The annual Winter Jazz Fest in New York City features dozens of acts performing in several venues in and around the East and West Village. This year, one of the most diverse offerings was Brooklyn-based group Red Baraat who serve up a fusion of bhangra, qawwali, funk, jazz and rock plus the addition of a guitarist recently has given their music a new edge. Red Baraat’s set at Le Poisson Rouge followed a set from Sex Mob, a band with a twenty year history behind them. Magnet Magazine described the Mob, “led by slide trumpeter/master of ceremonies Steven Bernstein, the Mob titillated the crowd with their unique New York values and muscular musicianship.” After some turn over in the crowd, a younger and more ethnically mixed crowd made their way to the front, Red Baraat took the stage to power through eight songs and get people dancing. Sinewy Eastern guitar sounds intro-ed “Zindabad” and then the dance party was underway. The audience was superlative, smiling wholeheartedly and dancing as if a fever overtook them. Photos from the wild show plus tour dates for Red Baraat follow below.
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When I first heard about the Winter Hoot ahead of the 2015 event, I pictured a lot of bearded Brooklyn transplants hanging out, drinking craft beers and listening to music on wooden benches. I didn’t anticipate that it would be a family friendly affair with lots of parents and their tots in tow or in slings listening to music sitting on wooden benches. The Winter Hoot is an annual event thrown by the Mike + Ruthy Band that will be returning for its fourth iteration in January. The Hoot will have fun for all ages including, “the ever-popular blacksmithing demos, sledding, all-ages crafts in the FiberFlame room (leave your child for an additional childcare fee), an array of upstairs parent-child activities, an instrument petting zoo by Hungry For Music (please bring an instrument to donate to kids in need) and intimate mini-concerts in the Pewter Shop filmed and recorded by Beehive Productions.” The Pewter Sessions were a particular highlight, I caught David Wax Museum there and the Hoot has archived some clips on YouTube here.
I really enjoyed their vibrant folk sound when I saw them, so much so that I went to catch Mike + Ruthy perform in New York City twice afterwards including once at a Fracking awareness show at Brooklyn Bowl and another time at Rockwood Music Hall in July, where they performed songs from their newest album Bright As You Can and invited friends like Aoife O’Donovan on stage to join them. A particularly large crowd gathered on stage near the end of the show as everyone took part in a sing-along of “On My Way Home” (which I captured as video below). Their shows are fun, friendly and intimate and anyone who likes their home-spun Americana served with jollity would be wise to catch them live.
The ATO Records showcase announcement of Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard doing a show from her side project Thunderbitch was perhaps the biggest surprise of CMJ week. Almost every major music reporter, photographer, blogger or industry type was there. The immediate area around the stage was basically all photographers as this was one of the first shows from Howard (as Thunderbitch). And it rocked.
CMJ Music Marathon is an endurance test. You can collect as many bands as you want—on any given day you can catch way more than a dozen if you are willing to work for it. On the third (and on the fourth) nights, I wasn’t pushing myself. I wanted to see John Grant ‘s newly added set at Rough Trade since I couldn’t make his set at Le Poisson Rouge on the last day. And I wanted to catch up with Quilt who I hadn’t seen in a while. I also got to hang out at Baby’s where a team from Mute Records was on site giving out stickers and albums (I got myself ones from M83 and from The Knife).