Friday, May 23, 2014

Show Hopping - Arts Walk, TMPTSP, Aaron Burgess, The Framers

Saturday May 10 turned out to be quite the packed day and evening for local entertainment in Hampton Roads.  I was barely able to walk from the car to  my front door when it was over, but the exhaustion was well worth the sights and sounds that our eclectic and musical community has to offer.

I began the day by participating in the inaugural 2nd Saturday Downtown Hampton and Phoebus Arts Walk. The idea of this monthly homegrown event is for shoppes and restaurants across downtown and Phoebus to host visual artists to create their art in front of a public audience, accompanied by the backdrop of musical buskers.  The public is free to walk around and enjoy a wide variety of artistic styles and music. Jason Helmintoller and I took our acoustic guitar and bass down to Settlers Landing Road, plopped on the corner in front of The Virginia Store, and strummed away for the cars passing by in classic Outer Loop style.  After a couple hours of little walking traffic and no audience, we strolled around a bit to find other buskers, including the sweet Ukulele sounds of Leah Hart in front of the Hampton History Museum. Shortly thereafter we made our way to Phoebus to see how their section of the Arts Walk was coming along.  Unfortunately the sudden mini-monsoon (including popcorn sized and bouncing hail) rained out most of the remainder of the afternoon.  This 2nd Saturday event has a ton of potential, and hopefully the word will spread that this happens once every month for art and music lovers in the area.  The Next Arts Walk is June 14.  Check it out!

Photo by Joe Atkinson

After dinner, Sister Freshy and I rolled out for an evening of show hopping.  There were way too many great shows happening that night to choose from and I wish we could have been to all of them, but we did manage to make it to three, which were all extremely entertaining in their own rights.

Around 9pm we pulled up with perfect timing to Roger's Sports Pub in Chesapeake to find members of The Phillip Michael Thomas Search Party dressing, prepping, and passing whiskey in the parking lot.  This was a reunion show for the Search Party and although I am still fuzzy on the details, I understand their last show was held at the infamous RAT WARD in Phoebus back in the early 2000's.  What I do know is that they are comprised of the members of the excellent Hampton based noise-core/not really metal band Human Services, plus about 4 - 6 other members including the always entertaining and out-of-his-mind shock-rocker Josh Hickey (AKA Sterilization).  Many of the members were dressed in creepy intricate costumes including a guitarist on stilts, a devil, a sweet dominatrix, lots of masks, and pantyhose over a head (to name a few).  The sounds that were coming from the stage included at least three percussionists pounding away steadily plus a metal barrel that was passed/thrown around for banging on, a few guitarists, some toy bell sets, a violinist, a few screamers including Josh with a megaphone, and again, I have undoubtedly missed an instrument or four. The music and action seemed to be entirely improvisation, and there was so much going on visually and musically that there was not a dull moment during the 35 minute set.  Before the chaos began, I heard an over-macho'd bouncer make the comment "Oh, they are just a bunch of kids, you know ... expressing themselves."  Little did he know that he would soon be escorting Josh out of the establishment for stripping down to his boxers, simulating self-pleasure and then leaning over and spreading his butt cheeks wide open for all to see. The video footage below will be the best way to get an idea of what went down, because my words on this performance just aren't cutting it!  The next Phillip Michael Thomas Search Party show will be held in Phoebus in the year 2024.

The tale of Josh's Butt Parts (a hilarious must-see)

About 10 minutes of shaky footage I took

Next, we made our way to Norfolk Taphouse for "An Intimate Evening with  Aaron Burgess" This is the front man for Boneske, and from what we'd heard this would be a variety/talk show sort of thing.  Knowing Aaron we were both curious and weren't sure exactly what to expect.  We walked in and the doorman asked for "five dollars to watch Aaron shave."  We looked up on stage and sure enough, Aaron was looking into a mirror held up by a friend, shaving his beard down into a nice fat child-molester style mustache.  Also on stage were a couch and a love seat, a turntable, and a laptop.  For most of the hour or so that we stayed Burgess switched between DJing off-kilter music while he stared the crowd down ("Manhole" by Men's Recovery Project was an especially good one for this) and rambling about whatever unsettling thoughts may have been on his mind.  Part of the genius of this persona both at this event and in Boneske is that I am often confused as to whether he is joking around or not.  I am fairly certain he was trying his best to get a rise out of some Navy guys at the bar by pushing the issue of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and then launching into a story about how his gay marriage to a foreigner who wanted to move to America didn't work out.  In a different venue, Burgess may have been beat to a pulp.  The uncomfortable air in the room that he creates is as comedic as it gets for me.  The content itself is not necessarily hilarious and could be taken as truly offensive, but this is what we paid five dollars for and although I wasn't always laughing out loud I was bursting into tears on the inside.  Before we left we got to see a few minutes of Aaron's improv rap, which is kind of terrible but somehow brilliantly impressive, and then a special guest solo appearance by Will Huberdeau of Honorary Girl, singing a few songs with an acoustic guitar (always a pleasure to hear Will's pining goofball songs).  The show was well worth the time, drive, and money, and I'm glad to hear that Aaron plans to do this regularly at Norfolk Taphouse.

An Intimate Evening with Aaron Burgess

Finally, we made our way downtown Norfolk to catch The Framers' set at FM Backstage (formerly Jewish Mother Backstage, formerly Kelly's Backstage Tavern, formerly Backstage Cafe, and now the FM stands for "Food and Music").  I had not been in FM since it changed owners and name.  This is a great room for a show and The Framers played a somewhat rowdier and more energetic set than some other shows of theirs I'd seen.  I'm not sure if it was the room and the energy feeding from the stomping twirling dancing crowd, or if Scruggs and Howland had consumed just the right amount of booze, but the good times were surely on! Maria held down the bass solid and steady and glowed especially heavenly that evening in addition to her usual natural and fashionable beauty (this photo has not been altered!!).

Photo by Kelly Earl Tousignant

Unfortunately we missed the opening set by Janks but their accordionist Daniel Neale was running sound and did a fantastic job.  That being said, I was surprised to see that there was no house sound system installed as there had been in previous carnations of the restaurant.  The stage is set up so nice and the numerous racks of light make for a professional and legitimate aura about the room.  I am all too familiar with setting up a PA on stage and running up and down beside the band to tweak the sound as Neale did.  There is no shame in that at all.  But a room with the caliber and potential of FM could and should really do better.  My two cents to FM: Invest in a dedicated house soundboard and system , and make this room stand up to other true rock clubs of legendary status!

Check out the music!
Phillip Michael Thomas Search Party:
Aaron Burgess: No solo stuff but here's Boneske:
The Framers:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Album Review: Mourning Sicness by SICMaN of Virginia

My first experience with SICMaN of VA was on a Sunday afternoon in early 2011.  They were one of the first bands to appear on the long-running podcast YourMusicShow and were performing an experimental acoustic set in the kitchen with an upright bass, guitar, and synth. Magic happened that afternoon and I was immediately drawn to their trippy yet heavy punkish sound, somewhat silly lyrics (“You in your sweatpants, your sweatpants of love …”) and their likeness to Ween, probably my favorite band of all time.  I went home and scrolled through iTunes to buy their brand new sophomore release, Sweatpants and other Necessary Nonsense, and It quickly became standard rotation in my library. I’ve been hooked on the SICMaN catalog ever since.

On May 20, SICMaN releases their fourth, and in my opinion best collection of songs to date, Mourning Sicness. Yes, some of the songs still contain dark humor and absurdities, and the heavy jamming SICMaN sound is definitely still intact.  But the songwriting and playing have matured in a way I can’t quite place and the album seems more cohesive than previous efforts.  The trio’s third release, Stale as it Ever Was was pure fun and jumped back and forth between genres often, as this record does as well.  But all the songs on “Mourning Sicness” hold a footprint of a raw yet textured sound that is sustained throughout the album.

The opening track, "Charles From the Raven," is a pure gold hard rocker that truly sets the energy for what is to come. It is also a one of the four tracks on the album that features Ween’s bassist Dave Dreiwitz as a guest.  Singer/Guitarist Matt Holloman had this to say about the securing the guest experience:

“We contacted Dave about 10 years ago about doing some bass tracks for us. We were without a bassist at the time. We kept in contact and it finally panned out he was gonna be in the area performing with Marco Beneventos trio. I met him at the venue, drove him to studio J, did the 4 tracks, and then drove him back to the venue all in about a 2.5 hour time frame. He had never heard the songs until the car ride over from Virginia Beach to Ocean View. He for some reason took a liking to us. He agreed to do a show in New Hope with us a few months later with his duo, and that turned into Ween without Gener. The rest they say is history....”

The rawness continues with the second track “Decapitated” and begins to hint at the heavy intricate textures contained on the rest of the album. Cue up trippy layers of synths and wailing guitar solos suitable for both head banging or kicking back with your smoking buddies.

Speaking of wailing, I’d be amiss to not mention Holloman’s explosive guitar chops.  When SICMaN plays live, they enjoy extending their songs to jam, sometimes up to ten minutes or more per song.  These extended jams don’t happen on their albums, but the track “Big Brown Eye” is a perfect example of what you will hear and see when you see SICMaN live in their longer jamming mode.  And, I have to wonder what Holloman sounds SO happy about when he exclaims “It’s a BIG BROWN EYE!!”

Among many other songs, SICMaN’s master bassist Scott Griffin gets to a chance to shine on the relatively mellow “Spaceship (15 to 5 Blues)” which took me back to Smashing Pumpkins Pisces Escariot era with its slow yet heavy and textured vibe.

"Bleu Cheese" is another track that features Dreiwitz and is probably the most reminiscent of Ween on this album. The likeness is undeniable both musically and vocally.   It is a genius beautiful song in its own right while also serving as an honorable nod to one of SICMaN's greatest influences.  This track, along with two others, features a second guest, Tim McDonald on keyboard.  Drummer Joe Welch had this to say about McDonald:

“I met Tim about 12 years ago when I recorded Russell Scarborough's album called "Russell Scarborough presents Tim McDonald", and I recorded his solo Jazz album soon after as well.  And when we finished the 1st SICMaN album we asked if he would put some keys down for us, cuz he dug our stuff. At the time he said he was going to move to Nashville one day and become a country musician, which he eventually did.  We've stayed in touch ever since, but for this album we sent him the tracks and had him put the keys down at a studio in Nashville and send the key tracks back to us to put in the mix.”

The other two McDonald/Drewitz guest tracks, “Madness of Life” and “Bianca Y Lobo”  are nice sing-a-long style tunes with a slightly different vibe that gets very rocking but in a folksy way that stays just heavy enough to be SICMaN.  I would reservedly compare the tracks to The Grateful Dead when the extended instrumentals get extremely textured.

My favorite track on the album, "Gagagoogoo," is a definite pleaser and is probably the most accessible on the album. At first I heard Sonic Youth, then The Pixies, then just a touch of Ween, and before I realized, it had turned into a dance track interspersed with the breakdown with the manipulated struggling shouted vocals “It all feels the same!”

As with other SICMaN albums, Mourning Sicness was recorded and mixed by Welch at his attic recording space, Studio J.  The album was nearly a year and a half in the making but not without good reason.  Welch stays busy recording other hot local acts. He produced the award winning Sunlight Fever by The Framers and is currently recording Broken Mouth Annie’s new album.  And the kicker: About halfway through the recording of their own record, Welch’s wife Rachel became pregnant with their first son, Joseph Jr.  I can only assume that the track “Hey Joey” is a fun and playful childlike tribute to their newborn, and the album title itself almost had to have popped up as an indisputably appropriate play on unfortunate mother-to-be symptoms.

I could go on and on about Mourning Sicness, and SICMaN, for many pages, but I think that Justin Wilson of YourMusicShow summed up this album perfectly with three words:  “It’s essential SICMaN.”  And with that I urge you get yourself a copy of Mourning Sicness and rock out in your own SIC way.

Mourning Sicness will be released on May 20 and is available for pre-order at

The CD Release show will take place Friday May 30 at Belmont House of Smoke in Norfolk, with special guest RIO.

Much more info and music at

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Cemetery Boys, Uglyography, and Frood

Uglyography's first show at Norfolk Taphouse this year went down April 26.  Before beginning, The Cemetery Boys' stage setup set the mood for what was too come.  There were too many skulls, skeletons, and other spooky decorations to count.  Edgar Von Graves picked up his bass and Lurch sat down behind the drums, both donning black ski masks to cover their true identities.  The duo plays mostly hard and fast songs with horror-themed and often grotesque content.  I can say with confidence, and I believe many local musicians and fans would agree with me, that Von Graves has achieved the best and fattest bass tone in all of Hampton Roads.  If I was blind and not in the know, I'd believe it if someone told me The Cemetery Boys had a guitarist.  Von Graves' pedals blend fat bottom end with crisp high end distortion and other effects as needed for each song.  The set ended with two much lighter covers which somehow fit in surprisingly well with the darker theme of the band: "How Soon is Now" by The Smiths and "Here in My Car" by Robert Numan.  It was quite a bouncy end and the crowd loved it.  These boys are fun to watch and they play out in the area nearly every weekend it seems, so if you are into scary stuff you need to look for them.

Photo by Seamus McGrann

Uglyography's set went very well from what I could tell on stage (we could hear ourselves loud and clear, thanks so much to the sound guy whose name I've unfortunately forgotten).  We had some in-time hand claps from the crowd and sold two of our fabulous Unicorn themed tee-shirts, so I take that as a success.

Photo by Jenny Lynn Sumner

We booked the final act for the evening, Frood, based solely on what we heard on their bandcamp page.  We had a feeling that their poppy quirky style would fit perfect with Uglyography and we were correct.  Their facebook description consists of two words: "Unapologetically Pop."  I don't need an apology ... The four piece outfit consists of keys, guitar, bass, and drums, and employs luscious three to four part harmonies often.  Lots of the music sounded Beatle-esque, but I would draw the strongest comparison to the Philadelphia-based Dr. Dog.  Add some unexpected breakdowns and tempo changes, and possibly the most syncopated vocal melodies I've ever heard and there you have Frood.  It is beautiful music that  remains playful and gritty enough to be called Rock n Roll.  I look forward to seeing how this relatively new band will grow musically and how far they may take their craft.

Photo by Prima Annarina

Check out the music!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

I've Got some Catchin' Up, I'm way behind!

Excuse the briefer than usual synopsis for each show.  Here's a rundown of all the silky sounding events I've attended or been involved with over the past couple of busy months!

The Fighting Jamesons with The Dahus and The Framers at The Norva – March 15

Following their recent Veer award for album of the year, The Framers scored their first full set at The Norva opening for the local favorites The Fighting Jamesons.  The Jamesons barely need an introduction: their upbeat Irish rock is always a crowd pleaser and these guys are staying busy and building their national following.  The Dahus seem to be on the same path.  I was employed at The Framers’ merch stand for the majority of the evening, right beside The Dahus’ merch stand, which was aflood with quite the impressive crowd of young enthusiastic attractive women battling over the available t-shirt designs and sizes remaining.  Their fans are die-hard, and from what I heard at The Norva that night The Dahus are die-hard about their music.  This was their first show with their new bassist and it made for a full energetic rounded sound for this promising band.  The Framers rocked the house as they are always known to do, and won a horde of new fans that wiped out their first run of CDs and a sizeable chunk of their t-shirts.  Happy times all around!

The Framers with Uglyography at Hell’s Kitchen – March 17

St. Patty’s Day at Hell’s Kitchen was a blast of a Monday evening, complete with forced dancing with random strangers and plenty of friendly love as always.

Uglyography with Sean Petersen at Hampton Taphouse – March 22

Our first performance with the new lineup in our home town went well.  The Taphouse stage is always fun to play on with it’s Hee-Haw-ish country store aura about it, and Pete Pitman is such a hospitable host that any band would be nuts to not want to play this room.  Following our set, Sean Petersen debuted on the Taphouse stage with two full sets of original jams.  This guy knows how to use a loop pedal and how to create a groove with several different instruments.  He sings, plays, sways, and does it all himself with a grin.  Sean will be back at Taphouse for a block party after-party this summer!

Hampton Heritage Day at Fort Monroe – April 12

For this first annual event intended to celebrate Native Cultures relative to our region, I was on sound duty and had a wide variety of acts to handle.  On stage, the day was filled with dancing, drumming, singing, storytelling, and much more family friendly entertainment.  Performers and brief review of each are listed below:

Akebuland Ensemble and the Sankofa Projects Remembrance Drummers – African drummers that are the real deal!  Got the morning started off to a shake.

Meherrin Nation – A small surviving tribe of Native Americans that has remained along the NC/VA Border, they played Host to this event, offering prayers, dancing, chants, and storytelling.

Bob Zentz and Jeanne McDougall – this duo provided a couple of sets of 17th Century English music on a variety of stringed and classical instruments.  It was my first time witnessing a Hurdy Gurdy played, and boy is that an amazing instrument.  I also enjoyed hearing the original words to the classic folk/Christmas tune “Greensleeves.”  It actually has a lot to do with the new year celebration!

Pat Vermillon – played the role of the real-life colonist Ann Burris and told stories from the settlers’ times.

Legacy of Weyanoke – A six-piece A Cappella group with percussion included, they sing spirituals representing African Heritage and traditions.   And yes, each of them has massive sets of pipes and together they produce a beautiful sound.

Ubuntu Dance Collective – A large group consisting of mostly grade-school aged girls, they performed traditional African dances and encouraged the audience to join and shake it!

Glory Dance Ministry – A smaller interpretive dance ensemble of young children, stories were told through dance on stage.

All in all it was an entertaining full day, and I anticipate that it will only grow larger next year!

Bill Jenkins at The Hampton History Museum – April 16

I ran sound for this Front Porch Music Series event on a Wednesday night, and having that perspective of the show will tell you a lot about Bill Jenkins and the Mountain Boys.  It doesn’t mean much to most audience members, but the band requested to use one single mic (not counting the one on the stand-up bass).  So, this one mic was used for all the vocals, all the instruments, and any foot stomping or clapping that came along with it.  I suppose there were six pickers on stage and they all just gathered around this mic and what you see and hear is what you get.  There were lots of really dim and gritty sad songs that were performed, but they were all so upbeat and happy sounding.  For instance, the hook to a song about the Titanic goes "It was sad (It was sad) when that great ship went down." The music had just the right amount of intimacy and emotion to entertain yet another standing room only house at The Hampton History Museum.

YourMusicShow Presents … Outta The Furnace, Hissy Fits, and Daycations at Olde Towne Tavern – April 18

YourMusicShow, hosted by Uglyography’s own drummer DJ Blake alongside Justin Wilson, have been spinning local music on their podcast for over 4 years now.  In addition to hosting bands in DJ’s kitchen on most Sundays for the podcast and producing a second hour long weekly podcast for WHRO’s AltRadio, they continue to sponsor and book shows at venues across Hampton Roads.  YMS Presents … returned to Phoebus’ tried and true Olde Towne Tavern to bring the local music scene back to Phoebus!  Unfortunately I missed Outta The Furnace, but I was lucky enough to catch their first show ever at a Chesapeake house party several months back.  They knew how to rock the bluesy gritty classic rock and have an accessible sound for anyone that likes guitar driven licks n chops with rough around the edges soul.  The second band of the evening, The Hissy Fits, brought an all female twist punk twist into my evening, and caught my attention with their Jawbreaker-esque breakdowns and Courtney Love style vocal attitude.  These girls are the tightest and rockingest all-female act I’ve seen thus far in Hampton Roads (that being said I know of at least two that I still have not seen live, so keep up the fierce competition, ladies!) The final punch in the gut for the evening was The Daycations, which brought in-your face punk to a level that I hear is bound for Nashville.  All the elements were there for catchy pop-punk rowdiness and I wish The Daycations best of luck carrying that on over to Nashville!  Another successful and well attended YMS event down and many more are coming your way!

The Framers at O’Connor Brewing Company – April 19

This was my first time at O’Connor, and although I am not a beer drinker, I witnessed the enjoyment of all kinds of good beverages that were brewed right in the tanks that were directly behind The Framers set up for this show.  And boy could you smell that beer a’brewing!  Of course, why wouldn’t you?  It was a nice industrial backdrop for the band, and they blew through two full sets including several covers and at least two new original songs that were debuted for the first time.  Excellent performance and excellent audience to completely fill the room! O’Connor hosts these events weekly on Saturdays at 4pm so be sure to check out their schedule of upcoming shows.

Live Transmission with Turncoat Syndicate at Norfolk Taphouse – April 19

I had been anticipating this performance for many months.  When drummer Adam Joline, told me he was ready to start playing music again and was starting a band, I could only assume it would be good based on his musical tastes and his supreme production work on Broken Mouth Annie’s album The Frustration King.  A couple months ago I found out that Bryan Lewis (The Gloom, Humanoids from the Deep) would be involved.  Having the most suave man in Ghent as your bands’ bassist is always a bonus. So yeah, although I had already had a long tiresome weekend I was stoked as I could be to see this brand new Norfolk outfit.  And they delivered stuff I really wasn’t expecting.  The set started off soft and melodic, with a pretty piano-based song.  The mood changed from pretty and melancholy to confused, possibly depressed, and then angry.  At the high point in the set, there was all kinds of noises, syncopation, discordant guitar slams, and then it rounded back out to something else completely different, the whole time the rhythm combo of Joline/Lewis syncing sleek and sly as they come.  I am generally an ADD audience member and these guys didn’t provide any opportunity for a lull in the interest of their set.  It all seemed to come and go so fast, and I think that is the unintended gimmick I fell for …  I really want (need) to hear it (see it) again so I can catch all the subtleties that truly made this set enticing.

The show opened with Turncoat Syndicate (formerly Gentleman Bastards) and this was my first time seeing this four-piece as well.  Many sounds from the 90’s were brought to mind.  For a moment I could have mistaken one song for Quicksand, and another for any number of grunge bands.  Modern Rock is such a generic term these days, and it doesn’t really make sense to me … however, I could hear these guys standing up next to all the heavier brands of radio rock I hear when I happen to flip through radio stations these days. They were definitely on their A-Game for this show and I see plenty of potential for these guys should they choose to run further with it.

Check out the performers:
Fighting Jamesons:
Meherrin Nation:
Ubuntu Dance Collective:
Bill Jenkins and the VA Mountain Boys:
Live Transmission: (New Music Coming Soon, hopefully!)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hooked on the Rook - A Half-Hearted Apology

Rather than mix the guts of my music reviews with personal rants and raves, I will devote this brief post to explain my brief absence from reviews.  When I began this blog in January, I hinted that I was skeptical that I'd keep it up and would post as I had time.  So I realize I don't actually owe you faithful readers an explanation or excuse.  But I am feeling generous and would like to share today, before the reviews begin flowing once again.

The explanation is plain and simple:  Chess.  The game.  Addiction to chess.

I learned how to play at the age of 7 and have enjoyed the game casually throughout my life. I picked it up again about 6 months ago as an alternative to the evil and wicked time-sucker of a game that is called Candy Crush.  I needed a new game like Huey Lewis needed a new drug.  A tried and true classic I revisited the game, this time in the digital age on a smartphone, and it brought all kinds of playing and learning opportunities for chess that were not possible 10-15 years ago.  On demand/on-the-go chess got me hooked stronger than ever and over the past month I have joined a weekly chess club and scored a dual timer from eBay.

It has gotten rather out of hand.  I have found myself busting out the board at parties and even at shows as an audience member.  I have been told that I've acted generally elusive recently.  Steps are being taken to rein in my obsession.  But I tell you:  My chess rating is slowly but steadily going up!  True, my last blog post was 1.5 months ago even though I've been witness to plenty of shows ... but I recently placed second in a tournament!

I never said I had a GOOD excuse.

So, friends, family, readers, squealers, I apologize for so sharply disconnecting for my brief frenzy of checkmate obsession. And, now I immediately in turn ask that if any of you are chess players, please hit me up because I am always looking for a game!

One final sidenote:  If you hate yourself for playing Candy Crush, but know that you are really, really good at it, I would be happy to rattle off reasons why you should switch to chess (alienating your life as you know it is NOT one of them).

Let the reviews continue!  I've got a bunch of show summaries from the past 2 months as well as my first album review from one of my favorite local artists.  All coming very soon!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Traprock Misfit at Hampton History Museum

Thanks to Seamus McGrann, The Hampton History Museum has been hosting a broad array of weeknight concerts called The Front Porch Music Series for about a year now.  Although the museum may seem an unlikely venue for concerts and shows, the "Great Hall" is a refreshing change of pace from your typical downtown Hampton bar shows (although there are typically food and drinks available from vendors).  The acoustics are great, the room is clean and cozy, there is a raised stage, and there are typically chairs covering the floor for those who have had a long day at work.

(From Traprock Misfit's facebook page)

On February 19, the featured performer was The Traprock Misfit.  This is the alter-ego stage persona of the local hip-hop/soul sensation K'bana Blaq.  Besides "Traprock" and his solo act in which he goes simply by K'bana Blaq, he also fronts the long-running soul/groove ensemble The Fuzz Band (perhaps known most for their "Fuzzy Wednesdays" open mic that has been going for years).  Blaq doesn't have a day job.  Music is his career and he is constantly taking it to the next level.  His video for the song "I Get's It In Like  Rockstar" recently won the Veer Music Award for video of the year (and defeated Uglyography's humble nomination for our song "Hookey").  Blaq's six minute video is good stuff and could easily stand beside videos on MTV, back when MTV played videos.

Unfortunately I missed Traprock Misfit's first set and arrived at intermission.  Reportedly, what I missed was quite an entertaining journey, as it included performances by The Community Spirit Vocal Ensemble and told the story of the beginnings of rhythm and blues music and how it transformed and shaped its way permanently into modern culture.  I was bummed to have missed it.

But the second set delivered the goods over about 40 minutes.  The performers were Blaq along with a DJ and a pianist, and they began with two very dramatic soulful ballads that were penned by K'bana himself.  I immediately recalled Stevie Wonder melodies and vocal wails akin to something off Talking Book.  The singer took ownership of the stage and the audience, and took turns between standing up and sitting in a chair depending on what the current lines of the song were meant to convey. It was probably the most dramatic thing the History Museum has ever seen or heard.  After the ballads, the DJ did a great job of mixing up some well known soul-rock melodies from the 60's and 70's while Blaq began showing us some pretty darn slick dance moves and singing along with the hits.  It didn't take long before the audience was up out of their own seats and shaking their booties at the leadership of The Traprock Misfit.  The set didn't lose steam (even though a couple more ballads were thrown in) and ended with a cover of Blaq's #1 favorite artist, Prince.  Let's Go Crazy was an appropriate finale and left the audience feeling hyped and happy they were there.

Sam McDonald of The Daily Press was there for the entire show and created a fantastic video summary of the show that you can check out here.   Thanks Sam!

Check out the Music:

K'bana Blaq:

Check out the History Museum:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Broken Mouth Annie with Uglyography

As I said in my last post, I am not above reviewing shows that I am involved in or perform in! Uglyography rarely performs a show without another band, so this gives me a great excuse to write about all the great acts that join forces with ours.  And of course, blatant self-promotion is an unfortunate reality for DYI artists....

A few brief words about Uglyography's opening set on the night of February 15 at Belmont House of Smoke:

This was our first show since Halloween night (also at Belmont), and our first show with the new lineup of Albert on bass, DJ on drums, and myself on iWood Quirkatronic.  Months of development time in the practice room yielded us a brand new 45 minute set including 10 new originals and 3 covers.  Being our "first time," I was a little jittery about it and blundered up the first couple of songs pretty good, but we soon sunk into our groove and entertained the room ... I think.  After our set, friends and fans that had seen us before kept making a similar motion with their hands while describing our new sound ... the motion of coming together, cohesiveness I suppose.  Felt really good and it seems that we may be on to something ... onward marches the saga of quirkadelic rock!

Photo by Seamus McGrann

Ready to do their typical job of rocking the socks off the room, Broken Mouth Annie arranged all six of themselves on the cozy stage at Belmont and looked as comfortable as I've seen them.  And I've seen them a lot. Never have they appeared uncomfortable, but crowded up together and raising a ruckus they appeared completely at home and have obviously honed their performance into something that is natural for them. There has been an evolution over the last three years.  To me, they have always been a rock band.  For a long time, they used the "Americana" description, and I suppose that still applies some degree. But I would be more apt to go with the technical term I've already used once here:  "Rocking Socks off."

Photo by Seamus McGrann

In their beginnings, there was definitely a pretty strong acoustic and slightly twangy influence, especially in their debut 5-piece form where they did not have a bassist.  The chemistry between violinist Chris Samulski and lead guitarist Mike Howland was apparent back then as they took on dual solos and licks over the folksy but aggressive acoustic rock songs penned and sung by Anson Morris.  The rhythm section consisted of drummer extraordinaire Matt Scruggs and Victoria Hundley on the "kill drum??" (is that what they call it, for real?  it's a big floor tom she beats on) and tambourine. Without a bassist, Hundley's "kill drum" helped out filling in some of those bottom frequencies. The arrangement was fantastic.  They were entertaining.  It was in your face, but still had some certain laid back quality that stood them apart from many other bands outright.

Enter bassist Steve Jones.  Steve is that type of bassist whose face doesn't typically match what he is playing on bass. In other words, he could be pulling off lightning fast run, arpeggios and bends and if he was making eye contact with you his face might display zero effort or change. Naturally, when Jones came on board, he did his bass duties, learned the songs, and added his own touch.  He was a very easy fit, and the already great songs sounded full and complete.  Now, here is where my personal theory comes in, and it is just a theory:

The punch of the bass overtook the band.

In a good way, of course. I am familiar with how adding a new member or instrumentation can change the entire feeling and mood of what is being played.  There is no denying that adding a bassist also means adding a rock solid foundation and a certain indescribable power to an ensemble.   This power was undoubtedly felt by the original five members of Broken Mouth Annie, and as a result they began to play more powerfully.  The songwriting took a small step away from the Americana feel and a bigger step towards more straightforward rock n roll.  To put it simply, the band became a six-piece powerhouse.

So back to the show at Belmont ... the powerhouse performed at ease and managed to keep the room dancing all night long.  Even if the main dancing instigators were obviously there to get some tail by dirty dancing with whatever tail was willing, Broken Mouth Annie provided perfect music for getting your freak on.  For the fans ... they played several brand new songs I hadn't heard before.  They played a few original standards and of course a variety of well-chosen covers including songs by Weezer, The Pixies, Violent Femmes, and The Flys.  I am hearing very little Americana influence in the new material, and that is OK.  They have become what they have become, and nobody is complaining.  I am especially digging a lot of the new effects that Samulski is using on his violin.  Some of it sounds very synth-like and some sounds like trippy guitar rock. All the experimentation and evolution is currently being captured on a new album, recorded by Joe Welch at Studio J to follow up 2011's award winning album, The Frustration King.

Big thanks goes out to our friends Broken Mouth Annie for inviting Uglyography to join them for this show. Also big thanks to Patrick Walsh at Belmont for the most terrific sound job I've heard for a long time in this area.  Love the stage and your expertise!  Thanks to Seamus McGrann for not getting mad that I stole his pictures off the scroll n stare book.

Check out the music:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

In a Nutshell: Shows n stuff from early February

In my first post for this blog, I predicted and emphasized that I wouldn't be able to review every show that I attend.  I've been to a few good events over the past two weeks but life has been good and busy, so rather than try to catch up here is a quick recap of my musical journeys of the past couple of weeks:

1)  I never said I was above reviewing my own shows!  On Saturday February 1, my old band from the early 2000's The Outer Loop returned to the stage at The Point in Phoebus. We had to turn WAY down and the staff seemed concerned about keeping the floor clear for the fire marshall.  But all in all we rocked our folk punk and everyone had a great time!  The acoustic duo 2 Day Sun opened the show for us with their groovy melodic sounds and I would recommend checking them out if you see they are playing around town. Keep a lookout for many more shows by The Outer Loop this year. The next one is with The Framers at 80/20 Burger Bar in Ghent on Saturday April 12.

2) On Monday February 3 The Norva hosted Veer's annual Local Music Awards.  The night was full of great performances by local artists, and was presented like a Grammy's style awards ceremony.  The Norva was a nice appropriate venue for the event and hope to see it there in future years.  Best thrill of the evening was that The Framers took home the awards for Album of the Year and Best Emerging Artist!  There is a lot to talk about and report so I will provide links to other stories in case you are looking for a more detailed report.  Congrats to all the winners, nominees, and performers!

Veer Magazine Report
Sam McDonald's Sound Check Report

3) Following the Veer Awards, we went to an after party at Belmont House of Smoke where SICMaN of VA was jamming their funky, heavy, wailing, sometimes iPhone driven sound.  SICMaN is always a pleasure to watch on stage.  I was there for about an hour and I think we saw about 6 or 7 songs, including the sic classics "Cutter," and  "Mal's Still Around."  Coincidentally, Joe Welch, drummer for SICMaN, should also be congratulated for a job well done on producing The Framers' award winning album, Sunlight Fever.  It was truly a party at Belmont, and hearing sicness was the best way to celebrate the Framers' win!

4) No Bunny at Strange Matter in Richmond. On February 9, I was lucky enough to see No Bunny for the third time in a classic club called Strange Matter (formerly Twisters, Nancy Raygun).  No Bunny delivered!  Think poppy, bouncy, sloppy, catchy punk rock, all fronted by a slimy dude wearing a bunny mask/ears (mangled and ratty at that) running around stage stripped down to his speedos. Excellent stuff. We saw just a few minutes of Richmond's Nervous Ticks and a full set by Wisconsin's The Hussy, both entertaining acts in their own rights.

So yes, this was a hodge-podge of a report, but I'm finally catching back up on life and hope to be able to provide more detailed reports.  I feel a little better that most of these are either not conventional or not local, but I won't bore you with my excuses.  Have fun and see you out there soon!

Check out the music!
Outer Loop:
2 Day Sun:
The Framers:
No Bunny:
Nervous Ticks:
The Hussy:

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Pixies at The National, with Fidlar

Okay, Okay, I realize The National is not in the 757, which contradicts the name of this blog, but  ... who cares?  It's THE PIXIES!  They are a band that changed the way I look at music and songwriting, and to this day I wear out their classic 5 album catalog on the regular.  Every now and then I come across someone my age or younger who has never heard the Pixies and I feel sorry for them.  I also feel sorry for those who tried to get tickets to this show and failed to do so the day they went on sale because it sold out in a matter of hours.  When I saw the show announcement I was very surprised that they were playing such a small-ish venue.  The National's capacity is only 1500 people, and The Pixies have easily sold out many arenas the size of The Hampton Coliseum or Chrysler Hall.  So I was excited to see them in a somewhat intimate environment.

I caught most of the opening set by Fidlar, and as much as I hate to do this, I don't really have a lot to say about them.  Perhaps I expected a band that was opening for The Pixies to be more eclectic or stand out in some way.  Don't get me wrong, this L.A. based rock group was tight and on point.  They had all the elements of a good punk/skate rock band with good melodies, breakdowns, etc. but they just didn't hold my attention enough for a band on a $45 ticket.  However, they did have a large number of fans in the audience who were singing along enthusiastically, so perhaps there is a more to this band than a first cold listen offered me.

When The Pixies took the stage, my attention was first drawn to checking out their new bassist, Paz Lenchantin.  For those who don't know the saga, Kim Deal quit the band in mid 2013, was quickly replaced by Kim Shattuck, who was then fired before the end of 2013 (allegedly for getting over-enthusiastic and stage diving during a performance?) and quickly replaced by Lenchantin.  So yeah, I wanted to see what she was bringing to the table, and it was mostly what I expected.  She was pretty, played the classic bass lines note for note as recorded, had a voice very similar to Deal's, and smiled a lot.  She filled the shoes well, and although it would've been nice to see Kim up there with them again, Paz'll do.  They started their set with a loud and rowdy "Bone Machine." which gave her a chance to shine on vocals and bass simultaneously.

The crowd was immediately going nuts, and all the band members had smiles on their faces.  For the duration of the show, they all seemed to be enjoying themselves.  I can't say the same for the two previous performances I've seen by The Pixes.   In past shows, it wasn't that they weren't performing well, but it just seemed like they may have tired of performing and possibly doing it for the money.  Maybe.  Or maybe since the previous venues were so large I was too far away to see the smiles.  Regardless, at The National I was not too far from the stage and was able to catch all the glances and gestures between players and their energy level stayed high for the duration of the show.  After all these years, singer Black Francis (Frank Black) is still able to roar as throaty as ever and switch to almost a whisper without any problem.  Joey Santiago is still gazing out to the crowd as he plays his simple yet perfect bendy guitar leads, and continues to rock his experimental solo during an extended "Vamos."  For a good portion of this solo he unplugged his guitar and played his 1/4" cable instead by simply touching it, complete with effects pedals.  David Lovering still holds it steady on the drum kit with fog blowing up around him at all times, and gets the trophy for the most romantic vocals on "La La Love You."  My favorite tune for the night was actually a slowed down version "Nimrod's Son" which came out beautiful and creepy!  Besides the obvious absence of Kim Deal, there couldn't be much more a Pixies fan could ask for.

The following is the set list as best as I could make out.  Unfortunately, since I haven't kept up with the band's very recent online releases (bad fan, bad fan!!) I did not know all the songs, so I apologize for the gaps.  But they did play quite a bit of new material, and it stood up well between the old classics.

Bone Machine

Wave of Mutilation

River Euphrates
The Sad Punk
Gouge Away
Crackity Jones
Isla de Encanta
Monkey Gone to Heaven
Where is My Mind
Nimrod's Son
Mr. Grieves
The Holiday Song
Motorway to Roswell
Ed is Dead
Here Comes Your Man
La La Love You
Break My Body
I've Been Tired

Encore 1:
Broken Face
Head On

Encore 2:
Planet of Sound

Sunday, January 26, 2014

FILMAGE: The Story of DESCENDENTS/ALL with Tribute Set by No FB

Back in November I saw a piece of news that a Descendents rockumentary would be coming to VA Beach to be screened in an actual movie theatre for one night only.  This excited me highly and I secured tickets the same day.  Why was I excited?  From my high school freshman year on, The Descendents created a permanent dent (pun intended) in my musical ideology.  I had heard plenty of pop punk, but these guys really stood out because their attitude seemed very over the top in their humor, sarcasm, and emphasis on their own private jokes.  And farts.  All this along with swooning over women and some of the strongest songwriting and playing I've ever heard in the wide punk genre was a formula that resonates and influences me till this day.

As the screening date drew closer I became more excited that there would be a short tribute set after the screening by the one-off band No FB (name based on the Descendents song, which stands for No Fat Beaver).  Cinema Cafe in Pembroke was hosting the event in two screening rooms and everything went off without a hitch.

(apologies for the crappy photo guys!)

The film was a treat.  It told the whole story as expected, and filled in gaps that I had always been curious about.  For instance, my first Descendents tape was Somery, a sort of "greatest of" compilation.  I noticed that the liner notes were huge because there were so many different players credited to so many different songs.  But somehow most of the songs sounded like the same band.  So, roughly 25 years later, as I watched Filmage, the lineage of those players (I believe the total was 11) was spelled out and the story of the band was finally clear to me.  And, I realized that for most songs, the principal or co-songwriter was Bill Stevenson, the band's drummer.  The film also went into great detail about the band ALL, which is basically the same band as Descendents with a different singer, and questioned the reasons why it never found the legendary status of the same band with the same songwriting when fronted by Milo Aukerman.  With plenty of interviews, live performances, anecdotes, and everything else you'd expect from a rockumentary, Filmage left me satisfied with the backstory of one of my all-time favorites.  I will be looking out for this DVD release because it is worth another watch and several loanings to buddies.

(Video footage by Paul Unger)

Immediately following the screening, No FB began setting up in front of the screen and took the stage within 10 - 15 minutes.  The band was fronted by Charles Glover (The Larchmont Trash), the same man who arranged for the film to be screened in VA Beach (with help from Hardcore Norfolk queen Debra Persons).  On bass was Forrest Lucien (Unabombers) and on drums was Hoyt March (also of The Larchmont Trash).  They played a fairly short set consisting of Descendents crowd pleasers "I'm not a Loser," "Silly Girl," "Clean Sheets," and of course the one chord/one note anthem "ALL."  The band was rowdy and blew through the songs as if second nature, and the large standing audience in the cinema responded fondly.

Big props go out to Charles, and all the others that I don't know about behind the scenes for making this happen.  There were two screenings last night and both were sold out!  We could stand to see more special events and screenings like this in Hampton Roads.  Keep your eyes and ears open!

Descedents Website:

All Website:

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Boneske, Honorary Girl, and Peak

I found myself drawn once again to the Taphouse in Ghent for a 3 act show that I was certain would deliver the goods.  I have played shows with Boneske a number of times, and had seen a brief set by Honorary Girl in "The Kitchen" during their YourMusicShow performance.  Those two were enough to sell me on the show, and the third band, Peak, definitely piqued my interest so I drove over to Norfolk at 10pm to see what it was all about.  I am glad I attended, although the end of the night left me scratching my head with mixed feelings about whether to laugh or be disappointed.  More on that later.

The show began with Peak, a power/punk rock four piece who was performing for their second show ever.  They introduced themselves as not being a local band but rather a band from Outer Space, and proceeded to hammer out tight 4 chord power rock that I can best equate to late 80's early 90's Lookout Records pop punk (my personal coming of age soundtrack).  The vocals by Rob Ulsh Jr., formerly of The Super Vacations, were reminiscent of classic bands like The Queers, and to me bore a striking resemblance to a lesser known Lookout band called Juke.  On top of the power chord jams, a cock-rocking lead guitarist added the essential gritty rockabilly meets Maiden style runs, and let me tell you - this guy manhandled his Gibson cutaway.  He is a bigger dude and played a tiny small scale model that looked like a toy on him, but his solos shredded fast and fearless, bendy and far from childish.  The floor was packed with a receptive, let-it-hang-out dancing audience, and Peak plummeted through their set with energy that never slowed.  For their second show, the band seemed pleased with themselves, Ulsh thanked the crowd, commenting "We finally got to play the Taphouse, it's our dream come true!"

Next up was Honorary Girl, an enjoyable trio who's sound and attitude is difficult to nail with words.  The main configuration has Will Huberdeau (formerly of Digging up Virgins) on guitar and lead vox, Sean Collins on bass, and Logan Laurent (Hissy Fits, Karacell) on Drums.  On the surface, yes, they are a punk trio and subscribe to in your face changes of feel, raw and sometimes loose-in-a-good-way jangly riffs, and appropriate cuts and stops.  Laurent's drumming is especially energetic and she is a monster when it comes to double-sticking that hi-hat funk-style punk.  But there is something humorous and playful about many of the choice of chords and bouncy riffs in Honorary Girls' sound.  Think about the weirder side of Weezer in their Blue Album/Pinkerton era, but ramp up the tempo and add a lot more stops and oddball non-radio friendly hooks. Huberdeau's vocals stay interesting as well.  He delivers what are obviously heartfelt but humorous lyrics in a style that tells the world that he just doesn't really give a shit.  I'm not sure that deadbeat is the word, but if it is possible to sing beautiful high pitched moving melodies in a manner that sounds like you are ready to lock your bedroom door and go to sleep, Huberdeau is the man to do it.  A few songs into the set, Collins switched over to guitar and lead vocals and proceeded into "Youth Group," a very short ditty about how his church youth group taught him how to play guitar.  It sounded like it was straight off a Dead Milkmen album and the next few songs followed suit before switching back to the original lineup.  For their final upbeat song, Huberdeau's lyrics repeated continuously "I don't wanna eat, I don't wanna sleep, I don't wanna ... (whatever, insert your own basic needs here)" before busting out a reggae-punk style finale, singing repeatedly "All I wanna do is sleep with you!"  Classic, perfect, and a definite crowd pleaser.

As if the first two acts were not interesting enough, Boneske finally took the stage for what would be a baffling half-performance, and possibly their unanticipated final performance.  I admire this four-piece for many reasons.  They seem to be completely uninfluenced by any musical convention and throw all ideas of accessibility or pop-sense out the window.  They create a strange off-time groove among themselves that can be nearly impossible for anyone off the stage to follow or predict.  I would best describe their sound as jazz, but any dead jazz greats might roll over in their celebrated caskets to hear that. Aside from the drummer, they play largely with their backs to the audience and vocals are scarce.  Their orator, Aaron Burgess, often takes on a controversial alter-ego persona for rants in between songs (for the previous Boneske set I saw, he took on the role of a family man who had taken his wife and kids to the zoo and was very offended that the zoo allowed homosexuals because his children and the animals should not be exposed to that).  The riffs are largely discordant, muted and accented loops that travel from one weird time signature to the next and (maybe) back again.  It feels like a madman running around in circles with two guitars and a bass while drummer Bobby Rangel eggs him on with off time fills that might last as long as half the song.

All this stuff I love, and I was enjoying the puzzling and unpredictable sounds as much as the rest of the packed house for about 15 minutes.  Then things actually started getting confusing.  From the best I could gather, a song may have been started too fast, so Burgess abruptly stopped the song and said he wouldn't start it again, to move on to the next song.  The following song was probably cut short as well, based on Burgess' comments that the band likes to stop before the song is over, whenever they feel like it.  Obviously there was some sort of discontent on stage, but as an audience member I heard nothing wrong the performance.  If something was too fast or too short, I would have never known.  About a minute into the next song, Burgess put his guitar down and started singing in and out of a falsetto voice something akin to "Don't fuck with my song, la la la la la, Don't fuck with my beat, la la la," (etc. etc. with many profanities and unintelligible mocking.)  At this point, bassist Blair Munden took his bass off his back, threw it to the ground and walked right out the door and out of sight somewhere down 21st street.  Second guitarist Mark Perron stopped playing and everyone in the room looked confused as the song came to a halt.  "I think we've played this room one too many times" muttered Rangel as he got up and followed suit out the door.  Burgess continued "I think Boneske just broke up, folks," and then picked his guitar back up and continued playing and singing a couple Boneske songs by himself.

Not sure where to go from here, magically a hip-hop beat came from the PA and Burgess began his infamous freestyle rapping which I'd seen on one occasion before.  Included in this free-form were plenty of jabs (on his band?), general flowing of how great of a flow-er his is, and a reference to his pubes complete with flashing of said pubes and a portion of what lies below them.  As I said in the intro, I  was confused, entertained, somewhat amused, and disappointed all at the same time.  Part of me wondered if it had all been staged. I definitely hoped that was the case.  But the rest of Boneske never showed back up, at least not as long as I was there.  Before this incident, my one complaint about Boneske was that they do not have any recorded music available (POST UPDATE: I was wrong, see link below), but I was happy to hear the news earlier that night that they planned a recording session in New York City later this very month.  Will that happen?  I hope so.  Is Boneske over?  Please don't let it be.  I hope these guys can work out whatever their problems are, get that recording done, and return to the stage.  Also guys, more than one single song would be fantastic, if you can manage.  You are one of the most truly original and carefree bands in the area and although you may not be the world's most accessible cup of tea, you score high for many fans here in the 757.

Check out the music:
Honorary Girl:
Boneske:  (thanks Bobby for sending this link, I wasn't aware of the Magnets EP that is available on the website)

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Framers at PFAC Art After 5

I've heard it said that Tom Petty is an artist that music fans from all walks can agree is good.  This post has nothing to do with Tom Petty, but I concur and would propose after their show at Peninsula Fine Arts Center that the Hampton Roads band The Framers are also a band that EVERYONE can agree on!  That being said, I must submit a disclaimer before I go any further.  The Framers have the most beautiful bassist in the world, and very luckily for me she happens to be my wife, Maria H. Thomas.  Obviously I am biased heavily towards this band, but listening to them in a crowd of all ages, I cannot imagine how anyone could hear and watch this band and despise it.  Alt-Country/Americana Rock may not be everyone's cup of tea, but the ingredients that make up The Framers are natural and basic enough that it just feels basic and natural to enjoy them.

What are these magical, musical ingredients?  Start with the beat.  Rather than employing a drummer behind a kit, The Framers' front man Matt Scruggs uses his right foot to pound the kick drum while lead string man Mike Howland does the same with a hi-hat/tambourine combo.  That's it for the percussion section, and this is accomplished while the guys simultaneously play their guitars, or whatever stringed instrument Howland happens to be playing.  As a result, the beat is typically a very simple pattern, about as simple as rhythm patterns get.  For you musicians, this means kick on beats 1 and 3 and hi-hat on beats 2 and 4.  Not always, but very often.  This is far from a bad thing.  It is an instinctive pulse that is familiar to all humans who were born into the world of modern music.  I can say this with confidence because my nephew, who is barely over one year old, was spotted correctly stomping his foot in time along with Scrugg's kick while the Framers played PFAC Thursday evening.  Amazing!

Adding to the simplistic foundation of the band, Maria is admittedly and proudly a simplistic bassist.  Again, this is an enhancement to The Framers' sound rather than a drawback, as her lines and rhythms sync perfectly with Scrugg's steady kick drum thumping.  She rarely brings her walking lines to the forefront of attention and instead lays back to provide a rock solid bottom end that solidifies the hard-hitting yet uncomplicated rhythm section.  It works fantastically and only an ego-addled bass shredder would say otherwise.

Then, of course, there are the songs themselves.  Scruggs' songwriting stands on its own.  I'd pay to see him perform these songs solo and acoustic because I know they would still shine.  From a technical music theory standpoint, most of the songs do not break into new musical territory that has never been heard before ( I said MOST ... I am particularly fond of "Bad Taste" where Scruggs and Howland build tension and groove based on an accidental wrong chord played during a late-night drunken jam session, but that's another story!).  The fact remains: a great song is still a great song even if it follows a chord progression that has been done hundreds of times before.  The structures, melodies, and lyrics are delightful and fresh, and the familiarity only helps the songs to work their way into your head where they will be stuck for days on end.

And finally we have the delicious icing.  While Scruggs stays put on rhythm guitar, Howland switches instruments between most songs.  Whether it is banjo, mandolin, or electric guitar, his lead work is incredibly suiting and adds the necessary texture to the already solid foundation described above.  You may not see him shred quite as hard and fast and loud as in his other successful band, Broken Mouth Annie (which Scruggs is also drummer), but his consciousness of what he is enhancing is clear and he knows how to switch gears appropriately.  From the simple yet driving banjo on "Blue Nightgown" to the rowdy mandolin romp on "It's Mutual" the variety keeps The Framers' repertoire sounding diverse and interesting.

The show at PFAC was part of the center's "Art after 5" series, and was very well attended.  Glancing around during The Framers' set, the room was all smiles.  The age group was about as widespread as it gets and everyone seemed to truly appreciate what they were hearing. It's those basic instinctive ingredients that please us humans' ears, I tell you!  Keep an eye out for The Framers and check them out the first chance you get!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Black Book and Daniel Neale

My first post for the new blog/journal/adventure magazine brings us to a hard tried and true staple of the 757 underground music scene, Norfolk Taphouse. My buddy Mike Anaya's new band Black Book was playing, and up to this point I had neglected to catch them live. Mike was one of my cohorts in the relatively short-lived project Lord Bowler, and sang on the title track of The warehouse Brian EP. Listening in advance to Black Book's Songs on bandcamp, I noticed striking similarities in his wailing, discordant vocal style as well as his guitar playing. My curiosity about their live performance was peaked. 

Opening for Black Book and providing sound was the Norfolk busker Daniel Neale.  I knew I was in for a treat before he even graced the stage due to a continuously running gerbil-in-a-wheel toy he had set up in front if his getup. With an old school suitcase for a kick drum, a platform of noisemakers on the floor for a snare, an accordion, a sampler of some sort, a synth pad requiring approximately one finger, a tambourine, and probably a few other toys I didn't even notice, Daniel rocked and sang all on his own and created a sound more textured than many three and four piece bands could dream of.  Several audience members compared his vocal style to Justin Timberlake, but I thought his voice contained natural folky tendencies. Mixed with electronic overtones and droning accordion it was a unique mesh.  And the songs were well thought out and catchy too. Daniel told me this was only his third time performing plugged into a PA system, and typically he brings a single speaker to busk on the street.  My guess is that he makes a killing in the busking-friendly city of Norfolk.  I'd drop a buck or two into his cup for sure!

Black Book quickly took the stage after Daniel's set, and the room suddenly got extremely loud.  Anaya's guitar sound was mostly what I expected since I had worked and jammed with him plenty of times before.  Layers of buzz and distortion, discordant solos, a powerhouse of sound with each power chord he banged out.  His wailing vocals stayed low in the mix at his request.  Earlier in the evening Mike told me that this band was not vocal-centric and his one qualm with their recording was that the vocals were too up front and that they should be considered like another textured instrument in the song, but not the center of attention.  While Anaya mostly swayed, sang, and played with his eyes closed, much of the energy on stage came from Matt Hobson on bass.  Complete with rock n roll "what are you looking at?" faces, punk rock attitude, twirls, extra low bass strap, and quick walking riffs on the bass, Hobson laid down the solid thumping foundation and visual excitement for Black Book.  Last but certainly not least, Adam Parcel kept it real behind the drums with the skill and mastery needed to hold this whole crazy ruckus together.  I had also worked with Adam when he drummed with Popular Vultures (a demo which I believe was never mixed was tracked in my home studio).  Although he was steady and solid in the Vultures, he has vastly improved since then and his fills and hooks have gotten much trickier.  Most of Black Book's songs were short, probably well under 3 minutes.  It was a treat to hear a cover of "Freak Scene" by Dinosaur Jr., probably one of the bands I could safely compare them with (along with Pavement, Sebadoh, and Sonic Youth "Goo" era).

Unfortunately I was not able to stick around for the final act, Feral Conservatives, but I hope to catch the duo soon around the scene.  All in all it was an exciting night of music and well worth my $5.

Check out the music!
Black Book:
Daniel Neale:
Feral Conservatives:

Nice to meet you: Masi of Reckoner, Matt of Black Books (although I believe we met before), and Sarah, friend of the Black Book crew.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A welcome message to squealers from the author


As an active participant and avid fan in the local music scene of Hampton Roads, VA, I feel it is time to begin documenting experiences and feelings I get from shows and other musical related adventures. I'm doing this for two reasons:

1) Local independent musicians can NEVER get enough exposure, and 
2) The older I get the worse my memory becomes. 

I can't tell you how many times I've been telling someone about a show I attended and damned if I can remember the name of the band I saw, the people I met, or something else important that has run far away from this brain of mine. So, ideally, if I can keep my motivation up to stay on top of this blog, I will have a nice little journal of experiences for myself. And hopefully along the way someone somewhere in these seven cities will discover some really cool music they didn't know about!

I'm not a journalist and this is going to be full of errors, oversights, and likely a small amount of incorrect information.  I'll do my best.  Also, it is unrealistic that I will be able to write about every show I attend (even though that is the goal).  It will be amateur at best.  I will appreciate your feedback and comments as I begin and continue this blog. Feel free to drop me a line at

Thanks squealers!