Thursday, June 23, 8 pm at House of Vans: FREE with RSVP
I always devote at least a few minutes of my bike ride home to a scene from Gummo– you know, the fantastically twisted Harmony Korine film starring that kid with the ears. I like to fan out my elbows, toss off my helmet, and fantasize that some people describe me, too, as “downright evil.” But that scene wouldn’t have been the same without the addition of “Dragonaut,” the stoner metal classic from Sleep‘s 1992 album, Holy Mountain.
While many of the snobbiest metal heads have dismissed Sleep as nothing more than a Black Sabbath ripoff (though rumor has it Ozzy himself granted approval), the band took that classic sludgy ’70s sound, and imbued it with heavy distortion and certain artfulness. Nevertheless, they’ve managed to maintain their ties to a sense of doom and a menace worthy of a blood-soaked lounge room in Hades.
Sleep released their major achievements between 1991 and 2003, and have been more or less on hiatus until recently– playing infrequent shows and issuing exactly zero recordings for a long, long time. Save for an (excellent) reissue of Dopesmoker a few years back– a one-track “album” that stretches on for a full hour of Luciferian ruminations. (It was rejected at first by their record label, something the band struggled with throughout their early years.)
But last summer the band dropped a new track titled “The Clarity,” which at just under ten minutes long, already sees the band taking a new direction. There’s a glossiness to their fresh sound that sort of just comes with the 2016 territory, but fear not, Sleep’s trademark sluggishness and thick cloud of weed smoke between listener and band remain.
I highly suggest that you drop by your local botanica and pick up a special prayer candle or two, because you’re going to need to make a pact with some seriously dark forces in order to protect your ears at this show– Sleep alone would take a wrecking ball to your high-pitched hearing abilities, but the presence of Battles, the band that made math rock hip, slaps a rubber stamp on your ears’ death certificate and makes it offish.
Battles released a pair of new tracks close to a year ago (which you’ll have to listen to over here) and have thankfully resisted the math-induced urge to fall off into the jammy abyss. Other bands with similar sounds might be shuffling around in custom “Steal Your Face” bathroom slippers and poking timidly at a series of wah pedals by now. Nay, these guys have once again demonstrated that their future is amongst music nerds rather than Bonnaroo headliners.
The RSVP for the 100 percent free show at House of Vans just went live this morning, but we suggest you hop to it right quick.
Wednesday, June 22, 7 pm at Herald Square Urban Outfitters: FREE
With a successful TV show and the type of visibility few of her contemporaries have even dreamed of, Big Freedia is the most recognizable figure to come out of the New Orleans bounce scene. You might think she may have calmed down a bit, smoothed out her image, or otherwise squeezed into a more marketable, compact form. But if there’s anything you should immediately know about the raucous performer, it’s that fitting her neatly into a box like that would be like trying to shove a Mardis Gras float into a packet of gum. Which isn’t to say Big Freedia’s hard to digest– actually, she’s loads of fun, and poignant and powerful too (Beyoncé knows).
You can catch Big Freedia this week at the Bell House, um, as part of NPR’s “Ask Me Another,” which could go one of several ways. But we’re so hoping that no matter what happens, she starts twerking while lined up ass-to-face in front of that dude from “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me.” But Freedia’s appearing at another no less strangely-situated event the following week: the Herald Square Urban Outfitters. Yep, you heard right. As part of a Pride Month celebration, the store that once pulled a T-shirt in support of same-sex marriage and whose founder donated a huge chunk of change to Rick Santorum’s failed bid for the Republican nomination, is now cleaning up its act and coming out in support of (lol, I mean opening their cash registers for) the LGBT community. Could be a very interesting performance indeed.
Dungen, Purling Hiss, Shadow Band
Friday, June 17 at Bowery Ballroom: $15
Dungen are the rare Swedish rock band who’ve managed to have a major presence in the U.S. while continuing to sing in their own language. They’ve further defied the trend amongst their countryfellows by graduating well past the one-hitter pop-quitters we know and love (Ace of Base, ABBA, the Hives) and have declined to take the easy way out by trafficking in the country’s best export, Satanic metal (Bathory, et. al). Dungen prefer to dwell with softer influences: from White-Album Beatles to Krautrock revival, early psychedelia to Tropicalia, and even some late-’70s decadence. Instead of dungeons and leather, you’ll find Dungen amongst wildflowers and tapestries.
What’s more, Dungen has been at the psych thing since long before it came back in a big and profitable way. Hence why their music still sounds quite different even though we’re seeing so many trendy garage bands head in that direction– while Dungen might have a recognizable sound, they’ve never been satisfied with simply sitting still.
For similar reasons, I’m sure you’ll love Shadow Band‘s dark psychedelia, which gifts us a refreshing take on the sunnier slices of garage psych life we’re seeing come outta places with better weather (seasonal depression is real, y’all)– you can also thank bland suburban landscapes, gritty South Philly, and Midwest angst for their philosophy on tunes. Though the band has yet to properly release their EP, Into the Dragon’s Lair (it’s on the way, we hear), the bandmates have been playing together long enough to be tighter than a Botox-ified forehead, but not nearly as stiff. And while Shadow Band has a regular cohort of virtuosos to call their own, they manage to maintain an enchanting, approachable presence instead of wearing musical haughtiness around their necks like some piece of hideous jewelry.
If pinball machines, dollar-slices, and bell bottoms patched with googley-eyed smiley faces is more your speed, then Purling Hiss is the band for you.
Chastity Belt, Colleen Green, Ian Sweet, Harmony Tividad
Wednesday, June 15, 8 pm at Market Hotel: $13
You might expect Chastity Belt to be a crew of lovesick virgins swirling out candy-sweet ditties for crochet circles, but in that case you probably think that Can was a group of guys drumming on the better-contained of DDR daily rations. To be sure, Chastity Belt does know how to jam out some of the cuter rock songs we’re hearing these days (they’re out of Walla Walla, Washington, for Pete’s sake). But you’d best save them for a rainy day spent alone in bed– no love interests required. That’s because there’s something quietly uplifting about their music, which inspires a thoughtful kind of mood especially designed for accessing during solo flights into self-reflection land. But don’t worry, they never let anything get too, too heavy– “Nothing is serious, everything’s a joke,” as the Chastity girls sing. It ain’t a bad mantra to keep dear.
Plus, Chastity will be joined by the ultra-charming bearer of bedroom/basement/bathroom-with-fuzzy-accessories rock n’ roll Colleen Green. You can’t go wrong.