Daddy Long Legs is a blues trio based out of Brooklyn, New York; Daddy Long Legs is also the name of this band’s tall vocalist and harmonica player. Legs moved from his native St. Louis, Missouri, to Brooklyn, New York, and learned to play the harmonica like an old blues master. He first collaborated with guitarist Murat Aktürk (from Ankara, Turkey) and stomped the beat, but later the duo recruited New York drummer Josh Styles. Opening for Black Oak Arkansas at The Bowery Electric, Legs was a tall, imposing figure with bushy hair all over the stage as he threw himself into his howling harmonica and sang into a foggy-sounding vintage microphone. Aktürk similarly threw himself into slide and country blues guitar, and Styles played a simple drum kit with no cymbals, using a maraca in his right hand and some short of stick in his left. They had no bassist to hold down the bottom. The result was crude, harsh, punky, electrifying, stomping, blues-bellowing, soulful rock.
Black Oak Arkansas/The Bowery Electric/June 29, 2014
Black Oak Arkansas formed in 1963 by a group of friends who attended high school in Black Oak, Arkansas. Early on, the musicians recruited raspy-throated James “Jim Dandy” Mangrum to sing their raw blend of Southern rock, gospel, country and blues. The band charted 10 albums in the 1970s but was best known for its live shows. At The Bowery Electric, the band played ragged rock and Mangrum kept the audience smiling with his unusual vocal style, his between-song chatter and his musical instrument of choice, the scrub board. Once the band’s crotch-packed blond dynamo, Magnum is now a pot-bellied senior citizen; this made his many sexual double-entendres and other on-stage antics even more amusing. Black Oak Arkansas performed “Hot and Nasty,” “Lord Have Mercy On My Soul” and “Uncle Lijiah” from the band’s 1971 self-titled debut album. Mangrum introduced another staple, “Hot Rod,” as a song that was “not about cars.” The band performed blues and country flavored songs from its latest album, and closed with its signature remake of LaVern Baker’s 1957 hit, “Jim Dandy.” More than 50 years after the band started hollering, Black Oak Arkansas are still a hoot.
Seb Leon & The Flâneurs/Chez Andre/June 30, 2014
Sebastien Leon Agneessens is a New York-based artist from Orleans, France. For his day job, museums and fashion houses commission him for multimedia installations. In the evenings, however, Leon moonlights as the leader of a jazz-pop band, Seb Leon & The Flâneurs. “Flâneur” in French identifies a person who is a stroller, a lounger, or a loafer; it is the person of leisure or the idler. The name was appropriate for Leon’s performance at Chez Andre in The Standard Hotel, East Village. Leon played guitar with a small band, singing songs in French and English, including a bare interpretation of The Moody Blues’ “Knights In White Satin.” The softly meandering music also played as a gentle backdrop for several guests who came on stage to sing a few songs or recite poetry.
Southside Johnny & G.E. Smith/The Standard Hotel, East Village/July 1, 2014
Southside Johnny of Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes occasionally teams with G.E. Smith, former lead guitarist for Hall & Oates, Bob Dylan and Roger Waters and the musical director of Saturday Night Live for 10 years. In a living-room-sized glass-enclosed penthouse with a near-dusk view of the lower Manhattan skyline behind them, Johnny sang and Smith played acoustic guitar without a setlist, deciding what songs to perform as they went along. In a departure from the music they normally play for large audiences, they instead sang obscure country and blues covers to an audience of less than 100 invited guests. They spontaneously invited singer-songwriter David Broza to play acoustic guitar with them for most of the set. Johnny sang and played harmonicas well, and Smith and Broza improvised beautifully on their guitars, so the impromptu half-hour jam turned out to be a delight for the chosen few who attended.
Seether/Gramercy Theatre/July 1, 2014
Seether formed in 1999 in Pretoria, South Africa, under the name Saron Gas and was renamed Seether in 2002. Seether amassed 11 number one singles and 17 top five multi-format hits. The now Los Angeles-based band last performed at the Gramercy Theatre in 2011 and tonight’s set was very similar, in that the show was a greatest hits package with the addition of five new songs. Seether opened tonight’s set with a new slow-building but forceful Nirvana-esque song, “See You At The Bottom,” but immediately followed with “Gasoline” and “Fine Again” from the band’s debut album. Hardly a word was spoken to the audience; Seether instead played 14 songs in a workmanlike 80 minutes, and the space between songs was sometimes filled with metal riffs on loop. Vocalist/guitarist Shaun Morgan alternated between smooth and raw singing while the band married crashing grunge to melodic metal so slickly that it sounded mainstream. New songs “My Disaster,” “Crash” and “Save Today” sounded like they could have been vintage Seether, while “Rise Above This,” “Tonight,” “Country Song,” “Fake It” and “Remedy” were indeed vintage Seether. Seether had the formula; they blended pop and noise into melodic, commercial rock.
Threats/The Bowery Electric/July 1, 2014
Threats guitarist Jack Ridley and bassist Matt Hitt play in a more popular local band, Drowners, except that they switch musical roles in that band. Drummer Paulo Dell’Olio fills out Threats. At The Bowery Electric, Threats at first sounded like many other power punk trios, long on angry vocals, speedy rhythms and bad attitude. Then the songs began to feature progressive shifts of time signatures and surf rock guitar leads. Ridley was all over the stage, even on the floor, and in the audience. Between songs, hard-pounding Dell’Olio huffed deeply to catch his breath. Threats were not just another local punk band after all, but a very interesting punk band, worth catching again.
Rumble & Twang/City Winery/July 3, 2014
Rumble & Twang are an all-star rockabilly band comprised of guitarist/pianist Jimmy Vivino (music director of Conan O’Brien’s television house band), bassist Lee Rocker (formerly of the Stray Cats) and drummer Anton Fig (from David Letterman’s television house band). At City Winery, the core trio of Rumble & Twang invited rockabilly guitarist Buzz Campbell and blues harmonica player Felix Cabrera on stage for most of the set. All of these seasoned musicians played extraordinarily well, and Vivino and Rocker alternated vocals on covers of songs originally recorded by The Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis and many other pioneers of country rock. Did the band play any new songs? If there were any new songs, they sounded like old songs.