It is my pleasure to present a guest post by my friend and fellow live-music-enthusiast, Matt Kennedy.
Delta Hotel, Dustin Wong, Blue Kid and Chelsea Wolfe @ Le Poisson Rouge, Saturday October 22nd (Part of the CMJ music festival)
Unfortunately I wasn't able to make it to Le Poisson Rouge in time to catch Delta Hotel, and I don't think it'd be fair to fake it by just looking at a few of their tracks online. I would however recommend you check out their site. I did get to see the other three bands at the show, and overall I was pretty impressed.
According to Dustin Wong's biography on Thrill Jockey Records' site, Wong's previous work includes co-founding both Ponytail and Ecstatic Sunshine, and while the former received more critical acclaim the latter was stylistically closer to the tack Wong would take upon going solo in 2009. Since then he has released two albums with Thrill Jockey.
Of course since I didn't find all this out until after the concert, I honestly wasn't sure to expect when Wong took the stage with just his guitar, a mic and a dizzying array of effects pedals. But the reason for all the gear quickly became apparent as he began recording and looping riffs, layering them on top of one another to produce increasingly complex harmony and rhythms before transitioning into a new sequence. Wong's brilliance is found not so much in the complexity of any single riff, but rather in how they are expertly pieced together like the musical equivalent of a jigsaw puzzle. Props not just for the solid music, but for executing such a technically challenging style so precisely.
Wong is set to begin a Eurpoean tour shortly after wrapping up his stateside shows; further information can be found on his page at Thrill Jockey.
Blue Kid consists of lead singer Lydia Benecke, guitarist Matt Brogan, keyboardist Matt Skrzynski, drummer Damian Vankamp, and Nick West on bass. While the other artists featured have previously made a name for themselves, Blue Kid is relatively unknown; most of their gigs have been at pretty small venues on in the Village and Williamsburg with equally obscure local bands. They earned their spot in the lineup by winning the Flavorpill/Stoli Vodka “A Band Apart” competition on Facebook, and lead singer Benecke made it pretty clear how thrilled the group was to be there with more than one thank-you to the venue, competition organizers and fans in between songs.
Their style draws from a few influences, with visible elements of pop, blues, rock, jazz and even a bit of funk depending on the song and a healthy dose of whimsy and twisted humor evident in the lyrics. The latter is perhaps best demonstrated by The Dismemberment Song, the track that won them the Facebook competition, an upbeat tune juxtaposed with a lyrical narrative about going Dexter on some unfortunate, unnamed malefactor. Benecke's vocals may be the focus of their music, but the other band members get enough chances to strut their stuff to prove that this isn't just a solid singer/songwriter with some backup, but a group of talented musicians that all bring something to the table.
The fact that Blue Kid didn't sound the least bit out of place with more established artists says a lot about the quality of their material and their level of talent. I hope that this gig helps them take things to the next level.
Blue Kid has recently released Crush as a single ahead of their upcoming album (available on iTunes, Amazon and CDBaby, among others), and a pair of self-produced albums available on CDBaby.
Closing out the show, Chelsea Wolfe's dark, haunting style provided a welcome contrast with the other groups. With Kevin Dockter on guitar, Ben Chishom on synthesizer, and drummer Dylan Fujoka, these California natives have a pair of albums under their belt and have previously been featured on a number of music sites (including Pitchfork and MTV).
While their music is perhaps best described as predominantly brooding folk spotted with metal influences, Wolfe's lyrics are just as likely to be hopeful as to be mourning. The band provides ample and able support for Chelsea, who is just as comfortable adding her guitar skills to the mix as with vocals alone. It's not the kind of thing you hear all that often but these guys do it well. Overall I'd call
them a solid, slightly different take on the female-fronted 4-piece band who are critically acclaimed for good reason.
Wolfe has a pair of LP's released under Pendu Sound Recordings, both of which are avaliable on iTunes. They will be on tour out West with Black Heart Procession this December, having just wrapped up a series of shows in NYC with the CMJ music fest.