David Bash’s power pop pilgrimage enjoys second successful stint at Pianos NYC
For the second year in a row, the Los Angeles-born International Pop Overthrow spent a weekend here in New York City – giving the Lower East Side a shot of festival fever it hasn’t felt since the heyday of CMJ.
Along with Arlene’s Grocery and The Mercury Lounge, Pianos on Ludlow St. is the Last of the Mohicans in terms of venues that existed during those days in the late 90s/early 00s when it seemed like every other storefront on the street was a rock club. And for festival curator and RNRG contributor David Bash to hold the three day showcase at the former piano shop, calling up the spirits of such woebegone venues as Luna Lounge, Baby Jupiter and Brownies in an area of lower Manhattan woefully neutered by the spectre of gentrification.
Here are eight acts that played over the course of this past weekend who you should be checking out right now.
Rosa Cora Perry & The Truth Untold
It might be a lot of name for such a tight trio, but this outfit from London, Ontario means serious business with their 21st century upgrade of the Fort Apache guitar pop sound. Their blistering performance kicked off the Saturday evening portion of IPO, highlighted by covers of Adele and one song that had that one great “and it feels” riff by The Offspring, not to mention killer original material like “Easy Prey” and “Darkest Days,” which really accentuate Perry’s Kristen Hersh-echoing vocal prowess.
One of the true highlights of the 22nd volume of David Bash’s long-running International Pop Overthrow anthology series is the appearance of Chicago’s The Lilacs. And not only did this quartet make a triumphant return to a New York City club stage in early a quarter century, they did so with an electric rush of energy that played up the band’s Voidoids-style twin guitar magic perfectly against the sheer harmony of material that included “Monica”–the infectious lead single from their comeback EP The Lilacs Endure–and a wild take on Bryan Adams’ “Run To You” featuring the song’s composer Mr. Jim Vallance sitting in on drums. Bash’s festival is named after the classic 1991 album from Chicago power pop legends Material Issue. Indeed, you can hear the spirit of that trio’s sorely missed leader, Jim Ellison, all throughout The Lilacs set and especially in songs like the aforementioned “Monica” and “Jennifer,” a loving tip of the hat to MI’s penchant for titling songs after people’s names.
VIDEO: The Lilacs “Monica”
Speed The Plough
A longtime sibling act to The Feelies, STP is Hoboken rock royalty. Late last year, the North Jersey ensemble released their latest album …And Then, which indeed was everything we’ve come to expect and appreciate about these mainstays of the old Maxwell’s scene. But when Speed The Plough played the 11:30 PM slot of Saturday’s lineup, we were greeted with a leaner, meaner version of the band led by guitarist Ed Seifert and featuring Feelies drummer Dave Weckerman behind the kit. Those who stuck it out at Pianos indeed were treated to something quite special, and we can only hope this incarnation of STP will upon this momentum and cut a record in this pared-down guise.
AUDIO: Speed The Plough “Blue Bicycle” (1988)
Brooklyn’s Onesie bolsters a style that feels like some weird wormhole where Fastway comes back to headline Brownie’s circa 1997 after releasing an album produced by Phil Ek. Released on June 7th of 2019, Umpteenth is a reminder that the BK’s once-vibrant rock scene is once again showing signs of life. Until then, “Ben Haberland and his funky bunch” remain the borough’s best kept secret by those in attendance of the band’s kinetic Friday night performance at IPO.
They call their sound “NY-based melodic rock/indiepop” on their Instagram account, but the city’s own Slyboots are so much more than that. Based on the three songs they have available to the public during their short time together, this quartet boasts an empowering and buoyant flavor that illustrates the notion of what Different Light-era Bangles would have sounded like had they moved to England and recorded for 4AD Records. And now with new singer Tiffany Lyons and based on their buzzing set at this year’s IPO, these “Boots” are definitely made for walking up that steady hill to success.
No disrespect to the band from Portland, Oregon with the same name who has a Bandcamp page, but when you have competition for naming rights as steep as New York City’s own Midnight Callers, one thinks you might have to concede the handle out of pure respect alone. And that’s exactly what this band displayed during their 8 PM set on Friday night at IPO with their no-nonsense power pop, flexing all the muscle and melody of Cheap Trick when they were working with Steve Albini in the mid-90s and harks back to the days when Park Slope was more known for Southpaw than Barclays. This group has a forthcoming album due out in 2020, and based on the clips shot from this fiery performance at the Festival, the RNR Globe will definitely be looking forward to checking it out.
VIDEO: The Midnight Callers perform “41 Miles to Roscoe” at the 2019 IPO
You can find Wendy Ip on the 10th day of every month at New York Sid Gold’s Request Room where she hosts Piano Karaoke, taking on songs from all across the pop palate. But this massive talent–who by day works as a crusading veterinarian who earlier this year lent her support in the prohibition of foie gras in New York City–makes some pretty wonderful original piano pop herself, and put on quite a lovely and illuminating set on Saturday night at IPO counterbalanced by her winsome and humorous stage presence with songs culled from her three releases Fan Favorites So Far, A Different Kind of Life and The Ip EP. Fans of Fiona Apple, Nellie McKay and Magnolia-era Aimee Mann take note.
VIDEO: Wendy Ip performing at the 2018 IPO at Pianos NYC
Yeah, he might look like Jason Schwartzman’s stunt double, but Queens’ own Joe Benoit makes power pop that’s waaaay better than Phantom Planet in our humble opinion. The former member of The Regulars headlined the early portion of Saturday’s IPO festivities, performing songs from his excellent second solo album Too Old to Be a Rock Star. Joe’s got that amazing workingman’s rock feel down so perfectly, and will remind you of a time when regular dudes like the late, great Eddie Money and Corey Hart who were able craft these world class radio hits from the comfort of their own familiar environs. Somebody get this man a spot on the next Stranger Things soundtrack, please.