The Best NYC Shows This Week: Beth Ditto, Kristin Hersh, Charli XCX


Several fascinating boundary-crossing electronic artists perform here over the next few days, including the ethereal Kelly Lee Owens, the intellectual and sensual Norwegian artist Jenny Hval, and the poppy and clever duo the Blow. But perhaps most excitingly, this week previews the Iranian New Year, celebrated on the vernal equinox; at Silent Barn, a crew of techno DJs will mark the upcoming occasion with both traditional and nontraditional Persian delights.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Liberty, Tashi Dorji Duo
Brooklyn Steel
8 p.m., $35

Godspeed You! Black Emperor are one of the most beloved bands in the droning post-rock niche, and for good reason — their songs, which often run for ten minutes or longer, take the listener on epic journeys through sound. As with all good post-rock, these instrumental tracks tell a story with quiet strings, explosive drums, and ominous drones instead of words. And the story Godspeed are telling is one about global inequality, radical politics, and social change. The press release for their last album, Luciferian Towers, included the demands: “An end to foreign invasions. An end to borders. The total dismantling of the prison-industrial complex.” Let the revolution begin.

Kristin Hersh, Grant-Lee Phillips
Rough Trade
8:30 p.m., $22

Kristin Hersh, the lead singer of the Eighties alt-rock band Throwing Muses, has — unlike many artists with long careers — continued to release essential music. Her eccentric and cutting insights into love, loss, and living with mental illness ring as true today as they did in her former band’s prime. On her most recent album, 2016’s Wyatt at the Coyote Palace, she channels the pain of her recent divorce into songs as bracing and elliptical as any she’s ever written. Hersh has always been a phenomenal and intimate performer, and this show at Rough Trade should be the perfect space to experience her charms.

Beth Ditto, SSION
Brooklyn Steel
8 p.m., $25

When singer Beth Ditto released her first solo album last year, the main question on fans’ minds was how different it might sound from the Gossip, the band she fronted for years, and whose brash neo-soul won a cult following. Ditto doesn’t stray too far from her roots on Fake Sugar, although it has fewer electronic effects and a little more country twang. But the appeal of Ditto and the Gossip was always her unbelievable voice, which could bowl over anything in the singer’s path. On that front, nothing has changed, and this show at Brooklyn Steel is as good a chance as any to see for yourself.

Nils Frahm
Knockdown Center
9 p.m., $35–$45

The experimental pianist Nils Frahm isn’t afraid to commit to things: He made an entire album on which he dampened his piano’s strings with felt, and another while his thumb was broken. On this January’s All Melody, the electro-acoustic performer completed his most impressive musical feat yet, with an LP encompassing a wide range of instruments and styles, while remaining within a post-techno, minimalist, neoclassical framework. Frahm will perform the album in its entirety in the grandiose Knockdown Center space.

Papi Juice
Bambii, LSDXOXO, Riobamba, Marcelline, Bubble T
The Hall at Elsewhere
11 p.m., $10–$20

“We would go to certain bars in the city and Brooklyn and feel invisible,” DJ Adam R told Paste Magazine in 2014. He’s one of the founders of Papi Juice, a Brooklyn party started that same year to provide a space for queer and trans people of color to dance and celebrate in a safe space. Since then, the exuberant undertaking has only grown. Now, it’ll take over Elsewhere’s main stage for the first time, with artists including the glitchy, high-octane producer/DJ LSDXOXO and Bambii, the tour DJ for queer icon Mykki Blanco, who pumps out killer club tracks that are deliciously danceable.

Kelly Lee Owens, Ela Minus, Carmen Villain
Zone One at Elsewhere
7 p.m., $12–$15

Kelly Lee Owens used to play fairly standard indie rock (including with the band the History of Apple Pie), but no longer. Her debut solo album released last year presented her as a fully formed artist, whose dreamy songs take elements from ambient techno, folk, experimental electronic music, synth pop, and more. She’s particularly great at creating a mood — slightly psychedelic and spacey — in which to place her light, breathy vocals. “Anxi.,” her song with fellow electronic genre-hopper Jenny Hval, has a dark, unsettling quality to it that breaks through the placidity of much of the album, and shows how far Owens’s range extends. (Since Hval — see below — plays in Queens the next day, it’s possible she’ll make an appearance here.) We can’t wait to see what she does next.

Jenny Hval
6:30, $15

MOMA PS1’s great winter concert series “VW Sunday Sessions” brings the multitalented musician and performance artist Jenny Hval to the venue’s geodesic dome this weekend — confusingly, on a Saturday. Hval’s music deals with the intersection of heady themes like philosophy, romance, capitalism, feminism, and the female body, and her shows always have a performative element aside from her simply playing her songs. At PS1, she’ll perform a site-specific piece that’s described as a “meditation on the sensuality of our everyday movements.”

TechNowruz II: Iranian New Year Party
Sadaf, Aria Rostami, Googoosh Dolls, Kamron Saniee
Silent Barn
7 p.m., $8

If you’ve never celebrated the Iranian New Year, or Nowruz, before, this party at Silent Barn is a hell of a way to start. Nowruz is celebrated on the vernal equinox, and traditionally includes a Haft-Seen table, with items beginning with the Persian letter sin (s) such as apples (seeb) and garlic (seer) that all represent grand ideas like beauty and renewal. This tradition, and others, will be on display at this techno-infused celebration, where appearances from artists like the abrasive electronic performer Sadaf will soundtrack egg decorating, Islamic geometric pattern coloring, and, of course, dancing. Come ring in 1397 amid thumping beats and the smell of burning esphand.

Charli XCX
The Hall at Elsewhere
8 p.m., $25–$31

Around 2012, the avant-pop singer Charli XCX began making waves within the online ether, thanks to singles like “Nuclear Seasons” that contained just enough experimentation to separate her from mainstream acts. That didn’t last: Charli is now a bona fide pop star, with hits like the playful “Boys” racking up 75 million views on YouTube. But the singer has retained her edginess, as is apparent on such tracks as “Femmebot,” off her 2017 album, Pop 2, which features a wildly pitch-shifting verse from the often confrontational queer rapper Mykki Blanco. And this week, she’s playing at the comparably tiny Elsewhere instead of a stadium, which she could surely fill. It’s going to be a special night.

The Blow, Olivia Neutron-John
Zone One at Elsewhere
8 p.m., $15

Electropop duo the Blow released an album last year called Brand New Abyss. The songs are fun, sly, and catchy, backed by modular synth beats, but if you haven’t seen the group live recently, listening to the album alone is only a fraction of full Blow experience. Brand New Abyss was conceived as part of a multimedia art piece that incorporates spoken-word performance and discusses topics like modern alienation, emotional intimacy, and surviving on a decaying planet. It’s the rare live-music experience that feels totally fresh, unexpected, incredibly vulnerable, and real. If you can’t get tickets to Charli XCX in the next room, we highly recommend checking out this show.

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