The new (to me) Infinity Music Hall in Hartford played host to Brooklyn dhol and brass band Red Baraat on a post-show Saturday during March Madness. Those two factors likely had a measurable impact on the attendance, but those faithful fans who made it out were seriously into the music. Some were even families with kids—and all were dancing unabashedly to the bhangra fusion.
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Drive-By Truckers wrapped up their 17 date winter tour with a three night run in their hometown of Athens, Georgia. Just before that however, the band played a two hour set to a capacity crowd at New York’s Webster Hall. Kyle Craft kicked off the night around 7:30 before Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, Brad Morgan, Jay Gonzalez, Matt Patton wasted no time once they began around 8:30 quickly filling the venue with their scuzzy guitars and generously liberal political message.
Drive-By Truckers most recent album American Band (ATO Records) is their most political yet and has drawn a slew of critical adoration. The band led the show with two of the new tracks, “Surrender Under Protest” and “Darkened Flags on the Cusp of Dawn”, making it transparent they had a message to share. Introducing the racial-discussion of “What It Means”, Hood spoke on how he wrote the song a couple of years back using the murder of Michael Brown as some sort of guidance. But Hood admitted he finds the song is more relevant now given the remarkable rise in incidents of police shooting and killing black people. The lines “I mean Barack Obama won / And you can choose where to eat / But you don’t see too many white kids lying / Bleeding on the street” was even more tragic in the light of a Trump victory and the presumption he will reduce or destabilize gun control efforts.
Over two nights in the middle of December, jazz guitarist Rez Abbasi premiered his new work Unfiltered Universe at Asia Society in Manhattan alongside his esteemed band, Invocation. Invocation includes two other prominent musicians steeped in South Asian styles, Vijay Iyer on piano and Rudresh Mahanthappa on saxophone as well as Johannes Weidenmueller on bass, Dan Weiss on drums and Elizabeth Means on cello. Invocation shouldn’t be considered a fusion band or world music, however—the Indian influences are more subtle.
As the Village Voice noted in a recent interview with Abbasi, “Invocation plays jazz compositions, all by Abbasi, and relates to Indian music at a very broad level (both styles are fundamentally driven by improvisation) and a very subtle one, shaped by years of listening to Indian music and working with Indian musicians—not in between.”
Pandora’s annual holiday themed party continued again in 2016 with a free show headlined by one of the most buzzed about bands of 2016, The 1975 When I attended their free show a couple of years back I caught Kiesza and a few other musicians. But this year’s slate was more exciting given that The 1975’s latest album I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It has been in the Top 10 albums of the year on many lists and their hit single “The Sound” ranked #4 on PopMatters’ own “Best Songs of 2016” chart.
As the CMJ Music Marathon didn’t happen in 2016, the BBC Music showcase felt like a substitute for CMJ—a way to discover new bands via a curated show. It was with an open mind I attended their event on November 14th. Whether it was because the show wasn’t well publicized or because it was a Monday night, the crowd at the Gramercy Theatre felt a bit underwhelming. I stayed for two sets, the first being from a rock group Sundara Karma and the second from a soulful singer named Izzy Bizu.
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