Bassist Vince Hornsby joined drummer Morgan Rose in 1994 in a band called Snake Nation in Atlanta, Georgia. John Connolly, then a drummer in another band, switched to guitar and joined Snake Nation. The trio recorded a demo, but upon playback realized they needed a stronger vocalist. Snake Nation spent a year searching for a new singer before finding Lajon Witherspoon. Six months later, guitarist Clint Lowery joined the band. The band members then renamed themselves Sevendust, inspired by the insecticide Sevin Dust. Sevendust earned three consecutive RIAA gold certified albums and sold millions of albums worldwide. The band’s 10th album, Kill The Flaw, was released on October 2, 2015.
At the PlayStation Theater, Sevendust began its opening song, “Not Today,” from behind a white curtain, with the audience seeing the silhouettes of the musicians through green back-lighting until the screen dropped halfway through the song. Witherspoon sang in rough voice, as the musicians played hard melodic riffs. The 13-song, 70-minute set ranged from nu metal rapcore crunchers like “Face To Face” to softer, slower songs like “Angel’s Son,” which Witherspoon dedicated to the late Prince. Witherspoon introduced “Denial” by saying it would be the acoustic version; actually, the song was performed softly but not acoustically. Immediately after, the musicians cranked up the energy. Overall, Sevendust impressed in how it highlighted its strong song structures first and the appropriate accompaniment second rather than the reverse. Despite Sevendust’s faithfulness to these merits, the band’s liability is that its 1990s alt-metal no longer sounds as fresh as it did two decades ago.
The Waldos/The Bowery Electric/May 4, 2016
After playing in a cover band while in college, vocalist/guitarist Walter Lure first hit his hometown New York circuit with the glam-punk Demons in the 1970s. After leaving the Demons, Lure joined Johnny Thunders, Richard Hell and Jerry Nolan in The Heartbreakers in 1975. The Heartbreakers became the darlings of the burgeoning punk circuit, and a year later the band was opening the maligned Sex Pistols tour in England. The Heartbreakers split initially in 1977, but Lure continued playing with Thunders in many reunion shows until Thunders’ death in 1991. Meanwhile, Lure also played on three Ramones albums, recorded a single with The Blessed, and led several local bands, including The Hurricanes, The Heroes, and The Waldos. The Waldos released the Rent Party album in 1993. Since 1995, The Waldos has consisted of Lure and Tak Nakai on guitars, EZ on bass and Joe Rizzo on drums.
Three-fourths of the classic Heartbreakers lineup is dead (Thunders, Nolan and bassist Billy Rath), so seeing The Waldos is about as close as one can get to seeing The Heartbreakers. At The Bowery Electric, what songs were not left over from the Heartbreakers days sounded very much like they should have been. Songs were played with a ragged rock and roll spirit that did not take itself too seriously. “Born To Lose,” “Too Much Junkie Business” and “Chinese Rocks” may have been confessionals of the heroin-soaked New York scene of the mid 1970s, but were performed with a sense of humor rather than tragedy. The Waldos did not break new ground, although Lure pointed out that “Get Off The Phone” is more relevant today than back then. In concert, Walter Lure and The Waldos were pure rock and roll fun.
Peter Wolf/Bowery Ballroom/May 6, 2016
Raised in the Bronx, New York, a young Peter Blankfield in the late 1960s reinvented himself as Peter Wolf, a radio disc jockey in Boston, Massachusetts. He also sang in a band called The Hallucinations before joining the rocking rhythm & blues group The J. Geils Band in 1967. The J. Geils Band remained popular throughout the 1970s and peaked when it began leaning towards new wave in the early 1980s. Wolf left in 1983 for a solo career, but has continued playing with The J. Geils Band on many reunion tours. Wolf’s eighth solo album, A Cure For Loneliness, was released on April 8, 2016.
Peter Wolf’s band, The Midnight Ramblers, is a roots band in a way that The J. Geils Band is not. At the Bowery Ballroom, the Midnight Ramblers, firstly, were more countrified, and secondly, were a lot mellower overall. Was anyone ready for an acoustic bluegrass reinterpretation of The J. Geils Band’s “Love Stinks?” This was followed by a cover of bluegrass veteran Bill Monroe’s “When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold.” Along the way, there were many low-key blues, rootsy rock and roll and rhythm & blues excursions, and a tribute to Merle Haggard. The biggest applause, not surprisingly, was reserved for J. Geils Band staples “Cry One More Time,” “Musta Got Lost” and “Looking For A Love.” At 70 years of age, Wolf has softened, but he still can belt out an energetic rocker or two.
The Tarantinos NYC/Otto’s Shrunken Head/May 7, 2016
Formed in 2005 in Queens, New York, The Tarantinos NYC is a surf-rock quartet that borrowed its name from film director Quentin Tarantino. True to its name, the band plays instrumental music that either was or sounds like it should have been in Tarantino’s movies. The Tarantinos NYC released a second album, Surfin’ The Silver Screen, in 2015. The band is presently comprised of guitarist Paulie Tarantino, bassist Tricia Tarantino, keyboardist Louie Tarantino, and drummer Tony Tarantino.
The Tarantinos NYC frequently perform at Unsteady Freddy’s Surf Rock Shindig, which has taken place at Otto’s Shrunken Head on the first Saturday of each month for the past 16 years. At Otto’s, The Tarantinos NYC once again blended a sparkling dose of 1960s-1970s surf, spy and spaghetti western soundtracks with similarly-rooted original instrumentals. Paulie Tarantino mastered an authentic vintage twang to his guitar work, and manipulated a variety of subtle sounds and textures that kept the songs sounding unique. This was more than simply reverb on steroids. This was one case where the concert was more enjoyable than the movie.
Otep/The Studio At Webster Hall/May 9, 2016
Otep formed as a metal band in 2000 in Los Angeles, California. The band’s name was taken from vocalist Otep Shamaya’s stage name and is an anagram for the word “poet.” Before Otep had a recording contract, Sharon Osbourne caught a live performance and invited Otep to become the first female-fronted band to play the Ozzfest tours; since then, Otep has performed at several Ozzfests. Shamaya also is a spoken word artist, and appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry twice, recorded an unreleased poetry album and authored three books of poetry. She also authored a book of short stories and produced and directed an audiobook of one of the three stories. Otep’s seventh album, Generation Doom, was released on April 15, 2016. The band presently consists of Shamaya, guitarist Aristotle Mihalopoulos and drummer Justin Kier; the live performances currently include touring bassist Andrew Barnes.
Headlining at The Studio At Webster Hall, Otep performed nu metal with elements of death metal and rapcore. Shamaya wore masks and handled a variety of props to articulate the messages in her songs; she held a Donald Trump mask on a spiked bat to begin “Lords Of War,” donned a Guy Fawkes mask for another song and spun a pig’s head on a mic stand during “Blood Pigs.” She recited poetry as prefaces to some songs. The band blasted bombastic chords, while Shamaya seemed equally comfortable with softer croons, hip hop raps and gutter screams. The set consisted of five songs from the new album, eight songs from earlier albums, and an odd cover of Lorde’s “Royals” to conclude the concert. Otep ended up with a metal performance that was both artfully conceived and menacingly brutal.