Palmyra Delran/The Bowery Electric/December 30, 2016
Palmyra Delran was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and later moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she played drums in Das Yahoos until the band split in 1988, and then in Pink Slip Daddy until 1993. In 1991, Delran formed the Friggs, playing pop, rock, surf and punk until 2001. In the early 2000s, Delran played drums in the Booty Olympics, who later became Santa Marias. Switching to electric guitar, Delran began recording under her own name in 2008. Listeners of Little Steven’s Underground Garage voted her song “Baby Should Have Known Better” as The Coolest Song in the World for the year 2008. Delran’s sole solo album is 2013’s You Are What You Absorb. She is now based in New York City.
Opening for The Dictators NYC at The Bowery Electric, Delran led a quartet in a set that blended easy, breezy 1960s pop melodies and 1990s Riot Grrrl guitar-centered rock. Packing more cutting guitar power than on her recordings, Delran heightened the sweet, bright melodies even while the band revved up the rocking impact. The result was clean and smooth pop punk, elevating her music one level above the garage.
The Dictators NYC/The Bowery Electric/December 30, 2016
The Dictators formed in New York City in 1973 in the shadow of hammering Detroit-styled rock and roll bands like MC5 and The Stooges. In short time, the band’s roadie and occasional singer, Richard “Handsome Dick Manitoba” Blum, was given a more prominent role and became the proto-punk band’s iconic front person. The band experienced breakups and several significant personnel changes, and now the renamed Dictators NYC consists of Manitoba, original guitarist Ross “The Boss” Friedman (aka Ross Funicello), guitarist Daniel Ray (formerly of Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom), bassist Dean Rispler, and drummer JP “Thunderbolt” Patterson (formerly of Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom).
The Dictators NYC has not recorded music, but in concert revisits the catalogue of the earlier band. At The Bowery Electric, The Dictators NYC performed The Dictators’ entire third album, 1978’s Bloodbrothers, plus additional songs from The Dictators catalog. Two nights earlier, The Dictators NYC recreated The Dictators’ 1975 debut, Go Girl Crazy, at Berlin. As such, these shows required the new band to learn songs that had not been played live by any band in decades. Fortunately, neither The Dictators nor The Dictators NYC are known for precision. Tonight’s concert started with the nine songs from Bloodbrothers and concluded with five songs from the band’s regular set. Manitoba introduced most of the songs with a humorous anecdote or a loose cannon rambling. Led by Manitoba’s wry personality and able musicianship from the rest of the band, The Dictators put on a show that both rocked and generated laughs. That is what the audience gets at a Dictators NYC show, and that is good.
Phish/Madison Square Garden/December 31, 2016
Guitarists Trey Anastasio and Jeff Holdsworth, bassist Mike Gordon, and drummer Jon Fishman formed Blackwood Convention in 1981 while attending university in Burlington, Vermont. Blackwood Convention became Phish, keyboardist Page McConnell joined in 1985, and Holdsworth left after graduating in 1986, solidifying the band’s present lineup. Phish built a following among Grateful Dead fans and surged in popularity after the death of the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia in 1995. Phish went on hiatus in 2000, regrouped in 2002, split again in 2004, and reunited in 2009. The band has sold over eight million albums and DVDs in the United States. Phish’s 16th and most recent studio album, Big Boat, was released on October 7, 2016.
Phish once again headlined a series of year-end concerts at Madison Square Garden, and ended again with a grand spectacle. The band opened standing together center stage and singing a cappella barbershop quartet-style harmony on a cover of Fraternity Of Man’s 1968 song “Don’t Bogart Me” (also known as Little Feat’s 1997 “Don’t Bogart That Joint”). From there, the concert turned into one long electric jam party, with Phish performing three sets instead of the usual two. The music was all over the genre spectrum, crossing hard rock, progressive rock, psychedelic rock, folk, country, jazz, blues, bluegrass, funk, reggae and pop, as one song melted into another. Improvisations ruled, some worked within epic multi-faceted suites. The third set and encore saw the band temporarily enlarged with the Trey Band horns, featuring Natalie Cressman on trombone and vocals, Jennifer Hartswick on trumpet and vocals, and James Casey on saxophone, along with Jeff Tanski on keyboards and Andres Forero on percussion.
The visual spectacle began 20 minutes before midnight. As Phish returned to the stage for a third set, the quartet launched into an immaculately calculated “Petrichor,” which eventually formed a medley with a midnight “Auld Lang Syne” and a horn-centric “Suzy Greenberg.” As the band played, some 20 masked and suited choreographed dancers at the edge of the stage danced and juggled with umbrellas under a simulated rainstorm. The dancers then filed off stage and suspended umbrellas danced to Phish’s music. Finally, at midnight, to “Auld Lang Syne,” a massive balloon and confetti drop, including globe balloons, three-foot inflated animals and foam raindrops, covered the stage and audience about five feet deep in some spots. The band played several more songs and concluded with an encore of the Rolling Stones “Loving Cup.” Just wow!
Joseph Arthur/City Winery/January 1, 2017
Joseph Arthur began writing and playing music in his early teens in Akron, Ohio, after inheriting an electronic keyboard from his aunt. At age 16, he played bass in a blues band called Frankie Starr & The Chill Factor. Days after his high school graduation in the early 1990s, Arthur relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, working by day as a guitar salesman, performing at night at local music clubs, and recording home demos whenever possible. Peter Gabriel heard Arthur’s debut EP, signed Arthur to Gabriel’s record company and released Arthur’s debut album in 1997. Arthur led a band, the Lonely Astronauts, in 2006, and joined Ben Harper and Dhani Harrison in the trio Fistful Of Mercy in 2010. None of these projects gained Arthur any significant commercial success. Arthur has since gone completely solo, accompanying himself in concert on guitar and piano and backing himself with looping techniques. Arthur released his 14th solo album, The Family, on June 3, 2016. He is based in Brooklyn, New York.
Joseph Arthur performed his seventh annual New Year’s Night gig at City Winery. Much like previous years, he performed as a one-man band, thanks to an array of foot pedals and other effects. Many of his songs were stripped down to just vocals and guitar or piano, but other compositions saw him looping vocals, guitar lines and guitar-slap percussion so that he could layer or harmonize with himself. The effect was fascinating, but only succeeded because his slurring vocals, poetic lyrics and fluid melodies were pleasingly solid. His set included covers of George Michael’s “Freedom” and Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows,” both of which Arthur pre-arranged and then played on his smart phone as he sang along. As usual, he also drew and painted a simple painting on a canvas while he sang a song. Joseph Arthur demonstrated his impressively imaginative and creative artistry with a multimedia palette.