Assorted declarations from editor tom graham
A Home Show
The Menzingers celebrate the release of their latest record, Rented World (Epitaph Records), next Wednesday, April 23 with a special show in Wilkes-Barre. The band will play a free all-ages unplugged show at Joe Nardone’s Gallery of Sound, 186 Mundy St., Wilkes-Barre beginning at 7 p.m. Both vinyl and CD copies will be available the night of the show, as well as the chance to win one of 10 white-label test pressings from The Menzingers. The band will also be available for a meet-and-greet session with fans. Buy the album on CD or LP and get a wristband for guaranteed entry to see the show. Wristbands will be available at all store locations beginning on Tuesday, April 22. Attendees with wristbands get priority and guaranteed entry into the show.
Fuzz Fest II
FUZZ 92.1 announced Fuzz Fest 2014 headlined by multi-platinum selling alternative rock artists Cage the Elephant. This second annual concert event takes place at The Pavilion at Montage Mountain on Sunday, June 22. Also performing will be Kongos, whose hit “Come With Me Now” is the fastest debut song to reach #1 on the alternative music charts since 2003. The rest of the lineup includes retro-punks Skaters (see Mike Evans review on page 23), Jersey’s Brick + Mortar and Northern Faces. More artists will be announced soon.
Last year’s inaugural Fuzz Fest event featured The Dirty Heads, Robert DeLong and Unlikely Candidates and reeled in a crowd of more than 2,600 people.
Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com, Ticketmaster Outlets, the Pavilion Box Office or by-phone at 800-745-3000. All tickets will be general admission.
I Feel a Tantrum Coming
Speaking of Fuzz, the next Private Showcase is coming. Check out The Fuzz 92.1 Private Artist Showcase on Thursday, May 8 as Fuzz welcomes Fitz and the Tantrums. Set time is to be announced. The show takes place at the Fuzz 92.1 Radio Theater, 5th floor of the Times-Tribune Building, 149 Penn Ave., Scranton. Sign up at fuzz921.com for free tickets. The show is all-ages.
Here’s what’s in my headphones this week: Hold Steady Live at Lollapalooza 2006
ROCK THE NIGHT
JOAN JETT AND THE BLACKHEARTS — Unvarnished
THE GOOD: Joan Jett still rocks after almost four decades.
THE BAD: Nothing. Unvarnished is lean and mean.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Take out some of the more mature lyrical references (the 55-year-old Jett can’t help but sing about her own mortality a few times) and this record could have been released 30 years ago. Writing again with longtime collaborator Kenny Laguna, the two make sure Unvarnished overflows with classic punk-infused rockers like “Make It Back” and “Bad as We Can Be,” blazing cuts so infectious you’ll be hand-clapping along and humming them for weeks.
Even closing ballad “Everybody Needs a Hero” grows on you after a couple of spins; what seemed a misfire at first proves itself worthwhile. Jett’s spirit is undaunted; her energy level undiminished. Unvarnished ends up fierce, flirtatious and a lot of fun. Isn’t that what it’s supposed to be?
BUY IT?: Yes. And hear some of it LIVE tonight (April 17) as Jett heats up Rock 107’s 34th Birthday Bash at the Woodlands.
THE CHAIN GANG OF 1974 — Daydream Forever
THE GOOD: Los Angeles-based one-man act Chain Gang of 1974 (songwriter/musician Kamtin Mohager) returns with his third full-length and major label debut.
THE BAD: Daydream is an album where the overall vibe is more appealing than the individual songs, at least at first. You have to warm up to this one.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Mohager creates something that’s one part synthpop, one part indie rock; better 80s elements crashing into the D.I.Y. ethic of today. Cuts like “Sleepwalker” (introduced earlier to fans through Grand Theft Auto V) and “Lola Sunshine” are danceable, yet display real rock bite once those jagged riffs kick in. “Witch” is more fragile, even slightly hypnotic. “Death Metal Punk” wallows in frustration.
Daydream is a decent collection. Start pulling these songs apart though and many of them ultimately feel forgettable. Peel away all the production and their bare essence seems average at best.
BUY IT?: Your call. Mohager’s past efforts were more satisfying. Maybe the next record will be better.
SKATERS — Manhattan
THE GOOD: New York indie rockers Skaters embrace their hometown on an abrasive debut.
THE BAD: Manhattan is an NYC record but it never reaches the gritty authenticity of collections like Lou Reed’s New York (1989) or the Strokes’ Is This It (2001).
THE NITTY GRITTY: This is a “glossy” Manhattan; dangerous and unpredictable but that pesky M&M Store still stands on Times Square. Some members of the band were bartenders witnessing enough fodder for short stories, and that’s essentially what the record is, a collection of night tales dealing with everything from strung-out junkies (“Deadbolt”) to the pitfalls of dating (“I Wanna Dance But I Don’t Know How”).
The songs are punchy, catchy, to-the-point bits of punk-infused indie rock. Most tracks are strong yet there are a few territories these guys should never visit again (the polished hardcore of “Nice Hat” comes to mind). But Skaters haven’t been together THAT long. The band is still finding its way.
BUY IT?: Sure. Despite its shortcomings, Manhattan remains a promising debut.
Drummer RJ Minichello passed away unexpectedly last year leaving behind his family and the musical community which he loved. Friends, family and musicians will celebrate “The Concert In Memory of RJ Minichello” this Sunday, April 13 beginning at 3:30 p.m. at three different locations. The concert takes place at Waldos Tavern (406 Green Ridge St., Scranton), The V Spot (906 Providence Rd., Scranton) and Thirst T’s (120 Lincoln St., Olyphant).
Acts confirmed for this year include Asialina & Bryan Banks, Tom Flannery, Russello Project, The Lo-Fives, NoWhere Slow, The JOB, Simon Sez and more. Admission is $5 at the door with additional donations encouraged. All of the money raised will be split evenly between RJ’s two daughters and used for academic purposes.
The Allman Brothers Band announced the second phase of the 3rd Annual The Peach Music Festival’s line-up, which features added performances by Gov’t Mule, Wake Up With Warren Haynes, Big Gigantic, The Taj Mahal Trio, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, Victor Wooten, From Good Homes, Tribal Seeds, The Wood Brothers, Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers, The Soul Rebels, Particle and The London Souls.
The Peach returns to The Pavilion at Montage Mountain and Montage Mountain Water Park on Thursday, August 14 to Sunday, August 17 for four days of camping, multiple stages, music, a water park and more. The Peach is the first-ever ABB-inspired festival in the Northeast Pennsylvania region and is the only chance for fans to see ABB in PA/NJ this summer.
These bands have been added to the lineup which already includes The Allman Brothers Band, Bob Weir and RatDog, Trey Anastasio Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Lotus and Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band.
Early-bird four-day passes are on sale now at ThePeachMusicFestival.com. Every four-day pass includes free access to Montage Mountain Waterpark. For full package, VIP and festival details, visit ThePeachMusicFestival.com.
Here’s what’s in my headphones this week: Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros Global a Go-Go (HellCat) 2001
YELLOW OSTRICH — Cosmos
THE GOOD: Brooklyn outfit Yellow Ostrich are back with a more accessible third.
THE BAD: What started out as an experimental side project of vocalist/guitarist Alex Schaaf is slowly morphing into a more straightforward indie rock vehicle. That’s only “bad” if you were hoping the guys would stay completely “out there.”
THE NITTY GRITTY: Thankfully, the songs are good enough to justify the slight shift in direction. Schaaf and his crew still dabble in the strange, but tracks like “Neon Fists” and “How Do You Do It” are built upon definite grooves and boast succinct melodies. “In The Dark” keeps it spacey while “You Are the Stars” rumbles to a crashing climax. Melancholy closing cut “Don’t Be Afraid” even borders on the beautifully sublime.
Cosmos strays off the beaten path but never feels bloated or directionless. Then again, the band’s past two albums didn’t come off that way either; Yellow Ostrich is always creating music (weird or not) with a sense of purpose.
BUY IT?: Yep.
ELBOW — The Take Off and Landing of Everything
THE GOOD: British progressive indie rockers Elbow deliver a finely crafted sixth.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: When it comes time to play this record, give yourself a solid uninterrupted hour, slide on some headphones and just drift. Everything is an album that takes its time getting to some logical conclusions, but never grows tiresome.
For the past couple of years, frontman and lyricist Guy Garvey has split his time between Manchester, England and New York City; forming a loving bond with Brooklyn. So Everything ends up being an album of life changes, new outlooks and shifts in direction (at least lyrically).
Musically, the record is a “slow burner.” Melodies and rhythms form and come together casually, and there are moments of sheer (if subdued) brilliance. Opening track “This Blue World” creeps in with a deep undeniable melancholy. “Fly Boy Blue/Lunette” makes mundane air travel catchy and agreeable. “My Sad Captains” turns loss into grace and beauty.
BUY IT?: Yes.
DEAN WAREHAM — Dean Wareham
THE GOOD: Ex-Galaxie 500 and Luna frontman Dean Wareham releases his solo debut.
THE BAD: No problems.
THE NITTY GRITTY: It only took the guy slightly over a quarter century, but Wareham has finally made himself the absolute center of attention. And while the new record doesn’t sound exactly like an older Luna one, it’s pretty close in both style and substance. Dean is Dean; the soft-around-the-edges unassuming vocal delivery (this time with an occasional falsetto), the smooth effortless melodies, the spaced-out guitar licks — they’re all present. His wife Britta Phillips is back on bass too (so half of Luna is here anyway).
Produced by Jim James of My Morning Jacket fame, the set opens with the delicate jangle pop of “The Dancer Disappears” running directly into the more aloof and pretty “Beat the Devil.” These two cuts set the mood for the rest of the album; Wareham shifting with ease between bright sophisticated indie pop and shadowy moody pieces. All is good.
BUY IT?: Oh yeah.
Assorted Declarations from Editor Tom Graham
Come On Everybody
Looking for a potpourri of musical adventure this week? Look no further than The Everyone Orchestra featuring Steve Kimock, John Kimock, Ryan Montbleau, Reed Mathis, Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman at River Street Jazz Cafe, Plains on Friday, April 4.
Conducted by founder Matt Butler, The Everyone Orchestra features a rotating line-up of well-known musicians and showcases them during a variety of festivals, theaters and live music rooms. Butler sets the mood of each passing jam as he communicates with the musicians using hand signs, a whiteboard and an assorted array of mime suggestions.
The list of Everyone Orchestra participants includes members of The Grateful Dead, Phish, moe., String Cheese Incident, The Flecktones, Club d’Elf, ALO, Tea Leaf Green and Adrian Belew, Taj Mahal, Maria Muldaur, Tuvan throat singers, live painters, dancers, chanters, choirs, hula hoopers, firespinners, jugglers, stiltwalkers, storytellers and hundreds of others.
Showtime for the 21 and older event is 10 p.m. with tickets ranging from $20 to $25. For more information, visit EveryoneOrchestra.com.
Sarah Street Grill, one of the only live original music rooms remaining in Stroudsburg, is celebrating its 19th anniversary with a day filled with music, raffles, a pool and dart tournament, specials and prizes on Monday, April 7.
This year, Sarah Street is donating 19 percent of its sales to Wounded Warriors, specifically the Marines Helping Marines Fishing Tournament. Live music starts at 6 p.m. (and goes all night long) with Christian Porter (a former contestant on NBC’s The Voice), Regina Sayles, Ansel Matthews, George Wesley, Brian Schmidt, The Current, Bill Rooth, Steve McDaniel and more.
Over the past 19 years, Sarah Street has featured acts like Railroad Earth, Rick Danko of The Band, Jonah Smith, Cabinet and Hamell on Trial. For more information and to see the complete list of musical offerings Sarah Street has in store, visit sarahstreetgrill.com.
Here’s what’s in my headphones this week: Joe Pernice It Feels Good When I Stop (Ashmount) 2009
SAME OLD. SAME OLD.
311 — Stereolithic
THE GOOD: Nebraska rockers 311 are back with their 11th.
THE BAD: These guys have been remaking the same album over and over again for decades.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The formula never wavers. Musically, you get a blend of nu metal, hip-hop, reggae and creative jamming. Lyrically, it’s a mix of social observations, funky psychology of the “you can make it if you try” ethos, and a couple of love songs tossed in for the female fans. Nick Hexum sings. SA Martinez raps. The rhythms are dead center in the mix. The guitar riffs are catchy. And some spaced-out atmospherics weave their way in making this stuff 10 times more satisfying if you smoke a bunch of weed before pressing “play.” Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Stereolithic is the new album. But it might as well be Soundsystem (1999), Evolver (2003) or Uplifter (2009). I probably wrote this same exact review six times already when covering the guys’ past efforts.
BUY IT?: Meh … whatever. Longtime fans already own it. Past detractors shouldn’t care.
WE ARE SCIENTISTS — TV en Francais
THE GOOD: New York indie rockers We Are Scientists are still plugging away after five albums.
THE BAD: These guys are on autopilot.
THE NITTY GRITTY: At first, the boys were at least trying to take some existing sounds and formulas and mix them up, creating something copied but at least enticing. Jittery anthems like “It’s A Hit” and smoother pieces such as “After Hours” were memorable slabs of indie pop that bended the rules of post-punk, garage and math rock.
Ever since 2010’s Barbara though, WAS refuse to leave their comfort zone. I’m even the group’s European cult following is beginning to yawn. “What You Do Best” kicks the record off on a high note. “Don’t Blow It” boasts one of the band’s finest melodies ever. However, too much of TV feels like an extended study in “been there, done that.”
BUY IT?: Your choice. TV is the kind of album you sort of enjoy ONCE before completely forgetting about it.
FOSTER THE PEOPLE — Supermodel
THE GOOD: California indie rockers Foster the People give us their sophomore album.
THE BAD: Slump?
THE NITTY GRITTY: We’ve seen this all before. A band comes out of nowhere with an “internet sensation” (the gun-happy hipster anthem “Pumped Up Kicks”). Then they’re immediately courted by a major (Columbia), the guys play some key festivals, and the track crosses over onto Top 40 radio. But that key question always looms – can they do it again?
Remember Lit? Eve 6? Crash Kings? The Dirty Heads? Okay, Foster the People is better than all of those bands but I don’t see “Pumped Up Kicks” happening again. So what do we have here MUSICALLY?
Supermodel is a radio-friendly, sometimes-catchy, somewhat scathing look at capitalism and our cynical modern world. It’s a record that could be appealing at times, but is mostly dull. In fact, it’s always a bad sign when the singles are the best tracks. Here, those happen to be “Coming of Age” and “Best Friend.”
BUY IT?: I don’t care.