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Tag: go go’s band

Meet Darkly Noisy, Catchy, Up-and-Coming Castle Black

Castle Black are the kind of band you want to catch on the way up. Right now, the power trio are running on inspiration. They’re pushing the limits of their chops, careening through a bunch of styles – oldschool punk, abrasive post-Bush Tetras postpunk and noisy later-period Sleater-Kinney indie aggro, to name a few – on their way to really crystallizing a sound of their own. If this is as far as they get, they’re a lot of fun live. If they keep at it, they’ve got a high ceiling. Both guitarist Leigh Celent and bassist Lisa Low sing; drummer Matt Bronner is the kind of uncluttered rock player a band like this needs. Right now they’re making their way up from crappy venues – their youtube channel has a lot of good live stuff from the odious Bitter End, for example – to good places like Matchless. Their next gig is tomorrow night, December 19 at 8 PM at Leftfield, the old UC Lounge space at 87 Ludlow St. just south of Delancey; cover is $10.

At this early point in their career, they’ve got the tunes, and a consistently dark vision. All a band like this needs to do is keep playing, and grow beyond just playing scales, or noise when just a little something from outside the box would set them apart from the rest of the pack. The stuff at youtube is tantalizingly haphazard. There’s Premonition, which has a sludgy country feel and then picks up steam; the epic Dark Light: A Plague Revisited, with the eerie foreshadowing of its opening hook, to a series of unexpected up-and-down tempo shifts; The Next Big Thing, with its trippy, oscillating white noise and mashup of stoner metal riffage and viciously chugging oldschool punk rumble. Song of Winter is the simplest of the songs, and catchy as it is, sounds like a very early one. Someone Hear Me shuffles and careens along over a noisily embellished blues scale as the cymbals build a hailstorm behind the roar. Doing Time Pass puts a noisier spin on a vintage Gang of Four riff and then goes in a more straight-up direction.

They’ve also got an ep, Find You There, streaming at their music page. The opening track, This Old Town builds from an aching, tense postpunk verse into an ominously lingering chorus, an allusive tale of kicking around a hopeless place where bad accidents happen, and you’re so numbed by the pain that you feel nothing when they do. It’s their best song so far. There are also cleaner studio versions of Doing Time Pass and The Next Thing, plus their funniest number, Psychic Surgery, sort of the early Go-Go’s doing boogie rock.

The 30 Best NYC Concerts of 2013

Of all the year-end lists here, which also include the year’s best songs and best albums, the best New York concerts list is usually the most fun to pull together. For one, it’s the most individual. The Bushwick indie rock clique may go to all the same shows together because they’re terrified of giving anyone the impression that they can think for themselves, but among the 99%, everybody has their own unique bunch of favorites from the past year.

This is also the easiest list to assemble. Every year, there are thousands of songs and hundreds of albums to sift through; the number of shows is thankfully a lot more manageable.

But this year, tragedy struck. The night of January 19, arguably the best New York rock show of 2013 featured a headline act whose core members would be murdered only a few months later. Lush art-rock/dance-rock band the Yellow Dogs topped the bill at the now-shuttered Public Assembly as part of a phenomenal lineup which began with female-fronted dreampop band Butter the Children, then reggae/soul band Osekre & the Lucky Bastards and the Brooklyn What playing a scorching, intense album release show for their latest one, Hot Wine. The Brooklyn What would go on to share another bill with the Iranian expats before a disgruntled ex-bandmate ambushed the group in their sleep in south Williamsburg in mid-November.

Otherwise, the game plan for this page was to list twenty shows. In the process of whittling the number down, it became obvious that there was no way to fairly choose any less than thirty. This city may be mired in a crushing economic depression, but somehow New York musicians rose above it and made 2013 a year to remember. The 29 other best shows of the year, from this perspective anyway, in chronological order:

Changing Modes at Spike Hill, 1/19/13. It was cool to be able to sneak away from the Brooklyn What/Yellow Dogs extravaganza around the corner to see this slashingly lyrical, female-fronted, keyboard-driven art-rock/new wave rock crew. They were missing one of their three singers, but the music was still killer.

Molly Ruth at Zirzamin, 1/27/13. From November of 2012 through this past July, when the club closed suddenly, this blog booked a lot of shows at the basement space on Houston Street. Given a supportive venue and unlimited access to New York’s best talent, what an amazing time that was! Molly Ruth’s fearless charisma and wickedly acerbic, assaultive punk-blues songs made for one of the best nights there.

Richard Thompson at Joe’s Pub, 2/5/13. Absolutely no plans to see this, tickets being as ridiculously overpriced as they were. Publicist sends an eleventh-hour email: wanna go? Sure! The veteran rocker who might be the greatest guitarist of all time – and maybe the greatest rock songwriter of all time – was at the top of his game, leading a power trio.

Jerome O’Brien and Beninghove’s Hangmen at Zirzamin, 2/18/13. This wasn’t one of the nights booked by this blog, but it could have been: the former frontman of literate punk/R&B rockers the Dog Show airing out old classics and deviously witty new material, solo acoustic on 12-string guitar, followed by saxophonist/composer Bryan Beninghove’s careening, menacing, psychedelic noir surf/crime jazz band.

The Polyse Project and Shofar at the Lincoln Center Atrium, 2/21/13. The two Polish groups made their US debut playing obscure, haunting folk tunes from the pre-Holocaust Polish-Jewish badlands along with equally haunting, lingering jazz reinventions of some of those themes.

Trio Tritticali at Zirzamin, 2/24/13. Of all the shows booked by this blog at this venue, this was the most fun. Not only did the eclectic string trio play a sizzling mix of original indie classical, tango and Middle Eastern material, they also served as house band. Lorraine Leckie, Walter Ego and a bunch of other A-list songwriters got the benefit of a brilliant string section behind them.

Black Sea Hotel and Lorraine Leckie at Zirzamin, 3/3/13. The three women of the otherworldly Balkan a-cappella group and the Canadian gothic songstress might not seem like the ideal segue, but they built a dark ambience that Leckie and her band set ablaze.

Daphne Lee Martin at the Way Station, 3/6/13. The torchy, deviously literate songwriter and her killer band aired out songs from Martin’s excellent new album, refusing to let a horrible sound mix and a loud bar crowd that wouldn’t listen distract them from their sultry, sometimes luridly swinging intensity.

Tift Merritt and Simone Dinnerstein at Merkin Concert Hall, 3/21/13. The Americana chanteuse and classical pianist began their duo show with the lights off and kept them low throughout a deliciously nocturnal mix of chamber pop and art-rock.

Drina Seay at Zirzamin, 3/24/13. One of the great voices in Americana brought her sophisticated countrypolitan band for a mix of noir blues, honkytonk and more rocking songs.

Serena Jost at Joe’s Pub, 4/9/13. The cellist and art-rock songwriter brought her brilliant band and burned through songs from her equally brilliant new album A Bird Will Sing.

Brazda and Big Lazy at Barbes, 4/12/13. Eclectic singer Shelley Thomas’ edgy Balkan group followed by the first live show in six years by NYC’s most thrilling noir instrumental band.

The Sweet Bitters at Zirzamin, 4/21/13. A rare, impromptu NYC show by A-list tunesmith Sharon Goldman and Nina Schmir’s folk-pop duo plus cellist Martha Colby, mixing otherworldly harmonies, edgy lyrics and a triumphant good-to-be-back vibe.

Eva Salina at the American Folk Art Museum, 5/3/13. One of the most intense, original voices in Balkan music, in a riveting, rare solo show: just vocals and accordion.

Bryan & the Aardvarks at Subculture, 5/14/13. The glimmering, nocturnal, vibraphone-driven Americana jazz sextet put on one of the most lushly evocative, richly noir shows of the year.

Emel Mathlouthi at the Alliance Française, 5/22/13. Even without her full band – who were absent due to visa issues – the Tunisian Siouxsie Sioux played a subtle yet ferociously intense mix of Middle Eastern art-rock and Arabic liberation anthems.

A Conspiracy of Beards at Drom, 5/24/13. The mighty all-male San Francisco choir sang their own imaginative large-scale arrangements of Leonard Cohen classics that were haunting and intense but  just as often playful and funny.

Eilen Jewell at City Winery, 7/9/13. The Queen of the Minor Key with her amazing band featuring lead guitarist Jerry Miller, one of the most sizzling players in Americana.

The Go-Go’s at Coney Island, 8/1/13. Who would have thought that the original, breakthrough all-female new wave band would still be together (with a new bassist) thirty-three years after they started…and that they’d sound more rambunctious than ever?

El Gusto at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, 8/3/13. While we’re on the topic of old bands, this bunch of virtuoso Algerian chaabi musicians were making their US debut fifty-three years after they’d broken up, in 1960. And they picked up right where they left off.

The Larch at Bowery Electric, 8/8/13. Playing mostly new, unrecorded material, Brooklyn’s finest psychedelic new wave outfit were at the top of their sardonically lyrical, guitar-fueled game.

Rosin Coven and Amanda Palmer at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, 8/9/13. AFP was as fearless and charismatic and fun to watch as you could possibly want, but the story here was the opening act, whose wild, canivalesque art-rock upstaged the headliners.

Kotorino at Joe’s Pub, 8/29/13. Speaking of carnivalesque, this Brooklyn circus-rock outfit keeps getting larger and more menacing, this time out playing the album release show for their excellent second album Better Than This.

Till By Turning playing bassoonist Katherine Young’s Four-Chambered Heart at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Brooklyn, 9/6/13. This isn’t a classical music blog, but Young – who has made a name for herself in jazz improvisation as well as chamber music – established herself as one of the most individualistic and powerful composers in town with this chilling suite, inspired by Olivier Messiaen’s prison camp epic, Quartet for the End of Time.

Matthew Grimm at Rodeo Bar, 9/13/13. The former and occasionally current Hangdogs frontman – who’s sort of the Stephen Colbert of heartland rock – played a mix of wryly hilarious and white-knuckle intense Americana rock and powerpop numbers from his latest album Songs in the Key of Your Face.

Salaam at Alwan for the Arts, 10/26/13. Multi-instrumentalist Dena El Saffar’s eclectic Middle Eastern band burned through a mix of originals and classics from Iran, with special guests from her brother Amir’s equally intense jazz quintet.

Carol Lipnik, Villa Delirium, Big Lazy and Mamie Minch at Barbes, 10/31/13. The queen of Coney Island phantasmagoria with her noir chamber pop band, followed by John Kruth’s gleefully twisted circus rock outfit, NYC’s creepiest crime jazz/noir instrumental band (yeah, they made this list twice – they’re that good) with all-purpose retro Americana siren Minch taking a characteristically lurid turn in front of the mic.

Kayhan Kalhor and Ali Bahrami Fard at the Asia Society, 11/16/13. The Iranian fiddle player and composer joined with the santoor virtuoso for a glimmering, wrenchingly intense suite inspired by the harrowing experiences of their fellow citizens during the Khomeini years.

LJ Murphy & the Accomplices at the Parkside, 11/23/13. This list ends on a high note with this city’s most politically aware, charismatic noir rocker and his scorching, blues-infused band, careening through a mix of old classics and newly reworked material.

The Go-Go’s Play One of the Best NYC Shows of 2013 At Coney Island

Was it worth standing in the rain for three hours Thursday night at Coney Island to see the Go-Go’s? Hell yeah! That the most refreshingly original band of 1981 would still be together, and touring nationally, and arguably sounding better than they did thirty-two years ago might be more improbable than their success as one of the best-loved new wave bands. In the time that’s passed, they’ve regrouped and toured sporadically; this time out found them trading the guitar jangle for a raw roar. Watching them play a brief, barely 45-minute set to a patient and adoring crowd of probably fewer than five hundred diehards seemed akin to seeing them in a small club at the moment before their classic debut album, Beauty & the Beat, defied all odds and went platinum.

They were just as fresh and unselfconscious and unscriptedly fun here as they were then (plenty of live footage from that era has surfaced at youtube and elsewhere). Frontwoman Belinda Carlisle was just as snarkily funny as always and hits the notes closer to head-on than she used to. Guitarist Jane Wiedlin has traded her Fenders for Gibson SG’s, on this tour at least, for extra firepower, and the band is now wisely relying on her beautiful high soprano voice more than ever. Drummer Gina Schock served as emcee and is more down-to-earth and funny than you would imagine after having seen her photo on the first album’s sleeve. Bassist Kathy Valentine’s absence left enormous shoes to fill, but the band had the good sense to get the obvious choice to replace her, Abby Travis, whose wicked chops and spot-on vocals blended in lusciously. Along with their hits, the band played that one Carlisle hit that still gets airplay on easy-listening radio; it would have been nice if they’d done one of Travis’ brilliant, harmony-rich, artsy songs as well. But with the rain, there wasn’t time.

They opened with Vacation, which at this point in time might be their biggest hit. In concert, they used to do the trebly but irresistible pop hit as a lush, crescendoing art-rock anthem; this time out, it was fast, burning punk-pop. Travis propelled their cover of Cool Jerk with a slinky pulse as the audience clapped and swayed, lost in the groove. The best song of the night was a rich, resounding version of How Much More, done as they might have if that track had been on their 1983 powerpop masterpiece, Talk Show, instead of the first album. A pummelling punk/powerpop cover of Paint It Black drew on the Avengers’ version, followed by an unexpected, rare treat, the sardonic Cool Places, lead guitarist Charlotte Caffey switching from Fender Jazzmaster to woozy, bassy synth. She murdered her electric piano with a stiletto staccato on a rapidfire Head Over Heels; the band closed with Our Lips Are Sealed, then We Got the Beat with Kiss’ I Wanna Rock N Roll All Night in the middle and then encored with I Wanna Be Sedated, a shout-out to “the band that made us want to do this,” as Wiedlin told the crowd.

And as unselfconscious and unassuming as they are, the Go-Go’s didn’t bother to mention that they were the first successful all-female rock band. Hard to believe as it may seem, back in 1981, it was rare to see women on electric guitars, bass or drums. At the time, the Go-Go’s were considered a novelty act by an awful lot of people. Three decades later, the joke’s on them.

And apropros of nothing related to the performance, there was a bizarre incident straight out of a Stanley Milgram experiment. As the audience waited, and waited, and waited for the rain to end, there were persistent calls to “open up the seats, Marty!” But Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz – who thankfully was in slightly less bloviating mode than he usually is at these concerts, a pet project which he insists on emceeing even as his senility gets more and more obvious – did no such thing, nor did the security staff. See, these concerts are ostensibly free. But if you want a seat, admission is five bucks. Otherwise, you either have to bring your own chair or stand in the back. By eight PM, it was obvious that the rows and rows of empty seats in the front section were not going to be taken and could have easily accommodated the few dozen people who’d been waiting patiently in the rear section. As minutes turned to hours and the rain came down steadily, repeated entreaties to open up the seats continued to go ignored.

Finally, after the concert had begun, a member of the security crew slowly made his way to the back and quietly told a few people that the front seats would be opening soon. There was no formal announcement over the PA that everyone could hear, but this worked anyway. A ragged line of tired people formed – and then, instead of simply opening the gates and letting the maybe fifty spectators in the back into the seating area, security slowly began handing out wristbands. And what might have taken thirty seconds for this small crowd to choose from among hundreds of empty seats ended up taking at least a quarter of an hour as each person in the back was given a wristband, and were then checked to make sure they had a wristband before being let into the seats! And not a single one of the security staff acted as if they knew how ridiculous and absurd this was. Were they afraid that if they didn’t follow protocol, as idiotic as it was, they’d be fired? Why didn’t a single one of them choose to exercise ordinary common sense? Is there an overboss responsible for this idiocy? If so, he or she should be forced to stand in the rain on the hard pavement here for three hours – and then be given a wristband, and then made to wait another fifteen minutes before being allowed a seat.

It’s tempting to say that if this had been the pre-Giuliani era, the crowd would have thrown down the gates and taken the seats, regardless. But in reality, there wouldn’t have been any gates at all and everybody would have had a seat – and security wouldn’t have cared less. Folks, this is how the Nazis got their start. First by instituting seemingly meaningless but punitive restrictions, until those random measures became so commonplace that nobody questioned them. Then they went after the Jews.