Posts by Jessica
It’s a new year and time for a new challenge and putting the old 100 Bands challenge to rest. I didn’t exactly fail at seeing 100 bands, in fact I saw more than 100 bands, I just neglected to review 65% of the shows I saw which just so happened to be a crucial part of the challenge. Being a fan and not a blogger during concerts proved to be far more enjoyable and I got burnt out on writing in the middle of the year and never quite recovered. At the end of 2011, I wrote this to Lydia:
What’s Left: 8 days. 27 Bands.
Who: Jeffrey Foucault
When/Where: July 27th, Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA
Expectations: Quiet nights with acoustic folk don’t happen too often, but when they do it’s usually because I’m seeing someone I’ve been a fan of for a long time, as was the case when I went to see Jeffrey Foucault.
Concert: It wasn’t that long ago that I saw this concert, but there’s only one song I really remember. There’s a few details I can recall like his lovely wife a great musician as well, Kris Delmhorst, joining him on cello for a few songs. I remember Foucault seeming a bit shy as he started a story but then eased up with the gentle laughter of the audience. He played 4&20 blues and an unrecorded song, Hurricane Land (possibly?) that was downright gorgeous, I wish I had it now after this weekend. But those are just details, what I really remember is the solitary tear that I let roll down my cheek when he played “Mesa, Arizona”.
The song meant a lot to me–more to me than I could sum up here–and was blown away by how much it still means to me. My eyes got misty as Foucault was tuning his guitar and I realized what was coming. The people around me nudged their significant other’s to tell them this was “the one I really like”. When I heard it, I saw a four year long relationship play from the awkward beginning to the fizzling out end, even though it ended three years ago and I’ve long since moved on, the song and that relationship are eternally interlocked in a way that can never be undone. The song largely reminds me of a time I was carelessly happy and swimming through the depths of a love I thought would last past the confines of college. I once got a phone call from the boyfriend in California when I was in Denver and we decided at 2am on a tuesday to drive 7 hours to a half way meeting point in Utah. I cut days of classes to do this without even hesitating, and yeah I played this song at least twenty times on the drive. But that’s just one memory of many this song has soundtracked for me, and for the ‘we’ that no longer exists. It’s not that I miss the relationship, but rather more than anything I miss the person I was when I was in love. I felt all of this so intensely during the song that I didn’t realize the tear until it reached my chin, the lyrics “I know when I know nothing, I’ll always know your name” echoing in my head. I was lost inside a memory encapsulated in a song and it’s stunning how powerful music can be.
When you see Foucault play this song he closes his eyes and sings with such emotion you wonder what memory he’s thinking of. I couldn’t have asked for anything more that night.
Afterglow: (speechless) I biked home and took at least five wrong turns because I was still thinking about the concert.
Recommendation: I love indie rock, and when there are seven musicians on stage, and weird effects being used, really I love it all dearly, but what moves me the most and often catches me off guard is a voice and an acoustic guitar. I don’t know if this is a universal thing, but you should give it a shot. Especially if it’s Jeffrey Foucault who constantly turns out wonderful albums.
What’s Left: 9 Days. 28 Bands.
Band #72: Dastardly
When/Where: June 16th, The Milk Way, Jamaica Plain, MA
Expectations: I had only been listening to Dastardly for about a week but something about it made me think Dastardly put on a crazy show. Then I read their hysterical tumblr posts, including the one about how they got banned from a venue, I knew I had to go.
Concert: My Dastardly experience started with meeting the band and being offered their whiskey from a brown bag. I could and probably should leave the review at that and implore that you go see them. Instead I’ll tell you how this was the first time in a long time I saw the accordion used to it’s capacity. Instead of just playing chords on the keys, like many bands do, Sarah Morgan skillfully used the bass buttons as well. This isn’t the type of band that would use indie gimmicks just for a certain aesthetic appeal, the songs were written with the accordion in mind and in all cases works incredibly well. There’s more to the band than the accordion and they work as a close knit band should, all shining in the right moments. I just happen to be an accordion nerd with a hazy memory. The band let loose with an unapologetic energy keeping the people packed into the small room captivated throughout the show.
Concert Afterglow: I definitely considered driving to see them at their next show in Rhode Island. I think they win the “every night on tour is an epic party” award.
Recommendation: Based on their tumblr you never know what antics they’ll get up to. Based on my experience however, it’s the type of show where you might over imbibe and simply remember having an incredible time, but the details might be fuzzy.
What’s Left: 25 days, 30 bands
Who: The Barr Brothers
When/Where: April 12th, T.T.’s, Cambridge, MA
Expectations: I was supposed to see Wye Oak this night, but there was a problem with tickets. I went to the concert venue next door instead, with no idea of what or even who to expect.
What’s Left: 26 days, 31 bands
Who: Joe Purdy
When/Where: June 21, Brighton Music Hall, Allston, MA
Expectations: I’ve been steadfastly obsessed with a good portion of Joe Purdy songs for years, yet I have never seen him live. Of course my expectations were through the roof, probably more so than for any other band I’ve seen so far in the 100 band challenge.
Concert: The stage crew set up for Joe Purdy’s set and put down a set list right in front of me. A large portion was from his latest album, The American, released last summer, and a few of the old standbys like “Ball Player” and “Can’t Get it Right”, but luckily Purdy was prepared with more than a few surprises.
He took the stage by himself for the opening verses of “Pioneer”, his foot stomps in place of the drums and was joined by the talented Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale half way through. Purdy surprised us by playing “Four Seasons” and “Canyon Joe” in the middle of his set to break up the playing extensively from his latest album. He appeared perfectly at ease on stage to the point where he looked confidently committed to living the life of a troubadour more than anyone I’ve seen in recent memory.
The encore felt like he would never stop playing all of the requests from the audience. He’d hear someone shout out a title, nod his head in agreement, and launch into whatever suited him best. He played three songs solo during the encore including “You Can Tell Georgia”, “I Love the Rain the Most”, and “Green Eyes Crying”. For the last song he started playing “Ode to the Sad Clown” which finished the concert just the way he started with the two young guys coming out from back stage, joining him half way through as the crowd sang along to the chorus “I’m gonna fill this whiskey cup / I’m gonna pick this banjo up / I’m gonna play with the tragedies/ singing good time harmonies” and stompped their feet and clapped along. The crowd was buzzing with ecstatic excitement as they heard their favorite songs played, which only made me wish the entire concert had been like that.
Afterglow: Even though it dragged a bit at times it was worth it to stay for the end.
Recommendation: If you’re feeling folky, or want to take your girl to hear some swoon worthy tunes, I’d suggest this one. Of course if you’re a Joe Purdy fan I’d say you should see him too, but just like any other artist with an extensive discography, there’s a high chance you won’t hear your favorite songs, so be prepared.
MP3: Joe Purdy – Highways
What’s Left: 87 Days. 41 Bands.
Band #59: James Vincent McMorrow
When/Where: June 8, 2011, The Paradise, Allston, MA
Expectations: Very excited to see the much-adored Irish folk singer, especially since he’s a Sunset in the Rearview favorite. Read Lydia’s interview with him here.
Concert: There is something unbelievably lonely about a man and his acoustic guitar standing by himself on a large stage in front of 100 or more people. James Vincent McMorrow played his entire set solo and looked even lonelier up there when the crowd persisted in a dull roar of conversation, even in the front rows, making it impossible to block out the chatter. All of the wonderful subtleties that come through on James Vincent McMorrow’s album were lost to the chatter. Songs like “If My Heart Should Somehow Stop” and “Follow You Down to the Red Oak Tree” felt more desperate and meloncholic sung through the talk.
However, the parts I love most about McMorrow’s music still shone through, which is a testament to his talent. His songs are full of “ohh ohhhs” and there is as much beauty and emotion conveyed in those as his well written lyrics. Live, his voice is just as amazing and ravishing as it is on the record. His emotive falsetto can absolutely soar. Despite the talk, he was even able to provide some pleasant banter that reminded me of the great personality he has in his interviews. He really let loose and sang louder for the last two songs of his set. Hearing “Sparrow and the Wolf” stripped down to only the acoustic guitar made it a different song (I’d tell you more about it if I could’ve heard it). His last song, “If I Had a Boat” was sung with all his might and got more of the crowd’s attention and was the highlight of the show for me. It’s unfortunate that the crowd made any James Vincent McMorrow fan want to get in a boat and sail away.
Concert Afterglow: I wish he had stuck around after so that the folks who listened and bought his album could have told him that he was appreciated and wonderful. I passive aggressively crushed a beer can in my hand instead. Still, he’s a fantastic musician and the next time I get a chance to see him, I will.
Recommendation: Putting James Vincent McMorrow on the Bell X1 tour might not have been the best match up. I am sure he shines in an intimate setting and if you get a chance to see him in such a setting, jump on it. It’d also be nice to see him with a full band. Just be wary of this particular tour, and if you do go, I hope your city has a more respectful crowd than mine.
Below is a live recording of “If My Heart Should Somehow Stop” from the concert. You can clearly hear McMorrow’s voice but you hear a lot of talk as well. I know Sunset readers respect music so please take this as a friendly PSA to not talk like this at a concert. This isn’t just the one guy or because it’s an iPhone recording, it really was this loud and chatty throughout the venue. I am in no way associated with the person who recorded and posted the song. It’s a shame a review of a talented musician had to get bogged down with concert manner issues. Sorry for that.
What’s Left: 88 Days. 42 Bands.
Band #58: The Powder Kegs
When/Where: June 7, 2011, Plough & Stars, Cambridge, MA
Expectations: I saw The Powder Kegs a few months ago and have been a fan of their music and especially their latest LP that came out in March. It’s always fun to catch them when they’re in town.
Concert: Even though the “stage” at Plough and Stars is just a corner, they filled that corner with more than enough energy for the entire bar, putting on a show that strays from their recorded songs just enough so that they remain recognizable, but also so that the listener knows they are more than capable of adding nooks and crannies and flourishing during a live show. The bassist, Ryan Dieringer, and guitarist, Daniel Maroti switch off on lead vocals, both being able frontmen, further diversifying their sound. One of the Powder Kegs’ strengths is seamlessly going from a tumultuous loud stretch right into a simple and subdued strumming, it pulls the audience right in, especially on their song “Falling Together, Coming Apart”.
They played an older song, “La Mariposa”, an elegant pop song filled with warmth and a wonderful contrast at the end where they let the careful structure fall away to a clamoring outburst of sound. Hearing it, I felt a rush of excitement because it was the first song of theirs I ever heard (and played on repeat many times), and also as they segued to newer songs their growth towards a distinct and developed sound was blatantly clear. The Dylan and Beatles influences are sometimes just beneath the surface, but they do it remarkably well, something you can see for yourself when you listen to the song they closed with, “The Amanicans”.
Concert Afterglow: Plough & Stars is easily the tiniest venue to be a part of the 100 bands project, but The Powder Kegs adapted well to the small space even though they often play to sold out shows in New York where there core fan base resides. It always kills me a little when a band this good is playing in a tiny corner of a bar, but at the same time it’s special because you know you might not be able to see them in such an intimate space again. It was a wonderful treat on a warm summer night to see them, and I was smiling all the way from their first song until I fell asleep.
Recommendation: I think this band should get more recognition, and I’d love to see that happen. You’re bound to enjoy their live show if excellent indie rock is what you like.
You absolutely must keep an eye on this band who is quickly being compared to Local Natives by fans and bloggers with their wistful indie pop sound and four part harmonies that can melt your heart. Milo Greene is a brand new band from L.A. with only 2 tracks on bandcamp, leaving many pining for an album in the near future. In the meantime, let yourself get swept away by this song although I highly doubt it will be enough to satiate you, I’m anxious for more.
MP3: Milo Greene – 1957
Jessica || Twitter
There is so much to be said about this album it’s hard to know where to begin. The fact that friends crammed into a basement studio in New York to help their friend record this all in one night is remarkable. These songs are all about time spent in Siberia and the stories of the people there. Then you listen to it and the lonesome folk sound, beautiful harmonies, and stories of travels, escape, loneliness and the many types of love that accompany those feelings and it tugs at your heartstrings. Start to finish this is an album to lose yourself in. While there is so much more to be said, I think the best thing here is to let the music do the talking for it is far more eloquent than any review could possibly be.
Jessica || Twitter
You might have heard the song “Always Everything” as it was the first single released from Sin Fang’s recent album Summer Echoes, it’s an upbeat poppier track, but I always come back to “Fall Down Slow”. There is something so deeply moving, I hold my breath when I hear it as though breathing could disrupt the careful arrangement coming through my speakers.
Fall Down Slow by Sin Fang
Sin Fang (formerly known as Sin Fang Bous) is the side project of Seabear frontman/founder Sindri Sigfússon where he experiments with different elements and in general gets a little more experimental than the icelandic folk stylings of Seabear. The recently released album, Summer Echoes, has been one of my favorites. It is tremendously gorgeous, lush, and well developed. I highly recommend spending some time with it, in case this song didn’t convince you to do so already.
Jessica || Twitter
Hey, it’s almost the end of the week. Here’s some advice: pour yourself a glass of wine, play this song loudly on your good speakers, and slow dance with said glass of wine in hand. You won’t regret it. Maybe I’m strange, but frankly it’s my favorite way to unwind. Diego Garcia’s debut album, Laura, is a breakup album with a twist: this album is about his very real break up with Laura a half decade ago, but now he is married with child to the same Laura. It makes for an interesting story and is a fantastic album, especially the bits with the Spanish guitar. Despite the often painful subject matter, it somehow manages to sound like a warm summer’s eve by the ocean. Buy it on amazon.
Roses & Wine by DiegoGarciaNYC
The beauty of this song is in the simplicity. The male/female vocals are at the forefront and even though there is the exquisite addition of strings in the song, it’s not overpowering nor does it feel like an afterthought like string sections sometimes are. My favorite part of this song and of Vandaveer’s latest album, Dig Down Deep, is the poetic earnestness in the lyrics that beg you to listen closely. It’s an uplifting song that reminds you to keep marching on whatever path you choose.