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It may have been a good idea to bring a set of earplugs to the Beachland Ballroom Friday night as the aggressive chaos-inducing noise-rock of Lightning Bolt, METZ and Chomp emanated from the stage and penetrated concertgoers’ ears.
Cleveland’s own Chomp kicked off the night with Joe Boyer on vocals, Jeff Latimer on bass and Scott Reid on drums. Boyer’s voice ranged from melodic drifts to gravelly screams. Reid’s drumming reached a vomit-inducing high that did not deter him one bit except for a five second recovery period before delving into one of Chomp’s newest songs, “The Rational Anthem”. You can catch Chomp again at Mahall’s on April 30.
METZ hailing from Toronto took no time to create a sweat-filled haze over the crowd that literally fogged up lead singer Alex Edkin’s glasses. Edkin’s shredding matched bass player’s Chris Sloarch’s wild antics while drummer Hayden Menzies pounded away in a maniacal fashion. Edkin’s interactions was minimal but when prompted, the crowd responded back with mighty whooping before diving back into the mosh pit once a new song started.
Much anticipated headliner Lightning Bolt took to the stage – a rarity as their sets are usually performed on the ground surrounded by the crowd. Bassist Brian Gibson left the talking and crowd interaction up to drummer/vocalist Brian Chippendale as he stood off to the side quietly concentrating on his loops and tapping. Chippendale’s furious drumming threw concertgoers into a violent frenzy while he bellowed unintelligible lyrics into his masked microphone. Playing songs off their recently released album Fantasy Empire, it was not long before those in attendance mustered the courage to hop on stage and thrash along in usual Lightning Bolt fashion.
For April’s Sonic Sessions, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame brought glam rock group Foxygen to their main stage. Founded by duo Sam France and Jonthan Rado in 2005, the group has been touring in support of their album …And Star Power released in 2014. France’s unhinged dancing sprung him to the very edge of the stage to the screaming crowd while he and the equally enthusiastic back-up dancers kept up with the beat splaying their limbs wildly into the air. Rado focused on keyboards while occasionally standing on a chair to play guitar.
The group tore through their set with songs like “Hot Summer”, “Cannibal Holocaust”, and “Shuggie”. After a mock induction ceremony in honor of the Rock Hall’s Induction Week, Foxygen ended the night with a 2-song encore including crowd favorite “No Destruction” and “Everyone Needs Love”.
The show began with the extraordinary talent from Down Under, Alex Cameron, and his right-hand sax man, Roy Molloy. The duo impressed with synth-induced songs like “Happy Ending” and “Real Bad Lookin”. Molloy’s sax complimented Cameron’s Nick Cave-esque silky tenor and get-low-and-dirty dance moves.
Despite a meager crowd attendance at Tuesday night’s Reptar show at the Grog Shop, the Georgia, Athens-based band was able to fill the room with incredible sound, light and energy for the lucky show goers.The night was met with jokes, high fives and high-energy dancing as Ulicny belted out tunes like “Ice Black Sand” off of the recent release of Lurid Glow. During“No One Will Ever Love You” to which both he and saxophonist Walter “Bad Dog” Fancourt hopped off the stage to get close with the crowd. Keyboardist William Kennedy’s hair reached extraordinary heights as he headbanged his way through “Sea of Fertility”.
The 7 members also played songs off of their debut Body Faucets with favorite “Houseboat Babies”. The 2 song encore included a Kate Bush cover of “Hounds of Love” to which Ulicny joked “We will probably burn in hell for playing this song… WORTH IT.” The night ended with “Water Runs” as Ulicny sang off the stage surrounded by a mob of fans with their arms around each other singing along into the mic.
Omaha’s Icky Blossoms, led by singer Sarah Bohling, Nik Fackler, with Tilly and the Wall’s Derek Pressnall on guitar, warmed up the audience with their 80s electro-pop and punk-infused dream beats. With songs off of their self-titled 2013 release, including “Sex to the Devil” and “Cycle”, Bohling offered up her sweet vocals while Pressnall might have lost of a few pounds of sweat pummeling away on his guitar. During the punk-thrash “I Am”, Fackler howled into the mic with drummer Ryan Menchaca keeping the pace.
Icky Blossoms also unveiled a few new songs for their upcoming album including “In Folds” and the CSS-reminiscent “Living in Fiction”.
Blow Up The Moon is Blues Traveler’s 12th studio release. This latest offering sees the New Jersey jam band collaborate with a multitude of different artists, giving the band an opportunity to stretch its musical legs by experimenting with various musical genres. Hip hop, country, pop and reggae are all represented, with Blues Traveler pairing up with such acts as 3OH!3, Plain White T’s, Jewel and Hanson.
I would go as far as to call this effort a concept album, as the songs produced on this record bear very little resemblance to the band’s past efforts. I applaud Blues Traveler’s effort to step outside of themselves and try something new, however the result that is Blow Up The Moon is an almost unlistenable misstep.
The songs have almost no life to them. The band was aiming for a pop sound; and for better or worse, that’s what they got. The production on this album is so clean it’s almost sterile. There’s no depth in the sound of this record, and that’s what really hurts it. Blues Traveler is a jam band that benefits from an open space recording where you can hear the room. This album sounds like it was produced in a small isolated booth, with each performer going in and recording their parts separately. They trick up the vocals by adding auto-tuning and a chorus of anthem chants and “Oh oh ohs” (“Hurricane” and “Blow up the Moon”) that seem more fitting for an Old Navy commercial than a Blues Traveler record. The resulting product is a album that sounds sonically flat.
I found it difficult to get through Blow Up The Moon. Perhaps I am not the audience for this record, or perhaps I’m just stuck wishing the band would return to form. Brookvale Records recently released the first four records from Blue Traveler’s catalog, so fresh listens of those records really frame how different the band is from when they started. It would be nice to hear a new record from that band again.
Give a listen: “All The Way” (featuring Thomas Ian Nicholas)
If someone was handed a Charles Hill Jr Shootin’ Man vinyl record, they would be hard-pressed to locate the region or era from which it came. When you find out it’s a modern-day man from Cleveland, it will either draw you in or cause you to fold your arms and shoot a sideways glance. But this red-headed young man made a tried, tested and true traditional country and western album.
Each track has classic, well crafted songwriting, from the title track Shootin’ Man to Learnin’ To Get On With My Life (Without Lovin’ You). You can hear his self-professed influences from George Jones to Willie Nelson in his style of singing and the pining for days when this was the way you made a record. Charles has claimed his sound and bathes in the age-old sound that he clearly identifies himself with, while his band does their best to emulate the session musicians of that era, with Al Moss as a cornerstone on pedal steel, Ben Gmetro and Stelianos Simantiris (guitars), Chris Russo (drums) and Mike Allan (bass) filling out the rest of the record’s twangy sound.
My only issues with the album is that I would have liked the song order to be more aware of the flow. It starts a little slow and the gems of the album are more of a surprise when they show up than an expectation. Charles also gets a bit too timeless with his lyrics and I don’t always get the feeling he believes what he is singing; but songs like I Don’t Want to be Reminded and The Best Efforts absolutely ring true when he sings them. The faster songs, including the title track and Mouse Island are just fun, toe-tapping songs. The band respects where the music comes from over anything else, and they want this record to feel cemented in the canon of country and western music that shaped what they do.
If you want a record that helps the afternoon wind away, with life feeling a little slower, love full of pain and heartache, and your solutions involving whiskey, this album is for you.