One year ago, before the proper release of his biggest album yet Delilah, Anderson East played the Bowery Ballroom solo opening for Sturgill Simpson. One year and one day later, many of those passed by on the road including at least three other shows in New York City, East returned to the Bowery stage as the headliner with his full band in tow. The Nashville based artist has seen his star continue to rise and this show was sold out well in advance. And after seeing him several times before, East proved himself to be a capable and versatile headliner. Another Nashville based artist, Andrew Combs opened for East and his set was well-received by the Americana and country loving audience. Combs performed tracks off his two albums, Worried Man and All These Dreams, with the title track from the latter being a particular highlight of his set. Combs then went down to sign autographs for his newly minted fans.
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Violinist Dr. L Subramaniam presented his Lakshminarayana Global Music Festival, in collaboration with the World Music Institute, in New York at the 92Y on 5 February 2016. It was a rare US performance, his first here since 2006, for the classically and traditionally trained virtuoso. The crowd at the Y was markedly different from that at a typical event—a sea of brown faces, including mine, turned up (and I believe security seemed heavier than normal inside and with at least one police officer positioned outside the venue).
L. Subramaniam was accompanied by a small group for a mesmerizing Carnatic performance that went over ninety minutes. Seated on the Dr.‘s left was his son, Ambi Subramaniam, an acclaimed violinist in his own right. To the side of the father and son were Mahesh Krishnamurthy on mridangam and Ravi Balasubramaniam slapping the ghatam (essentially a clay pot). The elder Subramaniam introduced each of his pieces, the ragas, explaining the time signatures and the key changes. The first raga was Varnam and it began with him solo, then transitioned into a violin call and response with his son before the percussion joined in. Time flew by during the performance as the rich sonics resonated in the auditorium.
As one of PopMatters’ “Musical Hopes to Break Out in 2016”, Julien Baker is unsurprisingly a very talented artist. What might be surprising to some is that her music is regularly somber and occasionally devastating emotionally. Her sparse debut album Sprained Ankle, released in October 2015, has tough songs that deal with loneliness and depression. This winter, Baker has been generating a lot of buzz on the back of her emotional solo performances.
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.
One of the first shows I caught this year was one from a Brooklyn band, San Fermin at their Lincoln Center ‘American Songbook’ show. I wasn’t very familiar with them and they hadn’t yet released their 2015 album Jackrabbit. But their unique, unrestrained baroque pop was memorable and I knew I wanted to check them out again. Fortunately, they were performing a three night run of shows at the Bowery Ballroom to celebrate their third anniversary as a band.
To enhance the merriment, band leader Ellis Ludwig-Leone invited a lot of friends to join San Fermin on stage, both to support San Fermin songs and to share that particular artists material. Some of the guests included Aaron Livingston of Son Little for two numbers including his “The River” (I hadn’t seen a proper set from him this year despite the buzz around him), Nanna Fabricius of Oh Land, Mike Wilbur of Moon Hooch wailing on his saxophone, Casey Dienel of White Hinterland, Kristin Slipp of Cuddle Magic (her song “What If I” was included in the set) and Eliza Bagg and Oliver Hill of Pavo Pavo. These eclectic additions swelled the number of people on stage to almost a dozen at various points but the stage never seemed too crowded.