Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Oak Ridge Boys - City Winery - 3/11/13

Manhattan, City Winery, 3/11/13:

40 years is a long time to do almost anything. It should take some people aback when they learn that The Oak Ridge Boys are out on their 40th anniversary tour. The fact that these guys are able to stand one another and stand the repetition of the songs for so long is saying one thing. But for the grueling life of a touring band of musicians, 40 years is really saying something.

Legendary, is one word. The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Moody Blues. These are just some of the bands who have been out touring in one form or another for around as long. Of course The Oak Ridge Boys play a different kind of tune from any of those other acts. They recently rolled in on their impressive tour bus to show their very best on the “It’s Only Natural” tour.

For those unfamiliar the current incarnation of The Oak Ridge Boys, at least as I saw them was as a 10 piece lineup in full. The four main musicians are the main attraction. The other six musicians onstage played drums, guitar, bass, keyboards, and everyone seemed to swap in with various instruments at different stages.
As we descended on our seats they were just saying one of the four singers’, Richard, had recently tore his Achilles tendon.  Richard was the bass vocalist and he had to remain seated.

From their first song out of the gate, “One in a Million,” this audience was really receptive. The audience was small but they were lively. Some of the other favorites they played this night included songs like “Y’all Come Back Saloon,” “Ozark Mountain Jubilee,” “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight,” and “Gonna Take A Lot of River.”

I enjoyed the simple twang and toe tapping harmony of the band, but I have to say that for a concert, at times the whole thing felt like a bit of an infomercial. They kept mentioning how they were streaming on “Sirius,” and they were “sponsored by Cracker Barrel,” and whomever else. It was a little off-putting for sure.

But like the band said this was their “All hits show.” And for all their blatant consumerism and seemingly reflexive sponsorship-speak, these guys also know how to get an audience clapping and the audience which was here really wanted to be here.

Their music is pure, simple, and infectiously catchy. All the choreographed moves and onstage theatrics show this band still knows how to put on a show.

As the audience lifted I couldn’t help but notice that it was s weighted mix of older men with long gray hair in flannels shirts wearing baseball caps and a smattering of younger folks. These youngsters sat with the intensity of youth but were also already brimming over with the tell-tale signs that they would one day swap places with the other folks in the hall.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Dedication at The Paper Box, Brooklyn

Meadow St. Brooklyn: 3/8/13:

Brooklyn has got some scary places in it. Map software can’t tell you what a deserted, vacant warehouse district is going to look like after a couple of days of snow, but that was what we came upon as we left Union Avenue, left Grand Street, and located The Paper Box. It’s not far from civilization but on this night it might as well have been a world away.

So it was with some apprehension that I came upon this Williamsburg staple which is probably much more welcoming on a night when there’s not snow and cold in the air. We were there this night to see this band The Dedication. They were first on the docket tonight so we didn’t have to hang around all night.

The Dedication are lead singer and guitar strummer Matt Booth, pianist Drew Hansen, guitarists Jimmy Petro and Anthony Scanzano (though Anthony was not there tonight), Jake Coupart on bass, and Brittany Mac on drums.

They were late to the stage by a good 30 minutes though it wasn’t their fault. The Paper Box held them back because the crowd was so loose this night. I was talking with their biggest fan-girl and she pointed them out all sort of sitting alongside the stage, looking rather bored. I wondered how they would sound and how frustrating that must be for them to just be kept on the holding dock when all they wanted to do was play.

When The Dedication finally did emerge to the stage they were none the worse for wear. There was an exciting energy and electricity to this seemingly mismatched group of musicians.

The first two tunes they played really rocked. Check their Facebook page though and they call themselves “pop rock/acoustic.” Their fan-girl even went so far as to call it “folk.” I'd have to disagree and say they are much more alt-rock-punk, following closely in the shadows of band like 311, No Doubt, Green Day, or Foster the People. They had the lazy pop sound of a catchy band like Sugar Ray with also some of the harder edge of a band like Sublime or even Rage Against the Machine. Most of their set didn’t sound like any “folk” I am familiar with. I am a big fan of all kinds of folk, but just because you have an acoustic guitar doesn’t mean that you are at all folk. Even acoustic music can be cagey and deceptive. Fans of popular music from the early 1990’s may remember the song “More Than Words.” On the surface that song and that band, Extreme, may sound like a harmonic, acoustic duo. However listen to the rest of their body of work and they are a pretty hard-core hard rock/metal band.

I drive home this point so directly because I really liked what this band did when they were a full five piece and I’d hate for them to be held back by the weight of their own hubris.  When Booth got up twice and played two solo acoustic songs (one song and one “mix-tape” with riffed lines from popular music) it really took me, as an audience member, out of it. Even Booth’s dancing brother and the girl he was there with who rocked out when the band rocked didn’t seem to know what to do during these lighter moments. I get it that you want to show off virtuosity but that’s what B-sides or hidden tracks or free tracks on your social media page are for. When you’re playing a live show you only have a half hour or 45 minutes to wow your audience. I would have been far more blown away had they used these digression periods more to their advantage.

Overall Booth gives an earnest effort and his singing is good.  His warbled vocals wound up somewhere between his best Justin Timberlake and Mike Patton from Faith No More with a little bit of that Jason Mraz flip-kick in his rhyme. If he put down the guitar and focused on being more of a band leader and a singer, he and The Dedication would be better served for it.

There was a solid bedrock of rhythm lain down by Mac and Coupart. If you looked at her before the show you might have been shocked to hear the sounds coming out of the drum kit. However Mac apparently learned her fundamentals very young. Her skills shone the night I saw The Dedication. Coupart didn’t overstep his bounds but his solid bass lines were heard and honored. He wouldn’t let the more prominent instruments shut him out, nor should he have.

Another area I was pleasantly surprised by was the pianist Hansen. His line oscillated between and often overlapped with a small whiny KORG synth and the graceful accenting of ivories on his Casio. The first song they came out with had a strong synth line which took me back to bands like Depeche Mode or Tears for Fears.

I understand that the guitar players were at half-staff and that may have been another reason that Booth felt so brazen with his guitar. However Petro played a thoughtful, deliberate lead guitar line. I’d really love to see this band at full force.

I made many allusions to many different artists because this band were so hard to pin down. They can literally go off in any direction they want. Their rhythm section are tight and even with just one guitarist and keys taking the melody line, the sounds just pop off the stage. The Dedication play shows all up and down the Hudson River Valley. Connect with them on Facebook or Twitter and come check this fresh band out.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Neomythics "Beautiful Blackout"

If you're wondering what's happened to music lately, recent samplings from Neomythics give rock and roll some kind of hope. Call it post-modern rock with plaintively descriptive lyrics wrought from and borne of a world brought up behind the shadow of their laptop screen.

This video "Beautiful Blackout" is a wrenching account and it tells the story of star-crossed lovers even if it's not a mutual cross. Taking its cues from the Japanese animation Anime, the press kit says this song is said to explore "the beauty and darkness of a relationship."

Neomythics is the project of Matt Montgomery and Gregory Howe. Their 12 song release is called "New Corporate Resistance," and is something that disillusioned grunge rock fans who still opine for 1992 should certainly keep an eye on.