Last year around Thanksgiving time, I was visiting Japan. I didn’t attend any kabuki or any noh performances nor did I check out any music (though Paul McCartney played there days before I arrived). I did however check out something that does translate well, giant robots. It’s not just that I’m not familiar with many Japanese bands, though few if any cross over into the US market, it’s that those theater productions are often lengthy which makes it difficult to approach (which section of the performance should I see?) and, in this case, the instrumental music doesn’t have a specific rhythm or catchy chorus for one to grasp onto. So I didn’t risk a show in Tokyo, but I was lucky to catch a rare and masterful set of shamisen performances in New York at the Japan Society.
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UK band Bear’s Den receive a lot of comparisons to Mumford & Sons, in part because of their expressive banjo use and because they have released two EPs and an album on Communion Records, the label founded by one ‘Son’ Ben Lovett and Kevin Jones, who drums for Bear’s Den. Jones did change up instruments occasionally though with his bandmates, singer and guitarist Andrew Davie and Joey Haynes on banjo. Their live performance at New York City’s Warsaw venue included several other musicians (maxing out at nine people on stage), namely members of the opening act Dan Mangan + Blacksmith and later, their friend Remi Aguillela from the band Daughter. Dan Mangan and his band hail from Vancouver and hadn’t performed in New York in at least two years, and one fan near the front expressed her love for them and that she had been waiting for so long for their return.
Singer and guitarist Brad Barr and his brother Andrew on drums and banjo, as The Barr Brothers released their second album Sleeping Operator in October. The band, which also consists of harpist Sarah Page, organist Andres Vial and bassist Mishka Stein, have been on tour almost nonstop since early November promoting it. And their NYC stop brought them to the Bowery Ballroom for a sold-out Friday night show.
Their friend Leif Vollebekk opened for them, though I missed most of his set, and later on joined the Barrs on stage for a few songs. I had little familiarity with Vollebekk, but his sparsely folk album North Americana has earned scattered praise on the internet and he did maintain the attention of the crowd filling in the venue.
With Whoopi Goldberg as its Grand Marshal, the 2014 Village Halloween Parade included thousands of costumed revelers, both walking the street and watching from the sides. Whether they were dressed up in something cute and cuddly or they were trailing blood and gore or they were just coming to watch, there was something for everyone to enjoy at the Parade. Check out some photos below.
October 27th, 2014 marked the first anniversary of Lou Reed’s death, a milestone that surprisingly went by with little fanfare beyond Facebook tribute posts and a touching video from Reed’s Velvet Underground colleague John Cale. New Yorkers, however, were fortunate enough to celebrate in style with Hedwig and the Angry Itch co-creator Stephen Trask and Tits of Clay, Hedwig’s Broadway house band. An early show at Manhattan’s Mercury Lounge saw the band and Trask running through the whole of Reed’s 1972 masterpiece, Transformer, before pulling out some Velvet Underground classics for the encore.