Category Archives: music

Surprise Concert at Glasslands: The Antlers

So many of my “I’m just going to go home and answer my week old emails and open month old mail” evenings get thwarted, because there is always some temptation in New York, and this Monday it was a surprise “secret” concert with one of my favorite bands, the Antlers, at Glasslands in Brooklyn. The concert was announced in the morning and sold out in minutes. They’ve reached such a level where they are playing much bigger venues, so seeing them at tiny Glasslands was impossible to pass up.

It was a little sweltering in the space, and of course crowded, but it was an incredible show that worked through their newest material, their 2012 album Undersea, back to Burst Apart and Hospice. It all flowed beautifully together, led by singer Peter Silberman’s forlorn falsetto over the ethereal and lush sounds from the wonderful band. Tim Mislock on guitar was especially impressive (I’m not sure if I’d seen him play with the Antlers before) and even took a walk into the ground, with the photographers for various music blogs trampling through the crowd after. The Antlers ended their set with the powerful “Wake,” that concludes with the earnest chorus that somehow gets me every time: “Don’t ever let anyone tell you you deserve that.” You can listen for yourself, because the prolific NYC Taper recorded the whole thing!

Or here, just watch it, courtesy a steady handed audience member. Enjoy the cloud-like Glasslands art installation above the stage:

And, why not, here is “No Widows,” which you may remember was my favorite song of 2011:

And we’ll end with their popular hospital-set heartbreaker “Two”:

CBGB Festival in Times Square

I wanted to do a quick post about something that seemed like the worst idea ever and turned out to be a great time. Last Saturday, the temperature in NYC got to its highest yet of this summer, reaching over the 100 degree mark into something I’ll classify as an inferno of misery. If you know me, I don’t have to tell you how much I dislike the heat. Give me a the coldest day in winter over the swelter of the subway platforms in July. So in the afternoon of such a day I would rarely dare to venture outside, it just so happened that three of my favorite bands were all playing free shows as part of the CBGB Festival (yes, CBGB as in the legendary club on the Bowery).

The catch, in addition to the Hades-like weather, was that they were in Times Square, which, if you were creating some sort of hell for me, you could probably do no worse that Times Square in tourism season with the sun bearing down its scorching rays. But the things I do for the bands I love continue to reach new heights. And I am so glad I made it, because all three bands put on fantastic shows and thanks to the plethora of coffee chains with free air conditioning in the area we survived.

For some reason, the set times weren’t being released online, but thanks to a friend who got in touch with certain drummer who is a wonderful person, I was able to find out that Superchunk was going on at exactly 1:20 pm. (There was also the confusion of there being two stages; I really can’t say that this was well-organized in terms of letting fans know when bands were going on.) I got there just as they were jumping into “This Summer,” a perfect way to start.

If you are unfamiliar with Superchunk, you are definitely missing out, as they’ve been around since 1989 and have put out some of the best indie rock of the past couple of decades. Their current lineup is Mac McCaughan, Laura Ballance, Jim Wilbur, and Jon Wurster, who is also the drummer for the Mountain Goats. Their energetic set for CBGB included a lot of my favorite songs of theirs, including “Hyper Enough,” “Crossed Wires,” and “My Gap Feels Weird,” and there were several fans who knew absolutely all the words to every song and were keeping up an enthusiasm I did not think possible for such heat. I did the best I could!

There was then a bit of confusion about when the next bands would start, and on which of the two stages, but we finally found someone who told us that there couldn’t be any music while the Broadway matinees were happening. I suppose that makes sense, as you wouldn’t necessarily want Craig Finn’s poet-in-a-punk-band voice intruding on Mamma Mia if that’s not what you were there for.

After some chain coffee shop time, we went back into the sun for the Hold Steady. I think this is the third or fourth time for me to see the Hold Steady (I am not counting the Craig Finn solo show this year), and they never disappoint. Finn’s wild gesturing and narrative lyrics over the bar band-tinged music makes for one of the most enjoyable live shows out there. Like Superchunk, they picked one of their “summer” songs for the opener: “Constructive Summer.” I guess despite me not being a summer person, the bands I like are into it, if in a way haunted by malaise. (Take the closing verse of “Constructive Summer”: “Raise a toast to Saint Joe Strummer/I think he might have been our only decent teacher/Getting older only makes it harder to remember/We are our only saviors/We’re gonna build something this summer. Now do you feel… happy?)

Immediately after the Hold Steady ended their set, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah started on the other stage, this one being right in the middle of Times Square by TKTS. This would be the last day for CYHSY to be playing with their current lineup, as two members are moving onto other projects, and I can’t say I would have ever guessed that they would be the band for a farewell concert in Times Square. While the Hold Steady and Superchunk had a sort of contained crowd area, passer-bys and tourists moved through the CYHSY crowd. I’m not sure what they made of Alec Ounsworth’s winding voice, similar to Jeff Mangum in that it’s not traditionally beautiful, but there’s some so uniquely engaging about it.

The last time I saw CYHSY was at Littlefield, a tiny venue in Gowanus, so it was a little surreal to see them playing in one of the busiest, most chaotic places in the world. But it didn’t impact their sound, as every song was performed with clarity and emotional drive. I am sad that I won’t be able to see this particular iteration of CYHSY again, but they’re all incredibly talented and I’m sure I’ll catch their new music directions soon. Hopefully it won’t be in weather that feels like the surface of the sun.

Two Nights in the Cheap Seats at Carnegie Hall: Philip Glass’ 75th Birthday and the Tibet House Benefit

Until January 31, I had never been inside of Carnegie Hall. Now I’ve been there twice, viewing two wonderful shows from the cheapest seats in the house. January 31 was Philip Glass’ 75th birthday, and included the premiere of Glass’ Ninth Symphony. On February 13, I attended the Tibet House Benefit Concert, which had a totally ridiculous lineup, including Philip Glass again (there is an obvious joke about Glass and repetition that I’m sure I’m missing here), Laurie Anderson, Antony Hegarty, James Blake, Lou Reed, Das Racist, Stephin Merritt, and, somehow, more.

First of all, Carnegie Hall is gorgeous and the sound is amazing. (Yeah, none of this is exactly a news flash, but I still find myself stunned by these historic New York performance spaces.) The main concert hall (there is more than one hall in Carnegie Hall) was built in 1891 and has five levels. It must be amazing to see from the stage. According to Wikipedia, you have to climb 137 steps (no elevator to the very top) to get to the fifth balcony, which must earn me the right every time to then sit for two hours. Also must be why 70% of the people up there are in their 20s and 30s and have relatively new knees.

It was amazing to hear Philip Glass’ Symphony No. 9 in the space. It’s sort of shocking that he’s 75 years old, but considering his musical output, it’s also amazing he’s not 175 years old. Even if you aren’t familiar with his orchestral or early more experimental work, you’ve undoubtably heard his minimalist compositions in films. (My favorite is his soundtrack to the movie Kundun, a really atmospheric and intelligent work for film.) If you are familiar with his music, then you know Glass’ love of repeating themes and carefully curved moments of swelling and softness, and nothing in his ninth symphony would have been a surprise. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t wonderful. He is an absolute master at music, and while my erratic mind has a hard time focusing exclusively on one thing at a time, especially at orchestra concerts, I was entranced.

The Tibet House Benefit Concert on February 13 was emceed and curated by Philip Glass, and included a beautiful performance by him on the piano accompanied by Tim Fain on violin. It was a last minute decision of mine to go and I sat in the very back, but it was still an incredible evening. Although eclectic, to say the least. Let me just walk you through the show…

After the Drepung Gomang Monasteries Monks sang to open the show, the first performer was the amazing Laurie Anderson, who gave a highly entertaining spoken word performance accompanied by atmospheric music. She was then joined by Antony Hegarty (who you may remember as almost bringing me to tears at Radio City not that long ago), who was ethereal and breathtaking as usual. I don’t know if my heart can take much more of him, but I’m happy to continue to push myself towards Stendhal Syndrome.

James Blake, who is quite beloved these days by the indie music scene, performed and he was enthralling as well. Each performer only played about two songs, and his best was his popular “The Wilhelm Scream.” I’d never heard him play live before, and while the electronic aspects of his performance seemed a little off with Carnegie’s acoustics, I still love the sound of rain that poured over the middle of “The Wilhelm Scream.”

Things got a little more… crazy with Das Racist. I have to say, when I first saw Das Racist perform their frenetic rap a ways back at Piano’s, I never thought I would next seem them at Carnegie Hall, introduced by Philip Glass. But such is the way of life. They started with “Michael Jackson,” built around the refrain: “Michael Jackson, one million dollars, you feel me?,” which, with their suits on the Carnegie stage, was especially entertaining. And their hype man in a white robe doing some of the most bizarre dancing that’s probably graced the place. In the video above, they’re rapping with Rahzel, an incredible human beat box. Oh, and a string quartet.

Other performers included Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields, who was his charming self, especially on “The Book of Love,” and Lou Reed, who ended the evening with some rocking songs (I am happy that he left the spoken word to Laurie Anderson). The concert closed with all the musicians and performers singing happy birthday to Philip Glass. In conclusion: I love Philip Glass!