Biohazard was one of the earliest bands to fuse hardcore punk and heavy metal with elements of hip-hop and controversial social and political commentary. After more than 25 years of heavy-bottomed punk metal, Biohazard maintained its legacy with a pit-bull bite tonight at a long-awaited hometown gig. Utilizing the entire width of the large stage, the three front men ran, jumped and bounced as they opened with “Shades Of Grey” from the 1992 Urban Discipline album. This was followed by more high-energy manifestos in “What Makes Us Tick” from the 1994 State Of The World Address album, then the title-track from Urban Discipline. The explosive eruption of Biohazard’s scorching music remained clean and clear throughout the blistering set. Biohazard performed its 17 angriest songs, and all but one were from the band’s first three albums, covering 1990 to 1994. The sole exception was featured smack in the middle of the set, “Vengeance Is Mine,” from 2012’s Reborn In Defiance album. Tonight’s show indicated that the band could be massive if it resumed its former write-record-tour ethic.
X/City Winery/August 22, 2014
Los Angeles-based bassist John Doe met guitarist Billy Zoom through a classified ad and Exene Cervenka, a newly-relocated Floridian, at a poetry reading in Venice Beach. Doe recruited drummer D.J. Bonebrake from a band called the Eyes. X was formed by 1977. The band recorded seven studio albums but went on hiatus in the 1990s and reunited in the early 2000s. X returned to New York this week for four nights, each night dedicated to performing the entirety of one of the band’s first four albums. Tonight was the second night, and X performed its second album, Wild Gift. Cervenka and Doe’s individual vocals were rather ordinary, but together their slightly off-kilter signature harmonies still splendidly recalled a raw version of Jefferson Airplane’s Marty Balin and Grace Slick. Zoom played stingingly clear and crisp rockabilly guitar leads and Bonebrake hit the drum beat hard. After performing nitro-powered versions of the 13 songs from Wild Gift, X mixed songs from its other three early albums. The evening was a live retrospective of what made X a great band, with 28 archival X songs played loud and fast. Hopefully the success of this series will inspire the band to write and record new songs.
The Planets/Arlene’s Grocery/August 26, 2014
Soon after graduating high school in 1971, Brooklyn native Binky Philips formed a band called The Planets and played all of New York’s rock circuit. While earning a meager living working a day job at a record store in the East Village, his nights were dedicated to The Planets, opening shows for up-and-coming bands like the New York Dolls, KISS, the Ramones and Blondie. Philips folded The Planets in the 1990s but recently started performing again. At Arlene’s Grocery, it was obvious that Philips still listens to The Who’s Live At Leeds album. In the 1970s and 1980s, The Who was an inspiration for many local bands, but in the 21st century, this influence is rare among bar bands. Occasionally Philips even stood with his feet wide apart and swung his arm over his guitar like a speedy windmill, looking very much like Pete Townshend. The Planets performed mostly Philips’ songs, ranging from compositions dating to the band’s CBGB’s/Max’s Kansas City era to songs written earlier this month. The band also performed a song from Philips’ 1976 solo album and a very rocked-up cover of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (although a listener might wonder why). The Planets perform at Arlene’s Grocery on Sept. 30 and the last Tuesday of every month through the end of 2014.
Rubblebucket/Mercury Lounge/August 26, 2014
Annakalmia (Kalmia) Traver (vocals, saxophone) and Alex Toth (trumpet, bandleader) first met as fellow music majors at the University of Vermont. Toth had been developing a dance band that fused psychedelic indie rock, upbeat dance rhythms and odd musical arrangements. Upon graduating in 2006, they moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where they formed a band, and released a debut album in 2008 under the name Rubblebucket Orchestra. Later renamed simply Rubblebucket, the group relocated to Brooklyn, New York. Rubblebucket brought its quirky music to the Mercury Lounge, turning the venue into a party room. Traver often sang light pop songs that unexpectedly twisted into Baroque-sounding poly-rhythmic jamborees. Similarly, New Orleans-style brass section introductions led to art rock with syncopated horns. Traver’s vocals were soft and talky, but then she blew deep into a baritone sax or made electronic noises on a small synthesizer, giving the songs a more wiry sound. All along, the band kept the audience bouncing to the steady grooves and rhythms. This music may be too bizarre for the general public, but it already has drawn a fair number of believers.
Chevelle/Terminal 5/August 27, 2014
Chevelle formed in 1995 among three brothers, when Pete Loeffler played guitar and sang while Sam Loeffler played drums in their parents’ garage in Grayslake, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Their youngest brother, Joe Loeffler, joined on bass. Chevelle recorded a demo in 1997, and released its first album in 1999. Within a few years, Chevelle went on to sell four million albums in the United States. Joe parted with the band in 2005, and eventually was replaced by the Loefflers’ brother-in-law, Dean Bernardini. At Terminal 5, the hard-rocking trio opened with new songs, “An Island” and “Take Out The Gunman,” with barely a moment to breathe between songs. As flashing overhead and back lights blinded those fans against the front of the stage, Pete Loeffler ripped into gritty, repetitive guitar riffs and sang with angst-filled wallows and growls, backing away from the microphone stand for a couple of short blasts of lead guitar. By the third song, “Sleep Apnea,” from the Sci-Fi Crimes album, the band’s formula was concretized—amid flashing lights, Chevelle started a song with a hard, crunching, mid-tempo riff, softened the attack for the first verse, built intensity with a bridge, and then a growl or scream forecasted the return of the pounding opening riff for the chorus. The band continued with “The Clincher” and “The Meddler” with much the same formulaic composition. Throughout the 16-song set, Chevelle performed an appealing but clearly defined hard rock style. Each song sounded like a mainstream anthem that would fit a rallying cry at a sporting event.