renowned homemade instruments.

A true “mixed media” artist in every sense, VanGaalen blends soft acoustic strumming with jammy electronic interludes, creating what many have dubbed a “grab-bag” of melodies plucked, diced and sliced from his many garage recordings. And his live performance held much of the same intimacy and intensity as one of these DIY jam session. Simultaneously grotesque and gorgeous, his wavering vocals projected perfectly across a simmering crowd of what seemed to mostly be composed of long-time fans.

I myself have fond memories of making “Molten Light” mixtapes for high school beaus, and was just one of many audience members singing along to the surprisingly thorough repertoire he performed. Of course, there were songs off Shrink Dust, but VanGaalen made enough room to incorporate old favorites like “Rabid Bits of Time,” “Willow Tree” and “City of Electric Lights” into his set, a rare treat for artists usually more concerned with promoting their latest release. And though I realize that speaks more to my own personal affinity to Soft Airplane, it truly was a genuine, heartfelt performance by a singer-songwriter who has the strange ability to invoke an incredible sense of nostalgia occupied by crust punks and tweed-donning professor types alike.

An excellent show for the devotees of his back catalogue, it pulled off the unforeseeable feat of being both beautiful and bizarre and everything in between. A wistful, touching performance that may have showgoers, old and new, incorporating “Molten Light” and “Monster” into their future mixtapes.

LIVE REVIEW: The Haxan Cloak @ Lincoln Hall, Chicago

Haxan Cloak

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

Haxan Cloak
The Haxan Cloak (Photo by Rebecca Cleal)

Filled with a gorgeous mix of brooding bass and sulky rumbles, The Haxan Cloak show at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall last Wednesday was quite the immersive tour through producer Bobby Krlic’s bone-chilling soundscapes. An otherworldly performance, the sparse crowd was a bit of a disappointment, but somehow the empty space also added an appropriate sense of alienation to the experience. And as “isolation” is the big buzzword surrounding his most recent release, 2013’s Excavation, there was something gratifying about floating amongst the pockets of black-clad Chicagoans, swaying to the echoes of haunted drones and ominous rumbles.

Serving as an opener was local act Kwaidan, a doldrums-flecked trio who also specialize in stewy buzz and ghoul-ridden whispers. An impressive act in their own right, they provided a satisfying taste of drone-y demise in preparation for the impending spook-filled storm.

Krlic’s brand of all-encompassing doom is gorgeous in its simplicity, an incredible achievement when one considers how expansive his intricate soundscapes feel. Krlic’s dirges seem incredibly straightforward, simplistic even, as all his work can be boiled down to a similar series of rumbling bass beats accented by the occasional guzzling burble or echoey reverb effect. But it’s striking how multifaceted he can make even the most repetitive sequence of tones sound. When the bass is deep enough to rock a room, it’s typically a sign that I’m already far too drunk and at an event where sonic appreciation isn’t exactly at the top of my priority list. But this instance of vibrating ribs was obviously more breathtaking than booty-shaking.

Crafting an absorbing purgatorial soundspace, the entire show was akin to some billowing misadventure through an imagined land of foggy, pitch black gloom. It was brilliant “explore your swirling headspace” music, the kind that forces you to make that ugly face of grim concentration and contemplate what kind of impending shitstorm awaits you in the real world. Seeing Krlic live is like being bludgeoned in the head and waking up in a fantastical reality that somehow manages to be simultaneously thrilling, terrifying and thought-provoking. A mesmerizing experience for the introspective and imaginative that’s worth every single show ticket cent.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]