Friday, December 23, 2016

A Christmas Present...

Illus. by Alessandra Briggs,

Our second collection of shorts and poems is going to be released on Amazon all through 2017. If you purchased a digital copy of Vol. 1, well congrats, because you're getting an update (or rather, several updates) that will be Vol. 2. Gratis. We're starting with a flash fiction and a poem, for now. A thank you for your support.

We've spoiled the titles of the new stories, and a ToC for you. Here's the Amazon link right here. We'll be putting the new stories up one-by-one, just because we thought it'd be fun. And we're brewing in our head a possibility to add a Vol. 3, but that's far, far away right now.

We'll announce when paperbacks are available (Vol. 1 paperbacks are not on Amazon) and where to buy them, likely toward the end of 2017. They'll be hanging around in indie bookstores in the New England area, and we're happy to ship them out directly if you message us here (currently Vol. 1 is available through here - $12 + shipping). Book signings, meet and greets, etc. etc. to come some months from now.


P.S. - Allie's cover is an illustration of "The Prisoner." We think you'll like.

Monday, November 28, 2016

This Wednesday - Newport Folk Fest Tics on Sale

It's true. This Wednesday. You might catch folkers next year like this guy:

Four guesses: C,S,N or Y?

...who happened to be incredible at this past summer's Newport Folk Fest.

So you know we're partial to this particular Fest. We might have something of a history with this one. And you can, too, but only if you're able to grab a ticket. (And be warned, they've been selling out within a day... except for Friday. So...)

Again, reminder: This Wed, Nov. 30th. 10 am Eastern Time. Click this kind of link to get to the Folk Fest site. And again, last July weekend in 2017: 28th-30th (Fri-Sun).

It's gonna be good, and more importantly, sold out. On your marks, get set...

Monday, November 21, 2016

Matthew Logan Vasquez "Returns" for Solo

Matthew Logan Vasquez - Solicitor Returns
No label
-out now
4 / 5

Let's cut to the chase for y'all: it's a good album. Now Austin-based rocker/writer Matthew Logan Vasquez, from Delta Spirit / Middle Brother fame has his solo album. And it's good. It took us a few listens to get into his slower pace on here, but it's grimy, it's deliberate swagger, it's confident and assertive. Some time back, Vasquez mentioned that he envisioned his Delta Spirit not as "Americana," but as a rock outfit. We think this is the album he envisioned when he said that (not their decent, but lyrically flawed 2012 Delta Spirit).

Is it still Americana? Is it just straight rock? Is it more country, even? We don't care at this point. Solicitor Returns may not have the crazy, jump-off-a-roof (in a somersault) vocals of Delta Spirit's 2006 EP, I Think I Found It (which is one of our favorite EPs - ever); but it lays in a Johnny-Cash-like groove, stripped down, emotive vocals, almost eschewing songwriting in favor of pure musicianship. And then we get gems like "Bound to Her," a synth-heavy, somber dirge that crushes you under the weight of its sober beauty. It's the kind of song that we'd never thought we'd dig into - trudging, simple chorus, nothing terribly fancy going on. But... yeah, it's gorgeous. "Black East River" is enjoyable as well, mostly because it throws back to those soulful vocals in his starting days, even though it seems like his crazy dynamics are all but gone from his songwriting. In any case, it is confident like we said, it's mature, it's music that doesn't seek to impress or dazzle. It's music that looks to crush you, and it does.

It's not the album we wanted. It's not the album we expected, either. But it's something honest, truthful, and just good. Pick it up; recommended.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

We're watching the election, and...

This story (a year old) is what we'd like to repost to you all:


Hold on. Be political. Don't give up. It's not too much, it's too important.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Phantogram: One Ephemeral New England Date

Phantogram's Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter. Photo (c) by Timothy Saccenti.
Boston House of Blues, Boston, MA. Fri. 10-21-16, Doors. 7pm, Show 8pm. $25-$45.

Electro-pop duo Phantogram has strikingly few dates in the New England area. In fact, they have just one, which is a shame, considering a good portion of their dates are selling out. We're going to make the trek to Boston for this one, because, well, they're releasing their aptly named album Three and we feel like electro-dancing our ass off. Possibly to a single like this one. This would be our first time catching Barthel and Carter, and we're certainly excited to feel the vibe of this kind of show. If it's anything like the bust-a-move-cause-you-gotta-groove Three, this one might happen to be a wholly tolerable (slam-your-drink-and-bring-your-dance) party. That's our forecast on this one; most likely we'll see y'all there.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Beware of Darkness' Sophomore So Sophomoric, We Ask If It's "Real"

Beware of Darkness - Are You Real?
Bright Antenna
- out Sept. 16
2.5 / 5

The LA emo rock trio Beware of Darkness has come out with a sophomore album we've been anticipating since 2013's debut LP, Orthodox. A few words about that one: it's a fantastic rocker. And now, onto Are You Real?: it's not.

The dozen songs here do rock, yes. Stylistically, musically, the guitars growl, the hooks groove, the beats pound and sway. But what holds us back from declaring their sophomore a satisfying rocker is the, erm, sophomoric lyrics and content. Are You Real? feels conceited, a bit self-indulgent, and more than a bit misogynistic. It suffers from what we're going to call the "We've arrived... now what?" syndrome of successful debut bands. "Summerdaze" actually lists off the delights of summer, "Sandy beaches / B**ches on top of you" etc. etc. We're generally not a fan of such childish excess, no.

Our least favorite track is the title track, "Are You Real?", which is an incredibly mean, vicious breakup track. It's heavily one-sided, cruel, and lacks any redeeming wisdom that one ostensibly gains from breakups and setbacks. It's, quite simply, inauthentic. Which is a shame, because musically, instrumentally, it's a decent little rocker. We enjoyed a few tracks, including "Surrender," which maybe rocks a little less, but is far more mature. Still, coming off of Orthodox, we were fairly blindsided, and certainly put off, by some of the foolishness here.

This is an album we'd expect high school boys to jam to all the time... until they grow up. Take a pass.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Much awaited: Unknown Mortal Orchestra at Fete, 7-28-16

We'd been keeping on top of Unknown Mortal Orchestra since their sophomore full-length, cleverly titled "II." We were initially on the fence as to whether we wanted to catch the Portland, Oregonian foursome - mostly because we'd just come off the Newport Folk Festival the previous weekend. But we admit: we had a good time of it at Fete in Providence.

Yes indeedy.

So, obviously the UMO played some cuts off their latest jam, Multi-Love. No surprise there. But what we enjoyed about this performance were two things: how adaptable their songs were. Yes, as enjoyable as listening to Multi-Love is (and it's certainly enjoyable), we really enjoyed the disco beat the group had given to many of their songs. And the extended keyboard jams. And the drum solos.

Which actually brings us to #2 on the list of things we loved: this lady (photo (c) Marie Amara).

Newcomer Amber Baker on the tricked-out disco drums.
We probably should've made her #1, but we like making surprises for y'all. Miss Baker on the explosive disco-shredding drums was possibly one of the funkiest things we've seen. Perhaps funkier than keyboardist Quincy McCrary's hair (though our photographer may somewhat disagree with us there). Baker can certainly handle her drumset, and we've got to make her out as a highlight of the night.

So yes, we were surprised how tight and dance-y this group can be. They played to a small crowd maybe a bit under 50 people, but they know their stuff. Funky, exploring, jammy, too - the only Mortal Orchestra that shouldn't go Unknown. That was kinda catchy, right? Well, probably not as catchy as their extended jam closer "Necessary Evil," but we'll have to live with it. Our verdict? Yes, yes and yes. Definitely worth the price of admission. Catch Unknown Mortal Orchestra at your soonest convenience.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Newport Folk Festival Review: Sunday

Joan Shelley (all photos (c) Matthew Keefer)
This was where we started off the third and final day of the Newport Folk Festival. She's actually the second act of the Harbor Stage, having missed the first one (whom we later discovered was an amazing highlight of the whole Folk Fest - Ian Fitzgerald with Smith and Weeden...). But here we buckled down for a bit, sat and enjoyed Joan Shelley's acoustic duo, nice, simple, sparse. Kind of a palate cleanser, musically speaking. Refreshing start to the day.

And if Joan Shelley's brand of folk is refreshing, then the Oh Hellos are just a knock-out, high-octane pounding of folk-rock and harmonies.

Maggie Heath of the Oh Hellos.
Not only do we love their songwriting and execution, but we love how they execute: just sheer craziness. Absolute havoc wrecked the stage, especially because of this shoeless banjo bandit:

Unidentified Acoustic Guitarist (UAG) and troublemaker Reagan Smith, a la banjo.
Here you see Mr. Smith just singing along. Most of the time, he was a blur to our camera for the Cain he was raising. So that's why he appears all nice and approachable now. Be warned.

But yes, the Oh Hellos are an entirely energetic bunch of a nigh-dozen musicians, and we do love them madly. Next is Glen Hansard, whom we've never caught live before. We think this photo makes a strong case for buying a pickguard for your guitar.

A beat up guitar, maybe some traveling shoes (lyric stolen from Mark Erelli).
Like Joan Shelley's set earlier in the day, Glen Hansard's performance was one of those stripped-down, bare, let's even say naked kind of performances that sometimes you just need. Sometimes it just takes some scribbled lyrics and some damned emotive vocals to bring you to it. And that's what Hansard has, in spades, even. Never mind that he gave a Bernie Sanders shout out, and was maybe 4% political compared to Father John Misty (which is still more political than normal); Hansard was one of those acts... let's say we were definitely glad we caught him. It was enjoyable, yes, but moreover powerful. (Plus, he sucked Elvis Costello into a tambourine cameo.)

These guys... now these guys we love.

John McCauley, 1/3 of Middle Brother.
Middle Brother made a fantastic return to the main stage this time at Newport. And not only the three of them (Deer Tick's McCauley, Delta Spirit's Matt Vasquez, and Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes), but a ton of cameos hopped aboard, too. Kam Franklin, lead singer for The Suffers, was around Newport all weekend, and got in some good spots, including one for Middle Brother; and Shovels and Rope was another who joined in later on. We'd like to post more photos of the trio, but we figured we had a pretty bad-arse one of Vasquez on Friday already, so here's one to Goldsmith:

Goldsmith, another 1/3 of Middle Brother.
Middle Brother unfortunately has no plans for another album... we asked Vasquez himself... but regardless, their collaboration is one of our after-the-fact Top Albums of 2011 (review here) because, quite frankly, we still listen to it too much. It's fantastic, and worth it on vinyl if you have a player.

One more stop! We know, we know; why does the fun ever have to end? Because all good things must come to an end, and all things must pass. But thanks much for stopping by, for supporting the blog with your curious eyes and clicks, and for throwing an occasional comment up there. We appreciate your time and energy (and fun), so without further ado, we figure...

Mr. Elvis Costello. (Who had all kinds of stage cameos.)

Here's lookin' at you.
We don't think there's much to say about Mr. Costello: you know him or you don't. You respect him or you don't. We, honestly, don't know his music much, but stayed for the whole set; it was good. He brought along female rock duo Larkin Poe, who's new album we listened to a little bit, and liked. But yes, words don't always convey that much. Basically: you had to have been there.

So goodbye! Thanks for stopping by! We'll catch you all next -

Bye bye!
Oh wait, it's the Alabama Shakes! Led by Brittany Howard! We bought their vinyl Sound and Color at the folk fest, and while it's not too bad, really now, you have to catch these powerful musicians live. Howard is a madwoman fighting her guitar most of the way through the set, slashing and soloing like... like... like this, really:

The old myth of "sell your soul to the devil... for a guitar." Worth it.
They are so talented and ridiculously tight live, especially Howard, that we kind of don't get why their album didn't grab us that deeply. But yes, catch them now, catch them live, and enjoy the raw power of rock goddess guitar shredding.

There. You knew we wouldn't let you down (too much). Thanks again, stop by sometime next week (we've got something special planned), and catch y'all next festival season,

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Newport Folk Festival Review: Saturday

We think this is as good a spot as any to wax wistful. Why not, right? Over the years, we've gone over what the Newport Folk Festival means to us: music, fans, artists, and rain on occasion. But this year was a little different.

It was Saturday morning, snoozing in the shade, where we were met by a fellow Newport Folk Fest photographer. She had missed the first day, and maybe was hoping to catch a familiar face when we felt the tap on our leg.

Imagine a quick "hey."

Or a pretty lengthy chat. We caught up, on life and on music, and crossed paths at a few of the stages. She's a medical student, and has on rare occasion written and photographed various concerts in the area. It was nice to catch another friendly face.

Which leads us to our next point, where Newport differs from other 'fests: it's a friendly environment. We'd spoken at length to the other photographers in the photo pit, and where there can be open animosity to get the best shot, Newport is different.

"People are polite. They move around and let you through." (Paraphrased.)

And there's something to be said about that, about a congenial environment where everyone's here to do their job, and there's an unspoken (or in several cases literally spoken) respect. And where does that respect come from? The top, of course.

There is great respect for the musicians at the show, respect for the fans who keep showing, and even though we've heard some frustrations that other photographers have had over the course of this weekend, there is respect there, too. For those in, and those running the photo pits. And that's something that doesn't just happen overnight, it doesn't just appear like a genie, it's something that, actually, we just noticed this year. And that respect is, yes, something we respect.

Anyway, enough sidetracking, we know. We've got photos and musical advice to get to. Our first photo for Saturday being Rayland Baxter (all photos (c) Matthew Keefer):

Rayland Baxter, main stage.

And our second photo is of Ruby Amanfu...

And Ruby Amanfu, Harbor stage.
Rayland Baxter is your fairly typical alt-rocker, opening the main stage, and Ruby Amanfu is your fairly atypical, almost soul-style singer on a side stage. Amanfu was a backup singer for Beyonce and has broken into her own career; Baxter was fine enough, but set us off in search of shade (where we met aforementioned photographer). We mention this because, yes, there are great acts that come to Newport. Doesn't mean we dig everything.
Note: the surprise cameo of Chris Ryan (from Deer Tick) and the not-shown cameo of Dennis Ryan (also Deer Tick) at Miss Amanfu's stage. These guys were cameo'ing every stage.

And speaking of cameos... we'd heard Kris Kristofferson had graced the Texas Gentleman's stage (who were the last signatures we'd picked up on Sunday). But we don't have photos of Mr. Kristofferson. We do, however, have photos of this howler:

Why, howdy.
Nathaniel Rateliff and his Night Sweats have returned to Newport to boogie away your blues. And they certainly had: playing a handful off their self-titled full-length, this set was everything we wanted from the Missourinian. They even orchestrated a sing-along to "Howling at the Moon," which, of course, is our favorite song off that LP.

The tragedy with having three incredible stages of music is having to jump around a lot. Our next stop was Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, aka Lady Lamb nee Aly Spaltro. Here's one of the diminutive singer:

We be jammin'.
Yes, she really is that adorable AWWWWW. Case in point:
"You guys [referring to the rhythm section] want to jam something so I can braid my hair?"
(They lay a beat. Then Spaltro proceeds to attempt braiding hair. Realizes not enough time to finish.)
Adorable, indeed. We still miss her a bit from a Providence show we'd caught her at some years back. Jammable, definitely indie-lyric'ed tunes to her.

But if you want a song that you know, that your neighbor knows, that everyone in the whole freaking tent knows... then you go to this old geezer.

The man who is Folk.
We don't anticipate you'll recognize him at first glance. So: three hints. First word: yummy sweet honey ____ cracker. Second word: country nexus, ____ville, Tennessee. Hint # 3...

"I'll light the fire, while / you place the flowers in the vase / that you bought today."

You don't even need to guess. The audience didn't need to guess; all they needed to do was sing along to the classics that Graham Nash helped pen. We already said that St. Paul and the Broken Bones was our pick of the whole festival... we think we lied a bit. He was our discovery of the festival, and a great one, too.

Graham Nash was the Newport Folk Festival. Hands down. With Shane Fontayne, they played some new, played some old, but mostly, they just played, and the audience sang along. It was a bit maddening that Mr. Nash was on the back stage, but that didn't really disturb us; it was a lot more intimate at that stage. A lot more enjoyable. Mr. Nash even quipped - "It's ironic that we - two Brits - are playing at a colonial fort initially intended to keep us out," (paraphrased, of course). And then Nash and Fontayne proceeded to play a song about immigration. On point, good sir.

We have one last highlight, which may be a bit of a let-down after the N of CSNY, but we have to tread here, because, quite frankly, he's pretty hilarious.

Jesus-attired economic preacher, here.
He adore Father John Misty. We like that he's sardonic, ironical, nonsensical. We like that he's a bit preachy, even, shooting himself in the foot for pointing out all the oil that goes into making his own vinyls (and for lambasting consumerism in general). We like him.

And you know, this is where we say... "but."

But no, no "but" here. Sure, there were a couple kids on the Pokemon Go during his set (whom we were tempted to chastise) and perhaps his solo output isn't as beautiful and velvety as the brief Fleet Foxes catalog. But we like to put it this way: Graham Nash is the protester of old. Father John Misty, then, is the hip hipster protester of new.

He's fighting the good fight, we feel (even if he is just a hipster of sorts) and for that, we give him props and last billing for Saturday. Well, that and he was the last act we caught (chronology counts for something).

That's it for Saturday! We're going to type up our Sunday review and round-up as soon as possible, that is, within the next 3 months certainly.
Back right soon!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Newport Folk Festival Review: Friday

Let's start at the end. There was soul. There was dancing. There was camaraderie, a vicious sunburn, and music, through and through. We'll say this, too: 2015's Newport Folk Fest was still our favorite of all the years. But there was something special, something different about this one, just from a personal point of view. It was different, different from all the other years we've been. But we're going to get to that on the Sunday post. Right now, we've got music to attend to.

We're going to start an hour into the 'Fest. We'd known a couple people partial to Basia Bulat, and figured we should check her out, get the low-down on this lass (all photos (c) Matthew Keefer).

Bulat on keyboard and occasional tambourine.
Bulat was groovy, jamming her keyboard on electric organ setting, charging the audience in her poptastical, erm, pop. We caught up with her a little later in the day by the main stage, and she was so pleasant and congenial, and even signed our Newport Folk Fest shirt (more on that later). #1 on our shirt, by the way.

Straight outta Chicago, IL, we caught the Fruit Bats on the Harbor Stage. We've heard the quintet described as "alt-country" and "folk rock," but we felt they were pretty straight rock to us, probably moreso than any other act we caught. Here's one of lead singer Eric D. Johnson:

Put yo' arm in the air like you just don't...
The crowd gave in to their song "Baby Bluebird," and yes, it really was pretty fantastic. Lotta applause. But the real hollerin' came right after, on the main stage.

The music gods decreed: "Let there be horns." And there were horns:

The horns.
"Let there be a funky bass." And there was a funky bass.

The bass.
And on the seventh beat, they decreed: "Let there be this guy."

Mr. Janeway, taking it away.
Coming on stage after their instrumental warm-up, Paul Janeway, of St. Paul and the Broken Bones, must've shook some hips out there. We can't mince words here: they were the highlight of all three days. St. Paul is as soulful as they get, from his thin hair to his corpulent stature to those amazing sequined shoes on his feet (rainbow stars, yes). He shook the stage, we shook our bodies, and he shook that $20 bill out of my wallet for their debut album - with a follow-up coming out in September. Our mouth is salivating trying to get our hands on that one.

We love this next act a lot, though we didn't really connect with his "Solicitor Returns" solo. Matthew Logan Vasquez has been a mainstay of the Newport stages for a handful of years now, and graced the Festival with a solo and Middle Brother performance. Friday was his solo stuff (including "People, Turn Around") which we liked, but were not crazy about. What did make us crazy, though...

MLV is in the building. And now you know.
Check out this amazing coat that Mr. Vasquez' wife made. It's something else, huh? In addition to "People, Turn Around," Matt Vasquez' performance was, of course, incredibly energetic, and he always has a stage presence. Now he has a coat to go with that stage presence (though it was certainly hot to don the thing that day).

We have a couple of quick, quick stops. One, Neko Case at the Case/Lang/Viers stage:

Ah yes, Neko.
Theirs was another album we didn't quite get into, though it has its good parts to it. Second stop: Ray Lamontagne. We'd heard a lot about him, but really... why?

It's not like Mr. Lamontagne has the stage presence of Flight of the Conchords. The Aussie duo's set was replete with humdrum deadpan humor, and we were surprised by these closers. Was there something we'd missed in their two seasons on HBO? We admit, we'd seen a few episodes and weren't pulled in, but here at Newport, Jemaine and Bret were in top form, improvising all kinds of schtick that you'd've appreciated mostly in person, but also if you caught the NPR stream of the performance. Some things you might not've caught were a time-altered photo of the duo to more appropriately perform "Father and Son," as well as Bret catching a cheapo disposable camera from a fan to take a photo of the audience for them.

The two were stark raving mad. In the most polite, Australian way. Here are some photos:

Jemaine Clement and...
...Bret McKenzie, the Flight of the Conchords.
They were spot-on and totally worth waiting through the traffic to catch. But still, our sequined soul-fedora goes off to St. Paul and the Broken Bones. So just keep that in mind.

That's our first day of our Newport Folk Festival coverage, come back at us later this week for Day II: The Revenge. (We didn't use that joke before, right?)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - at Fete in Providence, Plus Album Review

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - photo (c) Neil Krug
Fete Music Hall, Providence, RI. Thurs. 7-28-16, 7pm. $17, $20 door.
(Also at Sinclair in Boston , 7-27-16 - SOLD OUT)

This month as been CRAZY with music, just absolutely rotten with it, and we'd been wondering how we're going to catch up on Unknown Mortal Orchestra now that they've made their presences known in lil' Rhody (and now that they're officially on our radar, finally). But wonder no more: we're going. This quartet of electronic musicians balance the eclectic with the outright poppy, driving their choruses straight into your ear, all while taking the most circuitous routes through every crevice of electronica. What is that supposed to mean? We're not quite sure, but basically these guys invent their own groove, fashioned from some of those weirder "pet sounds" you might expect from dudes with an electronic ear. We are super excited to catch them in a couple days. And here's our review of their 2015 release.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Multi-Love
- out now
3.5 / 5

We're not going to lie: this is probably the lowest grade we've given to an album that we've spun up over a dozen times. Maybe even two dozen, in the less-than-month we've had it. Let's get straight to it, then: Unknown Mortal Orchestra's third studio album is just one [bleeping] groove. It really is. But we do have a few issues with it, which we'll get to.

But first...

Go listen to "Necessary Evil." It's the quietest song on this album of grooves, but it's also the best-written. It's got its own svelte horn hook, and isn't as flashy as their single "I Can't Keep Checking My Phone," but "Necessary Evil" is a highlight to our snobbish cultured ear. That single, "Phone," is a blast to listen to, but (and here's where we get critical) the chorus wears on quite a bit longer than it needs to. Other songs on this album also suffer from chronic-chorus-overuse, especially "Extreme Wealth and Casual Cruelty," and we feel that with a bit of a brush-up just lyrically, this could be an absolutely stunning album. As it is, it's incredibly fun, and a far different direction than on their previous full-length. Which is definitely something we like to see.

Go pick up this album, we're probably rating it a bit too low, and if you're in Providence (or have already scored tickets in Boston) check them out. And say "hi." Worth your money, and recommended.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Green River Festival, Sunday: And Still the Rain

Welcome back! It's been quite a while, hasn't it? This past week has been personally busy... blah blah blah, like y'all really care. You're here for the Green River Fest wrap-up, right?

Good. The right place, this is.

We're going to start at the campsite for Sunday. This conjunto was quite a pleasant morning surprise (photos (C) Matthew Keefer):

There's too many of them! Upstate Rubdown giving folks the low-down.
Upstate Rubdown outta New York State gave the campers a good wakey-wakey on Sunday. There were eight of them, and if you count real carefully, you'll notice we missed their acoustic guitarist (who would be way off to photo-left). This group had lovely harmonies that woke us up from our too-short sleep stupor, and was certainly a pleasant surprise. How sweet of them to serenade us!

The official start of the festival came at the folksy hands of Sonya Kitchell. We enjoyed her strong voice on the second stage, and more than appreciated the fact that her band sported a female bassist. Le sigh!

Sonya Kitchell plus bassist.
Speaking of lady-bassists, we've gotta cut through another act to get to someone we wanted to talk about. So, Kitchell: folksy lady. Winterpills: alt rock with a trumpet (not pictured).

Philip Price of Winterpills...
... and Winterpills' Flora Reed.
We're rushing through, we know. Apologies, regrets and profuse... apologies... that we don't have a whole lot to say about this little Northampton indie group, who've been around a bit more than a decade. We have important ground to cover. Very important. Vital, in fact, to our apparent obsession with talented female bassists, such as...

Kearney and Davis. Note: Kearney, avec no bass.
Bridget Kearney, bassist and songwriter of Lake Street Dive fame, came upon the Green River Fest with her fellow New England Conservatory alum Benjamin Lazar Davis. Their duo, which, if you're familiar with Lake Street Dive's new album (or previous album) might make you extremely excited, left us in a different place. Here's what we were thinking.
The duo of Kearney and Davis tended toward more cryptic songwriting. They were very low-key, quiet, and certainly a total change from the funk-disco-infused songs of Side Pony. It's not for everyone. We suspect it's not going to appeal to many people, quite frankly. But what we liked and appreciated about it was the vast depth and songwriting flexibility that both musicians displayed. This project, we're not going to shout and applaud from the rooftops (yet) but the musicians, we're expecting something deep and truly grand from them in the future. A total shift of gears that betokens deep curiosity about music. Here's a stream of their EP.
And speaking of curiosity, apparently Davis holds his cash in his guitar pickup rather than a wallet. A fifty, no less. Seriously, check our photo. It gave the guitar part of their otherworldly (or third-worldly, perhaps) twang.

We just have a couple more stops to the end. An exciting end we want to get to. We've got a quick stop at these massive shredders, first:

Danielle Nicole plus gent Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars.

We enjoyed the Allstars live, and though we're not too familiar with their studio discography (not familiar at all, to be quite frank) we had a blast watching Luther and Nicole shred the bejesus out of their instruments. She's also on a bass... sigh... just noticed that now. Could do a quick stop, a Trucks stop even, but we've got to be wrapping this up right soon. So let's just do that quick stop, though really, this never seems to stop the music...

Let it rain, let it rain...
Rain made an on-again, off-again, wait-on-again appearance throughout the day. It drenched us and made our under-prepared arse grumpy and disgruntled enough to call it an early day yesterday. But with rain, add a bit of funk (Big Sam's brand (TM)) and now you have a recipe for something truly great.

One soakin' good time, c.o. Big Sam.

We stopped by the second stage... actually, we were invited over by a fellow photographer, Andrzej Pilarczyk. Being of fair cheer and nearing the end of the festival, we came down (almost half-dragged) to Big Sam's Funky Nation and... well... the rest is history. More like memory - memorable. Big Sam knows his crowds, and knows that soaking wet, cold crowds need some hot funk in their bellies to warm them up. And we'll admit, the extended cover of "Uptown Funk" hit the spot, yes it did. But it wasn't one song, it wasn't a whole set even, it was just... the right moment for us. It was perhaps the one moment we're going to take away from this festival.

And likely these people will take it away, too:

Drenched and lovin' it.
That was the magic moment for us. The right music, the right ambiance (rain, that is) = the right moment. One of those moments that you'll take with you. Big Sam's Funky Nation... that one goes up on the wall.

Our takeaway of this festival? It'd be wrong to say we were disappointed with it, and yet, there were some disappointing things about it. One - Saturday went on scheduled until 11pm. If you want to catch anything at that hour, we strongly suggest either camping out overnight (get a camping pass!) or just living very, very nearby. Add to the lateness the rain factor, and we were certainly exhausted and grumpykins.

Two - we felt there was a good balance of acts, between new and established groups, but that they could've been spread through the schedule a bit more. Example? Everyone we came in contact with who liked music - and a few who couldn't give a care about music - we suggested they catch the Saturday of the Festival. With Dawes and Shakey Graves alone, these two hot, new acts were certainly a draw of that day among others (The Suffers, Shovels and Rope). It was a stacked, great day, even if we didn't stay for Dawes (who came on at 10 pm!) - but given our tastes, we felt it was a pretty hefty day, relative to the other two.

Those are our main criticisms. But look at this: the three stages are close enough together to foot to them, but far enough that none of the stages overwhelm the others. Good positioning. Also, compared to Newport (which we'll cover next week, we swear!) this is a small festival. It's got a great, more personal feel to it, and even from the audience you could get close enough to see the stage regardless of the act. We loved that closer, tight-knit feel of the Green River Festival. And don't forget, it was a fantastic price - a bargain for three days of music at $120 - half the price of Newport and not sold out within a few hours. So, if you're looking for a great, intimate and still outdoor festival, we advise you keep your eyes on Green River in '17. Happy Thirtieth, GRF! And many more returns. Catch you next year,

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Green River Festival, Saturday: And the Rain

Hello y'all and everyones.
So we're going to continue our Green River Festival review today, a day later than planned, but a day earlier than what was likely going to happen (due to procrastination). Sorry for the delay! When we last encountered our festival-going hero, the clouds were in the sky on a Friday night, threatening the sanctity of a good set of funk. The threat receded, and now we're back to catch a whole new day, a whole new set of photos (all (C) Matthew Keefer) and wholly new acts (to us) such as:

Lula Wiles, way before the rain.

This trio of young ladies, very recently graduated from Berklee, have a debut album out only a couple months ago. As many of you may tell, Lula Wiles are an acoustic string trio, and as you may surmise, they're deeply rooted in the Americana and Country genres. We're going to quickly wish them a fruitful sendoff, to wherever their fiddles may take them.

After these openers on the main stage,we have a quick little anecdote to relate about this guy:

You're still a #1 in our sexy list.
Gent's name is Anthony D'Amato, and he had a little story to relate to the audience (which we shall relate to y'all). Pandora, the internet radio service, has a complex algorithm for judging how to string along related songs - each song is rated 1-5 on different aspects, weird aspects, like vibrato vocals, or tinniness of strings, or what have you. His original (which we cannot recall, sadly) scored a paltry 1 of 5 points on the "sexy" meter, apparently.

Poor guy, but we can see why. He took about 10 minutes longer to tell this story than we did. Still a nice gent, but if he takes 15 minutes to tell a mildly amusing story on our date...

Actually, we fell head over heels for this lady, anyway. She's lovely, comes from a good musical lineage, and quite frankly knocked us off our feet. We're debating whether we should just put up a bunch of photos of her... well, here's one of Amy Helm.

Miss Amy Helm...
This lovely daughter of Levon was fantabulous. Absolutely amazing. We loved her strong vocals, her kinda country-ish twang to rock, her stage presence and... everything. Hers was the first act that really excited us, that got us into dancing mode. We've seen her around in Eastern Mass touring, and somewhat regretted not catching her. Now we definitely regret not catching her earlier.

She signed CDs, but didn't have records, alas... still, we got away with a brick-ton of photos of her. Good ones. We'd post more, but there are other acts to put up for y'all. Just one more, though, of her incredibly talented guitarist Daniel Littleton:

... and one of her Handsome Strangers, Mr. Littleton.
What a shredder. And now, moving on.

The next act on the main stage was an electric indie rock trio by the name of And The Kids. We caught them a little bit. They seemed to still be cutting their teeth on their instruments, to be quite honest, and didn't really get us going. A little too artsy, if you will. But the electric folk duo that came up next, we did like...

Never leave home without your Shovels and Rope.
Shovels and Rope were an incredibly passionate and energetic duo of Carry Hearst and Michael Trent. There were many times at the Newport Folk Festival that they'd performed, and we'd been elsewhere, and this was one of those times we were glad we didn't miss them. The stars finally aligned, we were able to stick around and catch some firey folk, and then...

As usual.
The skies, the skies are falling! It made like it wanted to rain... and then it rained. Of course. And we were ill-equipped for rain weather (tee shirt and shorts). Of course.

But it was still lovely weather for this Texan soul group. Lovely enough to get up and stay up.

We love Suffering in the rain, apparently.
After their group hurrah, the Texans got down to the boogie. Listening to their debut LP right now, we're convinced that you - yes YOU - should catch them live. That debut, as good as the songwriting is, really comes alive in person. There are some bands that rock the studio, some that rock the stage, and even though we like the self-titled debut, this 10-piece big band really knows their live crowds. Absolutely.

We have to give y'all a nice one of lead soul virtuoso Kam Franklin.

There's too much soul in this lady.
We had a tough, tough decision coming up. Being underprepared and overtired, there were three acts we still desperately wanted to catch: Shakey Graves, Sister Sparrow and the always enjoyable Dawes. But that would leave us off at about 11pm three hours from home and totally drenched and cold. So we stuck it out as far as we could - that is, for a few songs off the new Shakey Graves album. If we were that kind of blog, we'd go back and 4-Star the review - the album is a really fantastic example of a grower, easy to pass off, but hard to forget - but it's what we felt at the time. And though those feelings have certainly changed, certainly grown in admiration and appreciation, we could only stick it through about four (amazing) songs into the Graves' set.

Mr. Shakey Graves himself.
We'd met Alejandro Rose-Garcia backstage at Newport in 2014. He's a totally chill, congenial gent and signed our lovely shirt for us. And onstage, we'd forgotten how quirky and animated he could get. Joking with the crowd about lovers, self-lovers, giving off-the-cuff life advice, he's got a good rapport on stage. "They say music should be a solitary pursuit. Write on your own. But I think that's wrong, I think we can't be solitary creatures. The moment I realized that was an important and humbling one." This quote not actually quoted but totally paraphrased, except maybe for the last line.

Mr. Graves was our highlight of the day, except for Ms. Helm, who had a lucky set devoid of rain to boot. His indie rock is a la uber-indie: definitely an acquired taste. But we strongly suggest you check out that review we linked above, check out And the War Came, and then see him live to perform it. He and Helm were worth the price of admission for the day alone.

That's it (for Saturday)! We'll catch y'all tomorrow for the finisher. Thanks for stoppin' by *tilting cowboy hat*