Living in New York City means being able to see musicians from all over the world perform throughout the year: jazz pianists from Japan (Eri Yamamoto every Thursday through Saturday at Arthur’s Tavern), flamenco guitarists from Spain (Reynaldo Rincon every Thursday and Saturday at Nai Tapas), mariachi singers from Mexico (the subway), accordion players from Europe (subway again), dudes drumming on buckets (subway). Conversely, musicians from the five boroughs are constantly out on the road, bringing New York hip-hop, New York punk, and New York soul to the endless sea of venues that stretches across America and beyond.
But there is still something to be said for catching a New York City band live in New York — amid the clatter of subways and the stale smell of piss and trash that, in one way or another, informs all the art that is made here. The holidays are about coming home, about being around those who know you best, and the same, one might argue, goes for music.
Run the Jewels, the latest project from Brooklyn rapper/producer El-P and Atlanta MC Killer Mike, comes to Stage 48 in Hell’s Kitchen on November 29 and 30 before heading off to Europe. The duo have been making waves in recent weeks with Run the Jewels 2, a gritty, abrasive testament to today’s underground that is their second eponymous album on Brooklyn’s Fool’s Gold Records. Harlem trio Ratking and Queens rapper Despot — two of the more interesting hip-hop acts in New York City (or anywhere else, for that matter) — open.
On December 16, Chelsea Reject, an explosive Brooklyn-based female rapper whose style harks back to ’90s trailblazers like the Pharcyde, opens for Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek) at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. And on December 9, fresh from rap superstardom and, most likely, Thanksgiving dinner at the Kardashians’, the Bronx’s French Montana hits the Best Buy Theater in midtown.
If French’s classically raunchy hits like “Pop That” and “Freaks” aren’t quite the holiday ambience you’re looking for, the Daptone Super Soul Review dishes out three nights of smooth funk, soul, and gospel at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, December 4–6. It’s the first time the Brooklyn-based label has brought its Soul Review to the city, and headliners include New York natives Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and Afrobeat band Antibalas. Bradley, a relative newcomer to the music industry at age 66, is riding the success of his very excellent sophomore album, Victim of Love; before striking out on his own, he used to perform regularly in Brooklyn as a James Brown impersonator.
Siblings Rufus and Martha Wainwright will revive their holiday show, Noël Nights, December 17 and 18 at Town Hall in Manhattan after three years away from New York City. The concert follows in the tradition of their late mother Kate McGarrigle’s famous Christmas shows, and will feature a slew of yuletide appearances from the likes of Emmylou Harris, Cyndi Lauper, Renée Fleming, and, of course, a whole bunch of Wainwrights.
The punks, too, will be back home this holiday season. Marky Ramone is hosting a release party for his new autobiography, Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone, and performing with Village Voice advice columnist, professional partier, and all-around rock Renaissance man Andrew W.K. at the Gramercy Theatre on January 17.
Brooklyn indie quartet Yellow Ostrich will play their final show as a band at Glasslands Gallery in Williamsburg on December 8, just weeks before the DIY venue and arts space shuts its doors forever on New Year’s Day. That same night, Landlady, an art-rock band based in Brooklyn that has garnered high praise from the likes of Pitchfork and the New York Times, brings its spasmodic blend of melodic rock and avant-garde arrangements to Mercury Lounge on the Lower East Side.
On December 21, the Front Bottoms, one of the bands leading the so-called “emo revival,” partner with BrooklynVegan to host the Champagne Jam, a three-floor holiday party at Manhattan’s Webster Hall. The festivities will also feature Brooklyn’s Kevin Devine & the Goddamn Band, the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn, punk band the So So Glos, and more. And on December 30, Chumped, a self-described “bummer punk” band from Brooklyn, cap off 2014 at the Acheron in East Williamsburg.
While perhaps more artists call New York City home than any other place on earth, the good ones spend most of the year on the road, spreading the gospel to the masses. Between recording sessions and long, exhausting tours out west, a show in Manhattan or an impromptu gig in Brooklyn becomes as rare as a trip back home to see your parents. Let’s all try to make the most of the time we have together.