Everlast/The Bowery Ballroom/June 14, 2015

Born in Valley Stream, New York, Erik Schrody released his first album as Everlast in 1990 and gained national attention in the rap group House Of Pain with “Jump Around” in 1992. After three albums, Everlast left House Of Pain in 1996 for a solo career. He suffered a massive cardiac arrest stemming from a congenital defect, resulting in heart bypass surgery and an artificial valve implant. After recovery, he recorded his second solo album, which came eight years after his first; Everlast reinvented himself with the multi-platinum-selling Whitey Ford Sings The Blues in 1998, which combined a largely acoustic base with folk, blues, rap and soul. In 1999, Everlast performed on Santana’s Grammy-winning “Put Your Lights On,” and later joined La Coka Nostra (2006-2012), but his solo career floundered through five more solo albums. Everlast’s seventh and most recent solo album, The Life Acoustic, was released in 2013. He is now based in Los Angeles, California.

At a rare seated concert at The Bowery Ballroom, Everlast was accompanied simply by his acoustic guitar and a keyboardist. The two stools on stage were reserved not for the two musicians to sit, but one for Everlast’s hard liquor and the other for his bottled water. Singing in a gravelly Tom Waits-styled rasp, Everlast tackled an acoustic set that was inspired by elements of folk, blues, and country. Despite his hip-hop roots, a mellower Everlast performed a lengthy block of deeply emotional ballads. On his older songs, while he faintly maintained the cadence of hip-hop, parts that had once been rapped were now sung. The audience’s acceptance of this transition to the new Everlast became pronounced when he received encouraging applause for his sweet take on Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” Nevertheless, although House Of Pain seems to be long in his past in favor of this softer acoustic approach, by the end of the set Everlast was still able to get his fans to “Jump Around.”

 

The Heartless Bastards/Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom/June 15, 2015

Erika Wennerstrom was born in Dayton, Ohio, but at age 18 she relocated to nearby Cincinnati, picked up a guitar, began writing songs, and started performing at open-mic nights. She sang in a local garage rock band called Shesus in 2012, but left in 2013 to form a new band, taking the name The Heartless Bastards from an incorrect answer on a multiple-choice trivia game. (The question was “What is the name of Tom Petty’s backing band?”) With vocalist/guitarist Wennerstrom as the only constant member, the band presently includes guitarist Mark Nathan, bassist Jesse Ebaugh and drummer Dave Colvin. The Heartless Bastards’ fifth album, Restless Ones, will be released tomorrow.

Wennerstrom is now based in Austin, Texas, and it showed at Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom. Once more of a garage rock band, The Heartless Bastards demonstrated how much its sound has matured. The band maintained an alternative roots rock core with an occasional taste of Texas-styled outlaw country. Far from a full-tilt twang, these Southern elements simply informed the banging rock on songs like “The Gates Of Dawn” and “Only For You.” Wennerstrom crooned in a somewhat gnarled manner to simple, swaying melodies and easily predictable chord shifts. Later, when Nathan began distorting his guitar sounds, inducing feedback, one could easily forget the Americana influence. The Heartless Bastards drew from rock and roots traditions, and came close to stamping its own signature uniqueness; a bit more cutting edge freshness could place the band in the bigger leagues.

 

Otep/The Studio At Webster Hall/June 15, 2015

Otep Shamaya has said that her first name originated from her mother’s interest in Egyptian history; it is also an anagram for the word “poet.” Shamaya grew up in Los Angeles, California, and formed the nu metal band Otep (also written as OTEP or OT3P) in 2000. The band’s first big break came after only a few gigs when Sharon Osbourne caught the band’s live performance and invited Otep to perform at Ozzfest. Otep has released six albums, the most recent being 2013’s Hydra. In addition to Shamaya on vocals, Otep presently consists of guitarist Aristotle Mihalopoulos, bassist Corey Wolford and drummer Justin Kier.

At The Studio At Webster Hall, Otep performed a fierce and primal set of hard, blasting nu metal with significant doses of alternative metal, goth metal, industrial metal and death metal. Shamaya was a performance artist with a mysterious aura, partly due to her red-and-white-colored contact lenses and the surrounding decapitated doll heads and blood-dripped masks. Appearing strong, fearless, defiant and dominant, Shamaya roared, growled, grunted, purred, rapped and sang aggressively while the power trio behind her split eardrums with music as raw and heavy as a cement-mixing truck. The masked, bare-chested, gladiator-looking guitarist played precise, searing leads and crunching chords while the rhythm section pounded out fist-pumping tribal rhythms. Shamaya’s magnetic personality and chilling shrieks consistently drew the audience into a dark recess where unsettling madness reigned. Otep has the potential to outdo Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie in the arena of horror art rock.

 

GBH/Gramercy Theatre/June 16, 2015                                

Among the pioneers of the British street punk movement called “UK82,” GBH formed in 1978 in Birmingham, England. The initials originated from “grievous bodily harm,” a term used in British courts. Upon learning that there was a metal band by that name, the punk band changed its name to Charged GBH. When the metal band split in 1984, the punk band resumed using the shorter name GBH. The band’s most recent album is 2010’s Perfume And Piss. The group currently features two original members, vocalist Colin Abrahall and guitarist Colin “Jock” Blyth, nearly-original bassist Ross Lomas and long-time drummer Scott Preece.

At the Gramercy Theatre, GBH changed the set somewhat from last year’s tour, but with no new material in five years, there was not that much to change. Last year the band performed all 15 songs from its 1981 Leather, Bristle, Studs And Acne compilation album; this year the band stopped at nine tracks and then moved into the bonus tracks from 1982’s City Baby Attacked By Rats and 1983’s City Baby’s Revenge. Except for three songs from the band’s 2010 album, the remaining 21 songs were from GBH’s earliest period, from 1981 to 1983. Looking leathered and weathered, spiky blond Abrahall grunted lyrics mocking contemporary culture and politics. Meanwhile, the power trio behind him remained faithful to its original UK82 purist punk sound. Songs were wrapped in simple loud and fast three-chord power punches that induced moshing and crowd surfing. With very little talk or breathing space between short, no-frills songs, the pounding proved relentless. The one surprise was guitarist Shawn Smash of opening act Total Chaos joining GBH on “Cadillac One,” playing a more Chuck Berry-styled guitar lead. Otherwise, this was punk for purists.

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