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Hazey Jazz Lounges and Cigarette Smoke

March 9, 2011

There may be few things I like more in this world than sitting alone in a dimly lit, red and smokey jazz clubs. And I don’t even smoke.

This past summer I stumbled into The Chatterbox one muggy early May night and rapidly fell in love. No where else in Indianapolis do I feel perfectly at home walking in, sitting at the bar and talking to absolutely no one. You can come in your first night ever and feel like you’ve been slinking in for years, tossing your hat on the bar as one of the girls brings you the usual. Anywhere else would leave awkward questions in the minds of those around you; why is she sitting alone at the bar? Must have been a bad day! Or even worse, and probably more common, a solo seat at the bar leaving you open season for guys with bad pick up lines and worse hair cuts.

Here you walk in and no one questions why you are alone. Odds are, no one even saw you.

No, really. They didn’t see you. They had their eyes closed.

Everyone that is there is there for a reason. No one really just “stops by” the Chatterbox on a whim to get a drink. You show up because you know that on any given night of the week, you can find some incredible music. Mondays showcase the always incredible Rob Dixon Quartet, who I personally can not get enough of. You can’t even pick a favorite. Rob clearly steals the show with his sax, but I’m personally in love with the bassist. (Shh, don’t tell him.) Something about standing bass just always gets me. Maybe is classic and romantic, maybe its deep sounds just reverberate through me, maybe he just rocks. Who knows. The solos are always incredible, including drum solos that leave me feeling tired, and I wasn’t playing. How four separate limbs can play completely in sync while doing four totally different things will never fail to blow my mind.

But part of The Chatterbox is the company, if you want it. Just start talking to someone, and you’ve found a music fiend and new friend. Personally, I struck up a conversation with Rob that let me to meet Nick, saxophonist for the Midwest Jazz/Funk group, The Twin Cats. ( a funny side note. When I originally wrote this, nick was kind enough to let me know I wrote “fuck” band. I definitely considered leaving it. I think it’s a compliment!) After visiting their website and listening to a few fun selections, I’m super excited to go see these guys live-pick your live venue pleasure: Friday April 1 at the Rathskeller, Friday April 8 at The Mousetrap and Friday April 15 at The Vogue. Personally, I’m pumped to make it to the Mousetrap show if at all possible-I recently caught the tail end of some experimental hippie rock in that dusty little corner of the world and can see where a super small, intimate and LOUD show with The Twin Cats will absolutely rock.

And I want to see them at The Vogue for the insanely cheap bottles of Delerium. Seriously. Don’t tell them, they are selling it way too cheap.

Anyway. I’ve decided that working nights is absolutely screwing with my personal life, because there is all this great music coming up and I’m having trouble getting there! But bottom line, any night of the week I’m not catching a show somewhere else, you can surely pop over to the Chatterbox and find me bar side, beer in hand and eyes closed.

Come say hi. Just wait til the song ends.

Splendid Isolation…

March 2, 2011

I have no excuses for my absence.  Let’s just go.

I’m back in the  Midwest.  The fates had a card game, and I came out broke and dusty.  But for whatever reason, here I am, and there is music to be heard.

Tonight at the Vogue in Broadripple Pete Yorn headlined, with guests Ben Kweller and The Wellspring.

First impressions?  I was less than impressed.

The Wellspring start off with your obvious makeup-a cute, long haired blonde on guitar, vocals and keyboard, the Ben Gibbard-esque lead vocals and acoustic, and the silent drummer with the ridiculous Seth Rogan fro. From there…

it stays basically just as predictable.

Don’t get me wrong. Cute front man and a wavy haired beauty on the keyboard can play well. But that’s about it.  There is no excitement, nothing that makes a crowd attending a concert that has nothing to do with you sit down and shut up. Some opening acts you know will be good; even with a female solo artist, her voice can pierce the crowd and demand your attention, placating the rising chatter in just two songs.  Sadly, this front woman does not have it.  Perhaps some distance between the vocal ranges would have helped-but unfortunately, the two leads were too similar for harmony to really play a stunning role. They took the stage and 30 minutes later the only excitement was that they were finished and you could possibly win a free flight for listening to them. (I get establishing your roots and starting from the floor up, but the shameless tour sponsor plugs were a little much.)

Which moved us right along to Ben Kweller.  As an Indiana non-native yet somehow frequent resident, I have heard mumblings of this artist often but have never pursued a listen.

And I wish that were still the case.

Now mind you, I went into this show completely open minded. Who doesn’t want to find a new act that they adore at a show?! But as Ben’s disjointed songs and inappropriately placed (i.e. enter sand man mid love song dedication?) guitar riffs flooded the room,  I found myself becoming more and more annoyed that I had to listen. A few times I thought there would be hope; some blue grassy, Dylan-esque tunes came across the set list which I thought could be redeeming.  But each time, they were ruined by nonsensical lyrics and absolutely no musical flow later on. It’s as if as soon as Kweller finds something rhythmic, he has to change it and morph it to something else.  Which is a delicate ordeal for the greatest musicians, who seem to have obviously a better understand of this subtle switch.  But not Kweller.  We hit on bluegrass, country and some sort of Ben Folds hybrid minus the mindblowing piano skills. (and I’m not even a Ben Folds fan.) You know it’s bad when even the people who came to see just you aren’t participating.  All in all it was an extremely disappointing performance that reinforces my belief that Hoosiers have terrible taste in music. (sorry.)

At this point in the evening, I needed anything to salvage this night of music mediocrity and disaster.  Up until now, I had been surrounded by squawking 40 somethings (and older) who were acting like frat boys on a Thursday night. I haven’t  this  many swinging Corona and Bud Light bottles, screeching women and douchebag men out on a weeknight since townie night at The Cactus. The feeling of, ” We are at a concert, let’s get fucked up on a Tuesday!!” pervaded the much older audience, and was a complex mixture of sad, pathetic, upsetting and annoying. Needless to say, it was not a good start to the night and was not making me happy to associate myself with other Pete Yorn fans.

Pete Yorn, however, absolutely redeemed the show.  While he did play a lot from his newest album, there were still some gems from musicforthemorningafter that made the set list.  Which is awesome, because nothing makes me more annoyed than an artist that takes advantage of your ticket price and time to solely demo the newest tracks live (I’m talking to you, Brand New.)

Future show reviews will obviously shine brighter than this one-I decided this show would be my return to the blog at about Pete Yorn’s second song, and my iphone isn’t really ideal for note taking.  And neither is drinking 6.50 Delerium’s (thanks to contributor Zach for getting me hooked on a beer that is an easy 10 bucks a bottle, therefore causing my crazed Beatles-fan frenzy when told they were only 6.50. I honestly thought of buying all six that were there before the girl with purple hair staring confused at my triumph could realize her obvious school girl error.)

I digress. The long and short of it was that Pete Yorn rocked.  The crowd stealer and pleaser was For Nancy, hands down, a song that got the original fans crazy but was still so rockin that the newer crowd got into it to (unlike his performance of Girl Like You, during which many of us were left scowling at the crowd members who quickly lost interest during the slow, crooning love song. Truly, one of the worst crowds I had ever encountered, and the median age was 32! I’ve seen better manners at metalcore shows.)

My only true let down of Yorn’s set was the ending. While the lighting worked well with the song(not programmed, but hand operated by the kid in the booth next to me, which was fairly cool), there was no “save the best for last ” element.  Yorn took a crowd totally amped up, dancing and singing his lyrics during For Nancy and then finished with two songs much of the crowd didn’t recognize. While it wasn’t a deal breaker, and it was still a stunning performance, it wasn’t quite the way I like to leave a show.

Yorn: A-

Kweller: D (find a sound a stick with it! Not having a sound or rhythm does not count as “your sound”!)

The Wellspring: C. Simply Average.

Up Next: Quite possibly James Taylor.

 

Going West

November 13, 2010

Finding good, solid new music is like trying to find a decent, tolerable guy (or girl) to date. Most just feed you line after line of bullshit, many are boring & unimaginative, and there are few that emotionally move you to leave a lasting impression. But when you do find the right one, it’s something pretty extraordinary. You can’t stop thinking, fantasizing, dreaming about them. Your whole world is turned upside down, and you imagine what life was like before you stumbled upon them…what life was like before you stumbled upon Smith Westerns.

Smith Westerns

Originally hailing from Chicago, the guys of S Dubs…Cullen Omori (vocals/guitar), Cameron Omori (bass), and Max Kakacek (guitar)…are all likely younger than a majority of everyone reading this, yet they rock out just as hard as any of their legendary musical influences (stemming from the likes of the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Nuggets, & Pretty Things).

Recently signed to Fat Possum (WAAVES, The Walkmen, T. Rex), be on the lookout for the release of their new album “Dye It Blonde” on January 18, 2011. In the meantime, they’ll be touring around Europe with MGMT through the rest of 2010.

Listen to and download “Be My Girl” here, a gut-wrenching and equally charming power track that’s 1 part garage and 2 parts kickass. Listen, love, and never look back.

Oh, how we love thee, Smith Westerns.

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Pull This Trigger

February 3, 2010

Conveniently, a handful of my friends and acquaintances also double as gifted musicians, so any casual conversations with them also typically transition into mock interviews about music, lyrics, the writing process, and life in general. Coincidentally, the vocalist/guitarist/mastermind behind Nashville triumvirate Trigger Man also happens to be a good friend of mine. Hunter Bridges, along with fellow Belmont University students Tommy Peskorz and Alan Pfeifer, collectively form this shred-your-eardrums power group. A “jack of all trades” band in terms of their sound, Trigger Man is characterized by a wide range of influences, including (but certainly not limited to) progressive rock, pop punk, and alternative rock, all cemented together by machine gun drum beats and heavy guitar riffs. During my most recent “interview” with Mr. Bridges himself, some keynote words of wisdom were shared concerning the dilemmas that musicians tend to confront when trying to classify themselves musically.

On trying to pinpoint a “sound” that classifies Trigger Man:

“In three new songs, I’ve experimented with jazz harmonies and sections that are more apt to improvising over. I think I kind of understand what the Trig ‘sound’ is, but it speaks for itself better than I can speak for it.”

On trying to be innovative without coming off as the typical “nonconformist” musician:
“I honestly feel like people don’t really try to latch onto a majority of the stuff we put into the material…not that we’re musically transcendent or anything. I think it’s more like a lapse in communication. People don’t listen to it for what it stands for on its own, they just listen to it to see how it stacks up compared to other shit in terms of ‘commercial viability’ or whatever. Almost every time somebody’s given me negative feedback about it, I’ve just thought, ‘Man, I don’t think you’re listening to the stuff I want you to listen to.’ But such is the dilemma between reader and writer. I think where people go wrong is they think I’m trying to write stamped-out-of-plastic music, and then I say that, and it comes across as me thinking I’m somehow ‘above’ people that do create music like that.”

Check out Trigger Man by clicking on the image below (artwork courtesy of band member Tommy P), where you can also download their EP, The Bono Conundrum, for free. Highlights include the fun and fast-paced “Emergency Song,” as well as the sexy (and all about sex, ironically) “Paralyzed.”

Let the music speak for itself. It may confuse you, it may intrigue you, it may not be your “cup of tea” at all. Whatever it instills upon your spirit, I’m sure you’ll at least be able to develop an overall greater appreciation for musicians who continue to push the envelop in a little land we like to call Rock ‘n’ Roll.

The Noughts: Decade in Review – Film, Television and Music

December 31, 2009

A tumultuous decade it indeed was. A look back on world events, politics, sports and technology would each garner their own article, so instead, I’ll focus specifically on the areas of film, television and music, citing my choices for the best this decade had to offer. No more ado:

FILM

20 Best Films of the 2000’s

1: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, directed by Michel Gondry
2: Almost Famous, directed by Cameron Crowe
3: WALL-E, directed by Andrew Stanton
4: No Country for Old Men, directed by the Coen Brothers
5: Memento, directed by Christopher Nolan
6: Amélie, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
7: City of God, directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund
8: Sideways, directed by Alexander Payne
9: Mulholland Dr., directed by David Lynch
10: The Royal Tenenbaums, directed by Wes Anderson
11: Kill Bill, directed by Quentin Tarantino
12: The Departed, directed by Martin Scorsese
13: Waking Life, directed by Richard Linklater
14: Lost in Translation, directed by Sofia Coppola
15: There Will Be Blood, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
16: Children of Men, directed by Alfonso Cuarón
17: Once, directed by John Carney
18: Traffic, directed by Steven Soderbergh
19: Y Tu Mamá También, directed by Alfonso Cuarón
20: Match Point, directed by Woody Allen

Film Awards of the 2000’s


Best Film: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Best Director: Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Best Actor: Sean Penn, Mystic River
Best Actress: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There
Best Original Screenplay: Cameron Crowe, Almost Famous
Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Sideways
Best Art Direction: Moulin Rouge!
Best Cinematography: City of God
Best Costume Design: Gangs of New York
Best Film Editing: Traffic
Best Makeup: Pan’s Labyrinth
Best Original Score: A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Original Song: “Falling Slowly,” by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, Once
Best Sound Mixing: Gladiator
Best Sound Editing: WALL-E
Best Visual Effects: Avatar
Best Documentary: Man on Wire, directed by James Marsh
Best Foreign Language Film: Amélie, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet

TELEVISION

10 Best Television Shows of the 2000’s

1: Arrested Development, FOX
2: The Wire, HBO
3: Curb Your Enthusiasm, HBO
4: Mad Men, AMC
5: Freaks and Geeks, NBC
6: The Daily Show, Comedy Central
7: House, FOX
8: 30 Rock, NBC
9: 24, FOX
10: Friday Night Lights, NBC

Television Awards of the 2000’s


Best Drama Series: The Wire
Best Comedy Series: Arrested Development
Best Lead Actor, Drama Series: Hugh Laurie, House
Best Lead Actor, Comedy Series: Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Best Lead Actress, Drama Series: Allison Janney, The West Wing
Best Lead Actress, Comedy Series: Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Best Animated Series: South Park
Best Reality Program: Dirty Jobs

MUSIC

10 Best Records of the 2000’s

1: Radiohead – Kid A
2: The White Stripes – Elephant
3: Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
4: The Arcade Fire – Funeral
5: The Killers – Hot Fuss
6: Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
7: The Strokes – Is This It?
8: Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
9: Daft Punk – Discovery
10: TV on the Radio – Dear Science

10 Best Songs of the 2000’s


1: The Killers – “Mr. Brightside”
2: Franz Ferdinand – “Take Me Out”
3: U2 – “Beautiful Day”
4: The Postal Service – “Such Great Heights”
5: Radiohead – “Idioteque”
6: MGMT – “Time to Pretend”
7: Modest Mouse – “Float On”
8: Sufjan Stevens – “Chicago”
9: Outkast – “B.O.B.”
10: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps”

2009’s Best in Music

December 31, 2009

And now, a look back on the music year that was. Was what, you ask? This:

25 Best Albums of 2009

1: Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
2: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!
3: Muse – The Resistance
4: U2 – No Line on the Horizon
5: Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
6: Passion Pit – Manners
7: Grizzly Bear – Vecktamist
8: Metric – Fantasies
9: The xx – xx
10: Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
11: The Swell Season – Strict Joy
12: St. Vincent – Actor
13: The Antlers – Hospice
14: fun. – Aim and Ignite
15: Editors – In This Light and On This Evening
16: Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk
17: Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
18: Wild Beasts – Two Dancers
19: A.C. Newman – Get Guilty
20: The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
21: Halloween, Alaska – Champagne Downtown
22: Pearl Jam – Backspacer
23: Tegan & Sara – Sainthood
24: Franz Ferdinand – Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
25: Destry – It Goes On

10 Best Songs of 2009

1: U2 – “Moment of Surrender”
2: Animal Collective – “My Girls”
3: Passion Pit – “Little Secrets”
4: Phoenix – “1901”
5: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Zero”
6: The Swell Season – “High Horses”
7: Metric – “Help, I’m Alive”
8: Pearl Jam – “Got Some”
9: Editors – “Papillon”
10: Muse – “United States of Eurasia”

Ten Best Films of 2009 + Film Awards

December 29, 2009

I’ll save the preambles and get right to the meat. Go see each and every one of these films. Good day.

Best Films of 2009:

1: Up in the Air, directed by Jason Reitman
2: Inglourious Basterds, directed by Quentin Tarantino
3: (500) Days of Summer, directed by Marc Webb
4: Up, directed by Pete Docter
5: Funny People, directed by Judd Apatow
6: A Serious Man, directed by the Coen Brothers
7: The Hurt Locker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow
8: Avatar, directed by James Cameron
9: The Fantastic Mr. Fox, directed by Wes Anderson
10: Adventureland, directed by Greg Mottola

Honorable Mention:
Crazy Heart, directed by Scott Cooper
An Education, directed by Lone Scherfig
Sin Nombre, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga
Sugar, directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Where the Wild Things Are, directed by Spike Jonze

2009 Film Awards:

Best Film: Up in the Air
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Best Actress: Carey Mulligan, An Education
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress: Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Best Original Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen, A Serious Man
Best Adapted Screenplay: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
Best Art Direction: Nine
Best Cinematography: The Hurt Locker
Best Costume Design: Nine
Best Film Editing: Avatar
Best Makeup: District 9
Best Original Score: Michael Giacchino, Up
Best Original Song: “All is Love,” by Karen O and Nick Zinner, Where the Wild Things Are
Best Sound Mixing: Avatar
Best Sound Editing: Avatar
Best Visual Effects: Avatar
Best Documentary: The Cove, directed by Louie Psihoyos
Best Foreign Language Film: A Prophet, directed by Jacques Audiard