Colony House/Mercury Lounge/October 2, 2015
Caleb Chapman (vocals/guitar) and Will Chapman (drums) began making music together in early childhood, playing with their dad, contemporary Christian pop singer Steven Curtis Chapman. In 2009, while in high school in Franklin, Tennessee, the two brothers bonded with guitarist Scott Mills to form a band. Originally named Caleb, the group changed its name to Colony House in 2013 after an apartment complex where each of them had lived at some time. Colony House self-released three EPs before releasing a debut album, When I Was Younger, on July 22, 2014.
Colony House recently toured as the opening act for NeedtoBreathe and Switchfoot, but headlining at the Mercury Lounge Colony House had the opportunity to play an extended set. The trio was joined by bassist and keyboardist Parke Avery. Caleb Chapman was a smooth vocalist, and this style fit well with the band’s indie-pop approach to the singer-songwriter genre. His songs were peppered with uplifting messages of faith, hope and perseverance with heart-on-sleeve honesty. The arrangements were loaded with tight harmonies, clever instrumental fills and a sharp melodic sensibility employing well-segued hooks and crashing crescendos. A few arrangements were a bit aggressive, but most were made for a wider appeal. Much like Kings Of Leon or The Killers, Colony House did justice in bringing together well-crafted songs with a wall-of-sound alt rock.
The Vibrators/The Bowery Electric/October 3, 2015
One of punk rock’s longest running bands, The Vibrators will be celebrating 40 years in a few months, although only one original member remains. The band first emerged in the British music scene in 1976 and shared stages with other first wave punk bands, including the Sex Pistols. The Vibrators had frequent personnel changes beginning in 1977 and split in 1980, but the original lineup regrouped in 1982. The current trio consists of original drummer John “Eddie” Edwards, along with bassist Pete Honkamaki and guitarist Darrell Bath. The Vibrators released its 20th album, Punk Mania: Return To The Roots, in 2014.
At The Bowery Electric, The Vibrators played old-fashioned punk rock that today probably would be reclassified as garage pop. The three-piece ensemble used minimal effects to produce a stripped-down guitar-fueled charge, often sounding like a roots rock and roll band. All three members sang lead, offering a template of three similar flavors of jam. When they sang gang-vocals, they sounded like latter-day Clash. The musicians were proficient at their instruments as well. Although considered a one-hit wonder in 1970s England, The Vibrators still rock.
Korn/Irving Plaza/October 5, 2015
In Bakersfield, California, a band called L.A.P.D. morphed into pioneering nu metal band Korn (stylized as KoЯn) in 1993. Over the next 20 years, Korn recorded 11 studio albums that sold over 35 million units worldwide. The band’s current lineup includes founding members Jonathan Davis (vocals, bagpipes), James “Munky” Shaffer (guitar), Brian “Head” Welch (guitar, backing vocals), and Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu (bass), along with Ray Luzier (drums), who in 2007 replaced the band’s original drummer, David Silveria. The band’s most recent album is 2013’s The Paradigm Shift.
Korn celebrated belatedly the 20-year anniversary of its 1994 self-titled debut album by performing the collection track by track at smaller venues, including at a sold-out Irving Plaza. The musicians came on stage slowly, one by one, and then charged brutally into the album’s opening track, “Blind,” with the audience chanting the lyrics so loud that it was hard to hear Davis sing. The two-decades-old songs, originally written from a place of traumatic hurt and raging anger, retained their volatile performance, with hard and heavy beats emphasized by the waist-to-head headbanging of the musicians. “Ball Tongue” included snippets of Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two” and Slick Rick’s “La Di Da Di.” Several songs later, Davis played a bagpipe to introduce “Shoots And Ladders.” Korn ended the main set with a haunting rendition of “Daddy,” a song inspired by the sexual abuse Davis experienced as a minor. The set ended with deafening dissonance, until roadies stationed Davis’ custom-designed H.R. Giger microphone stand and the band returned on stage to perform five songs from later albums. It was not a greatest hits show, but a memorable show for Korn fans.
The Lighthouse And The Whaler/The Studio At Webster Hall/October 6, 2015
Michael LoPresti studied literature and theology in college but after graduation became a vocalist and guitarist. He formed The Lighthouse And The Whaler in 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio. The band’s name was inspired by chapter 14 of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Since its creation the band has moved from a folk trio to a rock quartet. The band now consists of Michael, Mark Porostosky on mandolin, violin, guitar, piano and glockenspiel, Ryan Walker on bass and Michael’s brother Matthew LoPresti on drums. The Lighthouse And The Whaler’s third album, Mont Royal, was released on August 28, 2015.
The Lighthouse And The Whaler headlined at The Studio At Webster Hall, performing a curious brand of indie compositions. Michael LoPresti in a wistful high register sang introspective lyrics exploring self-discovery and identity, fully embodied by rolling waves of shimmering electronics and strings. A fifth musician, Molly Connolly, added violin, synthesizer and guitar to the songs. Frequently a musician moved from one instrument to another mid-song to add another layer of sound. The spacious arrangements ranged from atmospheric to plush. Alternating between brooding and bouncy, the band’s overall soft wash of sound was low key and laid back yet engaging.
Kurt Vile & The Violators/Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom/October 6, 2015
Kurt Vile started playing music as a child in his hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By age 17, Vile was creating lo-fi home recordings of original songs and giving the demo discs to friends. After two years as a forklift driver at a warehouse in Boston, Massachusetts, Vile returned to Philadelphia, where in 2003 he met Adam Granduciel, who had relocated from Oakland, California. The duo formed The War On Drugs in 2005, and also played together in Kurt Vile & The Violators. Vile left The War On Drugs after one album, and Granduciel years later left The Violators, as both Vile and Granduciel focused on their own music. Kurt Vile & The Violators presently consists of Vile on vocals and guitar, Jesse Trbovich and Rob Laakso on guitars and bass, and Kyle Spence on drums. Vile’s sixth album, b’lieve I’m goin down…, was released on September 25, 2015.
Earlier Vile recordings were indie pop, often with more than a touch of psychedelic guitar. At Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom, Vile gravitated to a softer and slower foundation. The performance was subdued, with the songs played in a dark folk style. Vile gently finger picked his guitars as quickly as an aerobic exercise, and his subtle singing often reflected his youthful obsession with Bob Dylan. Seven of the 13 songs performed were from the new album; the remaining six songs were drawn from the three previous albums. New for the band, the more recent repertoire sometimes featured The Violators lightly playing keyboards. As Vile and company moved further away from his earlier garage rock to a more wistful and whispering Americana, perhaps a coffeehouse or theater setting would have been more appropriate than a ballroom. The songs deserved a closer listen, but for anyone expecting a rocking concert, this performance was rather dull.