Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pretty in Punk

I have an issue with people that talk "shit" (for lack of a better word) on genres of music they don't like simply because they don't like it. There is never really a reason behind saying it "sucks" except they don't find it appealing.

There is a difference between a band "sucking" or a band being something "you are not into."

A band sucks if they are sloppy musicians, if they are off pitch, if they are off beat, if the singer has a bad voice, etc. etc. A band playing music you don't enjoy but is played well does not suck. For example, I am not a fan of country music but I know that Garth Brooks doesn't suck. I don't like Tex-Mex but I know Los Tigres Del Norte are pretty amazing musicians. You may hate classical music but you can't diss on the first chair violonist, can you? Yeah, no.

I cannot stand certain bands because I don't like their lyrics or I don't like their style of playing - but I won't say they suck unless I can give a technical reason. I just say "I'm not into them." Because if it was up to me, a lot of genres would not exist, but that would make a lot of other people unhappy and people have a right to decide what they do or don't like.

So long live pop-punk! Long live industrial! Long live death metal! Long live any kind of genre that gets shit on by pretentious assholes who think they have better taste than everyone else because they drink PBRs while riding bikes to bars to sit and talk with other assholes about how great that new band that no one knows about is because no one knows about it except for them (the assholes).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Bears Came (Late of the Pier live at Congress)

by The Real Dan.Album cover courtesy of the artist.

As I swam through the sea of glowsticks, Affliction shirts, Heinekens, and Go-Go dancers, I couldn't tell if I was in a New York rave club or Congress Theater in Chicago. April 11th was a Saturday night unlike any other. The spirit of Passover lingered in the air and Easter Sunday was on the horizon. So excited was I for the bill that I absent-mindedly broke the first rule of the holiday of Matzos as soon as I stepped onto the dance floor and guzzled several Guinnesses, realizing my folly only after the third or eighth. And a dance floor it was-- the bill was packed with back to back hard electro artists and DJs... Deadmau5, Crookers, the Whip, Zebo, Willy Joy, Brad Owen, Loyal Divide, Local Hero. And then there was Late of the Pier. But before I talk about my friends Late of the Pier from Castle Donington, dare I say that I enjoyed Willy Joy's DJ set more than Crookers? Yay. As talented as Crookers are, Willy Joy showed me that it doesn't take three men to drop a hot beat. The man brought it and practically stole the show with his song selection, smooth transitions, and turntable acrobatics. Not to mention it looked like he was having a damn fun time on stage. After Willy Joy and Late of the Pier, the audience had already long warmed up... and I hate to say it, but watching Crookers wank the microphone while playing "Il Bruto" was not overly entertaining. 'Cause you know what happens when you wank your beats too hard (incoherent flow yo!) They're no rock stars on the decks, but hey, I do like some of their remixes.

Late of the Pier, on the other hand, was a ray of summer festival sunlight through the muck of hard, serious electro noise. Perhaps the acoustics of the venue were not the friendliest to artists like the Whip (Manchester), who were great when I saw them at Webster Hall in NY, but just sounded muddy and reverby when they played at Congress. The vocals were on pitch, but otherwise, the rest was all bass. Congress' stage was even less friendly to Late of the Pier, which was truly a shame, because the dudes were troopers throughout the set. Late of the Pier was too hot for Congress the moment they kicked off their show with Space and the Woods. But the monitors weren't having it and produced a ton of feedback (all eyes to the sound guy). Still, the audience didn't care, and the dedicated fans sang along and danced like they were at Warped Tour. When "The Bears are Coming" came on, it was like a jungle party-- the type you'd see in an MGMT music video, where jungle people with conches fish down the moon, slice it open, and dance in its moon juices (sounds kind of nasty... but watch the Electric Feel music video if you haven't). But maybe the feedback wasn't all that detrimental to the set. I mean, in the music video for "Focker," the machines come out and defeat the human band members by the end of the video. Fits with the theme, no? The shot towards the beginning where Potter's glasses fly off his face is priceless... every time. Regardless of technical difficulties, Late of the Pier made it through their set in one piece and didn't miss a beat. Don't sweat it guys. This show just made me look forward even more to catching them next time they play outdoors or at a sweaty indie show where everyone's down for having fun. Forget all that fat, noisy, european electro house-- it rarely sounds good in a big venue or works for the dance floor. That shit gets old and predictable fast. Not very cool. The cool thing to do instead is to grab a case of PBRs, pick up Fantasy Black Channel by Late of the Pier, and have yourself a grand jungle party!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Junior Boys. Nope, not so much.

I'd like to apologize for not blogging earlier about how awful the Junior Boys show was, but I was too busy trying to go all Eternal Sunshine on my mind about it. It was like a sad zombie dance party. I do believe there is more energy and electricity generated by a 20 watt light bulb than those two dudes of dull.

First off there set was entirely too long for the $19.98 (USD not Canadian dollars) that I spent. Had I wanted to be that bored, I would have bought some heinous color of paint and then stirred it for an hour and a half hoping that it would be prettier if I just "stirred it a little longer."

I mean Canada you have some fine exports, namely Degrassi High, Labatt's Blue, and jet streams to entertain me as I try to dress in the morning, but this? Really?!? No wonder 1/2 of America seems to think you're a third-world country, and the other half thinks you're a french fry and gravy loving, hug-a-thon of "free" health care.

I don't think there was enough 7 dollar beers to make this show even salvageable. I can make a dance party out of a cell phone ring so that's saying a lot. I don't understand why nobody is bringing it lately.

Wavves, you guys were good I enjoyed you the next night, but if I wanted to listen to you play for like 30-35 minutes, I would've just played your album loudly.

I am distressed that I missed Friendly Fires. Those boys can bring the dance party out like it were Berlin on Madonna night. I'll just have to keep rocking out to "Skeleton Boy" on my iPod of doom.

I'm going to Great Lake Swimmers on the 21st but I don't know what I'm going to do to hold me over until then. Where are the good shows? Oh wait, we're rapidly approaching that point in time where nobody all that great will come and play Chicago because of Pitchfork and Lollapalooza. All the good shows stack up on the same days in the winter, and believe me, no matter how warm I get, when it's 65 two weeks prior then snowing when I get out of work, I sure don't want to schlep myself to a show and wish that I had just gone home and watched some sort of quality programming on CBS prime time.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I couldn't wait for the summer and The Warped Tour

Blink 182. The band of the hour.
Some people don't give a shit and some people are ecstatic.
I, for one, am jumping for joy.

For all the haters out there acting like Blink never broke up, this band stopped touring in 2004 and released their last album (self-titled) then as well. They were gone for four years.... which is a substantial amount of time when you are only 24. Drama went down and for whatever reasons they split up and formed Angels and Airwaves (puke) and +44 (yay!).... I was obviously on Team Mark..... aka Team Hottest Man In The World.


But I digress.

For those of us not fortunate enough to be born in the 70s, Blink 182 served as a gateway band. We didn't grow up on The Misfits or Black Flag because we were either a zygote or only a twinkle in our parents' eyes. I remember sitting in my room listening to a tape of Cheshire Cat at age 11 and being amazed at the sound coming out of my stereo while circle moshing before I even knew what circle moshing was. I had never heard anything like it. I remember when Dude Ranch came out (yay Alyssa Malano) and Travis joined the band. I remember being so stoked when Enema of the State made it big and when "Adam's Song" was my favorite song. I remember the Pop Disaster Tour being one of the best nights of my life (contrary to popular belief, I thought Blink was awesome live). I remember wanting all three copies of Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.

Yay music!

I remember being devastated when I found out that they were no longer a band.

So sad! Black emo tears!

This band took me forward and backwards. I learned about Jimmy Eat World because of Blink 182. I learned about Warped Tour aka Punk Rock Summer Camp because of Blink 182. I learned about The Descendants and Screeching Weasels and Black Flag because of Blink 182. Granted.... I also learned about Dickies and skate shoes - oh what a low time in my fashion life. I learned about pop, punk,pop punk, hardcore, and skate culture because of this trio.

So, yes. It is a big deal that this band it back together. Without this band we would not have Fall Out Boy or Red Jumpsuit Apparatus or any of the other little pop punky groups running amuck nowadays. I jumped from my seat and screamed, "Fuck yes!" when they officially announced the reunion.
I got chills when I saw the new website. www.blink182.com

Girl boner.

And I may in fact quit my life to follow their tour this summer.

The Girl At The Rock Show

Monday, December 15, 2008

I collect vinyl! Am I cool yet? Guys? .......guys?

So I "accidentally" typed in www.ebay.com into my browser the other day.

Yes, it was an accident. Shut up.

I tend to avoid Ebay at all costs. Not because it's a bad website, but I have this disease where I can't go to that website without searching for old records and then bidding on old records. Which would be fine, if I had unlimited funds but uh yeah I DO NOT. It...it never ends well.

Vinyl. It's interesting--the subject of buying vinyl has been brought up several times to me in the last month or so, most recently by a family member. She was confused as to WHY I preferred vinyl over CDs or MP3s. At the time, I was both lazy and a little drunk (Happy Thanksgiving, welcome to America, where we drink and eat in excess and then play Pictionary and almost fall asleep during an All Play) so my answer was probably something like "I LIKE RECORDS, THEY'RE BIG AND SHINY AND SOUND LIKE RICE KRISPIES WHEN YOU PLAY THEMMM blarg blarg NO SYMBOLS, JAKE, YOU CAN'T USE SYMBOLS, COME ON!!"

But after my body was free from the clutches of mashed potatoes and alcohol, I thought on it a bit further.

It's a trap! Seriously. When people find out you collect/prefer vinyl, I guarantee at least 50% of those people mentally file your name under "Pretentious Fuck" in their heads. Trust me, I know, I've done it, I've met them (Other things that will make me file you there: having gratuitous tattoos/piercings and then claiming you "don't care about your appearance," talking about how you lived in London/Paris/Australia for less than a year and it's "just so different there, so progressive, much better than Chicago, oh you wouldn't know, *snotty chuckle*," claiming that no good music has been made since the 60s/70s/80s, ever using the words "Kurt Cobain," "Dave Matthews," and "American poet" in the same sentance, etc etc).

But I digress.

The simplest of answers, I suppose, would be that I prefer the sound. Many of my records are old and a little scratchy--not overly so, but a little. I enjoy listening to the pops and crackles and the sound just as the needle touches the record for the first time. I don't know why. Haha, yeah, I know, WOW WHAT A GOOD EXPLANATION.

So I thought on it a little more. And here's what I came up with:

Listening to a record really makes you listen to it.

With vinyl, it's a process. You have a record player and it's not portable. You have to flip the record over in between, or switch records altogether to hear a full album. You can't put it on your iPod and run errands or go for a jog or commute while listening to the album (Note to self: invent the Walkman for 12" records. See how many hipsters would buy into it, just to rage against the Apple machine. It would be the biggest, most awkward, touchiest portable music player in the history of evers; I'll make millions). It's a big piece of plastic that you can hold in your hands, not a hypothetical album that lives in files on your computer.

With vinyl, you really are forced to pay attention.

I like that, I like letting the music wash over me and putting all my focus on it. I could sit in front of my record player and watch the album spin for hours while I listen to it like Charlie fucking Bucket in front of the candy store. I was the kind of kid who bought a CD and obsessed over it for a week or so--just listened to it over and over again, because you just can't soak everything in on the first listen. I read all the liner notes and all the lyrics. Oh man, Tiny Ly was on a rampage if they didn't include the lyrics. How was I supposed to sing along in front of the mirror if I didn't have the words in front of me?? Take note, musicians.

Not to mention, I like the idea of listening to music in a way that my heroes listened to it, too. David Bowie listened to records, dude. If it's good enough for Bowie, it's good enough for me (...besides Iggy Pop, I mean. Haha, just playin'. Kind of)! I realize that is the lamest answer in the history of answers, but I don't care.

Oh man. Ebay, you are the worst. I'm going to be the poorest kid in Chicago.

But at least I'll have Bowie's "Low" to keep me company.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers' Intoxicating Energy

Still dedicated to their cause after 5 years together, Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, average almost 300 shows annually. Their current tour, “Celebrating 5 Years” consists of over 90 dates nationally and internationally; 2 of those evenings were spent in Chicago at the Subterranean. After a little PG-13 nudity, some insight into their personal lives and a double encore, they proved to be, not only great musicians, but talented performers as well. Kellogg explained that they try to give their fans an entirely unique experience each night but they break a few rules when writing their set list, “We never play a song just because we’re supposed to and this might make me sound like a dick, but because people want to hear it, we try and give people a really honest, real experience and that helps keep it fresh every night.”

And not only do they perform almost nightly, but there’s the time spent pre-show talking to press and post-show signing autographs and greeting loyal fans; it could leave one wondering where this super-trio finds the energy or time to write fresh material. But with a new album, American Standard, set to be released the early part of 2009 its clear they have tapped into their subhuman powers. Stephen Kellogg took a moment on his way to St. Louis, MO to explain, the fears that accompany being on the road for such extended periods of time, the process of producing another set of boldly personal ballads and to clear the record, he claims, “really, no I’m not a pothead. Even though I have a regular arsenal of guys who are like ‘Kellogg you wanna go get baked’ and I appreciate their generosity, but I’m not.”

Stephen (skunk) Kellogg the self-proclaimed “most worthless” member of the band, plays guitar and sings; he’s also the one responsible for the rich dialogue that keeps the crowd entertained between songs. Although not formally considered an instrument, it surely takes some fine-tuning and a great deal of talent to get this one just right. Keith (kit) Karlson plays accordion, bass, tuba and piano while Brian (boots) Factor plays drums, mandolin and banjo. They clearly have more instruments than arms, but don’t expect to see them using looping devices or pre-recorded music. “I’m just playing guitar pretty much, but we switch it up a lot, we switch instruments. The songs, sometimes they sound the way the sound on the record and sometimes we decide to play them in a really different way and that’s just part of it. I think its part of the fun of coming to see our band. You don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s not for everybody but I think its cool.” They give you real music in real time; no bells and whistles, just honesty.

They sing about love and pain with an inspiringly candid expression of fear and doubt; but they paint their narratives on a canvas of hope. Although Stephen, who is married, explains, “those particular fears [of never finding love] are not mine but I have fears that my family will feel that I’ve abandoned them or that I didn’t care. So, I think the way I reconcile that is, that your born with this desire, this predisposition to do this job and if I didn’t go out and play all these shows and do all this stuff I wouldn’t be any good to anybody because its what I do, its what gives me my sense of self. So you have to follow your dream and sometimes life is challenging and that’s one of the challenges that we meet. But it also inspires me to want to do better and better at my job and get to spend more and more time at home and be around them. The better we can do and the more [people] we can connect with in shorter amounts of time then the more time well have to be at home.”

“Its one of the old rock and roll clich├ęs because you dream about doing this when your little. You love playing music and then your lucky enough to do it and make a living doing it; then after a couple of years of doing it, your like wow there’s a price tag on the amount of time you don’t spend on traditional day to day life with the majority of your friends and family.” Kellogg also adds that it’s much easier to trace the lines to connect to your friends and family in a digital world; they are always a phone call or an email away.

But, Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers didn’t begin traveling cross-country playing sold out shows to hundreds of enthusiastic fans each night. The group of friends formed the SK6ERS in 2003 to begin what they call, “an adventure without regret.” They started out humbly playing coffee shops and college dives and endured a few unflattering reviews. But in July of 2007 the tides turned when they released their 4th album, “Glassjaw Boxer.” Described as “a letter to the world about family and friendships,” it was hailed as one of the top 5 albums of 2007 by USA Today. They have since shared the stage with an impressive list of peers: Guster, James Brown, Jason Mraz, Kathleen Edwards, Josh Ritter, Ani Difranco and Hanson and their song, “Hearts in Pain” was recently featured on the show “One Tree Hill.”

And although these are the things that make headlines and expose the SK6ERS to the masses they are not necessarily the most fulfilling moments, nor are they the moments that define the band. Kellogg explains the moment he felt most accomplished, it “was when we went into New York on Thanksgiving weekend, we played on my birthday last year and the show was sold out at this room that I had gone to see concerts in when I was a teenager, and there it was sold out, and we ended up playing for two hours. We did four encores…it’s a fairly large venue and we finished not plugged in, acoustic, singing Glass Jaw Boxer. Nobody had left and everybody was sitting there singing the song with us and I just thought, this is what I dreamt about when I was a kid; this is it right here, its just, it made me, I cant remember feeling more proud with what we’ve done with our lives than I did that night.”

In December the SK6ERS will begin a new chapter when they head back to the studio to record “American Standard.” Their previous release “Glassjaw Boxer” may have hints of spontaneous prose, having been recorded in only 9 days. And while Kellogg describes the gratifying effect of producing an album as raw as “Glassjaw Boxer,” he looks forward to the time they will spend on “American Standard.” “On the last record I think we thought it would be really interesting to go out and just make a record really fast and not try to edit it all up and that was an experience, but it was a short one and I think that we’re ready for something pretty different. And we just get so much less time generally speaking to work on the different ways of making records so right now we’re really excited to spend a bit more time making this new record and I think it will be, its like everything we do, we’ve never made a record taking as long as we’re about to take on making this record and that’s exciting to me. Its fun to try new things….I just don’t want to rush it, I think we’ll make a more kick ass record if we just wait and make sure the songs are [ready]. We have some really good songs written and I wanted to write some better ones and I think in waiting we have gotten even stronger material.”

The band has only continued to improve and grow stronger over the past 5 years and although one can only speculate, I believe its safe to say, the SK6ERS have yet to reach their peak. As far as their future, Kellogg remarks, “, its hard to speculate what the future holds I know that our litmus test has always been, are these six months more fun and is the music better than it was six months ago, and are there more people listening to it. As long as these questions all come out in the affirmative, I think we will continue doing what were doing as long as it feels right.”

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Songs You Own Make Your Heart Beat

Sometimes you have to visit the past to remember why you love music. Why you breathe artistic.... Why that needle hitting that vinyl is your saving grace.... There are a few albums that do that for me. And this is one of them.

Give Up The Ghost's We’re Down Til We’re Underground is the fourth release from the influential Boston hardcore band previously known as American Nightmare. And, simply put, it is mosh worthy with so much finger point action I can barely contain myself.

The album lasts a mere 31minutes, but it is a half hour of genius. Every song serves a purpose. The record begins with an instrumental intro that includes…. an acoustic guitar? in a hardcore album? It continues until singer/songwriter Wes Eisold screams a punkrockesque “1,2,3,4!” and leads the band into the adrenaline-pumping hardcore anthem “Love American.” WDTWU culminates with an outro (similar to the intro), bringing the record full circle. This is uncommon in hardcore albums, but gives the listener a sense of closure, especially since (unfortunately) this was GUTG’s last studio release.

GUTG veers away from traditional hardcore song formulation by stripping down the noise and increasing song length while retaining intensity and abrasiveness. WDTWU is organized musical chaos. The desperation of its words are exemplified in the cavernous bass lines propelled forward by taut drums in “Crimescene”. The guitars frenetically claw to the surface from the deep end, moments away from doom or salvation, screaming for survival in “Since Always.” The songs are frantic and fraught but refuse to surrender. WDTWU showcases the maturity of the band with its polished and cleaned-up tracks. It allows for the star of the album to shine through: the lyrics.

Lyrically, Eisold surpasses himself and has created material for the tattoos of many generations to come. His phrasing is simple yet poignant, independent yet needy, cold yet vulnerable. You scream along in “Bluem” as he confesses “My head is red, my bones black and blue. Fever burns; choke on words at the thought of you.” You feel his frustration as he cries “My legs barely hold all of my heart and soul” in “AEIOU.”

This is an album for kids with broken hearts who know themselves too well for their own good. For the kids who love Salinger. For the kids obsessed with metaphors, similes, and allegories. Vocally, Eisold says it best “We Killed It” “[his] voice isn’t great, but at least it’s sincere.” Eisold screams with a passion rivaled by none and gets his point across clearly: I hurt, this sucks, and I hate you.

Since the release of the album that holds my candy heart, Eisold has started the bands XO Skeletons and Some Girls. Additionally, Eisold has opened his old publishing company Heartworm Press and releases not only his works but the works of other amazing artist. All are worth looking into.