Thursday, September 18, 2014

North by North -- Mama Gold // Break Some Bones

Just a public service announcement -- manic blues rock band North by North, whose album I discussed a few months ago -- have a cute lil EP out.

The album art reminds me of Johnny Quest. The songs themselves are at least as adventurous as getting chased around by robot spiders in a black turtleneck.

North by North -- Facebook, Bandcamp

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Brother Dege -- Scorched Earth Policy

Scorched Earth Policy really is just that -- a rock'n'roll tour de force that'll singe the little hairs on your arms and eyebrows. In this summer mixtape (which clocks in at over an hour), Brother Dege takes no prisoners and reminds us that there's a whole lot of ground that still needs to be covered in Southern rock.

Brother Dege is probably still coming off the high of having his music featured in Django Unchained and other TV shows that represent a warped version of Southern life. It makes sense -- Dege draws off his own upbringing in Louisiana backcountry to pay tribute to his elders, but there's something dark and compelling about his music that gives his interpretation of a time-honored genre a contemporary feel.

Scorched Earth Policy was inspired for Dege's fondness for Southern rap culture. Though those musical influences don't make it on here, their eclecticism does. This album is made up of studio recordings, covers, live recordings ("field recordings") and spoken word. It speaks to Dege's (feverish) imagination, something we can all benefit from.

Brother Dege -- Official, Facebook, Soundcloud, Purchase Albums

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

VIDEO and FREE MUSIC: City City -- I Don't Dance

Still recovering from Shit Storm 2014, but here's a moment of zen from LA-based synth-pop band City City.

It's certainly on the other end of the budget spectrum from yesterday's video, but I think both are equally charming. I gotta say that I've never really understood the joyless teacher trope. Maybe it's because I've only been in schools with young staffs (high turnover rate in inner city schools = lots of n00bs straight from grad school.) I had a very involved conversation with students today about nailpolish, cross-dressing, and the utility of cosmetics. What did you do today?

You can also download the single for free here.

City City -- Official, Facebook, iTunes

Monday, September 15, 2014

Campfire Music Festival

With all the stuff that's been happening around me lately, taking a mental trip back in time to two weeks ago, when I attended the Campfire Festival, has brought me back to my happy place.

So how was the inaugural festival? Let me put it this way: I was invited as a member of the media. If I'm not invited back next year, I'd gladly pay to go as a civilian. I'd love to give a shout-out to the staff for being so energetic and accommodating. (There weren't enough people from NYC requesting to take a shuttle directly to "camp," so somebody came to pick us up at the Scranton bus depot.)

Spirit Family Reunion This festival took place at a summer camp in the Poconos (as a matter of fact, parts of Wet Hot American Summer were filmed there.) The founder of the festival was a former camper and friends with the gentleman who now runs the place. As a result, the attendees (an intimate 700-ish of us) had full run of the campus -- cabins, the lake, paintball court, basketball courts, etc. etc. (Hopefully the rope course will be available next year.) But the festival also provided us "campers" with lanyard, beads, friendship bracelet threads, as well as other camp-like activities like a cabin spirit contest. (I didn't get to experience the last one...we camped in actual tents.)

Pat and the Hats playing by the boathouse. It was like something out of an Elvis movie.
There were three stages -- the main stage and a smaller acoustic stage alternated sets while there was a setup down by the waterfront. Sitting on the beach and watching New Hampshire-based Pat in the Hat kick out some good old-fashioned pop rock felt like another time and place. However, since most of the bands were not as well-known, people tended to pursue the camp-like activities during the day. I mostly watched the bands but the crows hardly topped 100 until the openers for the headliners came on.

All of the bands were from the Northeast -- while most of them were from New York City and Philly, I'd never heard of many of them since they're more clean-cut and friendly than the scoundrels who congregate around here. But by far the best lineup of the weekend was Friday's: Spirit Family Reunion, Amy Helm (who played a powerful Band-heavy set), Langhorne Slim, and, topping it off, an electrifying set from Charles Bradley.

Langhorne Slim harangues us like a country gospel church
This was my first Langhorne Slim set and it was everything I've ever wanted from a rock'n'roll show: beauty (both in terms of scenery and the music), self-love, joy, and even pain ("Song For Sid" broke my heart all over again.) I imagine this is what a young Fred LeBlanc was like. Slim's set was easily the best of the weekend. There'll be more about the show in an upcoming post.

The Black Rose of Soul struts his stuff
Now let's take a moment to talk about Charles Bradley. I had never heard of him before this but I guess you all are hepper than I am. Bradley released his first album in his 60s and has been lighting up stages ever since. While I didn't necessarily care for the music (the man's amazing but he unfortunately didn't take care of his voice) he's an incredible performer. He's got moves that'd make my teenage students sweet. I dunno -- he must be bionic. His elaborate costume changes and overall positive message bowled over the small crowd on Friday night.

The Delta Spirit, who I guess headlined the festival, played on Saturday night. Thirty minutes into the set I could barely stifle my yawns, so we played laser tag instead.

But the party didn't end after the headlining concerts. Impromptu sets sprung up in the cabins after hours, both with attendees who brought their guitars and performers who were soaking in the casual atmosphere. Campfire brought us back to rock'n'roll's roots: music to be shared and enjoyed without all of that bullshit posturing.

Though the rave reviews the festival has been getting will undoubtedly mean an increase in attendance, I hope the intimacy of this summer will remain. (I understand that the organizers were thinking of putting up a sponsored stage in the cabins but formalizing those sessions will kill what made them so great in the first place.) That all being said, I hope everyone reading this has a great school year because I can't wait to see you (again) this summer!

Campfire Outdoor Music Festival's Official Site

Friday, September 12, 2014

VIDEO: The Feel Bad Hit of the Winter -- Mind the Monsters

Sorry for missing a day -- shit got really real. But to take my mind off of that, enjoy Feel Bad Hit of the Winter's newest video. They've taken their dreamy pop to an actual garage and employed the cutest, dorkiest little boy this side of the Pacific to fight his monsters.

You can hear one of Feel Bad's happier tunes, Smile, on my benefit compilation album. 25% of the proceeds go to FIERCE, an LGBTQ youth organization that trains our next generation of activists. The rest goes to the artists who contribute. You can check out Proud here, and check out Feel Bad Hit of the Winter at the following places:

Facebook, Bandcamp

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ten Ton Man -- "Mary"

I apologize for the spotty updates -- some real stuff came my way and the blog had to take a backseat. While I get my rhythm going again, here are some real pros at said rhythm.

Like every good country song, Ten Ton Man paints a picture in three short minutes. Like every great alt-country band, they do it with crunchy guitars and style. "Mary" is their most recent single, but they've also got a sweet little EP available on Bandcamp.

Ten Ton Man -- Official, Facebook, Bandcamp, iTunes, CDBaby

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sean Rowe -- Madman

Superhero stories are popular because it taps into our belief that we all have a special gift, if only circumstances or discovery could show us what it is and how to use it.

I don't think that was a difficult struggle for Sean Rowe. His singing voice should be impossible, but here he is, sharing it with us. But it's not just that Rowe sounds great -- his songs are carefully crafted and quietly powerful. Rowe catches us by the ear with the lead track, "Madman," but ends his sophomore album with a slow, graceful descent with his meditations on fatherhood and mortality.

While the album's production can feel a little glossy at times, this is honest music. Rowe probably fits most handily into the category of folk, but it's clear that he draws from a rich tapestry of country, hip hop, and world music. In my opinion, it's this casual melange that feels like the next direction for American folk -- as a culture, we have to stop ignoring and start celebrating the non-Anglo-Saxon traditions in our midst. This inclusion never feels obvious or strained on Rowe's part -- it just simply is. Whatever Rowe's talents as a performer, it's his skills as a writer and arranger that's the true gift.

Sean Rowe -- Facebook, Anti- Records, Online Store