Now Playing Tracks

Cibo Matto spreads a smooth jam in Brooklyn

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The 1990’s quintessential rapping-Asian-girl-rocker group Cibo Matto finished up their first tour in over 15 years, celebrating their new LP Hotel Valentine, and came back to their Big Apple hometown for a packed tour closer at Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl on Saturday night. To many back in the mid-90’s, Cibo may have seemed like a humorous put-on: a pair of Japanese girls from NYC who rapped and rocked obsessively about food (like on their whole first album Viva! La Woman)? Who wouldn’t think that was some kind of a joke? That was, until you actually heard them. Even from their first, frontwoman Yuka Honda and multi-instrumentalist Miho Hatori brilliantly blended such a tasty smorgasbord of flavors and ingredients that your mouth couldn’t help but water. Every genre from salty rap and trip hop, to zesty indie rock and pop, spicy bossa nova and jazz fusion, and even the expansively sweet deserts of ambient and theme-atrics was combined with a real smooth taste and talent on par with contemporaries like Massive Attack and Thievery Corporation. The following release showed them expanding and teaming up with the likes of Sean Lennon (who was clearly in attendance this night, as he could easily be recognized back stage wearing a huge red cowboy hat, but he sadly did not jump on stage, as he had last time they played BBowl a couple years ago), Timo Ellis (of Spacehog and Joan as Police Woman), and World-rapper Duma Love; and also making high-profile appearances with the likes of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, David Byrne, Beastie Boys, Yoko Ono, and Gorillaz, but still they ended up sadly breaking up in 2002. It was a long wait, but it appears that a pair of benefit concerts for victims of the 2011 Tōhoku tsunami they organized propelled them into the new zones they were looking for, and after some touring and collabs, they have marked their return with a stunning new album, aptly released on this past Valentine’s Day, and playing this very show (also very fittingly) on International Women’s Day. 

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Drenge and Heliotropes melt faces at Glasslands

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The hard rockin’ British brother duo of Drenge came to NYC for the first time last week, making their live debut at Manhattan’s Mercury Lounge on Friday, but appearing the next night, on a chilly Saturday, playing right across the East River at the Glasslands Lounge in Brooklyn. This early show for the venue proved to be a full-on face-melting experience and made clear why these two have made so much noise across the pond in the past couple years.

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Versus headed up Philippines Benefit at Shea BK

On a chilly & wet night last Saturday, in the warehouse district of East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the stage had been set for a truly epic show entitled the Benefit for the Philippines, at the intimate upstairs clandestine venue called Shea Stadium BK. It was a fundraiser for the relief efforts in the Philippines, aiding the victims of the horrific Typhoon Haiyan that stuck last year. It was, by any standards, a huge success, raising over $1500 for the American Red Cross Typhoon Relief Effort, and sported a huge helping of local musical star power for a long night of heavy rocking and jubilant fun. All the bands playing through the night had a direct link to the Pilipino community, and that turns out to include many of my favorite local bands.

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Reggie Watts kills it at Irving Plaza

Reggie Watts, Irving Plaza, NYC 12/11/13

Reggie Watts brought his absurdist humor, stream of consciousness, improvised standup to Irving Plaza in NYC for a sold out show and truly had the packed house in stitches. It should be said, this is the first show I’ve witnessed at Irving that had numbered seating all along its main floor, with no photo pit, and standing room all along the back of both the floor and the balcony. However, one can never call a Reggie Watts show typical, and this was a different kind of show for sure, and most who had seen the comedian/musician do his act before knew it was best to be sitting or run the risk of falling on the floor laughing.

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Phantogram shake shakes a sold out NYC show

Phantogram, Terminal 5, NYC 12/4/13

As singer/keyboardist Sarah Barthel and guitarist/vocalist Josh Carter, the experimental/electronic/indie pop duo who call themselves Phantogram, triumphantly returned to NY with a sold out show at Manhattan’s huge warehouse venue Terminal 5 on Wednesday, it became clear how big of a deal they had become in just a few short years. As Sarah said during their set, “Oh my god, our 1st show was at Union Hall, playing for like 5 people, and this is like, WOW!” This is totally true, as even only a couple years ago they would have never packed in a crowd this huge, but after opening for numerous acts over the last few years like The Antlers, Beach House, Metric, The xx, Ra Ra Riot, School of Seven Bells, Yeasayer, Brazilian Girls, Future Islands, and even The Glitch Mob, they have clearly managed to cross over to huge headliner status. Their first LP Eyelid Movies made serious waves back in 2009, but since then we’ve only had a serious of EPs to tide us over, but even their recently released self-titled EP have only succeeded in fanning the flames of their sensation, and now, apparently, they’ve gotten a major label deal and have a new album coming, as Sarah also said during the show, “We’ll have a new album out on Universal coming out next year!” So, evidently, this was to be a show for fans to get a lot of first hearings of new material, as well as jam out to many of their still timelessly white hot hits. 

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Neil Finn’s Dizzy Heights in intimate NYC gig

Neil Finn, Le Poisson Rouge, NYC 11/21/13 

Neil Finn has been an extremely prolific artist over the years and has come to NYC to play a one-off sold out show at one of NYC’s finest small venues called (le) poisson rouge in Manhattan’s West Village in his first show here since a pair of epic Crowded House performances in 2010 and his first solo appearance here since 2002. The adolescent New Zealander Neil started his career back in the late 70’s after joining up with his elder brother Tim Finn’s already well-established prog rock group called Split Enz, but by the early 80’s Neil’s youthful vigor, dynamic writing style, and exuberant charisma had transformed the group into a new wave hit-maker with songs like “I Got You.” After that group’s demise, he formed a more straightforward power-pop trio with Crowded House, whose first self-titled LP in 1986 became a mammoth international success with a number of hits including “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” He continued to expand the group’s sound and line-up through further successes like Temple of Low Men in 1988 and even included his brother Tim on Woodface in 1991. Still, it was 1993’s Together Alone that truly became his swan song for depth of songwriting, angelic sound crafting, and reckoned more hits and fan favorite songs than could be counted. Soon after, the Finn brothers started to work as a duo project and in 1996 Crowded House announced their farewell with a big final show in Sidney. Neil Finn finally started working as a full solo artist with an extremely impressive and more electronically-influenced sound on 1998’s Try Whistling This, followed with an even more successful One Nil in 2001, and after which he soaked up his extensive respect and admiration with a star-studded live album called 7 Worlds Collide. After Crowded House drummer Paul Hester shocked everyone by committed suicide by hanging himself in 2005, Neil and bassist Nick Seymour reformed the House and released a pair of starkly dark yet pristinely produced albums Time on Earth in 2007 and Intriguer in 2010. Still, it has been a long time in waiting for a new Neil solo project, and when his new LP Dizzy Heights was recently announced, it was anyone’s guess how his sound had evolved over the many years since his last one.

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Mazzy Star hypnotized NYC at Terminal 5

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It’s been about 17 years since we’ve last heard the distinctively angelic harmonies and deeply emotional howls of Mazzy Star, the band that took the scene by darkly brooding storm in the 90’s. After the goth priestess singer Hope Sandoval and ominous fuzz psychedelic folk guitarist David Roback merged from LA’s hallucinogenic Paisley Underground bands Rain Parade and Opal to form Mazzy they released three perfectly pristine albums of trippy sadness, despair, melancholy, and heartbreak between 1990 and 1996, which always seemed to make the ideal music to heed to while drifting across a large empty living room on a lonely morning after a bitter breakup, holding a big glass of blood red wine as the cold rain beats down on your window. Still, in 1997, at the peak of their artistic and commercial appeal, they vanished, just as you would imagine the spirits that created such ghostly music would eventually do. 

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Paramore and Metric rocked the pop at MSG

Metric at Madison Square Garden, NYC 11/13/13 

The stunning powerhouse Paramore lead singer Hayley Williams said during their show at Manhattan’s premiere arena-sized venue Madison Square Garden this last Wednesday, “It’s great being back in NYC. There’s certainly a lot more of you here than last time we came here,” that was certainly true, as they managed to almost pack this mega-stadium with fans. I should know personally, as I was at their last show at the Hammerstein Ballroom show earlier this year, and they had only managed to partially pack that much smaller venue. I had actually also seen them play at Hammerstein back in 2009, when they played the even much smaller Grand Ballroom upstairs from there, and it’s been a long time since that year’s Brand New Eyes and now. It really shows how this band has continued to retain its hard-core fan base and even expand it’s fame, with girls and guys abound, from teenagers to middle age to middle-aged rockers, despite lengthy waits between projects and numerous personnel changes in between. For this show they brought a couple of other bands that have hearty followings of their own and both also knew how to get an audience pumped.

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Widowspeak swooned Bowery homecoming

Widowspeak at Bowery Ballroom, NYC 11/8/13 
Brooklyn’s own mood masters Widowspeak played a NYC homecoming last Friday, effectively making it the Big Apple release show for their new EP The Swamps (out now on Captured Tracks). They ended an extensive cross-country headlining tour at The Bowery Ballroom, one of NY’s finest crystal clear sounding and vintage gazing-worthy small venues and brought a couple of deeply moody bands to help set the atmosphere for the night and help make their return a triumphant one.

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Tennis swoons School Night free show in Brooklyn

Tennis at School Night party, Brooklyn Bowl, 11/3/13 It was another classic RSVP-only party thrown down by KCRW’s Chris Douridas and MFG called School Night!; a weekly Sunday night free live concert series at Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl, and it turned out to be a smooth groove all through the night. Early on, Jason Eldredge (KCRW/East Village Radio) spun the new Cut Copy and Tennis albums, after which special guest DJ Jimmy Jamz kicked out some cool retro music to shuffle to as the echoed sound of crashing pins from the bowling alley drifted through the air and copious brands of beer from their expansive bar area flowed freely.

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