After installments I, II, III, and IV, this site is officially caught up to the current release cycle in every coverage category: single streams, full streams, music videos, live videos, live photography, and the (usually weekly) Watch Thisseries. Going forward, the goal will continue to be at least one post a day (a rough average that’s been maintained for two and a half years, despite some lengthy hiatuses). Expect live reviews to return to the fold as early as next week and for everything else to resume or continue its regular functionality. Thanks to anyone who stuck with this site through the early lulls in this year’s first half and thanks to the artists and venues who graciously allowed — and even encouraged — photography. Heartbreaking Bravery wouldn’t exist without you and I will continue to look for ways to pay you back in kind. Find the last packet of photos from the year so far below and explore all of the others via the hyperlinks up top or by simply scrolling down. Enjoy!
From January to the end of May, I put up thousands of miles travelling to see (and play) shows. Normally, the shows that happen at that intersection would be ignored on these pages as it feels self-promotional and this site was designed to more fully endorse the works of others. For both the live video recap and these galleries, I’ve made an exception for Jungles. The band’s an extraordinary live act that’s best served by their actual set (no photography or videos could do them justice because the areas beyond those mediums restrictions are where the band derives most of their strength). It’s a rare circumstance but considering their severe lack of name recognition stateside, placing them in these galleries felt more than appropriate. Click on to see a few photos of them and several others that I was fortunate enough to catch in the first half of 2016. Enjoy.
Throughout 2016’s opening two months, I was able to take in two surprisingly contained winter festivals in the upper Midwest: Madison, WI’s FRZN Fest and Chicago, IL’s Music Frozen Dancing. The former ran three days (I was in attendance for the bookends) at the High Noon Saloon while the latter took place outside of the Empty Bottle. Both boasted impressive lineups that reflected well on their venues and, to a larger extent, their cities. Those two fests were the year’s openers and they sent me scrambling for more shows to shoot and I was able to capitalize on several of those opportunities. Whether they were in a basement or at a historic club venue, if cameras were allowed, I’d have mine rolling. Several of the best photographs I managed to capture in that run of months can be found below. Enjoy.
More than 100 photos into the pictorial review of this site’s CMJ coverage, this fourth gallery of photos covers the festival’s fifth day. As always, the videos from the fifth day have been compiled here and the official review can be read here. The full gallery has been moved to flickr and can be accessed by following this link.
With all of the reviews and the videos out of the way, all that’s left is the unveiling of the photographs that were taken during CMJ last week. Starting with this post and continuing on throughout the night, there’ll be galleries of each respective day that include hyperlinks to both the official review of the specified day and the collection of videos. Kicking things off is the day 2 gallery, which– as stated– can be augmented with the official review and the video collection. View the gallery here.
Pile, LVL UP, and Ought have been shown no shortage of love on this site in the past so when it was announced that all three would be sharing a bill, plans were made accordingly. All three showed up in some way or another over the spread of the various best-of lists that this site ran at the end of 2014 and all three have released strong new material since the start of this year. More importantly than any of that, though, is the fact that all three are renowned live acts.
Before his October 2 performance, I’d never seen Rick Maguire (Pile’s guitarist/vocalist) perform without his main vehicle and had only heard whispering of what that experience entailed. While the set I got was just Rick performing solo, it was in a different, more expansive, capacity. Maguire’s recently introduced a looping pedal to his solo shows and wields that freedom to maximum effect, without ever losing the innate ability to completely command the attention of a room. Pulling from several patches of Pile’s discography and showcasing a tight-knit control over all aspects of his musicality, Maguire tapped into something transfixing, rendering most of the audience speechless.
LVL UP took the stage shortly after Maguire ambled off, intent on testing out some new material. Capitalizing on the overall moodiness of their Three Songs7″, they pushed even further into territory that seemed increasingly concerned with dynamics (and atmospherics). While old standbys still rang effectively (something that’s especially true for “Soft Power”), it was the new material that prompted the most intrigue. Darker, heavier, and more freewheeling than anything in the band’s discography, their set operated at a tantalizing glimpse of their next release, which promises to be nothing less than fascinating.
After LVL UP’s final static-laced, feedback-heavy noise freakout, there was an almost maddening break of 40 minutes before Ought took the stage, generating more than a little restlessness among the crowd. Any pent-up negative feelings had all but dissipated by the time Ought’s wheels had started running. While it did take the band about a song or two to really click, they were locked into something fierce before too long.
Building energy and momentum as their hour-long set progressed, the members of the band each got increasingly more aggressive with their presence, slowly building the audience to a heightened pitch that was egged on by “Beautiful Blue Sky” before being cracked wide open into complete madness with “Today More Than Any Other Day”. At that point, the audience had morphed their dancing into a chaotic swirl of bodies that saw a large portion of the people positioned towards the front pushed over the lip of the stage at one point (to his credit, Ought’s guitarist/vocalist– Tim Darcy– did issue a concerned, seamless, mid-vocal “calm down now”, without ever breaking from the trappings of the song).
By that point it was a madhouse of energy that saw the sold-out Secret Project Robot Art Experiment (Secret Project Robot, alternately) feeding into the mutual frenzy created and sustained by audience and band. Then about an hour after they started, the band closed their main set with a vicious, explosive, extended take on More Than Any Day highlight “Gemini” that saw them drag out the song’s staccato bursts to a strangely hypnotic effect.
Naturally, the crowd pleaded for an encore and likely got even more than they bargained for with an especially fiery rendition of “New Calm, Pt. 2” that loosed Darcy free from the restrictions of his guitar strap when a friend tapped in, allowing him to completely lose his mind on stage while the fresh burst of energy from the substitute guitarist elevated the song to ridiculous heights. It was a perfect closer to a night defined by nervous energy, injecting the proceedings with a shot of adrenaline that sparked an already energized crowd to liberate themselves from any remaining inhibitions while simultaneously reinforcing Ought’s position as one of today’s more exciting live prospects. Buy tickets if the tour comes to a nearby town, this is something everyone deserves to experience.
Scan through an extensive photo gallery of the show here.
Very few records to have come out of 2015 have earned as many individual words as All Dogs’ Kicking Every Day, a triumphant debut full-length from one of this site’s personal favorites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with All Dogs in the past and the multimedia piece I was allowed to conduct for The Media wound up producing some of my personal favorite memories. Seeing them in a venue that’s so intrinsically connected to The Media– one of today’s most important publications- was tantalizing enough to make it one of the shows I’d prioritized as soon as it was announced. The lineup surrounding All Dogs was no slouch either, bringing in Florist, Fleabite, and The Sidekicks as support. All of those bands pedigrees packaged together ensured that All Dogs would be playing to a full house and the groundswell of national attention for Kicking Every Day pushed that guarantee a step further.
As a lead-in to the evening’s proceedings, Florist felt like the perfect fit. Surrounded by friends, rejoined by Felix Walworth on drums (who’d been missing from the lineup at their Baby’s show due to touring), and playing a wealth of new material, they managed to entrance the crowd early on and hold their attention to the end. Like the best acts operating in their stylistic vein, Florist managed to make the room extremely intimate and created a palpable sense of togetherness by reducing the audience to a hushed silence. Fleabite, a quarter fronted by A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor Ali Donohue, quickly took the noise levels in the opposite direction but maintained an established sense of intensity.
Having released one of this year’s stronger 7″ records in TTYL(which boasts a cover where Donohue is wearing an All Dogs shirt, no less), the band seemed invigorated. Every song felt meaningful and the band played with conviction, whether it was an old standby or a new piece while embracing feedback with an almost gleeful zest. Before too long following the close of their set, The Sidekicks were up and repeatedly jumping. Another band riding high on the wave of an excellent release- Runners In the Nerved World, their first for Epitaph- the band played with an unparalleled gusto.
Driven in large part by the dual guitar onslaught of Steve Ciolek (who also plays in Saintseneca with All Dogs’ Maryn Jones) and Toby Reif (whose self-titled solo EP stands as one of last year’s best surprises), the band quickly proved to be a deeply formidable live presence. Playing with energy, grace, and a clear love for what they do, every song felt like an all-or-nothing rallying cry and pulled an already involved audience even further in. Closing out with the supercharged Awkward Breedshighlight “DMT” had everyone roaring and likely cemented the status of a large handful of converts while simultaneously providing a perfect build to the night’s headliner.
I’ve spent a lot of paragraphs on this site- and others- detailing what makes All Dogs such an inherently special band and nearly all of them get brought to the forefront in their live performance.Maryn Jones, the band’s guitarist/vocalist, is one of this generation’s finest humanists, constantly painting conflicted portraits of a deeply personal nature that examine and scrutinize faults in a manner that can occasionally feel defiantly celebratory. A lot of these dissections are universally relatable and, as such, can act as a form of therapy (for both Jones, who puts herself under the knife with reckless consistency, and the listener). The band Jones is surrounded by- bassist Amanda Bartley, guitarist Nick Harris, and drummer Jesse Wither- know how to perfectly accentuate Jones’ tales and sensibilities to emphasize both the finer and larger points being made.
In terms of composition and dynamics, the band’s grown in leaps and bounds since the addition of Harris and the decision to start writing together as a band, a trait that’s easily evidenced in the disparity between the band’s still-great 7″ (which served as the basis for one of this site’s first-ever reviews) and the borderline masterpiece that is Kicking Every Day. When the band did reach back to the 7″ in their set, the songs sounded startlingly massive and the new textures made them feel more vital than ever (this was especially true for “Say” which, as it had last year in Milwaukee, sent chills running down my spine). A slew of Kicking Every Day‘s preview tracks’ emotional impact was maximized by both the setting and their execution in the live setting.
The three songs that received features here-“That Kind of Girl“, “Skin“, and “How Long“- all hit their marks with an unapologetic accuracy, heightened by an almost intimidating amount of volume. Every member of the band was in fine form throughout, with each member alternately appearing to lose themselves in the song at hand or take complete and total control of its delivery. Jones’ vocals, perennially light but always suggesting an unbearable weight, sounded as masterful as ever and the band rallied around her tales of damage, self-loathing, defeat, clarity, and uncertainty with unprecedented force.
After a marathon set that covered the band’s still-young discography, the band packed up and left the stage. There was no call for an encore because, at least for a moment, it seemed like All Dogs had said everything they possibly could. While the band will likely always have something more to say, their exit seemed necessary; these songs are so intimately personal that listening to them at length can make for a crippling experience. Thankfully, while the emotional resonance still held fast, it was hard to feel anything other than uplifted. Every band that’d played before them had brought something new to the table and All Dogs wove all of those strengths into a beautiful tapestry that covered the Silent Barn like a blanket for their time onstage, bringing everyone together under an intangible communal cloak and keeping them warm with good intentions. I’m not sure there’s a more perfect way to spend an evening.
Find a photo gallery of the show here and watch a video containing performances from each of the bands that played the show below.
Last night, this site ran a summary of what went down at Sharkmuffin’s release show last Friday. About halfway through that post, a lot of ecstatic praise gets directed towards Charly Bliss, who have somehow only managed to get better since releasing what might be the best EP of the decade so far. Since the release of that EP, their name has shown up here quite a few times and guitarist/vocalist Eva Hendricks was even kind enough to submit a wonderful piece to the A Year’s Worth of Memories series. When they were announced as the pre-film band for SummerScreen, Brooklyn’s best film and concert series, I immediately cleared any lingering conflicts to make sure I could be in attendance. Their slot came right before Labyrinth, which won a poll to emerge as the “Audience Favorite” pick- ensuring that the quartet would be playing to a large crowd.
Before the show, Hendricks was wracked with nerve while the band’s other guitarist/vocalist, Spencer Fox, remained nonchalant. It took them less than a minute of diving into “Percolator”, the first song of their set, to find a middle-ground in giddy energy. One of the things that I’ve come to love the most about Charly Bliss is that when they play live, they’re clearly doing what they love and coaxing the most out of it that they possibly can. Instead of coming across as showy or theatrical, their stage antics feel grounded in an honesty that makes them even more compelling. It doesn’t fade, either, it builds as it goes until the band collectively approaches a white-hot intensity that makes the band members actually exploding seem about as likely as their amps blowing.
Unmistakably a Charly Bliss set (read: unbelievably great), the outdoor, family-friendly setting suited their sunnier sensibilities to perfection and the sound carried extraordinarily well. Small children danced, a handful of senior citizens cracked smiles, and a man on a bench outside the gates couldn’t help himself from shaking his head in admiration- and then in tempo- by the time the band hit “Love Me“, their perennial closer (and one of this site’s picks for last year’s best songs). From the audience’s increasingly positive reactions to the post-set autograph requests, it was abundantly clear that they’d made more than a few converts- and they did it on their own terms, doing one of the things that they love most. It’s exactly the kind of thing that this site was built to celebrate. As classic as Jim Henson’s Bowie-fueled fever dream has come to be, it wasn’t even close to the evening’s finest moment. Great weather, a great set riddled with great songs, and a sense of genuine camaraderie tipped the scales and everything- as it has so frequently in the past year- came up Charly Bliss.
A gallery of photos from Charly Bliss’ set can be seen here and a video embed containing a few songs from the set can be found below.
Yesterday evening, one of Brooklyn’s finest venues- Baby’s All Right- opened its doors and ushered in an eclectic mix of people that tended to skew younger than older but still boasted a handful of patrons who could have grandchildren. It was a nice sight that was likely due to the wide-reaching appeal of both bands playing the early show: Florist and Girlpool.
Both acts have built up a quiet notoriety over the past few years, with the former being a staple of the revered arts collective The Epoch and the latter being one of 2014’s great word-of-mouth successes. The show had sold out before Baby’s opened its doors and the packed room left both bands unfazed. Florist started things off with a set of gentle songs that incorporated subtle, folk-inflected influences into devastating indie pop songs.
Each song kept the audience at a silenced hush as the room swelled to capacity. For the entirety of their set, Florist played in front of a static drumkit (one that would have otherwise been used by Felix Walworth, who’s currently on tour) in what seemed to be a gesture of heartfelt solidarity. By the time their set was drawing to a close, the audience was completely at their mercy, hanging onto every soft word and ambient flourish; it was almost as if Florist was the headlining act, a notion that was supported by the waves of applause following their final notes.
Ultimately, Florist’s set was a perfect lead-in to Girlpool, who wasted no time in launching into their set once they took the stage. Now, Girlpool’s been written about enough times here that it’d be easy to collect all of those pieces and fashion a small bible- but it still felt like they had something to prove an in-person live setting. The notion that they couldn’t was dismissed completely as soon as the duo (comprised of Cleo Tucker on guitar/vocals and Harmony Lebel-Tividad on bass/vocals) launched into their first harmony sequence.
Throughout their set, both Tucker and Lebel-Tividad were in high spirits, casually joking with each other while dealing with a guitar that kept stubbornly falling out of tune. Families, couples, and musicians all watched intently as Girlpool played cuts from their outstanding self-titled EP (one of 2014’s best) and this year’s superb Before The World Was Big, while making room for at least two new tunes.
No matter what the band did, there was a pervading sense of easy camaraderie that bled into a seemingly telepathic connection between the duo. As many others have noted, at times their voices adopt each others affections and become virtually indistinguishable. While that aspect of their music can certainly be heard on record (and in several performance captures), hearing it in person is spine-tingling.
Before anyone knew what was happening, the band had seemingly everyone held at rapt attention, suspended in a moment where time was irrelevant. A brief “this is our last song” brought reality crashing back down on the proceedings and the band finished their main set exhibiting the same flair and charisma that earned them their headliner status in the first place. The encore call was immediate and overwhelming.
After a brief attempt to lead a venue wide singalong of “Happy Birthday” for the girl who cried out that it was hers, the band sheepishly launched into the first song of their encore: “Plants and Worms“. Even in a still-young discography packed with incredible material, “Plants and Worms” stands out in their catalog- and not just because it was gifted one of the best music videos of 2014. It was one of the first glimpses at the band’s maturation level and the songwriting remains some of the most staggering they’ve committed to a recording.
Decidedly darker in tone than the rest of their material, “Plants and Worms” is immediately arresting and the audience was dead quiet throughout (with the exception of a delighted reaction to the Tucker aside about the attempted birthday song), completely engrossed in the performance at hand. The evening ended with a gripping rendition of “Dear Nora”, one of Before The World Was Big‘s most quiet, affecting, and personal songs. When it drew to its silent finish, the audience gave one last enthusiastic applause and got one last glimpse of the band, smiling and waving, in front of an iconic backdrop, left with one last reminder that even though they were making their stage exit, Girlpool aren’t anywhere close to calling it quits.
A photo gallery of the show can be seen below. Underneath the gallery, watch video captures of parts of both Florist’s and Girlpool’s set below. Each video set includes two new songs per artist. Florist’s also includes “1914” while Girlpool’s includes “Chinatown”, “Crowded Stranger”, “Pretty”, and “Plants and Worms”. Enjoy.