Fantastic Negrito/Mercury Lounge/October 9, 2016
Xavier Dphrepaulezz (pronounced “dee-FREP-ah-lez”) was born in western Massachusetts, the eighth of 15 children. When Dphrepaulezz was 12 years old, his family moved to Oakland, California, where he entered foster care and joined the world of street gangs, guns, drug dealing and home invasions. Looking for a way out at age 18, Dphrepaulezz posed as a student to access a college’s practice rooms and taught himself to play piano by copying the scales that others were practicing. Shortly thereafter, Dphrepaulezz began writing songs and playing guitar. One day, at age 20, after purchasing arms, he himself was robbed by armed thieves. The next day he hitchhiked to Los Angeles with $100 and a keyboard, looking to start a career in music. In 1996 he had a neo-soul debut album that went nowhere. He played briefly in several bands but gave up shortly after a near-fatal automobile accident in 1999 put him in a three-week coma. He returned to Oakland in 2008, where he started a family and worked a quarter-acre farm. Eventually he started playing music again, busked in Oakland and San Francisco and rebirthed himself as a neo-blues musician renamed Fantastic Negrito. After a debut UP in 2014, Fantastic Negrito’s debut album, The Last Days of Oakland, was released on June 3, 2016,
Countless musicians have joined rock and blues, but Fantastic Negrito gave this marriage a new twist at the Mercury Lounge. He did this by bridging the blues of the Lead Belly and Muddy Waters variety with other root sources, including plantation songs, and also the more modern styles of funk, punk, soul and hip-hop. As such, the set was eclectic, but Negrito’s soul and spirit were the threads that stitched the tapestry together. His authenticity came not only from his musical creativity, but because his new-found identity came armed with a message and a meaning. Yes, his songs were laced with reflective insights on love and relationships, but he also sang about experiences and misfortunes with poverty, racism and societal disenfranchisement. His life passages informed and graced his blues with riveting passion. Negrito’s performance was a strong and revelatory bugle for our times.
Airbourne/Gramercy Theatre/October 12, 2016
In Warrnambool, a small Victorian country town on the southwestern coast of Australia, an 11-year-old Joel O’Keeffe was singing and learning to play guitar. Shortly afterwards, his younger brother, Ryan O’Keeffe, got his first drum kit. A few years later, Joel met David Roads when the two worked at a local hotel. The two brought their guitars to work and, after their shifts, jammed on song ideas. The O’Keeffe brothers invited Roads to join their rehearsals at their house. Adding a bassist, the quartet became the hard rocking Airbourne in 2003; Justin Street replaced the original bassist early on. In 2004 the four-piece won a statewide band competition in Melbourne, Australia. The band relocated to Melbourne in 2005, and to the United States in 2008. Airborne released its fourth studio album, Breakin’ Outta Hell, on September 23, 2016.
At the Gramercy Theatre, Airbourne stripped down their hard rock to its basic parts: a flashy, bare-chested, throaty vocalist, hardy party lyrics, and fist-pumping rock and roll anthems. What could go wrong? What could go wrong would be the obvious and inescapable comparisons to AC/DC. Airbourne’s music sounded all too close to that of their fellow Australians. Nevertheless, Airbourne’s sound also recalled other rocking bands like Thin Lizzy, Motörhead, Status Quo and another Australian band, Rose Tattoo. None of those bands were around tonight, so the audience enjoyed a formidable concert by a potent up-and-comer underdog, Airbourne. Airbourne took the stage with high energy fury and a good-time vibe, roaring through head-bangers with a sharp bite and a rock and roll fury. Fun? During the concert, Joel opened beer cans by repeatedly hitting them against his head. Towards the end of the performance, he played guitar on top of the bar in the center of the theater, then hopped down and poured himself a draft beer before returning to the stage. Both in sight and sound, Airbourne embodied a most compelling rock and roll spirit.
The Jacuzzi Boys/Max Fish/October 6, 2016
The Jacuzzi Boys formed in 2007 as a duo, guitarist/vocalist Gabriel Alcala and drummer Diego Monasterios, two Venezuelan-born youth who attended the same high school in Miami, Florida. They found that their first few live performances and home recordings were lacking, so they invited Cuban-American Danny Gonzales to join them on bass. The three musicians have given up their day jobs in the restaurant and flooring businesses and have hit the highway. The Jacuzzi Boys will release a fourth album, Ping Pong, on October 21, 2016.
Max Fish is a bar with no stage, so bands play in a hallway at the bottom of a staircase. Despite the lack of safe space, The Jacuzzi Boys’ garage punk set increasingly saw more and more listeners pogoing and slamming against one another. Honing a raw psychedelic acid rock sound similar to the 1960s’ Seeds and Leaves, The Jacuzzi Boys’ raucous live set induced kinetic abandon like a fast-spreading virus. Closing in on a microphone from behind a curtain of black hair, Alcala snarled cryptic lyrics and played a bright, stinging guitar to Gonzales’ deep bass grooves and Monasterios’ crashing drums. If they played more than three chords, those extra chords were unnecessary. Surprisingly, though the songs were intrinsically basic, the band was able to make each song sound fresh and unique. The Jacuzzi Boys is a band worth discovering.
Discharge/The Marlin Room At Webster Hall/October 14, 2016
Discharge formed as a hardcore punk band in 1977 in Stoke-on-Trent, England. By 1980, Discharge was among the British punk bands that began leaning more towards thrash metal, featuring more grinding and distorted guitar sounds and faster, heavier percussion. The stylistic transition made by these bands was a trend known as “UK 82” or Second Generation UK Hardcore. The punk genre of d-beat was named after Discharge’s distinctive drumbeat. This intense d-beat influenced the birth of thrash metal, black metal, crust punk, grindcore and various extreme metal subgenres. Over the years, the lineup in Discharge changed frequently, and the band went on hiatus at least twice. Discharge presently consists of vocalist Jeff “J.J.” Janiak, guitarists Anthony “Bones” Roberts and Terence “Tezz” Roberts, bassist Royston “Rainy” Wainwright and drummer David “Proper” Caution. Discharge’s seventh and most recent studio album, End of Days, was released on April 29, 2016.
Headlining at The Marlin Room At Webster Hall, Discharge continued to cross the genres of hardcore punk and speed metal. J.J. Janiak is the newest member of the band, joining in 2014, but he was the focal point for the band, pacing the stage incessantly while coarsely shouting the lyrics as the nearly steadfast musicians around him scorched their fingers and drumsticks at blinding speeds. Although impossible to decipher, Discharge made social statements in “Drunk with Power,” “Hatebomb,” “Fight Back,” “Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing,” “Protest and Survive” and “New World Order.” An angry, defiant anarchistic demeanor fed these songs, but it was the fast and ferocious brutal assault that defined the performance.