Category Archives: Concert Review

Pitchblak Brass Band: Funky Friday

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Channeling my inner-David Dye and introducing some great new tunes on this funky Friday.

While this band’s sound might stray from Second Fiddle’s folkish tendencies, Brooklyn’s Pitchblak Brass Band will help you dance your way into the weekend. The 10-piece hip-hop brass band (yep, that combination is real…and wonderful) creates a full, boisterous sound, delivering sharp rap lyrics with brassy tuba, trombone and trumpet tones.

Burr Lioz” emphasizes the dynamic versatility of this collective, with major emphasis on vocals. Other tracks like “Ulysses” and “Get It and Run” layer in smooth jazz chords. Pitchblak’s new sound makes each track a unique journey, and their debut album You See Us is a strong entry into the hip-hip music scene. (And if you’re impressed with the album, just wait until you see them live. I had the pleasure of catching their show at the Brooklyn Bowl a month ago and noticed bowlers stopping mid-game to dance to an epic cover of Janelle Monae’s Q.U.E.E.N.)

Pitchblak Brass Band’s debut album You See Us dropped on September 12 and is available on their website and Spotify.

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PigPen Theatre Co and the Parkington Sisters: Folk Forces

PigPen Theatre Co

Allow me to obsess over PigPen Theatre Co again. The stars aligned in Boston on Wednesday night and this swoon-worthy seven-piece left their NYC hometown for a trip to New England. The combination of sweet harmonies, small venue (at Berklee, no less, where performing is encouraged) and earnest crowd made for an incredibly warm concert. Their journey-seeking songs took on new meaning in this unfamiliar territory. It was interesting to locate the plot of this folk musical, seamlessly showcased in concert form. The men of PigPen carry equal weight, which emphasizes the importance and vibrance of their collective talent.

Lest us not forget their powerful opener, Massachusetts’ own Parkington Sisters. This sister quartet have incredible vocal and instrumental strength; four bandmates rival PigPen’s seven.  The evening ended in a “sing-off” between the two groups. This potential battle of the sexes turned into the most beautiful collaboration of The Band’s “The Weight.” Combine two groups who understand the importance of harmony and BAM- literal music to your ears. Thanks for making the trip up north, PigPen. You’re welcome here anytime.

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Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers: 24 Hours of Musical Implosion

Mumford and Sons - TD Garden
Can barely type right now, I am so musically blissed out. I didn’t plan on seeing Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers in a 24 hour span, but the Lumineers bumped their concert back a week and I found myself going from one concert to the other (with some sweet folky dreams in between). Sure the combo makes some (ok, most) hipsters scoff, but after exhausting both albums all fall semester, it was time to take our relationship to the next level (hang with me, remember, my brain and heart are both mushy and vulnerable and words are difficult.)

First were the Lumineers at the House of Blues in Boston. I arrived late to the sold-out show and was forced to stand in the back of the venue. Because I was far away and less attached to the performance, it took me awhile to really connect with the set. The group sounded great though, encouraging audience sing-alongs during the upbeat “Flowers in Her Hair” and the ever-anticipated “Ho Hey.” Although vocalist Wesley Schultz and instrumentalist Stelth Ulvang joined the crowd for a call and response to their hit single, the band performed the song as an encore to give us the full, Bing commercial effect. It’s funny, I love most of the songs on the album, yet my favorite takeaways from the show were unreleased singles. The first: a gorgeous duet between Wesley and Neyla (below) called “Falling.” The second: a collaboration with opener Y La Bamba, a cover of the Violent Femmes’ “American Music.”

The Lumineers

And then there’s Mumford. I stood three rows away from the stage inside the massive TD Garden. Thought I could keep my fangirl tendencies to a minimal, but as soon as they stepped on stage, my hands were permanently in the air. I forgot that large concerts take on a theatrical element- and Mumford used large wheels and light displays to enhance, but not overpower, their folk-rock sound. Mumfy barely chatted with the audience and focused solely on a stellar performance. They clearly knows how to perform their iconic, booming crescendos, which made acoustic versions of “Reminder” and “Sister,” performed on a small stage on the opposite side of the stadium, even more delicate. I was exhausted just from singing and jumping along. But then again, Mumford plucked at my heartstrings for a solid 2 hours in addition to their aggressive banjo chords.

Mumford and Sons - TD Garden

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Langhorne Slim: A Private Serenade

Langhorne Slim @ the Brighton Music Hall (taken by me)

I’ll be honest, my roommate and I sauntered into the Brighton Music Hall tonight already feeling pretty cool- our new apartment is less than a 2 minute walk away and we bought the tickets for Langhorne Slim as a last-minute attempt to procrastinate studying for midterms. We were positioned a little far from the stage, but consoled ourselves by talking through the opener (sorry Last Bison, you were pleasant and imma let you finish, but why did you change your name from Bison to The Last Bison? Are you becoming extinct?) and with pumpkin beer. And we were seeing Langhorne Slim perform! What could be better?

Oh right, when Slim (also known as Sean Scolnickjumped into the crowd TWICE to sing. He didn’t just hum a few words or wait for audience participation, but sang two entire songs. In the throws of an epic encore of “Back to the Wild,” Slim transitioned into a rugged and soulful “Past Life,” gesturing for everyone to huddle in a circle around him on the floor (video credit to “zach22m” who was standing a few people away). Everyone in that room got a private concert and assurance that Langhorne knew each of us from a past life. The spontaneity of seeing this concert in the first place was thrilling, and this unexpected twist was the cinnamon-sugar rim on a fall brew. Do you have any cool concert moments where you were practically touching the main act? (In a non-creepy way of course.) Any experiences of private serenades? I’ve been lucky enough to have a few great memories, one coincidentally when I snapped a picture with Slim at a free concert this summer. However, I was totally unprepared for this moment, making it that much better.

Langhorne Slim @ The Brighton Music Hall 10/24/12

Other concert highlights include an infectious toe-tapping “The Way We Move,” also the name of his 2012 release, the bittersweet “I Love You, But Goodbye,” and even more heart-wrenching “Song for Sid,” a ballad written for Slim’s late grandfather. As quickly as Langhorne Slim can wiggle his tiny hips on stage to raunchy bluegrass chords, he can flip the mood with somber melodies. I guess that’s just the way he moves.

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Ben Sollee: Political Music-vism

Ben Sollee @ The Brighton Music Hall (Taken by me)

I discovered Ben Sollee’s, “A Few Honest Words,” almost four years ago, and it has since become the soothing travel companion on many train rides from Boston to Philadelphia. However, seeing Sollee in concert last night at the Brighton Music Hall put the song in a completely different context. During this exciting election season, Sollee’s acoustic intro of, “if you’re going to lead my country/if you’re gonna say it’s free/I’m gonna need a little honesty,” conjures more than feelings of sleepy relaxation. After Sollee hinted at environmental efforts in his Kentucky Appalachia hometown and unique, community-building “bike tours,” this poignant song beautifully closed the show. His earnest call to action didn’t force the audience to sway left or right in a political way, but in a physical one.

Not only did Sollee poetically encourage the audience to participate in the election through the encore number, his new release Half-Made Man is another fan-based effort. Sollee’s fourth album was released through Tin Ear Records and Pledge Music, a socially-conscious and interactive new way for artists to produce and release albums (Like I said in my PigPen post…post on that coming soon).

After his environmentally-minded album collaboration with David Martin Moore Dear Companion in 2010 (and subsequent Ditch the Bike tour, which he recreated this year for the Newport Folk Festival, biking over 3,600 miles along the East Coast to further connect with each city), Sollee’s new release takes community involvement to a whole new level. He strays a bit from his original folky sound by adding more guitar and drums, but his iconic cello still rings above the fuller sound. Clearly I’m much more of a stripped-down, acoustic Ben Sollee fan, but these new songs fall short to his old stuff in my opinion. New songs like “Whole Lot to Give” and “DIY” sound much better and purposeful in person. Hey, maybe Sollee secretly agrees, for he still played many of his older, sweeter classics like “Prettiest Tree on the Mountain” and “Built for This.” With these, the tiny bar went silent and to let Sollee’s pure vocals linger even longer.

Ben Sollee @ The Brighton Music Hall (taken by me)

As if I haven’t fawned over Sollee enough already, here are two more selling points:

1. His live rendition of “How to See the Sun Rise” is the most PERFECT marriage of soul and folk. (video following this post)

2. He is touring with one of his role models, Darol Anger, of the Turtle Island String Quartet. Sollee was inspired by Turtle Island to take up the cello, and they riff together like two old friends on stage.

The combination of Ben Sollee’s warm music and positive message made this a feel-good concert in every way.

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