In their relatively short history, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have built a huge following and a rabid fan base that will follow them from city to city not unlike the Dead. And like the Dead, there is a growing collection of bootleg live albums and people comparing shows as no two shows are alike. They’ve also managed to put out 22 studio albums since 2012, with four of them being released in 2022 alone and another one (or two) due before the year ends. To say they are prolific is the understatement of the year.
This past Friday when KGATLW hit Forest Hills Stadium for what was the FHS’ last show of the season, it was actually my first time seeing them. Announcing that drew a few gasps from fellow photographers who, just like their fans, started naming all the shows they’ve seen. And by night’s end, I could see why. With a music catalog as diverse as any one band could have, the night was a mix of jam, funky, soul, metal mayhem. And with a video screen backdrop that displayed an ever-morphing collage of tie dye visuals it again recalled the peace and love generation but for the digital age.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard at Forest Hills Stadium
Warming up the crowd that night was London’s black midi. They’ve also built a large following in just the past three years since signing to Rough Trade Records and releasing an equal number of studio albums. And while midi’s sound is more akin to Squid than KGATLW, they too have an eclectic style that finds them exploring different avenues of music with each release. The band consists of Cameron Picton on bass, synths and shared vocals along with Georgie Greep on guitar who paced the stage like he was ready to pounce at any moment. And anchoring the band is drummer Morgan Simpson who is just an absolute beast on his kit.
After Friday’s performance I can now join in the chant and tell people to go catch a King Gizz show if they haven’t before. I’m already looking forward to the next one.
Scroll down for setlist, fan shot videos and pics of the show (photos by Kevin McGann)
black midi setlist: Speedway, Welcome to Hell, Chondromalacia Patella, Sugar/Tzu, Eat Men Eat, John L, 953, Slow
King Gizzard setlist: The Dripping Tap, Magma, Lava, The Garden Goblin, Honey, Sleep Drifter, O.N.E., Gaia, Hell, Magenta Mountain, Iron Lung
This past weekend, NYC’s GIFT celebrated their debut album, Momentary Presence (Dedstrange), with an album release show at Brooklyn’s Sultan Room. And just like the last time I saw them, opening for Frankie and the Witch Fingers (see you coverage), they took us on a wild rocket ride fueled by their own brand of psychedelic dream pop. Or as Rolling Stone described it, “a portal to another dimension.”
Fronted by vocalist/guitarist TJ Freda and hailing from Brooklyn, the band also includes Jessica Gurewitz on guitar, Kallan Campbell on bass, Justin Hrabvosky on keys, and Cooper Naess on drums. Referencing the idea of a ‘gift’ being a present and taking a spin on that to mean being present, the name was inspired by Ram Dass’ Be Here Now. That idea of being present is carried into the themes found on Presence. And while it certainly deals with all the pressures, anxieties, and self-doubt we face, no doubt exacerbated by the isolation brought on by the pandemic, it also celebrates that the gift it is to be alive.
Gift at Sultan Room
GIFT’s music has been described as psych, psych pop, dream pop, and so on. And while I certainly hear nods to 90’s shoegaze/dream pop acts like Lush, Cocteau Twins, and Curve (who ironically have a song called “Gift”), their sound is their own. Along with the dreamy vocals, dense layers, heavy reverb and so on, there’s a more propulsive, guitar driven sound as evidenced in songs like “Gumball Garden,” “Dune,” and “Here and Now (Time Floats By).” There are of course some dream pop nuggets like “Share the Present,” “Pez” and “Lost for You” that nicely round out the album.
Also on the bill was Psymon Spine and The Lovenauts who got the crowd revved up and in the case of Spine, had the whole room dancing by sets end. Definitely two bands to have on your radar when they’re playing in your area.
Check out GIFT’s amazing new album, Momentary Presence, which is available for download now with a vinyl release scheduled for January 27, 2023.
This past Friday, the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center launched their Festival of Firsts which is a planned annual showcase for Lincoln Center debuts. A chance for the Center community to be introduced to new works by artists or musicians that haven’t performed there before as well as introduce the Center to those who’ve never been. Launching the series was New York’s very own Toebow, a self-described “psych-pop party’”who has their roots in Brooklyn.
I first experienced Toebow back in 2018 when they were on a Rough Trade bill with Paris Monster. I immediately was drawn to their mix of complex rhythms, intricate guitar playing, the blend of synth/electronics in the mix, and the vocal harmonies. It wasn’t quite alt rock, or progressive, or straight up psych, or even jazz. It was a blend of all these styles that resulted in their own unique sound.
The roots of the band dates back to former Partisan Records act, BOBBY, which established Toebow founding members Martin Zimmerman and Nate Ulsh in the NYC indie music scene. Since their initial formation, Toebow has had a few changes and their extended music family now includes members who went on to such acts as Dirty Projectors, Zula and Peel Dream Magazine. The current line-up consists of Zimmerman and Ulsh, both on guitar, as well as Jo-Anne Hyun on bass, Olenka Burgess on synth and percussion, and Jordan Auber on drums.
Playing to a packed audience at Lincoln Center, and to the incredible acoustics in the Atrium, Toebow both delighted long-time fans as well as newcomers. Being a center for the arts, you could see the appreciation for this quintet of truly talented musicians. The show featured a number of songs from their album, Themes, which is available on various formats on their Bandcamp page; look for new single ‘Kitchen’ which is out on 10/28.
Scroll down for video and pics of the show (photos by Kevin McGann)
I have covered a lot of shows so far in 2022 and last Wednesday’s performance from caroline at (le) poisson rouge was among the best I’ve seen. And yet I struggle to put into words what I experienced. A mix of styles that included elements of folk, rock, country, baroque, classical, experimental, minimalist, and so on—often tapping into these diverse stylings within the same song.
Formed around 2017 in London, the English octet has been recording and releasing tracks over the last few years and on February 25th of this year they released their eponymous debut, caroline (Memorials of Distinction). The album beautifully captures the unique sounds that founding members Casper Hughes, Jasper Llewellyn, Mike O’Malley, Oliver Hamilton, Magdalena McLean, Freddy Wordsworth, Alex McKenzie and Hugh Aynsley have been honing over the years. But to fully grasp their work it’s almost imperative to experience it live.
Performing in the round at LPR was too perfect. Watching the interplay between these eight astonishing multi-instrumentalists was like watching a conductor-less orchestra as they navigated their way through songs. Or more accurately, eight conductors who passed the baton between them and kept what almost felt like improvisation to a clearly defined path. There were moments where the music was almost tenuous, where a single sustained note on a single instrument was occasionally accented by the beat of a drum. Or accompanied by a short flourish of notes from one of the many instruments on stage that included violin, cello, saxophone, flute, and clarinet in addition to the usual drums and bass and in their case two guitars. But those hushed moments would swell and crescendo into a frenzy that practically had smoke coming from their strings. And just when it seemed like it could go off the rails, they would bring it back down again, a musical interlude that allowed everyone to catch their breath, both in the band and the audience. It was really something to behold and I am still struggling to put it into words a few paragraphs later.
Opening for Caroline was Claire Rousay who I was not familiar with previously but whose discography I cannot wait to explore. Also on the experimental side, Rousay’s music is the technical counterpart to caroline’s organic instrumentation. With just her on stage, and her setup consisting of a small midi keyboard, microphone, smartphone, and MaBook, she created soundscapes that consisted of our daily digital life. Voicemails and other voice recordings mixed with samples of ambient sounds, alerts from electronic devices, and occasionally live though altered vocals that brought a sense of humanity to her approach. There were moments that brought to mind the ambient sounds of Brian Eno, the spoken word approach of Laurie Anderson, and the voice samples and electronic beats of The Orb’s brilliant 1992 album U.F.Orb. Yet, the resulting layered sounds she presents are unique and clearly her own.
Make sure to check out the debut album from caroline as well as Claire Rousay’s latest, everything perfect is already here (Shelter Press), and catch both acts live if you get the chance.
Back around 2017 I came across Bonobo’s 2014 album, The North Borders Tour – Live, and I was instantly hooked. The mix of traditional instruments with electronics, dance beats and vocals brought together so many genres of Rock, House, R&B and Soul and created a sound distinctly their own.
Little did I know that later that same year I would sneak a camera into my first Bonobo show for one of my first attempts at concert photography. I didn’t walk away the best results in terms of pics, but it was a show I’ll never forget. A multi-piece band with guest vocals courtesy of Szjerdene and the man himself, Simon Green aka Bonobo, on bass and keys. All of them lit up in the glow of the massive video screens behind them that supplied the visuals to the sounds. And just like the spontaneous crowd cheers heard on North Borders – Live, the crowd that night erupted into one big tribal dance party.
Over the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of catching a few more Bonobo shows, including one earlier this year at Brooklyn’s Avant Gardner. Last week, Simon and company returned to the Avant Gardner theater for the last NYC show on this run of the Fragments (Ninja Tune) tour that has taken them all over the world.
Last Sunday’s show included older fan favorites from “Kiara” to “Cirrus” to “We Could Forever.” Of course, there were lots of new favorites too from Fragments and previous album Migration, including “Outlier,” “Shadows,” “Rosewood,” “Tides” and “Surface” which featured the vocal stylings of Nicole Miglis who also sang on the original recording. Miglis joined Bonobo a few times throughout the show and has a style as unique as her beautiful voice. The night also included recently released single ‘ATK’ which is a fun, frenetic, I-dare-you-not-to-move banger that had the whole place dancing as one.
There are few artists I can count on to deliver on every single performance but so far Green and his amazing road warriors have failed to disappoint. Until the next time, I’ll be playing his catalog and bouncing around my apartment in anticipation.
Scroll down for setlist and pics of the show (photos by Kevin McGann)
Setlist: Polyghost, Rosewood, Counterpart, Surface, Tides, Shadows, Kiara, Bambro Koyo Ganda, Cirrus, Outlier, We Could Forever, From You, Linked, Age of Phase, Otomo, Stay The Same, Kerala, Break Apart