Thursday, September 27, 2007

Camera Obscura Review

Whiskey and Song

Camera Obscura, the Paradise, January 27, 2007
January 30, 2007 4:22:31 PM

REDEMPTION: Camera Obscura offer raw emotion tempered by hope.
Lovelorn songs with sorrowful lyrics are key ingredients for any respectable emo band. But adding a sense of hope or even a taste of redemption to those tunes is a real achievement. And that's a big part of what sets Camera Obscura apart from their peers. They're not the first to realize that offsetting raw emotions with uplifting music is a winning formula. But in an arena where introspective male singer-songwriters are the norm, the sweet vocals of Tracyanne Campbell, who hit the Paradise stage last Saturday night in a lil' orange vintage farmgirl dress, make all the difference, putting a fresh twist on the familiar.

The six-piece Scottish band didn't come charging out of the gate. The first three songs were mellow, sway-inducing numbers. But then the petite Campbell started clapping rhythmically along to songs with a bit more energy to them — "Let's Get Out of This Country," the title track from their latest Merge album, and "I Need All the Friends I Can Get" — the crowd warmed up, and the band began to hit their stride. Campbell loosened up too, throwing a few lines from the Paul Simon tune "You Can Call Me Al" into a Motown-style tune. And instead of sticking to the usual guitar, bass, and drums, her band kept things interesting with the addition of horns and mandolin. "We do this thing to try and see who is the most generous audience," Campbell said a bit mischievously. "We like whiskey." And, fortified with a few shots, they offered thanks by way of taking requests during a generous encore.

Bright Eyes Review

Bright Eyes, Somerville Theatre, February 28, 2007
March 2, 2007 11:46:28 AM


Conor Oberst, lead man of Bright Eyes, took up playing shows at the age of 12, and he still looks like one of his young audience members, wearing black jeans, long stringy hair, and a pair of vegan boots, but at 27 he's become the definitive emo/folk rocker. And he's come a long way from being an introverted solitary performer with an acoustic guitar. On Wednesday night, he and a diverse band played for a packed Somerville Theatre with talented, raspy-voiced opener M. Ward. With Ward joining the band after intermission, they played sets marked by Bright Eyes' eclectic sound — seductively poetic story-telling songs with raw guitar licks and country charm.

Oberst was backed by a mix of multi-instrumentalists. At one point drummer Janet Weiss (of Sleater-Kinney) took up the ukulele while Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott swapped their guitars for keyboards, violins, and even a French horn. The set was a mix that included everything from M. Ward songs to pieces from 2002's Lifted to the forthcoming Casadaga (Saddle Creek, due April 10). And the surprisingly effusive Oberst kept encouraging the audience to applaud "my beautiful band."

He ignored frequent yells by girls confessing their love for him and focused on more important things: "How's the Big Dig — you still digging?" What happened to the sad eyed emo boy from Omaha? Instead, he danced, gave the guitar techs a hard time, then made up for it with a hug, and closed his set by passing his band mates' microphones to the audience for a sing-along of "la-la-la's" during "Laura Laurent." During their half-hour encore, Oberst squealed that the audience made him feel like Dolly Parton and declared his nostalgia for the Somerville, a venue he has performed at frequently since 2001. By the end of the encore, feedback and chaos reigned. Another difference from the old Bright Eyes.

Clinic Review

Clinic ( not published...)

I missed deadline.


Last Saturday, the Middle East stage filled up with four men in surgical masks, dressed in scrubs and top hats. Not your typical indie show, but Clinic is not your typical indie band. It was a little after 11:30 when the Liverpudlian quartet took the stage to play fast organ-driven punk not wasting any time to build momentum. Their fans knew what to expect when they got on stage— well-calculated tunes and some English etiquette. With their newest album, Visitations out (since October) we see a stunning return to form-- pleasingly unhinged sound and numinous lyrics. We hail Clinic for their steadiness in creating gratifying tunes that combine genres from surf to primitive punk.

Clinic's set was an electric mix of songs from their acclaimed 2000 debut Internal Wrangler (The Return of Evil Bill, 2/4, Porno) to their radio hit, Walking with Thee. Front man, Ade Blackburn stared out over the heads of his audience with a sincere expression as he sang Animal/Human while drummer, Carl Turney gave the right dosage of cowbell. Although watching Clinic's performance generally delighted fans, the songs they played off their newest album, weren't immediately recognizable. The band has a distinctive sound that blends in with much of their other albums. Honestly, Clinic by nature can't sound much different than their previous albums with their familiar blend of unusual instruments (melodica, flute, clarinet). For indie fans, Clinic advances the scene, and that says more than most bands out there.

Ode to Melancholy- Calla Review

Ode to Melancholy- Calla Review

It was fitting the band Calla played on Friday the 13th at the Middle East, with their newest album about desperation within doomed romances. At this time Strength By Numbers, is their fifth full-length album, but nothing has changed the band's molecular structure so now it's impossible ~at least for any Bostonian standing in a crowd at their concert ~to hear songs like "Defenses Down" and "Malicious Manner" and think they don't have a fascination for writing music about agonizing relationships: "Your in mind/ Your in my head/ At this moment your as good as dead."

Calla has never struck me as an explicity depressing band, but their lyrics are dark enough to pigeon hole them as yet another heartbroken band whose selling point is based off of their murk. Perhaps it's the lead singer, Aurelio Valle's signature edgy and painfully sexual voice that appeals to something vulnerable inside all of us. Or maybe it's the band's drummer, Wayne B. Magruder who seems to drum as steady as a heartbeat woking overtime as heard in "Sylvia's Song"

The band experiments less with sound in this newest album compared to their previous album, Collisions, where their control over ghostly distortion laid a foundation for ambience that guitars and drums couldn't create alone. Frankly, some of the songs they played sounded a bit recycled from their previous albums. Yet what makes the new songs appealing is their return to form and now we see its been finely tuned.

Musically, Calla is among the best of their kind out there. They could easily sit comfortably next to bands like Interpol, Massive Attack, or even more down into the archives Echo and The Bunnymen. While the more cynical Bostonians among us may dismiss them as mere melancholy musicians, there's no doubting this is their appeal.

Jamaica Via Vermont- Casual Fiasco review

Jamaica via Vermont- Casual Fiasco review

Jamaica via Vermont
Casual Fiasco, Paradise, April 27, 2007
April 30, 2007 1:13:32 PM

It's a strange state of affairs when white guys in guitar bands start purposely mispronouncing the words of their songs to sound Jamaican. But that's the topsy-turvy world we live in, where reggae jumbles with jam band improvisationality, and, surprisingly, it sometimes works. We saw it before in Sublime and Mad Caddies; now, Casual Fiasco, who played Friday at the Paradise, show they know how to get their pucca shell-wearing audience to really groove.

The band proved their abilities by playing a buffet of cheery, storytelling songs. Three members of the Burlington, VT quartet shared the mic to sing. Lead singer Josh Cleaver possessed the impressive ability of throwing his entire band's laid back deportment into a country western pick-me-up with his self-titled "Cleaver Song." The audience switched from swaying and skanking to swinging their partners and dancing a do-ce-do. This oddity came as a pleasant surprise in a set which included breezy tunes like "Tribe of Believers" and "Down on Sunday" from their 2005 EP Body Over Mind.

The wave of reggae/rock-mania kicked into high gear with Sublime, but the real force behind this style of music comes from the college radio stations, and Casual Fiasco is well circulated in college radio stations around the US. Despite playing within a genre limited to an audience made up of mostly college kids, Casual Fiasco shows true talent.

Indeed, a good reggae/rock band borrows from its forebears. Fittingly, the band closed with Talking Heads's "Psycho Killer." Fragments of rhythm guitar played by the shoeless and moppy-haired James Reilly controlled the song. And lead guitarist Will Read led the cover and quickly stripped the track down to an audience-only chorus of the "Fa-fa-fa's." When the song came to a close, the audience was satisfied to be a part of the act.

Manny Mania: Skate or Die

Manny Mania: Skate or Die


For years one of the most awe-inspiring sports was under attack in Boston, and we were powerless to stop it. It's still illegal in Cambridge and Boston to skate board on public property, though Friday afternoon, Red Bull's Manny Media was a perfect example of the simplest way to confuse any Bostonian skater. The city opened up a sponsored skate boarding competition to ride risk free at City Hall Plaza, about 100 ft away from the Government Center T stop. This four hour event took 32 hand picked skaters from all over New England to see who could perform the most creative manuals (balancing on two wheels and all the variations of tricks) off of three ramps- C-pad curve, a pyramid, and a flat box. The young skaters competed in one of seven heats while drinking down free red bulls. The top five skateboarders rivaled in a final jam, riding for 20 minutes for the judges to determine who deserved the title of the best unsponsored New England skater. The winner, Marshall Heath, a 19-year-old from Huntington, Vermont received many prizes, among other things, which included a $1000 dollar Oakley watch along with a hair full of red bull. This event proved the city is starting to open up to skaters. Perhaps the afternoon serves as a small preview of what's to come when the city opens the first official state park sometime next year in the banks of the Charles River. (

Red Bull's skateboarding competition at City Hall Plaza

Skateboarding on public property still falls under the Banned in Boston category. But on Friday afternoon, City Hall Plaza was opened up for skaters to ride risk free as part of Red Bull's Manny Media skateboarding competition. Over four hours, 32 skaters from all over New England competed on, along, above, against, and over three ramps: a C-pad curve, a pyramid, and a flat box. They competed in one of seven heats and the top five skateboarders battled in a final jam, riding for 20 minutes for the judges to determine who deserved the title of the best unsponsored New England skater. Marshall Heath, a 19 year-old from Huntington, Vermont, took top prize, which included, among other things, a $1000 dollar Oakley watch. Perhaps the afternoon serves as some small preview of what's to come when the city's first official skate park opens on the banks of the Charles next year.

Negativland- Creative Optimism

This is from a show I reviewed a couple months back. Never got published. For shame.

Negativland-Creative Optimism

Melissa Pocek
Middle East
August 1, 2007

The howling vintage sound clip echoed through the downstairs at the Middle East on Wednesday night. "There is no God," it rang, and then looped back on itself "There is No God"

The openly atheist members of Negativland performed a mostly improvised show as an effort to bring their 25-years-on-the-air "Over the Edge" radio show to the live stage. This underground group, from San Francisco is best known for their projected images and other extraordinary visual devices from mass culture refashioned to say themes that they never intended to say. However, this show had none of their normal visual stage props. Instead, the audience members watched the making of live radio. In case, watching three similarly dressed (matching business attire) middle-aged men making sound affects from monkey noises to rattling chains got to heavy handed, the audience members were given piƱata colored blindfolds and instructed that the blindfolds would enhance their viewing experience- by creating "theater of the mind."

Negativland's religious criticism can be described as hard hitting in a hammed up way. That was the case with the first of several radio skits. A shoddy sounding radio host, Oslo Norway, CEO of One World Advertisement, guided us through the show. "We at Its All In Your Head FM say that when it comes to God, just like radio, humans invented it."

Various tape machines, mixing board, and sound files repeated quotes and snippets about monotheism and then evidence backing up why God is only superstition. Scrapes of interviews from renowned atheist: Sam Harris ("End of Faith") and Richard Dawkins ("The God Delusion") made for compelling arguments against the existence of God.

After the break, Muslims fundamentalist hijacked the radio show causing the subject matter to get weightier with sound clips on religious fundamentalist terrorist. To counter this material, the Negativlander's kept it comical "We are all Mohammed's now," with "It's a Small World" playing in the background.

Repetition proved to be the theme of the show, and because the group are improvising, every show being performed is different. This Negativelanders were well received by the audience making it known their goal of – "Putting the less back in Godless" was achieved.

Behind the Scenes at Revenge of the Book Eaters Show

Last night I worked an 826 event called Revenge of the Book Eaters. Members of the band Of Montreal were there among many other eclectic performers and comedians. My job most of the night consisted of carrying around a video camera and interviewing the performers and volunteers. This job was something I had no intention of doing, but there was no one else to do it. It turned out to be extremely amusing. I got to see the green room, where the bands relax and prep before going on stage, which was a first for me. In the green room, Of Montreal was practicing and I went up to talk to them and asked a couple of questions. I looked at them (and usually never get star struck) but I did, and it was god-awful, I couldn't speak. I badly stuttered and wasn't able to form the words to ask if I could video tape them. They gave me a puzzling look, shrugged, then picked up their guitars and just started to sing a improvisational song. I just stood there with the camera until they were finished performing. It was brilliant! I thanked them- felt foolish, and walked away.

Then later during the night at the VIP reception (still holding the camera). Kevin, (lead singer) came up to me. I had a cookie lodged half way into my cheek and I turned to face him. He said, "What's up video girl?" Still with a cookie in my mouth, I said, "Doing well," covering my mouth. I told him that I can normally talk and that I usually don't stutter or have a cookie in my cheek. He said that my stuttering was very endearing. Then continued to talk to me about the stages he performs and how acoustic sets makes him nervous and how when he performs at smaller acoustic events he feels insecure because he can hear himself and that makes him really nervous. I told him that I could relate to his nervousness.

After the show, the volunteers and performers went out to a bar down the street. I only stayed for a bit, I was exhausted from running around helping out. Kevin was sitting alone and so I came up to him and told him that he played a very amazing and memorable set. He sat back, with a blank expression and stared at me for what felt like minutes. I told him that he played my favorite songs from his newest album and a great Buzzcock cover song. Then after I was done he mimed "Thank You". It was fairly strange interaction.

It was a glorious night and volunteering for 826 proved to be pretty successful- I met a couple new friends and had a semi-successful experience as a videographer.