Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Review: Evan Anderson Trio 4/27 @ Great Scott

This this past week has been high in tension and taxing, as the end of a semester usually is. But last night at the Great Scott, the Evan Anderson Trio’s sweet songs made my worries melt away—at least for an hour. It was like taking a nice drive on a summer day, with the windows down and the sunset in the distance. It was like having a picnic in Central Park when all of the flowers begin to bloom in spring. It was like watching leaves fall from the trees on a perfect fall day. It was every sentimental metaphor you can think of.

Even though the group is centered around Evan Anderson’s sumptuous vice and skilled guitar playing, the other members of the band contribute much to the sound. Eytan Nicholson, on drums, keeps the group together and tight. His interest in classical jazz can be detected through his drumming. Dan Puccio, on bass and sax, is the breakout star of the band. His sax solo during the last song of their set blew me away. The jazz interludes that the band goes into during some of the songs were my favorite parts of their set. Not to say that the rest of the songs were not entertaining, they were; but it is obvious the boys have some serious talent and can perform more complicated pieces.

That being said—I thoroughly enjoyed the show. The dynamic between the members is playful and amusing. It is obvious that they are all great friends outside of the band. I enjoyed the little quirks they add to the songs, such as clapping in unison and whistling. Its these details that separate the Evan Anderson Trio from your typical cute Berklee band. I especially enjoyed Dan’s dancing skills and Eytan’s goofy expressions. Evan seems like a good leader—aware of the rest of the band members yet aloof enough that he can still focus on himself. His lyrics and voice are perfect for each other. Listening to him sing, “Where are you my lonely stranger? I’d like to meet you,” during “I Don’t Have You” made me want to raise my hand and say “Helloooo…I’m right here.”

Overall, the show blew me away. I had just interviewed the band on my radio show earlier in the day and they got me excited to see them perform. And they delivered. I definitely recommend buying their self-titled album for only $5 by emailing them at evanandersontrio@gmail.com. You’ll need it for road trips, summer loves and for a quick mood pick-me-up. Also, the Trio often plays outdoor performances at Boston Commons and the Park Street T-station so be on the lookout for blond locks, red lips and a blue hat.

-Lana Tkachenko

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Music & The Economy - Whispertown2000 and Maria Taylor

One thing is clear about the state of the economy in the United States: business is down and people are spending less and saving more. In the music industry, though, the change may not be as obvious or predictable as expected.

Megan Nagler, lead singer for Whispertown2000, an indie-rock band out of Los Angeles, spoke about the current economic climate on Tuesday before playing at the Great Scott in Allston.

"As [the economy] gets worse the arts and entertainment become more important to people,” Nagler said. “People are struggling and it’s important to connect to people in the world and share your experience right now.”

This is all part of what Nagler called the “economic backlash” in which people come together to unite in their troubles. However, her suggestions do not mean that this is the time to drop out of high school and start a band. Tod Adrian, guitarist, bassist and drummer of Whispertown2000, says that they expect the same profits from this tour as tours in the past. “There are definitely more people coming to shows, and that’s partly due to the fact that we’re still a new band and we’re still getting more fans.”

To Adrian and Nagler, having more people at their shows across the country does not add up to more income. When asked about financing the tour, Adrian says this tour has been what they expected.

“I want to say normal just because more people know who we are than on our last tour. I don’t know if more people are buying shirts and stuff. Gas is $2 cheaper than last time. Mostly just our personal finances are different, which is what everyone is thinking about.”

Things look different for a band that isn’t just getting their feet wet and has been firmly planted in the music industry for some time. Maria Taylor, who headlined the show at the Great Scott on Tuesday, said that this tour has been noticeably different.

“I’ll make less money on this tour, which is kind of weird because you want to make progress,” the 32-year-old singer-songwriter said.

Taylor, who got her start in the Omaha music scene as a part of the duo Azure Ray, is used to a certain amount of fan support that may not be as strong as it used to be. “Even for shows people want to see, they’re like, ‘oh, I’ll see her next time because I have no money.’”

Despite less fan support, Taylor is still in it for the long haul. “My whole thing with this industry is that I love music and I want to be a part of it; but the industry grosses me out. I have to play the game a little bit even though I don’t want to.”

Maria Taylor and Whispertown2000 are saving money on this tour by being resourceful. The two bands share members as well as a tour van that holds all 9 people. Less band members means their paychecks get split fewer ways. It is by no means the famed life of a rock star that the public admires, but it isn’t a poor man’s life either.

“We have gotten to a point where you can’t sleep on couches every night. This is our life and we’re adults,” insists Adrian.

Though this tour may not have accrued the same number of fans Maria Taylor is used to on her cross-country musical voyages, the concert at the Great Scott may have marked the backlash that Nagler foresees. The venue filled almost to capacity with an enthusiastic and engaging crowd by the time Taylor took the stage. Nearly every voice in the small venue—lit only by the neon beer signs that hang on the brick walls—was singing along to every song, including those off of Taylor’s latest album, Ladyluck, which came out only two weeks ago. Just before midnight, Taylor stopped in the middle of her last song, in order to lead the audience in a round of “Happy Birthday” for Casey Wisenbaker, the drummer for her and Whispertown2000.

Even if such a backlash doesn’t occur, it seems to be of little importance to Maria Taylor and her friends in Whispertown2000. “Even if no one came we would be having a great time,” Taylor said. “That’s how you know it’s going to be a great tour, because we just have fun with each other.”

- Joey Gerber

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Review: Maria Taylor 4/14 @ Great Scott

It was two for three at Great Scott Tuesday night.

Ryan Lee Crosby, promoting his new album Out to Dry, did not impress. His whining vocals of whiskey and nameless “babes” set to rock ballad tunes made me cringe. The usually soothing sounds of a harmonica reminiscent of jolly campfire gatherings made me consider actually throwing myself into a fire, any fire. The only thing enjoyable about Ryan Lee Crosby was his black leather jacket, which I probably could have taken during his closed-eye chorus of “yeahs” and “ohs” in nasally moan. I wasn’t the only one. There was no one within seven feet of the stage, and no one quieted their conversations. I heard more of the futile attempt of homeboy trying to pick up the catch of the night than I did of the instrumentals backing up Crosby’s banshee wails. Not that I minded. The lyrics I could make out consisted of “I was central, I had control, I lost my head— I need it, I need it” and “When I see your perfect body, listening in front of me.” Good news: he can rhyme?

Whispertown2000 offered much needed relief. Morgan Nagler, the lead vocalist and songwriter, shot a dose of personality into the show, drawing the crowd away from the bar and to the stage. The Los Angeles-based band sounded like the offspring of Tegan & Sara and Jenny Lewis with more tambourine. Their set featured an eclectic mix of folk rock with a hint of country, although not nearly as pretentious as it sounds. Notable songs included the purposefully flat “Restless” and something that I can’t remember the name of, but has been playing on loop in my head ever since. Check them out as myspace.com/whispertown2000 and somehow get your hands on the album; I won’t ask how you do it.

Maria Taylor was, just as expected, amazing. If you have not heard her solo work, you have probably heard her voice. The Birmingham, Alabama native was part of the duo Azure Ray and collaborated with Conor Oberst on a couple Bright Eyes’ albums. She just released her third album, LadyLuck, which I downloaded from iTunes the day it came out. The album was just as good as her pervious efforts and her performance even better. You know the artists whose live shows could be mistaken for recordings? That’s Maria Taylor and then some. Her segment lasted for a little over an hour, and she mixed newer singles with arguably the best playlist from her previous albums. The best part of her music is that your mood dictates how you interpret the song. Regardless of the lyrics or the beat, each note gives a different feeling each time you listen to it. “Orchids” left me with chills and a yearning to light a roomful of candles. “Xanax,” and “Clean Getaway,” usually more heart-wrenching ballads, felt surprisingly upbeat. And her performance was definitely worth more than the $12.50 I paid for the ticket. The band even stopped halfway through “Song Beneath the Song” to sing a variation of “Happy Birthday” and present an unopened bottle of whiskey to the band’s drummer. Now that’s a good time.

-Natalee Ranii-Dropcho

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hip Hop Is Dead! Or Is It?

So I’m sitting in a lecture hall, listening to my professor talk about the Tao Te Ching. But instead of thinking about Yin and Yang and their relative duality, I’m thinking about the music video for Crookers’ remix of Kid Cudi’s “Day N Nite.” And it all seems clear—I now understand this new movement in hip-hop.

XXL Magazine ran an article in late 2008 (November?) about hip-hop’s incoming Class of 2009 Freshmen: the newest acts projected to blow up this year. They included Cudi, along with Charles Hamilton, The Cool Kids, Asher Roth, The Knux, Wale, and sundry others. That same issue included a feature about the end of gangsta rap. The movement that started in the late 1980s has continued up until now, with Ludacris and 50 Cent and T.I. topping the charts, rapping about guns and girls and violence. Except, their record sales are declining. People are not as interested in the harder raps as they were in the late 1990s. Although the mag did not make a specific correlation, it must follow that these new acts are replacing those thugs from the ghetto.

What’s the difference between these artists? All these new players in the game, the up-and-comers, are at a similar state in their careers. They have a mixtape or an EP available online, and one single that is big with those in-the-know listeners and getting lots of downloads on iTunes. Everyone is waiting for their full-lengths to drop, which makes it seem that 2009 will be a pretty sweet year for hip-hop. We’re all waiting, and these excellent singles are shameless teases. Wale released “Chillin” a couple weeks ago, and it has been on my Last.fm nonstop since; but his LP is going to come out soon, and it will be great. The Cool Kids have released two excellent EPs and one track off the upcoming record, “Pennies,” which is also excellent; they’re even giving select bloggers access to the album, and calling the feedback “positive” is an understatement. If this album is half as good as these early projections say, then it’ll be the biggest thing since The Low End Theory. Kid Cudi put “Day N Nite” on his free mixtape, and that track is being called a single and will hopefully be on the full-length. Which brings me back to that song’s music video.

The original video is unremarkable. The song is good, and the video is kind of cool in its visual effects, but it’s not very relevant. What is culturally relevant is the video for the remix. The music of the remix itself is also unremarkable: a couple different beats and DJ-induced vocal staggers, but it’s essentially the same track. The video, however, says something about the current state of hip-hop. Cudi is working the night shift at the Day-N-Nite convenience store, and his manager tells him to keep it orderly and essentially not screw anything up. Late in the evening, as he’s drifting in and out of sleep, his mind wanders and he imagine girls stripping and dancing to the song. At one point, while he watches some girls shopping by the soda aisle, he is delightfully surprised to learn that he can get them down to their skivvies with just a click of his clicky pen. But wait! you must be thinking. Who cares if there are hot biddies in a hip-hop video, that is in no way original or interesting? And that’s true. But the part that’s different—the departure from videos of gangsta rappers smoking cigars and watching girls grind on each other, alternating with shots of the rapper being lauded and worshipped—is that this isn’t really happening. Within the story of the video, these girls are just Kid Cudi’s imagination. The video is really about the mundane activity of running a night shift. And that is what makes this new movement in hip-hop so fun and exciting. These new raps, what some unenlightened commentators are calling “hipster rap,” are about regular things.

No longer are the kids content with idolizing gunrunning and crack slinging. The reason Eminem’s new track “Crack A Bottle” (which features gangsta veterans Dr. Dre and 50 Cent) is being reviewed as boring and derivative is because we’ve heard it all before. It’s getting old and listeners are gradually stopping to care, so the new thing to do, logically, is to rap about the opposite. Kid Cudi’s video is totally relatable to anyone who’s tried to stay awake while performing a boring task. Kidz In The Hall rap about the simple feeling of coolness that accompanies “driving down the block,” bumping hip-hop from your speakers. The Cool Kids use cereal to make a simile on “A Little Bit Cooler”!

Of course, some of these rappers have existed already. Atmosphere has been spitting about the human condition and relationships for over 15 years now. MURS has been dropping science for a while, too. But these acts have remained in the underground, and they would not have appeared on iTunes’ Top Songs list; now, Asher Roth’s “I Love College,” an anthem about a standard college experience, has been on there for weeks. The climate is finally right, so hopefully formerly obscure rappers can rise to alongside the relative newcomers.

The future of hip-hop will be these new players, content to rap about literally flossing their teeth (The Cool Kids’ “Pennies”) instead of standing on the block, flossing some new chains while dealing dope. I can’t wait. I suppose, however, that the success of the MCs rapping about the quotidian can only come after the rise and fall of the thugged-out rhymes; one is dependent on the other while being its opposite. Perhaps I understand Yin and Yang better than I once thought.

- Adam Lauria

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Everyone. Everywhere. Dance.

Howard Thurman Center
April 22, 2009
2 p.m.

Want to dance?

Sunday, April 5, 2009


(Artists from BU & Northeastern)







9 PM, 18+
$5 or $3 with student ID

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Review: Keller Williams 3/27 @ The Paradise

From the first time I saw Keller Williams he has held a special place in my heart. In fact, he was the artist that stimulated my interest in jam bands and helped me discover an entire genre of music that I never knew existed. Since 2006, I have seen Keller at least twice a year and he has always put on a remarkable show. March 27th at the Paradise Rock Club was no exception. Here’s the thing about Keller Williams: I always can semi-predict what his show will be like, yet I am still blown away every time.

This time, Keller did change it up a bit by including an awesome stage set-up, an upright bass and a crazy instrument that I still can’t figure out. The stage was arranged like a guitar store; with almost every kind of guitar Keller owns hanging from hooks. There was a register that had a glass case full of pedals underneath it, signs that said, “You Break it, You Buy it” and price tags on all of the instruments. As per usual, there was a rug in the middle of the stage and Keller was shoeless—a little piece of Keller that will always be the same.

During the first set Keller played an unbelievable bluegrass cover of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.” He also squeezed in Tom Petty’s “Last Dance with Mary Jane” that transitioned into “Breakdown.” Then as he began to sing, “This is a novelty song. It's the kind of song that means absolutely nothing at all. Please take my advice; tune out the words. And focus on the bass,” he busted out a huge upright bass. Out of all of the times that I have seen Keller before I have never seen him play an upright bass; it was a welcome change. After “Novelty Song,” he played a few more traditional songs and walked off stage for a set break.

Compared to the first set, Keller’s second set blew me away. The set break seemed to liven him up a bit and he was more enthusiastic. The fact that I moved up to the front of the stage also could have had some influence. When he played “The Joker” by Steve Miller Band and the crowd and I went crazy. Seeing Keller perform live is like no other experience. Most bands do not differ too much from their studio albums to the stage but Keller is completely different. He plays all of the instruments himself, using a recording device to record one instrument before moving on to another. Keller Williams onstage is like a kid at the playground.

There was one point during the concert when Keller brought out a box that was previously covered with a towel. It was like he was trying to hide it from the audience throughout the show because he did not want us to understand how it worked. It looked like a box with an input and output socket that made sounds comparable to a drum machine. Everyone, including myself, was confused by this instrument but we were all excited about the sound it brought to the stage.

During the second half of the show Keller played more covers than ever. It is typical of him to do at least one cover during one of his concerts but I was shocked that he played so many. He ended with “Best Feeling” and “What I Got” by Sublime during the encore. Overall, the show went quite smoothly. I thoroughly relish Keller shows and this one is definitely be in my top three.