Entries tagged with: Bryce Dessner
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...
photos by Chris La Putt
"St Vincent brought out David freaking Byrne!!" - Kari
For the second week in a row, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) performed together at a NYC show. Last week it was the Haiti benefit. Last night it was St Vincent's headlining show at Lincoln Center's Allen Room. Last week included a bunch of covers. Last night included the Twilight song. Shara Worden, saxophonist Colin Stetson and a member of Megafaun were surprise guests last week. David Byrne, Budos Band horns, and a member of The National (and Justin) were surprise guests last night.
St Vincent appears on David Byrne's new album, as does Nicole Atkins who shares a bill with David at Bowery Ballroom on February 3rd. Bon Iver and St Vincent are both playing MusicNOW fest in March. The National just announced a new album and a tour that includes Radio City Music Hall, and the Big Ears Festival that St. Vincent is also playing.
St. Vincent heads out on tour with Wildbirds & Peacedrums on February 3rd. More pictures and the setlist from the Allen Room, below...
Joanna Newsom is one of the announced acts for this year's Big Ears Fest in Knoxville, TN, March 26th-28th. Others on the initial lineup include Vampire Weekend, St. Vincent, the Calder Quartet, Andrew WK, The Ex, Gang Gang Dance, Clogs, 802 Tour (Nico Muhly / Doveman / Sam Amidon with Nadia Sirota), The xx, Javelin, DJ/Rupture (solo), DJ/Rupture and Andy Moor, My Brightest Diamond, Gyan Riley, and jj. The fest's artist in residence is composer Terry Riley and a number of his works will be performed (including 'In C'). Bryce Dessner of the National is also one of the curators. Weekend tickets are on sale now. Tickets to invididual shows will be announced later this month, along with the schedule (shows are at different venues around town).
photos by Ezra Caldwell
BV: And you also played on the new Doveman record, The Conformist, which came out October 20th.National frontman Matt Berninger sings on The Conformist too. And like the album, and almost anything Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman) does, a private album release party Doveman held in a NYC loft during CMJ was full of guest stars. Sean Lennon & Charlotte Kemp Muhl, Dawn Landes, Jennifer Charles (Elysian Fields), Bryce Dessner, and Justin Bond were all in the house (and performing with Doveman) on Friday, October 23rd. Pictures from that show are continued below.
Bryce Dessner: Yeah the three of us, my brother and Bryan from [The National] all play on that record. We're kind of like the house band, so we back him up for a bunch of those songs.
A more public album release show happens in NYC, tonight (11/1), at Mercury Lounge. Sean Lennon & Charlotte Kemp Muhl will be there again, but this time as headliner of the show. Doveman plays right before them and as a member of their band. White Circle (Josh Wise of French Kicks) is first of fourth on the bill. The talented Julianna Barwick plays right before Dovemen. Sounds like a great way to spend a Sunday night.
On November 3rd Doveman is going out on tour with The Swell Season, though the Swell Season's Radio City date isn't listed as one of the shows he'll be opening. More pictures from the apartment show, and all tour dates, below....
photos by Julieta Cervantes, words by Andrew Frisicano
DOWNLOAD: The Long Count - Bull Run (feat. Kelley Deal) (MP3)
The Long Count premiered last night (10/28) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music while the Yankees were losing to the Phillies up in the Bronx. It's a risky piece - and not just because the pre-show epigraph was a radio broadcast of the last time the Yankees were swept in a World Series. The overarching "Creation" theme guides the piece's rise-collapse-rebuild structure, and its individual songs and their discrete musical worlds make each movement engaging and unexpected. Each part has its own center: At the beginning the band sounds like a chamber ensemble, with the two lead guitars playing in counterpoint. That transitions into a duet between twins Kim and Kelley Deal of the Breeders, whose smiles and lighthearted gait broke through any opening-night tension that might've been present. Their informality went against the general seated-show seriousness of the BAM Opera House. Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), in contrast, was in total performance-art mode, bouncing around lithely in a series of choreographed gestures and rotating costumes. The Deals sang muffled, overdriven harmonies, in their classic style, before splitting to take their own numbers. Kim's song in particular , "Time to play" it might be called, crested into a bass-less din like a staticy AM radio that filled the hall. (Kelley's, "Bull Run," you can hear above.)
While the Dessners sat (and rose at moments) on stage, they trusted the weight of their composed music to the assembled band. For the complexity of the piece, and the precision to which it was arranged, the tightness of the well-rehearsed and conductor-less band was remarkable. The middle of the piece is a series of instrumental arrangements that progress from relative order to menacing crescendo. To transition certain segments, Colin Stetson (on bass clarinet and bari sax) explodes through the hall with freefrom circular breathing figures. For these moments he's wholly alone.
A massive symmetrical backdrop of flowing abstract landscapes looms over the musicians and audience. The final piece, a Morricone-tinged number sung by Kim Deal, plays before a breezy, sun-burnt plain.
The show happens again at BAM on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are still available. More pictures from Wednesday below...
by Andrew Frisicano
DOWNLOAD: Aaron Dessner - We Were Born (from the Long Count) (MP3)
DOWNLOAD: The Long Count - Bull Run (feat. Kelley Deal) (MP3)
Twins! (the Dessners & the Deals)
The Long Count kicks off its three show engagement at BAM's Gilman Opera House tonight (10/28). Tickets are still available for the show, as well as for the Friday (10/30) and Saturday (10/31) performances.
The 70-minute music and multimedia piece, commissioned by BAM Next Wave Festival, is the work of Bryce and Aaron Dessner of the National and visual artist Matthew Ritchie. But they haven't been working alone. At every step of composing and arranging the Long Count over the past year, the brothers have tapped into their crew of skilled collaborators. The 12-piece orchestra that will be joining them on stage counts talents like NYC violist Nadia Sirota (who played last month's Archipelago series show), sax/bass clarinet player Colin Stetson, and Antony & the Johnsons' guitarist/violinist/conductor Rob Moose (who in particular assisted with some of the arranging duties).
As previously mentioned, the Breeders' Kim and Kelley Deal (twins) collaborated with the Dessners (also twins) on much of the music - they sing for nearly half of the show. Other vocal turns will be taken by the Nationals' Matt Berninger and My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden.
All four singers play roles in the narrative of the Long Count, which takes its story from the Mayan creation myth of Popol Vuh. In that, multiple sets of twins (in the story and on stage) experience repeated cycles of life and death until giving birth to the world as we know it. The original tale ties in strongly with a ballgame played by its main characters - an element which the Dessners have woven in with their love of baseball, particularly Cincinnati Reds and the Big Red Machine.
Musically, the Long Count sections posted above, both from the show's work-in-progress performance at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on September 11th, showcase the piece's diversity. The first, "We Were Born," highlights the minimalist pedigree of the show, while "Bull Run" layers those elements with fearsome orchestral lines and extremely creepy vocals by Kelley Deal.
Paired with the spooky nature of Mathew Ritchie's animation (which you can preview here) the show looks to be a good Halloween night warm-up as any. In fact, the early Saturday night show has the most tickets available, and it follows a pre-show Q&A (ticketed separately) led by Brandon Stosuy (who's curating the Mount Eerie + metal show at Market Hotel later in the night).
Bryce generously answered some of our questions over the phone while in the last week of rehearsal (and in the hectic center of CMJ week). More photos from the production, and that interview, where he reveals the existence of an unreleased Christmas album he made with Sufjan, details on the new National record and more, below...
photos by Vincent Cornelli, words by Andrew Frisicano
After wading through the lines of confused people outside and the waterlogged Bowery basement floor, I managed to settle in for the quiet opening song, "The Mistress Witch from McClure," executed with Sufjan on banjo and french horn accompaniment. Someone nearby got shushed a minute in, but things loosened up as the show progressed. Sufjan's on stage demeanor did a lot to liven things up; he cracked self-deprecating jokes throughout (a few times with post-song IDs of "That was [name of song] by Sufjan Stevens").
Like others, I spent the better part of 2005 and 2006 listening to Illinois - and those were the songs that got the most reaction. Unfortunately, "Come on! Feel the Illinoise!" (an "old one" according to Sufjan) was also the most unpolished. It was nice to hear, but the execution suffered due to a poor mix (too many vocals, not enough of the four horns, which never really lived up to their potential). Afterwards he admitted that they hadn't played it in a while, and apologized with a clean, majestic version of "Casimir Pulaski Day."
One thing I didn't expect was just how in your face the new material is. It brushes up against the rest of the stage show in a stark but not totally unwelcome way. The new tunes are broad psych-rockish opuses that expand elements of Sufjan's usual light-rock shuffle with proggy guitar solos, jazz fusion-y improv passages, drum and bass style beats and glitch-pop blips. They seem made for a live setting (opposed to his complex woodwind-oriented arrangements) and loaded with plenty of testosterone (or at least some, which is a big jump). After the first encore, "Chicago," Sufjan quipped that the tune was "a little boring" and closed with new track "There's Too Much Love," a synth-driven indie-pop gem at first that descends into psychedelic anarchy over its seven plus minutes.
Sufjan's band expanded and contracted throughout the night, maxing out at eleven members with added horns. Bryce Dessner played guitar on some songs, while backing vocals were provided by opener Cryptacize's Nedelle Torrisi and Rosie Thomas, who came out between the set and encore as Sheila Saputo, her dorky, stand-up comedian alter-ego, to read a fangirl ode to the dreaminess of Sufjan.
Speaking of Rosie, she appears at John Wesley Harding's Cabinet of Wonders show on October 7th at (Le) Poisson Rouge (after the Sufjan MHOW show I guess?). She'll also be at 92YTribeca on Saturday, October 10th to do an acoustic performance and Q&A after a screening of All the Way from Michigan Not Mars, a documentary that features her as well as "intimate live performances with fellow songwriters Sufjan Stevens and Denison Witmer...the film is a lyrical examination of Thomas' quest for an expression of truth and her unique brand of performance." Tickets are on sale. 92YTribeca also hosts three of the four upcoming NYC Osso Quartet/BQE screenings later in October.
All photos, the set list and all Rosie Thomas tour dates are below...
photos by Tammy Lo, words by Andrew Frisicano
Sufjan Stevens played the first show of his four-night NYC run last night (10/4) at Bowery Ballroom. The set mostly covered material from Seven Swans (visited extensively at ATP NY in Sept.), Michigan, Illinois and new tracks. Full setlist and more pictures from that show, below.
His current tour dates (including all four NYC shows) are with Sufjan's Asthmatic Kitty labelmates Cryptacize (who are touring with Fiery Furnaces this November). That's just one of many goings-on Sufjan has with the Asthmatic Kitty label he co-founded. He's collaborating with his step-father (also the label's other co-founder) Lowell Brams on Music for Insomnia, Brams' debut and part of the label's Library Catalog series. The album, due December 8th, also includes contributions by Bryce Dessner (of the National and the Long Count) and cover art by Asthmatic Kitty's DM Stith.
Stith will be opening at Sufjan's Osso Quartet/BQE shows at 92YTribeca on October 24th and 25th. Two two screening on the 24th are sold out, but there's still tickets for the show on the 25th.
The Osso Quartet is taking that show on the road at the end of October into early November. The last show of the tour was to be at TBA venue in Philly. Instead it appears that they're closing out the tour at the Bell House on Sunday, November 7th. Tickets are on sale now. If is unclear if Sufjan will actually be at the new date. He will be at 92Y, but not on the rest of that tour.
In 2000, Asthmatic Kitty artist Shannon Stephens was interviewed by Sufjan to discuss her just-released debut album. He interviewed her again a few weeks ago to catch up and discuss The Breadwinner, Shannon's first album in 10 years, which came out September 8th. In the new interview (more of a discussion), Sufjan revealed some interesting things about himself...
Sufjan: I'm at a point where I no longer have a deep desire to share my music with anyone, having spent many years imparting my songs to the public. Although I have great respect for the social dynamic of music--that it should be shared with others, that it brings people together--I now feel something personal is irrevocably lost in this process. Now, while I refuse to act wholly on this impulse (I refuse to take my audience for granted in spite of my mood), I'm still trying to find the value of the song in private. Having spent ten years in private (not sharing your music), can you offer some wisdom on this matter? Does a song have any meaning even it's not shared?A new video from Shannon is posted below.
More pics, video and the setlist from Sufjan's 10/4 Bowery show, with the above mentioned Asthmatic Kitty goodies, below...
Bon Iver @ Sasquatch Fest (more by Chris Graham)
Tickets are now on sale for all of Merkin Hall's upcoming 2009/10 concerts. Those shows include the NY Guitar Festival's Silent Films/Live Guitars series (previously mentioned here), which features David Bromberg and Marc Ribot playing alongside Charlie Chaplin films on January 14th, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon (Charlie Chaplin's The Gold Rush) with Steve Kimock (Buster Keaton's Cops) on January 21st, and more. The full lineup, with details, is below.
The venue is also hosting the New Sounds series, which includes performances by ETHEL and the Bang on a Can All-Stars. Details on those are below. Check out a video of the BoaC All-Stars rehearsing a Steve Reich piece from a few years back below too. You'll notice Bryce Dessner of the National is in the ensemble in that video. He's currently working on his own new piece with brother Aaron and Matthew Ritchie to debut at BAM this fall.
Also, as part of their trio of "Contemporary Contexts" concerts, Merkin Hall will be bringing Signal, who will premiere a new work from Nico Muhly and UK composer Harrison Birtwistle, in May.
The full schedule is below...
by Andrew Frisicano
DOWNLOAD: Aaron Dessner - We Were Born (from the Long Count) (MP3)
The Long CountThe MP3 above is the first musical glimpse at the above-described (and previously mentioned) Long Count project. The heavy minimalist influence on the track makes the role of those guest vocalists even more curious. Single tickets for the Long Count, and all the BAM Next Wave concerts, go on sale September 8th. A video trailer for the show, which falls on and around Halloween, is below. More Brooklyn Halloween show options HERE.
Oct 28, 30 & 31 at 8pm
Bryce Dessner, Aaron Dessner, and Matthew Ritchie
In an inspired collision of creative worlds, three inexhaustibly original artists--brothers Bryce Dessner and Aaron Dessner of indie rock royalty The National and omnivorous visual art phenomenon Matthew Ritchie--combine talents to create a song-filled myth about the beginning of time. A feast of images, instrumentals, and songs thick with primordial mystery, The Long Count pairs Ritchie's protean forms with a twelve-piece orchestra and the Dessners' gothic mix of electric and orchestral sounds.
Guest vocalists Kim and Kelley Deal (The Breeders [who are at the Bowery August 18th & 19th]), Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), and Matt Berninger (The National) round out the line-up in this visionary collaboration between music and art.
Shara Worden has been keeping super busy and impressing Decemberists audiences across the country when she sings her part in the Hazards of Love production (and when she's doing Bob Dylan). Upcoming Decemberists dates include September 21st in Montclair, NJ.
The National recently played a set at All Points West in Jersey City.
Also below is a video from "a 20-minute animated and musical collaboration developed by Bryce Dessner and Matthew Ritchie" that premiered at the Kitchen in March (Sufjan Stevens played the harmonium), and trailers and music (!) for the other BAM Next Wave commissions including Imaginary City (the So Percussion show), Terra Nova (the DJ Spooky/ICE collaboration) and Meredith Monk's Songs of Ascension...
photos by Ryan Muir
"I think that Brooklyn has maybe become the music capital of the world," the violinist David Harrington said from the stage of the Prospect Park Bandshell on Thursday night.In addition to their own songs, Kronos also played Sigur Ros's "Flugufrelsarinn", Michael Gordon's "Sad Park", and Café Tacuba's "11/11". They encored with a suite from Clint Mansell's score for the film "Requiem for a Dream". More pictures below...
The occasion was a concert by the Kronos Quartet, the groundbreaking ensemble he founded in 1973. Mr. Harrington went on to suggest that to find a similar concentration of artistic vitality you had to look to late-17th-century Vienna.
The claim was hyperbolic, maybe, but certainly understandable: after all, the Kronos Quartet was performing as part of the annual summer series Celebrate Brooklyn! Its program, presented before a large, diverse and boisterously appreciative audience, included new pieces by three Brooklyn composers -- Bryce Dessner, Missy Mazzoli and J. G. Thirlwell -- with further selections prepared by a Brooklyn arranger, Jacob Garchik." [NY Times]
"BRIC Arts | Media | Bklyn is pleased to announce that Kronos Quartet will perform a free concert at Celebrate Brooklyn! on Thursday, July 16. The groundbreaking ensemble¹s performance will include material from their new album, Floodplain, as well as the New York premiere of The National¹s Bryce Dessner¹s ³Aheym,² the world premiere of Missy Mazzoli¹s ³Harp and Altar,² pieces by Sigur Rós, Café Tacuba (arr. Osvaldo Golijov), Michael Gordon and [JG Thirlwell's piece "Nomatophobis" and a pice by Michael Gordon and more]. Kronos will be joined on the bill by Gypsy punk string ensemble Luminescent Orchestrii. The concert will begin at 7:30 P.M.; gates will open at 6:30 P.M."
DOWNLOAD: Doveman - Hurricane (new MP3)
Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman) @ Dark Was the Night (more by Natasha Ryan)
The follow-up to Doveman's 2007 record, With My Left Hand I Raise the Dead, is on the way. That still-untitled album will come out on Brassland Records later this year. You can check out a BV-exclusive preview from that record, the especially upbeat (for Doveman) song "Hurricane," above.
Doveman will be performing his/their latest work (alongside the rest of his catalog and maybe some Footloose material) at his Thursday, June 18th show at (Le) Poisson Rouge in NYC. Tickets are still on sale, and we have two pairs to give away. More details on that below.
At LPR, Bartlett will be backed by long-time Doveman member Sam Amidon, who's also opening the show, and Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Bryan Devendorf of The National -- all of those musicians appear on the new record.
As usual, Doveman has been busy playing keys behind other performers. On June 14th and 15th, he played with Martha Wainwright in her "Songs of Edith Piaf" show. Those sets were recorded with producer Hal Wilner to be released as a live record.
This summer Bartlett will tour with Antony & the Johnsons in Europe. The National have summer dates too, and don't be surprised if Bartlett ends up making some of those gigs.
We talked to Aaron Dessner about his history with Doveman, the progress being made on the new National album and a forthcoming Dark Was the Night movie (and possible European dates). That exchange, and all tour dates, is below...
BAM has announced the schedule for the Next Wave Festival 2009, a series of fourteen new music, theater and dance pieces that'll run from September 15th to December 19th.
The lineup includes a number of awesome-looking BAM commissions and premieres.
Bryce Dessner & Aaron Dessner of The National (and Dark Was the Night fame) and Matthew Ritchie have put together a piece called The Long Count, to feature Kim and Kelley Deal (The Breeders), Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond, Decemberists) and Matt Berninger (The National) on vocals (Oct 28th-31st).
Imaginary City, a new 70-minute work by So Percussion, will be accompanied by video and take inspiration from the Italo Calvino novel of the same name (Oct 14th--17th). Meredith Monk will compose and perform in Songs of Ascension alongside her vocal ensemble and the Todd Reynolds String Quartet (Oct 21st--25th). (As a side note -- Reynolds and Monk both appeared, separately, at the Bang on a Can benefits at LPR on June 3rd.)
The program features a concert staging of the Philip Glass opera Kepler (Nov 18th, 20th, 21st). And, maybe in time for the first snow (...) a performance by DJ Spooky and the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) of Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica, a piece "based around DJ Spooky's sound recordings in the Antarctic that explore the acoustic qualities of ice" (Dec 2, 4 & 5).
Most of the programs above will have an "Artist Talk" companion program, free to those with tickets to the event.
There's a couple ways to get tickets to the series. Friends of BAM will get the first stab at subscription packages, which let you pick a combo of shows to attend, on Monday, June 15th. Subscriptions for the general public go on sale Monday, June 22nd. Single ticket sales for Next Wave Festival starts Tuesday, September 8th (Aug 31st for Friends of BAM).
Full music lineup below...
DOWNLOAD: The National - So Far Around The Bend (MP3)
Dark Was The Night producers (from left) Bryce Dressner, John Carlin, & Aaron Dressner (Photo by Tim Soter)
NPR Music will record the Dark Was the Night Concert and offer performances from it online at www.npr.org/music The show will gather many major indie music acts at New York's Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, May 3 to commemorate the release of the charity compilation of the same name.Tickets for tonight's show are still on sale. It's all going to charity.
Host of NPR Music's All Songs Considered Bob Boilen will attend and report from the show that features several of the artists that contributed to the compilation, including Dirty Projectors, David Byrne, My Brightest Diamond, The National, Dave Sitek (from TV on the Radio), Bon Iver, Feist and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. A week following, songs from the event along with Boilen's commentary and interviews with many of the artists will be available for streaming at www.npr.org/music The concert will also be available for download via the "Live in Concert" podcast.
"The National's Aaron Dessner explained the format of the show to Pitchfork in a recent news feature, 'We're going to have two halves (of the show). The first half will be songs from Dark Was the Night, and then there will be a short intermission. And then afterwards, there will be mini-sets by different artists and collaborations, both things that relate to Dark Was the Night and some that don't.'" I was told the show will be four hours long.
And according to an official set of Blonde Redhead tour dates someone sent me (a list that includes the show in Brooklyn's Prospect Park), Blonde Redhead will be there tonight. All (three) dates below (thanks Joseph). David Byrne, who will definitely be there, is also playing Prospect Park.
Despite probably-originally-tentatively agreeing to do it, Grizzly Bear won't be playing Radio City because they landed a spot on the Jools Holland show in the UK that had to be taped this weekend. Yeasayer are recording a new album in the woods somewhere. Why Sufjan Stevens won't be there is still a mystery though. Maybe he will? Other NYC-area artists that are part of the CD, but not on the bill include the New Pornographers (AC Newman lives here I think), Yo La Tengo, My Morning Jacket (Jim James lives here I think), and Antony.
According to an interview with the "Dressner" brothers at Vanity Fair, the National will play two new songs at the show. They wouldn't say much else except that we should expect some "exciting collaborations". I know that Thomas "Doveman" Bartlett will be playing piano at the show. Also heads up Europe: they'd "like to do another show in London and/or Paris but it is a huge amount of work and schedule coordination to pull off so I'm not sure. But we're looking at options!"
And in what had to be the worst timing ever for "huge shows with special guests", Pete Seeger's 90th birthday party is also tonight, but at the much larger Madison Square Garden. Maybe Bruce Springsteen will stop over to sing a song at Radio City before his set at MSG. Hey, it doesn't seem completely impossible.
Brooklyn's Grizzly Bear return May 25th with a new album Veckatimest (pronounced veck-ah-tim-est) , the follow up to the 2006's critically adored 'Yellow House'. Featuring contributions from Beach House's Victoria Legrand and classical composer Nico Muhly, the album is named after a beautiful uninhabited island off the the coast of Massachusetts.Tickets are back on sale for the February 28th Grizzly Bear / Final Fantasy / Brooklyn Philharomic show at BAM.
Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National, who have their own show (with their own special guests) coming up at BAM, will play guitar ane banjo with Grizzly Bear on two songs at the Brooklyn show. Grizzly Bear (and the National) have songs on the Dessner-curated Dark Was the Night compilation that is out now.
Grizzly Bear is also playing SXSW, Bonnaroo, Sasquatch, and Norway's Oya Festival this year. Grizzly Bear Dan's band Department of Eagles will be at SXSW too.
Veckatimest (in the running with Bromst for best album title of 2009) track listing, below...