There was a festive vibe in the air as the 2015 O.penVAPE Tour launched in Southern California at the end of January. A co-headlining show featuring longtime jamrock stalwart Keller Williams and rising funk phenoms in the Motet, the tour also celebrates one of the winners of 2014’s culture wars—the cannabis oil vape pen. “Vape” was in fact the Oxford Dictionary word of the year for 2014, as the popularity of the personal vaporizer pen skyrocketed in the wake of the booming legal cannabis industry in Colorado.
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The presence of open incandescent light bulbs on stage at the Appel Room (formerly Allen Room) enhanced the already gorgeous atmosphere of the Lincoln Center venue that overlooks Columbus Circle and Central Park South with its ebb and flow of headlights. At the same time, the atmospheric “baroque pop” of San Fermin (with a total of eight members) was enhanced by the presence of the six-piece Metropolis Ensemble (three brass/horns and three strings). San Fermin were showcasing songs from their forthcoming, second album Jackrabbit out in April on Downtown Records. Primary song-writer Ellis Ludwig-Leone was off on the side at his keyboards, remaining low-key, as his bandmates were the center of a vibrant, almost hour and a half, performance. The rest of San Fermin includes John Brandon on trumpet, Stephen Chen on saxophone, Rebekah Durham on violin, Michael Hanf on drums, Tyler McDiarmid on guitar, and Charlene Kaye and Allen Tate alternating on vocals.
The husband and wife duo of the Rails (James Walbourne and Kami Thompson) released their debut album Fair Warning last year on the resurrected Pink Label of Island Records. The Pink Label was home to the albums of Richard and Linda Thompson, Kami’s parents, so it was a fitting tribute. The album hasn’t made a huge splash amongst critics as there are few reviews online for it. But Fair Warning is a contemporary album of ballads that evoke bygone musical traditions from the British Isles.
The way anniversaries are typically celebrated in the music world tends to be arbitrary. Although these usually come up in neat multiples of five—the tenth anniversary, 25th, 50th, and so on—the fanfare is regularly thrown without any concern for whether or not the time that has elapsed, however neat a number it may be, actually holds any meaning for a particular artist’s career. Come the start of each calendar year, publications across the web and globe ready their lists of album anniversaries for a regular glut of thinkpieces—whether or not the albums in these albums are actually worth the retrospective is up for debate. So when the Chicago-based post-metal trio Russian Circles kicked off 2015 with a tenth anniversary tour, there was only one obvious question: are the past ten years meaningfully significant for this band?
After their final United States tenth anniversary show, a homecoming event held at the North Chicago rock venue Metro, Russian Circles confirmed what their five studio albums in their ten years as a group had already made obvious: yes, this is an anniversary well worth celebrating. Based on the amount of moving bodies and battered eardrums that left Metro just after midnight, much celebration was certainly had.
Singer Bettye LaVette’s legendary status has been cemented by the fact that she is holding a residency at the Café Carlyle. And on January 29th, the second night, the lucky audience, including friends and family, had the opportunity to celebrate not just the release of LaVette’s latest album Worthy earlier in the week, but also to mark her 69th birthday with a toast.