Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Show Review: Tilly and the Wall @ the Black Cat (7-26-08)

(Taken even with a flash yet still dark, grrr...some brighter shots can be found here.)

What sort of musical concoction do you get when you cross the sounds of the Shangri-Las and the B52s, mixed with the visual flair of the Flaming Lips and well, Riverdance? Why a peppy little 5-headed hydra out of Omaha, NE called Tilly and the Wall who played to a sold out crowd on Saturday at the Black Cat.

I'm not a huge fan of Conor Oberst or Bright Eyes (I'm sorry, I've tried to give him a chance but he's just so...whiny), so I wasn't sure how much I'd like Tilly and the Wall. (The connection here is that two of Tilly's members used to be in a band with Oberst prior to Bright Eyes, and Tilly records on Oberst's label, Team Love). Now your feelings on him may differ from mine, but I'm happy to report Tilly’s sound is 180 degrees different. With its peppy beats and sunshiny guitar licks and vocals, it’s the sound of a 60s girl group with 80s music sensibilities (and two male members; no offense guys). Co-vocalists Neely Jo Jenkins and Kianna Marie Alarid are a wonderfully harmonious duo whose voices completely complement each other, but their songs are not the same-old same-old power-pop brews. Theirs is a power-pop milkshake that comes in different flavors: early 80s sugar-pop ("Beat Control"), an indie country church song (imagine Mother Maybelle Carter sporting a silver tank dress from Edie Sedgwick’s closet for "The Ice Storm, Big Gusts and You"), some harder tracks with dirty guitar hooks ("Pot Kettle Black"), flamenco-influences ("Bad Education"), and music suited for a modern spaghetti western desiring indie cred ("Cacophony").

And if all that wasn’t enough for you to separate them from the fray, this might: their primary percussionist isn’t a regular ol’ drummer who keeps their beat, it’s one of this hydra’s 5 heads, a kick-ass tap dancer named Jamie Lynn Pressnall. (There was a touring drummer but he was used only on certain songs, probably to give her a bit of a breather given the rapid-fire sequence in which they played.) With more talent than the entire Riverdance ensemble combined (sorry Michael Flatley...
oh, and Pat Benatar called...she wants her headband back...), and 8 times the coolness (I mean, she was sporting a Black Lips band T-shirt), Presnall was a non-stop whirlwind of dancing, singing, crowd amping, and maraca playing in spandex throughout most of the 15 song set. Tilly incorporates Pressnall’s talents really well in their songs too, a great example being the last song before the encore (which was either "Lost Girls" or "Sing Songs Along" depending on who you ask). She came out and danced only the last chorus of the song, which really added something special to the moment. If you only need one reason to go see Tilly, go to see Pressnall perform, she is incredible. To quote someone I knew who’d also gone to the show, "I'm wondering if it's possible to have been in the audience and not to have fallen in love with the tap dancer."

Based on what I saw Saturday, I’d say everyone did. And with Tilly as a whole. In fact, the band played "Fell Down the Stairs" in the encore because guitarist Derek Scott Pressnall saw a girl in front of the stage with its lyrics tattooed on her body. But the love was never more obvious than when they did "Nights of the Living Dead" because the screaming was deafening and the pogoing, both on stage and off, was almost a choreographed dance sequence, it was so unified. Though Tilly’s latest effort "O" makes their third full length release, the band still seemed surprised and in awe of the love coming at them from the crowd. As my counterpart said, "You could power a city for a week from the wattage of the smiles onstage."

Some bands that you go to see live, you go in order to witness their playing abilities, or their possible stage antics/meltdowns, or because they hold a hallowed place in rock music’s pantheon. Some are like watching paint dry. But Tilly and the Wall live is like going to a birthday party, complete with confetti, balloons, entertainment, and dancing, and music that is perfectly suited for being played live. All that was missing Saturday was the cake. Mmm..cake.

Falling Without Knowing-Tilly and the Wall
Nights of the Living Dead-Tilly and the Wall

(Tilly and the Wall is on tour this summer and will be performing at the Monolith Festival in September.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

UPDATED: World Class Fad: Upcoming Shows of Note

How on earth could I forget this? You NYC kids, be sure to check out The Childballads, whose lovely EP, "Cheekbone Hollows (Pop. 1/2 Life)" I recently raved about, are playing at the Mercury Lounge on Saturday, August 2. This is a band that doesn't seem to play live too often (here's hoping that changes in the near future!), but from all I've heard, frontman and enigmatic lead singer Stewart Lupton's recent creations are bound to be as beautiful live as they are on record.

World Class Fad: Upcoming Shows of Note

Cool shows for the hot days this week....

-Tuesday, July 29

The Airborne Toxic Event @ DC9 ($10): I have already written a bunch about these guys but in case I didn't already say so, they put on a top-notch live show. With their Conan O'Brien appearance on Friday and all sorts of buzz before their debut record is even out (not till August 5th to exact), they're definitely a band on the cusp of huge. See them here at a small club like DC9 so you can say "I saw them when" as their next DC appearance will probably be at the 930 Club.

For readers in NYC, they are also playing the Mercury Lounge on Thursday, July 31 ($10).

Old 97s @ 930 Club (sold out): I first heard tracks from the 97s' newest record Blame it On Gravity at SXSW this year and I was definitely thrilled to hear an excellent return to form. If the music isn't enough to get you there, I got four words for you: Rhett Miller hip swing. Wowza...

-Friday, August 1

Bon Iver @ Black Cat (sold out):
Man, can this guy turn a phrase, just makes me heart do some serious backflips in its tenderness. Just beautiful....

(Bon Iver performing for the great Black Cab Sessions)

-Saturday, August 2

Earlimart @ Ottobar ($10): Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray provide another lovely gem in the form of Hymn and Her. If you love lush harmonies, smart lyrics, and lovely hooky quiet-ness (most of the time), be sure to check them out.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Show Review: The Mae Shi @ The Velvet Lounge (7-22-08)

I’d discovered The Mae Shi, a band out of that Echo Park/Silver Lake area of LA, via Web in Front, who had nothing but good things to say about their live show. So after seeing The Ting Tings show on Tuesday, we skipped around the corner to the Velvet Lounge thinking we had just enough time to get a drink or two and head upstairs for the band’s 11:30 pm on-time.

Ah the best laid plans…The Mae Shi didn’t go on until closer to 12:30 am. And though I was slated for a veeeerrry early in-time because of Hurricane Dolly at the secret government job the next morning, I felt I needed to hang in for a little while at least and see some of what they were all about. I’d heard some of their stuff via their Myspace page and it had my interest.

I hung in for maybe four songs and what I saw...hell, I don’t even know what it was I saw. The band started the show mixed within the audience. All the members approached the stage singing, picked up their instruments, and began a punk-rock assault on the ears that bordered early Megadeath volume; definitely one for the record books. There was much pogoing by the crowd (to where you could physically feel the floor shaking), a tarp-like canopy unrolled over top of the audience at one part of the set (?), and the transformation of singer/guitarist Jonathan Grey from the quiet, mild-mannered person I’d been talking to prior to the show, to a shrieking, raging, close-to-convulsing madman.

Was it all a bit nuts? Yes. Was it anything like what I heard on Myspace? Nope. Was it a whole lot of fun? Hell yes. Just be sure you bring ear plugs.

A more comprehensive review of the DC show is here and pictures from their NYC can be seen here.

(The Mae Shi are currently on tour shaking all the trees loose around Europe).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Show Review: The Ting Tings@ 930 Club (7-22-08)

Here in DC, a local club hosts an excellent monthly Brit-pop dance night called "Mousetrap," which I try to go to as much as my schedule allows. A DJ-dance night is one thing, but would I pay to see many of the bands the DJ plays live? Probably not. I've never been one to see a band live that relies more on electronics and pre-recorded tracks because, let's face it, a pre-recorded track is a pre-recorded track. How much could the live show of a band like that possibly differ from what's on their record? I guess I feel like if a band's live performance is the same as putting the record on at home and closing my eyes, I'll take the money I'd have spent on the ticket and put it towards my raging addiction for cute shoes. From the bit of music I'd heard from the UK's Ting Tings and the rather scathing reviews of their live shows I'd read before their 930 Club show earlier this week, I was certain I'd find them in this category- great to dance on record but mediocre live.

Guess what? I was wrong. I enjoyed it, primarily because this Brit-pop techno-punk duo runs rather counter to what you'd expect of a typical Brit-pop techno-punk duo (or band for that matter).

First off, lead singer Katie White can really sing. Her voice is surprisingly good and, dare I say it, pretty. There were some pre-recorded backing vocals in spots during the show, but you could always tell what was her and what wasn't; her singing is that solid. I can't even crack on her for using the many guitars handed to her during the show as more of an outfit accessory instead of an instrument as many have reported, because her voice was so good it just wasn't important. Secondly, drummer/guitar player/co-vocalist Jules De Martino is a skillful drummer who can actually play (no Flock of Seagulls synth-drums here) and creates the basis for their hard-driving sound (hard like you could feel the bass drum in your chest). De Martino stayed seated at his drum kit the entire show and frequently switched between drums and guitar, at times playing both simultaneously, which isn't something you see everyday.

While we deduced that half of their sound was from a pre-recorded track, something I would normally hate because it seems like cheating, the half that White and De Martino provided showed they really did have talent as musicians and the sound wasn't all just from a synthesizer or a Macbook. The pre-recorded track was a bit of filler, like two types of sauce on a sundae instead of just one. Plus, they rocked a cowbell (live no less!) towards the end of Shut Up and Let Me Go. Cmon, how many Brit pop dance bands do you know that do that?

Overall, the songs were damn catchy and energetic, like work-up-a-serious-sweat-on-the-dance-floor catchy and energetic (and I say this having only heard a snippet of That's Not My Name prior to the show). The lyrics aren't much from what I could make out at the 930, but it's poppy dance music, it's not supposed to comment on world events or the state of the union. Any driving mix you make this summer though would do well to include Great DJ or That's Not My Name at the very least.

And even if you don't care for "dance" music per se, give The Ting Tings live show a chance. It really has more rock undertones than you think. The way their music gets the crowd amped up and pogoing around, I bet you a million dollars you'll be swept up in the show and, at the very least, tapping your foot along, for real.

NPR streamed the show Tuesday night which you can listen to here.

(The Ting Tings are currently on tour and will be playing the Monolith Festival in September).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Morning Benders and Their Free Covers Record ("The Bedroom Covers")

The very cool Berkley, CA band, The Morning Benders have a great new record out, Talking Through Tin Cans. For the past couple of weeks, they've been posting covers of different songs they recorded around the same time on various blogs, saying they'll post all of them on their own blog at some point in the near future. Well today is that day and I received this note on it this morning that gives some background on the project, affectionately called "The Bedroom Covers."

hey gang,
here are a few tracks, that we are calling the bedroom covers. as you may have guessed, all these songs are covers… and yes, we did them at home in my room! the songs that you hear here are just songs we really really like. we didn't deliberate over which songs to pick. we didn't try to stick to a certain time period or genre. we just recorded songs we were going to be playing around the house anyway...

these songs sound the way they do, because we recorded them with a laptop and one mic. we used mainly acoustic guitars and shakers because that's what we had lying around, and we couldn't make much noise in our apartment anyway. we didn't spend time arranging any of these either. we learned the chords and the lyrics (which was pretty easy because we've heard all these songs hundreds of times), and we played 'em. what you hear at the basis of the recording is generally a first take.

sometimes we added some background vocals or another guitar part here or there, because the songs we were covering had a lot more going on than us, and we were feeling a bit inadequate…

but hey, you're always fighting a losing battle when you're recording covers, because 99.99% of the time the cover isn't going to be as good the original. well, for the record, let it be known that none of our covers are as good as the originals. that's part of why we wanted to give all these tracks away for free. if you haven't heard one of these songs before, you should go out and buy it from the original artist, RIGHT NOW. disclaimer aside: if you want to hear some kids having a lot of fun playing some of their favorite songs ever, check these out.

the morning benders

You'll want to check this out, I've listened to most of it thus far and it's top-notch stuff. Track listing is as follows:
1.crying - roy orbison
2.mother and child reunion - paul simon
3.Why dont they let us fall in love? - the ronettes
4.lovefool - the cardigans
5.i won't share you - the smiths
6.he's a rebel - the crystals
7.marie - randy newman
8.fools rush in - johnny mercer/rube bloom
9.temptation inside your heart - velvet underground
10.dreams - fleetwood mac
11.pull up the roots - talking heads
12.caroline, no- beach boys remix (bonus track)
13.why don't they let us fall in love? (live Daytrotter version!)

Go here to download your free copy.

(The Morning Benders are currently touring and will be performing many dates this summer with Ra Ra Riot. They will also be playing at the Monolith Festival in September.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Earotica: 49-Paul Westerberg Review



As you may have read here Friday, Paul Westerberg was set to offer a group of new songs via a $.49 download here Saturday, "July 49" (or July 19 to you and me). Technical issues pushed it back until today. Now here at work where I downloaded it, I had to use headphones to listen to it but I highly suggest you do the same so as to catch some of the odder/cooler nuances.

Sans the tracks contributed to the movie "Open Season" a little while back, 49 is Westerberg's first release of new stuff since 2004's Folker. I'd heard that 49 is a collection of things Westerberg has worked on over the past year. If you're a casual Westerberg fan, I don't think you'll care for it, but for the more die-hard types, you'll love it. It's one 43:55 track filled with a couple full songs, song smatterings, smash edits of songs going in and out of each other, a couple covers (Paul doing "I Think I Love You" is pretty awesome), and what I think is Paul playing and singing background behind a child (his son Johnny perhaps?). There are no track listings. Musicially, it covers the gambit. I'd texted a friend about half way through and said "It's sorta alt-country," but then as soon as I hit the Send button on that text, it had morphed into more rock and then some real punk-style sounds. Again, you should listen to it with headphones to catch all the cool strangeness that runs through this.

Westerberg could run with any of the half-tracks and make them into great full-length songs. Maybe that's the reason for 49, to test things out, who knows. But like Tom Waits, Paul Westerberg could write a song about the phone book and somehow make the lyrics into something beautiful you'd want to listen to. 49 is a schizophrenic hot mess and something very few artists could put out without catching flack for it, but Westerberg is one of those few. Consider it like a 43:55 minute look into the mind of a great writer/musician without the need of an interviewer.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Weather Underground on Live Daily Sessions

Live Daily has this nice little section called Live Daily Sessions where bands come and play a couple of acoustic numbers. Recent bands include Langhorne Slim, Le Switch, and a favorite around Between Love and Like, The Weather Underground, where they performed "All Ye People" and "Neal Cassady," seen below, both off their newest EP, Bird in the Hand.

"Neal Cassady"

"All Ye People"

Friday, July 18, 2008

Earotica: Cheekbone Hollows (Pop. 1/2 Life)-The Child Ballads Review

Don't get me wrong, I love mp3s: they don't clutter up your living room like CDs, they're easier to travel with as many of them fit on one's small Ipod, and they don't skip when you hit a bump in a car. The downside of mp3 though is that you miss out on the cover art which can, at times, provide insight into the songs or the artist (or sometimes even make you some money).

Interesting cover art can also be the thing that gets you to listen to a disc if the artist is unknown to you, which is exactly what happened to me a few days ago when the The Child Ballads newest EP called Cheekbone Hollows (Pop. 1/2 Life) arrived in a package with eight or so other CDs. It was the first one I opened, and why? Because of this printed on the back cover:

I bought a white chocolate tea in the park on my lunchbreak
I bought a painting off the street of a haunted lake.
I tried hard to make my world an exciting place.
But I keep hearing talk of the doom,
And they're sending the meek home.
And that's not half as bad as the shadow
That's caught in the hollow of your cheekbone.

Wow-to-the-za. Then I played it and man, the music inside was just as good. Like it's been on constant-repeat good.

Briefly, "Cheekbone Hollows" is a bluesy toe-tapping lo-fi version of Lord Byron poetry. Which is all perfectly logical if you know that lead singer/acoustic guitar player Stewart Lupton a) was previously the lead singer for the critics' darlings and direct influencer of The Strokes Jonathan_Fire*Eater, and b) returned to DC after the dissolution of JFE, enrolled in George Washington University, landed the Lannan Poetry Fellowship, and studied poetry, medieval studies, and modern art history. Lupton's baritone voice reminds me of Marc Bolan posing as an Exile on Main Street-era Mick Jagger, all sputtering with smoldering bravado and bad-boy grittiness. Sprinkled throughout most of the songs on this 6-track EP are the three powerful v's of co-vocalist Betsy Wright (viola, violin, and vocals), whose trifecta of pretty perfectly counters the primary grungier sound surrounding her. Much like a daisy springing up through the cracks in a concrete jungle, you don't expect to see something like that thriving there but you can't help being struck by it.

Much like the collection of ballads and lullabies that share their name, the tracks on Lupton's version sing of love and salvation (lots of salvation), ghosts and loneliness, but with a much hipper sound that will strike your core. "Cheekbone Hollows" has been available in the UK since '06 but just came out in the US earlier this summer. So check out the CD version or the mp3 version, but just make sure you check it out.

Download: Green Jewelry-The Child Ballads
Cheekbone Hollows-The Child Ballads

Paul Westerberg to Release New Music for .49 on Saturday, July 19; New 'Mats Reissues Out September 23

If you couldn't already tell from the main and sub-titles, we here at Between Love and Like are big fans of Paul Westerberg. That's why we're more than just a little giddy to share with you the following:

On June 49, (that's July 19 to you and me), Paul Westerberg will be releasing 49 minutes of music for just 49¢. Check back (here) on Saturday, July 19 and you'll find a link to download the new tunes.

Definitely good news! Westerberg's last release of new music was 2004's Folker.

Update, July 19: This is from Kathy, the woman who runs the Men Without Ties site, the intended location for the new tracks:
don't want to dampen anyone's anticipation prematurely but I also don't want anyone checking back here at 12:01 AM thinking the link will be live. Things are still being worked out as I type this, but there's a possibility that it may be June 49 + 2 days (Monday) as opposed to tomorrow due to, well, I believe the technical term for it is a "kerflooey". I'll keep you posted.

In other Westerberg-related good news, Rhino records announced yesterday that the final four Replacments reissues from their Sire days will be released on September 23.
Each album features a host of previously unreleased bonus tracks; the entire reissue catalog will also see digital release the same day.

I've heard many of the tracks that are being included, these are definitely worth the cash!

On the News Front: Eric Bachmann/Crooked Fingers and Ryan Adams

(Photo via Chromewaves)

I am a few days behind with this, but some interesting news bits on Eric Bachmann:

1. For you kids in the LA area, tickets are still available for Bachmann's solo show tonight at the Tangier for all of $12. (I'm green with envy btw...)

2. Bachmann's band, the very awesome Crooked Fingers has a new disc out October 7 called "Forfeit/Fortune," aaaannndd...he's putting it out himself, he didn't resign with Merge Records. He says:

...eventually decided to sell "Forfeit/Fortune" to retail, without a distribution partner. The pair connected with AJ Tobey, marketing manager for Flea Marketing, a promotion firm that specializes in indie retail.

"We decided to focus on a small handful of good indie record stores to get the project off the ground," Tobey says of the set, due Oct. 7. They initially selected 20 stores, based on past support of the band and the routing of an upcoming tour, but the number keeps growing. The record will also be sold at shows, through the Crooked Fingers Web site and via iTunes and other digital stores.

3. Nekko Case, Bachmann, and New Order? Hmm, this I gotta hear...
This is a very arranged, louder rock record, with lots of strings, horns and saxes," he says. Bachmann drafted tourmate Neko Case to duet with him on closer 'Your Control,' which he describes as "really different than her style. It almost sounds like New Order.

(Read our previous post on Bachmann and Crooked Fingers with good things to listen to here.)

(Photo via Harp Magazine)

Ryan Adams to publish a collection of prose sometime in 2009 (from today's Page Six, the NY Post:
EMO rocker Ryan Adams has more to say than can be conveyed in one of his crooning songs or in one of his lengthy missives to Gawker.com. Page Six hears Adams has signed with indie Brooklyn house Akashic Books to publish his still-untitled collection of prose. "They just signed the contract," said our source, "and they plan to release it in 2009." A rep for Adams confirmed the deal, but wouldn't comment on a working title or when it would hit the shelves.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sound and Vision: My Interview with Howard Fishman

(Painting of Howard Fishman with band by artist Clifford Bailey)

Howard Fishman and his band play a unique mix of jazz, blues, rock, and old New Orleans-style music. Howard, a self-taught guitarist, began his musical career as many do, busking in the streets of New York and New Orleans. That was 10 years ago....since then Howard has done a great many things, played a great many places, and exposed a great many people to his takes on how music can be created and heard. His is truly a unique and original voice.

I, however, need a new verb beyond "interesting," as you'll hear when you listen to the interview. But I couldn't help it, Howard is just that.

Part 1 of 3

Part 2 of 3

Part 3 of 3:

More on Howard Fishman...
Night After Night-Howard Fishman.mp3
Mary Ann-Howard Fishman.mp3

-->Purchase: Amazon, as well as Itunes.

-->Video: Youtube channel

-->Website: Howard Fishman

(Howard Fishman will be playing Dizzy's Club Coca Cola at Lincoln Center in NYC today through Saturday, Joe's Pub in NYC on July 22, and various other dates you can see at his web site.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Longwave Solo Show in Brooklyn on July 16

They've been running around the country opening for Swervedriver as of late, but Longwave just sent word they are playing a solo show tomorrow night at the Glasslands Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I caught these guys at SXSW this year and wow, they're really great live.

Says they:

Just wanted to let you know that we are playing this wednesday night at a place called Glasslands in Brooklyn, right down the street from where we rehearse....the place is a gallery/art space, and the info is below...

Wed July 16
Glasslands Gallery
w.Pale Nimbus, 10pm
289 Kent Ave
Williamsburg, Brooklyn

They are also opening for Bloc Party on August 7th at Webster Hall, which is already sold out. But maybe the best news is that they also said they are very close to signing a deal for their new record!

If you get the opportunity, go check these guys out. They are, to quote a friend, "a wall of sound with an underlying melody."

"Sometime Around Midnight," Track 7 of the Airborne Toxic Event Acoustic Video Series Released

Between Love and Like favorites, The Airborne Toxic Event are busy rocking the masses across the pond for the next couple of days, but that didn't stop them from sending out information this morning (or I guess afternoon as they're in England) on the lastest in their 10-songs-in-10-weeks acoustic song series. As we're on Week 7, that means track 7 which is the ethereal rocker and proven fan maker, "Sometime Around Midnight."

They didn't include a lot of info this time about where the video was shot and such, but they did mention, "That's Ben and Andrew from the Calder Quartet sitting in with us on violin."

The long and short of it is....it's a stunning version. When I'd seen them perform this track on The Carson Daly Show awhile back, I'd joked to lead singer/songwriter/rhythm guitarist Mikel Jollett later that he looked terrified (course, peforming on national tv for the first time, who wouldn't be right?). That was what, late April? What a difference a few months and being filmed for six acoustic videos makes because here, there's nothing but confidence and passion showing. This, my friends, is a snapshot of what it's like to see Airborne live.

Oh and remember that Yahoo New Music video contest I told you about a few days ago? Well it seems the timeframe for voting has been expanded beyond the 48 hour timeframe we initially reported, so go vote after you watch the video below.

(The Airborne Toxic Event is playing the following east coast dates: Tuesday, July 29, DC 9 here in Washington, DC; Wednesday, July 30, FNX Morning Show Anniversary Party at Hurricane O'Reilly's in Boston, MA; Thursday, July 31, Mercury Lounge in NYC; Friday, August 1, Late Night with Conan O'Brien in NYC, and Saturday, August 2, the Download Festival in Philadelphia, PA. They'll also be performing at the Monolith Festival in September.)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Show Review: Devotchka @ 930 Club, Washington, DC (5-16-08)

With all the traveling back and forth to NYC as of late coming to a close for a bit (unless I see notice of The Henry Clay People or Radars to the Sky coming to the right coast of course), I'm finally getting back 'round to those posts/interviews from that "lost weekend" that went 31 days in May (grand jury duty). You may say, "Well what's the point now?" But ah my friends, the reasoning comes in my desire to share those things which were pure beauty. One of these things was seeing the Colorado band Devotchka live at the 930 Club on May 8th in support of their new release, A Mad and Faithful Telling.

Music is an interesting thing. Whether instrumental or when teamed with lyrics, it's got this incredible ability at times to touch something so deep inside...the hair stands up on the back of your neck or you get goosebumps, and you physically feel your breath catch when you're listening. That's what seeing Devotchka at the 930 Club was like for 90 straight minutes.

I’ll admit, I didn't really know much of Devotchka's music apart from “Queen of the Surface Streets,” the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack, and a few tracks via the Hype. But they came highly recommended from some folks whose musical tastes I respect, so I thought what the hell. I fully expected a sold out show, but with the plethora of other shows that night (for example, Los Campesinos! down the street), there was actually room to move around some, and we got quite close to the stage.

Devotchka came out and a small woman in sparkly bathing suit threw roses from the stage. To watch a rock club crowd lose its collective mind over someone playing an accordion was a little surreal-I'd only ever seen this much excitement over an accordion before at Oktoberfests and when the Hungarian side of the family got together when I was a kid--but I must stress how worthy of the adulation it was, Tom Hagerman’s playing was seriously amazing. And it wasn’t just an accordion he rocked. Each of Devotchka’s main musicians plays multiple instruments, and not always those of the same family: Jeanie Schroder plays upright bass AND tuba (yes, I said tuba); Tom Hagerman plays accordion AND violin; Shawn King drums AND trumpet, and lead singer Nick Urata guitar AND saw. How they use these instruments also differs from those one expects to see in a rock band- it’s not a bass guitar keeping the rhythm with the drums, it’s a tuba. Instead of a lead guitar shredding solos, it’s a violin or an accordion. And on top of it all was Urata’s voice; my god, Urata’s voice was probably the loveliest instrument of the group. It made me think of twilight, that time where it’s not quite day and not quite night, and can be sultry and keening, dark and dangerous, heartbreaking and sad, and exciting and fevered, all at once.

As a collective, Devotchka created music that was at times racing and swirling and fast paced with the accordion leading the charge, whipping the crowd up and carrying them along, and other times, what came off that stage was insanely haunting and lush and beautiful. Mere words wouldn't do it justice, but you knew it was something powerful and amazing because you could feel your soul sobbing from the sheer emotion of it all.

On the whole, the audience was loving it, though I did see some filtering out towards the encore. Which made them fools because they missed the encore, and the encore was something you had to see to believe.

From the ceiling’s lighting rigging came a long red silk scarf that went to the floor. A woman appeared, the woman who’d thrown the roses out into the crowd earlier in fact, and she started to climb up the material, stopping some 30 feet up. It’s probably obvious to say that anyone thinking of filtering out stopped dead in their tracks with this. Devotchka started to play, providing an instrumental backdrop to this amazing aerialist’s performance as she literally danced in mid-air, leaving the crowd literally slackjawed in awe and delight.

After her descent, opening act Basia Bulat came out to join the band for a raucous “My Brother’s Blood,” into the ethereal “You Love Me,” which was complemented with amazing mariachi-style horns. Urata and company then waved goodbye to the crowd, swigging from a bottle of red wine, sending the crowd off into the DC night to love and to live and to dream of the foreign lands of which Devotchka sang.

If you haven’t already guessed, Devotchka isn't your everyday group in terms of sounds or instruments. Look up Devotchka in the dictionary and following its first definition of “girl/Origin-Russian,” the second definition is a picture of these guys with the words “a musical and emotional phantasmagoria of multicultural influences.” In this day and age of songs remaining the same, it’s nice to know there’s a band out there who can still give you goosebumps.

(Devotchka is currently out on tour supporting A Mad and Faithful Telling and will be performing at the Monolith Festival in September.)

Friday, July 11, 2008

"My Little Underground" or "How Friggin' Incredible is the Silver Lake Music Scene?"

This past Tuesday, my pal and fellow music writer Travis Woods and another LA music writer Mouse hosted the first of many celebrations of the local-to-them Silver Lake music scene, a little shindig they called My Little Underground. With solo performances from the lead singers of local bands. The list of performers was a venerable whos-who of the scene, including Mikel Jollett of the Airborne Toxic Event, Andrew Spitser of Radars to the Sky, Timothy James of the Movies, Sarah Negahdari of the Happy Hollows, and Evan Way of the Parson Red Heads.

Travis writes:

It was an alternately eclectic, moving, hilarious, and triumphant night of local music, one in which we were all reminded why this matters so much to us—because it’s our little underground, and it’s one that is a privilege, a real privilege, to know and to hear.

Such an incredible idea, and from the sounds of things, an amazing evening for both performers and attendees (especially if you like the Everly Brothers heh). Each site provides both great photos of everyone as well as performance videos so go check them out: Travis' review and Mouse's review.

Great job boys, we're looking forward to the next one! Ideas and enthusiasm like this might just make the New York kids here at Between Love and Like rethink their mantra of "Hell no, I could never live on the west coast!"

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Formal "Sometime Around Midnight" Video by The Airborne Toxic Event Released via Video Contest

(A still from the video)

Would you like to see The Airborne Toxic Event's new video, "Sometime Around Midnight," not just now but for the next month or so? Then go vote for it. Yahoo's New Music section has the video and if Airborne receives the most votes, they'll keep the video up for the next month. Votes are being accepted for the next 48 hours.

From the band:

It was filmed in April at the legendary Spaceland in Silver Lake, CA (and in various other locations around town), and directed by our good friend Jason Wishnow. We had a great time making it, and we hope you enjoy it.

Here’s where you can watch it, and where we really need your help:

The video’s premiering online at Yahoo! Music as part of a video contest called “Users’ Choice” and we would love it if you could help us by voting here. Scroll down to where it says “Users’ Choice” and click on our box to vote (it’s the first one). The timing here is crucial, whichever video gets the most votes during the next 48 hours wins the contest gets and featured on Yahoo! Music for a month. Vote as many times as the mood strikes you. (Just refresh the page after each vote).

To watch the video, click on the little TV icon.

From Right Coast to Left Coast Overnight...the Cross-Country Mix

(Photo via Graphicology)

Ah summer, the time for warm sun, hot days, long weekends, and if you can afford it this year with the price of gas, the time for driving 'cross these United States and seeing the sites. And what goes better with a full tank of gas, a cool breeze, twilight, and the open road? Why music of course.

Much like Rob Gordon says, and I'm paraphrasing here, but when one makes a mix you start out hard, then you cool it down, then you come back around, which is what I tried to do here. Of late, I've found that The Whigs and Julian Dorio's drumming make for great fast driving music, hence, why there seems to be a lot of them in here. We start out with an all-time favorite song from quintessential New Yorkers and sought to end with an all-time favorite song about California. But then I pictured driving with the sun rising ahead of me as I entered San Francisco, and I thought the gospel Sam Cooke would be the only way to bring in the dawn and the end of one's trip because frankly, what's more uplifting than that?

Cross-Country Mix
1. Coney Island Steeplechase-The Velvet Underground.mp3
2. Locked Inside a Liquor Store-Dash Rip Rock (live).mp3
3. Apartment Story-The National.mp3
4. Nowhere is My Home-The Replacements
5. Great Balls of Fire-Dash Rip Rock (live).mp3
6. (Let's Go) Smoke Some Pot-Dash Rip Rock
7. I'm Not the Only One-The Brother Kite
8. Mr E's Beautiful Blues-Eels
9. Linger-The Pinetops
10. Who Are You-Tom Waits
11. Innocent When You Dream (live)-Tom Waits
12. True Love Will Find You-Daniel Johnston.mp3
13. Take it With Me-Tom Waits.mp3
14. Let it Loose-The Rolling Stones
15. Last Beat of my Heart-Devotchka.mp3
16. Kiss the Bottle-Lucero
17. Sway-The Rolling Stones
18. The Height of the Land-The Details.mp3
19. Loving Cup-The Rolling Stones
20. Give Back the Keys to My Heart-Uncle Tupelo/Doug Sahm
21. Sun in an Empty Room-The Weakerthans
22. Game of Love-The Redwalls.mp3
23. Foundations-Kate Nash
24. Blue Boy-Orange Juice.mp3
25. Like a Vibration-The Whigs
26. Tears Don't Matter Much-Lucero
27. Rocks Off-The Rolling Stones
28. Right Hand on My Heart-The Whigs
29. I Got Ideas-The Whigs
30. Santa Monica-Everclear.mp3
31. Touch the Hem of His Garment-Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers

Download:Cross-Country Mix.zip

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Earotica: Real Animal-Alejandro Escovedo Review

(Photo Credit: Bruce Fyfe)

If the first words that pop into your head after reading that title are "Who is Alejandro Escovedo?” then cross yourself you pagan and go directly to Itunes. Download this
(a seminal record to have if you love music at all and it’s oh so beautiful to hear), and his brand new one, Real Animal. I had the distinct pleasure of hearing a live version of all the “Real Animal” tracks in March at Escovedo's annual Sunday-night-of-SXSW show (since about 2000 he's played Austin’s Continental Club with whatever friends he decides to bring along; this year included Lucinda Williams and Tim Easton, among others).

Produced by David Bowie producer Tony Visconti, "Real Animal” is an aural “This is Your Life,” Escovedo passionately ruminating on the life he’s led, and the people who've come and gone along the way. I know, I know, you're saying, "Ok so how exactly is this record different from the others that detail one's life and the people encountered?" Because, my friends, Escovedo has lived a life you'd actually want to hear things about. It would take three lives of three people to top Escovedo's one; the man has lived more and done more and survived more in the past 40 years than anyone except maybe Keith Richards and Iggy Pop (who, fittingly, is Escovedo’s topic of the song “Real As an Animal”). "Real Animal" chronicles everything from Escovedo's seminal punk band, The Nuns (Nun's Song, Hollywood Hills, Chelsea Hotel ‘78), to his seminal cowpunk band Rank and File (Chip n Tony), to the Austin-based band True Believers that included his brother Javier and Tom-Waits-sound alike John Dee Graham (Sensitive Boys), and all the people and places that fell before, between, and after.

“Real Animal” is about a man paying appreciative tribute to those things and to those people who personally and professionally made him the person he is today. With a musical cocktail of punk, rock, and strings backing up the lyrics, "Real Animal" is about coming to peace with one's past in order to move forward into one's future. “To love in this moment/gotta let go of the past,” he says in the record's lovely closer “Slow Down." "Real Animal" is Escovedo sharing with us his past and by doing so, makes us better appreciate his talent from the past, and the present, and definitely, what's to come.

(Alejandro Escovedo is out supporting "Real Animal" currently and is playing the 930 Club here in Washington, DC this Saturday, July 12).

Always a Friend (From Real Animal)

Castanets.mp3 (From A Man Under the Influence)

One of the songs I love the most from the record is the opener, "Always a Friend." Here it is live with Bruce Springsteen during a Bruce show in Houston earlier this year.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Little Plea....

This site is typically meant for just music and music-related items but for this particular instance, I'm using my pen, err, keyboard to lend a hand.

I have this friend named Lindsay, and she's been my friend since I moved to Washington in 2002, when we bonded over sarcastic commentary and Red Sox baseball. She's an old soul, very wise beyond her years, easygoing, and ranks as one of the funniest people I know. Her family is very close, especially she and her younger brother Nate.

A year ago last month, Nate, a uniformed Diplomatic Security officer at the Department of State, was driving to work on his motorcycle on 395-N, when a drunk driver hit him head-on going the wrong way, killing him instantly. He was 25 years old.

Lindsay set out to keep Nate's memory alive in a variety of ways; one was to establish the Nathan B. Marti Scholarship Fund at Nate's alma mater, Radford University in Virginia.

On Tuesday, July 15, 2008, a fund raiser is being held to support the Fund at Dogfish Head Alehouse in Falls Church, VA. Dogfish Head is some yummy beer and they are donating 15% of all money raised the entire day to the Fund. There will be a silent auction with all sorts of things including sports tickets and memorabilia. (And you know, good Wooosta, MA family they are, there will be one or two cool Red Sox items in there). You can find more details, like time and directions and such here.

And if you can't make the event, consider making a donation . If you do, I'm pretty much certain that Nate will be there at the gates of heaven to welcome you when you arrive with a smile and a cold beer because he was just that kind of guy.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

"Does This Mean You're Moving On," Track 5 of the Airborne Toxic Event Acoustic Video Series Released

Ok, I love Daren Taylor, drummer of The Airborne Toxic Event. I got a chance to hang out with him some after Airborne's recent Webster Hall show in NYC, and he's one of those really *good* guys. It only takes 5 minutes in Daren's presence to pick up that he's a) funny as hell, b) passionate about what he does, and c) a genuinely kind personality. Daren is the guy that you'd always want at your parties because he'd keep things lively, as well as always be the first to offer to help clean up when it was over.

He's also INCREDIBLY talented in terms of his drumming style. He seems to have a great ear for filling a space with exactly what the song needs-nothing more, nothing less. I've heard the new cd and the creative nuances he adds is something that really stands out, something that one can't always hear in a loud rock club.

This creativity is obvious in the fifth track from their acoustic song series, "Does This Mean You're Moving On." The videos for this acoustic series are shot in different locations around Los Angeles, and for this latest one, the band is performing the song while piled in the back of a car that's driving down Sunset Blvd. How does a drummer play in cramped surroundings that include two guitars, five people, some room to shake a tambourine, AND room for the driver? By pounding on the roof of the car with his fist. Now that, my friends, is creativity.