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One of the Great Voices of the Black Hills

Singer Elisabeth Hunstad makes her living on the road throughout the northern plains states. She’s best known for her searing, powerful high soprano – just listen to her blast through Respect, where she manages not only to hold her own with the Aretha original, but also to put her own grit and defiance into it. Every woman who’s ever picked up a mic has tried that song; most give up.

Hunstad’s voice is chameleonic yet completely original. She can bring to mind Aretha one minute, Dolly Parton the next. She comes out of a jazz background, but has drifted further toward soul music in the last couple of years. Her piano work is similarly eclectic, ranging from gospel and soul to jazz and blues, with an emphatic attack that reflects her percussionist alter ego.

There isn’t a ton of her music online, but it validates her reputation as someone who can literally sing anything, with soul. Her music page has Memphis-inspired sounds, a Lou Reed-flavored tune, a big cascading piano ballad, some slinky funk and that blazing Aretha cover. And some sleuthing turned up an electrifying version of Stormy Monday where she starts out misty and rises to a peak that will give you goosebumps (fast forward to about the 40 minute mark after the interview for the song).

Hunstad picked the right part of the world for a home base: her gig schedule has not slowed down since the horrible events of March 2020 and subsequently. She’s R Wine Bar, 322 E 8th St. in Sioux Falls at 6 PM on Sept 25, then she has another hometown show at Severance Brewing Co., 701 N Phillips Ave. on Sept 28 at 7.

Longtime readers of this blog may wonder why, after years of advocating for performances by New York artists, there would be coverage of such a faraway place as South Dakota here.

Being one of the free states, South Dakota does not have a dictator weaponizing venues to enforce evil apartheid policies against customers who don’t use city-approved spyware. Until New York gets back to normal – and that means no apartheid – you may be seeing a lot more interesting artists from unexpected places here.

Individualistic, Energetic, Anthemically Genre-Defying Songs From Singer Elena Mîndru

Elena Mîndru writes imaginative, individualistic, elegant songs that bridge the worlds of art-rock, jazz and Finnish folk music. She sings in solid, expressive English, with an understated power from the lows to the highs, has a socially aware worldview and an inspired, versatile band. Her new album Hope is streaming at Bandcamp.

She opens the album with the title track, a lithely bouncy tale of eco-disaster, narrowly averted. As Mîndru sees it, people are waking up, hopefully in time to pull the world back from the brink of self-combustion. Violinist Adam Bałdych shifts from spiky funk to sinuous, leaping phrases and back, handing off to pianist Tuomas J. Turunen over the increasingly bustling rhythm from bassist Oskari Siirtola and drummer Anssi Tirkkonen

Mîndru doesn’t leave the global warming warnings there. In Hay Moon, she builds a metaphorically-charged storm tableau as the band rise to a big art-rock crescendo, Bałdych’s multitracked pizzicato adding a bucolic energy, up to a big flurrying coda.

Foliage begins as a vivid portrait of light-dappled leaves via piano and pizzicato violin. Then Mîndru makes it into a dramatic, optimistic waltz spiked with bracing violin and vocalese. Run Away brings to mind a famous minor-key Police hit from the 80s, followed by Blackberry, a moody miniature blending resonant bass and violin with Mîndru’s wordless vocals.

She goes back to waltz territory, more minimalistically, with Blueberry, a soaring, plaintively bowed cello bass solo at the center. Lost Boys has an altered clave rhythm and a crisply bounding piano melody, Mîndru contemplating how to create a movement with genuine critical mass. A prime question for us these days, right?

She follows Luca, a rhythmically shapeshifting portrait of childhood wonder, with an attempt to elevate the Police’s Walking on the Moon to something above what it was: ok, Mîndru’s goofy approach beats the original. There’s also a sprightly, dynamic bonus track, Between a Smile and a Tear, contrasting Mîndru’s purist jazz scatting with Bałdych’s most sizzling solo here.

A Searingly Catchy, Relevant New Album From Powerpop Icon Willie Nile

Willie Nile needs no introduction to fans of catchy powerpop anthems: he’s been one of the great practitioners of the art since the late 70s. He’s always had a populist streak, but his new album The Day the Earth Stood Still – streaming at Bandcamp – is his most fearlessly political album ever. It’s also one of his three or four best, right up there with Beautiful Wreck of the World and the sizzling Live at Mercury Lounge. Not bad for a guy who could have hung it up years ago and still would have been a first-ballot hall of famer.

Is this a lockdown parable? It could be – or maybe it’s simply a narrative of greed, deceit and ultimately, karmic payback. He doesn’t waste any time launching into the title track. By ten seconds in, all the nuts and bolts in Nile’s toolkit are in place: a solid four-on-the-floor beat, layers of guitar jangle and clang and roar, steady bass and torrential organ. The production is luscious, and Nile’s signature blend of lyrical surrealism and slash is as potent as ever, in this momentary, apocalyptic cautionary tale:

When the ABC’s of logic
Meet the CEO’s of greed
And the SRO’s of loneliness
Cry out and start to bleed
There comes a time for judgment
A time to pay the bill
And that is just the way it was
The day the earth stood still….
I saw grown men crying, making out their will
The day the earth stood still…

Nile channels a new wave stadium-rock catchiness in Sanctuary, which doesn’t have any political content. Where There’s a Willie There’s a Way is a song that needed to be written – and it’s good this guy wrote it, a defiant, punchy update on Buddy Holly.

Steve Earle guests on the stomping, venomous Blood on Your Hands, a shot across the bow at oligarchs everywhere:

Well you can dance with the devil
And you can run with the lord
And you can buy all the glory
That your conscience can afford
But there will come a day
When the pony gets played
When the goose gets cooked
When the piper gets paid
Blood on your hands, blood on your hands
There’s cracks in the walls of your best-laid plans
Blood on your hands, blood on your feet
There’s bodies piled up down on Blueblood Street

Nile moves to piano for The Justice Bell, a slow but resolute number dedicated to Civil Rights crusader and congressman John Lewis.

Fueled by a slinky, loopy minor-key bass, Expect Change is a creepy, unsettled psychedelic disco song and possibly the key to the album:

Hear the call
Hear the drumming
Say a mantra, say a prayer
Idols falling everywhere
Difference melting in the snow
Can you feel the wild wind blow

I Don’t Remember You begins as the most rustic, folky song Nile’s ever recorded: there’s wry sarcasm in that title. If you think that Off My Medication is just another bizarrely funny, free-associative, garage-rocking Nile narrative, wait til you get to the second verse. Then he slows down for I Will Stand, a gentle, richly textured, crescendoing ballad.

There’s more psychedelic disco-funk with Time to Be Great, an optimistic strut with one of the album’s best guitar solos. Nile winds up the album with Way of the Heart, which sounds a lot like the Jayhawks’ recent material and also has some sizzling guitar breaks. It may be one of the slowest years on record for rock albums, but this one’s on the shortlist for best of 2021.

Fearless Texans Raise Their Voices For Freedom in Austin

Songwriter Five Times August was obviously amped to open Texans for Vaccine Choice‘s massive protest at the Capitol building in Austin yesterday. So amped that as he left the stage, he forgot to tell the audience who he was. It took a vociferous reminder from a woman in the front row to send him back to the mic. You can watch the whole performance, as well as the inspiring parade of medical professionals and activists afterward, at the Highwire.

For someone who over the past year has been writing catchy, corrosively funny, tragically perceptive protest songs, gigs don’t get any better than the chance to play to a robust, impressively diverse crowd of over a thousand people. The guitarist and singer otherwise known as Brad Skistimas opened with his lone cover of the day, an aptly Steve Earle-influenced take of Tom Petty’s Won’t Back Down. Then the lyrics and the jokes started flying, fast and furious.

God Help Us All, a spiky, fingerpicked tune, might be the biggest viral hit (pun intended) Skistimas has had so far, no doubt due in part to the hilarious video on the front page of his website.

Citizen fools and brand new rules make everyone a hero now
Keep your distance, no resistance, only do what you’re allowed…
See no evil, bow to the needle, didn’t we turn out great?
Sick is the new hell, poor is the new well, truth is whatever they say…
Divide and conquer, weak not stronger, everybody know your place
Do it now, it won’t hurt, dig into your own dirt, virtue found its grave

His third number was an update on what Woody Guthrie did with This Land Is Your Land. The horror-stricken ballad Jesus What Happened to Us was taken down by youtube, no surprise considering the lyrics. It’s Eve of Destruction with a locked-in, lockdown-era focus: “Keep staring at your smartphone, get dumber every week,” Skistimas taunted.

The funniest song of the afternoon (and most hilarious video he’s made so far) was Outttayerdaminde, a rapidfire Subterranean Homesick Blues flavored broadside that makes savage fun of narcissists run amok on Tik Tok. The quietest and most sobering number was a new one, a sad waltz titled Silent War:

Someone is trying to sell you the cure
Same one who made the disease
And they’ll try to convince you, and make you feel sure
But hey, there ain’t no guarantee
They’ve covered your mouth and tied back your hands
They did it to all of the kids
And nobody knows all the damage it’s done
And won’t ask until the master permits

He wound up the set with the bouncy, defiant I Will Not Be Leaving Quietly.

The speakers afterward were a microcosm of the kind of ordinary heroes who have sprung up around the world in the past year and a half. Physician assistant Miguel Escobar, whose incendiary address to his local muzzlemaniac school board went viral a couple weeks ago, spoke truth to power in both English and Spanish (even if you’re a non-native Spanish speaker, he’s very easy to understand). He takes the mic at 1:19:00.

Irrepressibly upbeat hero nurse Jennifer Bridges – who is suing her former employer, Houston Methodist Hospital for being wrongfully fired for refusing the kill shot, even though she has natural immunity to Covid – is at 2:09:55. The Highwire’s Del Bigtree closed the afternoon with an impromptu challenge to the crowd to take the energy of the rally home with them. He’s at 3:18:21 in the video.

As the irreplaceable and tirelessly entertaining Dr. Pam Popper has revealed, the 70% figure the US government has been throwing around is a lie. The Kaiser Family Foundation study she cites, based on individual state records, puts the actual percentage of the population who’ve been coerced or terrorized into taking the kill shot at less than half that. Bigtree elaborated on a point he made a couple weeks ago on the Highwire, that the roughly sixty percent majority who won’t take the kill shot is not going to budge, and that the PR campaign behind it is dead in the water. Our challenge is to be less of a silent majority, organize and get back to normal, because nobody’s going to do it for us.

Speaking of which, there’s a big protest at City Hall here in Manhattan on August 25 at 4 PM.

Live Music Calendar for New York City and Brooklyn for August and September 2021

***IMPORTANT*** – this calendar was compiled before Bill DiBozo’s’ vile and unconstitutional medical “passport” spyware requirement for admission to indoor concerts, bars and dining was announced. A random sample around town indicates that some businesses are allowing themselves to be weaponized against us, and that some aren’t. America’s Frontline Doctors have brought a civil rights lawsuit against the Mayor’s office, so between that and general noncompliance, the restrictions may not last long. In the meantime, if you’re thinking about going to something that’s happening on August 16 or later, don’t waste a trip, check with the venue to make sure they’re not using it. For the moment, only shows where there are definitely no restrictions are being listed here.

If you go out a lot, you might want to bookmark this page and check back regularly.

If you’re leaving your hood, don’t get stuck waiting for a train that never comes, make sure you check the MTA delays and out-of-service page for cancellations and malfunctions, considering how unreliable the subway has become.

If you don’t recognize a venue where a particular act is playing, check with the artist, or check the rigorously updated list of over 200 New York City music venues at New York Music Daily’s sister blog Lucid Culture.

This is not a list of every show in town – it’s a carefully handpicked selection. If this calendar seems short on praise for bands and artists, it’s because every act here is recommended if you like their particular kind of music.

Showtimes listed here are set times, not the time doors open – if a listing says something like “9ish,” that means it’ll probably start later than advertised.

If you see a typo or an extra comma or something like that, remember that while you were out seeing that great free concert that you discovered here, somebody was up late after a long day of work editing and adding listings to this calendar ;)

8/1, 5 PM Los Cumpleanos – with Nestor Gomez – vox/percussion; Lautaro Burgos – drums; Eric Lane – keyboards; Alex Asher – trombone and others playing trippy, dubwise tropical psychedelia at the Riis Park Beach Bazaar, Bay 9 East at Riis Park in the Rockaways

8/1, 7 PM wild, sizzling guitar-and-brass-fueled Ethiopian jazz jamband Anbessa Orchestra at Pier 1 on the Hudson

8/1, 7 PM the Harlem Gospel Travelers and irrepressible 60s-style blue-eyed soul singer Eli “Paperboy” Reed at Our Wicked Lady, $15

8/1, 9 PM singer Richard Julian and pianist John Chin play Mose Allison songs at Bar Lunatico. Perfect pairing: Julian’s wry sense of humor and Chin’s erudite chops.

8/2-6, half past noon lyrical, dynamic original jazz pianist Victor Lin solo at Bryant Park

8/3, 7 PM fiery electric bluegrass and C&W with Demolition String Band at Shipyard Park, 13th St and McFeeley Drive in Hoboken,

8/3, 7:30 PM the East Coast Chamber Orchestra play works by Mozart, Golijov and others at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

8/3, 8/10 PM postbop jazz supergroup the Cookers – Billy Harper, Cecil McBee, George Cables, Eddie Henderson, and Billy Hart – at the Blue Note, $30 bar seats avail

8/3, 9 PM  otherworldly French-Algerian singer Ourida with her combo at Bar Lunatico

8/4, 6:30, PM guitarist Oren Fader and and pianist/salonniere Yelena Grinberg reprise their sold-out performance of rare duo works by Vivaldi, Beethoven, Hummel, Moscheles, Weber, Boccherini, Munier, Castelnuovo and Piazzolla at Grinberg’s popular monthly upper westside salon, email for deets here., a 3  minute walk from 1/2/3 train at 96th St.

8/4, 7:30/9 PM cult favorite gonzo pianist Dred Scott plays Chick Corea at Mezzrow, $25

8/4, 8ish cinematic noir soul instrumentalists the Ghost Funk Orchestra at Our Wicked Lady, $12

8/4, 9 PM the Jimi Hendrix of the cuatro, Jorge Glem with pianist Cesar Orozco at Bar Lunatico

8/5. 7 PM cutting-edge Indian music collective Brooklyn Raga Massive outdoors at Culture Lab in Long Island City

8/5, 7 PM Veronica Davila’s twangy, Bakersfield-flavored hard honkytonk band Low Roller at Mama Tried, 147 27th St, Bay Ridge, R to 25th St

8/5, 7 PM what’s left of the hi-de-ho Cab Calloway Orchestra at Astoria Park, on the water, take the N to Astoria Blvd.

8/6, 7 PM soaringly explosive jazz composer/torch singer Nicole Zuraitis at 55 Bar

8/6, 11 PM clever, fiery, eclectic ten-piece Balkan/hip-hop/funk brass maniacs Slavic Soul Party at Drom, $20

8/7, 2 PM an amazing improvisational jazz triplebill: baritone sax monster Josh Sinton with Daniel Carter and Sam Newsome, then brilliant, politically fearless visionary/tenor sax improviser Matana Roberts , and also flutist Laura Cocks solo at Oliver Coffee, 5 Oliver St (cor. St. James), Chinatown

8/7, 7 PM dark psychedelic acoustic blues/klezmer/reggae/soca jamband Hazmat Modine at Terra Blues. They’re also here on 7/21

8/7, 9:30 PM latin soul jams with the Brooklyn Boogaloo Blowout at 55 Bar

8/8, 2 PM ish Indian violinist Parthiv Mohan and ensemble play magical carnatic themes in Prospect Park; walk onto Parkside Ave from Machate Circle.”Once you pass Prospect Park Tennis Courts on your right, enter the park to your left. Then walk onto East Drive. From there you will be able to see Prospect Park Lake. Stay really close to the southwest corner of the lake (also its southernmost point). If you walk east along the lake from there, you’ll encounter a big patch of land which juts into the lake. It’s a pretty noticeable clearing” Closest train is the G to Ft Hamilton Pkwy – be aware that there is no F service this weekend

8/8, 7:30/9 PM  intense pianist Gerald Clayton solo at Mezzrow

8/9-13, half past noon lyrical, shapeshifting Brazilian pianist Luiz Simas solo at Bryant Park

8/10-12 Digable Planets at the Blue Note are sold out

8/10, noon torchy cumbia/swing singer and accordionist Erica Mancini  with Americana guitarist and Johnny Cash sideman Smokey Hormel outdoors at the corner of Pearl and Willoughby in downtown Brooklyn

8/11, 7 PM slinky, hypnotic percussive Moroccan trance band Innov Gnawa on the steps at the Grand Army Plaza branch of the Brooklyn Public Library

8/12, 8 anthemic speedmetal band Cold Dice, 9 PM the debut of Certain Death (the house band from Pfizer or Moderna maybe?) 10 PM wild fuzzy stoner metal band Grave Bathers followed by the even more macabre Castle Rat at Our Wicked Lady, $12

8/13, 5 PM ageless, jangly, purist NY surf rock originals the Supertoness at the Riis Park Beach Bazaar, Bay 9 East at Riis Park in the Rockaways

8/13, 8 PM   ferociously dynamic, tuneful,female-fronted power trio Castle Black at Culture Lab outdoors, 5-25 46th Ave in Long Island City, down the block toward the water from LIC Bar; 8/28 they’re outdoors at the Greenpoint Terminal Market at 3, Market St. past Kent Ave on the water, G to Nassau Ave

8/14, 4 PM B’Rhythm blend Indian music and classical dance moves at Garfield Place between Prospect Park West and 8th Ave. in Park Slope, music by Bala Skandan, choreography by Brinda Guha and Sonali Skandan and an A-list slate of dancers

8/14, 5 PM day one of a two-night surf rock festival: surfed-up tv themes from Commercial Interruption, the killer, dark Wiped Out at 6:30 and the majestic, darkly cinematic TarantinosNYC at 8 at the Riis Park Beach Bazaar, Bay 9 East at Riis Park in the Rockaways

8/14, 7/9:30 PM popular lyrical postbop trumpeter Jeremy Pelt leads his quartet at Smalls $25

8/14, 9:30 PM  this era’s most consistently interesting jazz pianist, Vijay Iyer at Prospect Park Bandshell. Listen from outside (try around the back) since the arena may still have restrictions

8/15, 3:30 PM not a musical event but a crucial moment on the way to freedom in NYC: march on Gracie Mansion (88th and East End Ave) to protest Bill DiBozo’s Orwellian medical “passport”

8/15, 5 PM closing night of a two-night surf rock festival: kick-ass original third-wavers Tsunami of Sound at 5, the cinematically-inspired Cameramen at 6:30 and Blue Wave Theory at 8 at the Riis Park Beach Bazaar, Bay 9 East at Riis Park in the Rockaways

8/16, 7:30 PM irrepressible wind ensemble Quintet of the Americas play a counterintuitive program of classic film and tv themes from Sanford and Sons to the Hair soundtrack and Woody Allen’s Radio Days at All Saints Episcopal Church, 85-45 96th Street in Woodhaven, J/Z to 104th St.

8/16, 9 PM boisterously funny oldschool 60s C&W and brooding southwestern gothic with the Jack Grace Band at Skinny Dennis

8;17, noon fingerstyle delta blues guitarist Noe Socha at the corner of Pearl and Willoughby in downntown Brooklyn

8/17, 7 PM Dominican jazz guitarist Yasser Tejeda & Pelotre at Gantry Plaza State Park

8/17, 7/8:30 PM  charismatic, adventurous postbop/avant garde trombonist/crooner Frank Lacy‘ at Smalls, $25

8/17-19, 8/10 PM the Bernie Williams Collective at the Blue Note, $25 bar seats avail. Not a vanity project: the greatest centerfielder of his time is a solid latin jazz/funk guitarist.

8/18, 7 PM feminist Guinean songwriter Natu Camara on the steps at the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza

8/18, 7/8:30 PM eclectic jazz pianist Art Hirahara and his trio at Smalls, $25

8/18, 5 PM the Harlem Quartet at Times Square. Where? Follow the sound, it seems

8/18, 8 PM Stoogoid stoner boogie band Sun Voyager, noisy early 80s style postpunk band Smock and fuzzy acid blues/doom band Grandpa Jack at Our Wicked Lady, $12

8/18-22, 8/10 PM postbop jazz trumpeter and sly crooner Nicholas Payton at the Blue Note, $25 bar seats avail

8/19, 5:30 PM the Bryant Park Accordion Festival kicks off with rustic Colombian cumbia specialist Foncho Castellar, torchy cumbia/swing singer Erica Mancini , hotshot Brazilian forro player Felipe Hostins and more

8/19, 7 PM double threat Camille Thurman – equally dazzling on the mic and the tenor sax – with the Darrell Green Trio, and trombonist Conrad Herwig with his Quintet at Drom, $30

8/19, 7/9:30 PM edgy jazz oudist and bassist Omer Avital and his group where he got his start at Smalls, $25

8/19, 11 PM sardonic and punky Japanese girlband the Hard Nips at Our Wicked Lady, $12

8/20, 7 PM amazingly dynamic drummer  Johnathan Blake and his trio and wildfire Colombian harpist Edmar Castaneda with drummer Ari Hoenig at Drom, $30

8/20, 7 PM Gordon Lockwood (blues guitar monster Jeremiah Lockwood and drummer Ricky Gordon) at Terra Blues

8/20, 7/8:30 PM the Sun Ra Arkestra’s legendary nonagenarian EWI player Marshall Allen and group at Smalls, $25

8/21, 7 PM legendary second-wave Afrobeat band Antibalas at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, be prepared to hang on the fringes because there may be restrictions

8/21, 7 PM edgy, incisive, terse jazz guitarist Russell Malone and his Quartet at Drom, $20

8/21, 9 PM purposeful, incisive Red Molly dobro player/songstress Abbie Gardner and newgrass band Damn Tall Buildings at Nimbus Studios, 329 Warren St btw Morgan & SteubenJersey City Jersey City, $5, PATH to Grove St.

8/22, 7 PM paradigm-shifting Romany jazz/psychedelic rock guitar mastermind Stephane Wrembel at Drom $30

8/23, 7 PM  sharply surrealistic folk noir/outlaw country band Maynard & the Musties at Cowgirl Seahorse

8/23, 7/8:30 PM erudite pianist Orrin Evans‘ richly tuneful, purist, stampeding Captain Black Big Band at Smalls,$25

8/24, noon,  chanteuse/uke player Dahlia Dumont’s Blue Dahlia playing edgy, smartly lyrically-fueled, jazz-infused tunes in English and French with classic chanson and Caribbean influences  at the corner of Pearl and Willoughby in downtown Brooklyn

8/24, 6 PM the Donald Harrison Quartet with the Harlem Orchestra play Charlie Parker’s Bird with Strings at Marcus Garvey Park, be prepared to hang on the fringes because there may be restrictions

8/24, 7/8;30 PM hard-hitting  postbop saxophonist Mike DiRubbo’s quartet at Smalls, $25

8/25, 8 PM punk/rockabilly band the Screaming Rebel Angels, goth-punks the Wh0res, and fiery, deviously fun oldtimey swing guitarist/crooner Seth Kessel at Our Wicked Lady, $12

8/25, 4 PM not a music event but an important one for people who miss seeing indoor concerts: there will be a huge protest against mandatory lethal injections outside City Hall. The NYC union presence will be in full effect

8/26, 5:30 PM the Bryant Park Accordion Festival continues with klezmer maven Shoko Nagai, Gogol Bordello’s Yury Lemeshev, Argentine tango bandoneonist Tito Castro, charismatic Romany/Balkan chanteuse Eva Salina with pyrotechnic accordionist Peter Stan and others

8/26, 6 PM smart, lyrical, politically-inspired pianist Zaccai Curtis leads a trio at Times Square, Bwy at 43rd St

8/27, 6 PM an oldschool salsa dance party with 70s style charanga Son Del Monte at Alexander Avenue at Bruckner Boulevard in the Bronx

8/28, 5 PM nimble bassist Dawn Drake & Zapote‘play latin-tinged hard funk at the Riis Park Beach Bazaar, Bay 9 East at Riis Park in the Rockaways

8/28, 6 PM jazz violinist Melanie Dyer w/ poet Bonita Penn and bassist Ken Filiano at the Clifton Pl. Community Garden (1031 Bedford Ave), Ft. Greene, G to Bedford-Nostrand

8/28, 8 PM kinetic Cuban jazz pianist Elio Villafranca outdoors at An Beal Bocht Cafe, 445 W. 238th St. in the Bronx, 1 train to 238th St.

8/29, a parade of dancers with music by guitarist/bagpiper David Watson make their way through the Rockaways starting at 1 PM on the sand at Beach 86 St and end at 7 at Beach 110 St, performers include Toni Carlson, Yve Laris Cohen, Maggie Cloud, Marc Crousillat, Brittany Engel-Adams, Moriah Evans, Daria Fain, Lizzie Feidelson, Melanie Greene, Kennis Hawkins, Iréne Hultman, Shayla-Vie Jenkins, Burr Johnson, Niall Jones, Sarah Beth Percival, Jess Pretty, Antonio Ramos, Alex Rodabaugh, Carlo Villanueva, Anh Vo, Kota Yamazaki

8/29, 4 PM drummer Willie Jones III leads an allstar Charlie Parker centennial celebration band with Sarah Hanahan, Godwin Louis, Justin Robinson, Erena Terakubo with Donald Vega on piano and Endea Owens on bass at Marcus Garvey Park

8/29, 5 PM, repeating 9/1 at 6:30 colorful, charismatic pianist/salonniere Yelena Grinberg, violinist Eric Silberger and cellist Madeline Fayette play Haydn’s “Gypsy” piano trio, Mozart’s warmly lyrical Piano Trio in C and Beethoven’s daunting “Ghost” piano trio at Grinberg’s popular monthly upper westside salon, email for deets here., a 3  minute walk from 1/2/3 train at 96th St.

8/30-9/3 half past noon latin jazz pianist Isaac Bin Ayala solo at Bryant Park

9/1, 7:30ish noiserock legends Yo La Tengo at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park

9/2, 7 PM the irrepressible, cinematic, comedic Broken Reed Saxophone Quartet at Open Source Gallery, 306 17th St at 6th Ave. Park Slope, closest train is the R to Prospect Ave

9/3, 5:30 PM the Bryant Park Accordion Festival concludes with a global cast of A-list players TBA

9/3, 7 PM deviously erudite jazz chanteuse Svetlana & the Delancey Five at Culture Lab in Long Island City,

9/9, 7 PM tunefully scruffy pastoral jazz guitarist Tom Csatari leads his noir-tinged Uncivilized band outdoors at the Flying Lobster, 144 Union St off Hicks, just over the BQE, outdoors, F to Smith/9th. On 9/10, tuba player Ben Stapp and the First Eonic Clock Reading with Sam Newsome (soprano sax), Shanyse Strickland (french horn, flute), Noel Brennan (drums) open the night at 8; at 9 Uncivilized record a live album at Record Shop in Red Hook, 360 Van Brunt St., close to the B61 bus stop or just walk from the F train.

9/8, 7 PM the aptly named Firey String Sistas play their edgy chamber jazz at Pier 84, 44th st. and the Hudson just south of the Intrepid

9/11, 5 PM the NY Ska Orchestra at the corner of Ashland and Lafayette in downtown Brooklyn, downhill from BAM

9/11, 5 PM newschool gospel with Mary Mary singer Erica Campbell, the Walls Group, Lena Byrd Miles and Jason McGee and Choir at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park

9/11, 7 PM astringent avant garde ensemble WeFreeStrings and  fiery singer Amirtha Kidambi on the plaza at Lincoln Center, no ticket required

9/12, 4 PM the Overlook String Quartet play music by black composers Eleanor Alberga, Florence Price, and Chevalier de Saint-Georges at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, 65 Jumel Terrace about a block south of 162nd St., Washington Heights, free, A/C to 163rd St.

9/12, 7 PM southern soul songwriter Valerie June at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park

9/13, 4 PM a massive protest against the DiBozo apartheid and massive city firing plan at Foley Square, Centre St. north of Chambers downtown. A huge union presence will be in the house; the Highwire will be covering the event, and host Del Bigtree is scheduled to address the crowd.

9/14, noon iconic latin percussionist Willie Martinez leads his classic salsa/mambo trio at the corner of Pearl and Willoughby in downtown Brooklyn. 9/19 and 9/26, 2 PM he’s playing on President between Columbia and Van Brunt in Red Hook

9/14, 10:30 PM epically ferocious art-rock jamband Planta on the terrace outdoors at Terraza 7, $10

9/16, 6 PM the American Symphony Orchestra String Quartet play rarely heard works by William Grant Still, Carlos Simon, George Walker, Duke Ellington, Gabriela Lena Frank at at Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 3 Greenway Terrace toward the south end of the park

9/17, 7 PM the world premiere of Allison Loggins-Hull’s Diametrically Composed – the great Alicia Hall Moran singing collection of new works for flute, voice and piano exploring the conflicts of motherhood and having an artistic career – at Bryant Park

9/18, 1 PM a major freedom rally to celebrate World Freedom Day at Columbus Circle

9/18-10/3 the LUNGS Festival at various community gardens throughout the LES, a celebration of an oldschool pre-gentrification NYC artistic community spirit, the calendar is a work in progress, lots more to be added

9/18 a bunch of Americana performers at various locations on Pier 6 on the south end of Brooklyn Bridge Park starting at 3 with the guy/girl vocals of Bears of Alaska, at 4 acerbic, intense former Cricket Tell the Weather frontwoman Andrea Asprelli and at 5 anthemic loose cannon Olivia Lloyd. There’s also a “main stage” lineup starting at 3 with the charming oldtimey harmonies of the Queens of Everything, at 4 hotshot violinist Mazz Swift, at 5 protest singer Crys Matthews and Heather Mae, at 6 folk-pop singer Eleanor Buckland and at 6:30 the soaring, all-female Maybelles.

9/18, 4:30 PM bass goddess/soul singer Felice Rosser’s ageless reggae-rock-groove band Faith at El Sol Brilliante Garden, 522 East 12th street btwn B and C. 9/25 at around 4 they’re at Tompkins Square Park and 10/1 at 8 they’re at the LUNGS Festival in the Green Oasis Garden, 368 East 8th street btwn C and D

9/18, 5 PM the NY Ska Orchestra at the corner of Pearl and Willoughby in downtown Brooklyn

9/18, 8 PM legendary second-wave Afrobeat band Antibalas at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, be prepared to hang on the fringes because of restrictions

9/18, 7:30 PM Trombone Shorty at Prospect Park Bandshell. We might have to listen from outside since the arena may still have restrictions

 9/18, 4 PM an all-afternoon Americana/folk lineup at the Dumbo Archway just west of Water St in Dumbo starting at 4 with colorfully lyrical original front-porch songwriter Melanie Curran, at 5 Britfolk singer Danni Nicholls, at 5:30 PM electric blues songstsress Edan Archer, at 6 nuevo-Orbisonesque crooner Bobby Blue, at 7 the brilliant swing jazz-inclined Samoa Wilson, and Spirit Family Reunion’s fiery Maggie Carson at 9

9/19, free coffee/breakfast snacks at 10:30 AM, show at 11 Sybarite5 cellist Laura Metcalf, guitarist Rupert Boyd, violinists Michelle Ross and Katie Hyun and violist Melissa Reardon play music by Astor Piazzolla, Osvoldo Golijov, Florence Price, Beyoncé and more outdoors in the courtyard at the Cell Theatre, 338 W 23rd St (8th/9th Aves), reservations req. 9/23, 7 PM they’re playing another free outdoor show at the Porch, 147th and St Nicholas Ave

9/19, 3 PM a bunch of Americana performers at various locations on Pier 6 on the south end of Brooklyn Bridge Park starting with energetic New England folk fiddler Emerald Rae, at 4 PM hotshot violinist Mazz Swift, at 5 the spare, atmospheric Treya Lam, the once-ubiquitous and brilliant multi-instrumentalist Joanna Sternberg at 5:30 and then at 6 rising star banjo player Nora Brown

9/19, 5 PM, repeating on 9/22 at 6:30 colorful, charismatic pianist/salonniere Yelena Grinberg, celebrates the Beethoven 250th birthday anniversary with a program of Bagatelles and his Diabelli Variations at her popular monthly upper westside salon, email for deets here., a 3 minute walk from 1/2/3 train at 96th St.

9/19, 7 PM Patti Smith at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, be prepared to hang on the fringes because of restrictions

9/20-24, half past noon energetic, classically-inspired, colorful jazz pianist Ayako Shirasaki at Bryant Park

9/21, noon trumpeter Wayne Tucker leads his sunny soul-infused jazz quartet on the plaza at the corner of Pearl and Willoughby in downtown Brooklyn

9/23, 6 PM the American Symphony Orchestra String Quartet play an all-Italian baroque program of works by Boccherini, Donizetti and others at Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 3 Greenway Terrace toward the south end of the park

9/23, 6 PM fiery alto saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin & Pursuance at Marcus Garvey Park

9/24, 5 PM brilliant Americana and swing jazz chanteuse Samoa Wilson at Pearl Plaza, Pearl St. and Anchorage Pl. in Dumbo

9/24, 6 PM punk Balkan brass and oldtimey swing: the Rude Mechanicals followed by Baby Soda Band at La Plaza Cultural de Armando Perez (Ave C & 9th St)

9/24, 6 PM sizzling, politically fearless latin jazz pianist/composer Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra on the plaza at 300 Ashland Pl. down the block from BAM

9/25, 3 PM newschool latin soul/boogaloo dance band Spanglish Fly at the block party at 88 S Portland St in Ft Greene, C to Lafayette Ave

9/25, 3 PM first-class improvisation: Steve Wirts and George Garzone on tenor sax, Francisco Mela on drums and others at 11BC Garden 11th St (Aves B & C)

9/25, 4 PM Los Fascinates play oldschool salsa at the 9C Garden (Ave C & 9th St)

9/26, 4 PM downtown jazz guitar icon Elliott Sharp plays a rare outdoor gig at La Plaza Cultural de Armando Perez (Ave C & 9th St)

9/26, 5 PM punkabilly rockers the Screaming Rebel Angels at the Riis Park Beach Bazaar, Bay 9 East at Riis Park in the Rockaways

9/30, 5 PM deviously entertaining hot 20s swing chanteuse Sweet Megg Farrell and band at Albee Square on the Fulton Mall in downntown Brooklyn

9/30, 6 PM the American Symphony Orchestra String Quartet play a wild jazz-oriented program of works by Piazzolla, Lonnie Johnson, Esperanza Spalding and others at Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 3 Greenway Terrace toward the south end of the park

10/1, 7 PM 90s psychedelic noiserock legends Yo La Tengo at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, be prepared to hang on the fringes because of restrictions

10/3, 1 PM  hard-hitting, brass-fueled newschool latin soul/boogaloo dance band Spanglish Fly at Playground 52,  Kelly St bet. Av St John and Leggett Ave in the Bronx, 6 to Longwood Ave

Brilliantly Catchy Rock Tunesmithing on Noga’s Debut Album

The way songwriter Noga’s bassline winds and leaps around the catchy chords of the title track to her new album The Alchemist is absolutely sublime. She also plays acoustic guitar on it, parsing the loaded nature imagery of the lyrics in a gentle, uncluttered delivery. The main theme here is finding inner calm and holding on to it. Stay centered, we’re going to win this, Noga seems to be telling us: words of wisdom for 2021, for sure.

The rest of the album – streaming at Bandcamp – is just as catchy. The second track, Any Kind of Dream has subtle layers of keys from Frank LoCrasto, steady bass from Scott Collberg and lithe syncopation from drummer Jason Nazary behind a tune that reminds of the Cure at their mid-80s poppy peak without being a total ripoff.

LoCrasto’s swirly organ and twinkly glockenspiel patch blend together in the tenderly expectant Special Friend. The last song is Tides, Nazary’s subtle, anthemically rising riffs fueling a long. increasingly intense upward drive with Noga’s layers of Velvets-style guitars. Her tunesmithing is uncommonly smart, she doesn’t waste notes and she could write a catchy hook in her sleep. Let’s hope there’s more where this came from.

Lush, Majestic, Angst-Fueled Orchestral Rock Tunesmithing From Dot Allison

Songwriter Dot Allison opens her new album Heart Shaped Scars – streaming at Bandcamp – with the title track, a Britfolk-tinged tale of abandonment, starry fingerpicked guitar and spare piano over increasingly lush strings, her airy voice reaching for the rafters. It sets the stage for the rest of the record. Allison has a thing for ghosts and metaphorically loaded nature imagery. She likes to record a central vocal track and then layer another one way up in the stratosphere: Lisa Hannigan and Susanne Sundfor‘s more lavish, folk-inspired material comes to mind.

“Listen to what this corridor said,” Allison encourages in The Haunted, a tale of metaphorically loaded ghostly presences over a similar, slightly less symphonically lavish backdrop. Icy raindrop piano flickers above the strummy acoustic guitar of Constellations, a surreal mashup of sweeping chamber pop with tinges of hip-hop, a vibe she reprises with even more imaginative textures later in Cue the Tears..

She reaches for a breathier, more mystical delivery in the circling, mantra-like Can You Hear Nature Sing: “Can you hear through her tears, a myriad of melodies?” Allison asks. The angst hits fever pitch in Ghost Orchid. a stately, anthemic art-rock ballad spiced with some uneasy close harmonies: “We melt into the sun,” is the last line. Allison deserves a lot of credit for resisting the urge to turn this into full-blown High Romantic cliche.

The stark, Appalachian-tinged waltz Forever’s Not Much Time is a subtly venomous broadside that works on many levels: the creepy outro is priceless, and too good to give away. The message of One Love – an original – is not “let’s get together and feel all right,” but the devastating consequences of a garden left to die.

“We’ve got blood on our hands,” is Allison’s opening refrain in Love Died in Our Arms, another stab at orchestral hip-hop. She winds up the album a stark but ultimately optimistic, verdantly string-driven start-over theme, the closest thing to a medieval English ballad here.

Catchy, Bittersweet 60s Pop-Influenced Sounds and a Couple of Brooklyn Gigs From War Violet

Songwriter Jummy Aremu performs under the name War Violet. She writes catchy, anthemic, assertive songs and sings in a resonant, unpretentious voice. Her music has a strong 60s influence, both on the folk side and the pop side: Burt Bacharach-era Dionne Warwick is a good comparison. Aremu sold out the vinyl edition of her latest ep, Getaway, but it’s still streaming at Bandcamp. She’s at Our Wicked Lady on July 27 at 10 PM for $12. Then she’s at Pete’s on July 31 at 10 for the tip jar.

The first track on the record, Just For the Night is one of the most elegant songs ever written about a one-night stand, the synth orchestration sweeping over Arenmu’s spare guitar. “I’ve been to all of the parties in my day,” Aremu intones soberly in the album’s bossa-tinged second track: they must not have been much fun.

The big, exasperatedly poignant singalong here is the title track: “I don’t need this, I don’t need this,” is the mantra. With just emphatic acoustic guitar, snappy bass and a string synth, it’s simple, direct and will be wafting through your head for hours

The last track is I Hope I See You Again, a mix of sparkle and scruffiness: “Just look to the wall for answers big and small.” War Violet also has a Soundcloud page which probably predates the Bandcamp tracks and as you can imagine, the songs are rougher, but it shows she hit the ground running. Since last year’s lockdown, there’s been more attrition than ever in what you might call the rock scene here: good thing for us that War Violet stuck around.

Cellist Mia Pixley Puts Out a Thoughtful, Playful, Deceptively Deep Album of Soul Songs and Chamber Pop

Before she went solo, Mia Pixley was the cellist in the Debutante Hour, an all-female trio who charmed and needled New York audiences with their quirky, deceptively biting chamber pop throughout the late zeros and early teens. Since then, the individual members have done plenty of work on their own – Maria Sonevytsky in the worlds of Balkan and Ukrainian music, and Susan Hwang with the noir-tinged , cinematic Lusterlit and the erratically brilliant lit-pop collective the Bushwick Book Club.

On her new album Margaret in the Wild – streaming at Bandcamp – Pixley glides elegantly through undulating soul grooves and the occasional minimalist classical theme or chamber pop interlude. She plays bass and guitar voicings on the cello along with classical and blues phrasing, and her vocals have more depth and expressiveness than ever. Her supporting cast is first-rate: Ruth Davies and Kevin Goldberg sharing bass duties, Javier Santiago and Bryan Simmons each on piano, Luis Salcedo on guitar, Nahuel Bronzini contributing slide guitar and Wurlitzer, Barbara Higbie on mandolin, Aaron Kruziki on organ, Michaelle Goerlitz and Amelie Hinman on percussion, Isaac Schwartz on drums and Maryam Qudus on keyboards. This is one of those rare albums that sounds like nothing else that’s been released this year. Whatever you call this music – soul, cello rock, something that hasn’t been categorized yet – Pixley owns it.

She opens the record with Core, a terse but lushly orchestrated, nocturnally sweeping overture, the cello balanced by gentle, twinkly piano. In the Daylight, a lustrous, summery tableau, has Pixley’s lithe cello multitracks rising over a vamping lullaby. She follows with Good Taste, a slinky, catchy, soul and hip-hop-infused individualist’s anthem: “Don’t their education, don’t need their ok,” Pixley asserts. If songs like this got played on commercial radio, this would be the monster hit.

Mama’s Got Snacks is funkier, with a New Orleans groove and an amusingly aphoristic, defiantly feminist lyric. In Voices – a setting of a Christopher Shaw poem – Pixley reaches from hazy chamber pop to an assertively bouncy cello-rock theme.

The album’s centerpiece is Everything Is Slow Motion, which begins as a moody, mystical, gorgeously drifting tone poem awash in layers of cello and rippling piano before Pixley hits a trip-hop groove. It reminds of Nina Simone at her most avant-garde.

Pixley orchestrates a carefree, Malian-tinged tune in African Prayer – and is that a balafon, or just Pixley’s cello running through a pitch pedal? In Between Sound comes across as a sunny reverse image of Everything Is Slow Motion, with distant hints of Indian music and Bob Marley. She wraps up the album with Watering, an attractively rippling folk-pop tune with piano and guitar, the closest thing to the Debutante Hour here. There’s a lot of depth on this record: if we get to the point where there’s still enough of a reason to pull together a best-of-2021list, this should be on it.

Familiar, Heartwarming Faces in Friendly New Places

Music in New York is in a really weird place right now. We’re in the midst of the biggest market correction this city has ever seen. Part of that, the abrupt destruction of so many independent venues and the complete annihilation of what was left of the rock scene, is tragic.

But part of this market correction is long overdue.

As this blog predicted as far back as the mid-teens, we’re seeing a quiet explosion of community-based, artist-run spaces, most of them quasi-legal or even less so. That’s where audiences went during the lockdown. The corporate model they replaced is dead in the water. Seriously: does anyone think that the Mercury Lounge, with its apartheid door policy where proof of taking one of the deadly needles is required to get in, is going to survive the year?

In the meantime, the surviving off-the-beaten-path places are thriving. If you work or live in the Financial District, you might know Cowgirl Seahorse. It’s a friendly taco-and-beer joint at the far edge of the South Street Seaport at the corner of where Front Street meets the extension of Peck Slip. Since reopening, they’ve expanded their original Monday night Americana series to sometimes twice a week, and who knows how far they could take that.

It was heartwarming to the extreme to catch honkytonk band the Bourbon Express there over the Fourth of July weekend. With their signature guy/girl vocals and Bakersfield-style twang, they were prime movers in the scene at the original Hank’s before that place finally bit the dust at the end of 2018. This latest version of the band is just a trio, husband-and-wife team Brendan and Katie Curley on guitars along with their bassist holding down the groove.

Brendan is a twangmeister, and so is Katie, but on vocals rather than guitar since she plays acoustic (when she’s not playing the concert harp on their albums). The resulting blend of voices is one of the most distinctive sounds in country: imagine Waylon Jennings duetting with Amy Allison. This set was mostly covers, which was unusual for them, but it showed their roots.

The best number of the night was Jukebox in My Heart, Katie’s fond tribute to the joys of vintage vinyl. A brief, no-nonsense version of Vern Gosdin’s Set ‘Em Up Joe was a perfect example of how deep these two dig for their inspiration.

Brendan ran his Telecaster through a flange for period-perfect 70s ambience in a countrified take of Danny O’Keefe’s 1969 pillhead lament Goodtime Charlie’s Got the Blues. Katie sometimes sings with a vibrato you could drive a semi-truck through, so it was almost funny that she held back on that during her take of Freddy Fender’s Until the Next Teardrop Falls. They made their way soulfully from the 50s through the 70s with songs by Buck Owens and Emmylou Harris, along with a robust version of Soulful Shade of Blue by Buffy Sainte-Marie and a totally Nashville gothic Jolene. With the easygoing crew behind the bar, shockingly good sound and a steady stream of delivery orders moving out the front door, it was almost as if this was 2014 and this was the old Lakeside Lounge.

Then the next weekend Serena Jost played a solo show at the Five Myles gallery in Bed-Stuy. In almost twenty years, it’s been a hotspot for adventurous jazz, hip-hop and dance as well as art that reflects the neighborhood’s gritty past a lot more than its recent whitewashing. Jost fits in perfectly. Most cello rockers don’t play solo shows, but cello rock is unconventional by definition and so is Jost. Throughout a tantalizingly brief show singing to the crowd gathered out front on the street, she aired out her lustrous, soaring voice, an instrument that’s just as much at home singing Bach cantatas as it is with her own enigmatic, enticingly detailed, riff-driven songs.

In recent years, the onetime founding member of Rasputina has found a much more minimalist focus, perfect for playing solo (she switched to acoustic guitar for a couple of numbers). Still, it was the most epic, ornate material that was the most breathtaking, most notably a subtly undulating, singalong take of the big, triumphant anthem Great Conclusions and an aptly majestic, absolutely gothic, sometimes stygian new song inspired by the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Jost spent the lockdown by writing up a storm of new material, something we’ll hopefully get to see more of, most likely at spaces like this one.