The expectations I had for my first Ladyhawke show might have been a bit grandiose, but judging from her latest album Anxiety, they were wholly justifiable – but wrong. The ‘don’t-take-shit-from-nobody,’ in-your-face dancehall diva I concocted in my head was fun, but a far cry from the punkier and more subdued performer who commanded the stage. In front of an intimate crowd of about 90 at Brighton Music Hall (it was a Wednesday, after all), the New Zealand native was all nervous smiles as she opened her set with a song off of her self-titled debut album called “Back of the Van.” Continue reading
Seeing The War on Drugs live for a second time was way more gratifying than my first time around. Granted, I did get a one-on-one interview with lead singer Adam Granduciel moments before their headlining show at Brighton Music Hall last year. However, audience members were scarce and those who were present didn’t exude the enthusiasm I highly anticipated.
But at their recent Middle East show, they played to an almost sold out crowd. Granduciel graciously dedicated the show to his parents, who were in the audience because they are in fact Boston natives. Opening with the pulsating lead single off of Slave Ambient (“Baby Missiles”), it was clear that The War On Drugs had every intention of crowd-pleasing while effortlessly displaying stoic musicianship. Blazing through tracks like “Comin’ Through,” “Brothers,” “It’s Your Destiny,” and my personal favorite “Taking the Farm,” the crowd jovially danced and sang along as they proved to be a refreshing variation of all ages. The War On Drugs possess a live energy that went from pure excitement to soothing calmness–a dynamic that will ensure an even larger crowd the next time they come to town.
Where: Brighton Music Hall – Allston, MA
When: July 28, 2011
I had the pleasure of interviewing these British boys right before they came to Boston, and they couldn’t be more excited about impressing American audiences. Guitarist Sam Jackson was glib during our talk, but his anxiousness regarding Viva Brother’s US tour was more than palpable—it was adorable. A few hours before taking the stage at Brighton Music Hall, they played an acoustic show with another wildly successful British band—The Kooks. This only added to audience anticipation to see how VB translated live, sans acoustics. And needless to say, they did not disappoint.
Despite what press photos and music videos led me to believe, they are not as baby-faced as they seem. They are young, but said youth doesn’t prevent their good looks to shine through. Their thin frames were donning skinny jeans and plaid button downs as they gleefully glided through their catalogue of catchy tunes. As they played selections from their debut album, Famous First Words, they were joined by a backup female vocalist who fearlessly sported an afro and a pair of leather shorts, which just happens to be two of my favorite, favorite things. By the time they got around to “Darling Buds of May,” the crowd seemed to fill out and let loose—or at least I did since I was several drinks in. This turned out to be an all ages show, so it seemed to end right when I thought it was beginning. It didn’t seem to matter if Viva Brother was playing for a few people or a few thousand: they gave it all they had and put on a wonderful show. While they are eager to be well received in America, we should be the eager ones—we have no idea what we are in for.
Leading the pack of buzzbands coming out of South by Southwest, Toro Y Moi has generated a buzz that won’t seem to dissipate. A critically-acclaimed leader of the chillwave movement, the band (founded and fronted by Chaz Bundick) released Causers of This to rave reviews toward the end of 2009, delighting music fans who enjoy Bundick’s alternative take on electronic rhythm and blues.
Just last month, Bundick delivered the follow up to Causers, Underneath the Pine, a decidedly more organic record. While Causers was the result of Budnick’s late-night bedroom recording sessions, Underneath the Pine is more of a full band record, as Bundick opted for live sounds and built the songs from the ground up with the help of other musicians.
After touring for the last year, Bundick and band have honed their musical chops, bringing the ultra-cool dance music of Causers to a place where they’re comfortable mixing up the sounds a bit. Last week, Toro Y Moi took the stage in Boston, playing the Brighton Music Hall on April 9. Playing an hour-long set, the group blasted through their most popular songs such as “Talamak,” “Still Sound” and “Low Shoulder” to the delight of a sold out crowd of almost 350 hipsters, electronic music fiends and casual listeners. It resembled a dance party for people who rarely listen to dance music.
With songs off of Underneath, Toro Y Moi sounds as if they’re still figuring out arrangements and performance subtleties as they criss-cross the United States on their current tour. Underneath the Pine is richer and more expansive than its predecessor. It’s also notably smoother, which is a challenge to bring to life in a small club.
Songs like “New Beat” and “Elise,” while recognizable have been electrified for the live show. Surprisingly loud, the band behind Bundick remains close to the record while leaving marginal room for experimentation. While Bundick’s vocals have never been out in front of the music, live, they slipped back further behind the funky guitars, pounding bass and cornucopia of synth sounds.
A week before the Boston show, Bundick spoke with the Pembroke Mariner about his tour, Underneath the Pine and being apart from loved ones while on the road.
“Most of Underneath the Pine comes from, lyrically, trying to make relationships work when you’re on the road,” he said. “There’s a lot there about being away from home.”
“There was a finer life when I was with my friends/ And I could always see my family/ That’s what I still want now/ Even if I’m here and I know they won’t be waiting/ Cause I don’t want to be alone,” Bundick sings on “Still Sound.”
Like many of his songs, “Still Sound’ shows that Bundick wears his lyrical heart on his sleeve.
Musically, he said, most of his songs come from messing around with different sounds and finding his way as he progresses.
“The first (Causers of This) was a mostly electronic record I made on my laptop,” he said. “When it came to this one (Underneath the Pine) I wanted to find the best elements from my previous work and expand on that.”
While Causers of This was more ‘funky,’ Bundick says, he wanted Underneath the Pine to have a more live sound to it.
Bundick says he listened to legendary producers like Piero Umiliani and David Axlerod leading up to the recording of Underneath. “I was really inspired by their work and how much work they put into getting a certain sound,” he says. “With the new record a lot of it is working out better live and I think while I was working on the album I tried to keep that in mind, what it would sound like playing out.”
Although most of the songs on both of Toro Y Moi’s albums centers on the feeling of missing someone, Bundick says he loves touring the most.
“I just love the thought of making the trip, crossing the country to bring our music to people,” he says. “It’s amazing that I get to do this as a job.”
“Although it’s hard to be away from home I appreciate the position I’m in. Sometimes you just have to deal with being away from the people you love.”
Brighton Music Hall // Allston, MA // February 12
Minnesotan Mason Jennings released his first album to critical acclaim in 1997. He has put out nine more since, including a live recording released last year. There is something about the honesty in his songs, his sense of humor, and the way that he hangs on his words that sets him apart in the world of singer/songwriters.
Considering his history, it was surprising to see him looking vulnerable during a recent solo show at Brighton Music Hall. It took Jennings three tries and some help from the audience before he completed his second song “Your New Man.” However, the mistake was more endearing than embarrassing and he recovered quickly. After the incident, Jennings seemed especially pleased with the atmosphere, smiling wide throughout the show – as if he was realizing he had fans for the first time.
After a few songs, band mate Jake Hansen joined Jennings on electric guitar, and the two ripped through another 18 songs from Jennings’ extensive catalog. They pulled from almost every record, including half of the first, self-titled album. “Dakota” was the only song from Jennings’ most recent record, The Flood (Stats and Brackets), which made it into the show. Jennings explained that the new album is actually a collection of old songs, some of which he had completely forgotten about until an old friend called and apologized for wrecking a cassette tape of them.
Other show highlights included an especially emotional rendition of “Sunlight” and the Johnny Cash-esque “Simple Life” merged with Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene.” Having recently played a Neil Young tribute show at Carnegie Hall, the duo also covered Young’s “Red Sun.” True to his style, Jennings ended the show with a tearjerker, “Ballad for My One True Love,” and two sing-a-longs, “California, Pt.2” and “Keepin’ It Real.”