August 25th, 2014 – New York days are uncomfortably warm in August, but the evenings cool down to just the right temperature. Out on a music recommendation from work, I stopped to grab a few tacos for dinner. Name a food, and you can find it for good quality at a cheap price in this city. That’s part of Manhattan’s magic.
The other part is the music scene. New York City has tons of concert halls; it is a city full of live music, if you know where to look. Thankfully, the search is not too hard. I found myself walking into the popular Bowery Electric on a full stomach and in high spirits. Tonight’s targeted performance? Ayler Young, a local funk/rock act. This past August found Young and his band playing a residency every Monday night. Having neglected the show for the past few weeks, I felt obligated to catch it before the residency’s end.
The Bowery Electric is a relatively small venue no matter how you shape it, but you can fit a surprisingly large number of people inside without it feeling cramped. A small square stage rests between the stage two large benches, and a wall; I made myself at home on the bench and waited for the show.
Ayler Young and band have recently been promoting their upcoming new album, Portal, available September 9th, but Young started the night onstage with UK artist Wolffe, a young twenty-something with a haunting voice. He supported her vocals on electric guitar as she sang out, and despite the musical simplicity, the songs were deep and powerful. They performed two songs together before Wolffe took her seat in the audience and the rest of the band joined Young on stage.
Though synth and keyboards are present on and help shape the sounds of Portal, the live show lacked a keys presence. Ayler Young’s band consisted of a drummer, bassist, female vocalist, multi-instrumentalist on saxophone and flute, and Young on guitar and vocals. The band made up for the keyboard absence, however, proving that different approaches to the same song in the live show versus the recording can be very successful. The saxophone and flute playing of Jay Rodriguez proved an essential piece of the live show; his instruments gave an eclectic twist to an otherwise standard setup, and the music stood out as a result.
Listen: “You Can’t Buy Love” – Ayler Young
Of note were performances of Portal songs “I’d Rather Be Blind” and “You Can’t Buy Love,” which, thanks to the band’s tight playing, packed a powerful punch of 80s dance-era funk-rock. A ripping guitar solo on the former song and an even wilder, mind-blowing flute solo on the latter allowed the band to show its true colors; had there not been acts after theirs, I am sure they could have continued to play extended versions of each song well into the night. By the end, the breathable crowd was dancing to the band’s funky blends, and Ayler Young had made new fans in us all.
Ayler Young’s Portal attempts to capture the energy of his live show. However, nothing beats the in-your-face, communal experience of live music. An hour of beat-driven funk/rock/pop/reggae was just what the doctor ordered for a New York Monday night, and the band’s excitement to play enhanced the energy about the Bowery Electric. I walked out feeling refreshed, and ready for the week to come.
Learn more about Ayler Young online at ayleryoung.com