Saturday, November 27, 2010

Joanna Newsom at Carnegie Hall!

I have discovered something about Joanna Newsom that will startle only a few of you. The rest of you have probably had this tingling sensation in the back of your head for quite some time now. It’s a fleeting notion- an idea that meandered and never fully formed... but was always a vague observation perched at the tip of your tongue ready to jump off. I had the same tickle in my mind. It wasn’t until last night at the magnificent Carnegie Hall, with her voice amplified within the ornate walls of that enchanting beloved edifice that I gasped and said “Aha!”. You see...

Joanna Newsom is not human. 

What enchanting creature she is is still uncertain, however. One minute, she is playful and silly like an innocent sprite, then in the next moment she is mournful and serious as death itself, the next minute she is shrieking like a forlorn banshee, and then further still she will sigh whimsically and glow with all the love and peace in this world like an angel. I am not alone in this sentiment. We, (Joanna's devotees) know that she is extraordinary and otherworldly. In fact, someone shouted out during one of her harp tunings, "What does it feel like to be a GODDESS?". She seemed embarrassed though flattered and avoided answering all together by replying with something along the lines of, "I'm not a Goddess. Let's ask Dolly Parton."

Joanna Newsom and the band of musicians surrounding her toyed with my emotions all night long. It'd be vexing if it wasn't such a pleasure. Each pluck at her harp string seemed connected to the chords of my heart. It was like I had become an emotional marionette, and she was the puppetmaster. The sound of their music reverberating in Carnegie Hall was positively succulent. It was like my brain bit into a perfectly ripened nectarine on a warm summer day, the juices of the composition dripping down into the back of my throat- blissfully choking me up with its sheer deliciousness. The music was the nectar of the Gods, finely decanted in the sacred vessel that is Carnegie Hall. 

I was weeping, being lulled into a pleasant dream like trance, smiling, dancing in my seat, or being whisked away as if by magic. My hand stayed nestled upon my heart and throat for most of the show because I needed someone to hold me. There was very little banter between songs save the moments when Joanna was tuning. Then and only then did I catch a glimpse of the pleasant human disguises of the players on stage. Their friendship, adoration, and respect for each other was evident, as well as some playfulness. Joanna even managed to embarrass her drummer into telling a goofy little joke: "How did the scarecrow win the Nobel Prize?" Then a shot gun shout from a random audience member, "He was out-standing in his field". (HAHA)

There were many spectacular moments for me that enchanted evening. There are a few in particular that I will carry with me forever.  In example, there was a literal moment of insanity I experienced during the climax of "Have One on Me"- where I became convinced the music was playing NOT from the stage and being projected onto me, but was coming up though a place inside my ribcage that carried up like breath into my brain, and then was pouring OUT of me at maximum volume for the rest of the world to enjoy. I wish I was kidding and being dramatic, but it literally felt like the music was playing inside of my head like a monumental dream, and not playing to me from somewhere else!

Then there was another moment, when the swooping epic billows of love and loss in "Cosmia" hit me right between the eyes and heart simultaneously. With the bang of the drum, the strum of the banjo, and the intermittent pluck of the mouth harp- it sounded like old time America & the realm of faery commingled in harmonious sound and space for a few moments. The wails of the lines "And I miss your precious heart" when sounded over the the violins emphasized the pain and bliss that comes with care and worry. I had to close my eyes to keep myself steadied.

Next there was the passion and joy of the trombone players solo in "Good Intentions Paved in Company". Where I witnessed a steady excited crescendo of frenzied trombone playing. He escalated from a still seated music man, to a dancing yet still seated man, to a red faced passionate player, to a standing red faced wailing trombone player performing an epic soliloquy of sound. Everyone in the audience had a  purely ecstatic reaction to the mans enthusiasm, and raw unabashed talent. I will never look at the trombone the same again.

As a devotee of Joanna Newsom, I must say that there was no better way to pay tribute and celebrate her otherworldliness than by seeing her at Carnegie Hall. It honored her, and she graced its presence. To quote Joanna herself, "You forget WHY Carnegie Hall is famous, you think of it like the Whitehouse, that it's just a building... until you play there... [with its acoustics] it's literally the best sounding room in the world."

A Toadstool Ring, or Carnegie Hall Ceiling?

Here's the Setlist:
Bridges and Balloons.
Have One on Me.
In California.
Inflammatory Writ.
Go Long.
Good Intentions Paved in Company.
Peach Plum Pear.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

La Roux at T5

I have never been to a true "pop" concert before.

Most of the music I'm into falls into the rock alternative category, or, most recently into the more obscure realms of neue chamber and neo-baroque music. I'm a little goth chick at heart, always skewing to the left of popular culture, although most of the music I enjoy ends up in the popular section after a while. I stumbled upon La Roux thanks to a positive mention on Patrick Wolf's twitter account about a year ago, and then discovered "Bulletproof" was the free download of the week on itunes. I gave her a go, and almost instantly I found myself bopping along to her 80s new wave influenced beats. I've been seeing her name pop up all over the place recently, and that she's been relentlessly touring for what seems like eons. I decided I should see her perform live before she gets any bigger, and I am ever so glad I did!

I have never seen a true "pop" concert before.

I forgot that people danced at shows. I haven't seen enthusiasm that matched my own at a concert in years. I thought I was the last of my kind. It turns out that I am not the last of my kind, it's just that my kind of enthusiasm isn't seen in the alcohol soaked confines of the dark rock music genre... they're seen in the alcohol soaked confines of the neue-new wave music genre! People were happy. They were merrily bopping and casually spilling their drinks on their own shoes then laughing about it milliseconds later. The smiles of the audience were shining like stars. I was dazzled by the celebratory nature of it all. It was easy to become infected with the rhythm of the music, and find yourself dancing.

I was worried that La Roux was a product of the pop "can't hack it" bandwagon- as in she can't really sing and she can't perform. My worries were immediately vanquished as soon as the show began with "Tigerlilly". She had a reliable albeit a little serious stage presence, with a voice that projected well and went well with the booming bass beats and new wave synth notes. Terminal 5 was actually the perfect setting for this show. I know, it's kind of surprising to hear me say this, but, I always said that T5 had the layout of an old school 80s club and not a concert hall. That is why for La Roux T5 was a perfect fit! On every level of this massive industrial space you could see rows upon rows of dancing figures grooving and singing along. It became the set of every awesome 80s movie party scene I could think of- except with better lighting, hairstyles, and clothes (for the most part). My personal favorite moment of the night came when La Roux introduced the one cover song they do, "Under My Thumb" by The Rolling Stones. This was by far one of the best and most unique renditions of this classic I'd ever heard. It was refreshing and fun- especially considering how different it sounded coming from a woman. BRAVA La Roux!

However, there was a crowd moment that takes the credit for being the best part of my evening. When we finally got to hear her big single of the year "Bulletproof" the crowd went positively wild- like they'd been waiting to get their groove back for YEARS and needed this song to do it. The vibe was so crazy that the bartenders could barely focus on their work. They were so utterly flabbergasted by the crowd!

I'm happy La Roux was my first true POP Experience. With her clear 80s new wave influences, this is the kind of Pop I can get behind.

Here's the Set List:
As If By Magic.
I'm Not Your Toy.
Armour Love.
Growing Pains.
Under My Thumb. (Rolling Stones)
Colourless Colour.
In For the Kill.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Nick Cave is cooler than you. 

Don’t be too upset about it because Nick Cave is cooler than everyone. In fact, Nick Cave may be the coolest man on the face of the planet. How do I know this? Simple. Just use your God given senses and any remote scrap of intellectual moxie that you may possess and you'll see his appeal. To start, let’s talk about a few of the awesome bands he’s brought into fruition, shall we?

The Birthday Party are cool. They’re raw, visceral, and unapologetic. They also predate the Gothic and punk sound that was about to spring into life by a few years. They were on the forefront of a sound that shaped and molded every alt kids life from it’s start all the way to present day. I’d say that it’s important to pay a little respect to the uncles of goth and punk. From this aggressive, expressive, and maniacal art rock group, Mr. Cave chose to move forward, and formed the Bad SeedsNick Cave and the Bad Seeds are on the the greatest, underrated groups to have emerged from the 80s. When I say “underrated” I mean that they weren’t selling out stadiums- but, they've received tons of critical acclaim and continue to do so, so at least there's SOME appreciation. One of the best components of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds is how dynamic their music catalog is. They’ve been incredibly prolific, having created a ton of albums all with a unique fingerprint and attitude. Throughout the 80s, 90s, and well into the 2000s, they’ve produced near perfect pieces of audible art and literature. One listen to albums like Tender PreyMurder Ballads, I let love in, and Dig Lazarus Dig will have you muttering to yourself, the same simple statement that I’ve been proclaiming this whole time; “God, they’re so cool”.

Then, unexpectedly, Nick Cave starts all over again. A new band emerges. Grinderman is a masterfully crafted blend of intellect and balls. Cock rock for the members of Mensa if you will. Grinderman, for me, is the unequivocal opus of the Nick Cave’s cool man paradigm. If he gets any cooler, he runs the risk of becoming embedded in a solid frozen block of icy stares and bad ass hip shakes! If you don’t believe me, then I DARE you to go see Grinderman live and tell me you aren’t awesome-er for it! I dare you! 

I was lucky enough to score tickets to Grinderman at the Nokia Theater in Times Square on November 14th for me and my sister, it turned out to be one of the best shows I've seen all year. From our immediate entry, slightly buzzed and filled with delicious Thai food- our coolness increased with each steady step towards Mr. Cave. In fact, when I unhooked my wicked gun holster purse to check my black trench coat- the coat check woman informed me that I was officially "The Coolest Person in this Place". I smiled, said "Thank You" but humbly accepted the truth that the title was not rightfully mine. The music began before we even managed to get in. A show that starts promptly at 9?! This shocked me a bit, but, gentlemen like Grinderman always come on time I guess. The shred of the guitar and Nick Cave's voice echoed out into the theater like a wave of rock fury. We were rocking out before we could even register what was happening to us. All around me, I saw massive stoic bearded titans for men standing like sentinels besides waif like women in all black. Some people were moved to thrashing fits of dance like my sister and I but mostly it was a group of immovable statues... this is a fact I found (and find) disheartening. I like to move, people, don't you? I like to emote, and give a little of the energy thrown my way BACK! Don't deflect that energy! Despite this lack of emotion, we managed to weave our way through the seemingly unmoving wall of flesh surrounding the stage to and headed to the right where I was met with another issue. I am short and therefore can never see anything at shows, and given the height of most of the Grinderman attendees, it became a painful issue. The sound was stellar though, and I supposed that that was all that mattered. 

THEN- an intervention- a friend of mine popped out from an elevated platform, not 6 feet above me. We locked eyes, smiled, and next thing I knew I was given an actual VIEW of the MAN himself!! I believe I've described Nick Cave's movements to you all before... well, they all still hold true to this very day. He is an energetic a showman who gives you your money's worth and then an extra million just for good measure. He's like a vapid monkey with his ass lit on fire, only- instead of it being comical, it's inspiring! You'll want to set a fire like that in your own pants by the time he's done. It's the lack of inhibition that's always gotten to me. He is simply being what he is... and that's what makes him the coolest. The sound was stellar, and the band was WICKED. Warren Ellis was wiggling, jangling, strumming, and shaking as crazy as a drunken pirate who snorted gun powder. I sensed a camaraderie between these two men that was an interesting blend of respect and competition. By the end of the show I concluded that, if Nick Cave is the coolest then Warren Ellis comes in a close second (though he better keep an eye out for Peter Murphy and David Bowie). I mean, I've never seen a man angrily gesticulate with maracas- then BEAT said maracas on a single snare- and have it be EFFING AWESOME to listen to and witness. So, if you're feeling a little low about your own level of coolness... GET THEE TO GRINDERMAN and all lowliness will be elevated.

Here's the Setlist:

Mickey Mouse & The Goodbye Man.
Worm Tamer.
Get It On.
Heathen Child.
When My Baby Comes.
What I know.
Honeybee (Let's Fly to Mars).
No Pussy Blues.
Bellringer Blues.
Palaces of Montezuma.
When My Love Comes Down.
Man in the Moon.

On a bit of a side note--  Nokia Theater is a GROSSLY underrated subterranean oasis in the HELL that is Times Square. I don't think it's been around as long as some of the other venues in New York but in my opinion, its got some clout. A lot of great shows have been performed there, and despite its odd layout I think it is becoming one of my favorite theaters. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

FloHO! (Florence + The Machine plays the Apple Store in SoHo)

Every now and then you got to seize an opportunity when it presents itself to you, no matter what the cost. Yesterday was such a day. I was sitting in my office cubicle, working on the packaging design for food products as per the usual Tuesday morning in the day of the life of Madame K. I was still reeling from the Florence concert I'd attended the night before, on November 1st. I went onto Facebook to see if there was anything posted about the show. There, I saw an update from the Florence FB Fanpage alerting NY'ers that Flo & Co. would be playing a small acoustic set at the Apple Store in SoHo. Wristbands would guarantee admission to this FREE special event, and would be available that morning only.

I looked around my desk area cautiously. Then I decided to press my luck. Look, I'm not PROUD about fibbing about being sick or faking doctor's appointments, but, every now and then it's a necessary measure to take to assure bliss. I whipped up a "forgotten Doctor's appointment" email which by the grace of God guaranteed an early exit to get to the show. Once I got the "OK" from my wonderfully understanding (if gullible) boss, I called the SoHo Apple Store to confirm if there were even still a few wristbands available... "Yes there are, but if you're not down here in about 10 mins, they'll probably be gone, they're going fast". I discreetly FLED right then and there from my midtown office onto the F train straight to the Broadway and Lafayette Stop and briskly booked it to the Apple Store. A mad dash up the glass slatted stairs led way to victoriously securing a chipper canary yellow wristband. I couldn't believe my luck!

By 3 p.m. I went into full stealth ninja mode, and made my discreet escape back to SoHo. I was only half kidding about the doctor's appointment though, considering what I needed was a prescribed dose of a beautifully awesome acoustic set from Dr. Florence and her machine band- consisting of the singularly beautiful harpist and an acoustic guitar player. I got to the store at 3:15 and I had already missed out on a shot at a SEAT! I was OK with that, mainly because I was so happy just to be there. I managed to score the second most ideal spot considering the situation, I was directly behind the last row of chairs, allowing me to perch my bags, and lean my elbows on a comfortable surface.

The enthusiasm of the crowd was palpable. Though I guess a free and exclusive acoustic set from a performer who sold out Terminal 5 both nights will do that to a person...

Florence emerged with her two-man band, dressed in a day time version of her white gossamer gown with the cinched at the waist black bow I had seen her in the night before. She wore no blood red on her lips, and was... more real. It was here in this strange little setting that I met the young woman known as Florence Welch. She giggled, she grinned, she even complained about her knack for successfully repelling technology ("every time I come to America, I lose an iphone!"). She was quite the little charmer, who's "not as tall" as everyone thinks she is. She was not at all serious or brooding as I saw her at the show the night before. The casual atmosphere made this performance a real pleasure, and it turns out that the store was quite the showcase for that powerful set of vocal chords of hers. I think this show really exhibited her vocal talent, and hearing it there made me wish I could hear her with her full backing band in a better quality, more intimate space.

This was to be the ULTIMATE encore to the T5 show the night before... I even got to hear one track that didn't get played the night before!

Here's the Set List: 
Cosmic Love.
Drumming Song.
Girl with One Eye.
Between Two Lungs.
Hurricane Drunk. **
Dog Days Are Over.

**Well worth losing 2 hours of Paid time!

Florence + The Machine at T5, 11/01/10

I have a confession to make... In April, I saw Florence + The Machine at Terminal 5.

I never wrote about it.

Why? Well, I am of the opinion that there is enough negativity in the world, and I try to keep my more critical reviews to a bare minimum, simply because I don't get PAID to do this- so why be a bummer? I want to keep this blog light, enthusiastic, and fun. That being said, obviously my review of the Florence + The Machine show at Terminal 5 a few months ago, would've been a bit of a let down.

I hate Terminal 5. Their sound techs are earless nimcompoops, the layout of the venue is like a labyrinth from hell, and every time I leave there, I swear I have contracted some rare whooping cough disease that may end my life. The Florence show was no exception to the above statements, although may I also add that the harp was completely inaudible, the audience was a bunch of nasty little teenaged prats, and I could only hear Flo HALF the time. The songs lacked "oomph" for me live, alas, I deemed Flo another avid user of auto-tuning, and studio magic. I walked away that night a little disappointed.

Elegance Incarnate!
It's been a few months, and I have seen Florence pick up in popularity in a major way. I still have her debut album "Lungs" on HEAVY rotation even though it's been beyond a year of my listening to it. There's been a small collection of new tracks introduced, the most prevalent being the hauntingly beautiful and gothic "Heavy in Your Arms" song from the Twilight Eclipse soundtrack. Then, I saw her live performance of "Dog Days are Over" at the VMAs. I could hear her voice, unscathed by technology, and as hauntingly beautiful as I imagined it to be. So, I bit the bullet, and got myself a ticket to see her again at Terminal 5. This time I would fly solo, and promised myself a spot upfront. What I was aiming for was a concert of redemption for Florence Welch. I wanted to walk away thrilled and exhilarated... I managed to snake my way into the crowd and got a spot 3 people deep directly between the harp & Flo's mic & drum station. As I weaved and slinked my way through the crowd, I noted the faces ethnicity, gender, and age were incredibly varied- something I am always thrilled to witness at a show. As an added bonus, there were absolutely no obnoxious teens in my vicinity! I staked my claim on an ideal piece of concert real estate, and waited.

The 2 opening acts were OK. The first had a good schtick in my opinion, they sounded like a twangier version of the White Stripes crossed with Queens of the Stone Age. I wish I could remember their name... I would actually go and check them out. The second act, The Smith Westins were baby faced boys who could play their instruments, but haven't really carved out their own sound and style yet in my opinion. I could literally hear their influences-- the Ramones, Squeeze, the Pixies, the Clash--but it was derivative more than homage. Of course, as I wrote out these supposed "influences" I wonder if these kids even ever heard of them? I hope they find their own style some day, because they had some potential... but right now they just sounded like a cover band to me. 

Then, there was the moment I've been waiting for since April for- Florence's Terminal 5 Redemption Show (or at least what I was hoping it would become). The lights grew dim then faded to dark. A long string of droning synthetic sounds paired with a stark piano note rang out, then she emerged, dressed in all white and gossamer with a particularly cute black bow cinched at her petite waist. Lips painted to match the flaming locks upon her head, a somber look upon her face, the show commenced. They began with one of my favorite Florence songs of all time. "Howl"is one of those songs that is ferocious to me when it's on at full volume in my headphones. It plays and I literally begin to feel myself transform into a beast as I listen to it. I wish I could say the same about it live. It was a bit of a weak opening number for me, and I felt myself grow crest fallen. Don't get me wrong it was beautifully performed and THANK GOD the harp was audible and gorgeous, but, there was no beast clawing at my ears. Luckily, this would be the only "weak" moment of the evening. 

There were a few breakout moments for me that satiated the monstrous vixen inside me. In particular Flo's performance of "Blinding" was absolutely cathartic and bombastic. The effect of the strobes and the drums utterly eviscerated my eyes and ears with that rawness I'd been searching for. Then, there was Flo, freshly draped in a black shawl, seemingly possessed by the sound around her- THERE was the brooding conjurer I had been waiting for! They also chose to perform a new fantastically lively song "Strangeness and Charms" and... if this is any indicator of what the second album is going to sound like, then get ready kids- because Neo-Baroque Gothic Love Songs are going to be the WAVE of the future!

This was the show I was waiting for from Florence + The Machine. There are several reasons for this: the crowd was a delight, the sound (for a shocking change for T5) was actually quite on the mark, the harp was positively gorgeous, and Florence's voice has increased in strength ten-fold. Every song was a step towards one of the greatest musical climaxes of my concert going life- "Between Two Lungs". This is a song I really genuinely believe Florence LOVES to sing out loud and proud. Lucky for me it's my personal favorite love anthem of the last two years! 

The Lady Conjurer!
The encore was a nice touch. The big surprise was that I actually got to hear my new favorite track "Heavy in Your Arms" and it did NOT disappoint. Every time she belted out "HEa-Vy, HEa-Vy" I died a little! What I walked away with from this show was the energy of excitement, romance of a gothic persuasion, and hope.  I really could feel the adoration directed towards the stage, and I could feel and plainly see the gratitude from Florence. She is truly a gracious performer, who's particularly in love with NYC. Something I can definitely get behind. 

Here's the setlist: (Thanks to Anna for scoring me this print out from the stage!!)