That said, I am keeping my mouth shut from now on about anything that involves The Graduate because I can barely resist talking about things I promised I wouldn't talk about and Jacqueline and I aren't trying to lose our invite to the wedding. What band? Who?
I have insider information for you. The Graduate was in Baltimore this past week, working on some new stuff in a really spiffy studio. That's as much as I am going to say, or can say without threatening emails. But, that's not why I'm writing this blog.
I was granted a golden opportunity to hear some of the new tunes. I was blown away.
LITERALLY ... ok, not literally ... literal in a figurative sense ... ok, I was SNOWED WITH GRATIFICATION.
Anhedonia was great, but The Graduate sound - the delay and atmospheric guitar tangents under a pop-rock wrapping - needs progression to survive. If this new record were to be another version of their debut, then they'd probably survive in lull - the same tours and the same crowds. Everything I heard was instrumental, but my fears - that they'd get stuck in Anhedonia - were pushed aside. The new tracks are fresh and expectioinally explosive in parts. It's now up to Corey to lay down some fitting but hearty vocals and lyrics.
Straight outta their mouths, the new music is "dark and sexy". I concur. So for those of you that were curious or itching for something, anything new, I think you will all be at least a little bit snowed with gratification.
So, this is what's up. This previous week was spent on "vacation", except that I didn't go to Bermuda or the Bahamas or Disney World. For a few days, my roommate and I caught a ride up to Philly and NYC (after the Baltimore date) with The Graduate on their tour with Rookie of the Year, My American Heart, PlayRadioPlay!, and Secondhand Serenade. Of course it was a grand time, but it was interesting to see three nights of the tour as a kind of experiment. Bands have off nights - the sound sucks or the stars are not aligned, and you miss a beat or two. The benefit of seeing three shows in a row is that I got to deconstruct and pick apart the little details that I normally don't seek to notice. That said, this show(s) review is going to be a collection of thoughts from all three of these dates.
Rookie of the Year - Steve Henderson said it best. When The Goodnight Moon was released some two years ago, it was the right sound for the right time. It was almost like they got lucky. And while I liked the album, it didn't last. At the time of the Baltimore tour date, I hadn't heard any of the band's new material, so the first show threw me off. The choruses were bouncy, the melodies decidedly summer, and in comparison to The Goodnight Moon, the new songs I heard in their set were much more upbeat. "What is Love" immediately stood out, and for pop-rock, it seemed to hit all the appropriate points. Sing-alongs = a cinch. But between the more tender, slower tracks the band played from The Goodnight Moon and the new leaf from Sweet Attention, Rookie's set was inconsistent between the two opposites. Variety is great, but ending with "The Blue Roses"? Bad choice. Momentum was severely lost through the course of ROTY's set.
The Graduate - Not much to say about The Graduate. I'm incredibly biased, so take my to-the-high-heavens praise with a giant grain of salt. I think they are a wonderful live band. "Interlude" and their instrumental transitions are always a bit over-the-top for the younger crowds they've been touring to, but they always make up for it with the drum duo jam at the end of their last song, "The Formula". The Philly crowd was the best, so receptive and energetic. Cookies for Philly. They, however, should have played "Justified". It would have been a perfect match for the crowd.
PlayRadioPlay! - I think Dan Hunter makes interesting, sophisticated music, especially as musician who is so young. I think it shines of unique thoughts and well-crafted electronic pop, a genre that I normally skip through. I think there are tons of great ideas swimming around in that red head of his, but on stage, it doesn't translate well. Hunter's lyrics were jumbled and impossible to understand during his live set, and it became tiresome and slightly frustrating. All three of the venues from my mini-tour were upper hundreds to 1000 cap rooms, and I think a more intimate setting is a better fit for PRP.
My American Heart - Since I was a high schooler, cruising the PV forums, I've had a big soft spot for MAH, so it was great to be able to see them perform. Their set was entirely made up of songs from their new album, which was interesting, but not a bad choice. Hiding Inside The Horrible Weather was loaded with good hooks, and they fit well together in a set. Bassist Dustin was running around the stage like a wild animal, and as much as I appreciate his enthusiasm for being balls out, it was sort of funny and distracting next to the rest of his more relaxed band members. Not something to write home about, but they were solid all three nights.
Secondhand Serenade - Another token of proof that radio does not equal good. The first night, John guest vocaled during My American Heart's set on "Tired & Uninspired", and he sung the wrong words and the wrong melody. It wasn't the best introduction to Mr. Vesley.
My problem is not that Secondhand Serenade is making hits. My problem is that John Vesley, who essentially is Secondhand Serenade, comes off like a total douche on stage. Did I just say that? I was appalled to see the entire crowd crooning his every word when it was all so bland, generic and predictable ... like a Hallmark card with an acoustic guitar. He's not shy and awkward like Chris Carrabba or even slightly quirky. His banter was cocky and as far from intimate as you get, which is nearly the antithesis of acoustic rock. His backing band didn't help either, which looked like they were instructed not to move their feet, because, you know, they're not the star ... obviously.
If you asked me to hum a line from SS, I'd fail the test. But every single girl and drunk/sensitive manly-man knew each word down to a T, which was both laugh-out-loud funny and disheartening. Because, most of the time, the good bands are too good for radio, and this was just the case.
About to head off to work, so I just wanted to say hi before I head into that mindtrap. I have so much stuff to catch up on, I'm going to bang lots of it out tonight. I have so many reviews and interviews and promotional stuff to do that I don't even know where to start. UGH. I think I'm gonna grab some energy drinks after work and be a busy bee. I did buy a Beach House album the other day, and I'm predicting with that and the accumulating pressure, I'll go into hyper mode.
BUT, The Graduate comes into town on Sunday and I am very excited. Tomorrow, after I work Jill Scott and The Roots show at Merriweather for my internship, my vacation officially starts. On Sunday, The Graduate comes into to town on the Secondhand Serenade tour. Monday, they have a day off in Baltimore (how perfect!) and then on Tuesday and Wednesday, Jacqueline and I will ride up with them to Philly and NYC, respectively. So, if you will be at those shows, please come and say hi. I am short. You can't miss me.
Thursday, we will say gooodbye to those precious fellows and head back to Baltimore on the bus. Friday, we will recollect ourselves, and then Saturday and Sunday I will be working Virgin Fest for my internship. I'm so pumped. So, all I need to do is get through these next 8 hours of work, and then ... IT'S ON.
Sometimes I get mushy when I think about the AP.net staff. I dunno. Randomly. Hey guys ... fellow staffies ... I love you all. I hope one day we can all have one huge hangout with beer and barbeque. It'll probably be really awkward. I'm giggling just thinking about it.
It's obvious that I enjoy The Graduate. Same with my roommate, Jacqueline. We're big fans of The Grads, and that's probably a huge understatement. I've said this before, and I'll say it again and again - Jac and I have been local promoters for almost four years now. We have burnt to our edges, exhausting our patience with booking and promoting and trying our hands at new acts and business ventures, but The Graduate? They inspire us to power through. They remind us why we got started in the local band business in the first place, and that's to help and support acts from the buttons rungs, where it all starts. So if I ever seem too persistent in nailing in this unabridged band appreciation, understand it's because I really believe in this band. The more I mention this band in my everyday life, the more likely another music kid will give them a chance. But enough mushiness.
The original plan was to head to Philly on Tuesday, which is about an hour and half away from Baltimore. But alas, no go. I had previous plans (which will be detailed at a later blog), and so, like the random adventure-goers we are, we decided to make the 3-4 hour trek to NYC on a Monday. Seeing Simple Plan wasn't necessarily atop my list of things to do in early 2008, but it couldn't be anything short of hilarious/fun, right?
Traffic heading up there wasn't horrendous, we had incredible luck with our directions. We parked in Brooklyn by a friend's apartment, made our way to subway, and hopped a couple trains to Union Square, where The Fillmore is located. The line was wrapped around the block, an awesome surprise, and we watched the crowd for a little while waiting for Miss JaimeJ. Even though we knew that most of those kid didn't know who The Graduate were, it was exciting to know that they would see soon enough.
The Fillmore remind me of 930 Club - with the balcony set up and unconstructed view - except a bit smaller and "cuter." We parked ourselves on the balcony near the bar and sound booth, which was a great view (I'm short ... the ground floor is dead to me). The room was full and buzzing with excitement; I was thrilled with the crowd energy when The Grad's hit the stage. There was a good amount of cheering, and the audience was highly receptive, especially for seeing a relatively new opening band. I was curious whether to see if the band would abandon their regular instrumentals and transitions for some of their poppier tracks, but the band stuck to their grounds. The set was smooth and flowed nicely, and with the exception of the occasionally overexerted echo on Corey's vocals, it was one of the best I've seen (and I've seen a lot, ha). You could tell the band was really into the crowd that night (and vice versa). They even played a 40 minute set, which was an ultimate treat for me.
Simple Plan. Oh, Simple Plan. At this point in the night, I was a few beers in and having fun. The last (and only) time I saw SP was with MxPx in Feb. of 2004 at 930 Club. This was in high school; Jacqueline were not afraid or wary of how SP would evolve in four years. This new album (we gave it a listen beforehand, just to be fair) is more on the side of dance-pop with techo beats. Off-kilter from the same pop-punk I remember four/five years ago, I can't say that I enjoy the new Simple Plan album. BUT, they knew their game on Monday night. They knew they were supposed to make you dance, they knew that they're weren't supposed to take themselves ultra-seriously, and they knew that when it comes to high energetic pop-punk or dance-pop, it's all about crowd participation. These Canadian heartthrobs are keen on the tricks and knowing of their limits. I give them props.
The best moment of the night - even though I missed it ... I get distracted easily - was when Pierre from SP said to the crowd "The Graduate is good, maybe TOO good." For all the ICON label folk there, for all the hardcore fans (like us three, and the handfuls of others we ran into in the bathroom), and the impressionable tweens, words like these carry more weight than you can put on a price.
After the show we hung out for a bit, caught up with some friends. I met a girl, Katie, who was hanging out with The Grads that night, that works for Atlantic. And just happened to graduate from the same high school as Jac and I did. Small, small world.
We said our goodbyes and promises for the future, made our way back to my car in Brooklyn, and stopped in to say hi/bye to Lullo, who was sicky and couldn't make it to the show. Sigh. A night well spent. NYC is remarkable place, and a part of me misses it every time I leave. It's a city of wonders, friends, adventures and 6-buck cans of Bud Light. But it's alway a good time.
The new City and Colour album is streaming on myspace, but I'm waiting until Feb. 12th so I can get my own copy. Ha, so there. I haven't downloaded anything (unless for reviewing/promotional purposes) since before the New Year, and I am sticking to this moral code. I want to support my music and stop being hypocritical, and I'm pretty damn proud of myself for actually following through on a goal of mine. It's brought new life and excitement to purchasing CDs, and I recommend everyone give it a try.
I'm getting pumped to see The Graduate again. I was beginning to get nervous that it would be half a year before we see them again. But alas! God loves us, or something. I mean, the tour IS with Simple Plan, but that can be nothing sort of amusing, so I think it'll be a great, great night nonetheless. Jac and I will be venturing up to Philly on a school night, but I am very OK with this.
And putting this in here so I don't forget: April 19th is Record Store Day. Pay tribute to your favorite little record shop. Mine is Soundgarden in Fells Point. Normally, it would be the Record & Tape Traders a couple minutes from my apartment, but it was bought out and I haven't been there since.
Tonight I'm spending time/drinking with my co-workers at this Irish Pub thing ... I don't even really know what it is, but I'm sure it'll be fun. I love my day job, and especially the people I work with. Good to have the week over, good to have things under control, and good to be feeling good. Now if only I can get up off my couch and clean my apartment ....
The Spitalfield farewell tour stop in B-more (with The Graduate and The Forecast) was easily one of the most fun times I've had all year. Thanks to everyone and anyone who made the night awesome. These memories are going in the personal storage bank. Lock and key.
This makes me excited to get our shows going again, and I really needed that extra burst of faith and hope. The laborious fruits of local shows used to be what I lived for. Working at Hamilton both reinforced and crushed that energy for me, and I'm working to get back up to a point where I get that same rush of fulfillment and purpose.
I'm stuck in the Chicago airport waiting for my plane back to BWI. Thanks to some drizzle, our flight was delayed two hours. But I'm thrilled to go home. But I really need a cigarette. But Piebald broke up, so it's not like things are awesome anyway. But I can't venture outside. But, yeah, this sucks.
This made me feel a bit better. This and a phone call from Nathan, my llama-friend. I told him I would do anything to be at a show right now. He called me to let me listen to a bit of his Ace Enders performance.
Corey covered one of my favorite Brand New songs ("Ok I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don't"). It must be a psychic connection or something. And there are moments where he sounds nearly as good as Jesse. A sign that he's got some incredible chords? A sign that The Grads are well-worthy of awesomeness. I think so.