There was no real stage, but that didn’t seem to matter against the beautiful backdrop of the New York City skyline. The roof of the Cooper Square Hotel, the venue for a new musical showcase hosted by former music publicist Annie Ohayon, was entertaining enough, but it served as the perfect venue for this event, which promised to be part artists’ salon, part cocktail party. Officially titled the Annie O. Concert Series, the curated evenings will be open to bands and musicians from around the world.
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Led by a pair of former choirgirls, Las Rubias del Norte are a melting pot of Latin music and song. Like the city they call home, Las Rubias represent a mixture of culture and sounds, all under the leadership of Allyssa Lamb and Emily Hurst.
Celebrating the release of their third record, Ziguala, the band played an intimate early set at Joe’s Pub Friday night. A self-described exploration of world music “if rock ‘n’ roll never happened” the record’s songs skip from country to country. Backed by congas, timbale, maracas, upright bass, glockenspiel, vibes, electric guitar, keyboard and ukulele, the songs were either assertive or beguiling, but always rhythmic. Peruvian, French, and Bolivian songs supplanted the title track, a Greek tune, all with an underlying Latin beat. By comparison their only English song, a drowsy Western, “Tumbling Tumbleweeds”, seemed lethargic and uninspired.
Washed Out’s Ernest Greene didn’t need any help to accurately render his sample-heavy songs at DC9 on Thursday night. What he did need help with was stage presence. After all, there are few things less engaging than a dude crouched over a table full of samplers and effects pedals. So Greene wisely kept his solo set short, ceding the stage to his tour mates, the groove-heavy synth-pop act Small Black. After a set’s worth of Small Black songs, Greene jumped back on stage and performed a few more Washed Out numbers with Small Black acting as his backing band. With the benefit of a real rhythm section and the stage show that a full band affords, Greene’s technicolor jams proved difficult to resist. It should speak volumes that by the end of the night, the room had turned into a sweat-soaked dance party, a rare occurrence in a town known better for—in the immortal words of the Dismemberment Plan—“doing the standing still”.
No wind, rain, or winter’s cold could stop Dionne Farris from making a rare Brooklyn appearance while New York City plowed itself out of one of the most crippling storms in recent memory. The BAAS Group had invited the Atlanta-based artist to appear at Galapagos Art Space, situated a few yards from some of D.U.M.B.O.‘s most breathtaking lower-Manhattan views.
Following an introduction by BAAS Group co-founder Troy Saunders, Farris sauntered up the stage-left steps to vociferous fanfare from the audience. She opened with her signature song, “I Know”, which emphasized the ageless qualities in her voice. Her pitch-perfect phrasing, in fact, could have been mistaken for the original recording. “Passion”, a track from her 1994 debut, Wild Seed-Wild Flower (1994), also sounded fresh and far younger than its 15 years. Farris stepped into the groove of the song, accentuating the rhythm of the words with a serpentine body movement and piercing the air with her fist during the song’s voltaic guitar riff.
April Smith’s New York homecoming was confirmation of just how solidly crafted the impeccable string of songs she’s recorded with her “boys”, the Great Picture Show, are. Commanding her band from the Mercury Lounge’s quaint stage, the tracks of Songs for a Singking Ship were transformed into barrelhouse stompers and sing-a-longs, all under the direction of Ms. Smith’s powerful alto.