Friday, August 31, 2012

Brotherly Love Set in Drop D

Bromances aren't hard to find in a city known for it's "brotherly love."

And with close-knit bands like Circa Survive and August Burns Red citing the city as home, it's obvious that there is more to this town than just cheesesteaks and TastyKakes.

Apparently, there are lots of dudes walking around with guitars screaming about their feelings.

PREM!ERE is no exception. Comprised of CAPA High School peers and long-time friends Will Tham (guitar), Jimmy Nghieu (guitar), Gary Le (bass) and Brand Ho (drums). Fully formed in the fall of 2009 with my addition as lead vocalist, it wasn't long before we were relentlessly composing songs and practicing on a weekly basis. 

But as all good things, my time with the band came to an end a year later in 2010, leaving the remaining members to continue where they left off. In the subsequent years, they've secured vocalist Chris Lee and have been promoting themselves across the internet incessantly while booking shows at local venues such as The Legendary Dobbs and the Troc.

Recently I caught up with Jimmy and Chris to discuss cutting their first [self-produced] demo, opening for Hawthorne Heights and the collapse of the local scene:

Their first demo is being recorded in their practice space, which affords a lower production cost but comes with it's trials and tribulations.

"It takes Will like two weeks to do recording for just guitar parts [for one song]...It sucks that we don't have like an actual room for recording," Jim stated.

But that's the least of their worries. Booking shows seems to come pretty easily, except for the fact that a lot of their fans can't come.

"The people that like us are either too far away, or they're under twenty-one," Jimmy explains.

But there are good times to be had as well.

The boys revealed their most absurd moment backstage at a show and internet haters (we're looking at you Think Basic). Being an all Asian band, there have been some good and bad reactions. At a show a few months back, some random guy in another band approached them with, "Hey, look, a bunch of Asians! We're gonna do some karate!" Chris recalled.

Laughingly, Jimmy recounted, "We made some guy break another band's clipboard over his head. There were some other bands upstairs and they were doing mailing lists or something. So we were like 'fuck them.'"

And apparently, members of the local rock outfit Think Basic, spammed the PREM!ERE facebook wall with some racist bullshit. But of course, that's the card that gets pulled when the band in question sucks. PREM!ERE's musicianship and instrumentals alone put Think Basic's to shame.

It's like telling Hugh Heffner he's old.

He's still Hugh Heffner.

All in all, PREM!ERE are just a bunch of South Philly kids trying to make something out of nothing. They're on the right track so far and if you jump on the bandwagon now, you can be one of those fans that knew them way back when.

For more info on the band, check out their Facebook, Twitter and Reverb Nation, where you can download free tracks.

Now Playing: Back and Fourth (Demo) 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gotta Be Startin' Somethin'

Krysta Cameron was, without a doubt, the world’s most celebrated frontwoman in metal until this past July when she resigned from the Vans Warped Tour due to her pregnancy.

None of the members of Iwrestledabearonce missed a beat and quickly selected friend and fellow frontwoman, Courtney LaPlante (formerly of the band Unicorn) to take Krysta’s place.

However, this leaves fans of the genre-warping group pondering what the hell is going to happen next?

Courtney has already proved her skill on tour. But what does this mean for the future of IWABO? 

It’s been whispered (not really, the guys in IWABO are pretty damn loud and blunt) about Krysta not returning

But does that mean that Courtney’s place is solidified or will another singer pop up out of the wood work?
I actually still haven’t decided whether or not I like Courtney’s addition. Heavy Blog Is Heavy described Unicorn as “basically a more unrefined version of IWABO but the beauty of IWABO was--and still is--their knack for making technical skill sound like a beautiful accident.

Courtney’s growl is nearly identical to Krysta’s, give or take one of them feeling more angry at the time of recording for a deeper sound. 

But once the clean vocals begin, Courtney and Krysta comparisons diminish completely. 

Krysta is a low-range soprano where as Courtney is a mid-range alto. 

Meaning that Krysta can hit higher vocal notes. Even though they’re both girls, this is still a big difference in the matter of having a vocalist.
New IWABO frontwoman, Courtney LaPlante

So if IWABO do record their follow up to Ruining It For Everybody with Courtney, IWABO fans will have to get used to the idea of lower tempos for her to sing over but the same furious aural assault when it comes to the metal aspects of IWABO’s sound.

So no one will be sacrificing their cranium-fracturing moshpit experiences at any upcoming shows for this girl, which is all anyone really cares about. 

But just in case you do care about actually seeing a performance while at a concert, make sure to keep your eyes on the guys. 

As cute as Courtney is, she is not an interesting stage presence in the slightest.

We wish Krysta and the band much success.

In the meantime, keep up with coverage about IWABO and their continent-hopping by following the band on Twitter, Facebook and their official Webpage.

Friday, August 24, 2012

METRIC: Shutting Up And Carrying On

After hearing and seeing the video for Synthetica's lead single "Youth Without Youth", I was not excited for METRIC's fifth full-length album, Synthetica.

“Youth Without Youth” comes off as synthetic and an almost non-earnest attempt at “being indie.” Prog-rock guitar riffs and heavy synth blended with vocalist Emily Haines’ wispy vocals are just not my idea of a good lead single.
Album opener "Artificial Nocturne" is moody and ambivalent, teetering between uptempo melodies and a dark message. Lines like song opener “I’m as fucked up as they come” almost make you question what you can expect from Haines and co for their fifth full-length.

METRIC at the Trocadero Theatre, 2009
copywrite Jess Dooley
It isn’t until track 4, the charming “Breathing Underwater,” that I begin to regain my faith in this album. It reaches back to the Live It Out days, where the band were all delayed guitars, fast tempos and tight instrumentation and Haines’ strongest songwriting moments.

This is not to say I want METRIC to keep making the same album.

But if I had the chance to hear the second coming of Live It Out, an album that was the quintessential woman’s coming of age album from the indie/alternative scene, I’d jump at the chance.

I think the problem with Synthetica is that there is too much experimentation and not enough direction. The (over) production of Haines’ vocals (“Lost Kitten,” “The Void”) strips the airy sweet and raw sound associated with the band and the singer.

But there are a few tracks that salvage the record.

Emily Haines, 2009
copywrite Jess Dooley

“The Void,” “Nothing But Time” and “The Wanderlust” highlight the band's knack for making the indie pop that jumpstarted their career. The album’s title track “Synthetica” has an incredible instrumental and is just fun to listen to when Haines’ lyrics are dissected—it is the perfect underdog anthem (“I’ll never let them make a loser of my soul…I’ll keep the life that I’ve got”).

“Clone” is a nice departure from the faster songs on the album and has a cathartic, relaxing feel to it.

All in all, I’d say I can wait for METRIC’s next release. Synthetic seems like we came in the middle of an extended transitional period.

For more info on the band, check out their website, Twitter and Facebook pages.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Chiodos: Reunited and Ready to Go?

The sextet will be playing Philadelphia again this Saturday, August 25th at the Trocadero Theatre! 
Chiodos fans across the globe rejoiced with the news that original frontman, Craig Owens, had been reunited with the sextet and brought original drummer, Derrick Frost, with him this past spring.

With Alternative Press releasing not only a 6-page cover story and a digital photo album of Davison, MI post-hardcore outfit, it seemed only right that VC should cover their resurgence as well.

I first learned of the band in 2006 when their Equal Vision label debut, All's Well That End's Well, was generating major nods from the likes of fans, critics and their contemporaries alike. And how could they not?

Chiodos--singer Owens, guitarists Jason Hale and Pat McManaman, bassist Matt Goddard, drummer Frost, and keyboardist Bradley Bell--were redefining post-hardcore singlehandedly.

Their sound was atmospheric and melodic, channeling genre-blurring predacessors At The Drive-InFrom Autumn To Ashes and Saves the Day. Jason Hale's metal influences contrasted with the classical training of Frost but the result is a intricate combination of precise shredding and epic supporting electronic melodies.

And the rhythm section is just as tight, with Goddard and Frost backing everything. Theirs is a style that rounds out the other members around them, allowing moments where everyone can be heard, or be able to place a musical spotlight on either Hale, Bell or Owens, and yet have such a seamless musicianship with one another.

Nothing is over-simplified, just a space filler or out of place on this album.

Combining clean and growled vocals, Owens emerged as a vocal talent that few could rival. But his stage persona was what catapulted the band to superstardom. After seeing countless live performances, I know Owens is the kind of performer that begins to live the moment he takes foot on stage and the venue lights dim down.

With all bands however, Chiodos is without their difficult moments. Owens was a workaholic, drug-abusing perfectionist. His restlessness and manic moodswings, left the band feeling an overwhelming need to either stop playing together or have him leave.

And after touring on their sophomore effort, Bone Palace Ballet (2007), it came down to just that. And following Owens' inevitable exit, Frost departed as well for personal reasons.

For a brief time, frontman Brandon Bolmer helmed the group, rounded out with the addition of drummer Tanner Wayne. Chiodos' third release, Illuminaudio (2010), featured their musicianship. But Wayne and Bolmer were like sticking plaid patches on fairly sizeable hole in your favorite black jeans (why the fuck would you do that?). After a year of touring in support of the album, the California natives were also let go from the Michigan-based band.
With Owens' and Frost's reinitiation into the lineup, the inevitable shouts of "When's the album dropping?" began. All I can say is that I'm just ecstatic for the band. Even if their next album is horrendous--which is unlikely but a possibility just the same--I'll buy it and see their tour.

For more info on the rise and return of Chiodos, follow them on Twitter, Facebook, iTunes and their personal website.

Now Playing: The Undertaker's Thirst For Revenge Is Unquenchable | Bone Palace Ballet


Friday, August 17, 2012

Changing Tunes, Changing Times

It felt like there used to be a formula to being an indie music singer-songwriter: Guitar-player + quirky songwriting – strong vocals + an open mic night and volia! Instant circuits opening for other indie bands and before you know it, an independent record label deal. But William Beckett circumnavigated all that by fronting The Academy Is... for 7+ years before the outfit disbanded in 2011.

Unlike most frontmen for bands that break up, Beckett didn't suit up with a new lineup, a pretentious name and break a lot of hearts with how devastatingly bad their first release was before they, too, broke up.

He started fresh.

As a solo artist.

Like many musicians in the alternative scene, William Beckett is getting older.

Even with his public persona, it was apparent that Beckett had an equally vivid personal life.

He became a father in 2008 and was investing serious time in that aspect of his life with his time off.

But it is said that it is particularly hard to walk away from touring.

The hunger just grows inside an artist.

To walk away from the career you've started is something no one should have to find out and I bet William wasn't looking to start down that road anytime soon. 

Especially after being dropped from the Fueled By Ramen label he'd been signed to for nearly 8 years with TAI.

In April, after a year of writing, Beckett released the Walk The Talk EP with a brief video documentary supporting his decision to continue writing and playing music.

He traveled and played in Manila, the UK, and all over the US for crowds of fans.

And last month, Beckett released his second EP of the year, Winds Will Change.

With both EPs, listeners get to see the side of Beckett that was missing from The Academy Is... He showcases much more of his heart-on-his-sleeve nature, which is refreshing when we think back to Santi.

The only thing I'd like for William to return to is his more descriptive, almost story-telling songwriting style.

Both EPs have high peaks ("You Never Give Up" from Walk and "Dig A Hole" from Winds) but I'm not completely sold yet.

And that is what full lengths are for. So patiently we shall wait for news on when Beckett's first solo album will debut.

For more news on William Beckett's trajectory, follow him on Twitter | YouTube | Tumblr.

Now Playing: Scarlet (Tokyo) - William Beckett | Winds Will Change EP


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Venue Spotlight: The River Stage at Great Plaza

The River Stage at Great Plaza is located on the Delaware River Front at Penn's Landing. Located at Chestnut and Spring Garden Streets, it is a premier outdoor venue for summer concerts in Philadelphia. With it's unique location right near the waterfront, it definitely deserves more buzz than it's getting. Afterall, there's nowhere you'd want to be when it's the peak of the summer than next to a large, cool body of water. So allow VC to break down the pro's and cons of this venue. 

Pro: The setup of the venue is that the stage is right in front of the river with ascending smooth concrete stairs acting as seating.

Con: The stairs do make it harder to see the stage because some attendees prefer to sit while others prefer to stand. Depending on the show, one might be more considerate and make more sense than the other.

Pro: At night, this is a really cool and open space. You're not worried about shoving or moshpits or someone sweating all over you unless you're closer to the stage. Then it's like any other concert but with more spontaneous bursts of wind.

Childish Gambino, Aug 2012
photo credit: Jess Dooley

Con: You're outside. Any of the elements can have an effect on your experience. And this venue does cancel concerts while you're in line due to rain.

The concert pricing is moderate. On average, you'll spend $35/ticket. Buying from the box office is always the best because you won't pay as many service fees as online.

Another general rule of thumb is to arrive and wait in line for at least an hour and a half. It sounds crazy but the majority of concert goers arrive anywhere from 15-30 minutes before the doors open. You do not want to show up and get mixed up in that throng.

It. Is. Awful.

For more information, check out the venue's website, Ticketmaster or Livenation.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Shows Ahoy!: The VC Guide to Outdoor Summer Music Festivals.

It's summer so the only thing on your mind besides the latest blockbuster smashing through the movie box offices is what concerts you're going to.

Of course, with the humidity doing that horrible thing it does, the last thing you also want to be doing is going to shows outside.

But traditionally, this is the time that the best concerts and festivals take place and where else would they be but allowing bands to soak up the sun? That's why we're providing you with a 5-point plan to beat the murderous temperatures and enjoy all the bands you love on tour this summer.

1. Sunblock Is Your New Best Friend
You need to know that sun cancer is a real threat if you're spendinng upwards of 6-8 hours in the sun. So the best way to protect your largest and most sensitive organ is with a very powrful sun shield. I prefer any sunblock with an SPF above 50. Coppertone Ultraguard is what I nearly drowned in last summer. Same rules for "sport" sunblocks--which work in aerosol form for quicker application, dry with a less greasy feeling than traditional sunblock and don't ruin your clothes. 

2. There Is No Such Thing As Drinking Too Much Water
Hydration. Hydration. Hydration. Unless you want to wake up in the Warped Tour Medical Emergency Tent sweating nearly to death, you will drink water periodically throughout the day--like while you're rushing between each stage. The best way is to bring a reusable water bottle because lo and behold, most summer shows in outdoor venues allow them now! It only took them half a century but at least it happened at all.

3. Eat A Large Breakfast and An Even Larger Dinner
You wouldn't believe how many people pass out from dehydration at summer shows. Moshpits are the worst place on earth if your body isn't  fully rested, and fully prepped for the onslaught of all those 250-plus dudes throwing their full body weight at you. So do yourself a favor and eat a breakfast high in energy building nutrients.

Cereal, pancakes, waffles.

Anything grains goes.

And at night, replenish with vegetables and protein. You gotta get home still, right?
Besides, the prices for food at venues is astronomical and the food tastes like crap. Save money, and your tastebuds in one move!

4. Go With At Least 2 Friends
Safety in numbers is a really stupid phrase. But in a show, it totally applies. It's impossible to find one person in a crowd, especially if their phone dies, or they don't hear it or it breaks/gets lost in the pit. That third person could be the difference between you being stranded and making it home with a rad story to tell. 

Always have a meet-up point.
It should be somewhere you all know how to get to just in case anyone gets lost. Plan specific time to meet there and most importantly, DON'T MOVE FROM THAT SPOT.

No matter how many friends you bring, that is the key to not panicking. No one wants to watch their favorite band alone. It's no fun.

5. Take Breaks: Your Knees Will Thank You

Most venues are on their A-game in the summer and have special areas where you can sit shaded from the blinding sunlight. Find these places and sit there when there is absolutely nothing else going on you want to do. Fifteen minutes of sitting every two hours could be the difference between getting kicked in the face and making it out of the pit alive and with all your teeth.

You body can't handle all the things you want it to all the time. But this is the way to make sure you don't miss anything and don't get hurt trying to have the time of your life.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

10 Songs That Will Get You Through This Summer.

Forget the Billboard charts. Here are 10 songs that you absolutely should burn onto a CD (old-school music fans rejoice!) or throw onto your iPod's newest playlist.

1. Synthetica - Metric : "I'll keep the life that I've got..." How many times do you find yourself content with life? This song actually makes you want to like your life. Great for those days when you're peddling off to that summer job you hate.

2. Dig A Hole - William Beckett : Find a better guitar-wuilding crooner this side of the Mississippi River? Doubtful. Unless you consider Justin Nozuka. Either way, this song is perfect for those late night trips to Wawa or a trek through the park.

3. Money (Let It Go) - TakingBackSunday : And just when you think summer's all about being happy-go-lucky and making memories, you have a completely shit day and are ready to do nothing but scream at the top of your lungs. This is your anthem.

Bloc Party will release their fourth studio
album, 4, later this month.

4. Day Four - Bloc Party : Tranquil and melodic, this is the perfect jam to wake up and start your day to. Just in time for the countdown to the fall, and the band's upcoming album, Four (Aug. 21).

5. Constant Conversations - Passion Pit : Talk about mood music, this is perfect for those nights where you're up all night, thinking and just wishing your brain would turn off.

6. Sharp Practice - Circa Survive : Cigarette breaks, coffe breaks, breaks of all kinds. This track has just enough momentum to free your mind from the task at hand while preparing you for going back to it.

7. Slave to Substance - Suicide Silence : Permission to take out all your pent up aggression in the form of an impromptu moshpit in your living room? Granted.

8. Youth Knows No Pain - Lykke Li : This song is perfect for a walking on the beach, no worries and slightly bored kind of day.

9. Thinkin' Bout You - Frank Ocean : Thought we'd let you off the hook with no love songs? Come on. It's the time of hookups, flings and budding romances. This is for all you romantics out there, to play in the background while you lip-lock your summer crush.

10. How They Want Me To Be - Best Coast: When your day (or night) is done, slip into your pj's, bust out your favorite snack and relax with this little ditty.

Now Playing: Various Artists on The Best Summer of Your Life Music Mix As Given to you above.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

MySpace Fame Never Dies.

Jeffree Star is hotter than most girls I know.
Being a staunch supporter of most "celebrities" that gained prominence via social networking sites like MySpace and Buzznet back in the mid 00's, I couldn't help but jump right in her glitter and ecstasy-filled pocket. A special-effects makeup artist turned model turned singer? She's far from your average California dream girl:
Photo credit: unknown photographer

Pink hair.

Pink lips.

Pink heels.

It's like Barbie and her Malibu Beach House met an atom bomb of profanity, makeup and hair extensions:

The most impressive thing about JStar, and her peers, is how she fashioned a simple stage name and her personality into a marketing frenzy so quickly that my prepubescent head spun. I was immediate brought into her Hello Kitty meets Club Kid world, where hard drugs, raunchy music and all night dance parties were not a thing of legend, but a lifestyle.

Basically, Jeffree Star is a lot to handle.

With the help of her vulgar, in-your-face personality and obvious no fucks given approach to life, I found myself wanting to actually play audience to her career--which is still solely based off her popularity on a website (and now, years later, it's several websites).

But after seeing her perform at the 2009 Vans Warped Tour in Camden, NJ, I found that JStar is, musically, the real deal.

She can work a crowd.

She can work a mic.

Photo credit: Tamlyn Koga (obvs since the water mark is there ;3)
And more than anything, she can write a hit or two.

The thing I appreciate most about JStar is that she has worked her tattooed little ass off, sweating it out on outdoor stages alongside veteran punk, metal and hardcore bands during Warped Tour and several of her own national tours.

She's an electronica singer with all the work ethic of any other band you'd find on the interwebs. 

Literally, if you don't respect anything else, you've got to respect this chick's hustle!

After penning various self-distributed EPs and albums, Star signed a major label deal with Akon's imprint label, KonLive (which has spawned Star's own imprint label, Popsicle) which was responsible for Lady GaGa who has certainly paved the road for a transgendered musician like Jeffree--who, to me, is the future of pop music.
Photo credit: Austin Young Photography

And as if the stars weren't already aligned for this celebutaunte, they just got a whole lot linear with the release of several tracks from her latest release, the Virginity EP: an electronic release that will make the pop and trance worlds come to their bony little knees.

Especially now that it's summer time: we need singles to dance all night to.
 And I mean the Katy Perry Teenage Dream-California Girls one-two punch of "this is what my entire summer will sound like!"

But will JStar deliver that?
Of course she will.
She's the queen of grime-core, trashy techno, queer pop:

Now Playing: Virginity's title track:

And the latest single, "Blow Me."

For more on this diva extraordinaire, check out: her Official music webpage, her Tumblr and Facebook pages.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Reveling in Royalty.

If you’ve been busy living under a rock or so absorbed by all things punk that you’ve forgotten that other genres existed, this is that once in a blue moon break from the norm.

Childish Gambino, better known as “actor, writer, rapper” Donald Glover (or “Troy” from Community) has released some killer tracks in the past, most notably “Do Ya Like” for which he sampled Adele’s “Melt My Heart To Stone” to create a moody, sexy hip-hop track, “Bonfire” and “Heartbeat” (for which he has been nominated for his first VMA Award). 

After signing to Glassnote and releasing his label debut, CAMP (which is his 3rd full-length album, if you don’t count all the mixtapes and EPs prior to its release), Gambino had some downtime between writing for various TV programs, touring all through last spring and summer and production and studio engineering engagements he’s involved in.

To say he’s busy is an understatement but not nearly as much as doubting his ability to serve up a dope album, which is actually what I did in my review of CAMP last fall.

(Please note: I have since learned from my mistake.)

After hearing “Unnecessary” (featuring ScHoolboy Q and Ab-Soul), for the first time late in spring, I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of Gambino dropping another mixtape on July 4th. It’s so far away from the nerdy hipster rapper we grew accustomed to through Poindexter, Culdesac and EP.

But once I got ROYALTY in my possession, I didn’t listen to anything else.

CG manages to create a seamless record filled with all the characteristics we praise him for: no auto-tune, conscious lyrics, excellent song features from music industry veterans (Beck, Bun-B, Ghostface Killah, RZA) and rookies alike (Chance the Rapper, Danny Brown, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul).
CG’s flow is harder and less prone to awkward structures.

But don’t fret: the metaphors are still as obscure, culturally relevant and introspective as his previous works.

The samples and instrumentals transcend everything else the industry is producing these days, easily solidifying Glover as one of the best producers of his generation.

Even fellow awkward comedian Tina Fey’s guest spot on album closer, “Real Estate” isn’t out of place (or anything less than hilarious).

Basically, with songs ranging from mellow (“Make It Go Right”, “Silk Pillow”) to introspective (“We Ain’t Them”, “Black Faces”) to summer car ride anthems (“One Up”, “Toxic”) will pacify any music listener.

Now Playing: Royalty | Childish Gambino

Recommendations: "Make It Go Right" feat. Kilo Kush | "Silk Pillow" feat. Beck | "Shoulda Known" 

For more on Glover’s music, go to Childish Gambino Lyrics where you can find download links for nearly all his albums, follow Donald on Twitter, or keep an eye on his personal website/blog.