Everynight Charley’s Manhattan Beat: July 19 – July 25

Scale The Summit/Gramercy Theatre/July 19, 2014

While studying music in Los Angeles, California, two guitarists from Houston, Texas, Chris Letchford and Travis Levrier, noticed Pat Skeffington wearing a Between The Buried And Me t-shirt with drumsticks protruding from his backpack, and found a bassist through a classified ad. Calling themselves Scale The Summit, the band relocated back to Houston and in 2012 recruited Mark Michell as the current drummer. At the Gramercy Theatre, Scale The Summit performed a full set of instrumental music accompanied by a video backdrop that introduced the title of each composition and then looped moving images related to the title. Each member of the front line had extra strings on their instrument; the guitarists played seven strings and the bassist six. The band’s soundscapes balanced intricate layers of shredding and melodic atmospheric pieces into a sonic harmony. Chugging “djent” guitar riffs led to clean jazz and classical-inspired movements, blending virtuosity with tastefulness. Letchford liberally peppered his trademark, fleet-fingered “tapping” style on the neck of his unusually-shaped guitar. The band’s musicianship was riveting.

Michael Franti & Spearhead/Pier 97/July 21, 2014

While attending the University of San Francisco, a priest taught Michael Franti how to tell a story on paper, and soon the student was writing poetry and creating music inspired by the hip-hop, punk, and reggae that was being played on the campus radio station. Franti in 1994 formed Spearhead as a vehicle for his music. At Pier 97, Franti sang hope-filled songs about love and peace while leading his band into a light, bouncy pop mix that blended rock, classic soul, hip-hop, funk, reggae, jazz, folk, reggae, dancehall, bossa nova and Afrobeat—virtually anything that had a happy rhythm. Whether accompanied by a solo acoustic guitar or with the entire band plus guests, the songs encouraged sing-alongs, and Franti extended choruses often to allow the audience to feel and feed the vibe. Franti sang several songs from the audience pit and throughout the show asked for participation through clapping, waving or singing. The good-time show seemed to balance two dimensions; it seemed to have deep social meaning and was also an exciting channel of entertainment.

Sarah McLachlan/Beacon Theatre/July 22, 2014

As a child in Canada, Sarah McLachlan studied voice, classical piano and guitar before moving to Vancouver as a recording artist in 1988. Since then, McLachlan has sold over 40 million albums worldwide, and has won eight Juno and three Grammy Awards. At the Beacon Theatre, McLachlan moved from acoustic guitar to piano to electric guitar, sometimes standing before the microphone with no instruments, singing soft, emotional ballads in mezzo-soprano vocal range. The charm of her music was that there seemed to be no deliberate attempt at commercialism; her vulnerable lyrics often were built on personal dilemma, the compositions were not structured to emphasize a catchy chorus, and her vocal range was not capitalized by spotlights. Twice during the concert, McLachlan randomly fielded written questions from her audience by drawing them out of a top hat, and then invited social media contest winners to chat with her on a couch by the side of the stage. The evening was so homey that by the end of her two-and-a-half-hour concert, it seemed McLachlan had tucked her audience into bed.

Veruca Salt/The Bowery Ballroom/July 24, 2014

A mutual friend in Chicago introduced Louise Post and Nina Gordon, and the two singer/guitarists began writing songs and playing music together. A year and a half later, in 1993, Gordon’s brother, drummer Jim Shapiro, and bassist Steve Lack filled out the alternative rock quartet Veruca Salt. The band achieved success with its first two albums. Post and Gordon then had a still-undisclosed dispute in 1998, resulting in Gordon leaving the group to pursue a solo career. Post kept the name of the band, even as further personnel changes left her as the sole original member. The catalyst again is unknown to the public, but after 15 years apart, the original band members reunited in 2013. Post and Gordon walked on stage (and similarly left the stage) holding hands at the Bowery Ballroom, signifying that a rift was mended. The original Veruca Salt was all harmonies again. Veruca Salt carried the old sound faithfully through 22 songs. The band rocked hard, but the nut was not in Post and Gordon’s sporadic guitar solos; it was in their engaging vocals and the pleasant melodies. Veruca Salt did not move very far from home base. If you liked Veruca Salt in the 1990s, the band tonight was simply picking up where it left off.

Delbert McClinton/B.B. King Blues Club & Grill/July 25, 2014

Delbert McClinton’s first band in Fort Worth, Texas, The Straitjackets, backed Sonny Boy Williamson II, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Jimmy Reed at local roadhouses. McClinton enjoyed a hit single, “Givin’ It Up For Your Love,” in 1980, won three Grammy Awards, and was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame. McClinton underwent emergency heart bypass surgery in April, but performing a two-and-a-half-hour set only three months later at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, the 73-year-old singer and harmonica player was in superb form. Now more than three decades after his biggest hit, it hardly mattered what songs he sang; his rich Texas gumbo of hot electric blues, rousing honky-tonk country and smooth blue-eyed soul made every song enjoyable. Even when his yearning timbre seemed to be stretching to hit high notes, this made his drawling melodies sound even more soulful. Then he added more blues effect with his wailing harmonica as the band pumped a swaggering rhythm sprinkled with red Texas dust. Although the tables were pressed close together, audience members often were moved to stand and dance at their seats. McClinton has played more or less the same kind of nascent roots music for 50 years and it still sounded contemporary and celebratory.