Where: Middle East Downstairs (Cambridge, MA) When: November 22, 2013 Highlight: Hungry MC returns to mixtape form.
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Taking a brief pause between songs, Lloyd Banks boldly challenged the sold-out crowd to prove that they’d been loyal to Banko for the past decade. To punctuate his point, Banks requested all the lights turned up so he could see who claimed true love for the Punch Line King. Given the line-for-line recitation on his unreleased gem “Fly Like the Wind,” this was a room full of believers.
Recently, Banks has given good reason to hope, delivering a strong DJ Drama produced mixtape (Failure’s No Option) on Halloween. It has a more sparse sound than on previous Banks albums, and it plays to his strength as a live MC. The deeper tone matches how Banks delivered his bars on stage, showcased on the new track “Drop A Diamond.” And previously smooth album cuts, like “Any Girl,” were deconstructed as Banks sprayed the crowd with bottled water for a frenetic ”go shorty, go shorty, go!” chorus.
Sweat dripping from his face, Banks stated that since he had exceeded his contractual set time; the past 15 minutes were a gift. But the MC also wanted to provide some public service announcements, urging us to “cut that molly out; it’s crack,” and “use condoms; seriously, use condoms.” It was a genuinely compassionate moment, one that was followed up by Banks taking out his cell phone and pulling up a photo for the front row: cover art for Cold Corner 3, which he claimed could be released in two weeks.
Grinding and grinning the whole night, Lloyd Banks proved why Kanye once tweeted, “[he’s] the most underrated MC in the game.”
Seattleites love to say that their city is the hometown of Jimi Hendrix. They usually neglect to mention that nearly all of the guitarslinger’s musical development took place outside the Northwest. Hendrix left Seattle as a young man to join the military and drew musical inspiration from Southeast’s chitlin circuit (where he toured and honed his craft), in New York (where he discovered LSD) and in London (where he formed The Experience).
After living in Seattle for a year I had already tired of Seattle’s overzealous efforts to lay claim to the rock god. I couldn’t believe that that any part of the spirit of Jimi Hendrix would choose to reside here. Seeing Thundercat at Barboza in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood made me realize I was wrong.
Just a few blocks away from the Hendrix statue on Broadway, a diverse group of young fans packed the subterranean club, their bodies dampening (somewhat) the thump of the overpowered subwoofers. Barboza is one of the many smaller venues around the nation that Thundercat will play on this tour, supported only by bass and keys. It’s not easy to get a Sunday night club show to sell out in advance, but Thundercat did, signaling that this tour could be the last of its kind for an artist whose been collecting endorsements from musicians and tastemakers for some time now.
From the minute he stepped on stage, there was no doubt that Thundercat was channeling Hendrix. Wielding a semi-hollow, 6-string Ibanez that looks like a gigantic Les Paul, the bass wizard led the crowd on a seductive, psychedelic journey that would have impressed Jimi himself. His virtuosic solos, innovative bass techniques, and visceral compositions are a potent combination. This is rock and roll for the ecstasy generation.
Thundercat, like Hendrix, has paid his dues and developed his unique style through years of work as a sideman. His career has seen him work with a diverse group of artists from Suicidal Tendencies to Erykah Badu. It was Badu who christened then Stephen Bruner with his stage name, and Thundercat’s penchant for bold costumes bears a clear resemblance to the neo-soul queen’s on-stage style.
Also like Jimi, Thundercat makes no bones about his sources of inspiration. If “Purple Haze” was a celebration of marijuana, Thundercat’s “DMT,” (Off Flying Lotus’ Until The Quiet Comes) is a reverent ode to the hallucinogen. But why stop there? Thundercat has adventurous tastes. The single off his latest release “Oh Sheit It’s X,” is also an account of a great experience with an illicit substance with a syncopated groove so infectious it might even give abstinent listeners a taste of what they’re missing. When he performed these songs at Barboza, while the audience sung along, it was clear they were fan favorites.
On stage, Thundercat fills the roles of lead bass, lead guitar, and lead singer. He was also well supported, flanked by his two brothers on drums and keys. The trio grooved naturally like family should and it was charming to see Thundercat give extra attention to his younger brother, who channeled admirably the spirit of deceased Thundercat collaborator Austin Peralta.
History doesn’t repeat itself, but themes do emerge. Cutting edge six-string technique and mind expansion are a potent pair both for the artists and audiences, whether you’re in the 1960s or the new millennium. But the best way to learn about history is to watch it being made. If Thundercat hasn’t already hit your city on this tour, be sure to go down to your local club. The next time you get a chance to see him, it might have to be from a balcony seat.
Norway’s Kvelertak Put Cambridge In A Stranglehold
Boston’s own Doomriders stomped through an opening set that sounded something like the Foo Fighters’ heavier moments beefed up with a 100cc injection of equal parts Thin Lizzy and Clutch. Norwegian black-punk sextet Kvelertak (meaning “stranglehold” or “chokehold”) followed, with vocalist Erlend Hjelvik looking quintessentially Viking, shirtless and bearded, offering himself up to the crowd while wearing a bright-eyed owl for a headpiece.
Kvelertak’s catchy, anthemic and upbeat songs—all sung in the band’s native language—brought smiles to a sea of scowls, a breath of fresh air in the sometimes too-serious world of metal, though certainly didn’t lack in screams, heavy riffs and furious headbanging. Triple guitar attacks can be tricky to pull off in a live situation, but guitarists Vidar, Bjarte and Maciek deftly traded leads and harmonies without a single note being lost in the mix. A testament to their sound man, for sure, and their crew in general; when Bjarte (who plays uber-aggressively with only his fingers, no pick) broke a string, his tech had the string replaced and stretched, the guitar ready for more punishment before the next song ended.
Oakland’s High On Fire wrapped up the evening with a crushing twelve-song set. Guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike was in fine form, smiling—sober—as he wailed on his Les Paul, alternating between precise and chaotic, even after losing a shoe or while aimlessly noodling away as drummer Des Kensel swapped out a busted snare. But it was Kvelertak that stole the evening, owl or no owl.
When: July 12, 2013 Where: Hotel Utah – San Francisco, CA
Gotaway Girl played an amazing set at SF’s Hotel Utah (7/12/2013). A sexy trio of ladies (with a solid trio of gentleman backing) rocked their hearts out with smooth harmonies, sexy tempos, cowboy boots, a pinch of emo, and soulful belts that were as loud as their outfits. I say that in a great way! The name Gotaway Girl is an obvious choice once you gander at the stage and think of those that got away, but these ladies are strong and they bring the music.
Their lyrical songwriting has a way of specifically connecting to every individual in the room, whether you were in the mood or not. It certainly grabbed me in an unexpected way. I guess we are drawn to the music that moves us and this moved me. This American folk rock group carries emotional music to motivate all people, especially women, which is especially evident in their mission as boasted by front lady Jocelyn Kay Levy: “To use music to heal and inspire women to be the powerful force that they are!”
Following their act was a band called Leftover Cuties. A classic sound, with all the antique flair: stand up bass, piano, ukulele, plus a lead singer who has a reincarnate voice of Judy Garland, with a modern twist. It is a sound that you can’t help but fall in love with. They are able to deliver something that is very comforting, like being taken back to a home you never knew, and they hold your hand with confidence throughout the whole experience. There is an effortless sexiness in their fluid style and movement.
Say Anything frontman Max Bemis is quite the gleeful nihilist. One minute, he stomps and howls all over tracks–dismantling any cohesion with howling ire and brutal honesty. While their sound has evolved both lyrically and musically, Bemis’ onstage persona is still that of the snot-nosed punk that riled up listeners on ‘Is A Real Boy,’ Say Anything’s debut album. And to a sold out Boston crowd, SA gave their all as they passionately performed older songs from their catalogue. Kicking things off with “Colorblind,” things turned sweaty quickly as audience members were desperately pushing their way to the front while simultaneously screaming out lyrics. “The Futile,” “Died a Jew,” “Every Man Has a Molly,” and “All My Friends” were met with the kind of energy that most musicians only dream of. The crowd surfing that quickly ensued was both natural and inevitable: you either go big or go home at a Say Anything concert.
“Alive With The Glory of Love,” like almost every other song of the evening, made for a great sing along moment. While the night arguably climaxed with that particular song, that didn’t stop Bemis for having the courage to dust off “A Boston Peace.” Although he admitted that he has never done the song live, his solo effort was admirable. Shortly after, we wound down with “A Walk Through Hell” before everyone started shuffling out of the venue. As we made our exhausting exit, the feeling in the air was a unanimous one: there’s a snot-nosed punk in all of us.
The grandiosity of The Features’ latest album lies deeply in their sophistication – and the melodic blending of a classic rock sound with scrappy, indie garage vocals. The members possessed a demeanor that could be best described as laid back. Whether it was working the merch table or haplessly setting up their equipment, The Features handled the challenge of lighting up Cambridge onlookers on a slow Sunday evening with grace. They kicked things off with “Golden Comb,” off of 2011’s Wilderness. Of course, newer tunes like “With Every Beat,” and latest single “This Disorder” were scattered throughout the evening. While the crowd was low in numbers, that didn’t stop them from belting out the favorites they were dying to hear – and they were the sole reason why “Blow It Out” from 2005’s Exhibit A was dug up from their archives. Packed house or not, it was clear The Features simply enjoy what they were born to do: deliver amazing music.
If there is a renaissance of ‘60s-style garage rock bands happening in Portland right now, the Slutty Hearts are the sexiest. On stage this Wednesday night, a big heart lit up with pink lights on the bass drum head blinked behind the petite, bleach blonde vocalist, Marisa Laurelle. She is, like their music, both sassy and sweet. The 4-piece opened coolly with “Get You Back,” followed by the more seductive “Killer,” which Marisa introduced by saying, “This next one is about murder.” Their music is gritty and upbeat, danceable and dark. There is a hint of cabaret or strip tease in their lo-fi, organ sound, but with the sweet vocal-style of indie pop. Continue reading →
The self-proclaimed AntiChrist finally returned to Boston this past Saturday night and was greeted by a nearly sold-out crowd with emphatic screams and open arms. Seeing Marilyn Manson live was not just another night at House of Blues – it was a chance to pay homage to a career that has spanned two decades and is responsible for some of the most thought-provoking music ever produced. Granted, the man is now in his early 40s, so while some expected an over-the-top extravagant affair to cap off their evening, common sense would dictate a more controlled performance and environment. But not without some theatrics, of course. Continue reading →
Howie Day has gone above and beyond the call of duty of your typical singer/songwriter. He forfeited the expected lo-fi bedroom practice antics for more polished and skylicking melodies. He might never escape the colossal magnitude of 2003′s “Collide,” off of his tumulteous sophomore record Stop All The World Now. But Day’s sophistication rests in not only his effortless charm, but his ability to tell vivid stories in complex (and heartbreaking) shades.
Selecting French Camp’s Owen Beverly as his lone opener spoke volumes. Beverly’s sweetness and deadpan humor was the perfect way to start off the evening. But without the power of a full backing band, Beverly was a little hard to follow.
Day didn’t have this dilemma as he stormed the stage with guns blazing. Of course he played tracks from his 2011 EP entitled Ceasefire, but fans were way more interested in hearing the mournful yelps from his material from over a decade ago. “Ghost,” with its gorgeous live minimalism, was just the tip of the iceberg. “She Says,” as well as “Sunday Morning Song,” “Brace Yourself,” and “Perfect Time of Day” were what onlookers feasted on the most. While “Collide” was not the last song in the lineup, it certainly made for the most audible sing-along moment. Day’s show, like all of the albums he’s produced, was sprawling, sheer fun–with speckles of spangled gloom thrown in for good measure.
Great Scott in Allston isn’t exactly the most ideal venue for live shows. The sound can be shoddy, the space itself is small, and because it’s so dark, taking pictures can be a daunting task. However, The Twilight Sad only seemed to flourish in this all too familiar atmosphere. The Scotland natives were vocal about their love for Boston as they took the stage to a surprisingly full audience for a Tuesday night. Their latest album, No One Can Ever Know, dramatically showcases frontman James Graham’s solemn voice. The polarizing highs and lows of Know also give insight to Graham’s unforgettable stage presence. Continue reading →