Aug 7, 2010

William Elliott Whitmore in Brooklyn

After cancelling his 2009 summer tour because of a health issue (purportedly swine flue), I was pretty damn happy when, earlier this summer, William Elliott Whitmore's name appeared as the opener for Frank Turner's August 4 show at Brooklyn Bowl.

Whitmore hails from a horse farm in Lee County Iowa. His nakedly introspective songs and disheveled look lend towards a certain Beat mystique, and it's easy to imagine him stooped up against the side of a parked train car with his banjo strapped across his back and a fifth of whiskey in his worn hands.

Worried the show would sell out, we arrived early to get stamped before heading out to a nearby bar. We definitely made the right decision because when we returned a few hours later the place was packed.

This was my first experience at Brooklyn Bowl, and as a concept it intrigued me. Having opened in July 2009, Brooklyn Bowl claims to "redefine the entertainment experience for the 21st century," and is a sprawling 23,000 square feet space that combines a bowling alley, concert venue and restaurant.

Now, I'm generally a fan of innovation, but having a bowling alley in the same space as a music venue just doesn't do it for me. A venue, in my mind, should do its best to maximize acoustics and sound quality, and when you have 10 lb bowling balls taking out pins a certain noise level is inevitable. And, when there is a certain level of background noise people feel at liberty to chat over the performer. All in all, I can imagine a rather loud band being well suited to the space, but a one man troubadour like Whitmore should never be booked in such a venue.

Enough venting...

Whitmore was phenomenal. Alternating between his banjo and Guild guitar, he rose above the noise of the alley in songs like Johnny Law, One Man's Shame, Old Devils and, my personal favorite, Burn my Body. He seemed genuinely humbled by the support of the crowd, and I look forward to catching Whitmore in a more suitable setting in the near future.

Jul 29, 2010

Levon Helm Band Opens for Willie Nelson and Family at Radio City

The Levon Helm Band opened up for Willie Nelson and Family on Wednesday evening at Radio City Music Hall. I am a huge Levon fan (The Band is my favorite all-time band) and I've been lucky enough to see two Midnight Rambles over the past couple of years.

For those of you who don't know the background story on the Rambles - Levon had throat cancer in the 1990s, which he eventually overcame, but his voice was shot for a number of years. Against tough odds he staged a comeback through the creation of the Levon Helm Midnight Ramble. The Ramble, which he started to cover his staggering medical bills, is held in his barn/studio in Woodstock, NY. Check out this link for more info.

Since starting the Ramble, the Levon Helm Band has released two Grammy award winning albums, Dirt Farmer (2007) and Electric Dirt (2009). The band has gelled into a cast of family and friends including Larry Campbell (former member of Bob Dylan's band), Amy Helm (Levon's daughter), Jim Weider, Byron Isaacs, Brian Mitchell, Teresa Williams (Larry Campbell's wife), Jay Collins, Erik Lawrence, Howard Johnson (played with The Band in The Last Waltz), Steven Bernstein and Clark Gayton. As of late, Donald Fagen from Steely Dan has also been a regular addition to the lineup.

Levon only sings on a couple songs now and his voice is noticeably strained, but he doesn't dissapoint. He gave a spirited performance taking the lead on Ophelia and sang a few verses on the American traditional, Deep Elem Blues. For their encore, Levon invited Willie on stage to join them for the wonderfully ubiquitous The Weight.

Jul 28, 2010

Black Keys in Central Park

The last rays of sunlight were creeping up the sycamore trees as Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney of the Black Keys loped onto Central Park’s Summerstage Tuesday evening. As they kicked off their set I was instantly reminded as to why I hold the Black Keys in high esteem - simply put, they rock.

With Auerbach on his amped up Gibson and Carney sitting high above the crowd, they commanded the crowd’s affection as they tore through a string of older songs, including “Thickfreakness”, “The Breaks” and, “Busted” (one of the first songs they ever wrote), before inviting a bass and keyboard player onstage for some of their new material off Brothers. Highlights from their new material included “Everlasting Light” and their cut, “Chop & Change”, from the new Eclipse soundtrack. (Say what you will about the Twilight series, but the song is damn good).

Auerbach and Carney formed the Black Keys in 2001 and recorded their first two albums, The Big Come Up (2002) and Thickfreakness (2003), on a Tascam 388 eight-track recorder in Carney’s basement. Both albums were received with critical acclaim and the Black Keys pushed onwards, releasing their third album, Rubber Factory, in 2004. In 2006 they signed with Nonesuch Records and released Magic Potion. The band’s fifth album, Attack and Release, was produced by Danger Mouse in 2008 and their sixth full-length album, Brothers, was released earlier this year.

With ten releases(six full-lengths, three EPs and one hip-hop collaboration) in the last nine years and a demanding touring schedule, The Black Keys are certainly one of the hardest working bands in America. Their 2010 tour stretches from April to just before Thanksgiving. All I can say is, keep up the good work boys.

Jul 21, 2010


Dawes debut album, North Hills, is an astounding work of Americana.

Jul 2, 2010

Delta Spirit at Music Hall

When Delta Spirit percussionist Brandon Young first spotted Matthew Vasquez, the band's energetic lead vocalist, he was, "Busking loudly on a bench at two in the morning." It wasn't quite two in the morning, but last night I had the privilege of catching Delta Spirit perform a tour de force at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Hot off the release of their critically acclaimed second album, “History from Below”, Delta Spirit kicked off their set with an abridged version of “People, Turn Around” and quickly shifted into “Bushwick Blues”. The crowd erupted in a frenzy, seeing that we were only a mile or two from Bushwick.

The evening continued with songs off their first album, "Ode to Sunshine", like "Strange Vine" and "People C'Mon", mixed in with material from "History from Below". Their performance of "Vivian" was the emotional highlight of the evening. Vasquez introduced the song by saying it was an ode to his grandmother and that it is, "The most important song I'll ever write."

The concert ended with a surprise ticker-tape infused rendition of the Isley Brother's "Shout". Vasquez dropped down into the crowd, had everyone get down and slowly brought the crowd back up to a climax singing, "A little bit louder now...A little bit louder now..." It was the ideal ending to a joyous evening.

Jun 21, 2010

Provincial Parks

The Canadian equivalent of a state is a province and thus a state park = a provincial park. Recording out of a the basement of Delaware House, a pad that doubles as recording studio in Toronto, the band Provincial Parks pay tribute to the great outdoors and give us a gift as pure. Two of the members are getting vibrant reviews for their recent work with The Wilderness of Manitoba, while keeping busy recording a full length album, "Wavelength and Winter". The songwriter has a third project in the works, Songs at Sea.

Jun 16, 2010

Jeffrey Lewis

This speaks for itself.

The Bloodsugars

Described by someone at Brooklyn Vegan as "widescreen pop", this Brooklyn based band didn't blow through the roofs of indie pop stardom with their 2008 EP, BQEP, or their 2009 full-length album, I Can't Go On, I'll Go On, but they did create some damn catchy music. Infectious to the core, you just gotta jump up and dance here now.

Jun 15, 2010

The Deep Dark Woods

When you conjure up Saskatoon, Sakatchewan what images pop to mind? A barren landscape dotted with evergreen trees and Moose? A pack of wolves howling on a snow covered hillside? How about a group of scraggy guys dressed in long-johns singing “Hang me, oh hang me”? If you conjured the latter, you are either a prophet or you are already familiar with the musical genius of The Deep Dark Woods. You might also be surprised to find out that Sakatoon is in fact a vibrant city of 270,000 people with a thriving music scene.

With their newest release, “Winter Hours”, which grabbed the #1 spot in my top ten ranking of 2009, The Deep Dark Woods have cemented their reputation as one of my favorite bands. Ryan Boldt's subtle baritone vocals shine throughout and the band recently added an organist to the mix, which completes the sound.

Jun 14, 2010

Flaming Lips block out the Dark Side of the Moon

When I saw that the Flaming lips were going to cover Dark Side of the Moon at Bonaroo I got very excited. I had high hopes this innovative group could could turn this classic into a space funk fantasy tour rivaling Easy Star's Dub Side rendition. Though the actual performance was not horrible, it was deeply disappointing. Not only because it did not live up to my own expectations but because you could hear the potential for great things in the instrumental arrangements. These hints of what could have been were drowned in sea of poor vocals and half ass showmanship. I think it's safe to say everyone on this list supports legalization but should you break up the most seamless album of all time to pronounce you're love of pot to the proverbial choir? leave that shit up to Cypress Hill and play some damn music.

I still hope they can pull this together in the studio and produced a version worth listening to. Some bands just can't do it live but there is something worth saving here. . . I hope.

Jun 8, 2010

The Rosewood Thieves

One of the most under-appreciated bands out there, The Rosewood Thieves have written some gems over the years. I don't pretend to understand how trends tip, but surely the Rosewood Thieves have hovered on the precipice for the last couple of years. The recent addition of a slide guitarist has rounded out their sound. Here's hoping for a resurgence of the The Rosewood Thieves.

Untitled #1

I was shocked I was shocked I was so surprised,
The things I was seeing looking in her eyes.
Mmm, the first time, looking at that long lost lover of mine.

We were walking, we were walking and the rain was coming down.
The sun was setting, the lightning lit the ground.
My mind just wandered around, she’s the best thing I’d ever thought about.

No matter what you say, you know I’m not afraid of letting her see me fall.
It’s just a little strange thinking about all of those days we didn’t know each other at all.

Quite saying that you love me and I’ll stop saying it to you,
No I won’t come around no more if you don’t want me to.

It looks like you got your own, your own life.
Baby don’t you worry about me tonight.

Jun 5, 2010

Yeasayer at Governors Island

Just got home from the Yeasayer concert on Governors Island. The Brooklyn-based band opened up The Beach at Governor's Island's summer concert series in style. Arriving by ferry from the Battery Maritime Building, the hipster crowd was scandalously young, and I'd never seen more Ray-ban knockoffs.

Anand Wilder

Yeasayer performing "O.N.E." off their new album Odd Blood. June 5, 2010, Governors Island.


Wait for the Summer



I Remember

The Children






Madder Red

Ambling Alp

Jun 3, 2010

Delorean & Dolorean

I was recently introduced to Delorean, a band out of Barcelona. Delorean's third studio release, Subiza, was released this march and is getting heavy rotation amongst downtown post-hipster dance kids. Their electronica incorporates classic tension-release with ambient background fuzz and Yeasayer-like vocals. They're a fun summer outfit, pairing well with miller hi-life and strawberries.

I digress from the title of this post. When searching for Delorean online, I mistakenly typed in Dolorean. To my pleasant surprise, Dolorean also happens to be a wonderful band out of Portland, Oregon. I don't know much about them, but I like what I hear.

Jun 1, 2010

Another Reason to Love Portland, Maine

Alex Crothers of Higher Ground and The Bowery Presents are joining forces to expand further northward to Maine. After recent expansion into New Jersey (Wellmont) and Boston (Royale Nightclub). The Portland State Theatre is reopening after a four-year hiatus.

May 25, 2010

Best Records of 2009

It's a little late in the game, but since this blog has just been launched, I figure why not post my list for best records of 2009.

1. The Deep Dark Woods – Winter Hours
2. The Love Language – The Love Language
3. Phosphorescent – To Willie
4. Dan Auerbach – Keep it Hid
5. Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Beware

6. The Antlers – Hospice

7. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – From Below
8. Justin Townes Earle – Midnight at the Movies
9. The Duke & the King – Nothing Gold Can Stay

10. Elvis Perkins in Dearland – Elvis Perkins in Dearland

May 23, 2010

"Like my father before me"

The intricate harmonies, musical precision, and boundless energy of The Band is a gift we all cherish.

May 21, 2010

The Wrens - Meadowlands

The Wren's most recent album, The Meadowlands, was released in 2003 to critical acclaim. I first caught a listen in 2004 through a roommate in DC, and was lucky enough to catch one of their rare shows at the Black Cat in February, ’05. One of the most energetic live bands out there, I left the show in a sweat and with a smile. Over the following few years, having misplaced their CD, I gradually forgot about them, only to be reminded by a R5 Productions e-blast about an upcoming Philly show. The Meadowlands is an exceptional creative achievement, and makes any drive down the Garden State Parkway complete.

Deer Tick - Black Dirt Sessions

I gave black dirt sessions a first listen. Overall I think this album is good, I have found I am always cool to new albums until I hear them 3 or 4 times so this is really just a starting point. However I can say the album really improved after the first track which I didn’t like at all. They are really going in some new directions with a more varied style and some unexpected instrumentation. “Piece by Piece and Frame by Frame” as well as “Mange” are standouts so far. I also enjoyed the new version of Christ Jesus, the piano was a really cool way to go here.

I like where this band is going but both with this and born on flag day part of me just wants more of the uncomplicated nature and raw emotion of War Elephant.