Entries tagged with: Bryce Dessner
photos by David Andrako
The inaugural, Dessner-curated Crossing Brooklyn Ferry festival concluded on Saturday night (May 5) with performances from Beirut, Atlas Sound, My Brightest Diamond, Caveman and more.
There were whispers there'd be an unannounced set from The National, but the secret guest Phi Slamma Jamma was actually Arcade Fire's Will Butler, Jeremy Gara, Tim Kingsbury, and Richard Reed Parry who performed a bunch of covers (Ramones, R.E.M., Devo, Beatles and the Stones, among others) to cap out the Fest.
Night Two pictures HERE. Night one HERE. Lots of pictures from all of Saturday night's performers (including Sufjan), plus video of Atlas Sound (who also kept busy in others ways while in town), Caveman, Beirut and Phi Slamma Jamma performing a song each, below...
The Walkmen @ BAM
BAM's Bryce and Aaron Dessner-curated Crossing Brooklyn Ferry series/festival had its first night Thursday. It continues tonight/Friday with a lineup headlined by St. Vincent and The Antlers (and Saturday with Beirut and Atlas Sound).
Music kicked off at 5pm with early slots filled by indie-classical acts like yMusic and JACK Quartet. Composer-uke-player Jherek Bischoff started things out inside the Howard Gilman Opera House at 7pm, and his set featured guest spots from David Byrne and Amanda Palmer. Check out the pictures below.
The first band I saw was Twin Shadow, an act that always sounds a lot better to me on record than live (something about George Lewis Jr.'s voice and the intricacies of the production don't translate exactly on stage). A welcome special guest, the Blackfire Percussion, added drum corp percussion on a few of the songs.
Sharon Van Etten powered through a set that highlighted how much she's evolved since her early acoustic days. She offered a throwback to her Because I Was In Love debut with a solo version of "I Fold" dedicated to her parents. Aaron Dessner, who produced Tramp, played guitar on a few of the tracks. And Sharon tapped "Serpents" for the triumphant, soaring closer.
Sharon Van Etten @ BAM
The Walkmen navigated a set of new tunes and classics: in addition to putting out their sixth LP, Heaven, in June, this year marks the 10th-anniversary of their debut, Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone. Among the songs played were "Angela Surf City," "In the New Year," "Blue As Your Blood" and new tracks "Heaven," "Heartbreaker" and "Southern Heart." Hamilton, as always, stretched the limits of his voice to good effect, especially on the haunting A Hundred Miles Off track "All Hands and the Cook." The band closed with an encore of "We've Been Had," which they noted was the first song they wrote as a band.
Between those last two I ventured to the BAM Cafe to see Zs, playing as a duo and sounding completed different than the last time I saw them in July. Guitarist Ben Greenberg describes the change as "The old stuff was like an old Soviet tank driving down Main Street; the new stuff is like a spaceship landing on City Hall." The shift from angular guitar and skronking saxophone to whatever they do now was pretty evident in the small snippet that I caught. Greenberg's guitar laid dubby rhythms lines while Sam Hilmer's sax played melodies and riffs off in the distance. Hopefully they'll line up more shows soon. (As Hubble, Greenberg makes the NYC debut of that project's "quadraphonic Hubble Superposition set" tonight.)
After that I caught a few songs by Yellowbirds, hidden up in Cinema 3 and playing to a crowd of about 20 people (including Conrad Doucette). The Jonathan Richman-esque two-piece was a nice surprise to find soaked in the smell of movie-theater popcorn.
(People Get Ready and Heather Broderick played, and a program of short films screened, but I arrived too late to see them. And I only caught a snippet of Callers by skipping the end of Twin Shadow.)
One bummer about the schedule is that, with the exception of the extremely early classical sets, it's impossible to see more than a few minutes of the smaller bands without skipping the headlining acts. That scheduling, and the vague, unnecessary "Brooklyn" theme, are a bit puzzling, but all in all the fest is a good chance to see bands like the Walkmen and Sharon Van Etten in the gorgeous Howard Gilman Opera House, a space that's surprisingly intimate and cozy for its size (and having the first few rows of seats removed for the crowd to stand was a nice touch).
More pictures from Thursday below...
TONIGHT (4/20) at Littlefield, Gaspar Claus is performing with an impressive list of guests for 'The Permanent Festival: Gaspar Claus with Friends.' That list includes Bryce Dessner (The National), Jessie Stein (The Luyas), Mauro Remiddi (Porcelain Raft), David Moore (Bing and Ruth), Remi Alexandre (Syd Matters), Ben Greenberg (Zs), Andy LaPlant & Jessica Larrabee (She Keeps Bees), Pedro Soler, Emil Bognar-Nasdor, and Clara Claus. Advance tickets are no longer on sale, but $15 tickets will be available at the door.
Like Bryce Dessner, Gaspar Claus is a Sufjan Stevens collaborator. Check out three pieces that the two musicians recorded together last year below...
Remember that Dessner brother-curated festival, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," which is happening at BAM from May 3-5? And remember how when we posted the National-curated ATP lineup we suggested (for obvious reasons) that it might hint at the BAM lineup? Well, the lineup is out now, and there are definitely some similarities to that, and also not surprisingly, to the ongoing Ecstatic Music Festival which is great at highlighting the growing mix between indie rock and indie classical that the Dessners are huge fans of and participants in.
The three day Brooklyn Academy of Music festival includes The Antlers, My Brightest Diamond (w/ yMusic), Sharon Van Etten, and Buke and Gase who are all playing ATP, in addition to The Walkmen, St. VIncent, Beirut, Atlas Sound, Tyondai Braxton (formerly of Battles), Oneohtrix Point Never, Caveman, Sinkane, Twin Shadow, Jherek Bischoff, Pat Mahoney and Nancy Whang (DFA DJ set), Ava Luna, and others which are all listed below. As mentioned, the fest also includes the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and the NOW Ensemble.
3-Day Festival Passes go on sale Monday (3/5) to friends of BAM and Tuesday (3/6) to the general public. More details and schedule at the Crossing Brooklyn Ferry website.
Full lineup below...
photos by David Andrako
Ecstatic Music Festival Day 3 -- 02/08/12
The 2012 Ecstatic Music Festival, which hosted Sxip Shirey and friends one night earlier, continued at Merkin Hall last night with performances by Richard Reed Parry (of the Arcade Fire and Bell Orchestre), Son Lux (aka Ryan Lott), and yMusic, along with special guests Bryce and Aaron Dessner (of the National). As advertised, this happened:
"[Richard Reed Parry] takes on the role of composer, presenting a series of works for yMusic and its members utilizing the organic processes of the human body -- heartbeats and breathing -- to articulate the works' progress. Son Lux will likewise have his yMusic compositions (from their debut album, Beautiful Mechanical) performed, and will also present new arrangements from his album We Are Rising ("shamefully good," Seattle Post-Intelligencer), which used yMusic as source material for its electronic compositions. Parry and Lott will also each write new works that incorporate each other into the process, as vocalists, instrumentalists, or even as providers of source material for the new compositions.It was also "A New Sounds Live Presentation Hosted by WNYC's John Schaefer" which means it was streamed live and will be archived online if you mised it. and there are pictures in this post.
This Will Destroy You play the Ecstatic show tonight (2/9), or more specifically:
"The unique, "brilliant" (Boston Globe), self-conducted string orchestra A Far Cry joins forces with post-rock powerhouse This Will Destroy You and renowned composer Christopher Tignor, with his band, Slow Six, for an evening of music that is large-scale in every sense."Tickets are still on sale.
Pictures from last night with a video that was made before the show, below...
photos by David Andrako
Sxip Shirey & Angelica Negron @ Merkin Concert Hall - 2/7/2012
"The “mesmerizing” (New Yorker) multi-instrumentalist and composer Sxip Shirey (pictured) teams up with Angélica Negrón, composer of “wistfully idiosyncratic and contemplative” (WQXR) music for an evening of fabulously eclectic and sonically wide-ranging collaboration. In addition to working together, they will be joined by a slate of special guests, including violinist/composer/Ableton master Todd Reynolds, guitar sound-architect Noveller (“simultaneously soothing and mind-wrecking,” NY Press), the wine-glass/guitar marvel Jonny Rodgers (“beautiful, fragile and consistently challenging,” New Haven Register). The teen alt-classical sensations Face the Music (“stunning,” “polished, exuberant,” New York Times) will give the world premiere of Angélica Negrón’s El Gran Caleidoscopio."That's the official description of the Ecstatic Music Festival show that took place at Merkin Concert Hall last night (2/8). Pictures are in this post. Pictures from the first show in the series, are HERE.
The festival continues tonight (2/8) at the same venue with the Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry along with Son Lux and yMusic. Bryce and Aaron Dessner of the National have also been announced as special guests on the show. Tickets are still available, and we're giving away a pair on Facebook.
More pictures from Tuesday's show, below...
Speaking of "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry", the Dessner brother-curated festival coming to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in May (May 3-5 to be exact), I have the names of a few people who will be part of it.
The Brooklyn Youth Chorus, who worked with the Dessners in 2011 (for a show at St. Ann's and an Ecstatic one at Merkin Concert Hall), will sing a major new work written for them by Bryce Dessner. The NOW Ensemble will perform Sarah Kirkland Snider's "Pale As Centuries", a work they premiered in October at the Miller Theatre as part of the SONiC Festival. That happens on May 5, 2012. The Brooklyn Youth Chorus date is TBD, but it will happen sometime within the fesival's three days in one of the "various venues in the Peter Jay Sharp Building."
Stay tuned for more lineup additions (including probably a bunch of indie rock ones). Tickets go on sale in March.
Tickets are on sale now for the National-curated ATP Fest happening in the UK in December. As previously mentioned, Sharon Van Etten, My Brightest Diamond, Wye Oak, Megafaun, The Antlers, Buke and Gase (FKA Buke and Gass), Lower Dens, Owen Pallett, Boris, Tim Hecker, Kronos Quartet, Suuns, and Dark Dark Dark are all playing that.
Meanwhile, NOW Ensemble plays with Dan Deacon in March as part of the 2012 Ecstatic Music Festival which begins this week. Listen to/watch a festival preview at the Greene Space even sooner.
The National at Beacon Theatre in 2011 (more by Toby Tenebaum)
Bryce and Aaron Dessner (of The National) are curating 'Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,' a music festival taking place in BAM's spaces from May 3 - 5. Each night will include a variety of NYC artists, film screenings, accompanying scores, and a late-night dance party. Lineup announcement coming soon and tickets go on sale in March.
Questlove is curating April 19 & 20 at the same Brooklyn venue:
Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, the charismatic drummer and producer of the Grammy Award-winning hip-hop group The Roots, comes to BAM with an immersive musical experience. Enlisting a stellar lineup of artists, Questlove and musicians perform a free-flowing playlist--a kinetic mix of songs and sounds from unexpected musical bedfellows--that celebrates and reflects our current shuffle culture.That full lineup is also coming soon. Tickets will start at $25.
Jeff Mangum plays BAM this Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
As mentioned, the Ecstatic Music Festival kicks off on February 4 at Merkin Concert Hall with Jherek Bischoff, who plays with Parenthetical Girls and The Dead Science. He's teaming up with Wordless Music Orchestra and an incredible list of guest vocalists from his upcoming album, which comes out this February, including David Byrne, Craig Wedren (Shudder To Think), Greg Saunier (Deerhoof), Mirah, and Zac Pennington (Parenthetical Girls. Tickets are still on sale now.
Speaking of Parenthetical Girls, their tour began last night (12/1) at Glasslands with Gauntlet Hair, Dinowalrus, and Eraas. If you missed it, they'll also be in NYC this Friday (12/3) at Santos Party House with YACHT and Midnight Magic (tickets).
As previously mentioned, Brassland Records is celebrating its 10th anniversary as a label and debuted a new/old track every day of November via various methods including Soundcloud. None of those tracks can be heard in the player that's embedded below. Those include "Spinney" by This is the Kit (who are opening for the National at Beacon Theater on 12/17) and "Secret of the Machines (instrumental)" by Jherek Bischoff. The latter also features drums by Greg Saunier (Deerhoof), and will have vocals by Caetano Veloso in its album version.
Glen Hansard, Sharon Van Etten, a Dessner
Other Voices, an annual musical festival held in Dingle, Ireland, may not be nearly as old as the town's pubs, but it has already become a rich, meaningful tradition since its inception in 2002. Though typically held in a tiny church, Other Voices jumped across the Atlantic and landed in Le Poisson Rouge for a couple of nights this week with the help of Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman), Glen Hansard, and others--and it's all for a good cause! (All proceeds of the shows go to benefit Fighting Words, a writing center for children and youth in Dingle.)
"We don't know where we're going, we don't know where we'll be when we get there, and when we get back we probably won't know where we've been, so join us on this journey this evening," said Irish actor/writer Gabriel Byrne effectively introducing the event's pleasantly discursive nature. What unfolded over the course of the next three-and-a-half hours was a hearty round of poetry, prose, and music, much in the spirit of Doveman's monthly series, the Burgundy Stain Sessions.
Artist after artist shuffled onto the stage. Highlights included Glen Hansard's beautiful stories and songs, a newer piece by Thomas Bartlett (appropriately about the rain), a song or two from the talented folk singer Sam Amidon, a beautiful brand new piece written just yesterday by Bryce and Aaron Dessner that was inspired by the streets of Dingle, a couple of traditional songs by renowned Irish fiddler Martin Hayes, Joseph O'Connor's reading of an ode that creatively highlighted many of New York's music legends, and a surprise performance by Sharon Van Etten (and her sister Heather). The guests just kept coming. Bell X1 (who played a Smiths cover), Martha Wainwright, Jape, The Lost Brothers, Justin Vivian Bond, Nico Muhly; and from the Irish literary scene: Philip King, Roddy Doyle, Colum McCann, and Paul Muldoon. An unrecognizably shaggy Damien Rice even made a surprise appearance to play a couple of beautiful, completely unplugged and unaccompanied songs on his acoustic guitar.
The camaraderie in the air was thick. Though each artist had a chance to be in the spotlight, its loose structure allowed for one-of-a-kind impromptu collaborations. After a week of running around to catch ridiculously brief sets, often with compromised sound, it was a nice change to remain still and embrace a long, calming set as talent after talent humbly took to the stage. If you go tonight, just make sure to wear comfy shoes or arrive early to snag one of the few seats.
More pictures from the night below...
A Dessner smiles on Philadelphia (more by David Andrako)
Much like at Restoration Rocks over the weekend (which Talib Kweli wasn't too happy about), the artist-soon-to-be-formerly-known-as-Mos Def will team with the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra for a show TONIGHT (10/12) at the World Financial Center at 7PM. As previously mentioned, the event is FREE. Check out some videos from Restoration Rocks below.
In related news, The National's Bryce and Aaron Dessner will participate in an upcoming performance at World Financial Center Winter Garden on 10/22, the world premiere of Bryce's St. Carolyn by the Sea
Under the direction of conductor George Manahan, the American Composers Orchestra will give the world premiere of "St. Carolyn by the Sea," ...who will be joined on electric guitar by his brother and bandmate Aaron Dessner. Showcasing some of the brightest young talent in the new-music firmament, the evening will also feature a world premieres by composers Paul Yeon Lee and Ryan Gallagher as well as New York premieres of music by Ruby Fulton, Andrew Norman, and Suzanne Farrin.Hopefully you can make it to the FREE show, but if not check out the audio stream at Q2 Music, "the online contemporary classical stream of WQXR".
Glen Hansard & Doveman @ Le Poisson Rouge (more by Amanda Hatfield)
Doveman's next edition of 'Burgundy Stain Sessions' at Le Poisson Rouge is this Friday night (9/23), and the listed special guests are: Chris Thile, Martha Wainwright, Trixie Whitley and Little Annie. Tickets for the collaborative evening of music are still on sale.
In October, on the 27th & 28th to be exact, 'Burgundy Stain Sessions' kick it up a notch with Other Voices NYC: A Celebration of Music & Literature. Scheduled to appear over the course of two nights at Le Poisson Rouge are: Glen Hansard (The Swell Season), Bryce & Aaron Dessner (The National), Doveman, Laurie Anderson, Sam Amidon, Bell X1, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, Martin Hayes, Joseph O'Connor, and Colum McCann. Prestented in conjunction with Imagine Ireland with all proceeds going to FIGHTING WORDS Creative Writing Centre, tickets are on sale.
The National have six huge NYC shows coming up.
Martha has one big holiday show coming up with her brother Rufus, and one with Rufus even sooner as part of the The Fourth Annual Plant & Sing Festival in Shelter Island, NY.
Rufus's opera 'Prima Donna' happens at BAM in Feb. 2012. Tickets are on sale now.
Asphalt Orchestra at Lincoln Center (more by Benjamin Lozovsky)
The Bang on a Can Marathon returns on Sunday (6/19) with a mammoth thirteen hours of FREE live music kicking off at 11AM at NYC's World Financial Center Winter Garden (200 Vesey Street). Featuring over 150 musicians/composers, the fest includes performances from, and compositions by, names like Philip Glass, Glenn Branca Ensemble, Sun Ra Arkestra, David Byrne/Annie Clark, Bryce Dessner, Frank Zappa, Bjork, Yoko Ono, and many more. The full lineup and schedule is below.
Asphalt Orchestra outside Lincoln Center in 2010 (more by Benjamin Lozovsky)
Sunday June 19For more on what this 12-hour free show is like, check out our pictures from 2010.
Bang on a Can Marathon
Presented by Bang on A Can and Arts World Financial Center
Bang on a Can returns with its incomparable 12-hour super-mix of genre-defying music featuring over 150 astounding musicians and composers from throughout the world. Highlights include Philip Glass performing live with the Bang on a Can All-Stars; music by Bryce Dessner of The National; sonic downtown legend Glenn Branca; the outerplanetary Sun Ra Arkestra; the Asphalt Orchestra playing music by David Byrne/Annie Clark, Yoko Ono, and Frank Zappa; the intrepid Signal in a blistering string orchestra work by Julia Wolfe plus New York premieres by Richard Ayers, Fausto Romitelli, Poul Ruders, Toby Twining and much more! 12pm-12am. World Financial Center Winter Garden, 220 Vesey Street.
Meanwhile catch Bang on a Can performing Steve Reich at Carnegie Hall on April 30th.
In July Bang on a Can head to MASS MoCA for 20 days. Details below...
photos by David Andrako
"Sufjan did not disappoint us. He came, he played banjo and sang We Were Here, acting in his self-effacing way just any other hired musician. It was a wonderful moment and a delightful surprise. But I don't want to sell Clogs short. The concert was delightful even before Sufjan arrived onstage.More pictures from the Saturday show, and the full setlist, below...
Clogs put on a beautiful show as part of the excellent Ecstatic Music Festival. Wonderfully quirky vocalist Shara Worden, in an extremely colorful ensemble, joined Clogs to sing and play some guitar on several tunes from the latest Clogs album, The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton, on which she appears. The band also did some older tunes and a new song cycle, called Unattended Shadow, by the band's violist, Padma Newsome. (Clogs' lineup is rounded out by Rachael Elliott on bassoon and Thomas Kozumplik on percussion.)
One of the real treats of the evening, though, was the band's interaction with the fabulous Brooklyn Youth Chorus. They performed guitarist Bryce Dessner's new Tour Eiffel, which was premiered at the Nico Muhly Tell the Way show at St. Ann's Warehouse early in February."
[Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone]
photos by Richard Termine, words by Andrew Frisicano
At Friday's performance, Nico Muhly warned early on that Tell the Way--a loosely tied together collection of 11 songs--would be a "casual sort of thing." He was right, for the most part; its compositions skirted around the unifying theme of travel in a range of styles: Sam Amidon's traditional folk songs; Bishi's eclectic, musical-theater-inspired chansons; the ever-busy Bryce Dessner's slow-building "Tour Eiffel," with dramatic vocal swoops that mimicked its subject; and Nico's unifying arrangements and short compositions. The voices of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus brought the works together in a brief 65-minute program, which moved quickly and offered small treats along the way (the three-night run at St. Ann's Warehouse finishes tonight, and a few tickets are still on sale).
More than any thematic thread, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus gave the evening consistency, as did ACME, who performed as a string quartet with a trombonist and a percussionist attached. The two groups had fun with the material, especially Muhly's pieces, which he composed with inspiration from historical texts (The Book of Common Prayer, and the travel writings of Sir John Mandeville) and commissioned texts (like the humorous, bite-sized "A Korean Girl," by writer Mary HK Choi, which inspired giggles at the appropriate moments).
Each composer brought what was basically their signature dish, with the wild card being Bishi, a British singer who I knew nothing about before the show, other than that she played the sitar. The sitar was the least of her contributions, the foremost of which was sheer stage presence. Her compositions--and her entrances, first in a coat of white fur (fake we hope) with hair done up like a Cinnabon, then in a black-and-white corset and skin-tight pants--added some danger and surprise to the program.
Bishi's singing was similarly attention-grabbing: a cabaret-style coo that blended with and added depth to the chorus (where someone like Sam Amidon sounded distinct and other). The theatricality of a musical pulsed through the songs, with Bishi as the preening lead. "Look the Other Way," her second number, progressed with a martial beat before delivering a string of awesomely WTF moments: a synthesized disco beat, then a man in white-tie formal-wear adding Vincent Price-esque narration, and finally a heavy metal breakdown with crushing drums and Bryce Dessner shredding away. Of course, it was also delivered with a wink. "That's probably the most metal guitar Bryce has played since high school," said Nico, of the best part of the evening.
A few more pictures from the show are below...
photos by David Andrako
More pictures from Thursday night's Ecstatic Music Festival show, with the full setlist and list of musicians, below...
DOWNLOAD: Clogs - On the Edge (MP3)
The National @ the Studio (more by David Andrako)
Not only did Bryce play a live MTV taping with the National last night, he's playing a fashion week party tonight (Wednesday) and three shows this weekend at St. Ann's Warehouse (Thursday-Saturday), AND he has an Ecstatic Music Festival show on Thursday night too...
Composer/Guitarist Bryce Dessner of The National is excited to premiere two separate compositions in New York City on Thursday, February 10. The first commission was awarded to Bryce by Bang on a Can All Stars' People's Commissioning Fund. The piece will be performed at Merkin Hall by Bang on a Can All-Stars (details HERE).AND, the Bang on a Can show is one of at least two Ecstatic Music Festival shows Bryce is part of, and the St. Ann's show is one of two gigs Bryce has scheduled with the BYC kids. Bryce's other band Clogs teams up with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and Shara Worden for a show at Merkin Concert Hall on May 12th. Shara Worden also plays Merkin Concert Hall four days later with Sarah Kirkland Snider (I think Shara was kept off the bills until after her recent Lincoln Center show). Tickets for those and other Ecstatic Music Fest shows are on sale.
Bryce will be performing his second piece, "Tour Eiffel" at St. Ann's alongside Nico Muhly, Sam Amidon and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Feb 10th-12th.
More National tour dates HERE. Clogs dates below...
photos by Bao Nguyen
Tell The Way is a newly commissioned collaborative work created for the Brooklyn Youth Chorus (Dianne Berkun, Artistic Director) by the ubiquitous Nico Muhly. Loosely based on medieval and colonial English travel narratives, the work draws from American folk sources, prayers for the Royal Navy, early colonial diaries, Mandeville, Herodotus and Marco Polo. Nico Muhly's music is propulsive travel-music, but at the heart of Tell The Way are three meditative collaborations between Muhly and Bishi, Muhly and Bryce Dessner and Muhly and Sam Amidon. An ensemble of strings, percussion, piano, and flute augment the voices of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Bryce's guitar, Sam's banjo and fiddle, and Bishi's sitar.Tell The Way premieres at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn this weekend. You have three chances to see it: February 10th, and 11th and 12th. Tickets are not only still on sale, but you can get a discount if you use the coupon code "NICO" at checkout.
Bao stopped by their rehearsal the other day, at Brooklyn Youth Chorus's headquarters on Pacific Street in Brooklyn, and more of his pictures, with some video previews of the show are below...
words by Rachel Kowal
On Friday and Saturday night, singer Sam Amidon has hosted a series of sold-out shows at The Kitchen, an arts space in Manhattan that boasts an impressive Board of Directors that includes the likes of Philip Glass, Nico Muhly and Bryce Dessner to name a few.
With its austere, DIY theatre vibe, the setting was a bit unconventional, but then again, so was the performance. Much more than simply an evening of folk songs, ballads, and hymns, Amidon projected random video clips and odd, hand-drawn cartoons onto the large screen lining the back wall.
There were two clusters of instruments and laptops on stage - one for Amidon and the other for one of his regular collaborators, Shahzad Ismaily. Due to Amidon's mesmerizing presence, it's easy to overlook Ismaily on percussion, but only because his contribution is effortlessly subtle and effective.
Amidon began his multimedia show with a series of video clips, including one of himself in a rowboat, narrating the tragic tale of "a young child of indiscriminate gender, wearing a green raincoat who ran away from home at the age of 10." With such a vivid and candid performer like Amidon, it's often hard to tell if it's all an act or if he's a bit crazy, but that's part of the appeal.
As was quickly evidenced by both his home videos and his live performance, Amidon can hardly contain his odd stories and asides. With Amidon, it's about the journey - however winding or disjointed it may be. And with a fair amount of sing-a-longs thrown in to keep the audience engaged, it's hard not to feel that we're all weary travelers on the same odyssey.
Of course, the bulk of Amidon's show comprised songs from his last two albums, but he also played a quick succession of short folk songs. And yes, besides the more conventional aspects of the performance, he displayed everything from 'liturgical dancing' and chaotic vocal exercises to a book review (Peter Biskind's "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood" - apparently terrible), a conversation between a piece of broccoli and a jar of maple syrup (naturally, about love and depression), and an R. Kelly cover ("Relief").
It may not have been the most coherent experience, but Sam Amidon's grab bag performances never cease to entertain and enliven.
Both Sam Amidon and Shahzad Ismaily also play in Thomas Bartlett's Doveman, so maybe they'll be there in March when Doveman goes on a very short tour with Nadia Sirota in March. That very short tour includes two shows in Minneapolis and that one taking place at Merkin Concert Hall on March 9th with Owen Pallett.
Nadia Sirota and Sam Amidon, along with The National's Bryce Dessner and Bishi, will also participate in Tell The Way at St. Ann's Warehouse on February 10th, 11th and 12th...
Tell The Way is a newly commissioned collaborative work created for the Brooklyn Youth Chorus (Dianne Berkun, Artistic Director) by the ubiquitous Nico Muhly. Loosely based on medieval and colonial English travel narratives, the work draws from American folk sources, prayers for the Royal Navy, early colonial diaries, Mandeville, Herodotus and Marco Polo. Nico Muhly's music is propulsive travel-music, but at the heart of Tell The Way are three meditative collaborations between Muhly and Bishi, Muhly and Bryce Dessner and Muhly and Sam Amidon. An ensemble of strings, percussion, piano, and flute augment the voices of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Bryce's guitar, Sam's banjo and fiddle, and Bishi's sitar.Tickets for all three shows are on sale.
All tour dates and Sam's Kitchen setlist, below...
by Alex Lewis
Bryce Dessner (we think) @ the Big Ears Festival (more by Andrew Frisicano)
While in Knoxville for the Big Ears Festival (March 26-28, 2010), you knew you were at the right show if Bryce Dessner was in sight. When The Ex performed Friday night, Dessner was in attendance with his entourage that included his twin brother Aaron and Sufjan Stevens. This turned out to be one of the most exciting shows of the weekend. On Saturday, instead of seeing Vampire Weekend at the Tennessee Theater, he was at the Knoxville Museum of Art for the Big Ears film co-op that featured presentations of experimental films with live improvised performances from a number of the festival's artists. Then again, it was hard to miss Bryce completely, as he performed with Clogs, The National, and in a number of other settings.
The intimate relationship between artists and audience at Big Ears is one of the most unique parts of the experience. This interface takes place partly because Knoxville is small and there are few places for artists to hide. But it's also built into the festival's program and embodied by its co-curator. I met with Bryce at the Knoxville Museum of Art after the film co-op. We discussed the festival, venues in NYC, and more...
How did you get involved with Big Ears?
Ashley [Capps, head of AC Entertainment] called me about a year ago, probably because of Dark Was The Night. But then also because of a much smaller festival that I've run in Ohio for the past 5 years. He was basically just fishing to see if I was interested in coming down [to Knoxville] and doing something. He was very open-minded about what that might be. Originally, he didn't care if The National played. He was more interested in Clogs because we don't often get the opportunity to do something like this. I'm usually wary of curating. Inside Cincinnati I know I can control because it's a very small thing. It's just a very small theater and that's the only venue. It's a very intimate kind of thing and because I've billed it for years now people understand what's going to happen. It's very flexible.
So in the past I've been asked to do other festivals and I've usually said "no", mainly because it's rare to find someone who is open-minded and cool to go with it. So basically Ashley is that person. As much as any musical collaborator that I love and have a great time with, he is that person for this. Working on a festival is so ephemeral and in the moment, that it's kind of my favorite thing in music. More than the commercial side of the industry that's related to releasing records, festivals just happen and then they're over. Especially if there's site-specific going on that's really only happening at that festival. I think that Big Ears is kind of new. It's a different format for hearing music. I got the sense that Ashley was interested in pushing something in that way and that's why I said, "sure".
by Andrew Frisicano
Collaborations were the order of the day on Big Ears' Saturday, March 27th schedule (day two). At 1pm, the 802 Tour - Nico Muhly, Thomas Bartlett (Doveman) and Sam Amidon with violist Nadia Sirota - performed songs written by each. The National's Dessner brothers and drummer Bryan Devendorf joined for a selection of full-band Doveman songs, and the finale was a clamoring, epic version of the folk song "The Two Sisters" arranged by Nico (part of the percussion included Nico combing Thomas's hair). Sam played his own set with help from Thomas one day earlier, and later Saturday night.
Before that, the day started with Andrew W.K.'s Q&A-heavy lecture at the Knoxville Museum of Art (he played a set of music the night before) and a Bang on a Can All-Stars set that included works by Dave Longstreth, both at noon. Dirty Projectors performed later in the day (3:45pm) at Tennessee Theatre on a bill that also included DJ/Rupture and William Basinski who went on at the same time as Liturgy (who played at the Big Ears Annex at 2pm and then again at Pilot Light at midnight).
Clogs took the stage at the Bijou Theater with guests as well. Rumors of a solo set by Sufjan Steven circulated, but he only played one of his own songs, "Barn Owl Night Killer," on piano. Clogs were also assisted by Shara Worden, Aaron Dessner and Calder Quartet. Matt Berninger was delayed en route to Knoxville, so he didn't make his duet on "Last Song," for which main Clog Padma Newsome filled in. That wasn't the actual last song - new-album closer "We Were Here" was, which featured Sufjan on vocals and banjo along with Shara Worden and guitar by Aaron Dessner. A similar show happened in Brooklyn a few days earlier.
The Saturday headliners - Vampire Weekend and Joanna Newsom - both played to sold out crowds (Vampire Weekend at the sprawling, ornate-adorned 1600 seat Tennessee Theater with opener Abe Vigoda). Joanna Newsom's set was opened by Fred Armisen aka Jens Hannemann, a master of "complicated drummer technique." Armisen also joined her set for one song to play awkward and out-of-place cowbell.
At the Tennessee, the night ended with Terry Riley's Autodreamagraphical Tales - music from Bang on a Can over Terry reading from his actual dreams (Eastern religion and weed popped up frequently) - and In C, led by BoaC's Evan Ziporyn and featuring the rest of Bang on a Can All-Stars as well as Calder Quartet, Clogs, Nico Muhly, Nadia Sirota, Gyan Riley, and Terry on voice. The open-ended song stretched to an hour, canceling out any chance to catch late night sets from Javelin and Gang Gang Dance. Gang Gang was stil going when I arrived, but the club shut down the power mid-song and flipped on the lights promptly at 3am, sending everyone home.
A recap of Friday is HERE. More pictures and videos from Saturday are below...
by Andrew Frisicano
Sam Amidon, accompanied by Thomas Bartlett, ushered in the first show of the 2010 Big Ears Festival at the Knoxville Museum of Art on Friday (3/26) with "Wild Bill Jones," his own version of the Appalachian folk song, punctuated with a piercing scream half-way through. "These are all folk songs, some from around here," said Sam, which was the right thing to say at the KMA, an institution whose collection and staff brims with East Tennessee pride. After a welcome by festival organizer Ashley Capps (whose AC Entertainment also organizes Bonnaroo) and co-curator Bryce Dessner, Calder Quartet and violinist Iva Bittova led the audience through the folk-inspired world of Bartok, Janacek and guitarist/composer Fred Frith.
A little after 7pm at the gorgeous Bijou Theatre (est. 1909), Terry Riley and his quartet - consisting of his son Gyan on classical guitar, Tracy Silverman on electric violin and Ches Smith on drums and marimba - played a series of extended ragas and genre-morphing songs. By midnight, an ecstatic crowd of all ages filled the hall for the xx. Just a few hours before, University of Tennessee basketball advanced to the NCAA Elite 8, and the partly collegiate crowd carried the celebratory mood to the gig. Some danced in front of their seats or in the aisles, and cheered in anticipation - in one opera box, an exhibitionist couple shared a drunken embrace dangerously close to the railing. Clandestine cigarettes were smoked as the xx performed their moody rock alongside minutely choreographed stage lights.
The earlier jj were even more laid back than the xx, with a sole singer, Elin Kastlander, standing before video projections that included an Italian soccer game, romps on the beach by Elin and co-member Joakim Benon, and whales and other nature scenes. We also got to see Elin roll a big blunt on screen, which might speak to her onstage ambivalence and generally lackluster approach. She did pick up an acoustic guitar once, as did her blond gentleman collaborator, Joakim, for a few numbers. With the music on autopilot, everything else - from the canned "native" beats to the narcissistic video - seemed to follow suit.
The first act had much better luck: Nosaj Thing's post-apocalyptic electronica, riddled with blippy bullets and ghostly echoes, destroyed the darkened theater. The xx gig was one of of the fest's sold out gigs (the others are currently Vampire Weekend and Joanna Newsom) but those with all-access Inner Ear passes ($250 now, but cheaper if you bought earlier) had no trouble finding front-row first-come, first-served seats if they showed at least 15 minutes before doors. The passes are pricey, but a good deal even if you make it to only 1/3rd of the 30-some shows at the fest.
A few blocks away, Andrew WK and the Calder Quartet finished their set with a cover of John Cage's 4'33" - or as Andrew put it "Johnny Cage! Fatality! Mortal Kombat!" The room was divided between those trying to rebel ("Play music!"), those trying to explain the piece ("It's supposed to be people talking"), those shushing, and those just enjoying the spectacle. Andrew returned for an encore of "Party Hard" (piano, voice and crowd participation) and brought out Calder's Eric Byers for a Bach cello piece, accompanied by an interpretive dance by Andrew WK (think "an impressionistic karate kid") dedicated to the late Merce Cunningham.
The compact nature of the participating venues in downtown Knoxville (one mid- and one large-size theater and a handful of smaller club-like spaces) gives Big Ears an intimate feel, and the festival's musicians - most recognizably, Sufjan Stevens, though his only performance is in a supporting role with Clogs (The BQE is being screened too) - can be seen hopping from venue to venue along with the fans.
The difficult decisions of Big Ears day one - Dutch post-punks the Ex against newcomers the xx - only intensify as the festival progresses, with the headliners like Joanna Newsom, Vampire Weekend and composer in residence Terry Riley all going head to head on Saturday.
More pictures and video from Big Ears day one are below...
Olof Arnalds @ SXSW 2010 (more by Dominick Mastrangelo)
Chamber group Clogs played live (and spoke) on WNYC on Monday. You can listen at their site (and download it above).
Wednesday night (tonight, 3/24) is Clogs' record release show at The Bell House in Brooklyn. They've confirmed that Sufjan Stevens and My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden (who also played with them on WNYC and was a special guest at the Regina Spektor show at Irving Plaza Tuesday night) will be their guests. Whether Sufjan will sing or not isn't 100% clear, but like Shara, he does sing on the new album.
The National's Padma Newsome and Bryce Dessner are permanent members of Clogs. Bryce's twin brother Aaron and the National's Matt Berninger aren't, but will also play with the group when they perform at the Big Ears Fest in Knoxville, Tennessee this weekend.
Full Big Ears schedule at their site.
With the new National record coming out, don't forget there's also a new Clogs record, The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton, out March 2nd on Brassland (cover art above). On that record, the band, headed by Padma Newsome and The National's Bryce Dessner, will be joined by vocalists Shara Worden, Matt Berninger and Sufjan Stevens (who is also a confirmed guest on the new National). Clogs just put out a pre-album EP titled Veil Waltz. They're also playing live including a Brooklyn show at the Bell House on March 24th. Tickets are on sale now.
Shara Worden (aka My Brightest Diamond) recently headlined a show of her own at Bowery Ballroom one night before she made a special appearance for Haiti at Music Hall of Williamsburg.
More info on the new Clogs album and all dates below...