Shearwater Made a ‘Compassionate’ Protest Record at the Perfect Time

Echoing what most of the country evinces in the current political climate, Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg feels a certain ambivalence. Election season, he notes, “is when the nation’s id comes screaming out of the attic and into the streets. [Beliefs] go from undercurrents to overcurrents. The reality is, you realize how much of this stuff has been present all the time.”

For Shearwater’s January-released Jet Plane and Oxbow, which brings the band to the Mercury Lounge on February 6, Meiburg channeled that uncertainty into what he bills as “an oblique protest record,” which for Shearwater mostly abandons the nature-inspired landscapes (Meinburg is also an ornithologist and writer) and personal reflections (see Shearwater’s last album, 2012’s Animal Joy) of the group’s past catalog in favor of a bold, socially charged confidence.

The project, somewhat ironically, was inspired by a David Bowie interview, in which the recently deceased legend described 1980’s Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) as a protest record. “I went back and listened to it more carefully and thought, ‘Holy shit! It really is,'” Meiburg says. “I thought it would be rewarding to make a record like that. I wanted to write a record about the conflicting feelings we all have about being citizens of the United States. I wanted to probe some of the pathologies that seemed endemic, and to do it from a position of really liking the country, which I do. I wanted to make a protest record that was also compassionate.”

Jet Plane and Oxbow
is indeed a more pointed record for the Austin-based Shearwater, which began as a collaboration between Meiburg and Okkervil River frontman Will Sheff in the early 2000s as an outlet for the songwriters’ quieter, more reflective music. Meiburg continued under the moniker after Sheff departed, releasing Shearwater’s critically acclaimed Island Arc trilogy, which encompassed the albums Palo Santo, Rook, and The Golden Archipelago.

Shearwater — still recognizable as ever for Meiburg’s soaring vocals and knack for gorgeous melodies — is a band invigorated by the group’s latest effort. Songs like the synch-charged anthemic first single, “Quiet Americans,” are among the strongest evidence of Meiburg’s newfound quest for understanding, as a lyrical sleight of hand subtly changes the question “Where are the Americans?” to “And whither the Americans?”

“Filaments” likewise calls into question the concealed intentions of society (“Some people run from themselves/Some chain the dogs to the gate/Some are living a lie”) over a chugging bass line, while Meiburg mines his own psyche on the introspective “Backchannels.”

“It’s about trying to handle a voice I’m not alone in hearing sometimes. A lot of my friends who are in music or the arts also hear that voice that tells you you should probably just kill yourself,” he says. “I wish people would talk about it more honestly; it would make it feel less personal. But that’s part of what that song is about. It kind of falls to pieces in the middle and rebuilds itself.”

Musically, Jet Plane and Oxbow takes its cues from 1980 — that year specifically, “not 1985,” Meiburg notes. “Not ’cause I think the Eighties are cute or funny — I was only four in 1980 — but it was an interesting time. When you look at media from that time, there’s a sense of technology. Tech is about to change everything, but nobody knew how. It was very terrifying and exciting. We’re in a very similar moment now,” he says.

Meiburg and producer Danny Reisch, who also lent his touch to Animal Joy and Shearwater’s covers album Fellow Travelers, began work on the new album more than two years ago. To capture the sound of the era, they recorded with instruments and devices from the time period, such as Linn drums, and composer Brian Reitzell — whose scoring credits include The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation, among others — was brought in to give the album its cinematic feel. “He was just a mad scientist,” Meiburg says of the collaboration. “I wanted the record sonically to have a depth more associated with a movie than being just a rock album.”

Another goal with recording, Meiburg notes, was to pay closer attention to how the songs would transfer to a live setting — already an area of strength for the renowned live band and one that’s bound to transform with the group’s approach to the new music. Of Shearwater’s upcoming Mercury Lounge show, he notes that while the group will be “awesome,” it also feels like “half-gear” (it’s only show number three). The group returns in March for a show at the Bell House, which Meiburg says will have a few additional surprises — plus lasers.

Also in the works for Shearwater’s live sets are covers of songs from Bowie’s Lodger throughout the tour, which Meiburg says was in the works before his passing. “We’d been working on the songs and obsessively listening to that record and trying to figure out how it worked and if we could play it, and when we heard that he died, for a moment we thought, ‘Should we still do this?'” he says, adding that the songs feel particularly meaningful for a New York audience. “Then we thought, ‘Fuck yes, we should still do this.’ It’s made rehearsing the songs really moving in a strange way.”

Shearwater play the Mercury Lounge on February 6 and the Bell House on March 12.


Why ‘Rabbit Fur Coat’ Is Still ‘Something Magical’ for Jenny Lewis

Jenny Lewis is working hard to hold back tears. At the moment, she’s doing all right. The previous day, though, was another story: She almost sobbed her way through band practice.

“I’m always like, ‘I’m fine! I’m fine! I’ve got this. I’m strong,’ ” she tells the Voice. Despite the confessional nature of Lewis’s songwriting, she’s always presented a tough exterior — or maybe not so much tough as extremely collected and cool (she did grow up in California, after all), the kind of performer whose rock ’n’ roll benefits from its emotional undercurrent. Part of that composure stems from her background as a child actor, a tale that’s been well documented (yes, she was that girl in Troop Beverly Hills), as well as from the nearly two decades she spent on the road with Rilo Kiley, the Angeleno indie outfit Lewis co-founded with Blake Sennett in 1998.

The offender responsible for her near-waterworks on this particular afternoon was neither a person nor a bout of bad news, but Rabbit Fur Coat, the album that forged the Rilo Kiley frontwoman into an indie force in her own spotlight. January 24 marked the tenth anniversary of the release of Lewis’s solo debut, and she’ll be celebrating the occasion not only by reissuing the album on her own label, Love’s Way, but by performing it in its entirety at the Beacon Theatre on February 3 and 4. Considering how Rabbit Fur Coat serves as a turning point in her life and career, it’s understandable that rehearsing it would unearth certain forgotten, or misplaced, memories. Rabbit Fur Coat wasn’t just the effort of a solo artist shedding the protective carapace of a successful act, but an already open lyricist’s most intimate body of work to date. It was the first petal to unfold in a solo career that would go on to blossom and further establish Lewis as an authoritative female voice in the dude-dominated spheres of indie. As Lewis sums up, after Rabbit Fur Coat, “Shit got hella real.”

Looking back, she admits that the making of the album took place during what felt like an innocent time. (“I think I had just gotten my cellphone,” she half-jokes.) The idea of branching out and going solo never occurred to her until her friend (and former Saddle Creek labelmate) Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes and Monsters of Folk fame) approached her about putting out an album on the new label he was launching, Team Love. “My first reaction was, ‘Are you crazy? I’m in a rock band!’ But he persuaded me. I made it and had zero expectations.”

[pullquote]As Lewis sums up, after Rabbit Fur Coat, ‘Shit got hella real.'[/pullquote]

This was in 2004, when Rilo Kiley were in the midst of wrapping up their third full-length, More Adventurous, in Nebraska, and Lewis began writing the songs that would become Rabbit Fur Coat. “I feel like everything I do is a reaction to what came before it,” she says. “[The new music] was just more quiet. The songs were personal and they were mine. I didn’t want anyone to hear them or be a part of them; they didn’t feel appropriate for the band.”

The soulful, folk-tinged nature of the music was inspired by Laura Nyro’s 1971 album featuring the Labelle trio, Gonna Take a Miracle, which Lewis grew up listening to with her mom and sister in the San Fernando Valley. “It was our go-to record,” she explains. “I started re-listening to that, and it became kind of the template for Rabbit Fur Coat.” Lewis then found her musical foils in the Kentucky-raised Watson Twins, her neighbors in Silver Lake, who contributed gospel-influenced background vocals that evoked the fond, familiar sounds of Lewis’s childhood. “I drove over with my acoustic guitar and played them the songs, and they started singing along,” she says, recalling the moment they became a part of Rabbit Fur Coat’s musical makeup. “It just happened in that moment, just so natural.” Mike Mogis — another Saddle Creek label pal and frequent collaborator of Oberst’s — would be flown in to produce the record.

The resulting twelve songs paint an intimate portrait: The album’s title track, for example, delicately yields an autobiographical tale of her childhood with her mother (“I became a $100,000 kid”), while others reveal matters of the heart (“You Are What You Love”) and put Lewis’s country chops on display (the foot-stomping “The Big Guns”).

The hypocrisy- and God-questioning “Rise Up (With Fists!!)” still feels relevant after all these years, she notes — maybe it’s the insanity of the upcoming election season — and another of the album’s more memorable moments comes courtesy of Traveling Wilburys cover “Handle With Care,” recorded alongside Oberst, Ben Gibbard, and M. Ward.

“I grew up in a band…so it was truly the first time I was out there,” Lewis says of her solo effort, crediting the Watson Twins for guiding her on that path. “I felt invincible. They’re my true soul sisters…. They really helped me find myself. It’s been a gift of autonomy, so I’m forever grateful for them.”

For these Rabbit Fur Coat performances, the show will be divided into two sets with an intermission, an aspect of the Grateful Dead’s final concerts she enjoyed. “There’s something really cool about not bombarding people for too long, giving them a moment to get a drink, smoke a joint, go to the bathroom and recharge for the second half.” Her original touring band didn’t fully reunite for this jaunt, but the Watson Twins are back, as is M. Ward, who will open the show as he did a decade ago.

[pullquote]’I never thought I’d celebrate the ten-year anniversary of anything.'[/pullquote]

“It’s weird [to revisit the Rabbit Fur Coat songs] in that they’re not complex; they’re not complicated. They just make sense,” she says. “[Performing] feels very natural, but it is emotional, you know?”

In the years since Rabbit Fur Coat, Lewis went on to release one more Rilo Kiley album, 2007’s Under the Blacklight, plus two beloved and critically acclaimed solo LPs, most recently last year’s The Voyager, as well as an album with collaborator Johnathan Rice as Jenny and Johnny. She also left L.A. for the East Village, a move that actually made her feel sentimental about missing the recent blizzard. (“I’ve been watching [the storm through] my friends on Instagram. There’s just something about New York and a natural disaster…there’s just a certain feeling.”) It’s here in New York where Lewis will tackle a different side of the industry with Love’s Way, a label dedicated to female artists. “I just love the female perspective; there are definitely fewer of us out there on the road,” she says. “It’s definitely a boys’ town out there. I want a safe space.”

The Rabbit Fur Coat reissue is the label’s first release, and Lewis’s plan is to release seven-inches for her artists. (Her guy friends get it but are bummed they can’t participate. “Some of my guy friends are like, ‘Wait? What? Why can’t I…’ and I’m like, ‘Sorry, dude.’ ”)

The songs of her initial solo triumph can pull at her heartstrings at times, but for Lewis, reflecting on how far she’s come since Rabbit Fur Coat has ultimately been all the more rewarding. “I never thought I’d celebrate the ten-year anniversary of anything. I just can’t believe how much happened between [ages] 29 and 39,” she says. “I really wasn’t worried about what people were going to think. I made something that was completely pure.

“I think you just have to take a risk in your life and put yourself out there. Sometimes you fail — but that’s OK — and sometimes you succeed and you make something kind of magical.”

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins will perform Rabbit Fur Coat in its entirety at the Beacon Theatre February 3 and 4.


Don’t Worry, It’s Totally OK If You Make MisterWives Cry

Will Hehir is getting goosebumps. It’s an involuntary physical reaction the bassist of New York band MisterWives is experiencing as he recounts a recent fan interaction.

“There was one girl who sent us an email that said she was in an abusive relationship. Then she heard [MisterWives song] ‘Not Your Way’ and was able to get out of it,” he recalls. “It’s the most humbling thing in the world, and I grew up in an Irish Catholic family. I’m not an emotional person, but it definitely brings a tear to your eye.”

These types of unexpected, often life-changing fan encounters are becoming a more common occurrence for MisterWives, a gang of six friends whose strong anthemic-pop debut, Our Own House, quickly shot them from the Canal Room to the stages of Lollapalooza and Terminal 5, where the group will play a sold-out homecoming show on November 6.

Not a bad trajectory for some locals who started out wanting to form an Eighties cover band. “[Lead singer/songwriter Mandy Lee] was having an eighteenth birthday party and wanted an Eighties cover band, so we just started jamming together and got along super well,” Hehir says of Lee, who he met through a mutual friend.

Lee knew drummer Etienne Bowler from working at neighboring vegan restaurants, and once the three connected, Hehir says, they went “full throttle” with forming a band, which is rounded out by Marc Campbell (guitar), Jesse Blum (keys/trumpet/accordion), and Mike Murphy (saxophone).

As luck would have it, MisterWives’ future managers, label, and booking agent were all in attendance at the band’s first show, where they previewed the group’s unique brand of powerful, genre-bending pop songs, all of which were written by Lee.

“Two days after that show we sat down with one of our managers, and he was like, ‘I think we have a record deal on board.’ He said it so matter-of-factly. We were like, ‘What is going on?!’ ” Hehir says. “We were all working at the time and would jump out of our jobs to try to figure out what we were doing. I’m sure all our bosses were pretty pissed. In retrospect, we definitely made the right move.”

Photo Finish Records issued the EP Reflections in January of last year, and the subsequent full-length Our Own House was released in February 2015. Hehir says there was a pretty strict deadline in place for completing the debut, which forced Lee to adjust how she wrote the music. “She would lay something down, and we would work at the studio while she was at home writing music,” he says of the process, noting that while it was hectic, they skirted any clashing over ideas. “[Lee] would have an idea for a song, and we’d hear it and be like, ‘This is awesome.’ We were always excited to lay down our parts,” he says. “We work very well together. Nobody’s really got an ego.”

The album name and title track came from a specific bit of writer’s block Lee experienced. “We decided to lock her in a treehouse that Etienne had built in high school,” he says. “She was just there with a keyboard, and that’s how Our Own House came out. She wrote it in the treehouse in Etienne’s backyard.”

The resulting twelve songs draw heavily from MisterWives’ collective influences: namely, the ska-inflected power-pop of No Doubt and the indie-tinged accessibility of Foster the People.

[pullquote]’We decided to lock her in a treehouse that Etienne had built in high school.'[/pullquote]

Sing-along anthems like “Reflections” and the folk-leaning melodies of “Vagabond” sit alongside Eighties dance tunes and the bouncy breeze of “Oceans,” a song Hehir says Lee actually wrote when she was sixteen (“or maybe she was thirteen”).

The sunny vibe of “Not Your Way” in particular resonates with fans because of its message of acceptance. “I wouldn’t call it a feminist anthem; it’s more about equality and everyone getting along,” Hehir says. “[That type of work] didn’t exist with us until that song came along.”

The impact of MisterWives’ music has been far-reaching — far more so than Hehir could have imagined. “It doesn’t seem like there’s a demographic that exists for us,” he says, noting that he’s connected with everyone from small children with their parents to “a guy who looked like he just left a Slayer concert” at shows.

Playing New York is itself a personal triumph for the band, whose members grew up going to the Bowery Ballroom, Mercury Lounge, and Music Hall of Williamsburg regularly. “I’m still in a mindset of ‘Oh, we’re playing a show. I gotta call up my friends and hope they show up,’ ” Hehir says. “To sell out Terminal 5 and some of these other venues — it’s overwhelming.”

What’s not overwhelming, surprisingly, are the challenges that come with a touring band of six people. “When I get to play music with my five best friends, even loading in and out or getting from one city to the next is so much fun,” Hehir says. “In a very sickening way, we almost never get sick of each other. It’s almost been too easy. I feel like I’ve won the ovarian lottery.”

MisterWives play Terminal 5 on November 6. The show has sold out, but check secondary markets for tickets.


The Dears Totally Get Why You’re Ditching Their Indie Rock Show for the World Series

“That sounds awful. That sounds awfully pretentious and self-important.”

The Dears’ frontman, Murray Lightburn, is talking about his sixth studio album, September 25’s Times Infinity Volume One, and he’s just taken back everything he just said about it. Specifically, he was talking about what makes the Dears’ music, well, the music of the Dears. What he said was neither pretentious nor self-important; rather, his comments got to the heart of what’s kept the Montreal band’s catalog relevant nearly two decades after the group’s start.

“The thing about the Dears’ music is we always aim to be true,” Lightburn said. “What we strive to do is…try to make something a bit more timeless. We definitely steer ourselves away from current technological trends, sonically and also stylistically. If you listen to the first Dears record and to our records now, twenty years later, you’ll get the same DNA.”

Indeed, that makeup remains intact on Volume One, an album that brought the band back together following a series of personal events post–Degeneration Street, the Dears’ 2011 album.

“We didn’t force anything,” keyboard/vocalist Natalia Yanchak says of the group’s decision to start work on the new album, for which writing began almost three years ago. “When the songs started coming and when songs started being written, it just sort of occurred as something that was meant to be.”

The result is a collection of songs that feel like the Dears’ most sincere yet. Lightburn’s narratives straddle the hopeful and the hopeless, while musically, the aggression is often dialed back in favor of gorgeous pop melodies.

A fiercely dominant tone does, however, kick the album off in the form of “We Lost Everything,” which Yanchak notes was not her first choice when it came to selecting an opener. “Murray was really pushing for that. I thought it was too aggressive and abrasive and might turn people away,” she says. “I wasn’t convinced, [but] at the end of the day it’s the perfect opener because it challenges the listener. Are they going to pay attention or turn it off?”

The Yanchak-led closing track, the moody, horn-inflected “Onward and Downward,” likewise saw a difference of marital opinion (Lightburn and Yanchak are husband and wife). “Murray had wanted me to sing that song,” Yanchak says. “Initially I was like, ‘No way.’ That’s my reaction to all his ideas. But at the end of the day it’s amazing and surpasses all expectations.”

The ten-track Volume One clocks in at a brisk 38 minutes, a decision made consciously to allow room for Volume Two, which is already finished and ready for release in 2016. “It’s like having money in your pocket,” Lightburn says of the completed album. “You’re in front of a candy store and it’s just burning a hole in your pocket.

“Basically we just had a huge pile of songs,” he adds of the decision to do two albums. “We had the stuff, but wanted to space it out to give people a chance to consume it. I guess it’s also just a play on being around twenty years and doing something special and epic and grand. Instead of doing something like, ‘We’re gonna play No Cities Left on this tour,’ I think doing something like this is in line with who we are as a band.”

Before a string of Canadian dates, the Dears are playing an intimate one-off stop at Rough Trade NYC in Williamsburg on October 28, which Murray notes is “tough because it’s game two of the freakin’ World Series. I totally understand, though, and the show is a little later [in the night]. The Mets being in the World Series is a pretty big deal.”

Also a pretty big deal is the thought and consideration the band puts into its live sets. “It’s like you’re writing a novel [with the setlist],” Yanchak says. “If you don’t choose [the correct] order it’s like the story isn’t going to make any sense. It’s something we probably take way too seriously.”

“We try and make a setlist that forces the audience to be engaged the whole time,” Murray adds. “Quite frankly, the biggest cockblock we’ve ever had is there are some people who don’t even get in the door. They assume they won’t like the Dears based on certain facts. I guarantee anyone who walks in the door will not leave disappointed, but there’s nothing you can do about people who refuse to go through the door. You can’t lead a horse to water.”


Ryn Weaver: ‘I Don’t Want to Be a Poster Child; I Just Want to Be an Artist’

“I’m really high right now,” Ryn Weaver says from the road after a stop for Ethiopian food in Nebraska. High on what, exactly? She did just mention the previous day’s trip to Colorado, “where there’s legal marijuana.” But she also can’t contain the unfiltered excitement that spills out of her while discussing her debut LP, The Fool, released June 16, and current adventures on tour.

When prompted with the question, the 22-year-old singer-songwriter just laughs. “I mean, you know…”

What’s clear is Weaver does have much to be excited about. It’s been a quick ascent for the California-bred pop artist, who burst onto the scene from seemingly nowhere last year with the smash single “OctaHate” and is in the midst of a headlining tour, which brings her to the Music Hall of Williamsburg July 25 and Bowery Ballroom July 29. What went on behind the scenes prior to Weaver’s turn as internet sensation reads as a tale of good timing, luck, and inherent talent.

As Weaver tells it, she was living in New York, where she was going to school, when she met producer Benny Blanco (who has produced mega-hits for the likes of Katy Perry and Kesha) one Halloween through her then-boyfriend; a couple years later, happenstance reintroduced the two at a party in Los Angeles, where she says she “chased him around with my SoundCloud to listen” to her music.

“He really liked my voice and the way I wrote songs, and he wanted to help me out,” says Weaver, who was born Erin Michelle Wüthrich. “He’d also been looking for something to do that wasn’t so formulaic on a level. He wanted to…let me go on my creative trip and help me facilitate it.”

The fortuitous relationship also introduced Weaver to Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos, who co-produced The Fool alongside Blanco, as well as artists like Cashmere Cat and Charli XCX, both of whom had a hand in the electropoppy “OctaHate.”

“It was pretty effortless,” Weaver says of working with the artists. “They’re cool friends to have, but at the end of the day it’s about how you come together. They had so much faith in me and really let me make the record I wanted to make. There’s a story and structure.”

The Fool, Weaver explains, details a specific period in her life, particularly the ups and downs of two relationships. “One was so anxious and stressful and terrifying, and the next was so freeing and opening,” she says. “I was empowered through this new relationship and empowered to be independent within myself.”

The push-and-pull nature of Weaver’s relationships is felt throughout the shifting tone of her album. The music encompasses everything from the thundering drums of the Kate Bush–esque “Runaway” to the Passion Pit–influenced title track to the folk-leaning spoken word of “Traveling Song.” Always present is Weaver’s flair for the dramatic, her vocal timbre recalling that of Florence Welch’s and drawing on her theater-studying past.

The music also reflects what Weaver sees as a “proper depiction of what I think a modern woman really feels like.” Though noting any feminist themes in her music were not a conscious effort, she feels a feminist message is inherent in what she creates. “There’s not a blueprint for people these days. You used to get married and have a family, or you didn’t. There were two very distinct choices,” she says. “I think we have found more power in our freedom.…Maybe we’re a more selfish generation, but maybe we’re just kind of afraid to settle.”

She’s also careful to note that as a pop artist she’s not out to paint herself in a certain image or light, an accusation that’s haunted her peers, for better or worse, such as Lana Del Rey. “I feel like a lot of people commodify and create an image of ‘This is what I represent.’ I think I’m a human, and I think I’m bred out of complexity and things not always lining up,” she says. “I don’t want to be a poster child; I just want to be an artist.”

To wit, when asked about her upcoming songwriting work for big-name pop acts (most notably Gwen Stefani), she becomes reticent. “I allow them to talk about it when it’s their song coming out. I feel sometimes people try and steal thunder like that,” she says. “I hate that. At the end of the day, there’s a magic around being an artist.”

Ryn Weaver headlines the Music Hall of Wiliamsburg on July 25 and the Bowery Ballroom on July 29. Both performances have sold out, but tickets are available on secondary markets.


Shania Twain’s Farewell Tour Stuns With Big Hair, Big Glitter, and Bigger Hits

“I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but I’m just a stubborn ass girl,” Shania Twain told the crowd at Madison Square Garden before launching into her admittedly rarely played “I Ain’t No Quitter.” Stubborn might be one way to look at it. Having been relatively off the scene for more than a decade, the country superstar recently embarked on her 48-day Rock This Country tour, a jaunt she’s billing as her “farewell” to the road.

Judging by the crowd’s reaction, no one is looking for Twain to disappear any time soon. This is the woman we can credit for country-pop crossover success (Taylor who?) in the Nineties and beyond. Specifically, she’s one of the most successful female artists of all time, selling more than 75 million albums with 17 Top 10 singles. To say she’d been missed is a gross understatement.

And while her time off hasn’t yielded any new hits, it did give her time to polish her extensive catalog. After finishing a two-year residency in Las Vegas, Twain kicked off this tour with a refreshed stage show that panders to exactly what the audience wants: Big hair, big glitter and big, big hits.

The show was a throwback of sorts to when the country in pop-country remained intact. The sweet, irresistible twang of songs like “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” and “Any Man of Mine” may have aged, but it aged damn well — much like Twain herself. At 49-years-old, Twain’s voice has matured without losing any of its power. She can still rock a pair of thigh-high pink glitter boots better than people half her age. She’s a rare breed of what’s missing in artists today: true talent backed by true showmanship.

Twain kicked off the show in pure stadium-rock fashion with the anthemic “Rock This Country,” rising to the crowd from below the stage surrounded by pyrotechnics. Her band added heft and muscle to songs like “Honey, I’m Home,” “Love Gets Me Every Time” and “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)” as she crawled on hands and knees to share her mic with fans.

To further play up audience participation, a rotating stage brought her around to all corners of the venue. Opener Gavin DeGraw (who seemed kind of drunk? Maybe?) joined her for the excellent duet “Party For Two.” But the real highlight of this portion of the show came courtesy of a mechanical bull. Twain mounted the animatronic animal like a seasoned pro for the upbeat “Up!” as a crane elevated it into view, which, naturally, left the crowd elated.

“Music has been my savior,” Twain announced as she settled in with her guitar to the acoustic session of the show, which began with her 2011 single “Today Is Your Day.” “No One Needs to Know” and show highlight “You’re Still the One” followed, prompting the audience to link arms and sing along

The show closed out with a triple threat of power hits: the epic, string-backed “From This Moment,” the sassy kiss-off “That Don’t Impress Me Much” and crowd favorite “(If You’re Not in It for Love) I’m Outta Here.”

“Man! I Feel Like a Woman” closed out the encore, the fiercest example of Twain’s female-empowerment anthems. It’s been nearly a decade since the song was released, but its message — and Twain’s delivery — stays strong. If it’s her prerogative to have a little fun, we hope she’ll be back to share it with us again very soon.


Damien Rice is Ready to ‘Dive Back In And Stay In It’

Damien Rice was disillusioned. It’s a sentiment many working in the troubling music industry can relate to. After two successful and highly critically acclaimed albums – 2002’s O and 2006’s 9 – the Irish singer-songwriter lost his motivation.

“I just wasn’t happy with where the music industry had led me or where I had gone,” Rice says. “I wanted to find my connection with music once again. I think it’s very easy to lose that innocence and inspiration and love for the art once it becomes a business. I just ended up quite empty, to be honest.”

What started as a year off turned into eight, and now Rice is determined to make up for lost time. Last fall saw the release of My Favourite Faded Fantasy, a true-to-Rice-form collection of stirring vocals and emotions, an album so beautifully devastating it left fans wanting more from the singer who’s been off the radar.

And, luckily, more is what they’re getting. “My idea, now, because I’ve been away so long, is to dive back in and stay in it now,” he says. “I want to get a lot of records made in the next few years to make up for the time I’ve lost. I’m inspired and excited.” In fact, he has another album in the works tentatively slated for early next year. “It’s quite different; there’s movement in the new record. That was a desire of mine – to make a record that my head could nod along to or that my body could move to. I just had a craving to get something like that out of my system.”

Part of Rice’s inspiration is coming from getting back out on the road – particularly visiting cities like New York. “Every time I come to New York I meet some more friends of friends of friends,” he says. “For some reason the cells in my body are energized and excited when I’m there, and I want to get things done and be creative when I’m in New York.

“The main thing that I love about New York and Brooklyn … is the variety of interesting, artistic, creative things that people are doing in such a small area is very inspiring. I get an idea for something … and there are places and spaces to get together with people and fulfill a dream or see some creative idea to fruition fast and spontaneously.”

His upcoming New York stop will find him at the Prospect Park Bandshell as part of Celebrate Brooklyn on June 17. Rice, a renowned performer for his intensely intimate shows, is doing this current leg of the tour solo – just him and his guitar. Though such intimacy might seem tricky to translate to an outdoor space, Rice is assured just the opposite. “When I first started out on the big stages, the tendency is you see a sea of people and think you need to sing louder and strum louder to reach the people in the back. Once you learn you don’t need to do that you can sing really soft and let the speakers do the work. The intimacy can be held. I’ve learned to close my eyes and just not worry about how far away people are.”

Playing shows without a band also serves as its own challenge to Rice as a performer. “When you’re not feeling that strong or focused it’s easier to fall back on the strength of the band. Having to walk out by myself every night reminds me to go to that place of playing as if it’s my last show ever,” he says. “You go and do it and there’s something very rewarding about pushing yourself past the things that you’re resisting and the things that you’re fearing and just going and doing them. It’s like jumping into the cold sea. It’s challenging and you’re afraid of it, but once you do you never come out of the cold sea regretting you went for a swim.”

All of his newfound energy and inspiration is funneling into his new music and performances, an area where he has no intention of slowing down. “I need these challenges and I need this heat applied to my inner workings to keep growing,” he says of his long-awaited time back in the spotlight. “I really want to grow, and I really want to learn.”


Jane’s Addiction Go Vintage With ‘Nothing’s Shocking’ at Brooklyn Bowl

Nostalgic rock fans in New York had a tough choice between concerts last night: Night one of metal heroes Faith No More at Webster Hall? Or alt-rock gods Jane’s Addiction at Brooklyn Bowl? Those who opted for the latter had a chance to see a rare Jane’s performance of their landmark 1988 album Nothing’s Shocking in full at an uncharacteristically small venue — a night that would serve as a welcome throwback, albeit one that lacked a little panache.

Since the band’s early days performing in Los Angeles clubs, Jane’s Addiction have been notorious for their debauched, hedonistic live spectacles. Brooklyn Bowl felt tame by comparison, the only real exploitation coming in the form of a shirtless (and seemingly ageless) guitarist Dave Navarro and the appearance of two scantily clad dancers toward the end. Which was all well and good in regard to focusing on the music, but the band performed almost as if it was missing an element of fun. Frontman Perry Farrell in particular appeared rather unaffected, taking about half the set for it to finally feel like he was letting loose. Maybe they’re older; maybe they don’t care as much; maybe they were stoned. Theatrics (or lack thereof) aside, Jane’s Addiction are still rock stars of the highest caliber, and they’re not about to let you forget it.

Always one for flamboyance, Farrell donned a flamingo jacket as the group — whose ever-evolving lineup has settled on Farrell, Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins, and bassist Chris Chaney — kicked off the show with the lumbering bass of Nothing’s Shocking opener “Up the Beach.” Navarro’s guitar caught fire on the expansive “Ocean Size,” from which Farrell segued into an anecdote about his father being from Bensonhurst before the punk-rock kick of “Had a Dad.”

Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction in all his topless, shredding glory
Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction in all his topless, shredding glory

The shape-shifting “Ted, Just Admit It…” saw Farrell working the crowd up to an epic “Sex Is Violent” chant, while the more somber tone of “Summertime Rolls” (which Farrell introduced with a dig at Williamsburg kickball leagues) was the perfect prep for show highlight “Mountain Song.” Here is where Farrell truly came alive, the full band giving the massive track its due. Perkins’s thundering drums, Navarro’s electric shred — this was peak Jane’s (pardon the pun) and the moment to top.

For fan favorite “Jane Says,” Perkins came out from behind the kit to play the song’s signature steel drums, while album closer “Pigs in Zen” ended the Nothing’s Shocking portion of the proceedings on a quintessential hard-rock note.

To appease later-era Jane’s fans, the rest of the set touched on songs like “Just Because” and the always great “Been Caught Stealing.” Now the dancers were on stage, piquing Farrell’s interest and wielding red swords.

The trip down memory lane was the first of a handful of shows Jane’s Addiction are playing to commemorate Nothing’s Shocking. As the warmup, the Brooklyn Bowl show was a nostalgic treat but left fans wanting just a little more from a band capable of such greatness. With all the breakups, reunions, and sparse touring, will we see a new Jane’s in the near future? Let’s hope so. We’re not done with Sergio.



Walk the Moon Scrub off the Neon Face Paint to Perform Talking Is Hard

Like every band, Cincinnati’s Walk the Moon hit a point where they wanted to mature. In this group’s case, maturation meant ditching the (fun, albeit juvenile) face-painting shtick that defined their early live shows. (Which, naturally, doesn’t discourage some fans from still sporting a neon-splattered face or two.) Musically, too, Walk the Moon — the four-piece of Nicholas Petricca (lead vocals, keys/synths), Kevin Ray (bass), Eli Maiman (guitar), and Sean Waugaman (drums) — have taken strides in diversity with their second major-label full-length, Talking Is Hard, which builds upon Walk the Moon’s knack for hooky dance-rock by incorporating heavy Eighties influences.

At New York’s Terminal 5, Walk the Moon put their progress on display with a polished and highly energetic sold-out show. The band catered to the young-skewing audience — their biggest fan, it turns out, is an adorable five-year-old girl who shouted every lyric through the entire set — by kicking off with The Lion King‘s “Circle of Life” before diving right in to “Different Colors,” an infectious, ooh-ooh-ooh swaying pop song that secured the evening’s tone.

The set touched on songs from the new record — such as “Down in the Dumps,” which has traces of Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing”; the body-moving “Avalanche”; and “Work This Body,” a tune that hopped on the Vampire Weekend revival train a few years too late — as well as cuts from Walk the Moon’s self-titled 2012 outing, such as the Talking Heads–esque “Tightrope”; “Shiver Shiver,” a groovy dance track that found Petricca doing his best Prince vocals; and the inexplicably popular “Jenny,” which, while a little sultry and catchy, fails with a chorus that proclaims, “Jenny’s got a body just like an hourglass.”

The front row at Terminal 5 for Walk the Moon
The front row at Terminal 5 for Walk the Moon

Songs like “Spend Your $$$” and the effects-heavy shredder “Up 2 U” made for some of the set’s best moments and proved what Walk the Moon are capable of on the rock front. The group’s truest talent, though, is in the art of the hook, most evident on Talking Is Hard‘s breakout single, “Shut Up and Dance,” as well as the inescapable song that got Walk the Moon their start: “Anna Sun,” the encore’s end that fans pleaded for the entire night.

Save for a mediocre cover of the Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done” (come on, guys, try and make it your own a little!), Walk the Moon showed no signs of slowing down on their quest toward serious musicianship-hood. As Petricca mentioned, they’ve come a long way from playing the Rock Shops and Pianos of the city, and Terminal 5 was no doubt a new highlight. Amazing what can happen once the neon paint has washed off.

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Bleachers Preach an Eighties Pop Gospel John Hughes Would Worship at Terminal 5

“Whoever says New York City doesn’t have good crowds should just kill themselves right now,” Bleachers frontman Jack Antonoff shouted to an adoring sold-out Terminal 5 crowd before adding, smartly, “Well, don’t kill yourself!” The man has a point (not about the, you know, offing of one’s self): New York audiences are notorious for their oft-lukewarm reception at shows. But Antonoff was there to prove that wrong.

Part of Bleachers’ appeal is that there’s a little something for everyone. Antonoff is one-third of the highly successful (and currently on hiatus) pop group fun., giving him a seasoned and bona fide star/stage presence. He’s also behind some of the past couple of years’ biggest Top 40 hits: Sara Bareilles’s “Brave” and Taylor Swift’s “Out of the Woods,” and he brings this pop-minded sensibility to Bleachers’ catchy tunes. He’s also that dude from Jersey who had a rough time in high school, which is evidenced all over Bleachers’ Eighties-influenced debut, Strange Desire, which lends Antonoff a little loner and hipster cred.

From giggling teenagers to hipsters who were, in fact, slightly lukewarm in response, Bleachers’ Terminal 5 show ran the gamut of fans, all of whom left thoroughly entertained. Antonoff boasts an infectious command (plus a backing band that’s just as charismatic in its own right) that immediately set the tone with “Like a River Runs,” an opener that blasted ‘roided-up synths through the venue. The dance-y “Shadows” was followed by “Wild at Heart,” a modernized Springsteen-invoking tune that saw Antonoff preaching the Jersey gospel at his audience.

Bleachers at Terminal 5, 4/9/15
Bleachers at Terminal 5, 4/9/15

Nearly every song from Strange Desire made the setlist, most notably the blown-out production of “You’re Still a Mystery,” complete with saxophone, as well as the slower, seductive “Wake Me” and the teenage anthem “Rollercoaster,” both of which are just begging for retrospective placement in a John Hughes movie.

With a small catalog, a few cover songs helped round out Bleachers’ relatively short set. The high: Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way,” a song that felt in line with Bleachers’ output and amped up the audience’s energy considerably. The low: Kanye West’s “Only One,” which saw Bleachers huddled together at the front of the stage and featured, questionably, saxophone.

The obvious highlight was Bleachers’ own breakout hit “I Wanna Get Better,” a true explosion of a pop song that highlighted sick guitar shredding and invited all-out mayhem. A confetti cannon, fittingly, shot over the audience to close the night. Turns out Antonoff was right: New York City did indeed have a very good crowd — and band — that night.

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