Starland Ballroom hosted a blockbuster event to a sell-out crowd Dec. 9 featuring three separate tribute bands covering three true titans of the post-punk/grunge era. An additional and unexpectedly pleasing experience was provided by the opening band, Eli, who performed a set of their original music with skill, style and the gusto associated with the early, pioneering days of the ’90s music explosion. ELI (or ELI the Band if you are searching them on social media) is a trio of utterly sincere and committed young adults who have played and written music together since their not-too-distant high school days, channeling the spirit of grunge into their original compositions with skill and devotion. No matter that the era of grunge peaked shortly before these budding musicians were born! This was their first big venue appearance and they brought the house down.
We got to speak to the youthful members backstage after enjoying their set of eight songs which included only one cover, “She Hates Me,” by Puddle Of Mudd, during which they introduced the band members to the audience. We learned that the “old man” of the group, 22-year-old Conor Schaar, who played bass and sang most of the vocals, likes to do much of the writing in collaboration with guitarist and sometimes-vocal lead Paul Machado. Drummer Mike Sliker provides the essential rhythms during inventive sessions in which the trio regularly engages. Their story begins with winning acclaim at a school talent show six long years ago. That duration of cooperation and dedication goes a long way toward explaining their tight, highly accomplished performance.
Next up came the Green Day tribute band, the Nimrods, who take their name from a 1997 album, slammed enthusiastically through 12 of their recognizable hits from “Brain Stew” to “When I Come Around” to “American Idiot” and more. Vocalist/guitarist Fred Zoeller captured frontman Billie Joe Armstrong’s dark, cynical and frenetic style, and he received professionally polished instrumental accompaniment from three Dans: Dan Esser, Dan Callas (lead guitar) and Dan DiLiberto (drums). A special treat was had when renowned violinist Nicole Scorsone joined in for “Minority,” “Good Riddance” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends.”
Following both outstanding performances Lady Picture Show took the stage with their impeccable covers of the cherished Stone Temple Pilots repertoire including “Interstate Love Song,” “Plush” and “Creep.” As far as faithful reproduction of the original sound of STP, I cannot imagine a more authentic experience.
Finally—can I call them headliners?—Nirvana tribute band, Lounge Act, came on stage and performed meticulous, loving and faithful tribute versions of the revered Nirvana repertoire. A mosh pit formed and became increasingly enthusiastic throughout their set, which included “Aneurysm,” “Heart Shaped Box,” the creepy “Rape Me” and “Lithium.” I counted around 12 or 13 songs.
Who needs time travel? These guys made it happen!
Gothic Holiday Party
The Red Party took place at the Mercury Lounge on Dec. 10 with host DJ Sean Templar, Jarek (The Raven) Zelazny and Fr. Jeff spinning the usual Goth, Deathrock and Post-Punk. Sadly, the band Rusted Autumn was unable to appear as scheduled due to illness.
The Godfather Of Goth, Peter Murphy, At City Winery – Dec. 11, 2016
Peter Murphy is overwhelmingly popular, not just with the worldwide Goth community, but with many whose musical puberty occurred during the ’80s and early ’90s. The first show at the intimate City Winery in Lower Manhattan’s West Village sold out immediately upon being announced. Thus a second performance was mandated, even though it meant scheduling it around 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday night.
This event represented part of the tail end of his “Stripped” tour which began in California in April of 2016, crossed the country, then crossed the Atlantic, and drew to a close on the East Coast. “Stripped” refers to the mainly acoustic, minimal electronic sound, provided by Murphy himself and two string instrumentalists/backup vocalists. Make no mistake, though, there was plenty of amplification and digital audio as needed to authenticate the mood and feeling of the cherished selections performed nor was there any lack of his showmanship and stage antics.
As on virtually all previous stops on the tour, PM started off the set with “Cascade,” off the 1995 album of the same name, recognizable by its melodious Morse code-like series of high-pitched, introductory tones that elide into arpeggios which grow into a luscious, percussion-driven melody. A consummate showman, Murphy strutted about the stage, bowing and waving his stretched out arms like a bird in flight
Following that, he reached back into the ’80s with “All Night Long,” “Indigo Eyes” and “Marlene Dietrich’s Favourite Poem” in true acoustic style, seated and strumming his 12-string guitar. He continued the “stripped down” style but strode out from the stage to hover over the front rows as he announced and paid tribute to the late David Bowie with “The Bewlay Brothers.”
PM’s voice showed signs of strain, and his spoken words were decidedly hoarse, but his notes were perfectly steady and on key, and he never held back from bellowing out, full-throated, whenever it was called for. “A Strange Kind Of Love” afforded the opportunity for a brief solo by the violin accompanist.
Murphy picked up, first a tambourine, then drumsticks for the three Bauhaus favorites that followed: “King Volcano,” “Kingdom’s Coming” and “Silent Hedges.” He briefly disappeared from the stage, then returned to perform “Gaslit” and the bass-and-drum-heavy cover of Dead Can Dance’s “Severance.”
There was a pause signaling the final encore, the beloved and iconic anthem “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”—rarely performed on this tour. Murphy called for the lights to go down. His face was dramatically lit from below in cinematic horror fashion as he sung the repetitive mantra “undead, undead, undead” to conclude the show and leave the late-night crowd satisfied beyond their expectations.
The Berlin Dungeon
No kiddies, the Berlin Dungeon is not an S&M club. It’s an expensive tour of a historically educational, slightly creepy attempt at recreating sets and scenarios of medieval “justice” under the Hohenzollern rulers of Medieval Prussia. Actors in period costumes alternately try to scare and inform tour-goers with frightful scenarios and tongue-in-cheek narratives regarding the somewhat deranged secular and ecclesiastical court system, which usually ended up with defendants subjected to devices of torture and execution. You know, “the good old days.”
There are various special effects, walks through mirrored mazes, moments spent in unbearable suspense in pitch-dark chambers, interrupted by terrifying ghastly action; as well as some corny court-room set-ups where tour-goers stand accused and are sentenced to penalties that are escaped at the last minute. The tour ends in an amusement park-like ride that lifts seated riders up before (safely and comfortably) dropping them two stories of height.
It’s all in good fun, but unfortunately, no photos are allowed, so all I can show are images of the outside of the building, but that should be enough to direct you to this semi-interesting, semi-entertaining venue if and when you visit Berlin.
Under the auspices of DJ Sean Templar and hostess Mandana Banshie, The Red Party held a New Year’s Eve Bash from 1 a.m. until 6 a.m. on January 1, 2017, at the Mercury Lounge, allowing party-goers to spend the actual NYE in traditional celebration with friends or family before heading over to the East Houston digs for an all-night Goth event to the deejay efforts of DJ Ash, Xris Smack and Matt V Christ.
Necropolis and QXT’s celebration of Damien Hrunka’s 40th birthday were held on January 7, but we were unable to attend and therefore unable to report on either due to a winter storm that discouraged travel by all but the most courageous.