Manhattan Beat – The Split Squad, Combichrist, & More!

The Split Squad/The Bowery Electric/June 7, 2018
    The Split Squad is comprised of the members of classic punk bands from decades past. Vocalist/bassist Michael Giblin was in Cherry Twister, guitarist Eddie Muñoz is in the Plimsouls, guitarist Keith Streng is in the Fleshtones, keyboardist Josh Kantor was in the Baseball Project, and drummer Clem Burke was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a founding member of Blondie. The new band’s name refers to the practice during Major League Baseball’s spring training of teams splitting into two squads so that each squad plays against another team on the same day. Conceived in 2011 and formed in 2013, the band’s sole album, Now Hear This… was released in 2014.

    The Split Squad returned to the Bowery Electric, this time without a keyboardist, and rocked the venue with blazing guitars. Streng’s guitar was wireless, and he dashed into the audience often for his solos; Muñoz was contained at the side of the stage but whipped out equally electric solos. The force was not only in the guitar work, however. Giblin sang catchy 1960s-style pop melodies and Burke pounded the percussion tirelessly. Falling somewhere between garage rock and power pop, the sum total was a high-energy rock ‘n’ roll show.


Combichrist/The Gramercy Theatre/June 8, 2018
    Ole Anders Olsen, known professionally as Andy LaPlegua, began his life and his career in Fredrikstad, Norway. There, LaPlegua experimented with hip-hop in the techno band LAW, industrial in Devils into Crime (DIC), hardcore punk in My Right Choice (MRC) (later renamed Fleshfire) and metal in Lash Out. He also explored trance and club music with the bands Plastic Life and Sector9. He conceived a solo project in 1997, but then recruited musicians to evolve the project into the futurepop band Icon of Coil. LaPlegua then formed aggrotech band Combichrist in 2003 as a more aggressive alternative to Icon of Coil and then the electro-industrial Panzer AG in 2004 to combine the danceability of Icon of Coil and the hard-hitting beats of Combichrist. His most techno-oriented project is (DJ) Scandy, and his newest project, Scandinavian Cock, is a rockabilly/psychobilly act. LaPlegua presently is based in Atlanta.

    At the Gramercy Theatre, LaPlegua was accompanied by guitarist Eric13, keyboardist Elliot Berlin, drummer Joe Letz, and percussionist Nick Rossi. Combichrist’s eighth and most recent album, This Is Where Death Begins, was released two years ago, so with no new songs to promote, the Everybody Still Hates You tour consisted entirely of songs unearthed from the Combichrist catalog. LaPlegua growled acidic melodies as the band backed him with hard, scorching beats and waves of corrosive industrial metal soundscapes, bridging crunching death metal with industrial, techno and power noise elements. The musicians maintained their high-energy pace from beginning to end; LaPlegua and Eric13 incessantly paced the edge of the stage and engaged the audience, and Letz, wearing both a mouth guard to create a perpetual wide smile and a short black dress that revealed his panties when he stood (which he did often), frequently poured water on his drums to create geysers when he hit them with his sticks. Powered by an explosive barrage of beats, the intensity of the band’s sonic battery matched the imaginative creativity of this harsh, hammering music. Combichrist’s performance scraped and frayed the edges of extreme dance music.


of Montreal/Le Poisson Rouge/June 12, 2018
    Seeking suitable band mates to fulfill his off-kilter musical ideas, Kevin Barnes left his native Athens, Georgia, moved south to Florida and north to Minneapolis, and Cleveland, and eventually recruited from the local music scene and its Elephant 6 collective back home. Barnes founded of Montreal as an indie solo project in 1996. Allegedly, the name was inspired by a failed romance between Barnes and a woman “of Montreal.” Over time, of Montreal’s music evolved from low-fidelity twee pop to math pop to psychedelic to glitter rock to classic rock to funk; of Montreal currently is inspired by extended dance remixes of the 1980s. of Montreal has recorded 14 studio albums; the most recent album, White is Relic/Irrealis Mood, was released on March 9, 2018.

    Performing as part of le Poisson Rouge‘s 10th anniversary celebration, of Montreal’s latest production was once again over the top, led by Barnes’ colorful alter ego, Georgie Fruit, whom Barnes conceived to be a person in his 40s who performed in a funk band in the 1970s and has undergone multiple gender transitions. Fruit performed in five different drag outfits, accompanied musically by keyboardist Jojo Glidewell, keyboardist/guitarist Bennett Dean Lewis, bassist Davey Pierce, and drummer Clayton Rychlik. In addition, costumed dancers, larger-than-life puppets and a stash of props offered scenarios that included sea-creatures, sequined dragons, and Mexican wrestlers. The set included quirky songs from several of of Montreal’s better-selling albums, while the newer songs were thumping synthesizer dance songs that matched Barnes’ obtuse, angular musical leanings to body-moving elements from the disco era. The lyrics to many of the selected songs endorsed sex positive messages and were performed dynamically with in-your-face forcefulness. Overall, of Montreal’s concert provided escapism to the maximum degree.


Dwight Yoakam/The Beacon Theatre/June 13, 2018
    Dwight Yoakam was born in Pikeville, Ky. and was raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he starred in his high school’s music and drama programs and sang and played guitar with local garage bands. In 1977, intent on becoming a recording artist, he moved to Los Angeles, where he played his honky tonk revival music in punk rock clubs. Since then, he has recorded more than 20 albums and compilations, charted more than 30 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, and sold more than 25 million records. He has also acted in numerous television series and feature films and curates his own satellite radio station. His most recent album is 2016’s Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars…, a bluegrass album.

    This LSD tour, named after the first initials of the three co-headliners, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle & the Dukes and Dwight Yoakam, came to the Beacon Theatre, presenting three different takes on country roots revival. Yoakam closed the show with a tight, no-space-to-breathe hour-long set that did not afford him the time to include his usual acoustic bluegrass mini-set. The denim cowboy’s set marched to a rocking rhythm from start to end, such that a cover of Chuck Berry‘s “Little Queenie” did not seem out of character. Unmistakably, Yoakam’s rich baritone etched a country stamp on all the songs, several of which were covers of old-time classics, but they were thoroughly powered by rock energy and volume. The evening ended with Yoakam singing a charging cover of Flatt & Scruggs‘ 1952 bluegrass classic “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music),” with Williams and Earle singing backup; the only thing better would have been to have given each of the artists their own verse to sing.