Preview: The Four o'clock Flowers at the Brooklyn Folk Festival This Weekend

by Stephen Policoff

Four oclock flowerPhoto by Valery Lyman

This weekend, the 7th annual Brooklyn Folk Festival takes place at St. Ann's Church in Brooklyn Heights, with more than 30 bands playing a mix of old-time music, folk, blues, jug band, bluegrass, traditional Irish and Balkan music. There will also be vocal and instrumental workshops, a family-friendly square dance, jam sessions, film screenings, and the (in)famous Banjo Toss contest.

Among those scheduled to perform are The Four o’clock Flowers, who create an enticing and intoxicating sound—folk, gospel, country, blues, jazz—from the multicolored blossoms of traditional American music. Together, Ernie Vega and Samoa Wilson make music that feels eerily old yet provocatively new: the primal wail of Mattie Mae Thomas’s “Dangerous Blues,” the dark humor of Lead Belly’s “Poor Howard,” the limpid melancholy of the Prisonaire’s “Just Walking in the Rain.” Ernie’s spectral slide guitar is featured on “I Shall Not Be Moved,” while Samoa’s postmodern twist on an ancient Celtic lament can be heard in her own, “Irish Bar.”

Tickets and info on the Brooklyn Folk Festival here. A brief interview with Vega and Wilson after the jump.

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The Mountain Goats at Webster Hall

the mountain goats
California's Mountain Goats played a sold out show at Webster Hall last Thursday in celebration of their new release, Beat the Champ. The crowd was as broad an audience as you could imagine: lifelong Lower East Siders who had known the Indie Folk vets for years from their original cassette and record releases stood side by side with early twenty-somethings who were introduced to the group by hearing their music on the Showtime series “Weeds.” But once the music started, the audience listened as one. 

There were cathartic moments where the band seemed to offer up lyrics to the rock gods of old. Throughout the song “This Year,” you could feel the energy of the room release the most human of emotions as the chorus of “I’m going to make it through this year if it kills me,” reverberated throughout the hall.  In an inadvertent “Welcome to NYC” moment, some of the quieter sections were wiped out by noise bleed from a performance downstairs in The Studio. Frontman John Darnielle brushed it off like a true veteran, managing to get the audience to laugh about it.

In addition to Darnielle, The Mountain Goats' current lineup consists of drums, bass and lead guitar. Bassist Peter Hughes' solid playing, spot on harmonies and overall enthusiasm were outshined only by his boss plaid suit.

The Mountain Goats performed over twenty songs, including two encores.  Despite the pop emo music emanating from downstairs, on this night Webster Hall was the poster child for Indie Folk.

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Jenn Mundia at The Living Room

Jenn-Mundia

Brooklyn's Living Room was the ideal setting for singer-songwriter Jenn Mundia's set last Monday, with both an intimate vibe and tall ceilings. Jenn's vocal timbre has a soft and laid back feel, but was equally at home powering through more high energy songs. “Heads or Tails,” a new co-write with guitarist Greg Seltzer, perfectly captured her feel and attitude: a combination of ballad and acoustic soul, with longing and hopeful lyrics.

Jenn's band was tight and spot on all evening, navigating tight hits and quick melodies through a tapestry of soul sounds.  Grounded by her long time bass player Tim Borecky, the band kept the crowd moving in their seats while her lyrics kept them listening.

The set was closed out with “Almost”, a tale of love in the modern world written with Allie Vreeland. The lyric “I don’t blame you… nobody wants a table just for one,” weighed heavy in the air like a blanket of just too much, telling the well-known tale of trying to find love in an overcrowded city. Technique, feel and balance are all things you can learn as a singer, but truths like those must be lived.

Mundia performs next at Muchmore’s at April 24th, details here.

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Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea Make Piano Magic at Carnegie Hall

by Nick Stubblefield

Herbie Hancock and Chick CoreaChick Corea and Herbie Hancock, two of the living legends of jazz, hit the stage at Carnegie Hall on Thursday night for an evening of duo music for piano and keyboard. They sat facing each other - Herbie at his Fazioli, Chick at his Yamaha - and played an uninterrupted set that included new originals and exciting takes on standards, including their own hits from decades past. Currently in the midst of a worldwide tour, this is the first time Chick and Herbie have collaborated since the late 1970s, when they released a pair of acclaimed live duo albums.  

To box either pianist into the "jazz" category would hardly reflect their wide-ranging contributions to music. Herbie's "Headhunters" band in the 1970s changed the game with electronic fusion funk, and he has broken new ground in the 21st century with his pop collaborations, including 2007's River: the Joni Letters, which won the Grammy for Album of the Year. Chick's recent output, on the other hand, has incorporated everything from Latin music, to chamber and symphonic works.

"I bet they don't know what we're going to do," Herbie said.

"We don't know what we're going to do," Chick responded.

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