Tag Archives: New York City

She and Him and A Packed House at Central Park Summerstage

9 Jul
Photo: Dana Yavin

Photo: Dana Yavin

A quick glance at the sold-out crowd at Central Park Summerstage during last Saturday’s scorcher might have suggested something ranging from slightly eerie to downright strange – there was a sea of smiling Zooey Deschanel’s baking in the New York City sun. Draped in diaphanous sun dresses, hair adornments, and soft makeup, a quirky army of fans sat on the faux green lawn of Summerstage and dined on Asiadogs and craft beer through Camera Obscura’s upbeat opening set. And then, as the sun started setting over the skyscrapers in the distance, the one and only new girl fluttered out on stage with her rock partner in crime, M. Ward, and sang “I Was Made for You” to the true sold out crowd of cute impersonators.

Let’s back up a second to answer the immediate question sparked by this opening passage. Zooey Deschanel sings? Most know the rising star from “500 Days of Summer,” “Elf,” or the hit Fox show “New Girl,” but she is also an accomplished Jazz singer with a penchant for keyboards, percussion, banjo and ukulele.

After meeting on the set of the 2007 movie “The Go-Getter,” Deschanel and M. Ward, an accomplished Indie/Folk/Rock singer-songwriter, formed a collaboration that has since released four studio albums, the most recent released in May of this year.

The skill of both musicians was apparent during the sweltering show at Summerstage. Why am I belaboring the heat? It was HOT. Hot, humid, sticky, sweaty, and sunny. But, despite the heat – both generated from the sun and by the close grouping of attendees – the 28-song set captured the ears of the concert goers, and the vast majority of listeners were hanging on every note played by She & Him’s talented band.

I was most stricken with two elements of the show. It is no surprise that Deschanel can attract an audience – she is an actress – so the large crowd of wild-eyed lookalikes was expected, but her proficiency with the vast instrumentation on stage was intriguing. M. Ward and she swapped instruments and bounced around the stage effervescently. The extensive set list mixed She & Him originals with classics like “You Really Got a Hold on Me” and “Stars Fell on Alabama.” Deschanel and her backup singer duo The Chapin Sisters also performed an airy cover of “Unchained Melody.” During the encore M. Ward rocked a cover of “Roll Over Beethoven” and Deschanel and M. Ward closed the show with a sultry version of “I Put a Spell on You.”

Overall, despite the grueling heat, She & Him and Camera Obscura were pretty darn cool. I was impressed by the talent that oozed from She & Him, and considering the engagement of the audience, I think a full crowd at Summerstage agreed with that sentiment.

Highly Fascinated by A Time and Place

4 Jun
A Time and Place

One of the true prerequisites for the creation of good music is talent, and Andrew Weiss is simply oozing with it. A multi-instrumentalist with now three solo albums under his belt, Weiss is the modern equivalent of a one-man band; he excels at playing percussion, guitar, bass, and keyboards. And, if that is not sufficient, he also provides competent vocals (both lead and background) and lyrics. Weiss is a band in a box. Open him up and you get A Time and Place, his new 9-track album.

High Fascination, Weiss’ sobriquet, was founded as a solo-recording project in 2009. Weiss, a local New York product, has released three albums since 2011. Perhaps my favorite part of the new album is Weiss’ perspicacious ear – a quality developed through listening and practicing. The premier tracks on the album are like a ripe apple: crisp melodies when you sink your teeth into the music and juicy innards when you delve into its intricacies. Also prevalent in each song is the key to the success of every young artist: a penchant for plucking influences from favorite artists and adding similar styles into the pieces. Let’s delve into the album.

“Shadow of a Ghost,” the first track on the album, begins with the pairing of a constant key riff and slowed guitar chord progression. The verse takes on a keen BritPop feel, and, of course, Britpop was inspired by bands like The Beatles and The Kinks. It is not a surprise that the Beatles and Oasis are two bands that Weiss cites as influences. The song sends me back to the late 90s when BritPop reigned supreme. This piece, though, does take on other infectious elements. There is a bluesy undertone behind the BritPop exterior – reminiscent of Beatles-like exploration. Progressive elements like those that appear at the end of the song add a post-Britpop facet  – calling out to bands like Snow Patrol and Elbow. The song is a tight, well-developed piece with several catchy components that help add to its efficacy.

“Caught in the Act of Daydreaming” begins with an early OneRepublic-like keys riff that falls into percussion. The Beatles-like harmony is excellent – almost feeling like a psychedelic pop song from the late 60s. The song also plays with a bluesy component that lifts it away from traditional pop.

In September 2012, Weiss teamed up with Chris Karwaski (guitar, backing vocals), Dan Hemerlein (bass), John Meurer (keyboards, backing vocals), and Adam Holmes (drums) in NYC to form a full band. The band is currently playing venues all around the New York City area.

Check out more information about High Fascination on its Facebook and Twitter. You can also listen to the rest of A Time and Place on Soundcloud.

Ritter and the Royal City Band Rock Terminal 5

20 May
Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band

Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band

In “Lights,” the concluding track of Josh Ritter’s new album The Beast In Its Tracks,” Ritter sings “Every heart on Earth is dark half the time,” an apt line that seems to sum up Ritter’s unique brand of potent folk/rock and poetic lyric. Ritter, a realistic romantic, paints extraordinary love songs with settings that range from an Egyptian tomb to a government controlled missile silo, but balances these resplendent short stories with tales of lost love and regret. The heart is dark half the time.

But…it’s ablaze the other half of the time, and this vivacious beating organ was on display at Terminal 5 this past weekend when Ritter and his dashing Royal City Band wholeheartedly rocked a packed crowd with a satiating 20-song set.

After The Felice Brothers, a local New York folk/rock band, set a passionate tone with a vivacious opening act fit with sultry Dylan-like folk pieces and perfervid blues-laden songs fit with white-hot accordion, fiddle, and even washboard, Ritter came out alone at around 9 p.m. and immediately sang the soft opening notes of “Idaho,” his tribute to his home state.

One of the most striking features of a Josh Ritter performance is how happy he is to be on stage performing to a crowd. As a listener, you get the sense that he would be beaming even if he was performing to a group of 20-or-so listeners. He has a clear love for music, poetry, stories, and performance. This warmth was echoed by the audience that sang along to most of the songs – even providing the much-needed background to the end of one of Ritter’s most serene and melodic songs, “Change of Time” (below).

Ritter displayed why he is a true troubadour in his between-song monologues where he talked about his life – including a candid expression of divorce and love.

Each song was tinged with a calm force that washed over the crowd like a breeze. But of all the songs I wanted to hear, I was most excited for “The Temptation of Adam,” which was the song (off of the 2007 album The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter) that first attracted me to Ritter’s music. This uber-creative love song that links the transition between attraction to deep (but somewhat apprehensive) love with a “top secret location 300-feet under the ground” (a missile silo) is as eccentric and zany as it is wondrous and impassioned. Ritter demonstrates his remarkable ability to write witty and brilliant lyrics that flow perfectly with the song. While I do not have a recording of his performance from this past Saturday, I do have one (Youtube) from 2011, also in Terminal 5.

Excellent concert! If Ritter and the Royal City Band is performing near your town, I seriously suggest you go to see them!


The Top 3 Concerts at Summerstage 2013

22 Apr


While the cold air continues to linger over New York, one of the first signs of summer presented itself in the form of an e-mail this afternoon. The 2013 Summerstage calendar has been released. Summerstage, a product of the NYC City Parks Foundation, is a uniquely New York. From June 4 – August 29, Summerstage provides over 100 free music, dance, film, comedy, family and theater programs in 17 parks across all five boroughs of NYC. It is an ubiquitous city-wide arts fest and all are invited. The schedule, like in year’s past, is packed with several savory events, including a few premier cost events – like the ones I will discuss in today’s post.

While I urge you to check out the Schedule when you have an opportunity, I am going to preview three events I am most excited about, all occurring at the 69th St. & 5th Ave, Central Park location.

3.) Bobby McFerrin – Tuesday, August 20th at 7:00pm EDT

No, this famous song of sincere contentment was not created by Bob Marley. The song was released seven years after Marley’s death, and, last time I checked, Marley is not 2Pac. “Don’t Worry Be Happy” is the wise advice of Bobby McFerrin, and, in some form of twisted irony, this simple ditty of humorous happiness that is clearly his most known work suffers from authorship mistakes and does not do McFerrin justice. McFerrin is a tremendously talented musicians with a perspicacious musicality that shines through everything he creates. Although I am still trying to figure out the “Don’t Worry Be Happy” video that truly marks the song as one of the weirdest pieces to ever hit the top spot on the charts, I’m sure McFerrin will put on a very “happy” show in August.

2.) The Zombies/Django Django/Adam Green and Binki Shapiro/DJ Modest P – Saturday, June 15th at 3:00pm EDT

Wow. This is an eclectic mix of old/new musicians. The Zombies released Odessey and Oracle in 1968, and those who have listened to it can attest to it being one of the better rock albums of the 1960s. The band combined pop/rock with prog/psych to establish an intriguing blend of 60s genres. I saw them at a previous Hippiefest, and they were quite good.

Django Django released their self-titled debut in 2012, and it’s combination of electronic rock and indie influences is upbeat and poppy with Franz Ferdinand influences. Heck, there is even some embedded 60s pop in the music. Take a listen to “Hail Bop” below. Enjoy the odd video.

Of what I know about the other two performers, Adam Green and Binki Shapiro are folk/pop artists with a pull towards the 60s and DJ Modest P is a skilled New York spinner known for his long time Saturday night residency at the legendary East Village club Nublu. I’m interested to hear what kind of show this will be.

1.) Airborne Toxic Event – Tuesday, June 18th at 7:00pm EDT

I have had an itch to see the Airborne Toxic Event for quite a while. The Californian Indie Rock band – with a name alluding to my favorite Don DeLillo novel – saw well-deserved success with the release of their sophomore album, All At Once, and, by the time this concert rolls around, will be supporting their third release, Such Hot Blood, set for release in late April. Quite simply, this will be an awesome show. Perfect band for the Summerstage.

Those are my top three. Feel free to check out the schedule (above), and you can follow Summerstage on Facebook or Twitter


Hurricane Sandy – Blue Moon

2 Nov

I thought this was a particularly cogent picture to choose from the massive wreckage of Hurricane Sandy. What was once jokingly coined the Frankenstorm because of its combination of a massive nor’easter and a Hurricane (and its near-Halloween arrival), quickly shaped into one of the worst storms to ever hit the Northeast. The picture represents a loss of innocence; a fun roller coaster meets the strength of a storm. It is almost unreal to witness the devastation. As a New Yorker, I can confidently say that individuals from New York and New Jersey are gritty. We handle adversity well. But the force of Mother Nature has left almost all residents shocked. And we are still feeling it. My house is without power, but my family is safe, and that is all that is important.

Although I experienced the storm, I am writing this post miles away from New York. I am in San Diego covering a conference for my work. Thus, I do have an opportunity to let you all know that I am alright, and I look forward to getting back to posting on a more consistent basis.

It goes without saying that my posting schedule has been cut lately. It has almost been nonexistent. You can expect a Music Court revival after the new year. Yes, come 2013 I can guarantee a schedule of more frequent posting. Until then, I hope to complete at least two posts a week (one being a new band).

New bands please continue sending your material to musiccourt@gmail.com. If I do not get back to you immediately, please be patient. I receive a large amount of e-mails, and I usually read them in bulk (once or twice every week). I will get back to you. New bands I would like to cover are put on a list, and I follow it chronologically. I love listening to all of the new music and writing engaging posts about them. So, how about we get to some music…or rather a video.

I am having some difficulty embedding it, but since I really do enjoy its inventive structure, I urge you to check out the video of The Lost Brothers’ “Blue Moon in September”. The Lost Brothers are made up of Mark McCausland and Oisin Leech, an Irish duo. They released their first indie/folk album in 2008. The video of hand-crafted props and puppetry tells an odd story that features paper clouds, a clay moon, and a baritone beluga. The song itself swoons like the light rocking of a ship on the seas…or in the case until you are attacked by a sea monster.

%d bloggers like this: