After seven months of living and writing in New York City, circumstances beyond my control forced me to return to Los Angeles last November. And I have been missing that city madly ever since. Besides the availability of Italian cheesecake and an incredibly convenient public transportation system, one of New York’s best features is its abundance of live music. Luckily I got to get a little dose of my favorite city from June 16th to 25th, during one of the best times for a music lover to be in the city. As New York’s many cheap to free summer concerts were kicking off, I got to see a massive amount of music during that week.
My music marathon started with the New Music Seminar New York Festival, a multi-venue event of new artist showcases, as well as various seminars and talks on the current state of the music industry. Between June 17th and 20th, musicians got the chance to display their craft to fans and industry members in seventeen venues throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn at shows sponsored by BMI, eMusic , Filter Magazine, Folk Alliance, OurStage, ReverbNation and performing rights organization SESAC. Thanks to my good friend and fellow blogger with great connections William Helms, I was able to land a press badge.
New Music Seminar’s first night started off with an incendiary show at Webster Hall, literally. The private event, open to “badge holders, invited guests, and RSVPs” was opened by The Fiery Sensations, a troupe of flame wielding dancers, twirlers and hula hoopers. After the blaze of the first performers was doused, a boa constrictor was brought onstage, and carried onto the floor. At one point the snake’s handler terrified a texting audience member as she walked the serpent just inches from his face.
The next performance by electronic artists Alek Sandar and Yozmit, was equally thrilling, though thankfully not frightening. The group’s elaborate costumes included an iPad belt buckle displaying a vertical mouth, matching the cover art of the track Yozmit was singing, “Sound of a New Pussy.”
The rest of the night became more musically focused with next act Diane Birch, a Brooklyn based singer with a very Carol King-esque musical style. The sonic standout at Webster Hall for me, though, was the sultry harmonies of The Pierces. The sisterly act’s set blended pop, rock, and folk elements with songs like the eerily catchy “Secret,” which has been featured on a number of television shows, including as the theme song to “Pretty Little Liars.”
The following night I headed to the Artist on the Verge finals at Santos Party House. The show opened with winner to be Maren Morris. The Arlington singer songwriter had a lovely voice, but her acoustic pop with a hint of country songs wouldn’t have won her my vote. If I had my way, the prize would have gone to Ninjasonik, the absolute highlight of the night (and probably the entire festival).
The Brooklyn hip hop duo’s rambunctious energy led a furiously fun set full of debauchery laden lyrics. The audience became much more lively after they took the stage, answering the bands calls of “Ninja fuckin’ sonic,” with excited roars of ‘We are sonic fuckin’ ninjas!” According to Helms, though, the band gave a tame version of their usual performance, so I guess I’ll just have to see Ninjasonik again to find out if that’s true for myself.
The bill also featured, Black Cobain, (who was backed by the talented soul rock Black Alley), and The Dig. Because of a prior engagement, I had to leave early, and only caught one song of the distortion heavy but mellow Los Angeles quartet. From what I saw, though, it seems like it would be worth catching a full set when The Dig plays out West.
On June 19th I planned to see Yellow Dogs at an eMusic sponsored show at Tammany Hall. Unfortunately I read their set time wrong, and showed up at a little too late, which I realized when Hooray for Earth asked the audience to give the opening band a round of applause. It was a bit difficult to hear Hooray for Earth’s vocals, but overall the electronic tinged garage rock band made the trip to the show worth it. (Though you can bet I will be double-checking set times from now on.)
Problems with the vocals weren’t an issue for closers Anamanaguchi, a “chiptune” band whose solely instrumental tracks would fit perfectly on a video game soundtrack. (Their gear even includes a “hacked NES and Gameboy.”) While I can appreciate the concept of the band’s compositions, it didn’t exactly translate well to a live setting. After a few songs played to the backdrop of a screen projecting random videos, including ones of kittens, I felt more like I was watching YouTube than a concert.
NMS had one final night of shows, but I didn’t make it to any since I was seeing The Rapture, a band that completely masters the art of melding electronica with guitars. Their songs could probably get the dance floor of any club going, but they also know how to put on a damn good rock show. The gig, opened by “experimental pop” duo Tan Lines, marked the beginning of the FYF Vans House Parties summer concert series in a sweltering Brooklyn warehouse. On the first truly hot day of summer, The Rapture had the crowd dripping with sweat as the entire house rocked out to the band’s anthemic dance punk tunes. Though the band’s onstage banter was minimal, the charismatic group kept the audience’s attention with their visibly magnetic musicianship, especially Gabriel Andruzzi, the hilarious keyboard, saxophone, and cowbell player.
I managed to cram in one last show on June 23rd, the Lyricist Lounge 20th Anniversary show in Prospect Park, headlined by Ghostface Killah, and opened by Farrah Burns, fifteen year old Astro, Rah Digga, Kid Capri, and Prodigy (of Mobb Deep). The concert, with a suggested admission of three dollars and presented in conjunction with Celebrate Brooklyn, drew an enormous line of excited fans that lasted into the main act’s set. I watched most of the show from the comfort of the Prospect Park Bandshell’s lawn. Though I could barely see, I had a better view than the many listening to the forty five minute set of songs from Ghostface’s solo career, as well as from the Wu Tang discography, from outside the fence.
After seeing more bands in nine days than the entire six months I had been back in LA, I inevitably had to return home. It wasn’t easy to leave, but this trip made me undoubtedly sure of one thing. I’ll be back in New York when next year’s batch of summer concerts rolls around.