New York’s X Ambassadors, hot off the release of their first album VHS, were booked to open for German duo, Milky Chance at Summerstage in Central Park. They are a quickly growing favorite that I had heard of because they are local. Milky Chance on the other hand, I hadn’t heard of but was curious to check out because they had sold out Summerstage and tickets were commanding 3x times face value at one point. Their music is described as folk with a dash of international flavor, including reggae, and electronic mixed in. The show review over at Pancakes and Whiskey, included a vivid description of their music, “Milky Chance’s sound hit the air like dye on cotton, bleeding together instantly and branching out endlessly.” But, I didn’t quite latch on to what they were creating. Maybe I’m a little too old for tye-dye as my mind was not as accepting of their music. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would thought I would have given the interesting combination of music.
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José González is an indie singer-songwriter from Sweden and, with the release of his first proper album Veneer in 2003, he found a lot of fans, particularly as his songs “Crosses” and his cover of the Knife’s “Heartbeat” got a lot of buzz. The album was successful enough that he ended up not following through with his pursuit of a PhD and he has continued to work on a variety of musical projects since then, most recently another solo release, 2015’s Vestiges & Claws. I’ve followed his musical career since that album and, having seen him perform a couple of times in the past year, was looking forward to his Newport set.
Unfortunately, his Harbor stage slot on Saturday 25 July conflicted with Sufjan Stevens on the Fort stage so I knew I couldn’t see it all of González’s performance. But I did get over in time to watch him perform “Line of Fire”, a song he did with Junip, and one of Vestiges’ singles, “Open Book”. The next day, it turned out he was to do a surprise set at a corporate sponsored stage but I arrived there to find a large crowd already spilling out of a small room. I could neither see him nor hear his delicate music very well in part due to louder music from the Quad Stage. The two Newport sets were more intimate than the two recent performances I saw of his in New York, so it would have been a treat to see them entirely. But fortunately, I had spotted González lingering back stage (and talking with Jon Batiste at one point) and had arranged to speak with him about his various musical interests, projects and his birthday show last year.
It was a beautiful night in the summer of 2015, but the harmonic convergences taking place had some feeling like it could have been the mid-’90s. Both the Smashing Pumpkins and Veruca Salt were launching summer tours in the Golden State during the week, lending 2015 an appealing retro vibe harkening back to the alt-rock glory days of the late 20th century.
Smashing Pumpkins bandleader Billy Corgan even had old pal Jimmy Chamberlin back in the mix on drums, leading to a renewed anticipation for the sonic power of the Pumpkins in their prime. The mercurial Corgan may not have made all the right moves over the years, but he always seems to make up for any missteps. Breaking up the Pumpkins in 2000 was an extremely disappointing move. But putting the band back together in 2007 even with only 50 percent of the original lineup was a great move for rock ‘n’ roll, as was mending fences to get Chamberlin back on board this year.
As a fan of Guster since the late ‘90s, I’ve got a special place in my heart for the band. Their album Lost and Gone Forever remains their standout for me even as I have found gems on newer albums, like this year’s Evermotion the group’s first for Nettwerk. So when I they came around New York to perform at Summerstage in Central Park, I figured it would be an enjoyable show. And, despite the heat, it was.
Hot off the release of his album Delilah, on producer Dave Cobb’s first release on his new imprint, Anderson East’s performance at the Mercury Lounge in July was full of vim and vigor. Though to be honest, East’s normal performance mode is already so fiery the set show is framed by his friend and guitarist Scotty Murray’s wild preaching.
East was in New York City from Nashville for his, at least, fourth time this year in the build up to Delilah and at this headlining tour stop, Icelandic band Kaleo opened for him. Kaleo don’t perform the typical moody or ethereal music that often comes from the island nation; their music is more folksy and Americana-esque which served as a perfect warm up for the rowdy performance that was to come. Kaleo’s actual set ended up shorter than what was written on the setlist in front of them but I was left curious enough to check them out again (the song “All the Pretty Girls” is a particular standout).