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2013: The Year in Pictures

January 2, 2014 Leave a comment

As you know well enough by now, I’ve already summed up what I thought were the best albums of 2013. Because, you know, some people still like albums. But 2013 wasn’t just a great year for music listening, it was a great year for music watching. Thanks to a great hobby and an even greater ‘better half,’ I was able to take in more shows this year than in any year since college. In the process, I started to try my hand at live concert photography. An amateur in every since of the word, I couldn’t tell you what an f-stop is with a gun to my temple. That said, I think I stumbled into what would be considered an “okay job” at times. I have learned a lot, and continue to do so. I combed through the several thousand pictures I took and posted some of my favorite moments in a gallery below. Check it out – clicking on one picture will open up the gallery in full-screen mode.

Hopefully 2014 will feature many more cool opportunities. Stay tuned!

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2011: The Year in Music

January 1, 2012 2 comments

2011 rocked.

That’s really the best that I could do in coming up with an intro because, in all seriousness, 2011 rocked. Pearl Jam’s Ten turned twenty years old (as did Nirvana’s Nevermind). The Ramones turned 35. The Foo Fighters brought rock back to whatever exists of rock radio nowadays. Oh, and Dying Scene. As you’re probably aware by now, I started writing for Dying Scene, a punk music website, about a year ago, and that has reignited my passion for uptempo beats and power chords like it was 1994 all over again.

But it wasn’t just all about punk music. As you’ll see in a minute, some of my favorite releases of the year were from across the rock and hip-hop genres, including one from a two-piece that plays Mexican-inspired folk music and features a donkey jaw bone as a percussion instrument. That, of course, is the David Wax Museum. I was lucky enough to catch them open for the Josh Ritter Trio (with the Mrs.) at a hole-in-the-wall in Milford, CT, back in May.

In fact, I consider myself lucky to have seen all of the live shows that I did this year. Being a suburban professional (and a dad) and a homebody by nature, it’s always nice to venture out to catch live music. And when you only catch four or five live shows a year, it’s nice when each one of them is a great, truly inspiring performance; the reason live music far exceeds its studio-recorded counterpart. My live music year started in February with Scott Hutchison (of Frightened Rabbit) opening for Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band at a special “Valentine’s Day Brawl” in Boston. It was followed by Face to Face and Strung Out in Boston, and again in Philly, in May. June brought the aforementioned Josh Ritter Trio/David Wax Museum show. Finally, December closed out the year with Matt Pryor (The Get Up Kids/The New Amsterdams) and Brian Fallon (The Gaslight Anthem/The Horrible Crowes) playing a special acoustic show at Northeastern University.

But you aren’t here to read me go on-and-on about how luck I was this year; you’re here for the music (right?).  Without further pomp-and-circumstance, here’s my favorites of 2011 (in painstaking order). As usual, no live albums, reissues, compilations, etc. Here we go…the top 23 releases of 2011, as chosen by me. Truthfully, any of the top seven albums on the list could have been #1, or at least #1B. Suffice it to say, 2011 rocked (especially if you’re a Shiflett).

22. David Wax Museum – Everything Is Saved. The Boston-based duo features David Wax on the jarana and Suz Slezak on the donkey jawbone playing infectious, Mexican-inspired folk tunes.

21. Tom Waits – Bad As Me. This album has gotten a lot of love in a lot of places. To me, it’s too similar to Real Gone and most of Orphans. But still…rehashed Tom Waits is better than original most-everything-else.

20. City and Colour – Little Hell. Former Alexisonfire frontman steps out for his most sparse, haunting solo album yet.

19. The Roots – Undun. The only hip-hop band that matters released their third album in eighteen months, this one  a concept album about growing up in bleak, rough-and-tumble Philadelphia. The title character was named after a Sufjan Stevens song. This is why The Roots are The Clash of the hip hop world.

18. Thrice – Major/Minor. Sadly, this is probably the last we’ll see of Thrice, as the post-hardcore giants have gone on indefinite hiatus. At least they dropped this gem on us before leaving (though there is one song that sounds too much like a Creed track).

 

17. Thursday – No Devolucion. Sadly, this is probably the last we’ll see of Thursday, as the post-hardcore giants have gone on indefinite hiatus. At least they dropped this gem on us before leaving. (Yes…this was a good year for post-hardcore “legends”, but a bad year for their longevity).

 

16. Blink 182 – Neighborhoods. I didn’t want to include this album. I really didn’t. But go ahead, pull my street cred card. It’s actually a (mostly) solid album. But I still want to punch Tom DeLonge.

15. Eddie Vedder – Ukulele Songs. At first I thought this was just a way to cash in on those of us who buy anything Pearl Jam related (hey, Ed’s got a family to feed now). But the more you listen to this album that was in the works for almost a decade, the better it gets.

14. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – The Magic Of Youth. Most of them don’t even live in Boston anymore (Dicky lives in LA, for God’s sake). And, frankly, I couldn’t even tell you who is in the band anymore. But they still know how to make a killer album, easily their best since I was in college.

13. Social Distortion – Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes. Here’s my review from earlier in the year.

 

 

 

12. Vacation Bible School – Ruined The Scene. Self-depricating, middle-finger-raising skate punk that reminds me of my youth. Opening track is called “Douchebag.” ‘Nuff said.

 

 

11. Radiohead – King Of Limbs. Loop-heavy stroke of shoegazey genius. Watch the video.

 

10. Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones. There’s been a trend lately in which punk rock/hardcore frontmen branch out with more acoustic, folk-driven side projects. The Englishman Turner is the best of the bunch with his beer-soaked pub sing-along anthems.

 

9. Banquets – Top Button, Bottom Shelf. Great riffs, great melodies and great harmonies make for a great post-punk album. Banquets hit on all of them.

8. Andrew Jackson Jihad – Knife Man. The razor sharp wit and self-deferential sense of humor is always enjoyable, but it’s the occasional glimpses of  heart-attack seriousness and “it’s funny because it’s true” moments (take “Sad Songs (Intermission)” or the closing line in “Fucc The Devil” for example) that give Knife Man its depth and importance.

 

7. No Motiv – Winterlong. Though it’s only an EP, the band’s first release since 2004’s semi-breakthrough, appropriately named Daylight Breaking album serves as (hopefully) a forceful return to the game, and proof that there is still room in the game for the old guard of the emo game.

 

6. Mastodon – The Hunter. The best metal band on the planet make their broadest, most accessible sounding album yet, and it’s an absolute monster. It’s on Spotify, so you have no excuse to not listen to it.

5. The Horrible Crowes – Elsie. The smoky blues-bar Waits-ian vocal stylings and solo Springsteen inspired sound give The Horrible Crowes the feel of more than just a throwaway, between-Gaslight filler album for Brian Fallon and longtime pal Ian Perkins.

 

4. The Black Keys – El Camino. The Akron duo teamed up with Danger Mouse for the whole album this time. The result is their most rocking, best sounding, most focused album today, filled with dirty, sludgy blues riffs.

3. Samiam – Trips. In spite of (or perhaps because of) the fact that it touches on a broad spectrum of sounds, Samiam’s first album in five years (and only their second in over a decade) is the most polished, best sounding , most accessible album of their long career. Let’s just hope they don’t go away for so goddamn long this time…

 

2. The Reveling – Tributaries. The Reveling provided me the biggest “holy crap these guys are good” moment from the beginning seconds of the album’s opening track, “Revival.” That feeling hasn’t let up one bit (and has, in fact, only gotten stronger) upon what is probably a couple hundred successive listens over the year. The Reveling are THAT GOOD, and it really is a shame that more people don’t know of them.

And now for the moment where I feel like Mr. and/or Mrs. Shiflett making a musical “Sophie’s Choice” between releases from two of my three sons…Chris with the Foo Fighters and Scott with Face To Face. As could be expected, I took the easy way out.

1A. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light. I could spend probably two thousand words explaining how amazing this album is and still not do it proper justice. Dave Grohl has written a career’s worth of hook-driven, thoughtfully-worded anthems. Wasting Light is the best album, start-to-finish, that he has ever played on, and solidifies the band’s status as one of the best American rock bands of the last several decades.

1. Face To Face – Laugh Now, Laugh Later. A lot has changed in the nine years since f2f’s last album was released. They’ve got a new drummer, they reunited with guitarist Chad Yaro, they’ve got a new label and new production partners. But the sound of Laugh Now, Laugh Later is every bit as strong and vital as it has been at any point in their twenty-plus year career.

Face to Face w/Strung Out – Boston, MA

May 15, 2011 1 comment

For the first time in just about two years, Face to Face played within Boston proper last night (May 14th). The band are celebrating their twentieth year in business, and touring in support of their seventh studio album, Laugh Now…Laugh Later, which is due to be released this coming week (May 17th). Joining them for the duration of the two-plus month-long tour are fellow SoCal heavyweights Strung Out, themselves rounding the corner on 20 years (the band was formed in 1992).

As much as it pains me to say, I’m much less familiar with Strung Out’s catalog than I should be; this is certain to change in the near future. The band play a fast-paced, metal-infused brand of SoCal punk rock. I’m not sure how I never got around to seeing Strung Out before. Nevertheless, they put on a very enjoyable, high octane 40-ish minute set on this particular night. Their 7:50pm time slot was also notably earlier than anticipated; Brooklyn band Cerebral Ballzy (yes, that is their real name) were due to occupy one of the opening slots, but played in the UK the day before and didn’t make it back to the States in time for this gig.  Redondo Beach punk band The Darlings occupied the 7:00pm time slot, though admittedly, I missed their performance.

Anyway, here are a few pictures from the Strung Out set…

Frontman Jason Cruz

Jake Kiley and Jason Cruz
Jake Kiley and Chris Aiken

Aiken and Cruz

On to the headliners. May 14th, 2011, would mark my twelfth f2f gig. Paradise is a fairly legendary rock club in Boston, so I was pretty excited to get the opportunity to see my favorite band there for the first time. The boys took the stage promptly at 9:10pm. Thanks to our spot up front between Trever Keith and Scott Shiflett, we had a pretty good view of the setlist ahead of time. Here’s how it read:

You Lied

You’ve Done Nothing

Struggle

Walk The Walk

It’s All About You

Ordinary

I Won’t Lie Down

Blind

Bill Of Goods

Pastel

All For Nothing

A-OK

Should Anything Go Wrong

Velocity

I Want

Complicated

Big Choice

Bombs Away

Resignation

Disconnected

——————–

I’m Trying

It’s Not Over

As you might imagine from looking at it, that right there is a pretty solid setlist. The band’s first three albums were obviously very well represented (five songs from Don’t Turn Away, six songs each from Big Choice and the self-titled album), while Ignorance Is Bliss (to be expected) and Reactionary (unexpected) were unrepresented, and 2002’s How To Ruin Everything had only one song featured. The remainder were from the forthcoming Laugh Now…Laugh Later. “Should Anything Go Wrong” and “It’s All About You” were fairly well-received and several people seemed to know the words already.  “All for Nothing” occupied the space that “Bombs Away” was slotted for, the latter song not actually being played, and was met with nodding approval (no ‘thumbs-down, middle-finger-up’ this time around), a good sign for a song that isn’t full-throttle punk rock song.

The mostly-capacity crowd was pretty chipper for most of the set, and seemed to get rowdier from about the halfway mark on. Pretty decent pit ebbed and flowed for the majority of the set, and the number of crowd surfers was unexpectedly high. Frontman and band founder Trever Keith acknowledged that his voice was a little off (“phlegmy” was the precise word he used) and it was noticeable in some places, but by and large he sounded great for an “old guy.” About a third of the way through the set, Keith commented on how Face to Face crowds have grown decidedly older over the years, but pointed out that they were, in fact, old men themselves (prompting bass player extraordinaire to pretend to shuffle over to his spot aided by a walker). Keith also repeatedly commented on how the Red Sox were beating the Yankees, which always pleases him due to his noted hatred of the Bronx Bombers. That met with applause from the crowd, and didn’t come off as typical front-man pandering.

Despite the band’s age, they played with their trademark high energy and precision. New drummer (since the 2008 reunion) Danny Thompson served as the rock steady gas pedal behind the kit, keeping things plowing straight ahead. While longtime guitar player Chad Yaro was back home tending to “real job” duties, touring guitar player Dennis Hill continues to serve as a formidable replacement. Sadly, the sound was not mixed all too well, so his guitar was almost inaudible from our spot. Keith and Shiflett continued to do what they have been doing best for sixteen years (Shiflett took over for Matt Riddle in 1995): Keith’s power chord rhythmic assault on guitar continues to interplay with the melodically nimble-fingered Shiflett’s swirling bass lines.

But enough of my words. Here are some pictures for your enjoyment…

“You’ve got brains in your head…feet in your shoes…you can steer yourself…any way you choose…”

Scott doing the “duck face,” probably unintentionally…though, knowing Scott…

Scott either showing that playing bass is hard work, or trying to keep his dinner down

Danny, Trever and Dennis

Trever Keith

Scott, Trever and Danny. The banner behind them was designed by the one-and-only Corey Miller

I’m pretty sure Scott posed for this one…

I love this picture. Who says “old guys” can’t rock?!?

The man does have a thing for the Les Paul Studio, doesn’t he?

Danny, Trever and Dennis, seemingly enjoying themselves

Just sorta like the coloring on this one

“Whaaaaa?!?”

A considerate crowd member shares a beer with mini Dennis

I have a tough time photographing drummers, I’m not gonna lie

More Dennis

In closing, I would say that my twelfth Face to Face show left me looking forward to another twelve, but I’m not that naive. Still, a boy can dream, can’t he? At least there’ll be New Haven on Thursday!