Music & News Clips

Published in Rolling Stone:

Young The Giant Woo Fans in Los Angeles

Seeing a band on its first headlining tour can be illuminating in two ways: you may get to see the birth of a new star, or you may see all its weaknesses come to light. With Orange County natives Young the Giant, the audience at the Wiltern in Los Angeles on February 11th experienced both, but the missteps were outnumbered by the triumphs.

The quintet (formerly known as the Jakes) rocketed from local up-and-comer status to critical and popular favorites (even being championed by notoriously crotchety Morrissey) in 2011, and the singles from their debut album Young the Giant are now modern rock radio fixtures. They even performed on the MTV Video Music Awards.

“Los Angeles! How you doing?” yelped tambourine-wielding lead singer Sameer Gadhia as he grabbed one of his two microphones. The rest of the group wasted no time laying into “I Got,” an incandescent slice of mid-tempo SoCal pop that coasts along on trebly clean guitar and tasteful backing harmonies. Gadhia flexed his own pipes on the über-catchy “12 Fingers,” Coldplaying to the crowd with flamboyant flourishes like an old-school pop crooner. One enthralled fan showed her approval by bestowing the gift of her brassiere to the appreciative vocalist.

Things darkened temporarily when Gadhia acknowledged the death of Whitney Houston onstage. It was fitting that the band played single “Cough Syrup” after this mention, given that the tune references mental illness and drug use in a manner both seductive and desperate. It has more than earned its hit status, and the crowd sang along to every troubled word, even though this live incarnation was strangely muted. YTG showed off some versatility on their next track, a cover of Gorillaz’ “Empire Ants.” They were joined by a string quartet for the piece, an atmospheric eco-lullaby driven by gentle drums and the tinkling of a far-off piano.

The strings returned for new song “Camera.” Gadhia took a seat at the keyboards for this mournful electro-acoustic ballad which points to what could be an intriguing new direction for the five-piece. A few of the concertgoers were apparently already on board, displaying their approval by smoking copious amounts of weed or sloppily making out. The main set concluded with “God Made Man,” which took several minutes to build from almost an anti-song into a soaring, lighter-ready anthem. Gadhia, having already channeled Chris Martin, here went full-tilt Bono-rific, wailing, “‘Cause I wanted you to know that I know!” over and over to close out the relatively short set.

After a breather of just seconds, the five returned for “Apartment.” A chiming confection, it features Johnny Marr-ish guitar work that perhaps earned them the Morrissey love (or, then again, perhaps not). Gadhia made sweet love to his effect-laden retro mic on the song, and he announced a surprise for the audience: “a big picture!” The house lights went up, and the band took a photo of their fans with their hands outstretched to the chapel-like ceiling. They closed the evening with single “My Body.” The spiky track has hooks for days, and it sent the crowd into the stratosphere until the group departed and they were left to fight for the tambourine tossed to them like the garter at the world’s loudest wedding reception.

Opening act Walk the Moon looked and sounded like a band that will be starting its own headlining tour in short order, and they had a ten-song slate to prove it. The precocious Ohioans stack melodies upon melodies in new-wave-inflected songs that attack the ear like a starving Mike Tyson. Already known for indie hit “Anna Sun,” the group will no doubt be on a thousand new iPods tomorrow. And how can anyone dislike a band who sings, “I can lift a car up all by myself” and means it?

Set List:
“I Got”
“Guns Out”
“Shake My Hand”
“12 Fingers”
“What You Get ”
“Cough Syrup”
“Empire Ants” (Gorillaz cover)
“Strings”
“Camera”
“St.Walker”
“God Made Man”

Encore:
“Apartment”
“Islands”
“My Body”

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/young-the-giant-woo-fans-in-los-angeles-20120214#ixzz2BCBM2Al7Published in Magnet Magazine:

Published in Magnet Magazine:

Live Review: Dr. Dog, Deer Tick, Pepi Ginsberg, Hollywood, CA, April 27, 2010

The smell of patchouli and incense wafted through the Henry Fonda Theater in Hollywood Tuesday evening. A sold-out crowd enjoyed a night of three offbeat pop/rock acts. Brooklyn-based songstress Pepi Ginsberg kicked off the evening with a spirited set culled mostly from her latest LP, East Is East (Park The Van). Ginsberg’s distinctive vocals, ranging from a deep throatiness to crystalline high notes, juxtaposed keenly with jagged guitar squeals and off-kilter rhythms. “Come on, what’s the matter, man?” she yelped during “Bingo/Ninths” while she attacked her Hofner archtop and thrashed along with bassist Tim Lappin, guitarist Amnon Freidlin and drummer Matt Scarano. Shades of Regina Spektor abounded on new song “Coca-Cola,” as Ginsberg’s tremulous voice swooped and dived abruptly. The adventurous crowd warmed to this idiosyncratic artist and capped off her set with enthusiastic cheers, including one new fan who screamed out, “What’s your name?”

Frontman John McCauley of Deer Tick wore a Thin Lizzy T-shirt, while drummer Dennis Ryan rocked a Lady Gaga ensemble. This seeming dichotomy actually fit the group’s vibe perfectly. Deer Tick is the postmodern version of a ‘60s country-rock combo. McCauley, with his ever-present shades and Budweiser-fueled stage banter, played the classic-rock-frontman role to the hilt. “And I know you saw right through me, afraid I’m taking you for a ride,” he growled on “Baltimore Blues, No.1.” Fittingly, he offered up an invite for fans to join the group on a trip to Sin City. “Let’s all go to Vegas! We can trip balls and gamble.” Mid-set, he yelled for Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes to get onstage to sing “Me, Me, Me,” a Faces-esque rave-up from their new side project MG&V. McCauley and Co. even threw in a cover of the Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait,” which he jokingly attributed to Donnie Wahlberg. Deer Tick finished off its 12-song set with “Manage,” from the soon-to-be-released The Black Dirt Sessions. The thunderous riffing and bruising drums pummeled the crowd into submission.

Dr. Dog, however, brought its rabid fans right back to life. The Philadelphia natives performed a near-marathon set, taking the stage at 11 p.m. and finishing around 12:30 a.m. They opened the set with “Stranger” (the first track on new album Shame, Shame). The buoyant rocker energized the crowd with its chugging guitars and sparkling vocal melodies. On “The Breeze,” singer/guitarist Scott McMicken sings, “Do you feel like you’re stuck in time?/Forever waiting on that line/If nothing ever moves/Put that needle to the groove and sing,” while the band grooves away like an oddball mixture of the Beach Boys, Phish and Guided By Voices. Sweaty, bearded young men pogo’ed up and down while chanting the lyrics to every song, as bra-less girls swayed in time to the tunes. The set included almost every song from the sleek album. The group toned down some of its musical quirkiness, but retained its sunny pop instincts. The brief, funky “Mirror, Mirror” displayed a new modern-rock tinge with its jangling guitar lines and three-part harmonies. It’s about as sexy as Dr. Dog gets, and one boisterous fan loudly admitted to losing his virginity to the song. It builds into an organ-drenched climax, then, just as quickly, ends.

Singer/bassist Toby Leaman wiped his dripping wet face with a towel, as the Dog began “Shadow People.” The song started off as a Flaming Lips-ish ballad, but progressed into a full-on anthem with the entire group chanting the refrain, “Where did all the shadow people go?” Dr. Dog reached further into the past for inspiration on “Unbearable Why,” with a rhythm rooted in classic early-‘60s girl-group pop. The title track to Shame, Shame closed out the main set. The song slid and bumped along for four minutes, punctuated with clean guitar licks, ahhh-ing backup vocals and a spiraling crescendo. The audience, raucous from the start, got even crazier during the encore, when two overzealous fans leaped from the stage. The crowd failed to catch them, leading Leaman to comment, “Has anyone here ever been to a concert before? These dudes almost died!”

—text and photo by Danielle Bacher

 

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Published in USA TODAY AND OC WEEKLY Cherie Currie:

Talking with Cherie Currie on the phone is easy. What’s not easy is fitting several lifetimes’ worth of crazy days and recovery into 50 years in this planet. Who would ever dream of attaining the level of success that she achieved by 17 years old, only to leave it all behind?

No matter how many times her story has been told and re-told, Currie always has another revelation, another anecdote, another harrowing admission that adds to the myth of the Runaways and the triumph of her redemption story. Her book Neon Angel: Diary of a Runaway documents her life before, during and after her time with the teen rockers, and it inspired Floria Sigismondi’s film The Runawaysearlier this year. Nowadays, Currie is healthy, happy and making chainsaw wood art in the San Fernando Valley, but the call of the stage has brought her back once again.

She and her new band (including her son, guitarist Jake Hays) will perform August 11 at the OC Fair at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa, supporting her former bandmate Joan Jett. “I am very proud of the Runaways and all we achieved. It was genuine, from the heart and gut. I’m not sure there will ever be an all-girl band like it,” says Jett.

Cherie Currie: My sister and I are very different. Marie has always been very grounded and I’ve always had my head in the sky. I went to the a David Bowie concert at Universal Amphitheatre for the Diamond Dogs Tour, and I had a revelation when I was standing in the audience. When I saw him and I thought, “This is what I have to do, this is what I want to do, this is what I am meant to do.” It was literally like a lightning bolt. A few weeks later, they asked me to join. It was a sign. Of course, I jumped at the chance!

You appeared the cover of Creemand Circus magazines, you toured the world and were some of the biggest rock stars in Japan at the time you played there. You were even slated to grace the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. What made you decide to leave the band at the peak of its popularity?

I was offered the cover of Rolling Stone two weeks before I left the band. I turned it down because I knew it would be the demise of the band. There were a lot of fights about who was getting the most publicity at the time, especially with Lita Ford. I called and begged Rolling Stone not to put me on the cover, and they didn’t. First of all, we didn’t have a break in years. We were unhappy with each other, we lost communication and we were uncomfortable. You know? I was tired. Lita was fighting with me at this photo session one day, and she kicked in a door and threatened me. It was just enough. It pushed me over the edge and I left.

You were pretty sick while touring because you were pregnant. Was it hard for you to have an abortion at 16 years old?

My god, it was such a horrific thing to happen at any age. It was horrible and came out of left field. I never thought that is was even a possibility. I never dreamed of something like that happening. To this day, it still bothers me.

Do you regret the decision you made?

Well, I can say I regret it because I think I was too young. What can I say? It’s a done deal. Having Jake and seeing what a remarkable child he is–well, he’s not really a child, he’s going on 20–you think about those things. It will stay with me forever.

Before the Runaways, you had never left California. Was it a culture shock to travel to all these foreign countries? Do you look back and think sometimes that it was all just a dream?

Yes, I do! [laughs] It was a culture shock. I didn’t like Europe because it was dark all of the time. The sun was shining maybe one or two days the entire tour that lasted about a month and a half, but it really felt like forever. I’m a Southern California girl, and I needed the sunshine. I was also very homesick. But, Japan was totally different. I loved it there and I cried when we left. I wanted to stay longer. It was a whirlwind, like we were in a hurricane going from one place to the next.

You were bona fide superstars in Japan when you arrived to tour there. Why do you think the Japanese embraced the Runaways so strongly?

I think the Runaways stood for everything the Japanese girls wanted to stand for. The Japanese women have always been oppressed in a way, and we were standing up there doing rock & roll which didn’t happen there at the time. It was a movement for women to stand up and be recognized. Even the men hadn’t seen anything like that before–it was a phenomenon for them.

You talk about abuse and erratic behavior on the part of Kim Fowley in your book. Did things start out this way, or did the success and attention the group receieved make him more extreme as time wore on?

Kim has always just been that way, right from the get-go. He was very eccentric and verbally abusive. I look back on it now after having extensive conversations with him over the last couple of years, and he admitted that he didn’t know how to handle a bunch of teenage girls. That made things easier to understand. How could he? He had never been a father and had absolutely no paternal instinct. He was very much a loner and and it was a very difficult time. That’s all I can say.

Why did you still work with Kim after you left the band?

I had a contractual obligation to do one more record with him. The Beauty’s Only Skin Deep albumwhich is really the worst album that was recorded in history–was put together in a matter of a week or two. Then, I was contractually done with Kim.

You guys were touring and selling records, but made almost no money. How badly were you ripped off?

Oh my god, I don’t even want to think. If I knew the actual figures, I think I would have a fit. [laughs] Even when we were selling out in huge venues in Japan, when we got home he cut us each a check for about $,200-1,700, and that was it. We never made any money. He would give us $20 here or there. That’s why we sued Kim and the record company because we never saw a dime of anything up until Kenny Laguna and Joan Jett insisted that we sue.

You only released one solo album and one album with Marie. Why did you leave the music world for so long?

I should not have made that album with my sister. I really should have gone for my solo career at that time. My sister was having problems working at Pup ‘N’ Taco and I felt obligated to do that. My sister thought she wanted to be in the music business, but when she was in it, she didn’t want it anymore. When she walked away from the record deal and then they dropped me, she went off in her married life and had kids. I could hardly live with what I had done, and I let the drugs take over. I was very upset that I let myself do that record. At that time, I thought it had ruined my career and my drug addiction got worse and worse. Basically, I took myself out of the business to do drugs.

You’ve been through rehab for freebase cocaine addiction. Has this experience shaped who you are now?

Absolutely. That was the darkest time that I think anyone could experience. What I really loved about coming out the other side of it was that I went to work at a mall for minimum wage and I had people recognize me. I wanted to just be normal and know what that was like–I craved it. It was really a great experience for me and I’m continuing on with that experience. I married Robert Hays and we have a son together. Even though we are divorced, he is my best friend. I’ve also been a chainsaw artist for the last ten years now. I’ve been out in the work force just like everyone else. I’ve been able to see both sides of being popular and just being able to be.

When you were about 21, you were on The Dinah Shore Show to promote the Messin’ With the Boys album. Your father was extremely sick in the hospital from alcoholism. What was that like to go through?

It was terrible. Alcohol and drug addiction affect the people around you. It’s hard to see someone you love wasting away from this horrible disease. The disease is so powerful that you feel like you can be an addict and be normal. I have the death of my father to prove to me over and over again. As tragic and horrible as it was, it helps to keep me sober.

You lost your virginity as a result of rape by your sister’s boyfriend. How did that affect you sexually?

I needed to be angry at that time to have the balls to be in the Runaways. It turned me from being the happy valley-surfer girl into an angry punk-rocker. That’s how I acted out. I really had this vision of falling in love and having sex, and that was stolen from me. You really only have that once. In the end, I got over it. You should never let something like that hold you back.

Did you think at 20 years old that you would live to see 50?

Hell no–I didn’t. [laughs]  In my early-20s, my drug addiction was at it’s highest peak and I was really going down quick. But, I really didn’t care. Then, that one moment of clarity happened and it all turned around when I realized I was going to die. That moment I made a choice: to live. I’m sure glad I did. With my life and my son, and all the wonderful experiences I’ve had–I never would have had that, if I had not made that choice to stop doing drugs. That’s why my book is so important to me. As bad as it might look, it’s never that bad. You can always turn your life around. I’m living proof of that.

What was it like reuniting with Joan Jett to re-record songs for the movie?

It was like time stood still. We went in the studio and sang the songs like we did 35 years ago. We didn’t miss a beat. It was great to see the look on her face–she was so excited and happy. It brought us back to all the great times we had in that band. It was really a healing experience. Even when I left the Runaways, I had no idea Joan was upset. I thought she wanted me out of the band. Through this film, I learned it was the opposite and that she was very upset when I left. I couldn’t listen to the Runaways music for 20 years because I missed Joan, the friendship that we had on the road and what we had accomplished. For it to come full circle and be in the studio again–all that time just fell away.

Why didn’t you think Joan wanted you in the band any longer?

There was a lot of problems in Japan with the book that came out. There was a photo shoot that Kim had set up. He told me that all the members were going to have a private photo session, but, it was only me. I would have never done it otherwise. When the book came out on the road, I was shocked and hurt. It really ticked off the girls and drove a wedge between us. They thought I was an opportunist and it was the farthest from the truth. There was a lot of tension and no communication. Without communication things fall a part. If we would have had one discussion or band meeting to get everything on the table, I probably wouldn’t have left. That’s history.

Everyone seemed jealous of one another.  Why wasn’t there any communication between the band? Was it partly Kim’s fault?

We had no management. When we were on the road, our tour manager was evil. He was more of a trouble maker than he was a caring human being. We all needed therapy and had no one keeping us together. Kim was constantly belittling us and our self-esteem was very low. We needed adult supervision to help us sort out our problems and talk about it.

It’s been quite some time since you’ve played with Joan live. How do you feel about sharing a bill in Orange County with her after so long?

It’s a miracle. This entire thing is a miracle. I’ve been on stage with Joan a few times. A year ago, she had me come up and perform “Cherry Bomb” and “You Drive Me Wild.” But to actually do a full set, it will be a historic night.

In the movie, there was a scene where it depicted you and Joan hooking up. Did this really happen?

Yeah. In the mid-’70s, that was what was going on. Bisexuality, cocaine and quaaludes was the thing. There was a lot of experimentation going on and Joan was my best friend.  We were just friends and roomies on the road, and we had a lot of fun together.

Do you plan to play together at the OC Fair?

Well, I’m opening for her. We haven’t really discussed if we are going to be on the stage at the same time. We might be.

You are in a band with your son Jake. What is it like to perform with him?

It’s amazing!  Drummer Matt Sorum from Velvet Revolver and Guns ‘N’ Roses plays with us and he’s a phenomenon. He is the band leader and Jake is a part of it. It was really neat because Matt had met Jake when he was a younger boy. Matt was nervous that Jake wasn’t going to be able to pull it off in the band.  After the first rehearsal, he turned around and said, “My god this kid is amazing.” It was such a relief! He’s been playing guitar everyday since her was 14, so all that work paid off. To be honest with you, I’m 50 years old and I don’t foresee myself having a musical career. Miracles happen, but the fact that I have an opportunity to show the talent of my kid is such a blessing. He has more talent in the tip of his finger then I have in my entire body. Jake is going to be going somewhere in music–I’m just happy to be on stage performing with him and Matt.

You’ve been in movies like Foxes, Wavelength, Parasite and Twilight Zone: The Movie. What made you get into acting, and what is your favorite performance in your filmography?

Foxes was my favorite. I did a show down in Huntington Beach at an old club that doesn’t exist anymore called the Golden Bear. While I was playing there as a solo artist,  I was approached by Dennis Brody from the William Morris Agency. He came up to me and said, “What do you think about acting?” and I said, “Well, sure.” I considered myself a performer, so why not?  Rock ‘n’ Roll High School was the first gig he sent me out on andFoxes was the second. I got both parts–but chose Foxes. Next thing I knew, I was doing a movie with Jodie Foster. Again, had my drug addiction not been what it was, I don’t know where my life would be today. I’m not complaining because I have a wonderful life and everything happens for a reason.

What inspired you to take up chainsaw carving as an art form?

I was a relief carver for about a year and I was driving to the beach one day over to Malibu, and I saw these two guys chainsaw carving at the side of the road. I didn’t stop, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind. You know that voice in your head that tells you to turn left, turn right? That really important voice that we all have wouldn’t leave me alone. The following weekend, I walked into their gallery and saw beautiful mermaids and sea-life. This voice in my head said, “You can do this.” I talked to the owner that day, and he looked at my artwork and hired me. My third piece (three sea turtles swimming) was accepted into the Malibu Art Festival–which is impossible to get into. That’s when I knew that I actually had a talent carving.

Did you keep in close contact with the rest of the Runaways after the band broke up?

Sandy West and I stayed very close, all the way until her death. Any time we were on stage together, we were at our best. She made me a better performer. Lita and I reconnected 13 years ago when she wanted to do a reunion. When everyone else was on board, she walked away from it. That definitely put a strain on our relationship. Jackie Fox was in contact with me here and there, but she fell out of the contact as well. The movie put a strain on our relationship because she wasn’t very helpful. For the last 20 years, I’ve been going to Joan’s shows because I love watching her perform.

Do you see a reunion of the Runaways happening at all?

Lita has problems with Kenny Laguna. Every time he thinks everything is fine, it isn’t. The balls in her court. Now I think it’s to the point where Joan isn’t even interested anymore, simply because Lita is unpredictable. We never know, she says one thing and does another. I think if Lita actually said “Let’s all get along,” it would happen. But, I have no idea what’s going on in Lita’s head. I definitely do think it’s still possible.

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Published in OC Weekly, The Offspring:

By DANIELLE BACHER Thursday, Jul 22 2010

Bryan “Dexter” Holland doesn’t talk nostalgically about growing up in 1980s OC. “Everyone was kind of bored. The houses and yards were all the same. There was a sense of oppression, a creepy side to Orange County,” the Offspring front man says. At the time, local hardcore punk bands such as Social Distortion and TSOL were trailblazers, unleashing feelings of frustration, boredom and ennui in the form of three-chord songs belted at high volume. For high-school kids Holland and Greg “Greg K.” Kriesel and school janitor Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman, these bands were an inspiration. They formed the Offspring 25 years ago, and that sense of alienation has fueled their music ever since. “It’s like looking in a rearview mirror,” Holland says.

Writing songs as a 21-year-old, Holland never imagined the Offspring would last this long. The band toiled in obscurity for a decade before punk rock went mainstream in the mid-’90s, then all of a sudden, they blew up with hits “Come Out and Play” and “Self Esteem” from 1994’s Smash. The album sold more than 16 million copies, becoming the world’s highest-selling, independently released full-length. Several gold and platinum albums, multiple world tours, and a Rock Band appearance later, the Offspring are still around—and still in OC.

Their music has changed, kind of. They’ve stretched out musically to touch on metal, ska and Beatles-esque pop, and there’s an eclecticism found on their upcoming, untitled album, due later this year and helmed by veteran producer Bob Rock (MetallicaBon Jovi). “We don’t want to write the same stuff we did 20 years ago,” Holland says. “Each record is a progression, but they all have that Offspring core.”

Aside from new influences, they also have a new addition: Pete Parada, former drummer for Face to Face and Saves the Day, is now manning the drum kit. Holland, who dabbled in political songwriting on previous records, says he doesn’t want the band to get pigeonholed. “On this record, the lyrics haven’t all come out yet,” he says. “Insanity is going on in the world.”

Despite songs like the short-but-not-sweet “Neocon” from 2003’s Splinter, Holland says the band confront the world with their songs instead of engaging in partisan politics. “I wouldn’t really say we’re a political band,” he says. “It leaves things open to interpretation and cheapens the value of trying to point out the dangers of a society that’s too uptight.”

The Unity Tour, which has 19 North American dates with 311, puts a halt on the recording process for a while. But it’s the first time the Offspring have been on the road since 2008’s tour for the album Rise and FallRage and Grace. “For me, touring is fun for about two-and-a-half weeks,” Holland says. “After that, you have stinky clothes and aren’t getting any sleep.”

After 25 years, their audiences have changed, too. “They’re getting older,” Holland says. “A lot of them listened to us back in the day, but there are also young kids just finding out about us.” Occasionally, older fans pass their music down to their own offspring (pardon the pun). In full circle, TSOL keyboardist Greg Kuehn, who has known the band for years, recalls watching them at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas with his young children about 10 years ago. “My kids were big fans, and they had a great time seeing the Offspring and getting to meet Dexter after the show,” Kuehn says.

Holland still lives in Huntington Beach; that’s where the band feel comfortable, and they have no plans to leave. His recording studio, D-13; music label, Nitro Records; and hot-sauce company, Gringo Bandito (see Gustavo Arellano’s “Hot Licks,” March 5, 2010) are all within county limits. The Unity Tour winds up in the band’s homeland with a July 24 stop at the Verizon Amphitheater in Irvine and a set on the Main Stage at X-Fest in San Diego. They look forward to the fans’ support, even if the attention can be daunting. “I’m a little nervous to play at the show [in Irvine].Noodles’ mom will be in the crowd, and I have to watch my language,” Holland says with a chuckle, adding, “We have a special connection with our fans [here]. This is our home.”

The Offspring perform with 311 and Pepper at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, 8808 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine, (949) 855-8095; www.livenation.com. Sat., 7:30 p.m. $31-$85.75. All ages.

This article appeared in print as “Nostalgia: On With the Offspring: Front man ‘Dexter’ Holland recalls growing up in OC.”

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Published in Magnet Magazine:

Q&A With Erasure’s Andy Bell

Oh, l’amour! Andy Bell is back with a brand new solo offering. The Erasure frontman is releasing the techno-tinged NonStop (Mute) this week. The LP was co-produced by Bell and Pascal Gabriel (Kylie Minogue, Ladyhawke, Miss Kittin, Little Boots). Gabriel also helmed Bell’s previous releases as Mimó. Non-Stop’s first single, “Call On Me,” pulses with a glittering electronic beat and features heavily processed vocals with an Italo-disco flair. It’s quite a departure from the romantic, falsetto-driven synth pop of Erasure, drawing inspiration from soul, techno, Tin Pan Alley and even opera. MAGNET caught up with Bell to discuss the new album, computer games, palm healing and celebrity crushes. Bell will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

MAGNET: You are just releasing your second solo album. What do you feel you explore solo that you do not with Erasure?
Bell: When you have been in a band like Erasure for 20-something years, it’s a bit like being a married couple. You bring all of your experiences with you to the music. Then, when you go off to do a solo record, it’s a bit like being single for a year or so. You can pretend to be whomever you want to be! Therefore, my disco-diva/soft-punk persona comes out a bit, like being onstage.

You also released music as Mimó. Why a second solo persona?
It was really to get an unprejudiced chance of being played on increasingly ageist radio.

Newer tracks like “Running Out” have more of a European techno vibe. Have you been listening to much modern electronic music?
It’s hard to remember, but I always love a bit of of Giorgio Moroder for inspiration. I’ve been discovering some Italo disco from 1985 by a band called Kano, as well. I do like a bit of Robyn, too. At the moment, I’m listening to Kelis.

Which artists inspired you to begin singing?
I would have to say mostly the Ronettes, and then Elvis and Buddy Holly. When I was a teenager, I loved to sing along to Siouxsie And The Banshees, JapanYazoo and, of course, Blondie.

You have one of the most distinctive falsettos in music. How do you keep your voice in top condition?
By trying not to smoke for extended periods and making sure you do lots of warm-up exercises a couple of weeks before a show. Also, a good steam bath always helps and lots of honey for the throat.

Which of your songs is the most personal/difficult for you to sing?
I think maybe a song like “Home” on the Chorus album, only because you need to bring a certain amount of pathos to what you are singing. You have to connect to some kind of subliminal scar, but it gets slightly more healed every time you go to that place.

You were one of the first openly gay pop musicians, and you announced your HIV-positive status some years ago. Do you consider yourself an activist, or is it just a matter of being honest about yourself?
Basically, I wear my heart on my sleeve. What you see is what you get! I hate prejudice in any form whatsoever, so it was just my way of firing first. I’m quite a peaceful person and it takes a lot to get me riled, so I’d rather do things in a quiet but effective way.

You practice the Buddhist palm-healing technique of reiki. How has reiki helped you physically/mentally/musically?
I think reiki is pretty amazing, really, but it’s all to do with angelic energy and putting positive vibes out into the world. It’s amazing what things can happen; it’s like prayer. So, I can say it has helped me in my music and darker periods.

Who is your music celebrity crush?
Debbie Harry and Brandon Flowers. Mmmmm …

Erasure’s 1994 hit “Always” was used as the theme song for the flash game Robot Unicorn Attack. How did that come about? Have you played the game?
I don’t have much patience for those kind of games, but it must have come about through Sony, our publishing company.

The Tories have just formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats as a result of the U.K. election. Are you active politically, and how do you feel about this development?
I voted for Labour and the Green Party, but you have to give everyone a fair chance. I’m open to newly reformed parties, etc., but I don’t think it’ll be too long before they revert to their wicked ways. It’s a dirty game.

When can we expect a new Erasure album? And will it be the concept album of nursery rhymes Vince Clarke has claimed you are recording?
A brand new Erasure is on the way for 2011, and the nursery-rhyme project is waiting for my warbles.

What is the biggest goal that you have not yet achieved?
I wouldn’t mind doing a bit of opera (Threepenny or otherwise). And maybe be a killer in a horror film!

—Danielle Bacher

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Published in Magnet Magazine:

In the ’90s, most indie rockers were white males who cultivated a cool, detached image. New York-based Versus stood out from its contemporaries for many reasons. Its lineup included two (and sometimes three) Filipino-American brothers, it had a female bassist/singer, and the band gleefully professed its love for sports, meat and classic rock. After several albums and lineup changes continuing through 2001, the group went on a recording hiatus, only occasionally performing live. However, a reinvigorated Versus returned two years ago, and the band has just released On The Ones And Threes (Merge), its first full-length in a decade. Now consisting of singer/guitarist Richard Baluyut, drummer Edward Baluyut, bassist/singer Fontaine Toups, plus live violinist/keyboardist Margaret White, Versus picks up where it left off sonically: hypnotic melodies, male/female vocals and the occasional heavy guitar squall. MAGNET recently caught up with Richard Baluyut and Toups. Versus will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

“Gone To Earth” (download):

“Invincible Hero” (download):

MAGNET: On The Ones And Threes is your first new album in 10 years. Do you think your sound is significantly different than it was in the 1990s? Has your songwriting and recording process changed?
Richard: We still make our songs the way we always have, writing the music together in the practice space, then coming up with lyrics at the last possible instant, usually while recording the vocals. Recording is basically the same. But I do think the sound is different, just because there’s a different atmosphere now. We used to navigate in a happy sea of like-minded bands and friends. Now the air we breathe is rarefied, and we are alone.

Richard, do you feel your Filipino-American heritage has influenced your music?
Richard: I have played a Filipino folk song solo, but other than that I’d say not. However, I’ve been told we are a very musical people. Usually any band on a cruise ship will be comprised of Filipinos. And growing up, many of my parents friends had karaoke machines; before I realized that was a Japanese word, I thought it was a Filipino invention.

Edward left the group in 1996, but he has returned for the current lineup of the band. Why the departure, and what did he do in the ensuing decade-plus?
Richard: He had a four-year old son, and one year we did 120 shows, including two jaunts to Europe, so it got to be too much for him. But I also think he missed playing guitar and wanted to work on his own project, the Pacific Ocean, which put out two records on Enchante Records and one on Teenbeat.

There has been some membership turnover among the Baluyut brothers. Is James still involved with Versus? Does the strain of performing together affect your familial relationship at all?
Richard: I look at the brothers as interchangeable at this point. James wasn’t as involved on this one, but he may be more so on the next, if there is a next. Ed was gone, came back and probably will leave again. As long as Fontaine and I are both still here, Versus can continue. Being in a band with brothers can be difficult, but because we can play together somewhat innately, it’s worth it.

You’ve released records with Teenbeat, Caroline and Merge. What is your relationship with your record labels(s) like?
Fontaine: It is very amicable, at least with Teenbeat and Merge. We didn’t have much of a relationship with Caroline I suppose, other than with Glenn Boothe, and we still communicate with him. Mark (from Teenbeat) is great, and Laura and Mac (from Merge) as well. These people are incredibly genuine, and I am honored that they would even consider releasing any of our records.

You are touring with Polvo and Superchunk. Have you noticed a resurgence in interest for ‘90s indie-rock groups like Versus?
Richard: Not really. A band like Arcade Fire will get a surge of interest because they’re on TV, covers of magazines, etc. Bands like Polvo, Superchunk and Versus get interest purely for writing good music. In fact, as a backlash to the unfortunate trend of bands reuniting, I would say there is a surge of disinterest.

What’s it like touring again after such a long time? Do you have any funny stories from the road?
Richard: Does two days count as a tour? It’s actually great; I missed the minutiae of touring (like driving around in a van) as much as playing to audiences. My favorite pastime is staring at a map. You won’t hear complaining about touring from me. I don’t know if this counts as “funny,” but on our first trip to support the new record, Ed found out his new kid was about to arrive prematurely. We put him on a bus back to N.Y.—he made it in time—and we kept on to Toronto, resigned to playing as a drummerless trio. Luckily the drummer of one of the other bands is a fan, volunteered to play with us and did a great job. Quite an ominous omen for On The Ones And Threes!

On new songs like “Into Blue,” you touch on sad issues like death. Has the band been affected by anyone passing away? Lyrically speaking, why do you cover such dark material?
Fontaine: “Into Blue” is retrospective of my life in NYC. It may seem dark, but in fact is hopeful of a better way of life for me, and for the world. It’s also about the need to change and move forward. I don’t really know why my lyrics are so dark. I’ve always gone to the darkest places to see what’s there, and that’s when I usually turn around running full speed back to the light. It helps put things in perspective, I suppose. But here is also a sense of humor lurking if you listen long enough.

Fontaine, your early image could be considered dark or goth. Would you agree with that assessment? Have you lightened with time?
Fontaine: Sadly, yes, I’ve lightened up. I just couldn’t master the goth look. It was too difficult, so I decided dark was good enough! Although, I am really having a hard time letting it go. Who wants to wear white when you can wear black?

You recorded your first full-length album, The Stars Are Insane, in just one weekend. What was that process like? Would you attempt to make another album like that?
Richard: No, we couldn’t do that again. Now we’re lucky if I can play a guitar part correctly in a weekend.

After the band went on hiatus, each member worked in some type of other project. How were those different musically, and did your experiences with them inform the new Versus sound?
Richard: I think all of the splinters and incarnations are different and interesting in their own rights. And they all relate back to Versus to varying degrees. Fontaine was a little bit country, I was a little bit rock ‘n’ roll. I don’t know what Ed was. Having a new band made it more difficult to get shows and to get people interested in general, and that took a toll. Fontaine and Ed weren’t even playing music when I came a-calling. But it was pretty natural to write songs together after that time off. I think we sound better together than apart.

When you started the band, did you think that you would still be touring and recording as Versus 20 years later?
Richard: No, but I also thought the World Trade Center would still be standing. And that Times Square would never be Disneyland. And that the Cedar Tavern, Florent, Downtown Beirut, La Chinita Linda, Joe Jr., CBGB, etc., would still be open. My point being, I stopped trying to look into crystal balls a long time ago. I’m happy to be here and right now.

—Danielle Bacher

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Published in Magnet Magazine:

Q&A With Bettie Serveert’s Carol Van Dyk

The members of Bettie Serveert are alt-rock survivors. They have been performing in various incarnations since 1986, and they released critically acclaimed debut album Palomine in 1992. Joining the core lineup of vocalist/guitarist Carol van Dyk, guitarist Peter Visser and bassist Herman Bunskoeke on new album Pharmacy Of Love (Second Motion) is drummer Joppe Molenaar (of fellow Dutch band Voicst). The group recorded the LP in relative isolation in Waimes, Belgium, in order to better concentrate on honing its sound, and the result is a mix of the classic Bettie Serveert vibe with new modern-rock flourishes. MAGNET discussed the particulars with van Dyk. Bettie Serveert will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week

MAGNET: Bettie Serveert was poised to make it big in North America in the alternative-rock era of the mid-’90s, but never quite broke through. To what do you attribute this?
Van Dyk: Back then, we were terribly naïve. Well, maybe it was a lack of hits, stubbornness, franticness and stress around the endless touring after Palomine. We started out having no plan at all, except maybe play a couple of gigs. Imagine our surprise when people started buying our album. On the other hand, we know a lot of bands that did break through after their first successful album and then split up after their second. And we’re still here!

How was the recording experience for Pharmacy Of Love? You were quite isolated in Waimes, Belgium.
The recording was great! Isolation makes for a great bonding. We were prepared and knew the songs well. It was basically a holiday camp with the joy of playing. We recorded most of the album in four days. There was a house that came with the studio, so every night we would have home-cooked meals made by Herman, who happens to be a great chef.

Pharmacy Of Love is your first album in four years. How does it feel to release something new after a few years off?
Well, we did two tours in the U.S. after the last record. Then, three theater tours in the Netherlands and some shows in Belgium, Germany and Spain. We also recorded an entire album late 2007 that we shelved. So it didn’t really feel like a layoff.

The new album has a slightly more modern, dance-punkish sound. Have you found yourself influenced by new bands of the past decade?
There are a lot of influences on this album, from old and new bands, like Blood Red Shoes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Ramones, Dinosaur Jr, a Dutch band called Moss (we covered their song “Previously Unreleased” and re-named it “Mossie”), Broken Social Scene, Brain Eno, Sonic Youth, to name a few.

Bettie Serveert has gone through several lineup changes. Now, for the new album, you added drummer Joppe Molenaar. Is it difficult, creatively, to gain and lose band members with frequency?
Sometimes it is hard when someone leaves for whatever reason. Friendships may be bruised. Creatively, it can be good as well. You will get new approaches, and you can try different stuff. And it keeps you fresh and alert. We already knew Joppe, because his band Voicst supported us on their first Dutch tour a couple years ago. He’s great to work with; some people have compared him with drummers like Dave Grohl or Keith Moon. He’s coming with us on tour in the U.S. and Canada.

You have recorded many covers, such as the Velvet Underground’s “Venus In Furs,” Bright Eyes’ “Lover I Don’t Have To Love” and Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Keep It With Mine.” Do you enjoy reinterpreting other musicians’ songs?
Every once and a while, it can recharge your musical battery, especially when you’re stuck with your own songs. But most important, the lyrics/songs have to appeal to my heart. It can be fun to look at a song and say, “Let’s try a different approach.” We later heard that Sebadoh and Bright Eyes did “our” version of their song when they played it live.

Last year, you and Peter did a project called Me & Stupid with members of You Am I andthe Gin Club. Did you feel inspired to just do something different? Are the songs from that recording session going to get a wide release?
Peter and I had this idea to let go of the usual verse/chorus/verse/middle-eight/solo/chorus/end ritual of the pop song and make a collage of parts of songs and glue them together. We wanted to try and have a more natural flow in the music itself. Russell (Hopkinson) and Matt (Wicks) totally understood the music, and within two days we had most of the CD done. Andrew (Morris) and Ben (Salter) also came up with songs, and we wrote some new stuff on the spot. Great time, especially on the beach. The plan is to have it released later this year as a free download and also as a physical CD. Not sure yet in which countries it will be released, but we’ve been playing one of the songs at our live shows with the Betties.

What’s it like being a female-fronted indie-rock band? Did you have many female rock idols growing up?
Mostly when we play at a festival, I’m the only female singer who also plays guitar. Female indie-rock singers/guitar players are still a minority, most certainly here in the Netherlands. But the boys in the band are really nice to me; they’re like my brothers, so to speak. My female rock idols include Debbie Harry, Kim Gordon, Kim Deal and Joan Jett.

Both your sound and music style are so eclectic. People wouldn’t immediately associate your sound with the Netherlands. How does being Dutch affect your identity as an artist?
Being Dutch in the international music scene means that we more or less operate in quarantine. So we can allow or block any influence at any time. Also being our own record company means we can do what we want! Not sure there is such a thing as Dutch pop music. Most Dutch pop music has its roots in the American and/or English music scene. On the other hand, I’m Canadian, and English is my first language. It might be one of the reasons why some people don’t see us as typical Dutch.

I noticed you’re not touring in America behind your new album. What were your impressions of American fans when you toured in the U.S>?
There is a North American tour in the making. The plan is to start touring on September 23 until the end of October, that is, if we get a work permit. American people can at times be very emotional, as they focus on the lyrics way more than the Dutch, which is understandable. And they are also more vocal and respond more to comments we make onstage. They sing along when they know the song. Yep, we like the American audience.

—Danielle Bacher

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Published in Magnet Magazine:

Fans of Swedish indie rock, rejoice: After four years of inactivity, the eclectic popsters in Juniphave reunited to record their first full-length album. The trio—vocalist/guitarist José González, keyboardist Tobias Winterkorn and drummer Elias Araya—formed more than a decade ago in its hometown of Gothenburg and released a well-regarded EP in 2005. Soon after, the trio parted ways to pursue different avenues. González made a major name for himself with his solo work, while Araya went off to study art and Winterkorn turned to teaching. Earlier this year, the three came back together to record a new EP, Rope And Summit, a teaser for the brand new Fields(Mute), an album that represents an extension of Junip’s delicately abstract sound, with loping organs, exotic rhythms and González’s trademark dreamy vocals. The trio’s intoxicating mix will soon get the live treatment, as it supports the release with tour dates in Europe and a trip stateside in the fall. The members of Junip will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

“Rope And Summit” (download):

MAGNET: José and Elias started playing at just 14 years of age. Who were your musical heroes growing up? And what inspired you to start your band?
González: When we started playing music together, we were listening to Misfits, Dead Kennedys, NOFX, Public Enemy, N.W.A. We played in a hardcore band for some years, but we were also listening to more melodic music like the Van Pelt, Low and Karate. During these years, I was also learning classical guitar and writing acoustic (cheesy) songs on my own. I used to play my demos to Elias, and around ’98 he suggested that we could try them out as a band. So we did: Elias on drums, Tobias on organ and Moog, and I would sing and play nylon-stringed guitar.
Winterkorn: I know that José listened a lot to the Beatles and Silvio Rodríguez, and Elias’s biggest star was Michael Jackson. But I think it was punk and hardcore music that inspired them to start a band: Bad Brains, Black Flag, etc.

You’ve been playing for a span of 12 years now. How have you guys progressed as a band together?
González: When we started to write Fields, it felt like starting a new band in the sense of not feeling tied up to any particular style. All the songs are new, and a lot of our inspirations are different from what we were into 12 years ago. While we were jammin’, we naturally fell for the more up-tempo and slightly happier songs.
Winterkorn: We’ve been apart from time to time during the past 12 years, so I think that we progressed as musicians and human beings on our own and not as “Junip.” But every time we met to make music, it hasn’t been that hard to come up with good ideas.

Up until now, Junip only released EPs. What prompted you to record a full-length album?
González: We actually tried to record two full-length albums two times, but the material didn’t turn out that good. Instead, we took the songs that we thought were the best at that time and realized two EPs. But in 2008, we decided to make a real effort with Junip; we had all the intensions to record a full-length album. It would be weird after all that time to only come up with an EP.

You guys had a four-year gap between recordings. Why the long layoff?
Winterkorn: Many different reasons. We all have been working and studying from time to time, and José has been busy conquering the musical world. We need a lot of time to come up with material that we like, and we didn’t take the time we needed.

José, you have found success as a solo artist. Why did you feel it was the right time to turn your attention back to Junip.
González: I had wanted to give Junip a go for a very long time. It’s all about finding the time between albums to have enough time for us to write.

Was it a group decision to start Junip back after some time? Was everyone on board at first?
Winterkorn: José had just finished In Our Nature, and we sat down to listen to it together. After that, we decided that after José followed up his album we should really give Junip a try. Then, Elias and I started to build a studio in our rehearsal space. We all felt that there it should be now or never.

Tobias, while José was focusing on his solo work, you were teaching philosophy at a university. Were you still playing music? Did you miss the music scene?
Winterkorn: I was actually studying philosophy, and I taught social studies. At the same, I was building a recording studio where I tried a lot of different projects with different instruments. Maybe I missed the live part of music, but I was hoping that someday I be back onstage in one or another way.

How is Fields different from your earlier work? Did you go into the recording process with a set idea of the sound and vibe?
Winterkorn: The main difference is that the music is not that slow, boring and dramatic anymore. We listened to a lot of “slow” bands back then such as: Songs Ohia, Karate and Low, etc. So those bands influenced us then. When we started to make music in 2008 that turned out to be an album, we hadn’t any idea of sound or anything. But the jam sessions turned out to be groovier and more monotone then we could imagine. It felt right and fun.

Junip covers a Springsteen song on your Black Refuge EP, and José is well known for his solo covers. Why did you decide to keep them all original tracks for Fields?
Winterkorn: It is time for other bands to do Junip covers. We are done making covers.

Your music often has a dreamy, ethereal quality. Do dreams influence or inspire your songwriting?
Winterkorn: I don’t think so. José is writing all the lyrics, so maybe he uses some dreams that he’s had. But I don’t think that dreams influence us during the writing process.

The song “Rope & Summit” has some references to suicide. Have your lives been touched by suicide?
González: No. It’s more about struggle and setting goals.

José, do you have future plans for another solo album or is all your attention going to be focused on Junip?
González: I’m writing some songs now and then, but I hope to release albums more often, both with Junip and solo.

What are you most looking forward to when you tour the U.S. this year?
Winterkorn: Good food, great shows, nice people and no snow or winter!

The band has a distinct musical vision and sound. Do you have any words of advice for younger musicians with dreams of their own?
Winterkorn: Hm. No, not really. Rock on, and keep it real!

—Danielle Bacher

_______________________________________________________________________________Published in Magnet Magazine #70:

 

BOOK OF LISTS

Red Arrows

This Vancouver quartet combines the ‘70s glam rock of Iggy Pop and David Bowie with the fun-loving pop styles of Herman’s Hermits and the Dave Clark Five. But it’s not as disastrous as that may sound. Frontman Chris Frey (Destroyer, Radio Berlin) brings hip-swinging, double-guitar-ringing, space-oddity tone to these six songs that’s hard to resist. [Global Symphonic, http://www.globalsymphonic.com]

CITY ON FILM
In Formal Introduction
Bob Nanna, formerly of emo icons Braid and Hey Mercedes, always had a delicate, Elliott Smith-like voice with a subtle folk sway. With his new band, he finally lays down the ornate instrumental foundation his vocals deserve. Adding cello and keyboards to the mix only accents what Nanna already does best: creating a wave of energy with a simple acoustic strum. [Grant Theft Autumn, http://www.grandtheftautumn.com]

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE
Cold
One of these two Lovers has a proto-emo pedigree not really worth mentioning, especially since the Chicago twosome skips whining in favor of attractively arch, drum-machine-assisted shoe gazing. Fans of early Ride or pre-melodic Jesus and Mary Chain should love Cold, an alternately dour and bright debut. [Only Lovers Left Alive, http://www.ollasound.com]

SNOW FAIRIES
Get Married
The second LP from Philadelphia’s Snow Fairies is a medley of catchy melodies and sugar-sweet vocals. “The Life Of A Total Square,” the album’s cutest song, shines with its clean guitars and irresistible backup vocals. Like twee-pop predecessor Go Sailor, the Fairies understand the importance of short, charming songs. You will, too, when you find yourself fantasizing about a proposal in the liner notes. [Total Gaylord, http://www.totalgaylordrecords.com]

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Published on the Magnet Magazine Website:

MP3 At 3PM: The Prids

May 7, 2010

After time living on the streets, doing drugs and causing havoc, David Frederickson turned his life around and married Mistina La Fave. With no prior experience, they each bought a guitar from a pawnshop and learned how to play. The end result was magical: They became the Prids. Now divorced, vocalist Frederickson and bassist La Fave moved to Portland, Ore., and joined up with drummer Lee Zeman and keyboardist Maile Arruda. While driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles two years ago, the band was severely injured from a tire blowout on the freeway. The van rolled multiple times, smashing their equipment and demolishing their van. With the help of their devoted fans, they raised more than $16,000 to replace it all. They’re seriously lucky to be alive. The Prids released their first EP, Duracraft, in 2000, and their discography now numbers 10 releases. Their latest album, Chronosynclastic(Velvet Blue Music), will be released June 11, and Doug Martsch (Built To Spill) contributes vocal harmonies and virtuosic guitar. MAGNET is proud to debut “I’ll Wait,” which mixes the Chameleons’ atmospheric psych pop with Pixies-esque male/female vocals.

MP3 At 3PM: The Nels Cline Singers

May 1, 2010

What can’t Los Angeles native Nels Cline accomplish? The guitar virtuoso’s first recorded performance with Wilco appeared on the SpongeBob SquarePantssoundtrack, of all places. He’s even a lefty who plays a guitar version of John Coltrane’s Interstellar Space right-handed, employing a full rack of effects pedals and processors to distort and remake his spacey sound. Cline has played with the likes of Jeff Tweedy, Mike Watt, Geraldine Fibbers, Sonic Youth and Willie Nelson. His list of credits goes on for days, and his latest offering, the Nels Cline Singers’ Initiate (Cryptogramophone), ranks up with his best work.Initiate is a double-disc set cranked out in three days; the second disc consists of 2009 live performances from Café du Nord in San Francisco featuring drummer Scott Amendola and bassist Devin Hoff. And the best part? You can download the funky, Miles Davis-infused “Floored” below.

MP3 At 3PM: Walking Sleep

Formerly known as Flying Tourbillon Orchestra, the members of Los Angeles’ Walking Sleep are pop mavens who deliver a ‘60-ish garage rocker with “The Final Chapter.” The song is from Measures, the six-piece’s self-released debut album (out May 25), which was recorded with Aaron Espinoza (Earlimart, Admiral Radley). Sara Radle (formerly of the Rentals) provides breathy pop vocals, and the twangy surf-guitar leads and bashed drums meld into a groovy throwback tune that could be the theme song for a cartoon superhero on TV reruns. And here’s a bonus mp3 for “In A Dream.”

MP3 At 3PM: The Gentle Guest

Beware: Eau Claire, Wisc.’s Gentle Guestis anything but. The band is coming to turn your local concert hall into a gutbucket speakeasy. Singer/songwriter Eric Rykal fronts the rough-and-tumble dectet, which has torn up the Midwest for the past four years. The Gentle Giant sounds like a good ol’ fashioned hoedown—after someone spiked the town well with acid. The group is releasing its second album, Cast Off Your Human Form (Amble Down), next month and will hopefully hit the road again in support. “Judgment” is the first single from the new LP, and it’s a fine distillation of the Gentle Guest’s wild-man vibe. “We’re going to turn this fucking world on its end tonight/Look at me, ma, I‘ve finally seen the light,” sings Rykal, while the band thrashes like a bar fight between the Replacements and Man Man.

“Judgment” (download):

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MP3 At 3PM: Neil Nathan

New York-based singer/songwriter Neil Nathan returns with another twangy pop/rock confection with “California Run.” Nathan is perhaps best known for his folksy cover of ELO’s “Do Ya,” which was featured in an episode of Californication. “California Run” is the first single off Nathan’s debut album,The Distance Calls. Bobby Harlow of the Go produced, and it features contributions by members of Sponge, Queens Of The Stone Age and Kid Rock’s backing band. You have to give Nathan credit for adventurous collaboration, and it actually works. The country-inflected single breezes by like a convertible cruising down the PCH, sounding like a long-lost Old 97’s track that was recently unearthed. Pirate Vinyl (Nathan’s imprint) will release the LP on August 24, but the single is available for download now. Fun Fact: Nathan’s former roommate, Rosario Dawson, makes an appearance in the video for “California Run.” And here’s a bonus mp3 for album track “Highways.”

“California Run” (download):

“Highways” (download):

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MP3 At 3PM: Gangstagrass

In the world of genre mashups, few artists have successfully bridged the gap between country and hip hop. Brooklyn producer Rench has shifted gears for new projectGangstagrass, adding urban beats and rapping to bluegrass backdrops. He achieved notoriety for “Long Hard Times To Come,” the theme song for FX drama Justified. New track “I Go Hard” features T.O.N.E-z spitting boastful rhymes over twangy banjo licks and fiddle runs. The juxtaposition works better than you might expect. Their first album is commercially unavailable, but Rench and his backing band released a 10-track LP, Lightning On The Strings, Thunder On The Mic (Rench Audio), in May. Fans of Everlast and Bubba Sparxxx shouldn’t sleep on this countrified crew.

“I Go Hard” (download):

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Film At 11: The Whigs

May 1, 2010

The Whigs are ready to die. Just ask sexy Carolyne; she knows how to blow up their airplanes. The Athens, Ga.’s third album, In The Dark (ATO), features brokenhearted anthem “Kill Me Carolyne.” The video includes spinning planes that give you the feeling of being immersed in a video game. The Whigs’ music may be trying harder to be cool than to be original, but if you dig guitar riffage and squealing vocals, check it out.

Film At 11: Breathe Owl Breathe

May 4, 2010

Breathe Owl Breathe’s “Own Stunts” is at once both sweeping and mellow avant pop. The Michigan trio—guitarist/vocalist Micah Middaugh, cellist/vocalist Andréa Moreno-Beals and percussionist Trevor Hobbs—is releasing its new LP, Magic Central, this summer. In the video for the album’s first single, Middaugh is cruisin’ with his boxing gloves, punching in the dark, snowy air. He’s up close and personal with the camera, icicles frosting his bushy beard. He sings, “No one can tell that I’m trembling/I’m standing on the ledge/I see where I need to land.” The real question we all want to know: Did he really do all the stunts himself?

Film At 11: Cate Le Bon

You have to respect young Welsh singer/songwriter Cate Le Bon for being unique. Watching the video for “Hollow Trees House Hounds” is like experiencing an entire mushroom trip packed into just five minutes. Loaded with dancing tree people, floating woodland creatures and anomalous human organs drifting across her head, it’s a tumultuous whirlwind from the visionary imaginations of directors Casey Raymond and Ewan Jones Morris. Le Bon’s jagged guitar strums, swirling keyboards and stark, Nico-ish vocals awed Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys enough to sign her to his Irony Bored label, which issued her debut album, Me Oh My, last year in Europe. It’s out tomorrow in the U.S. via The Control Group.

Film At 11: Lightspeed Champion

April 30, 2010

Despite the Yankees hat he sports in it, you can still enjoy Lightspeed Champion’s ‘80s throwback video for new single “Madame Van Damme.” Brit artiste Champion (real name: Devonté Hynes) dropped sophomore effort Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You! on Domino Records in February. He’s also toured with Bright Eyes and now is heading back to the U.K. for a summer jaunt. You can watch the video and sing along with trippy lyrics (”Kill me baby, won’t you kill me”) with your flashing, psychedelic strobe lights.

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Compound Studios Is Tops, Barn None

Producer Marc Ford and engineer Anthony Arvizu lay down tracks for bands from near and far

By DANIELLE BACHER Thursday, Jun 24 2010
Quartey wails, “But, baby, I got no hope/Could anything you said make it worthwhile?” Her voice purrs and wraps itself around each evocative line, while guitarist Stew Jacksonnimbly plays along. At the end of the take, producer Marc Ford chimes in, “It sounds badass. Not every fool can make something musical.”

Ford, a former Black Crowes guitarist who now focuses mostly on production work, has helmed records by artists such as the Pawnshop Kingsand Ryan Bingham. Years ago, Ford and Compound Studio proprietor Arvizu were in an LA band called the Neptune Blues Club. They had co-produced their band’s album, and it worked so well that they decided to also produce for other artists.

After Arvizu acquired the big, empty barn in Signal Hill in 2001, he renovated the building and began to piece together a state-of-the-art workspace that would become the Compound. Over the past decade, Arvizu has outfitted the studio with a large array of vintage guitars, basses, pianos and amplifiers for clients to play during sessions.

Artists such as Mando Diao, the Mars Volta andCrystal Antlers have sought Arvizu’s expertise and the Compound’s high-end gear, but how Phantom Limb, a country/soul band from Bristol, England, ended up recording music in Long Beach is all Ford’s doing.

“I didn’t really know Marc before this,” Jackson admits, sinking into his chair. Dan Moore first met Ford in Scandinavia while touring, and he gave him Phantom Limb’s self-titled debut album. Jackson and Moore grew up on Southern soul and blues and had admired Ford’s work with the Black Crowes. When they met again in London last year, Moore recalls the last words Ford told him: “I will see you at the Compound.”

As the combined appeal of Ford, Arvizu and the studio itself prompted Phantom Limb to record their sophomore effort in California, there’s no denying that the setting and production team are inspiring the band’s work. “If you can’t perform the song with conviction, you’re screwed,” says Quartey. “It’s nice to work in an environment where there is trust and understanding from the get-go.”

For a while, Phantom Limb feared that fate would stop their music in its tracks. While recording their first album, Quartey lost her voice from a combination of overuse and anxiety. Six months later, she couldn’t even speak. The band went on indefinite hiatus while Quartey worked feverishly to recover.

Later that day, Phantom Limb work on a cover of a Hank Williams tune. Ford stops Quartey halfway through the song, his heavy-lidded brown eyes focused intently on Jackson’s guitar playing. “I want you to play the same way Hank does, with that oomph, you know?” while using his hands to gesture a stronger attack. Quartey picks up a bottle of Don Julio tequila and takes a healthy sip. She stares at Ford for a moment, and then admits that she appreciates the direction he’s providing them. His 25 years of experience have sharpened his instincts in the studio, and he gets the most out of the band on each take.

Just after sunset, Ford takes a break on the Compound’s patio. “I don’t think artists would ask me to help with their music unless they understood my musical expression,” he reflects. Phantom Limb are reaping the benefits of this understanding; the group hope to lay down nine tracks with Ford before they return home for a European tour.

They already plan to return to the States next year to perform and possibly to visit the Compound to cook up another batch of soul. After calling it a day, Ford grabs the bottle of tequila from the table and takes a swig. He sniffs the air, then looks back to say, “Music is the universal language. It transcends boundaries, and I don’t want to understand it. I just want to know whether it moves me.” He pauses for a second and adds, “That’s the goal, right? It moves everyone.”

This article appeared in print as “The Rock Side of a Barn: Compound Studios lures bands from near and far with its laid-back vibe—and the expertise of its owners.”

OC Weekly:The Black Diamond Riders Soulful Punks



[Locals Only] Adolescents plus Social D plus Cadillac Tramps plus U.S. Bombs equals Eddie Floyd?

By DANIELLE BACHER Thursday, Apr 22 2010

 

So the band’s lineup goes like this: front man Steve Soto from the Adolescents, guitarist Jonny “2 Bags” Wickersham from Social Distortion, bassist Warren Renfro from Cadillac Tramps and Manic Hispanic, drummer Jamie Reidling from U.S. Bombs and Die Hunns, saxophonist Vince Hizon, trumpet player Joseph Badaczewski and keyboardist Greg Kuehn from TSOL. And starting with their inaugural gig in March, they’ve been playing . . . soul and R&B covers? Including classics by Eddie Floyd, Rufus Thomas and Solomon Burke? These guys have some ’splaining to do.

OC Weekly: The Black Diamond Riders are a major departure from your other work. What inspired the ‘60s-soul-music direction?

Jamie Reidling: My dad turned me onto this three-piece jazz trio at my house after school. He read his books, smoked weed and played the piano. He opened me up to Ray Charles, and I just kept listening to it.

Warren Renfro: This is what I listened to growing up in a Mexican neighborhood in Fullerton, a.k.a Toker’s Town—it’s what everyone listened to. As stupid as this may sound, when I’m playing this music, it reminds me of summer afternoons. Everyone was kicking back on the front lawns—like good Mexicans do—drinking beers and listening to these songs.

You have all known each other a long time. What made you come together for this particular project?

Reidling: My dad said to me, “If you can do something playing music, enjoy it and make money . . . why the fuck would you not do it?” Then, I saw a quote on Steve’s Facebook wall saying, “I don’t want no preacher preaching to me about heaven and hell.” I felt the same way.

You’ve played two shows so far, and you are covering great music. Are you interested in writing your own material?

Reidling: We’re a cover band, so we are trying to keep it as traditional as possible. There are billions of songs out there that we can play. We haven’t really discussed writing our own songs yet. I don’t know if we really would—would we?

Steve Soto: It’s never even crossed my mind.

Renfro: Just doing the covers now, we’re just scratching the surface of what’s there. Doing something original? Who knows. It’s not about what you’re playing; it’s how you’re playing it.

Soto: It’s a lot like those swing bands such as the Royal Crown Revue or Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Most of the stuff they did were standards. They peppered their sound with songs they wrote, but it was mostly what other people wrote. But down the line, that might be something we want to get into.

Reidling: Right now, we want to put on a fun, live show. Someone can hear these songs, shake their ass and have a good time.

Are you guys going to tour at all?

Soto: It’s not like we have any career plan for it. This is more about friends getting together and playing music.

Renfro: Pretty much for the past decade, we’ve all been trying to make a living playing music. This band is the one thing I like to do. I want to make it big, make it great.

Soto: And when you mean big, you mean big-sounding? Not like, ‘Let’s make it big. . . . Let’s be the Beatles.’

Renfro: [Laughs] Let’s make it bitchen. I don’t want anyone burning albums thinking we think we are bigger than Jesus!

Reidling: I want people to hear us and say, “Fuck, that was awesome!” I’m forty-fucking- two. Hell, I’ll play with Britney Spears if I get paid to do it.

How do you feel your first show at the Tiki Bar went?

Reidling: We were doing a song, and I looked at all my friends onstage with me, and I got goose bumps.

Soto: We could have totally choked, but it was awesome.

This column appeared in print as “Punk’s Got Soul.”

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Shout Out Louds Co-Headline With Minus The Bear at Fox Theater, May 25

By Danielle Bacher, Tuesday, May. 25 2010 @ 11:59AM

                                                                                                                                              Danielle Bacher

The Hype: Sweden’s Shout Out Louds decided to take a break after the release of their second album, Our Ill Wills, and its attendant world tour. Now, however, the five members–frontman Adam Olenius, bassist Ted Malmos, guitarist Carl Von Arbin, drummer Eric Edman and keyboardist Bebban Stenbor are back with their third full-length album entitledWork (Merge). They were joined at The Fox Theater in Pomona on Monday by Seattle math-rockers Minus The Bear, who were added to the lineup after an emergency rescheduling from Friday. Minus The Bear’s original support, up-and-comers Young The Giant and Everest, joined both bands as a special bonus, making the night a mini-indie festival.

The Show: “I do remember, like a punch in the face,” sang Olenius slowly, his melodic rasp reverberated through the mic in “1999,” the opening track off Work. “Play that guitar, man!” implored a rocker chick in the front row. As if in response, Olenius threw down his tambourine and began chugging away on his guitar, invigorating Shout Out Louds’ new wave-inspired set. SOL titillated the musically discriminating audience with the third track of Work, “Play The Game,” a glorious web of jangly guitars and nifty bass lines (laid down by their stand-in bassist who took the place of Ted Malmros, whose wife just had a baby).

Keyboardist Stenborg layered synth notes atop the deep drumbeats of “Tonight I have To Leave It” from Our Ill Wills. Halfway through the song, Olenius chimed bells while jolting his body in slinky rhythmic twisting. His cheeks flushed pink, he mopped his sweaty forehead with his fingertips. The entire audience was singing the chorus; “Yes, tonight I have to,” while hands and beach balls were thrown in the misty air.

Stenborg’s accordion and breathy backup vocals added a whimsical twist to the song, “Too Late Too Slow.” Unfortunately, her inherent timidity took over, as she meekly uttered her lines. If she had opened up, her falsetto would have blown everyone away. Overall, though, Shout Out Louds shook off the “bland” tag, and they seem ready to prove the naysayers wrong.

“Everybody give a big scream, it is Carl’s birthday today!” yelled Olenius. “Get smashed!” yelled a 15-year-old fan three rows back. Carl nodded in agreement, and started to play, “The Comeback,” the first track from Howl Howl Gaff Gaff and the song that first brought them to the attention of most of these fans. Five years on, it’s still a glorious tune. They followed it up with winding, 7-minute-long, “Impossible,” and “Walls,” a stand-out from the new album. Shout Out Louds made the crowd do just that, as their set went from highlight to highlight.

                                                                                                                                             Danielle Bacher

Minus The Bear capped off the evening, but it was a bit of an anticlimax after Shout Out Louds’ triumphant set. The Seattle boys got mathematical, but the muffled, garbled vocals throughout their set marred the performance. Their set consisted mostly of tracks from the new album Omni, a poppier and more produced effort. Unfortunately, the hi-fi sheen was nowhere in evidence. “My Time”–the lead track on Omni–was catchy, but lost some of its sexy impact. The vocal issues continued, and the overall sound was undistinguished.

Some songs broke through the haze, however. “Pachuca Sunrise” was a revelation, a sparkling update of the classic Minus the Bear rattle and hum. The band was in fine spirits, though. They guzzled Tecates all night long, and keyboardist Alex Rose confided in the crowd that he wasn’t sick of touring, yet. They seemed to rally a bit musically for their encore, and closed the evening with “Absinthe Party,” which is a fitting description of the set: fun for stretches, but not something you will remember for very long.

Surprisingly, opener Newport Beach natives Young The Giant’s performance outshone Minus The Bear by a mile. Fans of the National might want to check out this exciting, young band. Their song, “Cough Syrup” was a stand-out of the evening. Los Angeles band, Everest, performed more like openers, with a competent but uninspired set of Neil Young-inflected guitar rock.

The Crowd: Underagers crowd-surfed during Minus The Bear’s performance. Rowdy teenagers tossed water bottles left and right while smitten young girls reached out to grab their rocker idols. A 5-year-old sporting the band’s T-shirt stood with his parents and asked random fans for their autograph in the hallway of the venue.

Overheard: A Shout Out Louds fan was getting into the moment with his buddy and asked, “Do you think they card here? I need some alcohol.”

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OC Weekly: Billy Kernkamp Is Music-Mad

Danielle Bacher

[Locals Only] And he grew up to woo the girls with his sensitive singer/songwriter skills

By DANIELLE BACHER Thursday, May 13 2010

“I don’t want to be that musician who weeps over his guitar,” confessed singer/songwriter Billy Kernkamp as he took out a cigarette from a gold pack. “I’m so fucking sick of that image.” Kernkamp and his band—guitarists Teddy Duran and Justin Morales, bassist Justin Deckert, drummer Brendan Murphy, and keyboardist Dallas Kruse—wrote and recorded their debut full-length, 1976, earlier this year. The 14 tales of laughter, grief and heartache will echo through the speakers of Detroit Bar on Saturday for the record-release party. With twanging guitars, gentle rhythms and Kernkamp’s mournful vocals, 1976 is a low-key, Jayhawks-esque wonder. Fortunately for his fans, Kernkamp is as prolific as he is talented: Later this year, the band will go back into the studio to record an as-yet-untitled follow-up, slated for release early next year.

OC Weekly:When did you first realize you were passionate about making country music?

Billy Kernkamp: I always wrote love notes to cute girls in my kindergarten class. My mother was a jazz singer in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and she would perform in dance halls with old World War II veterans while I danced around. She would always say I was too pitchy. Her motto was “If you can’t sing on key, don’t sing at all.” But I didn’t listen; I’m still singing.

The title track of the album deals with relationships. Did you experience some serious heartbreak?

I was in a relationship for eight years starting when I was 19. When you are with someone that long, you realize that sometimes you grow apart. Breaking up with her was like letting go of my youth. Basically, the relationship fell apart and so did my life. All of my emotions are on [1976]. I’ve always been a boy, and now, at 33, I feel like a man with a brand-new start.

Your songs are very touching. Where did you find the courage to write your emotions into each song?

It’s simple. I’m living life and enjoying my friends. I think it sounds so pretentious, but all I’m concerned with is truth and beauty. Truly, the music is samples of my life—it’s a snapshot of what I experience every day. It’s about all the highs and lows, the laughing and crying. The songs are about being strong. I hope listeners can hear that and say, “Shit, I can relate.”

The lyrics on your song “Song, Whiskey, and You” read like a despairing diary entry. Does the booze help?

I love alcohol [laughs]. I’m trying to be better about it. It’s all about the Maker’s Mark. Alcohol lubricates you; it allows you to be free.

On a more serious note, I heard about your mother being terminally ill. What was it like spending six months recording your album while dealing with such hardship?

You’re getting all Barbara Walters on me. She has stage-four cancer, and she only has four months to live. She’s the greatest influence in my entire life. It felt right to release the album now while she is still here. I’d spend the day in the hospital, and then record in the studio. The record is what kept me sane.

I’ve been told that some of the band members/friends, including you, have tattoos of a cowboy boot on your asses? Is there any significance to the brotherhood of matching tats?

Here, I’ll show you [pulls down his pants]. Brian Crane, Justin Deckert and I have always discussed getting matching tattoos. One night, we were bar-hopping in Lido Island, and we found a place that would do it for $70. We thought, “Hell, yeah, the price is right!” We love country music, and it’s funny–it’s a kick in the ass that we all need.

This column appeared in print as “Billy Boy Blue.”

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OC Weekly: Road Kill Kings Ain’t Playin’ Possum



[Locals Only] These garrulous good ol’ boys crank out rowdy roots and bluegrass

By DANIELLE BACHER Thursday, Apr 15 2010

Despite their hard-living, honky-tonk-rebel image, the Road Kill Kings are actually charming, garrulous good ol’ boys. Formed four years ago, their crowd- and beer-friendly shows sizzle and smoke like a Robert Earl Keen barbecue/jamfest. Guitarist Gary Riley and drummer Ric Kavin will have your ears ringing for days, while Randy Cochran’s bass and Mike Stave’s fiddle sawing provide the perfect counterpoint. And fronting it all, Darren Ellis belts out bluegrass anthems, heartbreaking ballads, and feisty covers of Hank III and George Jones. The Road Kill Kings’ 13-song eponymous album has helped land them more than 200 shows in the past two years. With cigarettes in one hand and Shock Top bottles in the other, they banter and joke and reminisce about their days on the road: booze, boobs and their Condor RV hangout.

OC Weekly: How did the band come about?

Darren Ellis: The band blossomed out of another project that Mike and I worked on called the James Theroux Band, which self-imploded. We looked at each other and asked, “What the fuck do we do now?” Out of the ashes came the Road Kill Kings.

Mike Stave: We started playing on the sidewalk in Main Street, Huntington Beach for 30 to 40 bucks a night in tips. This bar kicked out some Hawaiian band and invited us to play after.

Ric Kavin: Oh, was it that gay bar? [Laughs]

Ellis: Our bluegrass roots came from playing on the streets. We developed our signature sound: uptempo, really rowdy bluegrass music. We added the rest of the band mates a few years later. There’s about three degrees of separation between all of us.

You have a lot of upcoming shows, including at Mother’s Tavern. What is your motivation to keep playing after all these years?

Kavin: We don’t ever rehearse. That’s why we are the Road Kill Kings—we’re raw and fun.

Riley: We play, and it just clicks. The group feel comfortable with one another, and that’s important.

Ellis: We are able to do whatever the hell we want, and for some reason, we get away with it. We play to get away from our girlfriends, to hang out with our other girlfriends.

Do you think country music is growing in OC, or did it fizzle out a long time ago?

Ellis: There has always been a strong country scene here. It comes and goes.

Cochran: The [original] Crazy Horse in Irvine Spectrum used to be a mecca for country music, but it’s long gone.

Stave: The punk rockers are getting older now, and they are embracing the country-music scene to have an outlet.

Ellis: We don’t play a lot of popular cover songs, but sometimes people come up to us and say, “You know, we don’t listen to country music, but you guys are good.” That keeps us going. At least we don’t have girls asking us to play “Brown Eyed Girl.”

How do you feel about playing with David Allan Coe?

Ellis: I hope he’s still alive. We’re banking that he doesn’t show up so we can play the entire night.

Cochran: Regardless of what the rest of the band think, he has been my idol for a long time.

Ellis: As much as it is an honor, it’s a challenge. We’ll have him work that much harder to kick our ass.

The Road Kill Kings perform with the Galway Hooker Band and David Allan Coe at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 496-8930; www.thecoachhouse.com. Sat., 8 p.m. $25. All ages. For more info on Road Kill Kings, visit www.myspace.com/roadkillkings.

This column appeared in print as “They Ain’t Playin’ Possum.”

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OC Weekly: Bellhaunts’ Cutting Edge

[Locals Only] The Santa Ana garage/post-punk quartet keeps it real and sometimes real graphic

By DANIELLE BACHER Thursday, Apr 29 2010

 

When it comes to their lyrics, Bellhaunts aren’t holding back: “Are you a boy or a girl, what’s between your thighs/I’ll drag it out, I’ll cut it out as far as I can away from you.” Ouch. One listen to the endearingly awkward Santa Ana post-punk combo’s music, and you’ll feel like you stumbled onto an unholy amalgam of the Misfits and Sleater-Kinney. With the help of manager DJ Oldboy, the band— fronted by the imposing voice of Adrienne Santellan and backed by her brother, Joshua Santellan (guitar); Vivian Anica (bass); and Robert Ramirez (drums)—released thesix-song EP Bleed Into My Mouth, defining their kinetic style of slashing guitar, pumping bass and bold melodies. In addition to exploring squirmy subject matter in their lyrics, Bellhaunts can just plain blow your ears off, as with the achingly sweet track “Herd of Fake Spiders.” What’s next? A new four-song EP and some gigs at Tropics Lounge and Alex’s Bar.

OC Weekly: Your songs incorporate R&B, country, and post-punk. Is that what you guys listened to growing up?

Adrienne Santellan: I listened to oldies. I got the Rhino collections of 1950s to ’60s music. My mom would actually try to change the radio station because she hated oldies.

Vivian Anica: I listened to the Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys. I was 10, though!

Adrienne: I would sing Dion’s “The Wanderer” around the house as a kid. He was my official vocal coach.

What’s it like working together as siblings in the same band?

Adrienne: I bug him a lot. It will be after midnight, and I’ll say, “Hey, do you want to play this for me right now?”

Joshua Santellan: It’s different when we argue because we’re related. If we fight, she’ll just tie me up to a fence with her bicycle chain.

Adrienne: Are you still mad about that?

Joshua: It was a rolling fence! There is no other band where you can be like, “Yeah, we just ran our lead singer over with a bike, and she was totally cool with it.”

Your lyrics are so personal; is it difficult to sing about such emotionally charged material?

Adrienne: No, but I do cry a lot. I’m really sensitive.

Joshua: Anyone can bitch about his or her girlfriend onstage for 30 minutes or some bullshit like that. She’s able to explore her feelings through her songs and lyrics that have a deeper meaning.

Robert Ramirez: Our song “Party Time Genocide” is really disturbing, but it’s a satire.

Adrienne: It bothers him because it’s about mutilating genitalia.

Ramirez: I’m a dude, and it hurts.

Adrienne, where do you get inspiration to write your songs?

Adrienne: Jesus [laughs]. A lot of my music is pretty dark. My mom worked at a mortuary, so as a 5-year-old, I’d be there with dead people, watching my mom comb their hair. She would show me where they pulled out the blood and put in the formaldehyde.

Songs like “Abortions for All” seem more political. You sound pretty pissed-off.

Adrienne: I was watching this Morrissey documentary. The first thing I heard was “Morrissey thinks the human race is disgusting.” I get angry at things I can’t change. I can’t destroy what’s going on in the world, but I can sing a song about it.

Bellhaunts perform with Mafia Rusa, O.K.T. and Sinister Ways at Tropics Lounge, 1842 W. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 525-1977; www.thetropicslounge.com. Fri., 9 p.m. $5. 21+.

This column appeared in print as “Haunted Garage.”

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OC Weekly: Mphase Capture the Sea

[Locals Only] This Costa Mesa trio make waves of glassy electro-rock

By DANIELLE BACHERThursday, Feb 11 2010

Since the October release of their debut disc, Crossed Wires, Costa Mesa electro-rock trio Mphase have been busy throwing wonderfully grimy, sweat-soaked dance parties at hometown venues Avalon and Detroit Bar. Their seductively icy sonics are created by singer/songwriter/keyboardist Geoff Harrington in collaboration with brothers James (drums) and Matthew Fletcher (keyboards). Usual suspects Brian Eno, Kraftwerk and, to a lesser extent, Grafton Primary clearly influenced the eight tracks on Crossed Wires, which clocks in at 28 minutes. Mphase’s ability to capture the ebb and flow of the seas and its glorious, glassy waves first gained national exposure when they scored the 2007 surf movie Stylemasters 2. They also contributed music to the documentary Echo Beach, which focuses on the 1980s surf scene of Newport Beach and debuted last year at the Newport Beach Film Festival. The band are currently laying down tracks in Harrington’s home studio for their forthcoming, as-yet-untitled second album.

James Fletcher: I was gone for a few years on tour [as part of Matt Costa’s band], and I wanted to come home. Geoff had this record made, and it grew on me. We had known each other since ’94, and I was happy to help.OC Weekly:How did Mphase come to be?

Geoff Harrington: I told him if he wasn’t into it, don’t do it. James was my first choice to play drums on [the track] “Morning Frown.” I know what I am going to get with him, and we don’t bicker. I wanted another keyboard player for a three-band rock bill, so I can step away and sing.

Matthew Fletcher: Six feet tall and thin were the first qualifications. Skills were second. It’s really a weight off your shoulders to have someone who already did all the work. It sounds amazing, so why would we want to change it? If that sounds lazy enough . . . I think three is a good number [onstage] when we split our $50 at the end of the night. It works.

Can you explain the band name?

Geoff: I actually went through a dictionary to find it. I put Mphase in Google, and there was just mPhase Technologies. They are huge. Our band is on, like, the third page. I wanted something that means nothing, but it actually does mean something. It’s the process of cell division in mitosis.

Do you feel like your music is part of what people are listening to now in Orange County?

Geoff: It’s an avenue. I’ve reconnected with the youth. It’s about picking the right shows to do and not overplaying. We would rather have people get high on Ecstasy and want to listen to it than a bunch of drunk guys who come to see a rock show. You either love the music or hate it. Either way, we are getting a strong reaction.

How would you describe your music?

Geoff: It’s not techno or house music. It’s electronic, kind of experimental. I went to England, and a girl went apeshit when I said I don’t like dance music. I don’t dance; I’m awkward when I dance.

Who is the female vocalist on your second track, “Max Beta,” and why is she only on the one track?

Geoff: She rocks. Her name is Nicole Martins. I really liked her voice.

James: She’s the vocalist for our other band, Satisfaction, which is more rock-influenced. Geoff thought she would be good for that track.

Geoff: I thought that song needed a female vocalist, and she worked out great. It was like a rant, a Blondie rap.

If you’re not playing music, do you hold any other exciting jobs?

Matthew: I do real estate by day and keyboards by midafternoon.

Mphase perform with the 88, Curtains for You and Extra at Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600; www.detroitbar.com. Thurs., Feb. 18, 9 p.m. $5. 21+.

This article appeared in print as “Electro Surf.”

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OC Weekly: Relative Strangers Things Have Happened

[Locals Only] The Santa Ana twin-fronted psych-rock quintet takes up residency at Detroit Bar

By DANIELLE BACHER Thursday, Apr 1 2010

Wrapped in echoing keyboards and harmony-soaked vocals, Relative Strangers’ sound melds ’70s classic rock and psych pop with jangly guitar-driven spaciness—earning the group frequent comparisons to British rockers Muse. Santa Ana-native twins/co-vocalists Daniel and David Alcala’s lyrics convey joy, pain and nostalgia for teenage kicks and heartaches. (“Just let me, let me catch your eyes/We will meet and never be the same/I am now your friend, why do you wake me again and again?”) The vivacious band started when the Alcala boys were in high school and got together with rhythm guitarist Chris Brown and bassist Aaron Stapish; drummer Chris Garcia joined up in 2008. Relative Strangers’ catchy hooks and explosive arrangements snap and crackle all over their new five-song EP, From the Westwood, which they will unleash on April 19 during their month-long residency at Detroit Bar.

OC Weekly:Who was the lucky lady the song “Early Morning” was about?

Chris Garcia: It was about a maiden who broke David’s heart.

David Alcala: No. Actually, it was about this girl whom I had no feelings for. When I started dating another girl, I changed the lyrics and almost the entire song to fit our relationship and how we felt about each other.

You sing a lot about women. Do you foresee yourselves working with any female musicians?

Chris Brown: Five is enough, and we are all pretty tight. Adding a woman might change who we are. But if she were phenomenal and added a great thing to our band, I wouldn’t be against it.

David Alcala: I’m 100 percent against it. I think it would be too much drama.

Daniel Alcala: She has to play the glockenspiel.

How do you guys let loose before or after playing a show?

Aaron Stapish: I’ve actually walked up to Chris while he was playing before the show and slapped him across the face. You know, tried to wake him up.

Daniel Alcala: That’s how Aaron lets loose: He hits his band mates.

Stapish: I’m not even joking. Sometimes we’ll do the Running Man dance for a whole song to loosen up and not be so serious.

Garcia: We also have a team talk, pray with one another, sing psalms. Light a candle with incense, sit in the van, hold hands, do ’shrooms . . . just kidding. [Laughs]

What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you while playing in concert?

Daniel Alcala: At Avalon once, every time I would touch the microphone with my hand or lips, it shocked me.

Aaron Stapish: I looked over, and I could see the electricity—his hair stood straight up.

Daniel Alcala: I went to sing something [in the microphone], and I was like, “My heart is . . . ah, FUCKING BITCH!” But the best part was that Pee Wee’s Big Adventure was playing in the background.

At one of your shows at Detroit Bar, you mentioned your dog and mascot, Miko, is very sick. Is he feeling okay these days?

Daniel Alcala: I have to get his chest leaked four times a week. He has something called chylothorax, which means he has fluid around his lungs that constricts his breathing.

Brown: He will die if we don’t raise enough money to get the surgery. We have to raise about four grand total. We are dedicating our shows to Miko. By Saturday, we’ll have $1,200.

Daniel Alcala: Basically, he can live until my credit cards give out. It’s really sad.

What are your goals?

Daniel Alcala: Everyone is trying to get famous. The idea is to spread our creativity and music to as many people as we can.

Garcia: No, no we just want to be famous. I’m kidding, but not really. I’d like to get paid for doing something I love doing.

David Alcala: We just want to live our dreams.

Relative Strangers perform with Stacy Clark, Stereofix, Beta Wolf, We Are the Pilots, BLOK, I Hate You Just Kidding and Brother Cecil at the Yost Theater, 307 N. Spurgeon St., Santa Ana, (888) 862-9573; www.yosttheater.com. Fri., 7 p.m. $8. All ages; and with Two Guns at Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600; www.detroitbar.com. Mon., 9 p.m. Free. 21+.

This column appeared in print as “Special Relativity.”

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OC Weekly: Heard Mentality Section of Newspaper:

LITTLE BOOTS KICKS ASS AT GLASS HOUSE
The lights dimmed to a hot purple, and then a strikingly heavy perfume permeated the already-choked air at Pomona’s Glass House on March 12. Little Boots—a.k.a. Victoria Hesketh—sauntered from the back of the stage, her hood-shrouded head pointed to the ground. The singer’s band followed through the shadows, all mysteriously caped in black. The white lights blasted Hesketh’s face, pink-cheeked and bright-eyed, while she pressed the piano lines to the song “Ghost.” Dripping with darkness, she sang, “Do you even know that I’m here? I might as well be a ghost. It’s true you walk right through me.”

Peeling off her cape, Hesketh revealed a black tank, jeweled belt and hip-hugging mini shorts with black leggings. She grasped the microphone in one hand and flirtatiously flicked her platinum-dyed hair. The 25-year-old British electro-pop sensation belted her album opener, “New In Town,” with alluring vengeance. In a burst of energy, she thrust her lithe-yet-curvaceous body into slinky motions, clapping her hands to the jingle of the tambourine.

The lights streamed in a rainbow of green, purple and blue. She banged on her keytar while fists pumped in the air. Her innate knack for songwriting showed in the lyrics to “Symmetry”: “The shadow I cast and the echo I make, the calm to my storm and the lesson to my mistakes.” From aMarch 15 post by Danielle Bacher.

GETTING BENT WITH THE MORNING BENDERS
At the Morning Benders’ March 27 show at Detroit Bar, front man Andrew Chu cranked the crowd as if it were a wind-up toy, jumping around the stage, slick with sweat in his button-down blue oxford, tight black pants, white socks and black shoes. His handclapping grooves hummed throughout the room as the crowd sang along to “Wet Cement, with its chorus of “wa-oh-oh-oh.” (It was pretty much the only thing you could hear from the song: Chu’s lyrics were often lost in the loud bass and heavy-riffing guitar.) The Morning Benders’ catchy melodies and bouncy bass lines couldn’t help but conjure late-’60s Kinks, but the hourlong show was really something quite different—especially when Chu and backup vocalist/bass player Tim Or traded vocals. The Morning Benders finished their set with a song about love, but not to be mistaken for a love song,“Excuses. In the front row, a bearded man holding a tambourine played along while a couple waltzed to the beats. From a March 29 postby Danielle Bacher.

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OC Weekly: Little Boots at the Glass House, Pomona, 3/12

By Danielle Bacher, Monday, Mar. 15 2010 @ 8:24AM

Hype: It’s no surprise British electro-pop sensation Victoria Hesketh (aka Little Boots) gained fame for posting covers on YouTube of songs like Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” and then hit it big–in the U.K.–with her own (with help from a Bird and the Bee and a Hot Chip) oh-so-catchy single “Stuck on Repeat.” Her voice is breathtaking.

The Show: The venue was silent as the lights dimmed purple, hot and scented with heavy perfume in the smoggy air. Hesketh waltzed to the back of the stage with a large hood, her head pointed low to the ground. Her band followed her through the darkness, all mysteriously caped in black. The white lights blasted her face, pink-cheeked and bright-eyed while she pressed the piano lines to her song, “Ghost.” Dripping with darkness she sang, “Do you even know that I’m here. I might as well be a ghost. It’s true you walk right through me.”

Peeling off her cape, Hesketh stripped to a black tank, jeweled belt and hip-hugging mini shorts with black leggings. She grasped the microphone in one hand and flicked her platinum dyed hair. She belted her album opener, “New In Town,” with raged vengeance on stage. In a sudden burst of courage, she thrust her body into slinky motions, clapping her hands to the jingle of the tambourine. It’s clear she loves performing, each sound beautifully arranged in a youthful, spirited fashion.

The lights streamed in a rainbow of green, purple and blue. Hesketh banged on her keytar, while fists pumped in the air. Her innate knack for songwriting captured the essence of her lyrics to “Symmetry,” with riveting words she echoed on stage: “The shadow I cast and the echo I make, the calm to my storm and the lesson to my mistakes.”

With the Yamaha Tenori-on and synthesizer on stage and the stylophone around her neck, the pop experimentation was on overload. She performed “Meddle” with flecks of disco and fuzzed out guitars bouncing through a splashy melody. The aptly titled “Remedy” opened with a wobbly trip through a spaced out circus settling into a heavy, overpowering beat.

At 11:00 pm., the crowd thirsted for more Little Boots. The way she felt, the way she looked and the bell-like clarity of her voice were infectious on stage. She turned away quickly and exited the stage. You could hear people shouting raucously for an encore. She bounced back in another black-layered cloak to sing a rendition of “Stuck On Repeat,” with her piano. Within minutes, the entire band was on stage creating reverb-soaked synth noises by her side.

Second act, singer Martina Sorbara of Dragonette strutted to the stage, wearing a white shirt that halts just above her navel, with tight black spandex and bright red lips. Sounding reminiscent of Cyndi Lauper, Sorbara knows how to put on a smashing show with her husband, keyboardist and bassist Dan Kurtz and drummer Joel Stouffer. All three rocked out in unison with the catchy, vibrant song, “Pick Up The Phone.”

The Crowd: A sea of gay men draped themselves on one another, shaking their asses to the thumping beats. A skinny jeaned, tight T-shirt wearing scenester with jet-black hair and a sharp tongue reached up to his punk rock boyfriend. He pushed a lock of hair away from his face and grabbed his wrist, forcing him to make out. A sopping, sweaty mesh of under-aged kids grinded on the dance floor with $2 water bottles in hand. Black fingernails jolted in the air, gawky arms and legs moved around. A guy with a vibrant pink Mohawk shook his hair to the music while an older crowd in the back of the venue bobbed their heads.

Overheard: Front and center on stage, Hesketh folded her arms behind her head and stretched her neck out as she hollered, “Pomona—I’m sad I have to go home, I love playing my music here!” to her whistling audience. The crowd clapped with excitement. An attendee in the front row enthusiastically shouted, “You can move into my room if you want!”

Set List:

1. Ghost

2. New In Town

3. Click

4. Hearts Collide

5. Mathematics

6. Symmetry

7. Earthquake

8. Meddle

9. Remedy

Encore:

10. Stuck on Repeat

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OC Weekly: Medeski Martin & Wood at House of Blues

By Danielle Bacher, Monday, Feb. 22 2010 @ 7:00AM

The Hype: After building a reputation over the past two decades as one of the most inventive jam bands on the circuit, Medeski Martin & Wood could engage scruffy, neo-hippie Phishheads as well as a packed venue of jazz enthusiasts. The band’s latest project is the three-disc RadiolariansThe Evolutionary Set, issued on their own Indirecto label.

The Show: Somehow unique and euphoric, shit always happens when you put keyboardist John Medeski, drummer Billy Martin, and bassist Chris Wood together. The harmonic blend of cowbells and beating cymbals intertwined with the piano keys is something you could definitely jive with Friday night at the House of Blues in Anaheim. Wood turned around slowly, stirring through marijuana-scented air. He grabbed his guitar, fingers tightly cupped around the neck. Two vertical lines scored his brow. Glancing over his shoulder, he smiled at Martin and gleamed at the throbbing, sweat-filled crowd of around 400 people. Everybody was dancing to the vibe, embodying the music.

The first one-hour set navigated from ethereal improvisations to soulful funky tunes while every hue of light geometrically trimmed their percussion. The music moved along the crowd’s body in waves, their feet shuffling in small steps, arms swaying like palms atop raised heads. Wood turned from his guitar to the bass, simmering down to a slow rhythm with Martin clunking the bells and Medeski hunched over the keyboard making stimulating sound effects. Wood’s rousing string work glided in and out at just the right moments paving into melodic tempos of the drums. The sound was explosive and soulful, echoing Coltrane.

The slick beats were unpredictable. Before intermission, Wood tapped, strummed, and plucked his upright bass during a breathtaking solo. During his keyboard solo, Medeski dug deep into the gospelly chords, Martin and Wood dropped their notes, and the free-jazz dissonances began. The crowd melted into a constant groove of energy. After MM&W exited the stage, relentless applause brought the trio back for a funky nightcap of “Bubblehouse,” the perfect way to end the show.

The Crowd: An eclectic blend of middle age stoner dudes mixed with hippie kids crammed the fog-cloaked venue. From grunged-out flannels to older men in button downs or band T’s, Medeski Martin & Wood’s following is something comparable to a Dave Mathews Band or Pink Floyd concert.

Overheard: Rocking out in slow circles with a flaming orange wig, a sullen and stoned beatnik with a tied-died T-shirt said to his friend, “I’m high and I’m fucking loving this!” as MM&W finished their set.

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OC Weekly: The Morning Benders at Detroit Bar, March 27

By Danielle Bacher, Monday, Mar. 29 2010 @ 8:30AM

The Hype:In the past four years, Berkeley indie-pop quartet the Morning Benders have dropped two self-released EPs (Loose Changeand Boarded Door), released one full-length album (2008’s Talking Through Tin Cans), and opened for major acts such as the Kooks, Death Cab for Cutie, Yo La Tengo and MGMT.

On March 9, Rough Trade Records released their new album Big Echo, which was co-produced by lead singer/guitarist Christopher Chu and Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor. “Promises,” the first single off their new album, is a smashing statement of purpose. In the two years since their last release, their jaunty, free-spirited tunes have become more incisive than ever. They and openers Miniature Tiger certainly had the crowd bouncing around Saturday night at Detroit Bar.

The Show:Don’t hate Christopher Chu because he’s beautiful, with the most piercing frontman’s gaze since Van Morrison. No, if you must, hate him because he does things with his elastic, vibrato-riddled vocal cords that you couldn’t do in a million years. Squinting until his eyes were practically shut, Chu brushed his knotty dark-brown hair away from his eyes and pressed his lips firmly against the microphone. He belted out the somber lyrics to opener songs “Stitches” and “Promises” with Pet Sounds-ish accompaniment on acoustic guitar, reverberating piano, and kicky drum lines.

Chu ran the crowd like a wind-up toy, jumping around the stage, slick with sweat in his button-down blue oxford, tight black pants, white socks and black shoes.  His handclapping grooves hummed throughout the entire venue as everyone sang along to “Wet Cement,” with his chorus of “wa-oh-oh-oh.” It was pretty much the only thing you could hear from the song. His lyrics were lost in the loud bass and heavy-riffing guitar. Even so, the catchy melody was spiked by moments of psych-tinged indie rock that was hard not to jive with.

Around 11:45 p.m., the lights dimmed and Bic lighters flickered across the stage from swaying hands. The atmosphere changed into dreamy, wistful enchantment as Chu whispered his seductive vocals to lyrics like “Stuck in a Mason jar where I sealed out my heart.” Sometimes a fantastic lyric and a danceable backbeat is all you need.

“Are you ready for a dance song?” shouted Chu on stage. “It’s hard to put words into action, everyone raise your glasses,” he demanded. With a tambourine in hand, the red lights blasted his face and the crowd went wild for more. At one point, Chu was serenading mewith his vocal coos and soft, brown eyes.

The achy-breaky poetic pop and familiar bass-line bounce can’t help but conjure late-’60s Kinks–but the hour-long show was really something else. When Chu and backup vocalist/ bass player Tim Or trade vocals, the interplay is extraordinary. The Morning Benders finished their set with a song about love called “Excuses.” (Not to be mistaken for a love song). In the front row, a bearded man holding a tambourine was playing while a couple was waltzing to the beats.

Earlier, the four-piece Miniature Tigers opened with a 10-song set. Clocking in close to an hour, they opened with the catchy songs “Tropical Birds” and “Capote Enchantment.”  Halfway through the set, vocalist Charlie Brand picked up his cell phone. While everyone thought he was making an important text on stage, he admitted that he was checking the set list on his phone. He leaped off stage and started jamming in the crowd to his song, “Gold Skull,” while girls were dancing all over his body.

The Crowd: People who wore hooded sweatshirts with sleeves too long for their limbs ran fingers through the air as if they were playing the piano. Old folks along side 20somethings with flannel shirts or black T’s were getting half-woozy from the drinks and the melodies. A sexy Asian girl wore a tight red dress, her sandals crisscrossed like an Ancient Roman’s up her leg. She had her arms wrapped around a jubilant, long-faced man with a brewski in her hand, as they got dirty on the dance floor.

Overheard: An attendee loudly shouted, “I love you guys!” Chu responded with, “I love you, too,” on stage. Then, drummer/keyboardist Rick Schaier from Miniature Tigers who was filling in on stage proclaimed, “I love the Morning Benders!” into the mic.

The Morning Benders Setlist:

1.    Stitches

2.   Promises

3.   Wet Cement

4.   Cold War

5.   Pleasure Sighs

6.   Hand Me Downs

7.   Mason Jar

8.   All Day Day Light

9.   Excuses

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OC Weekly: Tomorrowa Tulips at Avalon Bar, Costa Mesa, 3/1

By Danielle Bacher, Wednesday, Mar. 3 2010 @ 10:41AM

 

 

The Hype: Sometimes music tells truths that words simply cannot. Costa Mesa resident Alex Knost was on the verge of stardom, signing with Vice Records, but like smoke rising from an ashtray, garage pop band Japanese Motors is left behind to slowly burn out. Knost has teamed with girlfriend Christina Kee to form the shoegaze pop duo Tomorrows Tulips (click for our interview with Knost on his surprising decision). After recording eight songs at the Distillery Studio in Costa Mesa, they are releasing a cassette and vinyl in the near future on the Papermade label. The Tomorrows Tulips Monday show at Avalon also included AM, Audacity and Tijuana Panthers.

The Show: Taking the stage around 11:00 p.m., Tomorrows Tulips seduced the audience with swaying ’70s grooves. No voice proved as out-of-nowhere stunning as the dewy melodic pitch of Knost. Tilting his face up, he threw his head back and bared his throat to the microphone, lyrics bursting outward to “Eternally Teenage,” deep and sun-warmed. His exhaled tones were low and resonant, intertwining some loud wailing with spiraling guitar leads that were easily digestible, completely candy-coated and totally fucking sweet. Kee shrugged, covered her eyes with the back of her arm and swung her drumstick at the back of Knost’s leg and yelled, “You’re singing too loud.”

“Roses,” the show’s cutest song, gleams with a sultry little scat, swinging into aheavier tempo with the snare drum and a catchy melody. The hands and feet of the crowd shuffled to the music. Kee smiled, cocked her head, looked at Knost with wide, sleepy eyelids, half-hidden behind her curtain of blonde hair. Their connection flickered on stage as though they were only playing for each other. With more practice and fluidity, Tomorrows Tulips will certainly be a band worth following around and falling in love with, oozing from your bedroom stereo.

Opener AM turned the amps up too loud and sounding pissed. The fluorescent lights danced around the screaming voices, fingers scorning thin air. The smell of incense laced through the room while PBR was poured over testosterone-intense headbangers as the Garden Grove punk quartet opened with “Same Old Thing” and “Tired,” sneering slacker vocals and far-flung melodies in some sort of crude tone through the rest of their five songs. The co-lead Fonzie Heredia made the crowd go buck wild with his bull-god guitar strums and edgy metal stomps. Audacity tore it up with thrashy pop punk while inebriated bros surfed the crowd. Adorably rambunctious and explosive, the band is proof that you can still enjoy music beyond the screaming lyrics.

The Crowd: Slurred curses and shouting emerged from brown paper bag clutching hipster guys and girls. Gripping hair, shoving beer soaked bodies and sinking into the music is how the skater/surfer crowd was at Avalon. It was packed with people standing and squatting, engaging in the smelly madness. The rowdiness hypnotized most and it was hard not to join in on the fun.

Overheard: “Live like there is no tomorrow, sacred spirit! Live for today. We are all fucking rock stars,” yelled chubby, dark-haired drunk guy shoving and pushing everyone in the mosh pit.

Setlist for Tomorrows Tulips:

1. Eternally Teenage

2. Untitled

3. Roses

4. Wednesday

5. Optimistic Minds

6. Tired

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OC Weekly: Railroad to Alaska at Gypsy Lounge, Lake Forest

By Danielle Bacher, Monday, Mar. 8 2010 @ 11:53AM

 

The Hype: Rising from Midway City, Railroad to Alaska are rowdy and unpredictable. After listening to LuckyBearClawDoom, the band’s expertly crafted EP released in February, it’s easy to understand why singer/ guitarist Justin Suitor might feel so much pent up anger. It’s difficult balancing the music’s rigid structure intersecting grunge, hard rock, metal and progressive energy. The lineup Friday at Gypsy Lounge in Lake Forest also included Semi Sweet, the Depths, and Pistolero.

The Show: With blustering, lysergic guitar squalls and hard-hitting drum thunderclaps, Railroad to Alaska filled the air with their fierce thrash and equally disturbing lyrics about  death and disaster. Flashes of light beamed in strains of purple and white while beer bottles were strewn across the stage. In between sets, some of the band mates were downing the booze and flailing their long manes to the crowd. The band opened with “Little Fuck,” which is always how you want a metal show to start–the sound of bass and drums, crazy and snare-heavy. Suitor bounced off walls, throwing himself onto his other guitarist Jeff Lyman. The audience was into it. Front row and center, a drunken attendee bowed his blonde locks toward the ground praising the band like they were the gods of metal, screaming, dancing and throwing groupies everywhere.

For a showdown of amplifying madness, the band came armed with a refreshingly rough-hewn heavy rock set. Played for the first time on stage, the song “The Real Thing” blasted out of the speakers with effervescent fidelity. Dark, convincingly tense song lyrics like “I’ll haunt you, I will cut you,” exploded from the mic. The guitars pinged out like radar blips, echoing eternally, and bouncing off the stage with conviction.

Fraught with heavy riffing, Suitor’s epic jump off stage head first into my back was the highlight of the night. Everyone bobbed and thrashed their bodies into one another. Fingers were raised in the air, pointing straight to the ceiling. Entranced in the music, the crowd bellowed for an encore. Lyman and bass player Justin Morales spit out pithy serrated riffs as Suitor howled in a blunt, declamatory tone to the last three songs, “Learn to Share,” “Plague,” and “Heavens to Betsy,” that capped off the powerful set.

Opener indie-rock act, Semi Sweet felt like an outcast. Starting off the show, singer-guitarist Cassie Walters smiled too widely in her red lipstick and claimed, “I know you came to see a metal show…but we are the fluff before–yeah, that sounded kind of sleezy.” Walter’s voice was like the edge of a sharp knife, cutting ever so gently into a melodic harmony that sounded something like Paramore. She concentrated, softly stroking her long, inky black hair against her pale white skin as she sang the emotionally rich song, “Paperthin.”

Raging the stage at 11:00 p.m., heavy metal quintet Pistolero was no fucking joke. These Costa Mesa natives have some major balls and aren’t afraid to show their tats and nipples on stage. Lead singer Donnie Deschenes and guitarist Jeremy Munoz had an infectious, crude energy together. Munoz ripped off his shirt, revealing his half-holed Motörhead tank and wailed on his guitar. After playing songs like “Sleep When Your Dead,” and “Metal Gold,” it was definitely a show to squeal, shout and rage with. They played for the long haul, including an hour set with a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Snowblind.” An orgy of people got out of their seats to rock out and bang heads.

The Crowd: Rockers sporting frazzled hair untouched by mousse, tight pants, band T’s flooded the Gypsy Lounge. Women ranged from 20-somethings to old heads wearing low neck blouses and high heels, dressing to impress the metal head sausage fest.

Overheard: Right before Railroad to Alaska’s encore, the fans pleaded and begged to hear more songs—everyone wanted to jam. Guitarist Munoz from Pistolero screamed to the crowd, “play that fucking music dude. Shreddin’ and headin’ straight for Armageddon!”

Set List for Railroad to Alaska:

1. Little Fuck

2. Details

3. White Nite

4. The Real Thing

5. Sketch in A flat

6. Riot

Encore:

7. Learn to Share

8. Plague

9. Heavens to Betsy

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OC Weekly: MS Benefit Stacy Clark, I Hate You Just Kidding

Yeah we sent two writers to one charity concert. What of it? The first guy was obsessed with Stereofix. Read below for Danielle’s more panoramic take on the evening. And see a slideshow of the acts here.

The Hype: Music saved lives Friday night at the Yost Theater in Santa Ana. Go ahead and call me sentimental if you must, but the seven local bands gave it their all for a worthy cause. The end result?  The non-profit Turkey and Friends raised more than $2,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

DJ Oldboy rocked the oldies-but-goodies, shaking his tambourine (and his ass) between band sets. Piper Michelle, the bubbly MC and guitarist from Canvas hosted the event and kept the crowd screaming for more as she raffled sweet prizes from Hurley, Paul Frank, Stüssy and Obey artwork. The five-and-a-half hour marathon featured a wild local lineup of Stereofix, Stacy Clark, Beta Wolf, the Relative Strangers, We Are The Pilots, Brother Cecil and I Hate You Just Kidding.

Lot to choose from there, but we were really looking forward to seeing Clark, who’s still buzzing after being crowned the OC Music Awards’ Best Pop Artist. The singer/songwriter has already gained national attention appearing on MTV, CW, ABC and Bravo. She recently signed with Vanguard Records and is set to release her second album, Connect the Dots, on July 27.

The Show: Sweet as pie, Stacy Clark evokes Zooey Deschanel singing the angelic ballads of Avril Lavigne. Her lovable lyrics and catchy, hip-swaying rhythms are buffeted by the group’s pillowy, acoustic strums.  Clark opened with the moody sing-along “Touch & Go,” from her new album. Soft blue lights illuminated the songstress, who serenaded the microphone with spry vocals that dipped and dove with added verve as keyboardist Brian Willett lorded over his stack of keys.

Her music is somewhere between folk and poetic pop, with a relaxed vibe and brief instrumental fragments spliced between songs. Clark’s brown hair framed her cherubic face, her eyes a little mascara-smudged from the heat.

Clark got emotional with her song, “Hold On,” uttering lyrics like, “I just want to be left alone/ without you knocking on my door/ Without you pressuring me for more.”  Her songs chart every mood, digging deep into the kind of love that lingers and resonates. With the subtle deployment of slow drumbeats and bass, the overall effect is charmingly minimalistic.

Costa Mesa pop/folk duo I Hate You Just Kidding also stood out. They sound like something you’d hear on the Juno soundtrack, twangy and intimate with a cutesy twist. Singer Jessi Fulghum’s gentle, airy vocals mesh perfectly with her tambourine and exuberant toe-taps. Guitarist Jeremy Brock plucked to Bright Eyes “Seashell Tale” and Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again.”  Although it would have been nice to hear the band’s own music, the six-piece set included “Speakeasy,” their most notable song.

The Crowd: A little teeny-bopper in the front row was having a blast bouncing up and down to the music as wisps of his hair were blowing under his Hurley hat. A female under-ager glided across the dance floor with an acid-blue shirt and industrial zipper, her eyes ringed in heavy black shadow and liner.  The rest of the crowd stretched their legs out in front of them on seats, propped themselves on their elbows, as if they were at the beach.  A man who looked to bein his late 50s gazed at his feet, tapping them together while his wife filmed the event.

Overheard: “Everyone get up here,” exhorted Stacy Clark. “That’s pretty lame, it’s freaking Friday. We need a sugar rush. I know because I ate all the gummy bears before the show!”  The crowd laughed as a young male shouted, “We need some of you!”

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All Articles Published in Philadelphianeighborhoods.com:

Strawberry Mansion: John Coltrane’s House of Blues

By Danielle Bacher

Row homes line this North Philadelphia street–some of them abandoned and wet from the grip of constant rain. There is a single rumble of thunder. A low-lying fog covers the front of a three-story brick house on 1511 N. 33rd St. near Oxford in North Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion section. Plywood and planks help hold this home together. The crumbling window frames accent the collapsed ADT Security sign hanging in the central window. Abandoned and cramped, this boarded up house has seen better days.

Outside, a plaque installed by the National Park Service in 1999 reads: “In this place John W. Coltrane, a pioneering African American jazz musician, composer, and saxophonist… lived…”

Although the legendary John Coltrane died of liver cancer in 1967 at the tragically young age of 40, his influence and popularity are still as strong as they were while he was alive. Sadly, the house where Coltrane once lived is dying a slow death, desperately in need of restoration that seems beyond the means of the many who care about its preservation.

John Coltrane, his mother, aunt and cousin arrived in Philadelphia from High Point, N.C., in 1943. Coltrane had studied the saxophone and clarinet while in high school in North Carolina. In Philadelphia, he worked Campbell Soup plant and a sugar refinery. Drafted in 1945, he played in the U.S. Navy Band.

Coltrane toured with famed trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie in 1950 and returned to Philadelphia in 1951. Back in Philly, he started hanging out in black clubs and attended Ornstein School of Music, formerly part of Combs College of Music in Chestnut Hill.

Coltrane continued his classical studies on a scholarship during the day at the Granoff School of Music near 21st and Spruce. At night, he played rhythm and blues and jazz in such clubs as Zanzibar, the Downbeat and the Blue Note.

From the time he became a member of the band headed by the acclaimed Miles Davis, Coltrane began gaining wide recognition for blowing his long, strong and shattering solos. He played with jazz stars such as pianist Thelonious Monk and his personal idol, sax extraordinaire Charlie Parker.  He formed the famous John Coltrane Quartet at the 33rd Street home. That group included pianist McCoy Tyner, drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Jimmy Garrison. From his Government Issue loan and his mother’s savings, he had purchased the 1511 N. 33rd St. property for $5,416. Coltrane wrote “Blue Trane” and many other tunes at his home, which carries the National Historic Landmark distinction and now sits in despair.

“I still remember John Coltrane’s cousin, Mary Alexander, calling my office 23 years ago,” said Randall Baron, the historic preservation planner at the Philadelphia Historical Commission in City Hall. “She called and wanted to get the house recognized. We thought—well, he’s a very important figure, it wouldn’t take long to get the house designated and recognized in Philadelphia.”

Mary Lyerly Alexander, who inspired Coltrane’s tune, “Cousin Mary,” inherited ownership of Coltrane’s home when he passed away. “John bought this house for his mother, aunt and cousins.  He stayed here most of the time from 1952 to 1958,” Alexander said in a 2003 Philadelphia Inquirer article. “I want to renovate the house so that I can finish my years here.”

Local fans of ‘Trane” formed the John Coltrane Cultural Society to help preserve his legacy and the house. “About 25 years ago, we were part of the organization. I was one of the founders of the [society] with Mary Alexander and Sophie Stewart,” said Marilyn Jewett, co-founder of the John W. Coltrane Cultural Society. The organization dedicated years to preserving the John Coltrane house with the help of Alexander by raising funds for the house, maintaining archives, sponsoring concerts by established musicians in the backyard and holding workshops for children to learn about jazz.

“I painted the front [of the Coltrane House] years ago and I knew his cousin Mary, and in 2005 she wrangled 5K out of Adidas to donate to the Cultural Society,” Steve Powers, a friend of Mary Alexander, said in an e-mail. “Mary had dreamed of teaching kids jazz.”

On Oct. 27, 2004, Alexander sold the historic Coltrane house to Norman Gadson, a resident of Philadelphia. Gadson purchased the home for $100,000.  Alexander became ill and could no longer care for the house or continue her involvement with the John W. Coltrane Cultural Society.

After Gadson purchased the property, he began making repairs to the property to help preserve the home of John Coltrane. “He found the house in a certain level of disrepair,” said Melissa Jest, the neighborhood coordinator for the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and Field Representative for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  “He had a certain level of carpentry and by his own volition he made repairs to the property to stabilize for future renovation.”

Three years ago, the neighboring twin to Coltrane’s house caught fire. There was some damage to the Coltrane property because of the heavy smoke. “People used to just stay there with his cousin Mary.  Then there was fire that originated from the [other] house,” said Henry Stone, a worker at the Strawberry Mansion Green Driving Range, located across 33rd Street from Coltrane’s home. “All the musicians played there. I remember there were about 150 musicians there, way back in the day, it was really nice. It would be a historic movement to fix the house up now and a tribute to Mary Alexander,” said Stone.

Gadson struggled with repairs and maintenance on the house. He valued Coltrane and wanted to preserve his idol’s home. “It was a surprise to the family when Norman Gadson passed away suddenly,” said Jest. “He loved John Coltrane. He was a devotee and he understood what Coltrane meant to the world and his musical gift and not just for jazz but for all music.”

Since the death of Gadson, the house belongs to Gadson’s daughter. The neighborhood coordinator, Melissa Jest,  along with the Preservation Alliance, is helping the Gadson family identify resources and bring any technical assistance, information, evaluation of the property and advice.

“Gadson’s daughter is not at an age where she can make legal decisions necessary to do this type of planning,” said Jest. The Gadson family would like to see the house become a cultural center again, just as  Alexander had intended. The Gadsons are going through legal custody to get ownership of the house. “They want to be able to open up his home to as many people as possible. But again being novices at it, they are starting from the ground up and it may take awhile,” said Jest.

Many residents of Strawberry Mansion want to see the Coltrane House fixed and functional. Gail Clark, a general contractor in Strawberry Mansion and long-time resident of the area, believes the City of Philadelphia should help fund the repairs on the house. “A couple times that I was driving by, I can see people standing outside the home. I have never been inside, but there are always people there. The city should repair and fund it—it will help keep it historic,” Clark said.

Clark’s husband and contracting partner, Jerry Clark, wonders if anything will become of the property. “I don’t know anything about what’s going on with the Coltrane home. I have heard of him—his singing and all. No one has worked on that home. People come there but I don’t know what they are there for, there is always people just standing outside,” Jerry Clark said.

“I think Coltrane is the most important musician of all time.  It’s incredible how important he was to the city and how important this city was to him,” said Eric Miller, editor and publisher of MAGNET Magazine. “It’s hard to believe that his house is falling apart. It’s ridiculous. It wouldn’t take that much money to fix it up; it would be great for the neighborhood and for this city,” asserted Miller.

A mirror-speckled mosaic honoring Coltrane scrolls across a nearby row home on 1515 N. 33rd St. in Strawberry Mansion. “It would be a source of pride for the folks in the neighborhood to have such a strong musical legacy in the house.  There will be a lot of visitors discovering Strawberry Mansion because of a resource like this and I see it opening a lot of doors for the neighborhood,” said Jest.

Looking toward the future, the Gadson family wants to maintain the Coltrane legacy but does not have the financial means to do so. Bringing the remaining founders of the John W. Coltrane Cultural Society and the Gadson family together may help get state and city funding. Currently, these groups have non-profit entity, making it tax exempt.

“The reality is that the Gadson family must produce some kind of income stream for the house because taxes have to be paid and maintenance has to be done. If it turns into a cultural center, there may even need to be staff,” said Jest.

By fall 2010, the Preservation Alliance intends to have a phased work plan. Doing so can better secure and prepare for the damages to the house based on inclement weather patterns plus finding organizations and funding to help support the home. “We need to do something to protect the contributions that Coltrane has made to the world as a musician. If his house falls down or people forget where he came from it will be a shame and it shows the lack of respect we have for him,” Harold H. Palmer, resident of Philadelphia, wrote in a letter to President Obama.

“This city has a history of rebuilding itself,” said editor Eric Miller. “I think there is a greatness and importance to John Coltrane and the legacy of blues and jazz forums. Jazz pretty much evolved when he died and people are doing what he accomplished in so little time.”

Hopefully, with help from the City of Philadelphia and other organizations, John Coltrane will live forever in Strawberry Mansion through the house he once owned. “His house should be preserved by the National Park Service. John Coltrane deserves care by our city,” said Palmer.

______________________________________________________________________________

Strawberry Mansion: The View from the Street

By Danielle Bacher

Derrick Ford points to the corner of 32nd and Fountain.

“This corner is vicious. I shot a guy over there,” he said.

“Most of the people I did drugs with are still at it. Often people ask me did I even go to high school,” said Ford with a grin. “I say, ‘I went to school high.’”

Derrick Ford is the self-proclaimed “mayor” of North Philadelphia and he is known as “Rick” in Strawberry Mansion. Not only does he work for the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health, a funding source for substance abuse treatment, but he is also a licensed therapist and a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department’s “Heads Up” program, where he speaks out on the danger and reality of drugs.

He hosts a radio talk show, “This is Your Life,” and a television show, “From the Streets to the Streets,” and he is the founder and director of the Strawberry Mansion Athletic Association.

Although his resume is impressive, he wasn’t always on the right track. Marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, pills, guns, drugs and violence were all too common growing up in Strawberry Mansion.

“My mother was a single parent and my father was not really in our life,” said Ford, “I often tell people my first mistake started in sixth grade.” This was his first experience with cigarettes. He admits he inhaled his first drag because he had no purpose or vision back then. In seventh grade, he started using marijuana and pills. His curiosity for drugs increased in eighth and ninth grade. He moved to alcohol, cocaine and crack. “I dropped out of school at 16 years old. By then, I was eating out of dumpsters and sleeping on the streets,” said Ford.

“I got locked up over some petty bull—-,” Ford said with a groan. He recalled wearing a leather jacket, standing on the corner of 32nd and Fountain. An older woman called the police just as he fired his first shot. “I thought he was a dirty rotten scoundrel and I picked up my gun and fired a few shots. I wanted to blast him,” Ford said with a bit of hesitation, “but I didn’t kill him.”

A pervasive fear of drugs and gun violence threatens the way Strawberry Mansion lives day by day. “Everybody knew who was selling drugs,” said Ford. “We all were. Faces might change but walk to any corner and you can score something.”

Like most who get involved with drugs, problems with money and crime quickly followed for Ford.  “In a two-block radius, there was a lot of gun play, young guys shooting at each other. Folks didn’t feel safe here,” said Ford. “You couldn’t sit on your front porch and feel free. It was a war out there.”

“Things have died down since then,” said Ford. Residents are starting to feel safe again.

“There aren’t as many drugs anymore,” said Joseph Green, the owner of B&G Auto Tags on 1351 N. 29th St. “Everyone is happy to see a change it’s not like the way things used to be here with all the violence.”

I asked, “Why are people killing each other?”

“Why?” He paused for a moment. “We are killing each other over senseless murders. A lot of these guys have no education or family structure. There mother is on drugs and there father is on drugs or dead,” said Ford. “No one is there to enforce education.”

“Aren’t these kids in school?” I questioned.

Ford quickly replied: “No one is there to enforce education or explain the importance. They can get a gun in the streets of Philadelphia quicker than they can get a job. I call it genocide.”

Quick money is accessible but in actuality, residents are killing each other. When Ford was selling drugs, he admitted, he didn’t have respect for anyone. His job was only to sell drugs. “Folks here lost their lives over stupid gun play,” said Ford. “I found my mother on the floor dead.”

He watched his mother slowly die from alcohol and psychotropic drugs. She died at the age of 51 in 1993.  Ford’s mother lacked the knowledge about her disease and her addiction. He visits her grave once or twice a week and prays to God. He is adamant about recovering addiction because of his deceased mother and his own personal experiences.

“Things like death make people turn to the drugs and the crime,” said Ford.

Strawberry Mansion has one of the highest murder rates in the city. Out of 25 districts in Philadelphia, it is the second-highest murder rate, according to statistics generated by the Philadelphia Police Department in 2006.

“Drugs are one of many causes of murders”, said Ford. Out of Philadelphia’s 12,844 narcotic arrests, Strawberry Mansion is only outnumbered by three districts with 814 narcotic arrests in 2006, according to the Philadelphia CrimeBase.

Ford still remembers the last day he used drugs on Oct. 2, 1990. The events mark both the quietest day of his life and his spiritual awakening. He put himself into a recovery program and had a second chance at life.

He gives all his credit to God. He received his high school diploma in 1975, finished Community College in 1996 and got a master’s degree from Lincoln University in 2001.

Ford’s mission is to advocate for education, sobriety, respect and peace in his community.

Everybody in the neighborhood knew another influential man as “Pop the Cop,” but his real name was Warren L. Wiggins. He was a beat cop who was a father figure to all the kids in the community. “He taught me how to have respect and unity,” said Ford. Pop died of natural causes 20 years ago, but Pop’s memory is what is ingrained in Ford. “I try to live the legacy and to keep Pop’s dream alive.” Ford is finally doing what Pop taught him to do. He is leading by example.

Ford, who at one time was running from the law, now works collectively with the Philadelphia Police Department Narcotics Division. After his arrest in 1988, he remembers entering the courtroom and having the judge say: “Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you. If I ever see you again, you’ll be spending a considerable amount of time here.”

Ford held his head high with dignity and proudly told himself: “I will be drug free. I will not create havoc in the community anymore.”

Recently, one of Ford’s best friends, Miles Gray, died. He was educated, but he couldn’t stop doing drugs. “I walk in a funeral now and it’s a norm for me,” said Ford. His drive to help the community helps to prevent an early ending to his own life.

Even those residents in Strawberry Mansion who try to help their loved ones end up on the losing side of the difficult battle Ford fights.

Michael Lane, a former resident of Strawberry Mansion, received a telephone call in February that his daughter was in an unhealthy relationship with her boyfriend. In an attempt to protect his daughter, Lane ended up dying. The one shot in Lane’s forehead caused suffering for not only Lane’s family but also the community.

Theresa Ford, Derrick Ford’s sister, is a block captain on Van Pelt Street between Diamond and Susquehanna. She admitted that the crime has increased lately. “Every night there is something going on. It’s a problem. The cops come but it’s up to your neighbors to help out. I can’t do it all by myself.”

Ford said that he’s been off drugs for nearly 20 years, but he still sees what happens. “I can always tell when someone around here is buying drugs. There is a certain walk that an addict had to go and get drugs,” said Ford. “People from the mainline ride up around here to buy drugs. It’s easy, accessible and cheap. It’s a culture, a negative culture of something I want to change.”

But Ford can’t act alone. Drugs affect the lives of every one of the kids growing up in Strawberry Mansion. “I go into schools [with the Police Department’s “Heads Up” program] and students come up to me with their personal stories: “My father got killed selling drugs,” Ford said. “My mother is prostituting herself. Can you go talk with her?” The children want help.

As I rode in the front seat of the metallic Toyota, Ford pointed to one person after another whose lives are dominated by their cravings for drugs. At 29th and Diamond streets, his friend with whom he went to school continues to drink his life away. Another resident happened to kill six people at one time on the very same street.

Some people appear remarkably healthy. Others are sallow and looks like skeletons with hollow vacant eyes and papery skin. Still, they use  drugs. A former state trooper continues to smoke crack and use other drugs. He was lying on the steps of his house near 29th and Dauphin streets with clothes and personal items scattered over his entire body. He slowly inhaled the last of his cigarette.

Ford believes residents are afraid to do what’s right in fear of retaliation or in fear of the system failing them. “That’s what happens with our people, we look the other way,” said Ford

“This very moment life is moving rapidly. Folks are dying right now,” said Ford, holding back tears and his eyes red-rimmed from crying. “If I die today, I want my community to know I was a good guy.”

Until then, Ford continues to advocate for a better way of life, “I don’t ever want to go backwards.

______________________________________________________________________________

Strawberry Mansion: AIDS Awareness Month Kicks Off

A Philadelphia FIGHT flyer at the POS Pride table in Fairmont Park.

Dr. Pate A. Purvis, Jr. will turn 53 next month—at least, he hopes to. He has what his doctors feared in January 1985: Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV. He squeezes his brimming eyes shut, “what is killing me is not just the AIDS anymore” Dr. Purvis sighed. Two years ago, he was diagnosed with an invasive stage of cancer. So far, the best medicine for Dr. Purvis has been sharing his wisdom with the rest of his community in the City of Brotherly Love.

A rainbow-colored flag decorates the POS Pride booth, an organization for homosexual men who are HIV positive. The colorful cloth soars over the heads of men and women dancing to Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love,” that warbles through a loud speaker in Fairmont Park.  Philadelphia FIGHT (Field Initiating Group for HIV Trials) provides a supportive environment for men and women with HIV and AIDS in Philadelphia. Their vision is to unite people in the community, provide primary care and raise money to help victims of the deadly disease.

On Saturday, Philadelphia FIGHT and other non-profit organizations celebrated the kickoff of the 15th annual AIDS education month with a cookout in Fairmount Park. This event promoted awareness about HIV transmission and prevention on site at 33rd between Diamond and Oxford Streets in the Strawberry Mansion section of  North Philadelphia offering free BBQ, dancing, public speakers and free HIV tests.

POS Pride volunteers distribute brochures and contraceptives.

Twenty-eight years ago, the only question doctors could answer with certainty about HIV/AIDS was death. “Back in the early ‘80s, we didn’t have any tests for HIV.  We didn’t even know if it existed. We just knew if you got the disease, you were dead,” said Dr. Eric Lang, formerly with Temple University Hospital.

The disease was once known as GRID: Gay Related Immune Disease. “We thought it exclusively killed gay men back then. It was like getting the worst kind of cancer possible,” said Dr. Lang. Undeniably, Dr. Purvis is a black man who is gay. He readily admits to a life of promiscuity and sharing needles to get high. He smoked crack cocaine, used speed and stuck contaminated needles two or three times in his arm to get his daily high.

The face of AIDS is changing. Only 20 years ago, AIDS seemed only to affect drug addicts and homosexuals. “Not anymore,” said Dr. Purvis, the now Coordinator of the Peer and Volunteer Program at POS Pride.  AIDS is a growing disease that affects everyone.

“If we can support those members that are infected as well as affected, we can all come together as a community and eradicate this pandemic,” said Rev. Jeff Haskins of Unity Fellowship Church. “I’ve had this disease for 26 years and I’m still waiting until I get the cure,” he said.  The kick-off celebration in the Park was about Philadelphia coming together and helping each other in a time of need.

“I’ve been living with AIDS for 27 years and this is the first year we opened [the cookout] up to the public for everyone to get involved,” said Hassan Gibbs, the Philadelphia FIGHT Coordinator. Free food and fun provided an incentive people often need to show support.

“It’s sad to say, it’s all about getting something free these days. Organizations don’t have the grants to help everyone. Funding is hard to come by and people are so torn by money,” said Dr. Purvis.

With more budget cuts expected following Mayor Nutter’s announcement of the city’s five-year deficit reaching nearly $2-billion, HIV and AIDS organizations feel the effects of the financial crisis. “People are definitely fundraising at least six months out of the year. We actually started with zero dollars for this education month and raised $125,000 with the help of AACO [Aids Activities Coordinating Office] and other organizations,” said Juliet Fink, FIGHT Director of Education.

Some organizations are gearing up for the action. The City’s Department of Behavioral Health, which receives funding from the federal government to the city, pays organizations to take care of their clients. “Organizations get money for each client they take care of and we pay them for the service like Blue Cross and Blue Shield or any other insurance company,” said William Butler, HIV Care Specialist from Community Behavioral Health in Philadelphia.

The problem is that the patients are not always receiving enough money to support themselves. “We have to get people into treatment. Sometimes people come back three or four times but it’s not always guaranteed they are going to get money if they come back,” said William Butler.

“I’m not a millionaire; I’m a social worker,” said Dr. Purvis. He continues to empower individuals to advocate for themselves through education about the disease. “I’ve seen it all for a very long time. My whole life I have seen people with the disease,” said Dr. Purvis, blinking back tears. “I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Purvis explained that he once“kept asking God, why did this happen to me?” Purvis was in denial. After a few years, he started receiving SSI, the federally funded Supplemental Security Disability income grant. “It’s hard to live on SSI alone but a lot of HIV or AIDS patients are afraid of loosing their disability checks each month so they don’t work,” said Dr. Purvis.

After Dr. Purvis completed his Ph.D. at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, Ca in 2007, he received funding through SSD, or Social Security Disability. “It was a nightmare. I was audited for six months and one month I didn’t get any check. I was on no working income and it took the government 30 days to decide if they wanted to give me more money,” said Dr. Purvis.

AIDS has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 in the Philadelphia region according to figures from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. Sadly, it often bankrupts its victims before taking their lives

“I don’t want to sit at home and wait to die,” Dr. Purvis said. He wants to make a difference. The cutbacks in Philadelphia are hurting some HIV and AIDS victims. “There are many people who have never made it this far,” said Dr. Purvis, “People need to get out there and find ways to get funding and get better.”

Currently, the 2009 cutbacks in Philadelphia have affected HIV and AIDS funding with the biggest cuts coming from Washington D.C. and Harrisburg. “There isn’t enough money in the City of Philadelphia to cover the amount of people who have HIV or AIDS,” said Dr. Purvis.

“If you look through Fairmont Park today, you will see there are primarily African-Americans. That is no coincidence,” said Dr. Purvis. “All the organizations need to come together and provide for each other.” With funding and support from more organizations and the community, HIV and AIDS will be at the forefront for prevention awareness and funds.

Philadelphia FIGHT cookout 2009 set the precedent for what may become an annual event for not only HIV and AIDS victims, but also the wider community. “You want to educate the general population, not just to the people with the disease,” said Dr. Purvis, “I want people to live with hope not hopelessness.”

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One response to “Music & News Clips

  1. Fantastic web site. A lot of useful info here. I am sending it to a few pals ans also sharing in delicious. And obviously, thank you on your sweat!

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