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Chris Bergson at Jazz Standard

by Steven Pisano

  Chris Bergson, Jazz Standard

This winter in New York City has been so unrelentingly and inhospitably cold, so bone-numbingly frigid that a lot of sensible people have just stayed home from exploring the city’s nightlife to catch up on Netflix. Who wants to wander the streets of an urban Antarctica?

But things were blazing hot last week at Jazz Standard when Chris Bergson brought his sizable band to town for a two-night stand on February 24-25. Bergson has been playing this club for over a decade now, and his latest recording, Live at Jazz Standard, has been lauded as one of the top recordings of 2014 by the blues press.

First thing's first. Despite the club’s name, Bergson does not play jazz. He and his band play blues, funk, rock, and soul, in a rich, hearty stew of down home styles that in many ways is reminiscent of the Sixties when a lot of rock artists, from Eric Clapton on down, first started stirring blues into their base of rock.

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Fun Fun Fun Fest 9 Recap with Photos

DSC08172Austin, TX - The 9th edition of Austin's Fun Fun Fun Fest tore up Auditorium Shores once again last weekend with a heady mix of indie, punk, metal, electronica, and everything in between. While things got off to a bit of a rough start on Friday, it turned out to be a beautiful weekend with sunny days and cool nights - perfect to see that long lost band you used to freak out to in your parents' basement, or that hot new act you keep missing every time they come to town. Only at Fun Fun Fun Fest is it possible to wander from sensitive alt-rock (Neutral Milk Hotel), to classic hardcore (Murder City Devils), to white hot hip-hop (Wiz Khalifa), all in less than an hour? Not to mention all of the afterparties - free with FFF wristband - which tore up Austin til the wee hours. 

Below is a highly selective sample of some of our favorite acts from the weekend. Additional pics from Friday here, Saturday here, and Sunday here

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Preview: Austin's Fun Fun Fun Fest 9

Fun Fun Fun Fest 2013In a few hours, I'm headed back to Austin for the 9th annual Fun Fun Fun Fest, which for three days will fill Auditorium Shores with an omnivorous lineup of Alt-Rock (Modest Mouse, Neutral Milk Hotel, Dinosaur, Jr.) Hip-Hop (Nas, Wiz Khalifa) Metal (Judas Priest (!), King Diamond), Hardcore (Rocket From the Crypt, Murder City Devils), Electronica (Girl Talk, MSTRKRFT) and Spoken Word (John Waters, Jello Biafra, Fred Armisen). Not to mention the Skate Ramp, the Wrestling Ring, the Taco Cannon, and much, much more. (And, that doesn't include the afterparties.) This will be my fifth visit to the Fun Fun Fun Fest - check out my past coverage from FFF2, FFF4, FFF6, and FFF8 to get a sense of why I think this is, pound-for-pound, the best quality/worst named festival in the U.S.

Stay tuned here - as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - for updates throughout the weekend. 

CMJ Music Marathon 2014: The Kills, Slothrust, Nuns and Moon Duo @ Bowery Ballroom

by Steven Pisano

DSC_0817 rev2
Photo by Steven Pisano

Last Thursday's CMJ Music Marathon showcase at the Bowery Ballroom featured four very different bands, united by their love of Rock. Openers Slothrust was formed at Sarah Lawrence College in 2010. Lead singer Leah Wellbaum has a voice that should earn her a lot of attention: she can rock out, she can scream, but she can also be quite funny the way she deadpans lines. When she pulled her blonde hair back, she looked like a fresh-scrubbed farmer's daughter, with a playful, teasing look in her eye. But most of the time, she preferred to drape her hair over half of her face, like an introverted middle schooler skipping school to smoke and ride in cars with high school boys. Other times, when she wasn't smiling, there was an almost dark, faraway look in her eyes—like the distant stare of shell-shocked soldiers.

All of these looks were reflected in Slothrust's music, much of which came from their new release Of Course You Do. (My favorite opening line was: “I’m going to leave you anyway”, from "7:30 AM.") With a background playing jazz and blues, there is confident musicianship underneath the band’s surface grunge. Their cover of The Turtles' relentlessly cheery "Happy Together" started off faithfully before the music suddenly got dark, the guitars started to growl, and Wellbaum started screaming. Sunny and innocent love turned into nightmarish and uncontrollable need. And then just as suddenly, the band was all happy again. 

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