The Watkins Family Hour is a well established troupe of musicians consisting of siblings Sara and Sean Watkins (who are also in Nickel Creek), Fiona Apple, Benmont Tench, Don Heffington, Greg Leisz and Sebastian Steinberg. They’ve been hosting a monthly show in California for years and they’ve released their self-titled debut album in July ahead of a tour that included Newport Folk Festival and a three night stand in New York City at City Winery. On August 1st, they returned to New York for a free performance in conjunction with Lincoln Center’s ‘Out of Doors’ and Americanafest NYC to perform Bob Dylan’s classic Highway ‘61 Revisited. Leisz was not present it seemed but guitarists David Garza and Smokey Hormel were on stage in his stead.
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California band Vintage Trouble are set to release their second studio album 1 Hopeful Rd. this week with some gigs in their home state. But the four piece band was recently in New York to headline a free show that was part of Lincoln Center’s ‘Out of Doors’ series. Vintage Trouble, along with The Skins and Lion Babe, drew a huge crowd to Damrosch Park, one that wound around the block and stayed there till the end since the cordoned off space reached capacity early on. Unfortunately those left outside missed a wild performance.
Vintage Trouble, frontman Ty Taylor, guitarist Nalle Colt, bassist Rick Barrio Dill and drummer Richard Danielson, played a ferocious set of rock that draws from southern roots, blues and other genres to create an even more volatile mix. In one of his brief resting moments, Taylor reflected on how the two genres of music in AFROPUNK are not as dissimilar as one might think. He was of course referencing the AFROPUNK Festival as one of the organizers of this event. AFROPUNK returns to Brooklyn August 22nd and 23rd, and Vintage Trouble will make another appearance there, having played the fest in 2013. Check out our photos from the show below as well as Vintage Trouble tour dates and information on AFROPUNK Brooklyn.
New York’s X Ambassadors, hot off the release of their first album VHS, were booked to open for German duo, Milky Chance at Summerstage in Central Park. They are a quickly growing favorite that I had heard of because they are local. Milky Chance on the other hand, I hadn’t heard of but was curious to check out because they had sold out Summerstage and tickets were commanding 3x times face value at one point. Their music is described as folk with a dash of international flavor, including reggae, and electronic mixed in. The show review over at Pancakes and Whiskey, included a vivid description of their music, “Milky Chance’s sound hit the air like dye on cotton, bleeding together instantly and branching out endlessly.” But, I didn’t quite latch on to what they were creating. Maybe I’m a little too old for tye-dye as my mind was not as accepting of their music. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would thought I would have given the interesting combination of music.
José González is an indie singer-songwriter from Sweden and, with the release of his first proper album Veneer in 2003, he found a lot of fans, particularly as his songs “Crosses” and his cover of the Knife’s “Heartbeat” got a lot of buzz. The album was successful enough that he ended up not following through with his pursuit of a PhD and he has continued to work on a variety of musical projects since then, most recently another solo release, 2015’s Vestiges & Claws. I’ve followed his musical career since that album and, having seen him perform a couple of times in the past year, was looking forward to his Newport set.
Unfortunately, his Harbor stage slot on Saturday 25 July conflicted with Sufjan Stevens on the Fort stage so I knew I couldn’t see it all of González’s performance. But I did get over in time to watch him perform “Line of Fire”, a song he did with Junip, and one of Vestiges’ singles, “Open Book”. The next day, it turned out he was to do a surprise set at a corporate sponsored stage but I arrived there to find a large crowd already spilling out of a small room. I could neither see him nor hear his delicate music very well in part due to louder music from the Quad Stage. The two Newport sets were more intimate than the two recent performances I saw of his in New York, so it would have been a treat to see them entirely. But fortunately, I had spotted González lingering back stage (and talking with Jon Batiste at one point) and had arranged to speak with him about his various musical interests, projects and his birthday show last year.
It was a beautiful night in the summer of 2015, but the harmonic convergences taking place had some feeling like it could have been the mid-’90s. Both the Smashing Pumpkins and Veruca Salt were launching summer tours in the Golden State during the week, lending 2015 an appealing retro vibe harkening back to the alt-rock glory days of the late 20th century.
Smashing Pumpkins bandleader Billy Corgan even had old pal Jimmy Chamberlin back in the mix on drums, leading to a renewed anticipation for the sonic power of the Pumpkins in their prime. The mercurial Corgan may not have made all the right moves over the years, but he always seems to make up for any missteps. Breaking up the Pumpkins in 2000 was an extremely disappointing move. But putting the band back together in 2007 even with only 50 percent of the original lineup was a great move for rock ‘n’ roll, as was mending fences to get Chamberlin back on board this year.
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