Recent concert highlights: Erik Friedlander, Trevor Dunn’s PROOFReaders, Marc Ribot, Sean Rowe, and Zion80

I’ve had a light three weeks of concerts (well, light for me) between two head colds, a sinus infection and a round of antibiotics – yuck! Hopefully now that summer has arrived a couple of months early, the cold and flu season is over. I did manage to push through and get to a handful of shows, though I didn’t feel well enough to write about them until this week.

Erik Friedlander‘s solo set at Dixon Place, premiering his new album “Illuminations,” was a real treat. The new album is a must-hear – I’ve really been enjoying it (you can listen and buy it by clicking here). It reminds me a little of “Volac,” the album he did for John Zorn’s Book of Angels series, but with a bit more of a classical sound. I hadn’t been to Dixon Place before and it was an excellent place to see a very focused and intense solo set, with no distracting noise from the street or a bar. It was a beautiful concert, and I was happy to bring home the new CD afterwards for some extended listening sessions.

Here’s a piece from “Illuminations” that he performed in Krakow:

The same night, and with a slightly overlapping set time, was Trevor Dunn’s band PROOFReaders, with Dunn on upright bass, Darius Jones on saxophone, Nate Wooley on trumpet and Ryan Sawyer on drums. Luckily this show was just a few blocks from Dixon Place at the Skinny, so we were able to scoot over there and only miss a little bit of the beginning of the show. They played a double set of Ornette Coleman tunes, so we definitely got our money’s worth even though we were late (not always a sure thing these days with lots of sub-60-minute sets happening in avant-garde/jazz venues). It was a great opportunity to relax on some comfy couches and take in some high-quality acoustic jazz performed by very talented musicians. What more can a jazz fan ask for?

I don’t think the PROOFReaders have any recordings or videos available to share, but I will definitely go see them again if I get the chance.
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Review: Sean Rowe at Rockwood Music Hall (9/25 & 9/26/2014)

Back in NYC (for good this time – we finally closed our old office in Massachusetts and opened a new one in Manhattan!) and I’ve seen four concerts in the last five nights. I’m starting to wonder about the sustainability of a 1:1 ratio of blog posts to concerts in a city with this many good shows, but we’ll see how it goes.

Two of the four concerts I saw were Sean Rowe performing on two different stages at Rockwood Music Hall. I was coming in to the shows a bit blind, not having heard his new record, Madman, yet (I pre-ordered it, but didn’t manage to get my hands on it for a few weeks because of reasons I won’t bore you with). I’d been hearing lots of good buzz about it from some of my more music-savvy friends, so I had high expectations.

I’ve seen Rowe perform three times before, always solo, but this time since it was his big record release party, he had a full band with him (please forgive me for not remembering all of their names, I was exhausted and forgot to write anything down). He had an adorably excited-to-be-playing band member named Rex on accordion, percussion, his mom’s roasting pan and a gyill (I had to look up the spelling of that one: it’s a wooden xylophone-type instrument from Africa involving gourds, leather and spiderwebs – really!); a female vocalist; and someone playing bass and flute (but mostly bass). Rowe himself sang and played guitar. The band added a lot of fun and variety to his show, but the main attractions for me are his songs and his voice, so don’t hesitate to catch one of his his solo shows!

I’m not sure if one of the nights was really better than the other, but I was feeling a lot better on Friday so I enjoyed that show a lot more. I also had a nice spot to take some videos of some of the quieter songs he played (the louder/more energetic ones distorted my camera mics too much).

This was (IIRC) the last song he played on Friday night, “Signs” from his second album, “The Salesman and the Shark.” It was a great closer and was a nice way of getting the band back on stage for the finale after he did a few songs solo.


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Concert Review: Sean Rowe, The Handsome Family (6/20/2013)

I went to Passim’s in Harvard Square last week to see Sean Rowe and the Handsome Family. I have seen Sean Rowe a couple of times before but the Handsome Family was new to me – I was looking forward to hearing them for the first time because some friends of mine really like them (and I always listen to my friends!).

Passim’s is a solid place to see a show – it’s a small, fairly crowded seated venue that serves food and drinks to your table. I wish they would serve drinks cold (nothing quite like an 80-degree glass of white wine on a warm summer day!), but otherwise I have no major complaints. It’s on my “happy to see a show here” list of venues.

Sean Rowe was the opening act, and as usual he put on an excellent solo set for us. He did songs from both of his albums (“Magic” and “The Salesman and the Shark”) as well as some newer material, including one he told us he had just written in the last week or two. He also did a great cover of the classic Spoonful, which I caught on film an SD card:

Mr. Rowe has got tour dates scheduled in the US and Europe, you can check out his schedule by clicking here. You should try to catch him before he starts playing bigger venues!

The Handsome Family were the main act and they put on a great show, too. They were quirky – eccentric, even – and I think Brett Sparks and Sean Rowe are destined to star in a reality TV show on Discovery Channel which will inevitably be called (more…)

Concert Review: Sean Rowe, Marcus Foster, and Ruston Kelly (3/28/2013)

On Thursday I went to see a show at Cafe 939 in Boston, featuring Ruston Kelly (solo), Sean Rowe (solo) and Marcus Foster (with his band). I had seen Sean Rowe do a short opening set last year in Cambridge, and I really liked him; he was the reason I was attending this concert. I hadn’t heard the other performers before.

Cafe 939 is in many ways an excellent music venue – it’s run largely by students from Berklee College of Music, which can give it a bit of an amateur feel, but the sound and lighting is really good, and it’s overall a nice place to see a show as long as you do not require much in the way of refreshments. It’s all-ages and alcohol-free, and you have to go outside into the cafe part to get water or juice.

Ruston Kelly was the first act, and I was very pleasantly surprised by his performance. Usually the first of three bands in a $15 concert is someone you’d rather skip over – but when he started singing, I was immediately glad that I’d come early enough to see him. He is a very good singer with a nice voice (and I give him bonus points for having Robert Frost poetry written on his guitar). He’s quite young (early 20s) but I think he might be someone to keep an eye on. He is already writing some pretty good songs and I imagine he’ll only get better from here.

You can download his album for free (or pay a few bucks if you want) right here: http://noisetrade.com/rustonkelly

Sean Rowe was up next, and the first song he did was “Signs” from his latest album “The Salesman and the Shark.” It just happens to be one of my very favorite songs he’s written, so I managed to get my camera out of my pocket in time to film almost the whole song:

I absolutely love that deep voice he has. And he’s been writing some seriously good songs lately. He played a really solid set overall, I enjoyed it very much. Like the other time I saw him, he played a Leonard Cohen cover to close out his set – last time it was “Bird On A Wire,” this time it was “Chelsea Hotel No. 2.” His voice is perfect for singing Cohen songs, he really gives them the weight and depth that they need. I am already looking forward to seeing him again at Passim’s in June. (He is doing quite a bit of touring in the US and UK in the next few months, so check his tour schedule and see if he’ll be in your neighborhood!)

Marcus Foster was the (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.

National/International:
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…)