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Friday, December 20, 2013

A Simple Twist of Fate, Wormburner, 12.19.13 Mercury Lounge

Wormburner, Mercury Lounge 12.19.13

The Holidays can really wear a brother out.  The day to day business is hard enough.  Throw in work get togethers, gift shopping, and the inherent stress that comes with December before long it will break a man.   It is no coincidence suicide rates climb right about now.  Shit be real.

It is that stress that led some friends and I to make dinner reservations to one of NJ's finest restaurants, Serenade.  I am no foodie and am deeply uncomfortable sitting in their dining room (and most dining rooms really.)   Sitting in their quaint bar with access to chef James Laird's creativity and skill is a different story altogether.  The bar is a gem.  It is easily the best around We had to set it up about 6 weeks ago.  When is their a night, without sports or car pooling, tests, deadlines, that could work for an early bird special?  The logistics can be overwhelming.

But sure enough, at 6pm, we were seated in a cozy 4 top sipping our first cocktails.  We made it.

If we ended up simply having the meal, and it was exceptional believe me, the night would have been an unmitigated success.  The conversation was as complex and entertaining as the food.  From parenting issues, to the economy, values of college, tonight's 6th grade hoops game (I coach, good grief), cell phones, home improvements, it was ALL on the table.  The shopping and stress disappeared for a while.  Mission friggin accomplished.

I can be a bit of a phone hog during the day.  I never really figured out how to fix my settings after the IOS update.  The thing doesn't ring or vibrate, then it will, or not.  It's all messed up and I just can't be bothered.  Since the update I now get ALL of my 11 year olds texts and, gasp!, Face Time requests.  Gentlemen callers ask to face time my daughter constantly.

FT me.






I even saw a 'WTF won't you FT me one?"  It is a touch on the creepy side.  Come on boys, talk to her at school.  IT IS totally lame to harass her on the phone when you see her all day.  You can act like a man!  But anyway,  I am constantly looking to see if I missed a call, text, or Duck Dynasty news alert.   However, at social events I put the damn thing away.  I am not an animal.

Midway through dinner I will take a peek.  There could be a chance the babysitter is flaking out.  Or more accurately that lovely 11 year old all the young men seem to like.

I did have a text it from an old high school pal.   you remember this guy, right?  It read:  "you should be meeting me in Mercury Lounge tonight"

"Yeah right" I thought to myself.  He had been mentioning this show for months.  Wormburner and The Yule Dogs were headlining a Christmas show.   He is tight with Wormburner's drummer Jim Spengler.  I was unable to commit to the show prior to making last nights dinner plans.  Now?  Forget about it.

I was itching to see a live show though.  It felt like forever since Caveman's Bowery show.

But no, I reminded myself, it's impossible.  The dinner is the event.  Make it an early night and get some much needed sleep.

Funny thing happened though.  Our friends knew some folks at the bar.  They were from the same town and it turned out we knew them peripherally too.  It is a small town so that is not an Earth-shattering coincidence. What they told us as we were making small talk exiting the restaurant was a bit shocking.  They said they were off to a concert.

"Oh yeah" I asked.  "Who?"

"Wormburner" they told me matter of factly.  "Mercury Lounge."


Mercury Lounge is tiny.  Maybe 250 squeeze in there on the busiest night.  Its friggin small.  Which is why I love it.  I get there far too infrequently.  Most of the bands I want to see there end up playing  Wednesday's at midnight.  That's a hard sell.

Point is, this is a very random event.  Why on Earth would I be in contact with 2 human beings that are both going to a fairly obscure concert.  One is from the suburbs.  One is from the City.

Their connections brought them together with the band and now I was involved.

2 Degrees of Wormburner.  One knows a guy from College.  One know the guy from town, or is related to, or whatever.  

I am not one to believe in the supernatural, fate, or any of that happy horse shit.  But this one stopped me in my tracks.  How could I not go to Wormburner?  Stars were aligning.

We were not prepared for night time baby sitting and the Mrs had spent the better part of yesterday working in NYC.    She easily made the decision to stay back with the little one.  They probably made it through one episode of Property Brothers before sleep grabbed hold of them.

By 9:30 I was at Mercury Lounge.  It was a joyous 35 minute drive.  The Turnpike was wide open, almost as empty as my attempted drive into Lower Manhattan on 9.12.11.  Mad Maxian if you will.  On that ride I also came to the realization that I really like The Head and The Heart.  Their record Let's Be Still has provided many smiles from me this year.  Where was I?

I caught the final two songs of The East River Bandits set.  East Village country rock served with a big, brimming smile.  They recently funded their debut record through Kickstarter and seem poised to be headlining a gig like this in the near future.  Warning, you must like mandolin and twang.  If you don't you probably aren't reading this anyway.

Wormburner is an East Coast act too, by way of Hoboken, Colgate University, Philadelphia, and clearly New York City.  Those who attended last night were engaged, invested and genuinely glad to see these happy lads.  I had never heard one of their songs prior to the show.  I barely knew of them a mere two hours before.  But when a crowd fills a  room with energy and joy, particularly a club as intimate as Mercury Lounge,  its hard to ignore it.

Frontman Steve "Hank" Henry, Alec, Paul, Jim and Terry have been doing this for a while.  The grooves are tight.  The songs are precise and well rehearsed.  Henry's lyrics are fun and sing-a-long worthy.  Their are not so subtle nods to Bruce Springsteen and subtler ones to Shane McGowan and Elvis Costello.  Their second album, Placed By The Gideons, was released in 2010.  That record was well represented.  They also threw in some new material, and two sweet and timely covers.  "Let My Love Open the Door" was a pleasant surprise.  But it was their cover of Lou Reed's "Ride Into the Sun" that was the sets high water mark.  It didn't hurt that ex-Luna guitarist Sean Eden absolutely killed a few blistering solos.

It was another example of what little I know.  Why had I never seen Wormburner before?  And furthermore, where has Luna been all my life?

The power of song.  The healing feeling that comes from live music.  The event.  All of it.

Friend of a friend one minute, concert bound the next.

Something tells me to keep going with this blog thing.  Forces are at work and I am not sure I know where they are taken me.  Come with me?

Join me?  We work too hard in this life to not stop and enjoy it once in a while.  Thanks mysterious force that got me off the couch after a wonderful filet dinner.  Looking forward to the next adventure!

For more:  Wormburner Official Site or Luna or East River Bandits
Hank from Wormburner

Wormburner, Mercury Lounge 12.19.13

The Yule Dogs, Mercury Lounge 12.19.13

Friday, December 13, 2013

No Regrets Tour

Dramarama Collection

Great band shot.  Great New Jersey band.

On Jan 12th, 2014, one of my best friends (Mike C) and I will happily be braving long check-in lines at Newark Airport.   We will don our dress Chuck Taylors.  We will shake off the cobwebs from the previous nights bender, er, banter.  And with gracious anticipation accept the mild trek ahead of us (5584! miles round trip!)  



What do I mean by placing those two powerful words together like that?  For Mike & I, it’s the simple quest of finding youth.  You don’t need Doc, Einstein, and Marty McFly to go back in time.  Music is AND HAS ALWAYS BEEN my 1.21 gigawatts.  Sometimes an arrangement of chords & an iconic voice (John Easdale in this case) can make grown men drop every responsibility and chase, and ultimately FIND the “proverbial fountain of youth”.  Ponce de Leon fucked up, it’s not in Florida.  It's in LA at the Whiskey A-Go-Go on Jan 12th.   That night it will be administered by a band that is the soundtrack of my teenage years (and ++) – Dramarama.

Scene:  (Tastefully decorated urban apartment.  A man and his fiancĂ© begin to talk about some upcoming plans.  Man just comes up with what appears to be some sort of midlife crisis.  Fiance asks:)


“You’re doing what?!”

“Are you serious?!”  

“Yes honey, that’s what I want for Christmas - to fly with Mike to LA to see Dramarama play at The Whiskey” –

(smirk, fake smile, look back, wide eyed…)  ”Oh shit, you’re serious, aren’t you?!”

(end scene, but hardly.)

Alright, alright…I just reread this and I heard the “Wonder Year’s Voice” too.  I always wondered how Kevin Arnold grew up to look like Daniel Stern too?  Winnie Cooper avoided him more than Webster Papadopoulos avoided pole vaulting tryouts.  Apologies,  80s heavy tangents, along with 80s references,  are my social/writing  “safety nets”.

I’ve grown into a proud, yet uncomfortable music snobbery over the past several years.  Snickering at anyone that didn’t enjoy Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray or a deep brewing distain, no HATRED, for anyone that preferred "Here Comes Your Man" over "Debaser" - for those that don’t know,   google it. . By the way,  if you click that link you’ll NEVER get a Christmas card or handshake from me ever again.

I'm sorry,  but I’m serious.  Ugh, seriously this is tough.  OK, I’m wrong. 

Let’s get back to this trip I alluded to in the beginning of this “Clark W. Griswald roadmap” inspired post.

I assume the reason you’re reading this collection of overused commas & A.D.D. fueled 180s, is for the undeniable gift that we both “get it”.  

How can someone explain a sunrise?  Or for another uncalled for 80s reference - the first time I saw Det. Dee Dee McCall (Rick Hunter’s Aqua-Net commercial sidekick)? 

We just can’t…

Let’s get back on course –

In Janaury I’m getting on that plane with a good friend.  We are going to LA .  Another friend will meet us there.  And ultimately we’re going to see Dramarama play at the iconic Whiskey A-Go-Go.  
My Dee Dee McCall.  My Kevin Arnold.  My heroes that braved the highs and lows of the music industry.  They will, have, and continue to “wow” me and their loyal fans for over 30 years.  So much so, that 2 of them are enlightened enough to flip the bird to Lindbergh,  and make this 5584 pilgrimage. 

They continue to pursue their dreams.  Commercial success may have evaded them, but it has not prevented them from doing what they love, what makes them whole, which gives them meaning.

Isn't that we are all striving for?  You can go home again.  When is the last time you have been?

Check back next month for a full report.  In the meantime, go get yours.
_________________________________________________________________________________Some personal Dramarama favs, but as always, download the entire album for the proper experience,



"Anything, Anything"

"Some Crazy Dame"


"Emerald City"

"Steve and Edie"

"It's Still Warm"

to name a few.

Their finest record is Vinyl.  Case closed.

PS: “Restless angels scale the walls upstaging Mr. Fields…”


Me and John Easdale

Friday, December 6, 2013

Best of November, 2013

King Moonracer, Rock Star!

As I sit here, still reeling from an epic late night, words are very hard to come by.

Caveman made their way home after a successful European tour and kicked Bowery Ballroom's ass last night.  They billed it as a Christmas show and made the most of all the good tidings.  This space has been on board from the beginning and it appears others are buying in.

Their second (self titled) record is infectious.  Since its release earlier this spring I have listened to it more than any other music- and it ain't even close.  And note, this has been a great year for music.  The National, Vampire Weekend, Pearl Jam, Arcade Fire and a host of others, have released quality albums this year.  Most bloggers and music sources have been posting their "Best of" lists and I have not seen Caveman on any of them.

This is puzzling, understood and generally ok.

It is puzzling because their music (and more specifically their live performance) continues to evolve and shine.  Each show allows the listener another opportunity to find a gem.  My first introduction to them made me an "Old Friend" devotee.  It is a stand out and they absolutely killed it again last night.  Other times I was mesmerized by "My Time" (my vid from last night) or "Where's the Time?"   Last night "Ankles" was an unexpected treat.  Sure I have heard it countless times before.  But the slow build was somehow more effective last night.  Caveman's stage presence,  backed by tirelessly touring the globe, was hard to ignore.  The New York boys had themselves some quality production design too.  And that shit doesn't go unnoticed.  Christmas (NOT HOLIDAY) trees adorned the stage.  A circular projection screen featured various Christmas themes mixed with other scenes- fire, ice, a talking creature not unlike King Moonracer from Rudolph.  Good stuff.

All that pales to the visceral and emotional connection Caveman bring with their songs.  Now, with the added experience of performing two records worth of material, nearly non-stop for 4 years, things have escalated from building blocks to full on skyscraper.

It is easy to understand how they have not made it onto the mainstream dial.  For one thing, that dial can be a little, how you say, slow.  No offense to Lorde or Haim, but those ladies were never really "alt."  Their success has more to do with the mainstream liking a soft song with a hook.  Caveman are never going to find their way in that landscape.  Nor should they.  Their songs, and more importantly their willingness to jam and reach high, high decibels, is for a more sophisticated pallet.   Life can be pretty freaking busy for sophisticated.  It's darn easy to listen to Bruno Mars and Maroon 5 and sit at their concerts.  Believe me I have done it and think it's quite pleasing.

It's harder still to drag your tired ass out on a Thursday and catch a band, at 11pm!  Standing for several hours and following along (for a mind and body like mine) is taxing.  When the payoff is this good though all else is forgotten.   Getting home at 1:30am was never fun when I was younger and able to recover.  Now, forget about it.  A special shout out to my sister and her friend who travel and hour to get to my place.  They probably rolled in around 3 this morning.  And poor sis had a day of hair cuts awaiting her.  I joked with her that every customer ran the risk of exiting her salon looking like Daddy Warbucks.

Fact is,  Caveman are worth that kind of effort.  It makes sense why many folks in my suburban town look at me like I am crazy.  But it also makes sense that they are as crazy for not getting on board.

Adam Levine is great, don't get me wrong.  But you can TiVo that shit.  Each day you read about artists railing against Spotify and Pandora.  The music industry is a convoluted mess.  Maybe our only way out of it is supporting live music and all musicians trying to make it out there.  It's friggin tough.

Thankfully it appears this little Caveman has what it takes.

It's gonna be ok if ya'll don't get it.  There are many that do.  By this time next year there will be even more…  and more…  and more.  Viva La Caveman!

Caveman Band, Bowery Ballroom, 12.5.13

The month that passed had plenty of other hits and artists that caught my attention.  I will not even try to narrow my already bloated "Best of" list.  Take a look at listen to these new additions.

Remember to find me here: GTS or GTS on Twitter

"Pumpin Blood" Nonono

Sweden has long been known as a hotbed for pop and disco.  From Abba to Icona Pop those blonde, blue-eyed kids dig on some funky grooves.  This act follows suit with this catchy, whistle-centric dance number.  Vocalist Stina Wappling and a couple producers make up the band.  Would I want to see them live?  Doubtful.  But this sure is a fun song.

Passenger "Let Her Go"

The story of Brighton, England's Mike Rosenberg, nee Passenger, is a compelling and interesting one.  Should you have the time take a look here.   But if you just want a sweet, well crafted lyric performed with a understated ease just listen to the song.  I am sure this has become the angst ridden teenage girl anthem for 2013 and for good reason.  It has both the ability to make you smile and cry.

Best Coast "I Don't Know How"

LA duo Bethany Consentino (vocals/guitars) and Bobb(not a typo) Bruno (multi instrumentalist) make up Best Coast.  Their latest song is a tale of two tunes.  The first part is a slow bore.  Consentino echoes the refrain over and over in a tedious and grating manner.  When Bruno kick drums his way in the whole dynamic changes in a very positive way.  The sum is greater than the parts, much like the band members themselves.  I mean really, West Coast is Best Coast?  Um, don't think so.

Avett Brothers "Another is Waiting"

North Carolina brother Scott and Seth Avett are critical darlings.  Their homespun and folksy offerings provide a soundtrack for Main St., America.  There are banjoes.  There is wit.  There is cello.  There is harmony.  It is a mix of alt country, pure country, bluegrass, classical and most everything in between.   Their 8th LP, Magpie and The Dandelion, reached #5 on the Billboard chart so these guys are no secret.  This first single (and the sardonic video) are both gleefully addictive.  The Avett's are not for  everyone, as some friends of mine have told me, but in my mind they are as good as anyone making music today.

Sky Ferreira "You're Not the One"

Before researching I was unaware Ms Ferriera is a former model.    And her arrest over the summer (drugs with Diiv frontman and boyfriend Zachary Cole Smith) was not on my radar either.  Nor was her nude album art.  Ok you got me.  I knew way more about this young lady prior to her LP release than most alt ingenues.  But let the record state she is more than just a pretty face (and breasts.)  This single is a glorious throwback to 80s pop with more edge than Miley or Rhianna.  Fun stuff.

Fitz and The Tantrums "Walker"

Earlier this year I caught this LA act on Daryl Hall's excellent show.  It seemed like a perfect fit.  Michael Fitzsimmons has his ear firmly on Motown and 50's and 60s rhythm and blues.  He and his Tantrums bring an up tempo, positive vibe with a nod to pop not unlike the glory days of Hall and Oates.  It's all about good hooks and fun beats.  Oh, and Fitz and his leading lady Noelle, have voices Berry Gordy would approve of.  Note, this is the second track on the list showcasing whistling.  Is a remake of Walk Like an Egyptian next?

Tennis "Mean Streets"

Denver husband and wife act Tennis are important for a few reasons.  One, they have shared the Fat Possum label with aforementioned Caveman.  They released their latest record, Small Sound, through Communion.  On the record we find out why else they are important- they make solid music.  Small is an apt description of their sound when referring to Alaina Moore's hushed vocals.  The overall vibe is far bigger though.  This tune relies on a steady and bone shaking bass line that is hard to ignore.  Tennis anyone?

Kate Nash "Fri-end"

Fiery English songstress Kate Nash comes from a long line of Brit bad girls.  If I cared to research I am sure she has been compared to Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse and Adele.  She released her third LP, Girl Talk, earlier this year.  It came and went without much fanfare in these parts.  Our loss.  Take a listen and fall in love with both the song and the artist.  She has staying power- unlike Ms Winehouse for instance.

Haerts "Wings"

There is a lot going on with the English, German and US band called Haerts.  They are still finding their way and recently released their first EP.  They formed just last year so who can predict what happens in the immediate future.  Will an LP come out?  Will they hit some big stages?  Will they even stay together?  Guess you could ask those questions about all the acts on this list.  Enjoy the song and let's all play the waiting game.  So far, so good.

Cut/Copy "Walking the Sky"

The Aussie synth powerhouses new record, Free Your Mind, is another one of those records I find myself listening to over and over.  They will embark on a huge tour early next year that includes a NYC trip I am stoked to be attending.  Their mix of arena pop and synth anthems are stand outs in a World of weak EDM and lesser, but more popular talents of similar sensibilities.  They are the high water mark in the category and this particular song is pure joy.

And for the record, still can't get enough of  "We Exist""Normal Person", and "Afterlife" from Arcade Fire's amazing new record.

and for more info on Caveman they have been written about extensively here.  take a look:

Caveman review 5 on 5 at Ace Hotel

Caveman from CMJ 2011

Caveman debut record release Mercury Lounge 2011