Rock Feed

Dr. Dog and The Knights at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn!

DSC00267I had other plans for Saturday, so Friday was my last opportunity to stop by BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! this summer, where Philly rockers Dr. Dog were joined by openers The Knights and a local gospel choir for an extended set. While their music owes a lot to The Flaming Lips, Pavement, and other 90's indie bands, they have their own infectious energy, propelled by Toby Leaman's urgently delivered vocals and Soctt McMicken's strong guitar work.

Thanks, BRIC, for another amazing summer at the bandshell - though there's more great music to be had this fall at BRIC House in downtown Brooklyn, including the BRIC JazzFest in October, shows by The Knights, and more. I just wish I could walk home from there.

More pics from Friday's show on the photo page


Rahzel and Friends: A Rap Reunion at Brooklyn Bowl

by Steven Pisano

(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

Rahzel and Friends at Brooklyn BowlThe message to the audience at Brooklyn Bowl for the Rap Reunion on July 28 was that hip hop music in the 1990s was more socially conscious than it is today, with something to say beyond just bling, babes, and bennies. Again and again, the performers who took the stage rammed home the point that politics and social commentary is where hip hop began, and that in some ways the music had lost its way over time, focusing more on celebrity and the high life. But mostly, the show was nostalgic for the old days the Eighties and Nineties, when Queens reigned as one of the rap centers in the country, whether in Queensbridge (Nas) or Hollis (LL Cool J and Run-D.M.C.) or St. Albans (A Tribe Called Quest), though the borough would ultimately be eclipsed by the rappers from Brooklyn and the West Coast.


The evening's headliner, Rahzel (born Rahzel M. Brown), is a former member of The Roots known for his prowess as a human beatbox—in particular, his ability to beatbox and rap at the same time. Throughout the evening, he told stories of how things used to be back in the day, such as his wariness whenever he and his crew went to Brooklyn, not wanting to show off their jewelry.


In a nod toward the future, the emcee’s son Rahzel Jr. started off the show with his song “The Culture.” Professing his love for hip hop culture, he rapped: “I don’t do it for the fortune or fame, I do it for the culture." 

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The Sketchy Orkestra Plays Le Poisson Rouge

by Nick Stubblefield

IMG_3901Guest Star Emily Braden sings

Applying genre labels to music and musicians can be a tricky business -- it sells a product, but is often at odds with the art itself. The Sketchy Orkestra, brainchild of pianist and artistic director Misha Piatigorsky, is a group dedicated to defying labels and convention, and the result is a unique, fun, and energetic ride.  Their performance this week at New York's le Poisson Rouge served listeners a hearty helping of genre-defying tunes. There were elements of jazz, rock, hip-hop and even Russian folk-song in a single program, and it was raucous energy bobbing and weaving through the tapestry of lush texture and color. 

To stage right, we saw a traditional jazz set-up. The rhythm section included Piatigorsky at a Yamaha concert grand, the bassist switching between electric and standup, and an auxiliary percussionist on the cajón -- a box drum I happen to personally favor for its Earthy timbre. To their right, a trumpeter and saxophonist. Dominating center stage, appropriately, was the twelve-piece string orchestra, the strings delivering a cinematic richness to each composition.

But the question was -- "could they groove?" In fact, they could, and they could groove hard.  The arrangements, while diverse stylistically, were often filled with fun surprises. Sudden bursts of energy, jumbo-sized ranges in dynamics, and elongated sectional solos kept the audience engaged throughout. Piatgorsky's piano touch, plus the arrangements and compositions themselves, evinced the ensemble's classical training.  "17 Rooms" evoked a Khachaturian-esque waltz; its folksiness gave the string soloists plenty to work with, and they were allowed to explore their full-range of abilities. In contrast, "Somewhere in Between's" heavy groove reminded me of a classic mo-town rhythm section. 

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Lewis Del Mar at Bowery Ballroom

by Steven Pisano Lewis Del Mar at Bowery Ballroom(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

As the Rockaways increase their hip quotient each year, first with surfers (who we all know make everything cool), then with artists, and more recently with musicians (Patti Smith has a place there), I keep thinking of that Bob Dylan line: "Something is happening here, but you don't know what is. Do you, Mr. Jones?"

On Wednesday night, the up-and-coming band Lewis Del Mar performed at Bowery Ballroom, on a stage bestrewn with palm fronds. There is noone in the band with that name. The band is actually two people--singer/guitarist Danny Miller and drummer/producer Max Harwood--longtime friends from the Washington, DC, area who have lived in  a 2-room bungalow in Rockaway Beach since 2014. Signed last year to the Columbia label Startime International, the group is now on tour through the end of the summer, where some shows are already sold out 3 months in advance!

The Ballroom was packed, despite the fact that these guys have only released a 4-song EP so far. But their song "Loud(y)" logged in over 300,000 listens on Soundcloud last year, which naturally drew a lot of attention from the stokers of the star-maker machinery. The group has other songs, of course, which presumably will make it onto their first full-length recording. Still, they only played about an hour, so the catalog is not deep yet.

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Preview: Big Ears Festival 2016

Big ears festival 2015I'm excited to be returning to Knoxville, TN this weekend for the Big Ears Festival, which I attended for the first time last year and was pretty much blown away by the wall-to-wall mix of new music, electronic music, jazz, drone, and every other genre that doesn't neatly fit into a Pandora's box. This year's lineup includes everyone from Philip Glass and John Luther Adams, to Andrew Bird and Sunn O))). The festivities begin tomorrow night; stay tuned here and @feastofmusic for updates. Click here for a video montage of last year's festival.