Wednesday, December 26, 2007

CD Review: Jason Quicksall's "My Wiser Side"

by Dave Schaefer

Jason Quicksall’s newest release My Wiser Side captures you almost instantly in the first track and holds on to you throughout. Much of this is the quality of songwriting that he exhibits as well as the smooth instrumental arrangement. The CD could easily be a droll set of acoustic folkiness, but instead he lifts it to a very listenable, surprisingly honest set of songs.

It would be easy for Jason to fall into a melancholy muck and make it difficult for his listeners to escape from it without losing an emotional shoe or two. Instead, he uses just enough restraint to make songs like “Wiser Side” and “Unbreakable” intriguing in their balance of light and darkness, involving the listener and creating something that’s musically interesting and lyrically thoughtprovoking.

In light of this delicate balance that he seems to so effortlessly maintain, I asked Jason about his songwriting process.

“My songs usually start with one hook, be it lyrical, melodic or hopefully both. Just something that grabs me. From there I usually get a verse or maybe several ideas for verses and a chorus. I seldom finish a song in one sitting -- I have to let the song breathe and then revisit it over the next days, weeks, months, sometimes even years. I’ll play it live and see how it feels. The last thing to come together is usually the subject of the song. I don’t feel a need to spell everything out or tell a complete narrative, I like to write in snapshots and incomplete images all scattered about. Then I edit -- taking some parts away, repeating others, maybe add a bridge -- until it makes sense to me.”

Jason seldom sits down with the planned intention of writing a song. When he tries that, generally nothing comes. Says Jason: “I just have to let things come out and let the process unfold.”

And those that buy My Wiser Side are the benefactors of that unfolding process. “Take Me Down” skims auditory ingredients from a country recipe then builds a crafty, catchy song that’s wordsmithed to near perfection. “Better Habits” could be a 1940’s foot-tapper playing on a Victrola, with it’s soft percussion and playful guitar. “New Friends” has a bluesy touch.

And that’s one of the many appealing things about this CD -- although it has a general uniform sound, the style of songs vary widely, including the depth and insight of the lyrics. Even when you come across a song like “Enemy,” which is fairly bland musically, Jason puts words together in such a way that you can’t help but listen intently, drinking in the story he tells.

The Jack Johnson and Ryan Adams comparisons are inevitable from a musical standpoint, with maybe a touch of Ray Lamontagne from his Trouble days. The likeness is apt, but on the same token, Jason stands on his own -- these aren’t copycat songs by a person trying to be someone else.

For the first time ever for a CD I’ve reviewed, I’m giving My Wiser Side five buses. This is quality work and an incredible set of individual songs that also work beautifully together as a collection. You walk away from the CD truly believing you know a bit more about Jason Quicksall and, somehow, you’re a better person for it.

If you see Jason perform, you’re just as likely to catch him solo as you are to find him leading a five-piece, thanks to his relationship with such bands as the Floorwalkers and Nova Madrugada. He hosts a songwriters’ round called Cowtown Round with Jesse Henry (of Jesse Henry and the Royal Tycoons) at the Rumba Cafe on Mondays where they often get touring acts to take part. Jason also hosts an open mic at the Rumba on Tuesdays. His next band shows are on Jan. 19 and Feb. 2 at Andyman’s Treehouse.

My Wiser Side is available at Lost Weekend Records and on iTunes.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Locals in the CD101 Big Room During Andyman-a-thon

The Andyman-a-thon always features great local music in the CD101 Big Room and this year's no exception. Starting tonight and running through Sunday, Andyman's got some amazing Columbus bands helping him stay awake in order to raise money for children's charities. You can tune in online or turn your Columbus radio dial to 101.1fm. And don't forget to call in and donate!


Nuclear Children 8pm
Earwig 9pm
Blue Eyed Gunslingers 10:30pm
Stonebyrd Midnight

Dammits 11am
Delyn Christian 1:30pm
Willie Pheonix 4pm
The Razers 8pm
The Receiver 9:30pm
Rickie C. 11pm
Colin of Watershed Midnight

Glare Noon
Blasphemy Saints 1:30pm
Happy Chichester 3pm

Thursday, December 13, 2007

CD Review: Downplay's "A Day Without Gravity"

by Dave Schaefer

“We started to build a name for ourselves as the crazy party band that could put on shows as long as six straight hours,” says Downplay lead singer Dustin Bates of their early days at Ohio University where the band began with the current member line-up. “But we still weren't a full blown original band in my opinion.”

That happened when the band released their first full-length CD Saturday in 2005, a year that also marked their move from Athens to Columbus as their new home base.

“I think the local Columbus music scene is great,” says Dustin. “There’s a very strong indy and heavy metal/hardcore scene especially. Tons of really good bands, like Embassy, For The Drive, Sighlo, Lovesick Radio, Bullet Jones, and Philo. This is definitely not an all-encompassing list -- I can’t possibly list every band that I’ve seen and like. And I’m sure there are sweet ass bands I've never seen.”

Downplay’s second full-length, A Day Without Gravity, was released in November via True Anomaly Records -- a label started by Dustin and business partner Rich Vertanen in late 2006. The album has already gotten some East Coast exposure on Undiscovered Radio Network where Downplay was ranked in the top five “Bands You Need to Know.”

A Day Without Gravity benefits from Downplay’s four years together. The playing is tight, the songs lean, and the vocals are very nearly impeccable. The CD mixes alt rock, power pop, and a touch of metal into a combination that’s tough to nail down into a single easy-to-label sound. And that’s just fine with Dustin.

“Not that we are the best band of all time,” he says, “but the press tends to label us as pop rock in their listings. I don’t care if they call us the shittiest band of all time, as long as they don’t just throw us into some generic pop rock bin.”

I agree. Though the pop rock label may be somewhat understandable, given the general need of many to stuff bands into a neat and tidy little box, it shows a decidedly superficial examination of the album. The driving “15 Minutes,” the rock riffs of “The Stain,” and the metal-tainted “Down To Zero” are strewn amongst the more alternative sounds of “Edge of the Universe,” “Sleep,” and the infectious brilliance of “Average Unknown.” In the mix, too, are the straight-up rock of “Maybe” and the closer “Back For More.”

That being said, it might be expected that A Day Without Gravity would be a schizophrenic mess -- on the contrary, it’s a tight, well-balanced album with tracks that stick with you. Granted, not every song is a winner -- “Queen of New York City” provides little in the way of something different, sounding very much like, well, a B-side -- but by far the majority of the twelve tracks are quality work.

Lyrically, the songs are creative, insightful, and pieced together with incredible precision. Dustin paints a lyrical picture that manages to place the listener in the center, creating an added layer of depth. The musically lacking track “B-Side” is unabashedly rescued by its well-crafted, melancholic lyrics alone.

Bottom line: Downplay’s A Day Without Gravity is an exceptional CD of alt/rock/powerpop/etc. songs that are memorable and listenable. After spending a week with the disc, I definitely recommend it.

Here's the song-by-song rundown:

The Stain
Okay, I have to admit the intro grabbed me. Not everyone sings about Ohio, let alone be brave enough to include it in the opening words of the opening song of a CD. Though the verses of the song are an up-and-down vocal and lyrical simplicity that I found somewhat bland, the music to this song is good and the chorus is a catchy foot-tapper that makes you want to revisit the song. On a minor note, the bridge is really good -- flows perfectly out of the song, then back into it, without disrupting anything.

Edge of the Universe
Dustin’s voice is the highlight of this track, effortlessly sending the lyrics weaving through the arrangement of guitars, drums and bass. This is a standout song -- the lyrics are clever, memorable, and the music blends beautifully into them.

Like “The Stain,” the chorus stands out, while the verses take a an unfortunate backseat. But, again, it’s such a damn catchy refrain (and the clever lyrics -- “You’re the reason I gotta take pills to sleep” -- get easily trapped in your head), that it’s forgivable.

15 Minutes
A nice rocker that takes a bend or two that you don’t expect, this track can’t help but be a fan favorite at live shows. It’s danceable in a testosterone-filled, head-bobbing sort of way, while the ladies can jump around and wiggle to it. Again with the good lyrics.

Queen of New York City
My least favorite track and one I just wish wasn’t included. Not that it’s completely unlistenable, but it doesn’t come close to matching the quality of the rest of the tracks. This is one of the few songs where the lyrics don’t work for me. Though they do work well with the music -- for what it’s worth anyway -- but the wit and depth that are evident in other tracks are lacking in this one.

Average Unknown
Easily my favorite track. “We’ve been walking on egg shells just to please you...” are lyrics that grab you, even though the beat and music have already snatched your attention. The refrain is brilliant, danceable fun, without the wit of the lyrics letting up. This is a song that’s extremely well-built, with everything working well together, creating a clever, pop-rock track.

Filthy Voodoo
I really didn’t want to like this song. Like “Queen of New York City,” the lyrics on this one aren’t up to what Dustin shows he’s capable of writing and at first it was hard to get past the somewhat corny line “...the filthy voodoo you do.” But the music on this one is well done and pulls you back into it. You do have to be willing to overlook some of the lyrical content -- though there are the occasional bright spots (“...we’re all addicted to the glamorized, get on your knees and glorify...”) -- in order to enjoy this track.

Okay, this is an odd one. The music on this track is definitely a yawner, fairly standard stuff that really doesn’t offer anything new. But this is a song that’s rescued out of the pit of mediocrity by its brilliant lyrics. Not an easy thing to do. It’s so lyrically well-crafted you can’t simply dismiss it, even though you initially want to. Take the time to actually listen to this song and you may feel the same way.

Down to Zero
This is another guitar-driven rock track. Piecing together standard rock-song lyrics with some more witty, Downplay-like wordcraft makes for a radio-friendly, highly listenable song. I wish it had a bit more of a rock feel, though -- it teeters on the brink of being a cool, musically harsher track, but pulls back before actually reaching it, as though they were trying to make it heavy, but didn’t quite succeed.

Fade Away
The guitar opening to this track is intriguing and draws you in, then it bursts with a harder edge that features some creative drum work. Downplay chooses not to beat you over the head with the tune, but instead injects just enough musical subtlety to create some depth.

This is as close as Downplay comes to a ballad. It begins much like “Fade Away” with a pleasant, subdued sound, then belts out a chorus that’s infused with loud guitars and pounding drums. The sound is built very deliberately and the vocals match it very well. Once again, the lyrics work.

Back For More
A lot of really drawn out notes in this track, which I’m still undecided as to whether it works for it or against it. It’s a pleasant enough song, but lacks a bit of originality. I would have preferred a stronger close to the CD -- perhaps swapping the order of this track with “Maybe.”

You may or may not like the genre of alternative pop that Downplay’s A Day Without Gravity falls into, but I don’t believe this release deserves to be quickly labeled and neglectfully pushed aside. For the most part, the songs are well-built, creative, and stand out lyrically. And throughout all these tracks -- like them or not -- Dustin’s voice is spot-on.

Upcoming shows:
12/21 Timberlane's, Salem, OH
12/29 Flannagin's, Dublin, OH
1/11 Skully's, Columbus
1/19 Fat Jimmy's, Kent, OH
2/1 The Greenville, Chagrin Falls, OH

Sunday, December 9, 2007

CD Review: Philo's "Self Destruction In Dark"

by Dave Schaefer

Philo had what was essentially a debut performance on December 1 at their CD release event at a packed Skully’s. Rarely does a local band that has barely even graced a stage together garner such anticipation, but such is Philo.

Their performance was what was expected -- which, considering how high those expectations were, was fairly impressive. Apart from a technical glitch that caused them to lose power just as their intro was building, and Butch seemingly unhappy with the tuning of his bass, the show was nearly flawless. As much as Corbin doesn’t consider himself a singer, he’s damn good at it. Not only that, but it matches the tonal and lyrical content of the songs incredibly well -- caught in a space somewhere between screaming and crooning. It works.

I was able to pick up a copy of “Self Destructive In Dark (Part 1)” at the show and I found it to be highly listenable.

At first, I was struck by a few of the songs, dismissed others, and felt that overall, the disc was promising.

But then I hung out with it for a few days. And I began to be drawn into the milieu that Philo paints in sound and lyric. The collection of songs became a fascinating, multi-layered bit of storytelling that I couldn’t as quickly dismiss. This is not a pop album filled with danceable tracks, nor is it dark alt-rock -- it falls somewhere in between, but then unexpectedly jogs off to the side.

The production of the CD has to be noted. It has a well-built sound that has multiple depths but at the same time isn’t overdone. You get the feel that it’s more reproduced than produced -- there are no gimmicks and nothing about it seems pretentious. It leaves you with the unmistakable impression that this is Philo, not what some producer thinks Philo should sound like.

Here’s a song-by-song rundown of their 6-song CD, “Self Destructive In Dark (Part 1)”:

Aqua Morning
Mixing depth and danceability, this track works well as the intro to Philo. The transitions of simplicity into power intro into the emotional thrust of the vocal and lyrical content is a good audio picture of the band. The song is filled with great hooks that stick in your head. Although the old-school fade-out at the end isn’t very satisfying, it’s certainly forgivable.

Possibly the best song, the opening guitar riff instantly grabs you and hooks you back into the song whenever it graces the track. It’s emotional, with a darkness that doesn’t overpower the song. Although it continually threatens to sink into shoe-gazing, it never goes there, creating an exceptional track with the perfect balance of bright music, dark lyrics, and dim emotion.

Lipgloss With Strangers
Again the simple intro keys work, harking memories of Ah-a’s largely ignored (but now acclaimed) “Scoundrel Days.” The lyrics have a sense of mystery to them, leaving you piecing them together in an attempt to figure out what the song is about. Corbin as a lyricist is exceptional in this regard, not only on this track, but throughout the CD. Each song leaves you with your own interpretation which ultimately creates a much more personal musical experience. The build-up to the final repeat of the chorus is a great pay-off, trailing into a simple keyboard to reflect where the song began.

With “Sonnet,” you feel as though you’ve been jarringly tossed into a song that started a stanza or two before the track actually begins, which sets you back a bit while you mentally try to catch up. Once that happens, the song is actually quite good. The chorus is memorable and features yet another great build-up about three minutes into the song that could very well be an homage to Queen’s “Flash Gordon” title track. This is one where you definitely take notice of Corbin’s voice -- at once holding back a scream and then belting out a chorus with such clarity that you understand every word that’s sung.

The Haunting and Apathy’s Broken Record
Although I generally avoid using the term “emo,” these are the tracks that it most resembles. Each is a belting lament that again teeters on the brink of shoegazing, but pulls back just far enough to avoid cliche. This is what Philo seems to do to great success -- they wrap themselves in what so closely resembles cliche (or at least something you’ve heard before), then surprises the listener when the wrapping begins to fall away to reveal something far different than what might be expected.

This is a CD that’s definitely worth noting. It has some brilliantly written tracks that only get better with age. Philo is a force to be reckoned with that already has a fan base and the wherewithal to get this release in the hands of a label and ultimately get themselves signed. I have a feeling this disc will go well beyond Columbus.

Indie Art Capital of the World: City Council Resolution

On Monday December 10 at the 5PM city council meeting, Council member Maryellen O'Shaughnessy will introduce a resolution declaring Columbus the Independent Art Capital of the World.

If you'd like to support the effort and join in on what just might be an historic moment, come to the Council meeting in the City Council Chambers at City Hall, 90 W. Broad St., 2nd Floor.

Monday, December 3, 2007

• Philo's big debut & CD review
• Cincy's Junior Revolution CD review
• A new CD from Downplay
• The Receiver

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

EP Review: The Judas Cow

by Dave Schaefer

With two former members of Columbus’s now-defunct Silo the Huskie, The Judas Cow’s short history is already entrenched in the city’s local scene. The garage Cowtown sound is embodied in the likes of Watershed, Twin Cam and Earwig -- and The Judas Cow fits comfortably in that crowd. But at the same time they’re able to distinguish themselves with their guy-next-door vocals, depth of lyrics and clever but straightforward hooks.

Just before playing the CD101 Summerfest, they put together an EP. A surprisingly good EP of melodic pop rock with a few surprises thrown in.

I was most taken by “Exit Strategy,” the first track on the 4-song EP. It’s lyrically brilliant, using personal and tragic words backed up by snappy, danceable music to create a biting critique of the war in Iraq. You find yourself happily tapping your foot while inwardly you realize you’re thinking a little deeper about a subject you thought you were contentedly disconnected from. This is an affecting song -- and it’s rare that I raise any song to that level.

“Great Divide” sends us back into the more traditional Columbus sound -- a straighforward, hooky, rock song that has a great fade-out/build-up halfway in. Granted, there’s nothing particularly new and different about this song, but it’s amazingly catchy nonetheless. The Judas Cow injects just enough of themselves to make it incredibly listenable and sets it up as a great example of how you can take a traditional sound and make it your own.

If “Great Divide” shows what The Judas Cow can do when they take their genre and twist it a little, “Kerouac Part 2” shows what happens when they just give into it. The lyrics to this song are exceptional, but the track overall seems like it’s a potentially punk song gone somewhat awry. Like a Dead Milkmen song covered by Daughtry. It’s not a bad song by any means, it’s simply not meeting its potential. Before casting final judgement, I’d like to see them perform this one live -- I have a feeling it’s a song not easily translated into a studio session.

The final track “Earlvoyeur” sends them back running onto the pitch. The most mellow of any of the tracks, the lyrics, vocals and music match up on this song better than any other on the EP. All the pieces fit together to create something so appealingly comfortable that it’s almost melancholy. And that’s a good thing.

Although I’ve never experienced their live show, I have a feeling this EP is merely a shade of what The Judas Cow is capable of -- both on stage and in the studio -- and I’m anxious to see where they go from here.

The Judas Cow will be opening for Cincinnati band Wussy at Andyman’s Treehouse this Friday, November 30th, along with Bookmobile.

The Judas Cow is:
Kevin Spain (vocals, guitar)
Chris Bair (vocals, guitar)
Dave Murphy (drums, percussion)

Ryan Haye (backing vocal, bass)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Upcoming Philo CD Release

by Dave Schaefer

Philo is throwing a party at Skully’s on Saturday. A few hundred of the local band’s closest friends will be there with them, buying them drinks and shouting congratulations. The occasion: The release of their long-awaited full-length, Self Destructive In Dark, Part I.

Philo is made up of Corbin Thomas (vocals/guitar), Shawn Huff (drums), Ryan “Butch” Butcher (bass), and Ryan Wilder (keys). How they all got together to form Philo is a complicated story, so here’s the condensed version: Corbin was brought into Mahoney by Shawn, but then lured away into Cringe where he met Ryan and Butch. Just as Shawn was about to be brought into Cringe as the drummer, Ryan and lead singer Tom Cline quit the band. So Corbin and Butch brought in Shawn and started Philo. Well, sort of. They were writing songs, but didn’t have a singer. After two years -- yes, two years -- of looking for a vocalist, Corbin reluctantly took the mic. And somewhere along the way, Ryan showed up again.

And now they have a debut CD.

The album was recorded at Spider Studios with Ben Schigel whose worked with the likes of Chimaira, and Drowning Pool. It’s well known that Schigel creates rock stars.

After Schigel had his way with it, Philo sent the tracks off to Roger Lian at Masterdisc in New York for mastering. After finishing the project, Lian called Corbin and told him how much he and his crew enjoyed working on it. “And that rarely happens here,” said Lian, “That we get unsigned projects that we enjoy doing.” High praise from someone whose resume includes everyone from Rob Zombie and GWAR to Smashing Pumpkins and Archers Of Loaf. Rumor has it that the disk is currently being looked at by Victory Records.

Only Ryan and Butch had prior experience with recording a full-on CD. For Corbin and Shawn, the full-production recording process was new, so I asked Corbin what the most difficult thing was that he encountered during the project.

“I wasn’t a singer before we released this album. I still don’t consider myself one. I’m just the dude who yells into the mic because we couldn’t find anyone better. This was tough in the studio. I wanted to sound a certain way. I had to discover myself in there and I’m still in the process of discovering myself every day. The whole experience of laying vocals has extreme ups and downs. At some points I felt like ‘wow I might be able to be a singer,’ other times I wanted to walk away in frustration and tears.”

Only a few locals make it into the national spotlight and this CD has all the earmarks of something that has a better-than-average chance of making it outside of Central Ohio. Still, Corbin gives the Columbus music scene high marks.

“I love the scene,” Corbin told me. “It’s great. There’s lots of talent out there and you meet so many great people.”

But he also had a critique. “It’s a tough road, though, no lie -- marketing your way through all the other music and events. One thing people need to pay attention to is working together. It seems that too often events collide with each other. There should be some way to focus each show’s demographic so instead of 30 shows that could be better, there are one or two big, badass shows that everyone talks about for weeks. That’s why we’re standing together on December 1st with our friends from stores inside the community that fit the music lifestyle. That’s why I picked the bands I did for the CD release. We’re shooting for something big.”

Any surprises for the show?

“I think Shawn was telling me he wanted to crowd surf in the nude covered with peanut butter.”

Let’s hope he’s kidding. But when you’re at the merch table buying Self Destructive In Dark, you might also want to pick up some antibacterial wipes. Just in case.

Philo CD Release Party
w/ Bullet Jones, For The Drive, and Cordova
December 1, 2007
Skully's Music Diner

Sunday, November 25, 2007

EP Review: Nuclear Children

by Dave Schaefer

The Nuclear Children released their EP Wear Black and Come When We Call this past September (I know, I know, another late review...). Jason Matthew, Matthew Gene, Rory Daniel, Nikolei Mario make up the band with Jason taking the lead on mic and lyrics.

At first listen, the sound immediately brought back memories of the 80’s American indie underground -- that Reagan-era DIY sound that spawned the likes of Minor Threat, Minutemen, Butthole Surfers, Social Distortion and countless others. Putting together songs that had a certain depth, but were damn fun, always cynical, and seldom brooding, the underground bands of that decade -- both east and west coast -- had the rare quality of both striking out in fun and hitting where it hurts. The Nuclear Children capture some -- though by no means all -- of that old-school feel.

The EP overall is fairly diverse, as though they chose a different persona for each of the tracks, while at the same time sounding distinctly like themselves. Shades of Social Distortion, Ramones, and others seep into the songs without Jason sounding like any of them. And maybe that’s one of the reasons why the EP is so appealing -- it sounds like Nuclear Children, not Nuclear Children trying to sound like someone else. Some of the brilliance comes from the arrangement, simplicity, and sound of the background vocals.

Not every song hits the mark -- “Yoko Ohno” lacks something to make it interesting -- however, strong opener “Karma Sutra” does. It’s a perfect first track because it shows what to expect for the rest of Wear Black and Come When We Call. And for the most part, the EP delivers.

Here’s a track-by-track rundown...

Karma Sutra
This may well be the strongest track on the EP. It’s a good introduction to who Nuclear Children are and what’s to come. During the first 25 seconds of the song, you wonder if this is going to be same-old-same-old, typical, local music CD that’s tossed together on someone’s MacBook. But then the hook kicks in and you realize this might be something different than what you were expecting.

When Jason’s rough, somewhat husky voice kicks in, it doesn’t immediately match the lighter, more treble sound of the music, but it’s easily dismissed by the time his second line is sung. And before shades of a chorus even start, you’re convinced his voice was made for this music. The backup vocals are vaguely reminiscent of 60s pop, giving the song a light, innocent feel, even as Jason is singing of sex, cheating, and one-night stands.

Kamekazi O
The intro music on this track catches your attention immediately -- unfortunately, the first line of the lyrics (“No, we’re not gonna take it”) doesn’t. Primarily because it’s just too familiar of a line, but maybe it just brings back memories of 80’s hair bands. Jason doesn’t seem to give this song quite as much care as the previous track, delivering fairly monotone lyrics. Having said that, the appeal of this song is the dichotomy of Jason’s shouting-at-a-frat-party delivery and the upbeat, poppy backup vocals. A clever combination that works.

In The News
This is the most musically odd of anything on this EP. Piped with the high-pitched sounds of an electronic circus organ, it’s as if the notes were pulled from the background music of an old-fashioned carnival carousel. Given the lyrical content -- the sensationalistic bent of today’s “news” broadcasts -- the circus feel is likely fully intentional. And it works. The lyrics are brilliantly cynical and have serious content, but put forth in a completely tongue-in-cheek way that's ultimately appealing.

Yoko Oh No
As much as it sounds Butthole Surfer-ish, this track is fairly standard. Both words and music lack what the other songs on the EP have, so it’s easy to dismiss this as a yawner. It’s not that it’s a particularly bad song, it just somewhat bland and has a harder time standing out alongside the higher quality of the other offerings on the CD.

We Are Carbon
Unlike “Yoko Oh No,” this track nails it. Excellent lyrics about life and death (though mostly death) match up perfectly with a melancholic music arrangement that creates a great, feel-bad song. The perfect closer to the EP of a band that’s definitely worth keeping your eye on.

Upcoming shows:
11/29 @ The Basement (Junior Revolution CD Release Show)
12/14 @ CD101 Big Room (Andyman-a-thon)
12/18 @ Skully's (free show)
12/21 @ The Drunken Unicorn (Atlanta)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ben Lee w/ Cary Brothers, Kate Voegele

by Dave Schaefer

This was one of those shows where The Basement serves as a perfect venue. Sunday night was Ben Lee’s sixth time in Columbus and his second time beneath the House of Crave. The show wasn’t a sellout, but it was close, which made for a great experience. That is, if you were where I was standing, which was right up in front of the stage. If you were stuck back by the bar, you may as well swig your Natty Lite and try to forget that somewhere a few feet away there’s a bit of a concert going on -- because you’re not going to be able to see a damn thing anyway.

The first opener for Ben was a petite little thing by the name of Kate Voegele. I admit to having never heard of the Cleveland native, but after just one song of her too-short, four-song set, I was determined to hit the merch table and pick up her CD. There’s a pop/folk sound to her music that was appealing, heartfelt and fun. Nothing too deep and certainly nothing complex, Voegele won over the crowd by the second song with her personable chit chat and gee-whiz personality. I was really hoping she’d come out with Ben during his set and sing the Mandy Moore parts of the duet “Birds and Bees,” but it wasn’t meant to be. It probably didn’t help that this was Voegele’s first night with the tour.

The ever-popular Cary Brothers was up next. Cary has a following of his own and there were many people in the crowd that were there specifically to see him. He’s an incredibly talented singer/songwriter that has the ability to create a mood with his live music that at one moment is melancholy and deep, yet at the same time isn’t depressed shoe-gazing. He had a lot of fun with the crowd and the crowd had a lot of fun with him, tossing banter at “Frank from Philly” and fans buying shots for Cary’s guitar player who was celebrating his birthday that night.

After a surprisingly short interlude, Ben Lee entered the stage. He’s joined by Nick Johns on this tour, choosing not to do the full-out rock/pop show this go-round, but instead doing a stripped-down, semi-acoustic version of his music.

Ben’s been doing this for a very long time and it shows. He’s completely comfortable on stage and he performs with an ease and simplicity that’s unpretentious. Within the space of the first two songs, you truly believe Ben is a really nice guy. By the middle of the set he’s your friend. Afterward, when he comes out to talk with fans, you believe that your his friend too.

The performance was filled with songs both old and new, from “Grampaw Would” through his new release “Ripe.” The set list taped to the floor in front of his mic had more than 60 songs on it. He’s “going with the flow” with this tour -- playing whatever strikes him whenever it strikes him. The only caveat is that he tries to lump them together -- ones that require Nick on stage, and those that don’t. It gave the evening a fun, haphazard and organic feel. You knew you weren’t getting the same exact thing as wherever they played the night before.

Ben has such a huge bevy of songs to choose from that he doesn’t typically have standards that he plays. However, that’s changed over the course of the last three tours. “Catch My Disease” is now a standard during the “encore” (I’ll explain the quotes in moment) -- his only (and modest) hit from his previous album. The other has become an anthem for both him and his fans -- “We’re All In This Together.” This is the second time he’s unplugged his acoustic guitar, tossed aside his mic, and sang this song with the audience as the final farewell. It creates an atmosphere of unity as everyone sings along and where Ben becomes backup to the voice of the crowd.

But back to that “encore.” This has become his new trademark to end his show. Instead of pretending to finish the set like so many other singers and leaving the stage completely intending to come back and play the final songs on their set list, Ben and Nick simply turn their backs to the audience as the crowd cheers for an encore. In the meantime, they're chatting, pretending to wonder if the crowd will want them back, then in a larger-than-life move, they turn around and act surprised and in awe that the crowd called them back for more. It’s very tongue-in-cheek and very funny.
And that really sums up a Ben Lee show. Hilarious, charming, serious, and most of all, fun.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Central City Recording: The new player in town

by Dave Schaefer

Depending on who you talk to, Columbus may or may not be the Indie Art Capital of the World, but it’ll be the Indie Music Capital of the World if Andy Dodson, Max Lewis and Ben Miller have anything to say about it.

They’re the owners of Central City Recording, Columbus’s newest recording studio located on High Street in Clintonville, just south of North Broadway. With an interior painstakingly designed by Andy himself, the facility is deceptively large, state-of-the-art, and, well, as cool as a recording studio ought to be.

Instruments are lined up everywhere -- from a vintage Fender to a 1965 Wurlitzer piano. Keep walking all the way back, past the glassed individual studios surrounding the engineering station and through a set of double-up doors and you’ll find a sound-proof rehearsal/jam room.

But, aside from all that, what perhaps sets Central City apart is their philosophy, which is embedded with a commitment to both this city and its local scene. After a quick tour of the place, I sat down with owners/producers/engineers Andy, Max and Ben, along with their marketing and promotions team Zac Goble and Erik Smith, and talked to them about Columbus, the local music scene, and their plans for both.

“We’re all from Columbus,” said Andy. (Erik’s from Cleveland -- all “Ohio boys” as Erik put it.) “And this is a great city for music -- it’s full of talent.”

To them, there was no question this was where their new venture would be located. Andy again: “Columbus is known as a pretty good microcosm of the US in general, so our whole theory is if a band can make it in Columbus, they can make it anywhere. Why would you want to jump out of something like that, where you have a really good opportunity to test your music and really get it out to the whole area all at once? When you go to Chicago or LA, there’s more agents and more this-and-that, but to get out to the fans you’re one of a billion there. So we’d like to get the word out about Columbus and let people know that you can get heard here.”

Ben: “A lot of the bands make the mistake of wanting to move out to LA or they want to move out to Texas.”

“You can do all that here,” added Erik. “You don’t have to go to Chicago or New York.”

“Ultimately,” said Andy, “the goal is to give people the opportunity to make a living from making music.”

Andy, Max and Ben have been in bands together since they were in their early teens. Andy went to school for recording and latched onto the idea of opening a studio. After spending some time in Michigan, Ben moved back to Columbus and the three of them began working to get the knowledge they’d need to make the idea a reality.

“About two and a half years ago, Ben and I went down to the Recording Workshop in Chillicothe and took some courses down there. We came back, got jobs at Guitar Center, started learning, started meeting people. Eventually we got a business plan, got investors, pitched the idea, got the space and we’re here.”

“The three of us have always had a keen interest in the recording process,” said Max. “When we were a band, we didn’t play live very often -- what we did relish in was the recording process. So if we’re connected strongly in any way, it’s that most definitely. And this felt natural for us to start.”

“If we’re not going to be rock stars,” Andy added, “we should help other people be rock stars.”

Now that things are up and running, I asked what the biggest challenge was they’d faced so far.

Max spoke up right away. “The construction.”

Andy agreed. “ That’s the biggest thing. We kind of did this all ourselves. The design was my design with the input of these guys and our contracting team, but we didn’t have a general contractor, so we all had to learn how to get through the city process and all the code enforcements and stuff like that. At the same time, we had to build a space that was spec’ed out with double walls and double doors and things that aren’t necessarily what they want to see in a place. So I think construction was definitely the biggest hurdle. The biggest so far.”

The next hurdle is getting their name out on the street in the ears of the local talent. Although grassroots efforts are important -- flyering, going to shows, partnering with businesses, etc. -- Zac says they believe strongly that helping the local music scene flourish is the key to their own survival. They noted bands such The Receiver, Triceratops, El Jesus de Magico, Necropolis, and Two Cow Garage. “ We’re local music junkies,” Andy added. “That’s a big part of why we’re here. This town is full of talent and we’ll do anything we can do to help the scene.”

Now that their idea has become reality, the guys at Central City believe that success is imminent.

“Between all of us,” said Zac, “we’ve got a lot of good people and contacts in the industry from all over the country and especially in Columbus and we can use that to our advantage and really help some people get to where they want to be. You don’t have to go sign to a major label and work with all those agents in LA and NY -- we can do that stuff here. Here in Columbus and here at Central City.”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

• Columbus's newest recording studio opens its doors
• Ben Lee at The Basement
• Local music: Philo releases their debut CD
• Local music: Nuclear Children
• and an update on
Columbus: Indie Art Capital of the World

Concert Review: Avenged Sevenfold at The LC

by Andy Vogel

It was cold as hell this past Saturday waiting outside The LC in a line that wrapped around the block. There were so many flippin’ people! The show kicked off with bands full of a bunch of Axel Rose wannabes – the kind that just get drunk on stage and have that whole redneck rock bullshit mentality. Yet, it was all worth the wait for Avenged Sevenfold.

You couldn’t see shit because of all the people and you started to smell like shit because of all the people, BUT you could hear A7X rip some remedies and solo faster than a drunken trucker going in circles on 270.

Lead singer M. Shadows looked like a husky man beast. He makes Danzig look like a sissy. The way he puts off his evil smile between screaming is lethally awesome. Even drummer The Rev had a killer voice. He chimed in with roaring support while slamming on his drums – it was pure talent. The guitarists even went bonkers with Synyster Gates soloing every song for about five whole minutes.

The fans were pleased, even though most weren’t able to see jack shit. Everyone sang the words and everyone jumped up and down when hits like “Seize the Day” and “Unholy Confessions” came on.

A7X could be the next Pantera, lets just hope they don’t tour at the Al Rosa.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Concert Review: Electric Six w/ 1990s, We Are The Fury

by Dave Schaefer

Much like Andyman’s Treehouse, there’s a love-hate relationship with The Basement. Cramped, dark and low-ceilinged, the venue is a strange concoction of hallway, billiard room, bar and music hall, chopped up and tossed together like a second-rate Tarantino flick. The stage is a small space that’s slightly larger than the mens room at the Blue Dube. It sports low-hanging pipes and beams that the establishment’s management was kind enough to mark with florescent tape so the onstage band doesn’t hit their heads (a regular occurrence). With the large columns holding up the House of Crave above you and the stage -- save for the small pit -- at the same level as the rest of the floor, it’s nearly impossible to see anything unless you're in the pit itself or standing in the first row around it.

Still, even with all its downfalls, I have an affinity for this venue. With a space so small, you can’t help but have an intimate experience with the bands that your watching. It creates a personalized experience where even a bad band can appear to have some redeeming value. It’s as though you’re watching them in your living room. A very very small living room.

On Friday night, all three bands that performed didn’t need The Basement’s intimate ambiance to help impress the crowd.

We Are The Fury
First up was Toledo, Ohio’s We Are The Fury. Starting the show with danceable rock with a poppy slant, the band seemed to surprise the crowd with their better-than-expected set. Of all the bands, these guys came off the most as slick marketers of themselves. Normally, this would be a bad thing, but due to the brand of music they played and the amount of energy they displayed, their slick appearance -- and lead singer Jeremy Lublin’s glittered face -- was easily tolerated.

After frantically clearing the stage of We Are The Fury’s equipment, 1990s -- hailing from Scotland -- began setting up. Normally this wouldn’t be much in the way of entertainment, except that drummer Michael McGaughrin -- wearing his anti-rockstar Noah Bennet hornrims -- began setting up his drum set on center front of the stage, surprising many in the crowd and caused a flurry of snapshots as he toiled through the process mere inches away from the frontline of onlookers.

Once everything was set up, 1990s put on a truly incredible show. The band’s sound blends inane lyrics with old-fashioned pub rock and the band was having as much with the music as the crowd in front of them. Immensely charming guitarist/vocalist Jackie (sometimes John) McKeown (formerly of The Yummy Fur) was fairly amazing with his command of the strings and McGaughrin showed the crowd that all that time he took to set up was by no means in vain. Bassist Dino Bardot of Stinky Munchkins -- who’s playing tour stand-in for Jamie McMorrow who quit 1990s in September -- is hugely talented. Too bad they can’t keep him.

By far the majority of the people at the show had no clue who these guys were, but just a couple songs into their set the crowd in the bar started noticing them and soon after were packed in the small space to hear the band perform. By the middle of the set, they had won the audience and by the end -- and after a spectacular mini improvisational jam session -- the crowd were nearly cheering them into an encore.

The Electric Six
But most everyone was there for the headliner -- Electric Six. The constantly-smiling Dick Valentine delivered a show so effortlessly entertaining that you realize the stage is where he belongs. His bizarre, sarcastic wit is evident with each song played and his every word and movement fairly drips with nudge-nudge wink-wink cynicism. At the same time, Valentine can come across as somewhat disinterested, as though he were perhaps thinking of how he might go about separating the darks from the lights in his laundry when he got back home to Detroit. Those in the know, however, are aware that he wasn’t thinking that at all on Friday night -- because if he was, he would’ve had no qualms about saying so.

The six-piece barely fits on the stage at The Basement and given a bit more space they perhaps would’ve been more dynamic, but amongst the dancing and general mood of drunken fun, the crowd didn’t seem to mind. As evidenced when the first chords of “Gay Bar” began to be plucked on The Colonel’s guitar, which sent the pit audience into a moshing frenzy.

Their performance was pure, unadulterated -- or maybe adulterated -- entertainment. Exactly what's expected from Electric Six.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Electric Six @ The Basement Nov. 9th

by Dave Schaefer

Electric Six is coming to The Basement this coming Friday, Nov. 9th. In tow will be their unique brand of alt/pop dance tunes that you can’t help but move to. At the same time, you can enjoy the lyrical cynicism that injects each song with a sharp wit that makes it more than superficial neo-disco. These guys are clever with their music, but at the same time, clearly don’t take it too seriously.

The band is touring to support their latest release, “I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master.” The title is taken from a George Grosz drawing of the same name (shown at left). Grosz was a post-WWI German artist that excelled at criticizing -- and satirizing -- the new German republic with its upper-class capitalism and excess in the midst of a nation in desperate need. His decidedly leftist bent often depicted the upper class and those in power with bitter humor.

Although lead singer Dick Valentine states that it’s general excess that inspired the CD’s title, it’s tough to not see the larger intention of pulling the name from Grosz’s sketch. One of the standout tracks -- “Down at McDonaldz” -- depicts the intent of his drawing nearly perfectly.

And you can consider all this deep meaning as you dance wildly to their live show. “Danger! High Voltage,” “Gay Bar,” “Dance Commander,” “I Buy the Drugs” and “Randy’s Hot Tonight” will surely be in the mix. And if you’re really really nice to them, they may even throw in “Naked Pictures (of your mother).”

Now that's a song in need of deep contemplation.

Electric Six
w/ 1990s, We Are The Fury

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Basement

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Be a part of the revolution

by Dave Schaefer

Well okay, maybe it’s not a revolution, but it’s at least a realization.

Cities are always making declarative statements about themselves, attaching clever catch phrases aimed at pulling in tourism or creating a media buzz to grab attention. Many aren’t true and most are, at best, a misrepresentation.

Not so, with the latest of Columbus’s hopeful titles: “The indie art capital of the world.” It’s partly due to the fact that it’s not the city that’s promoting it, it’s a grassroots effort started by a couple of guys from the local arts community. And they’re simply stating something that’s already true. In their words: “The spirit and business of making art (or anything for that matter) is ingrained in our city’s DNA. There are literally hundreds of different expressions of indie art in Columbus. From dance, film and visual arts to literature, music and even advertising.”

The effort was launched at the end of October by artist Mike Reed, a member of the Couchfire Collective which is the organization responsible for the Agora arts events. Joined by another local artist, Daniel Fox of, the movement will culminate with the first Columbus Indie Arts Conference in 2008. The conference hopes to feature both locally and nationally known artists and innovators and “celebrate the rich cultural Arts tradition of Columbus.”

Says Fox: “Independent Art and Columbus Ohio have always had a strong connection. Our independent spirit extends from crafters to entrepreneurs, from the music scene to theater and beyond. There’s so much going on here just under the radar.”

Although the campaign is currently grassroots, the plan is to go beyond that to involve Columbus leaders outside the art community, including Mayor Coleman, and taking this independent movement and giving it mass appeal.

And ultimately solidifying Columbus as the true indie art capital of the world.

For more information:

The group will have a brainstorming session on Sunday November 11 at 11:00am at Junctionview Studios (889 Williams Ave., which is just off of Northwest Blvd. between 5th and Goodale). All are welcome. However, they emphasize that you don't have to attend to be a part of the effort. They encourage people to participate in their own creative way, which is the true spirit of the indie arts scene.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

CD Review: Bullet Jones

by Dave Schaefer

This review is long overdue. Released this past summer, the so-called “Demo” EP by local band Bullet Jones is anything but. When I think of a demo, I think of a recording that’s a bit rough. Maybe something that was technologically tossed together -- albeit carefully -- using a bandmember’s cousin’s Mac or exhibiting music and lyrics that could use a bit (if not a lot) of spit and shine. This CD has none of the rough-hewn edges of a typical demo.

Bullet Jones is a classic four piece -- Ryan Cox (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Lee Neuzil (lead guitar), John Allen (bass) and Mat Marcum (drums) -- that plays good old-fashioned, straight-up rock n roll. There’s no gimmicks, no desperate attempt to create some new niche in order to get noticed. Maybe they realize -- and rightfully so -- that they don’t need it.

The CD is filled (well, as much as a 6-song CD can be considered “filled”) with songs that are well-written and well-played. Maybe that’s a bit of an understatement, given the exceptional musicianship that Bullet Jones exhibits both individually and collectively. Cox’s voice is perfectly suited for the songs and can belt out lyrics with clarity and emotion (he shines on “Song #4”) that rivals any million-selling rocker. Neuzil is brilliant on guitar and plays with a precision and style that I’m not sure Columbus can contain. As much as Cox and Neuzil make their mark on this CD, it’s the entire band that works so seamlessly well together that makes this independently-produced CD far better than any rock album that a major label has pushed out over this past year.

Though there are no bad songs on Bullet Jones’ EP, standout tracks are “Ugly Side,” “Song #4,” and the anthemic “Ballad of Bullet Jones.” Each show a different side of the band, allowing the listener to piece together the success that’s in the future for Bullet Jones.

The CD is currently only available at the band's shows, or you can contact them via their MySpace page.

Upcoming shows:
11/18 @ B0MA (Bar of Modern Art)
11/30 @ Ravari Room
12/1 PHILO CD release @ Skully's Music Diner

[UPDATE: I was able to catch Bullet Jones at the Halloween Bash at Andyman’s Treehouse Friday night for the first time. Covering AC/DC during their set, the band belted out the likes of “Highway To Hell” and “Back In Black” (which, according to Neuzil, stressed Cox’s vocal chords nearly to the limit). They put on an engaging 4-song set and although the band’s EP clearly shows their energy, their live show put it to shame.]

Sunday, October 21, 2007

EP Review: Calendar For Preston

by Dave Schaefer

Calendar For Preston is further along than they should be, considering they’ve only been writing songs for a little over a year. Their EP shows a lot of potential for this hometown band. Joey Sexton (guitar), Tom Gutman (bass & keys) and Ryan Harris (drums) pull together the music with frontman Stephen Jordan doing lyric-writing duties. Produced with Jay Hammond at Blue Moon Studios here in Cowtown, the EP exhibits a surprising musical maturity that I was wasn’t expecting.

The music comes off as tight and exhibits very well the talents of Sexton, Gutman and Harris. Jordan’s voice matches the musical style and sounds really good on this recording. The songwriting is exceptional. I believe these guys will move quickly beyond this EP and create songs that may well have more depth both musically and lyrically.

That’s not to say it’s perfect. Jordan’s voice can get a bit whiney at times, and his enunciation needs work -- I still haven’t been able to figure out all the lyrics of half the songs. And three of the five songs have strange bridges that don’t flow with the songs very well, as though they just decided to play a completely different -- and much slower -- song in the midst of a really good tune. It leaves you feeling as though there’s a musical (if not lyrical) hiccup.

But those negatives are outweighed by the positives. I like this EP and my suggestion is for you to seek it out and pick it up. If you already like this band -- or are an introspective melancholic -- you shouldn’t be without it. If you have no clue as to who Calendar For Preston are, check out their MySpace page and listen to some of the tunes. If you want to get your hands on the EP, you’ll have to go to one of their shows, currently that’s the only way it’s available. They’re working on possibly making the songs downloadable from their MySpace page and at in the near future.

Here’s a brief critique of each of the tracks:

Paint By Numbers
This song builds with a great combo of beat and lyrics, though it loses some steam with an odd intro into the chorus. The chorus, however, is excellent and puts the song back on track. The bridge here doesn’t work, slowing the song down considerably and cuts into the power and fun of the song. But overall, it’s a good intro to the EP.

Message Board
The beats and music of this song are superior to the not-with-the-beat, jagged lyrics, but it hits a high with the chorus. Again with the weird, slow bridge that brings the song down, only to speed up to a final chorus. I can’t help wish the bridge just wasn’t there. I have to admit, though, this is the song that I’ve most been finding myself singing to myself without realizing it. Bridge or no bridge, the more I listen to this track, the more I like it.

Trauma Teen
A similar feel to “Message Board,” it gets its own sound about 40 seconds into it. Again, the chorus hits the mark. I find myself really liking the guitar work on this one, though I can’t put my finger on exactly why. This is one of the songs where the bridges actually work and work very well.

Popping Pills
The EP’s best song, this track has angst to the nth degree. A self-tortured soul lamenting his sad existence in the wake of a broken relationship. I find that this is the one that I find myself singing along with the most, even though I usually despise this kind of song, which shows how good songwriting can sometimes transcend. Maybe it’s because Jordan sings it with a mix of subtle irony and just enough emotion not to make it over the top. This is lyrically the best of the EP. Everything works. And no wacky bridge! Woohoo!

Of the songs on this EP, this is the least of a standout. But it’s by no means a bad song, it just sounds a lot like other stuff without being significantly unique. Some of this may be simply because it comes last on the EP and you can’t help but compare it to the higher quality of the previous songs.

My last critique: I wish there were more tracks, so my officemates didn’t have to endure listening to the same five songs over and over and over again. In the meantime, I guess I’ll have to go see Calendar For Preston when they’re playing in town and hope for a full-length soon.

Future shows:
10/25: Lazy Chameleon, Powell, OH
11/3: McCarthy’s, Cleveland
11/9: Slapsy Maxie’s, Columbus

[Update: Apparently my reference to Stephen's voice sounding occasionally "whiney" has created a bit of confusion. It's not that I don't like his voice (I very much do) and how it works with the songs, because it works very well. There's just a few moments where he gets a bit too stylized with his voice instead of letting it stand on its own merit. If I didn't like Stephen's voice, I wouldn't have listened to the EP 21 times
(according to my iPod) just since Friday. :-) -- dave ]

Friday, October 19, 2007

Calendar For Preston

I never skip an opening band. Part of that is practical – you want to get a good spot and plant your feet in preparation for the headliner. But mostly it’s because there’s often a gem in the muck that often accompanies the band whose name is on your ticket.

Case in point: Calendar For Preston. Formerly a cover band by the name of Vinyl, the local boys were added at the last minute as an opener for VHS Or Beta last night at the Newport. They were a perfect match.

Calendar For Preston was new to me. I’d heard of Vinyl, but I really don’t pay a whole lot of attention to cover bands, so I was clueless that they even changed the band name, let alone what that name was. But there’s more than just a superficial name change going on here – now they’re writing and playing their own songs. And they do it well. Pairing equal parts of melancholy and clever lyrics, the band delivers songs that are very listener-friendly and not too emo to be fun. Although some of the songs Calendar For Preston played last night were very similar in notes and sounds, I came away with a sense that maybe Columbus isn’t quite big enough for these guys.

With shades of Panic At the Disco and At The Drive-in, Calendar For Preston creates a smooth alt-pop-rock mix that takes from several recognizable influences but is still able to retain its originality. Lead singer Stephen Jordan is a great front man. His voice is perfect for the music that blends immaculately behind him and he’s got an onstage energy that keeps you intrigued in what the band is playing, regardless of whether you know the song or not. But that’s not to say that the rest of the band is only back-up for Jordan. Ryan Harris on drums, Joey Sexton on guitar, and Tom Gutman on bass and keys were musically tight and without their obvious talent, Calendar For Preston would be just another local band destined for obscurity. And as it stands now, I don’t see the word “obscure” anywhere in their future.
Calendar For Preston MySpace page

[I picked up a copy of their EP last night at the show, so I'll posting a review of it this weekend.]

Thursday, October 18, 2007

VHS Or Beta: Tonight at the Newport

Now a $5 CD101 Low Dough Show, VHS or Beta is playing the Newport tonight. I'll be there and you should be there too. They weren't as dynamic at the CD101 SummerFest as I expected them to be, but, hey, for a mere five bucks, you can't go wrong. Buy a drink, start dancing, and just enjoy the music.

Word has it that they're struggling to find an opening band, so be prepared for an early show.

And ask random guys with shoulder-length blonde hair and a couple facial piercings if they're Dave491. You just might find me.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Ben Lee: Naked

In celebration of the announcement that Ben Lee will be coming to Columbus on November 18 at The Basement, here's a clip that I filmed from the last time he was at that same venue. Enjoy!

And go to Ben's MySpace page to find out how to get in on the pre-sale ticket action on Monday!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Ben Lee is coming to Columbus!

Just announced: Ben Lee will be in Columbus, Ohio, at The Basement on November 18!

Ben is absolutely phenomenal in a live setting, so it's definitely not to be missed! If you're planning to go and want to gather ahead of time at House of Crave or somewhere nearby, drop me a line and let me know -- there should never be strangers at a Ben Lee show.

Opening for Ben will be LA's (by way of Nashville) Cary Brothers. No, that's not the Cary Brothers. His first name is Cary. And his last name is Brothers. Check out his MySpace page -- he's a great opener for our favorite Australian.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Love Him Like He’s More Attractive

This morning I was flipping through channels when the new Matchbox Twenty video on VH1 caught my eye. The video had a cool look and so I suspended my channel surfing and watched. Ultimately, it wasn’t as clever as I thought it might be, but I was glad I stopped to watch it because immediately following it was Ben Lee’s “Love Me Like the World Is Ending.”

This is a really good song. As good if not better than Matchbox Twenty’s “How Far We’ve Come” which is getting massive radio airplay right now. Which made me wonder: Would Ben Lee be more successful in this country if he were more attractive? His new album Ripe is one of his best and his previous, Awake Is the New Sleep, is exceptional. Both are full of alternative pop songs that are radio-friendly and ear-friendly. It’s just that, well, Ben isn’t necessarily eye-friendly.

I’m not saying that we can’t be genuinely influenced by quality music and can look beyond looks to see the real artist -- us Ben Lee fans do that every time we see the Ripe cover photo.

But what if he looked more like Rob Thomas?

Or Rooney’s Robert Carmine?

Or Chris Carrabba?

Or Jared Leto of 30 Seconds to Mars?

Or that guy from Fallout Boy?

Or any other pretty-boy pop music icon?

Would he be getting more air time? Would he have more opportunities for promotion? Would we give him more notice? Given the superficial nature of our American culture, I wouldn’t put it past us.