The infrequently-updated site blog, featuring a range of content including show reviews, musical musings and off-color ramblings on other varied topics.
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
August 7, 2015
As Karl Marx said, the relationship between a band and the context it is playing in is metabolic. Both are changed by the process of interaction. Actually, Karl Marx did not say that. If he did, he certainly was not talking about bands and the venues they hold court in.
In a dark and sweaty club Jon Spencer and comrades shine like a diamond, in this slightly bigger affair with an audience mainly comprised of burly men, they still worked their magic. The immediate and long-term impact of Jon Spencer's ouevre is difficult to overstate. In modern design "form follows function," but what form do you choose if you decide that it should function in any particular way? Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is a lil' bit more out there than their descendents The White Stripes and Black Keys. The trio is operating in a space that's completely their own: mixing a myriad of styles from funk to hippity hop via hard rock to punk to a unique, subversive melange. Less than Spencer's theatrics and the tight machinery that JSPX has always been, your humble narrator was enthralled by Russell Simins pounding like a madman while locking grooves in perfectly. A highlight of the show was him taking over vocal deliveries along with Spencer wildly gesticulating to put his Theremin to good use.
Another enjoyable, chilly Friday night on the beautiful campus of the University of Sydney.
Photo by T.
“We were standing in the middle of the square. There were snipers on the roof. Riot cops all around. People had already been killed. And she turned to me and said: we could die at any second, are you okay with that? And I thought, well, this is where I have to be. So we lived in seconds. We went second by second. It was all that mattered.”
I’m sitting with Mark Marczyk and Marichka Kudriavtseva. For the past twenty minutes or so I’ve asking the couple questions about their time on the Maidan, the site of the Ukrainian protests that turned violent early last year. In the aftermath of the protest Ukraine was invaded by Russian troops, and since that time the country has been at war over annexed territory. While media coverage has dwindled, Marczyk and Kudriavtseva stress to me that the struggle is still happening. People are still fighting.
Later this week the couple – who met on the Maidan - will premier Counting Sheep at Toronto’s Summerworks Festival alongside their gypsy-punk band Lemon Bucket Orkestra. Counting Sheep is an interactive mixed-media performance that uses music, movement, found footage, and food to tell the story of revolutionary Kyiv. Marczyk and Kudriavtseva created the performance as a gateway to their experience as protesters. They wanted to share the intense joy and utter terror that they found on the square.
“Everything I’ve done with my band, from the type of music we play to the way we perform, I learned through Ukraine,” explains Marcyzk, “When I saw what was happening I knew I needed to be there. I wanted to help with the skills I knew best: storytelling and music.”
Marcysk, a Canadian of Ukrainian heritage, was scoring a film near Kyiv during the protests over the government’s decision to bring the country closer to Russia. When Marcysk arrived on The Maidan – Kyiv’s centeral square - he found people of all walks of life, from all areas of the country, who had organized around the cause. The Maidan had turned into a functional tent city. People were sharing food, helping out with various chores, and protecting each other for the greater good of their country. Marcysk was floored by the sense of community and overwhelming warmth of the people. The same night he arrived the first of the protesters were killed.
Marczyk and Kudriavtseva speak about their experiences in a calm and precise manor. Rather than scaring them away the first deaths on the square intensified their need to stay where they were. The two connected because both were writing about their experiences, blogging and sending out reports through news outlets and social media, and because in the wake of everything that happened they began to play music for people living on The Madian.
“Making any art in Ukraine became political,” adds Kudriavtseva. “Most of the artists in the country became protesters and drawing attention to yourself during the protest was dangerous.”
Marczyk and Kudriavtseva stayed until the tent city was broken up and after that visited hospitals as well as battle sights to share their music and collect people’s stories. Counting Sheep is an effort to continue that work and bring those stories, as well as their own, to a wider audience.
I caught an earlier incarnation of Counting Sheep earlier this year while doing coverage for Now Magazine. The performance – much like Marczyk and Kudiavtseva’s band Lemon Bucket Orkestra - isn’t the easiest thing to explain. It’s an experience more than a piece of theatre. The audience is invited to participate in the show, playing the part of the protesters as they slowly descent from celebration into sorrow.
I left the theatre that night overwhelmed with mixture of emotions and feeling truly grateful for the chance to create and write like I do. The show offers a unique glimpse at people whose lives were turned political by circumstance and is a reminder of how quickly those things can be taken away.
Marczyk and Kudriavtseva for their part aren’t looking to beat anyone over the head with a message, but by sharing their experiences honestly, they point to a situation that is much, much bigger themselves and the overwhelming need to stick up for the things you believe in any way that you can
Dates for the show can be found here.
The So So Glos, Desaparecidos
Paradise Rock Club
August 4, 2015
I went for Desaparecidos - Conor Oberst’s (of Bright Eyes fame) hardcore band - who put out the great political punk album Payola this year, 13 years after their first album Read Music/Speak Spanish. I gotta say, though: The So So Glos absolutely killed it and were the best part of the night.
The band had a particularly Boston introduction: Josh Kantor, the organist for the Red Sox came onstage and played the old-time baseball “Charge!” song before cornily introducing The So So Glos one at a time - “And next up base, ON BASS...Alex Livne!!!” Each So So Glo laughed as they walked on stage, four of the five wore oversized baseball caps while Ryan Livne sported a mohawk and wide, never-blinking eyes but a loving smile. Alex Livne and guitarist Ryan Livne are brothers, while drummer Zach Staggers is their step-brother, and you can immediately tell that these guys are a family band having a great time. They gave off that good-guy-punk vibe perfectly - the kind of vibe I got when I saw The Menzingers or Diarrhea Planet, the latter of which The So So Glos have toured with. I could tell I was going to have a fun time.
They opened with a song off their first album, “We Got The Days,” and during the instrumental breakdown Alex Livne addressed the crowd: “This song is about being the underdogs, Boston - you know what that’s like. Don’t worry, we’re from New York, but we’re no Yankee fans. We’re all American - we’re all on the losing team, blindly hailing freedom. Let’s give it for being American!!” The band exploded back into the song while the crowd exploded, too - one of the louder bursts of enthusiasm I’ve seen for an opening band.
Alex Livne’s showmanship can’t be overemphasized. Halfway through the show Alex handed off his bass to guitarist Matt Elkin so he could focus on the mic and the crowd. Wearing a Wu-Tang t-shirt and snarling like Iggy Pop and Joe Strummer, Alex had this modern-punk energy that absolutely made the show. Although kind of cliché, just shouting “Hey!” and pointing the mic at the crowd to shout it back over and over really works if you can pull it off. And the highlight of the night was when Livne introduced the song “Speakeasy.” “This is a goofy song we wrote about being in New York and being upset with the Internet. Just glazed over at a screen and having a million friends but being alone. It’s anti…” Livne paused for a moment, and someone shouted “social media!” “No, I wouldn’t say anti-social-media,” Livne responded. “And it’s not anti-information. We can debate about what it’s anti later, but it’s definitely anti. I mean just look at this guy.” Livne pointed to a kid looking at his phone (in the front row!) “His face is glowing from his phone, and he doesn’t even know we’re talking about him right now.” Throughout “Speakeasy” Livne danced around and literally blew a whistle when he saw people checking their phones. Sometimes he would point them out and make a frowny face as he drawled the lyrics. It was hilarious and sad at the same time.
I had listened to The So So Glos before and liked them, but they were infinitely better live - songs like “Black and Blue” took on a whole new, huge life on stage. The sound was way more raw and they really jammed out - I wish they did this more in studio. I gotta say, I’m a fully converted So So Glo now, and I’ll have to see them every time they come to Boston.
It was obvious that everyone was there for Desaparecidos, though (particularly for Oberst) and the crowd screamed from the bottom of their lungs as soon as they saw him. Unfortunately, he just didn’t have the stage presence to match those screams. He stood on the far right of the stage with his hair covering his face, expressionless as he growled angry lyrics about racist CEOs (“Golden Parachutes”) and the rebel-hacker organization Anonymous (well, “Anonymous”). I guess the point of a show with Oberst isn’t really to have fun, though, so what else should I have expected? He let his words carry the weight of the performance.
The band sounded great but also sounded exactly like their studio recordings, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. They even started off with the first three songs of Payola in order; I closed my eyes and wasn’t sure if I could have told the difference if they had just plugged in their iPod and turned on the album. This wasn’t as true for their old songs. “Manana” and “Greater Omaha” were particularly powerful, with Oberst and the guitars together sounding like a rapid-fire cannon. Maybe Desaparecidos need just a while longer to really work out how to play those Payola songs, but it’s totally worth going to their show just to hear those Read Music/Speak Spanish songs.
Regardless of which album they were playing, though, there was still a real catharsis in singing those angsty lyrics with Oberst and everyone else. Before “MariKKKopa” (a song with a memorable opening line, “There’s a lynching at Home Depot of the last day laborer”), Oberst addressed the crowd for one of the only times during the show, saying, “This song is about the state-sanctioned, institutional racism that goes on every day. You can get away with a lot if you have white skin in this country. And if you disagree, you’re a fucking fool.” Most of the crowd was white, but a few black hands went up in the air along with the white ones and clapped like crazy after that. It made me conscious of how relevant Oberst’s lyrics were to so many people; it made me wish he talked to the crowd more.
Near the end The So So Glos came back on stage to join Oberst in a couple more angry songs, but it was hard to stay pissed with their smiling faces crowding around the back of Oberst’s shoulders like one big, activist-punk family. By the end you couldn’t help but love The So So Glos and really respect Oberst for still singing the general public’s frustrated thoughts full-throttle after all these years. They still have a ton of shows - in Philly, D.C., Denver, Omaha (Oberst’s hometown), Chicago, Nashville, and plenty of others. You gotta go.
Radioactivity, Birthday Suits, Butcher’s Union
Triple Rock Social Club
July 22, 2015
It’s nice to live in a city where some great out of town bands have friends. It means a band like Radioactivity, who has released two records in three years but are hardly what I’d call “active,” comes through town more often. Of course, nobody comes through town in December-March, so maybe it’s a null distinction.
Anyway, on this fine evening a week ago*, I arrived midway through a set from Butcher’s Union thanks to my bus never showing up. Anyway, the band was billed as members of Dillinger Four, Gay Witch Abortion, and Pink Mink. I expected side project and something weird. What I got was Paddy’s Greatest Hits: a mix of songs written and/or fronted by Paddy Costello of Dillinger Four, and older gems from other bands he’s played in like Cleveland Bound Death Sentence and Fuck Yeahs. Oh, and Billy Morrisette was in the band too so I shouldn’t give what’s his name all of the credit.
Obviously the songs sounded different with Costello and Christy Hunt handling vocals, but they’re rollicking tunes that are never played live—I’d say “except for D4,” but then I remembered how often they play. Hearing a female voice on Erik Funk’s usual parts was fun, if nothing else. Actually, that’s the operative word for the Butcher’s Union set. I wonder if it will happen again sometime.
Second to the stage were Birthday Suits, a long running electric duo who play driving rock that features a more full sound than most band’s twice their size. I’ve seen the band enough to call it a standard show, but what that means is that it was great, tightly played, and sweaty. I’d wager as many people were up front for Birthday Suits as for headliners Radioactivity.
And Radioactivity is what the night boils down to. On the cusp of their second LP, just released (though promised 2 years ago), it was a modest crowd but an enthusiastic one at that. The front row were all singing along and staring up front, without a camera or phone in sight. As for the performance, well, if you’ve seen other related bands (Marked Men, Mind Spiders, etc.), there is an expectation there: black shirts and haircuts you can set your watch to. Or, as another note I jotted down says, “What is there to say about the perfect band?”
Radioactivity are short and fast, always on key and so frantic it makes the heart pound listening to it. It was fast and sweaty, but maybe too fast. They only have two records so there’s not a lot of new material one can expect, but this was seriously short and sweet set, so while it raged for all of 20 minutes or so, it left wanting more…waiting for new material to make it last just a little bit longer.
*Sorry for the delay, but life was super busy (and fun) last week so it’s been hard to find extra time to sit down for this.
All photography by Loren Green.
Ex Hex, Tweens, Pink Mink
Triple Rock Social Club
July 20, 2015
I go to a lot of shows. Sometimes it’s nice to be surprised, and that’s what Monday night entailed. I was at the show strictly for Tweens, whose debut I dug last year, and I didn’t bother to check out much Ex Hex in advance. I watched a YouTube clip or two, but it failed to mention some key marketing: feat. Mary Timony, ex-Wild Flag and lots of ‘90s influence. In other words, what I thought would be a minimally attended Monday night show was a pretty full room filled with a variety of ages. Actually, “variety” is pushing it. It was mostly people in the 40-50 range and they were clearly satisfied with the late night out.
Getting started, I only caught 2 songs from openers Pink Mink. They’re a solid local band I’ve already seen this month, so I took my time getting there before they talked back and forth on stage with some entertaining banter before ripping into a closing “Hidden Beach.” The audience was engaged but, knowing their material, I thought the sound was off. That was a recurring concept throughout the night, which is unusual at Triple Rock.
Cincinnati’s Tweens were next, a young three piece that includes members of Vacation. I point that out because that band is often overlooked, even if Bridget Battle is the front piece of Tweens, and the lone band member who does not play in Vacation. It was my first time seeing them, and it was a little surprising in that Tweens is a record I’ll call trash-pop, but live it was definitely more of a grunge vibe. Of course, Battle’s uncombed bleach-blond hair was a part of the mental influence, but everything from the screaming yet relatively mild-tempered movements on stage reminded me of that era and mix of rage and apathy. In fact, the first thing I put the notebook was “Live through This,” though I’m a bit embarrassed about that goofy note taking. The takeaway was that were the record is peppy, the live act is raging, coarser and less danceable. The sound was quite muddy to kick off their set and it really didn’t sound good but with a slow evolution at the board it picked up both in terms of quality and in audience reception, turning into a great set about halfway through. By the end, the band had the audience in hand, no small feat for a relative unknown opening for a band like Ex Hex, and it convinced me that Tweens was no fluke. There was a lot of presumably new material not off their debut, and the new record looks like it will carry less pep whenever that time comes.
The recurring theme of the night, besides women who rock, would be bands in Chuck Taylors—always a good sign, though I can’t articulate why. Shoes aside, Ex Hex carry some serious musician chops. The songs are guitar-happy and filled with big guitar moments that the band makes no hesitation in showing with posturing on stage. At first the posturing was amusing, but it did get a little tiresome over the course of the full set, with almost every song drifting at some point into a solo. The band take a big musical influence, ranging from 1970s arena rock to 1990s Lookout/Kill Rock Stars pop. At its best it’s poppy and clean with a bouncy, slightly unpredictable wave throughout. The three piece weren’t very energetic onstage, mostly remaining stationed by their mic stands and slowly moving the guitar/base up and down, Guitar Hero style, but seemingly wooden. It was almost a slow motion posturing. While I enjoyed their music well enough, my takeaway was that a CD from Ex Hex is probably better than the live show, which is not a typical feeling when heading home. They seem to be a solid band, but just not all that fun to watch.
All photography by Loren Green.
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Last Thursday, The Purple Turtle in London's infamous Camden held what is likely to be the most fun headlining show I've seen this year. Cannabis Corpse, fresh off the back ... read more
Motley Crue and Poison live, Target Center, Mpls, MN, 6/24/11 The New York Dolls opened the show but I couldn’t tell you damn thing about them. The girlfriend and I literally ... read more
Read Midwest Hell Fest Wrapup-Day 1 here. Despite intermittent sleep, I wake up feeling fairly well rested. If memory serves correctly, I’m somewhere deep within the confines of enemy territory—Wisconsin. ... read more
After losing a year of my life behind the wheel, I finally arrive at my destination: Kimberly, Wisconsin. Upon walking into the hotel—and I use this term loosely—lobby, I am ... read more
After a long wait and two opening acts—the clock struck 9:30 and Fun took the stage, while the boys and girls cheered. Suddenly, the beautiful overture to “Be Calm” opens ... read more
200 bands, seemingly as many beers, and only three nights. Where do I begin my recap? My stomach is still shrunken from not eating right, and I continue to drink ... read more
Let me start off by saying that I love all three of these bands, and I have been looking forward to this show since I got confirmed to photograph it. ... read more
Portugal. the Man is a Portland, Oregon based experimental indie-rock band, fronted by native Alaskan John Gourley. If you haven’t heard the story about this up and coming group, Gourley’s ... read more
I don't know how many of you have heard of Moving Mountains. A band from Westchester, NY, they are fresh off a tour with Thursday, about to embark on a ... read more
I hit the 500 review mark last week with my Narrows review. That's a lot of reviews. Sometimes I get burnt out with all the stuff coming through, especially when ... read more
So I just got done watching the season finale of Scrubs. It was Zach Braff's final episode. His character is saying goodbye, but I think they gave it a nice ... read more
Two months ago I had high hopes for the Cleveland Browns. Now I am left with a fairly mediocre season. We shall see how the remainder plays out. I'm looking ... read more
Might as well has this here too, it's been three years since I wrote it. I think it still holds true. Space for rent. Your ad here. My name is ... read more
I forgot to post this prior to week one, but given the outcome of that game, maybe it was for the best. Anyway, the Browns season is underway and that ... read more
Over the weekend a band that was very dear to my heart announced their sudden breakup and played their final show. I first became acquainted with Life Long Tragedy over ... read more
I was yelled at again for writing this, and since I am applying for a job at a local newspaper, I don't really want this hanging over my head. Sorry ... read more
Last night my band played with Souvenir's Young America, City of Ships, and Monolith at Siren Records in Doylestown, PA; it was a fun time all the bands played real ... read more
If you didn't hear the news, Roy Scheider died this week at the age of 75. Jaws is one of my all-time favorite films. I am extremely sad. I fully ... read more
They could make me look not so good to certain people. Nobody read them anyways. read more
So, back when Cave In's Until Your Heart Stops dropped on the hardcore masses several years back, I had the chance of catching the band at Middlesex County Community College. ... read more
I broke out my CD for the Gehenna- The War of the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness and saw something that always made me smile. Allow me ... read more
Hello. Some of you might remember (or have participated in) my experiment over the summer collecting people's wishes on this page. I got over 160 entries and published them all ... read more
Imagine being in this kid's place... Interview w/ Henry Rollins read more
Even though it is just a joke, I'd still vote for Stephen Colbert for president before I'd vote for anyone else for running, outside of the longshots that have no ... read more
Dear Atreyu, Please stop. No seriously, please stop...now. - File has been removed. It was up for a month. It was the band's cover of Faith No More's "Epic." - ... read more
I woke up today at 5:30am to get my ass to the store to open it for what I figured would be another boring Sunday at work. Work has been ... read more
So the man that founded Factory Records and helped Joy Division become as huge as they did through hype died today. Not alot of people repect what Wilson did for ... read more
Yesterday during rush hour traffic on 35W the bridge than spans the mighty Mississippi fell. There was no earthquake. There was no terrorist attack. The bridge just buckled and toppled ... read more
Part 1: Mission Statement, Introduction, and first terribly nostalgic musing A number of years ago, a few friends of mine, myself, and people who would quickly become my friends used ... read more
Shook Ones, for the uninitiated, are a melodic hardcore band from Seattle, Washington. Their debut LP, Sixteen, had some serious Kid Dynamite aping going on, without a doubt, but it ... read more
Remember when the idea of Friday the 13th used to be scary? Maybe its because I am a grown adult, but there just does not seem to be any horror ... read more
You have no idea how wonderful it is to be finally typing these words. Not that my work is done: a SPB staffer's work is never done! But seriously: typing ... read more
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