Show Review:: Shakey Graves 5/27

Shakey Graves
Wednesday, May 27th, 2015
Crystal Ballroom; Portland, OR

A big “Howdy Ya’ll!“ came from the voice of Alejandro Rose-Garcia, better known as Shakey Graves, as he introduced himself with a friendly toothy grin to the audience on Wednesday night. The Pacific Northwest was granted a little dose of Southern Hospitality that night as the historic Crystal Ballroom was transformed into a sweaty, funky folk love fest. Strong scents of incense and body odor were the recipe for a lively audience with
nothing but smiles.

The singer-songwriter from Houston, TX has deemed himself to be more of a one-man show, but tonight he was accompanied by another backup guitarist and drummer beginning with lengthy guitar jams. The familiar track “House of Winston” began to play as constant foot stomping vibrations from the floor heightened.

The unexpected presence of the accompanied band helped to add a heavier rock n’ roll element compared to his otherwise more acoustic sounds of most of his music – especially in the upbeat track, “The Perfect Parts.” Shakey Graves also did a decent job of balancing his set out by slowing it down with mellow, romantic tracks such as “Proper Fence” as he recalled an anecdote of young love he found at the age of seventeen.

The charisma and musical ability was impossible to ignore in the slower, more sensitive songs like “If Not For You” while the quirky “Pansy Waltz” was a classic portrayal of Shakey Graves’ pure originality. You could see his spastic facial expressions and delicately flailing arms moving to the beat of the music; Alejandro’s signature raspy wails sounding just as perfect as if you were playing him from your own speakers.

Covering the majority of tracks off his most recent album, And The War Came, the absence of Esmé Patterson was the missing link in the nights set alongside Shakey Graves in delivering a wholesome performance. During their popular duet in “Dearly Departed,” the audience failed miserably trying to pick up the slack, singing along with her verse in the song. It was unfortunate as they both had recently performed together just days earlier at the Sasquatch! Music Festival.

The show concluded with a stripped down encore of the hit “Hard Wired,” a prime example of Shakey Graves’ genuine style as a musician. The night was a celebration of enjoying being alive filled with an explosion of heart-pumping, toe-tapping dancing. Shakey Graves oozes a hauntingly beautiful, rugged and raw element through his music and showmanship that is truly one of a kind.

Show Review:: Boston Calling May 2015, Day 2

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Written by Kara Kokinos and Eric Riley.
Photos by Eric Riley.

After Friday’s introduction to Boston Calling 2015, there was an incredible buzz for what Saturday’s artist would bring. What seemed to be an almost entirely new crowd in attendance held many diehard fans clamoring for spots on the barricades, while other attendees swarmed the various vendors, waiting for their favorite acts or looking for an opportunity to discover a new one. It was pretty easy to discern when fans were waiting for certain artists, specifically those waiting for Gerard Way while donning old My Chemical Romance tees, or the Marina and the Diamonds fans dressed in glimmering neon and glitter. But, as clear (and, to be totally honest, kind of humorous) as it was, it was a solid example of what has made Boston Calling so successful over these last few years – its diversity. A staple of the festival has been its clear effort to cater to music fans of all tastes.

One of Boston’s many basement bands, Krill, were first to open Day Two. These punk darlings had an amazing energy and filled City Hall Plaza with their unapologetically aggressive sound as soon as their set began. The band was a well-oiled machine, though its members were noticeably a bit unsure how to handle playing such a big stage, both literally and figuratively. ( something they even tweeted about here).  The young trio, while fresh-faced and eager, acted as true professionals, captivating in a way even some of the weekend’s senior acts couldn’t quite match. Packed with heavy reverb and harsh guitars, comparisons were made to Tame Impala’s set from the previous night.

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Day Two had no shortage of diversity, and from the earliest moments of the day, the crowd devoured it. DMA’S Oasis-like sound gave the shoegazers something to sway to, while Gerard Way [& the Hormones] showcased the performer’s musical range, transforming from emo-scene royalty to a glam-pop all star. His set was a standout of the day, but more important than his music was his message, on multiple occasions taking time between songs to speak about the need for acceptance between all people, no matter their gender, their sexuality, their race, class, or health. It was a beautiful example of an artist recognizing their platform and taking advantage of it to do something positive.

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Much like Tove Lo, newcomer (the third performer of the afternoon) was a hidden gem within the lineup. A bundle of energy bounding across the stage, she performed like a headliner and owned the audience for every moment she could. The former had the disadvantage of following Run the Jewels’ crazed set, so there were some in attendance who say she fell victim to some slight eclipsing. The one-two punch of Marina and the Diamonds followed by St. Vincent was arguably the best pairing of the weekend, showing the two different sides of theatricality.

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With Marina, her trademark blend of her operatic voice and sweet-toothed sound was a real treat, capturing everyone’s attention before opening song “Bubblegum Bitch” even kicked off. She was a dog off of its leash, exploring every inch of the stage and running wild. On the opposite side of the coin was St. Vincent – equally theatrical, but far more staged than improvised. Each movement was planned, from things as obvious as their entrance onto the stage and choreographed guitar solos to things as minimal as reaching for a guitar pick. The performers acted as marionettes gradually cutting their strings before finally gaining their freedom as the set came to a close. Vincent (Annie Clark) played the part beautifully, transitioning from a rigid, brittle wind-up doll during introductory “Birth in Reverse” into an energetic rock star by the end, eventually falling into the crowd and collapsing onto the stage floor. It was a performance in every sense of the word, and without question one of the best I’ve seen on any stage.

Show Review:: The Used 4/28

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The Used with Every Time I Die, Marmozets, & The Eeries
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Upstate Concert Hall; Clifton Park, NY

I’m going to be pretty blunt here – at the time I was writing this, Age of Ultron came out in just about two days, so I was finding it pretty difficult to be excited over anything else. But, that doesn’t mean it was impossible. For instance, say, hypothetically, one of my favorite bands from high school was playing a show a few miles away. That would do the trick. Besides, by the time door opened, there were still, like, 48 more hours before The Avengers premiere – might as well kill some time, eh?

All comic-based sarcasm aside, this was a show that had been on my radar for some time; The Used are screamo royalty, while Every Time I Die have been on my “must-see” list for ages. I had heard rumblings about Marmozets here and there, and opener The Eeries were one of those bands allowing me a fresh, new first impression. Kicking off the show, they made a fast statement.

Taking the stage promptly at 7:30, the LA four-piece entered under low lights with The Addams Family theme song pumping through the PA system. Eerie indeed. It wasn’t much into their set before they began to turn heads, their music a blend of Californian
surf-rock and frenzied punk. If The Pink Spiders and old-school Weezer spent a
weekend together in Long Beach, you’d get The Eeries.

It took a bit of time before the venue started to fill up, so those who missed The Eeries had some bad luck. But anyone who was late for Marmozets next seriously missed out.

Pegged as “Britain’s most exciting young band” by Kerrang, they upheld this reputation. Raw, sharp, and bone-shaking, their time onstage was intense. While their accents may have sounded proper, their performance was far from upright or polite. Becca MacIntyre’s vocals were fierce and feral, while support from the band was just as untamed.

Every Time I Die have made a second home for themselves in the Albany area. Hailing from Buffalo, playing in the Capitol Region is still, somewhat, a hometown show. And they made sure to give their neighbors a treat. From start to finish, they held their energy and intensity at an 11 and showed that, for as glad as we were to have them back, they were equally glad to be there.

Before they played, a few press and venue people were standing off to the side, and I was able to catch a glimpse of The Used’s setlist. With the exception of “Cry” and “Revolution,” the bulk of the night would consist of the first two albums. No offense to the later albums, but those two are unmatchable. It’s probably more about when I first heard them rather than the albums themselves, but opening the night with “Maybe Memories” brought on a flood of awesome high school experience.

Though they played a relatively short set (12 songs, as a headliner), they made the best of it. Or, you could say, they savored every moment of it. *crickets* “The Taste of Ink,” arguably their most recognizable track, was one of the true highlights of the night – performed perfectly, with a huge crowd response. Where the chorus is an anthemic singalong, closer “A Box Full of Sharp Objects” matched the former’s energy, but instead of the audience singing McCracken’s words back to him, they erupted into a three-minute
hurricane of noise and vigor to conclude the night.

The Used have been performing for more than a decade, and I’ve been lucky enough to see them at various points during their career – back on the Taste of Chaos Tour, a year or two later on the Get A Life Tour, a few times on Warped, last year with Taking Back Sunday, and then again on Tuesday, and they’re a band that just gets continues to get stronger.

Setlist; 04/28/2015.
Maybe Memories
Take It Away
The Bird and the Worm
Listening
Cry
I Caught Fire
The Taste of Ink
All That I’ve Got
Revolution
On My Own
Pretty Handsome Awkward
A Box Full Of Sharp Objects

Show Review:: Circa Survive 5/2

Circa Survive with Balance and Composure & CHON
Saturday, May 2nd, 2015
Upstate Concert Hall; Clifton Park, NY

On what was being talked about as “the greatest day in sports history” (something about some important horse boxing match or something?), there was a possibility for other events to be put on the backburner. Luckily, nothing happening that day interested me more than having the chance to see one of the most phenomenal acts around, a week after their debut album turns 10 years old.

Before the headliner, a pair of impressive openers each had some time to do their thing. First up was CHON, a four-piece from San Diego that took over the crowd without saying a word. I’ve never really been one for instrumental “jam bands” or whatever you’d like to call them, but while they may not be my thing, I will give credit when and where credit is due. And this is a prime example. When the group first started playing, there were those in the crowd momentarily set back by the lack of lead vocals, but before long,
they joined in with the [surprisingly large and loyal] preexisting fanbase, dancing and swaying along. Sometimes it can be difficult for an opening act to make a mark, especially on a bill with such a beloved headliner. However, being a young, experimental instrumental band with a surplus of talent and the confidence to match, CHON managed nicely.

For Balance and Composure, winning over the crowd wasn’t too looming of a task. Though they weren’t the lead on the bill, their fans were noticeably present, with the same passion and loyalty as if they were the top spot. For as strong as the band’s set began, their conclusion was where everything seemed to be taken to the next level. As their time ran down, they began to spiral down into a calculated dismantling of the stage – distorted guitars dragged from neck-to-body across monitors, the drum kit taking a further beating, and vocalist Jon Simmons belting the remainder of the closing song from his knees, concluding in the fetal position before promptly leaving the stage. It was a powerful finale, and one that was fitting of the evening.

As I mentioned earlier, Circa Survive are a force to be reckoned with. Their albums have been consistently, even increasingly extraordinary throughout their decade-long tenure, and the music’s translation to their live show does it plenty of favors.

Kicking off the night with two consecutive songs from their latest record, Descensus, was a treat for both new fans and diehards. Fans could experience these songs that they hadn’t gotten to the last time around, while knowing there were still the staples to come later (for example, “Holding Someone’s Hair Back” followed immediately by “In the Morning and Amazing…”). It didn’t really matter what album the band chose to pick from, because there wasn’t much potential for disappointment.

Back when I reviewed Descensus, I said some things that could probably hold true not only for that record, but for the band and its’ live show. I mentioned that, at this point in their career, they still find ways to do new things, go further, reach higher levels, yet still stick to what they do best. I also mentioned that this is probably the strongest Circa Survive has ever been. And, with Saturday night as another reference, I’m very confident in that statement.

Setlist:
Child of the Desert
Schema
Glass Arrows
Holding Someone’s Hair Back
In the Morning and Amazing…
Strange Terrain
The Great Golden Baby
The Greatest Lie
Sharp Practice
Through the Desert Alone
Only the Sun
Phantom
In Fear and Faith
The Difference Between Medicine and Poison is in the Dose
Nesting Dolls

Show Review:: Zombie 5 Tour 4/6

The Devil Wears Prada, Born Of Osiris, The Word Alive, Secrets
Baltimore Soundstage – Baltimore, MD
Monday, April 6th, 2015
Review by Caitlyn Willard

Baltimore Soundstage was filled with anxious fans ready to see the “Zombie 5 Tour”, a celebration of The Devil Wears Prada’s Zombie EP which was released five years ago. Although most were there to see TDWP, plenty were just as excited for the openers: SECRETS, Born of Osiris, and The Word Alive.

SECRETS did a great job opening and were able to get the crowd energized for what would be a memorable night. Frontman Aaron Melzer took command of the stage as he crushed heavier tunes like ‘The Oath’ and ‘Artist Vs. Who?’. Clean vocalist/ guitarist Richard Rogers’ vocals intertwined beautifully with Melzer’s screams and he even stepped away from his guitar for ‘Dance of the Dead’ which brought the focus to his vocal abilities. SECRETS closed the night with ‘Live Together, Die Alone’ which really brought the crowd into high gear, and put a massive smile onto Melzer’s face.

Next up was, Born of Osiris, hailing from Chicago, IL. The quintet started the night with “Divergency” and two mosh pits began to open as the song progressed. There were obviously a decent amount of fans in attendance as the crowd began to get rowdy. Guitarist, Lee Mckinney, captivated the audience with his incredible guitar solos throughout their set. I have never seen Born of Osiris play before, but the group left me very impressed with their performance, finishing off their night with “Machine”.

By the time The Word Alive stormed onto the stage, the crowd had probably doubled in size.  Frontman, Telle Smith’s presence was infectious and the crowd went crazy as soon as he stepped on stage. Smith would change from high shrieks to burly growls in an instant, showing off the control he has over his voice. Guitarists Zack Hanson & Tony Pizutti were musically in sync throughout the night along with drummer, Luke Holland, who is always a pleasure to see perform. ‘2012’ was the most intense song of their set that night, the crowd started a massive circle pit which later turned into multiple mosh pits. TWA finished their set with crowd favorite ‘Life Cycles’, which had Telle jumping into the crowd, leaving fans with a night to remember.

The lights dimmed and the signature logo lit up, The Devil Wears Prada made their way on to stage, ready to play for a very eager crowd. They started off with a bang, heading straight into ‘Assistant To The Regional Manager’. TDWP played for a little over an hour straight without even stopping to take a break. That time was filled with an abundance of crowd surfers, crowd sing-a-longs, and massive pits. Prada played a variety of older songs like ‘Reptar: King of The Ozone’ and ‘Hey John, What’s Your Name Again?’ which left the die hard fans very pleased. Of course the night also included ‘Zombie EP’ being played front to back for the first time ever. Fans were also delighted to hear a brand new track that is yet to be released. Prada left the stage, but quickly came back out to perform an encore that consisted of “ Born to Lose” and “Danger: Wildman”. TDWP gave their all into their performance and the crowd gave them the same energy back.

Show Review:: Cartel 4/22

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Cartel
Baltimore Soundstage – Baltimore, MD
Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015
Review and photos by Caitlyn Willard.

Cartel recently came to Baltimore to celebrate the anniversary release of their debut album Chroma, which was released 10 years ago (CRAZY!). They played to an almost sold out room, full of fans waiting to relive their early teenage years. The band also brought along with them Hit the Lights, TEAM*, and Driver Friendly.

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Driver Friendly, who hail from Austin, TX, were the first act to play. Driver Friendly is fairly new to the scene, having only been around since 2012, but have already opened for bigger names such as Motion City Soundtrack, Relient K, and now, Cartel. The first time I saw them was during Warped Tour 2013 and I’ve been a fan ever since. With an incredibly energetic live presence, the band had the attention of everyone in the room. Driver Friendly even played a cover of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” which had the crowd dancing and singing along. This is a band that definitely shows a lot of promise.

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TEAM* was up next. The band, which started in 2013 includes two past members of Forever the Sickest Kids, Caleb Turman on vocals and Rico Garcia on drums. Their music had an indie/beachy sound with a mix of rock and was very catchy. The crowd seemed to enjoy them and with the fans from some of the members past work, I’m sure they’ll start building a solid fan base soon.

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Hit the Lights, like Cartel, has also been in the scene for many years and had a solid fan base in the crowd. Opening their set with their new song “Fucked Up Kids” from the latest release Summer Bones, the band had great energy throughout their whole set. It was clear that the energy in the room really began to build as Hit the Lights began playing some of their older songs such as “Stay Out” and “Drop the Girl” and closed their set with fan favorite, “Body Bag”.

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It was now time for the band of the night. Cartel opened with the first song off Chroma, “Say Anything (Else),” and the venue instantly exploded. Their set included every song from Chroma, front to back. It was clear that this album was very influential to the fans in crowd, as it is to us over at Lucy Out Loud. Every person sang their hearts out to each song along with the band. At the end of “Burn This City,” Cartel even stopped playing the last verse so the roomed was filled with nothing but the audience singing the words back to them. In the middle of the set vocalist, Will Pugh, came out on stage out by himself to play a very intimate performance of “Save Us.” This might have been my favorite moment of the night and some parts honestly gave me goosebumps. The energizing set concluded with “Q” and “A.”

For the encore, Cartel played a couple fan favorites including “The Fortunate” and “The Perfect Mistake”. The crowd gave their all from beginning to end and it was certainly a night to remember.

Show Review:: Motion City Soundtrack 2/17

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Motion City Soundtrack
Hawthorne Theatre – Portland, OR
Monday, February 17th 2015

Motion City Soundtrack made a stop in Portland for their 10th year
Anniversary tour in celebration of the 2005 album, Commit This To Memory. It was only appropriate that the small,
intimate venue of the Hawthorne Theatre hosted this event giving a subtle nod
to the nostalgic feel of small, underage emo-punk shows despite the nights
“sold out” status.

Lead singer William Beckett of the band The Academy Is… joined along
as the opener belting out classic emo pop hits from the bands old days as well
as his own work deriving from his solo career. Motion City Soundtrack put on an
incredibly electric performance from the start coming greatly from the
enthusiastic keyboardist, Jesse Johnson, who was head banging
uncontrollably throughout the show and at one point was whacking a cowbell like
nobodies business. The overall onstage chemistry of all the band mates was something to be
admired and caused a rowdy atmosphere among the crowd.

While performing the Commit This To Memory album in its entirety, the group reminded
everyone how relevant their music still is today. The show came to a climax as
the most beloved sing-along classics “L.G. FUAD”, “When You’re Around”, and
popular “Everything Is Alright” put the venue in a state of bliss. Motion City
brought just about everything anyone could ever want in a good show; a long set
running more than two hours, minimal breaks between songs, and a consistent
on-stage energy that brought you alive.

Personally only being 13 years old at the time of their album release,
it wasn’t surprising that most of the audience deemed to be of an older crowd,
and long time fans of the Minneapolis born group. Constant sing-a-longs were
unavoidable for the majority of tracks as their signature catchy pop/punk
melodies have been engrained in their fans’ minds over time.

I felt I was channeling my 15 year old self during its entirety achingly
wishing that jelly bracelets and Hot Topic would make a mainstream comeback.
Among the other iconic emo-pop bands of the early 2000’s such as Taking Back
Sunday, All-American Rejects and Yellowcard, it is easy to forget about how
those dusty mixed CD’s stashed away under your bed or drawers truly influenced
your overdramatic teenage angst years and played as a soundtrack to your life.

Motion City proved that since their first performance back in 1998,
their music is ageless and still pertinent to everyone young or old. You could
feel the lead singer Justin Pierre’s pure emotional connection he continues to
possess behind his lyrics and music even though he’s played them a million
times; this made for a deeply sentimental performance.  

The band came back with an encore of the care-free tracks “The Future
Freaks Me Out” and “My Favorite Accident” that satisfied the fan in all of us. Once the lights came on, it was back to reality as everyone put their childhood memories to rest.

Written by: Kelsey Rzepecki

Show Review:: Bad Suns 1/29

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Bad Suns
Thursday, January 29th 2015
Hawthorne Theatre; Portland, OR.
with Maudlin Strangers and Coasts

In the historic, intimate venue located in the notorious hipster Hawthorne
neighborhood in Portland, the indie rock Los Angeles group, Bad Suns, made a
stop in Oregon on tour to celebrate their first album Language & Perspective released in August 2014. This young
group aging from 19-22 years old prove to possess a strong perspective
developing a distinctive, signature sound feeding off eclectic 70’s and 80’s
sounds that contribute to the catchiness of their music.

Not well versed in their music, I was going into the show with an open mind and
ear as a friend of mine shared with me how this band helped her immensely when
going through a rough break-up in the past month. I was skeptical based off
their catchy single “Salt” I kept hearing on the alternative radio station in
Portland that they have the potential to be a one hit wonder type of band but
nonetheless I was hopeful and eager to hear them in person.

The opening bands Maudlin Strangers and Coasts both shared
similar music styles setting the tone with their heavy indie rock sounds that
automatically sent a fun energy to the audience that you couldn’t help but move
to. The running time of the show was extremely efficient with minimal breaks
between sets which was a nice change as opposed to the long hours of delays
in-between band transitions that almost always occurs in bigger venues and more
known headliners. The homey and vintage feel of the venue made for an extremely
personal unique experience for concert go-ers. It was apparent their music
reaches a wide range of demographics with an all ages show ranging from middle
school aged to those in their late 40’s and 50’s.

Opening with their hit, “Cardiac Arrest”, the Bad Suns emitted a charismatic
and high energy performance with a running list of only 11 songs from their
debut album, they made sure to make every song count. They rarely took any
breaks, keeping the audience on their feet and moving for the entirety of their
performance.

Their song “Dancing On Quicksand” deemed to be one of the most personal and
emotional performances compared to the others coming from vocalist, Christo
Bowman. Although the free-spirited, fun-loving vibe is their staple, they
disguise it with blending personal life experiences lyrically making for a
wholesome song track after track.

They wrapped up the show with an encore performance playing their popular
single “Salt” that proved to be the climax of the show and what the audience
had clearly been waiting for. It was clear the passion band members had feeding
off the vibe of the audience. Bad Suns possess a type of multi-faceted sound
that is unique and difficult to ignore as the show steadily consisted of a full
on dance party among the crowd.

Thinking back on the performance, Bad Suns proved they are more than a one hit
wonder as the support of their fans was apparent. Their distinct sound and
smart composition of their music promises that although young and new to the
music game, they possess the tools to become a strong force to the indie rock
genre.

Written by: Kelsey Rzepecki

{Photo taken from the band’s Facebook}