Friday, March 7, 2008

Life on the C-bus has moved to http://lifeonthecbus.com

Life on the C-bus -- the site dedicated to the advancement of the local Columbus music scene -- has officially moved to lifeonthecbus.com with an all-new look and feel. Check it out!

And don't forget to update your links and bookmarks!

Thanks to all that support this site by taking time to visit, email me story ideas, tell me about bands to check out, and supporting local music.

Dave S.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

CD Review: They Iry "Dinner For Two on the Moon"

by Dave Schaefer

If you believe that the Columbus local music scene lacks the kind of talent that’s good enough to hit it on the national level,The Iry will prove to you that you’re sadly misinformed.

The Iry creates piano-driven pop rock that is atypical enough to grab your attention and has a depth of lyrical content that’s intriguing and makes multiple listenings a must. This is music that’s alive, three-dimensional, and is bright even in its darkness.

The band is a four-piece consisting of Stefan Schwartz (lead vocals, keys), Stefan’s cousin Jordan Lothes (drums), along with Gregory Hewes (guitar) and Chris Williams (bass, backing vocals). All have known each other since they were kids -- back when Transformers were likely far more important than the potential for rock stardom.

Their sound has been compared to Coldplay and even the band’s own press release agrees, and adds Cold War Kids to the list as well. Though The Iry smacks a bit of these artists, the man that immediately came to my mind in hearing the CD for the first time was Ken Andrews. Andrews was the lead singer of Failure back in the nineties who, after the demise of the band, released a couple albums under the moniker On. He most recently formed Year of the Rabbit that released a self-titled CD in 2004. It’s the Year of the Rabbit album that reminds me that most of The Iry. The comparison to Andrews is far more apt than that of Coldplay -- and perhaps more complimentary.

The Iry’s CD Dinner For Two on the Moon is amongst the most even-sounding albums I’ve heard. Nowhere in it will you find a song that suddenly takes an odd turn nor does the band include a song that is out of place. Each track fits into the larger whole in such a way that you wonder if it would all fall apart if one were missing. Not that this is a concept album or some bizarre experimental CD, but rather each song leads you along so well that you hardly realize that 44 minutes and 11 tracks have passed between your ears as you experience the mix of storytelling and flowing tunes.

In the midst of writing this review, I had the opportunity to catch The Iry perform at Oldfield’s and experience their musicianship firsthand. I already knew from listening to their CD that their talent was formidable, but seeing them live revealed that they’re every bit of formidable with a hefty dose of entertaining. Whenever the front of a band is stuck behind a keyboard, there’s the risk of creating a rather undynamic situation where you’re hearing a rock band but seeing a lounge act. Not so with The Iry. Stefan keeps up a lively interaction and Chris follows suit, while Jordan keeps things moving behind the drums and Greg puts up with all the inside jokes directed his way. They have fun on stage, and whether the audience is there or not, you get the impression that that same fun would still be had. If you haven’t had the opportunity to see The Iry perform, take an evening and do it. You won’t be disappointed.

But getting back to
Dinner For Two on the Moon, I have to talk about Stefan’s vocals. His voice is an interesting mix of ballady-smooth with a hint of raspy-rocker, which creates the perfect reflection of Greg’s guitar work and Stefan’s own piano playing. Chris’ backing vocals weld with Stefan’s, making an even stronger blend when put together.

The lyrical content is a mix of storytelling and poetry. Seldom do you scratch your head wondering the the hell they’re singing about. Though by no means simple, the lyrics are often straightforward and have an impressive depth. Even when the depth isn’t quite there, the musical content lifts it up and keeps it afloat.

Bottom line,
Dinner For Two on the Moon is not only an impressive CD, The Iry have an impressive sound as well. With the right breaks -- and if they keep up with the quality of this release -- these guys will have a very successful future.

Here’s my take on five standout tracks of the 11 on the CD:

Blackout
The Iry was smart to open with this song. With its rock tones and piano-driven underpinnings, it’s a prelude to what’s in store for the listener. “Blackout” is a strong offering, giving hints of the quality that’s being offered if the CD remains in your player.

I’ve Seen It All
Sounding like it should be coming from the UK rather than from Columbus, Ohio, this track is the one that I found replaying itself in my head when when I was away from my iPod. It’s blend of catchy lyrics and clever hooks are subtle, but infectious.

Postcard Scene
This song is my favorite on the CD. A seemingly simple ballad, it’s actually a beautifully layered track with lyrics that are both storytelling and emotional. A melancholy road trip woven into a comfortable blanket that’ll keep you warm in the backseat as you make your way down route 66.

Six Stories
The most different of anything on Dinner For Two on the Moon, “Six Stories” has a nice late-sixties sensibility that creates a musical flow that carries the lyrics beautifully. The blend of piano, a few moments of driving drums, and vocals makes this track a definite standout.

December (Part 2)
This track hits it strong from the outset with a Mika-esque blend of piano, guitar and drums. The last song on the CD, it’s a good track to end on, making you want to hit that play button to start it all over again.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Drowsy Lads CD Release Show Tomorrow

There's no one in this city -- and likely beyond it -- that plays Irish music better than The Drowsy Lads. Think you don't like that genre? Listening to these guys will change your perspective. See these guys live and you'll be dancing to a jig before you're able to even get down that first Guinness.

Their CD release show is tomorrow night, February 15 at the Shamrock Club, 60 W. Castle Rd. Admission is $2 for nonmembers. A fish fry, of all things, starts off the evening at 5:30pm - 8pm for a mere $8 for all you can eat.

The Drowsy Lads hit the stage at 8:30pm and, in their own words, "Do our thing until we're tired out."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Jon Chinn Joins Central City Recording

Central City Recording announced today that former Workbook Studio co-owner and current Pretty Mighty Mighty band member Jon Chinn is joining the studio as producer and engineer. Andy Dodson, Central City president and co-owner, called it both a "merger" and "joining forces," implying that Jon would be more partner than employee.

From the press release:

While co-owner of Workbook Studio (2000-2007), Jon worked closely with hundreds of bands and songwriters to fulfill their individual goals and move to the next level of their careers. Jon's involvement in projects ranges from writing and co-writing, to multi-instrumentalist studio musician, to straight-up engineer. His personal work includes alternative and pop rock full-length records, soundtrack music for television and film, and writing and recording for commercial applications.

A few client list highlights include Top 40 darlings Saving Jane,
McGraw-Hill, VHI, A&E, MTV, HGTV, hip-hop/indie-rock producer RJD2, Warner Brothers recording artists The Sun, and punk rock pioneers The New Bomb Turks. Jon has also worked with renowned producers such as Tony Berg (Peter Gabriel), J.Robbins (Jawbox, Clutch) and Ben Hillier (Depeche Mode, Blur).

His live sound experience includes mixing shows in every major city in
North America, working venues of all sizes, ranging from coffee houses to baseball stadiums to internet, radio and television shows such as Regis & Kelly.

(The too-damn-cute photo blatantly stolen from Jon's MySpace page)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Black Spyral Dancer

by Dave Schaefer

With the name Black Spyral Dancer, images of a grim Cirque du Soleil rush into your mind, and though it’s not a good comparison, the analogy does imply a great show -- and BSD delivers with a healthy mix of metal, rock, poetry and performance.

The band formed in Athens, Ohio, from the ashes of Anything But Kind with drummer Justin Farcas and guitarist Majed Khurshid forming BSD with the addition of Alix Andrews on bass and lead vocals. After a few line-up changes, Matt “Hutch” Hutchinson -- also a former member of Anything But Kind -- joined Black Spyral Dancer about two years later to free Alix of his bass-playing and allow him to focus on the vocals, and the current line-up was formed.

“The band has had members come and go,” Maj says, “But I consider the band BSD once Hutch entered the group.”

Black Spyral Dancer’s sound is a concoction of metal, blues, and melody blended together with the dynamics of Alix’s vocals, which can belt out a scream one moment and a beautifully on-key note the next.

“We had heavy blues and metal influences from the start,” Justin says, “which are evident in our earlier tracks such as ‘Blues Delux.’ Since then, we’ve become more dynamic and purposeful in our writing, and as a result our style has become more progressive and poetic.”

Hutch agrees: “It’s become a more focused, whole entity. In the beginning, there was a lot going on simultaneously that was cool and interesting, but not necessarily cohesive. As a result of some pretty intense gigging and a couple of recording sessions, we’ve basically been forced to evolve into a single musical unit, versus four independent musicians competing for space.”

Once getting together, Maj, Justin, Alix and Hutch didn’t waste any time making a splash on the local scene. Not only did the band make the finals of the Columbus leg of the international battle-of-the-bands-style Emergenza in June of 2007 -- held at the now defunct Little Brothers -- but Maj was named Best Guitarist.

“The Emergenza thing was cool -- I wasn’t expecting to take the award,” says Maj. “It was a nice gesture considering how hard we worked. The other guitarists were deserving as well, but they lacked energy -- I want to see some anger, blood and passion on the face of a guitarist, not just precise notation. I think that was the difference.”

Winning awards is one thing, getting noticed in the often-saturated local scene in Columbus is quite another. I asked them what they think sets Black Spyral Dancer apart from other bands in the area.

“Presence,” Justin says. “I think what really sets us apart is our live show. When the four of us get on stage and interact with the crowd, we aren’t just playing music -- we’re entertainers. We have an infectious excitement to our sets, and it’s a real, tangible experience that keeps people engaged.”

Hutch takes takes his answer in a different direction. “We relate to the world through the music we create, not through the image we give off, like many bands unfortunately do. We just try to write and play what feels good to us.”

“We’re not faking,” Maj adds. “What we feel is what we play.”

But then Hutch has to agree with Justin. “ Come see us play live. That’s the way to truly appreciate BSD.”

I agree. I went to a show to see an entirely different band and stepped away with the feeling that Black Spyral Dancer may soon become a creative force in the Columbus scene. Their energy, and onstage camaraderie is evident, but so is their musical ability.

But having said that, going to their MySpace page and listening to their recorded tunes is a bit underwhelming. The live experience is vibrant, while the in-studio work is a bit flat. I asked Maj about the difference.

“That was done only two months into the band taking its final cast,” he told me. “I wish it did have the energy we have live, but that’s a tough thing to achieve. I want to do a full live recording, but until we drop a major amount of cash, I think we will always have that problem.”

And the recording was a very do-it-yourself process, according to Hutch. But that’s beginning to change.

“We just finished tracking a new single of “Blues Delux” at Pendlwood Studios here in Columbus,” he said. “It was a pretty interesting process -- our first time working with a producer. We had to cut out and edit parts of the song with him and it gave us some insight into a more commercial recording process as opposed to the DIY approach we’ve been used to.”

BSD splits their time between shows in Columbus and back in their home of Athens and they definitely see a difference in how the two audiences respond to their music.

Hutch: “Athens has a tendency to more quickly accept musical styles that break from the norm. Both towns have great music scenes, but I'd say that by and large, I’ve noticed that Columbus crowds tend to prefer our more straight-ahead rock songs, whereas the intricacies and variety of our music is more appreciated down south.”

“And Columbus is a bit more difficult to get into,” Maj adds, “And it’s more widespread. But both are very diverse and informed music scenes.”

All four of the members of Black Spyral Dancer aspire to doing this as their primary job, but the challenge looms even larger for Justin who’s also a full-time dad.

“It’s hands down the most difficult juggling act I have ever been asked to perform in my life,” he says. “The schedules are so diametrically opposed it’s just ridiculous. When I arrive home from a show, I’m at times greeted by a rising sun and a cranky baby -- on top of having no sleep and having played and driven for the past eight hours. It’s insane. And this is only the beginning.”

I have a feeling when that baby’s dad and the rest of Black Spyral Dancer look back, they’ll see success in their past and an inevitably bright future.

Black Spyral Dancer will be playing Skully’s on Wed. Feb. 13.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

CD Review: Banjo Drill's "Music For Humans"

by Dave Schaefer

Creativity is often the mother of reinvention. Bill Jordan, formerly of Black Cat Revival, proves the philosophy with his persona Banjo Drill.

Despite the name, this is an entirely solo effort. After the breakup of BCR in 2006, Jordan chose to focus on things other than joining another band.

“We were a psychotic, dysfunctional, happy family that experienced lots of crazy shit together. When it ended, I couldn't fathom jumping into another relationship like that with new people.” And his new mission was clear: “I started over from scratch and set out to find what it is that I really love about music and what messages I really want to convey.”

And for the most part he succeeds in Banjo Drill’s first effort Music For Humans. A somewhat Beck-like excursion, the CD moves in many directions, but never steers too far from the spacey, robot-love sound that backdrops nearly every track. The creative aspects of the whole are at a high -- something that has the potential of derailing an effort such as this, where art can get in the way of true creativity and end up just creating something odd. Fortunately, Banjo Drill avoids this precarious pitfall and gives us a collection of songs that are storytelling, fun, and often deeper than their surface may imply.

“With Music for Humans, I tried my best not to force anything,” Jordan says. “I knew I wanted to make an album that was fun and could be thrown on at a party. But I also wanted it to have some depth.”

Teetering on the songwriting edge between strange and significance is where Jordan often finds himself. “For me, songs are fleeting things that are constantly swooping around in my head, so I grab whatever I can hold on to. Sometimes it's a lyric, sometimes it's a melody or a bass line or a rhythm. When I'm lucky enough to find the right thing, it lives with me until I become obsessed with it and I can't focus on anything else until I find the other parts that go with it.

“It's kind of like working on a puzzle or molding with clay -- find the right pieces and then massage it until there's a living, breathing thing smiling back at you.”

And smile it does, especially with the opening track “Robot Boy,” which tells the story of an alien robot and his brief quest to save the world with the help of -- you guessed it -- Banjo Drill. Intermixed in the lighthearted lyrics is the deeper tale of a planet in peril and the implied solution of unity.

It’s a positive theme that’s evident throughout the CD, and intentionally so.

“The title, Music for Humans, comes from the idea that our culture seems to be focusing less and less on people as individuals with emotions, ideas, and unique perspectives and more and more on people as commodities, consumers, or political allies or enemies,” Jordan said.

He could’ve easily focused on the negatives with this type of creative endeavor, but chose not to. “I wanted to look at this idea and say, ‘Yeah, some shit sucks, but life's pretty freakin' cool too!’”`

One particular song that exhibits the positive depths that he mentions is “MotherSun.” An enigmatic excursion, the track has an underlying emotion that belies the poetic simplicity of it’s lyrics.

“I struggled with the lyrics for ‘MotherSun’ for a long time,” Jordan told me. “They're probably a little bit abstract to a listener, but for me they represent some deeply personal experiences. Writing it required me to open up more than I had before and remove a veil of protection.

“That's one of my favorite things about writing music,” he continued, “sometimes it requires you to take an honest look at yourself and accept your vulnerabilities. When you do that, you can experience life more openly. At least, that's how it is for me. Sometimes I make peace with myself in the process of making a song.”

This time around, that process included a beat up old acoustic guitar, a Beta 58 vocal mic, a midi controller, a handheld recorder, some shakers, pots and pans, and Garageband on his iMac. Everything but the drums were recorded by Jordan in his spare bedroom. For the beats, he sent MP3s of the songs to his friend, and Noctaluca drummer, Brandon Schlunt in Cincinnati. Using Fruity Loops and live drums recorded via Pro Tools, Schlunt created, in Jordan’s words, “the perfect, tasteful beats.”

An amateur-ish process with a surprisingly professional outcome -- Music For Humans sounds at the same time everything and nothing like the process he describes. It’s a rich recording that lends itself to additional discovery with each listen.

“I have lots of fun making music.” Jordan says. “Hopefully some people will dig it along the way.”

Some people, including myself, already do.

Here’s the song-by-song rundown:

Robot Boy
With a healthy dose of funk rhythms, this track is infectious. I’d rate this song as the most Beck-like -- a clear influence of Banjo Drill -- but it’s too clever and well-written to dismiss it as such too quickly. All the elements work together to create a great opener to Music For Humans.

Back to the Shore
The CD’s best track, this song is a bluesy excursion that goes just where you want it to. I can’t help but picture a Southern, elderly trio, jamming the freeform blues from their rocking chairs and sipping fresh-squeezed lemonade in the hot Louisiana sun. Smooth, cool, refreshing, and digitized.

Waiting for the Aliens
What would happen if Beck collaborated on a song with Neil Diamond and it was produced by Ennio Morricone? “Waiting for the Aliens” would happen, that’s what. This is an intriguing song, part spaghetti western, part 60’s sci-fi and entirely enjoyable.

Pop the Bubble
On most of the tracks on this CD, the layering of sound -- both mechanical and natural -- is effective and appealing. Not so much on this song. The layers don’t quite work as well as the other tunes and instead of being a seamless mesh, it ends up being a distraction. Also, the percussion on this song is too tinny and gets in the way of the flow rather helping it along. However, I have to say that the clever refrain rescues “Pop the Bubble” and ultimately makes it listenable.

MotherSun
This is a well-written, though cryptic, melancholic ballad that captures your attention and keeps it, making you want to at once solve the mysteries of the words while at the same time placing your own meaning into them. This is easily the most organic of any of the tracks -- save for some distracting minor electronic sounds -- and it’s nice to have a bit of a reprieve from the mechanical and dip your toe in the more traditional in the midst of Music For Humans.

Tinfoil Hat
The opening seconds of this song initially turned me off as I quickly judged it as Banjo Drill’s artsy indulgence. However, as the song kicked in, I realized how wrong this judgement turned out to be. It’s actually a grungy, guitar-driven track that has some clever inner workings. Banjo Drill creates a great moody piece that flows effortlessly with the lyrics. But I still don’t like how it starts.

Rock the Radiation
Easily the most poppy of any of the tracks, this 70s-esque song hints at R&B and has some great, seemingly light-hearted lyrics. It’s a fun little number that definitely makes you wish there was a dancefloor nearby.

Pyramid
This is a mood-driven yawner. Though the arrangement is done well, there’s not enough interest musically to keep you listening to the phenomenal lyrical content. I wish the vocals -- which are exceptional -- were wrapped around a better overall song. This is close to being a good track, but just doesn’t quite hit the mark, even though I really want it to.

Battery City
If Banjo Drill wrote and performed a Schoolhouse Rock song, it would sound something like this. Well, except for the lyrics, which aren’t very Saturday-morning. Though I would’ve preferred the stronger “Rock the Radiation” as the closer to the CD, “Battery City” is fitting. It reiterates Banjo Drill’s ability to tell a poetic story that allows the listener to fill in the enigmatic gaps and it shows Jordan’s ability to create music that fits it.

You can purchase Music For Humans at CD Baby: http://cdbaby.com/cd/banjodrill

Saturday, February 2, 2008

CD Review: The Damnits “Songs For Sugarpants”

by Dave Schaefer

The Damnits officially release their CD Songs For Sugarpants tonight at CBR’s. Rumor has it that lead singer/guitarist Bob jokingly introduced his then-band at a near-empty venue as Dick Darnit and the Damnits. The name stuck around and was shortened to just The Damnits. That was well over a decade-and-a-half ago and they’re still here and still putting out quality work.

Songs For Sugarpants captures The Damnits surprisingly well. From the opening track “Want Love” to the tongue-in-cheek “Biscuits and Bluegrass” to the entirely enjoyable cover of “Here Comes the Rain Again,” the CD delivers a solid alt-pop-rock sound with just enough garage to still give it that old-school feel.

At first listen, the overall CD, although exceedingly appealing, comes off as a simple matter. By no means will you drown in the depth of lyrics, but you certainly will want to wade in, if nothing else than for the cool feel of The Damnits sound. And you’ll undoubtedly find yourself discovering more and more in the songs that make you want to keep revisiting it.

Here’s the song-by-song rundown:

Want Love
The Damnits do Bri-pop. And actually do it pretty darn well. This track works well as an opener -- strong and solid. The vocals sound excellent on this in-studio version. The live recording of this song lacked what this one captures, creating a song that sounds more live than, well, the live version.

Optimist
This song is one that I felt was easily overlookable on first listen, but it’s now grown on me to a point where I feel the CD would be lacking without it. It’s an intentionally subdued rock anthem that succeeds in creating a moody, quietly powerful song.

My Best Friend
I really like this song. Simple and sappy, it’s just the right collection of notes and words put together in such a way that you can’t help but picture a crowd swaying back and forth in unison, lighters upraised. But don’t even think about raising an open cell phone. Not at a Damnits show.

Biscuits and Bluegrass
Gone is the rather anemic harmonica of the older recording of this track, which was my least favorite thing about this song previously. The vocals are now stronger and it also has a more solid finish. The words are a collection of crowd-pleasing cleverness and the guitar work is well-crafted. “Biscuits and Bluegrass” is just a damn fun song.

Incomplete
Although I like the lyrics of this track, the song overall is, well, incomplete. It seems to want to be something different, something better, but never quite achieves it. Instead it simply becomes that song between two others that’s over before you realized you were even listening to it. It has nice vocal notes, but it generally leaves you still tapping your foot to “Biscuits and Gravy” and anticipating “Here Comes the Rain Again.”

Here Comes the Rain Again
Local bands seem to always play covers at shows, but rarely do these songs actually make it out of the studio, let alone be included on an album. We get to benefit from The Damnits choice to go against the norm and include this Eurythmics cover on Songs For Sugarpants. Though I wish they would’ve lent a little more of themselves to the song, it’s still well-done, very Damnits, and a great inclusion.

Just As Well
Take the Columbus garage sound and give it a folksy-sounding verse and you’ve got “Just As Well.” I like this catchy song, but I can’t help but picture it on an episode of Gilmore Girls. I’m not exactly sure if that’s good or bad. I’m leaning towards bad. Fortunately, they include the word “fucking” in the lyrics -- perhaps to ward off any Gilmore potential.

Liar
In another attempt to shun any possibility of Hollywood-pop sensibilities, The Damnits close with this guitar-driven power track. The riffs are simple but completely addictive. The lyrics are likewise simple and punk-filled. Want to mosh? This is the song to do it to. Quite possibly my favorite song on this CD and one that makes you want to click the replay button and listen to Songs For Sugarpants all over again.

The Damnits CD Release Show
Tonight (Feb. 2) @ CBRs

w/ Stretch Lefty and Seen Tru

Sunday, January 27, 2008

EP Review: Yummy Fight's "Round One"

by Dave Schaefer

Yummy Fight’s EP Round One is a somewhat schizophrenic 17 minutes, going from alt-garage to a ska-dabbling G. Love to suburban rap. This approach has the potential to be like trying to traverse the 70/71 split during rush hour on a Vespa -- an inevitable, pastel-painted crash-and-burn -- but Yummy Fight pulls it off, mostly due to the consistency of the vocals, which are simple, straightforward and at times clever. Though it’s true that collectively Yummy Fight's vocals don’t quite go together on every note, they try and for most of the songs that’s enough.

This recording definitely reveals an identity crisis -- or if not crisis, then perhaps confusion -- but it’s the listener that benefits from it. It creates a CD that is surprisingly appealing and shows the diversity that this band is capable of. It’s like buying a dozen doughnuts -- you may not prefer the filling of that frosted one as much as the one with sprinkles, but, hey, it’s a doughnut for crying out loud -- they’re all damn tasty.

The songwriting is surprisingly even, considering the different genres represented, and never do you lose sight that this is the same band, regardless of the displayed musical diversity.

But above all, it’s fun. Although at times if you listen hard enough you’ll find some lyrical depth, Round One seems to exist simply for the alt-pop/’burb-rap enjoyment of the listener. Perhaps a reflection of Yummy Fight itself.

Who knows -- Round Two could very well be a knock-out, if only a technical one. I know I for one will be buying a ticket for the next Yummy Fight.

Here’s the song-by-song rundown:

Phases
This track is a good introduction to Yummy Fight, revealing a bit of each of the genres that the band touches on in the following songs. The lyrics are clever and well-crafted and work well with the music that accompany them. I wish Dustin and Ian’s voices worked better together on this particular song -- something that may be smoothed over when they perform live with the addition of Daniel to backup vocals. It’s still a worthy song, however, and shows the songwriting talent of Dustin.

Need a Lotta Love
The G. Love/Jack Johnson comparison is inevitable with this song, but I’m going to fall short of considering that a criticism since the song is so damn addictive. It has a 50’s backbeat, a ska chorus, and a simplicity of lyrics that makes it easy to get stuck between your ears. Be warned -- after hearing this track, you’ll be singing it in your head all day.

Radio
The most pop of any of the songs on the EP, “Radio” has a distinct 80’s sensibility that lends the song an appealing retro feel. Another catchy tune -- yet incredibly short at only a couple seconds over two minutes -- that after only a couple listens you’ll find yourself singing along with.

Back To Ohio
The vocals on this track are a bit stronger than the overall song seems to warrant. The softer chorus relieves you temporarily, but then they hit you again for each of the verses. Having said that, I have to say that I like the song and I found it grew on me. It’s helped greatly by the story-telling lyrics which are well-written and crafted to near perfection, making up for much of what may not work with the rest of the song.

Gonna Get Up
This is Round One’s foray into suburban rap. Never do you make the mistake that these guys are urban in any sense, but Dustin pulls off the rap and actually sounds legitimate. A slower, deliberate track, the song is a dichotomous mix of both rap and emo and, surprisingly, it works well -- a testament to Dustin’s songwriting ability and the band’s ability to play it.

Just a Dream
This song grabs you immediately with it’s trippy, keyboarded vocals and keeps you going with a simply crafted and highly creative song. Another semi-rap track, it succeeds slightly better than “Gonna Get Up” due to Dustin’s more stylized vocals which work better here. A good closer to the EP.


Yummy Fight is:
Dustin DeRolph (guitar & lead vocals)
Jon Reeb (bass)

Ian Kupferberg (drums & vocals)

Daniel Harris (lead guitar & vocals -- Daniel is new to the band and isn’t featured on the EP)


EP recorded and mixed by Jonathan Julca @ Julca Studios
Mastered by Pretty Mighty Mighty’s Neal Schmitt from Workbook Studio

Songs written by Dustin DeRolph
Available on iTunes.

Upcoming show:
February 23 @ Andyman's Treehouse

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Show Review: Bullet Jones @ BoMA


Sunday night marked the first real rock show at downtown’s BoMA. Bullet Jones spear-headed the event with support from Philo, This Fires Embrace, Sturbridge and Cheddar Boyz Entertainment. It seemed to be an unbridled success.

Formerly a Baptist church, BoMA is a near-perfect venue for rock with it’s dark woodwork and gothic architecture. The stage has an intricately carved backdrop that creates the perfect ambience for a heavier sound. This was my first visit to BoMA and after seeing this type of concert there, I can’t hardly even picture it being a club-style venue -- BoMA was made for rock. It’s the Newport on goth steroids.

The show started with a typically smallish crowd of around 100 people scattered about to watch Sturbridge. The band is a great example of moody, melodic rock -- playing to near perfection with singer Chad Warren leading the way with his versatile vocals. Charlie Scott plucked his bass with such ease that he made it look nearly effortless, yet sounding brilliant. Though their music is serious, their stage presence is not -- they were clearly having fun clowning around with the crowd. This may well be an up-and-coming band to keep an eye on.

Between bands, the boys of Bullet Jones pulled off an act of sheer genius -- they had Cheddar Boyz keep the crowd going with slick hip hop that kept your blood pumping. The Boyz are a force unto themselves, but having them rap between sets added an extra dimension that made the downtime, when you’d usually go fetch another beer, into an extension of the show.

This Fires Embrace was on stage next as the crowd continued to grow. If Sturbridge is melodic rock, then TFE is melodic metal. The band is all energy, creating sound that’s clean and crisp and screams at you while at the same time speaking to you. Singer Aaron Benner, formerly of Liquid6teen, has a voice made for this genre. He can belt out a symphonic scream and the next note drop into a lullaby. This Fires Embrace is a unabashedly Christian, but not in a way that’s sappy and trite. Trust me, they come off as anything but trite. Very few bands -- especially metal bands -- can pull off making this type of message accessible and listenable, and TFE does. This was my first time seeing This Fires Embrace perform live, and it’s definitely one I’m going to repeat. And an amazing guest appearance by The Blitz’s Hannibal made it even more memorable.

After the Cheddar Boyz wowed the crowd with another between-sets session, it was time for the headliner. Apparently the trend of the day is to have the headliner actually hit the stage prior to the last opening band. Which kind of makes the headliner one of the openers. Or one of the openers the pseudo-headliner. Or something like that.

At this point, there were easily 500 people in the crowd -- an incredible showing for a Sunday night. The floor was full as Hannibal and Ronnie Hunter from The Blitz introduced the band most were there to see: Bullet Jones.

The band started out with Heartbeat/ Heartbreak and Ugly Side, then broke in the new song “Fast” -- the first of two never-before- heard songs that they performed, the second being “Save Me” that they played later in the show. A particular treat was a cover of Golden Earring’s “Radar Love.” Typically I don’t care for covers, because most bands just sing them as-is without caring enough to put on their own spin. Not Bullet Jones. They nailed it and made it every bit their own. As was the case with nearly every song they performed, highlighted by Lee getting out on the catwalk amongst the crowd and creating incredible sound out of that guitar of his. He’s definitely a talented force to be reckoned with. John’s subdued playing hides his prowess on the bass, while Matt’s percussion is matched only by his sense of onstage fashion. Well, okay, maybe his sense of fashion is unmatched. By anything. Thank God. Ryan belted out every song as though it were both effortless and hard work at the same time. You get the sense that he feels every note. The band ended -- and rightly so -- with the crowd favorite “Ballad of Bullet Jones.”

Anyone there at BoMA was witness to who this band is, from event planners to completely professional -- and highly talented -- performers.

After the show, I asked lead singer Ryan (seemingly always understating) what he thought of it all.

“Overall, I think the night was a success,” he said. “Absolutely no one had any idea what to expect. We all promoted the hell out of the event, and we know the other bands worked their asses off, too. But the fact that it was on a Sunday, and that it was being held in such an unconventional venue for a rock concert, I couldn't be happier that 500-plus people showed up.”

Bullet Jones recorded their entire set -- both audio and video -- and now it’s just a matter of them deciding what exactly to do with it. Will they release it as a live album?

Ryan again: “As far as a public release on any level is concerned, we’re not sure yet. Again, we want to see how it all turned out, but I definitely think it's an option. We played seven original songs tonight that we don't have studio recordings of yet, so this is the only thing we've got. An option we're considering is releasing a live album to our fans just to get more material into people’s hands. And, hell, maybe a DVD if it all turns out well enough.”

Last up was Philo. Always a crowd pleaser, this band is an amazing talent and a great closer to the night. Lead singer Corbin creates an amazing sound from his voice that matches each song to near perfection. Philo’s dark songs and emotional presence was a great foreground to the venue. Unfortunately, due to a commitment in the early hours of the following day, I had to leave after only the second song, but if those first two songs were any indicator, the rest of their set must have been exceptional.

According to Ryan, this isn’t the last of this type of show.

“The next show that we book, we want to be even bigger and better than this one. We're considering our options right now -- venue, bands, all of that.”

Here’s the Bullet Jones set list from Sunday’s show:
Heartbeat/Heartbreak
Ugly Side
Fast (1st time ever performed)
It Comes & It Goes
Round n Round
Radar Love
White Line
Black Eyes
Runaway
Save Me (1st time ever performed)
Song #4
Love You/Hate You
New Religion
The Ballad of Bullet Jones

Monday, January 21, 2008

CD Review: Junior Revolution's "It's A Process..."

by Dave Schaefer

Hailing from that city down south, Cincinnati’s Junior Revolution released a notable CD this past November. The album, titled It’s A Process..., is a striking mix of emotion and music that makes your ears take notice and your mind contemplate the intricacies of its lyrics.

And oddly enough, it’ll make you homesick for Cincinnati -- regardless of whether you call the city home or not.

Junior Revolution is Jayson Hazelbaker (vocals, guitar), Daniel Erb (vocals, guitar, keys), Brian Miller (vocals, bass), and Chris Denholm (drums). Their sound is rich, symphonic and full without being overdone. Their lyrics are deep, thought-provoking, and are something that aren’t easily dismissed. The combination creates a musical force that demands a personal response.

It’s A Process... is a 7-song CD that’s a melancholic journey, the listener contentedly traveling along with Junior Revolution as they explore the paths of life that are ultimately relative to everyone. That’s one of the many appealing things about the CD -- over and over again, the listener is faced with lyrics that are relatable and one that may well have come from their own heads, mind-read by Daniel, Jayson, Brian and Chris. Likewise, the music is often a beautiful, inseparable match to the lyrics.

The impression you get is that Junior Revolution created these songs without having a genre, formula, or marketing scheme in mind. They’re not particularly danceable. They’re not pop. They’re not shoe-gazing emo (however emo is defined this week). They’re purely from the souls of the musicians. And because of this, they’re damn good.

Here’s the song-by-song rundown:

City That Never Sleeps
The back-and-forth vocals, as though from two different conversations, catches your attention from the outset of this track. The song is anthemic and leads you on a path with twists and turns both musically and lyrically as it tells a tragic story with imagery that’s striking and an arrangement that helps move it along without the least bit of interruption.

And We Were Country Before Country Was Cool
This song ultimately tracks a happier story, but in a definite melancholic path. If it doesn’t make you homesick for that home where you haven’t been back to for a long time, it’ll at least make you wish you were from Cincy. The vocals on this track hit a bullseye and the music -- especially the solitary bell in the closing seconds -- is spot-on. I do wish the title matched the song better. I’m not clear as to the purpose of it, since it has nothing obvious to do with the song, and I think it cheapens a truly beautiful track.

Calmer Than You Are
This is a strange addition to the CD. Though musically it’s strong -- the beginning and end reminiscent of the opening music of a 1950s sci-fi B movie -- its flight attendant monologue is a bit odd. Having said that, I found that it grew on me and discovered that it did indeed flow well with the album as a whole. On the other hand, if it weren’t included, I certainly wouldn’t have missed it.

If Clouds Made Sounds
Sounding as though singing in a tunnel or through distant megaphone, this song is an emotion-filled track, but the audio tricks keep the listener at a distance and you find yourself easily thinking about other things during this track. Before you know it, it fades to silence and you realize it’s over and you have to hit the “back” button and replay it, hoping you don’t zone out again. When you do pay attention to it, it’s got some interesting things going on both musically and lyrically, but they don’t come together well and it makes for a fairly undynamic song.

Klondike Scare
With a clever “Dave Matthews” opener, this is certainly a song that makes you take notice of it. And with lyrics like “Everything lately seems a mess at best | And the hits just keep on coming. | Let’s raise ‘em high | This toast is to rolling | With the punches” sung in a chorale style, it’s one that makes you keep coming back. Granted, the vocals and music stylings don’t quite work with one another, but the overall feel of the song allows you to overlook the flaw.

Manic D
The jazzy start to this track is snappy and in contrast to the cacophony that quickly follows. It then drops back into the light jazz and vocals that match up perfectly. Before you know it, it bites into a driving rock chorus with riffs that compliment the jazz before it and the vocals in front of it. The lyrics are deep and give an essence of darkness that again both compliment and contrast the music. This is a very well crafted song that I’m anxious to hear performed live.

Cut Us Down
The perfect closer. This is the culmination of the previous 26 minutes and 41 seconds. After the intro, the song starts out peppy and light musically, then becomes a dark brooder, but one that isn’t self-indulgent. The switch between verse and chorus is a brilliant musical transition that pulls you along effortlessly into what could be an entirely different song. The vocals on this track are strong, but it’s the arrangement of those vocals that make it stand out, working effortlessly amidst the instrumentation and lyrics to create a full, rich song.

With its faintly Weezer-esque pop sensibilities mixed with just a touch of jazz and a good portion of originality,
It’s A Process... is a strong release and one that deserves attention. I’m definitely going to be keeping tabs on Junior Revolution.

Junior Revolution will be playing The Basement on January 30 with Atlanta's Manchester Orchestra.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Show Review: Downplay @ Skully's

by Dave Schaefer

Friday night was a night for local music -- from Willie Phoenix at the Treehouse with Ryan Cox opening with an acoustic set, to Watershed and opener The Receiver at the LC, to Red Wanting Blue at the Newport. I attended none of those, save for catching Ryan Cox before I headed to Skully’s (a bit of a sacrilege skipping out on Willie, I know...).

Who was playing at the neon-emblazoned Skully’s Music Diner you ask? A trio of local rock and alt-rock bands that started with Black Spyral Dancer and 7th Cycle, and ended with Downplay.

I like Skully’s as a venue overall. What it lacks in character, it makes up for in usability. It’s simple, the sound is good, and there’s a bar at every turn. If you want to escape the music, you can hit the diner and have a quieter drink or head out in the freezing cold patio in the back where the heaters don’t work and drunk people inevitably want to bum a cigarette. I don’t recommend the patio.

For Skully’s, the crowd wasn’t very thick. Neither was it small, but I’ve definitely seen it busier on a Friday night. Some of that was likely due to the aforementioned bigger shows going on, creating an audience that was a bit thinner than it likely would’ve been otherwise.

By the time I made it to the show -- I was running late due to starting my evening hanging at the Treehouse -- Black Spyral Dancer was already on the stage. Anyone who knows me, is well aware that I seldom miss an opening band, just in case there’s that gem waiting to be discovered, so I was disappointed to have missed part of their set. I was more disappointed when I found that they were really quite good. Their playing was tight, their songs different enough to be interesting, and the vocals came through cleanly. I’m thinking this is a band to keep an eye on. I only wished I’d been able to catch their entire set.

The second band, 7th Cycle, clearly have a following and had the largest audience of any of the bands that night. Though I was anxious to hear this band, I wasn’t overly impressed. I didn’t feel there was anything new or different to what they presented. It seemed a bit recycled and certainly nothing unique. I have to admit, though, that the crowd loved them and 7th Cycle was clearly having fun and giving the people an energetic good
looking show, if not an overly original sounding one. Their musicianship, however, was actually quite good – they could just use a few good songs to match it.

Downplay was the headliner. The band’s music has an alt-pop-rock flavor that’s fun and has just enough originality to make you take notice. Lead singer Dustin Bate's voice was better live than I thought it would be. I was familiar with Downplay’s CD
A Day Without Gravity, and in my review of the CD I mentioned the fact that Dustin has a great voice for this genre. I assumed that he wouldn’t be able to produce that same recorded voice in a live setting. I was wrong. His vocals were still spot-on and the band performed nearly flawlessly. Granted, the band is somewhat of an afterthought as far as the audience is concerned. Dustin’s the one that does the talking and makes himself the star of the show. Bass player Chad White did his best to move people’s attention over to his side of the stage every-so-often and was occasionally successful – Dustin would do well to play up Chad’s comedy relief during the show.

Downplay performed all but one of the songs from
A Day Without Gravity along with a couple covers to fill in the gaps.

Overall, I enjoyed it. Besides the clarity of Dustin’s singing, the show was as expected, but not necessarily beyond expectations. I’m going to get flak for saying it, given the genre that Downplay falls into, but I like this band. And much like Bullet Jones, they’re determined to be successful, though the two bands are diametrically opposed in their methods.

Downplay’s next show is with a band that fits better with them than Black Spyral Dancer and 7th Cycle: Lovesick Radio, Jan. 18 at the Park Street Patio.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Bullet Jones: In their own words (mostly)


by Dave Schaefer

If musical success had a plan, it may well be Bullet Jones.

The Columbus rock quartet has experienced a lot of changes this past year. I had the opportunity to talk with the members of Bullet Jones and discuss, among many other things, their experiences of 2007. The discussion began by talking about likely the biggest change -- the addition of former Cringe drummer Mat Marcum and what that change meant for the band as a whole.

“We used to be all about the blues. It was our thing,” says guitarist and lead singer Ryan Cox. “We weren’t a blues band, but our roots were very much oriented in it.”

Mat speaks up unapologetically. “I didn’t despise Bullet Jones before I joined the band, but I really didn’t like the music. I was a really huge fan of the band as players and as people, but the music as a whole was not something that I enjoyed listening to on my own. If I went to a concert though, I had a great time.”

Ryan smiles. “Mat doesn’t like blues music.”

“I hate the blues, actually,” Mat laughs. “I’m a semi-privileged, middle-class white kid who has nothing to bitch about.”

“I think Marcum came along at a really good time,” guitarist Lee Neuzil adds. “We started changing how we were writing right around the time that Phil [former Bullet Jones drummer Phil Justice] was heading out of the band and when Mat came in I think it jelled well with where we were already going. And I think it just ended up kind of speeding it up.”

“I think the most impressive thing about this band in 2007,” interjects Mat, “was just that somehow they took the black sheep -- which is me -- and sort of compromised a lot and came up with a solid core theme of our music. I really enjoy it and I think we all do.”

Ryan speaks up. “You say ‘compromise,’ but it’s also been very organic.”

And organic is a word that comes up again when talking about their songwriting.

“Never do we try and write something for the sake of ‘We need to have this kind of song’ or ‘We need to be this kind of band.’” says Ryan. “Everything that we write comes completely out of us and we’re 100% thrilled with it. We don’t go sit down in the garage and think ‘What kind of song don’t we have and do we need?’ or ‘what kind of song is going to make us famous?’ We just write the music that we want to write.”

“We’ve really only been playing together for a year,” bass player John Allen adds, “so the more we write together the better we get.”

“The only experience I have a with a band other than this is playing with Cringe,” Mat says. “And we did the same thing in Cringe, only it took us years to get to the point where we’re writing now in Bullet Jones. In Cringe it was seven, eight years until we got to the point where we knew what structure we wanted and just kind of gel as a band. And now with Bullet Jones sometimes we can bust out a song in, like, an hour and a half, two hours. Two days ago we wrote that other song--”

“Yeah, it was a riff that Ryan had lying around for a while,” John says.

Mat nods. “Just a single riff and we just kinda went from there. One practice, we had a song done. And that, to me, is what’s most impressive about this whole last year.”

“Yeah, really knowing how to write together,” Ryan agrees.

When asked what their favorite moment of 2007 as a band was, the answer is obvious to all of them.

“We had this huge-ass comeback gig with This Day Forever at CBR’s on July 28th and it was a huge crowd and a lot of fun,” says Ryan.

“That was the turning point that made the band hungry again,” added Mat. “It was kind of weird being dormant for so many months. It was really nice for me to get back on stage with these guys and play that show. We were all kind of itching to get back to it after so long.”

Before that show, Bullet Jones had taken nearly five months off of playing shows to concentrate on songwriting and recording their demo CD -- a long time for a band that in Ryan’s words “used to be the band that would play anything.”

“Somebody would call us and say ‘Hey, you wanna play tomorrow? We got a cancellation.’ We’re like ‘fuck it, we’ll play,’” says Ryan.

“These guys would play four nights a week. It was crazy,” Matt interjects, smiling and shaking his head.

Lee smiles back. “We played Victor’s two nights in a row and just left our stuff there overnight.”

“But we’re kind of changing our philosophy,” says Ryan. “Playing less and making them more of an event than a show.”

Mat couldn’t agree more with the new philosophy, given what he learned while in Cringe.

“Cringe would take any show, just like these guys used to,” he says. “It was an every-night thing. We couldn’t write, we couldn’t practice well, because we were playing shows three or four times a week. There’s no time to do anything. Plus we had day jobs, family, personal lives, and school. It was just really crazy. So when Corbin [Corbin Thomas, currently of Philo] joined Cringe -- about two years before the split of the band -- I finally had someone on my side. We stopped all of that and went to the quality rather than quantity of show. And it really worked well for a while. We sold out the Al Rosa many times. We made a lot more money and we were able to record a lot better stuff because we had made more money. We were all just generally happier musicians.”

According to Mat, most local bands are shackled by a common misconception.

“Bands are still under the impression that the more you play, the more it pays -- and by pay I mean monetarily but also fan-base-wise -- and it’s just not true, because you can save up all those people that come out to your shows -- the twenty shows where you played to ten people -- to one show where there’s hundreds of people. And it makes everything seem better. When you get a lot more people in a room, everything sounds better, people are happy, they’re talking to each other, connecting, networking -- and it adds a whole other vibe. More so than an empty room when you hear crickets and pindrops between songs.

“And people need to play better to get people to want to come to their shows,” Mat continues. “Write music that isn’t just plastic, but write music that you know is good. Don’t just say, ‘We’re not mainstream, we’re gonna stick to our niche’ -- write whatever comes out of your guitar.”

Ryan continues Mat’s thought. “I think one of the things with the scene in Columbus is that it’s like a lost child -- the scene doesn’t know what to do with itself. We’ve got all this talent and all these great bands, but I don’t know if they don’t know how to get to the next level or they just don’t want to. I mean, obviously, we don’t know how to get to the next level, we’re trying to figure that out as we go, but we certainly want to and we’re going to try everything we can to continue to improve and get our name out there.”

And they all agree that coordination on a local level is an issue. Ryan continues: “I think if people just focused on being the best music city in the Midwest, Columbus could definitely do it. It just seems really fractured -- there’s a bunch of different scenes within the scene. When you’ve got twenty different clubs and every night bands are playing in those clubs, why the hell should I go to Bernie’s when I can go next door to Miani’s or something? There needs to be more cohesiveness.”

“That’s really really important as far as making a scene,” says Mat, “being together and playing events rather than just concerts. The thing that a lot of people are missing with taking it to the next level is out-of-the-box thinking.”

Part of that out-of-the-box thinking is re-imagining the role that advertising can play.

Mat: “If you get a lot of people at an event, advertisers are all over that. You got 600 people somewhere, they’re gonna want to have their name on something. So at that point, we’re able to bring in brand names, compile that with the money we get from the shows, and then reinvest reinvest reinvest and hopefully snowball it so we can better record our material. Or at least take it easy, maybe give us more time to write instead of working our day jobs.”

Another 2007 highlight for the band was recording their demo disc.

“We recorded it at Blue Moon,” says Ryan, “and J [J Hammond, producer of the EP] did a great job for what we paid him. We definitely hit right where we wanted to hit.”

“J is one crazy dude and he knows what he’s doing.” Mat adds. “We actually went in not even planning on releasing any of that and he made it sound better than we thought it would.”

I spoke to J, engineer and producer at Blue Moon Recording, about what it was like working with Bullet Jones and where he sees them going from here.

“I went and saw them at their practice space before they came into the studio” he says, “and I really liked the new material. I knew they were a good band before, but now it’s like the songs are really sticking more. And I was like, whoa.

“Plus they’re motivated. They really impress me, even besides the studio -- they got people to sponsor them and all this. I mean, (at their July show) they had some crazy stuff going on -- frickin’ banners and a frickin’ screen playing stuff -- it was like a little mini experience. I was really impressed. They’ve really turned into a band that’s going somewhere.

“I love recording bands like that,” J laughs, “because it’s like they advertise for me.”

And he believes the future’s bright for the band.

“These guys are definitely ripe for getting signed, because it’s really good mainstream rock. Labels aren’t taking chances anymore, they’re going after the sure thing, and Bullet Jones is looking more and more like a sure thing. I think they’ve got a great chance at it.

“And they’re not fucks -- they’re all pretty humble. Shit, even Ryan. You’d expect a guy like that to have a big ego, you know what I’m saying? And he’s just so normal-dude.”

The band has more recording in store for 2008, but first they have their major gig at BoMA on January 20th to think about.

“We haven’t really been able to throw our full weight at a show yet.” Ryan says. “The 20th is going to be our first actual show where we...”

“-- where it’s just us,” Mat finishes. (They all do that a lot, by the way -- finishing each other’s thoughts, like Match Game-playing quadruplets.) “We’re in charge of the event. We really own this one. And I think it will be a really good success. First of all, because it’s the first real concert at BoMA. They did a trial thing back in November and we told BoMA that night, ‘If you like our set, give us a chance and we’ll throw one together in January to give us enough time to promote it.’ So we’re really excited about this one -- I think it’s going to be a really great show. The club is so beautiful -- it’s a quality venue with hopefully what people perceive as quality music. We’re playing with Philo, This Fires Embrace, and another band called Sturbridge that’s also really good and they’re kinda more in our vein. Anybody can enjoy that night I think. We’re really pumped.”

BoMA -- the Bar of Modern Art -- is also pumped about getting a chance to show off how their venue can work for a rock concert. Bob Larrick, general manager at BoMA says they’ve had success with hip hop acts and other performers at the venue and hopes they can have the same success with the rock genre, starting with Bullet Jones. “Once bands play here and see the potential, there will be more demand for us to host these types of events.”

The band will also be premiering some new material at the BoMA show. I spent some time with Bullet Jones at one of their recent rehearsals and had the benefit of hearing some of the new songs. The crowd definitely won’t be disappointed.

Beyond the show next week, beyond this year’s recording sessions, and beyond 2008, what’s in store for Bullet Jones in the far future?

Ryan wraps it up. “Marcum and I talk about this. If we had some success, I would love to come back and start a label. There’s so many good bands in Columbus that just need a push, that need someone to look at them. I’d love to do that.”

If and when Bullet Jones hits it big, we’ll hold him to that.

Bullet Jones
w/ Philo, This Fires Embrace, Sturbridge, Cheddar Boyz

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Bar of Modern Art (BoMA)

Watershed @ The LC Friday Night

by Tracy Schaefer

This year we’ve only been getting small doses of Watershed, but at big venues.

Last year’s only Columbus gig was the outdoor LC Pavilion show in August and this winter’s only local gig is this Friday, also at the LC (indoors this time).

Come out to enjoy the pop/punk/rock sounds of Watershed and congratulate them on being part of SXSW in Austin, Texas this coming March. If you’ve never had a chance to see them, this is a great time to get to listen to the humble, C-bus boys since they play the whole show. See Joe’s famous tattoo, experience Colin’s humor, gaze upon Poochie’s hair, and marvel at Dave’s beats. Their melodies draw you in and their lyrics keep you coming back for more.

Check out their MySpace page for a preview of their songs and mark your calendars for this Friday!

The Queers: A good ol' fashioned punk show. Sorta.

by Dave Schaefer

The old school punk scene isn’t dead in Columbus, but it’s got a palsy and walks with a slight limp. It was evident on Sunday night at The Queers show at Bernie’s where -- considering the line-up and the quality of the show -- a limited of number of people decided to come out.

By the time the first band, local boys Highnoon Hangovers, hit the stage there were a few stragglers at the bar and maybe ten people lining the side wall -- a couple continued to play pool at the billiards table, seemingly unaware that a punk show was happening a few feet away. And that’s what really struck me. Back in the day at this type of event, no one would’ve been playing pool, no one would’ve been leaning up against a wall. Oh, sure, there was some foot-tapping amongst the guys and a bit of wiggle in the girls, but you don’t foot-tap to punk and you sure as hell don’t wiggle.

The numbers rose steadily as the evening went on -- still meager when Buffalo, NY’s The Snot Rockets went on, but better when locals The Damn Yous hit the mic -- and by the time Alabama’s Backseat Virgins started their set it was beginning to be a somewhat respectable crowd.

But still with the standing around. They may as well have been at a Michael Buble concert. Except with an occasional mohawk and grungy t-shirt. At least the crowd looked punk.

Fortunately, by the time The Queers bounced onto the stage, the crowd was more willing to trounce the dance floor and mix it up a bit. Granted, not a whole lot, but at least they had the off possibility of potentially maybe perhaps getting injured. Or at least get a foot stepped on.

But on to the bands themselves. Each one gave no excuse to those onlookers standing around not moving. The Highnoon Hangovers had the unfortunate task of going first and thus playing to a crowd that would’ve likely fit in my livingroom, but they pulled it out and did a good set that involved a few covers and a couple originals. Their set was cut short by a broken bass string and no time to swap it out. Before that happened though, Don B got on the stage for the first of three songs he performed over the course of the night. I use the term “performed” loosely. But, hey, you gotta love him.

Next up were the Snot Rockets. Having over a decade’s worth of material, they, like The Queers, have the experience and the know-how to pull off a punk show with reckless abandon, but with a slick base. With their lead singer off the stage and out on the nearly empty dance floor [...cricket...cricket...] he created a very weird, very...well, punk dimension to it all. They were having fun on stage and it made you want to have fun with them. Well, as long it apparently didn’t involve actual movement. The Snot Rockets yelled into the mic such classics as “I Hate Punk Rock Girls” and “Crabs.”

The Damn Yous were on it and you could tell, shouting out a really good set. To be perfectly honest, I was having such a great time talking to the members of Backseat Virgin over in the deli that I missed the first half of the Damn Yous’ set, but the second half was excellent. I’m definitely keeping my eye on this band.

Last up before The Queers graced the Bernie’s stage were my conversation buddies Backseat Virgins. Fronted by guitarist Randy and keyboardist Neeta, they shared vocals, giving the line-up’s only female voice in Neeta’s pop-punk-friendly vox. I really liked this band. They had a punchy, fun sound that was neo-punk cool and even had a few people actually moving. Bass player Neesie was clearly having fun. All was well and good until drummer Mike decided the room was too warm and stripped down to his thong. Um, yeah. But Don B sang a birthday tune to Neeta and that made up for it. Kinda.

Then it was time for The Queers. They punched out a show that seemed effortless and flawless. But then, they’ve been doing this for a while, so I’m sure they’ve got this whole punker thing down. This was when the crowd actually began to move, screaming words to songs, and even slamming around every so often. One guy even crowd surfed, hands and feet touching the ceiling mere inches above him. Of course his ride lasted all of maybe five seconds -- that was about all the people there were from front to back. But I have to give him an A for effort. Don B’s final song of the night was backed up by The Queers and was, of course, his now classic “Batman.”

It was a truly phenomenal experience seeing these old school punkers still doing what they do in the same way they’ve always done it. There’s something to be said for the art of transformation, but there’s also a lot to be said for the art of the classic.

I just wish the audience made themselves more a part of it.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

CD Review: Paper Airplane’s “Middlemarch”


By Dave Schaefer

Paper Airplane are a Cinci/Columbus quartet that deliver a sound that is a good portion of 60’s nostalgia, a bit of 80’s pop and 90’s alt folk, and maybe even a touch of Electric Light Orchestra. Mixed together, it’s a sound that is surprisingly modern and decidedly appealing. The Beatles influence is evident, but the songs and sound aren’t copycat nostalgia -- instead, Paper Airplane takes it and uses it to their own purposes.

On their All Hail Records release Middlemarch, the music is beautifully layered, allowing the listener to discover new sounds with each visit. The smooth voice of lead singer Ryan Horns adds another layer to the music, blending effortlessly into the notes beneath it. Paper Airplane succeed in taking music and creating audial poetry. That being said, it’s also damn fun.

The lyrics echo the poetic nature of the music, finishing the art without making it look paint-by-number. They wax philosophic, but with Horn’s voice, the songs still sound light and somehow happy, regardless of the depth or darkness of the content.

Among the many standout tracks are the the opener “Keeping Things Whole,” because it sets the stage so well for the whole of the CD, and “Four Trucks Sitting in the Snow,” due to its exceptional lyrics and its fun, bouncy notes (well, as bouncy as Paper Airplane gets anyway). “Fire Escape” is another that sets itself apart as it allows the listener to unravel the story the lyrics tell, discovering meaning as it pertains more perhaps to themselves than the songwriter himself. The storytelling of “Mighty Resilient,” with Elliot as its main character, is brilliant -- sad, yet somehow uplifting at the same time.

“Rooftop” -- a mercifully short song -- is one that doesn’t work. The musical backdrop is surprisingly dull, especially given the quality of the other tracks, and the falsetto vocals are tough to get through without hitting your iPod’s ">>|" button. The lyrics aren’t interesting enough to work past the poor musical content and the song creates a sudden stop in the flow of the album.

The CD’s title Middlemarch is shared with George Eliot’s 1871 book of the same name, a story that is considered one of history’s greatest novels. If Eliot’s closing passage were translated to the music of Paper Airplane, it would fit: “For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

Personally, I hope this CD stays neither hidden nor unvisited.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Queers @ Bernie's Tomorrow Night

The Queers, one of the highest-regarded pop punk bands in history, are returning to the same place they recorded their 2006 live album "Weekend At Bernie's." It's an absolute must-see show featuring openers Backstreet Virgins and Snot Rockets, with local punkers Highnoon Hangovers and The Damn Yous.

"The Queers are an absolute classic," says The Damn Yous about being in the line-up. "It's like getting a shot to go bowling with Ted Nugent. The Queers hold a special place in the heart of Columbus as they -- of all of the bands that have released records -- placed Don B on the cover. Finally! Don B gets his come-uppance, and on a Queers disc at that. That, my friend, is beautiful American art."

The Damn Yous describe their sound: "Crack open a bottle of greasy Motorhead, pour in some Dwarves and chase it with a shot of Wild New Bomb Turkey and you're heading for a Damn You hangover."

Sounds like fun to me.

The Queers w/ Backstreet Virgins, Snot Rockers, Highnoon Hangovers, The Damn Yous
January 6, 2007
Bernie's Distillery, 1896 N. High St.