Categories
Screen Reviews

Bush: Live In Tampa

Bush: Live In Tampa

directed by Milton Lage

starring Bush – Gavin Rossdale, Chris Traynor, Corey Britz, Nik Hughes

MVD Video

I was never a huge Bush fan. I always enjoyed their music when it came on the radio (yes, radio). However, I never bought any of their CDs (yes, CDs), or went to any of their concerts. Maybe it was latter day grunge backlash. Maybe it was being focused on finishing undergrad and starting grad school. Whatever it was, I knew very little of Bush beyond their hit singles going into this Live in Tampa set.

The hit singles are here, of course. “Machinehead” starts the show off with a bang. “Everything Zen” shows up early, along with a huge thanks to everyone who has been supporting the band since the beginning. “Glycerine” and “Comedown” close out the show. In between we are treated to lesser known tracks from their early albums and singles from their more recent work, including “Bullet Holes” from the John Wick 3 soundtrack.

Gavin Rossdale (lead vocals/rhythm guitar) has been leading the band since their formation before debut album Sixteen Stone. Lead guitarist Chris Traynor joined the band on tour in 2002 shortly before their hiatus, and bassist Corey Britz joined in 2010 after they reformed. Drummer Nik Hughes joined in 2019. As a group, they have gelled well onstage. Rossdale exudes rock frontman energy, bouncing round the stage like a guy half his age, engaging the crowd with patter between songs. During “Little Things,” he stagedives then runs into the crowd to the lawn seats and back. Unlike a lot of singer-guitarists, the guitar isn’t just a prop for him. While Traynor definitely does the heavy lifting, Rossdale more than competently supports the rhythm section, and deftly nails key riffs in both the recognizable hits and the catalog songs. Flanking him, Traynor and Britz stalk the stage like predators, getting the spotlight when appropriate, but always in the pocket. Unlike most drummers, Hughes is well-lit on a decently sized riser in front of the giant projection screens, so you can see him having an absolute blast throughout the set, especially while John Wick is having gun fights behind him. The sound mix is practically perfect, with the right amount of crowd noise to remind you this is a live show, but never overwhelming the performers.

The set includes a Blu-Ray, DVD, and CD of the concert. The videos include interstitial clips of Rossdale backstage, discussing his youth and the early days of the band. While informative, I was hoping for some stuff with the rest of the band. Interestingly, the audio from the first of these interstitials is included on the CD, but none of the others are. I assume this was to keep the time down to one disc, but why include any of them, when they were already cutting some of the onstage patter between songs? Other than those quirks, the overall package is very well done – three discs and a booklet featuring high quality photos from the show. Special features include the full eleven-minute interview with Rossdale, a slideshow of pictures from the show, and the trailer for this show, along with several other discs including The Pretenders, Jane’s Addiction, and Sheryl Crow.

If you are a Bush fan, you should definitely pick this up, if you haven’t already. If you are like me, and have only been exposed to Bush via their early singles, I urge you to give Live in Tampa a look and listen. It’s a great showcase of a rock band that is still putting on a lively show in front of an excited crowd and works better than just another greatest hits collection. In addition to the three-disc set, a limited-edition vinyl set and a basic digital download of the audio is available on their Bandcamp website.

bushmusic.bandcamp.com/album/live-in-tampa

Categories
Interviews

Violinist Gregory Harrington

Violinist Gregory Harrington

Q: What attracted you to playing the violin?

A: I loved how expressive and nuanced the sound was and there was a warmth to the sound that I still remember. When I hear the violin now, there there can be real storytelling through music so that is what I feel attracted me subconsciously to it as a youngster. If you look at the most successful musicians all over the world, no matter what instrument, voice, or genre – the common thread in those that artistically stand above the others is that they can shape music with such an incredibly beautiful organic sense of musical storytelling. Thats the magic! So between that and the love imparted to me for music from mum and dad – that is how it all evolved.

Q: Did you study music in school?

A: I did, every weekend and midweek! I studied with my teacher Kevin Kiely from the age of 4 until I was 18 in the Royal Irish Academy of Music. I remember when I was 12 and I told him I want to play the Beethoven Violin Concerto (which is the pinnacle of every classical violinists achievement) and he asked me if I would like to play this in my living room for the rest of my life or in a concert hall? I replied that if I could play it in the concert hall then I would surely be able to play it in my living room and that’s when I really realized that’s what I wanted to do.

Q: How did you select the variety of covers on your new album Without You?

A: Without You is a beautiful album of 11 standards and love songs re-imagined for violin and it’s dedicated to my dad who is the inspiration behind a lot of my musical choices. It’s that Miles Davis sound of jazz quartet with violin as a lead instrument along with Simon Mulligan (piano), Leon Boykins (bass), Matt Scarano (drums). I also have Eleanor Norton (cello) and Ric Molina (bass) for various pieces. You have everything from classic pop to jazz standards – from Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” to U2’s “With or Without You” and incredible standards from “Summertime” , “The Nearness of You” to “When I Fall in Love” and “Caruso” and the ever familiar and haunting South American “Oblivion” by Astor Piazzolla. I started out with a list about 30 songs and recorded about 18 of which 11 of those made the final cut. It is such a great album with so much variety and I was inspired by the sounds of Miles Davis and other greats like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Stan Getz. All sounds that Dad loved when he was growing up. There is something in there for everyone!

Q: What are the earliest memories of music you can recall?

A: It goes back to when I was really very young and I was at the RDS Horseshow in Dublin, Ireland with my mum. It was an international jumping equestrian event and performing one afternoon there happened to be a string quartet. I remember hearing the sound of the violin and I was so very drawn to it. There was just something with that sound that has remained with me ever since actually. So when I heard it, I just tugged on her arm, pointed to the violin and told her I wanted to play “that”! I was 4 years old at the time. The very next day, she went in and bought me a tiny violin and I started lessons a month later.

Q: Do you recall a strong musical community in and around where you grow up, which is where, actually?

A: I grew up in Dublin, Ireland and wouldn’t say that there was a huge presence in my community per se, but I did feel it at home and as I spent my Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin, so that was a wonderful influence on me to be surrounded by music.

Q: Are there any artists who influenced you to change your approach to music and how?

A: I think the first one to change my approach along my current lines of where I am now was Chris Botti – he is an incredible trumpeter but his ability to put on a show in fantastic – so much energy! It is musicianship at its highest and pure entertainment. I think his performances allowed me to rethink how to approach concertizing and touring. From a purely violin point of view, I had the wonderful fortune of studying with one of the great violin virtuosos of our time in Erick Friedman, and he was taught by arguably the greatest violinist that has ever lived – Jascha Heifetz. So no matter what genre I play, the core ideas of sound production and violin playing stays with me so that I can express and say whatever I feel with the violin.

Q: Which artist moves you the most?

A: This a really hard one because there are so many incredible musicians out there. And they all have an ability to move me through incredible storytelling. Maybe the best way to answer that is by saying that any artist that creates a little bit of magic onstage is capable of moving anyone!

Photo: Gus Hobbs

gregoryharrington.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Gregory Harrington

Gregory Harrington

Without You

Estile Records

Gregory Harrington is more than just a extraordinary violinist. He is among the world’s finest, recognized globally for his tremendous artistry. Not only that, but Harrington is able to cross over classical and jazz with pop and alternative rock. His latest album finds him covering classics from U2 and Leonard Cohen to George Gershwin. That is impressive range, and Harrington is equally sharp not matter what style he is incorporating with his violin.

Harrington’s performances capture the essence and emotional undertow of each track. This is particularly inspiring because it showcases his amazing ability to interpret other musicians’ songs as well as bringing so much passion and depth to his performances. Harrington is a seasoned violinist with a laser focus, and his musicianship is truly one of a kind. Not only is he able to showcase so much technicality on the instrument, but he is also able to convey so much feeling, making his songs extremely easy to relate to and honest.

His version of U2’s “With or Without You” is actually a really good example of what I am talking about, because it really combines all of these perks, and more. In addition to that, the sound of the recording is really organic and warm, giving listeners a more personable experience. If you enjoy great jazz music with a unique twist, then this one is most definitely for you.

gregoryharrington.com

Categories
Screen Reviews

New Wave: Dare To Be Different

New Wave: Dare To Be Different

directed by Ellen Goldfarb

“It was a lifestyle, WLIR.” – Steve Thompson, Music Producer

WLIR was the first stereo FM station from Long Island, New York, established in 1959. In the early 1970s, the Hempstead radio station adopted a progressive rock format and even promoted Southern rock, including groups such as The Marshall Tucker Band and The Allman Brothers Band. Growing up on Long Island with older siblings, I can still vividly recall my big sister’s WLIR “Party In The Park” baseball shirt. I sure wish we still had it. It would be just a few years later, on August 2, 1982, that a handful of forward thinking radio pros led by legendary Program Director, Denis McNamara, would take a bold leap of faith, break all the rules and change radio programming forever. Realizing that they could not compete with the bigger stations and tired of the same old music, this tiny station defied all the odds and started a new trend in radio. Director and Long Island native Ellen Goldfarb has done a spectacular job with New Wave: Dare To Be Different, taking viewers on a trip back in time to relive the ’80s in all its glory. It is particularly appealing to those of us who grew up right in the thick of it, but anyone who is a fan of ’80s new wave and alternative music will love this journey down memory lane, right to the moment it all comes crashing down and the station loses its five-year battle with the FCC to keep its 92.7 FM frequency. The station was running without a license since 1973 when the late Elton Spitzer took control and continued to run on a special temporary authority granted by the FCC. They signed off for the last time on December 17, 1987.

Chock full of behind-the-scenes station footage from the early days as well as interviews with djs, musicians and industry luminaries, this 135-minute documentary truly gives a firsthand look into the hurdles and challenges that the station faced. But it also has some very funny moments. WLIR didn’t exactly have the strongest signal and people would have to get very creative to get the station to come in. Donna Donna, Malibu Sue, Larry The Duck – they’re all here. Interspersed throughout are images of iconic Long Island clubs where many of these artists played including Oak Beach Inn, The Calderone and My Father’s Place, all long gone, although the latter has reopened recently in a new location. Owner Michael “Eppy” Epstein is one of many people interviewed throughout the film.

The music I was hearing was unlike anything I had ever heard before. Here was a station playing American music as well as British imports from bands that no one had ever heard of and no one would play, but with the help of this station many of those bands went on to be huge: The Police, U2, Depeche Mode, The Alarm, Billy Idol, The Cure, The Smiths, Duran Duran, Tears For Fears, Simple Minds, Thompson Twins, The Fixx, INXS, A Flock of Seagulls, Midge Ure/Ultravox, Howard Jones, Yaz, Erasure, General Public, The English Beat, Thomas Dolby, Ramones, Blondie, Joan Jett, The Pretenders, REM, The B-52s, and on and on and on. It was fascinating listening to the many artists reminisce about the early days and their first trips into New York. But the one common thread was their respect and gratitude for WLIR. Every time I watch this I get chills during the U2 segment when it bursts into “I Will Follow.” At the very beginning of the film there is a sound bite from a U2 show at Nassau Coliseum, April 3, 1985, and Bono mentions how WLIR was one of the few stations playing their music at the beginning. I was at that show and I recall Bono stopping mid-song because security was beating up a kid who was trying to get on stage. Bono brought him up and finished out the song. I remember I cried. A few years prior in 1981 U2 played Malibu Nightclub in Lido Beach. I was just a few years too young, but I did manage to catch The Alarm there a couple of years later.

“If I had found [W]LIR when I was 13, I would have felt that I had found Disneyland, but it was a radio station.” This quote in the film from Sire Records’ Seymour Stein could not ring more true. Much of this success can be directly attributed to Denis McNamara. John French of Twisted Sister called him “the Walter Cronkite of rock – if he said you’re ok, you’re ok,” while Joan Jett called him “a music god.” It was McNamara who wanted to get his hands on all of the post-punk music coming out of England. “I can remember walking around London literally with these plastic bags eating into my hands full of records because I wouldn’t say no.” Staffers would even drive out to the airport from the station once a week to meet the plane and get the hot-off-the-presses hand-off of new music. “Off The Boat” was a weekly Sunday night program hosted by Larry The Duck that would feature new imports, while the “Screamer of the Week” was a wildly popular contest that allowed listeners to call in and vote for their favorite new song of the week, each one nominated by a different dj. Not only was it a fierce competition among the djs, but it also helped to sell records and promote bands. If your song was voted “screamer,” it was a big deal and you were a hot ticket indeed. I can recall combing through records from my favorite WLIR artists at the local record shops, frantically searching for that one B-Side or rare import that no one else had. The station also did numerous radio contests and gave away records and concert tickets. I was always very lucky and would call in and win tickets to shows. They even had a “WLIR” van – it was always cool to see it driving around town. You felt some special connection when you saw it, as if you were part of a secret club that not everyone “got.” I even had a WLIR bumper sticker on my car.

For me, personally, watching this film placed me right back in the early ’80s, discovering WLIR as an awkward, insecure teen desperate to find my niche. It was a profoundly pivotal moment in my life. This small, low-budget radio station changed who I was, how I acted and dressed, and how I perceived the world, giving me a new-found self-confidence. Tom Bailey of Thompson Twins summed it up best: “[We were a] magnet for the misfits and the freaks…they saw in us some kind of kindred spirit.” I couldn’t agree with that more. This film has captured the essence of that time and is a must-see for any fan of ’80s music and culture.

newwavedaretobedifferent.com

Categories
Event Reviews

The Alarm

The Alarm

The Social; Orlando, FL • August 16, 2018

Growing up on Long Island, we had the distinct advantage of having a killer alternative radio station, WLIR. The station was instrumental in introducing fresh, cutting-edge British bands to teens and 20-somethings who were salivating for a new sound, and it was one of the first stations in the country to play music from such game-changers as U2, Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Smiths, etc. One such band also happened to be The Alarm, a Welsh quartet with a charismatic frontman and a penchant for songs with socio-political themes. I was immediately drawn to the boys with the spiky ’80s hair and the guitar-driven, anthemic music that became embedded in my head for years to come. I had the privilege of seeing the original lineup twice in the 80s (Nassau Community College, Garden City, NY, 11.4.85 and Malibu Nightclub, Lido Beach, NY, 5.11.86). So when The Alarm announced a tour this year and The Social in Orlando was on the schedule, I knew I HAD to be there.

The Alarm

Michelle Wilson
The Alarm

I had never been to The Social in downtown O-town, but I had seen photos and learned that it holds maximum 400 people. After waiting in line for doors to open and smoothly navigating the necessary security checkpoint, I entered the venue, a long, small bar situation with murky light and dense quarters featuring a tiny left-side stage. The club filled up fast, and all of us 50 and 60 somethings jammed in elbow to elbow, hot and sweaty, loving every minute of it. I was immediately and gloriously transported back in time to my 80s club days. Glancing around, I spotted several Alarm tee shirts from various tours, and I even spied a WLIR tee shirt. There was a healthy mix of merch for sale in the back including shirts, pins and CDs, including band members’ solo ventures, which I thought was pretty cool.

with fellow WLIR radio fan, Michael Fox

Michelle Wilson
with fellow WLIR radio fan, Michael Fox

Emerging from behind a black curtain, the four-piece combo took the diminutive stage at 8:30pm among cheers from the crowd. Frontman and founding member, Mike Peters (guitar, harmonica, vocals), is the sole original member, backed by his wife, Jules Jones Peters (keys, vocals), James Stevenson (bass, guitar) and Steve “Smiley” Barnard (drums, guitar). Peters instantly had technical difficulties, but never skipped a beat and joked with the audience as the feedback issues were addressed. “Just talk amongst yourselves and we’re gonna start this whole evening again!” And just like that, the set list was altered as Peters and his acoustic guitar launched into a rare, spontaneous gem to kick off the show – “Unsafe Building.”

The Alarm

Michelle Wilson
The Alarm

Still stalling for time while sound problems were adjusted, Peters asked if anyone had been at The Alarm/U2 show in Orlando (Jai Alai Fronton Hall, 6.21.83) and talked about the band’s very first show in Victoria Ballroom, Prestatyn, Wales, 6.10.81. “We had one person in the crowd but he didn’t count because we knew him. There were lots of people in the other bar so we decided to make a lot of noise and see if we could get their attention. We’ve been doing that for the past 35 years. I know it’s been a while but it’s great to be here Orlando, celebrating life in 2018!” With that, the crowd was treated to a few more early, non-set list cuts: “Shout To The Devil” and “Declaration/Marching On.” (“Cause our hearts must have the courage to keep on MARCHING ON.” Mike and Jules could never have known then how true these words would ring out for them later in life, both of them cancer fighters, survivors and warriors.) Yeah, it was already a kick-ass show, and everyone knew it as they sang along. The energy in the room was positively electric.

The Alarm

Michelle Wilson
The Alarm

Even though stage space was limited, Peters still managed to incorporate his triple mic setup as he ran back and forth among the three stands, engaging the lively crowd at every moment, even going airborne several times throughout the performance. Exchanging numerous smiles with each other, it was obvious that the band members were enjoying themselves as much as the crowd.

The Alarm

Michelle Wilson
The Alarm

Playing all the hits from the early years with the crowd belting out the lyrics and clapping right along with Peters, it “almost” felt as if I was indeed back in those hot Long Island night spots. “Blaze of Glory,” “Absolute Reality,” “The Stand” (a real highlight), “Rescue Me,” and “Rain In The Summertime” (another standout track, with Peters chugging water and spraying it on the crowd) sounded as fabulous as ever. Sprinkled among the older hits were seven cuts off the new record, Equals, including “Tomorrow,” “Coming Backwards,” “Peace Now,” “Thirteen Dead Reindeer,” “Two Rivers,” “Beautiful,” and “Neutral” (as part of the four-song encore).

The Alarm

Michelle Wilson
The Alarm

The Alarm

Michelle Wilson
The Alarm

At one point the rest of the band left the stage as Peters remained with only his guitar and melted every heart with the poignant love ballad, “Walk Forever By My Side” (a personal favorite). Peters then brought his band and bride back on stage, acknowledging her tenacious fight against cancer. With a grateful, heartfelt smile, Jules looked up and segued into the oh-so-familiar notes of “Spirit of ’76” as the crowd went absolutely nuts. It was the most intense moment of the night.

Rounding out the main set with “Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke?” and “68 Guns,” the band did their signature “deck of cards” delivery into the crowd during “Where Were You Hiding,” and of course the crowd loved it. “All cards are marked and all fates will collide. The truth is the truth or the truth is surely a lie.” I still remember to this day the cards being shot out into the crowd from a little machine at one of those early ’80s shows, and I held onto an Ace of Diamonds from that show for years. Somewhere along the way it got lost, but now I have new ones from this show accompanied by new memories.

The Alarm

Michelle Wilson
The Alarm

Exiting briefly and then returning for the encore, Peters discussed the foundation he co-created (he is a three-time cancer/leukemia survivor), “the world’s leading rock and roll cancer foundation,” Love Hope Strength www.lovehopestrength.org/. This life-saving program helps to spread the word about blood cancer and to register bone marrow donors. Peters called up a fellow cancer survivor on stage and had a special guitar autographed by several musicians that was played by another fan during a magical performance of “Love Hope and Strength.” With hugs all around, it was a very touching moment.

The Alarm

Michelle Wilson
The Alarm

Following the aforementioned offering of “Neutral” off the new album, the band wrapped it up with a rockin’ version of “Strength” and then eased into “We Are The Light,” a perfect ending to a perfect show.

Check out the full gallery of photos from Rock Legends Photographers.

The Alarm photo gallery

thealarm.com

Categories
Music Reviews

T. Hardy Morris

T. Hardy Morris

Dude, The Obscure

Normaltown Records

T. Hardy Morris, of Dead Confederate and Diamond Rugs, made a sublime record in 2013 called Audition Tapes that I fell in love with. The Athens, Georgia native was favorably compared to folks such as Elliot Smith or a more rambunctious Neil Young, and it fits. On his third solo record, Dude, The Obscure, Morris expands his southern slacker sound to include moments such as the Will Oldham-influenced “The Night That Everything Changed”- featuring woozy atmospheres, or “Homemade Bliss” which sounds a bit like U2, if they grew up surrounded by Georgia kudzu instead of Irish peat.

The somber “Cheating Life, Living Death” features the haunting refrain of “I trust you more than I trust myself” over muted acoustic guitar whereas “Stage Names” uses a spritely electric guitar part to counterbalance the message of “Nobody’s buying/I’m not selling”, all delivered in Morris’ “just woke up” vocal style which reminds you of region-mate MT Taylor (Hiss Golden Messenger). The pedal steel touches of Matt Stoessel are used to great effect throughout, although not as much as on Audition Tapes.

Morris is one of those acts who could open a show for say, The Low Anthem, and then strap on the Telecaster to join up with the Drive-By Truckers, and gain fans either way. If you’re a fan of Palace, Smog or perhaps Skip Spence, check out T. Hardy Morris. He’s strangely beguiling amid the kudzu.

normaltownrecords.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Vanessa Collier

Vanessa Collier

Meeting My Shadow

Ruf Records

With such a dearth of credible female blues artists on today’s music scene, it is refreshing to hear the latest release from Vanessa Collier, the follow-up to her 2014 release, Heart Soul & Saxophone. The award-winning, soulful songstress offers the whole package on her sophomore album – top-notch songwriting and sultry, R&B-soaked vocals that are complemented by her sizzling saxophone. She also plays an entire arsenal of other instruments on various songs, backed by a lengthy list of studio musicians including Laura Chavez, guitarist for the late Candye Kane. In addition, Collier co-produced the record along with Kevin Houston and Thomas Ruf. A Berklee College of Music graduate, Collier quickly became a fan favorite while touring with Joe Louis Walker and then moved onto a solo recording career. From the first note of the eleven-song CD, I was hooked. Eight of the eleven tracks were written by Collier, with three phenomenal covers that she makes her own.

Collier kicks it off with songs such as “Poisoned the Well,” “Dig A Little Deeper,” “When It Don’t Come Easy,” “Whiskey and Women” and the brilliant “Devil’s On the Downslide,” which, as she suggests, are songs “about shared struggles, empowerment and perseverance that make you feel like you can overcome any obstacle.” But she also reassures us that “this album is then balanced out with witty, playful songs that make light of life,” including “Two Parts Sugar, One Part Lime” and “Meet Me Where I’m At.” “Cry Out,” a true statement song for today’s turbulent times, rounds out Collier’s original pieces.

The three covers are gorgeous, including Deadric Malone’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry,” Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s anthemic “Up Above My Head, I Hear Music In the Air” and an absolutely killer interpretation of U2’s “When Love Comes to Town,” which U2 originally recorded with B.B. King. This version truly shines as a stripped down, bluesier reincarnation of the original with some tasty guitar work.

I’m a huge fan of artists who write their own material, and Collier has proven that she has the chops not only to survive in the music biz, but to flourish. This is a great record, indeed, one that I regularly have in the rotation. With this being only her second effort, I definitely look forward to a long and illustrious career from her. The rich, smoky nuances of her voice will win over any music lover, and her multi-instrumental background only adds to her appeal.

www.vanessacollier.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Battle of Santiago

Battle of Santiago

La Migra

Made With Pencil

La Migra comes at a crucial juncture in world history. The fear of other cultures is not only driving politics in America, but anti-immigrant parties have made strong showings in France and the normally ultra-tolerant Netherlands. Culture shock is nothing new. Fear of strangers is as old as humanity. How we choose to deal with our current culture clash will affect our countries for generations.

For the folks in the Canadian band, Battle of Santiago, the clash of cultures is the stuff of inspiration and the raw material for making art. Half of the band members are Canadians with roots in art rock. The other half of the band are Cuban immigrants. The music they make is a sound-clash of their respective backgrounds. They seek to create something new and beautiful from these diverse elements.

The Latin elements are what strike you first. The band has at least three percussionists on any given track, so the Afro-Cuban rhythms are front and center. You also can’t miss that they’ve chosen to sing in Spanish, rather than English. As you listen though, the U2-like guitar textures and Radiohead-like electronics become apparent and the horns are pure jazz. Since I can’t understand a word they’re singing, I can’t tell you what the songs are about. I can tell you that the tunes are hard driving, percussion heavy workouts that make great driving music or dance tunes. There may be politics mixed in there somewhere, but Battle of Santiago makes it all so much fun.

Just a few more comments to wrap things up. The album title, La Migra means immigration police. The title was selected before the Trump / Le Pen anti-immigrant bandwagon really got going. The name of the band could refer either to battles fought in Cuba or a particularly nasty match between Chile and Italy at the 1962 FIFA World Cup. Either one works as far as the band is concerned.

thebattleofsantiago.com

Categories
Features

The RockNRoll Chorus

RockNRoll Chorus

Celebrating a Decade of Dreams

Lauren Ferguson

It was any teenager’s typical July Sunday. That is, if in your teenage world, “typical” is defined by starting out the day at noon – performing the National Anthem in front of 20,000 Tampa Bay Rays / New York Yankee fans, and then commuting immediately (via a luxury tour bus) from St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Stadium to an afternoon soundcheck for an evening concert appearance at Orlando’s famed Full Sail Live. But for the teenage members of The RockNRoll Chorus, life on the road – touring across the country, playing to thousands of fans each summer is their definition of “typical.” And for the last decade, this celebrated New Jersey-based vocal troupe has been providing dream-come-true experiences for aspiring young performers, while building an impeccable reputation as a world-class concert act.

The brainchild of veteran vocal teacher and music biz insider, Joe Cantaffa, The RockNRoll Chorus was first launched in 2006 as the ultimate opportunity for high school-age kids to learn the ropes of the entertainment industry in a variety of authentic, professional settings. Despite operating initially on less than a shoestring budget, a handful of hungry teenagers in cutoffs and T-shirts believed in Cantaffa’s vision of creating a national-level, rock-appella-style, recording and touring group – and were all too eager to sign-on. In short order, their debut album, What They Didn’t Teach Us in School, had been produced and released. By 2007, a slew of live concert dates had been slated. And so it began.

Lauren Ferguson

The RNRC tagline is direct and to the point – “No instruments. Just voices.” And from the vocalized guitar parts (cue distortion effects), beat box techniques, soaring voices and arena-style audio / visual production, the group’s live show has developed into a bona fide rock and roll spectacle. As a result, there was considerable anticipation regarding their current 10th Anniversary concert tour – including tonight’s show in Orlando.

By 6pm, Central Florida fans already were being wanded by security and ushered into the Full Sail auditorium, while the group made final backstage preparations – primping, preening, body-stretches, vocal warm-ups and receiving pre-show instructions from its team of professional coaches and experienced handlers. Showtime – 7pm!

Lauren Ferguson

In typical fashion, The RNRC truly delivered the goods in O-Town, with each of the 25 members leaving behind a quart of sweat on Full Sail’s enormous, state-of-the-art stage. Throughout the high-energy, hour-long performance, fans cheered and sang along to much-loved classics by U2, Journey and Queen, as well as more recent favorites from the likes of Parachute and Coldplay.

Having delivered an amazing performance, most cast members clearly were experiencing a post-show, backstage adrenaline rush. However, for the group’s senior members who are heading off to college this fall, the Orlando concert evoked a mix of emotions, as it brought the tour one day closer to completion – the tour that would be their last with The RNRC – a cross-country trek that also would culminate in an appearance at the iconic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

At the ripe old age of 18, Natalie Lorenzo is the cast’s “elder stateswoman.” Having performed with The RNRC throughout her entire high school career, the recent graduate reflected openly on her personal experiences with the group over the last four years.

“It’s been wonderful,” Lorenzo commented, while relaxing in the greenroom with fellow veteran cast members, following the Full Sail show. Preparing to pursue entertainment business studies in the fall, she spoke humbly, and quickly made clear that for her, being in The RNRC was not about trying to become a star, but rather, about building relationships. “The RockNRoll Chorus affects so many people in so many ways,” Lorenzo continued. “You could be in the group for two months, or four years, and can still have connections with people for years after.”

With plans of studying theatre this fall, Danielle Burg echoed Lorenzo’s sentiments. “It was better than great,” the retiring cast member recalls of her three-year RNRC run. “(Joining this group) was honestly, the best decision I ever made,” she continued. “I’m really not ready to leave yet.”

“It’s hard to think about what it will be like when I leave for college and I don’t have this – a show every day,” confessed Mackenzie Price, of her two years performing with the group. Soon to be pursuing a career in the fashion industry, Price added that she’s grateful for, “the friendships that I’ve made, and the experiences that I’ve had.”

Lauren Ferguson

“This group actually has helped me to define what my strengths are, what my weaknesses are, and what I love to do,” mused longtime member, Ethan Greenberg. As an incoming senior, Greenberg still has one more year with the group – and he seemed to hit upon the precise reason why being part of The RNRC has meant so much to so many members over the last decade. “Connecting with people is one of the reasons why I love this group so much. But it’s really the connection we have with each other.”

But as seasoned cast members bid farewell to the group, fans and life on the road this summer, new members who share the same hopes and dreams, stand in the wings, waiting to experience their big break. And as the cast evolves, and the brand continues to gain recognition, the future of The RockNRoll Chorus remains bright, indeed. In fact, the group’s latest album, No Guilt ‘Til Monday, (their 7th overall) arrives this October. And with founder, leader and visionary, Joe Cantaffa mapping out next summer’s tour, he’s also already planning to produce their next album – one that he expects will be the first RNRC record to contain ALL original songs.

rocknrollchorus.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Gates

Gates

Parallel Lives

Pure Noise

There’s a dreaminess to Gates’ Parallel Lives that threatens to withdrawal into a kind of pleasant white noise. It’s an album that requires attention, otherwise it gets lost — at least upon the first listen. If I hadn’t seen for myself, when recently they opened up for Thrice, the muscle they throw behind each cinematic note I may have brushed this record aside favoring instead Nothing’s Tired of Tomorrow when I was craving mellow and textural emotive rock.

And while I’m still head over heels in love with the Nothing record, this Gates release has got an undeniable pull that, with repeated listens, wraps a soft blanket around my shoulders and just makes me feel cozy. Not in a sleepy, Grandma needs a cup o’ tea kind of snoozefest, but in a comforting, kicking back on the couch kind of way. It’s in the Thom Yorke-light vocals of Kevin Dye, and the confident experimentation with guitar effects that weave through unconventional beats. It’s in the way the music can shift from straight forward arena rock balladry (“Shiver”), with a song structure that owes a nod to U2 at their “All I Want Is You” finest, to celestial neck hair raising trips of epic panoramas of color and mood (“Left Behind”) with quiet ease.

The more these songs play, the stronger they sound. “Habit” becomes this gorgeous, atmospheric melody that makes my chest hurt with its beauty. “Eyes” swims through swells of regret and yearning, using music more so than lyrics and does it all with subtle brilliance. What once sounded dreamy, soon sounds like a dream you want to stay inside of a little bit longer. There’s some fat that could’ve been cut, with the middle few tracks sounding like B-sides when compared to the strong start and finish of the album, but that’s what playlists and “skip” buttons were designed for.

www.gatesnj.com