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Tag: psychedelic rock

Bongzilla Put Smoke in the Water in Greenpoint

The good news for NYC heavy rock fans is that St. Vitus is open again. The bad news is that there’s been a big bump in the cover charge, as you would expect from any club that passes the fees from online ticket middlemen on to their customers like the pizza places that use Uber Eats. So the twinbill with the thrash/spacerock/postrock hybrid Wizard Rifle and stoner riffmeisters Bongzilla will set you back $27. There are other acts on the bill, but these are the ones really worth coming out for, and the quality justifies the price.

The album at the top of Bongzilla’s Bandcamp page is an old one that goes back to 2008. It’s the band’s tantalizingly short, complete set from one of the Relapse Contamination Festivals: a lot of bands made live albums there and this is one of the best. Bongzilla are a riff band and don’t do much in the way of solos: the band name fits their immersive intensity.

Mike Henry’s drums punch up and then puncture Jeff Schultz’s wall of guitar fuzz until just a hint of an evil doom riff appears in the first song of the set, Gateway. Then the band hit a slo-mo gallop and run that simple heavy blues hook over and over.

Their second song, Stone a Pig isn’t as sludgy as you would expect from a 3rd gen Sabbath tune, thanks to Henry’s nimble drumming and the grit on the bass – if memory serves right, Cooter Brown held down that spot in the band at the time. His woozy where-did-that-come-from bass breakdown is there to fake you out and set you up for the roar that follows, through some unexpectedly tricky changes.

Methodical heavy blues riffs and an unpredictable series of tempo changes also feature heavily in their third song, Hashdealer and the closing cut, Keefmaster. This slow-burning blast from the past is another reminder that more bands should make live records.

And for a similarly riff-loaded, tuneful idea of what’s in store for the show, check out Wizard Rifle’s more texturally diverse, rhythmically tricky, thrashy most recent album from 2019.

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A Rare Loud Rock Show Coming Up at the Lincoln Center Atrium

Has a heavy psychedelic rock band ever played Lincoln Center? Believe it or not, a few punk acts have played there over the years. There was a rare concert by a reconfigured version of legendary 70s Detroit band Death there in 2010, Six years later, Hoba Hoba Spirit – the Moroccan Clash – raised the roof at the atrium space on Broadway south of 63rd St. That’s where heavy spacerock trio King Buffalo are playing on March 30 at 7:30 PM. It’s a free show; you might want to get there early.

Their new album Regenerator is streaming at Bandcamp. Whether motoring along at a fast autobahn clip or with a slow, heavier sway, they like hanging on a single chord to build hypnotic ambience that can go on for minutes on end. They open the record with the title epic, a galloping mashup of shiny 80s chorus-box spacerock, krautrock and maybe Budos Band. You don’t realize it’s a one-chord jam until frontman/guitarist Sean McVay kicks off his wah pedal and brings in the fuzz.

Bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson fuel a hypnotic, circling forward drive in the second track, Mercury, a heavier take on mid-80s Talking Heads until McVay blasts in with the distortion. The trio go back to stomping spacerock with track three, Hours, a throwback to 90s Brian Jonestown Massacre until a wry portamento synth-and-bass interlude midway through.

They nick a famous Beatles theme for the drony, raga-like intro to Mammoth, a slow, swaying, echoey ba-bump groove that they suddenly take halfspeed to a gritty roar and a big majestic outro. They follow a slow, bouncy, Muse-ish sway for Avalon – a starry, drifting, unexpectedly crescendoing original, not the Roxy Music classic.

They wind up the record with Firmament, slowly rising from a circling, chiming loop to layers of distortion, wah and Donaldson’s oscillating, insectile synth.

Revisiting New York Jamband Legends at a Familiar Haunt

Hazmat Modine are one of the world’s edgiest and most enduring jambands. They got their start a couple of decades ago as a darkly oldtimey-flavored New Orleans blues unit which sometimes featured instruments as diverse as the Chinese sheng – a sort of hybrid harmonica/tuba – and the lowest of all low reed instruments, the contrabass clarinet. Charismatic belter and frontman Wade Schuman plays a mean chromatic harp, but he’s also a hell of an oldtime resonator blues guitarist. In the early days, the group’s signature sound was dueling blues harps; as the years went by, they went deeper into reggae, klezmer and more electric rock sounds. They also enjoyed a more-or-less biweekly residency at Terra Blues, which lasted from the early zeros until the 2020 plandemic. The good news is that they’re back, with a gig there at a little after 7 PM on March 18. Cover is $20.

Hazmat Modine had the misfortune to release their most recent album, Box of Breath – streaming at Bandcamp – barely a couple of months before the lockdown. The big new development for the band here was the detour they’d taken into African music: Balla Kouyate’s rippling balafon is a frequent, rippling presence.

On the first track, Crust of Bread, guitarist Erik Della Penna starts out on banjitar, playing a circling Malian riff and then switches to a tantalizingly brief, careening electric solo over tuba player Joseph Daley’s energetic riffage. At the end, saxophonist Steve Elson, trumpeter Pam Fleming and trombonist Reut Regev whip up a little dixieland over drummer Tim Keiper’s spare forward drive.

The album’s title track is an older concert favorite, Schuman making his way through a litany of period-perfect 1920s blues aphorisms that start out sly and allusive and grow more somber as the band move in a more brassy direction behind him. Then they make an oldtimey, brass-fueled sway out of a Memphis soul tune in Be There, Schuman and Della Penna getting into an animated duel midway through.

Hoarder, one of Schuman’s more colorful character studies, is a launching pad for some of the band’s more vivid Rube Goldberg exchanges: somewhere there’s a great silent cartoon that deserves this music. Della Penna moves to the mic for Lonely Man, a starkly swaying Charley Patton-flavored oldtime blues tune that would fit perfectly with his other band, Kill Henry Sugar: the brass and Schuman’s expressive wah-wah harp add a brighter edge.

They slink their way into hi-de-ho tango territory dotted with vintage soul horn riffs in Get Get Out. Once again, the band built a wry lattice of riffs, this time alongside guest on Mark Stewart on idiophone, Schuman running his harp through an octave pedal for extra surreal, squiggly textures.

From there they sway into Lazy Time, another oldschool soul tune taken back to its increasingly boisterous hot 20s roots. Della Penna returns to the mic for In Our Home, a metaphorically loaded, elegantly arranged blues cautionary tale, Charlie Burnham’s viola sailing amid the spiky mix of guitar, banjitar, tuba and the horns.

Ain´t Goin That Way is the closest thing to the band’s original sound, a chromatically bristling, reverb-iced Schuman harp solo over an icepick strut, and some terse, bluesy lines from Regev. Della Pena takes to the banjitar and the mic again in Dark River, a waltz that’s the darkest and most rustic track here.

Daley hits a reggae groove in Delivery Man, a cynical political broadside with some of the album’s most memorably snarling guitar and harp work. Schuman channels his inner Louis Jordan in Extra-Deluxe-Supreme, an innuendo-laden chronicle of a late-night trip to his local bodega. They wind up the album with the loosely vamping Sound Check in China, which could be exactly that. Good to see this familiar presence still at the top of their surreal, shapeshifting game after all these years.

The Elgin Marbles Bring Their Wickedly Catchy, Psychedelic Jangle and Clang to Bushwick

What is up with this week? Suddenly it’s 2019 again. There are more great multiple-band bills around New York than there have been in, um, years. Wonder why that is?

The best of the bunch is at Gold Sounds on March 18 and starts anticlimactically at 8 with psychedelic janglerock guitar goddess Barbara Endes’ band Girls on Grass, followed by cult supergroup the Elgin Marbles, who play the wickedly catchy, serpentine songs of bandleader/guitarist Dann Baker’s previous outfit, Love Camp 7. Up next are Canadian country crew the Pickups and then Cementhead, who enjoyed a good run (and a revolving door of band members) as one of the few memorable indie bands in New York in the late 90s and zeros. Cover is $12, dirt cheap for a lineup of this caliber.

This blog was in the house for one of the Elgin Marbles’ first shows, at Troost in Greenpoint in August of 2019. It was a psychedelic janglefest. Bassist Dave Mandl did his usual swoop-and-dive routine where Love Camp 7’s late, great Bruce Hathaway would have punched in with his judicious, melodic lines (Hathaway was also a first-rate composer of new classical music: let’s hope his orchestral scores will someday resurface somewhere).

Drummer Heather Wagner had the hardest job of all. Negotiating the late, great Dave Campbell’s labyrinthine lines with any similar kind of flair would have been a steep learning curve under any circumstances, but she was up to the challenge and was relentless about it. The addition of Greek/Cypriot surf band the Byzan-tones‘ guitarist and bandleader George Sempepos added to the intricate, starry lattice of sound. Baker balanced his erudite jangle and chime with the occasional, unexpectedly buzzy blast of noise to keep the crowd on their toes, when they weren’t hanging on his winkingly sly lit-rock lyrics and cat-ate-the-canary vocals. There seems to be only one video from the show that’s made it to the web, but it’s a good one, Sempepos’ jagged, spiky slide guitar over Baker’s slinky sway.

The Best Twin Peaks Cover Band in New York Slinks Into Bushwick

Of all the extreme niche cover bands in the world, one of the best are Fuck You Tammy. The bandname is a reference to the most recent iteration of Twin Peaks. The group – a spinoff of the similarly cinematic but more techy Scam Avenue – dedicate themselves to playing music from every incarnation of David Lynch’s iconic film noir franchise: the first two network tv seasons, the brief cable comeback series and the Twin Peaks movie.

They released their lone single so far, a lush but hauntingly intimate and psychedelic version of True Love’s Flame, in February 2020, barely a month before the lockdown. The good news is that they’re back, and have a relatively rare hometown show coming up on March 15 at 8 PM at Alphaville. The venue is one of many in (increasingly less) trendy Brooklyn neighborhoods who’ve fallen for the goofy dollars-and-cents online ticketing fad (which may be a condition of taking Trump plandemic loans). What that means for customers, assuming that whoever’s working the door isn’t making change, is that it will probably set you back an even $14 cash.

This blog was at Long Island City Bar in February of 2018, where the band drifted through a lustrous, lusciously lurid set. Unfortunately, that show didn’t make it to the web, but a shorter show from the Bell House from a couple of weeks later did and is up at youtube. And it’s every bit as good: the Queens gig was more instrumentals, while this one focuses more on vocal numbers.

What’s best about this band is that they add subtle original touches, when they’re not doing a stunning job recreating these cult classics note for note. They open the show with a vigorous punk jazz-tinged take of The Pink Room, the creepy Black Lodge stripper theme from the movie, propelled with a stalking pulse by bassist Julie Rozansky and drummer Nate Smith as saxophonist Anthony Cekay fires off jagged, smoky accents. Then frontwoman Devery Doleman – who has much more powerful pipes than Julee Cruise – takes over in front of the band and turns in a similarly pouncing cover of Floating

Keyboardist Bill Ferullo and guitarist David Andreana open Falling with the Twin Peaks title theme: just as at the Queens gig, the effect is a lot more stark and sinister than the plush, saturnine studio sound of the original score. Then Doleman shimmies in her red dress and goes way up into Cruise-ing highs for Rocking Back Inside My Heart, the wistful pop ballad from the comeback season.

Rozansky, who has a softer voice, takes over the mic and keeps the sad 50s vibe going in Just You, Andreana firing off spot-on reverbtoned jangle and whipcrack behind her. Then the band bring the menace back with a brisk take of Into the Night, eerie echoey electric piano against spare guitar jangle and an unscripted, smoky Cekay sax solo. It’s the high point of the show.

Little Jimmy Scott’s version of Sycamore Trees is impossible to beat, so the band reinvent it with more of a cliffhanger guitar noir edge. They go back to slow, distantly pensive 6/8 retro ballad territory with The World Spins as Rozansky punches in with her treble up behind Doleman’s angst-fueled vocals, and then max out the mystery as they wind it out with a dead calm. The two frontwoman sing disconsolate harmonies in the closer, a meticulous recreation of The Nightingale. Where Tom Csatari’s Twin Peaks covers focus more on the menace that a band can find outside the lines, Fuck You Tammy max out the red neon inner core.

Alice Lee’s Award-Winning, Haunting Reinvention of an Oldtime Americana Classic

Alice Lee released one of the most harrowingly memorable songs of 2020, Isolation Blues, singing through a surgical mask for added creepy effect. Her latest single is an equally haunting, absolutely gorgeous cover of a 1925 78 RPM single by Vernon Dalhart, The Prisoner’s Song, which was the first million-selling country music hit.

She mixes found sounds from the subway, samples of Williamsburg churchbells and plays a banjo borrowed from the library for an immersive, drifting, feminist interpretation that’s part Sade and part Ma Rainey. You can hear the song at her music page. Proving that good things sometimes happen to good musicians, Lee’s recording won the recent WNYC Public Song Project contest: fast forward thirty seconds to hear a brief interview for added context.

Lee also counts herself among the growing number of musicians whose next gig could be wherever they’re at on a given day. Her main hang is Sunny’s, where she can often be found on Friday afternoons.

Psychedelia, Jagged No Wave and Big Stadium Sounds at a Williamsburg Guitar Shop on the 9th

There’s an intriguing triplebill coming up at 8 PM on March 9 at an unexpected out-of-the-way spot, Main Drag Music at 50 W 1st St. at Kent Ave. in Williamsburg, where polymath guitar god Pete Galub opens the night, followed by a couple of anthemic yet acerbic and sometimes abrasive acts, Woodhead and Mustafina

Galub is probably the only artist who’s shared a stage with both Americana icon Amy Allison and art-rock mystic Carol Lipnik. But he’s also a solo artist who’s just as adept at straight-ahead powerpop as he is at psychedelia, a guy who can find the inner James Brown in Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 3. It’s been awhile since the last time this blog was in the house for a Galub show. That was a low-key set with multi-instrumentalist Matt Kanelos in the fall of 2017, at a little Williamsburg spot that four years later would throw away its storied past, and will be remembered for its ugly complicity in a divide-and-conquer-and-possibly-murder scheme.

Galub has put out some good records over the years, but he also has a delightful Soundcloud page where he collects his more uncategorizable material. For starters, there’s Artificial Weather, a catchy rainy-day folk-rock ballad with acoustic guitar and and electric piano, an aptly metaphorical theme for the era of chemtrails.

A solo electric version of Brave Words by the Chills is a lot warmer and louder than the originals, with a strange Jerry Garcia-style interlude tacked on. In typical, puckish Galub fashion, his cover of the Feelies’ It’s Only Life is much more terse and low-key. His wryly psychedelic, Dylanesque take of Roxy Music’s A Really Good Time is also pretty classic, if insider rock humor is your thing.

Other rarities include a funny little cartoon of a tune, Have Yourself a Really Crappy Christmas; Raga Against the Machine, a pretty hilarious evocation of a sitar, and the best song on the page, Psycho Seder, a klezmer horror surf instrumental.

Woodhead’s new single is part skronky new wave, part 80s King Crimson and a little stadium rock. The one before that, a “lockdown version” of Walking Uphill has all kinds of tasty layers of ugly noise, evil tritones and frontman/guitarist Vern Woodhead’s declamatory 80s vocals over Dmitry Ishenko’s snappy bassline. The band’s most recent album, El Inmortal, goes back to 2016 and features the same improbably successful blend of noisy abrasion, punchy anthemic choruses and spoken-word vocals.

Mustafina make a good segue: they mix up 70s acid rock, noiserock, guy/girl metal vocals and the same kind of tricky tempos that Woodhead sometimes negotiate. Their Reverbnation page has a small handful of songs: click the big six-minute second track, Good Times and the Scars to Prove It, to see what they can do with a big stadium anthem. This is the kind of lineup you might have seen at the late and badly missed Bar Matchless – where Mustafina used to play.

Ace Bandage Jam Like Nobody Else in Town

Ace Bandage are the best new jamband in New York. When they weren’t playing shows last year, they were improvising in their rehearsal room and putting that stuff up at Bandcamp. They recorded their latest short album, Ace Bandage’s Almost Halloween live at Hart Bar in Bushwick last October. You can hear the originals at the Bandcamp page; the whole concert, including Bowie and Pink Floyd covers, is available at archive.org.

They make their way up from a minor-key reggae groove to a brisk mid-80s Talking Heads pulse in the first of their tunes, Weirding. Guitarist Jake Pepper plays purposeful, bluesy lines over his sparring partner Kent Dunne’s incisive chords,. then they eventually take the song down into the vortex as bassist Zach Koeber and drummer Taylor Harvey back away, then pull everybody back on the rails in a split second.

They segue into Snuff the Torch, Dunne’s chicken-scratch wah-wah in contrast to Pepper’s unhinged slashes, slow-bake-in-the-sun leads and occasional pickslides. It’s like more focused mid-70s Can.

The last song is Burn. In almost seventeen minutes, the band slinking along on a darkly psychedelic funk pulse. Dunne takes the first couple of solos with a hammering, reverbtoned dark garage attack. When he goes flying over the edge and hands it over to Pepper to go further off the handle, it’s a clinic in spontaneous combustion. And yet, when Koeber goes bubbling up into the high frets, the two guitarists work their way down into a resonant simmer and a little robots-adrift-in-space interlude. The misterioso bass-led jam at the end is the best part, quiet as it is. It’s rare that you find a new band with this kind of chops or telepathy.

Ace Bandage are at Bar Freda on March 9 at 9 PM; cover is $10

Bard’s Flying Vessel Bring Their Imaginative, Catchy Psychedelia to Bushwick

On one hand, rock music in this city was pretty much snuffed out by the 2020 plandemic. But in the past year, there have been signs that we’re about to see a welcome resurgence. Many artists who were locked out of the number-crunching, social media-fixated venues are suddenly getting prime time onstage. And that almost invariably means that the music is good: these artists are writing songs and jamming out instead of spending all their time on the magic rectangle.

One impressively eclectic bill is this March 4 at 8 PM at Alphaville, where brooding folk-rock tunesmith Peter Carlovich, a.k.a. Peter Is Dead opens the night, followed by female-fronted dreampop band Heat Death and then jangly, anthemic newschool psychedelic band Bard’s Flying Vessel. Like so many Brooklyn venues, the space has become enamored of the surveillance-based online ticketing fad, something that may or many not have to do with compliance with state or federal plandemic loans. Whatever the case, if you round up the nickels and dimes, it’ll cost you $14 cash at the door.

Bard’s Flying Vessel have a new limited-edition cassette Nightfall Generator streaming at Bandcamp. It’s got the droniness of Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Black Angels, the jangle and clang of the 13th Floor Elevators and some King Gizzard acidity without the Middle Eastern fixation. These guys really know their psychedelia and draw on plenty of other influences without sounding like a ripoff.

The first track is Barrows, an Elevators stomp beefed up with washes of distorted guitar, swirly organ and insistent piano: vintage Plan 9 comes to mind. Frontman/keyboardist Matt Dwyer’s organ floats over the spare, starry, distantly Doorsy guitars of Aaron Swartz and Joey Dussault in the album’s title track: it could be a mid-80s pop number by the Church with more analog production values, and a deliciously unexpected tempo change.

Bass Devil’s In the Garden is a fondly strutting, gorgeously jangly look back at Forever Changes-era Love, with a lithe pulse from bassist Sarang Joshi and drummer Bosch Akram. Scheming, an opiated, propulsively ultraviolet spacerock jam, is more of a mashup of BJM and early King Gizzard. Then the band add some Beatles touches in Fortune Wheel.

They open the final cut, By the Ridge, with wind chimes and wafting low feedback, then drift along on a slow martial beat behind the lingering guitar resonance and shimmery cymbals. You can get lost in this stuff Saturday night in Bushwick.

Reverend Mother Open a Killer Heavy Psychedelic Triplebill in Greenpoint

For one reason or another, heavy rock was one of the last styles of music to reemerge in the wake of the 2020 lockdowns. Maybe because so much metal and heavy psych deals with dark themes, and those artists saw a scam and said the hell with getting on a real highway to hell? Whatever the case, Lucky 13 Saloon and St. Vitus are open again with some lineups to help us forget about the horrorshow of the last three years. One of the best triplebills of the year is happening in a couple of days on Feb 21 at St. Vitus. And as good as the later acts on the bill are – thorny heavy psych road warriors Bone Church and the more diverse, stoner boogie-oriented El Perro – the openers might be the best act on the bill. Cover is $16,

Reverend Mother, who hit sometime after 7, are a heavy psychedelic power trio with an excellent new vinyl record, Damned Blessing streaming at Bandcamp. Frontwoman/guitarist Jackie Green writes wickedly catchy, purposeful riffs, mixes up her textures from sludgy to sunbaked and sings through a lot of reverb. Bassist Matt Cincotta and drummer Gabe Katz have a nimble attack with a snap and crackle that looks back to the 70s

The opening track, How to Serve Man begins with a slow, lusciously spare chromatic hook then picks it up with more of a classic punk drive. Green winds it out with evil phased leads as the rhythm section rises toward a stampede.

The group introduce the second song with a bit of a radio broadcast, hinting at a Elon Musk satellite attack or the equivalent. Then, in Locomotive, the band rise from enigmatic, sparse intensity to a ba-bump stoner boogie with reverb-heavy vocals: a more raw, stripped-down Ruby the Hatchet, maybe

Track four, the band’s signature song. opens with a snarl but also a maze of polyrhythms before Green straightens it out: if Thalia Zedek had gone into metal, she might have sounded something like this. After that, Road to Lose has honking blues harp from Patton Magee but also some serious crush from Green’s guitar on the chorus.

Green adds violin alongside High Priestess Nighthawk’s cello on L.V.B, a slow, sludgy heavy blues instrumental. It makes a good segue with the next track, Shame, the band picking up doublespeed into a tantalizingly brief, gritty bass break.

Green gets both channels burning with distortion and jagged hooks over the chugging forward drive in the album’s big epic. The Masochist Tie. “Break me,” Green taunts, “Will you catch up with me in the end?” And then launches into a slithery guitar interlude that’s over too soon.

The album’s final cut is Toxic, Green multitracking her vocals for an accusatory one-woman chorus over a hypnotic two-chord attack peppered with sniper riffs bursting from every corner of the sonic picture. Let’s hope we get more from this band.