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Aural States Fest II: Spotlights – Noble Lake, Vincent Black Shadow, Height With Friends

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MP3: Noble Lake – Morgantown from Heyday (2008)

As the saying says, when one door closes, another one opens. In 2009, Baltimore folk outfit Noble Lake saw the departure of Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner, whose own band Wye Oak reached new levels of success that swallowed most of their free time. James Sarsgaard, the band’s leader and singer who lived in Brooklyn for a period, managed to keep writing and performing, sometimes soldiering on as a solo act. But he’s back in Baltimore now, with a new album in tow and a pretty solid cast of Baltimore musicians backing him when available. Where some of the city’s other folk acts tend to deliver fuller, more power-packed compositions, Noble Lake’s music treads in a more time-lost and timeless arena, feeling more delicate and sticking to some strict narrative forms.

We talked with Sarsgaard about the project’s transitional period and plans for the future:

AS: You’ve mentioned that 2009 was a bit of a chaotic year with regard to the ever-shifting lineup, and a new album. Is it a bit of a relief to just get up on stage and play?

James Sarsgaard: Yes. I wish we could play more often. I’m still working on getting a more permanent lineup in place, and just getting things rolling again has been a bit tough. I’m not very computer savvy and as a result I don’t go after shows and promotion and such quite as aggressively as I should.

AS: You’ve also remarked that you tried “to get a handle on this whole band thing once and for all.” Was there ever a point where you thought the band wouldn’t go on, or that you and Justin would have to soldier on as a duet?

JS: I don’t know. I mean, I’ll always be writing songs and playing them in some fashion. When I was living in Brooklyn last year, I was basically playing as a solo act. It’s been kind of tough, and a bit discouraging for me lately, the whole nuts and bolts of playing music. I’m 32, and I work full time as a carpenter which makes it hard to devote a lot of time to the band. But it’s an ebb and flow thing for me, and I have a feeling this year might find me back on the horse again, to use a silly metaphor, with Noble Lake.

AS: How did that situation change the writing for the new album?

JS: The new album was mostly written between ’07 an ’09, so it captured a lot of the transitions that were going on over that time for me and everyone involved. I certainly wrote most of the songs, at least the music, with a vision of them being played by Andy, Jenn and Justin, and we went into the studio with that in mind. The songs I’m writing for the next record are more adaptable to new ideas, and I think when I start recording it will be a much different process.

AS: Were Steve Strohmeir and Walker Teret part of the recording/writing, or did you and Justin write parts for them, and other possible fill-ins, to play?

JS: They weren’t involved at all in the recording or writing of the last one. They both are down to play with us when they can, and I hope to play more with them in the near future. They’re both great players with a lot to offer, I don’t feel the need to write anything for them!

AS: You also mentioned that the band was looking for a label to release said album. What’s the latest?

JS: Nothing yet. Seems like a tough time for that. We’re still looking though, and one way or another I hope to have something by spring or summer.

AS: Can we expect a tour to start 2010 right?

JS: I’m hoping to do a southeast tour this spring. Then maybe Europe solo in the summer

AS: Who are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?

JS: I’m glad to be sharing the stage with Leprechaun Catering. They can play the shit out of a rubber band. Also totally psyched to see Pontiak, of course. There are alot of bands I don’t know of particulary so I hope to be pleasantly surprised. Of course, of course VBS, Caleb Stine, Height and all my Baltimore love children. Can’t Wait!


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MP3: Vincent Black Shadow – Sheer Heart Attack (Queen cover) from Nazi Gold b/w Sheer Heart Attack (2009)

Raucous rabble rousers Vincent Black Shadow make one hell of a racket. They deliver one of the most visceral and party-heavy sets around, and were one of the first must-have artists that sprang into my mind when I started coordinating the lineup. If you haven’t experienced them, you are in for a treat. Their latest release last year Nazi Gold b/w Sheer Heart Attack shows them doing what they do best: kicking out the jams (including an inspired Queen cover) with sweaty, shit-eating grins on their faces.

Guitarist Dan O sends along this dispatch so you know what to expect for 2010:

The Shadow boys have been taking a break from playing out (cept the occasional rager here and there like this festival) cause they’re writing a record. It’s called BALTAMONT. It’s the be-all end-all Baltimore fuck off scum rock record. Rob Girardi at Lord Baltimore Recording is going to capture the tracks, Forcefield Records out of Richmond is gonna put it on the street, and the boys are going to take it on the road this fall. After 2009 put the zap on our heads and our asses in the gutter (and friends and family in the god damn grave), you better believe we’ve got 2010 by the balls good and early.


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MP3: Height With Friends – Travel Rap (Nasty Millionaire Remix)

Height With Friends is one Dan Keech (Height), backed by an ever-evolving, always interesting collective of producers, beat-makers, rhyme-sayers, and verse-speakers. This project is arguably the frontline of a burgeoning group of young hip-hop acts in Baltimore, which is appropriate given how much their sound and style just feel spiritually aligned with the city.

A weighty, reflective, complex melange with no small amount of poetics. Height took some time to let us know about current affairs in the HWF world:

AS: You’ve got a new LP ready to drop later this year. Fill us in on what it is (Height solo, Height With Friends or something new).

Dan Keech: The new record is called Bed Of Seeds. Almost all of the songs were crafted by the five people that currently perform live as Height With Friends. (Mickey Free, Gavin Riley, Emily Slaughter, Travis Allen and myself).

AS: How does it differ from Highlands?

DK: It’s totally different. With a few notable exceptions, most of the music was composed by me, and brought to life by Mickey as a producer and Travis as a musician. I wrote the words, but Emily and Gavin put extreme work into making vocal arrangements that work well live and on record.

Unlike all our other releases, the songs have chord changes and bridges and other elements of traditional music. I was influenced by rappers who use non-rap song structures, (like Whodini), and non-rappers that kind of rap, (like Andre Williams).

AS: What do you have planned for your summer tour? What towns are you hitting up that you are looking forward to?

DK: We are touring the whole country in April and May. The album won’t be officially out by then, but the whole idea is to spread the word that it’s about to drop. We’ll be touring again soon after that. Charleston, South Carolina is my favorite tour stop. We’ve played there four or five times and its always seemed like a crazy uptopia where people like music and don’t act the fool.

AS: Who are you looking forward to at the fest?

DK: I can’t front. All parts of it are going to be fire, so I can’t really single one act out. I will say that Pontiak closing the night is a great look. I played at an Independence Day show that they put on in Virginia called Friendstival. They ended the night with a long, epic set. I was really into it.

Preview: Aural States Fest II @ Sonar Club Stage/the Talking Head (2010.01.30)

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  1. MP3: Pontiak – Suzerain from Sea Voids (2009)
  2. MP3: Vincent Black Shadow – Flash Roll from More Deeper (2008)
  3. MP3: Leprechaun Catering – Night In Amnesia from Kumquats, Lychees (2004)
  4. MP3: Caleb Stine – Two Mantras (Small Sur cover) from Baltimore Does Baltimore (2009)
  5. MP3: Benjy Ferree – Dog Killers! from Leaving the Nest (2006)
  6. MP3: Sick Sick Birds – Buildings from Heavy Manners (2009)
  7. MP3: Noble Lake – Ladies and Gentlemen from Heyday (2008)
  8. MP3: Height With Friends – Swiss Chard from Swiss Chard Vol. 1 (2009)
  9. MP3: Thrushes – Crystals from the forthcoming LP Night Falls (2010)
  10. MP3: True Womanhood – Magic Child from the Magic Child Single (2009)
  11. MP3: Lands & Peoples – Bad Habits

web Aural States Fest 2 new

Teaser image to the right, proper flyer art coming from Nolen Strals of Post Typography/Double Dagger fame.


Aural States announces line-up, details for Aural States Fest II

December 11 2009 – Baltimore, MD – Baltimore-based music website Aural States (auralstates.com) is proud to announce Aural States Fest II, our second anniversary blow-out at Sonar Club Stage & the Talking Head on Saturday January 30th in Baltimore, MD. This will likely be the final year for Aural States to be based in Baltimore, and hence, the final Aural States Fest.

The line-up for this year includes a wide variety of acts from Baltimore and DC, crossing generational and genre boundaries:

Pontiak (www.myspace.com/pontiak)

Leprechaun Catering (www.myspace.com/leprechauncatering)

Vincent Black Shadow (www.myspace.com/vbskicksoutthejams)

Sick Weapons (www.myspace.com/sickweapons)

Office of Future Plans (J Robbins of Jawbox | www.myspace.com/officeoffutureplans)

Caleb Stine (www.myspace.com/calebstine)

Benjy Ferree (www.myspace.com/benjyferree)

Sick Sick Birds (www.myspace.com/sicksickbirds)

Noble Lake (www.myspace.com/noblelake)

Dustin Wong (www.myspace.com/dustinclarence)

Height With Friends (www.myspace.com/height)

Thrushes (www.myspace.com/thrushes)

True Womanhood (www.myspace.com/truewomanhood)

Lands & Peoples (www.myspace.com/landsandpeoples)

Ami Dang (www.myspace.com/amritakd)

Liveshitbingepurge (Newagehillbilly, Decapitated Hed, and Pawly Walnutz | mt6records.com)

NARC (www.myspace.com/iamthenarc)

Stay tuned for additional line-up announcements in the coming weeks.

Like last year, early arrivals with ticket stubs will be rewarded with a limited-supply of generous grab-bags filled with CDs and merchandise from (mostly) local artists and businesses, including Atomic Books, Video Americain, Baltimore Jazz Alliance, Thrill Jockey, Natty Paint, and many more.

This year we are proud to team up with our younger regional cousin Bmore Musically Informed (bmoremusic.net) to present our festival as Night 2 of the “Blogtimore PWNS” weekend. Night 1 takes place Friday January 29th, when a combination of Aural States Fest alums (Arbouretum, Wye Oak, Sri Aurobindo) and fresh local talent (Weekends, the Violet Hour) will play the last show ever at the G-Spot.

Tickets for Night 1 are $10ADV/$12DOS and available through missiontix.com. Tickets for Night 2 are $15 and available through sonarbaltimore.com. A limited supply of 50 double-header tickets are available for a discounted rate of $20 through (sonarbaltimore.com and missiontix), and will guarantee access to both nights.

Live Review: Whartscape 2009 Day 2 (2009.07.11)

Gates of MICA Parking Lot @ Whartscape 2009

Walking into the MICA North Ave. parking lot was like stepping into an alternate universe to me. Accustomed to the outstandingly complete normalcy of Carroll County living, everything involved at Saturday’s Whartscape was akin to alien scenery in my eyes. If anyone attending knew who I was or what I looked like–and you probably didn’t, you crazy ass MICA kids, I apologize for probably having stared just a tad too much.

Read the rest…

Preview: Farm Fest 2009 feat. The Black Hollies, the Flying Eyes, Vincent Black Shadow and more!


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MP3: The Flying Eyes – Red Sheets

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MP3: The Flying Eyes – We Are Not Alive

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MP3: Vincent Black Shadow – Flash Roll

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MP3: The Black Hollies – Get Yourself Together, Girl

Ever wanted to camp out and attend a fantastic music festival on a big farm? Don’t feel like trekking out to Tennessee? Then boy, have we got the fest for you: Farm Fest 2009 out in Millers, MD.

Organized by local psych-rockers the Flying Eyes, the festival is a celebration of the creme de la creme of psych-influenced artists in the area:

The Black Hollies
The Flying Eyes
Strangers Family Band
Vincent Black Shadow
The Albertans
The Deaf Scene
Pinche Gringo
Bad Liquor Pond

Plus special guests:
DJ Amanda Otto
The Herman Melville Experience
and Ian Humphrey!!!

Do yourself a favor and get to this.

Tentative schedule:

The Deaf Scene- 4pm
Bad Liquor Pond- 5pm
The Albertans- 6pm
Hollywood- 7pm
Vincent Black Shadow- 8pm
Pinche Gringo- 9pm
The Flying Eyes- 10pm
The Black Hollies- 11pm
Strangers Family Band- 12am

Contact us to buy them:
Elias- 410-458-4057

1) Live music all day and night
2) Free camping
4) And a free copy of The Flying Eyes brand new EP, “Winter”, all for only $13 admission!!!


- Go North on I-83
- Take exit 27 for MD-137/Mt Carmel Rd
- Turn left at MD-137/Mount Carmel Rd
- Turn right at Falls Rd/MD-25 and go 6.2 miles
- Turn left at Hoffmanville Rd
- Turn left at Alesia Rd
(*NOTE*: Do not make the right turn onto the first Alesia Rd. you see. Continue underneath the bridge and then make a left onto the second Alesia Rd.)
- Make a right turn into the driveway marked with balloons a.k.a 4600!!!

Live Audio: Vincent Black Shadow @ the Talking Head (2008.11.07)


Photo Credit: Greg Szeto

Again, another exclusive audio offering from Aural States and Jeff the Baltimore Taper!

Pick your poision, ZIP files of the entire set in two formats (should be available after 1PM today):


Or click through to stream and download individual MP3s.

Vincent Black Shadow
The Talking Head
Baltimore, MD
November 7, 2008

Source: Peluso CEMC6/ck4(card)>PS-2>AD-20>NJB3
Transfer: NJB3>PC>SF-7>Wav>FLAC
Taper: Jeff Mewbourn (jm292@yahoo.com)
http://baltimore-taper.blogspot.com/ Read the rest…

Jay Reatard, Vincent Black Shadow, Ratsize @ Sonar

Ratsize @ Sonar, BaltimoreAlexa’s Take:

On a Sunday, I was curious to see what crowd would show for this rainy summer night of punk-ish madness. Sonar introduced Ratsize, leading the show with a loud, messy performance, including a cover of the Adolescents’ “No Way”. Lead vox Pat Martin put on a pretty good show, ramming into the crowd and spitting beer on himself, but the band lost momentum when they paused between songs. Right when you got a steady beat, hyped up and ready for more, the song would end and they’d take a minute to recall next-up on the set list. Maybe it was just Pat getting some Oxygen after choking himself with the mic cord.

Next up was Vincent Black Shadow, and I’m not sure if it was the gangly long-haired bassist rocking out across from me, or the loogie that hit me around the third song, but something about this act was disgustingly exhilarating.

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