Concert Review: Marc Ribot and Ceramic Dog at The Stone

So I’m interning for WKCR (89.9FM New York or online at wkcr.com) Columbia’s PREMIER radio station and also the first FM station (kinda). It’s wonderful. Good people and great music and a legitimate commitment to noncommercial and alternative broadcasting. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying learning  and listening.

I’m interning for jazz and new music. The jazz department is really top notch but also maybe a little pretentious. The new music department is very kind and weird and wonderful. During one new music listening session a senior department member put on Ceramic Dog’s album Party Intellectuals, and it was so cool. I’d enjoyed Ribot’s guitar playing many a time before (mostly with Ribot y Los Cubanos), but I’d never heard it quite like that. Ches Smith’s wild drumming and the wonderfully emo and weird vocals brought it all home for me.

Sunday I went with some new music department people to see Ceramic Dog at The Stone, John Zorn’s space devoted wholly to experimental music. The Stone is a magical place that was enthusiastically introduced to me by KCR folks the minute I announced my intention to pursue new music. It was as cool as promised.

The show was wild. I was thoroughly engrossed by Ribot’s ingenious playing and Ches Smith’s absurd energy. The vocals they did were also pretty cool. Some creepy whispered vocals done by Ribot were notable. Ches Smith though was conceivably my favorite part of the show. His drumming was unlike most drumming I’d seen / heard before just for its sheer constant energy. Also that fucking bass . . .

Chick Corea and Gonzalo Rubalcaba

Sunday night I saw Chick Corea play with Gonzalo Rubalcaba at Blue Note jazz club in Greenwich Village. Chick is doing a residency at Blue Note for his 75th birthday party from October 19 thru December 11 which is incredible. Blue Note has even been advertising his residency as “The Greatest Jazz Birthday Party Ever.” I was skeptical of this branding, but it really was the greatest jazz birthday party ever, complete with Chick’s friends and wife, Gayle Moran, in the audience. The audience was also very into it–vocal and loud at the right times.

I don’t think there are two more fun pianists than Chick Corea and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Chick is just WILD. He’s a favorite of my mother who knows far more about jazz than me, but this does mean that I’ve been exposed to some cool stuff thanks to her. She and my dad have seen Chick a few times before together, and my mom has seen him play with a host of incredible musicians (including Herbie Hancock, Bela Fleck and Bobbie McFerrin to name a few). They were both still extremely impressed by his performance with Rubalcaba on Sunday. The two piano gods played a few loosely planned pieces but primarily improvised and jammed together. However, what was perhaps unplanned fell together into beautifully organized and composed pieces. Chick and Rubalcaba communicated with each other impeccably and filled each other’s silences flawlessly. It was pretty magical hearing the two grand pianos together, played by such incredible pianists. It often sounded like one four armed virtuoso was playing not two separate musical minds. It was also a beautiful sight, the two huge, shining black pianos on stage in the shape of a ying yang.

Some highlights of the night were Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind and Fire coming onstage to sing with Chick, “A Spanish Song” (not to be confused with “Spain”), and Gayle Moran coming onstage to sing 500 Miles High (he played 500 Miles High!!!). The crowd also broke into “Happy Birthday” for Chick which was very lovely.

It was a wonderful night! Listen to some Chick Corea and revel in his crazy, unique, out-of-control playing.

Diego El Cigala at SFJAZZ

El Cigala has had many transformations. He is always of course the Sinatra of flamenco and a shining star of Spain, but he has in the past been all flamenco, more jazz, and now he is trying a flamenco salsa mix with a largely Cuban band.

This evening I went with my family to see him with his current band at SFJAZZ. The band was lively and so was Cigala. They interacted with joy and excitement and all seemed to be in awe of each other. Cigala, throughout the show, craned his head to smile at his brilliant band members. They exuded energy and it rubbed off on the audience who itched to dance to the upbeat salsa/jazz/flameno medley. Many did get up and dance in the aisles something I doubt happens often at SFJAZZ which is a bit formal for its own good.

Cigala played a lively and long set. His voice rang clear and strong, echoing throughout the theatre with the immense power and emotion one can only hope for in flamenco. It was pretty remarkable. He sang some traditional Spanish and salsa songs which wooed a crowd full of Spanish speakers (it also tested my own Spanish which as it turns out is not as rusty as I thought). Cigala also was quite the charismatic character. He smiled and laughed at the audience often gesturing at women in the crowd. He really reminded me of the professors I had while living in Spain.

His band did likely steal the show though. Especially notable was his pianist, Jaime “Yumitos”Calabuch, who impressed the crowd. He exuded confidence with each note and had truly exceptional timing. Also notable were the two trombonists Richard Stella Prieto and Leo Aguirre Ocampo. The color and feel of the trombone in the salsa pieces was really unlike anything I’d heard before. So enjoyable.

It was a lovely evening full of remarkable music with my extraordinary family I’m lucky to have in my pretty city I’m lucky to call home.

Concert Review: Joyce Manor, The Hotelier, Crying

I just got back from seeing Joyce Manor with The Hotelier and Crying at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. We took the train to lovely Brooklyn which is always so nice. It usually goes a lot faster than expected, and then you’re suddenly in a totally different place. BK feels a lot like San Francisco to me because it’s lower and you can look out. Also lots of hipsters, gentrification, real estate wars and bicyclists. So some of the good and some of the bad.

We missed some of Crying’s set which was sad because I like them, but the songs we did hear were awesome. She has a sick voice and their music has a really unique sound (especially the electronic shit and the drums).

The Hotelier was okay. When I was a lot more emo/sad I really liked their album It Never Goes Out (2007), but I never really got into their other music. Unfortunately they really didn’t play anything off of said known album, and the stuff they did play I did not like as much. Also some asshole guys on the balcony were yelling mean things at the band and throwing beer which occasionally hit us. Nice! These asshole guys will make another appearance later in this review.

Joyce Manor was dope as always. I’ve seen them approximately 6 times including at tiny SF spaces like Amoeba and The Chapel. They were as fun as ever! Insane energy, crazy crowd, and Barry is always a great/engaging frontman. The friend who came with me to the show was laughing at me earlier in the night for saying I’m not emo/pop punk because, as she pointed out: “We’re here aren’t we!” However, my lack of knowledge of recently released Joyce Manor was proof of my no longer being (as) emo. I don’t know their most recently released two albums very well. I was also totally the person most excited in the crowd when they played shit off their demo. The new stuff was fun live, and I’ve listened to and enjoyed it before, but it’s not as good as ST or their other early stuff in my opinion. Every time I see them they play fewer of the songs I love which is sad, but tonight they did play Housewarming Party which could be my all time favorite song.

So it was a good show. However, unfortunately, aforementioned assholes threw a fucking folding chair down on the crowd from the balcony which hit me in the eye. My eye currently has a bump and is red and hurts. So fuck that. I hate when punk/rock/emo/pop punk shows get so rowdy that only a select few members of the crowd (usually larger men) get to have a fun time. Moshing, pushing, stage diving etc is dope but not when at the expense of others. And chair throwing is never chill . . . Literally fuck that. Music Hall of Williamsburg people were super cool about it though. They sent the manager out to say he was sorry and would take care of it. Apparently the guys were arrested.

Regardless of injuries it was a super fun show! Thank you BK! Thank you Joyce Manor! Thank you Music Hall of Williamsburg!

Also I’m listening to The Band while writing this, and it’s so damn good go listen.

Shoot for the Spoon Reviewed

I recently left the lovely city of San Francisco for New York to go to school. In an effort to meet people and do things I like I joined a publication called Rare Candy. Rare Candy is a New York City underground publication that interviews bands, publishes reviews and think pieces, and throws shows. Check it out.

At the request of a friend I’m reviewing Rare Candy’s most recent show, Shoot for the Spoon, and specifically Trash King/Helen Keller Birthday Party. Trash King/HKBP played first and killed it. Loie’s vocals were on point, and the crowd was super into it. The highlight of the show was definitely Housefire. It was at this moment that I realized Trash King is HKBP. This was really exciting. I immediately contacted a dear friend from home who’s in HKBP about this realization.

Listen to the track below. It’s seriously dope.

PRO TEENS from AZ played next and were awesome. I got drinks with them after the show and realized they’re also super cool people. Listen to them.

The Spoon theme of the show was also undoubtedly a highlight because who doesn’t dig spoons?!

Concert Review: SALES, Harmony Tividad

I saw SALES with Harmony Tividad and Chaos Chaos at Villian in Williamsburg on October 12th.

I actually arrived late and did not see Chaos Chaos which was too bad because I listened to them before the show and quite enjoyed them. I did see Harmony which was lovely; however, having seen Girlpool before, I wasn’t super into it. Girlpool is super fun (I saw them ~a year ago at Slims), but Harmony solo lacked the same energy.

Villian was super cool. Very hip, warehouse-y, BK vibe. Perhaps in danger of being too hip. It’s a great space for music though. The sound was so good for SALES. They have speakers rigged up all over the room–a very good system and sound guy.

SALES was SO good. I was amazed to see they really play with just two guitars and drums. It’s a very stripped down sound that lets Lauren’s insanely stunning voice shine. They played basically all of their music + more. So very cool. Lauren was a very engaging performer and joked around with us. The crowd was also super into it and after SALES played their last song you could just feel that no one had had enough so they just jammed super hard. So lovely.

Concert Review: Pity Sex, Eskimeaux, T-Rextasy

I saw Pity Sex, Eskimeaux and T-Rextasy on October 3rd at Market Hotel in Bedstuy.

Market Hotel is a great place to see music. The people are super friendly, and it has cool lighting and fun vibes. Also there’s a big window behind the stage where you can see the subway pass which is so sick. Unfortunately Market Hotel is currently experiencing some permit issues with the NYPD. The owners of the venue maintain a non-profit status because they host a variety of community events and activities. This status is currently being challenged unfairly. It’s an awesome place and the NYPD is really going after them for no reason. It’s hi-key not cool and brings me back to when SUB/mission was experiencing bullshit with the SFPD (for my SF friends SUB/mission was a space on Mission btwn 18th and 17th). Also Honey Hive out in the Sunset has experienced so much bullshit which sucks. It’s just so shitty when a cool small venue has to close because it can’t afford to function the way a large more established venue does. There needs to be places for small bands to play in big cities (even expensive cities like New York or San Francisco). Sometimes it feels like all the smaller-than-Bottom of the Hill spaces in SF are closing, and it makes me so incredibly sad.

Back to the show. It was awesome. T-Rextasy gave an extremely energetic and fun performance. I was only slightly familiar with their music prior to the show and had a lot of fun. The front-woman had insane Bowie-esque dance moves and was super engaging. The music was upbeat and fun and the lyrics were often extremely amusing. There was even one song just about boys who take gap years and then won’t stop talking about it.

Eskimeaux was likely my favorite part of the night. I’d seen them before with Pity Sex at Bottom of the Hill back home in San Francisco. They were wonderful then and sound even better now. Gabby’s voice is so hauntingly beautiful and her band compliments it well. She’s also one of those performers who are able to bring the audience in and make the show experience feel personal. This isn’t easy to do even at a small venue like Market Hotel. During Broken Necks (one of my favorites) she had the audience sing the refrain. This personal style of performance compliments Gabby’s emotional and poetic lyrics. It was really really wonderful.

Okay so it’s partially my fault that I didn’t totally enjoy Pity Sex’s set. I suppose I haven’t been paying close enough attention to the Emo News because I totally didn’t realize Britty Drake left the band. This is dumb of me because I’ve listened to White Hot Moon (didn’t like it as much as PS’s first two albums), and I should have realized there weren’t female vocals on it. I’ve seen Pity Sex twice before in my life both times at Bottom of the Hill (my favorite place on earth and where I spend all my time if you haven’t noticed). Both times Britty was there (obviously), and it was such an awesome show. Without Britty they simply aren’t Pity Sex. It was okayyy…they played When You’re Around which was dope, but I was a little disappointed with their set. I don’t think they should be recording/touring as Pity Sex without Britty.

Even though Pity Sex was lame I left extremely happy and had FUN. Thank you Market Hotel!! Sending luck/love and hoping the shitty situation gets resolved quickly and painlessly.

Concert Review: The Growlers

I saw the Growlers at Webster Hall two Fridays ago. It was a great show. So surfy so groovy. They played essentially everything I wanted to hear except for Love Test, but that’s okay. You can’t have it all. The show was a real party, dancing, smoking, drinking etc. Different vibe and crowd than I’m used to at my weird punk rock emo shows.

Webster Hall is really just okay–too big but not bad at all.

It was also their album release show so they played some new stuff which was super cool.

^Can you really consider this a review? Probably not but listen to some Growlers!

Schmilco Review

First of all the name. Wilco gets some credit for the amusing self-deprecation. The name was likely intended to lighten the mood of the album. Tweedy’s lyrics are emotional and personal, more so than any recent Wilco and maybe ever. Consider these lines from the first song on the album “Normal American Kids:”Oh, all of my spirit leaked like a cut / I knew what I needed would never be enough / I was too high to change my bid / Always afraid to be a normal american kid.” Themes of childhood, growing up, and trying to be happy are present lyrically throughout the album. In this way the album feels quite introspective and honest.

Musically, I found the album a bit boring. Largely acoustic, the songs all sound pretty similar. I didn’t find it as artistically interesting as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (an aside: YHF is one of the 20ish CDs I keep in my car which only plays CDs, so I listen to it and love it a lot.) Schmilco is super mellow and great easy listening but lacks enough musical variation to really capture the listener’s attention. Locator (9th song on the record) gets kinda noisy towards the end which lends a bit of interest.

Regardless of my quibbles the album is worth listening to if not at least for the title. He makes fun of “We Are the World” in track 11, “We Aren’t the World (Safety Girl)” which made me laugh a little. With songs like that, the album title, and the amusing album art we can’t really be sure how serious Wilco is taking themselves right now which I kinda like. But also the lyrics are sometimes quite serious so I’m not sure what to make of everything.

Okay this is a pretty mediocre review, but I have to write a paper.