Category Archives: indie

Kevin Devine Celebrates 10 Years of Music

Kevin Devine at Webster Hall

Kevin Devine at Webster Hall

Ten years of music, six albums, tireless touring, and thousands of devoted fans–all celebrated in one beautiful, sublime evening.  I could probably write a novella in this post, but I’ll not to be too verbose (no promises).  Saturday night, December 1, 2012, was Kevin Devine’s 10th anniversary show, offically titled Write Your Story Now: Celebrating 10 Years of Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band(s).  A celebration of the tenth birthday of his first solo album and the advent of his solo career, Kevin Devine performed three of his six full-length albums: his first album, 2002’s Circle Gets the Square; his most recent album, 2011’s Between the Concrete and the Clouds; and his 2005 release, the recently reissued, Split the Country, Split the Street.  Over 1,000 tickets were sold to the event which was held at Webster Hall in New York City

The show was announced a few months before, and I immediately knew I had to go.  This wasn’t any show.  This was a once in a lifetime event.  It wasn’t something that was going to happen again.  My friend bought us tickets as a birthday gift to me, the show falling pretty close to my 23rd birthday.  We took a car, and a ferry, a cab, and walked a whole lot.  We shelled out money we didn’t have, but it was worth every penny and then some. Continue reading

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In Photos: O’Brother at the North Star Bar

On Sunday, I got to see O’brother for the fifth time, this time at the North Star Bar.  But this time was different; this time they were headlining.  It was awesome (maybe not so awesome to my eardrums) to see such a talented band kill it for a full set.  They sounded phenomenal as usual, and they put on a hell of a show.  For the first time ever in my life, I actually headbanged…I couldn’t help it.  You just have to completely lose it and rock out when you hear the epic “Lay Down.”  The opening band Junius were also really good and are featured in the gallery below.

 

All photos were taken by me unless otherwise noted.


Jesse Lacey of Brand New talks about the band’s hopes for their next record

If you know anything about Brand New, you probably know that they rarely do interviews.  While in the UK for a series of dates earlier this month, lead singer Jesse Lacey broke the bands silence with an interview for a local music zine.  It’s an interesting read/listen, and Lacey talks about a wide range of subjects both relating to his personal life and the music industry.  Lacey said in the interview that the band has studio time booked for April and hopes to get new music released by the end of the year.  In regards to the sound of this album, Lacey said, “I think we’ve taken what we do and taken it as far as it can go, in terms the way we build a song, the way we layer our instruments and arrange everything, and the way I do my own vocals, and even the more technical side of recording.  We’re not very excited about going back into the studio and trying to find those sounds again, we are interested in being ‘Brand New,’ but writing, recording and structuring songs in a way that we haven’t done before.  I’d like it if, on the next thing we release, if someone who was familiar with us were to walk into a room, and it be playing, I’d like them to not know that it was us.”  You can read the whole interview and listen to the first half of it here.

Brand New have also recently announced that they will be playing the Bamboozle festival in New Jersey.


Adam Turla on the progress of Murder By Death’s latest album

Sarah Balliet of Murder By Death

Sarah Balliet, cellist of Murder By Death. Johnny Brenda's 3/2/11.

I had heard of Murder By Death before, but I never listened to them until I saw them in 2009.  That changed everything.  They were opening for the Gaslight Anthem, and I remember that before they even started their set I was intrigued by the fact they had a cello player.  Sometimes, a band pops into your life at the perfect moment; there’s something you’ve been missing out on, and you don’t realize until you first hear it.  That’s what happened with me and Murder By Death that night.  As they played their set, the only way I could think of describing them was like this: they were like Johnny Cash meets Cursive.  Take the subtle country twang and the deep booming voice of lead singer Adam Turla, add some indie and alternative rock influences, and throw in that gorgeous cello, and voila: you have something that’s pretty hard to describe; you have Murder By Death.  There’s something about them, something cinematic that sets them apart from other bands.  Needless to say, I was totally hooked by the end of the set.  I needed to hear everything they’d made, from the concept album about the Devil waging war against a southwestern town, Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them? to the very different, but equally epic Red of Tooth And Claw.  The more I heard, the more I liked them, and I jumped at the chance to see them live earlier this year at Johnny Brenda’s.  Currently, Murder By Death are gearing up to record the follow-up to 2010’s Good Morning, Magpie.  I had the opportunity to ask Adam Turla a few questions about the new album, and you can check out his answers here:


Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum: an indie rock legend returns

Jeff Mangum, source unknown.

Jeff Mangum, lead singer and songwriter for the 90s indie rock band, Neutral Milk Hotel, is quite an enigmatic figure.  He hasn’t released any new music under the Neutral Milk Hotel moniker since 1998.   No one knows if he’s written anything since that point, that he’s like the Salinger of indie rock, leading a quiet life writing music only for himself, or if he’s totally dried up and incapable of writing anything.  It’s likely somewhere in between–in a 2002 interview with Pitchfork, Mangum said he hadn’t written in a while, but also said he writes songs and being unsatisfied with them, throws them out.  With his recent triumphant return to the music scene years after that interview, perhaps new material will be released at some point.  Mangum is a man shrouded in mystery to most.  For the decade since his band Neutral Milk Hotel’s critically acclaimed album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was released, little is publicly known about Mangum’s life. Forget what he’s been doing with his time, few sources agree on where he’s been for the bulk of the past 13 years.  Some say he’s been living quietly in Athens, Georgia, others that he’s traveled all over, hopping from friend’s house to friend’s house.  It’s a mystery created out of hearsay and the rampant curiosity of fans and journalists who starve for answers.  The truth is, it doesn’t really matter where Mangum’s been–what matters is that Mangum’s returned.

Despite the following of devoted fans, and the accolades from publications, musicians, and Stephen Colbert, you may not know who Jeff Mangum even is.  You may have never heard of Neutral Milk Hotel, so back to the beginning, back to the roots of what made Mangum the icon he is today.  Neutral Milk Hotel was the name Mangum began using for his recordings in the early 1990’s.  For years, Neutral Milk Hotel wasn’t really a band as much as simply Mangum and whoever felt like playing with him at any given moment.  After releasing his first full-length album as Neutral Milk Hotel in 1996, On Avery Island, Mangum was joined by Julian Koster, Jeremy Barnes, and Scott Spillane for touring, and Neutral Milk Hotel as it is commonly viewed was formed.  Two years later, Neutral Milk Hotel released their second and final album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, an album that continues to sell and gain the band new fans today.  Listed as one of the greatest albums of all time by more than one source, it’s now heralded as genius and revolutionary by many.  Less than a year after its release, after Neutral Milk Hotel started to create some buzz in the indie rock scene, they disappeared.  The band broke up, went on hiatus, whatever you want to call it.  Mangum disappeared, popping up here and there, but only playing Neutral Milk Hotel songs a few times over the next decade.  Recently though, Mangum has returned to playing shows and playing Neutral Milk Hotel songs.  After all these years, why is Mangum still relevant, and not just relevant, but able to sell out shows in seconds?  How did In the Aeroplane Over the Sea manage to be the sixth best-selling vinyl in 2008, when it was 10 years old and still rather obscure? Continue reading


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:


Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band put on a damn good show at the North Star Bar

As I sit here typing this, my ears are still ringing a constant high-pitched buzz, but I don’t mind.  Any discomfort is well worth it after the mind-blowing night I just had.  I saw Kevin Devine for the fourth time, this time at the North Star Bar, and was again blown away.  It’s not just his consistently top-notch performances that left me in awe–the crowd presence was phenomenal.  I’ve seen Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band before, but never headlining, and never at a small venue.  When I saw them open for Thrice and Brand New on previous occasions, I was really into the performance, but not everyone was.  This was different.  In this tiny room that can’t hold more than a couple hundred people, every single person was there for the same reason–to see Kevin and his band play.

If you don’t know anything about Kevin Devine, he started out as more or less a solo act.  Just a guy and his acoustic guitar, but over the course of six full length albums his music has evolved into a full band endeavor.  His most recent album, released last month, Between the Concrete and Clouds, is the first album that features the band on every song.  For the first time in his career, there’s not a single song with just Kevin and his acoustic guitar.  In my opinion, Kevin Devine is one of today’s most underrated songwriters.  His musical catalog spans genres from the acoustic folk that dominated his 2006 album, Put Your Ghost to Rest, to the full band catchy indie rock of his latest release.  His introspective, sometimes political, and richly poetic lyrics are really what made me fall in love with his music.  The literary qualities his lyrics have are hard to come by, and as a lover of literature and words, I was hooked after the first song I heard, “No Time Flat,” which he opened his set with last night.  Generally ignored by the mainstream music media, Kevin has built his fan base without much help besides his relentless touring schedule and opening for much bigger acts like Brand New, Thrice, Nada Surf, and Manchester Orchestra.  Although it’s relatively small, Kevin has an extremely dedicated fan base, as I saw first hand last night. Continue reading


Jeff Mangum plays an impromptu set at Occupy Wall Street Protests

Jeff Mangum, lead singer and song writer for lo-fi indie gods Neutral Milk Hotel made an impromptu appearance at NYC’s Occupy Wall Street protests last night.  He played several songs form Neutral Milk Hotel’s discography and a cover.  You can watch a livestream and read more about the event on Pitchfork.  Here is a quick clip of Mangum playing “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.”  The crowd gladly sings along and provides the missing instrumentation.

Also worth noting is the upcoming release of the Neutral Milk Hotel boxed set.  The massive set includes vinyl copies of both NMH albums along with all the EPs, a few singles, and some unreleased tracks.  It’s a bit pricey at $88 plus shipping, but considering the amount of material you get, I think it’s well worth the cost.  If you’re not a vinyl collector, you can also acquire the album via “pay-as-you-wish” mp3 downloads starting November 22.