The Eight Best Concerts in New York This Weekend, 5/01/15


For more shows throughout the weekend, check out our New York Concert Calendar, which we update daily.

Friday, 5/01
A World in Trance Festival
Roulette Brooklyn
Friday & Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 7 p.m., $30
An ecstatic array of non-electronic repetition will be explored during “A World in Trance,” four nights of transporting sounds from a half-dozen countries. The powerful Mauritanian griot singer Noura Mint Seymali and her dazzling guitarist husband, Jeiche Ould Chighaly, commence the festivities tonight with Bailo Bah and Sylvain Leroux, who play the pastoral flute music of West Africa’s Fula people. Friday is devoted to virtuosic Sufi praise songs via the dynamic Pakistani qawwali group led by Farid Ayaz and Abu Muhammad. Accompanying himself on sintir, a three-stringed, goatskin-covered bass lute, Marrakesh-born Hassan Hakmoun will perform Gnawa ritual music on Saturday. The spell lifts Sunday following the overtone-rich “throat singing” of Tuva’s Alash, with Ned Rothenberg and Glen Velez improvising transnational trance music on woodwinds and frame drum, respectively. — Richard Gehr

Music Hall of Williamsburg
5 p.m., FREE
Those lucky few of us statesiders who managed to catch Blur on their 2003 tour in support of Think Tank couldn’t have foreseen what a rarity the occasion would turn out to be. The band, already Graham Coxon–less at the time, would go on to become an on-again-off-again proposition for the next decade-plus, scattering a handful of festival appearances (a grand-total two of them in the U.S., both on the Left Coast) and offering a couple of tantalizing singles (see the great, forgotten “Fool’s Day,” from 2010) amid rumor after tantalizing rumor hinting at a true reunion. It has been, in sum, a whole lot of tantalizing, and very little in the way of follow-through. But no more! Despite Damon Albarn’s comments of only a few weeks back (“I’m up for doing a bit of touring,” the frontman had told Rolling Stone, “but there’s a great question mark when it comes to America with Blur for me”), the lads — including, for the first time in NYC since freakin’ 2000, guitarist Coxon — are back, gearing up to play the Music Hall of Williamsburg for a free show highlighting new disc The Magic Whip. Fans have already snatched up all the tickets made available for the show (which is set for the decidedly odd hour of 5:45 p.m.), but our guess is you’ll be able to find some strays on the secondary market, although gratis is probably out of the question. — Mike Laws

Damian Lazarus+The Ancient Moons
11 p.m., $20 – $25
From the vocals of Pakistan’s sacred qawwali singers and Egyptian master percussionist Hossam Ramzy to American jazz pianist ELEW (Eric Lewis) and a Guinean princess, Damian Lazarus & the Ancient Moons‘ upcoming Message From the Other Side is a musical melting pot. A brainchild of Lazarus and James Ford, the album (due out May 18) was produced with the intent of capturing those magical moments of making music in nature under the quilted night sky, or to the rising sun. The pounding rhythms and seductive melodies are as beguiling on the dance floor as they are through your earbuds. Lazarus & the Ancient Moons will be performing alongside Bedouin, Ashwin Khosa, and Akufen, which will, like their upcoming album, be an inclusive and extensive exhibition of global dance music — not to mention a really great dance party. — Eleanor Lambert

Eric Clapton’s 70th Birthday Celebration
Madison Square Garden
Saturday & Sunday, 8 p.m., $80 – $500
On the occasion of Eric Clapton‘s 70th birthday — which he’s celebrating with a pair of shows at Madison Square Garden — his efforts as a songwriter, guitarist and singer have been rightly celebrated. But he should also be recognized for his role in introducing the masses to some of the great rock and pop songs of the 20th Century that were written by other artists. Thanks to popular compilations like The Cream of Clapton that lump solo hits in with nuggets from his work with Derek and the Dominos, Blind Faith and Cream, it’s all become known as “Clapton” music. He didn’t write “I Feel Free” or “White Room” or even sing on them (that’s Jack Bruce), but they survive, more or less, as Clapton hits today. On his solo albums, Clapton regularly turned colleagues’ songs into international hits — “Cocaine” and “After Midnight,” for example, were both written by J.J. Cale. The situation has benefitted all involved, especially the songwriters. Clapton’s cover of “I Shot the Sheriff” was a commercial shot-in-the-arm for Bob Marley, who was hardly the global figure he is today when Clapton covered it in 1974. When I asked the late Jack Bruce if he was miffed that Clapton got credit for the FM jewels in Cream’s catalog, he shrugged. “He might get the credit,” Bruce told me, “but I get the cash.” — Chris Kornelis

Toro y Moi
Terminal 5
8 p.m.
Although known for his (somewhat unintentional) spearheading of the chillwave movement of 2010-2011, it is fundamentally unfair to put Toro y Moi in such a musical box. Sure, his first album was highly produced, sampled and deliciously synthesized, but since then his musical trajectory has only expanded, and his instrumentation has seriously developed. His past albums and EPs indicated the rise of this evolution, and his most recent album, What For?, is clear evidence of this ability and desire to discover and create. Funky bass lines, psychedelic guitar riffs and moody R&B beats rock playfully to his generally mellow, dreamy sound, making for a groovily singular kind of music whose buoyancy is both perky and profound. This is an all ages show and features support from Sinkane & Vinyl Williams. The show has sold out, so look for tickets on secondary markets. — Eleanor Lambert

Saturday, 5/02
Meredith Monk
Zankel Hall at Carnegie
7:30 p.m., $30
Meredith Monk‘s ability to sustain, expand, manipulate, decorate and sometimes, it seems, invent sound is a vital and intoxicating reminder that the human voice (and breath) have the ability to communicate without words. One listen to her well-known “Hocket” and you’ve just begun to peek into the eclectic repertoire of Meredith Monk. Her influences reach into folk, jazz, rock, minimalism and the theatre. Her performances incorporate every conceivable facet, with dance, composition, instrumentals, light, sound and image fusing under the powerful concept of vocal sound as its own, capable mode of expression. Saturday’s performance marks the fiftieth anniversary of her career as musician and composer, and she will be accompanied by her ensemble of vocalists and instrumentalists, making for a cacophonous and bewitching exhibition of half a century of thought-provoking work. — Eleanor Lambert

Sufjan Stevens
Kings Theatre
Friday & Saturday, 8 p.m., $55.65
In some ways, Sufjan Stevens typifies the public caricature of a musician from Brooklyn: weird, borderline-unpronounceable name; pretty-boy good looks; a level of fame and success in the indie world that borders on Beatlemania while remaining relatively unknown to mainstream audiences. On the other hand, he thwarts the stereotype at every opportunity. He made his name on two decisively uncool, epically twee masterpieces about the history of Michigan and Illinois. His music is unapologetically spiritual, anchored in a Christian ethos highly unfashionable to indie rock’s anti-establishment leanings. He’s more likely to show up to a show wearing a Tron outfit or giant angel wings than a leather jacket and Ray-Bans. Touring in support of Carrie & Lowell, released March 31, the album is a spare, delicately beautiful affair, especially restrained when considering its maximalist, Technicolor electronica predecessor, The Age of Adz. Though the label belies the avant-garde streak that has always made his music more unpredictable than many of his soundalike peers (Iron & Wine or Andrew Bird, for example), much of the discourse surrounding Stevens frames him as a folk musician. — Corey Beasley

Desert Hearts’ City Hearts East-Coast Mini-Tour
Brooklyn’s GoodRoom
10 p.m., $10 – $20
Remember the term PLUR? Peace, Love, Unity, Respect? It was once a well understood and much-appreciated mantra of the EDM community (before 14-year old Americans threw their glitter, tutus and ecstasy all over it). Enter the City Hearts Mini-Tour, a series of concerts featuring DJs from the Desert Hearts crew aspiring to reclaim these ideals, now under the newer “House, Techno, & Love” banner. A much needed counter-current in the world of music festivals (especially with EDM talent headlining nearly every festival nowadays), Desert Hearts and the City Hearts series are bringing the simple warmth and intimacy that once defined dance music culture back to the performance and festival experience in general. Conceived in California, their love-driven image of dance music is undeniably admirable and certainly contagious, now finally coming to the East Coast. The one-day NY event will take place at Brooklyn’s Good Room, and with a lineup featuring Mikey Lion, Lee Reynolds, Marbs, Porkchop, Deep Jesus and special guests Butane & Atish, all attendees are in for some bonafide House, Techno and Love. 21+.– Eleanor Lambert