Primal Scream/Irving Plaza/May 20, 2015

Influenced by the punk rock movement in Scotland, Glasgow native Bobby Gillespie started Primal Scream in 1982. He also played drums in The Jesus And Mary Chain from 1984 to 1986. When the leaders of The Jesus And Mary Chain asked Gillespie to choose between that band and Primal Scream, Gillespie chose the latter. Primal Scream became among the leaders of the indie pop movement of the late 1980s. The band’s 10th and most recent album, More Light, was released in 2013. Primal Scream presently consists of vocalist Gillespie, guitarist Andrew Innes, keyboardist Martin Duffy, bassist Simone Butler and drummer Darrin Mooney.

Over 33 years, Primal Scream changed its sound from jangly indie pop to more psychedelic, garage rock and blues before incorporating dance, funk and shoegaze elements. At Irving Plaza, the band was primarily a rock and roll band, only hinting subtly at those subgenres. “Swastika Eyes” and “Can’t Go Back” leaned to dance-pop, “Movin’ On Up” and “Loaded” were more Rolling Stones, and several songs were harder guitar-edged, perhaps Jane’s Addiction-style. In all, the band performed 16 songs from nine albums, half of the set originating from the band’s more successful albums, Screamadelica and XTRMNTR. Gillespie was an average singer and the musicians were average players, but the sum was far greater than the parts. Together as Primal Scream, the five members put on a fine rock and roll show.

 

Courtney Barnett/Bowery Ballroom/May 20, 2015

Courtney Barnett grew up in Sydney, Australia, and played second guitar in Melbourne-based garage grunge band Rapid Transit in 2010-2011 and sang and played slide guitar in Australian psych/country band Immigrant Union in 2011-2013. Her debut solo album, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, was released on March 23, 2015.

On Barnett’s recordings, everything sounds slick and polished; live at the Bowery Ballroom, the same music took on a much scrappier and intense delivery. The guitar-slinging Barnett came in power trio mode with her backing rhythm section, the Courtney Barnetts (bassist Bones Sloane and drummer Dave Mudie). While she sang like a singer-songwriter, she jammed on the guitar like a loud solid rocker—indie rock, that is, complete with numerous untraditional chord progressions. Singing clever, witty, wordy and rambling lyrics in a plainspoken deadpan manner, Barnett’s observations on life and dry sense of humor were set to pleasing rhythms, melodies and well-crafted hooks. For Barnett, some songs were closed-eye sensitive, but other songs were so fierce that her flailing hair prevented a view of her face for minutes at a time. Barnett’s flame is burning red-hot; she will headline Terminal 5 on July 22.

 

TV On The Radio/Terminal 5/May 21, 2015

Nigerian-born Tunde Adebimpe and his New York roommate, David Andrew Sitek, formed TV On The Radio as an indie rock band in 2001 in Brooklyn. TV On The Radio became a critics favorite and began headlining larger venues as indie rock grew in popularity. The band took a hiatus in 2009, and its once-zooming popularity stalled. The band’s sixth and most recent album, Seeds, was released on November 18, 2014. TV On The Radio presently consists of Adebimpe (vocals/loops), Sitek (guitars/keyboards/loops), Kyp Malone (vocals/guitars/bass/loops), and Jaleel Bunton (drums/vocals/loops/guitars).

At Terminal 5, TV On The Radio’s hybrid music sounded as rich as it did a decade ago. Pivoted on indie guitar rock, the wall-of-sound songs generally cranked a steady rock and roll rhythm, with some songs accelerating to punk rock speed. The set also included many shoegazing electronic interludes (arguably too many) as well as brief flourishes of free jazz, funk, soul and a cappella doo-wop. Some of the band’s experimental edges may have been sanded down over time, but captivatingly inventive arrangements were plentiful. Late into the set, the members of opening act Bo Ningen joined TV On The Radio on all sorts of available percussion, including drumstick-on-beer-bottle percussion. Some 14 years after forming, TV On The Radio continues to create music from and for the indie rock fringe.

 

Haste The Day/Irving Plaza/May 22, 2015

Christian metalcore band Haste The Day formed in 2001 in Carmel, Indiana, and derived its name from a lyric in the 19th century hymn “It Is Well With My Soul.” Haste The Day released its debut album in the band’s old high school cafeteria in 2004. The group disbanded in 2011, reformed in 2014, and released its sixth album, Coward, on May 19, 2015. The band presently consists of most of the musicians who ever played in the band: vocalists Jimmy Ryan and Stephen Keech; lead guitarists Scotty Whelan and Dave Krysl; rhythm guitarist Brennan Chaulk; bassist Mike Murphy; and drummer Giuseppe Capolupo.

Haste The Day’s reunion tour consists of only four dates, launching at Irving Plaza. As the band alternated between old and new songs, the personnel on stage changed. The performance opened with the title track from the current album, and featured newer members, Keech, Chaulk, Whelan, Murphy and Capolupo. Two songs later, as Haste The Day launched into the older “Fallen,” Jimmy Ryan, the band’s original singer, came on stage to audience cheers. Dave Krysl later played guitar as well. Even Janell Belcher of the opening act, The Ember Days, sang on one of the songs. Despite all the traffic flowing on stage, Haste The Day turned in a very cohesive 17-song package covering highlights from its history. The high-energy music was razor sharp, dense and bombastic, pleasingly contrasting aggressive breakdowns with softer melodies and guitar leads. Nevertheless, the critical spotlight largely fell on the exchange of vocalists, who sometimes reinterpreted the catalogue when both sang, barked, growled and screamed on the same songs to form a sonic wall. No one knows if this all-hands-on-deck lineup will reoccur beyond the current four concerts, but the uniqueness of tonight’s event was a fitting celebration of all that Haste The Day has been.

 

Face To Face/Bowery Ballroom/May 23, 2015

As West Coast punk rock began making a renaissance in 1991, vocalist/guitarist Trever Keith formed Face To Face in Victorville, California. The band enjoyed success with “Disconnected,” which appeared in the movies Tank Girl and National Lampoon’s Senior Trip. After many personnel changes, Face To Face split in 2004, but regrouped four years later. Presently, the band consists of Keith, guitarist Chad Yaro, bassist Scott Shiflett and drummer Danny Thompson. The band’s ninth and most recent album, Three Chords And A Half Truth, was released in 2013.

Face To Face has recorded and released two new albums since its 2008 reunion, but the band came to the Bowery Ballroom to celebrate its early years. Billed as their “Triple Crown” shows, Face To Face performed its first three albums across three nights. Tonight, the band blasted through Big Choice with hardly a breath of air between songs. This was ’90s hardcore punk: simple power chord changes, speedy and forceful delivery, and chant-along choruses characterized every song. The band played with the thrust and energy of a speeding locomotive, and did not slow down until the encores, which included songs from the Over It EP. This was punk the way it used to be.

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