Two weeks, no concerts.

Sometimes the randomness of my life and concert touring schedules means that I find myself without a good concert to go to for weeks at a time. I’m currently halfway through a two-week concert desert, but I didn’t want to let my blog sit here with no new posts! So here’s an update on the goings-on of the temporarily concertless concert blogger.

I just finished reading Bettye Lavette‘s autobiography, “A Woman Like Me.” I picked up a copy at her last concert in Boston. It was a fun and easy read, and I found it to be written very much in her own highly unique voice. Assuming everything in there is true, she has lived quite a crazy life! I really can’t decide if I think she is a great bullshitter or if the book is brutally honest. Maybe some of each, who knows? Most people will probably find something controversial in the book – drugs, sex, prostitution, domestic violence – but it’s a good read nonetheless.

I have also been obsessively stalking (more…)

Concert mini-reviews: Red Baraat, Evolfo Doofeht, Idan Raichel Project, Klezwoods

Catching up on a few shows I’ve seen in the last few weeks… in no particular order.

Red Baraat: I’m not always very good at deciding what genre any given band is, but they describe themselves as “Bhangra Funk Dhol’n’Brass.” (I’m not sure that really helps!) The eight-piece band consists entirely of percussion and brass. This was a classic case of a good band that isn’t really up my alley; they had the crowd excited and dancing for most of the set, but for my taste I would have jettisoned the dance/hip-hop influence. My ears would have liked more of the brass band sound. That said, it was still a fun and danceable show. You can check out their NPR Tiny Desk concert here:

Local band Evolfo Doofeht opened for them, and I was having a hard time making up my mind about their set. They described themselves as “gypsy funk” – I probably would have liked them more if the gypsy part was more prominent. To me it sounded like pretty straight up funk/R&B type music. In parts it was too smooth and clean for me, but in parts I thought they really had some promise. They are a pretty young band, so they might be one to keep an eye on if they develop in the right directions. I’d suggest spending more effort on their solos than their costumes, for a start – no one is going to be impressed with the trombonist’s furry purple suit if he can’t musically knock it out of the park. (Well… maybe a LITTLE impressed. It was awfully purple.)

The Red Baraat/Evolfo Doofeth concert was also my first time at the Sinclair, a new Harvard Square venue. I had heard a lot of “it’s like the House of Blues, but small” and I can definitely see that, although I think the smallness has solved a lot of the problems plaguing the House of Blues. I actually really liked it as a mid-size venue – definitely nicer than the Middle East Downstairs (and far better sound), and a little more sophisticated than Brighton Music Hall (and a lot more convenient to me). I need more visits to make up my mind, but (more…)

Upcoming concerts and tours of note

I’d meant to see a concert or two over the long weekend, but was unfortunately sidelined by the flu – so instead you’re getting a look at some upcoming concerts and tours that I think are worth checking out.

Bettye Lavette – one of my favorite voices on the planet and a consummate performer, Bettye has a few dates scheduled in Australia (Byron Bay, Sydney, Melbourne), Cape Verde, and the U.S. (Pittsburgh, NYC, DC, Chicago). If you haven’t heard her before, click here to listen to one of the performances that made her famous.

Marc Ribot – probably my favorite musician on the planet in terms of live performance. He has lots of great shows coming up: a concert with David Hidalgo in Burlington, VT on Jan 26th; a Ceramic Dog concert in Brooklyn on the 29th; and in February and March he’ll be all over Europe with both solo sets and a Ceramic Dog tour. Here’s a clip of him playing one of his own compositions with Chad Taylor and Henry Grimes:

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band is touring all over the U.S. from February until May – including a visit to Brooklyn Bowl where I had such a good time seeing them last summer. If you get a chance to see them at a standing and dancing kind of venue, don’t miss it! I’m honestly not sure about other kinds of venues – I saw them at Boston Symphony Hall and it was kind of underwhelming, but I think it was in large part due to some sound problems they were having that night.

The Underscore Orkestra – who I’m recommending simply because I saw them one time and it was so much fun – are currently doing an Australia/New Zealand tour, and will be doing a U.S. tour in March. Listen to some of their music here. I remember their live performance as being much more exciting than the studio tracks would indicate, though.

Sean Rowe, a deep-voiced singer-songwriter who impressed me when I saw him perform an opening set a few months ago, is currently touring the UK; he’ll be doing a sixteen-date U.S. tour from west coast to east coast in March. Here’s a video from his latest album:

John Zorn, my favorite composer (a word that doesn’t do him justice), is putting together a very special series of concerts in 2013 in a number of countries in (more…)

Concert review: Klezwoods, Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band, Cirkestra (1/10/13)

My first concert of the year was a big one – three popular local bands, all touching on the klezmer/circus/gypsy music family. We are blessed with a lot of that sort of music here in Boston, although I’ve never really known why. Whatever the reason may be, in my opinion it’s a very good thing!

The show was at Johnny D’s in Somerville, where I hadn’t been in ages. They recently changed their ticketing system for the worse, unfortunately. You used to be able to buy a ticket online, then call to reserve a table, where you could eat and drink as much or as little as you felt like. With the new system, if you want to get a table reserved, you have to pre-pay for $12 or $20 worth of food, which must be ordered from a limited prix fixe menu. This can make things considerably more expensive, especially since you have to pay fees on the food prepayment amount. On the plus side, Johnny D’s is a pretty decent place to see a concert: the sightlines and sound are both good, and the food is better and less expensive than a lot of similar concert venues.

Cirkestra was the first band of the night, and I couldn’t help but notice that their usual saxophone player was not there. I felt a little sad about that, because she’s one of my favorite things about that band. There was another saxophone player in her place, who I knew I had seen in another band recently, but I couldn’t put my finger on it for a while. Finally it hit me: I saw him play with Amanda Palmer at the Paradise in November! (If you’re wondering why that was so memorable, (more…)