TVD Cleveland

TVD Live: Against Me! at the House of Blues, 6/28

On Sunday night, after Against Me! played a killer 20+ song set, I thought it appropriate to wait outside for about 2 hours for a chance to meet the band. How many times in my life was I going to be able to meet a band I respected so much and had followed for years?

The buzz from the show was still ringing in our ears and in our veins as people perched on the sidewalks near the tour buses. When Laura Jane Grace finally came out, she was greeted with hugs, gratitude, and stories of personal turmoil and bravery. Inge Johansson and Atom Willard also came out to greet fans. When asked how he felt about the Cleveland crowd, Willard said, “This crowd, the energy was so high… you could feel it, you know? And we’re really receptive to that.” This was a perfect explanation of the night, because both the audience at the House of Blues and Against Me! gave it their all.

Donning a “Gender is Over” tank, Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace took center stage, her powerful presence invoking deafening hollering from the crowd and clenched fists pumping in the air as the band opened their set with “Unconditional Love.” Grace beamed at the throng letting the cheers soak in and energize her—wide-eyed and wild-haired, strumming her guitar as she paced the stage. Bassist Inge Johansson and drummer Atom Willard matched Grace’s intensity while guitarist James Bowman took a calmer approach.

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TVD New Orleans

TVD Recommends: Charlie Dennard at Chickie Wah Wah, 7/3

Keyboardist Charlie Dennard will be celebrating the release of his latest project Friday night at Chickie Wah Wah.

Regular readers of TVD will recognize Dennard’s name from my coverage of his first solo release, last year’s From Brazil To New Orleans. The new record is also a return to his roots playing Hammond B-3 in the organ trio setting. After fifteen years touring the globe with the Cirque Du Soleil, Dennard is back in New Orleans. Five O’clock Charlie was also the name of a band he led in the 1990s.

This new recording, Five O’clock Charlie, demonstrates the depth of his musical talent since it is so different from his first effort, which mined connections between two of the musical capitals of the world.

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The TVD Storefront

Paul Williams,
The TVD Interview

I was brushing my teeth the other night when I had a “GREAT IDEA” about how to intro this interview. Writers: you already know how this went down. 

I had been spending a lot of time with these hazy childhood memories of Paul Williams on The Muppet Show, his most famous songs running through my head. Something clicked. YES! I finished brushing my teeth, washed my face, got a drink of water, sat down at my desk and it was… gone! It was like someone had wiped that area of my pre-frontal lobe clean.

I racked my brain. Was it something about his unlikely stardom? No… What about how he champions aspiring songwriters as President and Chairman of the Board of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)? No, that wasn’t it either. Was it something about that guy who made that documentary about how he thought Paul Williams was dead? Nah, but that’s a great story. Okay, it had to be something about him winning the 2014 Album of the Year Grammy with Daft Punk. No, I couldn’t find a thread. I was furious with myself. The “GREAT IDEA” was gone.

Then I remembered something from talking with Paul. I put my head back and I drifted down into that region of near-sleep where dream thoughts percolate and vanish when you hear a noise and you come to. My dog barked, and I opened my eyes. 

Paul Williams would say that this is the most important part of the creative process: letting go and being optimistic that the right thing will come, even if it’s not the thing you thought you wanted. Even if what you end up with is nothing like what you pictured (and then spaced out on) while brushing your teeth, sometimes it works out all right.

My germ of a “GREAT IDEA” wasn’t meant to be. And that’s okay, because Paul Williams says so. Williams had so much more to say, of course; we talked about his fascinating life, his love of helping people (he’s a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor as well), and his passion for showing a digital generation the true value of music. 

You’ve said that you started writing music as a way to “journal” your experiences from very early on. Do you remember what first inspired you to express yourself in that way?

You know, I’ve always said that songwriting is a gift. I started out wanting to be an actor. But I was [also] one of these tiny little kids who sang “Danny Boy” for his dad. Well, when I was thirteen, my dad was killed in a car wreck. At that point, it’s like music disappeared out of my life. I quit singing, and all I wanted to do was be an actor. At the time, my mother shipped me off to live with an aunt and an uncle that I didn’t know in Long Beach. My mother was told she couldn’t afford both of us, so she kept my little brother and so I was shipped off. At that point, I wanted to be an actor. Obviously, I wanted to be somebody other than myself at that time.

But when the acting career fizzled when I was around twenty-seven… I’d done a couple of movies I did—I did one called The Loved One with John Gielgud. It’s a very interesting picture about the funeral business. Then I did a movie called The Chase, and I thought that was going to be a big break for me; I had a few lines in it. But when it was released, I saw that my part in the movie was cut out! So, there I was with no money, depressed, and no career; the phone stopped ringing, then they came and took the phone out…

All of a sudden, this little guitar I had became the cheapest therapy in the world. As soon as I picked it up, I started writing. I guess there was some piece of me that felt like I’d done it before. I didn’t think that at the time, but looking back I do. And then, of course, the first time you play a song for somebody—especially a young lady that maybe said that didn’t want to go out with you—and suddenly her head tilts to the side and she says, “Oh, that’s really nice!” And you think, “Okay, something major just changed!”

Beyond the joking, the fact is that when I started writing songs, I finally felt like I was home. It was absolutely home.

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The Single Girl: Best Girl Athlete, “Seven Seconds”

I’ve been a fan of Best Girl Athlete for a while now, with her effortlessly sweet and soft voice resonating way beyond her young years. Best Girl Athlete, aka Katie Buchan’s latest single “Seven Seconds” is a perfect example of this; filled with catchy guitar riffs and a soothing, sweet melody to boot.

“Seven Seconds” begins innocently with a hypnotic picking of the guitar, rhythmic backbeat and that oh-so enchanting voice I may have mentioned earlier. As the track progresses, a gentle violin comes into play and Katie’s vocal becomes more and more dominant, whilst still managing to maintain that delicate tone and emotional feel.

For sure, you’ll hear musical traits similar to the likes of Laura Marling, Feist, and the equally young SOAK throughout. As we near the end of the track, a slightly unexpected cheeky guitar riff comes in, bringing a more folk-funk element to the track which surprisingly works.

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A Badge of Friendship,
The Podcast

It’s Thursday and the UK is gripped by a mysterious heatwave everyone is refusing to call Summer. But it hasn’t stopped A Badge Of Friendship posting Episode 12 of their weekly podcast.

After gallivanting across the Atlantic in LA and Toronto, Claire and Paul are back in the studio with Ed to regale him with tales of NXNE and breakfast with celebrities (well, breakfast sat BESIDE celebrities).

There are also the usual features we’ve all grown fond of, like a childhood blanket or that smell in the basement that just won’t shift, as Ed spins a track from Def Jam Recordings for “Label Love,” Claire gets her dance on with Hasse’s “Disco Dancer” for “Pass The Cheese,” and Paul finds audio gold with Bloody Death Skull for this week’s “World Of Weird.”

Tracks heard on the show can be heard in full here:

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Exclusive Premiere Stream

Graded on a Curve:
The Smoking Trees,

The Smoking Trees are a duo of decidedly psychedelic disposition hailing from the West Coast berg of Los Angeles. Formed in 2001 and whittled down from a five piece, over a decade elapsed before the arrival of their full-length debut. Thankfully its follow-up required a shorter gestation period; druggy but approachable and sunshiny with undercurrents of strangeness, TST improves substantially on its predecessor. It’s out on LP/CD/digital July 10 via Ample Play.

Martin Nunez and Al Rivera are the two halves comprising The Smoking Trees. Their bio portrays Nunez as something of a mastermind, which is appropriate considering his nickname is Sir Psych; producer and home recorder, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, psychedelia expert and professed record collector, it’s all discernible upon soaking up their 2012’s Acetates.

On the other side of this yin-yang is an ex-punk. Rivera aka L.A.AL was part of the burgeoning East L.A. punk scene, cutting albums in the late-‘90s with groups Dial 69 and Homesick. L.A.AL underwent a musical transformation after meeting Sir Psych, and it shouldn’t be a bit difficult to suss out the new direction; mention of The Left Banke, The Zombies, and “Defecting Grey” by The Pretty Things should clarify the scenario, however.

At an earlier point named Velvet Tuesday & the Good Smells, The Smoking Trees initially functioned as a pleasurable sideline, Al continuing to play in his prior band as Sir Psych worked as a hip-hop producer and as part of his own crew Forensics. But recording persisted, Nunez credited with production, drums, vocals, keys, bass, and psychedelics as Rivera lent guitar, bass, percussion, and vocals.

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 7/2/15

A new high rung on the “Man, you’re so fucking isolated” ladder: Trent Reznor compares Apple Music to the “feeling of walking into an independent record shop,” Nine Inch Nails musician discusses the new music streaming service: “I want that feeling of walking into an independent record shop, if there are still any that exist…”

Performed printed and pressed: Making vinyl records from scratch at-station to-station, “Over the course of the four week show, the recordings made in residency (both planned and off the cuff) at The Vinyl Factory Studio at the Barbican’s Art Gallery will make their way down to The VF Press on the ground floor, where they will be pressed onto vinyl in short run editions, each batch matched up with a bespoke and utterly unique sleeve design, realised simultaneously in the graphic design studio upstairs…”

More: Man selling father’s 250,000 vinyl record collection on craigslist, “Vinyl collectors living around Dunkirk, USA with a bit of cash to spare are in for a treat, as a Craigslist seller there is offering his late father’s rather enormous vinyl collection. The old man had collected a mere quarter of a million records in his lifetime…”

More: Vinyl pressing factory opens in Milwaukie, “‘It’s still a specialty market. We’re not talking about mass marketing, you know, the dominant music format. But for a section of music fans, it’s the format of choice… So here we are digging up over 100-year-old technology to make records, to make music.'”

The Chicagoland Record Collectors Show: The next big show is on Sunday, July 19, 2015, “The Chicagoland Record Collectors Show is the perfect place for vinyl enthusiasts and collectors searching for vintage albums and 45’s. A wide range of records and CD’s straight from the dealer to you will be available, including Rock, Jazz, Soul, R & B, Country, Folk and many others. 50-60 dealers with up to 80 tables per show will be at the Best Western Hotel in Hillside to offer a plethora of records, not be equaled at any other Midwest show.”

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The TVD Storefront

TVD In-store: Breaking Benjamin, Meet & Greet at Gallery of Sound, 6/27

You could call it a homecoming of sorts. Wilkes-Barre, PA’s favorite sons, Breaking Benjamin, armed with a brand new record in stores, Dark Before Dawn—their first in 6 years—celebrated its arrival by paying a visit to Wilkes-Barre’s Gallery of Sound record store for an informal fan meet and greet last weekend.

Over 400 strong lined the building on a sunny summer Saturday and had almost anything and everything signed by the band.

We sent TVD’s Doug Seymour into the throng to capture an informal “record store day” with the band, and yep—to get his record signed. —Ed.

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Denim Snakes,
The TVD First Date

“My parents bought me a hi-fi with a record player when I was 7. I got my first 7″ for Christmas that year, it was Cliff Richards’ ‘Mistletoe and Wine.'”

“There were always records in the house because of my Dad. He used to have this Led Zeppelin 3 12″. I remember that from when I was 6 but didn’t listen to the album until I was 7. I just remember it because it had a cool sleeve you could turn like a playground roundabout. My Mum came home one night after seeing Michael Jackson’s Bad tour and had his 12″ LP and that’s when I really fell in love with music.

CDs came into fashion then and I forgot about vinyl until I was 12 years old, I was big into hip hop and tried to replicate the scratching on my parents hi-fi with my old Bart Simpson ‘Do the Bart Man’ record.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Grace Slick, Manhole

“The horror! The horror!” Mistah Kurtz, Heart of Darkness

Some things just should never have been. Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Foreigner. John and Yoko’s Double Fantasy. And let’s not forget Grace Slick’s 1974 debut solo album, Manhole. From the unfortunate sexual connotations of its title, to its inflated songs odious cover art, Manhole is just that: something you might fall into, and be very frightened until you manage to climb back out. Oh, and it says something, although I don’t know what, that on Manhole’s best cut—and that’s relative—Slick doesn’t even sing.

Don’t get me wrong; Slick sings well, and she’s surrounded herself with everybody who was anybody in San Francisco at that unfortunate juncture in time. Even David Crosby, Grace’s male equivalent, makes a cameo. But you know you’re in trouble when the album’s highlight—or lowlight—is a 15-plus minute opus entitled “Theme From the Movie Manhole,” a movie that never got made and for all I know was a figment of Slick’s acid-fogged imagination.

I’ve never been a big Jefferson Airplane/ Jefferson Starship/ Starship fan, so I’ll admit to having a bias. I like the song “Volunteers” and that’s pretty much it, although I will confess to occasionally listening to Jefferson Starship’s “Miracles” just to guffaw when Marty “I got punched in the nose by a Hell’s Angel” Balin sings, “I had a taste of the real world/ When I went down on you, girl.” But I try to keep an open mind because, well, I’ve seen previous musical prejudices of mine destroyed on multiple occasions, and it’s no fun eating crow.

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