Friday, August 07, 2009

 

AltCom Festival, Somerville Theater, 5.8.09 Live Review

AltCom Festival, Somerville Theater, 5.8.09 Live Review
By Jordan Clifford
clifford.jordan@gmail.com

Friday May 8th
Janeane Garofalo, Jamie Kilstein, Leo Allen and Myq Kaplan & Micah Sherman.

I arrived at the Somerville Theater 45 minutes early in hopes that the funniest part of the AltCom Festival would be outside before the show. Not to undermine the billed performers, but maybe if the Theater had billed “Crazed Right-Wing Teabaggers” on the marquee alongside Janeane Garofalo’s name, they would have shown up and caused the huge scene that they so ineffectually threatened . Unfortunately, the only teabagging I would see that night would be… when I got some tea after the show, you pervert. I had been so looking forward to the laughable protest signs of the nutjobs who, deserving every intended pun, were estimated by the entendre-happy media to arrive in hundreds and destroy Garofalo’s mostly apolitical stand-up with incompetent heckles. Instead, the only protests came when the lively Somerville audience slowly realized that the theater stopped selling beer somewhere between 9 and 10pm.

The festival was hosted by the largely unprotested duo of Myq Kaplan and Micah Sherman, two homegrown favorites that recently migrated to New York. With Kaplan on the ole comedy geetar and both on vocals, they proved that Jews are still just as funny as New Zealander’s with a song about the conventions of hack comedy (a brave move in a comedy song), and Sherman’s self-deprecating song about his awkward looks.

I was excited to see Leo Allen, a remnant thankfully recovered from the canceled May 7th show, and Jamie Kilstein, both well known in New York’s “alt com” scene. Allen, with credits from UCB, SNL and Comedy Central, is a casual neurotic who concluded that Microsoft Word was designed by anti-Semetic Rastafarians (based partially on the program’s assumption that the word ‘jew’ is a verb) and reacts violently in his head to imagined confrontations (deciding the stupidest thing to think about someone else is “he’s so judgmental!”). Jamie Kilstein, a last name that is itself anti-Semetic, hit his highest with religious questions. Like jokes about the “what’s next?” conservative position on gays being unnatural, Kilstein asked about how “natural” can the son of God who was born of a virgin possibly be?

As good as these acts were, Janeane Garofalo, whose expected death-by-heckle via misguided historical recreationists did not come to pass, completely owned the night. Her enthusiasm resonated through the audience in a physical way, starting most literally when she ran through the isles like the cheerleader she never wanted to be, climbing back on stage while covering her backside to the exclamation, “never let them see your taint.”
Addressing the much-overblown Teabagger talk, she began with “Welcome and, as always, white power” - a statement as subtle as her original MSNBC claim. She recounted how earlier, the lone protester, Ken Pittman, a small-time conservative radio host who apparently orchestrated the entirely fabricated protest, followed her into a Starbucks with a camera demanding for Bill O’Reilly that she apologize. “Can you imagine?” she said in a tone of adorable pomp, mocking such a preposterous idea, and proceeded to call the queasy sickness in her stomach “the ole Hannity’s” or “the Glenn Becks.”

What surfaced through the hype of her caricature as a loud-mouthed liberal hard-ass is that it isn’t Garofalo’s politics that make her popular and infamous, it’s her personality. Of course she’s a loud-mouthed liberal hard-ass, but in the best, most endearing and purest sense. Her set is political when it needs to be, social commentary when it strikes her, and any number of other things when - and only when - it is randomly woven into her tangential tapestry of a set. Less a set than it is Garofalo loosening the spout for as long as they’ll let her talk, she is admittedly unaware of time on stage and is herself unaware, after some frequently long and multi-branched tangents, of what she’s talking about.

Personal insights, such as “life’s too short not to try anti-depressants” and that Twitter is narcissism from people who don’t have the self-hate to recognize it, are interrupted with abrupt exclamations of “Oh Wait! Listen to this!” segueing into how Natalie Portman is made of porcelain and has but a mere suggestion of genitals (“like a dent in a car door”), or “-oh by the way, when will David Caruso get his Emmy?” make her set endlessly entertaining.

Garofalo is a thinker, and maybe as a byproduct she’s a comedian – or as she puts it, she’s “very stupid, but intellectually curious.” She equates the g-string with carrying buckets of rocks up a hill and, once at the top, howling, “Yes to the Patriarchy!” She uses effective, precise language, like the word “precise” in describing the burning pain of freshening her lady bits with hand sanitizer in a public bathroom. She narrows her childhood stint with religion as rejecting life, and makes sense of religion by thinking of God as an adolescent boy with Aspergers, which is as perfect a philosophical view as any, but funnier and truer than most.

Her closing bit warned us not to wear flip-flops because when it’s time for the rapture, or fast-running zombies, or the ape uprising (whichever comes first, I suppose), we won’t be able to get away. If the threat of right-wing conservative idiots protesting in hordes and then wimping out is any indication, the apes are among us, but they no longer have the interest for an uprising.

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Summer Comedy Preview


Summer Comedy Preview
By Jordan Clifford
05/17/09

With the AltComFest behind us and the BostComFest waiting in the A/C until summer officially ends, it might seem that the only jokes now are on those hilarious popsicle sticks. While it doesn’t get too much better, Boston’s comedy scene has plenty to peel you from your fan-side seat at home.

The Wilbur Theatre has the big names as usual, but if Carlos Mencia’s “humor” hasn’t made you laugh since… ever, Kristen Schaal and Eugene Mirman will bring their somewhat absurd comedy to the otherwise mainstream venue on June 26. Cream from the New York crop and cast in the Flight of the Conchords, these two on one bill is a comedy cream dream. For more As Seen On TV, catch Tracy Morgan, who is crazy, on August 8, and Dave Attell, one of the most consistently funny (and/or drunk) stand-ups, August 14.

The guys in Anderson Comedy, producers/hosts of The Gas at the Great Scott (and approximately 400 other shows a month), are amping up their already good Fridays with touring headliners. On May 22 is Christian Finnegan (of VH1, Comedy Central and being-really-funny fame) and June 19 is Rob Cantrell (Last Comic Standing, the Marijuana-logues).

The newly opened Tommy’s Comedy Lounge is literally taking the place of the old Comedy Connection, located in its original room, the Charles Playhouse. Their first season is a merging of old generation and new, a return to the local-based original model. It doesn’t get more original model than Steve Sweeney on June 5-6, and Tony V on June 26-27.

The staple venues are always dependable, but more specifically: Mottley’s lets you feel good about your formative years by laughing at someone else’s with monthly installments of “Mortified”, the therapeutic journal-reading show, June 4, July 9, August 13. Speaking of feel good, celebrate Pride Weekend with host Erin Judge, June 12-13.
Fast-rising star Myq Kaplan is back at his old spot, the Comedy Studio, on June 6; and following Nelly’s summer heat-induced advice, Improv Boston has Naked Comedy on the first Wednesday of each month.

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Why Made? - Balkan Beat Box remix review


Balkan Beat Box – Nu Made (remixes)
By Jordan Clifford for The Weekly Dig

Remixing BBB is a confusing concept: Remixes render things more danceable, but BBB, a gypsy-klez-funk hybrid, is itself a sort of remix project (of traditional/modern, live/taped, cultures, genres) and has always equaled the dancinist party around. So why a remix album? Well for one thing, it features the unreleased “Ramallah-Tel Aviv,” written to heal the Israeli-Palestinian divide, and until that happens is at least a good song. For another thing, the super fun “Red Bula,” a mash-mix-up of B3 and the Romanian trad-style Mahala Rai Banda, is as good a song as they’ve ever produced. Then there are the remixes, which I guess serve as filler for those two new essentials.
Among the otherwise hit-or-miss collection of already dance-floor worthy favs mixed up by an assortment of DJs and producers who often add as much as they subtract, “Joro Boro” stands out because it was cut and collaged by BBB themselves into new melodies as a song distinct from the original. Alternately, "Habibi Min Zaman (BBB Remix)" doesn't diverge enough, with the disappointing exception of a new repetitiveness, while "Adir Adirim (Nickodemus Remix)" gains a beautiful oud solo that seems now to fill a void from the original, but at the expensive of the percussion. The new beat takes it off the gypsy dance floor and into the club, which is a downgrade, even if that was their goal.
Even with little discernible reason for the collection, if this noble attempt at extending the dance party means another live tour, that’s reason enough.

Appearing April 1st @ The Paradise, Allston, MA.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

 

N.A.S.A. preview


N.A.S.A. live preview
Jordan Clifford


N.A.S.A is a party music collabo between Squeak E. Clean and DJ Zegon and everyone they’ve ever heard of, ever. N.A.S.A. stands for North America/South America, though for all the exploration of star power, you’d think it stands for whatever the real NASA stands for. Their guests for The Spirit of Apollo reads like their Myspace Top 40 Friends: David Byrne, Kanye West, Tom Waits, Karen O, Kool Keith, Cali 2na, Gift of Gab, Z-Trip, Chuck D, Ras Congo, Seu Jorge, E-40, DJ Swamp, Barbie Hatch, John Frusciante, KRS-One, Fatlip, Slim Kid Tre, Santogold, Lykke Li, Sizzla, Lovefoxxx, George Clinton, Spank Rock, M.I.A., Nick Zinner, Kool Kojak, DJ Babao, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, DJ Qbert, The Cool Kids, Scarface, DJ AM, RZA, Method Man, Ghostface Killah AND Ol’ Dirty Bastard. All appear on the album, but won’t appear at Harper’s Ferry on March 11th. Be sure to friend them on Myspace and you might be featured on their next album.

N.A.S.A. appearing at Harper's Ferry on March 11th.

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Passion Pit - new local music blurb


PASSION PIT
by Jordan Clifford

The only thing in Passion Pit’s Myspace “Sounds Like” section is a picture of George and Weezie from “The Jeffersons.” While arguably every group of kids from Cambridge, MA is influenced by black television comedy, the reference to “movin’ on up” pretty accurately describes this music. It’s airy and fun, and the band is rising higher and faster than “The Jeffersons” TV ratings. “Passion Pit play the type of pop that taps directly into the joy centers of the brain. Their infectious single "Sleepyhead" would work plastered all over Top 40 radio.” – The Weekly Dig

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The Necks @ The ICA 2.13.09 Live Review


If I were, for some reason, stranded on a deserted island and had to pick a series of things to entertain me, I would want Ned Rothenberg and Marty Ehrlich to curate that series of... desert island activities. Even if that scenario never happens (big if), their background as accomplished experimentalists in the New York avant-garde community means good curatin' for the ICA's New Music Now series. So far, it hasn't missed a beat (unless it was an intentionally missed beat). This month's program added Craig Taborn, a main NYC ingredient, and his new Ancients and Moderns Ensemble, with Australian super-star free-form trio The Necks, for another unforgettable show.


This show offered a pairing of two divergent styles of improvising and arrangement that amplified each other. The essence of this began even within Taborn's ensemble—Taborn on piano/electronics, Thomas Morgan on guitar, Ben Gerstein on trombone, Dan Weiss on drums and Chris Speed on clarinet and sax—as its five-part conceptual suite unfolded around the questions of the future versus the past, and "centenary hubris, a Dream Memory of the fin de siècle." The program notes say that the inspiration came from the works of Alexander Calder, the artist who invented the mobile, and Conlon Nancarrow, who perfected human-less mechanical music and composed for player pianos.
The Ancients and Moderns flirted as much with names and themes evident in their thesis as with the fringe of jazz. Amid passages of fluctuating connectedness and intensity between the reeds, trombone and guitar, a crank music box and three dusty-looking turntables at Gerstein's feet played ominously vague, detrital noise alongside various electronic blips and manipulation. Taborn's piano playing was prickly, at times blistering, and often used repeated themes played with one finger, like someone just learning to type, obliterated with flourishes of improvising over Weiss' clamoring drums. Taborn goes from playing a burst of staccato notes to spare notes that set the mood of eerie discovery circulating through the hypnotizing drones of the recorded noise.
By the final section of their uninterrupted suite, it sounded like a band coming slowly back to life after an entire yet-to-be-realized new industrial movement, with the rusty sprinkles of things floating on heavy air behind them, into beautifully meditative jazz melody. After that certain commotion, The Necks would pick up with uncertain exploration.



The Necks make the kind of music that forces reviewers to be creative. It is not enough to simply take the easy route and classify a fully improvisational minimalist trio as unclassifiable (even though I just classified them twice), to define them as outside of whatever the box is. That seems, in a way, more a comment on the reviewer than the music because, of course, if I may paraphrase philosopher Keanu Reeves, there is no box (no spoon, either). I'm no more creative than the next guy sloppily taking notes on what an unbound piano trio sounds like in their moment. The band isn't using notes, so there's no use in taking any. At some point, I decided that instead of trying to see outside the moment, I should close my eyes and be in it with them.
The Necks, who fall sufficiently under the description of "improvised music," are not somewhere in between jazz and ambient, this genre or that. They're in between sleeping and waking, in that creative space where your best ideas come and you forget to write them down because you're too enrapt in being aware that you're asleep to move. It's not unlike falling asleep passenger-side on an hour-long road trip and still somewhat catching the scenery. They exist in the same hypnagogic states they put the listener into, and yet, like the driver, they must be there at present to allow the audience not to be.
It started with a deep low note, as bassist Lloyd Swanton pulled the bow across the strings of his upright, and that's as much as it took. Chris Abrahams dabbled about on piano while whistling his tune along in duet, and Tony Buck tumbled softly over the drum. The set began as it ended; they started playing when they were ready and stopped playing when they were done. Fifteen minutes in, the bass lines changed from bellowing to finger plucking, and the music changed with it. The mingling of cymbal scratching into hand drumming in polyrhythmic pace, into Abrahams' repetition of piano notes like they're stuck until he pounds and the sound flutters. Their improvising makes each change come naturally, like the weather. It expands upon itself before your eyes, and yet you can't watch something grow slowly any more than they can watch you listen to them. Your mind wanders, but you're still there.
Most interesting—and potentially puzzling, appearing as if they're doing nothing interesting at all—is they take their time with each minute of music, as if to give each audio idea, however small, proper justice in the time and length. As the cymbals take the queue to step back for the heightening piano, they melt or devolve or return to a similar arrangement of ideas as when it started. It came from silence, a silence that is as improvised as anything, and must necessarily return to it. Sound minimizes to air. Heads down. Lights down. The band waits, the audience with them. The audience finishes the piece with applause. Outside of that, there are just ideas left in the room, as the audience looks around as if to ask, "Are we home?" as the car pulls into the garage.
THE NECKS WITH CRAIG TABORN'S ANCIENTS AND MODERNS ENSEMBLE
LIVE | AT THE ICA BOSTON
ON | 2.13.09
(pictures from google, not from the show)

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Bill Burr @ the Wilbur Theater 2.6.09 Live Review

Bill Burr @ the Wilbur Theater 2.6.09
by Jordan Clifford

Bill Burr is, admittedly, kind of a fag. At least as defined by his buddies, who will f-bomb him for something like using an umbrella in the rain ("Put your head down and hunch your shoulders up. What are you, a fag??"). He explains that, according to this, doing anything that shows any amount of logic or sensitivity makes you a fag—basically, being a good person. Burr's theory (he's got a lot of theories) is that this kind of thing causes men to die early. But what makes Burr kind of a "fag" is that despite his antisocial ranting, he's not really an asshole at all, and that's what makes him so unsettlingly relatable, so damn funny. If he didn't let his sensitive side win over, he'd be doing comedy specials from prison. While that's not in itself a bad idea (Monique did it, sort of), luckily he's on his first national headlining theater tour with his uninformed theories, and it's the best material he's done so far.

What elevates Burr's comedy is a mastery of the Angry Man Perspective style without being the guy you love to hate, or, like the majority of angry comics, hate to hate. He's the guy whose anger you love, because you think it's shared with you alone. He takes observational comedy to new heights through new lows.

After his long overdue, acclaimed one-hour Comedy Central special, Why Do I Do This? (now on CD/DVD), Burr wrote an entirely new hour for the Uninformed Comedy Tour. While the CD/DVD is great, there's nothing like seeing Burr live. He's a ball of bitter energy, a little dog barking like a Doberman. His personality onstage is vibrant and high-volume, and exciting in the way that it looks as if he's thinking of it for the first time.

It's loaded with his disproportionately huge frustration over the minutiae of life, like how pissed you'd have to be to yell the sentence "Fuck this! I'm buying a pumpkin!" Much of his thoughts are the kind that, if most people said them, would make them sound like a lazy, raving prick (like wanting to shout, "I don't fucking work here!" when expected to add condiments to his own deli sandwich and yet still pay for it). When he says it, he's preaching to the choir. Amen, brother.

And it's not depression that makes Burr feel suicidal, but his exceptional laziness. His story about claiming that he'd make a pie for Thanksgiving, and the crippling annoyance that comes with realizing he actually has to do it, mirrors me at my laziest. The biggest laughs come from these tiny tragedies, the places where Burr puts so perfectly into loud and angry words the exact thoughts you reserved solely for your own deranged head. And yet, even in a room with hundreds of others laughing in recognition, you still think it's just you and Burr who really think these things, just as I'm sure he still thinks he's the only one.

He called his new tour Uninformed because that's what he is, and he wants to be perfectly clear that what we're listening to is a guy who doesn't know shit about anything talk about his theories on everything. In the time of Joe the Plumber and YouTube, where anyone can let ignorant bullshit fly to a decent-sized audience of equally stupid morons, I'd normally say that an uninformed person ranting on topics like homosexuality and population control is absolutely the last thing we need. But uninformed or not, Burr's usually not very far off from the truth.

Burr has also focused his uninformed expertise into a pilot for Comedy Central called Purgatory, where he rants on a different topic each week. At the very least, it will be better than Fox News, and with any luck, just as funny.

Worth mentioning is Burr's hand-picked opener, old friend and Boston-native Tony Moschetto. His set, which I've enjoyed many times, is full of self-deprecating honesty and had the crowd laughing the whole way through. His tales of dating, his personal crotch-shaving preference (the Abe Lincoln—use your imagination), coaching tennis and the many levels of MILFdom are framed within the truth that he lives with his mom in a trailer. It's not that bad though, because, like he says, "We have a skirt around our trailer, because we're not scumbags."

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

 

Total Eclipse of the Heart: The '80s Love Song Sing-Along @ Coolidge Corner Preview

NOW THERE’S ONLY LOVE IN THE DARK

Total Eclipse of the Heart: The '80s Love Song Sing-Along
by JORDAN CLIFFORD

There's a certain amount of bitterness that goes with Valentine's Day—at least, if you're single, or male. Before letting the pink blues get you down, ask yourself this: Are you tired of listening to the sound of your tears? Are you sitting at home, a little bit restless, and dreaming of something wild? And are you nervous, even a little, that the best of all the years have gone by? Well, they have gone by, and they're called the ''80s. But don't worry; we all– every now and then, fall apart, and Coolidge Corner understands.

Typically, if it's midnight on V-Day and you're in a dimly lit room listening to '80s love songs, and it's not a bedroom with a mix CD strategically ordered for optimal seduction, while making your euphemistic cupid's arrow penetrate a heart or something similar, you've probably failed Valentine's Day. Consider, though, how fun this scenario would be with tons of other late-nighters in that dimly lit room, singing joyously along to those '80s classics as your date, a little bit terrified until she sees the look in your eyes, says, "I really need you tonight. Forever's gonna start tonight."

While the day, filled with Hallmark-enabled materialism and the manufacturing of romance, is to real love what boy bands are to real music, that doesn't mean we can't chant their ballads in a mix of irony and passion. Besides, nothing is further from materialism than the '80s, and never before have poets like Tyler, Benatar, Prince, Springfield, Hall, Oates and those hilarious guys known as Air Supply written so profoundly on that thing we call love.

[Total Eclipse of the Heart: The '80s Love Song Sing-Along. Sat 2.14.09. Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard St., Brookline. 617.734.2500. Midnight/$10 all seats, free for members. coolidge.org]

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

 

AZIZ ANSARI @ the middle east downstairs, 1.29.09 Live Review

AZIZ ANSARI at the Middle East Downstairs, 1.29.09 live review
by JORDAN CLIFFORD

Aziz Ansari has been the darling of the new wave of comedy since he jumped in headfirst in 2005. Such buzz often amounts to a pile of hype, but with the pure talent to back it up, Ansari's rise to greatness reminds us that stand-up comedy can lead to more than just horrible sitcoms. He's got enough under his belt to make any man confident, the least of which is his critically acclaimed Human Giant TV program. Thus far, 2009 has seen many progressive firsts in America, and Ansari's "Glow in the Dark" tour, which came to The Middle East on Thursday, is among the best.

The style of Ansari's set was not unlike that of his longtime muse, R. Kelly: ridiculously smooth and sometimes focused on children. He mixes conversational flow with quick punches and turnarounds. He's so comfortable, it's like listening to a friend tell a funny story, and that friend is a professional comedian and is telling it to hundreds of other people in the same room.

A fan of Ansari from the beginning, I was worried that the old 15-minute sets he told while hosting the Upright Citizens Brigade would add up to a full-length show of recycled material. But among classics—like his response to civil rights petitioners on the street ("I kill for gay people, what do you do?")—there was a lot of great new material. He exposes the falsehoods of bedsheet thread counts, a crime equivalent to a drug dealer pinching a bag and deserving an equally violent reaction ("I woulda shot Hotel Linens in the face!"). He also accepts the apparent universal credit that can be taken by all Indians for Slumdog Millionaire and the hypocrisy of MTV censoring a Human Giant sketch about the impossible (and therefore innocent) scenario of being raped by a dinosaur, but not the disturbing offensiveness of shows like Next.

There were two major highlights: his account of making his chubby younger cousin, Harris (who watches shows like Burn Notice to the point where his yearbook quote is "TNT Knows Drama"), as mad as possible on Facebook, and the material Ansari did as his alter-ego, Randy, a comedian character he plays in the upcoming Judd Apatow movie Funny People.

Without exposing too much [Errrrr—Ed.], Randy is literally R. Kelly if he ever—and God willing, he will—did stand-up. Ansari has spent entire shows exploring Kelly, who is either so hilariously unaware of himself or so completely in his own world that he knows exactly what's he's doing. This ongoing character study clearly informed Randy. It's all there: the inexplicable singing of random words, dancing (and spinning) for emphasis and flagrantly funny misogyny. He acts as his own comedy DJ (a technique rarely treaded on unironically) by playing samples that announce his own name. Starting off Randy's set with a Kelly-esque "Fuck Story, AKA a Fuck Tale," he recounts pleasing a lady while underwater in a hot tub, and lamenting that had he died in the course of it, it would've been "the most baller death ever." In perhaps the best audience-interactive segment ever, he continued, asking the enthusiastic and nerdy crowd for suggestions for where Randy could get his dick sucked. Three of them were Star Wars related; Ansari was impressed.

Ansari controlled the crowd despite the saturating music of the multilevel rock club that would have thrown off a lesser comedian's presence. After finishing his normal set, he did a few older bits as a kind of encore. The tour is almost over, but it will produce a live album, one I would surely recommend picking up.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

 

The Dear Hunter - Interview with Casey Crescenzo

Artist Interview: The Dear Hunter
August 10, 2007

The Dear Hunter is one of those bands with one of those names, if you know what I mean. You love it, you hate it, you love to hate it or you hate to love it. The Dear Hunter is actually a character in a fictional story of the band's creation, and the band itself exists as an outlet for an ongoing - wait for it- six act, six album concept piece. Like a child of dysfunctional and divorced parents, The Dear Hunter is the brainchild of Casey Crescenzo, 23-year-old ex-member of emo favorite The Receiving End of Sirens turned do-it-yourself progressive rock one man show.


The Dear Hunter has had a lot of obvious, but to be fair, accurate comparisons to The Mars Volta (and sometimes more appropriately, Coheed and Cambria) in both music and history. Both bands grew out of dissatisfaction of members from a previous, less experimental band (The Receiving End of Sirens and At The Drive In); both original bands were considered on the line of (post-)hardcore/emo (though, in At The Drive In's case, unfairly so - they were not emo, I swear!), driving the exiled members to form a new band to nurture their own vastly more epic, insanely more ambitious prog-rock musical visions; both TDH and TMV make complex, off-kilter music that showcase good to virtuoso musical ability, music that is written in long form, sometimes solo-heavy format that compliment a story or thematic concept for each album; both have singer/songwriters who are seemingly choking on their own ego and self-satisfaction; both make really engaging, daring and worthwhile music.

The most noticeable difference among those superficial similarities is The Dear Hunter's ability to move seamlessly through a variety of musical styles and influences, their concept albums actually having a discernable concept and story where the music at least attempts to appropriately characterize setting, time, character and action – much more like a rock opera than a freak out cerebral concept album (though I'm not taking sides).

The Dear Hunter visited the WERS studio by special request of some of the engineers, though they may have been regretting their previous enthusiasm when the band arrived with the most equipment ever squeezed into a radio studio. The sheer size of the band's arsenal spoke directly to the scope of their ambition and the size of their music, and much like their music, though it seemed like a pain in the ass at first, the performance made the endless instruments, amps and peddles worth it in the end.

I sat down with band leader Casey Crescenzo for what turned into a lengthy interview to talk about the split with Receiving End of Sirens, the direction of The Dear Hunter and what the hell it's all about, Mike Patton and Bjork, and how to be indie but not emo.

WERS: YOU PERFORMED "The Oracles on the Delphi Express," and then "The Church and the Dime," and then "Meeting Miss
Leading." WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO PLAY THESE SONGS?

CASEY CRESCENZO: We were going to do the first song off the record, but we were asked to do the more, I guess, "indie" songs, so we decided not to do the heavier songs and, well, not exactly the softer songs, but the more quirky of what we play.

WERS: DO YOU THINK ABOUT RADIO SINGLES AT ALL?

CC: Not in the classic term, cause that implies that the label will be putting in a lot of money for it. But as far as a song to push, "Church and the Dime" - we actually filmed a video for it - as much as we can have a single, that would be it.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TAKING A SONG OUT OF THE CONTEXT OF YOUR CONCEPT?

It's tough because the record was really written as a record, even though it's obviously divided into songs, it's meant to be listened to as a whole. but it's kind of a necessity, but if i could make a video for the whole record I definitely would.

THAT BRINGS ME TO MY NEXT TOPIC. YOU'RE VERY AMBITIOUS...

Maybe too ambitious.

...I READ THAT ASIDE FROM WANTING TO WRITE THE BOOKS FOR EACH ACT AS A COMPANION THAT YOU WANT TO TRY TO PRODUCE MOVIES FOR EACH.

Definitely. I shot and am doing the video for "The Church and the Dime". Before I was able to be in a band making money i was doing computer graphics and editing in California. It's definitely something that i would like to do. I don't know if it's too ambitious; it's definitely not something i would take on my own like i do the recording and producing, cause i might enjoy filmmaking but i have no idea about the other 99% of what it takes to make a movie.

NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE DO, EVEN THEY MAKE MOVIES. SO YOU RECORDED YOUR FIRST FULL LENGTH ALL BY YOURSELF. SO HOW IS IT DIFFERENT WITH A BAND AND HOW DID THE BAND COME TO BE?

I wrote and recorded the music for the first record while i was still in The Receiving End of Sirens. I never wanted to put a band together while i was in that band cause i didn't want it to be the stereotypical guy in a band side project, and i didn't wanna make my band think i wasn't involved and dedicated. So it was just me in spare time, so having anyone else involved and expecting them to be somewhat devoted would be kind of tough. Things with that band fell apart for me and it was just a really good opportunity because all of the business people were still around and interested from the label to the booking.
It was kind of strange decision on who to involved - first i did a mass email to try and find people. then i started talking to my friends - everyone in the band is a friend of mine - and like with Luke, i called him and we were just talking as friends and i asked him if he plays keyboards, and he said 'yea' and i was like "do you wanna be in the band?", and he was like, "don't you wanna hear me play", and i said, "no, i would just really like to have a friend in the band", and he said "cool".

Having a band is much more inspiring and much more fun, and in a really good way more humbling cause you cant just sit there and let yourself go too far in your ego. you have other people around to check you, and other people to come up with things. there's somebody who can be there to say "that was really bad, do it again".

HOW MUCH OF THE PROCESS IS COLLABORATIVE OR ARE YOU MORE OF A CONDUCTOR?

For this record, i think every song expect for the songs written a few years ago as demos, all of the songs were written on the piano with all of us sitting in my apartment with me fooling around and someone would say they like something and we'd move on from there or call out an idea. It was more like being a conductor, but not nearly as much of a dictatorship, it was really collaborative. I was at the helm cause I had the most stubborn vision.

YOU RERECORDED A BUNCH OF THE DEMOS FOR THE NEW ALBUM - IT'S ACT 2, BUT SOME OF ACT 2 WAS RECORDED BEFORE ACT 1. WAS IT ALL WRITTEN OUT FIRST?

I had what was going to be the story of Act II, and i didn't know it was going to be Act II, but i had the story of what happens in Act II, and that's when i did the demos, and i showed some friends and then as time went on i developed it more and more and i wrote the story out in acts from 1-6. First from 1-4 and then from 1-6 reforming it and dividing it up differently. So after i wrote Act 1 i knew i didn't just wanna rerecorded all the demos, so i just picked the songs from the original demos that had a place in the story and had a place where i and the band was going to be at musically. the story was written and i just knew where those old demos would fit in and what i would have to write lyrically and musically to make it coherent from song to song and from act to act.

TALK ABOUT THE STORY AND THE NAMES IN THE THE STORY

The relationship of the name to the story is that the whole story is basically from the birth and the death of someone and everything in between, and then a little bit after. So Act I is the birth and IS basically focusing on this character as an infant and his Mother. Everyone in the story doesn't really have names - their names are more fitting to their places are in society or what they do, like miss leading and miss terry, or mystery. I don't like saying 'mystery' cause it sounds like she's a stripper. But they're both prostitutes, so their names are more kind of playful and flirtatious, but very obvious of what they are. And then there's the pimp and the priest, which is a single character, which is kind of a two faced - obviously, you can't be a pimp and a priest without being two faced. And then there's the dear hunter, and he doesn't really have a name but it's just what his Mom calls him early on because he kind of has to fend for himself and finds himself, i guess, hunting, but trying to do things for his mother and himself and trying to be the man of family, so she calls him the dear hunter and that's his nick name. But it's not his name or his birth name or anything too deep, it's just what his Mother calls him.

I DON'T LIKE ASKING PEOPLE WHAT THEIR INFLUENCES ARE, BUT THERE ARE SO MANY ASPECTS TO THE ALBUM MUSICALLY AND CONCEPTUALLY, WHAT WOULD BE SOME NOT-SO-OBVIOUS MUSICAL OR WRITING INFLUENCES?

I guess the not-so-obvious - because i guess when you hear the more vaudeville or ragtime parts you might think Paul McCartney, and when you hear the layered vocal harmonies you might think beach boys - but i would say that some of the stuff that maybe isn't expected - maybe it is, i dont know - would be more of Bjork and Mike Patton and Mr. Bungle and bands like that... and Jimi Hendrix, and bands like weather report, and Chick Corea. I think we all like to listen to as much as we can, even if we don't like it, we like to be well rounded. That would be the stuff that doesn't really show but really does goes into inspiring me to write, would be Bjork, is a huge one, and Mike Patton is definitely a second.

IN SONG WRITING OR EXPERIMENTAL STUFF OR THEIR PRODUCTION?

I'd say everything. A big thing for me that Mike Patton does is he's really comfortable with his voice and doing anything he can with it... making any sound he can to fit the music perfectly, even if it's not words. That's something that I'm trying to be more comfortable with, is that if i sing a certain way and it sounds comfortable, not worrying about the way that it sounds, just knowing that it fits and knowing that I'm comfortable with it. Thats another thing that Bjork does too, she's so open with the way she sings, and so expressive. And aside from the that, Bjork's music, the arrangement of Bjork's songs and the production, it's so varied from album to album, especially an album like Vespertine from Homogenic.

HOW MUCH OF A WRITER ARE YOU? HAVE YOU DONE ANY WRITING BEFORE THIS? WAS IT JUST SOMETHING YOU JUMPED INTO BECAUSE OF THE MUISC OR THE MUSIC CAME FROM THE STORY?

I think it's because when i had been writing lyrics i had been more comfortable writing them in, not story form but story telling. A lot of the lyrics in, I guess, the scene today, are, i think the only word is 'emo'. it's all like a bad view of teh world and victim this, or something like that, and just like i like movies that takes the audience out of whatever they're going through and take them somewhere better, i like the idea of music doing that and the lyrics doing that too, and that being somewhat fictional and somewhat fantasy-driven makes me wanna write. And i had never really done any formal writing, i'd never written anything really other than lyrics and music, and i just started getting into it a few years ago.

HOW CLOSELY DOES THE MUSIC FOLLOW THE STORY? DO YOU EXPLORE MORE MUSICALLY THAN LYRICALLY?

I'd say it's a pretty even mix. When we wrote this record it was almost like we knew scenes almost, like what a song was going to try to show. There would be sounds and melodies and allusions to other songs musically that we would use to paint the picture, then the lyrics came really easy because the story was already there sonically, so writing them was just a matter of choosing which words to use to express it without trying to be confusing or trying to be smart.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE LIVE SHOW? IS IT ALWAYS AS COMPLICATED OR IS IT MORE COMPLICATED?

it gets a little more complicated. It's going to get more complicated because i'm thinking of not playing guitar anymore and getting another guitarist and doing more keyboards and stuff vocally. It can vary from night to night depending on how we feel. It might be a really good night and we might decide to try some new things which would involve using a lot more of what we have, but their might be some nights where we just want to do what we're used to and not veer too far from that. I think we all wish it could be a lot more, but it's tough being at the level we're at, playing the sized stages that we're at. We had a cellist for a little while but we had to decide against having that person joining the band, because at the level we're at it's hard to have 6 people on stage with the amount of stuff we have. So until we get to the level that hopefully we can be playing larger theaters, or at least opening for tours like that, we can't really afford to have the kind of show that could match our records, which is kind of a let down for us but hopefully not a let down for anyone else.

IS BEING ON AN INDIE LABEL TOO CONSTRAINING? DO YOU HAVE MAJOR LABEL ASPIRATIONS?

It's weird because being on an indie label is almost like an excuse to have trouble and a good excuse to fail here and there. The disclaimer is that i really do love Triple Crown and the people that work there, but it's almost like being the retarded kid playing baseball, in that people are routing for you but they know that where you're at you could never go too far. The real part of it is that indie labels don't have a lot of money, and when you're a band and you take care of your end of making music, like that's what you're responsible for, and the label is responsible solely for money - putting money behind you, getting your record in places, making sure you can live on tour because you just spent the last 6 months making a record and not getting paid any money to do it. It's tough when you know that that label, their means don't extend very far and you start trying to cut corners. Like the piano i play i bought for 350 dollars off ebay and it's in horrible condition and it sounds pretty bad. if i could have spent even 1000 dollars, i could have gotten something that really would have lasted. That goes for everybody. We're searching through the couch to figure out how much money we have to get pieces of equipment that we need. but then at the same time, if you're on a major label you don't have any excuses; if you haven't packed out 2000 seat venues within 6 months of your record release then everyone's upset at you. So the good thing is that when you're on an indie label, even though your means might not be that great, you have people who totally believe in you and it's a slow build as opposed to a flash in the pan. So i like where we're at. It definitely gets frustrating sometimes when there's things that i know we just can't do that aren't very extravagant at all, even as far as getting t-shirts. But, it's strange because anywhere you go there's gonna be problems.

YOU SANG IN THE RECEIVING END OF SIRENS, RIGHT?

I was one of three vocalists. I actually was the guy who did more of the screaming, and i had never screamed before that band and i never really want to again.

HOW IS IT BEING IN CHARGE OF YOUR CREATIVE VISION COMING FROM BEING IN THE OTHER BAND

The difference is that this band started with me saying that I'm in charge and it's my creative vision. But shortly thereafter, with that as the foundation, collaboration came really easy. I feel in a lot of ways more collaboration in this band than there was in the last band. it's just about getting out in the open that i have a very focused idea of what i want the band to be, they all compliment that and they seek that out instead of seeking out ways to try and combat it. So, i do have this set thing that i need, but in the last band there was no direction from anyone and no set plan or theme behind what we were doing so it was pretty chaotic, and when we would try to write egos between everyone would just be flaring, myself included. But it's totally different now, everyone understands each others egos and flaws and strong-points and everyone plays off of everyones positives instead of tearing away at everyones faults. It's much better now, and being in charge of things has just allowed me to be more comfortable with not being in charge of things, if that makes any sense.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE PROGRESS OF THE STORY FROM THE FIRST ACT TO THE SECOND ACT, AND WHAT/WHEN DO WE HAVE TO LOOK FORWARD TO THE NEXT ACT?

The first one is the foundation; the first act's importance isn't really in the first act, it comes back later and is more alluded to later, you understand how they affected this person later on in his life more than they affected him then. The second act is basically focused around adolescent love and naiveté and ignorance, and all of that, and that will basically be the end of that. There's not going to be any more records about love or girls or anything like that.

WERE YOU WORRIED ABOUT ThAT COMING OFF AS BEING 'EMO'

You know, I actually never thought about it, and then a lot of people in a non-offenseive way said 'that's so emo' and that's fine I guess. I never meant it that way so I'm very comfortable with it being whatever anybody wants to take it as. But singing about girls and about being taken advantage of and greed can be very emo, because it's not very worldly, it's very selfish...

TRUE, BUT AT THE SAMET TIME THAT'S WHAT ALL ROCK OR POP MUSIC HAS BEEN ABOUT FOREVER, BUT EMO TAKES IT TO A PLACE THAT CAN BE DEROGATORY

It's tough because the record is from the perspective of someone else in reality, it's not really my personal beliefs or experiences - it's based on some but it's really more about what's going to help the story. So at that point in the characters life it must be very emo for him, it's a very selfish time and very much a time that when everything is figured out that he would look at things very selfishly. So, i don't know. I don't know if it even gets to the point of being emo because it's blatantly selfish, everyones opinions are blatantly selfish. i don't make any attempts to be genuinely upset, or have the character be in the right. I don't give any excuses for him being selfish, its just the way that that is. And the next record - the only way i can explain it is that it's going to be a lot about war, with no real dealings with what's going on today, it's not like a social commentary on today. It takes place in a war, and as cliche as it is, it's like the war on the outside and the war on the inside are simultaneously being fought.

IS IT A SPECIFIC WAR?

It's World War I

DOES THAT TIME PERIOD HAVE SIGNIFICANCE?

I just really liked that time period musically and visually, and the culture is really inspiring. From art work to everything, and that war especially, just because it was that point in time right before technology was really taking off, so things as far as we're concerned today more primitive. So there was a lot more physical than there was mental things going on, so that was really something i was interested in. And it was back when wars were still wars, not like they are today; the trench war fare and mustard gas are kind of spooky and interesting to me and I wanted to explore that and it was perfect time because it's right at the end of where this story took place.

IS IT IN AMERICA OR EUROPE?

I don't really know. I've always kind of said it took place in France and the boy was French, probably because i was thinking of french prostitutes. But i don't really want to give it a place because i feel like then there would have to be too much done to show this is why it's France. But I would say the closest place that it feels like is France.

YOU RECORDED THE SECOND ALBUM REALLY QUICKLY AFTER THE FIRST, WILL YOU BE KEEPING UP THE SAME SPEED?

Well i'd like to. I told the label i'd like to be able to release a record every 6-12 months and they kind of laughed at me because bands have an 18 month record cycle. So the next record might not be out, but there's going to be a lot of stuff in between. Like we're probably going to do an EP of music that isn't necessarily Act-related, so then maybe we can let ourselves breathe and spend a lot of time on the next record.

www.thedearhunter.com

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Artist Interview: Pressure Cooker

Artist Interview: Pressure Cooker
August 06, 2007

Most people don't draw many connections between New England, an area full of rich white people, and Jamaica or its culture (unless you're counting its tourist spots, which are also filled with rich white people). In fact, New England and New York had one of most surprising and impressive wealths of talented ska bands of the music's third wave in the 90's, from punk/ska to traditional roots and rock steady, the roots of which stem right back to Jamaica in the 1960's. Anyone who knows anything about New England ska should be more than familiar with scene mainstays Pressure Cooker. The problem is that in 2007, most people don't know anything about New England ska, and there is barely a scene left to mainstay on.


Pressure Cooker was and thankfully still is one of the best ska/reggae bands this side of Kingston, which is saying a lot, especially around 1997 when the band got their start.

With an unfortunate dip in the national embrace of traditional Jamaican ska music - a precursor to reggae, popular in 60's dancehalls, though much closer to reggae than the commercial forms of "ska" popularized by No Doubt and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones in America - what is it that keeps Pressure Cooker so dedicated?

"Reggae music is so diverse, it depends on the style you like, but there's something about this style with the horn rhythms and rhythm section, it's something that we all love - love to listen to it, love to play it, and love to promote it," says singer Craig Akira Fujita, "I just pursue that sound. I love it."

Pressure Cooker's main musical influence is the incomparable Jamaican originals, The Skatalites, and it shows in their composition and recording style. "The roots of most of our stuff is the 60's and early 70's rock steady stuff: very acoustic, classic melodies." But 10 years is a long time to commit to the style of a music that some would (wrongly) say is "dead." As long as the material is good and the high-engery live shows keeps things rocking steady, this band is in it for pleasure of the music. "One of the keys to our longevity, and keeping it interesting and fresh for us, is that there's this never ending well of new material that keeps coming. Not only that, but we continue to perform a lot of live shows, and to develop ourselves as musicians, and how we play together as musicians. Everybody is committed to this."

When it comes down to it, the live experience is what Pressure Cooker is all about, in recording and performance alike. They call their sound "organic," saying "we have a focus on what we want it to sound like, and a lot of the time that means using older techniques," the same techniques and equipment used by their 1960's heroes. And like their Studio 1 predecessors, when they record, they record live. But more than that, they perform fantastic live shows, of which they say they've "had the pleasure of creating a dancehall vibe for people so they can really just relax and really let go of their whole pressure, it's like we're cookin down their pressure," a connection to their band name that the singer swears he had only just thought of during this interview. I ask the questions that get the quotable answers. You're welcome, WERS.

Ultimately, despite the ups and downs of whatever semblance of a "scene" there is, Pressure Cooker says "we have our own thing, we're proud of it, and we wanna do it for the people that love it and are inspired by it," as they are themselves. They're not writing "the ring tone song" just yet, and they're not trying to win any races. They are, however, expertly holding down a great sound like few others are these days, and I for one appreciate it, and so should you (I'm talking to you - the one in the Bob Marley shirt).

For their in studio appearance for Local Music Week they played songs "Bully" and "Refugee" from their most recent album, and debuted a new song called "Miss Understanding" from their new batch of tunes which they are very excited about releasing in the near future. In the meantime, look out for their frequent live shows, which should not be missed by fans of any style of reggae, ska, or just plain good music played well, even if you do have a Chingy ring tone on your phone.

www.pressurecooker.net

 

Artist Interview: Andy Palacio

Artist Interview: Andy Palacio
August 07, 2007

Andy Palacio, Belize's most popular musician and passionate cultural preservationist, visited WERS with his band, the Garifuna Collective, to drop some knowledge on a subject of which most American's are completely ignorant - namely, who he is and what he's doing. Andy Palacio decided after involvement in a literacy advocacy program, that the Garifuna language and culture had been experiencing a rapid decline since European colonization. It would be his mission as a social activist and musician to direct his music to the preservation of his culture, a culture which can be found in Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala to name a few. Beginning with a style of dance music called "punta rock", Andy moved forward with his collaborator and producer Ivan Duran to combine the indigenous roots music of the Garifuna culture with African and Latin rhythms to create an infectious style of very danceable, very socially and traditionally conscious soul.

Andy and the Collective flawlessly performed their wonderful music from the recently-released new album called Watina, a landmark for Belize and modern Garifuna music. The music is the best possible combination of West African, Indies and Latin influences, a sweet and consuming groove that is so catchy it makes you want to sing the lyrics composed of a language you didn't even know existed. One of Andy Palacio's cultural goals is the conservation of the Garifuna language, so all songs are sung in traditional language in an attempt to spread awareness and pride in the culture. Palacio says the "deepest meaning comes from success at home," because "every time a child that is 5 years old sings "Lidan Aban" that is helping to keep the language alive, and the vocabulary in motion, and keeping it active." He has personally experienced the disconnection from Garifuna identity that the young are affected by, and he is working hard to reverse that.

From his brilliant new album, the band played the aforementioned "Lidan Aban (Together)," the Honduran-composed, up-tempo song about the preservation of natural resources versus development in a Garifuna village in Honduras called "Miami," and the title track from the album, "Watina."

Andy Palacio continues his quest as official Cultural Ambassador and Deputy Administrator of the National Institute of Culture and History in Belize to instill cultural awareness and protection, fighting for important issues through his genuine and beautiful music.

Bostonians will probably be surprised to know that there is a sizable community of Garifuna people who originated in Honduras and Guatemala living in Boston. The music of the Garifuna Collective is uplifting, soulful and mesmerizing, one of the few artists to come to the WERS studio that had most of the control room wanting to dance.

www.myspace.com/andypalacio

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Artist Interview: Special Teamz

Artist Interview: Special Teamz
August 06, 2007

Hip-hop supergroups in Boston are even rarer than super hip-hop groups in Boston, but Boston hip-hop supergroup Special Teamz covers all the bases and stands tall in the underground. Comprised of Edo G, the Godfather of Boston hip-hop, multi-award nominated Jaysaun and former leader of The Kreators from Dorchester, young but angry overnight success Slaine, and deejay Jayceeoh, Special Teamz represents all different points in Boston, old and new school, and the best of the city.

Their style and lyrics are about as subtle as their self-promotion for their upcoming Duck Down Records debut release, Stereotypez, but with good reason. After debating over different record label contracts, Special Teamz proved they weren't all hype and no substance by passing on more money for a home at indie favorite Duck Down, also home to Boot Camp Clik among other greats, where they knew they'd fit in perfectly, a company that knows the music, the scene and the business, just like they do.

Highlights of their appearance at WERS were the new track "Get Down" and the new-never-before-heard-anywhere debut of "Three Kings," a Young C-produced gem with a beat constructed from a renaissance-style sound, definitely worth checking out.

Music is what brought the Special Teamz together over all parts of this diverse city, says Edo, and their debut Stereotypez is a reflection of what they see Boston as everyday. But if you're planning on downloading the new album, the group has this to say: "Stop downloading, you're taking away from the game. It won't be right unless we really support it. If ya'll tired of hearing that crap thats on the radio that's not from here, that's not a representation of who were are as Bostonians, as New Englanders, lets support ourselves and make the radio play what we want. Stereotypez is a dope album, we put a lot of time into it, we didn't rush it, we searched for the right beats and didnt just slap it together. It's 80-90% new material since we got the Duck Down deal, it's dope." Sounds dope.

The new album will be in stores September 25th, and there will be a special release party for it featuring them, Dre Robinson, Boot Camp Clik, and then some - if you're a hip hop fan this will be the place to be to support the best in local and underground hip hop from Duck Down and Special Teamz.

www.specialteamz.com

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Friday, July 20, 2007

 

John Doe - "A Year In The Wilderness" Album Review


July 19, 2007

John Doe, former leader of L.A. punk icons X, has shifted gears from his punk days in favor of a long and celebrated solo career exploring rootsy country rock, a direction only hinted at in the last efforts of X . Doe's new album, A Year in the Wilderness, incorporates the best of his own history, but also enlists the help of roots rock guitarist Dave Alvin, and Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys. For that pitch-perfect charm so characteristic and unique to much of his work with X, female voices Kathleen Edwards, Jill Sobule and Aimee Mann are woven prominently into many of the songs, nicely complimenting his style. He even shares writing credit with his ex-wife and ex-X-band mate Exene Cervenka, on the bitter sweet "Darling Underdog." That's a lot of X's.

The album opens with an almost confusingly brief piano interlude before one of the albums purest and gutsiest rock numbers, "Hotel Ghost," featuring a raucous guitar solo that Chuck Berry would be proud of. But punk fans shouldn't get too used to the noise because as quickly as it came it is replaced by one of the many slower-paced, reflective (anti-)love ballads, the highlight of which is the lost-in-love "The Golden State," a gorgeous battle-of-the-sexes duet with Kathleen Edwards.

This album is about love if it's about anything, but Doe still leaves room for tales of murder like "The Meanest Man in the World," a haunting song reminiscent of Johnny Cash. John Doe seems as comfortable seeping into your consciousness as he is breaking through its doors, a dynamic quality that Doe abundantly shows through the album's middle stretch. "There's A Hole" and "Lean Out Yr Window" rip through his brooding Nebraskan landscape like a truck convoy, full of piano and guitar driven sing-along choruses, and even some hand-clapping for good measure, before he returns us to the plaintive bite of his dusty, hotel-dwelling swagger.

The majority of the album is a twangy, slide-guitar-laden meditative
collection set at the pace of a man in no hurry to get somewhere fast, likely because he's already been there. A Year in the Wilderness was recorded in less than one month, but the decades of John Doe's experience come through; it sounds weathered and worn, gritty, mature, soulful and contemplative in its content and heart, with a fantastic production to balance. John Doe may be a punk icon, but he's found his soul with the Americana roots sound, and only gets better with age.

www.theejohndoe.com

-Jordan Clifford

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Thomas Dybdahl - Interview and In Studio Wrap Up


July 20, 2007

Thomas Dybdahl has been a bright star rising quickly to international fame through Norway's burgeoning music scene, though his mark has yet to be made on America's fickle musical foreground. Easily comparable to valuable Norwegian imports such as Sondre Lerche, American fans of soulful folk might more easily think of Damien Rice when they hear the subdued power of Dybdahl's sound.

Flying in from Norway for a very short engagement in the U.S., armed only with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica (a far cry from his full and swinging band), WERS was Dybdahl's first stop before a show at The Paradise and then Living Room in NYC where he had previously played with Sondre Lerche on their successful tour together. Though he spends most of his time at home, Dybdahl says he comes to New York specifically to write music. "I just like the vibe there," he says, "there's so much happening." Thomas actually named one of his albums One Day You'll Dance For Me, New York City, but when asked if this title indicated his intentions for this visit, he opted for a less goal-oriented approach. "I'm not out there to conquer the states, I just want to show people my music," admitting that it's the journey and not the destination, the only goal being to "just have fun on the way there."

Inspiration for his acclaimed album Science doesn't come souly (bad pun intended) from New York, as he explained about his song "U," an homage to soul greats D'Angelo, Prince and Al Green. And a worthy homage it is. Thomas has an innocent sensuality to his voice, taking long breaths while wandering through a few repeated phrases of gratitude to the trifecta of modern soul.

I had the unique opportunity as someone in the studio with free hands and a pair of house keys to play accompaniment on his fantastic song "Cecilia," instructed by a carefree Dybdahl only to go with the pace and experiment when needed. Maybe I, as a writer, just can't keep the beat, or house key percussion worked better in theory than it did live, but unfortunately my Norwegian music career was short-lived when Thomas burst out laughing and had to start over.

The set ended with a lovely piece for which he admitted ripping off music from Mozart's Requiem. In "Still My Body Aches," Dybdahl's voice echoed the title, sending out small explosions, and weaving in and out of high and low notes.

Though Thomas Dybdahl has yet to be given the credit he deserves in America for his award-winning sound, coming to the States from the height of popularity in Norway is just another learning experience for him. "It's like starting from scratch, almost. It's a nice feeling to be able to play to people without them having any...preconception about you."

www.thomasdybdahl.com

-Jordan Clifford

For the article on WERS.org and pictures of the studio session, go here

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Monday, July 16, 2007

 

Rilo Kiley "Under The Black Light" New Music Forecast 07/16/07


New Music Forecast
This is pretty much a summary of a band bio, including notable achievements, generally accepted categorizations, interesting or quirky facts or stories, etc to make the ignorant reader of wers.org interested in a band. Any inaccuracies on my part should be taken up with the multiple other websites I got my 4th hand knowledge from.


Rilo Kiley

How often do the lives of child stars end in anything but tears, let alone, god forbid, a bright future? What are the odds that two child stars would get together to form a rock band? With the exception of The Coreys, a band I'm hoping to dream into existence, indie rockers Rilo Kiley are the only ones exploring that particular niche, and doing it well. While the status of fronting band members Jenny Lewis (vocals, guitar, keyboards, "Troop Beverly Hills") and Blake Sennett (guitar, vocals, "Salute Your Shorts" and "Boy Meets World") as child "stars" may be debatable, their rising status on the indie pop/rock scene is not, a point that their forthcoming album Under The Black Light will no doubt solidify.

Drawing from many influences including country and jazz, their sound varies from lo-fi coffee house to polished hook-heavy pop, with some strings and horns thrown in for good measure. Their rock star status and label status both seem to follow parallel to their musical evolution into Major, going from the extreme indie and the ultra hip Saddle Creek, home to Bright Eyes and other celebrated indie names, to their own Warner Bros.-distruted Brute/Beaute label.

Walking the line between cynical hipsters and light-hearted folk-pop, the usually catchy Rilo Kiley have deservedly been to some degree darlings of the Pitchfork-influenced rock world, covering wider ground as their music develops with layers of appropriately distributed gloss, without losing their edge. The fantastic vocals of Jenny Lewis define the Rilo Kiley sound, and she continues to deliver style and talent along with her band mates. For an example of the bouncy, crooner-rock stylings of their new album (available 8/21/07), look no further than their groovy, sexy new single "The Moneymaker", it will have you shaking yours (your money maker, that is).

With ties and collaborations with Bright Eyes and The Postal Service, appearances on Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel and 3 acclaimed indie pop albums under their belt and major label support, Rilo Kiley's profile is reaching levels that even starring in "Salute Your Shorts" can't match.

www.rilokiley.com

-Jordan Clifford

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The Cast of "Side By Side By Sondheim" on WERS 07/08/09

July 08, 2007

Boston is known for its lively and varied arts culture during the months of the school semesters, but when those hordes of students leave and the dust settles, what’s left to do in the summer? That's the question the New Repertory Theater in Watertown sought to answer with its production of Side By Side By Sondheim, the theater's first ever summer production.

Side by Side by Sondheim is a musical review of Stephen Sondheim, perhaps the best and most influential lyricist and composer in the history of Broadway, combining some of his most famous songs from his early body of work including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Gypsy, Pacific Overtures, West Side Story, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, and many other obscure numbers. There is something for everyone. This was a logical choice for the summer said Rick Lombardo, Artistic Director of The New Repertory Theater, because "Sondheim is the favorite of Boston bar none".

The three-member cast is comprised of Leigh Barrett, Maryann Zschau, Brendan McNab, all three thought to be "the prime Sondheim interpreters." Along with show pianist Todd Gordon and Rick Lombardo, they visited the WERS studio for Jonathan Colby's show "Standing Room Only". This was a particularly interesting interview because Colby himself was chosen to be the narrator of Side By Side because of his seemingly bottomless knowledge of Sondheim trivia and place in the Boston theater community.

To display the talent of Sondheim, who has revolutionized musical theater for the last 35 years, and of the stellar cast, each performed a solo tune from their review. Maryann Zschau sang a beautiful "I Never Do Anything Twice” from The Seven Percent Solution. Following that Leigh Barrett performed the popular "Another Hundred People" from the influential show Company, and Brendan McNab did "I Remember" from Evening Primrose. The three talents teamed-up for “Everybody Says Don’t” from Anyone Can Whistle, and closed the set with a bit from the eponymous “Side by Side."

The cast got along great with their fellow cast member Jonathan Colby and informative conversation about the show and the history flowed. Lombardo commented that "Side by Side is about his early to mid work, not including the 'mature' later work," while Colby and others drew connections between the reviews early-yet-astoundingly-brilliant songs and those of the later work, like Sweeney Todd. Sondheim himself is a passionate composer and lyricist, and "arouses a lot of passion from musical theater lovers" says Lombardo. Anyone who loves musical theater, or just the best music and lyrics from the unquestioned master, Side by Side by Sondheim is playing through July 22nd at the New Repertory Theater, and is perfect entertainment for the summer.

www.newrep.org

-Jordan Clifford

To view pictures of the performance with Leigh Barrett, Brendan McNab, and Maryann Zschau, go here

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Reports (Boston Band) on WERS 07/09/07

This band insisted on a name that makes it frustratingly impossible to search for them online. Fortunately, for your own sanity, there isn't much to be found online yet anyway, so just enjoy the fiscal charts, consumer statistics and congressional webpages that come up instead.
Hopefully this will add to there online presence, making it the 3rd relevant hit for them. I wish they had more press because I really liked them.

Artist Interview/Live Mix Wrap-Up at WERS 07/09/07:

When the words "I like it loud" were jokingly proclaimed by Reports' deceivingly coy-looking bassist, Ben 'Rocco' Marci, during sound check for their WERS set, I should have known then that those would be the last words I'd hear for the night. Everything thereafter was muffled by a ringing in my ears, but that's OK because I also like it loud, and I'm not quite as fond of my eardrums.

The Reports sound is a maelstrom of bristling guitar riffs, meaty bass and heavy drums with symbols to spare, but are bouncy and catchy enough to make any disconnected hipster tap their feet (even while plugging their ears). Their set at WERS, in support of their album Mosquito Nets - which displays equal parts Oneida, Mission of Burma and Sonic Youth - hit the ground running with a two-part number called "Move and Glow." The psychedelicated "Yr Honor" plundered its way through plugged ears, and the more poppy toe-tapper, "Quarters," finished things off with a consolatory bang, like an older kid who might rough you up a bit, but will buy you a beer afterwards. If their sound isn't totally balls-to-the-wall, it's at least balls-to-the-closest-available-surface.

Reports is a Boston/Somerville band made up of at least twelve rotating members (all staples of the scene themselves), but performed in studio as a trio. Songwriter Martin Pavlinic explained, after the band recorded the album as a four-piece, they decided "to try something different," and constantly change the line-up, "rotating as an experiment." The experiment turned out to be a success, resulting in variations on their loosely-played garage rock, sometimes including two drummers, extra guitars and, for the first time at their upcoming July 17th Great Scott show, a keyboard player.

The fun they're having with making music extends from their evolving shows to their record label - Paper Cities, an almost exclusively vinyl start-up headed by Reports founded Martin Pavlinic. Owning Paper Cities makes it "something that is really hands on and special," as if saying to music fans, "we made this ourselves, please enjoy it." Though, in tune with their musical collective philosophy, the album is available digitally for free on Inman Street Records - if you like that kind of thing. These attitudes go hand-in-hand with their heavy involvement in the Boston music scene, which they describe as "under-appreciated." Marci adds that "people underestimate how complex and how many facets it has... it has multiple scenes and it's interesting to see how they interact," words that could definitely be applied to the band itself.

http://papercities.org/reports/
-Jordan Clifford

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WERS Radio

I recently started writing band interviews, in studio live performance wrap-ups, album reviews and "new music forecasts" for Emerson's famed WERS (www.wers.org) Independent radio, one of the most popular stations in all of Boston.
I will be posting whatever I write for them here, regardless of the context being strange. I will also be posting full interviews with bands of interest (because why waste it, right?) that are either abridged or left out almost completely for WERS purposes. Perhaps that will bring this little blog that couldn't a few more hits.

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