David Allan Coe/B.B. King Blues Club & Grill/June 22, 2016
A native of Akron, Ohio, David Allan Coe was already in reform school at the age of nine. He spent much of the next 20 years in correctional facilities, where he received encouragement to write songs from fellow prisoner Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. After concluding another prison term in 1967, Coe pursued a music career in Nashville, Tennessee, living in a hearse which he parked in front of the Ryman Auditorium, where the Grand Ole Opry was located. He first achieved success in the 1970s with songs he wrote for other country artists, including Billie Jo Spears, Tanya Tucker and Johnny Paycheck. As a singer, his biggest hits were in the 1980s, including “Mona Lisa Lost Her Smile,” “The Ride,” “You Never Even Called Me by My Name,” “She Used to Love Me a Lot” and “Longhaired Redneck.” Coe recorded more than 40 albums, several of which were available only at his concerts. His most recent studio album of new original music was 1999’s Recommended for Airplay; several subsequent albums included rereleased material or were tribute collections.
Coe headlined at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill only a week after he escaped a prison sentence for tax evasion and obstruction and was sentenced by a federal court to three years of probation and nearly $1 million in fines and back taxes. Now 76 years old, the slow-moving artist was escorted by both his wife and a roadie to a chair, where Coe sat with an electric guitar for the next hour. There did not seem to be much of a set list, with Coe rambling through a non-stop medley of his songs and a few covers. His band may have been a pickup band; the musicians seemed to slip in when they recognized a song but then quietly stayed in the darkened background for other songs. Coe’s throaty baritone has lost some range, but he charmed the audience. He even rapped a couple of hip-hop songs. A fight broke out in the audience, sending Coe’s backup-singing wife to the dressing room and perhaps ending his set early; he concluded a few songs later. Coe may be far from his 1980s peak, but expect to see a lot more of him if he is to pay his IRS debt.
People’s Blues Of Richmond/The Bowery Electric/June 23, 2016
Grieving the loss of a mutual friend, two college students and lifelong friends, guitarist Tim Beavers II and bassist Matthew Volkes, began playing music together in 2009 in Richmond, Virginia. These jams became People’s Blues Of Richmond. The blues rock trio presently includes drummer Neko Williams, son of Drummie Zeb of the Wailers. People’s Blues Of Richmond released its third album, Quit or Die, on June 10, 2016.
Headlining at The Bowery Electric, People’s Blues Of Richmond played mature blues and grungy garage rock. Rare for a trio of 20-somethings, the thundering music traced back to the very earliest days of classic rock, long before commercialism infected the breed—Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Blue Cheer, etc. The vocals were dark, gritty and passionate, and the guitar jams were mean and dirty. Adding to the psychedelic motif, Dustin Klein of Videometry (who also lives with the band members in Richmond) projected colorful swirls, spinning geometric images and occasional shout-out chorus lines onto a screen behind the band. This was muscular rock, echoing the freedom that hard rock musicians pioneered some 50 years ago.
Dave Barnes/Gramercy Theatre/June 25, 2016
Dave Barnes was born in South Carolina, the son of a pastor who relocated his family to Kosciusko, Mississippi, and then Knoxville, Tennessee. While in college, Barnes became interested in playing guitar and writing songs for other performers until his friends encouraged him to perform his songs himself on campus. After graduating, Barnes began touring and recording, and over time several of his songs were recorded by other artists. In 2011, Blake Shelton had a number one country music hit with Barnes’ song “God Gave Me You,” selling over one million units. Barnes is based in Nashville, Tennessee, and has released nine albums including two Christmas albums. His most recent album, Carry On, San Vicente, was released March 18, 2016.
Barnes charmed his audience at the Gramercy Theatre with his goofy humor and anecdotes as well as with his melodic, harmonic pop songs. While his best-known song was a country music hit, a fair more number of songs had calypso beats or rhythm and blues grooves, and all were suitable for soft-rock playlists. All the songs boasted a happy, sporty feel, and Barnes’ buoyant personality only added to the cheerful ambiance. Barnes experimented with stand-up comedy in 2007 and remnants of this side project pervaded his between-song chatter. This was a music event, however, and Barnes’ song craft weaved romantic story-songs that could find him more easy-listening music fans.
Dead Kennedys/The Marlin Room At Webster Hall/June 26, 2016
Guitarist Raymond “East Bay Ray” Pepperell was inspired by a ska punk show he enjoyed in 1978 in San Francisco, California. He decided to form a band and placed a classified advertisement for musicians in a local newspaper. Dead Kennedys was born, although the provocative moniker forced the band to perform occasionally as The DK’s, The Sharks, The Creamsicles and The Pink Twinkies. Always more controversial than financially successful, Dead Kennedys released four studio albums and one EP before disbanding in 1986. In 2001, Dead Kennedys reformed without vocalist Jello Biafra (Eric Reed Boucher), who has remained in acrimonious disputes with the remaining members. The band presently consists of East Bay Ray, original bassist Geoffrey “Klaus Flouride” Lyall, drummer Darren “D.H. Peligro” Henley and vocalist Ron “Skip McSkipster” Greer.
Headlining at The Marlin Room At Webster Hall, Dead Kennedys brought much of the fury and volatility of the band’s early concerts. While the performance was tightly constructed, savage anarchy seemed to rule the stage. Between songs, Greer rambled aimlessly, much like Biafra did decades ago, yet the social politics was not nearly as present as it was during the President Reagan years. The Dead Kennedys concert was still fun after all these years, but it came with a caveat, in that there were no new songs or ideas to mark the passage of 30 years time since the band last recorded. Concertgoers witnessed a very evident drought.
The Adicts/Gramercy Theatre/June 27, 2016
As punk rock was coming out of its embryo in 1975, a group of young punk rockers formed a band called Afterbirth & the Pinz in Ipswich, England. As the characters began to identify their own musical compass, they became The Adicts—vocalist Keith “Monkey” Warren, bassist Mel Ellis, guitarist Pete Dee Davison, and Pete’s brother, drummer Michael “Kid Dee” Davison. Mel’s brother, guitarist John “Scruff” Ellis, soon joined the band. Contrary to the prevailing trend, however, by 1978 the musicians wore white clothing instead of black, adopting a Clockwork Orange-styled “droog” appearance, and Monkey wore joker white-face makeup and garish suits. The band has taken hiatus at least twice, but maintains its original lineup 40 years later. The Adicts’ ninth and most recent studio album is 2012’s All the Young Droogs.
An Adicts concert is usually like an explosion at a party store with a punk rock soundtrack. On this visit, however, The Adicts performed at the Gramercy Theatre after a Canadian tour and en route back to England tomorrow. Many of the band’s props were not transported to the New York venue; there were no confetti cannons, stuffed animals or avalanches of supersized beach balls, for instance. The band nevertheless proved itself mightily in the absence of its traditional gimmicks. This was hard, bombastic punk rock with cheeky lyrics and gang harmonies, simultaneously generating in the audience both lighthearted anthemic sing-alongs and fierce moshing. The set was largely comprised of the band’s better known songs from the 1980s, plus two more recent songs and two songs not yet recorded. From the opening “Joker in the Pack” to the closing campy covers of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and Brenda Lee’s “Bring Me Sunshine,” a rock and roll show could not have been more fun.