Deerhoof/The DiMenna Center for Classical Music/August 18, 2019

Deerhoof began as an improvisational and experimental noise band in 1994 in San Francisco, California. Drummer Greg Saunier was an original member, vocalist/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki joined a year later (although she had no previous experience performing music), and with a cast of changing musicians, Deerhoof began recording a very eclectic series of albums; one of the band’s signature moves is to change sound abruptly between albums. Since 1997, Deerhoof has been prolific, releasing 14 albums, with six between 2001 and 2005 alone. The most recent album in 2017’s Mountain Moves. Since 2008, Deerhoof has consisted of Saunier, Matsuzaki, and guitarists John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez. The band currently is based in Brooklyn, New York.

Deerhoof was among the headliners at this year’s TIME:SPANS music festival, an annual series introducing avant garde music, at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music. Rather than perform music from the Deerhoof catalogue, the quartet performed a program entitled “In All Languages: Deerhoof Plays Hits of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.” The performance consisted of eight pieces, each of which was a mash-up of abstracted excerpts of songs by Ornette Coleman, Voivod, the Beach Boys, Kraftwerk, the Police, Sun Ra, Parliament, Ennio Morricone, the B-52’s, Dionne Warwick, John Cage and the Velvet Underground, among many other sources. The music carried a melody, then crashed, realigned with whimsical music patterns, then erupted, and somehow all along found the meeting point between the ambient and the clamorous. The program was bizarre yet heady enough for the listener to be blown away by the pure invention.

Kiss/Barclays Center, Brooklyn/August 20, 2019

Guitarist Paul Stanley and bassist Gene Simmons floundered in several local bands before teaming as Rainbow in New York City in 1970; in 1971, Rainbow would become Wicked Lester, which likewise made little impact. Inspired by harder rock and roll bands like Slade and the outrageous stage antics of Alice Cooper, Stanley and Simmons in 1972 assembled what would become Kiss, with guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss. Thanks in large part to the local dominance of the New York Dolls and similar bands, New York’s music scene was in the throes of its short-lived glitter-rock era, where make-up and outlandish wardrobe was the norm. Kiss’ kabuki-styled face paint and space age costumes were above the norm in 1973, however, and helped the band stand out among the local rockers. Kiss became known for its stage act, which included fire-breathing, blood-spitting, and pyrotechnics. By the fourth album, Kiss became an arena band. Kiss is one of the best-selling bands of all time, having sold more than 75 million records worldwide. Kiss also holds the title as America’s top gold record award-winning group of all time, having earned 30 gold albums. Kiss has 14 platinum albums, with three albums being multi-platinum. Since 2004, the band has been comprised of Stanley, Simmons, guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer. The band’s most recent studio album is 2012’s Monster. The four original members of Kiss were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.

With Kiss’ popularity experiencing many ups and downs, many tours were rumored to be the band’s final tour until the first official farewell tour in 2000-2001. The band never actually retired, however, so even though the current tour is billed as the End of the Road Tour, could it really be the end of Kiss? If so, they went out with a blast. But then, all of Kiss’ concerts always have been a blast, and the spectacle at Barclays Center in Brooklyn was little different. Most of the staging was familiar. Fog, lasers, flash pots, flame towers, spiraling sparklers, confetti canons, balloon drops, hydraulic platforms, and B-stage interludes are rather common at arena concerts, but Kiss remains the only band that adds a blood spitter and fire breather. Stanley rode a zip line to and from the B-stage in the back of the arena; that was new, as were the cherry pickers that brought the musicians over the audience.  Guitar, bass and drum solos would have been a yawn if they were not elevated with special effects. More than half of the set was derived from the band’s 1970s albums, and many of the lyrics sounded rather juvenile coming from senior citizen rockers, but long live rock and roll. Kiss’ performance was for the Peter Pan in us; who wants to grow up when bigger-than-life rock idols continue to rally us to rock and roll all night and party every day?

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown/le Poisson Rouge/August 22, 2019

Arthur Brown was born in 1942 as his family’s home was being bombed by the Germans in a World War II air raid. As a young adult, he left his hometown of Whitby, a seaside town in northern England, to perform in several bands based in London, England, and later, in Paris, France. Returning to London in 1967, he formed the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. The band was a one-hit wonder when 1968’s “Fire” sold over one million copies. Arthur Brown quickly gained attention for his powerful operatic voice (which spanned four octaves in addition to the banshee-like screech that ended “Fire”), his colorful face paint, and his burning metal helmet. After several personnel changes and no further commercial success, the band split in 1970. Brown then sang in several bands including Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come in the 1970s. In the 1980s, he worked as a carpenter, painter, and counselor while living in Austin, Texas. He returned to music with a new Crazy World of Arthur Brown in 2000. Since 2000, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown has consisted of  Brown, guitarist Z-Star, keyboardist Lucie Rejchrtova, bassist Jim Mortimore, and drummer Samuel Walker. The band’s most recent album, Gypsy Voodoo, was released on June 26, 2019.

Perhaps curiosity and nostalgia drew an audience to see the Crazy World of Arthur Brown perform at le Poisson Rouge. Brown performed in colorful face paint and changed into many flamboyant outfits, including a nearly floor-length vest with rows of flashing LED lights. Unlike his performance there two years ago, no flaming helmet accompanied “Fire” this time, and perhaps New York City safety codes were a factor in that decision. The set consisted of an eclectic mix of songs mostly from the debut album and 2013’s Zim Zam Zim, plus the title track of the new album and three songs from Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come. Brown sang richly, and the band jammed wherever possible, so much so that the encore felt extended beyond reason. The Crazy World of Arthur Brown provided an entertaining show, but it was all warm-up for the zenith of “Fire.”

Orange Goblin/The Gramercy Theatre/August 27, 2019

As a youth in London, England, Ben Ward was planning to study electrical engineering and be an engineer in the Royal Air Force. Instead he wound up making sandwiches at Wembley Arena. When he finished school, he played professional soccer for two years but then he discovered heavy metal, alcohol, and drugs, so football fell by the wayside. In 1995, he co-founded the band Our Haunted Kingdom, which became Orange Goblin, an underground favorite in the international stoner-rock and doom-metal genres. By 2002, the hard-rocking band incorporated more punk, blues, groove metal, space rock and other influences. Vocalist Ward, guitarist Joe Hoare, bassist Martyn Millard, and drummer Chris Turner have played together since the beginning. After a four-year wait, Orange Goblin released its ninth and most recent studio album, The Wolf Bites Back, on June 15, 2018.

At six feet and five inches, Ward towered over his band mates on stage at the Gramercy Theatre, but he did not overshadow them. Clearly, Ward was the focal point, as he leaned over the stage monitors, shook his waist-length hair, and growled at his audience. Meanwhile, the power trio behind him cranked and crushed driving riffs, sludgy grooves and greasy guitar leads. Orange Goblin’s music recalled classic hard rock from the 1970s, yet bristling with a darker and more unrefined attack. The set offered 17 songs spanning more than 20 years of recordings, plus a cover of Motohead’s “No Class.” Due to Chris Turner’s visa issues, veteran metal drummer Chad Walls (aka Captain Killdrums) was a last-minute replacement and did well after only one rehearsal. To call the performance stoner-rock or doom-metal would be unfairly limiting; this was hard and heavy head-banging rock and roll.

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