Metalfier/Irving Plaza/Dec. 14, 2017
A native of Rzeszów, Poland, Andrew Janda formed Metalfier in New York City in 2007 and soon after the band began playing the local club circuit. Numerous personnel changes have occurred, and currently Janda is the band’s sole remaining original member, with guitarist Christian Cos, bassist Reda Woodcock and drummer Ignacio Orellana. Metalfier released its second seven-song EP, Into the Unknown, on May 5, 2017.
Headlining at Irving Plaza, Metalfier recalled the 1980s, when hard rocking bands were outgrowing their blues roots and playing metal for the sake of metal alone. Metalfier showed little interest in more modern genres that often have hyphens in their descriptors. Janda squinted his eyes and crouched a bit into a low microphone stand as his gritty vocals were released from his gut. Metalfier’s original songs showcased Janda’s fluid guitar leads while the rhythm section played a tight back end. The band also performed a few covers, with Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law,” rallying the audience into chanting the chorus with Janda. There is an audience nostalgic for the simpler days of hard rock, and Metalfier may become the band to reunite these old-school metalheads.
Reverend Horton Heat/Irving Plaza/Dec. 15, 2017
Jim Heath was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, where in high school he played guitar in a cover band called Southern Comfort. A few years later, he dove into a full time music career when he joined a touring cover band called Sweetbriar. His musical approach changed upon seeing New York psychobilly band the Cramps and the Los Angeles roots-rock band the Blasters perform in Dallas. Heath and his wife had a child, and Heath temporarily became a sound technician at music clubs rather than a performer, but in 1985 he was inspired to form a psychobilly roots-rock band he called Reverend Horton Heat. The band’s eleventh and most recent studio album in 2014’s REV. Reverend Horton Heat presently consists of Heath, bassist Jimbo Wallace and new drummer Arjuna “RJ” Contreras; the core trio is frequently augmented by keyboardist Tim Alexander.
Reverend Horton Heat brought its Holiday Hayride to Irving Plaza on a snowy night. The evening began with a 60-minute set by the Blasters, and concluded with Reverend Horton Heat performing a two-hour set. The Holiday Hayride show was Christmas-themed, and so it started with an instrumental surf-rock version of “We Three Kings,” and in short time also included a Gene Autry-styled cover of “Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolf Run” and a mashup of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and the Batman theme. For the final 40 minutes or so, Reverend Horton Heat backed Robert “Big Sandy” Williams of California’s western swing and country boogie band Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys. Throughout the set, Reverend Horton Heat used rockabilly as a platform to mix elements of country, surf, punk, and big band swing into loud, fast and furious songs with often-humorous lyrics. Between songs, Heath similarly shared humorous anecdotes, including a tale about the time Reverend Horton Heat jammed with the late Lemmy Kilmister before dedicating the next song to him, a show-closing cover of Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades.” Big Sandy rejoined the band for the two-song encore. Reverend Horton Heat stayed true to its high-energy roots-rock traditions, but the few outside ventures, like “Ace of Spades,” made the hayride even more fun.
Steve Conte/The Bowery Electric/Dec. 16, 2017
Steve Conte was born in New York City to a musical family (his mother, Rosemary Conte, is a New Jersey jazz singer) and began playing drums at age seven. At 10 years old, he started composing songs on his brother John Conte’s guitar. One year later the Conte brothers recorded their first “album” in the family living room with Steve writing the songs, singing, playing guitar and drums, and “producing.” Throughout his school years, Conte played guitar at church “folk” masses, teen dances and school variety shows, and more professionally backed his mom in Jersey Shore venues. During his college years, he and his bass playing brother formed a jazz-rock band, Conte Brothers Fusion. Upon graduation he moved back to New York City and toured in Blood, Sweat and Tears. He later became a session musician and played in many local bands, many with his brother. Perhaps his highest profile gigs were with Paul Simon, the New York Dolls and Michael Monroe. Conte’s most recent album, International Cover-Up, released on June 9, 2016, is a collection of cover songs.
Steve Conte loves to play guitar, so his local gigs are frequent, often at the Bowery Electric. Backed tonight by a bassist and a drummer, Conte sang some of his favorite originals and several covers. Originals like “Junk Planet,” “Gypsy Cab” and “OK DJ” often wind up in his live set, but the covers (a rocking version of Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz,” Tom Waits’ “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up,” Chuck Berry’s “Little Queenie,” Fleetwood Mac’s ” Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonite,” and the Rolling Stones’ “Happy”) were more revealing in that they acknowledged the sources of his inspiration. Conte played stinging leads like those found in 1970s classic rock, but they are not nostalgic. His leads were new and fresh, and they sizzled and smoked from the first song to the last. Conte’s set was a timeless rock and roll nugget.
Next up, Steve Conte & Blues Deluxe will pay tribute to Rod Stewart & the Faces by playing Stewart’s entire Every Picture Tells a Story album at the Highline Ballroom on January 20, 2018.
Los Lobos/City Winery/Dec. 18, 2017
David Hidalgo (vocals, guitar, accordion, fiddle, requinto jarocho) and Louie Pérez (vocals, guitar, drums, jarana huasteca) met while in high school in East Los Angeles, and began jamming together in 1973. They enlisted fellow students and formed a band called Los Lobos del Este (de Los Angeles) [“The Wolves of the East (of Los Angeles)”]; the name was quickly shortened to Los Lobos. Cesar Rosas (vocals, guitar, bajo sexto) and Conrad Lozano (vocals, bass, guitarron) joined early, and Steve Berlin (keyboards, woodwinds) and Enrique González (drums, percussion) later completed the present lineup. Performing at hundreds of weddings and dances between 1974 and 1980, the band mixed pop and rock with the traditional Mexican music most of the members heard as children. Los Lobos achieved national and international success when the band recorded several Ritchie Valens covers for the soundtrack of the film La Bamba; the title track became a number one single for the band. Los Lobos has won three Grammy Awards. The band’s sixteenth and most recent studio album is 2015’s Gates of Gold.
Returning to City Winery for a three-night run, Los Lobos performed a signature mix of rock and roll, Tex-Mex, country, zydeco, folk, blues, brown-eyed soul, and traditional Latin American music including cumbia, boleros and norteños. Los Lobos was a lively band, mixing bouncy originals with up-tempo covers, crossing the border a few times for songs in Spanish. While many songs hearkened back to classic good time rock ‘n’ roll, others featured charango, accordion and maracas for a more authentic Mexican sound. Simply put, Los Lobos lit the party spirit with its exuberant take on American and Mexican roots music, and as if one set was not enough, the band came back for a second set of fun-tastic rockers.