Everynight Charley’s Manhattan Beat: Aaron Lee Tasjan, Dope, Allah-Las, and More

Aaron Lee Tasjan/Mercury Lounge/March 22, 2017

Aaron Lee Tasjan grew up in New Albany, Ohio, teaching himself to play guitar at age 11 by learning Oasis songs. By age 16 Tasjan had performed with Peter Yarrow and been the recipient of the Outstanding Guitarist Award in the Essentially Ellington Competition at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. He was offered a full scholarship to the Berklee College of Music following his graduation from high school, but decided instead in 2006 to move to Brooklyn, New York. In New York, Tasjan formed the arena-rock band Semi Precious Weapons, then played in Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, the New York Dolls, alt-country band Everest, and British-roots rock band Alberta Cross, the Madison Square Gardeners, Operation Juliet with Sean Lennon, and most recently with BP Fallon & the Bandits. In 2013 Tasjan moved to East Nashville, Tennessee, to focus on songwriting and a solo career. Tasjan’s released his second and most recent album, Silver Tears, on October 28, 2016.

Having played in many area bands, Aaron Lee Tasjan drew fans from different epochs of his past to his concert at the Mercury Lounge. Although his black suit with white stars and his black shirt with white dots made him look like the villain in a future Batman movie, Tasjan’s current trajectory leans toward an alt-country sound. Rather than surveying his musical past, Tasjan performed 12 songs from his two solo albums. His songs painted panoramas of people and places, with some lyrics a bit more reflective and others more playful. His storytelling had bite, and was intensified by his crooning tenor and his skillful guitar leads, which together often steered the songs away from folk-country to slightly off-kilter indie rock. The lyrics ranged from light-hearted, romantic and raw angst, and the eclectic musical sounds ranged from twang to psychedelics, and they blended comfortably.


Dope/Highline Ballroom/March 23, 2017

Edsel Dope was born Brian Ebejer in West Palm Beach, Florida, where as a boy he practiced drumming by playing along to his Kiss albums. As an adult, he moved to Las Vegas and New Orleans, finally relocating to New York in 1995 with his older brother Simon. The renamed Edsel Dope started by making music in his bedroom on a computer, then with his brother formed an industrial/nu metal band, Dope, in 1997 in Villa Park, Illinois. While 16 musicians can claim to have been in Dope at some time, the present personnel is vocalist/rhythm guitarist Edsel Dope, lead guitarist Virus, bassist Nikk Dibs and drummer Daniel Fox. Dope’s sixth and most recent studio album, Blood Money Part 1, was released on October 28, 2016. Blood Money Part 2 is proposed for release in 2017.

At the Highline Ballroom opening for Combichrist, Dope performed between large LED screens behind them and gushing smoke jets in front of them. Between fast moving swashes of color and pillars of fog, Dope opened with the nu-metal beats of “Violence,” crashing together heavy rhythms, scratchy vocals and eerie lead guitar sounds. Fast and furious, the music plowed through new and older songs, many spiced with obscenities or other objectionable lyrics. While the compositions paralleled traditional melodic pop structures, the vocals and the musical delivery were coarse, abrasive and aggressive. The result was a steady stream of well-executed fist-pumping anthems. Dope achieved its highest popularity a decade ago, but the goods have remained intact and could appeal to a new generation of rebellious rockers.


Allah-Las/Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom/March 24, 2017

Vocalist/rhythm guitarist Miles Michaud frequented Amoeba, the independent record chain store, throughout his high school years in Los Angeles, California. Eventually, he worked there and in 2008 formed Allah-Las with two co-workers, bassist Spencer Dunham of Los Angeles, and lead guitarist Pedrum Siadatian, a transplant from Salt Lake City, Utah. They recruited a fellow Angelino, drummer Matthew Correia, and started playing together in Dunham’s parents’ basement. Continually drawing inspiration from mid-1960s garage rock resources, Allah-Las released a third album, Calico Review, on September 9, 2016.

Headlining at Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom, Allah-Las embraced music trends from some 50 years ago. Allah-Las revived the harmonies and pop hooks of the British Invasion, the trippy experimental adventurousness of West Coast psychedelic bands, and the jangly guitars of Midwestern lo-fi rockers. While these influences are plentiful in the contemporary indie music scene, Allah-Las added a wistful, breezy element laced with gentle harmonies that subtly spoke of California pop and soul. Michaud sang most of the songs, but when the others sang, the songs were made from the same patchwork. The performance generally did not race or boom, but wistfully floated on cool laid-back vibes. The hypnotic simplicity of the music was capable of transporting the listener to groovier times and places.


The Zombies/The Town Hall/March 25, 2017

The Zombies formed in 1961 in St Albans, England, when the members were schoolboys. During the British Invasion in 1964, The Zombies became only the second group (after the Beatles) to score a number one hit in the United States; “She’s Not There” sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA. The band hit again with “Tell Her No” in 1965 and “Time of the Season” in 1968, which ironically became popular after the band’s 1967 breakup. The Zombies released their second album, Odessey and Oracle, in 1968. Beginning in 1991, The Zombies several times reunited briefly and released albums. The band’s sixth and most recent album, Still Got That Hunger, was released in 2015.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the album where The Zombies evolved from a pop band to a thinking man’s band, The Zombies toured as two incarnations. At The Town Hall, the first half of the show was a smattering of songs from different segments of Zombies history, performed by original vocalist Colin Blunstone and keyboardist Rod Argent, along with the newer members, guitarist Tom Toomey, bassist Jim Rodford (formerly of Argent and The Kinks), and drummer Steve Rodford. For the second half of the program, Blunstone and Argent reunited with two other original Zombies, bassist Chris White and drummer Hugh Grundy, along with keyboardist Darian Sahanaja, vocalist Vivienne Boucherat, and the new Zombies, to perform the entire Odessey and Oracle album. In brief, Blunstone’s vocals soared with passion and Argent’s keyboard playing was majestic throughout the evening; with such accomplished talent on display, it hardly mattered which of the two Zombies bands was on stage with them. While the performance was strong, however, much of the material was not. In many ways, the uniqueness of this tour made it monumental, but yet, it was also a reminder that in the early 1960s, bands recorded a lot of filler.