Friday, September 2, 2016

Don't Lie to Me About Your Scene Unity Anymore

I have said before that I am fairly new to the jam scene as an active participant. My husband is a jam guy and I resisted the scene for a while, mostly because I had not found a band that resonated with me yet. That changed in the last year when he introduced me to Twiddle. Mind you, I had already been to several festivals with him that he was playing and got to experience for myself the colorful people and welcoming vibe that the scene not only presents, but actively promotes. It's billed as being a welcoming place for everyone to come and get down. It's represented as a modern day Woodstock feel in the hearts and minds of its attendees and that no matter your color, your preference, your manner of dress or your aspirations, if you are cool, it's all cool. Honestly, it's refreshing and quite delightful. I guess that is why I am so surprised by the recent things I am reading.

A friend of mine sent me a link to a Facebook group that follows the band moe. I know a bit of moe. as my husband plays them often for our daughter and there have been times when the ONLY thing that has calmed her on a car ride was moe. I am still getting my feet wet with the band myself as they are not something I would normally like, but I respect the sound and the talent within that group. I thought I also had respect for what seems to be a rabid fan base. I saw them as an extension of the jam scene I had come to know. The welcoming warmth of good people looking to hang with like minded fans and enjoy the world and the music. Apparently, I was wrong.

There is something going on and I don't get it. Maybe you can enlighten me. While I understand this sort of thing probably goes on in every scene, I have never seen it so hard, so gross, and so undeserved.

What is all this animosity towards Twiddle from the moe. fans? It's not just a case of "I get that you like them, but they are not my thing" comments. It is RABID, NASTY, HATEFUL comments. This is not what I thought the jam scene was about. What in the hell is going on here? I saw promotional art altered to be disgusting and tasteless insults. I saw people ripping apart other people who proclaimed their like for the band. I saw name calling. I saw people being really, truly ugly to one another. And for what?

What I did not see, however, was a source. I could not find through ample searching where this is coming from. It left me increasingly confused. Mostly, it left me disappointed. This is not only juvenile, it's a slap in the face to people who want to be acquainted with this scene. It's telling people they don't belong. That's not what I thought this was all about. That was not what I had come to know. Now I wonder if I had been wrong.

To the best of my knowledge, the bands are friends. Collaborators. Teammates. The way so many bands in so many scenes are. So what is the root of this? Is there something I am missing? Did one of the guys in Twiddle kick your sister? Did their music inspire a rampage of criminals who steal everyone's left shoe and remove the elastic from their underpants? Someone please tell me what this is all about because I can't understand how a scene that almost brands itself on fierce feelings of peace and unity could find so much enjoyment in tearing other people down. In a truly unified scene, people lift one another up. They don't push one another down. How can you tell me this is a unified scene?

Music is an insanely personal thing. I like to say there is music for everyone. While I might not like a particular artist, that same artists might be the sound that talked someone else off a ledge. While I might not find the motivation in what they say, someone else might find that sound to be the thing that lit up their darkest moments. For this reason, I would never say that music itself was bad - just that I don't like it. I don't like anchovies either. That doesn't mean someone else doesn't find them to be the greatest pizza topping ever and I most definitely would never breath insults all over someone because of their pizza topping preference. Isn't that what makes the world go round'? Choices? Variety? Just because music doesn't speak to me doesn't mean that the same music doesn't speak to you. Maybe it's the only thing that speaks to you. In that case, who am I to speak against it? Who would I be to insult you?

When someone rips on your music, it can feel like they are ripping on you. Tearing YOU down for being a fan. In a truly unified scene, there is no room for this negativity. It's counterproductive and quite honestly just makes you look like a giant asshole. Don't rip into other people and other bands' fans and then go hang out in the field talking about equality and justice. You are a liar. You are an embarrassment to this beautiful scene that people have worked to make a place of welcome and a place of refuge. There is no room in a united scene for hate and negative shit, so why are you bringing it?

You don't have to like a band, but if you are going to call yourself a member of the scene, you need to speak the respect. It's a language we all know. If you don't dig the sound, take that set to go empty your bladder, get a beer, or make some new friends. Buy some artwork. Take a nap. Just stop with the chatter. Stop with the negative. Stop with the hate.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Pomps - Indie Rock is Dying

I have felt for a year or so like I was in a music drought in our scene. It's not that there wasn't anything happening, it's just that there wasn't anything exciting happening. Don't get me wrong. There have been some great releases and incredible shows, but it's been kinda ho-hum for a little while. I took a couple years off from the podcast and the blog while I recovered from illness, got married, and had my daughter.

Maybe it was me who was ho-hum, but I feel like I am slowly reanimating when I hear music like what I am about to throw at you.

Now, I'm a Jersey Girl and a Yankee fan, so as hard as it is for me to throw love North, I have to say again and again that Boston kicks us down some amazing music. I will ALWAYS give love to Boston for music. (I hear the food up there is pretty amazing too...) They do not disappoint.

Enter The Pomps.

These Boston cats have a great fusion of reggae, pop, trusty old new wave, and just groove. I was told to call it Island Power Punk? It's seriously fun and honestly, I have been looking for something like this. I heard their record Top of the Pomps a few years back, and I remember seeing their name on shows I was was announcing on the podcast around that time, but they were never nearby so I had not been able to catch them. Dude...MY LOSS! These guys are great! It's just enough pop injected into great dance-able reggae grooves. They have a kind of smiling punk attitude. I love it.

So, my attention was called back to them with their recent release, Indie Rock is Dying. It's got a third wave feel but without all that noise. It's like small club dance ska. In my opinion, the best kind. But it's not ska. It's ska-pop fusion? Who cares. It's fucking GOOD. The title track reminds me of some of the best pop-punk that came out of the 90's, but with a 60's Britpop flavor woven underneath. They have a really great energy. It's infectious! Honestly, this is "throw your gear in the trunk and get in, we are going on an adventure" kind of driving music.

This record has head bopping beats straight off some of my favorite 80's new wave, but it's also got that driving island flavor you find in bands like The Slackers and Westbound Train, which makes sense. The band is working with Rarebreed Recording Company, run in part by Westbound's Obi Fernandez. In fact, All My Guns popped up in my feed over the winter as part of Rarebreed's Winter Sampler. I was eager for more since then. I got it!

That song All My Guns is on repeat at my desk this morning. The harmonies are on point and the beat is smooth. If you read my reviews, you know I love vocals. Vocals are my bread and butter and if you can pull me in with that, you have my full, undivided attention. I dig the vocals on this song hard. This is a song you sing along with at the show. I look forward to doing just that. As hard as it is to put a title on what this music falls into categorically, it's so much fun to listen to. It makes you move, and it has me chomping at the bit for something live down here in the dirty Jersey.

I dig all of this. How to Lure People is a slower beat but you still can't help but move and sing along. Great keys too. There is even a little dub flavor happening with the track, Halo Vs. King Django.

They have some dates coming up next month with the Toasters, including one in at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on September 24th You can get your tickets for that one Here. Then they are back up to Mass for a show in Cambridge at the Middle East on September 25th. I am tapping my foot and waiting for the Jersey shows...

You can head on over to Paper+Plastic and pick up Indie Rock is Dying HERE. I suggest strongly that you do. This album is perfect summer groove music and we all need a little more of that in our life.

Check out The Pomps on FACEBOOK

Thursday, July 28, 2016

My thoughts on TWIDDLE - PLUMP CHAPTER 1 - (there is no good reason for not having this record)

I married a jam guy.

This ska/reggae/rocksteady enthusiast married a jam guy.

It's not news. We have been married a few years. We bonded over a shared love of Bad Religion and Irish coffees several years ago and the rest is history. He is a bass player and a Dead Head. Our musical tastes are both very eclectic and while they overlap in many places, we never had a really prominently shared adoration for a band that made us both go looking for shows and hotels in other cities to see them at. Well, until now.

 I have had a good time taking him on Slackers booze cruises and Pietasters shows over the last few years. I have enjoyed showing him my world and my terrible dancing. His love is in the jam scene. I have gone to see him play and equally enjoyed watching the crowds at these colorful festivals and listening to the incredible musicianship I have gotten the chance to see. The people are wonderful and welcoming, but I didn't feel that pulling in my heart the way I do at the shows in the scene I have followed for many years. That is not to say that I have not seen incredible bands. I have. It's just not my thing. But that is why music is amazing. There is literally something for everyone...and then some.

On this day last year, we were sitting in a large corner hospital room awaiting our daughter's birth. My procedure had been postponed due to an emergency with another patient so my husband was sitting nervously in the corner listening to music while I watched TV and the clock. He was digging hard on this band I have never heard of, telling me I should really give this a listen. It was like the perfect melding of our two scenes. There was jam and there was groove. There was a steady beat and reggae flavor infused throughout. He knows I adore anything vocal heavy, and he promised me vocals that don't quit and lyrics that made the hair on your arms stand up. I was hugely pregnant and relatively impatient, so I more or less dismissed him.

Then he played it for me. It was Twiddle.

He was listening to a song called Lost in the Cold and with the emotions of bringing a life into the world and feeling ours change, it had brought him to tears. I knew that feeling. The way music gets under your skin and feels like thousands of electrodes bringing you to life as if prior to this moment, you had never actually lived. I felt it. I felt that pulling in my heart. I have not been able to stop that feeling since.

From that day forth, I kept hearing the songs from this album popping up. I would be driving in the car and listening to Jam On on satellite radio and songs would come on. Every single time it was like hearing something amazing for the first time. That feeling where you have to stop, clear your head, and really take it in. This was something special and it has been a while since I have had this experience with music. That was it. Hooked.

Lost in the Cold is easily my favorite track on the album. It's got solid groove and you cannot help but move with it, but more than that, it's in the words. These guys have a way with words and a way to bring them into your ears that is something both unique and exceptional. The vocals are on point. The bass line is killer. As my introduction to this band's talents, I had a high standard as my listening continued.

There is a lot of self reflection on this record. There is a lot of looking at the world and it's people with hope and confusion and determination all at once. I love that in music. I love to think and feel as I listen and it's something that seems to lack so heavy in a lot of today's music. Every Soul has a great line, "So much love when you let go of your sanity". YES! Dude. Exactly. Sometimes you have to remove the shackles of what we hold ourselves down with and let the current carry us.

The whole song is a lesson in letting go of your every day to just feel the world around you. Stop worrying about what everyone expects you to be and open your senses to enjoy the world happening around you. It's not just the words with Twiddle though. The music plays along with this concept perfectly. The lively keys kind of give you that impression that you are being carried along. These guys put it together in a way that welcomes you in like an old friend. They are songs you can get lost in like a good book.

It's been a long time since I have listened to an album from start to finish and could not skip a single song because they are all just that stellar. Another track, Complacent Race, seems incredibly appropriate for what is happening right now both socially and politically in our country and how it feels from the inside. You just want to live life in peace but it feels like things are just exploding around you from so much that we could conquer if we could just love hard enough. These incredible, simple but precise words that hit hard over a groove that makes you want to dance the world into peace. An outstanding blend of styles with good bass love and keys.

Twiddle themselves are an outstanding blend of musicians. Vocalist Mihali has just enough grit behind incredible melodies to convey that emotion packed vocal in a way that makes you not just hear, but feel. He has incredible range. In addition to his voice, he lends the guitar to this sound. Creative and symphonic. On keys is Ryan Dempsey. And OH the keys on this record. He has a presence on these songs that carries you somewhere else. Keys either sit in the background and decorate a song or they come out front an march along with it, throwing batons and confetti. Dempsey is no decorative keyboardist. He lends his talents to the music like brush strokes. It's one of the things I really like about this record. Listen to Amidst The Myst. It's gorgeous.

Brook Jordan is tops on drums and percussion. For someone like me who has immersed herself in the scene that I have, hearing someone bring those familiar hits and beats in such a smooth and different form is something that makes me smile so huge. But then he has a style that I don't know like I know reggae and rocksteady. It's these beats that synch up perfectly with the bass. Light touches like rain drops and then rolls like thunder. Again...listen to Amidst the Myst. Speaking of bass by the way, our final corner in this tower of awesome is Zdenek Gubb. The bass lines in this entire record are incredible. I married a bass player. I have become sort of a bass snob. I admit it. Gubb's got it down. He layers so well in between the drums and keys, it's like finely woven silk. It's a perfect mixture of deep groove and hard beat and the bass in these songs calls to you.

Have I gushed enough? One last suggestion, especially to my fellow devotees in the ska and reggae scene. Listen to Polluted Beauty. It's got the groove. The horns. The chat. It's got the perfect singalong hook. This song is everything I love about music. It hits hard while it sings you lullabies. Thank you, Twiddle. Thank you for being that breath of fresh air.

I can't wait to get out there and see you do this live.

Head on over to Twiddle's website and get yourself the album. I cannot recommend it enough

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Slackers - Twenty Five Years Later and a New Self Titled Album

I can't remember where I was when I first heard the Slackers. I do know I was about 17. A misfit, never really fitting in sort of teenager from North Jersey. It was the mid 90's, and the song was Watch This on a compilation. It kicked me right in the head. From that point on, I was hooked in for good. There was something about the steady groove of the music and the upbeat drag of the vocal that stuck with me and has not let me go since. I had never really listened to anything like this. I had never really heard horns used that way or a bass line like that. This was music that spoke to me somewhere on the inside, in a place I was not able to describe, with a voice I was not really able to find the words for.

Now, here I am, a 37 year old mother of two with a full time job, a blog, and a bad ska addiction. I'm still a misfit who never really fit in, living in North Jersey. Only now I have found an entire community of people just like me (and there are a lot of us) who loves this music too. And I am still listening to The Slackers. They are still kicking me in the head. My favorite band in the ska scene and some of the most fun I have ever had at live shows, these guys have been doing it right for twenty five years now. I only wish I had gotten into them sooner than I did. They had a few changes to the lineup over the years, but I know I am not alone in the thinking that they are a perfect compliment to one another in style, influence, and execution of their crafts. As individuals, they are uniquely talented and masterfully stand alone musicians. Together, they are a powerhouse of sound.

L to R: David Hillyard, Saxaphones; Marcus Geard, Bass; Ara Babajian, Drums; Vic Ruggiero, Vocals and Organ; Jayson Nugent, Guitar; Glen Pine, Vocals and Trombone

So imagine my delight that I have the opportunity to preview their new self titled album. The band has released 13 full length studio albums and 3 live albums since 1991. That's a lot of music. As excited as I was, I really was not sure what to expect from them on this record.

Let's just say I was most pleasantly surprised.

It's been five years since their last studio release. In a most fitting celebration of two and a half decades of getting the dance floor moving, the guys in the Slackers have put together a new album of their usual brand of steady NYC ska - Jamaican Rock and Roll. But hold up. This album is no one trick pony show. Along with that blend of traditional reggae and ska, there are these catchy garage rock tones and even a little surfy-beachy feel. Keep on listening, and there is an almost 1960's soul groove present here. I think it most fitting that they self titled this album. It's not like any Slackers album prior, while being a little bit of every Slackers album prior. Doesn't make sense? It will when you hear it.

The album kicked me open with The Boss. An awesome blend of scratch and flow with Vic's vocals laying a sweet glaze over the top. The brass sounds are powerful. The breakdown is nasty. This is going to be a fun one to be getting down to out on the floor. That is one of the things that sets The Slackers apart from other bands in the scene and has undoubtedly contributed to their staying power. They can take a song and play the ever loving guts out of it live so much that the notion of standing still is not even a consideration.

It lightens up with By The Time I Get To Sleep and we are brought to that glorious Slackers sound we know and love. Heavy brass, steady groove, and a bass line to keep you moving with vocals you can sing along with while you shake what your mama gave you. Or drive. Or work. Just enough keys to add to that flavor. Spin I'm In has a great island feel. Really smooth and really fun. I Want To Be Your Girl has a great rock psychedelic sound while still holding enough of that ska beat that moves your hips and shoulders. There is quite a bit of that on this record. That blending while still moving and shaking.

Skip on over to Working Overtime. I have heard this one live already a few times and this is another great crowd mover. Glen's vocals are a very different flavor from Vic's in that they inject the smooth soul while Vic maintains the raw groove. They are very much two sides of the same coin and it's one that spins wildly on this album. The differences compliment one another so well, and really add to the many things that make a Slackers album. Run Till We Can't Outrun has that really delicious 60's sound I was talking about before. The guitar lends to an infectious feel in this track that has stuck out to me as probably being my favorite song on the album.

I don't want to go track to track on this album giving my opinion. I want you to get this album and play the heck out of it at a very high volume. It's such an incredible blend of sounds and tastes from all across genres and it's really no wonder when you hear what went into this. Two years of writing, recording, editing, and rehearsing gave way to this blend of style and flavor that seems to pull bits and pieces from the individual tastes of every guy in the band. Add in that it was produced by The Aggrolite's Brian Dixon, Vic Axelrod (AKA Ticklah), and the band's own Agent Jay - each of them supervising the recording of four tracks - and you can start to see the shape of it.

The album comes out February 19th. You can get some more info on the release at Big Tunes HERE.

As you can expect, there will be shows. Lots of shows. You can go HERE and check out when they are coming to your town. Get on the floor and shake it. I expect to see you there.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Back...Back in the Ska, Reggae, Rocksteady Groove...

Life is funny. Crazy. Wonderful. Tragic. Magical.
It's also REALLY busy.
Illness, layoffs, moving, pregnancy, childbirth, finally completing that nifty degree, breaking not one but two computers. All that stuff kind of gets in the way of my writing, dancing, podcasting world. And you know what? I need it back! I miss sending you all the music I love. I miss talking about it. I miss broadcasting it. I miss sending this amazing scene out into the world.

But guess what, kids...I'm back! Ye olde A Perfect Mess News and Reviews is back up and running, full time. The podcast will be back up in the coming months as well, as I get the bits and pieces of all that requires back in place (domain, software, all that nonsense).

So please... get back up and sending me show listings, album releases, and all the goodness. I will be back in full promotion mode. My show calendar is slowing filling back up. My dancing shoes are being dusted off.

See you on the floor.


Monday, November 18, 2013

There Is No Therapy Like Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae, and Soul...

OK. So. My show is NOT over. My blog was NOT abandoned. A Perfect Mess is alive and well!
It just took a break.

My life happened, and I had to tend to it.

Those who know me well know I am a stubborn thing. I will not give up on what I love, and even having to take a break from it quite literally  hurts me through my bones and into my soul. Especially when that something is my show and my blog for which I have spent years building and many hours and dollars feeding so that it could become the wonderful monster that it did. I knew I had a following, and I adore the ever loving crud  out of everyone who listens to me. I had no idea that it was as far reaching as it was until the messages and e-mails and notes on Twitter started coming in asking when I would be coming back! I wanted to take this moment to reach out to all those folks…and everyone…to thank you for your concern and let you know that my show didn’t die. It just took a nap.

I had four projects sitting on the burner, three blogs half written, and a stack of music to add to my library. That’s how it happens sometimes. You have this great momentum, your work is really starting to pay off. Then your life comes along and kicks you square in the lady balls and pulls the break lever on you without your consent. It sucks. It’s annoying. But that is what happened. I had tickets to shows I had to sell or just eat the cost of. I had interviews I had to cancel.  I just had to stop for a moment and get some shit under control. I figured it would be a week. Maybe two. But the hits just kept on coming!

In the meantime, the website had to come down to save costs, not one computer but TWO bit the dust (one may be salvageable), and things kinda spun out of control. Between personal, financial, and health issues, I was unable to get my footing for several months. This lapse went on FAR longer than I had anticipated. This has never been a profitable enterprise, I pay for most of my admissions, I buy music from the artists, I support crowd sourcing campaigns. My website and podcast costs are paid our of pocket. I do it all simply because I love this music. Being able to bring this amazing scene to someone else is a great feeling. The idea that someone might hear a song on my show and find themselves into a whole new artist is fuel to the fire. But I was not able to hold it all up, and it sucked.
This music is what has gotten me through what I have been dealing with in my life. I know it gets others through what they are dealing with in their lives. That is every reason that I am working as we speak to get the show back up and running within the next few weeks. There is no therapy like ska, reggae, rocksteady and soul and I am bringing it. Thank you sincerely to all the amazing musicians and incredible listeners and readers who have reached out to say hello and make sure everything was ok.
Thank you for your patience.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

On the verge of the Fourth Wave? Here comes THE APPLE STOMP!

Dancing and drinking and ska bands...OH MY!

I recently had the pleasure of taking part in a fascinating Facebook debate on whether or not we are in or on the verge of a Fourth Wave of Ska. There were some more than qualified folks from great bands, folks from around the scene, and all around the country who weighed in on their opinions. What does a new "Wave" actually entail? There were comments about required innovation and fresh style. There were references made to The Aquabats show and the appearance on Yo Gabba Gabba by the Aggrolites. The fact that The Slackers never stopped making great music and touring around the world since the last "wave" hit. Discussions that maybe this resurgence of great shows the last three years or so is simply the swell before the wave.

For all we know, the next great scene shifting sound could be in a basement right now...

It was also mentioned that it could be coming simply due to the fact that there are heirloom tours again. Older bands coming back to remind us just how old we all really are when we try to dance like we did in the 90's, and realize our bodies are a lot more like rusty hinges than they used to be. I don't know if the fourth wave is here or not. What I do know, as an active member of this scene, is that you need to bust out the oil cans, kids...there is more on the way.

Asbestos Records is doing it again.

Bringing the ska shows to the masses in New York City! Last year they made heirloom ska band reunion history with their Skalapalooza tour, bringing back bands like The Pilfers, Spring Heeled Jack, and The Pietasters. Not that the Pietasters ever went anywhere. They have been here all along, but we all know they make any show better. The New York date of Skalapalooza took us back back, way back...and then threw us forward again with help from Sammy Kay and the Snails, Across the Aisle, and WOAH! Edna's Goldfish!

But THAT, my friends, was 2012. Old news. This is 2013...and there is all new news. And that news is The Apple Stomp. Already booked for May 31st through June 1st at New York City's Irving Plaza, it plans to be the ska festival that us tri-state area overgrown ska kids have been foaming at the mouth for.

Excited? I am. And here is why. The first confirmed band for this skanking extravaganza will be the reunion of THUMPER. Remember Thumper? One of the first bands to cross over into the third wave skacore scene with heavier guitar and bass and that distinct flavor that some of us grew to love back in those wacky 90's.

So who is next?

Keep your eyes peeled to the Facebook page AppleStompNYC for more details and updates. I will see you there...