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Live Review: Felix Lighter @ Quips (2010.01.16)

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Felix Lighter – “Doug”, Live @ the Chameleon Club

Centered around a shared rehearsal space/ studio, and away from the sometimes harsh glare of Philadelphia and Baltimore, a small independent music scene is starting to grow, flourish, and gain some well-deserved attention in Lancaster, PA. While independent describes their approach, it is the collective power of all the groups that share the studio that give the scene its strength. Over the course of the years, a strong core of musicians and bands has come together to write, record, and play music together. They share stages and shows, and at times even band members. They come together to work on individual ideas and group projects. And while there is a decidedly alt-country feel in the air, there is no one defining sound. Bands tread from one end of the musical spectrum to the other, moving from the more alt-countrified sound of Slimfit and They Were Only Satellites, to the fuzz-folk of Stinging Nettles, to the more rocking improvisation of Felix Lighter.

Recently they have seen the influence of another musical realm as Joe Jack Talcum (guitarist/ singer of legendary punk band The Dead Milkmen) has become involved with the scene. Talcum has provided guidance and a sense of inspiration to the younger bands. He also occasionally plays shows with them, sometimes sitting in during their sets. He even recorded his last album at their studio.

Saturday night at Quips, one of the many Lancaster venues that support live music scene in the area, Felix Lighter played thirty plus songs across a lengthy three sets. It was the type of performance you rarely get to see: a band playing all night, with nothing to lose and everything to gain. They played as if they were personally trying to reach every person in the place, from fans right in front of them to those standoffish people at the back.

The first set was a solo acoustic set from lead singer/ guitarist Paul Skozilas that at its conclusion quickly moved into two full-band sets. The two full-band sets featured adventurous, guitar driven rock that would in an instant go from balls out rocking, to an inventive prog-rockish movement, to a subtle acoustic strum. Songs were not neatly tied up in a box. There were dangling solos, jangly jams, and a passionate intensity that brought each song to life. The first set was dominated by old-school favorite “Stomach.” It was a serious work-out in which drummer Marshall Fischer and bassist Adam Horita built a steady foundation allowing room for guitarists Rich Caloiero and Skozilas to work to the slowly building climax, which found Skozilas shredding his vocals as he delivered the final verse in Spanish.

Near the end of the first set, Talcum who had been lurking around the stage all-night, joined the band for a fiery version of Bob Dylan’s “Isis.” This was not the subdued Desire version, but the raging Rolling Thunder version. Talcum brought the heat, delivering Dylan’s classic harmonica lines with a ferocious punch.

The addition of a few covers in their set helped give insight into the wide ranging influences of the band. Dylan, Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Gardenhead,” Dave Mason’s “Feeling Alright,” and Bombadil’s “Johnny” all help to give a brief glimpse into what comes together to make up Felix Lighter’s diverse musical palate.

The 2nd set was classic Felix Lighter: a whiskey-soaked, psychedelic rush of classic guitar rock that found the band stretching out, taking chances, linking songs and finding a groove that got those standoffish people in the back up and moving. It was the type of night you hope to have when you go see live music. It was unabashed fun, it was late nights, it was ripping guitars and hard-hitting drums, it was a discovery of new music that moved you. But most importantly, it was quite simply Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Live Review: Baltimore Rock Opera Society presents Gründlehämmer @ 2640 Space (2009.10.03)

Editor’s note: This is a long overdue report from the show’s first engagement. Thankfully, it is more relevant now than ever since a second weekend of Gründlehämmer performances is fast approaching 2640 Space on the weekend of Feb 19th-21st (Fri – Sat @ 7pm, Sun @ 5pm). And this time, you’ll be able to take a part of it home with the 2-disc studio album packed with songs of heroic deeds and villainous mischief.

If you are feeling particularly generous, drop by and show your support Jan 28th @ the Brewer’s Art-hosted fundraiser.

All photos: Andy Cook

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  1. MP3: Baltimore Rock Opera Society – Vengeance & Guide My Hand
  2. MP3: Baltimore Rock Opera Society – Hear Ye (rough mix) * preview track, the final version will be available along with the album, at the show dates.

When the four founders of the Baltimore Rock Opera Society talked up an epic production, they spoke every bit of truth.  Epic is undoubtedly the best word to describe Gründlehämmer, the 3-hour long, debut rock opera from the creative quartet of director Aran Keating, music coordinator & actor Dylan Koehler, band director John DeCampos, and propmaster & floor manager Eli Breitburg-Smith. Read the rest…

Live Review: Nile, Immolation, Krisiun, Dreaming Dead, Nighfire @ Sonar (2010.01.15)

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  1. MP3: Nile – Sacrifice Unto Sebek
  2. MP3: Nile – Lashed to the Slave Stick

Nile played one of the best metal shows I heard in the past year at Sonar two Fridays ago. Read the rest…

Live Review / Photos: The Dutchess and the Duke, Medication, Nerve City, Toy Soldiers @ the Ottobar (2010.01.17)

Flickrshow will appear here.

All photos: Shantel Mitchell

All words: Shawn Breen

Have you ever seen that ONE band before, that you just totally love and you want to keep them to yourself forever? That feeling of not wanting others to embrace them for fear of losing them to the masses? I feel that way about The Dutchess And The Duke. It’s a love affair, I’ll admit it. This was one of those shows that you go to where there’s 3 openers you’ve never heard of and one headlining act that you love a whole lot and can’t wait to see. In fact, I considered for half a second not even going for selfish reasons but in the end my love of The Dutchess And Duke motivated me. Sometimes you just don’t want to sit through three bands for the payoff. That’s not to slag openers but let’s face it, don’t you ever wish you could just go to a show only to see that ONE band?

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Live Review: The Sour Notes, Moss of Aura, Fearsome Creatures @ Metro Gallery (2010.01.07)

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MP3: Moss of Aura – Never

The Metro Gallery was understandably vacant two Thursdays ago. After all–it was a weeknight, substantial storming had been predicted, and, to top it all off, an unfamiliar group (Austin’s The Sour Notes) was headlining. To put it lightly: the present viewership didn’t exactly make performing worth the artists’ while. But that doesn’t mean the night was uncomfortable or awkward. I’d actually say that the lack of occupancy had quite the opposite effect.

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Live Review: All Mighty Senators @ The 8X10 (2009.12.26)


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MP3: All Mighty Senators – Culture Shock, Live @ All Good Music Festival 2008 from Live Music Archive

Of all the crimes committed in the first decade of the 21st Century, none may be greater than the fact that the All Mighty Senators did not become the biggest band in the world. Their music is a combination of hard grooving rock ‘n’ funk and an other-worldly stage show: lead singer and drummer Landis Expandis – usually decked out in some Superhero pimp outfit – standing front and center on a bright pink standup drum kit, guitarist Warren Boes and bassist Jack Denning flanking him, and a trio of horn players behind. The Senators blasted out weird transmissions of funk that seemed to originate from some planet that worshiped Parliament Funkadelic, Sly Stone, Frank Zappa, and the Meters with equal gusto.  The sound they create is a wholly unique musical experience.  There was a moment right before the decade dawned when it seemed like they might take over.  But bad luck, illness, and the usual band dysfunctions seemed to steal the wind from their sails.

For a generation of people in Baltimore, The All Mighty Senators, still represent the pinnacle of what live music can be.  And following Expandis’ lengthy battle with kidney failure, the band was off the road and out of the spotlight for far too long. All this made The Senators’ “Boxing Day” show (the day after Christmas for those who don’t know) that much more special.

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Live Review: Tommy Tucker & The Supernaturals, The Bellevederes @ the Windup Space (2009.12.31)


Photo credit: Frank Hamilton (The Bellevederes)

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MP3: Tommy Tucker – Keep Good Time from Green Is Gold (2009)

Can we talk about how wonderful the Wind Up Space is for a moment? An awkwardly placed bar area lies on the right side of ten feet’s worth of concrete; everyone seems to be gravitating between the bar and three black support pillars acting as a not-so-arbitrary boundary linking the bar discussion with the art gallery/venue space on the opposing wall.

This is a perfectly designed space.

It offers a wealth of readily available mingle topics–the bar, the art, the space, the band, etc–in perhaps four or five semi-secluded areas. I walked in with time enough to hear the MC for the evening, a well-dressed, sunglasses-wearing man, announce Tommy Tucker’s (or Tucker Mayer’s) upcoming set.

Even though his folk-based 2009 release, Green Is Gold, scarcely shows it, I now know for a fact that Tommy Tucker has got some soul in his blood. One finds a faint indication of this in album standout, “Keep Good Time,” where Mayer’s astounding falsetto leads a bedroom percussion ensemble to glorious heights. His New Year’s Eve set at the Windup demonstrated to everyone that Tommy Tucker is unquestionably a soul man nowadays. His backing band The Supernaturals (which happens to feature both members of Wye Oak), compares favorably with any typical backing group–to be on pitch, on time, and to contribute a dependable foundation for Mayer’s irreplaceable stage exploitation proves itself a faultless backing design. Oh, and how precious his antics are: Mayer’s frenetic dancing is, like his voice, the absurd extension of a soul stretched to its limit. The spirit of pain channeled through Tommy Tucker’s very embodiment (Andy and Jenn from Wye Oak also performed their own adorable take on the Talking Heads’ classic “Naïve Melody,” perhaps to catalyze the evening’s climax).

“I want to know for myself that when I look back, and when I tell my children what I was doing in the first second of the ‘Tens–what I was doin’ when those ‘Tens started–well, I was dancing.” At that point, the night of had been stolen by Tommy Tucker.

Later on, after everyone in the crowd had downed a few glasses of champagne, Baltimore’s resident 9-piece soul/funk outfit took the stage. Fronted by two women so dainty that I’d never even guess could sing well, much less belt, the Bellevederes were surprisingly tight given their large numbers. Their lyrical matter may be in dire need of improvement, but musically the band need not change a thing. The Bellevederes represent in themselves a funk-for-funk’s sake sort of aspiration. That is, I’m not quite sure about why they’re playing soul and funk–other than to get funky, of course–but I’m not rightly going to criticize such an objective. Plus, they’re a riot live which is justification enough. Do yourself a favor and be sure not to miss The Bellevederes next time they play in the area.

Live Review: Parker Quartet Breaks Out the Library of Congress’ Stradivari (2009.12.18)

studio0-900Every year, some lucky players get to borrow Ms. Gertrude Clarke Whittall’s Library present of three violins, a viola, and a cello from the unbeatable maker Antonio Stradivarius for the night. This year, the young New Englanders Parker String Quartet, with their rock-solid lyricism, won the prize. Best of all, the concert is always free.

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Live Review: Kenny Liner & Caleb Stine @ The 8×10 (2009.12.08)


It was a “blink and you’ll miss it” kind of collaboration, a mid week set by two friends.  It was a collaboration of two of Baltimore’s most genuine songwriters, playing together without the safety of their bands.  A couple of stools, a mandolin, an acoustic guitar, two songwriters, and a list of songs were the only things needed this evening.

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Live Review / Photos: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists @ First Unitarian Church Basement (2009.12.02)

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists @ First Unitarian Church

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MP3: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – Even Heroes Have To Die from the upcoming album The Brutalist Bricks (2010)

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists have been a staple food in my musical diet for a long time.  His shows are always uplifting, riotously fun affairs jam-packed with killer guitar, resonant lyrics, and an air-tight band.  Whenever he comes into DC (his one-time residence, and essentially second home), he always packs the 9:30 Club or the Black Cat (as he did this past Thursday) to capacity.  I decided to change things up a bit for his recent string of East Coast dates, and made the drive to Philly to catch him last Wednesday at First Unitarian. I’ve been to shows at First Unitarian Church’s Sanctuary before, and was curious to see Ted in a different setting than a standard rock venue.

Odd fate struck when I walked down Chestnut, as I was diverted to the basement for the true DIY cred of a church basement show. Much like the VFW hall centered scenes that dot the suburbs of this country, church basements are a furnace of activity for the underaged showgoer that are blackballed by 18+ and 21+ traditional venues.

As it turns out, this choice of venue over the sanctuary was an inspired one. The crowded, modestly appointed interior perfectly channeled Ted Leo’s exacting DIY ethos and the energy of his effervescent pop punk. Instead of that blockbuster, celebrity rockstar vibe you can get when Ted plays one of the aforementioned venues, you get an altogether different experience, something truer to his spirit and roots.  What’s more, for those of us who still remember youthful adventures in such spaces, Leo’s more sage and introspective repertoire brought on a wave of acute nostalgia, and even that increasingly derided feeling: hope.

In this way, Ted Leo will always be an oasis in relatively bleak times. A unusually apolitical show (particularly after the official escalation of war in Afghanistan), Ted paused only once to acknowledge the state of current affairs as less than desirable. But he followed quickly with an affirmation of purpose: “But let’s not talk about that tonight. Instead, I’ll just continue writing, and singing, songs about it.” I can think of few other callings that could be more important, more rewarding, more necessary.

More photos after the jump.

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