Monday, August 1, 2016

A melting weekend of rock! July 22-23

It's been a busy week, and a hot one.  As I write this it is Friday and I'm still cooling down from the weekend of impressive face melting, shirt drenching, sweaty passionate rock n roll that I witnessed last Friday and Saturday nights.  I had been recovering from oral surgery, and that is my lame excuse for not engaging the bands I saw and finding out more about them.  However, I could not let the weekend pass without writing brief summaries about all the awesomeness witnessed.  So, in a quick nutshell here are the five bands that entertained me through my weekend recovery:


Moving Cities:  This trio is a very tight, very polished powerhouse that I want to call punk rock but might be a little too groove oriented to qualify.  The grooves ranged from melodic pop to reggae/ska to tripped out jamming.  Think early Weezer having a strong pot of coffee with Sublime while the guitarist tweaks his delay and thick guitar sound to borrow from The Edge, and you have a breakfast party that quenches your hunger for a great local sound!

Moving Cities

Motorboatel:  Another trio at the Taphouse that totally blew me away, Motorboatel's name drew me in and the jazzy, highly proficient jamming kept me afloat late night.  There aren't too many vocals going on here, but they are not needed.  Although all three players are total masters of their instruments, I was mesmerized by the drummer's jazzy unpredictable style that kept the jams flowing but subtly changed the feel constantly so that you were never quite sure what to expect.  It was difficult for me to look away from him.  This is not to undermine the guitar work which somehow blended smooth jazz and hard rock into its own unique presence, and the bassist's solid and always interesting riff work.  Additionally the bassist had a moog synthesizer in front of him and another bass moog unit that contained a pedal akin to what you see at the bottom of a church pipe organ. He was able to work these into the music seamlessly, adding a bit of psychedlic wonkiness to the mix.  Great stuff guys, can't wait to see you all again!



Feral Conservatives: Unfortunately I missed the Feral's set for this show, but I have seen them several times and was honored to perform alongside them a couple of months ago.  These guys and lady are one of my local favs.  They are mandolin driven punk rock that is both cutesy and bold, upfront and sentimental.  The front woman hooks her mandolin up through distortion and effects pedals to create a powerful sound coming from such a small instrument, and her vocals can be both sugar sweet and shriekingly massive.  I like both of those vocal styles, but I believe her shriek to be the finest in Hampton Roads. Previously a trio with bass, mandolin and drums, they have recently added a guitarist to thicken the sound and arrangement, and it greatly enhances the mandolin heavy aura that is created.  This week they embarked on a 10 night/11 show tour and I'm glad they will be representing our music scene at its finest up and down the eastern states.  Feral Conservatives' full length album remains in heavy rotation in my disc changer, and the stellar songwriting skills become more and more apparent upon every listen.

Feral Conservatives

Prairie Empire:  Although it was past 10pm when Prairie Empire took the stage at Toast, the heat and humidity had not tamed down from the day's massive heat wave, and every audience member was completely drenched in sweat and ready for some soothing music that would hopefully help cool them down (Note to TOAST:  as awesome as your venue and shows are, please please please consider some form of cooling or strong fans in your outdoor open air venue.  I realize it won't be a heat wave forever, but in the meantime I'd hate to see folks pass out from heat exhaustion, which it appeared many were edging towards that night!).  Prairie Empire delivered the beautiful melodious and harmonious sound that was needed for such a moment.  The lead lady began the set with a soft autoharp strummed ditty backed by soft mallet stricken drums, and the familiar and solid bass sound of Norfolk's own Jacki Paolella, who had joined them on a month long tour (this was the final show of the tour).  Jacki effortlessly harmonized with the lead vocals in her own stylistic manner and the result of the trio was a heartbreaking yet uplifting soft celebration of life, love, and depression (yes, depression can be celebrated through music, of course).  The panting crowd was focused and quiet for the mostly softer grooves of Prairie Empire, and it seemed the perfect moment to cool down after a long sweltering day.  But then ...

Prairie Empire

Yurt: The heat finally began to wane and the energy immediately picked up when the quartet that call themselves Yurt took the stage.  The crowd gathered and dancing ensued. Although the specific styles of each Yurt song differed greatly, the Bozeman Montana outfit steers towards a fun, kooky 80's synth dance sound that was a refreshing change of pace.  80's comparisons ranged from The Police to Cyndi Lauper to Talking Heads, and the male to female vocal switchoffs varied the range further. Between songs, they made self reference jokes, all involving the term "Yurt" and their music did not take itself so seriously which is why it was really fun.  I couldn't tell if the drummer was over the age of 16, but she held it down solid and simplistically ala Mo Tucker. This was the last show of Yurt's tour as well, and they were definitely able to go out with a bang with Norfolk's enthusiastic dancing audience.  I hope they come back to this area and I will announce a dance party in advance!


Check out the music:

Moving Cities
Feral Conservatives
Prairie Empire

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Symphony Strikes Back - The Music of Star Wars

I'd had tickets for this performance by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra since they went on sale back in March.  I'd been super stoked about it ever since then.  My seats at Ferguson Center were good, and I found myself with an extra ticket on the day of the show.  How could I increase the stoked factor even more?  A quick phone call to my geek/musician brother Darius Teasely AKA Shakespeare's Ghost who I consider a hype man by nature (see link to our collab at the bottom of the article).  I've known he is a Star Wars geek, probably even more so than myself, and he was with me at the drop of a hat!

We both were expecting greatness from this performance ... what is not to love about hearing full blown authentic, live re-creation of one of the greatest movie soundtracks ever penned?  But neither of us were prepared for just HOW awesome the program would end up being.  It had been a while since either of us had heard a symphony orchestra, and to hear one up close 8 rows away felt powerful and dynamic. Unfortunately we could not see the entire orchestra from those seats, mainly just the string section and conductor, but we could FEEL and hear the whole thing with complete clarity (which I don't get with too many other live shows these days ...).

Aside from The Imperial March and Main Title, I didn't recognize the names of any of the selections on the menu aside from Rey's Theme, which I bought on a picture disc at Record Store Day this year.  What made this performance special to me was that as soon as these pieces began playing, I immediately recognized them as melodies and accompaniment so familiar that I felt as if I had known them forever, and some of them I suppose I have actually "known" since early childhood.  It is only when you hear and see them performed without the film in their forefront that you realize just how much the music impacts the film and how much of it you take away with you as an actual seamless part of the film, one that is just as recitable as any its endearing spoken lines.

On top of the great music, the conductor, Benjamin Rous, kept the program interesting with anecdotes and tidbits surrounding the compositions, and really caught our attention with a few theories about the new movies that are based purely on musical themes rather than any words or action from the films.  According to Rous, as the master composer that John Williams is, he has left us musical clues to some mysteries.  One in particular involves a new character from The Force Awakens, who's origin is currently anyone's guess.  With the help of the orchestra playing bits and pieces of musical themes, he demonstrated that a recurring theme in this character's music bears a strong resemblance to that of an antagonist from Episode III.  There were a few "wow moments" in this regard and I can personally get behind those theories based on their musical explanations.

Another powerful moment of the concert came when the Star Wars Festival Chorus came out to join the orchestra for two soundtrack pieces.  This was a huge choir made up of students from Bethel, Hampton, and Warwick High Schools.  Their most impressive number came with "Dual of the Fates" from the Phantom Menace - blowing the barometer level up to its max for a symphonic wall of sound.

An obvious ommission from the program was the beloved "Cantina Theme" which we were treated to as an encore with the rhythm section. And to finish the encore, Rous excitedly proclaimed "We can't send you home without the closing credits!" and commenced the memorable closing theme to finish the evening.

I am not certain that this Star Wars program will be performed again anytime soon ... there was no indication of that ... but I'd highly recommend looking out for other concerts by the VA Symphony Orchestra.  Last Friday Night they performed a full program of "The Songs of Bowie."  The ensemble seems to be staying innovative in their offerings and is choosing truly the best of the best music in that is set for a symphonic setting.  Shakespeare and I approve!

Check out the VA Symphony Orchestra!

Uglyography's Collaboration with Shakespeare's Ghost:

Monday, May 30, 2016

An Unexpected Gem at The Taphouse Ghent

From time to time, less and less frequently the older I become, I will catch a band that resonates so strong with me that I am compelled to tell everyone I know about them.  This blog has been stagnant for well over a year, but witnessing the set of Troll 2 on Saturday night not only prompted me to buy both of their CDs, but to revive this blog so that everyone in my own little online world can know about them.  In fact, their set actually made me feel guilty, ... ashamed that I did not contact my brother and his wife to invite them to this show, because knowing their musical tastes I am certain they would have also been equally moved.

Lame excuse for the above:  I almost did not go to this show and only decided to go at the last minute, so it would have been a scramble to invite others.  It is always a pleasure to catch a set by my friends Broken Mouth Annie (see a complete blog writeup here), but the true driving force that brought me to this show was the name of this Boston band touring the East coast.  For the uninitiated, Troll 2 is a horrible worst-of-the-worst low budget 80's movie that is perhaps the most brilliantly entertaining piece of cinema one will ever witness.  I've seen it about 15 times.  In my logic, it was pretty much mandatory that I check this band out based solely on their name.


Just as the movie Troll 2 has no correlation or connection to its predecessor Troll, it seems that the band Troll 2 has nothing to do with the film which is perfectly OK.  Enough introduction, what IS this band?  Well, they have no drummer.  They have an upright bass, mandolin, acoustic guitar and fiddle, and 4 very capable players who are all extremely talented vocalists too.  Add to that an intense high energy, clever soulful songwriting, and a high percentage of punk rock spirit and you there you have the jaw dropping quartet.  They shout and wail in harmony songs about a range of subjects including partying like you are in high school, not being too old to play in a band, corporate downfall, taking drugs (prescribed and unprescribed) and the general angst of not feeling comfortable on this planet.  They are funny, thought provoking, danceable, and they are capable of busking their music which they did on the streets of Norfolk all afternoon before their show at the Taphouse.  I am no videographer, and I have shaky hands, and my iPhone's sound quality is not great ... but I took this video of "As Hard As A Man" which captures the amazing standout soulful charm of fiddler and vocalist Zoe Rose de Paz.  She got some lungs!

And here is one of their more high energy ditties.  They closed their set and opened their new album with this one:

I spoke with the band after the show and they were enthralled with Norfolk and gave praise that it was by far their best (as well as last) show of their tour.  They seem willing to come back over a great distance to be here again, and I will personally do whatever I can to make that happen and make sure all my friends come with me next time.

I'd be amiss to not mention the opening band, Whaley Mammoth, a trio from Whaleyville VA.  I'd never seen or heard of these guys and I walked in when their set was almost over.  What I caught was an excellent playlist of punk rock covers ranging from The Clash to Against Me.  The audience was going crazy and singing along with their selections, and I'd like to see them listed on more shows in the area.  They pulled off this stuff with apparent ease and sounded really great.  Apologies to the Mammoth for not catching video ... gotcha next time!

Check out the Music:

Troll 2:
Broken Mouth Annie:
Whaley Mammoth: