Friday, November 30, 2007

Emergency Music

Bad news for people who like bad moods: Emergency Music is about to blow up your whole program. Spend about 30 seconds wading around in the ebullience of this Boston band, and your crappy day is straight-up ruined. Sorry.

Their new album, “You’ll Be The Death of Us All, Honey,” follows the winning formula laid down on their outstanding 2004 debut “Kiss The Culprit”: ’60s-colored handclap-and-harmony pop, driven by a feel-good acoustic rhythm and shamelessly danceable, old timey rock beats.

But, no so fast! A closer look at the lyrics reveals that singer and guitarist Jesse Duquette may be feeling a little sinister.

“It’s fun to see people clap their hands and sing along with some sad, spooky stuff,” Duquette explains. “The Smiths are an obvious example of this device, but it’s definitely one of the things I love most about them. Pair some somber lyrics with even more somber music, and you’ve got a total downer on your hands. Sprinkle some happy on that sad and you’ve got ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again.’”

It’s an approach that has worked well for the band over the past few years, garnering them Boston Music Award nominations and Improper Bostonian naming them Best Band in Boston in 2005.

“We’re pop music,” says Duquette, “which people tend to dig no matter the trend of the moment.”

As for the effects of love on his band’s songs, he points out: “I don’t think I’ve ever written what I would call a ‘love song,’” he says. “Unrequited crush songs have always been more my thing, all goose bumps and sick stomachs. But I’d like to think that being in love can only make it easier. Just listen to ‘Oh Yoko.’”

Or just listen to Emergency Music. It’s the same effect.

The December Sound

While fans of heavenly, droning early ’90s style shoegaze music will certainly find plenty of crowded, tonal space to zone out to on the self-titled debut from Boston band The December Sound, don’t mistake this record for a retro style rehash. On the contrary, the music of guitarist/vocalist Zack Sarzana and his cohorts is a living organism that is very much a product of its day. “It breathes, and we actually believe in it,” says Sarzana.

Is the tone or aural dressing, so to speak, of a song more important to you than presenting a traditional pop rock oriented song?
We like to present a full attack on the senses, live and on record. There’s definitely an undercurrent of disorientation to what we do, yet a song still lies beneath and pulls you under. In a contemplative sense, we like to keep people on their toes, you know, so they never know what’s coming next.

Do you consider vocals simply another instrument to color the overall sound?
Yes and no. The melody is imperative to the song, but its placement in the mix is just as important. In some cases, we mix it down so the vocals sound as if they are another instrument or layer to the song, and in others, it’s a major part of what drives it. Even though the vocals are low in the mix, I do work on my lyrics and have a lot to say, but you have to be willing to listen.

Do you think of your music as being of a different time and place, or is it a natural progression of where a certain style has been going over the years?
It started out as a continuum of things we listened to, but now it’s taken on a completely different life of its own. The creative process is solely our own, yet there are still so many different forms of media that we take influence from. I think we’re just documenting the here and now. ... We just write music we think is missing.

Originally published in the Boston Metro.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Silversun Pickups

They've Been Waiting for this Moment

And…playing the role of the Smashing Pumpkins in the Perpetual Reinvention of Pop Culture's Recent Past Movie we're all living through we have Los Angeles' Silversun Pickups. Ok, admittedly, that sort of comparison is a little reductive, but the young band's combination of swirling, hugely distorted guitars and soaring rock anthems plus dude's nasally voice make it close enough. Let's not split hairs here. Their recent album Carnavas, with its two scorching singles "Lazy Eye" and "Well Thought Out Twinkles" is pretty much consensus choice for indie rock debut of the year. All ages. 7: 30p.m. $9.95 advance, $12 doors. Lupo's, 79 Washington St., Providence, RI.


Pull up the People

We run the risk of overshooting the Globe's daily hyphen allotment whenever it comes time to hype up M.I.A., the only "real" hip hop superstar going right now. The electro-grime-dancehall
-Bhangra-hip hop artist's dizzying blend of Sri Lanka-Indian-UK-Jamaican and virtually every other type of indigenous dance music imaginable is brash and boastful enough for hip hop heads and cute and eclectic enough for indie rockers to join hands together in some sort of idealistic back alley Benetton ad. "Pull up the people," indeed. She performs tonight. All ages. 7p.m. $21 advance $24 doors. The Palladium, 261 Main St., Worcester. 508-797-9696.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Anyone who gives a shit already has the band's origin story down pat by now, but assuming you just discovered indie rock yesterday, let's take a quick look at a few clips from Previously On ... Maritime. Way back in the '90s a little group out of Milwaukee, WI called The Promise Ring pretty much invented emo (don't hold it against them). Songs like "A Picture Postcard" and "Everywhere in Denver" taught college kids in tight hoodies the world over how to feel bad for themselves while pogoing. Eventually, one thing lead to another and the group broke up, as bands do, under the pressure of this or that or the other thing. Maritime formed from the ashes, enlisting Promise Ring guitarist/singer Davey von Bohlen and drummer Dan Didier alongside Milkwaukee's Justin Klug and Dan Hinz.

Three records deep, Maritime have shrugged off the "ex members of" status and this year released a vibrant collection of new songs called Heresey and the Hotel Choir. It's both buoyant and bouncy enough to please those ready to get down, and contemplative and emotive enough -- and how could it not be with von Bohlen's distinctive voice, practically the Platonic Ideal of "emo" -- to make the miserable among us just that much more miserable over the course of any given song.

"This is definitely the first one that was written as a four piece band sitting down and writing all the music together," said bassist Justin Klug on the phone from the tour van, only five minutes into the first leg of their current tour. "The first two records were pieced together in the studio with Davey and Dan using a pro tools rig. It's way more organic, written as a band, rather than a couple parts pieced together." That unity comes through on songs like "For Science Fiction" and "Pearl," two propulsive rockers as good as anything they've done to date, with layers of melodic guitar and keyboard complexity and a sort of muscular unity supporting von Bohlen's typically uplifting but scarred pop hooks. Perhaps some of that comfort and cooperation comes from shedding the mantle of expectations, or, heaven forbid, a sort of rock & roll maturity. "We don't feel the urgency anymore of trying to make it or break it," Klug said. "I think we're all comfortable with the place where this band is. More and more people keep getting turned on to it -- which is a plus -- and we do as much touring as we can with families and other things going on. I think all of us have made peace with the type of band and where we're at. The yoke of public expectation isn't on our shoulders, which is liberating in a lot of ways."

Sure, but while it's been a few years since the band formed, we're still talking about an offshoot of one of the more beloved bands of one of the most insufferably precious scenes imaginable. That's not an issue anymore really, said Krug. "When Maritime first started I can see it being a little more detrimental, because expectations publicly were a lot more, at least than from within the band, but I think Maritime has stepped into its own now. If people loved The Promise Ring and then they checked it out, then it's a blessing, but I don't think we're gonna gain or lose any fans on the merits of what people have done in the past." That sort of peace is something that comes from years of practice. "I think you just mature as an adult and you pretty much have a sense of who you want to surround yourself with and what kind of things you want to do," he explained. "A band isn't as volatile a unit as it is when you're younger, when there are immature attitudes and egos to deal with. The benefit of age and wisdom definitely goes a long way." That translates over into the songwriting aspect of the band as well. "When you're younger you're trying so hard to make something sound a certain way or make something sound different..." said Klug. "I think a better sensibility arises in the collective consciousness of a band in terms of how to write a song. It's less stressful. I don't think we necessarily fit into any trends that are happening right now. At this point we're all comfortable enough to just write what we think feels good." And coming from a band with a singer most famous for telling us that "Nothing Feels Good," that's quite an achievement.

Originally published in the Weekly Dig.

Guilty Pleasures: Halo 3

In order to become a man, there are a few things you have to give up. The Bible says something like "leave behind your mother and family and become one with a wife," or whatever. That seems reasonable enough. But one important thing they seemed to have skimmed over is the rule about giving up on your fantasies of being a cyborg soldier that drives space jeeps and throws grenades at alien monsters. I'm talking about the XBOX 360 game Halo of course, the third installment of which has been taking up all the excess space in my brain lately that's usually reserved for an endless loop of Patriots and Angelina Jolie highlights. Halo, you may have heard, is a somewhat popular franchise. The new game had sales of $300 million in it's first week of release alone. I'm not saying there's a direct correlation here, (ok, I am) but is it any wonder then that so many adult males are walking around dressed like teenagers, shirking real world responsibility, trapped in a Peter Pan syndrome of perpetual adolescence and gaming? I haven't gotten the 360 system yet myself, because unlike actual teenagers, I don't have thousands of dollars of disposable income on hand at all times. But I need it. Now. Although, newsflash fellas: in order to ever have any chance of following through on the first piece of advice -- you know, finding a woman who'll take you -- it really might help to put down the wireless controller. Most of the ladies I know don't enjoy watching their man spend hours shooting imaginary sniper rifles at their friends on a forest moon base. But they probably just don't know what they're missing.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Guilty Pleasures: Magazine Subscriptions

We all make impulse purchases, right? But rest assured, 9 out of 10 doctors will tell you that buying things we don't need is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. How else are we going to make ourselves feel better than our friends and neighbors? Hard work? Please. And while I'm pretty good about avoiding useless purchases, I've recently fallen into a tailspin of magazine subscription vertigo. And who can blame me? They're practically giving these things away. Ten dollars for an entire year of GQ -- only 98% of which is ads for cologne? Sold. Entertainment Weekly? I think they're actually paying me to sign up for that one. The operator on the phone the other day convinced me to pick up Men's Vogue, a magazine I have not ever read. My fashion sense is decidedly more Belichick than Brady, but why not, I said. Send it over. The only problem is now I have to read them all, and a man can only spend so much time on the toilet every day. Of course after a while each magazine starts to feel the same. As much as I hate to tell you this, The New Republic, I will just never be able to read another dry, ten thousand word article about Israel. I can't do it. Ditto Esquire and your clever little lists and charts. But you can be sure I'm renewing my subscriptions soon. As soon as I scrape together enough change from the couch cushions to pay it off.

Guilty Pleasures: Crying

History reveals to us three general exceptions to the rule that men should not cry: when your woman leaves you, when your dog dies and when you're passing a kidney stone. Everything else, tough luck. Up till now that is. After some extensive research into the subject, I'd like to add a few amendments to the list. It occurred to me the other night watching the Red Sox win their second World Series in four years when ubermensch Unfrozen Caveman Catcher Jason Varitek was crying in the post game interview. Something changed. Guess who else cried along with him? (hint: me). And then the other night I found myself in another questionable situation at the Morrissey concert at the Orpheum. Not a particularly manly place to be under any circumstances, but that's besides the point. I looked around me and saw a sea of red eyes and puffy cheeks, nearly all of which were attached to adam's apples. And woops! What's this? Midway through one of my favorite songs I noticed some odd salty liquid substance on my cheek. How odd. So, in the span of two days, two men had reduced me to tears. But in another time honored manly tradition, what I'm gonna do now is change the rules to suit my situation. So, to recap: the thing about women, dogs, and excruciating pain, all ok. Also muscular millionaires I will never know hitting a ball more times than some other millionaires, and a cranky middle aged queen whining about how no one loves him in front of a thousand reaching idiots who do just that -- all fair game for tears. Actually, just go ahead and cry about whatever you want. Just make sure no one's looking.

Guilty Pleasures: Heroes

You know that leftover dinner from a few nights ago that you tucked away in the fridge? It's probably gone bad by now, and yet you can't throw it away. Maybe tomorrow you'll toss it in the microwave…you never know, right? That's basically how I feel about the television show Heroes on NBC. Only in this case, I know for a fact that the show is spoiled. And yet, there I am every week, opening the refrigerator door of my television thinking… maybe tonight. It's too bad, because when it debuted last year Heroes was so refreshing. A sci-fi program with an interesting mystery, and a great premise: ordinary people wake up one day to find out that they have superpowers. Perhaps in retrospect I should have realized it was just plugging the big Lost-sized hole in my brain, but after investing so much time in this hokey, poorly acted, poorly scripted and all around dorky second season, I can't cut it loose. I've seen kids working with more compelling dialogue and character development playing with a block of wood and a dirty sock. And the production values are just awful. Come on NBC, I could do better special effects with the copy of MS Paint on my ancient laptop. Throw in the egregious barrage of product placements for cell phones and cars, an amnesia plotline and a rehash of the exact same end of the world story from season one, and I wonder why I bother anymore. But like the aging leftovers in the fridge, and everything else in life really, we always think we can just scrape off the mold and things will seem new and fresh again. If only I had the mutant superpower to go back in time I'd make it so I never got hooked on this show.

Guilty Pleasures: Getting my hair washed

I was going over my monthly expenses today in my handsome book-lined study, huddled over an old timey calculator with a green visor on, when I realized I'm spending well over a hundred dollars on hair cuts every month. That probably doesn't sound like a lot to some of you. In fact, I'm sure there are salons on Newbury St. where it costs a hundo just to browse through back issues of NYLON. But the difference here is that I get my hair "did" at Supercuts. Or Procuts, or Bargaincuts, or whatever it's called. Stupidcuts. It doesn't matter. So where is the shame here? I'm not technically there for the scissors, I'm there for the shampoo. I want to cramp my neck into the porcelain sink/torture apparatus and let a stranger scald my scalp with hot water. There's nothing quite like it. I could fall asleep in those chairs. I think I even started drooling one time. Does that make me some sort of weirdo? Or is it more likely that like everyone throughout history, all I'm really looking for is some human contact, a way to connect myself to bla bla bla… No, I'm just a weirdo.

Tuesday Events

Queer as Christmas
Depending on your frame of reference, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is either the corniest rock band OF ALL TIME, or the most rocking Holiday themed show since Chuck Berry threw down with "Run Run Rudolph." Although the elaborate stage set, melodramatic rock orchestra embellishments and creepy virtuoso vibe of the TSO looks like rock and roll on space-steroids played by medieval giants from the moon compared to everything else that's come before. If Christmas is the season of excess in America, and maxing out your credit card is our pastime, then this enormously popular Christmas-rock band is the ideal soundtrack. 7: 30p.m. Tickets $39.50-51.50. Dunkin Donuts Center, One Lasalle Sq. Providence, RI.

Too Many Mayors…
You ever wonder what Mayor Menino looks like puttering around the kitchen? You may just get the chance to find out tonight when hizzoner hosts the ReadBoston (cq, ONE WORD) celebrity author series at Sebastians Interactive Kitchen. Clara Silverstein (cq), food writer, and author of the new book The Boston Chef's Table will preside over the festivities, including cooking demonstrations from chefs Chris Douglas (cq) of Icarus and the Ashmont Grill and John Merrill (cq) from Sebastians. Price of admission includes a copy of the book, which features recipes from a number of Boston's most notable chefs, as well as complimentary wine and hors d'oeuvres, and all of the proceeds go to the ReadBoston charity. 6: 30p.m. Tickets $30 (reservations required). Sebastians Interactive Kitchen, 157 Seaport Boulevard. 617-918-5289.

Everything and Nothing
You may not think you need Halloween decorations right now, but the smart party-planner, (and the exceptionally obsessive compulsive), know it's never too early, or too late, to get started on your holiday shopping. Running now through the end of the year, the Liquidation Store, an offshoot of the popular Party Favors store in Brookline, is running sales of up to %75 everything in stock. Who cares if you never would have thought to buy any of it in the first place! It's cheap! You've never seen such miscellany and Holiday themed bric a brac. Unless you're one of those weird hoarding types, in which case you're living room probably looks like this already and we need to talk. Tuesday-Friday, 11:00-6:00; Saturday from 9:30-5:30. Party Favors Liquidation Store, 1362 Beacon Street, Brookline. 617-566-3333.


"People sometimes think that they are going to get crushed in a mosh pit watching standup at my shows," Somerville comedian Dan Crohn (cq) told Sidekick. "It's really just a venue to watch some of the best local comics and a band at an affordable cover." Tonight Crohn hosts a night of punk rock standup featuring comics Kevin Kox, Dave Thompson and Sean Sullivan with music from Doggfight U.S. (all cq) 9p.m. 21+. $5. O'Brien's, 3 Harvard Ave., Allston. 617-782-6245.


The New England Conservatory's Piano Performance Seminar Series continues tonight with faculty member and acclaimed pianist Gabriel Chodos (cq). Chodos, who has recorded a number of cds of Schubert's work, will perform three of the great Austrian composers sonatas, including
the contemplative, melancholy and rousing Sonata in C Minor, Op. posth. (D.958). 8p.m. Free. Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory, 290 Huntington Ave. 617-585-1100.


When we think about all the potential stuff to enjoy on Dot Ave, musical show tunes are pretty far down on the list, right after space alien wrestling matches and high tea with the Queen. But the hot dining and nightlife spot D-bar has been changing our perception of Dorchester for a while now. And unlike practically everywhere else in the world, at their Show Tunes Tuesdays night, choreographed dancing is encouraged. Video Jockey Tom Yaz (cq)sets the tone for a night of musical kitsch really, really far off of Broadway. 9p.m. 21+. 1235 Dorchester Ave. 617-265-4490.


Up until now we thought the only thing that the ubiquitous shopping mall pretzel chain Auntie Anne's was good for was luring us by the nose -- floating through the air like a cartoon wolf following a scent -- into their inescapable maw of fatty, buttery decadence. But with their Perfect Day at the Mall contest, we may have to rethink things. They know that holiday shopping is a giant pain in the old you know what -- although those pretzels certainly make things a little better…and worse -- so the store is offering you a chance to win a $4,000 dollar shopping spree, complete with a limo and valet to carry your bags. Stop by to enter.


Boston resident and Sicilian native, DJ Francesco Spagna (cq) unpacks his crate of "deep, soulful, gospel, funky, disco, tribal and latin house" records at the Fenway's newest music venue tonight. Spagna has played throughout the city at venues like Mantra, Rumor, Rocca, The Estate and Good Life. "I'm basically looking to create a vibe that I typically create at my nights," Spagna told Sidekick, "which includes lots of dancing but a non-cheesy club vibe. I'm too old for the 'velvet rope' exclusive mentality. This is why I try to do nights that have no cover and no dress code, where everyone is welcome (as if I were playing in my own house)." 10p.m. Free. 21+. Church, 69 Kilmarnock St. 617.236.7600.



Tattoos are great and all, aside from that whole part about lasting forever. But then again, body art is pretty compelling…so you see the dilemma here. The geniuses at Shriiimp ( have got this problem solved by bringing the worlds of body art and graffiti writing together. They should get a Nobel peace Prize for that kind of work. "The world's only website dedicated exclusively to graffiti art on models" returns to town on Friday for a live body painting burlesque tour. 8p.m. 21+. Tickets $20. Harpers Ferry, 156 Brighton Ave., Allston. 617-254-9743.

Freeloading: The Virgins

"Rich Girl"
The Virgins
Clear up some space in your brain for the next ten thousand years, because you're gonna need it. This shambling, insanely memorable disco party from New York's The Virgins is like some insidious blend of The Bee Gees, Jonathan Richman and Flight of the Conchords, only much funnier. Listen Here

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Cyanide Valentine

Sounds romantic

They say if you don't like the weather here, just wait five minutes. The same might be said of the music of Massachusetts native Jake Zavracky and his band The Cyanide Valentine, who continue to defy stylistic expectations on their second release, The Three Sides of the Cyanide Valentine (available for free download now at It's a record that volleys seamlessly between genres from track to track, and often within the same song. Whereas the band's debut was a mash up of bass-heavy funk and pensive acoustic ballads, Three Sides finds Zavracky leaning on a decidedly more electronic approach, with washes of synth feedback coloring the hypnotic guitar loops. "Neon Skyhustler," a song that echoes the dreamier work of groups like Air is one case in point. Elsewhere, the band hews closer to a psychedelic formula like on standout tracks "Nice and Horrorshow" and "Neanderthals," the latter complete with gorgeous harmonies and sexy backups from new band member Kate Papineau.

"If I had to choose one song to represent the whole album it would be 'Neanderthals'" Zavracky says. "I love the way Kate's voice sounds on it and it's probably one of my better choruses. At least, I think so." But, he adds, "I have really shitty taste in music though." Having spent a lot of time talking about music with the Boston rock veteran over the years, I can vouch for that statement. Good thing for us it doesn't apply to the music he makes, and Three Sides, like most of his past work in CV and his former band Quick Fix, is packed from front to back with memorable choruses.

So what are the "three sides" of the band, then? "Oh christ," says Zavracky. "I suck at doing this. The first side is dense electronic rock with breathy vocals. The second side is dreamy atmospheric pop with a lot of Beach Boys-esque harmonies. Side three is kind of folky and finger-picked with hushed boy/girl vocals. I would say it's dreamy, melodic electronic rock with a lot of harmonies. I mean it's really split up into three sides, hence the title, each side slightly different from the one before. But one thing I'm really bad at is describing my own music. I've never been a good salesman."

"I think if you look at our two albums separately there is a unifying thread," he continues. "There's very little that unifies the two. I think the new one is actually somewhat cohesive, by my

standards anyway. It doesn't jerk you around as much as the last one did, which is an approach I like as well. The next thing will probably get back to that sort of all-over-the-place-ness."

Credit the genre-hopping to a "sort of A.D.D.," he says. "On top of that I think I have

a subconscious desire to be totally unsuccessful. Because if I really wanted to be successful I would make a record where every song sounded like the one before it, like every other band these days. That is marketable. But I usually just tend to think of things in terms of songs, not styles. Most of the artists I admire had a lot of stylistic changes throughout; it seems like a recent thing that bands have had to be one thing and one thing only in order to be marketable. And most of the time I don't like those bands."

After experimenting with a few different incarnations of the band, Zavracky has fleshed out the lineup with the addition of drummer Christopher Nathan Keene and bassist Brendan Reilly alongside Papineau on vocals and keyboards. "I am an asshole and nearly impossible to deal with and it doesn't take people very long to realize that," Zavracky explains. (I'll vouch for that part too!) "So I have a little trouble keeping bands together. Kate, Chris and Brendan are all great musicians and fun people to be around though, no doubt about that. It's definitely working like I want. Better than I even hoped for actually."

That shows in the band's live performances, which have allowed Zavracky to more fully realize and reproduce the complexity of his recorded output. But even still, the album is stuffed with so many layers of melody and countermelody, sound effects and electronic glitches, that it would benefit best from a closed headphones listen. "Ideally people would listen to it on headphones," Zavracky explains. "I made it specifically with that in mind. I think it's a really good album to listen to on the bus or the train when you're trying to tune the rest of the world out, which is the way that I would always listen to it while I was making it. I hope it's something people can get lost in."

Originallypublished in the Weekly Dig.

The Pipettes

They haven’t finished with you yet

The Pipettes search for the most perfect pop song

There's only so much left in the history of pop culture to be repurposed into a contemporary indie trend, but you certainly can't blame people for working against the clock to get it all out there. True to form, England's The Pipettes put the ‘60s Brill Building girl group thing through the post-whatever millennial update ringer, but the sheer exuberance and seeming naïveté of their handclap and harmony pop is enough to melt the heart of even the most cynical among us. Metro spoke with Gwenno, one of the group's three dancing, polka-dot wearing singers on the phone from Brighton.

We've all heard the ‘60s girl group comparisons, but what, if anything, do you add to that?

We were brought together as a concept band. But it's about using those ideas and doing something new with it. It's about using the structure of ‘60s girl groups with the band in back and the girls in front and making the most of that, instead of emulating it. And we're all British so that brings something different to it. We're probably closer to groups like Bananarama and Shampoo than the Supremes or something like that. We have no finishing school polish. It's not part of our nature. It's not as controlled as ‘60s girl groups were, and we're not trying to recreate that sheen. We're all involved in the creative process. We're not mouthpieces, it's about us all as a collective.

So you're a bit more punk rock then?

We're in a position that we're signed to a subsidiary of a major label, but we do things on our own terms. We haven't changed much, we wear the same outfits and play the same songs and no one has any say in what we do. There are seven of us, so we can come up with it ourselves. It's more of a reaction to the four-piece guitar bands trend. We thought there was a lack of fun and frivolity. It's important to us to keep doing this as an antithesis to that. We're not part of that history. I'm looking back on our own history and saying "what else has happened?" and trying to draw from that.

You joined the band after seeing them perform. Did you want in right away?

Absolutely. We had a common goal about how we viewed pop music. Being bored by trends dominated by the music industry. We wanted to make pop music for people like ourselves instead waiting for the big corporation to tell us what to listen to. I've always been interested in commercial pop music. I wouldn't have joined an indie band. I'm interested in the clarity of pop music. It's more direct.

Will there be an evolution in the band's music, or is this the style you've got and you're going to stick with it? I don't think we'll have a radical departure. It certainly wouldn't be a deliberate thing. A lot of what we're doing is very disciplined [within the genre] and I think we need to explore within that. We really want to write pop songs. That's all we're about, the most perfect pop song. Hopefully we have more tools to do that now that we're more experienced. We’re certainly not going to ever become a prog band.

Originally published in the Boston Metro.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tuesday Events

Figures of the Imagination
The painter Eve Garrison became notable early on in her career in 1930s Chicago for her approach to figurative realism and for her gorgeous landscape paintings of Chicago and Mexico. Awards and acclaim followed, and in the late 1940s she began experimenting with a more collage-like approach, incorporating found objects like wood, glass and stones into her works and painting over them. She died a few years back at the age of 100. See the first solo exhibition of her work in Boston in a program titled Eve Garrison: Life Study - 70 Years of Figurative Painting running now through January. Rubin-Frankel Gallery, Florence & Chafetz Hillel House, 214 Bay State Rd. 617-353-7200.

If It Aint Broke…
Way back in the days of the early 2000s, Toronto collective Broken Social Scene’s dynamic, orchestral and atmospheric indie rock pretty much set the benchmark for cool for the next few years, invented the pernicious idioms of blog rock, and helped launch the career of the ubiquitous sometime member Feist. Two out of three aint bad. The band’s furious onslaught of side project releases continues with the second in a series of Broken Social Scene Presents titles. Tonight band founder Kevin Drew comes to town to play selections from his solo effort Spirit If... 7p.m. 18+. Tickets $25. Paradise, 967 Comm. Ave. 617-562-8800.

On the Couch, in the Theater
Some of the Coen Brothers movies are so bizarre, you may often think you need psychoanalysis after watching them. The ultra violence of author Cormac McCarthy’s novels don’t help matters much either. So when the two combine in the Coens’ adaptation of McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men, audiences are going to be a mess. The Coolidge has got that covered tonight in their Off the Couch program. Watch the film, then stick around for a discussion with the Boston Psychoanalytical Society. From the looks of this film, you’re going to need it. 7:30p.m. Tickets $9.75. Coolidge Corner Theater, 290 Harvard St , Brookline. 617-734-2500.

What’s better than BBQ and beer? Well, being invisible would be pretty cool. Or if you had like a robot double that you could send out to the store for you, or to boring parties you didn’t want to go to. Man, that would be awesome. But BBQ and beer is pretty close. Tonight Redbones continues its Northwest Beer Dinner, with award winning brewers from Oregon and Washington like Dick Cantwell from Elysian Brewery and Fred Bowman from Pyramid Brewery trucking in some of their fine-crafted cold ones direct to your stomach. 7p.m. Tickets $50 (includes dinner). Reservations recommended. Redbones, 55 Chester St., Somerville. 617.628.2200.

We remember the last time we had faith in anything good ever happening again in the world. It was right around the time we checked off Ralph Nader’s name on an election ballot. All down hill since then. The truth is, he has done some remarkable things over the years, like revolutionizing consumer safety standards and, you know, handing the government over to a group of imperialist fascists. Boston Cares presents a screening of An Unreasonable Man tonight, the film that traces Nader’s life and career. 7p.m. Free. The Democracy Center, 45 Mt. Auburn Street , Cambridge. 617-492-8855.

We know you’re probably already an expert on everything -- after all, you do read the Sidekick every day -- but there are a few things you might want to consult with the pros on before trying, like swimming with sharks, trying to find parking in Boston, and winter hiking and camping. Get started tonight at the first of five sessions of the Annual Winter Hiking & Camping Program Sponsored by the Appalachian Mountain Club Boston Chapter's Hiking & Backpacking Committee. Learn how to prepare ahead of time, what you’ll need to bring, and how to stay warm, and alive, when you’re out there in the cold, cold wilderness. 7p.m. $45-$55. AMC Cabot Auditorium, 5 Joy Street. 617-523-0655.

You can never have enough books around the house. Especially used books. No matter that you’ve already got a stack on the bed stand you haven’t gotten to yet, it’s time to re-up once again, and the 20th annual Cambridge Friends School Book Sale has your fix. Tonight the sale opens with a special event, featuring readings from two writers who also happen to be parents of children at the school: bestselling author of Will in the World, Stephen Greenblatt, and Caroline Elkins, who won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for her book Imperial Reckoning. 6p.m. Cambridge Friends School, 5 Cadbury Road, Cambridge. 617.354.3880.

After finding success with their hit song “Danger (High Voltage)” the caterwauling disco blazer that set indie rock dance floors on fire back in 2001 -- you know the song: “Fire in the Taco Bell!”
-- the Detroit band Electric Six continued mining a variety of genres, from garage to new wave synth pop to disco for material for their wry, tongue in cheek rock anthems. Their latest release “I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being the Master” and the track “Down At McDonnelzz” keeps the fast food chain dance party rocking. They perform Wednesday. 9p.m. 18+. Tickets $12. At the Middle East Downstairs, 480 Mass. Ave., Cambridge.617-864-3278.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Freeloading: Band of Horses

"No One's Gonna Love You"
Band of Horses

It's rare to discover a band that's perched at the exact breaking point between indie heroes and light FM mom-rock, so catch BOH now before it's too late. On this weepy, gorgeous anthem even the shimmering guitars sound like falling tear drops. Listen here. Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sea Wolf

Hungry like Sea Wolf

L.A. band on ‘Leaves,’ loneliness and Jack London

INTERVIEW. Having a good day? A quick stroll through the forlorn space populated by reluctant lovers and the weary heartbroken that makes up the heart of Sea Wolf’s debut full length “Leaves in the River” should fix that. Songwriter Alex Brown Church and his rotating cast of musicians have delivered a collection of fragile, broken, bedroom orchestra pop that’s almost a perfectly realized musical downer. But, you know, in a good way. Metro spoke to Church on the phone from the road in North Carolina.

You’ve written some pretty evocative lyrics, beyond the usual “woe is me” crap that one might expect. Do you feel as if you are creating characters through song or simply singing about yourself?

I feel like I put myself into the characters, if that makes sense. I’m drawing from personal experience, but it’s not necessarily true to me or autobiographical. A lot of the songs are about a sort of melancholy longing to be in a different place. There is a feeling of sadness, of heartbreak, of being nostalgic for the moment while it’s still happening. I want to be emotive, so I tend to go with whatever I am feeling at the time, anger, frustration, sadness, loneliness, and turn that into a song. But I try to make a little light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t want to write hopeless lyrics.

The name of your band is an allusion to the novel “Sea Wolf” by Jack London. Do you think using literary allusion in music is something that you have to then live up to?

I feel like it’s become mine. I wouldn’t have used it if I didn’t feel comfortable with it. I don’t think about living up to it.

In the novel, the character Captain Wolf Larsen is a bit of an individualist. How is your approach to the band like that, since you’re the only permanent member?

I think that’s coincidental. It’s been a long time since I’ve read the book so I don’t remember the character’s philosophy, and that’s not why I chose the name anyway. It was more from a feeling of kinship with London. He’s from where I am from, and he was a city guy and an outdoorsman and I relate to that.

Plus the name just sounds cool!

I agree. Except there so many other "Wolf" bands out there now. I think there was something out there in the air when we were all choosing our names. We must have been on the same wavelength.

Originally published in the Boston Metro.

Middle East celebrates 20 years of rock

PROFILE. As is the case with many world-changing events, the details are a little bit murky, but, by most accounts, the Middle East Upstairs began hosting rock shows 20 years ago this week.

The restaurant itself had been there for years before, points out Nabil Sater, who, along with his brother Joseph, have been there since beginning. It’s clear that the opening of the beloved (if cramped and oftentimes sauna-like) back room was a turning point in Boston rock, as the club played host to countless touring and local indie rock acts over the years. “We’ve been here for 36 years,” Sater tells Metro. “In the ‘70s, we were dong different kinds of music: Greek, jazz, Middle Eastern and the occasional rock show. Then, in the ‘80s, we became a rock club.” The rest, as they say, is history.

“It was definitely a big surprise when things took off,” says Sater. “We’ve had so many thousands of bands, many of which have been quite popular. Even bands like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones started out as just having a local gig here.”

A quick perusal through the list of great bands that have played the club at one point or another reads like a who’s who of rock ‘n’ roll: The White Stripes, Death Cab for Cutie, The Strokes, Sonic Youth, Elliott Smith, and, of course, local faves like Dropkick Murphys and Jonathan Richman.

Thalia Zedek, of the late, great Boston band Come, has spent more than her share of time in the club. “My first memory of seeing a show at the Middle East was actually GG Allin and the Murder Junkies in the late ‘80s,” she says. “Chris Brokaw was playing guitar with him at the time and was dressed in drag! He actually didn’t make a very pretty ‘lady’ (sorry Chris!).”

The Thalia Zedek band, with Brokaw as a special guest, performs Saturday alongside a bevy of talent from the club’s history.

Tommy Allen of Drug Rug, who will also perform, has fond memories of watching another band on the bill, Helms, play with the Melvins in 1997. “They really blew my mind when I saw that the singer/guitarist was actually a bartender at the club. Because seeing this band totally own it in their own way ... it was shocking to me that he was just a normal dude.”

Allen would follow in the footsteps of Helms guitarist Sean McCarthy, and work at the club.

“I think the place has thrived for so long because the brothers, Joseph and Nabil, are cool dudes,” he says about his bosses.

It’s a sentiment that nearly everyone related to the club echoes. “They are always there, and they are incredibly hospitable in a way that is really uncommon in rock clubs,” says Zedek.

“They treat the performers and the audiences that go to see them as welcomed guests, as opposed to just a way to make money, and they make everyone feel comfortable and welcome, resulting in a really cool and diverse crowd group of people feeling at home there.”

Middle East Upstairs 20th Anniversary Party Saturday, 8 p.m.

Originally published in the Boston Metro.

Barcode: Bonfire

Everything is big at Bonfire (50 Park Plaza, Boston. 617-262-3473,, from the dark wooden wide-open bar that runs the length of the room, to the portions of food on the comfortably eclectic and spicy menu, to the flames dancing in the exposed wood-fired kitchen.

"This looks like the type of place where Vikings would eat," our companion said as we entered the South American-style Steakhouse.

Perhaps best of all, for our purposes, the martinis themselves were huge, at a giant 8 ounces. And for the first time in as long as we could remember, it didn't seem ridiculous to spend $11 on a drink. Contrary to what one might expect, the increased serving size didn't seem to foil the proportions in Bonfire's specialty martinis. The Blackberry Basil Martini (Ketel One vodka, fresh blackberries, fresh basil, $11) is one case in point. This was decidedly a proper vodka martini or gimlet, albeit one embellished with fresh, dark fruits and herbs. Most drinks like this would normally be ruined by the addition of syrup or too much sugar, but Bonfire hues more closely to the purity of the ingredients.

The Bonfire Bellini (pinot noir Codorniu, MB peach liqueur, $9) was a simpler affair that landed well on the dry side by again avoiding any extraneous syrups of purees. It was crisp, cold, and bubbly.

The Pomegranate Champagne Martini (Pearl Pomegranate Vodka, apple cider, topped with champagne, $11) managed to avoid all contemporary drink list clichés as well. The combination of apple cider with pomegranate was something we haven't seen anywhere else, although that probably won't last. The kick of the champagne and the cider provided the "effervescence of rock candy exploding in your mouth," our companion said. "This is the best mixed drink I've ever had." Similarly popular was the Coconut Lime Martini (fresh Kaffir lime leaves, Pearl Lacoco vodka, $11); less milky than expected and stronger than most tarted-up coconut style drinks, it was so flavorful we mistook the sugar rim at first for actual coconut and the first sip transported us instantly from a cold Boston night to a summer day at the beach.

That's something even a thirsty Viking could appreciate.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.
Local charity talks through its hat

... and rock stars and skiers listen

INTERVIEW. Boston’s 20+ piece rock choir Bang Camaro is an unstoppable force, and by all accounts musician and pro skier Marc-Andre Belliveau of Teton Gravity Research — an athlete who didn’t let a little thing like getting paralyzed in a skiing accident stop him from getting back up the mountain — is, too. The two join forces next weekend for an event for a local charity called Labels Are For Jars. Metro spoke with Labels’ Tracy Murphy.

What exactly is the mission of Labels Are For Jars?

Labels Are For Jars is the brainchild of a team that includes comedian Conan O’Brien, MLB-All-Star Sean Casey, brand imaging guru Mike Toth and Father Paul B. O’Brien. Our mission is to raise money to feed the hungry by selling thought provoking T-shirts that shine a spotlight on societal labeling.

How is it different in its approach from other charity organizations?
There is a very tangible result to our efforts. 100 percent of the funds raised by Labels Are For Jars goes directly to the Cor Unum Meal Center [in Lawrence], which provides nutritious meals to hungry people every day. We have no paid employees and operate solely by volunteer support.

You use controversial slogans on the T-shirts and winter hats you design. You’ve got a special “rock star” design for the band Bang Camaro.
Labels’ gear is purposefully meant to catch people’s attention and to start a dialogue about societal labeling. Some people get it, some people don’t. Bang Camaro got it and they have been extremely supportive of our efforts. ... The “rock star” label is a tribute to the band’s efforts on and offstage. They are on the cutting edge not just of music, but of helping to eliminate hunger in this country.

What are some of the other entertainment highlights people can look forward to next weekend?

The ‘rock star’ label debuts at the screening of TGR’s latest epic film, “Lost and Found,” as part of the Labels Are For Jars Holiday Gift Campaign, which encourages socially conscious giving. The screening will feature live music sets from Bang Camaro and the Marc-Andre Belliveau Band.

Originally published in the Boston Metro.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Tuesday Events

Juliette Lewis kind of scares us. Always has. Maybe she’s just done too good a job playing creepy weirdos in films like Natural Born Killers over the years. Lately she’s been on the road playing the rock star, starring in the real life nowhere near as bad as you think band Juliette and the Licks. They’ve got a new record of gritty, sexy rock n roll called Four on the Floor and a tour that hits town tonight. On songs like the hard-riffing “Hot Kiss” Lewis snarls and coos with equal aplomb. We want to get close to the stage for this one but we’re afraid she might hurt us. 9p.m. 18+. Middle East Downstairs, 480 Mass. Ave., Cambridge 617-864-3278.

We haven’t been keeping up with season 3 of the Contender this year, although we’re sure it’s a testament to the triumph of the human will and lessons learned through this and that and the other thing. But what we have seen of the popular boxing reality show has been pretty gripping stuff. Plus, you know, buff dudes smashing each other in the face. Get into the action when finalists Jaidon Codrington and Sakio Bika (cq) compete for a $750,000 purse and the Contender champion title. The season finale will be taped live in Boston tonight .7p.m. Tickets $47.50-$302.50. TD Banknorth Garden, 100 Legends Way. 617.931.2000.

Dust off your old dancing shoes, or at the very least your standing there and clapping along to the rhythm shoes, because Berklee College of Music is gearing up for it’s 8th annual Latin Culture Celebration. Over the next three days students, faculty and alumni will present a program of Latin music of all kinds. Today Sly and the Latin Bars, featuring drummer Silvestre José de Moya Castillo from the Dominican Republic, perform a set of merengue at 4p.m. at the David Friend Recital Hall (free, 921 Boylston St.) At 8:15p.m. an all star cast of performers directed by faculty member Victor Mendoza come together to celebrate the memory of film producer Natatcha Estébanez. Tickets $10. Berklee Performance Center, 136 Mass. Ave. 617-747-2261.

Sure, he’s got a new record out called Revival, and for all we know it could be the greatest thing he’s ever written, but we want to go to see the legendary Creedence Clearwater Revival front man John Fogerty for the hits. The glorious, rocking hits. Over the years he’s performed literally dozens of classic songs like “Fortunate Son” “Bad Moon Rising” “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” “Centerfield” and “Who’ll Stop the Rain” to name just a few. Will the new record have any of that old magic? Find out tonight when Fogerty and band pull Up Around the Bend. 8p.m. Tickets $42.50-62.50. Orpheum Theater, 1 Hamilton Place. 617-931-2000.

Look, we know most of the choices usually aren’t pretty, and you probably don’t need a pep talk from us about getting involved as a citizen, but the truth is sometimes choosing between the lesser of two evils really does make a difference. So don’t forget to vote today in municipal elections in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Medford and elsewhere. Best part, it’s free. Unless you count all that money you pay in taxes. Hey, there’s another reason to go make your voice heard! Polls are open 7a.m.-8p.m. Not sure where to vote? Go to

It’s thought that some of the first uses of taikos, a large Japanese style drum, were on the battlefield. Their resonating booms would scare the enemy away. Today they are used in drum ensembles, with complex rhythms and a stunning visual approach from multiple percussionists and probably only scare the neighbors. See a free exhibition and introductory class today and try your hand on the skins. 6:45p.m. Free. American Chinese Art Society Center, 29 Montvale Ave., Woburn. 857-225-2095.

Is there a better show to watch while pasted to the couch on a hungover Saturday morning than the Phantom Gourmet? No there is not. Even the incessant upbeat tone of the announcer can’t destroy our need for food porn. Tonight Dave Andelman, the show’s creator, appears to discuss his new book The Phantom Gourmet Guide to Boston's Best Restaurants. Maybe the Phantom will be there? 7p.m. Free. Porter Square Books, 25 White Street, Cambridge. 617-491-2220.

Everyone needs more balance in their life. It’s not easy juggling work, family, a lovelife and a packed TV schedule anymore. Women on the Rise, a group dedicated to bringing women together for networking and community building wants to help you achieve that with their workshop titled Work Fabulous, Live Fabulous: Life Balance Playshop. Joanne Dougan, M.Ed., Founder and President of Wisdom Works will lead the group tonight. Have some positive interactions for once that don’t include the remote control. 6:30p.m. $5. The Foundation Lounge, 500 Comm. Ave.

Franz Wright, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for his collection of poetry Walking to Martha's Vineyard gives a reading tonight. We’ll let one his poems, “Description of Her Eyes” do the talking for him here:

Two teaspoonfuls,
and my mind goes
everyone can kiss my ass now--

then it's changed,
I change my mind.

Eyes so sad, and infinitely kind.

7:30p.m. Free. Executive Dining Room, Bentley College, 175 Forest St., Waltham. 781-891-2000.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Friday Event Picks

If you could reduce the essence of NPR, MFA workshops and those dudes who sit at Starbucks with their laptops all day into a solid form, then mold that blob into a wry humorist with a penchant for slice of life commentary about how crazy other people are -- particularly our wacky families and American tourists in Europe! -- then you’d have author David Sedaris. You’d also be some sort of weird, mad scientist. The best selling Sedaris, beloved wise-ass laureate of liberal arts grads everywhere, appears tonight. 8p.m. Tickets $27-$48. Symphony Hall, 301 Mass. Ave. 888-266-1200.

You probably know by now that vodka is the diminutive for “water” in Slavic languages. You also probably know that it’s been made in various forms for almost a thousand years in places like Poland. But check this but of trivia out: there are, apparently, numerous higher end vodka brands on the market now that won’t make you feel like you’ve been smacked in the face with a bag of hammers when you wake up the next morning. Sample nine of them tonight at the Ultimate Vodka Experience tasting. Sample ultra-premium and niche vodkas like Hammer and Sickle, Christiania and Ciroc along with hors d’oeuvres. 6p.m.-9p.m. Tickets $5. 21+. (RSVP required). Felt, 533 Washington St. 617-350-5555.

It’d be hard for them to top that one with the guy throwing the football through the tire swing we see every five minutes here in America, but the Brits have always had a knack for boundary-pushing, award-winning advertisements. Now in it’s 20th year, the World’s best TV Ads: British Advertising Films of 2007 shows today. Expect laughs, tears, and plenty of creative capitalism at its best. 8:15p.m. Tickets $8-9. Remis Auditorium, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave. 617-267-9300.

When bands go this descriptive with their names, it pretty much makes our job obsolete. Chicago’s Casiotone for the Painfully Alone comes pretty much as advertised: quirky, electro beats programmed on old keyboards, and reserved, malencholly melodies from one man band Owen Ashworth. 9p.m. Tickets $9-$10. 18+. Middle East Upstairs, 472 Mass. Ave., Cambridge. 617-864- 3278.

It comes but once a year, and fills the hearts of revelers everywhere with magic and wonder. No, not Christmas. No one really looks forward to that anymore do they? Too much pressure and, you know, family time. We’re talking about the 21st Annual Christmas Craft Festival. Looking forward to looking forward to Christmas is where it’s at now. 300 craft artists set up shop this weekend putting their custom made holiday decorations and foods on display, as well as a ginger bread house competition. Friday, 12p.m.-7p.m. Saturday 10a.m.-7p.m. Sunday 10a.m.-5p.m. Tickets $4-$12. Seaport World Trade Center, 200 Seaport Blvd. 617-385-4212.

You’d have to be some sort of weirdo to not like Feist these days right? Who can resist those breathy, sultry, heartbroken vocals? Well, Cambridge folky Mieka Pauley’s voice has a similar damaged, beautiful quality. Added bonus: you can see her now in a small venue before all the other jerks find out. She celebrates the release of her new record Elijah Drop Your Gun tonight. 8:30p.m. Tickets $10. 21+. Johnny D’s, 17 Holland St., Somerville. 617-776-2004.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.