Joseph Campbell, a giant in the field of comparative mythology, boiled down the wisdom of the ages into his directive “Follow your bliss”.
It’s not every rock band that takes its mantra from academia, but frontman Phil Robinson isn’t just a rising rock star; he’s a soul-gazer and a Fulbright scholar who takes Campbell’s advice to heart. His material brings a mystical, intelligent bent to an otherwise straight-up, playful classic-rock sound.
When Robinson rebooted his pet musical project, The Bliss Jockeys, in early 2012, it was as a folk-style acoustic ensemble, with brother Josh Friedman joining him on jazzy guitar and a small cadre of backup singers anchored by long-time NY songbirds Ellen Weiss, Valerie Gomes and Leyla Mesic. But it took the March 2013 addition of a full rhythm section – with complex fills from drummer Casper Paludan and the driving electric groove of bassist Merter Yildirim – to bring to life the high-energy repertoire of Phil’s dreams (and start filling rock venues around New York City)!
The other surprising yet classic element in the BJ’s mix is a full gospel-style all-female choir, now comprised of 7 women, filling out the over-the-top sound. In August, The Bliss Jockeys took over Ella Lounge for an intimate 45-minute set highlighting new material, from the sunny “99 Days” and “Transcendental Cowboy” to the brooding “Looking for Someone” and “Through the Middle”. But the keystone of the set was an innovative cover of Steely Dan’s “Bodhisattva” (in case you’re missing the theme here of the path to enlightenment), showcasing the band’s exuberant instrumentals atop the tight, spirited harmonies of the choir.
The Bliss Jockeys, live at Ella Lounge, NYC on August 10th, 2013! (photo by Brian Lin)
Wax Cactus is an up and coming San Francisco rock band, birthed from the tough streets of the Tenderloin. Despite their gritty origins, the band has been able to find a delicate balance between hard rocking heavy hitters and sweet soulful songs. Their attention to song craft, as well as technical prowess and showmanship, align them with the style and philosophy we still adore from classic rock legends like Neil Young & Crazy Horse and the Grateful Dead. Rather than coming off like a retread of those great bands, the band has forged a sound that hearkens to that golden era, yet remains refreshing in the current state of over processed, cookie cutter acts that dominate the musical landscape.
They’ll be joining their funky friends, Sans Pablo, this Saturday night (2/9/13) at The Connecticut Yankee. Give a listen to the band live below, and make sure to head down to the venue to check them out. Show starts at 10pm. Discounted tickets can be purchased in advance here.
Vice Count is a New York based Alt-Rock band with heavy Blues and Classic Rock sensibilities. If you like your rock, to actually ummmm ROCK, then you’ll appreciate their riff-centric approach. Formerly known as The Viscounts, until further research revealed conflict with the name, the band has been hard at work in the studio writing and recording new material. From the sounds of the first song released, “Peripheral Vision”, the band is ready to continue their conquest of the city. The melody flows smoothly from guitar to vocals and back again, never ceasing and keeping your interest from beat one. Give a listen below, and make sure to catch their upcoming show at Tammany Hall on Thursday, August 2nd.
When I checked ‘Grateful Dead Shows on This Day in History’ on archive.org today, I realized it is the 35th anniversary of what many Deadheads consider to be the band’s best show in their illustrious 30 year career. On May 8th, 1977 the band performed at Barton Hall on Cornell University‘s campus during a seasonably rare snow storm. It is at this very show that many people feel the Grateful Dead culminated their unique songwriting and improvisational rock style with that inexplicable magic that surrounds their live shows. Through a handful of well circulated, high quality bootlegs the band and this show secured a legacy that is still thriving to this day. You can read some accounts of those who were lucky enough to be present for this life altering experience here. Listen to the best version I found on the archives here. You can either stream or download this must hear show.
Even if you think you’ve heard all of the Blues Rock you could stand, and are of the belief that it’s all been done, here comes 27 year old Austin, Texas native Gary Clark Jr. I’ve always been a fan of this classic style, which upon most of American rock has blossomed from, but in the last 5 years I’ve gotten away from this stuff for more progressive styles. It would really take something fresh, and truly visceral to grab my attention and that’s exactly what Gary Clark Jr. has done. He has a commanding voice that is soulful without any affectations. A characteristic which has been missing from popular music lately. Not to mention his mastery of the guitar, which he uses deliberately to build emotion and tension in his songs, and is never too self-indulgent with his improvisation. His presentation is devoid of pretense, and for that he captures the true essence of all the great classic artists like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy. Check out the single that is pushing him into the mainstream, “Bright Lights”. This live version was filmed at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2010.
Here is a clip from Bustle In Your Hedgerow‘s show at Brooklyn Bowl this past August. A special sit in from ?uestlove, drummer of the renowned Hip-Hop innovators The Roots, really kicks this version of Led Zeppelin‘s “Trampled Underfoot” into high gear. Take a look and get yourself down to Brooklyn Bowl tonight(1/26/12) and/or tomorrow night(1/27/12) to catch the band as they get the Led out in New York City’s best live music venue.