In the backwoods of the imagination lies Mike “Yes Yes” Ersing, nestled somewhere between Daniel Johnston, Kimya Dawson, drug addled dreams, and a healthy portion of crooner meets beat poet. Perpetually shifting between wistful and angry freak folk with occasional country undertones, this Buffalo native played on Tuesday January 5th to an intimate crowd at Arlene’s Grocery.
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Once Ella Fitzgerald immortalized the “A” train in that famous tune by Sir Duke, few could resist the idea of shuttling uptown to experience Harlem’s fervent jazz scene. “Take the A Train” is still a beguiling invitation, though heading downtown on the “A” train promises just as memorable a time these days, especially if you disembark at the West 4th street station, one block from The Blue Note.
Massachusetts alternative rockers Dinosaur Jr. proved to a sold-out Phoenix Concert Theatre that they are hardly extinct. The band, having just performed a free show at Sonic Boom record store, blew fans away with an energy packed performance highlighted by front man J Mascis’ guitar wizardry. Standing before a tower of Marshall amps, Mascis barely broke a sweat while coolly working a bank of effects pedals and making his guitar scream effortlessly. Lou Barlow, who also opened the evening plucking solo heart-felt folk songs on an acoustic guitar, reappeared on bass guitar and played like a possessed man. Unable to enter Canada, regular Dinosaur Jr. drummer Murph was replaced by Kyle Spence who’s tight work on the kit meshed into the performance beautifully. Fans were treated to new material from off the group’s 2009 release, Farm, such as “Pieces”, “Imagination Blind”, and “I Don’t Wanna Go There”. Older fan favorites like “Feel The Pain” and “Freak Scene” also made the cut. The evening concluded with encore performances of “Kracked”, “Sludgefest”, and “Chunks”, during which Fucked Up vocalist Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham joined in. Although 2010 has just begun, I can say with certainty this show will make my top 5 list for the year.
Voices Voices, Gaslamp Killer and Prefuse 73. Just looking at the bill knows what to expect: heavy hitting drums, plenty of bass, and tons of extras to go wild to. And with the lovely Music Hall of Williamsburg as the backdrop for this electronic fanfare, there was no doubt that this was the place to be in NYC.
As far as venerated venues go, Radio City is pretty much it. It’s the pinnacle of every tour no matter how many times it’s been conquered, bestowing a child-like exuberance to practically all those who grace its stage. So it was for Josh Ritter who opened the evening. Though he’s as excited and sincere as a schoolboy for nearly every show, Ritter was equally courageous by trying out half new material. His new folk narratives (“The Curse”, “Annabelle Lee”) carried over well but “Girl in the War” remains a thing of beauty, and it instilled a quiet contemplative reverence in the crowd.