Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve 2011 - Bars & Music in NYC and Hoboken - Last-Minute Planning

Avoid the crowd and mess of Times Square on New Year's Eve - go see some live music!

I've written before about live music events happening on New Year's Eve in the New York area in previous posts, but now I'm going to provide a couple of links to websites where you can find all manner of parties, etc. for tonight. Some will have live music, some will have DJs or recorded music, and, well, some will have no music at all. But I'd throw them all out there for those who are still looking at the last minute for something to do to ring in 2011.

The MurphGuide 2011 New Year's Eve guide lists what it says are 181 parties, etc. for tonight. MurphGuide has been covering the New York bar scene for years, and their handy guide lets you browse or search nightspots by neighborhood and type, as well as giving an alphabetical listing.

I previously mentioned the great shows going on at Maxwell's tonight, but for folks looking for other New Year's Eve 2011 events in Hoboken, head to the guide.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Live Music in NYC & Environs for New Year's Eve - Who's Playing?

Patti Smith & band continue their annual run of New Year's Eve shows  in NYC this year. Shown here is their New Year's Eve 2007 show at Bowery Ballroom. Photo: Kimberly Smith

For me, seeing live music is the best way to ring in the new year. And all things considered, you can get more entertainment bang for your buck with a concert than with a pricey cocktail party or other New Year's Eve option.

Here's a look at some of the live music shows, large and small, taking place in New York City and the nearby area on Friday, December 31st. (Note: Tickets may not be available for all events at the time you're reading this; make sure to check the venue's website for details.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Big Week at Maxwell's: Mike Doughty, Detroit Cobras & Fleshtones, & The English Beat Roll into Hoboken

The Detroit Cobras (shown here in Santa Fe in 2008) play a New Year's Eve show at Maxwell's. Photo: Steve Terrell.
The old year is ending with a bang, and the one's beginning the same way, at Maxwell's in Hoboken. The club has two shows on New Year's Eve, with Mike Doughty (formerly of Soul Coughing) performing at 7:30 ($25) and then a year-spanning garage-rock show with Detroit Cobras and The Fleshtones starting at 10:30 p.m. ($20 advance; $25 day of show). According to the Maxwell's website, tickets are still available for both shows.

Maxwell's starts off 2011 with The English Beat on New Year's Day (tickets are $20, and still available).  And the great shows keep coming in January: Dean Wareham (of Galaxie 500 and Luna) plays Galaxie 500 on Jan. 13th; Evan Dando & Juliana Hatfield play on Jan. 20th; Mission of Burma performs on the 28th; and one of my favorites, The Muffs, plays on Jan. 29th.

I haven't even mentioned that fact that the Guided by Voices reunion tour is coming to Maxwell's on Dec. 30th (because tickets seem to be sold out, at least on Ticketfly). But the show isn't listed as sold out, so tickets may be available at Other Music or Tunes (in Hoboken). Or, if you go to the club on the day of the show there might be folks looking to unload extra tickets that they can't use.

GbV sold out a couple of shows in NYC in short order, so a chance to see them at the intimate confines of Maxwell's would be a treat indeed.

Friday, December 24, 2010

New Music Podcasts: Favorite Cover Tunes, Elvis Costello Live, Gospel Christmas Tunes, & More

Check out the free music podcasts below for holiday and non-holiday music for your Christmas travels. Photo: SteveStrummer 

Since lots of folks are traveling around Christmastime, how about some downloading some music podcasts to listen to to occupy the time? Here are a bunch of them, enough (we hope) to drown about the all loud cellphone conversations of the people around you at the airport or on the train. And the more raucus holiday arguments at the dinner table.

* Over at Coverville, you'll find a stocking full of recent podcasts. First off, there are the first two parts of the podcast's annual countdown show of listeners' 40 favorite cover tunes. Included is recent NBC "Sing-Off" contestant On the Rocks performing their a cappella rendition of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance."

Also on Coverville is the two-part tribute to the Talking Heads, performed by the podcast's listeners. As you'd expect, the quality and styles vary widely, but Coverville clearly has some very talented listeners.

And finally, Coverville offers its Christmas Cover Show 2010, with new versions of not-your-average holiday tunes, including remakes of "Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses and "Last Christmas" by Wham.

* The CBC Radio 3 podcast presents Home for the Holidays, a show in which listeners from all over the world make long-distance requests of their favorite songs by Canadian artists to send out to their loved ones.

* If your taste in Christmas music runs to the sacred side, download the podcast of the annual Christmas Eve Gospel Music program on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show. It includes tunes like Mahalia Jackson singing "Silent Night" and the Swan Silvertones doing "Great Day in December."

Also, the Lopate show today rebroadcast (and reposted the podcast of) a live set by Elvis Costello and band at WNYC from back in November. He plays tunes from his latest album, produced by T-Bone Burnett, which shows the country/bluegrass side of the British rocker.

KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic has a new in-studio live set with Jamie Lidell, the British producer who, the station says, can be found "sliding into neo-soul songs as easily as he slices through spacey folk-blues." For some reason recent MBE podcasts don't show up on their webpage, bou can download the podcast through iTunes (and probably other podcast download programs as well).

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010 "Sing-Off" Winner Crowned in Finale

Alabama's Committed is the 2010 "Sing-Off" winner.

I'm a few days late in posting this, but the 2010 "Sing-Off" winner was finally crowned Monday night. Amid nearly two hours of highlights, montages, and guest performances by stars like Neil Diamond and Sheryl Crow, the show did get down to business.

The four finalists were reduced to two, and then the winner (chosen by viewer votes) was announced: the six-man Alabama group Committed, who beat out southern rockers Street Corner Symphony to take the "Sing-Off" title. (The Backbeats and Jerry Lawson & Talk of the Town were the first two groups to be eliminated in the live finale, broadcast on NBC from 8 to 10 p.m.)

(Read Entertainment Weekly's take on the "Sing-Off" finale and its grades for the performances.)

The young men of Committed got together singing in church, and according to an article in, they had never performed secular music before "The Sing-Off." I couldn't even find a website for them. (Read Zap2It's interview with Committed.) Well, Committed will be performing a lot of non-church music now: by winning the competition they've earned $100,000 and a Sony recording contract.

Congrats to Committed, and to all the competitors in this year's edition of "The Sing-Off." It'll be fun to see where Committed goes from here and what kind of songs they choose to record.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Prince Takes Manhattan (and New Jersey) to Kick Off East Coast Tour

Prince emerges from his glyph-shaped stage at the Izod Center Friday.
For a 52-year-old performer who hasn't been touring much lately and has had hip problems, Prince sure hasn't missed a beat so far on his" Welcome 2 America" tour. I got to see him twice last week, on Friday at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, NJ and the next night at Madison Square Garden. Both were very entertaining, high-energy shows with plenty of great tunes and a lot of funk.

The multitalented Prince displayed a wide assortment of musical styles, dance moves, and costumes while performing on a stage shaped like the glyph/symbol that he used to call himself. The Purple One ripped through songs from throughout his career, with a heavy emphasis on the hits.

On Friday, Prince started off his own set with an extended version of "Let's Go Crazy," then followed that up with three of his other best-known tunes: "Delirious," "1999," and "Little Red Corvette." Though the setlists for Friday and Saturday were similar, there were some differences: no "Little Red Corvette" on Saturday, though the MSG show did include couple of my Prince favs: "U Got the Look" and "Raspberry Beret," as well as "Nothing Compares 2 U."

I had hoped to here "When Doves Cry" at at least one of the shows, but it was not to be.

Prince making his guitar wail at the Izod Center.
"So many hits," Prince said during both shows, as if to recognize that there wasn't enough time in any one show to play them all. So in some cases he played medleys that combined two or more songs, similar to his Super Bowl halftime performance a few years back. It was good to hear so many tunes, but having some of them shortened and squeezed into medleys wasn't always satisfying.

Prince's protege Sheila E. was a guest at the Friday and Saturday shows. She came on stage and performed an energetic version of her hit "The Glamorous Life," to the delight of the fans, most of whom knew the words. She looked great and still had her chops on the drums, and she played along on a couple more songs with Prince and the band.

Prince as seen on an Izod Center video screen.
During both shows Prince had audience members come on stage to dance, but at the Madison Square Garden show the guests weren't just any fans. Prince called out a number of A-listers to join him on stage: Jamie Foxx, Spike Lee, Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Sheppard, and even professor/philosopher/author Cornell West.

Prince was in fine form, as was his band (New Power Generation, from what I've read) and his three female backup singers, Elisa Dease, Liv Warfield and Shelby J. All told, Prince played for nearly two hours, which included several encores. (This included a few brief sessions of downtime for Prince to change costumes.) And yes, he did briefly play that gold-plated Stratocaster than he will later auction off for charity.

Prince's own sets were preceded by those of several veteran performers as opening acts (and sometimes performing with Prince). Cassandra Wilson opened the show on Friday night, followed by a set by legendary soul and funk saxophonist Maceo Parker. I missed Saturday's opening act by Sinbad, but caught the tail end of the set by the other opener, Larry Graham of Graham Central Station.

Prince plays Madison Square Garden again on December 29th and on January 18th. You can check for tickets at the Garden's official Prince ticket page here, or try StubHub if the shows are sold out. (There were several hundred tickets for both the Dec. 17th and 18th shows on StubHub, some listed for below face value.)

Prince hasn't toured the East Coast for six years, so if you've ever liked him music, my advice would be to get to one of his shows. They are fun and funky, and you'll definitely get your money's worth.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Legendary Singer Jerry Lawson Heads to "Sing-Off" Finale

The self-titled album by Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town.
If you've been watching the NBC show "The Sing-Off," you've probably been impressed with the soulful singing of Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town. And you may have recognized the voice of main soloist Jerry Lawson and thought, "Where have I heard that voice before?"

After a bit of checking, I found out: Jerry Lawson was for 40 years the lead singer of the legendary a cappella group The Persuasions. At one point he moved on to sing jazz, soul, and other forms of music with instrumental accompaniment, and thought he had retired from a cappella singing... but then met up with the men who would become the members of Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town. On December 15th they reached the final round of "The Sing-Off," with the chance to win the contest on Monday.

Sadly, Oregon's On the Rocks was eliminated on Wednesday's show, but the four remaining groups on the program are all quite talented, not to mention entertaining. You can view episodes of the show online, and vote for the "Sing-Off" winner here.

You can buy the Jerry Lawson and Talk of the Town self-titled album here, and learn all about Lawson's musical endeavors at his official website. These are guys with a lot of professional experience singing, and it shows.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Prince Plays the Meadowlands Friday, the Garden Saturday

Prince is associated with the color purple, but he'll be playing this custom-made, gold-plated Stratocaster at his NYC/NJ shows.
Prince has begun his multi-night stand of concerts in the New York area, and it sounds like a great event judging by the New York Times' review of one of his shows at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Prince will play at IZOD again on Friday night the 17th, then at Madison Square Garden on Saturday (where I'll be in attendance, way up in the nosebleed section).  He'll come back to the Garden on December 29th and January 18th.

Tickets are still available for the Prince shows on Friday and Saturday on StubHub, and possibly at the box office as well.

Prince apparently wanted to do something special for his first New York-area concerts in six years, so he's auctioning off for charity a one-of-a-kind, all-gold-plated Stratocaster that he'll be playing at the shows (see photo above). If you're looking for that special gift for the musician who has everything, this might be just the thing. (Read more about Prince's gold-plated Strat at the L.A. Times.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Music Notes: 2011 Rock Hall of Fame Inductees; Hank Williams' Daughter Speaks; The Sing-Off Continues

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced its 2010 inductees. They are: the Alice Cooper Band, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Darlene Love, Tom Waits, Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman, Specialty Records founder Art Rupe, and Leon Russell.

Speaking of musical history, Jett Williams, daughter of Hank Williams, was interviewed recently on WNYC. She discussed her decades-long struggle to confirm her father's identity and the upcoming 16-disc boxed set that includes dozens of Hank Williams radio appearances, as well as conversations and other content.

The set, which comes housed in a box that looks like an old-style cathedral radio, is called Hank Williams: The Complete Mother's Best Recordings.

I haven't been following NBC's a cappella singing contest "The Sing-Off" as closely this year as last (my family knew someone in the competition last year), but have caught some of the performances online. The show continues tonight, and one of the groups remaining is Oregon's On the Rocks. The other night On the Rocks performed a nice version of the catchy Mr. Mister 1980s hit, "Kyrie," which OTR recorded on its album "Full Coverage." (You can see the entire "Sing-Off" episode in which the song appears here.)

"The Sing-Off" airs on Mondays and Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern, and you can also view episodes online (for a limited time).

Monday, December 13, 2010

What's the Best Music of 2010? Some Early Opinions from Radio

The end of the year is always a time for looking back at the best albums, artists, etc. of the last 12 months, and here are some best-of lists that have already come out.

The DJs at L.A. radio station KCRW have each picked their top 10 albums of 2010, and the choices are the eclectic mix you'd expect from that station. Indie rock favorites like Arcade Fire, The Black Keys, Band of Horses, and The National are all on the list, as well as less mainstream acts as Frazey Ford, UNKLE, The Fall, and !!! (Chk Chik Chick).

Of course, there's a lot of good music coming out of KCRW's backyard, so the station's DJs offer a review of the best L.A. bands of 2010. They range from veteran Latino group Ozomatli to surf-rock newcomers The Best Coast to the retro-soul sounds of Fitz and the Tantrums.

The members of NPR's All Songs Considered review the year in music in their latest podcast.
a discussion, and also review their top 50 releases of the year. The list includes albums by Arcade Fire, Jonsi (of Sigur Ros), singer Janelle Monae, The Black Keys, and more.

In their following podcast, the All Songs staff took a look at the albums they missed in 2010. Most of the artists I hadn't heard of, except for Dean & Britta (formerly of Luna).

The year's end is also time for the Bucky Awards, when CBC Radio 3 recognizes in top vote-getters from its listeners in categories including Most Canadian Song, Lifetime Achievement, and Sexiest Canadian Artists, as well as some more traditional awards. Among other awards, Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" won for best song, while Sarah Harmer's song "Captive" took the Bucky for best vocals.

The nearly two-hour-long Bucky Awards podcast features songs from the nominees and winners. (You'll find just the list of Bucky Awards winners here at the Canadian indie blog

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Free Music Podcasts: Tokyo Police Club and Avi Buffalo Live; Beatles, Decemberists, & Sinead O'Connor Cover Tunes

This week's slate of music podcast downloads includes a variety of musical styles, including live sets from two bands at different stages of their careers.

* Veteran Canadian rockers Tokyo Police Club perform a live set at the Halifax Pop Explosion in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and...

* the just-out-of-high-school members of Avi Buffalo plays in the KCRW studios for Morning Becomes Eclectic. The set is available for streaming or podcast download.

* Buke and Gass, a duo that play a baritone ukelele and a bass-guitar hybrid, perform a brief live set in NPR's offices.

* The Coverville podcast has several enjoyable episodes in the last couple of weeks, featuring covers of tunes by The Beatles, Sinead O'Connor, and The Decemberists, as well as the annual Coverville Countdown Hall of Fame podcast.

In the next post, I'll take a look at some of the end-of-year podcasts that review some of the best (and overlooked) music of 2010. And I'll review the winners of the Bucky Awards, CBC Radio 3's honors for the best in Canadian indie music.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Free Album Streaming: New Music by Graham Parker, Diane Birch, Deadmau5, & More

Here is the latest in my semi-regular listing of new albums (mostly) that are available for free streaming online. In particular, has some tasty albums including the latest releases (though they aren't necessarily brand-new anymore) by Broken Social Scene, Local Natives, and Superchunk.

See the respective websites for a full listing of album previews being offered. The date that streaming ends is given, when known.

KCRW Album Preview: 
"December Songs" by a cappella group Sonos (streaming until Jan. 4, 2011)
"Suave Patria" by Mexican Institute of Sound (until Dec. 28th)

NPR First Listen:
"We'll Never Stop Living This Way" by various artists: collection from the label Ghostly International, with songs ranging from rock to ambient to electronica by Mobius Band, Gold Panda, School of Seven Bells, and many others (until Dec. 14)'s Listening Party has albums including:
"Dark Night of the Soul" by Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse
"Root for Ruin" by Les Savy Fav
"Gorilla Manor" by Local Natives
"Lucky Shiner" by Gold Panda
"Sigh No More" by Mumford and Sons
"The Budos Band III" by the Budos Band
"Infinite Arms" by Band of Horses
"Forgiveness Rock Record" by Broken Social Scene
"Tourist History" by Two Door Cinema Club
"Majesty Shredding" by Superchunk
"Teen Dream" by Beach House

AOL Music Listening Party has album previews including: 
"Dharohar Project" EP by Laura Marling & Mumford and Sons
"4x4=12" by Deadmau5
"The Velveteen Age" by Diane Birch with the Phenomenal Handclap Band
"Wonders of the Younger" by Plain White T's
"Live at the FTC" by Graham Parker and the Figgs
"An Open Letter to Thelonius" by Ellis Marsalis
"The Minnesota Beatles Project by various artists (Beatles covers by artists including Soul Asylum, the Meat Puppets, Mason Jennings, and Corey Chisel)

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Allman Brothers Band Returns to the Beacon for Eight Shows

The Allman Brothers Band playing at the Beacon Theatre in March 2009.

Many Allman Brothers fans such as myself had an extra reason to feel thankful last week, because it was announced that the long-running band would be returning to the Beacon Theatre in March 2011 for its usual long run of shows.

Here are the specifics, from an e-mail I got from the Allman Brothers Band mailing list:

"In just a little over 3 months, the Allman Brothers Band will be back where they belong, at the Beacon Theatre in NYC. The specific dates are March 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17, 18 and 19. That’s what we call March Gladness!! Whoo hoo!

Tickets for all 8 shows go on sale tomorrow, December 4, at 11:00 A.M. via TicketMaster."

Allman Brothers Band tickets at the Beacon Theatre always sell fast, even with this many shows, so be ready to go online at 11 a.m. Saturday morning.

Like many other fans, I was scratching my head last Spring when the Allmans were bumped from the Beacon, where they have done a number of shows each March for many years, to make room for a Cirque de Soleil show called "Banana Schpeel." The Allmans were moved way uptown to the United Palace Theatre, but the sound and ambience weren't the same.

So it's great to hear that the Brothers will be heading back to their home in New York, the Beacon.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Michelle Branch Formally Releases Her First Album, "Broken Bracelet"

I've been a fan of pop singer-songwriter Michelle Branch since she burst on the scene with her 2001 album "The Spirit Room," which went double-platinum and spawned three big pop hits. That recording came out when Branch was all of 17 years old.

Branch, who is now 27 and married to her bass player Teddy Landau (with whom she has a daughter), has now released an album that will delight her longtime fans and may gain her some new ones: "Broken Bracelet," an album she recorded when she was 14 years old. As she explains in a note on her website, this was an indie recording that she sold at shows, and it ultimately got her a record deal. Included on the album are demo versions of tunes that were on "The Spirit Room," including "Goodbye to You" and "If She Only Knew."

I've heard a few songs from "Broken Bracelet" over the years, and it's amazing to think that these catchy, appealing pop tunes were written by someone so young. You can buy "Broken Bracelet" at, iTunes, eMusic, and at Branch's online store.

Also in the note on her website, Branch says that she has shelved her album "Everything Comes and Goes," which she says she has been working on since 2007. (She did put out a six-song, country-flavored EP by that name several months ago.) Branch says that "I have recently started a new album from scratch and I couldn’t be more excited."

Branch also says that next Thursday, December 9th she will be holding a live online chat in which she'll answer questions and play songs. The Michelle Branch online chat will take place at 8:00 pm Eastern time; she says her website will have more details later.