Angela McCluskey/The Penthouse At The Standard Hotel/September 9, 2015
Angela McCluskey was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and relocated to London, England, where she worked as a publicist and at a record company. In 1993, McCluskey relocated to Los Angeles, California, and recorded three albums with the folk rock band Wild Colonials. She worked invisibly as a studio vocalist for years, but in 2004 embarked on a solo career. After four albums, her most recent recording is an EP, Lambeth Palace, released in 2012.
Once a folk singer, Angela McCluskey is now a dance floor diva. McCluskey and her husband, pianist/composer Paul Cantelon, introduced their new project, St. Bernadette, at The Penthouse At The Standard Hotel in the East Village. Backed by both pre-recorded tracks and live musicians (including two accordionists!), much of McCluskey’s new music was a cross between big band swing and disco, much like Kid Creole & The Coconuts in the 1980s. She also carried torch songs well as an emotive jazz singer in her noir cabaret moments. Spreading the blanket of music even further, McCluskey daringly reinterpreted reggae in her set. The modern dance floor songs at the end of her set had hips swiveling in the audience, but her most fascinating moments were her earlier hi-de-ho styled songs. McCluskey’s sultry delivery brought smoky texture to whatever she sang, and the results were often spine-tingling.
Scream/The Bowery Electric/September 9, 2015
Vocalist Peter Stahl, his brother Franz Stahl on guitar, bassist Skeeter Thompson and drummer Kent Stax formed hardcore punk band Scream in 1981 in Bailey’s Crossroads, Virginia. The band fit easily into the burgeoning hardcore hotbed in Washington, D.C. Scream recorded five studio albums before disbanding in 1990. Among the band’s many personnel changes, Dave Grohl played drums in Scream for three years, then graduated to Nirvana and the Foo Fighters. Scream has reunited briefly several times, and some of the performances have included Grohl. Scream’s present lineup includes the four original members plus guitarist Clint Walsh. The band’s most recent studio album is Fumble, which was recorded before the band’s initial breakup but released in 1993.
The Bowery Electric continues to attract hardcore punk reunions, and Scream was the most recent acquisition. Scream started rather tamely with vocals-centered songs, but quickly raced into its signature sound—direct political and social messages played at warp speed and with savage intensity. Scream kept the vocals up front, hence maintaining pop melodies as the hierarchy of the set. Meanwhile, the musicians behind the singer offered a thick wall of power chords and sonic blasts. Scream offered perspective and historical context to the beauty of early hardcore music, before the scene merge with thrash and later grunge.
Marty Friedman/Gramercy Theatre/September 10, 2015
Prior to his 10 years and 10 million record sales with the thrash metal band Megadeth, Marty Friedman lived in Washington D.C., Hawaii, Germany and California. At the age of 14, after attending a Kiss concert, Friedman taught himself to play guitar, and later formed several bands, including the neoclassical progressive rock band Cacophony. When Cacophony disbanded in 1989 after two albums, Friedman played in Megadeth from 1990 to 2000. Since 1988, Friedman has released 12 solo albums; the most recent, Inferno, was released on May 27, 2014. Friedman relocated in 2003 to Tokyo, Japan, where he has hosted several television programs in fluent Japanese.
Three decades into his career, Marty Friedman’s 2015 concert tour marks his first American concert series since leaving Megadeth. Upon taking the stage at the Gramercy Theatre, Friedman tore into “Hyper Doom” from the Inferno album with his trio, youthful guitarist Jordan Ziff of Scottsdale, Arizona, and a Japanese rhythm section of bassist Kiyoshi and drummer Chargeeeeee. Friedman spoke to the audience occasionally between songs, but otherwise the set was performed without microphones. The second song, “Amagi Goe,” was a rocking reworking of a song by Sayuri Ishikawa (think Japanese Barbra Streisand). The next surprise was how “Street Demon” from his 2006 Loudspeaker album incorporated a snippet of Megadeth’s “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due.” That would be all the Megadeth the audience would hear. Friedman showcased his virtuoso skills as he fused elements of neo-classical, thrash metal and progressive rock with various electric guitars, using unorthodox picking, arpeggiated chords and unique scales and arpeggios. For “Dragon Mistress,” Friedman invited a fan from the audience to jam; the houselights came on and he selected Jeffrey Monge of the opening act Metalfier. In all, Friedman provided solid proof that he has much more to offer beyond Megadeth.
Delta Deep/Players/September 11, 2015
Phil Collen taught himself to play guitar as a teenager in his native London, England. In the midst of a promising career in Girl, he was invited in 1982 to join Def Leppard. After sales of 100 million records and 30 years of arena tours with the hard rock superstars, Collen has returned to playing in small clubs with a new side project called Delta Deep. Collen teamed with rhythm & blues vocalist Debbi Blackwell-Cook (Michael Buble, Luther Vandross) in 2010, and the duo began performing before audiences in Orange County, California, where Collen presently resides. They recruited rock bassist Robert DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots) and jazz drummer Forrest Robinson (Crusaders, Jo Sample, India.Arie), and the blues band Delta Deep was born in 2012. Delta Deep’s self titled debut album was released on June 23, 2015.
Robert DeLeo is touring presently with Stone Temple Pilots, so he was unable to participate in Delta Deep’s premier New York appearance at Players. Delta Deep debuted as a stripped-down trio, playing music loaded with blues and soul roots. Powerhouse singer Blackwell-Cook belted blues and rhythm and blues songs, accompanied only by Collen ripping on acoustic or electric guitar and Robinson slapping on hand percussion. The band performed all 11 songs from its debut album, plus a few more, including a simple reworking of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Perhaps because the music was so bare, Collen’s passion for re-awakening a vintage sound was all the more prominent. The sheer nakedness of the music likewise highlighted Collen’s impressive old-fashioned blues picking. Collen and Blackwell-Cook were personable and chatty as they shared the joy they derived from preserving the blues and soul music in their rawest forms. While this very basic groove is unlikely to reach Def Leppard’s massive appeal, Delta Deep’s intimate performance tonight was a mission well executed.
Mothers/Berlin/September 11, 2015
Based out of Athens, Georgia, Kristine Leschper only last year graduated from college, where she studied printmaking. A visual artist who formerly worked in an art museum, Leschper recently made the transition to music artist, eventually forming an indie quartet. Mothers consists of Leschper on vocals and guitar, guitarist Drew Kirby, bassist Patrick Morales and drummer Matthew Anderegg.
Mothers performed three nights in three small clubs in New York, ending the series at Berlin. Leschper led Mothers in a dreamy pop stew that was largely soft but occasionally drifted into harsh arrangements under non-traditional song structures. Leschper usually sang with her eyes closed, perhaps shielding herself from the vulnerability she exposed in her high floating and highly feminine voice. The band supported her with styles that ranged from shoegaze to a dash of no wave, at times as an ensemble approaching emo, but always veered left of center. Mothers is a band for unorthodox tastes in soft indie music.