Between the Buried and Me/The PlayStation Theater/April 4, 2018
Tommy Rogers and Paul Waggoner had already worked together in metalcore bands Prayer for Cleansing and Undying when they formed progressive metal band Between the Buried and Me in 2000 in Raleigh, North Carolina. They chose the name Between the Buried and Me from a lyric in the Counting Crows song “Ghost Train.” Between the Buried and Me presently consists of Rogers (lead vocals, keyboards), Waggoner (lead guitar, backing vocals), Dustie Waring (rhythm guitar), Dan Briggs (bass, keyboards), and Blake Richardson (drums). Between the Buried and Me’s eighth and most recent studio album, Automata I, was released March 9, 2018; Automata is a two-part album, with a supplement extended play to be released at a future date.
Between the Buried and Me brought its progressive metal, technical death metal, progressive metalcore, and mathcore to the PlayStation Theater, often sounding thunderous for a few minutes before relaxing into a more cinematic soundscape. The band’s current album is a concept piece which takes place in a not so distant future when dreams are sold as entertainment for the masses. While the concert did not revolve around that story arc, the band’s complex performance often felt just as mysterious, cerebral and ominous. Rogers alternated death growls and screams with peaceful clean singing, sometimes reaching for falsetto against thick guitar riffs that were later diffused with smoother keyboard and synthesizer sounds. On many occasions, the music mellowed out for a pop-like melody, but was followed by seemingly chaotic noise. It was a complex mix, where all musical efforts were allowed as long as they ultimately hit like a truck.
Richard Lloyd/The Bowery Electric/April 6, 2018
Born in Pittsburgh, Pa., Richard Lloyd moved with his family to New York City when he was six. Lloyd turned onto music as a young teenager when he saw the Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show and experienced the phenomenon of Beatlemania. In his early teens he studied drums and a few years later he turned to the guitar. In 1969, Lloyd briefly moved with his parents to Montclair, NJ, but then in search of a music career relocated for two years to Boston, Massachusetts, followed by two years in Los Angeles. In 1973, he heard about the New York Dolls and the beginning of a new New York scene, so he moved back east. There he met guitarist Tom Miller, who became Tom Verlaine, and bassist Richard Meyers, who became Richard Hell, and with the addition of drummer Billy Ficca the quartet became Television in 1973. The group became popular at CBGBs and recorded two studio albums, but split in 1978. Lloyd subsequently recorded solo and with Matthew Sweet, John Doe of X, Rocket from the Tombs and others. Lloyd’s sixth and most recent studio album is 2016’s Rosedale. He now lives in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Lloyd returned to the Bowery Electric with a band that consisted of guitarist David Lennard, bassist Tom Currier and drummer Kevin Tooley. Lloyd performed four of Television’s best-known songs, but the twist this time was that instead of engaging in guitar duals he played all the lead parts himself. Hence, the oblong and obtuse extensions that trademarked Television were all but gone. Instead, Lloyd played the no-compromise guitar solos like a rock star. The set also included songs from several of his early solo albums, much of which were of the same flavor as his previous work. In the end, Lloyd will not be remembered for his faltering vocals, but his fluid guitar playing lifted the songs to outstanding merit.
Richard Lloyd will perform at the free, outdoor Arts and Music Festival in Hoboken, NJ, on May 6.
Amy Helm/Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2/April 10, 2018
Amy Helm, the daughter of singer/songwriter Libby Titus and drummer Levon Helm of the Band, was born in Woodstock, NY, and started singing rhythm and blues and hip hop with her friends in a group called the Chilly Winds while attending school in Manhattan. By age 17, she started listening to her father’s music and absorbed his taste for vintage American music like blues and gospel. In 1993, she began a professional career singing backing vocals for her stepfather, Donald Fagen, and his reunited Steely Dan. In 2002, Amy teamed up with several New York roots musicians to form the group Ollabelle, which fused bluegrass, gospel and other roots music. She also began singing at her father’s monthly Woodstock jams, known as the Midnight Rambles, and as part of his road band. After her father’s death in 2012, she continued to host concerts at his barn, and began working with a new band, Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers. Her one album as a solo artist is 2015’s Didn’t It Rain.
Amy Helm performs in New York City frequently, seemingly with a different collective of musicians each time. Her concert at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2, the first of three consecutive Tuesday nights there and part of her second annual Woodshed Residency Tour, featured guitarist Tash Neal of the London Souls, Woodstock-based guitarist/keyboardist Connor Kennedy, bassist Jeff Hill of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, and Brooklyn-based drummer Yuval Lion. Her set consisted of pretty much the same songs she performs regularly, including “Didn’t it Rain” and “Rescue Me” from her album plus covers of Mary Gauthier‘s “Gentling Me,” Allen Toussaint‘s “Yes We Can Can,” and the Milk Carton Kids‘ “Michigan.” Helm’s stellar, bluesy vocals steadfastly remained the aural heartbeat of the performance, but she encouraged her musicians to rave, and Neal and Kennedy especially jammed extensively on their instruments. The band went all out on the traditional blues song “I Know You Rider.” Helm invited guitarist Eric Krasno of Soulive to join the band for a few jams towards the end of the set. Perhaps all this is among the beauties of Helm’s down-home concerts; her heartfelt vocals rule, but she allows each of her musicians to tailor the arrangements of the songs so they never sound exactly the same. The result is always solid, grooving, American roots-influenced music.
The Big Pink/Baby’s All Right, Brooklyn/April 11, 2018
Robertson “Robbie” Furze was named by his music-loving parents after Robbie Robertson of the Band. Furze played guitar for Alec Empire, but in 2007 formed the Big Pink, named after a Band album, as an electronic duo with Milo Cordell. Based in London, the duo recorded two award-winning albums, but then in 2013 Cordell left the band and moved to New York permanently in order to focus on his label Merok Records. After several personnel changes, the Big Pink now consists of Furze, bassist Nicole Emery and drummer Bradford Lee Conroy. The band will release its third full-length record this year.
The changes in membership have left a musical dent on the Big Pink. The song catalogue as performed at Baby’s All Right could no longer be described as electronic or industrial rock; the stripped-down guitar-bass-drums performance would be closer to a form of alternative rock. Although the more edgy, experimental side of past lives was missing, the band still often dwelled on its principal attribute, a bombastic wall of sound tempered with light vocals. Periodically these songs would be hoisted by big hooks, while other songs were driven by more hypnotic grooves. The best compositions matched Emery’s ethereal vocals with Furze’s earthier vocals. The Big Pink is a very promising act; reinvention can be risky but in this case it seemed like a new chapter is still being written.