Monthly Archives: November 2011

Thank you & farewell, Thrice & Thursday

I posted a couple days ago mentioning Thrice’s hiatus.  The next day, November 22, Thursday announced that they would be going on an indefinite hiatus.  This got me thinking quite a bit about my personal connections with both bands.  I wasn’t terribly sad or particularly surprised that Thrice and Thursday both announced hiatuses–all things come to an end and both bands had very productive 13 year long runs.  Both bands formed around the same time and had strangely parallel careers.  Often lumped together as post hardcore, Thrice and Thursday toured together more than once and were both signed to Island Records (and both left after a fairly short time) around the same time.  In their messages to fans, neither band ruled out the possibility of recording and playing together at some point in the future.

Facts aside, there’s another reason I’m writing this.  I discovered Thursday in 2003, right after their album War All the Time was released.  It was a formative time in my life; I was only 13.  That album completely blew my mind.  I had never listened to anything that heavy before, and I was amazed by how beautiful a loud record could be.  I didn’t realize before then that heavy music could be melodic.  Most importantly, Thursday showed me that lyrics can be literature, they can be poetry.  There was more to music than lyrics about broken hearts and partying.  Thursday’s songs were about bigger, more important issues.  I really can’t put into words how much discovering Thursday changed me and shaped me as a person, but War All the Time will always hold a very special place in my heart.  I would go so far as to say it was the first serious album I ever really loved (a vast improvement over the blink-182 and other pop-punk I had been listening to).

Thrice followed shortly after Thursday, mainly because I kept reading that they were so similar.  They’re really not, but that’s another story.  It was love at first listen.  Thrice became a fixture in my life from that point on.  In fact, from the time I first saw them in 2004, I went to almost every headlining Thrice show in Philadelphia (and some extra gigs too).  Thursday may have started my love affair with lyrics, but Thrice continued it.  Where Thursday waned in and out of my life at various times, Thrice never left me.  Their music made me feel empowered.  I became more socially aware by listening to their music.  When I was 15, I went to my first Warped Tour and Thrice were headlining.  I had recently bought their live album, and a membership to their fan club, The Thrice Alliance, came with it.  I was ecstatic when I found out that this would get me into a meet and greet with the band, but I didn’t realize how cool it was going to be.  My friend and I got to go backstage.  Then while Thrice played their set, we got to stand on the side of the stage to watch.  Then we met them.  I was just a kid, and I was starstruck.  I probably said about a total of ten words the entire time we got to chat with them.  It’s still a story I tell, and it’s still one of my fondest memories from that point in my life.  Here’s an incredibly embarrassing picture from that day:

Me and Thrice

Me with Thrice circa Warped Tour 2005

Well, that’s awkward.  I think I was suffering from heat exhaustion at the time.  Back to my little open love letter to Thrice and Thursday.  I owe so much to Thrice.  Their music evolved with my own musical taste in a way that was almost eerie.  Each album changed in just the right way for the time in my life it was released.  I’m grateful I got to meet Thrice again this fall and see them perform on one of their last tours.  Here’s a much less embarrassing picture of me with Thrice from last month:

Me with Thrice circa October 2011.

There’s so much I can say about this band, and I’m starting to draw a blank and lose any eloquence I had going…  The point of this post was to say thank you to two very important bands.  Thank you, Thrice.  Thank you, Thursday.  Thank you for the 8 years of music you’ve created that I’ve followed, and the years before I started listening.  Thank you for creating something beautiful.  Thank you for playing countless shows and taking time to connect with your fans.  Thank you for all you’ve done for me and people like me.  Just thank you.

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News Round-up for 11/21/11

A lot happened in the small realm of music I cover on this blog in the last few days, so I present you with the first conglomeration post for this blog.  There will surely be more in the future.

  • Garden Window album art

    Last week, O’Brother, who I’ve talked about several times on this blog, digitally released their debut full-length album, Garden Window.  As beautiful as it is fiery and visceral, the hour long record shattered my expectations.  Even after hearing songs from Garden Window live and interviewing Michael Martens about the album, I wasn’t sure what to expect.   I went into my first listen of Garden Window with my expectations dangerously high and was completely blown away.  The record engulfs you in a wall of furious sound that immediately drags you in.  Each time I’ve listened to Garden Window, I’ve heard something completely different, something that I did not hear on previous listens.  If you want to hear the intense heavy and experimental record for yourself,  you can buy the album digitally on iTunes or Amazon, or pre-order the gorgeous vinyl version or CD here.

  • The Philadelphia based experimental band mewithoutYou have been added to the line-up for Saturday night’s Brand New show at the House of Blues in Atlantic City.  O’Brother will be opening, followed by mewithoutYou, then Brand New.  It’s going to be an amazing line-up and awesome night of music, so if you can find a way to get into that sold out show, I strongly encourage it.
  • Thrice’s lead singer and guitarist, Dustin Kensrue, has announced via the band’s website that after a final spring tour, Thrice will be going on hiatus.  Kensrue assured fans that Thrice were not breaking up, merely taking a break from being a full time band.  You can read his statement here.

My modest collection of Devil and God vinyl variants.

  • Lastly, today is the 5th birthday (or anniversary, if you prefer to call it that) of an album I hold very close to my heart, Brand New’s The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me.  When that album was released five years ago today, I was only 16 years old.  My taste in music was still developing, and I can honestly say that the Devil and God totally changed my musical taste forever.  The way I perceived music was turned upside-down by that record.  I could write volumes on Brand New  and this particular album (I consider it their best work thus far), but I’ll keep this short and sweet.  It’s an album that means a lot to me, an album that effected my life in different ways, an album that brought me closer to  some very important people in my life, and an album that you should listen to if you’ve never heard it.  Maybe you won’t like it, maybe you will.   I think it’s a heartbreaking and beautiful masterpiece, and that hasn’t changed in the last five years.

This Venue is Not Wheelchair Accessible: a video interview with Deb Stevenson

Deb & her boyfriend, Ian, with Andrew Jackson Jihad

I think it’s pretty obvious by now that I love going to concerts.  I spend a good amount of my small college student income on tickets, but I’m still constantly frustrated by the amount of shows I just can’t afford to go to.  I think I’m incredibly dedicated to music, probably more so than almost everyone I know.  Enter Deb Stevenson, my longtime friend and concert-going partner.  She goes to far more shows than I can even imagine, partially because of her involvement in the local music scene.  About a month ago, Deb got into a nasty car accident that left her with serious fractures in her left hand and foot that required surgery.  She was left totally wheelchair bound for a few weeks, only able to hop on one leg to move around at all and unable to use crutches for assistance due to the hand injury.  I think it’s safe to say that most people would resign themselves to taking a break from concerts–I certainly would, but not Deb.  Even in the days following her surgery, Deb was still determined to not let being temporarily wheelchair bound effect her love for live music.  The inconvenience of the wheelchair was definitely not going to stop her from seeing one of her favorite bands, Andrew Jackson Jihad, when they came to Philly a few weeks ago.  In the following video, Deb talks about why she goes to shows, how being in a wheelchair changes the experience, and her experience at the Andrew Jackson Jihad show.  Also featured in the video is Deb’s chihuahua mix, Lupe, who frequently attends local shows with her and her boyfriend and some footage of Andrew Jackson Jihad at the show we went to.

Disclaimer: this is my first ever foray into video editing of any kind, and I experienced quite a few technological disasters during the making of it.

This Venue is Not Wheelchair Accessible from Kate Gaschnig on Vimeo.


Q&A with Philadelphia singer-songwriter Christian Bitto

Christian Bitto, photo courtesy of his Christian Bitto Music.

I did a brief question and answer with an up-and-coming singer-songwriter from Philadelphia, Christian Bitto.  He’s played at various small venues in the Philly area opening for a variety of bands.  Christian is currently working on an album, and you can listen to one of the first songs at the end of the post.

Question: How long have you been making music and performing in Philly?

Answer:  I’ve been playing guitar for over 10 years now.  I was in a few bands where we never really did anything, and I gave it up for a while.  I rededicated myself a few years back.  I started writing my own songs a little over two years ago and have been performing for a little less than that.

Q:  Any favorite places to play in Philly?

A:  The apex for me was definitely the North Star Bar.  I’ve played there twice now solo and can’t wait to perform there with the full band.  That’s where all of my formative musical memories happened with my best friends, so to go there and be on the stage was such a surreal thing.  Not to mention they’re so professional and easy to deal with, something that’s not always the case.

Q:  What bands and songwriters influence your music?

A:  I grew up in that post-punk screamo scene with bands like Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, The Early November, so I guess it started there.  That was the first music I ever really liked and my first bands were all in that vein.  But as for my own stuff now, Kevin Devine is a huge influence along with Conor Oberst [Bright Eyes], and Glen Hansard [The Swell Season].  I respond to lyrics almost more so than the music, so I love good songwriters.  Oh and I forgot to mention Elliott Smith, what a huge influence his songs have had on me.  I sing softly so Elliott Smith was the first person I listed to that didn’t scream or belt out tunes.  When I heard him whisper his way through songs and they were just as powerful it made me have faith that I could sing as well.

Q:  So you’re recording an album now, right?

A:  I am recording an album.  We’re finished two songs.  It’ll probably end up being a 5 or 6 song EP [to be release] sometime early in the new year.  It’ll have both [full band and acoustic songs], I had a demo out last year that was mainly just acoustic songs but this is definitely more indie rock-ish.  I’m recording with my friend Jesse Gimbel at his studio, and he’s playing the drums.  I’m pretty much playing anything else on it.  I’m really looking forward to getting it done and getting out there with a band and performing.  I enjoy the intimacy of sitting there on stage with just an acoustic guitar and telling a story, but it’ll be nice to change it up.

Q:  The last show I went to last Friday, the opening band was just a guy with an acoustic guitar (Into It. Over It).  He was really good, but I feel like it’s really hard to get people’s attention that way.  I definitely give credit to anyone who can get up in front of people and keep playing despite the audience being uninterested and disrespectful at times…

A:  I agree.  I put a big emphasis on writing good lyrics, and for a while I was almost opposed to putting together a fuller band sound for fear it might take away from that…but I realized the stories are going to be there, and if people can enjoy the music without even noticing that, then that’s ok too.

Q:  How have your experiences been playing in Philly?  Good, bad, both?

A:  I’ve had both.  Like I said it’s great playing at the North Star, and there are other places that were great too. The Fire was my first show so they have a place in my heart too…but I have dealt with some people who clearly did not care or pay attention to what it takes to put on a good show.  I played one show where the door guy didn’t show up, the promoter didn’t answer his phone and no one knew the set times.  It was a mess…but even with that, you’re still playing music in front of people, so it’s not that bad.

Q:  Do you go to a lot of shows in Philly? Any favorite venues to see shows at besides the North Star?

A:  I used to go to a ton when I was younger.  I stopped for a while but have started up again recently.  There’s a ton of good venues, and I tend to prefer the smaller ones, which I think is why I love the North Star.  It’s sort of the smallest place where you get really good nationally touring acts.  I just saw Bright Eyes at the Mann Center and that place is just beautiful, such a different atmosphere than a rock club.  Both types of places definitely have their merit though.

Q:  Are there any local bands that you’ve played with that you really like?

A:  Well I mentioned my friend Jesse Gimbel earlier.  He has his own stuff, and we’ve played a few shows together and have become really good friends.  I’ve met quite a few nice folks along the way, but Jesse and I definitely share a similar musical taste which makes it super easy to work together.  It’s weird because I’ve played with everything from punk acts to country acts to poppy singers.  It’s been rare to actually play with people in my general genre of interest.  I guess they usually just want a guy with a guitar to open the show.


Breaking news: Jeff Mangum announces more solo dates

For years, Jeff Mangum, the former singer of Neutral Milk Hotel, has stayed out of the spotlight. While the incredibly influential lo-fi indie bands albums continue to sell–in fact the bands 1998 release, the critically acclaimed In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was in the best selling albums on vinyl in 2008–Mangum has avoided the music scene, with the exception of playing unannounced solo shows every now at then. In the past year though, he seems to have come out of retirement to play a few strings of formally announced shows. What makes this particular announcement significant is that Mangum will be playing in Philadelphia. The show, put together by r5 Productions, will be held on January 25, 2012 at University of Pennsylvania’s Irvine Auditorium.  Tickets go on sale this Friday 11/11/11 at 12 pm, and will surely sell out quickly.

Here’s a video from one of his solo shows earlier in the year that I found on YouTube:


Frank Turner proves that rock and roll really can save us all

Last night, I saw Frank Tuner play his largest headlining show in the United States so far, a sold out show at the Theatre of Living Arts in Philadelphia.  Earlier in the day the punk and folk influenced British artist performed at the World Cafe for XPN‘s weekly Free at Noon segment.  I’ll admit that I’m relatively new to Frank Turner.  I’d heard good things about him, but I just never really got around to listening to his music until his latest album, England Keep My Bones, was released earlier this year.  I was completely hooked on Frank by the time I got to track three.  The album is simply addicting, a rollicking mixture of folk, punk, and good old-fashioned rock and roll, all clearly marked by Frank Turner’s distinct voice.  When I listen to England Keep My Bones, I start to experience this strange feeling of English pride.  I honestly have to remind myself that I’m in America, and that I have no English heritage whatsoever (although that album makes me sincerely wish I could claim some).  When an album can have that effect on you, you just know it’s got to be good.  From the rock and roll anthem “I Still Believe” to the fantastic a capella song about the Norman Conquest of England, “English Curse,” England Keep My Bones is an incredible and diverse album. Continue reading