Lake Street Dive/Rumsey Playfield/September 2, 2015
A native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, trumpet player/guitarist Mike Olson designed in 2004 to form a pop band from among his fellow music students in Boston, Massachusetts. He selected vocalist Rachel Price, originally from outside Nashville, Tennessee, bassist Bridget Kearney of Iowa and drummer Mike Calabrese of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. All his recruits had been singing and/or playing musical instruments since childhood. Olson named the band Lake Street Dive after a strip in his hometown that housed several seedy bars. Lake Street Dive now is based in Brooklyn, New York. The band’s most recent album, Bad Self Portraits, was released on February 18, 2014.
Headlining a free admission concert at Rumsey Playfield as part of SummerStage Central Park, Lake Street Dive gave a modern twist to 1960s pop rock, from Brill Building to British Invasion to Motown. The quartet’s musical gymnastics remained close to pop radio groundwork, but pushed the edges a bit further as Price’s strong, soulful vocals and Olson’s guitar and trumpet snippets gave both gravity and flight to dynamic funk and jazz grooves. The set consisted mostly of original songs released within the past three years, but also included reinterpreted covers, including Annie Lennox’s “Walking On Broken Glass,” a reimagined working of Van Halen’s “Jump” inserted in the middle of “Bobby Tanqueray,” and an encore of Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl.” Many of the songs rocked out with extended jams, but the band also sang a couple of stripped-down songs standing around a single old-time microphone for barbershop quartet-type harmonies. Crossing a healthy range of vocal and musical styles, the four musicians’ energetic performances kept their pop music invigorating and refreshing.
Revocation/The Studio At Webster Hall/September 4, 2015
Three high school students bonded over their love for Metallica and Guns N’ Roses and formed Cryptic Warning in 2000 in Boston, Massachusetts. After circulating two demos and an album, the musicians sought a redirection and in 2006 Cryptic Warning became thrash/technical metal band Revocation. Guitarist/vocalist David Davidson is the sole remaining founder; the band now also includes guitarist Dan Gargiulo, bassist Brett Bamberger and new drummer Ash Pearson. Revocation released its fifth studio album, Deathless, on October 14, 2014.
Having worked its way to headliner status, Revocation’s performance at The Studio At Webster Hall proved that the band is far more than an illegible logo. The 12-song set opened and closed with songs from Revocation’s most recent album, but the show touched on all five albums and one EP. While the warp speed musicianship and growling vocals were standard issue to the thrash and death metal genres, Davidson’s complex guitar technique blazed beyond the normal. His extended leads were dizzyingly fast, dazzlingly precise and dangerously explosive. Supporting his leadership, the four musicians together turned on the ignition with mammoth waves of energy, and then together frequently ceased abruptly enough to induce whiplash. Like a torrid storm of crisp thunder and lightning, Revocation entered and exited its songs with intense dynamism. By the end of the set, Revocation had stood out as ragingly unique in the blurry seas of metal music.
Oz Noy Quartet/The Bitter End/September 7, 2015
Guitarist Oz Noy started performing jazz, blues, pop and rock in his native Israel at age 13. By age 16, he was playing with top Israeli musicians and artists. By age 24, he was among the most established studio guitar players in his country. Noy was also a member of the house band on Israel’s top-rated television show for more than two years. He emigrated to New York in 1996 and has been performing with all-star bands at The Bitter End, The 55 Bar and other venues. Noy’s seventh album, Asian Twistz, a live album, was released on March 17, 2015.
On most Monday nights, Oz Noy performs at The Bitter End with established studio musicians in an instrumental jazz funk band. On this night he led keyboardist Jerry Z, bassist Will Lee, and drummer Rocky Bryant. He jokingly introduced his instrumental cover of “I Got You” as “a song I wrote for James Brown in the 1960s,” but most of his songs are originals, each with its own funk groove. Noy excelled on his guitar; with little distortion other than a wah-wah pedal, Noy’s runs were fluid and melodic, flowing lyrically as his left hand quickly scaled his fret board. Noy also encouraged the other musicians to improvise and, capturing the various textures of the songs, they weaved a strong and intriguing fabric of sounds. Noy has said, “it’s jazz; it just doesn’t sound like it.” Oz Noy’s jams make for enjoyable Monday nights in Greenwich Village.
Les Sans Culottes/Irving Plaza/September 8, 2015
Les Sans Culottes is a French language rock band formed in 1998 in Brooklyn, New York. Led by Michigan-born legal aid attorney William Carney (renamed Clermont Ferrand) and New Jersey-born graphic designer Audrey Kellar (renamed Kit Kat Le Noir), Les San Culottes performs original compositions, covers of French rock songs, and French-language reworkings of classic American hits. After more than 25 line-up changes, Les San Culottes presently consists of vocalists Ferrand and Le Noir, who are the only remaining original members, plus vocalist Brigitte Bourdeaux, guitarist Geddy Liaison, keyboardist Benoit Bals, bassist M. Pomme Frite, and drummer Jacques Strappe. Les Sans Culottes released The Gods Have Thirst, its eighth and most recent album, on November 11, 2014.
Opening for L7 at Irving Plaza, Les San Culottes sounded like a modern band performing 1980s new wave versions of 1960s French pop and yé-yé girl pop music. This was what would have happened if saucy ’60s French pop stars like Serge Gainsbourg had joined The B-52’s. It was double retro music, both a campy send-up of and a tribute to these vintage sounds, sung in French, and it was uniquely captivating. On songs like “Faux Pas” and “Gendarme, Gendarme,” Ferrand, Le Noir and Bourdeaux alternated lead vocals, to bashing garage rock behind them. A punky French version of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking” was a highlight. Ferrand, wearing sunglasses and a pink sports jacket, stayed in character, affecting a French accent while speaking to the audience between songs. As if this was an inventive Saturday Night Live skit, Les Sans Culottes took the faux-French facade to an absurd level and made it fun for all.
L7/Irving Plaza/September 8, 2015
Guitarist/vocalists Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner began playing as a punk rock duo in 1985 in Los Angeles, California. They formed L7, named after a 1960s slang word for a “square” person who was not “hip.” Bassist Jennifer Finch and later drummer Demetra “Dee” Plakas joined. L7 recorded six albums and influenced many of the riot grrrl bands of the 1990s. L7 split in 2001 and reunited in 2014. The band’s most recent album, Slap-Happy, was released in 1999.
At Irving Plaza, L7’s performance was designed to relive its glory days, not break new ground. The 20-song set was firmly ground in the band’s celebrated early 1990s, with only one song from the 1980s and one from L7’s later years. The root of L7’s music was an angry, primitive punk rock, but the reunited band’s heavy riff-oriented guitar grind sounded polished, and the gang vocals even more spit-shined. Having long out-grown the primal garage band stage, the matured L7 was less radical and more suited for a wider audience. This was not about improved musicianship, however; the many questionable guitar solos still lacked mastery. The show pivoted on rallying anthems and the satisfying cool of nostalgic reunions (both within the band and among the fans). For all its bombastic rage and simple musical arrangements, the performance was a blast.