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Monday, July 30, 2012

A Weekend in Brooklyn and A Lifetime of Memories

The Head and The Heart, Prospect Park Bandshell 7.27.12.  photo credit: my 10 year old daughter

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Brooklyn Bowl Wall Art

Brooklyn Bowl Bathroom Reception Mural Art

The Denzels

The Denzels, Brooklyn Bowl, 7.28.12

Stage Area light show, Brooklyn Bowl

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Pre show, Skaters setlist under mic

what ^ said

Skaters next several shots:  Brooklyn Bowl, 7.28.12

Caveman, Brooklyn Bowl, 7.28.12

This space has devoted much of its space trying to introduce its readers to new finds in and around the world of contemporary popular music.   It is, by all accounts, a tough sell.

Once you have a family of your own and are fully entrenched in your cultural habits it is near impossible to break out from your comfort zone.  Truth is, there are many, many folks who could care less about live music and the experience therein.  To suggest seeing a band sight/sound unknown at a venue several miles away is, for many, the equivalent of water boarding.  "You want me to see who?  where??"

For those of you brave enough to step out from wall to wall Michael Phelps coverage or, gasp, Colorado shooting coverage, may we suggest a trip to a live concert?

Better yet, can we suggest the Borough of Brooklyn?

Last weekend there were two free events that once again cemented Manhattan's hipster brother as a legitimate force in the live music scene.

Friday, July 27th Seattle folk-rock act The Head and The Heart headlined a free show, their biggest event to date, at Park Slope's Prospect Park.  Did you know that Prospect Park is 545 acres or so?  Manhattan's Central Park is about 800 or so.  Get the picture?  It's friggin big.  There is plenty to do  even without the music.  Just ask my daughter who raided the waffles and ice cream truck on Prospect Park West and 9th St.  Yeah, that's right...  my 10 year old came with and enjoyed the heck out of it.  You can bring your own food, and games, and lawn chairs.  They provide beer and Brooklyn eatery The Farm on Adderly ( does a wonderful job with the food.  Try the fries!  You will not be disappointed.  Oh, and then there was the music.

The Head and The Heart ( have done an admirable job promoting their self titled debut album.  It is a mix of bluegrass, folk, country, pop and rock.  The tones are easy and so is the listening.  On Friday they played through the record with relative ease.  It was nothing earth shattering or jaw dropping.  Rather, a nice collection of tracks that breezed through the trees and gave the 5000 or so folks in attendance a reason to smile...  and forget they were mere miles from the center of the Financial Universe.  "Lost in My Mind," 'Couer d'Alene," "Ghosts," and "Rivers and Roads" were songs that had the most power.  Singer/guitarist Jonathan Russell played the first encore, "Honey Come Home, " alone with just his acoustic guitar.  It was ambitious and kept the crowd engaged, although it carried on a bit too long.  And their brilliant "Down in the Valley" was disappointing as the finale due to some minor missteps during the final few notes.  Overall a talented and worthy group of musicians with a big, bright future.

The Chapel Hill, NC orchestral/pop/rock/alt outfit Lost in the Trees ( with a quiet, rather benign 45 minute set.  They mixed tuba with strings.  They mixed guitars and vocals.  It is indeed a unique sound.  Big and brash at times then quiet as a church interlude the next moment.  At Prospect Park, in the bright sunshine, they seemed too shy or reserved.  This was more apparent when The Head and The Heart took stage.  These guys have 2 LPs under their belt and still need to craft their stage presence.  They sound bigger on record.  That can change.  Here is hoping it does.  "Walk Around the Lake" and "Neither Here Nor There" are your recommended downloads.

The next night New York's own Caveman ( headlined a showcase (sponsored by Ralph Lauren Denim Supply) at the wonderful venue Brooklyn Bowl.  This blog has been a huge fan of Caveman and you can read plenty of accounts on them if you do a quick search.    Over a year and a half from their first live gig it may be time to get a little critical of these guys.  And this isn't really a knock on them as a band.  They can rock a live show and have a great debut record that, far as it seems, has gone mostly unnoticed.  The Head and The Heart played to a full Prospect Park.  Real Estate has dominated the alt radio for well over a year with a sound and record equal to or lesser than Caveman's CoCo Beware.

This either speaks to their management and/or PR team.  They, like other NY'ers and fellow underrated act White Rabbits, should be bigger!!!  Sidenote, Matt Clark from White Rabbits played a mean drum along with Caveman at this show.  The issue is Caveman are recording a second album this summer.  They were not on the festival circuit and may have put themselves in a tough spot.  Their debut record is beyond solid and they seem ready to abandon it.

Look at a band like AWOLNation.  They have been supporting their debut album for 2 years steady.  Grouplove has been on the road for well over a year with 10 songs.  They were the undercard for Young the Giant in January...  headlined Webster Hall in June... and will headline Terminal 5 in November.

That is the progression!!!  Play that beoch until your audience is so sick of it they are demanding new material.  Sell your tracks to Madison Ave (they did land an NYC promo).  Play gigs til you can't stand up!

And that is not to say the three or four new tracks Caveman are working into their set aren't winners, they are.  We just aren't ready to move past "Old Friend," or "Thankful," or "My Time" yet.  

Brooklyn based Skaters played a thrashing and highly energetic set leading up to Caveman.  They describe their sound as "humblecore."  Unpretentious lyrics played over heavy drum beats and a variety of guitar tones.  Got it?  They released an EP in March and are poised to make a splash.  Michael Ian Cummings sings, and sings well.  Drummer Noah Rubin(late of the Dead Trees) is an absolute beast behind the drum kit.  Guitarist Joshua Hubbard (late of The Paddingtons and Dirty Pretty Things) is a commanding, forceful presence.  They are hard to describe, but a pleasure to hear.

The real star of the evening was the venue, Williamsburg's Brooklyn Bowl( This place is so hard to describe it is best to just urge, neigh, implore you to check it out.  Is it a bowling alley?  Concert venue?  First rate place for pub grub?  All of the above?  Maybe.  One thing it isn't: ordinary.  New York Magazine described it like this:

"To a neighborhood already jammed with hybrid entertainment ventures—think McCarren Park Pool’s music and dodgeball and Slip ’n Slide or Barcade’s drinking and video games—add the bowling-dining-music combo Brooklyn Bowl. It’s set in a renovated Williamsburg iron foundry and is the city’s first LEED-certified green bowl-o-drome. Sixteen lanes are joined by a restaurant and cocktail bar, bowlers’ lounge, and music stage. Traditional rock shows are on the docket, along with monthly open-jam sessions. The food is a draw in itself: It’s Blue Ribbon Brasserie, which plans dressed-up bowling fare and French-bread pizzas.
It can get crowded and you might feel boxed in on the concert floor.  But, you can also spend five hours there and smile every moment.  Put your name in for an alley and bowl a few frames too.  Big screen tv's were showing old cartoons (Wile E, Bugs, Daffy) as well as Red Sox v Yankees.  The prices were reasonable too as they make an effort to keep everything local (including the beer, from Brooklyn Brewing around the corner.)

Give a yell if you want the best way in from NJ or PA...  park for free on the streets and buckle up for an above average adventure.  Thinking about chartering a bus for these such events.  Any interest???  

So much good stuff out there...  and when the price of admission is free, how can you go wrong???

See you next time, right?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Greetings from Canada, Photography Edition

Turns out Canada is a legitimate Country.  It has its own currency (where the US dollar is weak, duh!)  They don't sell unsweetened iced tea anywhere.  They don't like skim milk.  They don't carry Stoli Orange.  You can't find a decent shoe store anywhere.  They only have 32 subway stops!  Wait, this sounds like my wife's blog.  Anyway, Toronto is a special City and the folks up North are kind and friendly.  At least the folks we met (in bars, restaurants, concert halls, museums, bars and restaurants.  A full post is out there somewhere...  but for now here are some photos from the event.  Looking forward to the next visit North!  After all, where else can you hear strangers say "Scorcher, eh?"  Apologies for all the concert shots...  but damn we were close!  And Gomez rocked as usual!!!
Niagara Falls, Canada

CN Center.  Toronto

AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) Tremendous Picasso exhibit

Distillery District, Toronto.  Hip little place.

Toronto's adorable Flatiron Building

City Hall, Toronto

Lion and Lamb at Justice Center, Toronto.  Does the Lamb really have a chance??

Kensington Market, Toronto.  Sketchy little hippie area.

Quiet Corral, Mod Club.  Terrific 6 piece band from Lawrence, Kansas,  Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk!

Gomez here and below.  

Horseshoe Falls, Niagara

View from Breakfast