Live Picks: 07.28.2011 – 08.08.2011

07.28: Dummy Dumpster + The Pests + Converts – 12 Bar

07.29: He’s My Brother She’s My Sister + Alexis Marceaux + Dominique Lejeune – Breezy’s Spot (early show)

The last time He’s My Brother She’s My Sister rolled through town, it was in a supporting role on the Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes tour that pulled into The Howlin’ Wolf last October.  While it is hard not to get lost in the shadow of the over-the-top spectacle that is an Ed Sharpe/Mag Z’s live performance, HMBSMS’s playful take on geographically-and-temporally-indistinct rockabilly swing revealed the pairing as the masterstroke of inspired programming it truly was. Both bands’ sound is rooted in a similarly revivalist strain of indie-folk, but the alternate directions in which they travel serves as an informative lesson on the actual breadth of what is often derided as an overly-general genre label.

The six-piece He’s My Brother She’s My Sister – led by real-life sibling songwriting team Robert and Rachel Kolar and featuring a tap-dancing percussionist – make their return to New Orleans with a stop at Breezy’s Spot, the type of cozy and funked-out performance space that should perfectly complement the bouncy nostalgia of their glammed-up folk-pop.

The bill also includes two young songstresses who are no stranger to the friendly confines of Uptown’s best re-purposed coffee-shop-cum-theater-space.  Alexis Marceaux – surely looking forward to next month’s national release of her newest album, Orange Moon – will be making an appearance; and the overtly candid, subtly brilliant Dominiquie Lejeune is nothing short of the staple of a Breezy’s gathering.  And sadly,this may be the last such gathering for the foreseeable future, as word on the street says a confederacy of dunces including landlords and neighbors have aligned themselves against this true genius of a venue.  So come for the great music.  Come for the good company. Come for the memories. Doors at 6pm.

MP3: He’s My Brother She’s My Sister: “Escape Tonight”

07.28: Rotary Downs + Luke Allen & Casey McCallister – Le Bon Temps Roule

08.03: Churches Burn + The Pledge of Cain + High In One Eye – Siberia

Check out our New Orleans Music Calendar for a full slate of constantly updated live picks

The Blue Party: 07.18.2011

It would be easy to say that a band like the Blue Party looks a little out-of-place at the Saint. Indeed, a bar that is home to ear-splitting metal shows and bawdy late night dance parties wouldn’t seem to be the most inviting place for a college band that plays self-proclaimed “Ameriparty” music.  But the Blue Party is not just some “college band” that plays good-time folk-pop in and around the quad.  They’ve been touring the entire American south and midwest since mid-January, and their recent show in New Orleans was less a homecoming than it was a brisk stop at their homebase before launching yet another midwestern tour that will last through September. So if there’s one thing undeniable about the Blue Party, it’s that they aren’t half-assing it.

Underneath the hyperactive, road tested party antics of this six-piece lies a level of sheer musical virtuosity not found in many groups stomping around town.  Not a single note of their set sounded undercooked or out of place, even as the band members spent a large majority of the performance climbing onto, over and around the amps, audience and each other.  Instead, the straight forward foundations of singer Reid Martin’s earnest songwriting were aptly filled in by fellow vocalist Natalie Mae’s stellar harmonies, and guitarists George Stathakes and Alex Bachari exchanged shred-heavy blows over the spontaneous tempo changes that came courtesy of the nimble rhythm section.

The result was a chaotic vibe that had the whole of the Saint’s collective attention. Though they’d just followed the acutely technical high-energy power pop of Tuscaloosa’s Baak Gwai, the Blue Party had the remaining weeknight audience members at the very least bobbing their heads with excitement, but often spastically dancing with the band or each other.  And by the time they wrapped up their super-sized set with a medley of covers that concluded with a raucous and inspired take on the participatory classic “Shout”, even the regular 2am skells, who generally stay glued to the ratty tables around the Saint’s jukebox regardless of any live programming that happens to be taking place around them, seemed to be fully-on board with one of the harder working bands in the city.

Big History Release New Single, “Wardrum”

With New Orleans’ incestuous indie rock scene well into its third or even fourth generation, the term “supergroup” gets thrown around a lot.  Most of the time, however, the shoe does technically fit, as the collected resumes of most new bands are assured to contain at least a few bits or pieces of some seminal but now defunct pieces of Crescent City musical lore.  But few bands have quite the pedigree of Big History – a project that rose from the ashes of some of the more notable indie rock institutions of the last 5 years including The City Life, Antenna Inn and Silent Cinema – and few bands have met and/or exceeded the accompanying expectations quite as well.

Since busting on the scene with a show-stealing set at One Eyed Jacks during NOIR Fest IV‘s closing ceremonies in November, Big History has torn through the city, leaving a path of infectious electro-pop destruction in their wake.  They’ve played almost every venue of note, stunning crowds gathered anywhere from Siberia to the Maison Penthouse to Eiffel Society with a slick barrage of glitchy beats, frantic live instrumentation and the sultry stylings of lead singer Meg Roussel.

Just a month out from the release of their highly-anticipated debut EP, Big History has a new song available for download.  A wildly popular live favorite due in part to violinist and singer Amanda Wuerstlin’s soaring backup harmonies, the studio version of “Wardrum” gets a heavy, big-beat makeover courtesy of some huge waves of synth and tweaked-out layers of effect-laden vocals.  Like the two previous Big History singles, the result here is significantly more hypnotic but no less danceable than its live incarnation.

MP3: Big History: “Wardrum”

Big History on Facebook

Portugal. The Man: In The Mountain In The Cloud

Atlantic Records, 2011

After breaking into the national collective musical consciousness with 2009’s epic masterpiece The Satanic Satanist, Portugal. The Man‘s 2010’s follow-up, American Ghetto, seemed – dare I say – polite.  It was soulful and groovy and, above all, remarkably consistent given the band’s recording prolificness, but it felt restrained and disjointed in the wake of the explosive psychedelic tour de force from another universe that was The Satanic Satanist.

For their major label debut, Portugal. The Man replaces the heavy progressive rock leanings of their previous album with a headlong dive into the bouyant, glam-ed out energy that has become a hallmark of their live performances.  And while fluid improvisational jams are also part of a PTM show, producer John Hill (the man behind Shakira and Santigold’s success and an unexpected ally to these Alaska-by-way-of-Portland art-rockers) refuses to embark on the nearly-always-unsuccessful mission to capture the bliss of extended extemporaneous exploration in the confines of a recording studio.

The result is a diverse and eclectic set of songs that by themselves are tight studies in interplanetary pop, but together – as mixed down by the same Andy Wallace who engineered Nirvana’s Nevermind as well as Phish’s The Story Of The Ghost – are triumphant movements in a consuming cosmic opus.  The warm, ringing bass lines and ethereal howling on “Floating (Time Isn’t Working on My Side)” begin a non-stop progression of expansive sonic atmospherics and soaring vocal harmonies that swell together and rise to the one of many apexes on “Everything You See (Kids Count Hallelujahs)”, a song that displays almost every distorted, layered, acoustic/electric trick Portugal. The Man has honed to near-perfection in their 7 plus years of musical experimentation.

And whether its a coincidence or an intentionally autobiographical passage, the chorus of standout “Head Is Like A Flame (Cool With It)”  seems to perfectly encapsulate the mantra behind the band’s development:  “We all get strange / and we know it / and we’re cool with it / And we all get a little bit older / in this day and age / but we deal with it.”  Portugal. The Man’s sound and sensibilities have evolved greatly since the days lead vocalist John Gourley and bassist Zachary Carouthers performed as a two-piece against drum machines and synth-loops in and around Wasilla; and the move to a major label may be the biggest signpost of their ascension yet..  But In The Mountain In The Cloud, while highly polished and concise, manages to feel as organic as anything PTM has put together, free of even a trace of anxiety or hesitation.

In The Mountain In The Cloud on Insound

Live Picks: 07.21.2011 – 07.27.2011

07.21: The Lollies + Chilled Monkey Brains + The Rooks – Zeitgeist (early show)

07.22: Yip Deciever + Sharks’ Teeth – Howlin’ Wolf Den

07.23: Electronic Takeover featuring LA Riots + Swiss Chriss + Cristoph Andersson + Beverly Skillz + PR_CK – Ampersand

When Loyola undergrads Max Braun and Christopher Rengel (aka Swiss Chriss) founded Electronic Takeover back in the fall of 2009, it was a relatively modest endeavor.  They teamed up with Dan Helfers of Deft Jams to stage a series of enthusiastic dance parties that provided a refuge for the city’s young electro-heads as well as a live outlet for the techno/house/drum n’ bass DJs and producers lurking just below the surface of New Orleans’ vibrant music scene.  But the gatherings soon outgrew their homes at both Cafe Prytania and Maison, and less than two years later – as electronic music is making a rapidly ascendant rise towards national mainstream status – downtown ultra-lounge Ampersand is the only venue in the city that can contain the debauched, all-night rager TKVR has become.

For the final New Orleans event of the summer, the dependable stable of local talent will be supplemented by breakout west coast duo LA Riots, who are fresh off a sold-out European tour and a featured spot at March’s Ultra Music Fest in Miami.  And in case you haven’t heard: if Electronic Takeover wants a pool, Electronic Takeover gets a pool.  Swimsuits are encouraged as Braun, Rengle and Helfers recently convinced the proprietors of Ampersand to drop an above ground pool and sundeck in the middle of the club’s lush courtyard.

MP3: Chromeo: “Bonafied Lovin’ (LA Riots Remix)”
MP3: A Day To Remember: “2nd Sucks (Swiss Chriss Remix)”
MP3: Christoph Andersson: “Tuxedo”

07.24: Small Bones + Tropical Depression – The Saint

07.25: Harvey Milk – Siberia

Check out our New Orleans Music Calendar for a full slate of constantly updated live picks