October 15, 2011

Little Dragon / Javelin / Donn T / Questlove - Terminal 5 - October 14th, 2011


Ahmir Khalib Thompson AKA Questlove was Friday evening's DJ before and between performers leading up to Little Dragon. Questlove has a long list of credits in the music industry as a producer and musician but is currently best known as the drummer for The Roots which the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Falon. Little did I know up until seeing the show that he is also Donn T's brother.

Prior to Donn T's set, Questlove opened up the evening with a recorded remake of The Stylistics classic "People Make The World Go Round." He then continued the set with songs like "The Money" by J. Dilla and mostly hip-hop recordings that were more geared to a total hip-hop audience.

Before Javelin performed, Questlove was much less obscure playing songs like "PYT" by Michael Jackson, "Left My Wallet In El Segundo" by A Tribe Called Quest and "Power" by Kanye West. After Javelin and before Little Dragon, Questlove played mostly Prince starting with "Kiss."

I enjoyed the music Questlove played. He helped it feel like there wasn't an eternity between sets. He did play MC, by introducing Donn T and Javelin. But when it came time for Little Dragon, Questlove and his turntables were cleared off stage five minutes before the band made their entrance.

Donn T

When Questlove introduced his younger sister, Donn T. I kind of thought "Uh Oh - What's this?" T's five musicians arrived on stage like it was a cold winter night and they just pulled into Port Authority. What I actually mean by that is the guys walked on stage with their winter jackets on and their instruments still in the canvas bags on their backs. But there was no need to fear, they unzipped in a flash and started playing within minutes.

Once the band started playing, background vocalists David Keim and Naeemah strutted in from the opposite side of stage, followed by Donn T making a diva entrance. T came dressed up and ready to work the sold out house. She may have only performed three songs but once she was done the audience wasn't going to forget her.

Donn T opened up with "Hey DJ" which had bassline and the occasional electric guitar ching-a-ling at the end of phrases, that made the song sound like old school funk. T worked the audience and her faux fur pink sweater top by dancing and strutting across the front of the stage.

T made the audience part of her performance when she did the next song "Happy." Since Crystal Waters has a song with the same name, I feel inclined to make a comparison. But where Waters' voice is stylized, T has actually has a voice and where Waters' music is more or less House influenced, T is more old style soul. During "Happy," Donn T pointed to 2 members of the audience come on stage and sing the hook.

One was an Asian guy who was somewhat shy about singing but played along with Donn T nonetheless. The other audience member was a blonde chick who proudly acted the fool in front of friends. The bit was something entertainers usually do in small nightclubs but it was nice to see that Donn T could make it work in a place as big as Terminal 5.

Before doing the last song"Waiting," Donn T told the crowd how she had been in the music business awhile and how much of her involvement was through her songwriting. She mentioned some of her credits but I didn't write them down and can't even find her credits online to fake it.  But I have found write ups promoting her current CD released in 2010 called KALEIDOSCOPIC. Anyway, when T mentioned her songwriting career, I couldn't help but recall that the last time I saw Little Dragon a similiar songwriter by the name of VV Brown opened for them.

"Waiting" was a good ending for Donn T's set. I wouldn't ordinarily like a band ending with a ballad but since there were only three songs in her set - it somehow worked. I thought Donn T's performance was pretty vibrant - only thing is I can't say the same about her recordings. I think the recordings are great production wise but don't really capture the very strong performer I saw on stage.

Donn T's Set List
Hey DJ

Donn T Band are:
Keyboards : CJ Branch
Bass : Jon Smith
Guitar : Jakob Morelli
Drums : Mario Crew
Percussion : Walt Nash
Background Vox : David Keim, Naeemah


If one were to look online there are several bands that go under the name Javelin. The band I saw on Friday night is a hip-hop electro production duo based in Brooklyn, New York City by way of Providence, Rhode Island. Before I go any further writing about them, I need to make clear that I really enjoyed their performance at T5 but am really having trouble describing what they do even though I've had a week and a half to think about it.

First off, with the exception of the guitar that Tom Van Buskirk played and the drum pads that George Langford played, the guys seemed to be surrounded by lots of production equipment. Secondly, what I counted approximately 12 songs went by really quickly and were interspersed with songs quotes.   The quotes I caught started with the first song which included Madonna's "Into the Groove."  Other quotes were the Beastie Boys' "Sabatoge" and Smokey Robinson's "Just My Imagination."

So what I'm trying to say is that most of Javelin's music during the time I was listening to them seemed like a whole bunch of upbeat musical ideas. At times Buskirk rapped and other times he sang with his vocals usually treated with some effects from his gadgets.

One the odd songs I do recall was "Lindsay Brohan" which I believe was the second song in their set. It included most of what I just mentioned, Buskirk sang a processed falsetto for most of the song's choruses and sang-spoke for most of the verses - somewhere toward the end of the song he quoted Blondie's "Heart of Glass."

Another quirky song was "On and On It" which starts out sounding as if it were written by the Tom Tom Club on speed and then journeys off sounding like nothing I can compare it to.  I don't remember when they happened, but there were several times when Buskirk played what looked liked a kazoo into the mic. If it wasn't a kazoo it was definitely something similar. As for Langford, he played drums pads and machines for the entire set and hardly ever stayed still. Except to wiping his brow with his forearm, Langford arms were always in full swing banging out beats.

The song I remember the most and enjoyed was "Vibrations." The production on that song and many others reminded of Nile Rodgers of Chic and early 80's dance music. The song the seemed very different from the rest of set but in good way - was the last one. It seems that Javelin kept their festive feel by ending with a Latin rhythm.

Javelin Are:
Tom Van Buskirk - Vocal, bass, guitar, electronics
George Langford - Percussion

Little Dragon

It's been over a year and a half since I last saw Little Dragon and since then it seems that there name has grown two fold. The last time I saw them they sold out Music Hall of Williamsburg but this time they sold out a much larger space. I wanted to see them again because their an amazing band with an electronic sort of drum and bass sound that is uniquely their own.

When it came time for their set the band assembled on stage as a fluttering synth patch played.  Drummer Erik Bodin was the first to walk out, then bassists Fredrik Källgren Wallin, then Håkan Wirenstrand on keyboards.  As Bodin tapped out eighth notes on his high hat, Yukimi Nagano sauntered out to center stage to do a little dance as band began to play "Looking Glass."

The first time I saw Little Dragon I said that Nagano was energetic, funky and graceful all at the same time and on Friday night it seemed even truer.  Nagano seemed looser this time around which I partially attribute to her being on a much larger stage.  But also, Nagano's baby blue and pink dress with her glittery sneakers, which eventually came off, seemed more playful.

Nagano had her racket tambourine and this time there were colored drum pads which she occasionally played as she did at the end of "Ritual Union." She also played the pads during the beginning of "Brush The Heat" as Wallin played the cowbell to right of his keyboard. Eventually Nagano played both drum pads and cowbell during a breakdown as Erik Bodin played beats that utilized his toms.

It was a pleasant surprise when Nagano announced, in her little girl speaking voice, that they were going to do an old song.  I always think the song "After The Rain," which is from Little Dragon's first album, is a cover though it is not.  I think my mind always references back to the song "Now That We Found Love" by Third World which has the same beginning four or five notes in the chorus.

Next was "Shuffle A Dream" which has a bassline that is so smooth one might think it's a sequencer but Wallin actually does play it. I say that because I don't think he's playing the prominent bassline on the lastest CD's title cut "Ritual Union," I think he's playing along with it. The band went directly into "Please Turn" but this time Wallin played the sparse bassline on keys.

"Crystalfilm" occurred to me as being such a simple song when they played it in concert. The whole song is built around one note pedal played throughout the song in quarter notes by Wallin. It's a really sparse song but then again simplicity and sparseness are what makes Little Dragon a great band.

Nagano asked the audience to give it up for Erik Bodin who was soloing on the drums before playing the defining drum beats on his pads for the song "Summertearz." Little Dragon followed it with "My Step" which started with heavy percussion and took the audience through a journey of what felt like heavy duty house music woven into the song. At one point, I looked down from the balcony and the entire audience seemed to have their arms ups in the air. I also noticed that Nagano had her sneakers off but something told me they had been off for awhile.

When Little Dragon played the beginning groove to "Feather," the audience cheered and when Nagano started singing it seemed like everyone around me was singing along. For the last song "Precious," the band made their exit the same way they arrived - one at a time, with Nagano being the first one to leave and Wirenstrand being the last.

I thought Nagano was too cute when the band came back for their encore. Like a little girl she said "You want more songs" then sort of giggled. The audience joined in singing on "Little Man," but there was something weird happening vocally on stage. Bodin was doing background vocals but it sounded like he had a chorus on his voice.  I wasn't sure I liked the effect but there was too much happening in the room at that point to tell (or remember).

The best part of the show was "Blinking Pigs" when Nagano stood beside Bodin and played drums.  Watching the two of them work off of each other and be fully into it was just wonderful. Little Dragon did "Twice" and then left the stage for the final time.  I have to note that I found it touching how Håkan Wirenstrand left the stage.  He clasped both hands to make a fist held over his heart and then gently bowed.  Enough said - it was a great show!

Little Dragon Set List
1. Looking Glass
2. Ritual Union
3. Brush The Heat
4. After The Rain
5. Shuffle A Dream
6. Please Turn
7. Crystalfilm
8. Summertearz
9. My Step
10. Feather
11. Precious
12. Little Man
13. Blinking Pigs
14. Twice

Little Dragon is:
Yukimi Nagano on vocals, percussion
Erik Bodin on drums
Fredrik Källgren Wallin on bass and keyboard.
Håkan Wirenstrand on keyboards

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