Born out of the basement DIY scene in New Brunswick, New Jersey, guitarist/vocalist Marissa Paternoster and bassist King Mike formed the indie-rocking Screaming Females in 2006 with drummer Jarrett Dougherty. The band released a homemade debut album in 2006. Maintaining a DIY approach, the trio continues to book its own shows and handle much of the business internally. Screaming Females’ sixth album, Rose Mountain, was released on February 24, 2015.
At the Apple Store in SoHo, where friend and fellow musician Ted Leo interviewed the Screaming Females for a half hour and then the band performed for another half hour. Even with the volume turned down considerably for this venue, the Screaming Females rocked the store with howling vocals, wailing guitar and pounding rhythms. The stage was kinetic and frenetic, with band members shaking their heads and bodies like jack hammers to the dynamic thrust inherent in the songs. Raw energy made for music that was harsh and abrasive and yet honed musicianship reminded the listeners that this guitar-driven music was still shredding like mad. These scorching guitar leads, akin to Dinosaur Jr., were matched with an indie pop sense stripped more naked than the Pixies or Sleater-Kinney. Screaming Females made no compromise on creating indie rock that was diamond hard and pure.
Seinabo Sey/The Marlin Room At Webster Hall/May 27, 2015
24-year-old Seinabo Sey was born in Södermalm, Sweden. Sey’s profile rocketed in 2014: the Swedish Music Publishers Association named her Breakthrough of the Year; she performed at and won Best Newcomer at the 2014 Swedish Grammy Awards; she won Soul/R&B Artist of the Year at the 2014 Kingsize Awards; and she performed at the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize concert. Seinabo Sey’s debut EP, For Madeleine, is now available in the United States.
At The Marlin Room At Webster Hall, Sey wore a nearly formless burqa-like red frock that covered her from neck to wrist and heel. If anything was sexy, it was her sulky, alto Nina Simone-styled singing—except that the plethora of heartbreak lyrics was not sexy either. Backed by a keyboardist, bassist and drummer who played a heady mix of bubbly electro-pop and down-tempo rhythm and blues, Sey sang almost motionlessly by her microphone stand. Her voice was big and passionate, saturating the sound waves and overwhelming the small room. Her lyrics were often raw with hurt and angst. Late in the set, Sey stepped to the front lip of the stage for an a capella song, booming her unvarnished vulnerability to the point where it almost crossed the line of defense in intimacy. The music felt weightless, but the vocal delivery could sink a ship. Perhaps Sey will usher in the age of unsexy songs, because what she did on that stage, she did extremely well.
Billy Idol/Pier 97/May 29, 2015
William Michael Albert Broad, better known as Billy Idol, was born in Stanmore, England, and became part of the local punk rock scene in 1977, first in Chelsea and then in Generation X. Launching a solo career, he relocated to New York in 1981, and two years later, his blond spiky hair, leather jacket and curled sneer became prime fodder for MTV. Idol released his eighth studio album, Kings & Queens Of The Underground, in October 2014. Billy Idol’s self-penned autobiography, Dancing With Myself, also was released on October 7, 2014.
Now just a few months from his 60th birthday, at Pier 97 Billy Idol’s facial features looked a bit weathered and leathered, but he rocked like a young man. (Never mind that he showed off a six-pack when he removed his shirt later in the performance.) Yet beyond his iconic look, a listener could not overlook that he sang very, very well, seemingly a direct descendant of the late Jim Morrison’s deep, masculine tone. His longtime guitarist, Steve Stevens, had many moments to shine, including an extended solo when all the other musicians left the stage. Steven’s rampaging leads charged the songs like turbo fuel. The sole but significant drawback of the performance was that Idol’s newer catalog of songs just was not as gripping as his 1980s material. Idol’s many wardrobe changes and his compelling stage aura could not mask that much of the selections, although well sung and performed, was tepid filler. Idol performed an impressive take on The Doors’ “L.A. Woman,” thanks to Idol’s powerful vocals. At the end of the night, however, the most memorable songs were the electrified renditions of “Rebel Yell,” “Dancing With Myself,” “White Wedding,” “Mony, Mony” and “Eyes Without A Face.” Idol proved that he is still one of rock’s best singers and performers, but is in want of new higher-grade songs.
Sepultura/The Marlin Room At Webster Hall/May 30, 2015
Guitarist Max Cavalera and his brother, drummer Igor Cavalera, formed Sepultura in 1984 when they were teenagers in Belo Horizante, Brazil. The band became a major force in death metal, thrash metal and groove metal, selling almost 30 million recordings worldwide. Then Max quit the band in 1996 and Igor left in 2006. Sepultura’s present lineup consists of sole remaining member Paulo Pinto Jr. on bass, with American vocalist Derrick Green, guitarist Andreas Kisser, and drummer Eloy Casagrande. Sepultura’s 13th and most recent studio album, The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart, was released in 2013.
Sepultura’s current tour does not promote a current album, but rather a 30-year legacy. It was fitting that the band should perform at The Marlin Room At Webster Hall; the band’s first U.S. concert 25 years ago was in the same venue’s upstairs room. While not touching on every album tonight, Sepultura’s set went as far back as two tracks from 1985, “The Curse” and “Bestial Devastation,” and as far forward as one new and as-yet-unreleased song, “Under My Skin.” Out of 16 songs, 10 were from the more popular Max Cavalera period and six were more recent, but they worked well together, energized by a band that meshed splendidly together. A baritone Green growled his lyrics, Kisser played lightning guitar leads, and the rhythm section kept it all fast and heavy, from down-tuned death metal and machine-gun thrash metal to hair-spinning groove metal and even blast-beat nu metal breakdowns. On several songs, Green beat rhythms into a tom tom for extra percussion. It was all metal, but even among the newer works the obvious flavorings of hardcore punk, industrial and tribal sounds kept each song distinct and interesting. The Cavalera brothers are gone, but Sepultura is not done.
Death/The Studio At Webster Hall/May 30, 2015
In 1964 Detroit, Michigan, David Hackney found a discarded guitar in an alley and began learning to play it. Soon, his brother Bobby Hackney learned to sing and play the bass and Dannis Hackney learned the drums. By 1971, the brothers had a funk band called RockFire Funk Express. The trio switched to hard rock after seeing concerts by The Who and Alice Cooper. The band changed its name to Death in 1973 and circulated demo songs, but broke up by 1977. David died of lung cancer in 2000. Renewed public interest encouraged Bobby and Dannis to reform Death with Lambsbread guitarist Bobbie Duncan in 2009. Death released N.E.W. on April 21, 2015.
Death was originally scheduled to headline Irving Plaza tonight but a few days ago the show was downsized to The Studio At Webster Hall. Even so, attendance at this much smaller venue was sparse. The trio played its loud, fast, scrappy, high-energy catalogue from the early 1970s which can be described best as punk rock, except that genre did not exist for another five years. By today’s standards, the band sounds like an indie band that has been everywhere—a bit garage, pop, psychedelic, experimental, metal and punk. The mix also flirted lightly with funk and reggae, but the rock foundation was louder and clearer than anything else. Death was a curiosity more than anything else, but going forward the band could appeal to those rock fans seeking something left of center in the indie world.