Saturday, October 18, 2014

CBGB Fest 2014 - New York City

Big events in New York City sometimes come together fully at what appears to be the last second. Whether that is an accurate account of what actually transpired for everyone is subject for debate, and certainly open to discussion. Be that is it may, over a month of advance inquiries on my part regarding the now third annual CBGB Fest resulted in access and approval only days before (and even more nerve-wrackingly sometimes at a particular event check-in desk itself). CMJ seems so much better run! Nevertheless, this year’s CBGB Fest - which ran from Wednesday, October 8 through Sunday October 12, was as action packed and punk-rock star-studded as its two previous incarnations.

Scuttling over to this years designated PR agency to pick up my press credential, I wondered why the need for so much churn in this regard?  After the now all-too-often-expected slog through lists to find my name, it was off to check out what special events this first night had to offer.

Heading down to Houston Street and the Landmark Sunshine Cinema (once again serving as one of the two headquarters for the event), I was excited to catch a Q and A and performance from the most respected producer and musician Daniel Lanois.

Daniel's credentials are as impressive as anyone's in the business, and his clients are the hugest of the huge (look no further than the band U2).  However, my admiration of his work relates to the early-mid 1980's work with Brian Eno and Harold Budd on brilliant ambient recordings like "The Pearl" and "Apollo - Atmospheres and Soundtracks."

Presented and moderated by The Modern School of Film, Daniel showcased "Flesh and Machine . . . The Films"

View one of the amazing film shorts (and get more info about it) Here

He also did some live sound manipulation to accompany some of the film clips.

As well as play his pedal steel - and instrument he excels on.

A real pleasure for me to meet such a talented musician and sound designer.

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Jumping on the subway and hightailing it over to Brooklyn's The Knitting Factory, I made it just in time to catch by Parlour Tricks (who were playing under the previous longer name of Lily and the Parlour Tricks).

The group is fronted by three adorably cute vocalist who harmonize with an appealing precision.

The visual and auditory experience all come together seamlessly in both presentation and high quality songwriting.

Singing about topics like a "Requiem" and "Lovesongs" the live show is energetic and sweet.

Definitely worth seeking out!  I look forward to catching up with them at CMJ

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After initially being blown away by the dazzling show Mother Feather put on at CMJ Fest 2012 (a performance I recapped in detail on this very blog right Here ), I would finally get an opportunity to see them again.

Although we hadn't been completely out of contact with each other, as I deemed them most worthy of receiving my single Deli Mag Writers Vote for Best Emerging NYC Artist in the Poll published February 2013 Right Here

Concerned I may be let down due to my own remembered (and possibly embellished over time) perceptions of the bands electrifying show - those thoughts were soon to put to rest.

They were every bit as dynamic and dazzling as I had previously witnessed.

Even more impressive this time out was an awareness that in addition to the obvious glam showiness of it all, a deeper sensitivity was noted in song structure and vocals.

The central focus is still frontwoman Ann Courtney's outrageous personna and the tandem movements choreographed with sidekick Lizzie Carena.

Mother Feather compel you to do their bidding!

Catching up with Alice Cooper's emotional offspring.

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Thursday the 9th served as one of the biggest nights of the whole week, as Center 548 hosted the CBGB  Festival HQ Launch Event.  Starring Keynote Speaker Billy Idol (who also performed) along with co-headliner Walking Papers. (who feature perennial CBGB Fest honoree Duff McKagan). Also appearing was a band I've featured extensively on this blog before -  Ex-Cops.

Center 548 is a multi-floored space, and the first thing visible on entry for this event was a spacious gallery featuring classic CBGB themed photographs.

There's something a bit surreal about taking a photo of another photo (if you look closely you can see my hand "ghosted" just under Patti Smith's face).  This classic Bob Gruen is one of my fave shots of Patti and another legend of that scene - Bebe Buell

After figuring out how to get up to the concert level (there is a huge industrial sized service elevator big enough to fit a tractor in that takes you there) I grabbed a seat just in time to catch the set from Ex Cops
Brian and Amalie played as a duo and their sound shimmered within the deep blue lighting.

Their performance was understated and brief, but provided a gentle counterpoint for what was to follow.

After a stage overhaul, the one and only Billy Idol came out and sat down for a live interview.

Interviewed by former VH1 VJ Timothy Sommer (who writes about the experience here ), Billy answered all the questions with the enthusiasm of someone who was enjoying the moment.

They covered a number of topics throughout his long and storied career - including the fact that for a time early in his life, Billy lived on Long Island.

Although a number of questions focused on the Billy's recently released biography "Dancing With Myself," much of the talk covered his experiences with CBGBs and the punk scene of the early 80s.

Billy cited David Bowie, Iggy and The Stooges, The Ramones, Blondie, and The Talking Heads as all having an important influence on him.

A big surprise to many (but not to me as I saw him outside the venue getting into his limo earlier in the evening) was the arrival of long-time guitarist Steve Stevens.

With Steve on accompaniment, Billy played a half-a-dozen of his greatest hits.

Including "White Wedding," "Rebel Yell," "Cradle of Love" and a mesmerizing rendition of "Eyes Without A Face" (a song he prefaced by noting that it reached No. 4 on the US charts in 1984).

'Les yeux sans visage'

Of course this has to be "Rebel Yell"

A most entertaining presentation.

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So how does one follow an act as huge as that one?

By coming out and playing an electrifying kick ass show of heavy, deliberate smoldering blues rock.

I'd been listening to Duff McKagan's current band Walking Papers for a while now, but had yet been able to catch them live.

On discovering that Duff would be back for the third consecutive time at CBGB Fest, I was thrilled to discover Walking Papers was to be prominently featured.

Fronted by vocalist/guitarist Jeff Angell, the band also includes keyboardist Ben Anderson, (both of whom formerly played in Seattle scene favorites, The Missionary Position) along with former Screaming Trees/Mad Season drummer Barrett Martin (who is an absolute monster on the kit) - and oh yeah - the only and only Duff McKagan on bass.

I've covered Duff's participation in every one of these CBGB Fests so far, and this one adds another chapter to that legacy.

The show burst on the audience like an explosion, and then proceeded to ebb and flow like a crackling wildfire.

Duff is such a magnetic presence.  The spirit of rock flows through his veins and you can see how passionate he is about the music he plays.

Jeff has the requisite front man's personality with great vocals and plays a killer guitar too.

McKagan throttled his bass with the same ferocity he brought to Guns N Roses and Velvet Revolver

Sneakers, pedals and set list

Walking Papers bringing it to you hard, heavy and soulful.

The full setlist

Meeting the man once again - well - because I have to.

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Friday the 10th would find me heading into Brooklyn initially - for that evenings first activity.

Returning to CBGB Fest for the second consecutive year was Grace McKagan (Duff's daughter) and her expanded to a full band The Pink Slips.

The band played an early evening showcase at Coco66 that had them delivering on the promise of their recently released EP Say L'or Venus

Lead-off track “Googlie Eyes” uses classic horror movie imagery to illustrate the failings of vapid wealth and a life of resentment. That would appear to be its deeper meaning. More to the surface, the track is one punchy rock tune with a hooky chorus accentuated by syncopated backing vocals. It’s all very playful with dropped in echo-y lines (“help me”) and on-the-beat vocal punctuation (“Boo,” “Meow,” “Ah”)

Grace's stage presence has evolved significantly, transforming from a reserved folksinger to the confident leader of a rock n' roll band.

Follow-up track “Dream Boy” serves as a band introduction with Grace cooing “Hello – we’re the Pink Slips” before launching into the first verse. The frenetic catch revolves around a jacked up “Peter Gunn” beat and the repeated line “I don’t care! Because he’s the boy of my dreams.” The recorded version of this song tacks on an ambient coda of spacey synths and percussive clicks that is as appealing as it is surprising.

First single “Foxy Feline” takes the quintessential femme fatale theme and multiplies that by its square root. No one is immune from her pull – not “British diamond dogs, precious punks or jock ass jerks.” A percussive punctuated bridge provides ample head-bobbing momentum as “your knees start shaking” and “your heart starts breaking.” While the full chorus benefits from fx-laden guitar figures and vintage keyboard textures that bring to mind The Cars “Let’s Go” (From Candy-O).

“Cruella” brings the tempo down to ballad speed, allowing focus to land squarely on the lyrics. With many of the passages sung in tandem or ghosted behind (most the band had mics and frequently supported Grace’s vocals) the story unfolds. Portraying a universal theme of selfish unhappiness, one wonders if a specific individual was in mind when this song was written.

Building off of a fuzzy bass pattern that borrows (coincidentally or not) from Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” the bouncy “Meet You At the Moon” emphasizes interstellar fun. With notable thematic clues reappearing (this song references anime’s “Sailor Venus,” while “Dream Boy” namechecked “Sailor Moon” – not to mention the albums play-on-words title) the ultimate pogo experience is as simple as a chorus of “LA LA LA.”

“Bratty Attitude” benefits from a descending bass progression with rolling toms and crunchy punk guitar chords. When the keyboards emerge on the chorus, a Cars-meets-Blondie (fronted by Gwen Stefani circa early No Doubt) perspective comes fully into focus.

Being acknowledged on social media post-event is almost as much fun as being there.

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Since I had my car with me this time (I went with the train option earlier in the week) it was a relatively easy matter to head over to Pianos and catch some early-ish stuff during the Deli Magazine Presents show.

Making it in time to catch up with Lindsey Ann of the band Baby Acid, we had a spirited chat at the bar just after their performance, before I had to bolt out of there for yet-another special event.

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Trudging a few blocks north, I headed over to Village East Cinema to catch the Exclusive Film Clips and Discussions with Michael Alago and Duff McKagan.

First up was a preview clip screening of filmmaker Drew Stone's documentary about Michael Alago.

After screening a clip from the movie, Stone brought Alago up on stage for a spirited Q and A session.

Stone told the tale of how whenever he went out to see local bands in various NYC venues on a nightly basis, and every single time, no matter where he was (or what type of music he was going to hear) he would see Alago in the crowd. Each time he spotted Alago, Stone would say to himself, “Who the fuck IS that guy?” which became the inspiration for the title of his film about Michael.

The second part of this film feature was Duff McKagan presenting a clip of an upcoming film based on his book It's So Easy and Other Lies which tells the story of McKagan's rise to fame.

Having carefully read every word of this book after I ran out and got a copy as soon as I could, it was a pleasure to hear him speak about it.

Interviewed by celebrated music historian Matt Pinfield, the line of questioning was personal in nature and only reinforced my respect and admiration for this artist.

I shot a few minutes of the conversation to share with those who are also interested in what the man had to say.

Insightful.  Can't wait to see the whole film once it comes out.

The evening's featured artists.

Earlier in the evening (and naturally who was also at the event) I caught up with Susan Holmes McKagan, who is married to Duff and Grace's mother.  In addition to all that, she is a celebrated model who also started her own swimwear company that she currently runs.  Running a photo out on social media and getting feedback is actually "the new black."  Everyday presents a new opportunity to "win the internet."

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Final journey of the night would be heading back down to Pianos and catch a set from a band I've recently featured in The Deli Magazine (both print issue and on the web).

New York City’s The VeeVees recently evolved their established two-man White Stripes/Kills/Black Keys-style format to a trio by adding dynamic lead vocalist Sophia Urista.

 Founding members Garrett Cillo (guitar/vocals) and Andrea Belfiore (drums) songs are riff-heavy and owe much to the spirit of electric blues revivalists like Cream and Led Zepplin

The addition of Sophia creates a level of sex appeal and deeper expanse into the soulful aspect of the blues.

This live show was delivered with an incredible energy and pace, and just so much fun to witness.

Definitely worth my hustling down from Village East Cinema on 12th street to Ludlow on the lower east side.

An edited version of my preview of this show appears in the current Print Issue of The Deli Magazine (Issue No. 40)

As well as on the magazine's website Here

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