Sgt Dunbar and the Hobo Banned Muscular Live Sound @ Pete's Candy Store

Sgt Dunbar and the Hobo Banned @ Pete's Candy Store 3/25/10

On Saturday night, Sgt Dunbar and the Hobo Banned pulled out all the punches with their muscular sound and street-savvy creds at Pete's Candy Store
Clearly, their new material had more might and less folk. The heavy brass metal mash, double percussion, and a slew of hefty instruments trumped up the acoustic guitar, banjo, and violin to make way for an evolving new direction. Sgt. Dunbar brings the street into the venue, making music that is alive, at the moment, and vibrant. Busking has raised their stamina and connectedness. They are energized to perform for each other. The beneficiaries are the listeners. This was their eighteenth show and the last stop of their tour to SXSW and back. All eight members orchestrated instrument changes with ease and precision. No easy task to accomplish, especially on a small stage. I'm just stating the obvious,  but this takes practice and planning. They might call themselves Hobos,  but this outfit is a disciplined crew.
Hobo News on the horizon: Bob Boilen interviews Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned at the Studio SX. They were also interviewed by New York Times, so be on the lookout! Awesome Flickr Set


Max Vernon Struts New Direction

Photo Credit: Sophie Anita

Max Vernon is giving his music a facelift adding electronic synths that evoke mood without losing a pop edge. His cerebral minefield of twisted inferences, sarcastic commentary, and uncanny play on words remain intact. Two songs from his upcoming Silent Sirens EP can be heard Here.
Below is his latest video. It is DIY Gone Slick, created with the help of a talented crew of friends.

Upcoming Joe's Pub Debut April 5th Co-Headlining with Dan Fishback

Rockers Delight Festival; Liberate @ Ace of Clubs

Rockers Delight @ Ace Of Clubs

A Nor'easter in March couldn't deter the ardent fans from coming to hear Rockers Delight @ the Ace Of Clubs for a queer heavy mostly female line-up to benefit V-Day: A Global Movement to End Violence Against Women. This night women musicians ruled regardless of age. The rocker community had open hearts and welcomed the music with an outpouring of love and enthusiasm. I managed to stay for only three sets out of six. The venue had gigantic speakers, and the mix was loud, leaving little in the way of subtlety. Vero's set was the first in the line-up and my reason for being there. I recently reviewed Vero @ The Rockwood and was thoroughly impressed. Tonight the staging gave the band and Vero a chance to loosen up. The band debuted a new song with an urban cowboy vibe and a folk-rock twist. The trotting hammered bass notes on the guitar while the percussion kicked up dirt, leaving the delicate guitar leads settling in the dust cloud. Vero's sultry voice picked up every nuance adding just the right mix of enthusiasm at its peak. This set showed off Vero's versatility as a songwriter and performer. She is not genre specific, making her music so intriguing. Her awesome bandmates ice the cake with intelligent playing.

Rockers Delight @ Ace of Clubs Hooray for Goodbye

Hooray For Goodbye is a power-pop outfit with kick-ass rapper rocker front woman Genny Slag. Her small stature was deceptive because, on stage, she is a powerful master of energy leading the band's segments of loud thrashing and sonic movements. The band's fluidity is driven by guitarist Sora An and is layered between expansive leads and power chord distortions, giving Slag a chance to recover and come on like gangbusters. Very engaging band.

Rockers Delight @ Ace Of Clubs Karyn Kuhl

Karyn Kuhl was billed as old school's finest badasses. The skilled line-up of players championing the power of confidence to play regardless of age. Karyn Kuhl is an accomplished guitarist with a voice that is a bluesy mix between Janis Joplin and Pati Smith. She was accompanied by saxophone lead guitar, bass, and drums playing a loud, feisty set full of conviction. I wrote Karyn's colloquial banter designed explicitly for the audience with some eyeliner on a piece of paper that I clearly can't find, but trust me, they were good.
As I was leaving, I realized how marginalized, and over-sexualized women of rock are depicted in the hetero culture. Having lived all my life within the confines of a straight culture left me wondering how different everything could be if I just didn't give a shit what anyone thought. For women buying into cultural constraints is an inhibitor of what is possible. I left the Ace of Clubs feeling liberated.
others performing after I left were: GSX and Sophia Ramos' Swear on Your Life FLICKER SET!


Drink Up Buttercup's Release; Born And Thrown On A Hook worth spreading / review

Drink Up Buttercup's debut full-length Born And Thrown On A Hook, released on Yep Rock Records, has hooks galore and mixed to be heard in full. Between each glorious track are surreal conglomerations for the cerebral explorer. It is an earful of delight around every corner.

They have created a contagious commotion worthy of note, splicing the ruckus orchestra and highlighting the bands' many strong suites, one of which is James Harvey's vocal gifts. Ben Money and Farzad Houshianejad harmonize beyond perfection, and Mike Cammarata lays down unpredictable drumming. The sound they create using drums, bass, guitar, keyboard, and melodica with a host of bells and shakers can be categorized with the following descriptors; Psyche pop, Crash and Burn Pop, Hardcore Pop, Barbershop Vibrato, Campfire metal, and Psychedelic Mayhem. I can go on.

This release proves their musical inventiveness by revisiting beloved genres like the Beatles and Beach Boys to splice, dice, and re-mash into a schizophrenic whirlwind. While all the songs create an uplifting levity, there is a darker,  almost tragic subtext. This is just one of the many dichotomies of Drink Up's broad-stroke style. Slower numbers are delightfully beautiful, forgoing the loud and chaotic for harmonic delight. "The Lovers Play Dead" gives the tired genre "Barbershop" a vibrato edge going full tilt acoustic with some shakers, kick drum, and the bang of a cymbal. "Young Ladies" is Drink Up Buttercup Light, airy, bouncy, and sweet with lots of bells, shakers, and melodica. And "Pink Sunshine" weighs in on the light side, showing off Harvey's Angelic vocals, rippling keys with a contrasting slaphappy beat.

They save the full assault for "Mr. Pie Eyes," "Heavy Hand," and "Gods and Gentleman" and end with their most inventive, "Maestro Monsignor." These tracks escalate off the rafters with a delirious juxtaposition of instruments and vocals.

The first song, "Seasickness Pills," starts with a strange, trippy intro and the familiar NBC sound logo hook, adding vocals that rise and descend. The Boing of the bass, and the clinking clash of cymbals, mashed with horror organ, and dramatic opera, lead to a frenetic ending. The disjointed song structure in "Heavy Hand" jumps between fast and slow, creating a full mashed-up mesh of voices that escalate to uproarious levels, the bass mimicking melody, drunken keyboard, interim yelp hooks, and drums that pound at abandon. This is one muscular song.
Three "dance Tracks" that should appeal to the geek in everyone are "Doggy Head," with its throbbing tribal beat trot combining awesome harmonies and rhythmic bass scales. "Even Think" has a pop beat catchiness that layers keyboard hooks between vocal harmonies. I dare you not to move to "Sosy and Dosey," although awkwardly, to the broken keyboard and one / two polka-like beats with so many time changes it will make your head spin. The collection concludes with the experimental rock opera "Maestro Monsignor," which blends strange musical reverences sequenced together like a broken kaleidoscope into four distinct parts. Beginning with sing story style, macho vaudevillian vocals, loonie bin choral howls, and ending with surreal multi-layered chants of frenzied exaltation. Born On a Hook Debut is worth the anticipation of waiting and proves that Drink Up Buttercup's stubborn conviction to work it all out on the road before laying down the recording worked out. They nailed it. 

Buy HERE Drink Up Buttercup is: Jim Harvey // multiple octave singing, sleigh bells, borrowed guitars Mike T // hand-painted trap kit accompanied by maracas, sticks, and tambourines Ben & Farz // harmonies, hollow body lead bass, melodica, electrically tweaked Yamaha electronic piano, and low end bent Casio keyboards.


Drink Up Buttercup Record Release @ Piano's review

Explosive and Strong like duct tape!

Drink Up Buttercup Record Release @ Piano's

Drink Up Buttercup's record release show set at Piano's was strong, flexible, and explosive. The effect is long-lasting, much like the pink duct tape used last night to coordinate their makeshift setup. Duct tape on the run.
Drink Up Buttercup has muscle and flexes it with experimentation creating an urgency of sound. The guitars were amped up, the bass notes held down to contort and extend beyond recognition, and James Harvey proved that his thoracic diaphragm can scream, do opera and harmonize simultaneously.
The rain didn't put a damper on the enthusiastic crowd who waited till 12:00 for the lively set.
How they sustain this energy for all eleven dates at SXSW will be a testament to a band that could. I'm sure they will prove their might. I wish them well!
The official release date for Born And Thrown On A Hook on Yep Rock Records is March 23rd, but you can pre-order here and get two bonus tracks.
Read all my Drink Up Buttercup write-ups literally from the beginning till the present Here

Drink Up Buttercup Record Release @ Piano's


The Accident That Led Me To The World @ Rockwood Music Hall

The Accident That Led Me to the World is an all-acoustic chamber modern folk band that stays true to their music, unwavering in their formal presentation at the Rockwood Music Hall. What a treat. It had the feel of music that was planned, rehearsed, and arranged to perfection. As flawless as each note sounded, the emotional quality of the singing created a dynamic urgency.

Their intimate set quietly expressed the subtle tonality of the nylon guitar, clarinet, banjo, and stand-up bass. The power punch came in the way of harmonies to die for!

Mandeville's guitar /banjo and lead vocalist has such a distinct voice. It's raspy without sounding hoarse and exudes conviction. He was joined by Raianne Richards's guitar/clarinet, who added mirroring vocal harmonies, and Zack Ciras with the most perfectly edited bass accompaniment.
This wasn't your finger-picking fare but more like a dialogue of chords and notes between the guitars.

I've been following their music and always looking out for NY dates. The band is from Webster/Dudley, MA, and plays more of the New England circuit of festivals, venues, and house shows, where the booking scene is curated and more friendly. Unfortunately, in NY and most venues, it is in and out and onto the next group.
I was so pleased to get my hands on their
2008 release Island Gospel and was blown away by the beauty and quality of the recording. No shakers, or bells and whistles, just straightforward instrumentation, great storytelling, and awesome harmonies.

The Accident That Led Me To The World is a solid outfit whose mere presence defies the fickle taste and fast-paced music buzz agenda of the latest thing and rises to a higher level.

That said, it is unfortunate that a band of this caliber has not garnered more recognition that should change!


Peasant: Shady Retreat

With the release of Shady Retreat Peasant, AKA Damien DeRose has reclaimed his intentions. Shady Retreat establishes a winning combination of the quirky/folk I fell in love with on his self-released Fear Not, Distant Lover and the folk/pop of On The Ground released by Paper Garden Records.
The treatments throughout the recording give DeRose's distinct melodies the folky charm of a favorite old shirt or the warmth of a familiar feeling. His voice captures a raw sincerity, always on the verge of breaking, gathering teardrops and sentiments of love, loss, hope, and promise. Don't be deceived by short or seemingly simple aspects of DeRose's writing, he is a thoughtful writer and editor. It is what he leaves out that is important. 

His lyrics fluctuate from global to personal, where he pushes and pulls those competing themes. Especially in "Hard Times," where the guitar and vocals echo through old speakers creating a poignant, timeless feel. Kind of like a lullaby for a young generation losing hope through difficult times. / Hard times / aren't good times /, but we'll still try to see them through /. This collection starts with "Thinking," combining the organ, shakers, and harmonies to contemplate our place in the world.. / We just can't go on without thinking /. I don't think any lyric could be so perfectly clear and relevant. "The Distance" continues in a reflective tone, one that is more personal than worldly, with a slow strum that ponders the future while listening to the distance of the past. / where have you been my lover / where have you gone my friends /.

Three songs in a row propel the unique, offbeat percussion. "Well Alright" has an awesome sloppy drum beat with simple piano, 
"Pry" adds shakers and pot beat to a sad waltz, and "Prescriptions" has a great clopping horse trot with soft harmonies. Capturing mood is another aspect of his song structure. The use of metaphor in
"Into The Woods" creates a dreamlike setting with female harmonies. In the song "Tough," the mood is love with a capital L. With its soft plucking guitar, it is drenched in the morning sunlight of appreciation. / Can't you be the only one for me / your like the rising sun /. Shady Retreat ends with "Slow Down" using twangy guitar chimes while ending appropriately by singing / I wouldn't change a thing /. And he didn't! Peasant's instincts were correct to record Shady Retreat alone in a 200-year-old farmhouse where he crafted a full blast of authenticity.
Enjoy "Well Alright"


Sgt Dunbar Kickstarts Their Way To SXSW

Click the picture to see the video

Sgt Dunbar and the Hobo Banned have achieved their goal of raising funds necessary to fix their broken-down tour van and make it to their destination SXSW. Mission Accomplished with the help of Kickstarter, a funding platform for artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, inventors, and explorers. The tagline on their Myspace page has always read "Give More than You Take Away." So in keeping with that sentiment, they gave an awesome give-back to anyone who donated. The rewards ranged from a simple Sgt Dunbar mug, a donor's name on their van, a unique house show, or the band-supervised date with Donna Baird.

The fans gave back their heartfelt love to a very giving and talented band.
Go, Dunbar! Kill it at SXSW and enjoy the tour down and back. Like last year, I look forward to seeing the rad videos of your awesome Busking and official dates!


Vio Mire's Music Brings Beauty to the Pink Couch

Vio Mire brings warmth and astounding beauty to the dusty Pink Couch at If You Make It headquarters. I am proud that I was responsible for helping to make this happen. Dave Gawacke, Owner and Creator of IYMI fit Vio Mire and Liz Isenberg into his recording schedule. Their tour had one open slot, and Dave came through. To affect someone very strongly in a way that is difficult to forget Something about the haunting beauty of Vio Mire's Music really got under my skin. Watch it, and you will agree!

"Vio Mire's lush folk pop beckons attention and exposure. His tenor vocal range whispers, hushes, lulls, and then fully open to relay his written stories in song that hold deep resonance. They ebb and flow between cliff-hanging whispers and timing." OCM 2/10 read more Here.


Kickball the Band; Ready To Share

Kickball Garage Show

July 2007 Awesome Garage Show

Years ago, I saw the Portland band Kickball in a garage. I was so impressed and thought that a band this talented couldn't possibly be such a little-known secret. Soon after that show,  they took a long hiatus.
Their most recent album, Everything is a Miracle Nothing is a Miracle Everything Is, is now available via digital download Here. Do You want to feel good? This will do it!
Watch this recently released Amazing video of a live show they played at Grrrnd Zero in Lyon, France: