Mutoid Man/Irving Plaza/June 20, 2015

Vocalist/guitarist Stephen Brodsky and drummer Ben Koller crossed paths in local hardcore bands including Converge and Cave In. In 2012, they jammed in a tiny practice space in Brooklyn, New York, and recruited bassist Nick Cageo, formerly of Bröhammer. Together they became Mutoid Man. The power trio’s debut album, Bleeder, will be released on June 30, 2015.

Opening for The Dillinger Escape Plan at Irving Plaza, Mutoid Man performed an experimental form of heavy music, investing primarily in hard guitar riffs and primal pounding rhythms, but avoiding all predictables. Brodsky alternated between death metal growls and clean vocals, and shredded extended guitar leads and riffs. Utilizing complex arrangements, particularly in the percussion, Mutoid Man performed a 45-minute metallurgy of progressive mathcore with fast and furious elements of hardcore, thrash, sludge metal, stoner metal and black metal. Sometimes it was melodic, but bursts of face-scraping distortion were common. Mutoid Man is forging an adventurous path in progressive metal.


The Dillinger Escape Plan/Irving Plaza/June 20, 2015

The Dillinger Escape Plan originated in 1997 in Morris Plains, New Jersey. The original musicians chose the name while watching a documentary on the 1930s bank robber John Dillinger and his multiple escapes from jail. Over the years the band received a reputation for wild live performances that included fire-spitting, bleeding and even defecating onstage. The mathcore band presently consists of vocalist Greg Puciato, guitarists Ben Weinman and Kevin Antreassian, bassist Liam Wilson, and drummer Billy Rymer. The band’s fifth and most recent album is 2013’s One Of Us Is The Killer.

The Dillinger Escape Plan performed a mutiny of the senses onstage at Irving Plaza. The math-metal juggernauts’ extreme music pushed every button and lever for a chaotic sound that was as raw and invasive as brain surgery. Puciato yowled and growled lyrics and manic guitars played crunching riffs and aerobic leads to punishing, pounding rhythms. To the passing person, it was loud and intense moshpit noise, but for those who listened, The Dillinger Escape Plan performed technically savvy, intricate compositions. It sounded insane nonetheless. The unhinged nature of the band played out early, with members of the band diving dangerously into the audience from both the stage and a higher platform not even 10 minutes into the concert. Weinman frequently did spin kicks off the monitors and crowd surfed while playing his guitar. Puciato at one point climbed up and, holding onto the railing, walked along the length of the balcony perimeter on a ridge not more than a few inches wide, then daringly dove into the audience. Toward the end of the 65-minute set, he climbed up into the mezzanine, and then dropped into the audience from the last possible vantage point, the sound booth. Metalheads must hurry and catch these guys while they are still alive.


Meat Puppets/The Bowery Ballroom/June 22, 2015

As teenagers in Phoenix, Arizona, guitarist Curt Kirkwood and his younger brother, bassist Cris Kirkwood, began jamming together in 1977. They formed Meat Puppets in 1980 and moved to suburban Tempe, Arizona. Meat Puppets struggled until the 1990s, when alternative rock offered the band’s psychedelic cowpunk a new audience. Then the band fell apart. Meat Puppets broke up in 1996 and 2002, reuniting again in 2006. Meat Puppets’ 15th and most recent album was 2013’s Rat Farm. The band presently consists of the Kirkwood brothers and drummer Shandon Sahm. Elmo Kirkwood, Curt’s son, has been playing rhythm guitar on live dates since 2011.

Opening for Soul Asylum at The Bowery Ballroom, Meat Puppets alternated between hard rocking psychedelic jams and scrappy country influences. The music was anything but slick, and the raggedy texture added to its appeal. The concert began with an instrumental, “Seal Whales,” but even by the second song, Curt’s vocal range was very limited, and he made little attempt to improve its sound. The performance was more about what could happen when noodly psychedelic guitar leads and country-twisted vocal lines are played hard and loud. The band’s choice of covers was curious: Texas Tornados’ “(Hey Baby) Que Paso”; Freddy Fender’s “Before The Next Teardrop Falls”; Willie Nelson and Ray Charles’ “Seven Spanish Angels”; and The Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B.” Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers joined Meat Puppets for a hard-on-the-ears cover of Freddy Fender’s “Wasted Days And Wasted Nights.” Musically the evening was very uneven, but the wackiness of it all made it that much more fun.


Soul Asylum/The Bowery Ballroom/June 22, 2015

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, Dave Pirner had been playing drums in Loud Fast Rules, but in 1983, when he changed roles from drummer to lead singer and rhythm guitarist, the revamped band became Soul Asylum. The band hit nationally in 1992 with its sixth album, the triple-platinum Grave Dancers Union, which included the Grammy Award-winning single “Runaway Train.” The next album went platinum, but Soul Asylum had no more hits. Soul Asylum’s 10th and most recent album is 2012’s Delayed Reaction. Pirner is the band’s sole original member; the current lineup also consists of lead guitarist Justin Sharbono, bassist Winston Roye and drummer Michael Bland.

Headlining at The Bowery Ballroom, Soul Asylum’s set was comprised mostly of songs from the 1990s. This meant that except for two new songs, “Can’t Help It” and “Supersonic,” the rest of the set predated Pirner’s bandmates. Pirner sang his angst from the opening song, “Somebody To Shove,” to the stomping closer, “April Fool.” Although Soul Asylum predated grunge, the sound was very akin, with soaring vocal melodies knitting with the crunching guitar power chords and harmonic guitar leads. Even the softer “Misery” built up momentum and dynamics to become a passionate rocker with a sing-along bridge of “frustrated incorporated”; Pirner threw in a curve, however, ending the song with a verse of Paul McCartney’s “Silly Love Songs.” Long before performing “Runaway Train” toward the end of the set, Soul Asylum proved that 1990s alternative rock can still sound relevant in the 21st century.


John Fogerty/Radio City Music Hall/June 24, 2015                            

John Fogerty and his older brother Tom Fogerty began playing guitars together in the late 1950s when they were in high school in El Cerrito, California. With fellow schoolmates Stu Cook on bass and Doug Clifford on drums, Tommy Fogerty & The Blue Velvets became The Golliwogs until in 1967 John took his brother’s place as lead singer and the band became Creedence Clearwater Revival. In its four-year career, Creedence Clearwater Revival had seven gold albums and 10 gold singles. Internal rifts doomed the band by 1972, and since then John Fogerty has started and stopped his solo career several times. Fogerty’s ninth and most recent album is 2013’s Wrote A Song For Everyone.

Hearty Har, a Los Angeles-based rock quintet led by two of Fogerty’s guitar-playing sons, Tyler Fogerty and Shane Fogerty, opened the night at Radio City Music Hall with an unadvertised 20-minute set. Shane would reappear after intermission as a member of his dad’s band. For many years John Fogerty would not perform Creedence songs, but this tour was nearly entirely about Creedence songs. Fogerty titled the current tour as “One Extraordinary Year: John Fogerty Performs The Songs Of Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1969,” themed on the year when Creedence enjoyed three Top 10 albums. A Broadway-styled production, the show began with a documentary video about 1969, with a soundtrack by several hard rock artists of the time; several similar videos would appear later in the show. The stage presentation was unlike 1969, however, a time when Creedence was a simple quartet playing a raw, swampy revival of old rock and roll structures. The new presentation was über-slick, with a large band, LED light shows, fireworks, smoke and confetti. 19 of the 26 songs were smoothly modernized reinterpretations of Creedence songs, and between many of these songs Fogerty shared extended and amusing memories of the band’s early days, including the Woodstock appearance. Curiously, he never once named his former bandmates and hardly ever the name of his previous band. The show went off-track several times, like when he brought out a rack of guitars and talked about his obsession for guitars and his wife’s obsession with shoes, and when he played post-1969 songs. The saving grace of the performance was that most of the songs were rocking classics and Fogerty sang and played guitar super well. Despite the uneven mainstream-schlockiness of the production, one could never belittle John Fogerty’s unique and extraordinary musical talents.

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