The most egregious collection of catching-up mini-reviews the world has ever seen! Featuring such luminaries as Goblin, Secret Chiefs 3, the Dresden Dolls, Bill Frisell, Jason Webley, Chris Thile, and more.

So… in the last 5-6 weeks, I’ve seen 29 concerts (and spent 17 nights away from home doing so). I managed to review 21 of them, which is respectable – but it still leaves me pretty far behind. Some of the shows were particularly good (and there is some good video footage) so I didn’t want to leave them completely unblogged, but I really can’t remember them all well enough at this point to write full reviews. So: to the mini-reviews! I present them to you in chronological order.

Sept 20, 2013. Bill Frisell, Sam Amidon, Jason Moran, Alicia Hall Moran: The show was entitled “Gershwin & Beyond” and was part of the Frisell-curated “Roots of Americana” series at Lincoln Center. The concert was in the absolutely beautiful Allen Room (it’s hard to imagine a prettier place to see a show, for my tastes) and I had a front-row seat. Perfect, right? It was the first concert in my 10-day trip to NYC for Zorn@60, and unfortunately it was a poor match for my mood: I was EXTREMELY EXCITED about that week, I’d been looking forward to it and making plans for months, but the concert was almost universally downtempo and often sad music – I had a hard time switching gears. There were a few very pretty songs, though. I remember really liking “Shenandoah,” sung by Alicia Hall Moran. I unfortunately deleted, by accident, a bunch of videos and photos from that show. (Sorry…)

Sept 24, 2013. The Tri-Centric Orchestra: This event was at Roulette in Brooklyn, on the Tuesday night during our Zorn@60 week when John Zorn apparently decided to take a night off. I like Roulette a lot, but don’t get to go there very often. I was attracted to the show by the orchestra lineup, including 30 or 40 musicians and vocalists – lots of names were familiar to me (Taylor Ho Bynum, Jessica Pavone, Marika Hughes, Ken Filiano, Nate Wooley, Curtis Hasselbring, etc.). They performed three new works (by Ingrid Laubrock, Taylor Ho Bynum, and Mark Taylor) as well as premiering an Anthony Braxton piece written in 1973 but never performed, Composition No. 27. This was a fun night of new music and I especially liked the Mark Taylor composition, even though he was the only one of the composers I’d never heard of before. I’ll have to check out some more of his work.

Oct 7, 2013. A Tribute to Rebecca Rosenthal (including the Dresden Dolls, Jason Webley, etc.): This was a concert organized as a fundraiser and memorial/tribute to a local woman, Rebecca Rosenthal aka Becca Darling, who died unexpectedly and far too young. (You might have seen her in Amanda Palmer’s “Oasis” music video – NSFW – or Neil Gaiman’s short film, “Statuesque,” both of which were screened for us during the concert.) There were many performers during the night, including friends and favorite musicians of Rebecca; but the headliners would probably be considered the Dresden Dolls (with Jason Webley as, er, runner-up headliner). I really liked both of their sets, and filmed some of it. See Jason Webley by clicking here and/or watch the Dresden Dolls here:

If you are interested in making a donation to a scholarship in Rebecca Rosenthal’s memory – click here.

Oct 9, 2013. Secret Chiefs 3: The next concert I went to, at the Sinclair in Cambridge, was Secret Chiefs 3 opening for Goblin. (more…)

Concert review: John Zorn’s Metropolitan Museum Marathon (9/28/2013)

I’ve been to a number of concerts that called themselves “marathons.” I’ve been to all-day festivals. I’ve been to multiple concerts in one night (sometimes in two different cities). I’ve even been to a couple of Zorn marathons in museums. But this? This beat them all. Twelve sets over ten and a half hours, from the minute the museum doors opened to the time it closed. Each one in a different room, paired with or inspired by a particular piece of art or architecture. I suspect this is a record that will never be broken (for the sake of my health, if nothing else!). In short, this was The Big One. I had been so excited about it in advance that I’d researched the locations and created an overlay on a map of the museum with a list of performances and times, so I could print it out and know where everything was without having to figure it out on the day of the show. And if you think THAT is obsessive, you probably don’t want to know about the “Zorn Reconnaissance Mission” that I went on with a friend a few days earlier to check out all the rooms, view the art in advance, figure out the best viewing angles, acoustics, etc. (I’d learned from ZoRN@MoMA that it was actually quite difficult to appreciate the artwork on the day of the performances, since the rooms were so crowded that you often couldn’t get near the piece in question.) We were well-prepared and determined to eke out every last drop of the experience.

We showed up at 9:30 in the morning to be at the front of the line for a 10AM performance, and the music didn’t end until 8:30 at night, eleven hours after we arrived. We saw fourteen separate performances. I made it through the entire day on a few granola bars and water. I had gone in with the idea that I would have a nice sit-down lunch break and skip a performance just to keep myself sane, but in the end I never got desperate enough to do it and I just pushed through the whole day.

We entered the museum within seconds of the doors opening at ten o’clock, knowing that there was a trumpet fanfare (Opening Antiphonal Fanfare for Six Trumpets) planned for 10AM in the entrance hall. We didn’t know exactly where it would be, so as we picked up our tickets we were distractedly looking around everywhere for evidence of trumpet players. I didn’t see any, but did spot John Zorn, Erik Friedlander (who was scheduled for an 11AM solo performance) and a bevy of museum staff members wearing “ZORN AT THE MET” T-shirts. I also spotted a few friends, some of whom would be joining us for the entire day and some who just wanted to see a couple of events in the morning. We anxiously milled around, waiting, wondering if we should move on to the Temple of Dendur where there was a performance scheduled at 10:15. But we figured as long as John Zorn was in the room, we probably wouldn’t miss anything. I think they realized that there was a long line of people outside and they should wait until everyone was in the room before starting the fanfare, so as not to disappoint the fans who had been waiting.

Finally at 10:08AM, we heard (more…)

Concert Review: Nels Cline, Bill Frisell, Shahzad Ismaily, Marc Ribot (NYC, 6/11/2013)

Tuesday night found me in the same place as Monday night: in line outside Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan, with some friends, hoping to get into the front row of a concert with a particularly unbelievable lineup. Guitar geeks around the world had been drooling over this one, an improvisational trio of world-famous guitarists, along with Shahzad Ismaily on drums (presumably he was brought in to keep the guitar players from getting out of hand ;)). All three of the guitarists – Nels Cline, Bill Frisell, and Marc Ribot – are superstar performers in their own right, and this was, as far as I know, the first time they’ve ever appeared on stage together. Unsurprisingly, I recognized a number of guitarists (and some other musicians) in the audience. It was just that kind of show.

In the weeks coming up to the show, I was seeing a lot of comments from people along the lines of “Those three guitarists are awesome! And I’m sure whoever that other guy is will be good too.” And that’s a shame, because Shahzad Ismaily is awesome. I started paying attention to him a few years back when someone had asked me for a top five albums of the year list, and I realized that he was a major player on three of my top five – and they were all completely different genres of music. I really wish he had a website where I could see when he is playing concerts and stuff (hint hint!).

I feel like I don’t really have to introduce the guitarists, but sometimes my mom reads my blog (Hi Mom!) and she probably doesn’t know who Nels Cline is, so I’ll give a brief overview of them. Marc Ribot – my favorite – plays a very wide variety of genres, has something like twenty albums released under his own name and has contributed to countless other people’s albums, including Tom Waits, John Zorn, Joe Henry, Elvis Costello, John Lurie, Jolie Holland, and even Elton John. Nels Cline is currently best-known for his membership in Wilco, one of the biggest indie bands around, and he also leads his own projects, including the Nels Cline Singers and the Nels Cline Trio. Bill Frisell is – geez, the bio on his website is about 7000 words long, it’s hard to summarize this guy! Like Ribot, he’s played in extremely diverse genres, he’s got a huge roster of collaborators and a long list of his own bands and releases.

Photo by Petra Cvelbar
(Photo by Petra Cvelbar – check out more of her photos at her photo blog!)

They played two sets, and did a variety of duos and trios – each set had an all-guitar trio, and at various points in the evening all of the guitarists did duets (Ribot/Frisell, Cline/Frisell, Cline/Ribot). I think Shahzad Ismaily only joined in for pieces with the full quartet, but I may be misremembering something (I didn’t get a lot of sleep that night, which is never good for remembering gig details later!). The entire night with the exception of one song (as far as I could tell) was improv. The non-improv piece was a song with Marc Ribot and Bill Frisell, introduced by Marc Ribot muttering something about how “Frisell is making me sing.” I have a video of (more…)