November 6, 2009

Live Review: The Lifeline

The 44th Ward // Chicago, IL // Oct. 9, 2009

The Lifeline

It's a damn shame that naked emotion in rock has been given such a bad rap. After all the corporate misery of the early 2000s, it's pretty hard to be sad about anything in a way that's not cliché. Sure, under certain circumstances you can get away with it – like if you're from Canada or if you only record albums in log cabins on scratchy eight-tracks – but for the most part songwriters treat their discontent at a distance.

Not so for The Lifeline. Their very existence is a big fuck you to the manufacturing of bands like My Chemical Romance. This self-made, unsigned fivesome adopts the semi-goth aesthetic, but packs it with real talent and real affect. Their unplugged gig at the 44th Ward demonstrated a spectacular craftsmanship and attention to detail that would blow all sorts of "emo" out of the water.

The atmosphere of the 44th Ward's back room accompanied the set appropriately. The band was barely lit by anything other than red candlelight, and the drum platform was framed with black stage curtains. It was like a séance, only no one asked me if I knew a dead person with a "J" name. Luckily, the band members themselves had no presumptions of morbidity. After all, who says dedicated musicians can't wear all black and tune their guitars by candlelight every now and again?

"It's kind of funny to play these songs like this," Ryan Hope, guitarist and lead vocalist, said of the mostly acoustic setup (the bass was the only electric instrument). "We're usually a balls-out rock band. But I always say if your songs don't translate to this, you've got to go back to the drawing board." While "unplugged set" may evoke the image of a relaxed, slow performance, the Lifeline delivered no such thing. The clean sound never dampened the band's energy, instead allowing Hope's powerful voice and conservatory-trained Rebecca Faber's violin to become the primary forces propelling each song forward. Hope soared along at the top of his range, never breaking or wavering out of key. Most notably on "Romeo and Juliet," Faber's violin flickered commandingly over the other instrumentation. Each song retained a meticulous urgency as the band demonstrated nakedly their prowess for rawness and drama – both good things for once.

-Review and photo by Sasha Geffen

Live Review: Pine and Battery, Oona, The Hi Nobles

Bottom of the Hill // San Francisco, CA // Oct. 30, 2009

Pine and Battery released their newest CD with some Halloween spirit on Oct. 30. Due to the Bay Bridge sucking, it was shut down for the weekend, I was skeptical about the night’s turnout. I arrived at Bottom of the Hill where a full crowd was gathered, dressed in full Halloween costumes, and ready to party. The Hi Nobles warmed up the crowd with their garage soul, classic punk rock. It’s been a while since I’ve seen REAL punk being laid down, without emo or screamo BS. I worked Warped Tour for five years and the Hi Nobles were definitely raw refreshment punching you in the eye.
Pine and Battery

Next up was the sultry Oona. It nice to see a beautiful woman on stage that has a voice that sounds just as sweet. Oona is a musical elixir with belting vocals somewhere between Tori Amos and Janis Joplin, with abstract sparky dance moves like Mars Volta and a pinch of emcee. I can’t tell you what genre I place her music in, and I like that.

Fans waiting for Pine and Battery’s CD release set got a treat. In costume as Skid Row, Jeff Campbell – lead vocals and guitar – hammered out tunes in a strong voice, and just as quickly, smoothly turned it down to serenade the fans. The musicianship on stage was masterful and fun to watch. Andy Weller rocked classic guitar riffs and shredded solos. Rick Munoz, drums, was very entertaining. I rarely boast about a drummer, but Rick is a damn sharp hitter. No fucking metronome click needed here. AJ Leighton’s bass lines were the thick glue that held it all together. Everyone on stage had great skill, it wasn’t one or two carrying the slackers, it was all-four-as-one creating a cohesive solid sound.
New Montgomery

New Montgomery closed the night down tighter than the Bay Bridge, which forced me to leave early to make it back home in the East Bay! I got the first few songs, but wanted more. New Montgomery has an interesting sound that lingers with you for the rest of the night. Sorry to leave, New Montgomery, I heard you only got better.

-Review and photos by Rosalyn Lee

November 5, 2009

News: SXSW showcase deadline is tomorrow (11/6), discount registration ends Nov. 13

As Smokey Robinson prepares his keynote address for South by Southwest Week 2010, musicians should be aware that the deadline to apply for a showcase at the annual conference and festival is Friday, Nov. 6th! Apply through Sonicbids, the official online music submission partner for SXSW 2010.

Robinson will address the festival on Thursday, March 18. The music festival is set to run from Wednesday, March 17, to Saturday, March 20, in Austin.

The discount registration deadline for anyone else ends Nov. 13.

Check out the CDs we got in the office today

Natural Breakdown - All the Paths
Cole Mitchell - Primordial Reckoning
Simple - WKNC Sessions Live: April 5, 2009
Amanda White - Toyshop
Shh... This is a Library - Dream Big
Wake Up Lucid - Look Alive People
Brendan Hogan - Long Night Coming
Two Virgins - Two Virgins
Eyal Maoz's Edom - Hope and Destruction
Julie Kinscheck - Grace with Jazz on Top

Live Review: Mayday Parade

Derek Sanders commands the crowd to throw their hands up.

El Corazon // Seattle, WA // Oct. 8, 2009

I entered El Corazon welcomed by a sea of sweaty, middle-to-high school kids electric with anticipation for the pop-punk five-piece, Mayday Parade. The set started like any run-of-the-mill teeny show: bouncy beats, lovesick lyrics and hormonal teenagers releasing shrieks of delight, until somewhere along the third song (“The Silence”), guitar-driven melodies arched themselves into a song I caught myself enjoying.

Guitarist Alex Garcia proved himself talented and creative for a genre that’s been confined to the same three-chord style songwriting. Later on, front man Derek Sanders proved that he’s more than just a pretty face by bringing out a keyboard during a mid-set slowdown (“Miserable at Best”) that effectively climaxed to the whole lineup joining in for the last chorus of the song. All throughout the set, drummer Jake Bundrick blasted beats unfamiliar to traditional pop-punk sounds.

Alex Garcia's delightfully uncharacteristic lead lines set Mayday Parade apart.

As performers, the band’s overall energy is a perfect storm. Individually, each member commands his own 3'x3' section of the stage in a way that no matter where you look, there is something to watch. It sounds overwhelming, but in reality it’s purely entertaining. On occasion, the five shows will coordinate and explode into a spectacle of showmanship. By the set’s closing number (“Jersey”), the entire crowd was spellbound by the mixture of high energy music and performance that it forced you to have fun just in case you weren’t already.

Good pop-punk should get more credit. There's endless criticism on stress of image in the scene, and music fans often never allow themselves to get past the angled haircuts and tight jeans to give the music a fighting chance. Mayday Parade is hope that pop-punk can produce quality music despite the focus on packaging and selling bands as a product.


Jaime All Over
Three Cheers
The Silence
Kids in Love
Miserable at Best
Anywhere But Here
When I Get Home
Black Pussy

-By Rosalie Anne Cabison; photos by Maddison Treadwell

Live Review: Art Brut

The Mohawk // Austin, TX // Oct. 25, 2009

A bevy of alcoholic beverages can take a mediocre show from ho hum to hell of a time. Art Brut took that adage to the max at the Mohawk on Sunday, Oct. 25. Frontman Eddie Argos took the stage with a slight slur of the tongue and a sauced swagger indicative of the show he was about to give along side his Art Brut bandmates. In zero to sixty, the booze and electric guitars had fueled a fire under Argos and band – who were on the 10 day of touring for their new album, Art Brut vs. Satan. Incidentally, it was Argos’ birthday.

Argos made no secret of his condition upon finishing his opening tune as he piped in with a musical explanation, “Alcoholics Unanimous.” It’s a fast and loose tune with simple bass lines and high energy guitar combined with Argos’ vocals: it comes off characteristic of classic Iggy Pop. Art Brut went back to blaming it on the alcohol in the humorous and perhaps oddly relatable “Mysterious Brusies.” The lyrics are tongue-in-cheek – but then who hasn’t “fought the floor and the floor won” – and the guitars are easily worthy of a head bob or hip sway.

Argos managed to find his way into the audience, slipping into droll, drunken chronicles of his life experiences – real or fabricated. They were perhaps embellished per the imbibed, but were effectively woven into songs like “DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake.” The songs off Art Brut vs. Satan make it easy for Argos to maintain his confessional lyricism and never-to-grow-up side, while guitarists Ian Catskilkin and Jeff Future get to toy with art riffs to and fro. The band rounded out the show with fan pleasers like “Emily Kane” for good measure. Just as the new album is surprisingly comforting in its eccentricity and punky nostalgia, Art Brut's show strongly followed suit – cheers to that.

-Tara Lacey

November 4, 2009

Live Review: The Idyllists

Hotel Cafe // Hollywood, CA // Oct. 2, 2009

Hollywood was filled to the brim with concert attendees and bar-hoppers on the night of Oct. 2. Everyone seemed fueled by the love of music, vodka tonics and often times, both. Hotel Café, a small venue surrounded by chic taverns and record stores, was occupied by a fun-loving crowd, all grasping their drinks and waiting for that night’s act to fulfill their musical cravings.

The Idyllists, a band consisting of four musicians from Los Angeles, enthusiastically performed their set with sheer ardor and California love; their ticket sales going directly to the L.A. County Firefighter Memorial Fund. Wearing skinny black suits and '50s spectacles, the Idyllists opened up with “Honey Please,” a song more delectable than any drink offered at Hotel Café. The crowd, steadily growing as the night went on, sang along with the crowd-hitters, “Sweet Loretta,” an Irish-inspired lament, and “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Someday,” a sweet and short ballad that focused on the jarred equilibrium relationships seem to bring; the crowd sang along to the bittersweet lyrics and danced to the toe-tapping tunes.

Dancing with fellow crowdmates, I felt as though I was transported back to a time where all anyone focused on was the jubilation that pop music brings. The Idyllists performed in a manner that was derived much from the Beatles and Buddy Holly but within their own innovative millennium sound, a sound so addicting and optimistic, that no one could dare to sit down.

-Gina Vaynshteyn

Live Review: The Yearbooks, Bengal Lancer, Netherfriends


Schuba's Tavern // Chicago, IL // Sept. 30, 2009

Let it be said that the back room of Schuba's Tavern in Belmont sports lovely interior décor behind the excellent bands it houses. Everything is wood-trimmed, the walls are nice autumn colors – the whole space glows a little bit. The warm, jangly licks of the Yearbooks' guitars only added to the sensation. The Chicago fivesome seemed to echo poppy post-punk acts like the Strokes, but with a fair degree of nostalgia for the decades preceding the genre. The set included a direct tribute to one of the band's influences in the form of a cover of the eternally catchy “Love My Way” by the Psychedelic Furs. The band carried themselves in boyishly charming fashion throughout, flirting with the audience, bopping around to their own sunny riffs – positively adorable. I'd like a copy in my living room please.

Bengal Lancer

Bengal Lancer amped up the volume with their solid guitar rock with an ear for harmony. Vocalist Robin oscillated several times between her guitar and keyboard. Some of the set's best moments came when she was seated at the latter; the band's flair for the dramatic took flight as they constructed intense melodic dynamics. The band apparently only played in half its true form; musician friends were filling in for both rhythm guitar and drums. The sound did not suffer whatsoever, though their stand-in guitarist seemed a little crowd-shy compared to Robin and bassist and vocalist Ryan. Despite their theatrical sound, Bengal Lancer were not pretentious in the slightest. More often than not, everyone on stage would smile through the songs.


Netherfriends brought the folktronica, armed with guitars, samplers and pedals. Lead vocalist and creative engine Shawn Rosenblatt was possessed of a manic energy as he commanded a good fraction of the onstage equipment. Harmonizing with himself via sampler, he built undeniably catchy hooks out of the undeniably strange. Clicks and beeps and madness all filled the stage atop a solid backbone of pop-rock. Rosenblatt would occasionally thwack an odd apparatus that he claimed he built as a replacement for a broken snare. Whether true accident or gimmick, it was a pleasure to watch. Netherfriends rounded off the psychedelic set with orchestral swoons replete with trumpet loops and other such flourishes. A less silly Animal Collective, they certainly captivated.

-Sasha Geffen

News: Nashville songwriters host Nov. 13 Boston workshop

Hey songwriters, two of Nashville's top songwriters are hosting a workshop at Berklee's Cafe 939 in Boston on Nov. 13 from noon to 3 p.m. Tim Johnson and Jim McCormick have written songs for Kenny Chesney, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson and many other country greats. The free workshop will feature discussion on the art of lyric and melody, insider information on the state of the industry and song critiques. To participate in the song critique portion of the workshop, bring a recording of yours along with 10 copies of the lyrics.

To RSVP, contact Chip Rives at

News: Sony accepting demos in Athens, GA at Nov. 19 expo

SonyMusic Nashville’s A&R Department will accept demos at the Southern Talent Expo on Nov. 19 from 5 to 7 p.m. Bring your music to the UGA Music Business Program’s office in Room 202 in Caldwell Hall. Representatives will listen to each and every recording and select the top 5-10 acts to showcase. The winner of the showcase will have the opportunity to play for top executives at SonyMusic.

November 2, 2009

Live Review: Daptone Records Super Soul Revue (nearly) at CMJ

Lee Fields

The Budos Band // The Menahan Street Band featuring Charles Bradley and Lee Fields // Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens // Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings //

The Knitting Factory // Brooklyn, NY // Oct. 23, 2009

Not quite CMJ, Friday night's Daptone Records Super Soul Revue left a lot of badge holders disappointed. The private showcase at Brooklyn's Knitting Factory turned away crowds of the city's marathonites who thought the CMJ listing that read "Limited Badges Available" just meant that you needed to get there early.

I was almost one of them, arriving nearly an hour early to the show just to be told the party was a private one and badges were not being accepted. With a little bit of schmoozing and waiting around, I talked the promoter into giving me a stamp. Believe me, it was well worth the wait.

Daptone Records is known around the city for its soulful, been-around-the-block singers and well-oriented, hard and heavy funk bands. Friday's revue had all of the major players hitting it big – from the unstoppably funkin' force of the Budos Band, the Motown-inspired young-and-old, black-and-white Menahan Street Band featuring Charles Bradley and Lee Fields, the soul-swinging endlessly classy Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens, right down to the invincible Sharon Jones with Binky Griptite and the Dap-Kings.

As soon as the Budos Band turned up their sound, the venue was packed. The Knitting Factory's space is large and low-lit and the stage is about four feet off of the ground. Perfect for bright lights and lots of dancing. It isn't heavily decorated either; there is absolutely nothing to distract your eyes on their way to the stage.

The Budos Band

The Budos Band's set was disappointingly short, lasting less than an hour. Dressed in black and adorned in sinister Halloween masks, the green lights that blasted through them the entire time they played made their act seem intentionally surreal. There is no denying that this band takes the cake for Daptone Records as one of their best instrumental lineups. Their is something severe about their funk, darkly heavy and densely percussive.

The Menahan Street Band

After the Budos Band, the Menahan Street Band performed. Their style is significantly lighter than the Budos Band, with an old-school soul flair evident in the music behind the Temptations and Marvin Gaye. During their set they had two men come on stage for a few songs. First was Charles Bradley, an obvious James Brown man with wild, processed hair, tight pants and all the rest. He screamed feverishly and danced like he couldn't possibly be twice the age of his backing band. His resonance was one of soulful pain and unintentional heartache, while the second singer Lee Fields' moans were love, love, love and above all a rejoice of everything woman.

Next, Naomi Shelton and her Gospel Queens took the stage. This multi-racial, all-ages surrender-to-soul was fronted by a woman in her seventies with nothing to lose but her gold sequin hat and the black fur lining her violet jacket. This trip back to the days of Soul Train was a classic one, and while Naomi Shelton could shudder out her gospel-inspired vocals, she could also scream with the grit and sweat of everything that was funky about the '60s.

The headliner, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings along with guitarist Binky Griptite, was truly the anticipation of the night. This frantically dancing and singing queen wasn't afraid to bring the audience on stage or get down and dirty with her sassy self. Bereft of the glitz and glamor of the previous act, Jones was perfectly quaint in her dark jean jacket and slacks. Her voice had more power than anyone that night, and it's no surprise that she is Daptone Records' star. Outrageously genius, Jones and Griptite ripped the stage apart and threw it at the audience with a grin. Good thing this was the kind of audience who knew how to throw it right back.

-Review and photos by Amanda Macchia