July 23, 2009

Can't Stop The Rock Editor

Hey everyone! Ryan here. Good news to share with all our loyal readers - I have joined the staff of the Examiner as the Newark Rock Examiner! What's great about this is that, other than getting paid to be a voice of rock for New Jersey, I own all articles that I write and am free to share them with other sources - i.e. you. So in the coming months, you will start to see a combination of AtD-exclusive and nationally-recognized music articles. What will come? StayTuned and find out!

July 14, 2009

Exclusive Interview with Dave from Aversion!

Every once in a while a band comes along that, although labeled a "local band", have a sound tight enough to stand with bands of more renown. Enter Aversion, a quintet based in Central New Jersey whose sound is reminiscent of mid-tempo rock bands such as Breaking Benjamin, yet with a style that can not be placed in any singular field. Aversion consists of Michael Newton (vocals), David Konopacki and Vito Badalementi (guitars and backing vocals), Kevin Czarnecki (bass), and Christopher "Chewy" Spitalieri (drums). I had the opportunity to sit down with cofounder Konopacki for an exclusive interview about fears, the future of the band, and the music industry. Read on!

Ryan Crowley: Hey Dave.
Dave Konopacki: Hey, how are ya.
RC: Alright, let's start with your band's history a little bit, for those who don't know you. You and Mike [Newton] started in 'Nam, apparently? [laughs]
DK: [laughs] I see you've read our band's bio.
RC: Yep, that's for sure. So really, where you guys got started...you're really two former bands, right? It was you and Mike who played together for a while...
DK: We started in a band together probably about 3, 3 and a half years ago...and things kinda fell apart after...well, they had been together for a while, I joined, and then things fell apart so...[laughs] I was the catalyst for things falling apart it seems. But then we decided we would continue to work together. We wrote a bunch of stuff by ourselves, we did programmed drums and I played all the other instruments and Mike sang. And eventually we started looking for other members; despite what our bio says, uh, we found our drummer on Craigslist, and...
RC: Your bio actually does say that, by the way, later on.
DK: It colors it a little bit. The Craigslist part is true...and he brought in Kevin, our bassist, and Vito, who's our other guitarist. They'd previously played together.
RC: So you guys formed and you took the name "Aversion". Is there any personal meaning to that or is it just kind of a cool rock name? What's going on with Aversion there?
DK: There...there's no personal meaning to that at all. [Laughs] When me and Mike were trying to start stuff...obviously the first thing you do before you start writing songs is, you try to figure out a name, right?
RC: Of course.
DK: So...Mike had a long list of things and well, honestly a lot of them were crap. [Laughs.]
RC: [Laughs.] And can you give us an example of that, or are you too embarrassed?
DK: It's not that I'm embarrassed, it's that it was like two years ago and I don't remember any of the other ones. I probably have the list at home, I just can't remember any of them right now. And Aversion is the one that stuck out in my mind, to me. Just fitting the most, and being memorable so.
RC: Alright then, so you heard it here first. Aversion, up off the list. Other bands have done it so that's not...
DK: That's how Nine Inch Nails came about, so...
RC: We're mentioning "More Than Sorry". That's your single on iTunes. You have that and "Lactose", which you sing on, actually...
DK: [laughs] I do, I do. It's amazing that I actually do that, 'cause I'm scared of microphones.
RC: [laughs] Well you're certainly not showing it now.
DK: [laughs] I hide it well.
RC: Yeah, he's holding his arms and sweating profusely, for those of you who aren't here with us. And, I have to ask, I've heard some of your other stuff, I've gone to some of your other shows. What's the next song you're planning on recording, if you have that lined up?
DK: Well, this will be purely my answer, the rest of the band has not...we have not talked about it yet. But, we just wrote a new song, I think the working title is "Conversation", I'm not sure that's the official title yet.

RC: I have to ask, is that the song you opened with at the semifinals at [Starland]?
DK: Yeah, that's it. Our bassist Kevin wrote that, and I think that's a really strong song so I think that's a good option. And also a song that's been kicking around, that I've had for a while, well, the basis of it... "Head On" now is the title. I think that's another good one; I think if we're gonna do another two song set, I think it'd probably be those two songs.

RC: And of the songs that you've been playing in concert, the other songs..."Funny..." to name one...which for some reason is called your "pop-punk song"...
DK: [laughs]
RC: [laughs] I personally don't hear it but Mike likes referring to it that way. Are those just more for full CD releases or more songs that you've been kicking around until you started recording, or what's the story on those?
DK: Well, if we do a full album, they'll be on it...but we're...we're kinda kicking around some ideas for a new business model at the moment as far as sales and stuff, and I'm not sure recording a full album at this point is really gonna happen. I'm thinking we'll probably do a couple songs here and there, and eventually all of those will probably see the light of day in a studio recording. But for now it's gonna be a couple at a time.
RC: It's working, now it's a great business model, especially in the modern age. So I take it, then, you're big into the whole digital music revolution, not having to release everything on CD but using iTunes, Myspace...by the way, myspace.com/musicofaversion, as selling points and as ways for people to hear your music.
DK: Uh yeah, that's...we're actually...we've been kicking this around for literally two days collectively, today being the second day...we're probably gonna follow the Radiohead/Nine Inch Nails model of pay what you want, and if that means we're giving music away, at least people are listening to it. We're also...like, we'd love if people went to iTunes and bought the music, but we know they can get it for free. So, if you want it, aversion.bandcamp.com. All you gotta do is enter your e-mail address, and you get everything we've recorded...at this point it's two songs...

RC: [laughs]
DK: But when it's more you'll get it for free as well.
RC: Well if I didn't like your music so much, I'd say it was a waste of $1.98...
DK: [laughs]
RC: But luckily I do enjoy your songs, so no worries there.
DK: [laughs] I'm sorry to the people who paid for it, we'll make it up to you in some way.
RC: Like a T-shirt or something, I don't know. But it really is worth...more than $1.98, honestly. But moving on with that, talking a bit about getting music out there, have you thought about sending demos to radios, getting some radio play, college radio, anything like that?
DK: Yeah, we're in the process of putting together a press kit to send out to all the local stations that'll have us, and some that probably won't. We've gotten some tiny bit of radio play on the Rutgers RSU station, 88.7 New Brunswick. That's a great station, listen to it.
RC: Please.
DK: Yeah. So we've gotten some radio play. Not very much, I'll admit, but a little bit. Also, we should probably do Philly stations too.
RC: Yeah, Philly's pretty awesome that way, we should get you out there. Alright, so, you've actually been playing in better venues now, bigger venues. You're not just a club band, you just did Starland, you literally just did Stone Pony two days ago. How's that been different for you, how's the feeling of those places?
DK: Well, that's a...I have a two part answer for that. It is awesome playing the same stage as your idols. Like, I saw Opeth at Starland two or three weeks before we played there, and I'm staring at the stage going "That's where I'm gonna stand. I'm gonna be there". It's an awesome feeling playing the same stage as the bands you love. On the other hand, when you're not a huge band and you're not drawing a huge crowd, it's a little disheartening to see just how empty the place is. Like when we play the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, we pack that place and it's awesome. Like, just the energy. But when we played the Stone Pony, it wasn't a whole lot of people there, it was a little hard to get into it. Not to toot our own horn here, we still put on a good show, but it was a little harder to get into it.
RC: Of course. You feed off the band - the energy of the crowd - and when there's not much crowd, it's a little harder to get the energy going.
DK: Right.
RC: Basic band physics 101, as it were. Alright so, anything else you want to say to our readers before...any plugs, anything that I missed?
DK: I think you got everything, but just again, it's myspace.com/musicofaversion, musicofaversion.com, aversion.bandcamp.com. We're on Youtube, just search for us...we've got More Than Sorry and Lactose up there in video form. I'm sure we'll be other places, just search for us. If there's a social media network, we should be on it. And if we're not yet, we will be.
RC: Alright, and I guess I just have to part with one more question. As you - as I mentioned earlier, you sing on "Lactose" and...you're giving me a look here...
DK: [laughs]
RC: And you sing a little bit on "Funny...". Will we be hearing more Dave Konopacki vocals in the future?
DK: Only if the song calls for it. I hate doing it, I really do, I feel like a jackass singing. I am not a good singer, I'm terrible, but sometimes the song just calls for something and that's when I have to step up.
RC: And you can't get Vito or Kevin or Chewy [Spitalieri] to step in?
DK: [laughs]
RC: [laughs] I'm calling you guys out by the way, you gotta start helping out on the mic.
DK: Vito does the background vocals on "More Than Sorry" because I can't. I tried it one show, and I heard a recording afterwards, and...the entire world is better off if I don't do it.
RC: [laughs] Fair enough, fair enough. For Dave Konopacki, this is Ryan Crowley signing off. I hope to talk to [you] and more members of the band soon, hopefully when more people have seen them. Hint, hint. Signing off. Thank you, Dave.

July 1, 2009

Transformers 2: Revenge Of Michael Bay

So the first Transformers was pretty good. Shia LaBouf showed some level of acting skill, or at the very least that he desperately wanted not to be the kid from Even Stevens. Megan Fox provided eye candy with mechanical aptitude. The parents were funny, and the action scenes were alright. The biggest gripe I had with the first movie was that the robots came in too late.

Man, those were the days. The fact is, Michael Bay is Michael Bay, and as the linked clip states, he cares more about making things go boom than he is about characters. If you want to watch a Michael Bay movie, just watch that clip on repeat for about 90 minutes and you'll get the idea. (This movie does have the biggest recorded explosion in film history, so I guess you have to give Bay that.) Intersperse a love scene once in a while that's poorly acted. Seriously, Megan Fox went on record saying this movie isn't about the acting. What actor(/actress) derides the ACTING in a movie?

Now, to specify the formula to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. WARNING: Spoilers. Sort of.

Regale us with a backstory about how machines were actually around when the dinosaurs were. Really? Creatures who go around draining suns of other planets to restore their powers. Sort of a "we're solar powered" type thing? Hide your secret weapon where no one has ever thought to before - in the pyramids. Real original. I think I saw Nicolas Cage and Brandon Fraser lurking in the scenery. Have Sam touch the cube that was thought to be destroyed but isn't completely (wait for the theme here...) and have a nervous breakdown. An intelligent nervous breakdown that has him showing up cameo Rainn Wilson and drawing symbols all over the campus lawn, the walls of his and his techno-geek conspiracy roommate's dorm, and God knows where else. Have Sam completely ignore his girlfriend until she tries to dump him (and does, a few times), fight to get her back, and then refuse to tell her he loves her until - and here's where the spoilers come - he dies, she says she loves him, and he comes back to life and FINALLY telling her the same, in a breath of relief for the one or two people who have actually been trying to dig a plot out of this movie. Never happened before. But wait, Sam's not the only one who dies! Optimus Prime dies too. That matters, right? No, wait, it doesn't, because he comes back to life with the power of some magic dust. Did Tim Kring ghostwrite on this movie? What the hell? It's all well and good to do that with one character, but two? C'mon.

This movie did have some good parts. The action was palpable and popcorn-inducing (or in my case, Junior Mints-inducing as I never buy popcorn at the theaters). The parents didn't fail to be hilarious (especially when the mom, played by a wonderfully hilarious Julie White, indulges in some "special brownies") and some of the new characters were pretty decent (Mudflap and Skidz, caricatures though they were, provided some of that good ol fashioned tag team comedy in the vein of Andy Wainright and Andy Cartwright from "Hot Fuzz"), and John Turturro's Agent Simmons played up his pain-in-the-ass character to decent comic effect. It was a very decent action movie that maintained the comic elements of the first, and I appreciate that. But if you're not interested in things going boom, then seriously, avoid anything with the words Michael Bay on it.

Final Score: 76.

June 26, 2009

First Ever Deep Cut Friday!

In trying to revive the slumbering Above the Din, I decided that I am going to start a new recurring column that takes a look at some of the tracks that didn't make it to singles, but probably should have. As this is a relatively new column, I could cull from anywhere in the last 5 years, so keep your eyes and ears tuned. But I will try to make note of at least one new release each week.

So without further ado, the first ever Deep Cut Friday.

The first song I want to talk about is "Stamp of Origins: Horizons" by dredg off "The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion" (2009). dredg are recognized for songs like "Bug Eyes", "Savior", and "Information", but they have a very sweet side to them as well. Horizons, a song predominantly led by piano, takes the view of someone ready to die and meditating on their life. It's a thoughtful way to tie up the album, and references many of the songs within (Ireland, Information, Delusions, I Don't Know, Gathering Pebbles, and I believe Mourning This Morning all get nods in the latter half of the LP version of the song).

The Stamp of Origins series off the latest record echoes their first two LPs, Leitmotif (with the "Movement" series) and El Cielo (with the "Brushstroke" series). They took a respite from this concept with their mainstream breakthrough Catch Without Arms, and the return to this is a sign that dredg will not shake their roots just because they have seen the spotlight. Notable in this way is that this album marks the only time that dredg's series have not been instrumentals, although there are instrumentals on the new album (notably "Drunk Slide" and "Long Days and Vague Clues").

Going a bit lighter, the second and final track for this week is one from late last year: "Addicted To Drugs" by Kaiser Chiefs off "Off With Their Heads" (2008). The song is typical fare for Kaiser Chiefs, very wry and danceable, and seems to chronicle the boredom of suburban life. The chorus plays off Robert Palmer's "Addicted To Love": "You're gonna have to face it, you're addicted to drugs." Musically Nick Hodgson makes excellent use of the cowbell to start and supplement the track, Whitey's guitar riff slides under your skin, and Simon Rix's bass sounds like it could be another guitar. Peanut's keys have been understated in this song (and throughout the album), but add the right bump to the song's chorus and instrumental breakdown. It is easily a highlight of the superb album.

That is all we have for today. I leave you with this bit of information: Kaiser Chiefs, Kings of Leon, Bloc Party, and Vampire Weekend are among the bands scheduled to play this year Readings-Leeds Festival, and Kaiser Chiefs have announced a break following their tour with Green Day. StayTuned for new information on Above the Din!

Top 5 Ground Songs

Note: This post does not necessarily reflect the views of the full Above the Din staff.

5. White Stripes "Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground"
4. Coldplay "No More Keeping My Feet On The Ground"
3. Red Hot Chili Peppers "Higher Ground"*
2. The Charlatans UK "Muddy Ground"
1. Elbow "Grounds For Divorce"

*while this is not the original, I feel that this is the best version of this song.

In Memoriam

As a music blog, we would be remiss not to make mention of this:

RIP Michael Jackson.

June 24, 2009

2009: Old And New Music Heroes Return

No matter what style or era of music brings glee to your ears, you may be hitting your iTunes or Amazon this year for the latest of the greatest. There may have been a time when you may have hit a record store for such purchases, but who leaves their house to purchase music anymore?

This year has already gotten off to an incredible start. Dredg, Green Day, Tori Amos, and U2 have already dropped their latest. But hold on, ladies and gents, because the ride is just getting started.

Remember the '90's? Surely it was not that long ago. Of course, people of voting age now may have been born in '91 so maybe the '90's were not all that memorable. For those, I say this is a good time to see what you were missing. For you fans of old-school rap, before it was all money, champagne, and chicks, you have a veritable array to whet your palate. Beastie Boys, Bone Thugs N Harmony (remember them?), Cypress Hill, Diddy (now releasing under Sean "Diddy" Combs - seriously, guy, pick your identity), Dr. Dre, Fugees, Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, Naughty By Nature, Outkast, Fallon house band The Roots, and Tupac (yes, you read that right. This guy can't be dead) are all releasing in '09. 90's rock swings back in a big way with the returns of Alice In Chains (with 2 albums), Blink-182, Garbage, The Offspring (2010), and Stone Temple Pilots for the hard-rock fans as well as Goo Goo Dolls, Matchbox 20, Our Lady Peace, Rusted Root, Sister Hazel, Sixpence None The Richer, Sugar Ray and Third Eye Blind for those who like their music to go down a little easier. 90's rock staples Collective Soul continue their onslaught of amazing, following the successes of "Youth" and "Afterwords" with the project referred to as "Rabbit" (although guitarist Dean Roland has confirmed on Twitter that this is not the official name of the album). Pearl Jam keep their engines running with "Backspacer" (although the leadoff single, played on Conan O'Brien's first night as Tonight Show host, left a little to be desired). 90's indie vets Barenaked Ladies (sans Steven Page), Blur, and The Flaming Lips will also be returning to the fray, as will R&B throwbacks Ginuwine, Mariah Carey, Maxwell, and Whitney Houston. For the 90's acts that aren't returning, at least their voices will be, with Dolores O'Riordian and Noel Gallagher dropping solo albums.

For you 80's enthusiasts, Cheap Trick, Crowded House, Devo, Extreme, Heart, The Lemonheads, Michael Jackson, Peter Gabriel, and Sting will provide you some new sounds. Metalheads can rejoice as Dream Theater, Killswitch Engage, Megadeth, Porcupine Tree, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra return. For you classic rockers, there's an all-star lineup coming your way. You can look forward to Aerosmith, Black Crowes, Boston, Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople, Joe Satriani, John Fogerty, KISS, Levon Helm, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Roxy Music (original lineup), and ZZ Top gracing your presence with new music.

I promised you newer artists as well, so here they are: Arctic Monkeys, Breaking Benjamin, Cobra Starship, Daughtry, Deer Tick, Elbow (2010), The Fiery Furnaces, The Mars Volta, Muse, New Pornographers, OK Go, Paramore, Spoon, Regina Spektor, The Shins, Tantric, and Tegan and Sara are among the artists with releases on the way. Interpol's Paul Banks releases under Julian Plenti. Collaboration albums include "Horehound" by the Dead Weather (Jack White and Allison Mosshart) and an LP by Discovery (Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij & Ra Ra Riot's Wes Miles). Oh yeah, Christina Aguilera, Creed, Kenny Loggins, and Velvet Revolver are back. Y'know, if you cared.

An interesting trend is going to appear in 2009, with artists releasing under multiple bands. This is a far cry from the 90's, when Eddie Vedder was criticized for starting a new band with Stone Temple Pilots (although obviously, Scott Weiland is not quite Eddie Vedder). Big Boi has a solo album underway in addition to Outkast's. Blink-182 side projects Angels and Airwaves and +44 are releasing new albums. Shirley Manson is releasing her own album in addition to Garbage's. Rob Thomas has an album aside from MB20's. Even Ace Frehley of KISS has a solo album coming out, adding to a second trend of band sidemen(and women) releasing albums (keyboardist Bill Champlin of Chicago, bassist Melissa Auf der Maur, bassist Nathan Maxwell of Flogging Molly with his Original Bunny Gang, and guitarist Tony Fredianelli of Third Eye Blind).

I'm sure this has been an overload of information, but it was purposely done that way to show you your options for 2009 (and some for 2010). For a full breakdown, visit Metacritic.

August 14, 2007

Movie Review: Stardust

In a wry admission of "Stardust's" gleeful, impossible-to-market genre-bending, a poster tagline touts the film as "the fairy tale that won't behave". Neither a large-scale epic nor a testament to childlike wonder, as most recent such films tend to be, it must inevitably invite comparisons to "The Princess Bride" as the only other adult-oriented fantasy movie. But, and this is important, boys and girls, "Stardust" is not and never was a knock-off of Rob Reiner's classic. It is very much its own spellbinding, wondrous creation. Familiar motifs like wicked witches, scheming princes, wise mentors and a damsel in distress add a delicately old-fashioned air to the proceedings, but the characters present a decidedly modern take on fairy tale archetypes.

Our story opens in the town of Wall, an ordinary British village bordering the realms of faery. Young hero Tristan (Charlie Cox) tries vainly to woo his love Victoria (Sienna Miller). When the pair see a shooting star, the desperate Tristan makes a bargain with the rather conceited object of his affection - if he retrieves the star within the week, she will marry him. Aided by a magical candle, a gift from his faery mother, he sets off, and is rather surprised when the star turns out not to be a lump of celestial ore but rather a lovely woman(Claire Danes). Yvaine certainly has no intention of becoming an engagement gift.

The antagonistic spark between proud Yvaine and gallantly gawky Tristan never quite develops into the screwball-esque fire of clever comebacks and quick quips which the filmmakers aimed for, but it does maintain a steady glow of stinging sarcasm. Although their romantic destiny won't surprise, the quietly luminous chemistry between Cox and Danes ensures it enchants.

Alas for poor Yvaine, souls more nefarious than Tristan are searching for the fallen star - after all, Tristan doesn't want to hurt the star, just present her (kidnap is such an ugly word) to Victoria. Wicked witch Lamia and fratricidal brothers Septimus and Primus both seek her. Lamia, played by the astonishingly gorgeous Michelle Pfeiffer, is a sorceress of the highest order, prone to the more gruesome acts of magic - like divining via animal entrails and eating the hearts of stars to stay young and beautiful. Pfeiffer gleefully embraces Lamia's malicious nature, as well as the mortification (and amusement) of her increasing decrepitude as the previous star's power wears off. Septimus and Primus, on the other hand, are seeking a necklace which will grant one of them the throne - although they won't turn down immorality.

"Stardust" merrily breaks from usual fairytale conventions. Tristan is no knight in shining armor with Yvaine as the helplessly lovely maiden, nor is there a blatant effort to turn her into some proto-feminist who lectures her hapless beau in the ways of righteousness, as recent revisionist fairytale films have done. No, the lovers are fairly evenly matched. In another clever twist, the mentor so critical to the archetypal hero's journey from boy to man is the fierce, pitiless, dress-wearing Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro). Wait, what? Yes, it turns out the bellicose pirate is a gentle, pacifistic, well-read "woopsie". De Niro hams it up a bit - okay, a lot, adopting a strangely dainty, almost girlish inflection - but it remains an entertaining and, ultimately, commendable approach.

Perhaps “Stardust’s” most striking change lies in its attitude towards magic. Magic, and the CGI required to create it on film, serves the story, rather than the film having been built around special effects, dazzling as they are. As such, it helps transport viewers into the realm of the fantastic, but would certainly have failed without such a charmingly romantic, wondrous story. Stardust glitters brilliantly with a pure magic too rarely seen in films.

Grade: 95

August 13, 2007

Cheers, thanks for everything: Travis concert review

Travis is a band of four Scots who more closely resemble the cast of "Trainspotting" than a rock group. They've also been out of the spotlight since 2003's amazing but low-key album "12 Memories". So how is it that they can get an entire crowd jumping to possibly one of the most melancholy quality songs of the late 90s?

Let's start at the beginning (skipping the wholly underwhelming Jon Paul White who, with his sideman Ricky Dean, offered up every rock cliche a mopey moptop could). The arena goes black. Searchlights come up, and the opening number is...the 20th Century Fox theme? What's going on?

The music changes and the theme from "Rocky" is blared, as our four heroes - led by their roadies and managers - come out through the audience decked in full boxing regalia. High fives and cheers abound. As they get up to the stage, a brief clip of "Living In America" is played, they disrobe, grab their instruments, and launch into a stellar "Selfish Jean". This leads off a three-song barrage, being followed by "Eyes Wide Open" and "Writing To Reach You".

Fran thanks the audience and the concert hits full throttle, tearing through hits old and new. This includes, but is not limited to, "Sing" (complete with banjo), "Side," "Driftwood," "Big Chair," "My Eyes," "Pipe Dreams," "Battleships," "Re-Offender," "All I Wanna Do Is Rock," "Love Will Come Through," "Indefinitely," "As You Are," and "Good Feeling". Intermittently, the band has their roadies toss bottles of water out to the audience - one of many moments that prove that Travis may love their music but their fans are key. Guitarist Andy Dunlop hops into the crowd for a solo. Bassist Douglas Payne sings a verse of "Turn" while Fran and Andy rock out together. Fran has the crowd cheering for touring keyboardist Claus during his "Good Feeling" solo; as Fran puts it, "like an angry Viking - whose fish was just stolen or something - really put the pressure on". "Closer" tears the house down, before which Fran has us introducing ourselves to our neighbors in the audience.

If the main set of the concert wasn't enough, the five-song encore cements Travis as one of the best touring bands out there now. It begins with an acoustic "Flowers In The Window" with the rest of the band singing behind Fran. I believe the second song is "Afterglow," but it pales in comparison to the follow-up.

Fran comes to the mic and says "This is something we never do, but we're going to play a song again, a reprise if you will of 'Selfish Jean'. We're going to have some assistance. I don't know if you watch 'The Daily Show'..."

Crowd goes nuts. I look over to fellow correspondent and love Joyful Girl.

"But we have with us Demetri Martin..."

What? Is this for real? Joyful Girl and I are exchanging looks of intense excitement. Demetri Martin joins to perform a live version of the "Selfish Jean" video. For reference, watch below:

Following this...and nothing needs to follow this...Fran asks the audience if they want one song or two (there's only one song left on the encore list folks, I checked). Of course, they say two, so Fran and co. add an impromptu "Humpty Dumpty Love Song," and close with...one guess...

A song that has us all jumping...

"Why Does It Always Rain On Me". Coming into the final verse, Fran stops the audience and tells us we all need to jump. "We have marksmen. If you don't jump, they will find you and bring you down." Oh, British humor. The whole house goes nuts. The show ends, and Cloud 9 doesn't disappear for the rest of the night.

Now, I've been to some amazing shows. We saw Collective Soul and Live earlier this year, and a bill of Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace, Seether, and Evanescence is pretty difficult to beat. OK Go came into the audience for an acoustic performance and that was amazing. But no band has given an entrance so amazing, water to the audience, a guitar solo inside the audience, an encouragement to harass a band member, Demetri Martin dancing onstage and eating chocolate biscuits, and amazing song after amazing song the way Travis does. They're an underrated stage presence, gracious for any spotlight, and promising a return soon. And that, folks, is a band worthy of mention.

I give this concert a 96.

August 9, 2007

The next music battle

We have touched on technology and music a bit here, but recent developments involving Pearl Jam need to be noted.

According to the band's web site, Pearl Jam's Lollapalooza webcast was censored by sponsor/webcaster AT&T:

When asked about the missing performance, AT&T informed Lollapalooza that portions of the show were in fact missing from the webcast, and that their content monitor had made a mistake in cutting them.

During the performance of "Daughter" the following lyrics were sung to the tune of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" but were cut from the webcast:

  • "George Bush, leave this world alone." (the second time it was sung); and
  • "George Bush find yourself another home."
Now I don't think an apology by AT&T is going to cut it. Especially, with net neutrality still being an issue.

AT&T's actions strike at the heart of the public's concerns over the power that corporations have when it comes to determining what the public sees and hears through communications media.

Aspects of censorship, consolidation, and preferential treatment of the internet are now being debated under the umbrella of "NetNeutrality." Check out The Future of Music or Save the Internet for more information on this issue.

Most telecommunications companies oppose "net neutrality" and argue that the public can trust them not to censor.

AT&T, like other telecommunication companies say you can "just trust them" about doing the right thing and keeping everything equal. We need to pass a net neutrality law now. Corporate censorship has always been a part of the American music scene but the internet could bring censorship a whole new level.

July 24, 2007

July 9, 2007

1st annual benefit concert for 911 rescue workers

The FealGood Foundation, Artists 4 Hope, and
the Gear Up Foundation, in conjunction with
are proud to announce the 1st annual

Saturday, July 21, 2007, 7:30PM
At the Kupferberg Center for The Performing Arts,
Queens College (Colden Auditorium)

Johnny Maestro and The Brooklyn Bridge
"The Worst That Could Happen"

The Duprees
"Have You Heard"

Frankie Lymon’s “Legendary” Teenagers
"Why do Fools Fall In Love"

The Tokens
"The Lion Sleeps Tonight"

Cleveland Still and The dubs
"Could This Be Magic"

Vito Picone and the Elegants
"Little Star"

For tickets and Information call: 631-698-9696 or visit
Alternatively, please contact
John Feal: (631) 724-3320
AnnMarie Baumann: (631) 884-1604
Vito Valenti: (516) 567-5446
144 Shenandoah Blvd N Nesconset NY 11767
Queens College Box Office: (718) 793-8080
Please make all checks out to the FealGood Foundation
(Paypal also accepted). Sponsorship Accepted.


June 24, 2007

True Colors: Fight Hate

The Human Rights Campaign, sponsors of this summer's True Colors tour want you to see the following video. And AtD is more than happy to spread the word. Together you and I and rock and roll can help stop the hate.

Music by Cyndi Lauper.

June 19, 2007

What's So Funny?

TIME recently ran the article "Comedians' Little Secret,"in which Richard Corliss examines the recent spate of good and successful comedic films, powered by old pros Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler, late bloomer Steve Carell, and young upstarts Seth Rogen and Michael Cera. Corliss points to many factors in this trend - the relatively cheap cost of comedy flicks, their increasingly broad appeal, the dearth of tv comedy (aside from the schadenfreudian amusements of reality shows), an aging generation of action stars, audience preference for pleasurable distractions from our increasingly scary reality, the declining appeal of classic Hollywood glamour in favor of schlumpier leads. I say huzzah for this comedic richness, especially as it broadens the stereotypical movie star to encompass those whose talents lie not in their rippling abs, chiseled good looks, and machismo but rather in their wit and normal guy qualities.

And yet, all these brilliant, accomplished comics are...men. White men. Straight white men. In his article, Corliss speaks bluntly of the "astounding and appalling" lack of female comedy leads, and rightly so. When is the last time an actress' comedic talents were considered the highlight of a film in the same way those of Will Ferrell or Owen Wilson are flaunted? Sure, Katherine Heigl received top billing in "Knocked Up," but that's primarily due to her "Grey's Anatomy"-minted celebrity rather than any presumption of humor - and indeed, Rogen's character is far funnier. Leslie Mann, on the other hand, was supremely hilarious in that film, as she was in her minor "40-Year Old Virgin Role," but has never been in a movie built around her unique comic skills. Even Tina Fey - the recipient of widespread acclaim for "Mean Girls," which she wrote - has found more fame on the small screen. I guess women just aren't funny enough to carry a comedic film - better to leave that task to Ferrell and his unending supply of arrogant oafs, or Stiller and his...similarly unending supply of arrogant oafs.

Women aren't the only ones ignored by movie comedies - so too are minorities and members of the GLBTQ community. In his day, Eddie Murphy made some stellar films - and now he makes "Norbit". Chris Rock, once noted for his biting stand-up, has gone on to such silver screen gems as "I Think I Love My Wife". Let's not even talk about the Wayans brothers. Asians or Hispanics? Practically nonexistent in the comic film canon. The funniest film in recent memory to feature non-white leads was, in all honesty, "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle," the hugely enjoyable stoner film. It was genuinely funny and managed to appeal to a fairly wide audience, thus explaining the failure of studios to pursue more non-white actors for leading funny-man roles (aside, of course, from the film's upcoming sequel. I am completely serious). Wait, what?

Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders are even scarcer than minorities when it comes to movie comedies. I'm not talking about stereotypical gay buddies here, like the wisecracking Rupert Everett in "My Best Friend's Wedding," but rather starring characters who lead funny on-camera lives. Now, there's been some luck in comedies about gays - see "In & Out" and "But I'm a Cheerleader" for a couple decent movies in this category - but those are few and far between, and generally feature straight actors in the roles.

Maybe I'm asking too much of Hollywood. They've only just started to accept that if you put Steve Carell's or Seth Rogen's face on a poster it won't scare people away from a movie - in fact, it might actually get them to see it. And maybe studios think that female, minority, and GLBTQ comedians won't draw in the big money in the same way that Steve Carell and Vince Vaughn will - after all, we "know" it's young white dudes who make up the majority of the movie-going public, right? How can we expect them to relate to women/blacks/Asians/bisexuals/queers? And maybe you think I need to pick my battles. But humor captures the zeitgeist in a way that dramas often don't, making us laugh by pushing boundaries and showing our flaws, but without taking them too seriously. It is what we as a group, a society, a generation finds funny that binds us together. The absence of women, minorities, and GLBTQ actors from the upper echelons of comedy speaks to a larger absence in society. Straight white dudes aren't the only funny people out there - but they're the only ones anyone sees.

June 8, 2007

New Artist Watch: Fair To Midland

Serj Tankian can do it all. Best known as the frontman for System Of A Down and for his humanitarian efforts, he's releasing a solo album in the fall, "Elect The Dead". And he has his own record label. A recent discovery on such is the quintet Fair To Midland.

I've only heard the lead-off single, "Dance Of The Manatee", but already I have tingles thinking about what this band can do. They rush in like a sonic cross-pollination of Breaking Benjamin, Evans Blue, and Ra. The vocals jump from pretty to a less high Mars Volta to a melodic growl. The growl doesn't even bother me the way that it could.

The band is selling its image now in a sort of fantasy-book way, as evidenced by their amazingly designed webpage and the lead-off video (which can be found on Page 29 - I'm not kidding). The bio section features lead singer Darroh Suderth with a banjo, of which rock needs more (seriously, listen to "Ty Cobb" by Soundgarden and you won't be able to disagree). I'll be keeping a very close eye on this band, and those of you with harder taste should do so as well.

Slanted spotlight on Elbow to come in the near future. StayTuned!