The Avett Brothers/Madison Square Garden/April 8, 2016
Scott Avett was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and his brother Seth Avett was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. They were raised in a small hobby farm in Concord, North Carolina, where Scott wanted to be a musician but Seth wanted to be an astronaut. They studied piano, guitar, and banjo, and discovered pop, rock, and Americana music. Although they played music together since childhood, the brothers began their partnership in the late 1990s with the merger of Seth’s high school rock band, Margo, and Scott’s college group, Nemo. After releasing three albums as Nemo, the Avetts started experimenting with acoustic music with some friends at night. Nemo split, and Scott and Seth continued to write acoustic music together. Now based in Mount Pleasant, North Carolina, the folk-rock band known as The Avett Brothers presently consists of Scott Avett on vocals and banjo, Seth on vocals and guitar, bassist Bob Crawford and cellist Joe Kwon. Drummer Mike Marsh, violinist Tania Elizabeth and keyboardist Paul Defiglia are touring members of the band. The Avett Brothers’ ninth studio album, True Sadness, will be released on June 24, 2016.
Headlining Madison Square Garden was the achievement of a personal goal for The Avett Brothers. The Avett Brothers performed 21 songs within a one hour and 45 minute set. The set list included songs from past albums and live EPs, plus three new songs from the forthcoming album, two Merle Haggard covers (“Mama Tried” and “My Favorite Memory”), and a Doc Watson cover (“Country Blues”). The set opened with Marsh’s steady kick drum and an arena of hand claps, as The Avett Brothers launched into the fast-rapping opening to the lively “Talk on Indolence” from 2006’s Four Thieves Gone: The Robbinsville Sessions. Although rooted in Americana, the band easily could have been categorized as either country or rock, performing an expansive set that effectively blended bluegrass, honky tonk, folk, pop, rock and roll, and indie rock. The spotlights followed the energetic musicians, who playfully made great use of the large stage. Mid-set, the brothers played stripped down versions of a few songs without the entire band on a runway that extended deep into the general admission floor area. Opening act Brandi Carlile joined the brothers on the apron for a sweet and gentle harmony-rich rendition of “Murder in the City.” To add spectacle to the set, Seth Avett at one point strolled into the audience’s standing area playing his electric guitar. The high-octane evening ended with a two-song encore of “Laundry Room” and “I And Love And You.” With surprises every few minutes and vibrant flight energizing the set, The Avett Brothers provided an exceptional showcase.
The Sadies/Hill Country Barbecue + Market/April 9, 2016
Dallas Good and Travis Good are the sons of Bruce Good and nephews of Brian and Larry Good, who are members of the Canadian country music group The Good Brothers. Guitarists Dallas and Travis played in the Good Brothers before forming The Sadies as a rock & roll and country & western band in 1994 in Toronto. More than 20 years later, the original quartet has stayed intact, with upright bassist Sean Dean and drummer Mike Belitsky. The band’s most recent studio album, Internal Sounds, was released in 2013.
One of The Sadies’ biggest supporters, John Doe of X, performed with The Sadies at Hill Country Barbecue + Market in 2015. This time around, The Sadies performed without any guests, and rocked the basement venue with raucous rock and roll that leaned heavily on 1960s garage, surf, rockabilly and psychedelic rock. Both Dallas and Travis sang lead and played lead guitar, sizzling when the vocal and guitar harmonies were just right. There was plenty of country twang guitar, but couched in hard-stomping rhythms and projected at high volume for a versatile rock set. Most of the thunderous set was a blistering rave-up, impacting like a jackhammer with barely a break between songs. For those who wanted their rock scrappy and noisy, The Sadies was the band of choice.
Fear Factory/Gramercy Theatre/April 11, 2016
Guitarist Dino Cazares and drummer Raymond Herrera recruited vocalist Burton C. Bell (ex-Hate Face) in 1989 in Los Angeles, California. The new band was originally named Ulceration, but changed its name to Fear Factory in 1990 to reflect the band’s new death metal sound. Fear Factory disbanded in 2002 following some internal disputes, but soon after a new lineup took the brand name. The present band consists of Bell, Cazares (who returned in 2009), bassist Tony Campos and drummer Mike Heller. Fear Factory released its ninth studio album, Genexus, on August 7, 2015.
As Fear Factory came onstage at the Gramercy Theatre, Bell announced, “This is Demanufacture.” The band and its fans were celebrating the 20th anniversary of Demanufacture, a futuristic science fiction concept album about a man’s struggles against a machine-controlled government. A kick drum pattern coupled with the opening guitar riff launched the album’s self-titled lead track, and Fear Factory performed the album to the final riffs of “A Therapy for Pain.” A seven-song encore consisted of two songs from the most recent album and five fan-favorites from early albums. Throughout, Bell alternated between clean vocals and death growls, while the crunching guitar riffs and blast beats powered songs rooted in grindcore and industrial metal sounds. The down point was that in order to recreate the album faithfully, several songs included excessive click tracks and prerecorded keyboards. Nevertheless, the band gave the audience what it wanted—angry, abrasive and somewhat experimental metal—but it may have been more interesting to have heard all the music live.
Abbath/Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom/April 12, 2016
Olve Eikemo, better known by his stage name Abbath Doom Occulta, is from Lysefjorden just outside Bergen in Norway, where as a young boy, he was a great fan of Kiss. His musical career started with the band Old Funeral, and later the death metal band Amputation in 1989, which evolved into the black metal band Immortal. Immortal split in 2002, reunited in 2006, and split again in 2015. Occulta was also in two side projects, a Motörhead tribute band called Bömbers in 1996 and a band called I in 2006. Following his departure from Immortal in 2015, Occulta formed a new band under the name Abbath with Occulta on guitar and vocals and King Ov Hell from God Seed on bass. Abbath the band released its debut self-titled album on January 22, 2016.
At Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom, Abbath was rounded out with guitarist Ole André Farstad and drummer Gabe “Creature” Seeber. As the house lights dimmed, the four musicians came on stage wearing corpse face-paint and black apocalyptic wardrobe amidst a billowing dry-ice fog. As the band has recorded only one album, the 13-song set relied heavily on Immortal songs, which were likely more familiar to the audience. Abbath specialized in mid-tempo drudges that often erupted into volatile, hair-spinning moshers. Occulta played up the sinister image, often confronting the audience with seemingly menacing poses, adding a bit of light humor to otherwise dark and heavy music. Occulta’s snarling growl was ever present, but unfortunately some of the bright extended guitar leads were buried in the mix, sometimes resulting in a thudding, repetitious three-chord groove. In all, it seemed that Abbath seamed where Immortal left off, which will thrill many extreme metal fans.