I very vividly remember sitting at home on a Sunday night in 1996, during my senior year of high school and listening to WNEW while doing homework. At that point WNEW was still a rock station and Sunday nights were one of the few times that a freeform radio show played on a major commercial radio station. Vin Scelsa’s Idiot’s Delight show was a true old-school freeform radio show and always interesting, fun and often exciting to hear. Scelsa hosted an in-studio concert and interview with a young band from North Carolina promoting their first eponymous album on an indie label. That band was Ben Folds Five.

Of all of the artists that I’ve listened to in the course of my musical enjoyment, a very few stand out as ones that I both vividly remember hearing for the first time and continue to enjoy. And that radio appearance completely sold me on Ben Folds Five, because they were doing something unique and uniquely targeted to me: a piano trio playing a mix of pop music with solid melodies combined with a true punk energy and youthful collegiate humor.

I still love that first Ben Folds Five album. But after “Brick” became a massive hit and after I was underwhelmed by The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, they played a fairly low-energy set to headline Spring Fling at Tufts, they dropped off of my radar. And then most people’s radars, since the band broke up in 2000.

But when I heard about the band getting together for a reunion earlier this year, I went back into listening to the band, and remembered what it was that I appreciated about their music, and think that it’s still there. The piano pop punk rock works for me. And since their first reunion show would be in Hunter, NY, I decided to brave the hippies at Mountain Jam to see Ben Folds Five again.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8472/8088878606_6ab6ec2595.jpg

And it was a great set, in large part because it was a set that was perfectly engineered for a reunion show. No new songs, just the hits and fan favorites.

Here’s Jackson Cannery from the Hunter show:

(And yes, if you carefully watch those videos captured from the webcast of the Mountain Jam show, you will see me in the audience.)

Ben Folds Five’s new album, The Sound of the Life of the Mind is a mixed bag. It is somewhat more mature than the first couple of Ben Folds Five records, but part of the appeal of those early records was their lack of maturity. This is not an album review, so I’m not going to go through the album in great detail, but the high points include the Nick Hornby penned lyrics to the title track and Draw a Crowd, as well as the video for the first single, which combines Folds and Fraggles:

Even though they sing in Swedish, Movits! brought a sizable crowd out to Bowery Ballroom on a Sunday night. Only a fraction of this crowd spoke Swedish. Part of this is due to the Colbert bump they received by performing on The Colbert Report. But the main reason is likely that Movits plays music that is unafraid to be fun and is full of gleeful enthusiasm that transcends language.
At least, that is the case for me. More than any other artist currently working, Movits makes the kind of music that I want to make. It’s got a unique voice, it’s fun, it’s happy, it’s danceable and it features saxophone. Upright bass is an extra plus. Of course, I probably wouldn’t go with lyrics in Swedish. Aside from some brands (Ikea, Volvo) and proper names (hockey player names and characters from Steig Larsson’s novels), I don’t know a word of Swedish. Yet I couldn’t stop smiling throughout the show. Perhaps that’s a result of a lack of comprehension and perhaps the words are very serious and somber in contrast to the fun and danceable music.
But whatever the lyrical content may be, Movits did get a New York crowd dancing by the end of the show, which is no small feat in and of itself. They play an interesting mix of live and sampled, with most percussion coming via DJ (although a few numbers did feature acoustic guitar or live drum), but with live upright bass and saxophone.
I wasn’t in the best mood by the time the show started, because of the long wait between me getting to Bowery and the show starting. The show was billed as Movits playing at 9 with doors opening at 8. Even though Bowery Ballroom set times are often scheduled for 30 minutes later than advertised (but not always), no one hit the stage until 9:45. And then it was unannounced bonus extra opener Zacke, a Swedish rapper (a frequent collaborator with Movits!)
But once Movits took the stage, it was all energy, fun and joy, a wonderful contrast to how Americans often think of Sweden.
Movits!

When we at Buzz Rant & Rave World HQ realized that CMJ was coming up again, the response was distinctly unenthusiastic. While it’s great to have the festival atmosphere along with all of the opportunities for afternoon drinking, as a festival, it’s never been the reason for many interesting and unique collaborations or bills that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Generally, the promoters and venues book acts who they would normally host on a typical bill (or would like to.) As we’ve gotten further from college age, the presence of all of the college radio programmers makes us feel old at the festival. And it encourages the annoying music blogger groupthink that’s turned us off from reading too many music blogs. Despite all of these drawbacks, it’s still an important presence in the NYC music scene and perhaps the best indie music festival after SXSW.
In years past, we’ve spent more time plotting out a schedule with a detailed timeline to hit as many showcases as possible. Unlike the last couple of years, when we analyzed trends in band names, we barely glanced through the roster this year (see Music Snobbery’s review of some of the weird, strange and usual of this year.) But the CMJ experience this year involved much more random sampling of bands playing in venues we like at convenient times, especially scheduled to fit around other non-CMJ social plans. But we still had the opportunity to catch some highlights.
The single best act I saw during the festival was Australia’s Philadelphia Grand Jury. They played a LOT during the week, but I caught them at the I Rock I Roll day party at The Delancey on Saturday afternoon. If Flight of the Conchords self-aware, funny and humble pop music represents New Zealand, Philadelphia Grand Jury (or the Philly J’s) are the embodiment of Flight of the Conchords’ TV show take on Australians: raucous, loud and brash– unchecked id. Unlike many of the bands to play NYC in general and CMJ specifically, Philadelphia Grand Jury wasn’t afraid to have fun. They announced every song as “[their] favorite song and the best song.” The band members all jumped out on stage, into the crowd and had fun, despite some issues with the mic stands unable to stand up to the frenzy. They’re a do-not-miss act the next time they’re back in NYC.
Philadelphia Grand Jury
Philadelphia Grand Jury
Philadelphia Grand Jury
Earlier that afternoon, Ted Leo played a solo set at Public Assembly. He’s one of the few artists who can play a solo set that’s sufficiently rocking to be fun and engaging. The Brutalist Bricks has grown tremendously on me to become not only one of my favorite Ted Leo albums, but one of my favorites of the year. Catchy, diverse, incisive and rocking.
Earlier in the week, just down the block from Public Assembly on North 6th Street in Williamsburg, Screaming Females put on an impressive set at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Although the band’s name is both descriptive and misleading: there’s only a single screaming female in Screaming Females, they’re still great. A classic power trio with dynamic and virtuostic guitar playing. Punk rock and lyrical, epic guitar soloing usually exist in opposite corners of the rock and roll universe, but Marissa Paternoster brings it together in a fresh and exciting way.
Screaming Females @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (CMJ 2010)
Screaming Females @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (CMJ 2010)
Screaming Females @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (CMJ 2010)

“I hope you’ve got some sleeping bags and tents. This might be a really long show tonight,” says David Bowie from the stage a couple songs into his newly released live disc A Reality Tour. This turns out to be accurate as the show doesn’t conclude for almost thirty more songs encompasing two discs. Pulled from a pair of shows recorded in Dublin back in 2003, there’s little to hint that this turned out to be an ill-fated tour (it was cut short due to Bowie’s health issues, and one show was cancelled after the death of a lighting tech). Bowie sounds energized and in good voice, has a top session band behind him and an energetic crowd (mixed high). Overall, the disc does well in conveying the feeling of being there.
To his credit, Bowie picks songs from throughout his catalog, with about half the selections coming from his prime Seventies albums and the rest mostly from his post-Eighties work. In fact, only a few Eighties songs sneak in, and the most well-known only as a bonus track (“China Girl”). The highlights still come with the older material, including a great duet with bassist/vocalist Gail Ann Dorsey on Under Pressure (she kills on the Freddy Mercury vocal), the slow-building, anthemic Heroes and the suberbly sung Fantastic Voyage. Hang Onto Yourself comes late in the set as part of a trio of Ziggy Stardust songs and is the only really rocking moment of the show. The rise in energy (and beats per minute) produce the best crowd reaction of the night.
The band plays well, though only occassionally catches fire. On many of the songs from Bowie’s later albums, including “Heathen” and “Reality,” the guitar parts turn more atmospheric or noisy, robbing the songs of the kind of riffs that make something like “Heroes” compelling, and giving a lot of the material a sameness (the lack of strong vocal melodies doesn’t help). Some of the instrument tones are problematic, with guitars sounding like they are played through solid-state amps (and if they weren’t, the culprit may be too many digital effects) and the bass tone a bit too bright (see “Sister Midnight” and especially “Ziggy Stardust.”)
Which is not to say that the discs aren’t a good listen. Bowie didn’t have much to prove on this tour, and really just needed to give a good show, which he does with good cheer and occassionally excellent performances from him and the band. In the end, A Reality Tour is a meant more for his fans than as a way to convert non-believers, and as a token of the tour, it does an admirable job.

Now that I’ve ripped all of my CD’s into compressed digital formats in iTunes, I’ve acquired a turntable and started listening to more music on vinyl. As a listener, it’s nice to have a more active and physical connection with music. Hard disk-based libraries are wonderful for depth and variety, but for listening to the great albums that you love as albums, the album-centric listening experience is rewarding and engaging.
Instead of building a multi-hour playlist of digital music spanning dozens of genres, artists and albums across hundreds of songs, an LP listener has to flip after each side and can’t easily skip ahead from song to song. The medium forces more engaged listening.
But the LP is also an inferior medium to the CD and even compressed digital formats. The CD has tremendously more dynamic range. Dynamic range is the amount of sounds that can be reproduced from a recording– from the lowest note and softest volume to the highest frequency and loudest volume.
But today’s recordings are mixed and mastered to push the average levels as high as possible, using less dynamic range than the CD medium is able to deliver. Robert Levine published the definite take on the so-called loudness wars in a 2007 article in Rolling Stone, The Death of High Fidelity, “Over the past decade and a half, a revolution in recording technology has changed the way albums are produced, mixed and mastered — almost always for the worse.”
Pete Bilderback, Yo! Turn It Down!

“Dynamic range compression is not new. Producers of popular music have been using it for decades, and–used in moderation–it is actually an essential tool in producing good sounding pop and rock recordings. But over the past several decades producers, mastering engineers and recording artists have engaged in a race to create the loudest possible sounding CDs (the so-called “loudness wars”) and in doing so have severely restricted the dynamic range heard in today’s popular music recordings.”

Most modern music is seemingly optimized for listening in a 128 kbps MP3. Below about 192 kbps, MP3 files sound washed out, but above that are close enough to CD to be intistinguishable, except perhaps on truly audiophile equipment.
Music recorded earlier than the mid-1980s was not only mixed, mastered and produced to fit within the limits of the medium, but also recorded to sound best on the medium. While 2″ analog tape has a much wider dynamic range than an LP, did any artists not seek to make the best sounding LP possible?
Bob Speer, What Happened To Dynamic Range?

“What happened to dynamic range? That’s a question that should be asked of record labels, producers, artists, and last but not least, recording and mastering engineers. The question needs to be asked because we’re the ones responsible for what’s happened to our music. Much of the music we listen to today is nothing more than distortion with a beat. Great music is suffering because it lacks dynamic range. When music lacks dynamic range, it lacks punch, emotion, and clarity.”

Mastering for vinyl can be more artistic than mastering for digital because of the limitations of the medium. Kevin Gray, Producing Great Sounding Phonograph Records
Comparing the waverforms for the CD and LP versions of Bob Dylan’s Eyolf Østrem looked at the amount of dynamic range used by the different masters of the same album and concluded, Someone Please Fire Jack Frost. Even though the CD is capable of delivering a more dynamic representation of the music, it’s often end up delivering as loud of a delivery as possible with less dynamic range.
Given that digital formats are using less dynamic range than LP’s, and that analog distortion is warmer, more musical and more natural than digital clipping, the vinyl record is remaining relevant, because the inferior medium is used in a superior manner. The loudness wars are making modern digital recordings sound worse than records. Which is a shame, because properly recorded and mastered digital recordings are more dynamic. The deepest lows and highest highs that a CD can reproduce are higher and lower than those on vinyl, but for albums that don’t use all of that dynamic range, the warm sound and focused experience of listening to albums is more compelling for music fans.

Igot invited to see a taping of The Late Show with David Letterman at the Ed Sullivan Theater last night. And aside from Dave being more engaged and energized by another situation involving the Tonight Show and Jay Leno over at NBC, this was incredibly worthwhile to attend, because The Heavy were the musical guest and rocked the house. As soon as the show wrapped, I was looking for their tour schedule to see if they were playing a full set later. Unfortunately, the Late Show wrapped up their US tour.

How often does Dave ask the musical guest to keep playing the song for another go round with the CBS Orchestra then vamping on the riff after the band finishes?
According to the Late Show website, it was “unprecedented.” They also have the full and complete encore performance
But sometimes when a band is just setting up, you get a feeling that you’re going to like them. If they’ve set up a four piece Gretsch drum set, Rickenbacker bass, Telecaster guitar through a Fender amp, baritone sax, tenor sax and trumpet, you get a sense of the sound they’re going to have. Combine with a British flag and before the band is even on stage, that’s a pretty solid indicator of the kind of sound they’re going to have. Borrow the Dap Kings horn section and execute well and there you go: a recipe for awesome.
The Heavy [theheavy.co.uk]
WXPN: The Heavy, Recorded Live In Concert (Jan. 15, 2010)
NPR: The Heavy: Dirty Basement Soul “Like the early White Stripes, The Heavy sometimes threatens to cross the line between reviving and archiving. Also like the early White Stripes, it’s good enough to get away with a lot, and smart enough to take full advantage.”
The House That Dirt Built: Vinyl CD MP3

So this little venue in NYC, Madison Square Garden, hosted a small concert last night in celebration of the 15th anniversary of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The bill featured Bruce Sprinsteen & The E-Street Band, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills, Nash and friends. Perhaps you may have heard of some of these artists?
So yeah. That was some bill. And the show lasted until 1:30 AM, as all of the performers brought out special guests, which included Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Dion DiMucci, Little Anthony and The Imperials, Smokey Robinson, BB King, Sting, John Legend, Jeff Beck, Sam Moore, Darlene Love, John Fogerty, Tom Morello and Billy Joel.
Some of the collaborations seemed superfluous, such as Sting playing bass on “Higher Ground” with Stevie, with an awkward segue into a tepid cover of “Roxanne.” Others didn’t have any flow– the two acts who played with Simon and Garfunkel (Dion and Little Anthony)– were obvious influences on Simon and Garfunkel, but didn’t really bring any new shadings to the set, which probably would have been more musically memorable if Art Garfunkel and his awesome hair sang with Simon on one of Simon’s solo hits. Or just if they dug deeper into their catalog. But Crosby and Nash offered backup vocals to Simon’s cover of “Here Comes the Sun.” And “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was just tremendous as Garfunkel’s voice was more than up to the task of filling the Garden. (Of note, according to the image projected behind the stage, the East River is apparently troubled water.)
Some of the collaborations made up for the extraneous or boring ones. Half of Stevie’s guests were teh awesome. Jeff Beck came on stage to wail on the guitar for “Superstition.” And it was tremendous. John Legend sang a competent version of Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me” with Stevie. (That’s a case where a competent version is a tremendous complement. Not an easy song to pull off, and while it didn’t reach any higher ground, the song worked.) Legend also sat in on piano with Stevie to cover Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” for an emotional performance.
Aside from an opening trip to “Woodstock,” the Crosby, Stills and Nash set felt lightweight and superfluous to the rest of the night. All three were in fine form vocally, but I could have used another hour of Stevie and Jeff Beck jamming.
Springsteen’s choices of guests revealed much about his influences. Sam Moore showed how much of an influence he had on Springsteen as a performer and frontman. It also demonstrated that (with some extra horns) the E Street Band make for a solid soul revue show band. John Fogerty and Tom Morello showed a bit of the continuity of politically oriented rock music. By far, the highlights of Springsteen’s set were the songs that Morello sat in for. I’m not a huge fan of Rage Against the Machine, so I had no expectations for Morello’s playing (unlike, say, Jeff Beck.) His blistering solo on “The Ghost of Tom Joad” brought the song to a new level and helped elevate a cover of “London Calling” from acceptable to great.
Less musically interesting and successful was the summit meeting between NJ’s Springsteen and Lon Gisland’s Billy Joel. Unlike the other guests, Joel’s appearance wasn’t announced on the event’s website beforehand, so it was a surprise for me until Bruce started talking about the similarities between NJ and LI and the stagehands brought a second piano on stage. The contrast between Springsteen and Joel is interesting. Both came up in the 70’s in the New York suburbs writing and performing music mainly about disaffected teens in the suburbs. While Springsteen’s is somewhat more influenced by the soul and folk traditions, Joel’s is more directly descended from Tin Pan Alley. Although Sprinsteen himself is a guitar player, his best album, “Born to Run” is as much of a piano-driven album as anything by Joel. But even as someone who is unashamed to own Billy Joel albums, the juxtaposition of the two on the same stage showed me how much more
The interesting contrast between the two is where they took their music after their initial success. Springsteen became an outspoken advocate for the working class through song as stagflation gave way to Reaganomics. He delved deeper into the folk tradition with Nebraska and The Seeger Sessions. He released one of the most relevant and timely albums of this decade with “The Rising” and has continued to write new music. In contrast, Joel evolved from singing about disaffected teens to singing about disaffected middle age adults. His music remained personal, while Springsteen’s evolved to add activism and politics to the personal. Joel may have said everything he has Perhaps that’s why Joel last released an album of new rock music in 1993, Springsteen has released 6 new albums (3 with the E Street Band and 3 folk albums).
And Springsteen still leads the biggest and baddest rock and roll carnival to roll through town. As a 60 year old, the Boss has more energy than most 25 year old indie rockers.
Via The Star Ledger, Setlists for the show.
Rolling Stone: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Turns 25 With All-Star Sets From Springsteen, Wonder and More, Epic Moments at the Rock Hall 25th Anniversary Concert, Morello, Raitt, Crosby Pay Tribute to Fellow Legends Backstage at First Rock Hall Concert

This is now an annual tradition! For the second year in a row, we’re going to look through the big list of bands coming into town this week for the CMJ Music Marathon and see if we can divine any trends in band naming.

Numbers

Two is by far the most popular number referenced in band naming. 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 12, 28, 69, 70 and 1,000,000 are also represented among this crop of names:

  • Jupiter One
  • Once
  • 2am Club
  • Mystery of Two
  • Twin Atlantic
  • Twin Berlin
  • Two Fresh
  • Two Tears
  • Mother Of Three
  • Mighty Five
  • School of Seven Bells
  • The Middle Eight
  • 12th Planet
  • 28 North
  • 69 Eyes
  • Expo 70
  • A Million Years

Other Quantities

Some quantities aren’t expressible in discrete numbers

  • So Many Dynamos
  • So Many Wizards
  • Super Extra Bonus Party

Speed

Surprisingly, fast and slow are equally represented

  • The Fast Romantics
  • Slow Country
  • Tempo No Tempo

Directions

Go west, young man! All four of the compass directions are represented, but west is the most prevalent.

  • 28 North
  • Far East Movement
  • Mark Knight and Dirty South Live
  • Smith Westerns
  • Western Civ
  • The Western States Motel

Geography

Planets and Satellites
  • 12th Planet
  • Hooray For Earth
  • Man on Earth
  • Jupiter One
  • Moonbabies
  • Moondoggies
  • Under The Sherry Moon
  • We Landed On The Moon!
  • We Are The World
Continents
  • Antarctic
Oceans
  • Pacific Theater
  • Twin Atlantic
Countries
  • The Brazil Show
  • Casino versus Japan
  • Electro Morocco & Dreams in Static
  • Japandroids
  • Japanther
  • Look Mexico
  • The Maldives
  • Portugal. The Man
  • French Miami
  • Spanish Prisoners
  • These United States
  • Volcanoless In Canada
States
  • Arizona
  • The Gulf Of Michigan
Cities
  • Appomattox
  • Brighton MA
  • Capital City
  • David Dallas
  • French Miami
  • Invade Rome
  • My Jerusalem
  • NYCSmoke
  • River Phoenix
  • Twin Berlin
Neighborhoods
  • Bel Air
  • Diamond District
  • Harlem
  • Robbers on High Street
  • The Bowery Riots
Geographical Features
  • Beach Fossils
  • Best Coast
  • Black Bay
  • The Frontier Brothers
  • The Frontier Ruckus
  • The Gulf Of Michigan
  • River Phoenix
  • Spiral Beach
  • Valley of the Shadow of Death
  • Vertical Horizon
Buildings
  • The Emergency Room
  • Home and Garden
  • The Library
  • Uninhabitable Mansions

Time

  • 2am Club
  • A Million Years
  • All The Day Holiday
  • Black & White Years
  • Love In October
  • The Minutes
  • Overnight
  • The Past Times

Seasons

  • Eternal Summers
  • Winterpills

Deoartment of Redundancy Department

Bands so nice they named them twice:

  • Bang Bang Eche
  • Beep Beep
  • Blip Blip Bleep
  • Champagne Champagne
  • Die! Die! Die!
  • Dum Dum Girls
  • Fra Fra Sound
  • Future Future
  • Kill Kill Kill
  • Motel Motel
  • Runner Runner
  • Santino Santino
  • The Seedy Seeds
  • Shout Out Out Out Out
  • Still Life Still
  • Takka Takka
  • Tall Tall Trees
  • Tempo No Tempo
  • Tiger! Shit! Tiger! Tiger!
  • Veil Veil Vanish
  • Voices Voices
  • You Scream I Scream
  • You, You’re Awesome

Transportation

    Air
  • Aeroplane
  • Aeroplane Pageant
  • Denney and the Jets
  • Flying Machines
  • Hospital Bombers
  • In-Flight Safety
  • Jets Overhead
  • Paper Airplane
  • Still Flyin
  • Land
  • Army Navy
  • Bridges and Powerlines
  • Brit and the Cavalry
  • Broadfield Marchers
  • Delorean
  • The Motorcycle Industry
  • BLACK TAXI
  • Unicycle Loves You
  • Sea
  • Army Navy
  • Floating Action
  • Sugar Plum Ferry
  • Space
  • Spaceships are Cool
  • We Landed On The Moon!

High vs. Low

  • The High Dials
  • The High Strung
  • Higher Giant
  • Highlife
  • The Hi-Risers
  • Robbers on High Street
  • Skyzoo
  • Jets Overhead
  • Low Frequency In Stereo

Stereo/Mono

Stereo is exactly twice as popular as mono!

  • Stereo Skyline
  • Low Frequency In Stereo
  • Monogold

Color

Black is again the most popular color represented, followed by gold.

  • Black & White Years
  • Black Anvil
  • Black Cherry
  • Black Diamond Bay
  • Black Holes
  • The Black Hollies
  • Black Swan Green
  • BLACK TAXI
  • Black Tie Party
  • the black watch
  • Black Whales
  • Cruel Black Dove
  • Dan Black
  • Red Wire Black Wire
  • Small Black
  • Soft Black
  • Gold Streets
  • The Golden Filter
  • Golden Silvers
  • Golden Triangle
  • Goldhawk
  • Solid Gold
  • Sugar & Gold
  • Monogold
  • Hi Red Center
  • Red Collar
  • Red/X
  • Red Wire Black Wire
  • Bobby Brown
  • Bosque Brown
  • White Tie Affair
  • Black & White Years
  • Blondes
  • Blood Orange
  • Blue Scholars
  • The Bronzed Chorus
  • Greycoats
  • Pink Noise
  • The YellowDogs

Light vs. Dark

Light is slightly more popular than dark and shadow.

  • Headlights
  • Lightning Love
  • The Lights Out
  • Lights Resolve
  • Dark Meat
  • Dark Room Notes
  • Valley of the Shadow of Death

Animals

Bears, birds, whales and dinosaurs, oh my!

    Bears
  • Angry Vs. The Bear
  • Bear Hands
  • Bear In Heaven
  • Care Bears on Fire
  • Mama Bear
  • Birds
  • Common Loon
  • Cruel Black Dove
  • Black Swan Green
  • An Albatross
  • Fearsome Sparrow
  • Hawk and Dove
  • Heavy Birds
  • Rainbird
  • Slang Chickens
  • Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt
  • Whales
  • Black Whales
  • Freelance Whales
  • Vulture Whale
  • Cats
  • The Jaguar Club
  • Japanther
  • Kittens Ablaze
  • Tiger! Shit! Tiger! Tiger!
  • Spring Tigers
  • Tigercity
  • Wolves
  • Julia Wolfe
  • We Are Wolves
  • Whistling Wolves
  • Other Dogs
  • Coyote Eyes
  • Pitbull
  • Moondoggies
  • The YellowDogs
  • Dinosaurs
  • Claymation Velociraptor
  • Dinosaur Feathers
  • Insects
  • Beehive
  • Annie And the Beekeepers
  • Deer Tick
  • Chimeras
  • Dinowalrus
  • Dragon Turtle
  • All Others
  • The Antlers
  • Batrider
  • Cobra Skulls
  • Crystal Antlers
  • Fox Jaws
  • Goat Whore
  • Kate Bradley & Goodbye Horses
  • Mussels
  • Pig Destroyer
  • Skibunny
  • The Telepathic Butterflies
  • We Are Country Mice
  • Wild Yaks

Food & Drink

  • Bamboo Shoots
  • The Beautiful Taste
  • Black Cherry
  • Blood
  • Coconuts
  • Cookie Martini
  • Dark Meat
  • Drink Up Buttercup
  • Hank & Cupcakes
  • Heavy Cream
  • Hungry Hands
  • Hungry Hungry Ghost
  • Lemonade
  • Mussels
  • Pomegranates
  • Sugar & Gold
  • Sugar Plum Ferry

Weight

  • Fat Tony
  • Fatkid Dodgeball
  • Heavy Birds
  • Heavy Cream
  • Heavy Trash

New vs. Old

New and modern are much more popular than old, vintage, classic or historic.

  • Awesome New Republic
  • Future Future
  • Miracles of Modern Science
  • Modern Science
  • Modern Skirts
  • The New Collisions
  • The New Loud
  • New Villager
  • The Past Times
  • Old Canes
  • Linc with Old Soul

Government and International Relations

Republic is by far the most favored form of government and the Senate is the preferred representative body by this year’s crop of bands. Surprisingly, no fans of direct democracy in the bunch.

  • Awesome New Republic
  • Great Republic of Rough and Ready
  • Senator
  • The Senate
  • French Horn Rebellion
  • International Espionage!
  • Invade Rome
  • The Surrender
  • Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt

Blood

A surprising number of bands are either vampires or decided to use blood in their band names for some other reason.

  • Blood Orange
  • Blood Warrior
  • Bloodgroup
  • The Bloodsugars
  • Surfer Blood
  • Type O Negative

Gender

    Male
  • Best Man
  • The Boy Bathing
  • The Brothers Frank
  • Brother Joscephus & the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra
  • Dead Men Dreaming
  • Frat Dad
  • The Frontier Brothers
  • Gentleman Auction House
  • Holy Sons
  • The Lives of Famous Men
  • Madison Ave Boys
  • Male Bonding
  • Man Like Me
  • Man on Earth
  • Natureboy
  • octoberman
  • Papa
  • The Protomen
  • The Queen Killing Kings
  • Female
  • Bodega Girls
  • Kleenex Girl Wonder
  • Little Girls
  • Mama Bear
  • Metermaids
  • Mother Of Three
  • Priestess
  • Screaming Females
  • Sister Hazel
  • Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds

Young vs. Old

  • Chris Young The Rapper
  • Choir of Young Believers
  • Grandchildren
  • Bodega Girls
  • Holy Sons
  • Kleenex Girl Wonder
  • Little Girls
  • Moonbabies
  • My Teenage Stride
  • Natural Child
  • Teenage Bottlerocket
  • The Teenage Prayers
  • Young Boys
  • Young Prisms
  • Youth Group
  • Baby Monster
  • Kid Color
  • Kid Theodore
  • Kidz In Space
  • Kidz In The Hall
  • Jim McTurnan and The Kids that Killed The Band
  • Mother Of Three
  • Dead Men Dreaming
  • Frat Dad
  • The Neanderthals
  • Old Canes

Instruments

Does French Horn Rebellion have a french horn player in the band?

  • The Bongos
  • Cymbals Eat Guitars
  • Erin and Her Cello
  • French Horn Rebellion

Sports

  • Boogie Boarder
  • Fatkid Dodgeball
  • Hockey
  • Let’s Wrestle
  • Surf City
  • Surfer Blood
  • Swimclub
  • The Swimmers
  • Tennis Pro
  • Unicycle Loves You

Teams vs. Bands

Surprisingly, this roster features slightly more bands that are teams than there are bands that are bands.

  • Team Facelift
  • Team Genius
  • Team Robespierre
  • Team William
  • Math the Band
  • Menahan Street Band
  • Mia Riddle & Her Band

Body Parts

  • The Idle Hands
  • Hungry Hands
  • Hammer No More The Fingers
  • The Naked Hearts
  • No Eye Contact
  • Shaky Hands
  • The Unsacred Hearts

Temperature

    Hot is more popular than cold.
  • Cold Cave
  • Cold Flamez
  • Hot Lava
  • Hot Panda
  • HotChaCha
  • Spit Hot Fire

Life and Death

  • Dead Heart Bloom
  • Dead Leaf Echo
  • Dead Men Dreaming
  • Dead Sexy Inc.
  • Dead Stars
  • Deadbeat Darling
  • Die! Die! Die!
  • Diehard
  • Kill Kill Kill
  • Kill Krinkle Club
  • Ringo Deathstarr
  • Valley of the Shadow of Death
  • We Should Be Dead
  • Highlife
  • Still Life Still
  • Mammoth Life
  • Jonny Lives!
  • The Lives of Famous Men

Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll

  • Drug Rug
  • drugdealer
  • Drunken Barn Dance
  • Dirty Sexy Soca
  • Dead Sexy Inc.

Love

  • Enemy Lovers
  • The Fast Romantics
  • Unicycle Loves You
  • Love Heist
  • Love In October
  • The Love Language
  • LoveLikeFire
  • The Lovely Feathers
  • Lovemakers

Volume

Not surprisingly, loud is more popular.

  • The New Loud
  • Quiet Loudly

Shapes

  • The Elusive Parallelograms
  • Goes Cube
  • Golden Triangle
  • The Octagon

Rank/Title

  • Filthy Dukes
  • General Fiasco
  • I Was A King
  • Jess King
  • King Chango
  • The King Left
  • Sgt Dunbar and the Hobo Banned

The Four Elements

  • Man on Earth
  • Air Waves
  • The Fire & Reason
  • Fire Ex
  • Care Bears on Fire
  • Kittens Ablaze
  • Last Tide
  • LoveLikeFire
  • Quest For Fire
  • Spit Hot Fire
  • Sure Fire
  • Rain Machine
  • Rainbird
  • The Sea

Size

Big and small are tied at 5 apiece.

  • Giant Cloud
  • Gigantic Hand
  • Nomadic Massive
  • Big Sean
  • The Big Takeover
  • Little Fish
  • Little Girls
  • Little Teeth
  • Small Black
  • Beautiful Small Machines

Complete sentences

  • We Are Country Mice
  • We Are Enfant Terrible
  • We Are The World
  • We Are Wolves
  • We Have Band
  • We Landed On The Moon!
  • We Should Be Dead
  • Jonny Lives!
  • We’re Pregnant
  • The Whore Moans

Exclamation points!

  • Die! Die! Die!
  • Gunfight!
  • International Espionage!
  • Jonny Lives!
  • We Landed On The Moon!
  • pow wow!
  • Tiger! Shit! Tiger! Tiger!
  • Zo! & The Els

Other Snazzy Names

These are some names that I couldn’t build a cateogry around, but are entertaining nonetheless:

  • Meeting of Important People
  • Phil & The Osophers
  • Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers

Names in bold are bands we can definitely recommend seeing. Band names in italics are bands we would consider seeing just because their names are awesomely clever or ridiculous.
See also Ear Farm’s CMJ preview, which provides recommendations and information about silly little details like time and location.

1. The better the venue is for the performer, the worse it is for the audience.
2. Hearing songs for the first time is a very different experience than hearing them a second, third, sixteenth or 64th time.
Last night, I caught Them Crooked Vultures’ debut NYC performance at Roseland Ballroom. Prior to the show, I had not heard more than a 30 second clip of any of their music. But a few factors convinced me to buy tickets for the show. The rhythm section comes from two of the greatest rock bands of all time (Led Zeppelin and Nirvana) and the guitarist/lead singer from a band that I appreciate and enjoy (Queens of the Stone Age). Aside from hearing a single, I went to The Raconteurs first appearance in New York with no more information than knowing the prior work of Jack White and Brendan Benson, and caught a great show. But I was only appropriately whelmed by Them Crooked Vultures. I suspect that the venue and familiarity kept this show from reaching the next level.
Venue & Comfort
Roseland is a pretty terrible place to see a concert. The sound is muddy and booming in the cavernous room. Any precise and dynamic bass playing just gets lost in the mud of Roseland’s acoustics. Fortunately, John Paul Jones plays with a fairly distinctive sound that helps emphasize the attack at the beginning of each note. The sightlines from the floor are atrocious. There’s not enough traffic flow for the capacity this room can handle to make entering and exiting easy or quick.
New York’s other venues of similar capacity, including Hammerstein Ballroom, Webster Hall, Terminal 5, also present similar compromises to concertgoers, with boomy sound, crowded feeling at capacity, poor sight lines and insufficent bar staff to handle peak rush without queues. Which leads me to propose the hypothesis that there is an inverse relationship between a venue’s quality of experience for performers as for audience. At a large hall like Roseland or Hammerstein, the artist has a proper dressing room, large stage, a dedicated sound engineer for the monitor mix, and space for a big lighting rig. But the audience has to deal with the hassles. At a small club with capacity of up to a couple of hundred, bands may lack a dressing room, someone to run lights, inadequate monitors and have to deal with the hassles of loading gear on and off stage through the crowd rather than directly back to a dedicated back-stage location, but the audience benefits from good sight lines and decent sound. The larger the artist is of a draw, the more the artist needs to be pampered and the audience will be willing to put up with more hassles. The smaller the artist, the more the audience needs to be made comfortable.
Here’s an approximate graph of the relationship between venue size and comfort level for artists and their audiences:
venuesize-comfortlevel.jpeg
At the intersection of the audience comfort and artist comfort curve is Bowery Ballroom along with other clubs of similar size. Big enough to have enough resources to put on a top-level show, but small and intimate enough to offer a good experience for the audience.
Familiarity
There’s a certain level of familiarity with a piece of music that makes it more enjoyable for a listener. The brain needs to do some amount of work to process music at first that listening to a song that one’s heard before is a very different experience from listening to a new song. Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring was so different and difficult, that the audience rioted at the piece’s debut. Seriously, they rioted.
And I can think of a couple of concerts I’ve seen the familiarity phenomenon in full effect. At the Raconteurs first show at Irving Plaza, The audience became significantly more engaged once the Raconteurs played the one single they had released to date, “Steady as She Goes.” When U2 played a free concert in Empire-Fulton Ferry Park in 2004, the first 7 songs of the set were all songs from their new, yet-to-be-released album. It was very obvious to see who downloaded the album in advance from the internet and who hadn’t. But the energy level of the crowded raised dramatically when the band broke into older singles, “Beautiful Day” and “I Will Follow.” The audience was much more engaged and energized by hearing familiar material that U2 played the new single, Vertigo, again to feed off that energy to get a better performance for the film crew.
By not releasing more than snippets of music, Them Crooked Vultures gave the audience something new, but not anything especially engaging. And because it takes mental energy to process new music, the crowd was sapped of a lot of its energy. The last time I went to a concert at Roseland was to see Radiohead nine (!) years ago. And all of the drawbacks of the venue were there, but the crowd had more energy, in part because Radiohead played a couple of days after their album dropped and also had old fan favorites to mix in with their new material.
The first few songs of Them Crooked Vultures’ set were all huge, riff-heavy energetic tracks that, as expected, combined the bombast of Nirvana with Zeppelin’s grounding and Queens of the Stone Age sludgy grit. The last song featured an epic and heavy jam. But neither the songs themselves nor Homme’s singing helped make the performance more than the sum if its parts. The biggest influence on the group’s sound was Queens of the Stone Age. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing– unlike some other groups assembled from members of other well-known groups, the parts here add up to something good and coherent. But it also lacked Nirvana’s skill for songwriting and Zeppelin’s heft and showmanship.
As expected, Grohl is a formidable drummer. But you also see just how Jones’ style works with Grohl’s to give the rhythm section a taste of Zeppelin, but not attempting to mimic or ape the Jones/Bonham sound.
NPR’s Bob Boilen was very enthused with the band’s show at the 9:30 Club, “It’s been a while since I’ve been to a show that I’d call ‘balls to the wall,’ but Them Crooked Vultures aren’t holding back. From their first song, ‘Elephant,’ to the song playing right now, called ‘Highway 1,’ nuance has left the building. Granted, I’m only four songs into the show, but good lord, this rocks.” I suspect that at a club the size of the 9:30 Club as opposed to Roseland, the room didn’t swallow up much of the show’s appeal, which helped the audience enjoy the show that much more.
Don’t get me wrong: this was a very good show. Unfortunately, with a couple of tweaks, it could have been an epic show.
See also, Rolling Stone: Them Crooked Vultures Blast Through Jams at New York Debut

As a jazz fan, I always love going to the Village Vanguard. Sitting in the club, you can feel the room’s connection with Miles, Coltrane, Sonny, Evans, Dolphy and all of the jazz past, present and future. The club’s pedigree elevates the level of performances on its stage. And so when I got invited to see Barbra Streisand there, how could I refuse?
Playing to a jam-packed house filled with contest winners, Streisand’s family and friends (including President Clinton and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton), and film crew (and their lighting equipment), the show was as much an intimate gathering of friends as it was a film session as it was a concert. Streisand performed a mix of standards, tracks from her new album and her signature hits.
Eschewing an opening act for introductions by Vanguard owner Ruth Gordon and some of the other people who helped Streisand first break into success as a performer at various clubs (of a now-bygone era) in the Village kicked the evening off with the special feel. The audience was part of a small intimate party and performance.
Once the show started, however, from one perspective, we were taken out of the immediacy and intimacy of the show. Sitting on the side of the room towards the front, the view of pianist Tamir Hendelman was blocked, but the view of Streisand’s teleprompter was clear. So we could read the script that Streisand followed. To one extent, this took away from any sense that the set was a loose, improvised and breezy little set in front of a group of friends, but was a reminder of the major film production part of the hybrid nature of the evening.
On the other hand, having a sense of that a good deal of the banter was scripted gives one a tremendous appreciation of why Streisand is in such high regard as a performer, because you could see how much meaning she puts into every phrase. And though the teleprompter cues were used more as reminders of the points she wanted to discuss rather than a script, Streisand’s voice is so expressive that she could (as the trope goes) read the phone book and make it engaging, dynamic and interesting. Whether Streisand’s performance is impeccably rehearsed or spontaneously improvised, I doubt you could tell the difference, because her dynamics are so precise and expressive.
Unlike most broadway-style performers, nothing about Streisand’s performance felt artificial or calculated. It all felt natural, heartfelt and authentic. And it’s not to say that the show was perfected to within an inch of its life. There was enough of a rough edge to the set that Streisand walked off stage to close the set one song earlier than she intended. As a result, the audience got an encore twice as long as intended.
The backing quartet, led by pianist Hendelman, was impeccable, but also unobtrusive and rarely featured. Hendelman played one well constructed and melodic solo and tasteful segues and vamps between songs. But for a album intended to be more of a jazz album at the country’s premier jazz club, there was no swing to the set until the final encore, “The Way We Were,” where the drummer switched to sticks from brushes for the first time in the set and the guitarist added interesting and tasteful soaring lines.
But since Streisand’s voice was the top-billed star of the show, in impeccable form, that’s what carried the show. Anthony Tommasini interviewed Streisand for the New York Times and discussed her vocal technique. Streisand’s Fine Instrument and Classic Instinct

“[Streisand] revealed herself as a vocal artist with powerful, if innate, insights into phrasing, legato, vibrato, interpretive nuances and, most important, the art of singing as an expression of words.… Opera singers might learn from Ms. Streisand’s way of treating singing as an extension of acting. In working so hard to cultivate the beauty and carrying power of their voices, too many opera singers compromise with indistinct diction and generic expression. Ms. Streisand sings as if she is speaking to you.”

That’s what carried the show. Not the songs, not the dynamic interplay between the singer and her band, but her voice. Which is not to say that there weren’t moments where the arrangements came together to propel, as in “My Funny Valentine,” which was one of the high points of the night. But on other songs, such as “Make Someone Happy,” where Streisand’s voice conveyed deep emotions and forged a connection with the audience, and she embodied all the pathos of the song and earned a standing ovation. And despite a lack of songs at anything faster than a ballad, the set did have an arc and momentum that carried it to the end, culminating with classic standards (“Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”) and her own signature hits (“Evergreen” and “The Way We Were.”)
All in all, a tremendous performance, and an encouragement for all major musical artists to play rooms a few sizes smaller than they ordinarily would, to try material in more intimate arrangement and less stage-managed settings.
The Village Vanguard Set List
The New York Times, Lucky Streisand Fans Were A-Listers for a Night
NPR, Barbra Streisand, Live At The Village Vanguard?
The Barbra Streisand Forum, An Evening with Barbra Streisand at VV (The Show)