Unlocking The Truth/The Studio At Webster Hall/September 24, 2014
Brooklyn-based vocalist/guitarist Malcolm Brickhouse, 13, and drummer Jarad Dawkins, 12, began jamming as children in the Brickhouse family’s basement in 2007, imitating the heavy metal sounds they heard in Japanese anime and wrestling videos. Sensing the need to add more sound, they taught their friend, Alec Atkins, now 13, to play bass in 2012. Unlocking The Truth at The Studio At Webster Hall performed original, genuine metal jams that recalled the early days of speed and thrash metal. They bounced wildly to the grooves onstage propelled by the music. Whereas in the past the band’s set was comprised of rocket-fueled guitar-crazy instrumentals, Brickhouse sang enough chorus and verse to call each jam a song. By the end of the night, there was only one question to ask: How did musicians this young learn to play so well that they could embarrass veteran musicians five times their age?
GBH/Gramercy Theatre/September 26, 2014
GBH formed as a street punk band in 1978 in Birmingham, England, and remained together even as its 1980s popularity waned in the 1990s. Presently, two original members, vocalist Colin Abrahall and guitarist Colin “Jock” Blyth, are joined by nearly-original bassist Ross Lomas and drummer Scott Preece. GBH stopped at the Gramercy Theatre on its 35th anniversary tour to a rowdy, body-slamming audience. After opening with a fast, pummeling two minutes of “Unique,” a track from the veteran band’s 2010 album, Perfume And Piss, GBH performed the 15 songs from the 1981 Leather, Bristles, No Survivors And Sick Boy compilation in order. The set concluded with 10 more songs, most of which were from the band’s 1980s albums (though “Kids Get Down” was also from 2010). Each song packed a powerful wallop within three minutes. Some songs featured a short guitar solo; most featured little more than power chords and a vocal melody. Abrahall, with bleached blond spikes and wearing a black leather biker jacket (which he removed after nine songs), still looked the part, and the rallying three-chord songs he grunted were saturated with unfiltered punk energy. This was hardcore punk for purists.
Needtobreathe/Best Buy Theater/September 27, 2014
William Stanley “Bear” Rinehart III and his brother, Nathaniel Bryant “Bo” Rinehart, were raised in their father’s church in Possum Kingdom, South Carolina, and later moved to Seneca, where they formed Needtobreathe. The brother guitarists, bassist Seth Bolt and touring musicians Josh Lovelace on keyboards and Randall Harris on drums closed Needtobreathe’s 2014 tour at the Best Buy Theater on a stage that was given a Western motif, including three teepees. Bear sang appealingly in a husky, earthy voice, often while strumming his guitar, while Bo played fluid lead guitar snatches that lit the band’s Americana-styled songs on fire. Personable and vulnerable, Bear introduced one of the last songs, “Brother,” performed acoustically, as the peacemaking moment after a bitter period of silence when he and Bo discussed how being brothers was more important than having a successful band. Another highlight was when Needtobreathe invited onstage the opening band, The Oh Hellos, and together sang “Place Only You Can Go” and a cover of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.” Needtobreathe are on their way to becoming a mammoth band.
The Bots/The Bowery Ballroom/September 29, 2014
Vocalist/guitarist Mikaiah Lei, 20, and his younger brother, drummer Anaiah Lei, 17, started playing music together as The Bots when they were 12 and nine. Originally based out of Los Angeles, California, now living in London, England, the duo opened for Augustines at the Bowery Ballroom with a dynamic, soulful, raw garage-punk set. Jumping around the stage while playing fierce guitar leads and chords, Mikaiah found his way to the microphone, closed his eyes to sing a few bars, then returned to the hopping and strumming. Anaiah kept a steady beat while keeping an eye on his animated older brother. These were hefty jams sparked by grimey blasts of punky, rocking riffs that connected into songs. For all their youth, The Bots played an impressively innovative set.
Augustines/The Bowery Ballroom /September 29, 2014
After the breakup of their former band, Pela, in August 2009, vocalist/guitarist Billy McCarthy and multi-instrumentalist Eric Sanderson formed Augustines, originally based in Brooklyn, New York, and now in Seattle, Washington. With the addition of drummer Rob Allen, the band became a trio. At the Bowery Ballroom, with a series of songs that started with a crescendo and built higher, Augustines brought the energy of Bruce Springsteen and U2 to pendulum-like melodies and story-lyrics that sometimes sounded like they originated as sea shanties. After the opening song, “Headlong Into The Abyss,” McCarthy told the audience, “It’s good to be home. We’re going the distance.” From then on, it became a house party, as McCarthy gave shout-outs to friends in the audience. A few songs in, after “Cruel City,” McCarthy offered an apology: “I might say some bad things about this town in the songs, but I got love for you all.” McCarthy sang with a husky yet yearning voice and Sanderson filled out the chiming sound on keyboards, synthesizers and bass with Allen engineering the adrenaline-fueled rhythm on drums. The songs could be so intense that the audience’s response with chants of “whoa-whoa” felt like a release. The band concluded the two-hour show unplugged in the audience and then led the audience out of the venue entirely to perform several more songs on the Delancey Street sidewalk.
Aloe Blacc/Santos Party House/September 30, 2014
Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III, better known by his stage name Aloe Blacc, was raised in Laguna Hills, California. He turned to music with a rented trumpet in third grade, and later learning to play guitar and piano. In 1995, Blacc formed Emanon—”no name” backwards—and released three hip-hop albums combining break-beat loops and jazz samples. Blacc switched from rap to singing, launched his career as a solo artist in 2003 and released his first solo album in 2006. His profile increased in 2013 when “I Need A Dollar” from his second solo album became the theme song to the HBO series How To Make It In America. Blacc’s voice also was featured on Avicii’s international dance hit, “Wake Me Up.” Blacc’s most recent album, 2014’s Lift Your Spirit, featured his biggest hit, “The Man.” At Santos Party House, Blacc sang a silky and pleasantly grooving mix of old-school funk and soul with a light pop sway. While many of the lyrics revealed Blacc’s social consciousness, the songs were delivered in smooth pop packages as he preached the positive. Backed by a rhythm and blues band that powered the songs with guitar frills, keyboard rolls and horn blasts, Blacc’s soulful singing and uplifting songs made for a feel-good concert, and his frequent smile motivated others to grin as well.