It was one of those wonderfully unseasonably warm days today. While walking around in nearby Van Cortlandt Park, I starting tallying up all the wonderful music I’ll be fortunate enough to see over the next few weeks/months. Having just attended a brilliant performance last night by the band Other Lives, I became giddy at the thought of the shows yet to come, both from bands I’ve become obsessed with and ones I’ll be seeing for the first time.
Other Lives’ sound is lush and rich, full of varied but precise instrumentation. Each member seamlessly switched from violin to guitar, trumpet, keyboard, bells, cello, percussion, harmonium etc., somehow getting to their instruments just at the right time in every song. Their CD Tamer Animals is a gorgeous reproduction of their sound, but seeing them live was an altogether different and wonderful experience. Watching the set up of keyboards, effects, laptop and other electonic gear, I was a little concerned that the “music” would come off sounding too artificial. But all the band members were consummate musicians, and it didn’t seem as though much of their sound came from prerecorded tracks. The vocals too wove in perfectly with the flowing phrasing of their songs. The lyrics aren’t always easy to discern, but to me, that just adds to the sort of mysterious, sultry effect of the music. The band was drafted to open for Radiohead during an upcoming tour, so they will be gaining even more exposure by playing to what will certainly be some huge crowds. And, as an extra little treat, Wyndham Boylan-Garnett of Diamond Doves and Elvis Perkins in Dearland fame joined the group onstage during one of the last numbers to contribute his tromboning skills. He and/or his mates Brigham Brough and Nick Kinsey have been appearing as back up for bands such as My Morning Jacket (at Madison Square Garden, no less!) and The Felice Brothers. Good for them for getting on with their musical careers, now that Elvis has been M.I.A. for some time. (Elvis, your fans want more. Please.)
This is the title track from Other Lives’ Tamer Animals from their Live on KEXP session:
Looking ahead, I can hardly believe the spate of wonderful live performances in and around the city. Tomorrow night the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Jesse Harris is playing a free show at the Rockwood Music Hall on the Lower East Side. This will be my first time to that venue, so I’m excited about that. I’d seen Jesse Harris last spring during what seems to be a now defunct concert series (if two concerts can be considered a series) called the Noncert. It was a nice enough idea, to raise money for music education in Brooklyn public schools, but it doesn’t seem that the organizer has been able to keep it going. Shame too, because the sets I saw that night last April with Jesse Harris, Martha Wainwright and Elvis Perkins were pretty amazing. Jesse Harris just writes nice songs, plain and simple. So, I’m looking forward to seeing him again:
On Friday the 24th, one of my absolute favorites, Josh Ritter, will be playing a small benefit for the New York charity Housing Works. I’ve been a huge fan of Josh’s for several years (and have harbored a 13-year old’s crush on him since that first concert at the Paramount in Peekskill, New York) and am so excited to see him perform again. I met him this past June at his book signing (musician, singer, songwriter, published author…sigh), and can still conjure up the tingle I experienced when he gave me one of his famous bear hugs. He’s just a lovely individual with such incredible enthusiasm and joy for what he does. I always leave his shows feeling uplifted and happy. Can’t wait to see his wonderful smiling face next Friday.
In early March the Carolina Chocolate Drops come to the city, bringing along their foot-stompin’, hand clappin’ brand of old-time string band music. I only needed to hear one of their songs on WFUV to realize that I had to see them live. The performances I’ve seen (also in Peekskill and at last year’s Newport Folk Festival) have knocked me out – it’s impossible to stay seated when a song like this is coming through the speakers at you:
I was in that crowd, getting down with my bad self in the sun and dust. It was spectacular.
March also brings The Head and the Heart as well as First Aid Kit, whose praises I’ve already sung on this blog. April’s concert announcements are coming fast and furious, and tickets have already been purchased for Of Monsters and Men and the Lumineers. The latest addition of interest is Alabama Shakes. Get a load of this voice:
Holy crap, I can’t wait to see them. Makes the noise, expense, aggravation and stress of living in New York City worthwhile.