Manhattan Beat: Hitting Up Joywave, The Silversun Pickups & More!

Joywave/The Bowery Ballroom/Nov. 14, 2017
Vocalist/guitarist Daniel Armbruster, guitarist Joseph Morinelli, and drummer Paul Brenner played in several bands together during their youth in Rochester, NY. They formed Joywave in 2010 and a year later recruited bassist Sean Donnelly and then keyboardist Benjamin Bailey. Joywave released its first mixtape in 2011 and first EP in 2012, but achieved its first notable success in 2014 with its collaboration with electronic music project Big Data on the song, “Dangerous,” which hit number one on Billboard‘s Alternative Songs chart. Joywave’s second and most recent album, Content, was released on July 28, 2017.

After opening for the Bleachers in 2015 and the Cold War Kids this past summer, Joywave embarked on a headlining tour of mid-sized clubs, including the Bowery Ballroom. With the opportunity to headline came additional theatricality via a series of artful videos and animation on four small television sets as a backdrop to the songs. Joywave still looked like a lo-fi indie band but performed as a polished mainstream band, frequently manipulating whimsical shoegaze melodies into bombastic blasts that whipped into aerobic arena-rock pop anthems. Armbruster’s soft vocals and the band’s silky, danceable rhythms made for radio-friendly hooks that enlivened and energized the songs, and somewhat edgy arrangements saved the show from being pure bubblegum fare. Nevertheless, the slick pop treatments likely will attract a mostly younger audience to Joywave.


The Silversun Pickups/Terminal 5/Nov. 15, 2017
Brian Aubert began playing guitar on a cheap acoustic when he was a seven-year-old in Topanga, California. When he was 18 years old, he met Nikki Monninger on a flight from Los Angeles to London; Aubert reportedly noticed Monninger sitting across the aisle from him stealing alcohol from the drink cart by distracting the flight attendant. In 2000, back in Silver Lake, Calif. they started Silversun Pickups as an alternative rock band. The band is currently composed of vocalist/guitarist Aubert, bassist Monninger, keyboardist Joe Lester and drummer Christopher Guanlao. Silversun Pickups’ fourth and most recent album, Better Nature, was released in 2015.

One minute into “Panic Switch,” at Terminal 5, Aubert interrupted the song and explained to the audience, “We’re stopping this right now. My pedal is broken, and we’re not playing this half-assed for you.” A few seconds later, the quartet regrouped and roared back into the song from the beginning. At another point, he shared lightheartedly with the audience some of his recent mishaps; he was suffering the effects of a flu and also was playing guitar with his broken arm in a cast. Despite these obstacles, Silversun Pickups gave pop melodies a booming sonic force with heavily cranked guitar work and propulsive rhythms. The band has matured, to where the distorted, fuzzy guitar textures ironically sounded remarkably crisp and slick. Aubert’s vocals matched the music’s soft-to-loud peaks, often ascending from a soft delivery to a snarl and ultimately to a shout. Monninger sang a bit too, but usually concentrating on loading the bottom drive while jumping to the rhythms. Silversun Pickups still had a raw edge, but honed in on a more measured and spit-shined dynamic that will allow the band’s appeal to widen to a larger audience.


King Crimson/Beacon Theatre/Nov. 17, 2017
From the remains of a band called Giles, GIles and Fripp in Dorset, England, King Crimson formed in 1968 in London. Competing musical visions, of whether to lean more pop versus more progressive caused the original King Crimson to fracture quickly, and before long guitarist Robert Fripp, who was not the main songwriter or front person, became the one remaining original member. Despite numerous splits and reformations, King Crimson has remained the most esteemed and influential pioneer in progressive rock. More than 20 members later, the current band consists of Fripp, guitarist/vocalist Jakko Jakszyk, bassist Tony Levin, saxophonist Mel Collins, keyboardist Chris Gibson, and three drummers, Gavin Harrison, Pat Mastelotto, and Jeremy Stacey. King Crimson’s thirteenth and most recent studio album in 2003’s The Power to Believe. King Crimson most recently released a box set of live recordings called Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of Monkey Mind, on Sept. 2, 2016.

At the first of two consecutive nights at the Beacon Theatre, King Crimson’s set was an extensive retrospective, touching on almost every album. While the entire set was comprised of the band’s signature progressive rock, the extended instrumental sections and complex song structures featured different flavors, with measures influenced by hard rock, chamber-styled classical, avant garde jazz, ambient soundscapes and experimental dissonance. The adventure was that a listener would be awed by where the mystifying movements were leading. The softer songs featured Fripp gliding through melodic guitar leads and Jakszyk singing almost romantic lines, but even as the wash of sentiment took root, the vocals were replaced by intricately-conceived polyrhythmic complexity. Perhaps the most unique element to the performance was that individual soloing was minimal; the dynamic embedded almost consistently throughout the concert was that of an ensemble’s interplay. That in itself distinguished King Crimson’s set from that of most other contemporary prog-rock bands.


The Revolting Cocks/The Gramercy Theatre/Nov. 18, 2017
Richard 23 of Front 242, Luc Van Acker, and Al Jourgensen of Ministry formed Revolting Cocks as an electro-industrial side-project in 1985. Richard 23 left a year later, numerous musicians came and went, Van Acker left in 1991, and finally the group ended in 1993 after three albums. In 2004, Jourgensen revived the group, released one song, and assembled a live band called RevCo for a 2006 tour opening for his band Ministry; Revco ultimately disintegrated in 2010. Several brief reunions ensued in 2011 and 2013. In 2016, 23 and Van Acker formed a touring band called the Cocks, but returned as the Revolting Cocks in 2017. The Revolting Cocks’ sixth and most recent studio album is 2010’s ¿Got Cock?

The Revolting Cocks’ 2017 tour, which stopped at the Gramercy Theatre, celebrates the 30th anniversary of the band’s debut album, Big Sexy Land, which actually was released in 1986. The first part of the set featured original vocalist 23 singing the album in its entirety; the second part of the performance featured his successor, Chris Connelly, singing songs from later albums. Backed by three musicians and programmed tracks, both 23 and Connelly fronted their songs well, dancing energetically and injecting their fun-loving personalities into the EBM catalogues. The electronically-driven songs pulsed relentlessly behind them, saturating the venue with hard and dark dance beats. The evening ended as light-heartedly as it began, this time climaxing with 23 and Connelly sharing vocals on the encore cover of Rod Stewart‘s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”