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Wednesday, Dec 10, 2014
Japanese music, specifically a shamisen performance, can be a hard sell initially, but a Westerner might find some similarities with Appalachian folk music.

Last year around Thanksgiving time, I was visiting Japan. I didn’t attend any kabuki or any noh performances nor did I check out any music (though Paul McCartney played there days before I arrived). I did however check out something that does translate well, giant robots. It’s not just that I’m not familiar with many Japanese bands, though few if any cross over into the US market, it’s that those theater productions are often lengthy which makes it difficult to approach (which section of the performance should I see?) and, in this case, the instrumental music doesn’t have a specific rhythm or catchy chorus for one to grasp onto. So I didn’t risk a show in Tokyo, but I was lucky to catch a rare and masterful set of shamisen performances in New York at the Japan Society.


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Tuesday, Dec 9, 2014
Bear's Den are an exciting, up-and-coming band on the Communion label, which might explain why they sound a bit Mumfordy, but they aren't as blustery fortunately.

UK band Bear’s Den receive a lot of comparisons to Mumford & Sons, in part because of their expressive banjo use and because they have released two EPs and an album on Communion Records, the label founded by one ‘Son’ Ben Lovett and Kevin Jones, who drums for Bear’s Den. Jones did change up instruments occasionally though with his bandmates, singer and guitarist Andrew Davie and Joey Haynes on banjo. Their live performance at New York City’s Warsaw venue included several other musicians (maxing out at nine people on stage), namely members of the opening act Dan Mangan + Blacksmith and later, their friend Remi Aguillela from the band Daughter. Dan Mangan and his band hail from Vancouver and hadn’t performed in New York in at least two years, and one fan near the front expressed her love for them and that she had been waiting for so long for their return.


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Monday, Dec 8, 2014
Attending moe.’s Big Lebowski show after Phish’s Halloween bonanza was akin to doubling down after hitting the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll jackpot, except that the odds heavily favored those willing to gamble the rest of their evening.

There’s always been something special about catching a rock ‘n’ roll show in Las Vegas, something to do with how Sin City’s reputation for gambling and debauchery enhances the vibe surrounding a show. This draws music lovers from around the country for many of the tours that come through, making a Vegas show akin to a national convention. The Grateful Dead used to fill the 40,000-capacity Silver Bowl in the early ‘90s and there was no doubt that only a minority in attendance were locals.


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Monday, Dec 8, 2014
The Barr Brothers pooled a wide variety of musical influences, like desert rhythms and Icelandic dreamscapes, to create some of the most eclectic folk rock around.

Singer and guitarist Brad Barr and his brother Andrew on drums and banjo, as The Barr Brothers released their second album Sleeping Operator in October. The band, which also consists of harpist Sarah Page, organist Andres Vial and bassist Mishka Stein, have been on tour almost nonstop since early November promoting it. And their NYC stop brought them to the Bowery Ballroom for a sold-out Friday night show.


Their friend Leif Vollebekk opened for them, though I missed most of his set, and later on joined the Barrs on stage for a few songs. I had little familiarity with Vollebekk, but his sparsely folk album North Americana has earned scattered praise on the internet and he did maintain the attention of the crowd filling in the venue.


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Wednesday, Nov 19, 2014
ALO knew this was a special night and threw down one funky song after another, as is their trademark, keeping the dance party grooving for some three plus hours on a night that no one wanted to end.

There are certain nights in a band’s touring year that will stand out due to the particular circumstances surrounding the show, whether it be the setting or the timing or sometimes both. Santa Barbara was already bracing for one of the town’s biggest shows in recent memory when Phish announced their fall tour would stop for two nights at the beautiful Santa Barbara Bowl on October 21-22. The ante was upped when it was later announced that Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe would play a matching pair of “official Phish aftershow parties” at the SoHo club downtown.


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