Category Archives: music

The Revival Tour 2012 in Philadelphia

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Going to the Revival Tour a couple of weeks ago was the best last-minute concert decision I’ve ever made.  I knew about the tour and wanted to go, but I didn’t have the money.  I forgot about it until a few days before when the special guests for the Philly date started to be announced.  A few days before the show, Brian Fallon of the Gaslight Anthem announced that he would be doing a guest spot exclusively at the Philly date.  I was sold.  I bought tickets immediately and was blown away by the night.

When I write in detail about concerts, it’s because I really found them to be special (corny, but true) experiences.  Not every show is.  This however, was one of the most moving shows I’ve ever been too.  Started by Hot Water Music‘s Chuck Ragan in 2008, the Revival Tour takes punk musicians and puts them together for a tour of collaborative acoustic performances.  Many of the artists involved have roots in folk music; Ragan himself has released a few solo folk records.  What you get at the Revival Tour is a bunch of friends making music together.  There’s far more love and integrity and camaraderie between musicians and fans alike than most shows.  It’s a very intimate setting.  At this particular show headliners: Chuck Ragan, Tommy Gabel of Against Me!, Dan Andriano of Alkaline Trio, and Corey Branan were joined by several special guests: Brian Fallon, Dave Hause of the Loved Ones, and Tim Barry (formerly of Avail).  To allow time for all the special performances, the headliners played shorten sets.  This didn’t bother me at all.  The show started and ended with everyone on stage playing together songs from each headliner.  In between, the musicians took turns playing their songs solo while the others came and went, adding vocals here or a part there.  Jon Gaunt and Joe Ginsberg joined the tour to play violin and double bass, respectively.

It was an amazing night of music from start to finish.  There was a certain kind of respect and fellowship in crowd that’s rare.

Here’s a video I took of Tom Gabel playing the Against Me! song “Tonight We Give it 35%”


Band of Skulls at the Union Transfer

Band of Skulls at the Union Transfer

Band of Skulls at the Union Transfer

Sorry for the lack of posts, folks!  I hadn’t been to any shows lately, but that’s recently changed.  Last week I finally got to check out the Union Transfer and see Band of Skulls.  I saw Band of Skulls a few years back at the North Star Bar just when they started to make their break.  Needless to say, the Union Transfer is a big step up from that tiny bar.  Band of Skulls put on a fun show to an enthusiastic crowd.  The Union Transfer exceeded all expectations.  It’s truly a beautiful venue, and it has definitely become my favorite larger venue in Philly.  Here’s a video I took of Band of Skulls performing “Fires” from their first album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey.


Thrice’s Farewell Tour

Thrice recently announced the dates for their farewell tour this spring.  Animals as Leaders and another very special guest will be opening.  If you’ve never seen Thrice, or even if you’ve seen them 10 times, I highly recommend trying to make it to one of these dates.  They’ll be in Philly on May 25 at the Electric Factory, and I’ll be there.  You can buy tickets for that date and all the others right now and save on fees.  If the show you want to go to is sold out already or you don’t have the cash right now, you can wait till the general sale which starts on March 1.  I’m sure these events will sell out very quickly, and they are definitely not to be missed.  You  can read Thrice’s announcement of the tour for more details here, and you can even vote for songs you’d like to hear them play.


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.


2011 in Review: my favorite albums of the year

I listen to a lot of music, but I simply can’t listen to everything.  That’s why I’m saying explicitly that this is not a “best of” list.  This is just my opinion, my favorite records of the year.   If I listened to more albums, there may have been some others on this list as well, but 2011 is over, and this is what I’ve come up with.   I am numbering them, but the main ranking is through tiers.  The first tier consists of my favorite albums and the ones I consider to be objectively excellent.  The second tier consists of my other favorite albums, ones that were just a step below my top five.  The third tier is honorable mentions.  These albums are fantastic as well, but for one reason or another, they didn’t make the final cut.

Without further ado: Continue reading


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


Concert Review: Brand New at the House of Blues, Atlantic City

Let me briefly discuss my love affair with Brand New before I get down to talking about the show I went to on November 26.  I started listening to Brand New when I was in 8th grade.  Their album Deja Entendu blew my little 14-year-old mind.  I anxiously awaited its follow-up, an effort that took three years to complete.  It wasn’t until this time, in the fall of 2006 that I first got to experience Brand New live.  It was an acoustic in-store performance at the now defunct Mars Red Records in Haddonfield, NJ.  It was amazing, and they lived up to all my expectations.  Then, their album, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me dropped shortly after and completely changed everything about my relationship to music.  I talked about that album briefly before, and I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but that album is still one of my favorite records of all time.  It’s very special to me, and it’s perfect in my eyes.  The years haven’t changed that like they have my opinions about other albums.  Deja Entendu lost some of its magic for me, but I don’t think the Devil and God ever will.  It was on one of the Devil and God tours in the spring of 2007 that I first saw Brand New at a proper gig, and it set the bar unbelievably high.  That tour featured Kevin Devine and Manchester Orchestra as support, and it was just perfect.  I honestly can say it was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to.  It might even be the best.  In the four times I’ve seen Brand New since then, I’ve never had as amazing an experience.  They’re always good, and I always love their shows, but that show was the peak for me.  Nothing has been quite as good, and I don’t know that anything else will ever reach that level of brilliance, of perfection, of love.  Brand New released another album in 2009 which I also deeply love, Daisy.  It’s visceral and raw and heavy, but so beautiful in it’s anger and anguish.  They haven’t released any new music since then, but the few strings of shows they’ve played this year seem promising.  Maybe, just maybe, we’ll get something new in 2012.

Now, let’s get to the show I went to last week.  The House of Blues show was announced over the summer, and I immediately got tickets (it was a small miracle, since the pre-sale sold out in about ten seconds).  No support was announced for the show until very recently.  If you read this blog regularly, I think you know I like this band, O’Brother, from Atlanta, Georgia.  I think they’re fantastic, and I’ve written quite a lot about them these last few months.  They announced they would be opening for Brand New on this Atlantic City date.  My jaw literally dropped when I read that tweet.  I mean literally.  I couldn’t believe that the little band that I’d essentially watched grow up would be opening for Brand New.  A week or so before the show, mewithoutYou announced that they would also be opening. Continue reading


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.