Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Live + On Record: Holiday Mountain, Hellbirds, Evolfo, Blue & Gold

Here in this humble corner of the internet universe affectionately known as DaveCromwellWrites, the year 2014 wraps up with this four band feature.   All made significant contributions by way of their inspired recordings and/or live shows.  It was my good fortune to catch the first three bands featured here live at one single show.

November 26 proved to be a worthwhile adventure, trekking out to Pianos for the final night of Holiday Mountain's residency there.

Having only a casual familiarity with their music, their high energy and quirky performance had all the right ingredients to create an instant fan.

The central focus falls clearly on frontperson/vocalist/keyboardist and all around whirling dervish Laura Patino.

Along with their wildly entertaining live show, the band recently released a tripped-out hallucinogenic video for their song "Motion Sickness" off of their full-length album "You Be You."

Utilizing an optical illusion technique called motion aftereffect, the viewer becomes subject to a wild hallucinatory adventure.

Dubbed as the "first video that will make you trip for free," the lime-green dream gets you there without all the messiness of actually having to take any drugs.

Laura explains the concept this way:  "The song is about being torn between desiring something because you authentically want it for yourself, or do you want it because the society around you has given you a reason to think that it means you've accomplished something?" This echoes the underlying theme of the band's album, "You Be You," which PatiƱo explains is about "Being proud of your weirdness." She continues, "I think lots of people probably feel weird in their own ways and we hope to create an environment that makes people feel a connection."

Having showcased the video earlier this month in an [ALL HAIL CROM] feature on Dingus, it's always satisfying to see a public acknowledgement of that.

Check out that Dingus feature here - and link to Holiday Mountain for additional info on where they will be appearing next.

* * * * * 

Earlier that evening, the co-featured act Hellbirds took to the stage in front of an enthusiastic audience.

Standing out in front of their instruments, the members began the show with an acappella version of their opening song.

After that impressive vocal harmonization, the show kicked into gear with full instrumental accompaniment.

Core members Nick, Jasno, Abdon and Caroline present the songs with a familiar clarity

While newest member Niko adds propulsive bass patterns that further enhance the overall live sound .

The band have concluded their updated recording of Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift For You, recently releasing one song a day from December 10th-23rd 2014.

You can listen to previews of the tracks and get the whole album right here

Hellbirds and Holiday Mountain gather for a collective snapshot.

While I jump into the fray for some Hellbirds related moment-in-time capture as well.

Catch the band next at Pianos on January 15

* * * * *

Closing out that particular night was the Boston-to-Brooklyn brass/rock'n'funk ensemble Evolfo

Fusing classic funk  with high-energy dance music, the inclusion of a brass section (sax, trumpet and trombone) gave it all a distinct New Orleans vibe.

While frontman Matthew Gibbs kept things closer to rock with his chunky wah-wah guitar sound.

The whole set was upbeat and sweat-soaked.  The perfect close-out to a great night of live music.

* * * * *
Brooklyn blues-rockers Blue and Gold deliver an impressive first single in advance of their debut album with the track “In My Head.” Combining driving guitars with soulful, bluesy vocals, their sound appeals on a number of levels.

Solid thunderclap drums and precision fuzz bass lock it down while well-placed power chords and rippin’ lead guitar solos point to the era when Leslie West’s Mountain continued to evolve the electrified blues-rock hybrid.

On the second chorus, girl/boy tandem vocals give way to alternating single lines. “Ain’t got no time” becomes the throw-down vocal hook statement, when “I want you” is followed by “why don’t you want me too?”

Earlier this month I wrote about this track and had it featured on The Deli Magazine

Once again, nice to see the band acknowledging it.

Celebrate the release of their album with them when they perform live at Mercury Lounge on January 10.

Onward to 2015!

* * * * *

Friday, December 5, 2014

CMJ 2014 - The BIG Friday + Saturday Shows

Friday, October 24 saw the Croms Musical Journey portion of the conveniently similarly initialed CMJ music fest commence in the early afternoon at NYU's Kimmel Center and the 8th Floor Shorin Studio.

Popping in to their Room 802 Theater, I settled in to catch the Steve Kandell moderated conversations with Merge Records and Superchunk founders Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance.

Like most of these kind of panels, the presentation of information is frequently anecdote driven and nearly always informative.  Click on the "live" links associated with the various names above to delve deeper into their world.

What followed that was something I had targeted as a "must attend" as soon as I became aware of it.

A screening of the film Beautiful Noise

Created to be something of a definitive statement about the genre of music most-often referred to "shoegaze" (though I prefer the tag "dreampop" over it),  The film covers most of the great bands who helped revolutionize that style of music from the late 1980's through it's primary decade of the 1990's, arcing in the early 2000's.

Predominantly interview driven (with some essential performances), it was for the most part extremely faithful to the musical legacy depicted.

With the lion's share centered around three bands (My Bloody Valentine, Jesus and Mary Chain and Cocteau Twins) my viewing experience became enhanced to near surreal proportions, having My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe in the audience watching as well!

The interview segments with Jim Reid were particularly enlightening.

His on screen moments were candid and honest.   Having followed his career since I became aware in the late 1980's, I always come away with one more tidbit of info or revealing emotional feeling each time I hear him talk about his band.

Original JAMC drummer and Primal Scream creator Bobby Gillespie provided additional insight on that bands beginnings.

Then of course there is Creation Records creator, original (and now current again) JAMC manager Alan McGee weighing in with his own take of what went on.  It is at this point in the film that you become aware that it is not all a "love fest" with regards to this genre's history.  The fact that My Bloody Valentine leader Kevin Shields and the above-mentioned Alan McGee still express ill-will towards each other is a sobering reveal of the friction that often walks hand-in-hand with such "beautiful noise."

* * * * *

Having committed earlier in the week to an in-person interview, I had to bolt out of Shorin 802's theater and head on down to The Artists Lounge at The Rivington Hotel.

Viewed from street level a few blocks away, you can spot the penthouse Artists Lounge at the structures uppermost point.

Inside and at that level just observed from the street, the views of New York City are truly breathtaking.

An architectural dreamworld up against a softly clouded blue sky.

I had a fun chat and interview with Brian and Lily from the band PARLOUR TRICKS.

That full review can be found here on Dingus.

Additionally, a feature I wrote about their single "Lovesongs" can be found here on The Deli

* * * * *

After spending a leisurely hour or so in the Artists Lounge quaffing down complimentary Vita Coco Cafe Latte's, I made my way back to street level and headed over to The Studio at Webster Hall.

Arriving in time for the Bird Dog Promo showcase, the first band on was a three piece combo (with really amazing lights) Las Rosas

They had an appealing sound and their lighting created magical effects that you usually don't get on stages of this size.

What brought me to this particular location and time, however was to catch a set from the band Beverly.

Their overall visual presentation also benefited from the above-mentioned lighting rig.

However the real appeal of Beverly are the high quality songs and magnetic presence of creative force Drew Citron.

It's hard not to get swept up into the combination of these sweet sights and sounds.

Without stating the obvious, Drew Citron's overall presence combined with her obvious talent for a song hook and rich vocal structures appeals on all the right levels.

Drew now fronts the band which includes Jamie Ingalls on Drums, Scott Rosenthal on bass, and Caitlin Frame on guitar, synth and the distinctive harmony vocals.

The music Beverly makes stands out from the pack due to the meticulously crafted vocal harmonies.

That combined with dreamy atmospherics and moody lyrical hooks places them firmly in the dreamgaze camp.

The song and video for “Yale’s Life” is something that could only be accomplished in studios (both the sound and image making variety), displaying a true artists creative vision at work.

Drew played the bass for one song too.

There is much to like here.

My recent blog and Full Interview with Beverly can be found via those highlighted links over on The Deli Magazine.

* * * * *

Scurrying out of Webster Hall Studio after their set, I headed back downtown for The Deli Magazine showcase at Pianos.

Arriving at the no-way-was-I-going-to-miss-this scheduled time, I eagerly took in a set from the always mesmerizing Vandana Jain.

I've covered more than a few live shows of Vandana now.

But also over on Dingus

And The Deli Mag too.

Vandana and her band never fail to dazzle with wonderful electronics and passionate vocals.

A rare capture of the sultry one smiling.

A voice that still dominates an electronic mix.

Making music with intelligence, creativity and style.

* * * * *

Up next was the moody, impressionistic pop of Bowmont

While this band also relies heavily on electronic keyboards, the traditional rock instruments of guitars (both electric and acoustic), bass and drums all contribute to their nuances sound design.

An interview I conducted with frontman, singer, lyricist and multi-instrumentalist Emil Bovbjerg can be found here on DaveCromwellWrites , (which also links out to it's original posting on Dingus).

As well as this post-show acknowledgement (and video presentation) here on The Deli Mag site.

Setlists and pedal array make for interesting photos

* * * * *

Hanging out at the various venues throughout New York City during CMJ can provide many wonderful opportunities to meet the creative people currently working in the music scene.

As I sat upstairs in Pianos (hugging the wall as it were, charging my essential communication device - the mobile internet and voice unit - more commonly known  as the 'smart phone') - I had the pleasure of a random hangout and chat with one Andy Savours.

Having the chance opportunity to verbally engage with such a credentialed individual in our music scene (just click on his link there for all the details) was one of those "happy accidents" that occur at an event like this.

* * * * *

Sufficiently recharged (both electrically and intellectually) I made my way down the stairs and back into the main room to catch a set from local rockers Baby Alpaca

Fronted by lead vocalist Chris Kittrell, the bands overall sound has evolved quite a bit since I first became aware of them.

One of the earliest pieces I wrote for The Deli Magazine (way back in June 2010) was on their first single “Vodka Lemonade,” (which can be read via that link right there) as well as two other early tracks.

In addition to his obvious talent and great voice, Chris is a super nice person too!

* * * * *

What followed was something I had been anticipating for a while now.

Much hype has been swirling around the Japanese (though London based) band Bo Ningen

A certain mutual friend in our scene has developed a feverish appreciation for this band, and has been singing their praises to anyone within earshot (which includes yours truly).

I have to confess that their show IS quite spectacular.

A traditional two guitars, bass and drums outfit, their sound is a frantic psych-rock that occasionally steps over into prog-rock territory.

Two members appear to have cultivated an androgynous kabuki style for themselves, with their extremely long flowing hair and floor-length skirt-like garments.

The songs are epic in presentation, following a classic pattern of frantic-to-subdued-to-frantic-once more structures.

Like many modern drummers these days, a combination of acoustic trap kit and electronic trigger pads were employed.

The "star" of the band is clearly bassist/lead vocalist Taigen.  A compelling, magnetic and almost cartoonish figure, at times he'd scrunch up his face until his eyes became those little "x" shapes you see in actual Japanese anime.

The whole band were exceedingly proficient on their instruments, flamboyant showmanship aside.

Guitars are shaken and swung about with reckless abandon.

Taigen ventures out into the audience, much to the delight of those in attendance.

Ninja bassist gives praise to the God of Thunder

Prepare to enter the hall of Tengu

"I waive my magical ha-uchiwa at you all"

Conducting the shoulder-bass symphony.

This magic gun that never misses a shot.

* * * * *

Next up were the increasing-in-popularity Sunflower Bean

Following up the over-the-top anime-like histrionics of the previous band could be a tough act to follow, but if anyone can do it, the Bean can.

Having a youthful, casually cool fashion model-like presence as a key pillar of the band is certainly an asset.  Being able to sing and play bass at an arguably cut-above simply good-enough-for-rock-and-roll level also helps the cause.

The equally dreamy tandem of male counterparts guitar-flash and drum-stache keeps the Sunflower rising at an almost miracle grow rate.

A noticeable evolution in stage presence and confident demeanor was observed.

A solid trio that appear quite comfortable playing with each other.

Apparently guitar frets are better seen with painted fingernails.

Not to be outdone by anyone else, the requisite amount of head-forward hair shaking was employed.

The look of intuitive communication between a well-rehearsed band.

Thumpin' the bass all over the place!

Contemplating one's next move.  It would appear all systems are grow.

* * * * *

Saturday, October 25 emerged (as initially hoped) as the culminating night of the entire festival.

Legendary dreamgaze pioneers Slowdive announced their first tour since they broke up in 1994 earlier this year, and Terminal 5 would be the location for their New York appearance.

Having a CMJ badge granted me access to this glorious event, and there was no way I was going to miss it.

I wasn't sure what to expect going in.  Did they still "have it?"  Would I be disappointed that the live show couldn't live up to these magical records I had been listening to for over 20 years?

My fears were quickly put aside as the show they put on was an absolutely amazing concert experience.

The general consensus among nearly everyone I know here in the New York music scene is that Terminal 5 is "the worst venue in all of New York."   I have been one to say it many times myself.  I've avoided many shows there for years based on my initial experience with the place.  Simply put, the staff that work there are cement-headed power-trippers.  I'm talking about the individuals (though it appears to be a collective conscious) assigned to simple access checkpoints.  Not the ticket takers (scanners mostly now) or bartenders (who I will admit, I have very little interaction with).  However, a box is a box and a room is a room.  My second overall experience at this place was a really good one when I had full media access for Kate Nash last year.

However, on this night (once again) a brief encounter with the cement-heads reminded me of my peers (and my own) well-founded trepidations - and so I opted to work my way into the general population audience and took a prime position front/left of the stage.

As for the performance - simply put, this reunion show was a perfectly brilliant experience.

Everything was wonderful.  The lights, sound, visual projections behind them - and all those songs that hold such an emotional connection with their audience.

Their set included all the classic dreampop songs (many of them presented in the above-reviewed movie "Beautiful Noise"from the previous days recap) that have made them the sonic legends they are today.

Check out this video I shot from the show:

A truly hypnotic performance.

A remarkable, dazzling lightshow.

Fans on the balconies, as viewed from the main floor.

Every space filled for this packed, sold out show.

What a true concert experience should be.

All the wonderful songs played

* * * * *

There was no way anything else happening could top this experience, and so the wise decision to conclude CMJ 2014 at this point was made.

On to next year!