Benjamin Verdery performs at The Monkey

The Monkey is a new Manhattan showcase venue that exemplifies sound quality and presents music the way it should be heard.

On Thursday night May 17th , a world-acclaimed classical guitarist and composer
Benjamin Verdery performed an engrossing hour-long set. Benjamin donated his time to raise funds for a non-profit called “Arts in Action a Visual Art Program”, an after school art enrichment program. Adorning the space was the children’s beautiful artwork that spoke volumes for the program and its director Angela Tripi-Weiss.

Last year I saw Benjamin perform at Carnegie Hall with Andy Summers of “The Police”. They played a commissioned work by Igram Marshall composed specifically for classical and electric guitar and backed by the American Symphony Orchestra. Andy and Ben continue their collaboration and have recorded a new instrumental album, "At First You Build a Cloud," soon to be released.

Verdery is always spectacular to hear but tonight was a special treat. In this venue the sound was so exceptional that the nuance of every guitar sound, like the bending of a string, harmonics and chopsticks slides on nylon was heard with clarity and subtlety. To hear an instrument the way a performer intends it to be heard is a tremendous opportunity for the listener.

His first selection for the evening was an original arrangement of Jimmy Hendrix classics; Ezy Rider, Little Wing and Purple Haze performed in three movements. Verdery reworked each signature song starting with key identifiable lead in grooves and extending, repeating, layering and reconstructing those components. This selective dialogue was a mark of respect that honors the music of Hendrix.

The original composition “Be Kind All The Time” featured an amplified classical guitar that corresponded with a digital delay system. A digital sound expert did the programming in real time. This created a surround sound as the prior styling heard up front resonated in re verb from the back. Ben’s collaboration with himself became quite challenging, but heard with ease.

The Classic The Blue Danube by Johan Strauss was complex and familiar, and it sounded wonderful.

Benjamin Verdery has a close personal relationship with his guitar. For 40 years he has practiced four to five hours a day. At the Monkey that intimacy was shared with the audience.

Twelve flights up the elevator to the forty capacity room. The space has high ceilings equipped with acoustic ceiling tiles, a reasonably sized raised stage. A small loft area is set up for sound and video production. Behind the stage are large windows that frame two water towers in the foreground and the New York City skyline in the distance.

Dominick Frasco is responsible for creating The Monkey. He is also an accomplished classically trained guitarist. His mission is to create a showcase venue equipped with surround sound giving musicians an opportunity to have control of how their music is presented and heard. The musician can take charge of every aspect from the pricing, sound, promotion and visual effects.
The Monkey. What a concept
"Branches" buy new Benjamin Verdery LP
Web Album Link


I Found Art In Chelsea

Whenever I go to galleries in Chelsea to look at art, I am usually disappointed. Art, I mean good art, is hard to find. So on Sunday, May 5th, I surprisingly found art in Chelsea at the Perry Rubenstein Gallery.

The new work of South African artist Robin Rhode is in all three of the gallery's spaces. The works of video, photographic work, a 16-millimeter film, performance art, and sculptures using everyday materials are visually provocative and cerebrally stimulating.

While the work represents the artist's personal and autobiographical references, it effectively creates a dialogue about the broader culture of ideas.

He expands two-dimensional space by drawing elements into a background with which he or others interact. He then documents those interactions in photographs and film. By doing so, he creates a fourth dimension in the mind. It is a clever illusion further developed by the work's title.

I highly recommend seeing this show.
New York Times Article
Art Cal
May 5th to June 23rd


PA Bands Bus Trip To The Bitter End

PA bands Bus trip to The Bitter End
Line up: France on Fire, Downtown Harvest, Drink Up Buttercup

Booking a bus for three PA bands and their fans to a NY venue is a fun and creative idea. This was a love fest transplanted to The Bitter End.

I came to the Venue to see a young band from Bucks County PA called Drink Up Buttercup. I heard them play on The Indie Café, a small college radio station on the Internet. I was tuning in to hear my favorite Peasant and was taken off guard listening to Drink Up Buttercup's raw energy and experimental sound. It translated so well in virtual space.

France on Fire from Bucks County PA was first of the three to play. The band never missed a beat and seamlessly and joylessly played one song after another. They have great harmonies and catchy choruses. The crowd enthusiastically sang along. They add percussion, keyboards maracas, lots of clapping and use the Kazoo as a serious instrument. France On Fire are fun, full of love and infectious.

Downtown Harvest came on and the venue seemed to expand with patrons. This is not the kind of music I typically listen to or go out to see, but this is a very talented group of accomplished musicians. Fusing melodic rock, jazz, funk, hip hop and dance beats successfully. With The Beatles like harmonies, and connections to the music of Sly and The Family Stone, Beck, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and The Meters they create a classic association. While these references can be found, It's the merging of all these styles that forge originality.

The drummer Christopher C, Wood is a savant. He can switch styles and beats dramatically and his vocal styling is low, raw and distinctive. The lead guitarist and vocalist Larry Thomas Moore has a higher register that is great for harmonies and vocals. Frank Ewing the saxophonist vocalist and keyboard player adds the unique funky zest that takes the band to a different level. Bobby Cahill plays the bass and switches gear as the tone changes from groove to harmony. Downtown Harvest is ready for success on a broader commercial scale. Their versatility is a tribute to their six years playing together.

The young musicians I came to see were attentively listening to The Downtown Harvest’s set. They looked a little anxious and so was I. It is hard to play, following such an accomplished group.

Drink Up Buttercup came on stage, bringing with them an assortment of strange instruments. One large metal garbage pan, stumpf fiddle, maracas, an acoustic guitar with duct tape over the hollow to create a muffled sound, tiny Casio keyboard, a tubular instrument called the melodica and distortion and delay pedal. Then there was the usual; drums, keyboard, bass.

Well in an instant the unbridled energy and fun-loving spirit of this young band came to life. James Harvey the steady vocalist and guitar player enthusiastically leads as Farzad Houshiarnejad and Ben Money play and change instruments as fast as a blink of an eye. Mike Cammarata keeps the beat up with drums and auxiliary percussion. Sing along, shaky percussion and bells, crazy beats, theatrical acrobatics with instruments in tow, shape their circus like commotion.

James Harvey’s voice is strong and authoritative but to my surprise he is an opera singer. He is classically trained and when he lets go it is a treasured delight. As his voice travels up and down the band picks up the pulse.

This is a newly formed band with James Harvey having the most experience formally of Playwright. They are just getting started and only have demos out. Playing to a supportive crowd in Doylestown PA gives them the opportunity to hone their craft with supportive fans. At some point they have to venture out to the cold hard world. I think they will get a warm welcome.

web Album link


Promoting Independent Music

Promoting Independent Music / Ten Suggestions

When I started this Blog in June of last year my intentions were to feature and write about music that “I Can’t Get Enough Of”. My original concept has not changed. What has occurred is my music palette has expanded. I continue to be passionate about the music I’ve written about. Fickle is not part of my vocabulary.

My quest to understand how the independent music market is promoted via the Internet continues. My goal has been to learn about how it is utilized to promote great music.

I listen to mostly independents and their situation is unique. A band can have good work ethic and talent, but that does not mean people will respond to their music or find them. As a serious career choice a bands survival depends on people listening, going to shows, buying CD's, purchasing merchandise and then spreading the music around in as many ways possible.

Suggestions for bands and singer/songwriters to think about:

1. Creating a band name that can be easily found on the Internet. If you have already established a non-researchable name, explore alternatives to help people find you. Be creative.

2. Support the Bloggers,
Podcasters, Vloggers and On-line Communities that you respect by linking them to your site. They are and will be an important part of your future.

3. Align yourself with the artistic community: illustrators, graphic designers, photographers, filmmakers, video artists and writers. Everybody needs an opportunity to start somewhere. You are all at the beginnings of your careers, so exposure for all is good. The art of bartering and sharing benefits everybody.

4. Create your own culture. Working outside the mainstream can develop into something that benefits many and broadens opportunities.

5. Thank people that help you along the way. This should not be awkward. The relationships you foster will be there for you in the future. As you develop so do they. Don’t make the assumption that they are not important or not necessary, fans included.

6. Arrange that someone video tape your shows and take pictures that you can share. This
naturally occurs for many bands, but for newcomers just getting to the venue and booking shows is hard enough. This detail is important. It is self-promotion but can be done without appearing self-congratulatory.

7. Create your own band philosophy will help you focus and be the focal point of how you want to present yourself.

8. Elicit fans and friends to work for free. They will make buttons, fan sites, websites, silkscreen tee shirts, put out flyers, sponsor shows, write copy, design promotional material, and do a creative video. Make sure the people you work with share your sensibilities and philosophy.

9. Collaborate with other musicians. This will broaden your world and audience.

10. It never hurts to ask

Comment and Add your own suggestions to the list.

The Problem With Music Steve Albini


Ramona Cordova "The Boy Who Floated Freely" review

Ramóna Córdova
"The Boy Who Floated Freely"

After following Ramón Córdova’s music virtual style for most of this year, I was thrilled to purchase the CD "The Boy Who Floated Freely". I had a few brief conversations via myspace, watched his touring on youtube and enjoyed his escapades with The Big Purple Van Club. Ramón has been playing in Europe for most of the year, had a brief US winter tour and is currently in Asia. He gets around.

This CD took my breath away. I was deeply moved. Each glorious low fi track is rich with sincerity and tenderness. Ramón's soft tenor reaches high androgynous octaves. Playing skillfully a nylon string guitar in most of the recordings, he weaves clapping, walking feet, tambourine, organ, cello, accordion and birds chirping. All of these elements create a charming, quirky and imaginative component.

The CD presents a lyrical narrative that portrays life’s hardships, disappointments and joy. Revealing a philosophical openness to life that welcomes happiness despite recollecting the residual affect of pain.

Every song has a lead-in that invites the listener to linger. The melodious journey unfolds beginning with a chirping bird on the first introductory track. The Song “The Givers Reply” proceeds with an organ and two verses. Suddenly the unexpected sound of an antique twister noisemaker leads the rinky-dink orchestra of pots and pans to create a joyous ruckus. / I will shout out to the sky / and I'll sing along my little songs / to help me move the day along /

“Heavy On My Head” is a confessional song with poignant words / what I couldn’t ask with my mouth / and sadly / I was raised with hands / I pushed through some pad lock doors / the lyrics and delivery are penetrating.

The saddest most revealing song is “Brother” where he forgives his brother who shares the painful memory of their father’s neglect and abandonment. His brother chooses a different path that creates distance between them / you decided to fight like our father/ you decided to leave like our father. But he tells his brother of his regrets that / Underneath the lies I breathe / I know I mean the most lovely thing /.

Ramon expresses the beauty of the sunlight on the trees, a simple walk with a friend, paper airplanes and love. He gently paints a magical picture of a music landscape of unexpected animated sounds that capture the imagination and move the heart.

ECA (US) Clapping Music (FR) Sleeping Star (IT)
Buy: The Boy Who Floated Freely
"The Givers Reply" Video premiered on MTV Europe
Spectacular Cover Art: John Heron


Langhorne Slim Unplugged at The Rock Star Bar

Langhorne Slim and the War Eagles at the Rock Star Bar

Langhorne Slim and the War Eagles tear it up unplugged at the Rock Star Bar. After performing “I Love To Dance,” technical sound difficulties ensued. Langhorne Slim, Malachi Delorenzo, and Paul Defiglia made a decision to unplug the defunct PA system and go ahead with the show. And so they did…

The supportive crowd quickly took their places on the stage platform and closely packed the surrounding areas. Being close to the band, the crowd assumed the responsibilities of a supporting cast of veteran “War Eagles.”

Together they did a fifteen-song set of old and new material, including encores that didn’t take much prompting. In the song “Checking Out,” the audience weighed in with / I’m going home, I’m coming home / that’s where I’m going / building momentum. During “Restless,” the crowd/ band did their best. Langhorne, as a band leader, reprimanded us like a loving parent. Smiling, he said, “You got to learn the song.”

Crammed together and in it together, Mr. Slim still found space for his convoluted antics. He strutted with his guitar in the confined space, made priceless facial expressions, and sang on a drum set to maximize his voice level. Malachi subdued his usual drumming intensity and picked it up only for effect. Paul lent support on bass, playing some fine solo interludes. With little room to breathe, they never missed a beat.

Tonight sealed my belief in this band’s ability to connect with an audience. They have heart, authenticity, talent, and a love for music performance that sets them apart from other bands. Whether they are opening for the Pogues at Irving Plaza or playing acoustically at the Rockstar Bar, Langhorne Slim knows how to deliver.

This curated night of music at the Rock Star Bar rarely happens in the music scene today. The night's mix of eclectic music styles created an atmosphere that celebrates the diversity of the genre. In between acts, music tracks set a mood with songs by Hank Williams III, Musical Youth, Mongo Joy, and a few awesome recordings of the one-man band Abner Jay.

The night started colorfully with a cover band that did a fine job channeling Janis Joplin. Janis appeared in the form of a man extravagantly dressed to replicate. This was the only band not part of the original lineup but was a fun opening.

Jazz duo Tyler Miller, vocalist, guitar player, and trumpeter Dan Blanketchip played jazz standards. We were treated to tunes like “Saint James Infirmary,” "Dinah," and "Honeysuckle Rose." They exchanged duties throughout the set. The trumpet playing was pristine, while Tyler played guitar with ease and dexterity. His vocals were perfect.

The mood switched gears as the stylish Honne Wells stepped onto the platform and slowly sat with the guitar in hand. He steps, picks, slides, whistles, and sings with a voice that has never seen the light of day. He brings reverence and humor, channeling a slice of Americana with a refreshing new twist.

The time was r
ight for the upbeat original folk styling of Hop Along Queen Ansleis. Her fans gravitated towards her as she began her set with “Spinach Water,” holding a small touring guitar. She glowed and emanated joy as her powerful voice reached a range of high octaves with ease and veracity. Her set was a mix of favorites from her 2005 debut, “Freshman Year,” and new tunes soon to be recorded. She sang an outstanding cover of Hank William's “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” It rang with originality and was so beautifully arranged I almost didn’t recognize it. She is a captivating performer ready for a wider audience.

The crowd wa
s unprepared for the Charm City Drug Band but thoroughly embraced their NY debut performance. This Baltimore collective assembled its instruments on-site. Finding anything that can be banged, rubbed, or hammered at the bar. The night’s set up was a plastic bin, metal piping, wooden dowels, a metal urn, and discarded refrigerated shelving propped up against the back wall of the platform. The improvisational clatter beat and surged organically, creating a beguiling sound. The audience was perked with interest. As the players went into overdrive, so did the PA.

The PA failure led to a delightful accident that propelled Langhorne Slim's impromptu acoustic session. The melding of great musicians was no accident. They were a sampling of one person’s eclectic and passionate taste and, in my opinion, a masterful night of music.

04 /19 / 07 Rock Star Bar lineup curated by: Marlon Ziello
Related articles by Obsession Collection: Langhorne Slim

Hop Along Queen Ansleis
Honne Wells
Rock Star Bar 04 /19/ 2007
Click on picture for Album Link / pictures by Artifact.


Willy Mason at Webster Hall 4 /07 /2007

Willy Mason Webster Hall 4 / 07 / 2007

Willy Mason walked on the stage alone, bent over his guitar, as his signature picking moves and deeply soulful voice started to register. The song "Into Tomorrow" continued as band members Sam Mason on drums, Mike Macky on bass, and Nina Violet on viola and vocals emerged on queue.

Webster hall
has a strong sound system but lacks the intimacy of the other venues I’ve seen Willy play. The best show was at the Housing Works Used Book Cafe in Soho, which seats two hundred people. What made that show so special was the three acts shared a common thread, not a common label. It was a curated show.

It is difficult being a support act, especially with the time constraints imposed. It was evident to me
 that Willy wanted to present as much of the new recording "If The Ocean Gets Rough" as he could. He, unfortunately, sacrificed his typical engaging personal connection with the audience. The music made up for his serious demeanor. Nina Violet stepped in with her lively, upbeat support. Sam Mason bore down, immersed in his drum set.

I watched the attentive and captivated
young crowd gazing up at the stage. After the first song, I realized that most were unfamiliar with his music. That was clearly evident when they didn’t recognize "Our Town," a crowd-pleaser that his ravenous British and Irish audiences enjoy. Many were there to see Sondre Lerche, whose music is of another sensibility and genre.

Willy and Nina’s voices worked magic together, and the band presented the recording's diverse texture without all the effects the CD affords. The viola was used effectively in Simple Town, creating a sonic backdrop for the sad and impressive words. "Our Town" rocked 
as Willy sang my favorite line describing the food offerings during a short prison stay / I got some white bread/ some cheese spread / and some mayonnaise /

After the set, I spoke with two lovely young women who were there to see Sondre Lerche. They were impressed and moved by Willy Mason’s music. I left them as they clutched their freshly bought CDs close to their hearts.
It’s nice to see that instant connection. Great music can have that kind of effect.

A must-see / Archived: A live set at KCRW with a short interview, it is very impressive.

Setlist: Into Tomorrow (Oxygen single), We Can Be Strong, When the River Moves On, Save Myself, Simple Town, Our Town (Where the Humans Eat), If The Ocean Gets Rough When The Leave Have Fallen. The other songs off the New CD "If the Ocean Gets Rough."

Album Web Link


Bright Eyes "Cassadaga" Review:

Bright Eyes: “Cassadaga” Review Conor Oberst The Crooner Can Turn a Phrase 

Conor Oberst’s voice, timing and phrasing is at their best in “Cassadaga,” Bright Eyes seventh Full-Length release. I have always felt that Conor Oberst’s phrasing style and lyric delivery could be compared to Frank Sinatra, but in “Cassadaga,” the connection is more evident. He artfully structures words in a frame without sacrificing the timing, while the acute measurement of empty space guides the listener to linger. The emotional weight of his poetic verse is highlighted by the subtle nuance of his singing style.  The songwriting blossoms with inference. It is uncanny how Oberst can attach imagery to thought, creating a pathway between the visual and cerebral cortex. Like: Standing on a doorstep full of nervous butterflies / or / vanish in a thick mist of change /. Utilizing this format, he accentuates the unpredictable nature of his song craft. 

Adding to Conor Oberst’s inspired vocal delivery is the inventive music mixing by Mike Mogis and orchestra arrangements by Nate Walcott. Together they rework the Bright Eyes discography into a polished combination of alt-country styling, digital effects, orchestral lushness, and gorgeous choral flourishes. With outstanding guest appearances throughout, including Dave Rawlings’ signature guitar, the vocals of Rachel Yamagatta, Gillian Welch, Sheri, and Stacy DuPree, Jason Boesel, and M Ward's contributions on “Soul Singer.” 

The Bright Eyes tradition of starting the first track with unusual sound effects like cassette recordings, children reading, keys turning on the car engine, or storytelling is continued in Cassadaga. “Clairaudients (Kill or Be Killed)” opens with a psychic reading, while supernatural orchestration leads into the atmospheric song. It explores the subject of destiny. A destiny is determined by individual choices or, in contrast, beyond the range of control, like in manmade and natural occurrences. This song sets the tonal direction for the entire collection of songs. “Four winds” is a rollicking fiddle-driven fare disseminating a tirade of social, religious, and political epithets and emphasizing the hypocrisies of destiny offerings. Your class, caste, country, sect, name, or tribe / There are people always dying trying to keep them alive /. Here he extols the state of civilization as it repeats history. “The Brakeman Turns My Way” emphasizes self-determination and the desire to search for answers. / It’s an infinite coincidence, but it doesn’t make a plan /. Some people are lucky to have the opportunity to change their fate and level out. The paradox is presented cleverly in the line / People snuffed out in the brutal rain /. The dichotomy is forcefully clear as the pulsating strumming and forceful rock/country styling take hold. The fateful direction unfolds with “Classic Cars” as memory awakens to recall a passing love affair / like two quaint ships in the night / She leaves him with these thoughtful words / everything is a cycle / you’ve got to let it come to you / And when it does you’ll know what to do /. The wise offering guides him and ultimately influences his life. In “Make a Plan To Love Me,” Conor’s crooning shines as sentimental strings pipe in on queue, and the lavish vocals of Rachel Yamagata are added to dress this romantic escapade. As they sing during the chorus / make a plan to love me / make a plan to love me sometime soon /. The saddest and most heart-wrenching song, “No One Would Riot For Less,” is circa Bright Eyes at its best. As he sings / So love me now / Hell is coming / Kiss my mouth Hell is here /. And / Little soldier / little insect / you know war it has no heart / it will kill you in the sunshine or happily in the dark /. This is where the forbidding future, impending doom, and love collide. The last song, “Lime Tree,” starts with simple guitar plucks and Conor’s voice.

At the end of the second verse, string arrangements exemplify the heartfelt words. Rachel Yamagata and Stacey Dupree's choral affectations are sublime, cascading the song to breathtaking levels. The song ends dramatically as he takes a major step into the world. Stepping gingerly into his destiny. / I took my shoes and walked into the woods / I felt lost and found with every step I took. Turning a phrase and dreaming big dreams, Bright Eyes has established their destiny with every track on this stunning recording. Label: Saddle Creek Records Artwork and design by Zack Nipper Utilizing the invention of a focal decoder, viewers can scan the art and see encrypted images and messages. Focal Decoder by www.3dimages.co.uk patent no.2315240 "Four Winds" Review / Artifact