Coco Montoya/B.B. King Blues Club & Grill/April 18, 2017
Coco Montoya, born Henry Montoya in Santa Monica, California, began playing drums at age 11 and guitar at age 13. As a young adult, he played drums in local bands until he was recruited into Albert Collins’ blues band in the mid-1970s. Over the course of five years, Collins taught Montoya his “icy hot” guitar style, and Montoya gradually began doubling on both drums and guitar. Beginning in the early 1980s, Montoya played guitar in John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers for 10 years, then played in the Cate Brothers briefly before going solo in 1993. Montoya’s eighth and most current solo album, Hard Truth, was released on March 24, 2017. Presently, Montoya is based in San Fernando Valley, California.
At B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, a left-handed guitarist played a curious left-handed guitar that had a right handed neck, meaning the strings were upside down. Coco Montoya knew where to place his fingers nonetheless as he wailed through lick after lick with seamless ease. He is a child of the 1970s hard-edged blues-rock scene, and so his songs were rife with soulful vocals and smooth melodies that faded into blistering guitar solos that were unmistakably blues-rooted. Backed by a keyboardist, bassist and drummer, Montoya steered clear of feedback and fuzz to bring out the sweet notes that a simple electric guitar can produce, then twisted, squeezed and vibrated the notes for added passion and grace. While the overall style sounded like a blues of yesteryear, Montoya’s powerhouse guitar work would be smoking in any era.
Sheryl Crow/Bowery Ballroom/April 19, 2017
Born in Kennett, Missouri, Sheryl Crow attended university in nearby Columbia and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in music composition, performance, and education. While at the university, she sang in a local band, Cashmere, and after graduating worked as a music teacher at an elementary school in Fenton, Missouri. Teaching during the day granted her the opportunity to sing in bands on the weekends and record advertising jingles. After years of singing backup and writing songs for others, her debut album won three Grammy Awards in 1995 and sold more than seven million copies. Crow’s ninth and most recent studio album, Be Myself, was released on April 21, 2017. Crow currently lives on farmland near Nashville, Tennessee.
Perhaps as a warm-up to a tour of much larger venues, Sheryl Crow performed a two-and-a-half-hour set at the Bowery Ballroom. The lengthy show allowed her to introduce a few new songs and play all the hits. The concert began with “Every Day Is a Winding Road,” with Crow on acoustic guitar and crystal clear vocals while the band played a driving rock; Crow spent more time dancing than strumming on this energetic opener. Crow later rocked the bass and eventually the keyboards. For the most part, Crow eschewed her recent country music excursion for her signature energetic pop rock that was nevertheless tinged often with country melodies and hooks. Even the uninformed in the audience knew which songs were the hits; those were the songs with the very repetitive choruses that the audience chanted with her. The live arrangements were largely up-tempo, all propelled by crisp and fluid guitar leads and an undercurrent of honky-tonk piano. Ever personable, Crow chatted with the audience and offered anecdotes for many songs, particularly her newer songs. All in all, Crow performed a highly enjoyable concert that gave the fans everything they wanted.
Twin Forks/Bowery Ballroom/April 22, 2017
Chris Carrabba was born in West Hartford, Connecticut, and lived there until age 16, when he moved with his divorced mother to Boca Raton, Florida. As a teenager, Carrabba sang in his high school choir, played the guitar his uncle gave him, and recorded his first solo album for the enjoyment of his family and friends. After graduating from high school, Carrabba joined his first band, the Vacant Andys, and later, the Agency. While working as a special education teacher at an elementary school in 1998, he joined the group Further Seems Forever in Pompano Beach, Florida, and in 1999 started Dashboard Confessional as a side project. With both bands on hiatus in 2011, Carraba formed Twin Forks in Boca Raton, Florida; the band is currently based out of Nashville, Tennessee. Twin Forks’ current members are Carrabba on vocals and guitar, Sara Ellen on vocals, Kelsie Baron on vocals and mandolin, Jonathan Clark on bass and Shawn Zorn on drums. Twin Forks released a self-titled EP in 2013 and a self-titled album in 2014.
Headlining at the Bowery Ballroom, Twin Forks brought a pop-flavored Americana that fell somewhere between the Lumineers and Johnnyswim. The music felt like it was back-porch home spun, yet built up to catchy choruses so often that the set more readily might be flagged as commercial pop music. The band spun classic folk and country ingredients beyond their heritage into breezy, playful diddies that easily put a swing in one’s hips. Typically, Carrabba soulfully sang alone the verses that escalated quickly to twinned male-female harmonies, where the inevitable punch was landed. Most of the set consisted of original songs, but these were interspersed with covers, notably Talking Heads’ “And She Was,” which Twin Forks refashioned into its own identity. Slick as it was, Twin Forks’ performance successfully married with integrity its fireside folk roots with mainstream sounds.
Faster Pussycat/The Bowery Electric/April 25, 2017
Taime Downe, born Gustave Molvik, grew up in Seattle, Washington, and in high school he formed a band named the Bondage Boys. He later relocated to San Diego, California, then Los Angeles, where he worked in a Hollywood clothing store and ran the stage lights at the Troubadour. In 1985 he formed Faster Pussycat in Los Angeles, California. The name of the band was derived from the film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. After three albums, the band split in 1993. Downe then teamed with the industrial band Pigface before forming his own industrial rock act called the Newlydeads. In 2001 Downe reformed Faster Pussycat with some of his former bandmates, but in 2006, three former original Faster Pussycat members also began performing under the name Faster Pussycat, creating two versions of the band, both claiming to be the original. A year later, the second band dissolved. Downe is the only remaining original band member; Faster Pussycat presently consists of Downe on vocals, Xristian Simon and Ace Von Johnson on guitars, Danny Nordal on bass and Chad Stewart on drums. Faster Pussycat’s fourth and most recent studio album is 2006’s The Power and the Glory Hole.
Back in its early days, Faster Pussycat symbolized the excesses of the Hollywood rock scene. The band appeared tamer tonight at The Bowery Electric, with Downe simply holding an unlit cigarette between his fingers throughout the show. From the first song, sexual innuendos established the temperature and riff-cracking rock and roll heightened the heat. The band honed its ragged edge with clear guitar leads, fuzz-infused chord changes, and a steady back beat, but it was Downe’s scratchy vocals that led the charge. A bad-boy attitude projected from the stage, as Downe and the gang convincingly revisited the down and dirty spirit of the decadent 1980s. For just a little while there was a taste of 1987 in the air.