Friday, December 29, 2006
Up to this point, it had been a very classical holiday season, what with all the choral groups, carols and opera. So just leave it to the Wainwrights to add a little downtown funk and kookiness to Christmas.
A mere two nights after an opulent evening with the NYCGMC, I was back at Carnegie to see yet another of my favorite gay men, Rufus Wainwright, and his equally brilliant, talented, and ballsy sister, Martha. It had been a long-time hope of mine to see the outspoken sibs perform on the same stage together. This evening that little Christmas wish would come true.
Originally billed as the McGarrigle Family Christmas, it was to have been led by Martha & Rufus' mom, Kate McGarrigle, with her sister and life-long songwriting partner, Anna. After their well-received Christmas concert at Carnegie in 2005, they knew they'd hit on a winning formula: Invite your whole ridiculously musical family to sing their favorite holiday tunes, and hang out informally around the stage while your famous friends come up and sing a couple Christmas ditties of their own. People loved the homespun, genuinely family-oriented, casual feel of seeing stars just enjoying each others' company, as if they're at home singing carols around a yule-tide log. A spin-off tour this year seemed like the obvious choice. Alas, an unexpected illness in the family put an end to those plans. The only date to remain was rebilled as "The Wainwright Family Christmas" at Carnegie Hall, with the promise of many surprising guests.
And just as promised, The Wainwright Family Christmas was an all-star sing-along extravaganza. (And not only onstage, but in the audience, too. Anthony LaPaglia sat way up front, and Meg Ryan got cozy with friends a couple rows in front of my seat.)
To a stage already stuffed to the gills with 7ish various Wainwrights and McGarrigles came Jimmy Fallon, acoustic guitar in tow. Bedecked in ironic Christmas sweater, khakis and topsiders, his look was very "When's the game on, Kip? Can I get you some egg nog?" Looking suitably awed by the setting, he said, "Wow, Carnegie Hall. I can't believe it. I wish my parents could see me now... but all I could get them was the cheap seats. Hi Mom, hi Dad!" He then settled in for a rockin rendition of The Ramones' "Merry Christmas, I Don't Want To Fight Tonight," complete with strategically placed Elvis-esque & Pete Townshend flourishes. Catch it here:
Jimmy Fallon: 'Merry Christmas, I Don't Want To Fight Tonight'
But Jimmy's real coup was a duet with Martha on "Baby It's Cold Outside." He was downright debonnaire, giving us a cross betweenBing and Cary, and cracking everyone up all the while. Brilliant.
Also waiting in the wings was an unbilled surprise: the actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who Rufus introduced as one of the most gorgeous people on the planet. Warning us he'd never sang in public before, he looked a bit bashful standing in the spotlight at Carnegie with nothing in his hands but a wee ukelele. I guess if your voice is going to be less than perfect, an inherently goofy instrument is bound to get the audience on your side. Little did I know he could play the heck out of the thing. Yes, he did ramble on a bit long with a preamble explaining how he "got to thinking" about our soldiers in Iraq. But his resulting self-penned song asking, "how can there be war on Christmas?", was delivered with a heart-felt earnestness that forgave the limits of his voice. But maybe I'm biased, cuz he is awful cute.
In from across the pond was fellow second generation singer-songwriter, Teddy Thompson, along with his sister Kamila and their mother -- all of whom apparently have long-time family ties to the Wainwrights, from their old Leonard Cohen days. (Catch Thompson in the recent Leonard Cohen documentary, I'm Your Man.) While I hadn't heard of Teddy before, I dug his voice, sense of humor and overall vibe. (Note to self: Check out more of his tunes.) Of their handful of songs, including Kamila's overlong cover of George Michael's "Last Christmas," the standout was a distinctly British take on the classic carol, "The Holly & the Ivy," performed with the help of Rufus and his sister Lily. Check it out:
Teddy & Kamila Thompson, Lily & Rufus Wainwright: 'The Holly & the Ivy'
New York legends, Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson, next wowed the crowd with their appearance onstage. Lou brought the blues, half speaking, half singing a pair of classic carols in the way only Lou can. His "Silent Night" was the standout, with the Wainwright women singing doo-wop backing vocals. It sounded downright Velvety... Underground, that is.
Less of a success was Lou's longtime lover, Laurie, which really bummed me out. In a long sweater and hippie skirt, with a gold sparkly winter hat pulled down snug over her ears and a shiny gold scarf, she looked like somebody's crazy aunt with a tea cozy on her head and a garland of tree tinsel wrapped around her neck. But that would have simply underscored her artsy, out-there persona, had it not been for her sketchy performance. For her first selection, she toted out a hurdy-gurdy, which cranked out one continuous, wheezing low note while she choked out "We Three Kings" in a similarly wheezing, low range. It truly sounded as though she hadn't sang a note in several years. Or perhaps she was just getting over a cold. Even the Wainwright ladies couldn't save the thing with their tentative backup vocals. Unfortunately, her second song, with a violin in place of the hurdy-gurdy, wasn't much better. Ugh. I'm sorry, Laurie, but there you have it.
In to save the day came Antony, of award-winning Antony & the Johnsons fame. A giant with a cherub's face, a goth's black hair, and one of the most unusual, haunting voices I've ever heard, he is an unforgettable presence. Go out and see him immediately, if ever you get the chance! He's also one of the more odd ducks you'll ever see onstage. It's as if he can barely control his hands while he sings, giving him a physical performance style that can only be compared to Joe Cocker's. Whodathunk his quavering falsetto could raise the dead, but Rufus was right when he told us Elvis would be back in the building for Antony's performance of "Blue Christmas." Check it out:
Antony: 'Blue Christmas'
Spastic hand movements and all, he brought down the house. Both of his songs were among the hightest points of the evening.
With their various solo moments over, the Wainwrights' guests relaxed in chairs arrayed among the instruments, making it easy for them to dive back in here and there throughout the evening. Jimmy, Lou, Antony and the Thompsons aiding with the lower male and female harmonies, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt lending sorely-needed support on the ukelele.
Meanwhile, our hosts Martha & Rufus, were the real stars of the show, their performances and patter both equally entertaining.
How is it possible that so many incredibly talented people all come from one family? Nature vs. nurture, who cares? The point is, it works. And with a matriarch like Kate McGarrigle to pull them all together, the final tunes of the night were the most moving. Walking onstage, she was visibly weakened since the last time I'd seen her at Martha's small secret show at The Living Room, less than a year before. It was immediately clear that the illness in the family is Kate's. Rufus and Martha both tried to hide the tears streaming down their faces, as all gathered behind Kate while she sang a French carol that was clearly a family holiday tradition.
It will truly be a shame if this is the last year that Kate feels strong enough to perform live. But even if that's the case, I hope that Martha & Rufus will continue staging their family celebration at Carnegie, which is quickly evolving into one of the most eagerly anticipated annual holiday traditions in NY.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Carnegie Hall, 12/11/06
Next up on the holiday roster was a leisurely traipse over to Carnegie Hall to see a fabulous friend perform in the NYC Gay Men's Chorus' annual Holiday Spectacular. Gay men singing Christmas Carols? It's not what you think.
Imagine 200 (200!!!) dashing, nattily dressed men arrayed on risers spreading across the entire width of the spacious Carnegie stage, singing in flawless 8-part harmonies. It was breathtaking - exactly what you'd want a holiday concert to be. And just when the ears started to get numb from the traditional choral tunes, these masterful entertainers knew just when to toss in some camp to lighten up the atmosphere and even make us laugh.
In fact, it was these moments of inspired levity that were the standouts of the evening. For instance, they took the devotional classic, Oh Holy Night, and turned it on its head with humor. Under the pretense that their celebrity soloist had backed out at the last moment, the conductor decided that their performance of the song was so strong, why not just go right ahead without the soloist? After all, the show must go on, right? What followed was a hilarious 3ish minutes of backup vocals over which no soloist sang the main melody or lyrics. The oohs and ahhs swelled in support of a phantom melody, with an errant "Holy!" thrown in here or there, to emphasize the missing lyrics. The conductor even gave the missing soloist cues from time to time, apparently out of force of habit. Brilliant.
They hit another high note or two with a pair of medleys narrated by Charles Busch, one of New York's prominent theatre actors, playwrites, novelists, and.... wait for it... drag queens. After all, what Christmas concert would be complete without a man in drag? My favorite was the homage to Hanukkah, in which she took us on a tour of distinctly New York Jewish Hanukkah "carols." Who would've thought that hearing "Oy gevalt!" sung in 8-part harmony would be so touchingly special? Again, absolutely hilarious.
Bringing back a due sense of decorum, they completed the evening with an inspiring a capella performance of Silent Night. Always a beautiful piece, they made it unforgettable and brought the audience to its feet when all vocals dropped out, allowing them to perform the final verse and chorus in silent sign language. Thrillingly, every member of the audience was able to "hear" the song in their minds, following alonng while the men signed the lyrics. It was so powerful and emotional, I still get misty just recalling it.
In all, a fantastic night and an utterly spectacular way to ring in the holidays. Fabulous, darling, fabulous.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Guests: Soprano Ailyn Perez, Baritone Luis Ledesma, and Nita Whitaker
With: The New York City Opera Orchestra & New York Choral Society
Conductor: Maestro Steven Mercurio
The 2006 holiday season has been a particularly good one in live music. There have been options for everyone, from the traditional, to the elegant, to the kooky. There have even been a surprising number of choices for the non-Christian revelers among us, with a great showing of Hanukkah shows for our Hebraic brothers and sisters.
I was fortunate enough to catch a healthy share of phenomenal shows, and for that I give thanks in the spirit of the season. Just after Thanksgiving, the famed Italian tenor, Andrea Bocelli, brought his class act to NY's Madison Square Garden. Who can top free tix for 10th row seats to see the most richly sonorous voice of his generation in opera?! If any were concerned that we'd be lacking any Super-Tenors to take up the mantle after Pavarotti's retirement and Domingo deigns to decline future recordings and roles, never fear. Bocelli is poised and ready for world conquest.
Not Ti Scordar Di Me
As I learned on 11/30, Bocelli is already a superstar. Not just a superstar, but a megastar. The adoration with which he was met by the crowd at MSG was truly something to behold. And even if Bocelli himself is not physically able to behold the rapturous adoration in the faces and the standing ovations he received, there is no way he could miss the waves of love from the screaming crowd. It was easy to see the shared joy playing across his face as he nodded his thanks. Truly, I've never really seen anything quite like it.
Bocelli is met with such adulation for good reason. One of the most gifted vocalists in imbuing already beautiful music with depth of emotion, he knows how to bring the romance. He takes classical standards to the next level, reducing the audience to tears of awe. Whether we were overcomewith thebittersweet sadness of a piece from Il Trovatore, buoyed by the lighthearted fun of Danza's Funiculi, Funicula, or the famous "Torreador" refrain from Bizet's Carmen, it was with the romantic selections that Bocelli soared. He has taken old chestnuts and made them new again with the sheer beauty of his delivery. Of all of his selections, Con Te Partiro, the final song of the evening, for which he shared the spotlight with diminutive soprano Ailyn Perez, left me weepy at the sheer beauty of the melody, which builds to great heights. This man understands romance, or "romanza," as he titled on of his bestselling albums. Even ailyn Perez's heart was set a-flutter. Watch and believe:
Con Te Partiro
As a way to kick off the Christmas season, Bocelli's concedrt was an elegant evening, perfect for patrons of the arts, the older set, or anyone looking for a particularly classy date night. Believe me, anybody on a date that night got lucky, without a doubt.
But it wasn't all smoochy stuff, a la Besame Mucho. He also incorporated more traditional, seasonally evocative pieces, like the latin Panis Angelicus.
Surprisingly (to me at least), there seemed to be more selections en Espanol than in his native Italian. Take the festive Granada, one of Placido Domingo's trademark tunes, and Canche's Somos Novios, for which he was joined by Nita Whitaker. It's unfortunate that her R&B tinged vocal stylings were such a mismatch with the purity of Bocelli's delivery. If she added one more flourish, I thought I'd scream. But hers was truly the only false note of the whole evening. And it was crystal clear to me why every date on his US tours sell out completely, and whystanding o's last so long, even though the maestro isn't able to see his fans standing for him. Don't worry, however. He can feel them.
Part 1: Andrea Bocelli at Madison Square Garden
Part 2: NYCGMC Holiday Spectacular at Carnegie Hall
Sunday, December 17, 2006
The Middle East in Cambridge, MA is an institution. If you're from Boston, I'm probably not telling you something you don't already know, it's that much of an institution. And with good reason.
The Middle East Downstairs is one of the few rooms in the city with a perfect size capacity for showcasing exactly the kind of bands the in-the-know kids want to be in-the-know about. You get the breaking artists on the cusp of going gold, before they graduate to Avalon-sized stages and beyond. And you get legendary acts who have never lost their street cred. Hopefully, they've perfected the sound since I've been back, as I've had a few nights where it was so loud I thought my ears might bleed. Definitely warranted earplugs. But with this kind of well-earned clout, all true music fans eventually find themselves Downstairs at the Middle East.
The great equalizer that saves the Middle East from becoming holier than thou and too cool for school is its two upstairs rooms. Enjoy some belly dancing music, freak folk or an accordion artist while you hoover some hummous and grape leaves in the restaurant. Or enjoy a local band earning its stripes in the Middle East Upstairs back room.
Getting a gig at the Middle East is famously difficult, which is why it is so jealously coveted. And putting a band through its paces before it can make it to the holy grail of gigs in the big room downstairs is what being in a band in Boston is all about.
And how can I forget the mural?! It's part of what makes the M.E. the M.E., and integral to the visual identity of one of metropolitan Boston's most culturally diverse neighborhoods, Central Square.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
In one of the more surreal twists of fate, your very own TixGirl wound up on the set of ABC's Eyewitness News Morning Show this morning! And touting family activites for the holidays around NYC, of all things. We're talking breakfast with Santa, and everything.
What on earth?
I know, that's exactly what I said! But bizarre as that may be, nonetheless, it came to pass. Yo, check it:
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Hallelujah disco babies, I'm thrilled to announce that those glitteriffic Scissor Sisters are heading back out on the road in April! They're just starting to release US dates now, and thanks to Scissor Sisters Presale, we lucky fans can get early access to their tickets before they go on sale to the general public! Here's the info, straight from the Scissors' mouths...
With barely a pause for breath after a triumphant series of arena shows in the United Kingdom, Scissor Sisters are returning from across the Atlantic early next year for a string of newly announced live dates.
The dates are:
April 2 - Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA
April 3 - The Theater at Madison Square, New York, NY
April 4 - 9:30 Club, Washington, DC
April 6 - Metropolis, Montreal, QC
April 12 - The Pageant, St Louis, MO
April 15 - The Palladium Ballroom, Dallas, TX
April 16 - Verizon Wireless Theater, Houston, TX
Pre-sales for these US dates are live now just for Scissor Sister fans! These exclusive pre-sales will end soon! So get clicking.
Not certain you're ready for the madness? Well just you feast your eyes on these shots taken at their phenomenal show at Hammerstein Ballroom on 10/21/06.
Monday, December 11, 2006
"You're so money, you don't even know how money you are!"
Well, actually, Dave Matthews knows exactly how money he is. To prove it, he's lined up his first two US dates of 2007 in the city of high rollers, high glitz, and well, just being high, I guess.
Yes, he's booked a two night stand at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for March 23rd & 24th, before he'll meet our Aussie mates Down Under with a healthy round of dates, and then please our pals across the pond in Europe. Check out all the newly announced dates below, thanks to their publicity peeps (shout-out to Allison!).
Most importantly for us Yanks, Vegas dates go on sale Saturday, 12/16. So set your alarms!
DAVE MATTHEWS BAND 2007 TOUR DATES:
March 23 MGM Grand Las Vegas, NV
March 24 MGM Grand Las Vegas, NV
March 31 West Coast Blues and Roots Festival Fremantle, WA Australia
April 2 Festival Theatre Adelaide, SA Australia
April 4 Brisbane Convention and Exposition Centre South Brisbane, Old Australia
April 6 East Coast Blues and Roots Festival Byron Bay, Old Australia
April 10 Hordern Pavilion Sydney, NSW Australia
April 11 Hordern Pavilion Sydney, NSW Australia
April 13 Vodafone Arena Melbourne, Australia
May 23 The Point Dublin, Ireland
May 25 Pavilion Atlantico Lisbon, Portugal
May 27 Forest National Brussels (Vorst), Belgium
May 23 The Point Dublin, Ireland
May 25 Pavilion Atlantico Lisbon, Portugal
May 27 Forest National Brussels, Belgium
May 30 Wembley Stadium London, England
Wednesday, December 6, 2006
I'm thrilled to report that of Montreal, one of the most exciting buzz bands to enter my universe in 2006, has a massive early 2007 club tour planned. I hope that all of you will sit up and take notice, the way their decidedly loyal cult fanbase have over their roughly 10 year existence.
I fell in love with their last release, Sunlandic Twins. One of the most addictive indie-disco albums of 2006, it was Sunlandic Twins that induced me to catch their set at Irving Plaza in September. I've rarely seen that kind of outrageous theatricality in a straight man, let alone a whole band. Imagine the Scissor Sisters gone straight, and updating their retro-disco flavor as next-century indie electro-pop. They were phenomenal performers, with a rich back catalog to draw from. I was hooked.
And you will be, too.
So pick up a copy of their new album, Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? Then catch them on one of their many upcoming tour dates. It's an exhaustive list, so you have no excuse -- they're definitely coming to a town near you. (Look for me at their Irving Plaza shows. I'll be right up front shaking my butt.)
Get the full tour schedule at the of Montreal MySpace page.
BONUS: You can listen to the new album in its entirety for free at of Montreal's website! Listen: Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
You a Harajuku lover? Well, even if you aren't, you won't be able to escape the media blitz that is sure to follow the release of Gwen's new album, The Sweet Escape, which hit stores yesterday. (Listen to the album in full for free: Gwen Stefani Listening Party!)
But here's the really big news: Gwen has announced her 2007 The Sweet Escape World Tour, which will have her performing in North America from April through June. And yes, her Harajuku gals will be right alongside her, winding it up.
Dates will begin going on sale in February. Keep an eye on Gwen's website for the onsale date info. Or sign-up for the Ticket Connect Alert and find out first. In the meantime, here's her tour roster...
Apr-21 Phoenix, AZ - Cricket Pavilion
Apr-22 San Diego, CA - Coors Amphitheatre
Apr-24 Fresno, CA - Save Mart Center
Apr-25 Bakersfield, CA - Rabobank Arena
Apr-28 Las Vegas, NV - MGM Grand Garden Arena
Apr-30 Salt Lake City, UT - The "E" Center
May-02 Denver, CO - Pepsi Center
May-03 Albuquerque, NM - Journal Pavilion
May-05 Dallas, TX - Smirnoff Music Centre
May-06 Houston, TX - Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
May-08 Tampa, FL - Ford Amphitheatre
May-09 West Palm Beach, FL - Sound Advice Amphitheatre
May-11 Atlanta, GA - HiFi Buys Amphitheatre
May-12 Charlotte, NC - Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
May-14 Raleigh, NC - Alltel Pavilion
May-15 Virginia Beach, VA - Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
May-17 Washington DC - Nissan Pavilion
May-18 Holmdel, NJ - PNC Bank Arts Center
May-20 Wantagh, NY - Nikon at Jones Beach Theatre
May-21 Uncasville, CT - Mohegan Sun Arena
May-23 Boston, MA - Tweeter Center
May-24 Philadelphia, PA - Tweeter Center at The Waterfront
May-26 Atlantic City, NJ - Borgata Hotel and Casino
May-27 Pittsburgh, PA - Post-Gazette Pavilion
May-29 Montreal, CAN - Bell Centre
May-30 Toronto, CAN - Air Canada Centre
Jun-01 Detroit, MI - Palace of Auburn Hills
Jun-02 Indianapolis, IN - Verizon Wireless Music Center
Jun-04 Omaha, NE - Qwest Center
Jun-05 St. Paul, MN - Xcel Energy Center
Jun-07 Milwaukee, WI - Bradley Center
Jun-08 Chicago, IL - First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
Jun-10 Winnipeg, CAN - MTS Centre
Jun-12 Edmonton, CAN - Rexall Place
Jun-13 Calgary, CAN - Pengrowth Saddledome
Jun-15 Vancouver, CAN - General Motors Place
Jun-16 Seattle, WA - White River Amphitheatre
Jun-18 Sacramento, CA - Sleep Train Amphitheatre
Jun-19 San Francisco, CA - Shoreline Amphitheatre
Jun-22 Irvine, CA - Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
According to her site, international fans can look for Central America, South America, Australia, Asia and Europe tour dates to be announced in 2007.
According to Live Daily, "She also said she plans to reunite with her No Doubt bandmates someday. While the band's return to the studio and the road has been rumored for some time, nothing has been confirmed as of yet."
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
Of the bands to appear at the 2006 CMJ Music Marathon, one seems to have caused more of a stir than any other: CSS. The Sub-Pop label darlings were the buzz of the ball at Flavorpill's 6th Anniversary Halloween Party. And to get the industry-insider, seen-it-alls in a tizzy of expectation is no mean feat. Such a jaded group are loathe to admit they can't wait to see a band of unknowns, but these kids were an exception to the rule.
With a name that stands for "Cansei de Ser Sexy," or "tired of being sexy," one might expect a lazy, lounged-out vibe. CSS are anything but. These wacky kids from Brazil have more energy and spunk in one pinky than most dance rock outfits of the moment can muster en masse. Of the six members, it's really lead singer Lovefoxxx who gives the Sao Paolo natives their zany flavor. One of the most outrageous vixens to mount a stage in eons, her antics can force even the most unwilling critics to break a smile. Check out the evidence:
Long before CMJ, I caught my first dose of CSS opening for Ladytron at Webster Hall. Though their music didn't capture me right off the bat, they had a boisterous, gleefully irreverent vibe I couldn't deny. Lovefoxxx is, to put it simply, a wild child. She boasted about being drunk and relieved she'd finally gotten her period. She dove into the audience and sang a raucous ditty among the masses. She danced with the wild abandon of a drunken cheerleader. She showed us her thong. Immature? Sure. But her exuberant, party-animal antics had the audience eating out of the palm of her hand. And damn, it really was fun.
And then they got up and did it all again during CMJ.
Not only are CSS one of the zaniest bands around, but they're also among the hardest-working indie newcomers. They seemed to have at least one gig every day of CMJ. Which means they're hungry, and they're willing to work for it. And those are traits I like in a band.
Monday, December 4, 2006
Sick of spending Christmas trying to find the Chinese restaurant closest to the multiplex playing your movie of choice? Looking for something with a more Festival of Lights-y feel than a string-the-lights-on-the-tree feel? I'm happy to report that this December is choc-full of delightful events for even the most discerning fan of the next generation of Jewish music. So don't make yourself meshuggenah, mark your calendar. Here's a run down of who's playing...
Matisyahu: First annual Festival of Lights Concert Series
Here's a little out-take from their press peeps:
Matisyahu will give his hometown fans a holiday treat this Hanukkah when he kicks off the "Festival of Light" concert series at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. Matisyahu will be joined by his band Roots Tonic and special guests Mr. Lif and The Coup (12/16), Ben Kweller (12/17) and John Brown's Body (12/19).
Dec. 16, 17, 19 @ Hammerstein Ballroom, NY
Wed. Dec. 13 @ 9:30 Club, Washington, DC
Everybody's favorite gypsy punks are back on the road, fronted by the incomparable Eugene Hutz. Not ringing a bell?Go see Everything Is Illuminated and get illuminated.
On Tour Dec. 12 - 21
Lawrence, KS, Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, DC, Philly & NY
Golem: Vodka Latka Festival of Rights, LA & SF
Vodka Latka in LA
Wed. Dec. 13 @ The El Rey
Turn the Festival of Lights into the Festival of Rights with a unique menorah-lighting by local social justice activists. Then watch LA's Heebster comedians, writers, magicians, and performers - including Six Feet Under's Jill Soloway - tackle the holiday from an entirely new perspective in Heaping Hanukah. Finally, Golem takes the night to a raucous, high-energy finale.
Vodka Latka in SF
Thurs. Dec. 14@ The Independent
Tonight again starts with the Festival of Rights menorah lighting, followed by Conspiracy of Beards, a 30 member all- male choir that exclusively performs the music of Leonard Cohen. The night high stakes charity dreydl benefiting the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, in which you can win a Noise Pop Festival Badge and a Barsuk Records prize pack.
Sun. Dec. 17@ Club Helsinki
Golem, SoCalled, The LeeVees, Balkan Beat Box DJs: Jewltide
Here's a little out-take from their press peeps:
These days, bigger cities throw "Matzah Balls," events with an emphasis on partying and little meaningful connection among attendees. Seeing an opportunity for holiday events with aunique Jewish identity but sans religious overtones, JDub Records and Brooklyn Jews founded Jewltide, an alternative party featuring up-and-coming talent, music, and a new way to celebrate Hanukkah. Now in its fourth year, JDub has expanded Jewltide from its home base in Brooklyn and is taking the party on the road to Washington DC, Boston, and Chicago with label-mates Golem and SoCalled. Brooklyn will be treated to 2 special nights, with The LeeVees, Tim Fite, and Balkan Beat Box DJs joining the party.
Jewltide in Chicago
Wed. Dec. 20 @ Empty Bottle
-Featuring Golem + SoCalled + Heeb Magazine
Jewltide in Boston
Thurs. Dec. 21@ TT The Bears
-Featuring Golem + SoCalled + Heeb Magazine + Shtreiml
Jewltide in Washington, DC
Saturday Dec. 23 @ Sixth and I
-Featuring Golem + SoCalled + Heeb Magazine
Jewltide in Brooklyn
Sat. Dec. 23 @ Southpaw
-Featuring The LeeVees, Tim Fite, Balkan Beat Box DJ set + Special Guests.
<FONT style="FONT-WEIGHT: normal; FONT-SIZE: 10pt; COLOR: #000000; FONT-STYLE: normal; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana,Geneva,Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif' color=#000000><FONT face=" Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif?>Sun. Dec 24 @ Southpaw
-Featuring Golem + SoCalled + DJ Anaan
Mon. Dec. 4 @ Abrons Arts Center
Lower East Side, NYC
Los Angeles, CA
Sat. Dec. 23 @ B.B. King Blues Bar & Grill
For all of you, like me, who were heartbroken when Bloc Party had to cancel their remaining tour dates with Panic! At The Disco due to Matt Tong's collapsed lung, all is not lost!
First off, Matt's on the mend, and the whole band are looking forward to the February 6 US release of their new album, A Weekend In The City. Matt's well enough for the band to resume touring Europe in January. But in the meantime, you can catch the first single, The Prayer, from the new album on the Bloc Party MySpace page.
Second, you have a chance to win a trip to London to see Bloc Party play in their hometown, and help them celebrate the launch of the new album in person. As if that wasn't enough to set our hearts a-pitter-patter, the lucky winner gets a full two-week trip around Europe! Crikey. Here's the details...
Win a trip to see Bloc Party in London
US Fans: What better way to celebrate the release of Bloc Party's newest album, A Weekend in the City, by spending a weekend in their city? Contiki travel is sending you and a friend to see Bloc Party rock in London and a two week European adventure. Click the banner to enter.
Contest ends January 2, 2007 so spread the word and ENTER NOW!
Thursday, November 30, 2006
My apologies for the long absence during the Thanksgiving holiday (happy turkey, btw!), but I return to you now with big news...
It's official, Jamie Foxx is going on tour. This is going to be huge. Timed, no doubt, to coincide with the buzz around Dreamgirls, he's poised to be one of the big earners of early 2007.
Tickets in several cities go on sale this Saturday at 10am local time, and you can already find a couple IL & CA shows on sale now. For folks in NYC, you can get tickets to his MSG show before they go on sale to the general public via his presale. Here's the deets:
Presale: Friday, 12/1, 9am -9pm ET
Tour Tickets: Find Em Here
Note: Though Fantasia didn't make it into the cast of Dreamgirls, she made it onto Jamie's tour roster. She's his opener.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Bowery Ballroom, New York, 10/7/06
A British jam band? Is there such a thing? Well, sort of.
If you judge a jam band by its crowd, like judging a book by its cover, then sure, there is such a thing as a British jam band, and its name is Gomez. A Gomez gig has much the same crowd as you might find at a Dave Matthews concert -- just as eager to sing along to every word of their favorite standbyes as they are rabid for the singular jammy moments unique to only one evening, one moment in time. The kind that used to cause Deadheads to trade bootleg tapes, saying things like, "Dude, this one has that amazing Jerry solo on Dark Star from Watkins Glen in '73." But in Gomez' case, one might hear a fan saying something more along the lines of, "Omigod, Tom Gray didn't do that solo acoustic one last night!"
Judge a band by its gig mates, and yep, again Gomez are the lone British cousin on a bill of jam bands. But perhaps it's more guilt by association. It's likely most Americans discovered them at massive fests like Bonnaroo and SxSW, where they just happened to appear on festival lineups in close proximity to the next generation of jam bands like O.A.R., String Cheese Incident, etc. Honestly, they bear more of a resemblance to Guster, with its melodic pop and bongo backbone than to Phish, with its protracted guitar solos and endless variations on a theme. The question of whether the former could have existed without the latter is a philosophical debate for another day.
Judge a band by its earthy-crunchitude, and Gomez rank highly, as well. Considering they've "gone green" and all. Yes, they have officially, honorably, and laudably taken the high road on tour. Literally. Their entire tour is biodiesel-fueled. Yes, the bus runs on veggies. That, in combination with their commitment to recycle anything and everything, their choice of staying at sustainable lodgings whenever possible, and the sponsorship of their tour by Clif Bar, and you have an eco-friendly flavor that brings to mind their hemp-clad cousins across the pond.
But judge a band by its output, and Gomez are the unusual confluence of Jam Band and distinctly Britpop sensibilities. Yes, they have that jam band staple of drummer + percussionist. At their core, they also have that everything-comes-from-the-blues celebration of American roots music that most jam bands share. But there's something undeniably British in their pop-ness, that makes them wholly unlike other jam bands out there. Part of it comes from having three vocalists, each with strikingly different voices, trading off lead duties on reliably poppy, boppy tunes with an undercurrent of pensive brooding only Brits can muster. Also in the mix with the occasional slide guitar is a distinctly Britpop art of atmospheric guitar layering that would do Nigel Godrich proud.
This is my kind of jam band. And judging by their sold-out three-night run at New York's Bowery Ballroom, I'm not the only one. The waves of adoration washing over the band is palpable. And little wonder. Gomez are in their element on stage and truly come alive with their fans.
With their trifecta of vocalists, no matter whose voice you prefer, there's something for everyone in the audience. There's Ben Ottewell's gruff big brother with a broken heart vibe. Then there's Ian Ball's youthful indie approach with its tinge of touching insecurity in the lyrics. And Tom Gray is the most affably chatty of the group. With leads ranging from jangly alt guitar, to circus pop organ, and back again to twangy slide, there's a tone for everyone. And with the combined kits of the drummer and the percussionist filling the entire back half of the stage, there's a tempo for everyone, as well.
One key to Gomez's success in the live show metier is in their observation of the importance of interaction. It's an interplay between musicians that is wholly egalitarian. Not one of the band members is officially the frontman, putting himself out there to outshine the others. They are equals in sync with each other from thestart of each song to its end. And while each man has his moment in the spotlight, he steps back into the collective whole at the end of his tune, allowing the next to step up and take his place. And a healthy respect for interaction is the only way a band can pull off the improvisation required in any jam.
This philosophy also extends to personal interaction with the crowd. They know that making each night unique makes every crowd feel special. They talk to the crowd. They laugh with the crowd. They show a personal side that makes them seem accessible on a very human scale that is in distinct contrast to their celebrity-mongering brethren in the music scene.
Look at it this way: They could have booked one night at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. But instead, they bookedthree nights at the Bowery Ballroom. That really says everything you need to know about Gomez. Now go out and see them live...
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I'm horrified and saddened to report that Bloc Party's Matt Tong, one of my favorite drummers of all time, has been hospitalized for a collapsed lung! Can you imagine?! (*shudder*)
As a result, Bloc Party has had to pull out of the rest of their tour with Panic! At The Disco. I suppose that goes without saying. But for those of you with tickets, this is heartbreaking on several levels.
photo by Lauren Dobkin, 2006
An announcement on Bloc Party's MySpace page had the following to say:
Bloc Party has cancelled the remainder of their current US tour with Panic! at the Disco due to Matt Tong's health after being admitted to an Atlanta hospital with a collapsed lung last Thursday night.
While Matt is on the road to recovery, doctors have advised that he not travel or play again for another few weeks in order to give his lung time to properly heal.
From Kele: "We would like to apologize to all of our fans here who won't be able to see us on this tour. We were looking forward to playing in a number of American cities that we've never been to before, however, Matt's health is our number one priority right now."
Ticket refunds will be available at point-of-purchase. Ticket holders are encouraged to return their tickets within the next week.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Yes, for those of you sad sods like me, who have yet to see Gnarls Barkley live, you have another chance. They've announced they'll tour the US with the Red Hot Chili Peppers from January into March, so this is one way to kick off your 2007 with a bang. Actually, looking to really kick your 2007 off with a bang? How 'bout Gnarls and The Flaming Lips on New Year's Eve? Now that'll be a Crazy show. (Sorry, couldn't help myself.)
Meanwhile, when, oh when will they add a NY date???
Gnarls Barkley (solo): Find Tickets Here
7 - Seattle, WA - KNDD's Deck the Hall Ball
8 - Sacramento, CA - KWOD's Twisted Xmas
30 - San Francisco, CA - Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (w/ The Flaming Lips)
31 - Los Angeles, CA - Galen Center @ USC (w/ The Flaming Lips)
Red Hot Chili Peppers & Gnarls Barkley: Find Tickets Here
12 - Oklahoma City, OK - Cox Business Services Convention Center
13 - Dallas, TX - American Airlines Center
15 - St. Louis, MO - Scottrade Center
17 - Nashville, TN - Gaylord Entertainment Center
20 - Cincinnati, OH - U.S. Bank Arena
22 - Raleigh, NC - RBC Center
23 - Charlotte, NC - Charlotte Bobcats Arena
25 - Washington, DC - Verizon Center
26 - Charlottesville, VA - John Paul Jones Arena
28 - Tampa, FL - St. Pete Times Forum
30 - Orlando, FL - Orlando Centroplex
31 - Sunrise, FL - BankAtlantic Center
27 - Rosemont, IL - Allstate Arena
2 - Des Moines, IA - Wells Fargo Arena
3 - Champaign, IL - Assembly Arena
6 - San Antonio, TX - AT&T Arena
7 - Houston, TX - Toyota Center
Greetings, all! The boys from Glasgow are releasing an entirely new leg of their tour for this Spring. You have the chance to get tickets before they go on sale to the general public with the Snow Patrol Presale!
The presale began today, and runs through Thursday, 11/16.
The password: HEADLIGHTS
Get tickets here: Snow Patrol Presale Tickets
Cities included so far:
-San Diego, CA
-Grand Prairie, TX
-Coral Gables, FL
Don't Forget: Snow Patrol are also headlining the 93.3 Not So Silent Night fest in Denver, CO on 12/5.
In honor of the fact that The Office stars, John Krasinski (Jim) and Rashida Jones (Karen), sat in front of me at the 11/9/08 Death Cab for Cutie show at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, along with Nip/Tuck co-star Joey Slotnik (ether-huffing Dr. Merrill Bobolit), I figured this was a perfect time to share my new favorite viral video. This is just too good...
The Office Brings SexyBack to TV
Friday, November 10, 2006
He's so money, and he knows exactly how money he is. That's why Prince has opened a club in Las Vegas, where he will perform twice a week.
Yes, that's right, His Purple Highness has thrown his hat in with the Celines, Eltons and Barrys of the world. Not that I can really picture them hanging together, but Prince seems to have smelled the money. And he's smart enough to know that by owning the club where the performances take place, he stands to make much more than he would by splitting the proceeds from ticket sales with a third party venue. Imagine if Celine owned the Coliseum. Egads. Caveat: His venture is being backed by AEG Live, so it's not totally DIY.
Prince is setting up house at the new club, 3121, at the Rio Casino. The which casino? Exactly. It's off the strip, so the Rio will obviously benefit from the extra pull Prince represents.
He'll perform Fridays and Saturdays, starting Nov. 10, according to AOL Music News. Tickets are $125, which is pretty standard in Vegas. Yo, check it: Prince Launches Purple Vegas Reign. Meanwhile, there's no telling how long the residency will last. It may only be a matter of months, so get ye to Vegas if you're dying to see Prince.
Looking for more of the latest from Vegas? Check out the Vegas Pop Blog.
Sunday, November 5, 2006
Live at Hammerstein Ballroom, NY, 11/3/06
The Decemberists. The name itself is evocative. Evocative of a multitude of things, among them an icy chill in the air, avid proponents of the month of December, and for the smarty-pants historians among us, Russian revolutionaries. But for music fans, the name can mean only one thing: The storied band out of Portland, OR, upon whom so much praise has been heaped, and around whom such a legend has grown, that it's difficult to imagine them living up to expectations. Entering Hammerstein Ballroom for The Decemberists' CMJ Music Marathon concert on 11/3, every member of the sold-out crowd was certain that they would.
Colin and his cohorts have cultivated such a mystique that their true story has been lost to the mists of time. I, for one, prefer the band's version of revisionist history. As The Decemberists' Wikipedia entry attests, "Their official biography, keeping up their reputation for intentionally over-the-top grandiloquence, describes how the band's members met in a Turkish bath. A footnote following the biography claims, 'The Decemberists travel exclusively by Dr. Herring's Brand® Dirigible Balloons.'" Who wants the real story when we can have such a mythology?
Much has been made of band visionary and leader, Colin Meloy's prowess as a lyricist. And for good reason. His songwriting can be most easily summed up as "literary," which it often is in print, so I won't claim this as a revelatory observation. However, I prefer to think of Colin as a raconteur -- a traveling storyteller of old, weaving yarns for the enjoyment of the public, much as a bard of Ireland would recount the history of his people through story-songs. Not convinced? His EP, The Tain, is exactly that -- an 18-minute-long retelling of the Irish mythological epic of the same name. Take also, for example, his tale of doomed lovers upon the Cliffs of Dover:
We Both Go Down Together
With four full-length albums and three EPs full of songs to pull from, his discography is rife with atmospheric tales of Civil War sweethearts left behind, injured football heroes, married magical bird-maidens, daughters of Spanish kings, sea chanteys worthy of Ahab himself, and cautionary tales of murderers haunting the shadowy streets of Belfast. But is this really so extraordinary? He's not the first to employ storytelling in his songcraft. One need only remember Morrissey's "Vicar in a Tutu," who wasn't strange, he just liked to live his life in a particular way. Or of lonely "Eleanor Rigby," buried along with her name. Colin is the youngest in a long line of storytellers who entertain us with cantos revealed with bombast and grinning gusto.
Yes, Colin displays an enviable vocabulary, employing such toney words as "palanquin," "four-score years," "curlews," "arabesques," and "fontanelle." But reviewers always seem to toss off a mention of his degree in English, as if that can neatly and tidily explain away his talent and unconventional approach. Frankly, to describe him as nothing more than an English major is belittling, considering how many of us there are out there without a Crane Wife, a Tain, or a Picaresque under our belts.
Colin, for one, never chooses to downplay his literary bent and influences. On the contrary, he plays up the angle, allowing it to bolster the group's mythology. In fact, in "The Engine Driver," the narrator declares himself "a writer - a writer of fictions." And while fictions are what Meloy excels at, they also give him the opportunity to exorcise any internal demons -- just as his Engine Driver does:
The Engine Driver
It's refreshing that so much attention be paid to the lyrics. How often does that happen in rock today? But let us not gloss over the incredible musicality and musicianship of The Decemberists. This, my friends, is where it becomes clear that Colin Meloy is not the only member of the band worthy of attention and admiration. Nowhere is it more obvious than in seeing The Decemberists perform live. And as they proved at their CMJ showcase at Hammerstein Ballroom, The Decemberists are Musicians with a capitol M. They glide effortlessly from one style to the next, and from one instrument to the next with ease. And we're talking some mighty unusual instruments, at that.
Every person on stage at Hammerstein was a multi-instrumentalist. Guitarist Chris Funk played banjo, pedal steel, fiddle and what looked like an antique hand-cranked organ or hurdy-gurdy. Bassist Nate Query also pulled out a cello and a stand-up bass, playing both finger-plucked and bowed. John Moen added harmonizing vocals and melodica to his drumming duties. And the inimitable Jenny Conlee rocked her trademark hammond organ, keyboards, accordion and melodica. Last, but not least, came touring backup vocalist Lisa Molinaro, who lent guitar, violin, accordion and xylophone to the mix. I'm told someone throws in a theremin, from time to time, as well. As you can imagine, the stage was downright packed with one beautiful instrument after another, ranging from electric to exotic. While their performance was tight as a drum, they kept the vibe lighthearted, playful and rollicking. They were downright game for whatever their merry trickster of a leader had in mind.
Song for Myla Goldberg
In the end, it all comes down to Colin as a powerhouse frontman. These are his stories. These are his melodies, and his arrangements. This is his voice, ringing to the balcony with more power than I'd imagined he'd have, and with far more comedy in his patter than I would have dared hope. Seriously, the guy's hilarious. I mean, really, he staged a dance contest in the middle of the audience, ordering the crowd to part and clear circles for people to boogie down, setting up a rivalry between house-right, house-left and balcony. (The balcony won, hands down.) And in the middle of performing a rollicking rendition of "Sixteen Military Wives," he again encouraged a little friendly crowd competition dividing the crowd in half, advising us to avoid the hot boiling lava down the middle, and telling us to leer at our neighbors on the opposite side. "It's almost election day. Let's get riled up, eh? Let's get riled up!" Get a load of this:
Sixteen Military Wives
Would you have guessed he went to theater school as a kid? Ahhhh, it all becomes so clear! After enjoying an impromptu sing-along during one of his more obscure numbers, he berated us for not warming up properly before singing, as we might damage our voices and risk never singing again. Then he proceeded to lead a couple thousand of us in choral class vocal warm-up exercises, encouraging us to sing from the diaphragm. I kid you not. See for yourself:
Theatricality, it seems, is Colin's middle name. He understands the power of tone and mood, as he showed when he asked the light engineer to bathe us in spooky red lights for his chilling cautionary tale, "Shankhill Butchers." He even stopped one song to narrate while three band members reenacted an epic battle in the middle of the crowd. Each recruited "armies" from among the fans, and all would agree, it was a rout.
The Decemberists' show at Hammerstein was clearly a highlight of the CMJ festivities this week. Though to call it a "CMJ show" is a bit of a misnomer. As at so many of the other shows during the week, not a soul with a CMJ badge was allowed entry, prompting many on line to wonder aloud why they bothered spending $400+ on a badge to begin with. But that's an article for another day.