These days female-fronted rock bands have it hard. How hard? While it's not a proven statistic, it seems fair to say at least half are compared to Paramore. Maybe that's an exaggeration but it almost feels as if the new barometer of female-fronted rock is Paramore and Paramore alone. Do Hole, Sleater-Kinney, Heart and The Bangles mean absolutely nothing?
The other day a sampler was sent to me from the New Jersey band Six Volt. They are led by Nichole Deppe, who sounds absolutely nothing like Hayley Williams, but because of the band's penchant for spiky guitars and melodic hooks will probably meet those comparisons in the imminent future. Whether or not Six Volt make a dent in the ever-difficult arena of rock music remains to be seen. But one thing is for certain, Deppe can sing. Her vocals are crystalline, honey-dipped and far-reaching. Moreover, she's complemented by bandmates who have an effortless swagger that seems to suggest crafting music comes rather easily. That last statement is most important because none of the band members are out of high school. Hanson Redux? Jackson Five 2.0? All of that may indeed be too premature, but there is certainly something intriguing about a group of teens writing a song that seems prime for radio stations.
"Mind on Me," is proof of this. The song drips with the kind of commercial flair and inherent energy that radio charts would eat up. And while it may be suited more for the Disney Channel or movie soundtracks, that's not exactly a bad thing. These days being a commercial rock act is virtually impossible, and any angle or edge is one step closer to the big dream. All of this is of course irrelevant to music purists. In the end, they want to know if the music is good, if it has substance, if it's chasing down something new. Six Volt may not have oodles of substance or ingenuity, but for those of us that like jubilant, caffeinated pop-rock, there seems absolutely no reason to pass this up.
Random Notes: Last week I saw Mumford and Sons at Webster Hall. It was tremendous. Sold out, tons of fans. Everyone knew every lyric, even the unreleased songs. I can't remember the floor at Webster Hall reverberating like that. It was as good a concert as I have been to.
The Middle East opened up. Sleepy, spartan folk. Lots of instruments. At least 14. Seven piece band. Mumbling Australians with very little stage presence. Just very in tune to what they do. As bad an opener as I have seen. Good music, but not engaging at all. Their EP is fabulous. However, I paid $10 for it. Why is the band charging $10 for a 5 song EP. I can buy it on iTunes for $6. Does not compute.
I saw the movie The Crazies over the weekend. I know, it came out awhile ago. Deal with it. I'm an indie film snob. I don't see big releases. That being said, I like any thing that depicts small town life. My Mom grew up in a small town in Indiana and I have allegiance to small town America. But man, that movie took some really dumb liberties and jumped the shark like woah. It did have me on the edge of my seat. I think I'll see more Breck Eisner films going forward.
Over at my Facebook, the music setting has five songs. I honestly think they are five that pretty much define me. They are:
I'll Be - Edwin McCain
Neighborhood #3 - Arcade Fire
Morning Light - Graham Colton
We Delight - Caedmon's Call
A Water Prayer - Deep Blue Something.
In my estimation, those are five damn good songs. Thoughts? Opinions?
Make a point to head over to Maniac World Headquarters and listen to the new tunes from Shawn Harris of The Matches. The care-free, sun-drenched vibe of "Die Rad," "Hey Love," and "Fill the Lens," are incredibly infectious and downright smile-inducing. I promise, you'll want to shake your hips when you listen.
And then as if to prove just how downright impressive they truly are, the band offers up the moving ballad "Always a Promise," buttressed by a stirring string section. The song is quickly becoming one of my favorites of this spring season.
With a nod towards The Beach Boys and purveyors of fine California pop, Maniac sounds like something truly extraordinary about to break through.
Last fall I profiled the Cortland, OH band Woodson in the Self Promotion Spotlight. After a year-and-a-half hiatus, the band is back at it again and has recently revamped their Myspace and Twitter pages. To jumpstart their resurgence, they also posted a video updating their fans and friends on what's in store for the future. Check it out below.
One of the pleasures of being in such close proximity to New York is getting to dive into the live music scene. A few months ago I found myself in the Mercury Lounge listening to Brooklyn-based PaperDoll and found myself transfixed. Vocalist Teresa Chaisiri had a magnetic aura that was captivating. Her rhythm section and the guitar stylings of Patrick Moloney helped make their 40-minute set one of the more entrancing live performances I've seen at the Mercury Lounge in quite awhile. If you don't want to take my word for it, the group just got wriitten up in Blender, was featured in a Dayquil commercial and appeared on the Today show (1:56 in). There's a certain charm at work here that comes along once every few years. If you ask me, they seem to be on the cuspo of something momentous and substantial. But then again, what the hell do I know? I was sure that Son Volt was going to be far bigger than Wilco. And look how that panned out.
A free download of PaperDoll's song "Did it to Myself," is available here. You dig? Share your thoughts in the replies.
When Ivory broke up in the latter half of this past decade, I found myself without words. This band had the same kind of charisma that Copeland wore to prominence. Nathaiel Swokowski had the star quality that seemed certain to find the band sstardom. But true to the very ephemeral nature of the music business, the band collapsed amid various personal catastrophies and dilemmas. Swokowski relocated to NY, tried his hand at hip-hop, moved to Arizona, and finally has settled in Seattle with his new band Fairline. Though he now creates music under the name Nathaniel Moon, there's still that star quality and panache that made Ivory such a gravitating presence. Though they only have one song up for release at present, it just may be one of the best songs released this year. Sure it''s a bit kistchy in places, but hot damn is that chorus not a breath of fresh air. If this is the jumping off point, this could be the greatest thing in music since Acceptance. Yeah, I just said that. I'm expecting big things. I sure as hell hope they don't disappoint me. All you Pacific Northwest peeps better take advantage. This band could be on its way to something truly special.
I'm just going to freewrite this thing, so here goes:
With much delight and trepidation I visited the Music Hall of WIlliamsburg last night to see the Copeland farewell tour. Being that it was a Monday and the band has just performed to a sold-out Bowery Ballroom crowd the night before, I didn't expect a big crowd, but walking into the venue minutes before Deas Vail took the stage, I was in a word, shocked. At best, there were no more than 200 people in the room. This was their farewell tour. One of the most beloved bands of the early part of the decade. What the fucK?
Because the balcony at the Music Hall is a prime spot, I headed up there and watched Deas Vail perform a decent set. Having seen them perform at Irving Plaza with Mae and Jenny Owen Youngs in the fall, I was curious to see if they had adapted their stage presence at all.
The answer is a resounding N-O. While their live set is cohesive and air-tight, they are in a few words boring. Wes is a shy and introverted personality and he did very little to engage the crowd. The bassist (his name escapes me) is a live wire and he usually offers something fun or exciting, but he didn't really say much. They were polite, they were good, but the set trailed off at the end, and I found it quite boring.
That being said, I would have preferred five more Deas Vail songs than any one song from Person L, who took the stage next. Though its probably an unpopular opinion, there was little to nothing that was engaging about Person L. Sure Kenny was polite, sincere and seemed to very much enjoy what he was doing, but his incessant spastic freakouts on guitar and the band's riff-driven, classic-rock inspired jams were concussive, dizzying and borderline annoying. He played an old song, I presume off of the Person L debut and that was pretty downbeat and a welcome respite, but nothing else was really worth mentioning. He added an auxiliary percussion player, which added a cool vibe to the songs, but even that wasn't much to salvage what turned into a piercing ear-assault.
I Can Make a Mess was next and was off the charts incredible. I confess I've never seen Ace or TEN before, so this was something new for me. It was in a word spellbinding. For starters, the stage set-up was spartan. His sister Nora on keys, his good friend Jose on drums and himself on guitar (and lots of pedals). No bass, no real bells and whistles. Just them three and his songs. He played two new songs off of his upcoming disc, both of which were splendid. I believe one was about his grandfather and expanded on a song about his grandfather on the band's debut. He also played a song written for his newborn child, and then performed a good bit from the previous record, including crowd favorite, "Timshel." As solid as his live set was (and it was, the drums were spot-on, and the keys/backing vocals were the set's apex), Ace himself came across as a true champion. Self-deprecating, genial and very much an everyman, he had a profound simplicity in both his manner and his words that was hard to ignore. It was quite simply, captivating.
Copeland took the stage at 10:05, which was technically 10 minutes early. The band opened up with "Take Care," and had a bristling, guitar-driven swagger that I had not seen from the band in any of the four previous times I have seen them. Even a slower, midtempo song like "Careful Now," had a dense, layered arrangement that made the entire thing much more sonically heavy and moving than I expected. Marsh admitted that he was having throat problems and perhaps that very reason was why the show seemed that much more thick. After three songs on the guitar, he walked over to his trademark and performed "Chin Up, " which was darn near flawless. Piggybacking on that was a near-perfect "The Grey Man." They threw in the surprising choice "Coffee," and backed it up with "Brightest," both of which received an outburst of applause. After an enthralling version of "Eat, Sleep, Repeat," Marsh disrupted the set to address a heckler. The exchange went as follows:
Marsh to crowd: "Who keeps saying that?"
SIlence. Marsh to crowd, "Does anyone know who keeps saying that?"
Silence Marsh: "Seriously, who keeps saying that?"
A faint voice screams, "Jesus!!!!" Marsh: "Why are you saying that? Why? Why would you say that here? At a rock concert?"
A faint voice: "But Jesus loves you." Marsh: "I appreciate the love, but I don't think that's the kind of place for that. It sounds to me like you're trying to harass us." Long pause. "Well, whatever. This is for you, buddy."
The band then segued into "The Suitcase Song," before Marsh stepped away from the piano and took to the guitar for the set's final four songs. After performing "Control Freak," he stopped and addressed the crowd once again.
Marsh: "Thank you for all of these requests, but does anyone have any legitimate concerns or questions?"
Random things are shouted. Marsh: "What's my favorite song? <short pause> "Probably, God Only Knows."
Crowd goes silent. Marsh: "Ya know, the Beach Boys song."
Crowd stays quiet. Marsh: "Okay, so anything else?"
Crowd asks what he had for dinner. Marsh: "I went to that restaurant called Sea, right up the street. Apparently it was featured in Garden State." Intermittent chatter from the crowd. "Ehhh, it was okay. Not that great."
And then, as if cognizant of just how irritating they were being, the crowd went silent and the band resumed playing. Of the final three songs played, "No One Really Wins," was by far the most memorable, as the crowd (by now, close to 350-400) went absolutely bonkers.
And it was in that moment, that the very essence of Copeland came brimming to the surface. That sheer sense of glee from everyone in attendance, those ever-present smiles. Those are the things that Copeland has given to all those that appreciate them. More so than the ruminative lyrics, the endless amounts of pondering, it was the smiles. Few people can talk about Copeland without beaming. That will be the band's legacy.
After closing with "California," the band exited the stage, before returning for a one-song encore of "You Have My Attention." Having heard this song at every Copeland performance to date, I can honestly say it has never sounded better. Being that Marsh had limited vocal capabilities, I am still at this very moment awed by how much held those final two notes towards the song's conclusion. And it was then in that moment that I knew leaving the venue was going to be difficult.
In just eight short years this band managed to say and do so much and it feels disappointing to know that it is coming to an end and that we as listeners have to in some ways let go of that. Sure the records will always be there and the songs will always fill our craniums, but that live experience, that inherent joy that swept across the nightclub when "No One Really Wins," started. There won't ever be that quiet hush and rapt attention and the hordes of smartphone-wielding fans that attempted to document the brief two minutes of "Fireflies."
All that is gone. And so we must wait. What will happen next? Will Marsh produce? Record a solo project? What will Laurenson do? What will become of these talents? This veritable backbone that had shaped the Copeland sound for the better part of the last nine years.
Saint Louis band outRAGEus! has posted a new video for their song "Blame it on the Blackout." While many people on this site are quick to criticize said band, there's little reason for them to be so vehement in their barbs. While the music might be derivative, cliched and trite, they seem to fully enjoy doing what they do, put a great deal of passion behind their craft and have an infectious and charismatic presence. While I'm not entirely sure I'd buy their record, I have to respect that they don't just play their instruments like a bunch of blank-faced drones. At least there's some activity and some zest. Moreover, props to the director, he did a bang-up job capturing youth, fun and glee.
1. Rumor has it, you recently recorded an album. Is this true? Where did you guys record it? How long did it take? Does it have a title?
Yup. The new record is called "Lonesome Traveler," we recorded it in Nashville, TN with Grammy-winners Mitch Dane producing and Vance Powell mixing (same fellas as before). Hope you appreciate the name drop. We were in the studio for about 3 weeks, and the mixing process was the 2 months following.
2. What is the main difference between this new album and Sound.Color.Motion?
Ha. Let's see, what's going to sell records? I think this record is a little more mature, and a lot more honest. When writing it, I focused on sorta pouring my guts out and not holding back the embarrassing stuff. Regardless, I think it'll really appeal to a wider audience.
3. Discuss the addition of Brian Campbell. How has his presence helped redefine the band? What creative angles does he bring to the table?
Brian (we all call him "Rabbit") has really brought a lot to the table. When Timmy [Moslener] left in 2008, it was a rough loss for us, and though we supported his decision and wanted what was best for him, we knew he'd be very difficult to replace. However, Rabbit has really been a great addition. His style is a lot more blues/jazz influence, but still plays parts that are conducive to our sound as a band. He's probably the best natural musician I've ever known. He has a fantastic voice, and a great natural ability to harmonize, and really just is able to read what I am (as well as what the other guys are) thinking musically, on the fly. In addition, he is quite possibly the kindest, most thoughtful person I've even known. He's really breathed new life into us as friends, and as a band. I can't say enough good things about him...one complaint though, is that he is good at pretty much everything. Which drives me crazy. From breakdancing to sports to music to humor to charming my girlfriend, he's basically better than me at everything.
I am better than him at backing up the van and trailer. So I got that...I got that.
4. It has been well-documented that you guys have had ongoing struggles with record labels. At this point in the game, is getting still signed a priority, or are you still content to go at it DIY?
Ha. It's a funny misconception that we actually enjoy being DIY. We've done almost everything we can do to pitch ourselves to labels and management people and booking agencies...it's frustrating to see the lack of progress. We've showcased for countless labels, not to mention more than a few management and booking people, and everyone seems so interested at first, and say all this great stuff, and they "definitely want to work with" us, and it feels like a done deal...and then nothing. They just disappear. It makes us pull our hair out. And the only lasting interest is from labels that can't really offer us anything we can't do for ourselves (and aren't already doing). I think we write great songs, have a great live show, we've paid our dues (over 500 shows DIY in 40+ states), and still, nobody wants us. I just don't understand what anyone wants anymore. Pop-punk, I guess. 80's sunglasses and old-school hightops, with a downbeat in every song, a cocky grin, and a diver's license that has a birthdate of 1991. We are getting a little old, ha ha. However, we still believe in it. We're currently pitching this new record to basically everyone we know that is a somebody or knows a somebody. We call it our desperation campaign, ha ha. Hopefully it strikes with somebody that will believe in us, and they get on board, and help to take this somewhere.
5. How has the state of Pennsylvania helped shape the songwriting process? That is to say, does living in a blue-collar, All-American city like Harrisburg help shape the creative ideas behind your songs? Or is it a complete non-factor. Ah, hmm. Good question. I think it has an effect. Simply just on us as people; we actually didn't grow up in the city of Harrisburg per se, but all grew up either on farms or around farms. We all come from families that range from below middle class to pretty much poverty level (not an exaggeration). So, obviously, I think that is going to impact one's worldview and types of songs that one writes. In addition, when your school bus plays country music on the way to school, that sorta thing never really leaves your blood, haha. I think that Country & Western influence comes out a little bit in our music, though I wouldn't describe us as alt-country.
6. Describe the impact and influence of social networking sites like YouTube, Twitter and Myspace in helping the band achieve their goals? Are they intertwined? Would Farewell Flight be where they are today without them?
I think it would definitely be fair to say they've played a big part in getting us to where we are now. Myspace especially, has been useful not only in allowing people from all over to be introduced to our music, but in the booking process as well. YouTube has not been a huge thing for us, and we are slightly new to Twitter. When it comes to social networking sites, it seems like a new one pops up every ten minutes, so it's easy to feel a bit overwhelmed. I think with our respective ages, there's been a slight learning curve, but it's something I think we need to embrace and learn. I think I'm probably speaking mostly for myself and Marc here; I think Marc especially secretly hates the internet, ha ha. I do think it's fair to say, however, that if the internet still didn't exist, we'd still find a way to pursue this and tour and get our music out there.
7. It is well-documented that you guys are one of the hardest-working indie bands currently making music. How hard is it to give 100 percent every night? Certainly with a host of potential maladies: illness, van problems, poor sound/lighting and small crowds, it would be tough to give 100 percent night in, night out? Discuss this if you can.
It can be exhausting after a while, to be honest with you. The hardest part is playing to an empty or near empty room (sometimes the latter is worse if they're disinterested). It's tough to get up there, and play the best set that we can. We used to allow ourselves to slack off on nights like that, but it happened too often that 2 of the 5 people in the crowd drove 3 hours to see us. Nothing will make you feel lousier about a half-assed set than that. We've resolved ourselves to play the very best we can regardless of the surroundings, or how many people are there. Illness is a tough one, too, especially for me personally as the singer. When your voice is almost gone, and you're swaying from a fever 3 or 4 nights in a row, it gets old real quick. As far as poor lighting and sound, it sucks, but nothing can beat a rowdy crowd. I remember a show in Michigan, where we were packed into this this little bar basement, and there were almost no lights, let alone stage lights. And, the sound was terrible, but there were like, 60 people crammed into this room, singing along to every single word. They were so excited just to be there. And they shouted for an encore at the end, and everyone, I mean everyone except maybe 10 people, came on stage and danced. I got pushed away from the mic, and somebody I didn't know sang the rest of the song...we literally couldn't see our instruments most of the set cause it was so dark, and it sounded awful yet...easily in the top 3 shows of all time. Maybe number 1. Fans make it all worthwhile.
8. What is the songwriting process like for the band? Does someone write just lyrics? Does someone just write music?
I'll be working or driving or shoveling snow or something, and hear the song in my head, usually with most of the directional ideas for the parts, as well as maybe some of the lyrics, and most of the melody. Then, I either call my voicemail and sing myself a message, or use this handy-dandy hand recorder Marc got me for my birthday one year. Then, at some point, I'll use my little home studio with Pro Tools to record demos of the songs. This is where I finish most of the other half of the song, including the song structure and the rest of the lyrics. I'll try to make it sound the most like it is in my head that I can, using a program for drum parts, and add bass, guitar, piano, organ, percussion, vocals, etc. Basically, get a decent working demo going. Then, I'll email it to all the guys, and they listen and get a feel for the song. We'll jam it out together, and see what works and what doesn't. Sometimes they take the parts and run with it, cutting here and adding there, and make it better. And, other times, they'll scrap a part and come up with something way better. Then we tour on it for a while, and see how it feels. Then we hit the studio, and make more cuts and change little things here and there, and it gets mixed and mastered and that's the almost final version of the song. But I like to think that the actual final version of the song is after we've toured on it for a year or two. We write different parts, sing it a different way, and the song morphs subtly, yet tastefully into something different. and as it evolves night after night, we get used to that way of playing it. It's weird when I go back to listen to original recordings, because I forget how we used to play them, and am surprised here and there, as i hear and remember the old parts. it's fun.
9. You've been known to bang away at a piano, are you classically trained, or self-taught?
Yea and no. I took very basic piano lessons when I was about 11, which lasted for not quite a year. I tended to be lazy, and not practice, so I sorta just stopped after 9 months or so. I remember being consumed with the guilt of wasting my mom's hard-earned money, and figured i sould just stop. Not guilty enough to make me practice, though, ha ha. Anyways, fast-forward 2 or 3 years, and I got into jazz, and started taking jazz piano. basically lasted about the same amount of time though. there was a time a few years ago when I was sorta proud that i wasn't classically trained. Like, I thought that made me some kind of "RainMan" when it came to music. now, however, I realize that though I have some natural ability, it's not enough to get me by. After working with "real" musicians in Nashville, it makes me wish Ii had practiced more and made more of an effort. Oh, wasted youth. I know enough to get by though, and can get my point across musically as much as I need to for now.
10. What do you hope fans take from a Farewell Flight live show?
A shirt and record combo deal. And some fond memories.
11. What do you hope listeners take from the new album?
Hope and encouragement. I want people to find acceptance in knowing they aren't alone in their hopes and fears and insecurities. I guess I also hope to challenge people to be better, and to be more honest with themselves and with others, by not holding back or hiding behind the images we create for ourselves. And, that it would spur people on to love others more.
I think I also hope others can learn from my mistakes.
12. When can we expect to buy the new album?
Well, as mentioned before, we're currently pitching this to anyone we know who can maybe help us out by helping to support and promote the record, as well as booking, management, and record companies. We're focusing hard on that for now. Unfortunately, a lot of industry people can lose interest in a project that is already released to the public. If someone wants to pick it up and run with it, then it'll be released in the timing and manner that they choose. However, in the event of the failure of all that, we'll simply release it by ourselves like the last one, and hope for a miracle. Time period for that situation is looking like April, which seems far away, but in record releasing time lines, it's just around the corner. We want to get it to the fans as soon as possible, and we promise we're working as hard as we can (and then some).
13. List five books, movies and CDs that have captivated you in the last few months.
Ah...let's see. I'm always bad at this. Here are some that have made me cry, or I enjoyed recently (doesn't mean they're new...) Movies: The Time Traveler's Wife, Brothers, Management, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Pixar's Up, The Princess and the Frog. Books: In The Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick (an account of a whaling shipwreck of The Essex in the 1800s, amazing story), Friday Night Lights, The Notebook, The Road. Music: Lately i've listened to a lot of these albums: The New Frontiers Mending, Relient K Forget and Not Slow Down, Gaslight Anthem The '59 Sound, Good Old War The Only Way To Be Alone, Lydia Illuminate, Ryan Adams Heartbreaker, The Championship Midnight Golden, The entire Pedro the Lion / David Bazan catalog.
I listen to my friends' bands a ton too. We're blessed with friends that make some of the best music I've ever heard, seriously. Check out the following:
Lorien (Nashville, TN)
Nick Bays / The Patient (Columbia, SC / Somewhere in IL. My favorite songwriter that I know)
Kingsfoil (York, PA. Listen to the single, "Love is a Carnival Goldfish") Vince Dynamic (From MI somewhere, amazing songwriter)
Dear Future (IL)
Plu (Little Rock, AR; RIP, one of the best live bands ever, and are possibly reuniting)
Seabird (Cincy, OH)
House of Heroes (So good they're stupid)
Abandon Kansas (Oklahoma, the only band we know who works harder than us)
14. On a scale of 1 to 100, how would you rate Barack Obama's first year in office?
Ha ha, you wish. I think there are too many bands out there doling out political opinions like they work for FOX News or CNN, and the world doesn't need another one. I play in an effing rock and roll band, so people should form their own opinions, not mold them after an uneducated singer. But...an honest question deserves an honest answer, so rather than a number, I would say that I think this year has shown that Obama is neither the Antichrist, nor our Savior. And that, in the words of Ghandi, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." Not expect one man bound by bureaucracy, politics, and a hand-tying 3-branched democracy (which is obviously for the best and for our freedom's sake) to fix everything. If one expects that from a leader, then one might be more satisfied with a dictator or emperor.
Also, I'd like to say officially that Farewell Flight supports no political party or leader. We have our own private, individual opinions, that vary greatly from each other.
15. Name five things you love about the Keystone State? -WXPN in Philly
-Coming home to my bed / mama's chili
-Yuengling Lager and Lionshead
-Proximity to BWI airport, which takes me to my gorgeous girlfriend.
In what has become a winter tradition, As Tall as Lions found its way inside a Long Island venue and performed a holiday concert in front of its hometown fans. For this year's installment it was the much-vaulted Westbury Theatre, and the group, fully cognizant of the theatre's influence on the Long island live music scene, performed one of the more memorable sets Long Island music fans might see all year. Beginning with an ethereal instrumental that segued into horn jam territory, the quartet, aided by longtime touring member Rob Parr and new addition Duncan Tootill veered off into a direction that was equal parts Britpop, experimental jazz and Brooklyn indie. From there, the boys dove into "Be Here Now," which featured a much more sedate final 90 seconds that proved to be more effective than the recorded version. Allowing vocalist Dan Nigro to tower over the muted sounds gave the song's stark lyrical content that much more gravity. "Circles," a hypnotic ode to mental instability followed and for the first time in their seven year history the band orchestrated a light show and video screen to accompany the song's concentric rhythm.
That the song was executed near flawlessly only heightened the spectacle of the performance. An airy Sunday Bloody Sunday intro gave way to a lilting trumpet from Estill and the band coasted into the forlorn lament "Go Easy." Once again adding a twinge of improvisation the song's final 90 minutes came across more raw and edgy, with angular guitars and propulsive drums marrying well with a dizzying spell of lighting effects. The song's conclusion featured an extended outro with Nigro and Parr providing three bars of falsetto. Though Dan had missed some notes in the final verse, the falsetto outro with Parr, made up for it. As Nigro sang into a megaphone, Parr took to the guitar and Tootill took to the keys. After initial trouble with a piano loop, Nigro paused and turned to the crowd, "Let the fiasco begin," he joked, before the band kicked into the velvety gloss of "Is This Tomorrow?"
The atmospheric ambience returned on a flawless rendition of "Into the Flood," which featured a rousing organ flourish and a sassy horn contribution from Tootill in the song's final two minutes that was both skillful and highly indelible. Once again, a cavalcade of dizzying lights added to the all-consuming nature of the band's performance. That procession of lights became the set's tipping point as bassist Julio Tavarez stepped to the microphone and asked the theatre's patrons to get out of their seats and stand up. That simple gesture paired well with the fan favorite "A Soft Hum," as the song's light disco bounce pushed the performance to another level. The bevy of excited fans was that much more ecstatic as the powerful anthem "Ghosts of York," followed. While the swelling movements in the chorus were certainly chill-inducing, two blazing solos from lead guitarist Saen Fitzgerald proved to be the song's most dynamic flourishes. "You guys feeling good again?," Nigro asked to the crowd, as a wash of whistles, hollering and applause ensued. "This is pretty great," he said humbly, "We're in a theatre. Wow, this is nice."
Building on the pristine execution of "Ghosts of York," the quartet tried their hand at the religious diatribe "In Case of Rapture," which featured 20 seconds of megaphone vocals from Nigro before pushing into the cut's first few verses. Though he didn't hit the high notes on the chorus and the guitars seemed to suffocate the chorus, the thumping movement of the rhythm section kept the song from failing. Nigro would not go quietly though and channeled his inner Mick Jagger, perhaps in an effort to urge on his bandmates. The tactic worked well and the song's final minute was both stirring and incredibly effective. In what Nigro called, "an attempt at being sexy," the group performed the piano-laden ballad "Milk and Honey," which featured a slightly funereal trumpet contribution from Tootill. In a move that was both puzzling and well-performed, Julio Tavarez took to the microphone to perform the spacey, nine-minute ballad "Duermete." Channeling both Prince and Jeff Buckley, Tavarez was in full voice, but the song's subdued and sleepy arrangement threatened to halt the set from its forward momentum. Thankfully, Nigro returned to the mic and the vocalists overlapped each other, adding a layer of sheen and gloss to a gossamer song that seemed better fit for the earlier part of the set.
And then, almost instantaneously, the band returned to the high peak of the set's middle half as they performed an inspired and horn-heavy rendition of "Stab City." A terse thank you followed before the band exited the stage to a standing ovation. As the ovation extended, the band returned to the stage for a bow, and then exited for the last time. In just 45 short minutes, the band had left their mark. And while headliner Envy on the Coast did their best to carve their own indelible impression, the night belonged to the Massapequa foursome. Even with frontman Nigro not at his best, the group's innate talents were abundantly evident. From the bombastic drums of Cliff Sarcona to the chill-inducing guitars from Saen Fitzgerald, As Tall as Lions did everything to make the night worth remembering. And in an era when Auto-Tune and studio wizardry seems to suffocate the creative process, its refreshing to know that one band is pushing the creative limits and delivering every time out. The music world is blessed to have these four gentleman and their performance at Westbury Theatre made that so very clear.
Editor's Note: In the seven years that this band has recorded music, I've seen them more than 30 times, in places as far north as Syracuse, NY and as far south as Marietta, GA and while this may not have been their best live set, the heavy use of lights and the video backdrop added a dimension that made the performance arena-ready. All their collective parts are at such a cohesive level, it feels criminal that this band has not had their due. It is not any stretch of the imagination to say that the group is now ready to take their set to bigger stages and into amphitheaters. While Nigro's vocals did miss in places, he was not exactly a slouch. Even when he's at 85 percent, he still manages to execute vocal lilts with his reedy timbre that other vocalists just simply cannot do. They are truly a treat, a treasure and something to cherish.
Managed to catch the much talked about Brand New show at Nassau Coliseum this past weekend. It was a neat show. Started off at the side stage seeing Robbers acoustic. I had seen them play at Music Hall of Williamsburg while opening for Brand New (see review of that show in an August entry on this blog) and have to say they've gotten better. I think I like them better acoustic. The richness of the lead vocalist's voice is really front and center and that helps. He has a nice timbre to it and it's a big addition to their sound.
Headed over to the main stage to see Kevin Devine. He was phenomenal. Totally consumed the main stage and acted like he totally deserved to be there. An absolutely stellar performance and easily the best show he's put on in the eight or nine times I've seen him. His set list was:
1. Just Stay
3. Another Bag of Bones
4. Cotton Crush
5. Brother's Blood
Another song might have been played, but I can't think right now.
Shortly thereafter K. Dev, Manchester Orchestra took the stage and really put on an absolutely impressive show. I've always contended that the band doesn't need to sound as loud as they do, but on a big stage like this, the tactic worked well. While I am not a fan of much of their repertoire, I do enjoy "Shake it Out," "I Can Feel a Hot One," and "I've Got Friends." That being said, I've never gotten into I'm Like a Virgin, Losing a Child and if that makes me a minority on this site, so be it. My opinions aside it was probably the best set of the night. They were cohesive, crisp, dense, polished, rich, just very strong. Songs played included: "Shake It Out," "I've Got Friends," and "I'm Like a Virgin, Losing a Child." The best song of the night was probably, "Where Have You Been," which ended the set and featured Kevin Devine on backing vocals. It also went into seven or eight minute territory and just roared until its finish. The band's biggest asset is its drummer who absolutely destroys his kit and is one of the more ferocious and awe-inspiring drummers to watch. I'm still not sure what Chris ____ adds to the band and his weirdness and strange gestures on stage is just kind of disturbing. And for as much as may dislike them, its hard to argue with Andy Hull's lyrics, which are as strong as anybody out there today. I also will never understand why he chooses to be so unkempt and grizzly. It's really just disturbing.
Thrice was next and I just could not get into it. They played the opening and closing song off of Beggars and those were by far the best of the night. They also played two songs from The Artist in the Ambulance, one song off of Vheissu and one off of The Alchemy Index. It was a decent set, but all of it felt so dated. Listening to them just sounds like listening to any average scene band. There was not much that separated them from the pack and they seemed quite ho-hum and average to me.
Glassjaw was next and while its not my thing by any stretch, Daryl Palumbo commands attention, is an incredibly charismatic and engaging performer and really knows how to work his way through a non-screaming song (i.e. "Ape Dos Mil," which was executed perfectly). They played about 30 minutes, much like the rest of the bands and left to an absolutely thunderous ovation.
As for Brand New. Kinda interesting set. No encore, no longer than an hour, just a quick set with little talking. They had a screen with black-and-white images during most of their songs and it was a neat tactic that I kinda enjoyed. It wasn't the best I've heard them. Of all the songs played, "Limousine," and "You Stole," were two of the best. I also thought "Luca," was strong. Hadn't heard that song in quite awhile. I really loved "Welcome to Bangkok," opening up and thought it was the best version I've heard of it. Both "At The Bottom," and "Bought a Bride," were really tight. I mean hands down stellar. Jesse pushed his vocals and basically growled and yowled through many verses and refrains that didn't really need such forced intonations. He's at his best when he's even-keel and smooth. He was far from that during the duration of the set. Why he chooses to do this, I'll never know. The set list is as follows. There may be one or two wrong, so forgive me for that. By memory, this is how I remember it going down
1. Welcome to Bangkok
3. You Wont Know
4. Okay I Believe You...But My Tommy Gun Dont
5. Sic Tranit Gloria...Glory Fades
9. Sowing Season
10. You Stole
12. The Archers Bows Have Broken
13. Jesus Christ
14. Bought a Bride
15. At the Bottom
16. Play Crack the Sky
17. Seventy Times Seven
The Use Your Sole Tour, sponsored by TOMS Shoes, visited New York City's Nokia Theatre last night. Headliners Hanson were supported by New Jersey's Steel Train and Californians HelloGoodbye and Sherwood.
San Luis Obispo's Sherwood took the stage first, tossing beachballs into the crowd. Frontman Nate Henry ditched his standard bass in favor of an acoustic guitar and the sextet dove into the mid-tempo cut "Not Gonna Love," a decidedly weak and ho-hum opener as far as set openers go. Though the execution was precise, the entire vibe was way too calm from the onset. While that's certainly not a horrible thing, it's not exactly what one expects from an opener. Henry returned to his bass on "You Are," which featured inspired keyboard contributions from Mikey Leibovich. Unfortunately, the guitars took a backseat to Henry's vocals, whose confidence and near-flawless delivery anchored the song from start to finish. In many ways, had he not been front and center, this band would have come across as horribly ordinary and mildly boring.
After two decidedly restrained songs, the Californians jumped into "Song In My Head," allowing the band a chance to step away from their placidity. From the first note, their execution felt more visceral, more confident, more polished and the most complete of any song thus far. Members of Steel Train ambled onto the stage, joined by Sherwood's significant others for the cerebral and subdued, "Make It Through," a midtempo yarn with a warm, nighttime ambiance.
Returning to the music, Henry guided the band into "For the Longest Time," a run-of-the-mill power-pop song that sounded incredibly rehearsed, calculated and horribly average. Had Henry not held a note for 30-plus seconds towards the song's finish, nothing about the song would have stood out. The lackluster set ended with the emotive yearning of "Maybe This Time," which was one of the set's few highlights. Exiting the stage in under 30 minutes, the band was effusive in praising the crowd, but little about the set was worthy of effuse praise. From the moment they walked on stage, the band appeared tired, uninspired and rather rudimentary. For a band who has made a killing with their frenzied live shows, the entire set was far too disappointing, and did little to quell the rumors about the band's imminent demise.
New Jersey's Steel Train took to the stage next and performed a set of six fuzzy, drug-induced jams. Opening with new song "Last Generation of Hope," vocalist Jack Antonoff was a manic fireball of energy and his bouncy presence was both eye-opening and thought-provoking. Though the song's vocal work left a lot to be desired, the guitar-driven vessel was amiable and hopeful. On the funk-inspired "Firecracker," he came across as overly dramatic, pretentious and horribly overconfident. Aided by members of HelloGoodbye, "Firecracker," was musically quite lively, searing and dripping with energy. The anxiety-ridden "Kill Monsters in Rain," began with a smoky blues riff and more frenetic gyrations from Antonoff. Once again the song lacked a serious chorus, and he seemed to make up for that with his over-the-top movements, appearing more like a whirling dervish than that of a lead singer. An acapella version of "The Road Song," was the set's high water mark, as the song was off-the-cuff, unexpected and terrifically executed. The post 9/11 confusion of "I Feel Weird," marked the band's last song of the night, and even included an attempt at Abba's "Mamma Mia," that drifted towards the end, but began rather precisely. Borrowing a few guitar lines from British band James, Steel Train proved to be an excitable bunch, but a bit too melodramatic. After the uninspired Sherwood set, the energy was certainly a welcome addition, but one couldn't help but wonder, why does this band have to be this arrogant? More the point, does it have to be this dramatic?
After a 30-minute set break, Long Beach, CA's Hellogoodbye took the stage completely without pretense or snobbery. Their self-deprecating, slightly awkward on-stage persona made for one of the more entertaining and enjoyable sets this reviewer has seen all year. Beginning with the ukelele-fueled "When We First Met," vocalist Forrest Kline sounded overmatched and slightly askew, but was complimented by a supple rhythm section and a rolling trombone towards the song's latter half. The band pushed on into "All Time Lows," and fan-favorite "Shimmy Shimmy Quarter Turn," and the latter proved to be the point at which the California quintet dusted off the cob webs and hit their stride.
A twee mandolin began the rollicking "Baby, it's Fact," which had a carefree simplicity that was easy-going, sunny and sprite. Danny Flynn's trombone contributions once again aided a rather simple and conventional pop ditty. After a group of overexcited teenagers tried to start a pit, Kline urged the crowd to, "start a hug circle, or begin a tickle fight," and heeding his own advice, did just that with his fellow band members, firstly going after guitarist Andrew Richards, and then after keyboard player Joseph Marro, as the band stumbled into "Call and Return," which proved to be more of an exercise in silliness than sterling pop execution. Another new song, the caffeinated and punchy, "You Sleep Alone," followed and it proved to be one of the better songs of the set. When the song finished, Kline encouraged the crowd to boo effusively, noting that, "It's still a work in progress." The hilarious gesture only proved the point that nothing about the set was conventional, expected or grounded.
The pensive and placid "Dear Jamie, Sincerely Me," elicited a thunderous roar from the crowd and allowed the group to display their musical muscle. An attempt to bring an overzealous fan onstage turned to disaster when security demanded the denizen return to his place in the crowd. Admitting that the maneuver was probably a bit foolish, Kline gleefully admitted, "Well, we told you it would get weird." Bassist Travis Head plugged the band's DJ set at Angels and Kings later that night, to which Kline added, "Yep, I'll be there. Playing Scrabble and drinking Shirley Temples. Should be fun. I hope to see you there."
The sentimental "Oh It Is Love," pushed the crowd into a tizzy, before the quintet tried two new songs. The first, "Not The Same," was earnest and well-worn, revealing that of all the songs perhaps this is one the band has most expertly. Beginning with Kline on ukelele, the song is ostensibly a slow-moving ballad that takes off towards the two-minute mark. Keyboard player Marro took to the acoustic guitar for the jittery and jumpy "Follow You," easily the band's best song of the night. Confident, mature and vocally tender, "Follow You," was the sound of a band in full control and finding their stride.
A mandolin and melodica framed the romance ballad, "Bonnie Taylor Shakedown 2K1," a song Kline dedicated to his fiancee and to Colorado balloon boy Falcon Heene. While the band's intentions were strong, it was the only point in the set where perhaps their joking antics got the best of them. Not one of the band member's seemed to know in which direction the song was headed and seemed puzzled about what notes to play. For a band who was a co-headliner, the horribly amateurish display was both disappointing and unprofessional. As if to atone for going astray, the band closed out their set with "Here (In Your Arms)," which set the room ablaze with its soaring chorus and found the entire room in an absolute lather.
Two of the best roots-rock albums released this year are Will Hoge's The Wreckage and Bronze Radio Return's Old Time Speaker, and both visited New York City this past weekend.
Appearing last Thursday at the Bowery Ballroom Will Hoge and his three-piece band (drummer Sigurdur Birkis, bassist Adam Beard and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Devin Malone) performed a sterling set of 20 lullabies and rockers. Though he drew on a handful of songs from new album The Wreckage, Hoge also tackled much of his back catalog, including songs from 2001's Blackbird on a Lonely Wire ("Not That Cool," "Secondhand Heart," "Someone Else's Baby") as well as 2000's Carousel ("Ms. Williams"). This surprising tactic was not lost on the crowd, who seemed to sing along to each song from the minute Hoge stepped on the stage.
Highlights of the night included the sparse "The Wreckage," the sweetly affecting "Lover Tonight," and the forlorn heartache of "Dirty Little War," all three featuring Hoge an acoustic guitar and seated in a foldable chair. He even tackled the piano on "Too Late Too Soon," the closer off of The Wreckage, but the tactic appeared to be a misstep as the Nashville songwriter was buried at the back of the stage. Save for that one fumble, there was little about the set that was disappointing. Rousing rockers "Long Gone," and "Highway Wings," featured the same amount of tenacity as fiery cuts "Sex, Lies and Money," and "Better Off Now That You're Gone."
It's been well-documented since his major label debut Blackbird on a Lonely Wire, that Hoge bears the torch of heartland rock, passed on from the likes of Petty and Springsteen. A performer who always puts his all into every performance, his frenetic intensity is very much akin to Springsteen and his laid-back charm very reminiscent of Petty, making for two most accurate comparisons. While his studio performances are always engaging, there are few things as uplifting as seeing Hoge in concert. Ever charismatic Hoge charmed the crowd detailing his love of his New York; his appreciation to his newfound family at Rykodisc, and defended his Southern drawl and propensity to babble in between songs. Armed with gratitude, sincerity and humility, he was the consummate gentleman and was never pretentious or disaffected. Those three things, combined with contributions from Burkis, Ballard and Malone, made for one of the more spectacular sets of heartland rock this reviewer has seen in the past few years.
Three days later, Hartford, CT's Bronze Radio Return performed an hour-long set of Midwestern roots-rock, culled mostly from their album Old Time Speaker. Beginning with the groove-rock of "Lo-Fi," the band then dipped into 2007's "Shade Tonight." Expanding on the original version, the song featured an extended harmonica solo by Craig Struble, two organ flourishes from Matt Warner and a fiery guitar solo from Patrick Fetkowitz. Building on that momentum came the cheery pop of "Digital Love," with its radio-ready chorus and Henderson's smooth vocals. Never once out of synch, and utterly flawless, the Nutmeg sextet moved effortlessly from song to song.
The real apex of the set was the bouncy "It's Okay Now," which featured a 90 second five-drum assault, with each member banging various drums, cymbals and snares. The percussive intro was an effective and skilled tactic that proved the band's spontaneity and ability to deviate from the script. A dip back into another old song proved once again to be a chance for the band to showcase their inherent ability to jam. A request from the 50 plus fans in attendance to play one more song, brought the band out on stage for their country-pop sendup "Pullin' On The Reins," providing an effective punctuation mark on an overwhelmingly entertaining set of easy-to-please roots rock.
Though their name still remains below the surface, their set at the Mercury Lounge revealed that they are most certainly a band to contend with in the years to come. Armed with maturity beyond their years, Bronze Radio Return are truly on the precipice of something great.
I've never cared about Chiodos. People that know me, know their music and style has never been my bag. Yet, last year when lead singer Craig Owens attempted suicide, I started looking at the band in a different light. Could it really be true? Chiodos was well-liked, successful, armed with momentum, and yet he wanted to take his own life? Having a brother who has battled various facets of depression and other psychiatric issues, I started to empathize with Owens and began rooting for him to succeed.
And then like a shot, out of nowhere, I find out he's been kicked out of the band. Certainly there is more going on behind the scenes then I will ever know about, but it made me wonder. Is Craig doing okay? Are his demons back again? Is he going to make it?
I watched the video that surfaced on the main site yesterday of him explaining to his fans what happened, and I have to be honest. He does not come across as a bad person. He seems honest, candid, sincere and grounded. Which makes me wonder, is he really the villain here? Or are his fellow bandmates the villain?
Either way, these series of events have made me care about him and his career. I hope he makes it through, and I hope it all works out.
One of my more pedestrian/mediocre reviews that I've contributed to this site was Just Jack'sOvertones. Though I had mixed feelings about the album, I've come back to it a good few times in the past couple years.
Last month, he released his follow-up and it's done quite well in London. Apparently, he's one of the nation's biggest stars. Which brings me to the point, why is this guy not more well-liked in America?
I tried buying his new disc, but it's only available via import from Amazon.com for $30. I guess I could buy it on iTunes, but I dont know. I want the actual album art. For those that have no idea who this guy is, bypass my review of his last album (though it is worth picking up) and download his new single "The Day I Died." While the sentiment is quite maudlin, the lyrics are great, and it has one of the easiest, carefree vibes around. Oh, and that chorus, oh sweet Lord, that chorus. Infectious to the core.
Ever since I visited London in 2002, I've always considered moving there. I love the movies, I love their newspapers/magazines, their music, I love their writing, I like their commerce, I like their history. Listening to Just Jack makes me want to go back.