The Misfits came back to NYC to make up for their annual Halloween spectacle that had to be rescheduled because of hurricane Sandy, demonically determined to rock our damned souls in the process. The band, which is now only comprised of founding bassist Jerry Only, who now takes the lead vocal spot, and former Black Flag guitarist Dez Cadena with drummer Eric “Chupacabra” Arce, whom have been playing with the Misfits for over 10 years. Founding lead singer Glenn Danzig now hates his early works and Jerry, although he too has played some Misfits-centric dates with early axeman Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein recently. Still, this power trio Misfits cranked out an earnest hard-rocking set at the
Nada Surf made a triumphant NYC homecoming, back after an extensive tour to support one of my favorite albums of the year, The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy, with a pair of back-to-back sold out shows at one of the Big Apple’s finest small venues, The Bowery Ballroom. Eternal Summers opened up the first night, and the trio made up a punky brew of dreamy rock, with the adorable guitarist Nicole Yun taking most of the vocal leads, in between her blistering solos, the vigorous off-time drummer Daniel Cundiff took a couple impressive lead singer turns, all the while Jonathan Woods kept the power backbeat thumping, and they were even joined by Nada’s resident lead guitar man Doug Gillard for the last couple power jams. Obviously, I have had a resurgence of respect and admiration for Nada Surf since they dropped this new album, which displays a new lyrical and musical maturity within a theme of getting older and looking backwards to see forwards in life, despite them being still best known for songs like “Popular” in the late 90’s, that all but defined youth and high school life, albeit very sarcastically. Most of the trio no longer live in NYC, which made the show even more forlorn to great days gone by, lead singer Matthew Caws, who lives in England now, still has that big mop of hair, although it’s a bit more grey than blonde now, Daniel Lorca still plays amazingly deep and playful bass, even though he looks more like an older dock worker at a pot factory with some of the thickest and longest dreads you’ve ever seen, and Ira Elliot continually kicks in some of the more complex drums lines found in popular music. The night’s emotional evolution started with a couple of the finest from Stars “Clear Eye Clouded Mind” and “Waiting For Something,” which gave you the clear direction, “Do It Again” from 05’s The Weight Is A Gift that got the blood pumping in youthful abandon with that playful bass line alone, and it was “Weightless” from my previous favorite Nada album Lucky that sent my head into a tizzy. “Hyperspace” served as the hammer of all great riffgasms and was one of the many unexpected tracks of the night, as was the gorgeously dark sway of “Killian’s Red,” the shimmering of “Paper Boats,” as “No Snow on the Mountain” made a great way to tackle the subject of the recent NYC floods, and “The Way You Wear Your Head” kicked in the sweaty home stretch. In a hefty encore, they brought out some true greats, including the first time I had ever seen them play “Popular” and one of the rip-roaring finale songs ever made called “Blankest Year,” where Matthew gets the whole to scream “FUCK IT! We’re gonna have a PARTY!” over and over again until everyone is totally spent. As an extra wonderful nightcap to the show, Matthew appeared on the downstairs steps to play a few songs acoustic, including one of my favorites “Blizzard Of ’77,” but he finally had to end it, for as he said, “Bye! I’ve got to go, my mother is waiting for me, and it’s been forever since she got to send time with me…” It made for a perfect way to end a night of Nada worship, in total ethereal rapture.
I started the day getting to the gigantic avant-garde Gothic Theater in Englewood, located just south of Denver, way early for a show that I knew would be a very special occasion for the Mile-High scene. The iconic late-90’s Denver-based Indie Rock outfit Dressy Bessy was making a return to the scene, after many years of dormancy, to form an epic party with their hometown fans. They were an essential part of the Mile-High city’s music boom of the late 90’s that I just began to enjoy before leaving my job at Wax Trax and moving out East to go back to school. After working their way up through the EP and singles world, their first full-length release Pink Hearts, Yellow Moons (1999) became a celebration of Beat Group pulsations, super-catchy songs, and bursts of rocking pandemonium. That sound matured through the next few years with the California EP (2000), Sound Go Round (2002), and 2003’s self-titled Dressy Bessy, which incorporated a much harder punk sound. After switching drummers, they recorded their catchiest album to date, Electrified in 2005, which featured a shift in sonics to a hook-driven ultra-addictive sound closer to that of girl-band greats like Luscious Jackson, The Breeders, and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The change worked and they were propelled to heavy airwave play although the following Holler and Stomp in 2008 didn’t seem to get much play. Now, Dressy Bessy has gotten back to the essentials of party Power Rock with an bodaciously awe-inspiring new single “Hey, Alice!,” and the promise of more to come with a Summer Singles series.
Pat Grossi put out an album last year called You Are All I See under his alter ego of Active Child and it grabbed my attention right away, as his supremely high vocal octaves and inventive beats were hard to miss. The Los Angeles electronica artist made quite a splash with this critically acclaimed full-length debut, and spent much of the last couple of years as a supporting act, touring with the likes of School of Seven Bells and M83, but this he is the headlining act now with and strong assortment of openers as he popped by Denver’s best little stage called Larimer Lounge to class things up in a classically heavenly way.
As a pre-pubescent teenager, the classic double album by Pink Floyd called The Wall was the third cassette I ever bought (the first two were The Repo Man Soundtrack and Led Zeppelin’s ZOSO). I vividly recall listening to it for the first time walking to track practice, and listening to its frank passionate emotion made me suddenly break down crying. The sincere tears of empathy and sadness streamed from my eyes as the tunes wafted from my Walkman, and I knew, for the first time, the intense emotional power that music contained. From that day, I set down that path to embrace all music and art for just for a taste of that zealous embrace of expressive ecstasy. As I got older, I began to realize the bigger metaphor behind the album. Apart from the raw deep emotion contained within, it is an illustration of how the mind protects itself after years of damaging experiences and can build a largely subconscious wall to shield itself from further harm. After to many cruel characters and unhappy incidents, you can become isolated behind a wall of these protective barriers. There are also greater analogies to this wall, like the intolerant blockades that lead to war and violence and even the fortification that forms with fame that separates you with the audience that you try to connect with. It leads you to conclusion that to live and connect in the wider civilized world, you must tear down that fortification and risk further harm. This amazingly deep observation of the human condition was told musically through the eyes and the life of one man by the name of Roger Waters.
Portugal. The Man has for years made a name for themselves by playing small venues and working tirelessly on minor labels to arise from a small band from Alaska to a prominently hip and premiere Portland rock band. Their move to the big time is now seemingly complete, as they have now signed with Atlantic Records and are playing bigger locations like the Ogden Theatre for their show in Denver last Wednesday and having big-time sponsors like this tour’s benefactors Jägermeister, whose logo was plastered and projected all across the venue. The crowd has also grown with locales and labels as the house was packed and the floor was full of hot-looking young girls and hipster dudes. Still, newfound success has not been easy for Portugal. The Man, as just last month the group lost two members after longtime keyboardist Ryan Neighbors left to pursue a side projects and their touring drummer quit (or was fired, depending on who you believe) in the middle of a recent gig, and yet the band has carried on. For this tour keyboardist Kyle O’Quin and drummer Kane Ritchotte have joined on, although both were almost hidden behind the branched trees of big-bulbed lights branching high above and across the stage and strung into to the rafters. In whatever form, this band have always been tireless workers and produced at least one album every year and have toured almost continuously, as they are now in support of their new album In the Mountain, In the Cloud.
Iconic classic progressive rock composer Roger Waters is bringing one of the biggest rock n’ roll shows of all time to The Pepsi Center in Denver this Monday to play a show that no one should miss! This is a reproduction of the classic 1979 Pink Floyd album The Wall, and, in particular, an updated reproduction of the original monumental 31 live shows that the Floyd staged in 1980 and 1981 in support of the album. You may have seen big rock stage shows before, as maybe you have seen U2 or the Rolling Stones pull off an stunning stage show, but take it from me, until you’ve seen a Pink Floyd show, you have not seen a real epic show of this proportion. You see, this is a spectacle of not only amazing visuals, but also one emerced in concept, both in form and physicality. It is not an illustration of a literal wall, like The Great Wall Of China, The Wailing Wall, or The Berlin Wall, but a metaphorical one, the kind that the mind builds up to protect oneself from being hurt after repeated damage through wounding events and treatment, but also one that can cause cyclical destruction by excessively isolating oneself after repeated trauma. This album (and show) tells the story of one such broken soul, as Roger Waters narrates his own story of isolation and madness.
School Of Seven Bells cast their ethereal celestial spell again, and as another contender for best album of the year in my book with their new concept album called Ghostory, and they came to play hard in Denver at the fun-filled tiny club called Larimer Lounge in the art gallery badland of the north. This gloomy shoegazey Brooklyn duo has been spreading their sonically heavy sound since around 2007, then being a trio, when guitarist and synth-man Ben Curtis (of Secret Machines) met identical twin sister harmonists Alejandra and Claudia Deheza (of On!Air!Library!) while opening for Interpol on their debut breakthrough tour. Together, their sound all but defined the brand new genre of shoegaze, although it turns out that sound was more familiar than you think, like spending the night listening to the harmonic soundscapes of melancholy that was Cocteau Twins catalogue and chasing it with strong shot of the darker realms of the 80’s alt-new wave with My Bloody Valentine and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Still, when I first heard their debut album Alpinisms in 2008, I was blown away by the intricate combination of the warble of Indian-tinged harmonies, lush soundscapes, angelic synchronizations, and otherworldly beats. I managed to see them back in those early days in NYC, but upon the release of their second album, the far more alt-pop heavy Disconnect from Desire in 2010, they announced that keyboardist and harmony vocalist Claudia Deheza was leaving due to personal reasons (although, it was rumored it had something to do with either a hard-partying lifestyle or her wanting to be closer to her child, depending on who you believe). Since then, I’ve seen the now-duo play in many different formations, just Alejandra and Ben with a drummer (and Ben playing and singing almost everything simultaneously), then with a soundman/keyboardist on stage, then a bassist and keyboardist most recently, but none of which sounded quite right harmonically without the twin sis dynamic, no matter how amusing it was to hear how many sounds Ben could play at once. Now that they are back to a proper quartet, Alejandra centering on lead vocals and the occasional bass, Ben now able to spend more quality time with his axe (although still clearing time to make sweet love to his vast array of complex pedals), AND a female keyboardist/vocalist, AND drummer. This was a sound that was far more familiar in its ethereal serenity. THIS was the kind of SoSBs I wanted to hear.
The raw rockin’ Jersey trio Screaming Females played in Denver last Sunday, under the threatening clouds of stormy weather, to an extremely small crowd, even for the relatively tiny bar setup of Marquis Theater. From the beginning, I could tell this would be a meek showing for such an incredible force of nature, as they would pack much larger venues in places like NYC, where I have been fortunate to catch them a few times in the past. Still, playing to smaller enthusiastic crowds is nothing new for this group, who infamously built up their following playing tiny New Brunswick basements years before landing on a huge sleeper hit album Castle Talk in 2010. They have just released a new album Ugly, which is already one of my fav releases of the year and has finally come along with some bigger industry hype.
The NYC-based band Cults brought their brand of moody and brooding rock to Denver on Thursday and awed fans with a singalong-heavy set enhanced by colorful-yet-shadily exquisite visuals and a pristinely angelic sound mix. This was my third show of the week at east Denver’s historic movie theater turned music venue and smallest little big stage The Bluebird Theater, and by this point, it was seeming not unlike my own personal play den, but this was clearly the winner of the three performances. The last time I saw Cults was at a show called the Vans House Party in a small Brooklyn, NY warehouse with virtually no stage show and sandwiched between largely punk and noise bands. This was my first chance to catch them in their own cultivated environment, and it was sure to be a whole other experience altogether.