Phantogram: More Than Just An Optical Illusion

Bringing magic to their fans’ eyes and ears, duo Phantogram brought a spectacular show to Rochester, NY. I’m ready to see them again!

For Blurt Magazine:

Seven years have quickly passed since Phantogram’s debut album Eyelid Movies; the 2010 release attracted media attention and garnered fans for their ability to balance pop, hip-hop, electronica and dreamy shoegaze all into one. The New York duo, Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, has come a long way since their formative days. After their catchy music caught the ears of industry veterans they’ve collaborated with acts such as hip-hop maven Big Boy and the eccentric alt-rock group Flaming Lips; further proof of their sonic chameleon abilities.

Perhaps this independent band is on the cusp of transcending the label “independent”; until then, Phantogram continues to tour extensively and made a stop in Rochester, NY while promoting their aptly named third LP,Three. Joining a long night of music, Phantogram was one of five bands performing at Main Street Armory. The roster included a mixture of alternative, pop, folk-rock with bands such as Bleeker, Judah & the Lion and headliner Grouplove; but, this biased BLURTer set her sights solely on Phantogram.

A sizable venue, Main Street Armory was the perfect venue for an indoor, winter festival. Able to hold a large audience concert-goers either milled in front of the stage or flowing about the outskirts drinking or smoking profusely while scores of music goers assured their spot centerstage. Billed to perform before the last act Phantogram played a slightly shorter set and had one hour to command the stage; they did just that.

Touring with Nicholas Shelestak on effects and keys and Chris Carhart on drums, Phantogram’s sonic elixir enchanted their fans as the audience cheered, danced and jumped along to the music. Every song they performed sounded great as Barthel threw her hands in the air to pump up the audience during songs and fans happily joined her. Playing songs from their three LPs and EP Nightlife, Barthel and Carter played mostly high octane tracks to the delight of the crowd.

Opening with older songs first, Phantogram didn’t waste time getting the audience excited with the danceable “Black Out Days,” “Don’t Move” and “Fall in Love.” Early hits “When I’m Small” and their first big single “Mouthful of Diamonds” were met with loud cheers and hands thrown into the air. A multi instrumental band Barthel switched between her keyboard and bass while Carter played guitar and effects. Even the slightly mellower, ballad-esque “The Answer” from Three, sung by both Carter and Barthel was a thrilling performance as the bridge of the song gives way to an explosion of guitar and drums; the drumming was exciting to see live as Carhart feverishly and methodically banged on his set.

An exciting band, Phantogram sounded flawless live. Only room for improvement, if only they were not part of a music festival this night and could’ve played a longer set.

Setlist:

Black Out Days
Don’t Move
Fall in Love
Same Old Blues
Answer
When I’m Small
Mouthful of Diamonds
Howling at the Moon
You’re Mine
Cruel World
You Don’t Get Me High Anymore

Modest Mouse is Back!

For Blurt Magazine:

Modest Mouse is back! Over 20 years have passed since their inception and the creative, lo-fi, explosive rock band toured in support of their newly released Strangers to Ourselves. Though the original line up that was Modest Mouse—singer/guitarist Isaac Brock, bassist Eric Judy and drummer Jeremiah Green—has been altered, added to, individuals briefly leave and return, the consistent member has always been Brock. Indeed, as the bombastic music and Green’s complexly delicate drumming are important elements to Modest Mouse’s music, Brock’s unique, delicate, gruff, lispy vocals have come to encapsulate Modest Mouse.

Since 2007’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, it’s been an eight year wait for new material and the fans gathered this night at Babeville’s Ashbury Hall were ready for the band’s return. With an extensive discography to cover, Modest Mouse played mostly older fan favorites and the audience sang along to every song, old and new. Modest Mouse also returned with what has now become their live setup mainstay to create the level of noise expected from the seasoned musicians: two drummers (Green and Davey Brozowski), two guitarists (Brock and Jim Fairchild), two keyboardists (Lisa Molinaro and Tom Peloso) and a bassist (Russell Higbee). Unfortunately, Babeville’s sound system could not quite handle the musically stacked band but the sold out audience did not seem to mind as Modest Mouse drowned Ashbury with their sounds for two hours.

The converted church is a picturesque concert venue but too small for Modest Mouse’s fans as the hall was packed to the door with only standing room in the aisles remaining. Quite some time passed before the lights finally dimmed and Modest Mouse slowly emerged and approached their instruments. The crowd cheered at the seven members, yet one person was still missing. Once Brock walked onto the stage the audience exploded, to which Brock raised his cup to the fans. The band started the show with a loud bang, starting with new track “The Tortoise and the Tourist.” The loud number was a great opener as Brock shrieks the melodic chorus “so let’s walk on.” To my surprise, the next song was a personal favorite from popular album Good News for People Who Like Bad News, “Bury Me With It.” Once the first few familiar guitar chords were struck people cheered loudly and again sang along with Brock.

Green and Brozowski’s synchronized drumming was a show in itself as the two balanced drums and percussion and made it all look effortless. Brock took a break between songs to speak with the audience but his words could not be heard too well. After a few more songs, Brock had his mic replaced but it did not improve the quality; nevertheless, the band continued to play and the ecstatic fans continued to dance, sing and cheer them on. At one point, a fan grew so happy that he hopped and skipped up and down the aisle, singing along (his actions could easily be deemed “annoying” in such a small, hot space but his excitement was infectious as some couldn’t help but smile).

And the good spirits continued throughout the night as more than once the crowd filled the hall with their voices, either singing in unison with Brock or creating an unexpected call-and-answer moment with “The World at Large.” At one point Brock accidentally detuned his guitar for “Parting of the Sensory,” and of course it was his guitar that introduced the track. He stopped the band and addressed the crowd as he retuned, “see, what I did there was I was in tune, and I messed it up.” He started the song again and the rest of the night went without a hitch. And after a long night the band treated the Buffalo audience to a five song encore which was a bombastic close with fast, hard hitting and fun songs as “Dashboard” and “The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box.”

A live show that excels just listening to the albums, Modest Mouse still knows how to incite sonic chaos.

***

Setlist:
The Tortoise and the Tourist
Bury Me With It
Dark Center of the Universe
Lampshades On Fire
3rd Planet
This Devil’s Workday
King Rat
Pups to Dust
Doin’ the Cockroach
Wicked Campaign
Parting of the Sensory
Custom Concern
Float On
Of Course We Know
Tiny Cities Made of Ashes
The World at Large

Encore:
Dramamine
Broke
Dashboard
The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box
The Good Times Are Killing Me

The National Brings Trouble to Ithaca

Not real trouble, just their excellent 6th album release, Trouble Will Find Me. The melancholic rockers have a penchant for making doldrums sound so damn good and have created yet another great album with Trouble.  The NYC based band,  Aaron (guitar and keyboard) and Bryce Dessner (guitar), Scott (bass) and Bryan Devendorf (drums) and singer Matt Berninger, began their North American tour is Ithaca, NY and treated us to a long set of music and this Blurter was there to capture it all!

For their sixth LP, Trouble Will Find Me, The National began their tour to a sold out audience at Ithaca’s State Theatre. Taking place before the album’s release date, fans reacted most eagerly to songs from albums past; however, the general audience reception was unfortunately muted, with only scattered pockets of highly enthused spectators. Perhaps it was the-curse-of-the-seated-venue, the lack of older favorites, or the fact it was a Thursday night that led to a calm audience, because the talented quartet put on a solid performance with great visuals.

As Aaron (guitar and keyboard) and Bryce Dessner (guitar), Scott (bass) and Bryan Devendorf (drums) and a wine glass-brandishing singer Matt Berninger graced the stage the audience cheered and applauded. A large monitor filled the stage behind the band; abstract shapes in bold colors and live close up shots of the band performing, with a washed-out, photonegative effect, filled the screen. Of their 21 song setlist, The National played half old and half new material. Trouble Will Find Me proves to be an overall calmer affair than previous releases, prompting the audience to sit for the quieter moments and, during the faster paced older material, dart out of the seats. “Mistaken for Strangers,” “Fake Empire,” “Afraid of Everyone,” and especially “Conversation 16” pleased the crowd.

Very few words were exchanged between the crowd and the focused band, with Bryce and Matt occasionally thanking the audience for the support before leaping into a new song. After finishing a track someone from the balcony shouted, “Good job, Matt!” The audience chuckled as Berninger replied, “Thanks Dad” before going into a joking rhetorical conversation from the point of view of his dad: “Where are you going, Matt? That’s the wrong goal, Matt.”

The night was not yet over. As the band returned for an encore, a hoard of audience members approached the front of the stage. Berninger grabbed his bottle of wine, approached a fan in the front row and shook his hand, then gave the lucky individual the bottle. During the encore Berninger jumped off the stage and joined the audience, surprising fans in the balcony as he finished singing the last song of the night, “Terrible Love,” beside them. Though more somber songs were played than desired and the ever-fun, high octane “Abel” did not make the cut this evening, The National put on an enthralling live show.

Setlist:

Don’t Swallow the Cap
Bloodbuzz Ohio
Sea of Love
Afraid of Everyone
Conversation 16
Demons
Heavenfaced
This is the Last Time
Mistaken for Strangers
Daughters of the Soho Riots
Apartment Story
Pink Rabbits
Humiliation
I Need My Girl
England
Graceless
About Today
Fake Empire

Encore:
I Should Live In Salt
Mr. November
Terrible Love

THIS IS PIL!

Read live review for Blurt below!

John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten of Sex Pistols (of course!) and band mates reunited to create a new Public Image Ltd. release, This Is PIL! It was 20 year silence from PIL and the record was excellent, so fans eagerly filled Toronto’s Opera House and as hoped Johnny and the talented musicians that comprise PIL, (Lu Edmonds, Bruce Smith and new recruit Scott Firth), made the venue ROAR! Read the review for more details!

For those who know their punk rock history, Public Image Ltd. need no introduction. Formed in ’78, disbanded in ’92 and regrouped in 2009, 2012 marked the release of PIL’s first album in 20 years. The ever formidable lead singer John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten of Sex Pistols fame), guitarist/instrumentalist Lu Edmonds (The Damned, The Clash), drummer Bruce Smith and new recruit bassist Scott Firth are on tour promoting their latest effort – appropriately titled after such a long absence – This Is PIL. Perhaps fans of the “old” PIL might’ve walked away from Toronto’s Opera House disappointed that the band did not play more of the classic hits (“Public Image” didn’t make the cut); nevertheless, the talented and seasoned musicians made the House rumble.

All images © all rights reserved.

The band took to the stage and leapt into ‘80s single, “This Is Not A Love Song,” new track “Deeper Water” and the 10 minute classic, “Albatross.” Older tracks were revamped to fit the new outfit and though such songs sounded slightly different from their original recordings, PIL made each number heavier and punchier. With just three instruments and a computer for the more electronic sounds, PIL created quite a bit of noise.

Edmonds proved amazing to watch as he effortlessly created an array of sounds from his tweaked collection of stringed instruments: guitar, saz and cumbus. Smith pummeled his drums while Firth created the heavy, bass laden riffs that drown PIL’s music. Lydon growled, shouted and bellowed the lyrics in a signature style all his own, and the most avid fans sang along. As the vocalist’s delivery is surely demanding on his throat, his cure was: drink water, gargle Hennessy and spit the remnants in a bucket.

When done with the first few tracks Lydon finally addressed the audience which led to shouts of song titles. “What is this,” Lydon asked us, “are we a fucking wedding band, taking requests?” (The shouting turned to applause and laughter as Lydon chatted on about the band’s relationship with the audience – it is indeed like a marriage was the conclusion.) PIL’s sound is trance inducing; with tracks often in the 6-8 minute mark, most fans stood in place and rocked their body or bopped their head to the repetitive beats. Lydon wanted more.

“What’s that other big city in Canada,” he began, “Montreal? They were louder than you!” He facetiously smiled as the audience booed loudly, but of course this wouldn’t stop Johnny Rotten. “They booed louder than you” he
continued. The concert hall drowned in boos and laughter, “Parlez vous Francais,” he asked in his laden Brit accent. “We don’t believe in French,” a girl returned which made Lydon laugh. “Come now,” he finally retorted, “we’re all one.” Though the concert hall might have been a bit more mellow than anticipated, the majority of audience enjoyed the high octane show.

For the politicized “Religion,” Lydon introduced us to Jesus, Edmonds approached the front of the stage for his guitar solo, and Satan, Firth plucked away on his electric, stand-up bass.  Lydon thanked the crowd then paid homage to the rest of PIL and his right hand man John Stevens, who stood on the stage for the performance’s entirety before disappearing with the band backstage.

Their absence was not a long one and PIL returned to close the night with the loudest number yet, “Open Up.” A song Lydon recorded with electronic/dance artist Leftfield, PIL reworked it into a heavy, bass laden performance that literally circulated air from the speakers with each thump into the stacks. At the end Lydon advanced to the edge of the stage, made sure to walk its length, and bowed to the audience. Nearly 2.5 hours later Public Image Ltd. were done.

Setlist:
This Is Not a Love Song
Deeper Water
Albatross
One Drop
Flowers of Romance
Disappointed
Warrior
U.S.L.S. 1
Reggie Song
Death Disco
Bags / Chant
Religion

Encore:
Out of The Woods
Rise
Open Up

Metric in Action!

Touring in support of their fifth release, Synthetica, Metric played the album almost in entirety (only three songs did not appear on their setlist); they added just a few older, fan favorites. The first stop of their fall tour, the Canadian quartet thrilled an enthusiastic audience despite a few technical difficulties.

The band was greeted by delighted cheers and applause when they graced the stage. Emily Haines (vocals, synthesizer), James Shaw (guitar, keyboard), Joshua Winstead (bass, keyboard), and Joules Scott-Key (drums) waved to the Rochester crowd, approached their instruments and played the first track of Synthetica. They played the first 3 tracks from the album in succession and the audience cheered at the start of each song and gleefully sang along with Emily. “Youth Without Youth,” the first single of the album, is a great live track as Emily commands “on the count of three jump with me…” and the excited members of the audience happily obliged.

All was going well for the band as they methodically transitioned to the next song on their list. The upbeat and extremely catchy drum riff of “Lost Kitten” filled the air; the crowd roared and again sang along. About a quarter ways through the song the effects went haywire and decided to keep its own beat, Emily turned to Joules and motioned for him to stop. While the gents attempted to mend the machine, Emily apologized and for the first time had a chat with the audience, “How are you,” she began. In a stream on consciousness Emily blissfully noted that the show was the first of their fall tour, thanked the audience for the warm reception, mentioned how she and the guys just left their studios in Canada and asked if there were any Canadians in the room. A few hands shot in the air as the fans from her native land jumped and shouted in response. “Sprinkles in the mist,” Emily joked. She then turned to James, “ok, we’ll just move on,” she noted. They left the song in the dust and commenced everyone’s favorite track from their third LP, Live It Out, “Empty.”

“Dead Disco” had to make an appearance this night and luckily it did. Upon the first few notes the crowd erupted in cheers as Emily jokingly approached the mic and coifed her hair in preparation. They closed the set with loud number “Stadium Love” but quickly returned for their encore. After two songs, Josh and Joules left the stage as James and Emily remained. James reached for his acoustic and played background as Emily again thanked the
crowd and again went on a stream of consciousness tangent of how-in the moment with James on the acoustic with all becoming calm-felt like Willie Nelson. And confessed her love for Willie. (I mean, who doesn’t!)

Soon enough Emily began a slow, acoustic version of “Gimme Sympathy,” to which the audience sang with her. “Sounds good,” she added as the room almost overtook her on the mic. When the song was almost finished Josh and Joules jumped back on the stage, clapped and sang along as well. They ended the song with a bow, again
waved goodbye to everyone, jumped off the front of the stage and shook the hands of the fans in the front row. One fan was disappointed that she could not share in this moment, dipped below the barrier and bounded over to shake Emily’s hand. The singer obliged and extended her hand before leaving for the night-can’t take mothers anywhere sometimes.

Though disappointed that the band decided to not play more tracks from previous albums, several fans shouted for “Hustle Rose”-a song I desired to hear as well-Metric sounds great live.

Setlist:
Artificial Nocturne
Youth Without Youth
Speed the Collapse
Dreams So Real
Lost Kitten
Empty
Help I’m Alive
Synthetica
Clone
Breathing Underwater
Dead Disco
Stadium Love

Encore:
Monster Hospital
Gold Guns Girls
Gimme Sympathy

Garbage is BACK!!

Flying high on their new album, the alt-rock mainstays wowed the sold-out Phoenix Concert Theater on May 28.

After seven years of silence Garbage reemerged with news of their fifth album release Not Your Kind of People. An entirely too long of a wait for the talented group to reconnect, the band unsurprisingly greeted a highly enthusiastic audience of deprived, avid fans in the sold out Phoenix Concert Theater.

With the band on tour to promote their latest release it was questionable how many classic “Garbage hits” would have made it to the list. In fact the band gave fans just what they wanted, a smorgasbord of songs from their first four releases and they wasted no time in commencing the loud, rocking roar of the first track from their debut album, “Supervixen.” With their live setup slightly different, the quartet that is Garbage – Shirley Manson, Butch Vig, Duke Erikson, Steve Marker – added Eric Avery (formerly of Jane’s Addiction) on bass with Duke and Steve on dueling guitars and of course Butch on the explosive drums.

From the moment Garbage graced the stage to the last note everyone in Phoenix roared with excitement, loudly sang along with Shirley and danced to the music. The charismatic singer often smiled at the audience, and mentioned at one instance, “Toronto, you’re crazy!” Of course this made everyone cheer even louder. Shirley will always be an enigmatic presence on the stage, at times shy and humbled, other moments larger than life and alluring; she is always thrilling. She spoke to the audience, picked a few delighted fans from the crowd and asked their name and where they were from, at one point Shirley introduced her bandmates to the room – as if they needed an introduction. After properly presenting all of the gents Duke approached Shirley’s microphone, “…and Shirley Manson everyone,” he added which made her laugh and hang her head graciously as the audience clapped and cheered.

Shirley prowled in a circle on the stage as the heavy bass beat of “#1 Crush” played on, moved ferociously about and she pointed her mic towards the audience for them to sing along with her on “Cherry Lips” – which provoked a spontaneous call-and-answer during the catchy chorus. Yet, before singing “Lips,” which she shared was for all of the freaks and geeks in the room, she asked the rest of the band, “what weird things did you do in high school?” “Marching band,” Steve shouted which garnered laughter and applause. Shirley walked back to Butch hidden behind his kit, “I smoked a lot of pot,” he joked, the crowd cheered even louder.

The show was going great for the seasoned musicians. When the familiar chords to “I Think I’m Paranoid” filled the air Shirley began tapping her foot to the beat, suddenly all went silent. The monitors went out. Shirley apologized, “this is very unprofessional,” she giggled but quickly recovered with, “if we can’t be professional, we’ll be messy.” She joked about having shots while they waited; rather quickly her wish was granted as every member of the band was handed her favorite Scottish whiskey (Highland Park). Shirley raised her cup to the audience, bid her cheers, and Garbage was ready to take us away again.

When the band returned for their encore Shirley beamed a big smile, mouthed the word “Wow” and took out her earplug to hear the roar of the club. Definitely humbled by the very warm reception, Garbage performed three more songs before ending their nearly 2 hour performance. To close the night Shirley thanked the Toronto crowd once again, Duke raised his cup to the audience and drank his share of the whiskey, Butch, Steve and Eric approached the edge of the stage, and waved their goodbyes. The Toronto audience loved every moment of the show and several “I love you’s” were shouted to the band. With music that withstands the test of time, may Garbage never take such a long hiatus ever again.

Setlist:
Supervixen
Temptation Waits
Shut Your Mouth
Queer
Metal Heart
Stupid Girl
Why Do You Love Me
Control
#1 Crush
Cherry Lips
Blood For Poppies
Special
Milk
Man On A Wire
I Think I’m Paranoid
Bad Boyfriend
Only Happy When It Rains
Push It

Encore:
Automatic Systematic Habit
The World Is Not Enough
Vow

OMG, IT’S PIXIES!

Live Review for Blurt (you can read it here below the gallery)

Do I need a description here? Really? It’s the Pixies folks! The punk-rock quartet was on tour in 2011 to commemorate the 22 yr anniversary of their excellent and timeless album, Doolittle. The Doolittle Tour consisted of the band playing a few B-sides before shelling out the entire album, from start to finish, in perfection. Then they treated the elated Hamilton, ON fans to two encores! It was a great night of music…I’m ready to see Pixies again!

And if you do not know the Pixies…shame on you, I say! That’s right, shame! Be sure to see what these “alt-rock Godparents” -as one Canadian newspaper dubbed them- are up to!

All images © all rights reserved.

Report: Pixies Live in Hamilton
After releasing their comprehensive collector’s boxset a year ago, Minotaur, the Pixies began touring heavily. For this “Doolittle Tour” Pixies performed every song, in succession, from their 1989 album Doolittle in addition to a few fan favorites for their audience. Sounding just as intense and fresh as on the day they were released, it is a sobering reminder of how progressive the songs of Doolittle are as Pixies celebrate 22 years since its conception.

Before the eager crowd was treated to hearing the sounds of the talented musicians, Pixies played a creative montage of film clips. After several minutes of dramatic music and the sepia tinted film, an impatient fan shouted “Quit teasing us!” Unfortunately her wish was not yet granted as some more time passed before the lights grew completely dark and the Pixies emerged.

The audience erupted once Kim Deal, Black Francis, Joey Santiago and David Lovering took their positions behind their instruments. Deal greeted the delighted spectators and happily announced, “we’re going to play some B-sides,” and the night of great music began. The first four songs were greeted with enthusiasm from the crowd, but once Deal struck the first bass riffs to “Debaser,” the most eager of fans cheered even louder and threw their hands in the air.

With “La La Love You,” Deal introduced drummer Lovering sang the tongue-in-cheek song. Once the track was finished Deal teased, “So David, do you look at the ladies in the audience when you sing that?” He murmured an inaudible something to Deal, she laughed heartily. The upbeat atmosphere continued as the audience sang along
with Francis for nearly every song; and, at each songs end Pixies were drowned in loud applause.

“Wave of Mutilation,” “Hey,” “Gouge Away,” “I Bleed” were all favorites with “Monkey Gone To Heaven” drawing the most fanfare of the “Doolittle” selection. Those in the front jumped as soon as the familiar song began and waited with anticipation for Francis to shout “Then God is seven” at the song’s core as they bellowed along with him.

With the end of “Gouge Away” the Pixies put down their instruments and each member approached four points of the stage and waved thankfully to the receptive crowd. They then stood together in the center and in conjunction with a film playing on the large screen behind them, lined up in order and took several bows before disappearing.

The audience cheered on until Pixies returned. Deal thanked the crowd again for the support and they leapt into the UK Surf version of “Wave of Mutilation.” For “Into The White,” the stage was drowned in white fog as Deal’s voice eerily echoed the lyrics “into the white” at the song’s close.

Yet again, they waved goodbye and several audience members began leaving the venue with the majority of the fans applauding and cheering for more. Several minutes went by. I thought to myself, “Well, I’ll stay until the lights come on.” And certainly, the venue lights were turned on and several people turned to leave when suddenly Lovering’s bass drum vibrated through the walls once again. The second encore was beginning.

The four songs that Pixies fans seemed to be craving the most were met with great support. To the classic “Where Is My Mind?” the audience sang louder than they ever did as Francis let them sing the last chorus. Just before the end of “Gigantic,” Deal asked the guys to quiet it down and as she calmly played the timeless riff, she again thanked everyone for coming to the show then confessed that she’d be going to bed once done. She turned to each member and asked them their plans. She lastly asked Francis, “Charles, how about you? Going to bed after this?” “I just woke up,” he laughed then the Pixies closed the evening.

A fantastic album, Doolittle, was played flawlessly. And as timeless as it may be to listen to the older, influential tunes of Pixies, hopefully the Boston quartet will conjure up a new album in the future.

Setlist:
DANCE THE MANTA RAY
WEIRD AT MY SCHOOL
BAILEYS WALK
MANTA RAY
DEBASER
TAME
WAVE OF MUTILATION
I BLEED
HERE COMES YOUR MAN
DEAD
MONKEY GONE TO HEAVEN
MR. GRIEVES
CRACKITY JONES
LA LA LOVE YOU
No. 13 BABY
THERE GOES MY GUN
HEY
SILVER
GOUGE AWAY

Encore 1
WAVE OF MUTILATION (UK Surf)
INTO THE WHITE

Encore 2
BONE MACHINE
CARIBOU
WHERE IS MY MIND?
GIGANTIC