Music Pick: Indie Band “Yuck” Returns to Bowery Ballroom Saturday Night

yuck

Straight off the heels of releasing the first song from their latest EP and kicking off an international tour, London-based indie rock group, Yuck, will visit Bowery Ballroom this Saturday night.

Having released their self-titled album in 2011 to acclaim from Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, Yuck’s sophomore album, “Glow and Behold,” solidified the band’s status as one of the most notable names on the indie rock scene. Released in 2013 on southern record label Fat Possom, “Glow and Behold” has a catchy, fuzz rock sound that was a departure from their first album, which boasted grungy jams like “Get Away” alongside dreamy SoCal tunes like “Shook Down.”

Formed by longtime friends Max Bloom and Daniel Blumberg, who formed Cajun Dance Party in high school and released an album in 2008, Yuck has come a long way and endured some serious transitions, including the loss of Blumberg, the band’s frontman. After announcing in April 2013 that Blumberg would pursue other projects, Bloom took over as frontman and singer. The indie rock outfit seems to be doing just fine after weathering a storm that would usually dissolve an up-and-coming band.

Now Yuck is gearing up for the release of their four song EP, “Southern Skies,” and plans to keep their momentum going by recording more tracks as soon as they have down time in London.

The 2014 EP was self-produced and recorded over Christmas in the band’s rehearsal studio in Stoke Newington, London, and Bloom says he’s extremely proud of what the group has accomplished.

“It feels like a big step in a new direction for the band,” he said.

“Athena,” the first song on the EP, released at the end of January, is more dreamy than the group’s earlier grungy tunes. Reminiscent of Beach House’s wistful, sleepy melodies, “Athena” illustrates the band’s transition from a ’90’s grunge rock sound to softer vocals that are comparable to Sonic Youth.

2014 is sure to be a definitive year for the band with the release of “Southern Skies” and more in the shoot. “Where we see the band heading sound-wise is a mystery even to myself. Only time will tell,” says Bloom.

This will be the group’s second time playing at the Bowery Ballroom, and Bloom notes that they’re extremely excited to perform at the venue again, especially because they mixed their latest album at a studio close to the space and have “a lot of love for the Lower East Side.”

“We’re looking forward to playing some new songs and seeing how people react to the old ones as well,” says Bloom.

Saturday, February 15 // 8pm // $15 in advance and $17 at the door.

Review: Toshi Reagon & BIGLovely Keep the Birthday Love Going

Toshi Reagon live (1)-1

Amidst all this cold winter drudgery there are still people out there thinking, singing and caring. And Toshi Reagon is one of them.  The night I saw her perform (last Wednesday) as part of her week long 30th Annual Birthday Concert series at Joes’ Pub, she had donated the proceeds of the night’s concert to the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice.  She didn’t stop there; the show included passionate banter about prison reform, slavery, sexism, and “tangible righteousness.”  In between, were amazing sets of music from soft, reflective ballads that touched on personal stories of love, to raucous rock’n’roll songs about empowerment, all of which showed off her impressive vocal range.

I loved hearing Reagon talk about her passion for “places that do good work.” It felt at times like we were sitting around her living room with her musician friends, just shooting the breeze and then breaking out into collective song. The intimate Joe’s Pub helps with this feeling but I think it was the overwhelming joy that Reagon brings to her performance — the ease and command of her music and lyrics. “I am happy and I’m satisfied,” a line from one of her songs pretty much sums up her persona.

I’ve been to Joe’s Pub countless times but I don’t recall ever seeing the audience get up out of their chairs to dance. “Amazon Woman Rise,” the nearly forty-year-old anthem written by Maxine Feldman, was the song that did the trick. Sung in perfect deep throated reggae style by the incomparable Judith Casselberry, there was no way we were gonna stay seated.

Reagon started out the evening with a big “Oh yeah!” and so did I, when I saw the stage fill up with her “All Women All the Time” BIGLovely band. Every girl who plays an instrument should run and see them play. Yes, I say every girl.  It is a rare occurrence to see an all female band where each member is a musical star in her own right. The musicianship was stellar. The camaraderie joyous. In addition to Casselberry, BIGLovely featured drummer Allison Miller, bassist Ganessa James, keyboardist Elenna Canlas, guitarist Alex Nolan and singers Marcelle Davies Lashley and Catherine Russell.

I know this sounds like a cliché, but run don’t walk next time Toshi Reagon is playing at Joe’s Pub. In fact, mark your calendar for her 31st Annual Birthday Concert series, which I am sure is already in the works for January 2015. You don’t want to miss it.

Saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa Comes to The Stone

The Stone kicked off their 2014 residencies with a week of music from Thurston Moore and guests in tribute to Lou Reed.  Their excellent jazz lineup continues this week with saxophonist and composer Rudresh Mahanthappa.

Arts Watch: What to Do in November

Lots of events happening in the neighborhood this month.  Here are some highlights:

New Music Showcase, Hellified Vertical, Comes to the L.E.S.

DJs Moni, Reborn, Selly, Kim Knox shErOck

DJs Moni, Reborn, Selly, Kim Knox & shErOck.

Editor’s Note – Hellified Vertical, a new music showcase comes to the L.E.S. tomorrow night.  It will be the first of a five-part series presenting various genres of music including Soul/R&B, Hip Hop, Rock, and Latin at Leftfield Bar on Ludlow Street. Each event will be filmed for development into music based reality programming spotlighting the emerging talent on the scene today. The showcase series will culminate in a special finale installment that will take place during the CMJ Music Festival in October. Lo-Down contributor Royal Young spoke with producer and co-creator Kimberly Knox about the series:

YOUNG: What was the inspiration behind your new music showcase at Leftfield Bar?

KNOX: With our new showcase, Hellified Vertical we (Asqui MG/Ubiquita Worldwide) wanted to empower emerging artists to explore various avenues of getting there music out there. Today’s industry is anybody’s game.

Last Call — Support the 2nd Annual NY Funny Songs Fest

NY Funny Songs Fest

After a smashing start last year, our friends at the NY Funny Songs Festival are raising money for their second annual event.  Their Kickstarter campaign ends tonight so be sure to chip in – if you like funny songs, that is.

Bushwick Book Club to Perform Songs Inspired by Justin Vivian Bond at BGSQD

Our friends at the Bureau of General Services – Queer Division (BGSQD) are hosting the Bushwick Book Club tomorrow night for an evening of songs inspired by Mx. Justin Vivian Bond’s memoir, Tango. An impressive lineup of performers will perform their original work, debuting at the Bureau.

Strange Loop Gallery // 27 Orchard St. // 8:00 p.m.

Leah Wells Brings Bluegrass Banjo and Flamenco Guitar to Dixon Place

Ethan Joseph, Leah Wells and Sara Banleigh. Photo by Judy Rosenblatt.

The noisy crowd at Dixon Place’s bar instantly falls silent as Leah Wells and her band take the stage. Though Wells is usually kind and unassuming, under the spotlight, in a glittering red headpiece, she morphs into a soulful songstress. Wells has been a Lower East Side dweller since 1980, when she dropped out of Bennington, a clothing optional liberal arts college in Vermont, to hitch-hike her way back to downtown New York. Now a mother, Wells balances raising her two adolescent sons with honing her musical craft.

For this performance, Wells is joined by David McKeon on Guitar and Mandolin, Ethan Joseph on Fiddle, Mary Noecker on Bass and Sara Banleigh, who shimmers in black lace and gold bracelets. Wells met Banleigh singing Irish folk songs at the New York Public Library and the two have been a musical match ever since. Banleigh performs songs Wells wrote when she was a young twenty-something, capturing their lonely, gritty, crooning energy and making them new again.

Ludwig Persik in Residency at Pianos

Ludwig Persik is playing at Pianos before heading out on tour with Jamie Lidell. Photo via tumblr.

One of our favorite “LES-ers” (read our My LES interview with him here) has snagged a residency at Pianos (158 Ludlow Street).  His self-titled debut EP, released last summer, was produced by indie beat boxing/synth/soul mystro Jamie Lidell, with whom Persik toured in 2010.  The album was featured as Deli’s “NYC Record of the Month” last July and is tricky to categorize, since words like “art pop, psychedelic, experimental, the Beatles and Beck” come to mind, but it will definitely make you want to dance.

Persik tells me his influences for the album were “John Lennon, Skip Spence, David Bowie, Love (Arthur Lee’s band in the ’60s), and Talking Heads,” not to mention Kurt Weill.   You can catch him tonight and next Wednesday at 11pm for a mere $5, before he heads out on an international tour with Lidell.

Arts Watch: New York Gypsie All-Stars Light Up the Stage at DROM

The New York Gypsy All-Stars

DROM on Avenue A and 6th street has become quite the local nightlife hot spot for Global Music. With musical tastes that run the gamut—on any given night you’ll find jazz, rock, electronic, soul & funk to hip-hop or international music—DROM programs a fresh selection of live music desperately needed in our current New York nightlife scene. DROM has also become an unofficial home for many established local bands, among them the New York Gypsy All-Stars.

Review: Starnes & Shah’s Holiday Show at Arlene’s Grocery

Starnes & Shah via Facebook

Keyboardist and vocalist Zilpha Starnes was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. Guitarist and vocalist Dania Abu-Shaheen is from Lebanon, in the Gulf. Her fans often humorously confuse her birthplace as Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

Starnes & Shah met in Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. Shah had graduated, and was in need of a roommate, when a mutual friend recommended Starnes. Starnes was a senior at the time. Shah says, “At the time, I was doing music on my own (the singer/songwriter thing). After about a year of living together, I found out that Starnes could sing. One day, I asked her to help me work out a vocal line for a tune. We sang together, and the rest is history.”

Together, they formed Starnes & Shah, reminiscent of the Indigo Girls and Wilson Phillips. Starnes admits her taste in music is more classical, while her partner Shah’s is more classic rock.

“We moved to Boston when we released ‘Pink White Blue Green,’ mostly because we wanted to get away from New York to give ourselves time to really get S&S up and running. New York City was keeping us too busy with jobs, etc. Our focus wasn’t on the band as much as we liked. While in Boston, we toured around New England and got the momentum we felt we needed to come back to New York. We also had learned some important lessons about balancing work and music. We could really make it work once we were back in New York.”

TLD Interview: Dixon Place’s LES Music Festival

Photo courtesy of Dixon Place.

We recently spoke with Jonny Goodman, the Director and Curator of Dixon Place’s upcoming First Annual Lower East Side Music Festival, about his vision for the festival, music on the Lower East Side,  and life as a musician.

TLD – We are very excited that there is a new arts festival in the Lower East Side – especially a music festival.  Who conceived of the idea?

 JG  – Ellie Covan, the Founder of Dixon Place, wanted to put a foot forth in the music scene.  Since its beginning in the late 80s, Dixon has been very supportive of the artist in dance and performance, encouraging new and experimental work and nurturing new talent.  With its new space on Chrystie Street, they now also have the venue for music.  Music is such an important fabric of the Lower East Side cultural community.  So they wanted to support those musicians and become a home for that community.

Weekend Music Picks

Here are musician Ken Beasley’s top music picks on the Lower East Side for this weekend:

Teddy Goldstein

TEDDY GOLDSTEIN – Fri Nov. 18 | 9pm at the Living Room

Teddy Goldstein is one those songwriters whose satirical musical work dovetails effortlessly with the razor sharp observational qualities of his off-stage personality. But there is an additional layer in Goldstein, and those who journey beyond the natural witticisms and easygoing voice, will find a sincere and perceptive lyricist.  FREE//154 Ludlow St.