Honne/The Penthouse at the Standard Hotel, East Village/May 12, 2016
Vocalist Andy and keyboardist James (they do not reveal surnames) met while attending university and started making electro-soul music together in 2014 in London, England. They adopted the name HONNE—a Japanese word (本音) meaning “true feelings.” The duo released three EPS leading to the debut album, Warm On A Cold Night, which was released on July 22, 2016.
Performing at The Penthouse at the Standard Hotel in the East Village, HONNE was joined on several songs by Izzy Bizu adding female vocal harmony. Inspired by both classic soul and soft synthesizer rhythms, HONNE’s silky smooth lo-fi groove was for romantics. Repetitive hook lines accentuated pouting, smoldering vocals and lyrics that dwelt on longing and hopeful anticipation. Unlike other neo-soul electronic outfits, the emphasis here was on simplicity rather than multiple layers of sound. Synthesizers provided the subtle rhythm track, with piano and vocals being the primary colors on the palate. The mellow music sounded like the soundtrack for a dimly-lit evening on a leather sofa by the fireplace with a crystal glass of red wine in hand.
The Rides/ B.B. King’s Blues Club & Grill/May 12, 2016
Stephen Stills was pivotal to Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and also played briefly with a band called Manassas in 1972, but much of his 50+ years in music were playing as a solo artist. In 2013, he decided to fulfill a long desire to record a blues album, and began jamming with keyboardist Barry Goldberg, a founder of the Electric Flag blues band in 1967 and a studio musician for the past 50 years. In time, they recruited guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd, a solo artist and winner of multiple prestigious music awards, with whom Stills had initially jammed at a private party before the 2007 Super Bowl. The Rides’ second album, Pierced Arrow, was released May 6, 2016.
Stills is the better known name of the quintet, which included bassist Kevin McCormick and drummer Chris Layton, but Shepherd might have stolen the show at B.B. King’s Blues Club & Grill. Stills sang many songs with dynamic passion but limited range, while Shepherd’s vocals were smoother and varied. Stills played a fine blues guitar, but Shepherd’s fingers were acrobatic on his fret board. Sometimes they harmonized vocals or guitars, successfully making musical cohesion the optimum objective. The set included many songs composed by and for The Rides, but also included Stills’ “Love The One You’re With,” Shepherd’s “Blue On Black,” and a slow burning version of Goldberg’s hit for Gladys Knight & The Pips, “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination.” The set also included covers of Elmore James’ “Talk To Me Baby,” Willie Dixon’s “My Babe,” and puzzlingly, Iggy Pop & The Stooges’ “Search And Destroy.” The encores ended with Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World.” The Rides’ set was a down-to-earth yet polished jam that highlighted the talents of each member, and that alone was worth a visit.
Bikini Carwash/The Delancey/May 13, 2016
Originally from Wilmette Illinois, Lizzie Steelheart Taubeneck came to New York for a college education. She became a hair stylist, a film actor (2011’s We Are The Hartmans) and sang in many local bands, including The Fakes, Whiskey And Whores, Karen Curious & The New Professionals, and Reverend Billy And The Stop Shopping Gospel Choir. She now fronts Bikini Carwash, a rock/punk/pop quartet based out of Brooklyn, New York. The band consists of Steelheart on vocals, guitarist Alex Theoret, bassist Andy Shaw and drummer Carrie Kamikaze. Bikini Carwash released a self-titled EP on January 31, 2014.
At The Delancey, Bikini Carwash often recalled girl-group pop melodies of the 1960s, except the music was rawer and coarser. It was all retro, except that the vocalist was in the early 1960s and the musicians were in the late ’70s, with fast chord changes, grinding bass and crashing cymbals. Different shades of pop and punk history collided and in the end, clicked well together.
The Adolescents/Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom/May 14, 2016
Bassist Steve Soto was terminated from the surf punk band Agent Orange in December 1979. A month later he formed a skate punk band called The Adolescents in Fullerton, California, a suburb of Los Angeles on the border of Orange County. The band’s line-up changed many times, and Soto also broke up and reformed the band thrice. The Adolescents presently consists of Soto, vocalist Tony Cadena, guitarists Dan Root and Ian Taylor, and drummer Mike Cambra. The band’s seventh and most recent album is 2014’s La Vendetta.
Performing at Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom as part of the Black N’ Blue Bowl, an annual all-day hardcore punk concert, The Adolescents played a fast, melodic brand of hardcore punk, with roaring guitar chords and gang vocal harmonies punctuating many choruses. At other times, stinging lead guitar riffs veered the band away from punk towards more traditional hard rock. Cadena’s unrefined shouting, meanwhile, propelled the musicians’ aggressive approach. The musicians, no longer adolescent, maintained the explosive fire of their youth. One can only marvel at how it was possible, but the 36-year-old band performed with vintage vibrancy.
American Nightmare/Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom/May 14, 2016
Wesley Eisold grew up moving between US army bases with his military father. Frequent relocations prevented long-lasting relationships to develop with his peers, so he adopted music as the one stable constant in his life. Born with one hand, however, he was unable to play stringed instruments or drums. In 1998, Eisold formed and became the singer of a hardcore punk band, American Nightmare, in Boston, Massachusetts. The band was embraced by the hardcore punk community, but a similarly named band sued for copyright infringement, and Eisold’s group was renamed A.N., then American Nothing, and finally Give Up The Ghost. Give Up The Ghost released two albums in 2001 and 2003, then split in 2004. Eisold relocated to Los Angeles, California, writing poetry and running Heartworm Press, an independent publishing company. Since 2011, he has reassembled American Nightmare annually for a few live performances, although a darkwave synthpop solo project called Cold Cave seems to be his priority.
Headlining the annual hardcore Black N’ Blue Bowl at Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom, American Nightmare opened with “There’s A Black Hole In The Shadow Of The Pru” from the band’s debut album. With hardly room for a breath of air between songs, the quartet crashed through a sonic assault of relentless, lightning-paced escalations, with Eisold shouting anger and anxiety into his microphone as he crouched over the audience by the edge of the stage. The few mid-tempo songs were ear-bleeding rather than heart-warming. The set included a cover of Black Flag’s “Depression” and the brutal volatility ended with “Farewell.” American Nightmare’s hardcore had been as rabid as a mad dog.