September was one of the best months we’ve ever had in the Paste Studio, with too many great live sessions to include in one place. We were bowled over by performances by jazz guitarist Mike Stern, roots rockers Simo, Malian bluesmen Songhoy Blues, trombonist/singer Aubrey Logan, and Brooklyn Afrobeat heroes Antibalas, just to name a few. It’s too hard to choose just five from the entire month, but if we have to, here they are…
5. The Barr Brothers
Something about The Barr Brothers’ three-song set appealed to everyone who voted on the best sessions of September. It could have been the diverse instrumentality among the five members or the way each of the songs they played seemed like a malleable entity that could be distilled or expanded as necessary. Regardless, the new songs The Barr Brothers played from their forthcoming album Queens of the Breakers , due out Oct. 13 via Secret City Records, showcased their boundless curiosity and creativity.
4. Ian Chang
Son Lux Drummer Ian Chang is on the cutting edge of his instrument, blurring the boundaries between electronic music and analog performance. Using Sunhouse’s Sensory Percussion system, Chang can program a huge array of samples into his drum kit and play a veritable symphony of electronic shades and sounds based on where he’s hitting each drum and how hard. This is probably the coolest thing we saw (and heard) in the Studio all month. Chang’s EP Spiritual Leader came out Sept. 22.
3. Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers
By this point, everyone knows that Steve Martin can play a mean banjo. So it’s all the more important that the songs he writes and plays stand up to bluegrass tradition and beyond. That’s certainly the case on The Long-Awaited Album, Martin’s new record with The Steep Canyon Rangers. On Sept. 29, the gang squeezed themselves into Paste Studio to play three of the new songs: “On the Water,” “All Night Long” and “Office Supplies.” (He also offered a brief window into the making of The Three Amigos!)
2. Filthy Friends
We were thrilled to have the latest and greatest supergroup in our Midtown studios on Thursday when the fivesome of Filthy Friends stopped by. Comprising singer/guitarst Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), guitarist Peter Buck (R.E.M.), drummer Linda Pitmon (Minus 5), bassist Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows) and guitarist Kurt Bloch (The Fastbacks), the group played three songs from their debut album, Invitation, as well as one non-album track.
1. Tank & the Bangas
It’s hard to talk about Tank and the Bangas without zeroing in on Tarriona Ball, aka Tank. Coming from a poetry background cultivated in New Orleans, the frontwoman has a magnetic stage presence, mastering the rapid-fire half-talking, half-rapping, always-on-the-verge-of-singing vocal style that might conjure Chance the Rapper. Her group’s hodgepodge of sounds makes room for jazz, soul, hip-hop, funk and R&B, but none of those singular genres really do them justice. This may be the best live band in America right now.