Waxahatchee at Elsewhere 10/13/21 (photo by Ray Rusinak)
Originally scheduled for April 2020, and then rescheduled for September 2020….then rescheduled again to October 2021, Katie and Katy (Crutchfield and Kirby) finally made their way to Bushwick’s Elsewhere in support of what many felt was the best album to be released in 2020, Waxahatchee’s Saint Cloud, her second effort for Merge Records. And what a triumphant (sort of) hometown return it was. As many of you might know, Katie Crutchfield, although born and raised in Alabama, called Brooklyn home back in the 20-teens when her burgeoning career as Waxahatchee originally began to bloom.
The “other” Katy, the wonderful Katy Kirby, opened up the evening’s festivities with a terrific set which immediately had me wondering how I’d missed her debut album, Cool Dry Place, which was released last February on Keeled Scales Records. Kirby and her band played a light and breezy set of singer/songwriter pop music which set the tone for the upcoming Waxahatchee headlining set just perfectly. Kirby is certainly someone to keep an eye on and ear open for, especially if you have an appreciation for artists like Snail Mail, Lucy Dacus, Petal and Julien Baker.
After a brief break of 15 minutes or so, Bonny Dune took to the stage of Elsewhere right around 10:15, followed shortly thereafter by a beaming Katie Crutchfield, who as she walked on stage waved and smiled back at the adoring crowd. Bonny Dune, who hail from Detroit were Katie’s band on Saint Cloud and seem to be a perfect fit for her. Their style of play which can be lilting and peaceful, as well as forthcoming and powerful, compliments Crutchfield’s current head space for music to a tee.
Waxahatchee at Elsewhere
Opening the set up was “Oxbow,” which is also the opening song on Saint Cloud, and was followed by “Chapel Of Pines,” from 2018 EP, Great Thunder and “Can’t Do Much,” another Saint Cloud tune. These few songs were the warmup and Crutchfield seems a bit reserved at first. But with the fourth song of the set, Out In The Storm’s “Recite Remorse,” the show really began to take off. Crutchfield and her Bonny Dune bandmates provided the packed room another hour of music which was soothing and uplifting at the same time. By the time this show took place, the crew had been on the road already for seven weeks and the time together was clearly noticeable on stage. There was a camaraderie and synchronicity between singer and musicians which when experienced is pure magic.
All in all, they played the entire Saint Cloud album interspersed throughout the 20 something song set. Amongst the non Saint Cloud songs, Crutchfiled managed to fit in at least one song from each of her releases along with a couple of covers as well, including Gillian Welch’s “Wrecking Ball” and the encore finale of Dolly Parton’s “Light Of A Clear Blue Morning”.
Wednesday night at Elsewhere to a certain extent was more than a homecoming, but also almost a coming out party. When the crowd sang along to virtually every word of “Sparks Fly” during the encore, you couldn’t help but feel like Waxahatchee had crossed on to that next level of pop stardom which I say with the utmost respect and happiness for Crutchfield and all of her musical partners. She’s come a long way from the days of opening sets on Monday nights in Brooklyn to headlining her own shows at mid sized venues all over the country. Way to go Waxahatchee!
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Ray Rusinak)
Frank Turner performing at Crossroads 10/3/21 (photo by Ray Rusinak)
I am not going to lie, with the possible exceptions of Jeff Rosenstock, The Menzingers and PUP, Frank Turner is my favorite live act out there today. It pained me terribly to have not seen him onstage in 2020 and when 2021 started out, it didn’t really look like I was going to get to see him this year either. But then I received my Bands In Town notification that he was playing Hammerstein Ballroom at The Manhattan Civic Center in October. Hmmm, that’s an ambitious venue for him, I thought. Well as it turned out, he was coming across the pond as an opening act for Counting Crows. WOW, that’s a cool lineup…I mean, for people of a certain age, “who doesn’t love Counting Crows?”
Of course seeing Frank Turner as an opener wasn’t my ideal way I’d want to be seeing him after nearly two years, but what the hell, we all can’t be beggars and choosers. The trouble was, the date conflicted with a previously scheduled appointment. DAMN! Ah but shortly thereafter, a second show was added, the concert gods were indeed looking after me. NOT…the new show was also on a date which I couldn’t make. “Oh well, it’s just not meant to be” I thought. And then a more complete headlining US tour was announced, but the closest city was in Hershey, PA and that date was no good for me either. I figured I must have really pissed somebody off somewhere along the way.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and I get another Bands In Town alert, “Frank Turner has announced new shows in your area.” And sure enough Turner (or more probably his booking agent) scheduled two shows in one day, one at Philadelphia’s Underground Arts on a Sunday afternoon, and a second show that very same night at Crossroads in Garwood, NJ. Crosswoods lands a lot of great artists to play their very small venue in the middle of nowhere New Jersey (they recently hosted Laura Jane Grace there). This is thanks to concert promoter Andy Diamond, who presents shows at the venue consistently. Crossroads was actually the last place I’d seen Turner back in October of 2019, and that night was also the second half of a double header show after a matinee at Jersey City’s White Eagle Hall.
Needless to say, I was STOKED, with a capital S.T.O.K.E.D. Waking up on an unseasonably warm October Sunday morning, it was a beautiful day, one which the immortal Ernie Banks would have proudly declared “Boy, it’s a beautiful day—let’s play two!” I headed down to Philadelphia and arriving at Underground Arts with a good amount of time before opener Kayleigh Goldsworthy’s set was scheduled to start, I found the room to be almost completely full already. Looks like I wasn’t the only one craving some Frank Turner. Goldsworthy’s set was, as always, a perfect prequel to Turner.
Shortly after Goldsworthy finished up, Turner walked onto stage with his Sleeping Soul’s bandmate and multi instrumentalist, Matt Nasir, who was joining Turner on this tour as his vocal harmonizer, mandolinist and on stage straight man. In any event they took no time to warm up and jumped right into Turner classics, “The Ballad Of Me and My Friends,” “If I Should Ever Stray,” and “Long Live The Queen,” which will always bring a tear to my eye; at this point as much out of joy as for sadness. All told the set was decidedly much more of a “greatest hits” set than he usually does at these impromptu solo shows while on tour as a supporting act, but this was just fine by me however, after waiting two years to see him live again.
Turner did manage to mix in a couple of new ones from his upcoming FTHC album though, “Haven’t Been Doing So Well” and “The Gathering,” both of which have already been released as singles. There was an altogether new one called “Imperfect Tense” as well. All in all it seemed obvious to me that Turner was still getting back in the swing of things after having been off the road for almost two years. For a guy like him who is ALWAYS on the road (this was show number 2560 for him), I was curious how the longest layoff of his career would treat him. Performers are much like athletes after all and they get out of shape when inactive too, both vocally as well as physically. In any event, while it was clear he was still getting back to fighting shape, nothing prevented it from being a fantastic Sunday afternoon.
Frank Turner at Underground Arts
After the show, we fortunately had enough time to kill before having to make the drive up the NJ Turnpike for the next round, so it was a no-brainer that we stop at Joe’s Steaks and Sodas for the obligatory Philly Cheesesteak (Wiz, not provolone for the record). The hour and a half drive up to Garwood, NJ was uneventful (largely due to a cheesesteak induced semi-coma). We got to Crossroads around 7:30 PM to find a line of people wrapping throughout the parking lot like I’ve never seen before. Understandably, with Vax and ID checks required, entrance into the venue was taking a bit longer than usual. In any event we gained entrance relatively quickly and soon found a nice spot up front, stage left. For those who’ve never been, Crossroads is a SMALL room, with a low stage and for sold out shows some of the sight lines can be challenging.
Kayleigh Goldsworthy came on and immediately seemed to be much looser and relaxed than she appeared that afternoon. We would find out during her set that that comfort level had something to do with shots of tequila which were done in between shows. If I failed to mention it earlier, she is such a pleasure to see live. Your first impression upon seeing her is of this sweet and charming singer/songwriter…which she most certainly is. But then she starts telling her stories between songs and she can make a longshoreman blush. Anyway, her evening set was great. Lots of old nuggets mixed in with new material from her forthcoming album, as well as one song which she promised would never be recorded or released and which would probably never be played live again after this night called “I Want To Party With You,” a song about the loneliness and desire for human interaction during Covid. Let it be known that from the reaction of the crowd, not releasing it would be a mistake.
Turner hit the stage along with Nasir around 9:30, opening up with his coming of age epic, “I Knew Prufrock,” and then followed the afternoon’s setlist pretty closely. He moved the new song, “The Gathering,” up in the queue and dropped “Long Live The Queen,” but otherwise it was the same. That being said though, it was the same, but much better now that he was warmed up. Like Goldsworthy, Turner appeared to be much more relaxed and comfortable (Crossroads can have that effect on artists, it’s that kind of room…or it might have been the tequila).
Frank Turner at Underground Arts
The next shift from the afternoon was the replacing of “Imperfect Sense,” with a different new song called “Fatherless.” Let me say right now that this was the tipping point of the show for me. The song has to do with Tuner’s relationship with his father, something he has not particularly addressed throughout his career. And the song flat out R.O.C.K.S.! Sunday night it was obviously performed acoustically but it still came across like a blitzkrieg. It makes me fear for my mosh pit life when he plays it with the full backing of the Sleeping Souls. At this point, let me just say that from what I’ve heard thus far, the upcoming FTHC doesn’t appear to be anything less than a punk rock tour de force. The rest of the evening stuck to the plan set out earlier in the day, which was just fine by me and the rest of the packed out Crossroads crowd.
The half hour drive back to Staten Island was sweat soaked and blissful, having spent my day experiencing what I’d been dreaming about for the duration of lockdown.
For what I thought was my last Frank Turner show for the foreseeable future, it would be plenty to hold me over until next time. Sure there were the two Hammerstein shows coming up, but I couldn’t make either one of them, or so I thought. I had to work on Tuesday night, but as it turned out, what I thought was a conflict on Wednesday was actually happening on Thursday and all of a sudden I was free for the show, thus I was Hammerstein Ballroom bound Wednesday evening for Frank Turner Round III.
Finding a parking spot a mere three blocks away from the venue was the first omen that it was going to be a good night. The second was running into Derek Zanetti of Homeless Gospel Choir and Doug Murphy, Turner’s sound guy and general tour jack of all trades on 8th Avenue as I was walking to the ballroom. As I entered the hall I was pleased to see that the room was about halfway full with Turner due to hit the stage shortly. Clearly playing an opening set is different than being a headliner in that respect. At just about 7:30 sharp Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz appeared onstage and introduced both Frank Turner and Matt Nasir and they proceeded to commence the evening’s festivities with “If I Should Ever Stray.” Three shows and three different opening songs. Again, the set was heavy on the “hits”, something which you’d expect a seasoned artist playing the role of opener to do.
Frank Turner at Hammerstein Ballroom 10/6/21
It was funny however that on Sunday, Turner had joked how it was comforting to play to crowds that actually knew his songs because this hadn’t been the case thus far on the Counting Crows tour. Well the looks and inquisitive stares which came in my direction as I sang along (rather loudly) to most of his songs sure made me appreciate what he’d said a couple of days prior. I was surprised to get yet another new one from Turner called “Little Life,” which he performed while Nasir was on his “union break.” This one has me highly anticipating the release of FTHC.
Closing out his set with what has to be his best known song outside of Frank Turner circles, “I Still Believe,” Turner had finally succeeded in getting the entire room to sing along to the chorus:
Now who’d have thought that after all,
Something as simple as rock ‘n’ roll would save us all.
Now who’d have thought that after all,
Something so simple, something so small.
Who’d have thought, that after all it’s rock ‘n’ roll
Yes indeed, in times like these, who WOULD have thought that something as simple as rock n roll could save us all?
Scroll down for pics from all three shows (photos by Ray Rusinak)
At Underground Arts
At Hammerstein Ballroom
UV-TV at TV Eye (photo by Ray Rusinak)
UV-TV, a band hailing from Ridgewood, Queens released their latest effort, Always Something, in May of this year but for reasons which we are all really sick of hearing about, had to wait until this past Friday night to celebrate its release with a proper album release show at the newly opened Ridgewood venue, TV Eye (more on that later). Initially a duo of bassist and lead singer Rose Vastola, and guitarist Ian Burnacett, the band added Ian Rose at drums shortly after moving to NYC from Florida in 2019. Always Something was recorded during the lockdown of 2020 and is the band’s first effort as a 3 piece. Friday’s show had an added measure of excitement to it being as the band recently added a second guitar to the mix and this was Grace Lisa Scott’s (you might know her from her other band, Phantasia) first show with the band.
Unfortunately, I had to work until 9 PM (on Staten Island) so I wasn’t able to catch either of the opening bands, but I was hell bent on making sure that I got to TV Eye for what I hoped would at least be part of UV-TV’s set. Arriving shortly after 10, I was happy to see that they had not yet hit the stage. While I’m thinking of it, let me say a few words about TV Eye. Having opened in January 2020 (talk about rough timing), the venue is owned and operated by a veritable who’s who of the NY metro indie club scene. It Consists of three separate rooms besides the main music hall (which holds roughly 200 people), each with its own bar and decorated in an eclectic style which perfectly matches the distinctly curious and interesting looking crowd throughout. Oh and there’s also a fantastic patio area. I certainly look forward to going back on an evening when I can get there early and actually enjoy the space.
UV-TV took the stage around 10:30, making a dramatic entrance as the purple crushed velvet curtain which had been hiding the stage was drawn and the band hit the opening notes to “Overcast Forever,” which is also the new album’s opening track. From there the band proceeded to play each track from Always Something in order. Quite honestly, this is something that has become kind of fashionable for older bands which are touring the anniversary of an old album. In that instance I’m not really all that big a fan of the habit, oftentimes it seems like an excuse to draw in fans to see something “special” when it is not anything of the sort. But to do it as the record release show set list, it worked wonderfully.
UV-TV at TV Eye
As the band tore through the album song for song, you’d be hard pressed to guess that this was their first show not only as a four piece but also their first show post Covid. They sounded GREAT! On the album, on many of the tracks I often heard a band trying to sound like Echo & The Bunnymen or trying to sound like Joy Division/New Order or trying to sound like The Go Go’s or R.E.M. Don’t get me wrong, as an album it works. I mean, I love Always Something! It very well might be one of my favorite albums of 2021. But hearing it live, the band no longer sounded like a band trying to sound like someone else but more like a band who knew exactly who they were and what they were. They sounded like UV-TV! I don’t know if it was the addition of Grace on the second guitar or not, but their sound was much fuller, much more assured and confident.
Which brings me to what might have been my biggest and most pleasant surprise from seeing UV-TV live and that was Ian Rose on drums. Holy shit, the dude is an absolute beast. It seemed like his style of non stop drum fills was almost Thompson Machine Gun like. The backbone that he provides the band, in my humble opinion, is immeasurable. f I had any complaint about the show at all, it would be its brevity. Clocking in at roughly 30 minutes, give or take, they could have at least thrown in a cover or maybe a track from the old duo days. But let me say it again, those 30 minutes or so were indeed fantastic.
Ian Rose of UV-TV at TV Eye
In conclusion, UV-TV is a band that needs to be paid attention to. I know that the timing of their release has been problematic but I seriously hope that they can get on the road soon and promote the hell out of this album. And if and when they do get to touring, please check them out, especially while they’re still playing small DIY venues because if my gut feeling is anywhere near accurate, these small rooms aren’t going to be holding them for too much longer.
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Ray Rusinak)
Joey Cape at Knitting Factory (photo by Ray Rusinak)
Joey Cape of Lagwagon is the artist that I’ll always buy an advance ticket for when he’s playing around town, and then something will come up (mostly work) and I invariably have to cancel. It almost happened again last Friday but my planned trip to Alabama was canceled and I was fortunate enough to get on over to The Knitting Factory for this relatively early show…I mean, not even a man of Joey’s reputation can slow the wheels of an emo dance party. But I digress.
Opening the evening’s festivities was Williamsburg’s very own Jose Prieto, whom you might know from his work with his punk band, Make War. I’ve been following Jose and his music dating back to the days when Make War was still know as Sad and French and I must say, I am almost never disappointed. On Friday, Jose unfortunately didn’t have much of a crowd in attendance largely due to the aforementioned early set time. Nonetheless, what the crowd lacked in numbers it more than made up for in knowledge and appreciation for his songs and music. Truth be told, the majority of those in attendance were friends of his, which made for an intimate and soul stirring set composed mostly of deep cuts going way back in his repertoire.
Jose Prieto at Knitting Factory
Next up after Jose, was Joe Sib. Over the years, Joe has had quite a career. He was vocalist and guitarist with the LA punk band, Wax back in the mid nineties. How many of you remember their epic video “California” (directed by Spike Jonez) from the days when MTV used to actually play music videos? After Wax, he was also a member of the punk “supergroup” 22 Jacks. And of course I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that he is the cofounder of Side One Dummy Records. But now, he spends most of his time honing his comedic craft as a stand up comedian. His set was an amusing jaunt which had the crowd chuckling throughout as he shared vignettes which primarily made fun of himself and his misbegotten trials and tribulations opening up as a standup for mega stars such as Metallica and Foo Fighters.
Joe Sib at Knitting Factory
And then there was Joey Cape. Covid and the ensuing lock down has not been easy on any of us. It particularly was rough on Joey. But out of that wreckage, Cape managed to create what I feel is one of the best “covid” albums to have been released thus far. A Good Year To Forget was released in August and it is filled with pain and heartfelt suffering but not in a “woe is me” kind of way, but rather in a typical Joey Cape tongue in cheek “lets have fun with this,” way. In typical Cape fashion, he didn’t play anything from the new album until well into the set (the sixth song of the evening actually) when he kicked into “It Could Be Real” followed by “Saturday Night Fever” and title song “A Good Year To Forget” all in a row. And that was it from the new one. The rest of the evening consisted of a nice mix of earlier solo material, a solid selection of Lagwagon tunes, a couple of Bad Astronaut songs and one cover, No Use For A Name’s “International You Day.” Of course that one was written by Joey’s good/best friend Tony Sly who left us way too soon back in 2012. Joey dedicated the song to his beloved friend and shared a heartfelt story which had many in the crowd wiping the dust from their eyes.
Joey Cape at Knitting Factory
Joey is one hell of a storyteller and his shows are often as much about the between song banter as much as the songs themselves. Friday night was no exception, as he spun tales throughout the evening, oftentimes apologizing that his rambling verbiage was cutting into his playing time especially with the pending emo disco which was to follow. All told, it was a great evening of friends hanging out, enjoying tall tales, imbibing in adult refreshments, great stories, greater songs, laughs and maybe even some tears. Joey is an unsung hero (no pun intended) who deserves more attention. Do yourself a favor and give him a listen.
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Ray Rusinak)
Mac McCaughan performing at Union Pool (photo by Ray Rusinak)
After playing a handful of solo shows for the last week or so, Mac McCaughan kicked off what would be his full band leg of his tour on Tuesday night at Williamsburg’s Union Pool. Joined onstage by fellow Superchunk and Portastatic member, bassist/guitarist Jim Wilbur, along with Matt Douglas on keys, synths and saxophone, McCaughan was clearly enthused to be out on the road promoting his just released solo album, The Sound Of Yourself, which dropped last Friday.
The evening started out with an opening set from 75 Dollar Bill, the brainchild of Che Chen and Rick Brown. Upon taking the stage, my first thought was this is going to be a strange pairing of musical styles but 75 Dollar Bill’s rhythmic and percussive music soon not only won myself over but the rest of the room as well. It took almost no time whatsoever for one to notice feet shuffling, legs moving and heads and shoulders swaying to the grooves coming forth from onstage. The first thing that came to mind as I listened to the interplay of Brown’s box drum and Chen’s guitar was the works of Mickey Hart, specifically his work with the Diga Rhythm Band from back in the mid 70’s. The band clearly lost themselves in the vibe being as when Chen asked if they had time for one more, he discovered that Mac was actually scheduled to go on in five minutes…that answered that question.
It didn’t however, take long for McCaughan’s 3 piece band to set up and they managed to kick off with the opener, the title song from the new album, “The Sound Of Yourself,” in almost no time. From there they played another new one, “I Hear A Radio,” from Sound of Yourself before diving a little deeper into his catalog, first with “Your Hologram” from 2015’s Non Believers album and then the first of the evening’s Portastatic songs, “The Angel’s Of Sleep.”
At this point in the show, Mac asked the crowd if there were any drummers in attendance? While most of the crowd chuckled, one guy up front aggressively volunteered his friend, Ray, who was then invited up onto the stage to help the band out on the next number. Mac was obviously somewhat suspicious as to Ray’s actual abilities but nonetheless proceeded to give him a quick idea of how the song went. The band then kicked into another new one, “Circling Around” which Ray managed to do a pretty good job holding down the beat to.
Mac McCaughan at Union Pool
The rest of the set was a nice mixed bag of new tunes combined with a smattering of Portastatic songs from days gone by. As a side note to those who may not be aware, Portastatic was McCaughan’s side project during the late 90’s and early to mid 00’s especially when Superchunk went on a bit of a sabbatical. They closed out the set with a cover of fellow Merge recording artists The Magnetic Fields’ “Old Orchard Beach” and what just might be, in my humble opinion, the best song on the new one, “Dawn Bends”.
After a brief respite offstage, they came back for an encore of three songs joined by Rick Brown from 75 Dollar Bill on drums. Pulling out the only Superchunk song of the night, “Driveway To Driveway,” they followed with a cover of The Mekons’ “Hello Cruel World” and lastly the song which might have gotten the loudest gaggle of applause when introduced, “San Andreas,” from Portastatic’s 1995 classic, Slow Note From a Sinking Ship.
Check out this Bandcamp interview with McCaughan on the process of making the album.
The Sound of Yourself is out now via Merge Records.
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Ray Rusinak)
75 DOLLAR BILL