Rosie Flores/Hill Country Barbecue + Market/July 10, 2015
At age 64, Rosie Flores is still twanging her rockabilly guitar. She was born in San Antonio, Texas, but at age 12 moved with her family to San Diego, California. There, her brother taught her to play guitar and she formed her first band while in high school. In the 1970s, Flores played the local nightclub circuit in the alt country band Rosie And The Screamers, then joined an all-female “cow-punk” band called Screamin’ Sirens in the 1980s. Flores went solo in 1987. She currently resides in Austin, Texas. Flores’ 13th and most recent album is 2012’s Working Girl’s Guitar.
At Hill Country Barbecue + Market, Flores looked like a rockabilly queen, with her black cowboy boots and red sequined-and-fringed cowgirl vest, but her music was more than that. Her set included traditional country, honky-tonk, western swing and even surf music. The neo-traditional vocalist sang heartily with an authentic although somewhat ordinary country lilt, yet on the guitar she unequivocally wailed. She alternated leads with her backup guitarist, frequently ripping boldly into sturdy solos and unapologetically bringing on the noise like a riot grrl. After the fiery licks, she always circled her songs back to their Americana roots. Flores rocked the house, locked within the essence of her down-home, old-time Texas twang.
tobyMac/Great Lawn/July 11, 2015
Kevin McKeehan, better known by his stage name tobyMac, was born in Fairfax, Virginia, and grew up in nearby Falls Church. While attending college in 1987, he formed the Christian pop rap trio DC Talk; by the time the group split in 2000, DC Talk had sold eight million records. Launching a solo career in 2001, he quickly sold another three million records. TobyMac’s sixth studio album, This Is Not A Test (stylized as ***This Is Not A Test***), will become available on Aug. 7, 2015.
TobyMac headlined before 60,000 cheering fans at the closing event of Luis Palau’s evangelic crusade in the Great Lawn of Central Park. Backed by his seven-piece funk rock band, Diverse City, tobyMac sang and rapped an electrifying mix of pop, rock, hip-hop, Latin, and funk on “Eye On It,” “Boomin’,” “Made To Love,” “Lose My Soul” and “Speak Life.” With lyrics that examined life and spirituality, tobyMac sang passionately about hope and redemption, while his energetic band played crunching rock beats, possibly the loudest, hardest beats ever played in Central Park’s Great Lawn. The live sound was spectacular. TobyMac, with his uplifting songs and upbeat band, made for an excellent evening performance in the park.
The Rezillos/Gramercy Theatre/July 11, 2015
The Rezillos formed as a garage pop band in 1976 by art students in Edinburgh, Scotland. The band released its 1978 debut album and then split apart four months later. Vocalists Fay Fife and Eugene Reynolds formed a new band, The Revillos, which hosted an ever-changing lineup until that group split in 1985. The second wave of The Rezillos began with a reunion in 2002 for a hometown New Year’s Eve concert. The band presently consists of Fife and Reynolds, guitarist Jim Brady, bassist Chris Agnew and original drummer Angel Paterson. The Rezillos’ sophomore studio album, Zero, was released on March 9, 2015, 27 years after the first album.
The Rezillos headlined at the Gramercy Theatre, only the band’s third-ever New York concert (after CBGB’s in 1978 and The Bowery Electric in 2012). The vocalists played up to the audience with dances, howls, and chatter, and the male/female vocal delivery was reminiscent of the grungier side of The B-52’s, X and The Cramps. The garage-rock songs were guitar-driven, however, with Ramones-like chords powering the melodies and noisy leads filling between lyrics. With punk rock speed, volume and energy, The Rezillos performed most of its two albums, plus a cover of “River Deep, Mountain High,” originally recorded by Ike & Tina Turner. The set ended with another cover, Fleetwood Mac’s “Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight,” the song that revived The Rezillos when it was featured in the soundtrack of a Jackass movie. The Rezillos’ sound was rooted in 1960s pop, but it was raucous enough to jar a few heads in 2015.
The Hot Sardines/The Bowery Ballroom/July 14, 2015
Elizabeth Bougerol, born in Paris, France, was living in New York City in 2007 when she met Evan “Bibs” Palazzo, a New York-born pianist who longed to play stride piano and lead a traditional jazz band. After a brief conversation, he played and she sang a Fats Waller song and the bond was sealed. Months later, they teamed with a tap dancer, Edwin “Fast Eddy” Francisco, whose feet provided percussion along with Bougerol’s washboard. This was the start of The Hot Sardines, which presently consists of Bougerol (renamed Miz Elizabeth), Palazzo, Francisco, Evan “Sugar” Crane (bass), Alex Raderman (drums), Nick Myers (reeds), Jason Prover (trumpet), and Mike Sailors (cornet/trombone). The Hot Sardines’ debut self-titled album was released in October 2014.
Fitting for a Bastille Day celebration at the Bowery Ballroom, The Hot Sardines performed old tunes and originals in English and French. Followers of the band dressed in flapper-era outfits and danced in the aisles to swing, ragtime, boogie-woogie and Dixieland, all given a modern twist. The set was rich in standards from the Prohibition/Great Depression to World War II eras, but the intent was to present a contemporary rather than old-timey performance. Miz Elizabeth was a salty singer, unrefined enough to provide both grit and glamour to the songs. Looking and acting like Ellen DeGeneres, Miz Elizabeth was a genial host who danced joyfully to the music whenever she leaned away from the microphone. Meanwhile, Palazzo on the piano (draped in a French flag) played frenetically with his left hand while his right hand played syncopated melodies and improvisations. Layered in vintage New Orleans, Chicago and Harlem roots, the smoking horn section then blasted hot jazz and Latin fills. The Hot Sardines closed with a rendition of “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” and then an encore which had the band play through the audience and onto the sidewalk outside the venue. Watch for The Hot Sardines to roll in a new Roaring Twenties.
The Ike Reilly Assassination/Mercury Lounge/July 16, 2015
Michael Reilly was born in Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, and raised in nearby Libertyville, where he continues to live. He started writing songs and playing the harmonica while in middle school, and learned to play guitar while working summer jobs at a cemetery, where he cut grass and dug graves. As he began playing in bands, Reilly dropped the M from his first name and became Ike Reilly. His seventh studio album and first album in five years, Born On Fire, was released on June 16, 2015. The Ike Reilly Assassination presently consists of Reilly on vocals and guitar, guitarist Phil Karnats, pianist Adam Krier, bassist Pete Cimbalo and drummer Dave Cottini.
Performing the first of two nights at the Mercury Lounge, Reilly was a bedrock storyteller who used dynamic rock music as his vehicle much like Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp and Elvis Costello. Reilly favored his new songs rather than attempt to cover the breadth of his work; of the 12 songs he performed, seven were from Born On Fire. Nevertheless, the selections revealed much about the identity of this working-class American troubadour with street-poet swagger, as he chronicled episodes of despair, rage, irony and humor in rock, punk, blues and rhythm & blues-rooted music. The opening song, “Two Weeks-A-Work, One Night-A-Love,” demonstrated his affinity for late 1960s Chicago-styled electric blues, loaded with gritty grooves, soulful vocals and a honking harmonica. Other songs sounded like beer-chugging chants for the late-night closing of an Irish pub. Reilly ended the set with a pile-driving head-banger, “When Irish Eyes Are Burning.” In the end, The Ike Reilly Assassination sounded like Libertyville might be a musical suburb of Asbury Park.