Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Summer in NYC: Alvvays in Prospect Park, The Ramones in Queens, 4Knots at SSSeaport, APTBS at 232 Factory

While it may appear to be a seemingly endless wave of live show coverage here on this site, it’s been a number of years since last ventured out to Prospect Park in Brooklyn for the free concert series BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival.

However the opportunity to catch a big time live show from Canadian dream-poppers Alvvays was too good to pass up.

Thursday, June 23, 2016 was one of those lovely early summer nights that make being at an outdoor show in a borough of New York City completely worth it.

Proving that six years may be too long in between attending one of these prime Brooklyn Information and Culture (BRIC) events.


Although decidedly a fully formed band, the unique attraction factor comes from front woman Molly Rankin.

The offspring of a popular Canadian country/folk recording and performing family (not surprisingly called The Rankin Family), an early inside look into this world couldn't have hurt in fast-tracking her own rise.

Whether its solely inherited talent, or some combination of that and the benefit of witnessing how it's all done, she's made all the right moves in the evolution of this band.

Rankin certainly can't be faulted for her meticulously crafted promotional image.  We all want to put our best foot forward, right?

Certainly being the featured act on a big lighted big time NYC stage underscores just how far they've come.

Apparently a firm believer in the "blondes-have-more-fun" category (no roots showing on this night, but are visible in other appearances) her perfectly pressed-straight hair gets whipped from its primary position to the other direction deeper into the set.

But looks alone aren't enough to make you care about a bands music, and Alvvays put out a debut album of quality songs that strike true to the heart of 90's era nostalgia.

Under the capable hands of established producers John Agnello and fellow Canadian Chad VanGaalen, the record is a blissful collection of songs that echo paths originally established by innovators Camera Obscura and current artists like Best Coast.

Capturing the essential hook of midpoint album track "Party Police" serves as honest representation of the bands appeal, and how they appeared on this night.

The whole record is a great listen all the way through, and can be heard in it's entirety here.

The adoring Brooklyn audience dragged them out for an encore, even though they readily admitted they'd already played most everything they knew - their entire debut album and a few new tracks they were working on.

Still, they managed to pull one last "working" song out, and left the audience satisfied and feeling like they got their money's worth.

Supporting Alvvays on this night was ex-Real Estate guitarist Matthew Mondanile's current project Ducktails.  He and his band played a seamless series of dream-pop songs that melted perfectly into the early evening air.

Opening the show were indie rockers Big Thief, who rolled out their dirge-rock to the larger-than-they're-used to local audience.  Although singer/guitarist Adrienne Lenker was visually and personally appealing, the downer nature of one slow, sad lamenting song after another was a bit too much to take.

Minor quibble aside, the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival is a valuable contribution to the city, much deserving of continued support.


* * * * *

The final day of June 2016 - Thursday the 30th - had friend Michael L. travel in from Pittsburgh to NY for us to finally check out the much celebrated Ramones Exhibit at The Queens Museum.

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Ramones self-titled debut album, the Exhibit has been on display since April 10th and goes through July 31.  After that the second leg will be on display at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles from September 16 through March 2017.

Getting to the Queens Museum is much easier by car than by the barely-there public transportation - which Michael discovered the hard way.


However, once there you can't help but be impressed by the large structure that sits near historical 1964 World Fair architecture.

Once inside, you are immediately immersed in vibrant and bold world that only The Ramones could have created.

With the Queens Museum segment of this Exhibit focusing on the bands beginnings and early ascendancy, unexpected surprises like the above baseball bats and knives are fascinating discoveries.

Fascination with local Coney Island "Sideshow at the Seashore" stars Pip and Flip contributed to the randomly bizarre lyrical point-of-view.

At an early age you could see how seriously Tommy took his education.  Already knowing he wanted to go into audio-visual production in High School.

Dee Dee on the other hand, was "rarely in class" and therefore the recipient of this hilarious report card.

An extremely popular item on display.  Johnny's original amp from 1974-75, signed by the man himself.

Cool stuff on the wall.

With a closer look at some details.

A number of revealing photos come on loan from the collection of longtime tour manager Monte A. Melnick - who was previously profiled here in this blog doing an event with Tommy Ramone at the inaugural CBGB Fest.

Joey and Linda on the tour bus


Dee Dee and Vera in a van

Handwritten lyric sheet from Joey

and another



2012 saw the publication of Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone

Johnny and his wife Linda retired to "Ramones Ranch" in the Los Angeles hills.  Their house is decorated with many items relating to his childhood passions, like horror movies, baseball and Elvis Presley.


Tommy's business cards.  Ever the professional.

A moment in time with Michael

Social Media approval

and opinionated commentary


The Museum had a number of other Exhibits going on, and one right nearby was particularly fascinating.

For the 1939/1940 World's Fair, city agencies were commissioned to produce exhibits for the New York City Pavilion - which not-so-coincidentally is the very location this present Museum is on.  To educate New Yorkers about their water supply system, an ambitious 540 square foot model was made.  Expensive to make (especially during the depression era) it was ultimately deemed too big for its allotted space and was excluded from the fair.

Making only one public showing in a 76 year time span, the 27 piece model was re-discovered, restored and can now be viewed in its originally intended location.  The model represents the Museum's close ties to the history of the building its in and to NYC overall.  It's also very cool to see up close and walk all around it.

* * * * * 

Saturday, July 9th saw the annual single-day outdoor event 4Knots Fest return to it's original location at The South Street Seaport.

Setting up the appropriate avenues for semi-respectable event coverage, mass transportation was opted for over stressful parking restrictions.

Coming up from the best option subway stop on this day, the first thing spotted was that spiky structure out in front of where the world trade center once was - and now is again.

As well as the new Freedom Tower.  It's an impressive pencil point, and a welcome addition to the NY skyline.

Memories are jarred walking past old familiar buildings down Broadway in lower Manhattan.

Past the ever evolving concrete, glass and steel landscape of NYC - and places once worked at, lo these many moons ago.

Entering the Pier 16 Stage area, a modest sized crowd had already begun to assemble as first band Promised Land Sound began to play.

A steadfast touring psych-folk band from Nashville, their name is taken from Chuck Berry's song about life on the road.

Their sound combines a Byrds-doing-Dylanesque vocals feel while adding in some interesting extended guitar jam forays.

* * * * * 

Doing the first scurry across busy South Street to view the Fulton Stage (this would be repeated numerous times) Boulevards was kicking off their set.

More the solo act of Jamil Rashad than an actual band (though he had a live bass player and drummer - as well as the obligatory turntable and laptop sound enhancer) the music produced was a dance oriented mix of r+b, blues and jazz.

* * * * *

Another mad dash all the way down Fulton Street, across the heavy automotive trafficked South Street to catch the next act - well before the one you were watching was done - note to event promoters - this set-up does not work all that well.

Performing on the bigger stage was rising producer, songwriter and emcee Kirk Knight.

Kirk was featured in the Dave Cromwell written Deli Magazine 4Knots preview.

One of the most interesting developments of recording technology has been the creative use of samples. A genre quick to embrace sampling capabilities began as subset of dance music that ultimately evolved into hip-hop.  Here's the most popular one of all.

 Kirk Knight exhibited impressive skills in the sampling department on his 2013 release “Dust,” an unreleased collection of songs that he put out earlier this year after gaining notoriety thanks to his 2015's LP 'Late Knight Special.'

A total of ten under two minute tracks on “Dust” exhibit a mastery of the Ableton production software, allowing the artist to weave in bits of his own voice samples. The approach delivers a series of dream-like tracks that include electronic, cut up Motown with an easy, breezy, trip-hop-jazz feel to it all. Featured track “The Right Thing” incorporate sampled elements that breakout acts like Charli XCX explored on a number of her debut album tracks like “So Far Away.”

The sample route - Exhibit 1 and Exhibit 2

As anticipated, at this event Kirk was less of a producer and more of a rapper who had the crowd bobbing up and down while soaking up the sunshine and vibrations.


* * * * *

Another rushed trundle back towards the other (far away) stage (although unexpected side benefit was the gauntlet of free Monster Energy Drinks and bags of various chips) just in time for the next act.

Minimalist loop composer Bayonne (who used to perform under his name Roger Sellers until he grew weary of being referred to as a "dj") created a rich tapestry of cascading sounds.

The Austin, Texas resident quickly captivated the audience with a hypnotic blending of sonic layers.

Performing solo with a bank of devices in front of him, his sound is comparable to early Washed Out and Animal Collective's Panda Bear.

Along with the urgently dreamy soundscapes created, he would wave his hands and flutter his fingers like a composer deep in trance.

Playing live drums over initial loops, those then became part of the looping sequence that followed.

Check out his song "Waves" as a prime example of this.

* * * * *

Weaving and bobbing through the tourists on Fulton street (grabbing yet another can or two of Monster energy drink along the way) catching the back half of Mothers set.

The Pier 16 Stage has packed in fuller now, creating opportunities for "long view" shots.

Based out of Athens, Georgia  - Mothers is the vehicle for singer songwriter Kristine Leschper to expand on her emotional songs with jam-band accompaniment.

* * * * *

One more trundle down Pier 16, wading through the tourists crowding The Circle Line ticket counter to take boat ride up and around Manhattan's waterways - out across the increasingly busier by the hour South Street - stuffing more free chips and energy drinks into my bag on route to catch a set from Diane Coffee.

This step-out-in front project from sometime Foxygen drummer Shaun Fleming comes off as an odd blend of pop rock with some psych tendencies, encased in a whacky form of glam imagery.

With recent press release photos making him look more like Diane Keaton in Annie Hall (perhaps there's the inspiration source for this surely tongue-in-cheek persona) - this performance had "Diane" dressed as a jaunty sailor of sorts, complete with nautical wheel set up for just this occasion.

Playing a number of songs from sophomore release "Everybody's a Good Dog," - whose lush production (complete with frequent vocal distortions that can only be achieved in the studio) emphasizes energetic blending of tried and true ideas.

Making the most of a mid-day spot on the "smaller" stage, Diane Coffee did not lack for confidence in the material presented.

Working further back through the into it crowd, the nagging pressure to make the gauntlet run one-more-time to the Pier 16 Stage was ever present.

* * * * *

That's because the even-more-hyped, absurdly named Car Seat Headrest was about to take their star turn on the main stage.

Hitting the photo pit just as the boys began lurching into their set, the now-swelling audience appeared hungry for ex-ci-tation.

Some press accolades (meticulously promoted by their label Matador's PR arm) point to early Television (the band) as a reference point.  Certainly the left-handed six-string slinger has some Richard Lloyd qualities to him.

While the youthful frontman/vocalist/band visionary Will Toledo shares a similar reedy vocal tone with the legendary Tom Verlaine.

With songs like “(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School For Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn't a Problem),” Toledo has mastered the awkward, self-conscious, chemical experimenting millennial persona on current album "Teens Of Denial."

In the live environment here there were equal amounts of guitar jam theatrics to further comparisons with Television, The Strokes and Stephen Malkmus.

Boyz in the (photo)  Pit

and those who approve

* * * * *

Due to a number of emerging circumstances, the 2016 4Knots experience would conclude at this point.  There is certainly a variety of other sources to check for details on the remaining performers.

* * * * *

Later on that very same evening, Rooftop Films presented a screening of Goodnight Brooklyn, the documentary about Death by Audio.

Shown at the Old American Can Factory in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, the film was followed by a live performance from the combined members of A Place to Bury Strangers and Grooms.

Those two bands were frequent performers at DBA, with APTBS's Oliver Ackermann being the venues creator.

After showing the film (which was presented in two parts and two separate locations due to an hour long rain delay) documentary creator Matt Conboy and others involved in the project spoke to the audience.

Including Edan Wilber, the venue’s soundman and booker of bands for the venue's seven year existence.

At the conclusion of a brief Q+A segment, equipment was pulled out from under protective tarps and live sound soon filled the open courtyard.


A signature expectation of every APTBS show is the combined billowing smoke and dazzling light show accompanying its sonic assault.

Grooms frontman Travis Johnson and Oliver traded off vocals during the performance.


The "superband" played a version of APTBS “Ego Death,” which can be viewed here:


Before dissipating into an ambient wall of noise that the band is known for (and owe's a nod to Sonic Youth's 1986 classic "Expressway To Yr Skull").

Back in 2010 I had the pleasure of interviewing Oliver and Dion at Death By Audio.

Part 1 with Oliver

and Part 2 with both Oliver and Dion


Word is a distribution deal for Goodnight Brooklyn is coming together and the film should be widely available by Fall.

* * * * *