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Thursday, Jul 17, 2014
A holiday Panic show provides the intrepid traveler with another flashing chance at bliss amidst the economic chaos that passes for the dwindling American Dream in 2014.

When legendary journalist Hunter S. Thompson visited Las Vegas in the early ‘70s to report on a district attorneys’ conference on narcotics, he wound up penning a soliloquy for Rolling Stone magazine on the California counterculture revolution of the ‘60s that still resonates decades later:


“There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning… And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave… So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”


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Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014
Andrew Bird's newest album Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of... features covers of the Handsome Family that were brought to life at Summerstage.

After Luke Temple, of Here We Go Magic, opened to a crowd that had already reached the venue’s capacity Andrew Bird started off his Summerstage show with three solo offerings before bringing out his backing band. The troupe called The Hands of Glory performed with Bird for the rest of his lengthy set reimagining his originals (draw from nearly a dozen albums) and some covers, mainly those from Bird’s most recent album, Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of… consisting entirely of songs originally by The Handsome Family. This backing band included regular collaborators Tift Merritt, Kevin O’Donnell and a few others and they gave Bird a country nest from which to perform though there was a couple chances for him to go on one of his more abstract, whistling journeys. A fine performance for the outdoor venue on an evening that remained undisturbed by rain.


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Monday, Jul 14, 2014
Timberlake performed an exclusive show for 2,200 people in the middle of his Summer arena tour run.

Justin Timberlake is in the middle of a huge sold-out arena tour yet he took the time to perform a more “intimate” show at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom for a corporate sponsor, Mastercard. Or it could have been American Airlines who had a larger promotional presence on site, but I don’t think I heard Timberlake give them props during his show. Just the credit card. In any case, the exclusivity made this the hot event of the night for New Yorkers even if it wasn’t the hot event of the week. There were several large concerts going on in the NYC area over several (other) nights including Katy Perry across the street at the Garden and Beyoncé and Jay-Z with two nights at the Meadowlands (Hova did not grace JT’s set unfortunately).


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Wednesday, Jul 9, 2014
Icelandic phenom Ásgeir has just released a new video for "King and Cross" and recently performed at a sold out show in New York.

After his short performance at CMJ last year, Ásgeir Trausti was slow to return to New York for a proper performance, coming over from Iceland more than six months after that gig (a Spring show at Rough Trade ended up being cancelled though it he was spotted in the US at a Hozier show). The time in between allowed him to release In the Silence, an English language version (translation help came from John Grant) of his debut album Dýrð í dauðaþögn, that had been picked up by at least 10% of Iceland’s population.


The Mercury Lounge show had been sold out for months but, when the day finally arrived, the venue never seemed to pack to capacity. That was fortunate for the folks at the front who were dancing along in the gloomy atmosphere that Ásgeir wallowed in. The singer-songwriter was backed by four musicians including his older brother and the album’s producer, throughout his mixed Icelandic/English set, performing the songs from both versions of his powerful debut.


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Tuesday, Jul 8, 2014
If you are familiar with Jon Batiste, you already know he is a wild performer. He managed to kick it up a notch at his Summerstage show.

Musician and band leader Jon Batiste is a youthful, vibrant performer from Louisiana who was caught up in the jazz world at a young age. Now, as he occupies the role of Associate Artistic Director at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, Batiste still takes time to tour with his band Stay Human, to connect with followers and to earn new fans along the way. And by connect with followers, I mean more than simply the “followers” that are found on social media or who buy his albums, I mean the folks who will literally trail Batiste as he conducts a musical procession from the stage to the street.


Batiste’s free show at the Central Park Summerstage was a wild set that delved into all sorts of jazz, hip-hop, R&B and other musical influences, including a rendition of the folk staple “Saint James Infirmary”. One of the first recognizable inspired bits was a take on “Summertime”, recently famous by the band summertime favorites Sublime but really hailing back to Gershwin and Ella Fitzgerald. The opening extended medley saw Batiste step away from the stately Yamaha grand piano and lift up the much cheaper, branded plastic melodica of his as the band stood behind him. The members of Stay Human clearly share Batiste’s sensibilities and have fun with their performances, whipping up familiar pop music melodies during solos and preening like showmen on stage.


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