Sgt. Dunbar Packed Full Of Sound

Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned miraculously packed all eight members and an army of instruments onto the small stage Saturday night at Pete's Candy Store. The band twisted and contorted their bodies to accommodate the trombone's large expanse or the tuba's scale. Even in cramped quarters, their musical competence was not compromised. The sound of full-bodied percussion and brass burst with energy. Sgt. Dunbar delightfully gave it their all as the crowd chanted for it not to end! Dunbar has solidified their roster to a solid eight talented multi-instrumentalists. They are adept at switching instruments; a banjo is abandoned for a sax or a trombone to an accordion within seconds. This band's rough and tumble and charming quality has not been lost but upgraded to a tightly woven ensemble with every member contributing to a robust sound. 

The mix is a folk/jazz infusion with pulsating inventive percussion, big bold brass instruments that escalate with guitar, ukulele, banjo, violin, accordion, and an awesome full band of voices swell in-between. Percussion is a strong suit, whether they are playing the bass guitar with drumsticks, mouth harp, hand-held bass drum, and saw. The web and flow of acceleration between more subtle takes build the big stirring dialogue. They played an energetic nine-song set of old, new, and reclaimed songs. Starting with a new song to be released, “The Table and the Cup,” with a continuous pounding drum and a four / four-time accent of the full orchestra. Highlighting the influx of weathered jazz was another new one, “A March Through Charles Mingus’ Garbage Pile.” Alex Muro singing solo flanked by a chorus of passionate hobos and mashed with the one-two punch of brass orchestra strut and crashing cymbals. It is an awesome new direction. “The Weight” was revised with an accelerated tempo going from upbeat to mock speed and a full band chant / sometimes everything seems perfect / sometimes everything just sucks /. Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned have come a long way.

From the ambitious band, I reviewed a year ago with so much promise to a band with vision and purpose that is ready for prime time. Filling Pete’s is easy, but I see them in larger yet intimate venues like the Mercury or Bowery after tonight. As many NY Bloggers are reviewing the likes of David Byrne, I was happy to be there witnessing a new generation of great musicians. Get ready for March 13th the release date of Sgt. Dunbar and The Hobo Banned’s new EP Charles Mingus’ Garbage Pile. It is also the date of their tour send-off as they make their way from Albany to SXSW. Check their tour dates on MySpace, and don’t miss out

Scientific Maps opened. They are sometimes a twosome or foursome. Tonight it was Aaron Smith and Donna Baird. She is also a member of Sgt Dunbar. Together on stage, they are adorable. Aaron’s witty comments to the audience and affectionate interaction with Donna added to the delight of sharing time with such an affable duo. Tuning his guitar, he says, “Donna play that trumpet part when you know this happens.” Laughter followed as Donna played it straight as if she were just waking up and didn’t realize she was performing. Something about her is zany in the best possible way. The tunes Aaron writes are easy to love, kind of quirky pop with memorable melodies and offbeat lyrics. Their voices are great together.
Aaron, on guitar, sings and captures attention, and Donna adds a charming response with trumpet and vocal. The band's recorded material is upbeat, with drums, a keyboard, and experimental surprises. I’m ready to spend some time with their music; tonight was a nice introduction. 

Scientific Maps nice site Get ready for March 13th, the release date of Sgt. Dunbar and The Hobo Banned’s new EP Charles Mingus’ Garbage Pile. It is also the date of their tour send-off as they make their way from Albany to SXSW. Check their tour dates on MySpace, and don’t miss out. Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned Flickr Set Scientific Maps Flickr Set


Honne Wells with Juan Comas; Sound with Benefits

Wednesday night at The Stone Honne Wells stepped out of hiatus and onto the stage accompanied by musician/artist Juan Comas to bring Wells’ latest project to fruition. They played an array of string instruments tuned to specificity. The results were a dynamic assemblage of sound that was deceptive to the viewer’s eye but surprising to the ear. Put assumptions aside, the banjo, guitar, and zither sounded like high and low-pitched bell-like percussion sounds. The zithers hummed and swelled in a loop-like circular reverberation. The repetitive flutter plucking of the banjo had an unfamiliar quality, and the guitars played with a glass slide and strum beat asymmetrical patterns of percussion. The kick drum was true to form. This compelling mix was contrasted by the guttural low styling of Wells's voice. His vocals are low and vibrate into depths of gospelesque blues of hard times and tough luck. The unexpected results of playing live tuned the audience into the process. We were welcome receptors. All 4 songs clock in at about 10 minutes or longer. The first was the combination of two zithers, one fretted and one fretless, coordinating a long building dialogue between them. Honne repeated, / don’t feel like I’m alone anymore / never feeling home in this world /. Switching it up with two guitars, they created a high-pitched bell-like clank, and the kick drumbeat escalated to reflect Honne’s powerfull ramblings. Honne Wells's striking physical presence his neck stretched, chin upward, and stoic manner, captured the conceptual attitude. Honne introduced the next song “(Don't Follow Me Down To) The Bottoms” saying, “this song is written by Edgefield C. Johnston, a good friend of mine”. Repeating a graveling intense verse / You Can’t Ride with Me /. With banjo in hand, he plucked its strange tuning accompanied by Juan on the zither.  

He thanked Shannon Fields for curating and The Stone “for supporting artists and culture in this fair city”. Then he said, “I’m going to sing a song about murder”. “If you live in America you have obviously murdered someone to some degree”. The song began, and loudly he sang, “I have something that I must confess ess ess ess…. I just killed a man. Sometimes it is necessary to leave the bar venue behind with its loud, rude patrons there to socialize. The music takes a back seat. Just saw Honne Wells on Friday night Solo in just that situation and was determined to see him properly at The Stone. I’ve heard raves about this venue, and now I know why. Tonight it was music with benefits. The Stone provided the benefits of hearing music with no distractions and gave to the audience with no other agenda but to listen.

Solo Set at Southpaw
There are no refreshments or merchandise at The Stone. Only music. All ages are welcome. The Stone is booked purely on a curatorial basis. We do not accept demos of any kind. Each month a different musician is responsible for curating the programs, with 100% of the nightly revenue going directly to the musicians. Now that’s refreshing! The stone is a project of hips road, a not-for-profit organization Collector catalog from the Yell-O-Faith Experimental Recording Archive What The Lead Told Or Said 2005 -2007 The Analog Stone City Sessions 2006 Mother Pie Album 2007 -2008 Flickr Set The Stone Flickr Set Southpaw


Kidrockers Don't Kid Down; Jeffrey Lewis / Drink up Buttercup

Kidrockers is a great way to spend a Sunday at The Living Room. My tiny kids days are long behind me but seeing Drink Up Buttercup and Jeffrey Lewis solo with a roomful of mostly three, four, five to nine-year-olds was something I was not going to miss. Jeffrey Lewis and Drink Up Buttercup are both affiliated with Rough Trade Records. Their shared sensibilities but uniquely different music genres created an inspired lineup. Kidrockers is the perfect vehicle to expose the young to emerging and established music on the independent scene. Seeing music live true to form without filters is a Kidrocker philosophy. Their Non-commercialized approach to presenting music raw and full of energy or simply acoustic is the groundwork for a lifetime of appreciation.

The founders of Kidrockers Morton Lorge and Beth Lorge are fine hosts and curate fabulous afternoons of diversity in the music with Time Out Kids and their sponsor partners. Kidrockers don’t KID DOWN. So as an adult member of the audience much of the music and general banter is aimed at the adults without ever losing sight of the children's experience. The awesome MC team Seth Herzog and Craig Baldo took a few liberties with adult material. Their jokes were effortlessly delivered with clever and quick responses. They told the children “now watch your parents there is a two-drink minimum today”. In the middle of each performance set, they work the room with a mic in hand for a Q and A, much like a contemporary version of Kids Say The Darnedest Things. Waiting for the unexpected question is part of the fun. It was especially interesting hearing the non-questions, along with poignant ones. One boy raised his hand and recited abcdefg and Seth’s response was I think that’s a Feist song.

Drink Up Buttercup brings out the kid in me. I assumed they would play an acoustic set, but I was so wrong! Not at Kidrockers! The sound was loud but not nearly at the intensity of a typical Drink Up show. They do protect the little ears. The carnival-like atmosphere was toned down. They started with "Sozy and Dozy" a hard rocking zany children’s rhyme in a two-step rock polka. A treat was a great new song that repeated the word, honey. The kids politely took it all in not knowing exactly what to do, but when asked to join the group on stage, they eagerly marched up. The bombardment of little feet forged toward the stage, leaving only the timid behind. The Ramshackle miniature orchestra of percussionists accompanied Drink up for “Gods and Gentlemen." Drink up thought for their next song, the kids would follow them to the center of the venue for a stomp and clap sing-along. Watching the faces of the band turning toward their abandoned instruments to sing to their little comrades of music who stayed firmly on the stage was a riot. When the set was finally over, our MCs referred to it as the best trash can related Jam ever! 

Seeing Jeffrey Lewis has been a goal of mine. I think that I chose the best possible venue to see him perform. Nothing was toned down he was totally himself, yet his interaction and inspired off-the-cuff reaction to the kids were genuine and charming. The songs he chose to sing were sophisticated nursery tales with broad visions of a better world. He delivers his inspired lyrics through an idealistic lens of hopefulness but with the ironic witticism of a seasoned adult. The music celebrates his commitment to social justice, global warming, and a broad scope of issues using irony and humor. The banter was highbrow to adults' pleasure and charmingly sweet with the kids.  He played a great song that he had never performed live called “I’ve Been Everywhere.” He invited three enthusiastic audience members to hold the lyrics up, and he described them as avant-garde teleprompters. The questions for Jeffrey were great. “Have you been everywhere”? “When did you get your guitar”? “Do you write the songs yourself”? My favorite was, “how do you get your ideas”? His answers were sincere and thoughtful. I just loved him. If you have kids, I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon with them. If you don't, borrow a kid, or bring a nephew or niece, then check the Kidrockers calendar or subscribe to their newsletter for scheduled events at various venues. Their plans to take Kidrockers on the road are emerging. So LA, get ready. Gothamist interview with Beth Lorge Maryanne Ventrice Flickr set (Official Kidrocker Photographer!) Her Site!



Max Vernon; Bait and Hook

Max Vernon has a vocal instrument that is deep and resonating, its clear tonality has reach and depth of maturity. With a signature voice, he delivers piano-driven melodies with a broad lyrical palette of intelligence. At twenty years old, he composes music that can move in many ways, like the Woody Guthrie of Pop to make a bold comparison.

Max Vernon’s lyrics leave an indelible impression. Using dynamic melodies in a pop format, he subliminally infiltrates the listener with smart content. His bait and hook got to me immediately. He employs words that move, words that drive the discussion, and words that can be subtly subversive and delivered with a tongue-in-cheek attitude. Topically he is current, but his intellectual curiosity captures the subtleties and irony in the topics/controversies of the day. But wait! All this is delivered in the most beautiful manner.

He plays the piano with such ease and fluidity, melding Jazz, blues, Do Wop, and cabaret, and adds tou
ches of frivolity with classical escapades that are diced into song construction.
Getting recognition from his delightful cover parody of Katy Perry's " I Kissed A Girl" is a strange way to find Max Vernon’s music. But it has been the vehicle for attention even though it was sort of a goof that he decided to record and make a video. Attention has come his way. As I am writing this, a release party for The Guilt by Association Volume 2 featuring danceable cover songs is at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. His cover is in good company.
e he doesn’t have an official release, he has chosen to share recordings and demos on The One Sixty One. On YouTube, he shares stripped-down footage of piano and vocals in various homey settings and the practice studios at NYU.

His most ambitious recording is "A Good God Is Hard To Find." He infuses white-collar crime, in god we trust, and proposition eight all into the same conversation tying these thoughts into a round of ecstasy-embedded harmonies. How is that possible? But he does it.

Along similar lines is “Dear Democracy.” The heavy piano bass chords set the tone while he spews an operatic diatribe of political criticism ending each unnerving injustice with light sardonic classical notes, singing / I already know that I’m going to hell / so I’m having a party / a party.

"When Your Body Breaks" is an orchestrated production with female vocal backup Caitlin Pasko AKA (Lacrymosa), cello, violin, church organ, and flute. Giving a boost of encouragement for the depressed whose memories are tainted with grey. / Oh you deserve better than that / and you’re gonna have it / your body’s breaking / you’re left with just your mind / you’re gonna be fine / but it’ll take time….It will take time…

The Song "Pastels" is like a poetic cinematic score. Singing about two people trying to find meaning in these troubled times / don’t criticize us /. It pulls the heartstrings in the chorus / but I’ll be with you / you know / and when you fall down / just hit the ground running / and I’ll be running with you / running with you. He concludes by interchanging, running with you with take me with you. Ahhh...... I'm such a romantic sap.

On September 08, he was about to headline Ars Nova Uncharted Series. He wrote to me saying he found my Blog through some degree of separation after looking up the history of the series, he found both Novice Theory and Langhorne Slim, which led him to me indirectly. I am so glad he reached out to me so I could discover his music and fall in love with it.

He closed his letter to me with, "If you get a chance, please give my songs a listen. Hopefully, you'll dig it."
Dig, I did!

He continues his studies at NYU
Gallatin School of Individualized Study graduating in May. The future looks bright, and I look forward to it all.

Photo Credit: Nico Apo
Visual Art by Max Vernon "The Queen" 2008


Peasant; Awesomeness at WOXY

Peasant Damien DeRose presents a moody mix
The acoustic session began with my favorite Peasant song, "Icy Deep" from an earlier release, Fear Not Distant Lover. Its haunting lyrics are like a memory bank of images and feelings / Something sharp has cut my blood out, there's my blood now, there’s my blood now /. A special treat is "Tough" an unreleased song. Tough? This song is so tender it melts your heart away. / So many love songs unheard /
Session Playlist: Icy Deep, Joanna, Hard Times, Tough. WOXY mp3 download


Welcome Mr. President

Official Inaugural Poster by Shepard Fairy
Welcome, Mr. President I take pride in America. Yes, with all its faults, it is still an exciting and vital experiment. The inauguration of Barack Obama, our first black president is proof. At last, African Americans can see a reflection of themselves in our president and his family. For others, it represents the welcome evolution of our experiment. I am a white female who lived through the sixties and still harbors that enduring spirit of change. Idealism and hope were the longings of my youth. They were shattered with the realization that the powerful prevail and corruption is embedded within the system. Cynicism took hold, and frustration ensued. Slowly I saw change move forward only to be set back. Our youthful ideals can bring to fruition the changes in our thinking that will affect our society and culture. Collectively each one of us volunteers through our deeds, making a conscious decision to get involved in some way. With the unison of spirit, we, the people, can take on the challenges that await us. This inauguration is about the spirit of hope and change. It is a spirit that can capture the imagination of the possible. Together we can activate the tides of hope and change with a common purpose and vision for our country and the world.


The Lisps; Futurity Triumphant Debut

On Saturday night The Lisps concluded their two-night stint of Futurity the Musical at The Zipper Factory. Presented was the music, lyrics, and book by César Alvarez lead singer, and in collaboration, Sammy Tunis lead female vocalist, Jeremy Hoevenaar, bass guitarist, and Eric Farber percussion, all members of The Lisps. The Lisps are a vaudevillian art/rock folk group. They maintained the essence of their music within the context of a musical. The sophisticated lyrics and Old Timey songs mixed with artfully inventive instrumentals were highlighted throughout the evening, making this night of theater unique and never cheesy. Only The Lisps could perform smart, intellectually verbose lyrics, acrobatic wordplay, and sound so light, airy, and entertaining. The vocals combined the talk-sing approach that The Lisps are so good at. He sings, she sings, and basically, they have a conversation through song. César's penchant for the fast-word rant is remarkable. He played his guitar throughout the production, and in the upper loft of the theater were the remaining members of the band Jeremy Hoevenaar and Eric Farber and guest player on organ Kyle Forester. Farber fashioned an incredible drum kit assemblage of found objects. The twelve-member chorus of actors and musicians included the general Sam Kulik playing trombone and sergeant Elias Orling on banjo, rounding out the robust sound.

Play Backround: The seventeen-year-old mathematician Ada Byron Lovelace's life changed when she met the 42-year-old scientist inventor. His plans for an analytical engine inspired an exchange of ideas and a fruitful collaboration. In a series of letters between 1842 and 1843, the pair collaborated on seven notes. Her notes detailed how the machine could be programmed to compute a complex sequence of numbers. She is known as the first computer programmer.  

Composer and now playwright César Alvarez churns history upside-down with lyrical inventiveness. César Alvarez's music, lyrics, and book take creative license with historical facts. He wove the correspondence of Ada Lovelace, a mathematician (played by Sammy Tunis), Julian Munro, a fictitious Union soldier in the Civil War, and an aspiring science fiction writer (played by César Alvarez) into song. His inventive play spars between a writer's romantic notions and a mathematician's logistic concepts. Inventively he explores the juxtaposition of the envisioned possibilities of the all-powerful machine with the inevitable tides of war. Their altruistic visions are crushed along with the hopes of a promising future. Alvarez creates a black comedy with much room for contemplation.

“Oh the Spoils” Oh the spoils, the increasing mind can sketch Feel like de-fragmented points of turning back. Oh, the toil that the body will forget Through the callusing industrial design.

The Director, Melissa Firlit, does a fine job seamlessly staging the fifteen-member cast. The chorus of soldiers with muddied boots and war-torn uniforms are both men and women, adding a more diverse flavor to the vocals. Like a hat trick, they change into white coats, remove their caps, and don some glasses to become zany caricature scientists. They respond with over-the-top comedic dialogue to the scientific notes of Ada and grandiose visions of Jules displaying a geeky academic elitism. The unveiling of the "all-powerful machine," a combustible contraption looking like a marvel of the futuristic assemblage, was the essence of the finale. The machine explodes and bursts into flames while simultaneously, the soldiers die on the field. This cemented the moral of the story told.

"Gravestones” Gravestones don’t know They mark the fallen teenagers Stolen from Earth in a moment of flames.

Futurity marks a passage between the past and present. As we witness the technological revolution, we are always aware of cataclysmic events and impending wars that threaten our future. Yet we still hope and marvel at the visionaries who forge ahead and envision the impossible. The young and talented cast only highlights how valuable the arts can be in mirroring and invoking thoughtful opportunities to understand where we are and where we are heading. I hope Futurity The Musical finds a home so that others can appreciate all it offers.
Kudos to The Two Man Gentleman Band for doing a fine job performing as the crowd was seated. Kicking off their five-month tour of the US, Andy Bean and Fuller Condon played lively old-time music interspersed with kazoos and witty dialogue. Their gentlemanly ways are a throwback to another time.


Great David Dondero Video Session

David Dondero Visits Tiny Desk Concert on NPR. This great video session features David Dondero playing some old and awesome new material. “There are four songs in this Tiny Desk Concert — listen to them all. Then tell anyone in love with true wordsmiths.” Bob Boilen NPR “Dondero’s songs compel me to cry, smile, laugh, and snicker concurrently. I often feel like he’s one of my family members as I affectionately appreciate the self-deprecating and sarcastic nuance of his humor and tender sweet nature of his being”. OCM 8/07 Set List: "We're All Just Babies in Our Mama's Eyes," "Rothko Chapel," "It's Peaceful Here" "In Love With the Living and the Dead."Listen and See


The Lisps Musical; The Zipper Factory

The Lisps debut of their musical Futurity will be at The Zipper Factory this weekend on Friday and Saturday night. I am sure this ain't no typical musical. After seeing them perform at CMJ, I was blown away. They are smart, edgy, and entertaining. "The foursome creates quirky cabaret folk-art-rock whose vaudevillian staging augments their stellar sound. They combine great vocal arrangements with off-center instrumentation. The guitar, bass, and drums are combined with snippets of melodica and spiced with eccentric percussion accents like the banging of a soft mallet on a metal cabinet or hammer on a drum kit." OCM 10/08 Futurity: It is about a Civil War soldier corresponding with a mathematician and writing a science fiction novel about an inventor creating a steam-powered artificial intelligence that he believes is the hope for humanity. Luke Winslow King opens the show on 1/9 Two Man Gentleman Band opens the show on 1/10 I am not a Broadway kind of gal but off off is my kind of thing! See you Saturday! tickets

Viking Moses; Daytrotter Sessions

Viking Moses

This summer, I had the pleasure of seeing Viking Moses with Golden Ghost at a garage show. His travels took him to the Midwest to record Daytrotter Sessions. Accompanied by Laura Goetz (Golden Ghost) are four free download tracks. You can hear the voice and lyrics that got to me that cool summer night. Daytrotter Session

“His low voice can be soft, emphasizing his storytelling, but he brings songs to life with dynamic hard-core vocals that project a Missouri drawl of soulful fervor.” OCM 8/08 Garage show review