AJJ frontman Sean Bonnette can summarize the bandâs new album, Good Luck Everybody, in a single sentence: âSonically, itâs our least punk record, and lyrically, itâs our most punk record.â
And indeed, Good Luck Everybody (January 17, 2020), the Arizona bandâs seventh album, stands out in their already diverse catalog. While still rooted in the folk-punk sound AJJ has become known for, the album is unafraid to delve into new territories that test the limits of what the band is capable of.
âI think it explores some of the weirder sides of AJJ, the more experimental leanings that weâve had in the past,â says bassist Ben Gallaty. Good Luck Everybody draws from a wealth of sonic inspirations, from Laurel Canyon folk-rock of the 60s and 70s to avant garde artists like Suicide, as well as some orchestral pop. There is even a piano ballad, the tragic âNo Justice, No Peace, No Hope.â
Lyrically, Good Luck Everybody is a change of pace from the idiosyncratic songwriting style Bonnette has honed over more than 15 years fronting AJJ. It still features his wonderfully weird turns of phrase and oddball word pairings, but this time, his thematic lens is more directly focused on the inescapable atrocities of the world around him. Longtime fans will recognize the albumâs social commentary as a return to their 2011 release, Knife Man, but this time itâs fueled by a more radical urgency.
âI usually try for a timeless effect in songwriting, so that you can hear a song and generally not think about the context under which it was written,â says Bonnette. âBut for this one, I was trying to write, and all the bad political shit just kept invading my brain and preventing me from writing that way. So I decided to fully embrace it and exorcise that demon.â
Much like Woody Guthrie and Phil Ochs pulled their songs straight from newspaper headlines, Good Luck Everybody feels like a long scroll through social media feeds on a particularly volatile day.
The song âMega Guillotine 2020,â for example, came directly from Twitter. It was influenced by Twitter funnyperson @leyawnâs popular tweet depicting a mockup of a French Revolution-style guillotine with one blade and enough headrests for 15 Congress members. Bonnette says the idea inspired him to press record and start playing, and when he did, the entire song came out of his brain fully formed. The final version also features backing vocals by Kimya Dawson.
âThereâs something that comes along with scrolling through your phone on Twitter or Instagram and seeing a puppy, and then a joke from a comedian, and then a young black person being shot by police, and then another puppy, and then your friends announcing a tour, and then children in cages,â says Bonnette. âThereâs something in that that fucks your brain up. I donât know if itâs made me more of a passionate arguer or just made me confused and numb.â
On âNormalization Blues,â Bonnette laments what this never ending deluge of atrocities has done to our humanity: âI can feel my brain aâchanginâ, acclimating to the madness / I can feel my outrage shift into a dull, despondent sadness / I can feel a crust growing over my eyes like a falcon hood / Iâve got the normalization blues, this isnât normal, this isnât good.â
Later, on âPsychic Warfare,â Bonnette takes out some aggression on the man at the root of it all, albeit through his trademark polite aggression: âFor all the pussies you grab and the children you lock up in prison, for all the rights you roll back and your constant stream of racism / For all the poison you drip in my ear, for all your ugly American fear, I wrote you this beautiful song called âPsychic Warfare.ââ
After years of partnering with Asian Man Records and SideOneDummy Records, AJJ is releasing Good Luck Everybody on their own, via their new label AJJ unlimited LTD, with Specialist Subject Records handling the European release. Bonnette and Gallaty also produced the record themselves and, in addition to their usual cast of collaborators (Preston Bryant, Dylan Cook, Mark Glick, Owen Evans), it features guest appearances from Thor Harris, Jeff Rosenstock, and Laura Stevenson.
âOne thing that makes me rather giddy is that without a label or a producer, our listeners will have no one to blame besides us for the way our sound has changed,â laughs Bonnette.
For all of its dark leanings and its pessimistic reflections on modern culture, AJJ hopes that fans will ultimately come out of the album in a hopeful place. By its final track, âA Big Day for Grimley,â it feels like AJJ is holding the listenerâs hand, staring at the looming apocalypse ahead, and whispering a message into their ear: Good luck, everybody.
By most fifth LPs, the bandâs sound is pretty set. Parameters established. Refinement dissipated. You get a to-formula execution of whatâs worked in the past. Fair enough. All Them Witches go a harder route.
In 2017, the Nashville four-piece offered what mightâve otherwise become their own template in their fourth album (second for New West), Sleeping Through the War. It brought a larger production value thanks to oversight from producer Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Shooter Jennings, etc.), found them using choral vocals, expanded arrangements, bigger sounds than anything theyâd done before.
They couldâve easily fallen into a pattern of watered-down clones of that record. Easily.
So naturally in a year theyâve thrown it all to the Appalachian wind, turned the process completely on its head and gone the other way: recording in a cabin in Kingston Springs, about 20 miles outside of Nashville on I-40, with guitarist Ben McLeod at the helm. Self-produced. Take that, expectation.
The result, mixed by Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith, Kurt Vile), is the most intimate, human-sounding album All Them Witches have recorded and another redefinition of who they are as a band. Introducing keyboardist/percussionist Jonathan Draper to the fold with McLeod, bassist/vocalist Charles Michael Parks, Jr., and drummer/graphic artist Robby Staebler, All Them Witchesâ ATW isnât self-titled by mistake.
Itâs the band confirming and continuing to develop their approach, in the devilâs boogie of âFishbelly 86 Onions,â the organ-laced groove and masterful flow of âHalf-Tongue,â the build of âHJTCâ and the fluid jam in closer âRobâs Dream.â You can hear it in the mellow patience of that last track, never lost but always wandering, and in â1st vs. 2nd,â where they turn from a frenetic shake to some purposefully metal-ish riffing while still holding onto gut-tightening tension.
And what do they do with that? Some overblown payoff? Hell no. They cut it short, drift into noise and then dig into âHalf-Tongueâ ahead of the moodier âDiamond,â which, true to its name, seems to turn any light that touches it into a prism. This is a band who delight in the exploration, in finding new rules to break, and in continually learning new ways to do so.
ATW is a reaction to being a âbiggerâ act. To playing bigger shows, bigger tours, etc. From the sustained consonants in Parksâ vocals, to the sleek basslines that play off the canât-sit-still-wonât-sit-still swing in Staeblerâs drums, to McLeodâs commanding slide in âWorkhorseâ and drifting melancholy at the outset of âHarvest Feast,â ATW is their laying claim to the essential facets of their identity.
And most crucial to that identity is its shifting nature. All Them Witches didnât get to this point by resting on laurels, and if anything, the urgency of these tracks â fast pushers and sleepy jams alike â is among their greatest strengths.
Itâs a rawer delivery, as stage-ready as the band itself, and it captures All Them Witches in this moment. Is ATW who theyâll be tomorrow? Who the hell knows? Check back in and weâll find out together. Thatâs the whole idea.
Cancelled - (Rescheduled from September 16, 2020) - Ratboys with Special Guests Another Michael and String Machine
Upheaval and change are themes spread throughout the songs on Printerâs Devil, the latest Ratboys LP, out February 28, 2020 via Topshelf Records. But all the while, singer-songwriter Julia Steiner embraces moments of uncertainty as a necessary part of growing. Steiner recalls a David Byrne lyric, âIâm lost, but Iâm not afraidâ as inspiration for the transformative outlook, considering the line a personal mantra while writing Ratboysâ third full-length record. âThereâs definitely a lot of uncertainty about whatâs next, but I like to think that, in the midst of creating a lot of vulnerability for ourselves, weâre confident and becoming more self-assured.â
Steiner wrote the record with guitarist Dave Sagan while she was experiencing a dramatic shift in her own foundations, demoing out songs in her Louisville, Kentucky childhood home, which had just been sold and emptied out. âDemoing there was almost too intense,â Steiner says. âI kept writing in my journal that it feels like we shouldnât be there. I donât know if that feeling made its way directly into the lyrics, but to me the songs will always be connected to that sense of home and time passing.â
With years of touring under their belts, Steiner and Sagan have welcomed a newly consistent four-piece lineup, after years of shuffling through drummers. The bandâs comfortable core -- which sees Steiner and Sagan backed by drummer Marcus Nuccio and bassist Sean Neumann -- is tangible across Printerâs Devil. What started as an acoustic duo has finally transformed into a full-scale indie-rock band with a clear identity. The rhythm section brings the band not only consistency, but a jolt in line with Steiner and Saganâs growing sonic aspirations: Printerâs Devil was recorded live at Decade Music Studios in Chicago and was produced by the band and engineer Erik Rasmussen. Big-chorus power pop songs like âAlien with a Sleep Mask Onâ and âAnjâ sound massive and larger than life, while the bandâs dynamics beautifully thread together intimate folk songs like âA Visionâ and devastating alt-country tracks like âListening,â showcasing a rare range that invites listeners to imagine the band blowing out a 2,000-cap room or playing quietly next to you in the living room.
Building off their previous albumsâAOID (2015) and GN (2017), which feature bright, youthful Americana narratives centered around soft vocal cadences and fluid, melodic lead guitarsâRatboys captures the bombastic, electrified fun of their live show in a bottle on Printerâs Devil and showcases their growing chemistry as a tight-knit group. Through all the change that fueled the record, Ratboysâ latest album Printerâs Devil finds a band thatâs truly grown into itself and is just getting started.
POSTPONED - Ministry: Industrial Strength Tour with Special Guests KMFDM, Front Line Assembly - Presented by Opus One & PromoWest North Shore (rescheduled from July 9, 2020)
WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriffâs Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.
Turn on your radio and hide.
Written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. Narrated by Cecil Baldwin. Music by Disparition. Logo by Rob Wilson.
âA geeky cultural gemâ â CBC
âIncredible, spooky, funny, and monumentally charmingâ â BoingBoing
PVRIS - Presented by Opus One & PromoWest North Shore (rescheduled from May 21, 2020)
PVRIS represents the culmination of unapologetic honesty, unbridled artistic passion, and deeply held personal conviction, as evidenced by the devotion of an international fanbase who live and breathe their music. Much in the same way vocalist Lynn Gunn, guitarist Alex Babinski and bassist/keyboardist Brian MacDonald inspire and encourage their audience to explore, embrace, and celebrate their own personal identities, PVRIS creates their own musical lane. The bandâs latest album, All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell, has been earning rave reviews from critics and fans alike. Billboard named it one of the best albums of 2017. NME called it âcatchy as hell.â Q Magazine dubbed it âsensationalâ and said it âconnects the dots between The Cure, Chvrches, and Florence + The Machine.â In their art and creative expression, PVRIS pulls together the harrowing, the surreal, and the urgently personal with shades of Victorian wonder and supernatural awe. As Gunn herself recently declared to a fan on Twitter, the ever-building PVRIS songbook is one that puts âbelonging to yourself and nobody elseâ at the forefront. PVRIS has shared in a communal experience with huge crowds that somehow always feels deeply personal. Theyâve toured arenas with the likes of Fall Out Boy, Muse, and 30 Seconds To Mars, sold out myriad venues on their own, including Londonâs O2 Academy, and drew high praise for performances on festivals like Coachella, Reading and Leeds and Lollapalooza, to name but a few.
CANCELLED - (Rescheduled from May 20, 2020) - Slim Cessna's Auto Club / The BellRays
With their ninth studio album, Nada Surf -- Matthew Caws, Daniel Lorca, Ira Elliot, and their longtime friend and collaborator Louie Lino -- continue pursuing their humanistic vision of the world through hooky, catchy rock songs with sharply drawn, yet tenderly felt lyrics. Never Not Together, out on TK DATE, is a wide-ranging collection of songs that revel in the group's ability to evoke and reflect grand and intricately wrought emotions, whether through sweeping guitar solos or hushed-whisper vocals.
"Empathy is good, lack of empathy is bad, holy math says we're never not together," Caws declares at the end of "Something I Should Do," a crashing power-pop track with an insistent melody that adds urgency to his thoughts about 21st-century life. The concept of "holy math" which informs that line -- and the album's title -- was inspired by a Justin Vernon appearance on the Song Exploder podcast, where the Bon Iver leader talked about the interconnectedness of humans. "We're all together, and that's just the way it is, and the way it always will be," says Caws. "That's the sacred truth of it."
That idea of being linked and searching for connection is a common theme of the album's lyrics, which depict people hunting down answers by peering within and reaching outward. "Looking For You," which opens with a spectral choir and blossoms into a rock spectacle with crashing strings and two guitar solos -- one played by Caws, the other by frequent Nada Surf collaborator Doug Gillard -- seeks solace in doctor's visits and grand metaphors. "So Much Love," which Caws wrote as part of Hits president Karen Glauber's annual SXSW session, is a driving, yet kind-hearted reminder that love and connection are in the air -- even if, in the immediate, it's lurking in the mists of one's sent-messages mailbox. "Mathilda," meanwhile, shifts time signatures as it switches perspectives on a childhood spent apart from the crowd, mulling over what "masculinity" meant even at a young age.
Youth is also a topic on "Just Wait," a shimmering midtempo song tethered to earth by a fluid bassline. "I wrote 'Just Wait' on a writing trip to Nashville," recalls Caws. During a session with songwriter Gavin Slate, the two got to talking about the current state of youth culture. "I remember how being an adolescent was so scary -- just as it would be for everybody," he says. "You're starting to feel like an adult, but you kind of don't want to be; you're kind of not ready, but you kind of can't wait. It's that kind of fright-delight, like September at school." The end result is empathic and warm, its chiming guitars and background "ooh-oohs" offering a refuge from the pressure to keep up appearances in "love and work and where you live," as Caws sings on the song's bridge.
In 2017, Nada Surf celebrated the 15th anniversary of their 2002 breakthrough Let Go, an experience that energized the early planning of Never Not Together. "I made pretty elaborate demos for the songs -- something I've never done before," says Caws. "I think [the Let Go tour] really boosted my work ethic and made me feel like I really had to go for it."
Never Not Together was recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales, where artists like Echo & the Bunnymen, the Flamin' Groovies, Iggy Pop and Oasis recorded albums. "I've been seeing the name on albums for so long," says Caws. "It's a working farm, and the founder/owner, Kingsley Ward, would come in and tell us stories when he wasn't farming. I'd walk into town every morning and listen to the sheep talking as I walked by them."
That openness to listening -- to their fans, to each other, to the world -- has helped inform Nada Surf's legacy as down-to-earth rock stars -- musicians who can command festival stages around the world while connecting to audience members on a personal level, conscious of the shared humanity every step of the way.
POSTPONED TO SEPT 25 - Bill Toms and Hard Rain (Rescheduled from October 24, 2020 and April 24 and July 24, 2021)
Girl Talk (aka Pittsburgh's Gregg Gillis) has been constructing meticulous sample-based music since 2000. His early work was known for its raw experimental nature, but by the release of his 2006 album, Night Ripper, that style evolved into genre-smashing, breakneck-paced party jams. Night Ripper consisted of over 300 songs, from wildly disparate Top 40 genres and eras, mashed up and layered together into one cohesive collage. It received critical acclaim, and the attention resulted in a rapidly growing fan base. Gillis ended up quitting his biomedical engineering day job one year later.
Girl Talk continued to develop his signature style with the release of Feed the Animals in 2008 and All Day in 2010. Each album grew increasingly detailed and complex. He steadily toured over the following years, bringing his renowned confetti-covered and sweat-soaked performances to venues ranging from house party basements to major festivals. By 2014, Gillis began focusing on collaborative work producing hip hop for some of his favorite rap artists. That same year, he released "Broken Ankles," an EP with Freeway. Since âBroken Anklesâ, Gillis has steadily earned an impressive list of production credits and collaborations with his artistic contemporaries including, but not limited to, Wiz Khalifa, T-Pain, Tory Lanez, Young Nudy, Bas, Cozz, Erick The Architect (from Flatbush Zombies), Smoke DZA, and Don Q.
Black Pumas with Special Guest Seratones - Presented by Opus One & 91.3 WYEP (rescheduled from June 18 and October 31, 2020)
Sometimes, a mystical, life-changing connection can be closer than you think.
In 2017, Grammy Award-winning guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada had recorded some instrumentals in his Austin studio, and he started looking around for a vocalist -- he knew a lot of singers, but he wanted something different. He reached out to friends in Los Angeles, in London, but nothing seemed right.
Meantime, Eric Burton had recently made his way to Texas. Born in the San Fernando Valley, he grew up in church and then got heavily involved in musical theater. He started busking at the Santa Monica pier, where he brought in a few hundred dollars a day and developed his performance skills. Burton traveled through the Western states before deciding to settle down in Austin -- setting up his busking spot on a downtown street corner, at 6th Street and Congress, for maximum exposure.
A mutual friend mentioned Burton to Quesada, saying that he was the best singer he had ever heard. The two musicians connected, but Burton took a while to respond (âMy friends were like âDude, youâre a mad man, you need to hit that guy back!ââ) Finally, he called Quesada, and started singing to one of the tracks over the phone. âI loved his energy, his vibe, and I knew it would be incredible on record,â he says. âFrom the moment I heard him on the phone, I was all about it.â
The results of that inauspicious beginning can now be heard on the self-titled debut album from Black Pumas, the group that Quesada and Burton assembled, which has become one of the yearâs most anticipated projects. Described as âWu-Tang Clan meets James Brownâ by KCRW, Black Pumas were the winner of Best New Band at the 2019 Austin Music Awards.
Quesada has a storied reputation from playing in bands like Grupo Fantasma and Brownout, accompanying artists from Prince to Daniel Johnston, and producing such acclaimed projects as 2018âs Look at My Soul: The Latin Shade Of Texas Soul. For the tracks that kicked off this project, though, he had a different direction in mind. âI was looking for somebody with their own identity,â says Quesada, âwho liked Neil Young as much as Sam Cooke.â
Burtonâs taste, range, and experience proved to be exactly what Quesada was seeking. âWe just take to the same kind of music,â he says. âI listen to East Coast hip-hop, old soul music, folk music. When Adrian sent me the songs, it was like I had already heard them before. We were on the same wavelength from the get-go.â
The first day they got together in the studio, they recorded the dusty funk that would become the Black Pumasâ first two singles, âBlack Moon Risingâ and âFire.â Quesada had written the music for âBlack Moon Risingâ on the day of the 2017 solar eclipse, and Burton took that concept and ran with it. âRight away, the hair stood up on the back of my neck,â says Quesada. âI knew, âThis is it -- this is the guy.ââ
Burton sensed the potential, as well. âWhen I saw that Adrian played with Prince and had a Grammy,â he says, âthat he was a serious, respected artist, I knew that I would do my best not to squander that. If you can do it on the street, for a long time, without making yourself crazy, you can do it with a guy whoâs won a Grammy.â
The duo also knew that they didnât want their sound to be too retro or imitative. âWe didnât want to just do throwback soul and pretend that hip-hop never happened,â says Quesada, noting that it was listening to Ghostface Killah that initially triggered him to start writing this material. âIt had to feel sincere coming from us. I have a certain aesthetic in the studio, Eric has a voice that evokes a certain era, but I donât think we reference that too directly.â
âAdrian has had the time and the interest to really dive into a specific sound, to recreate something he heard on a Motown record,â adds Burton. âAnd because of that specific knowledge, he provides an interesting sandbox for me, whose background is in theater, to do something super-unorthodox -- to be an art student and play with all the colors I have, but to put it on something thatâs more familiar to listenersâ ears.â
With Black Pumas having evolved from an idea to a session to an album, they decided to put a band together and see how this music sounded live. They booked a residency at C Boys (a sister venue to Austinâs famed Continental Club), initially playing every Thursday for a month. âWe only rehearsed twice, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into,â says Quesada. âBut with the first show, we knew it was unique, special -- the chemistry and fire were there immediately. And what Eric could do as a frontman was like nothing Iâd ever seen.â
As word got out, the C Boys shows turned into a local phenomenon (âthe hottest party in town,â according to the Austin American-Statesman), with lines around the block despite the fact that the band had only released one song. The reaction to the groupâs recent South by Southwest appearance helps explain the mania -- the Chicago Tribune called Burtonâs performance âa whirlwind of movement and gesture,â while Rolling Stone, in naming Black Pumas âOne Of The 30 Best Bands We Saw In Austin,â wrote that âthe hometown six-pieceâs grooves were funky in a thick, viscous way, oozing out in ambitious jams that wandered into heady territory without meanderingâ and praising Burtonâs âtireless, charismatic energy.â
The other, unexpected result of the C Boys residency was that Burton presented more of his own songs to help fill out the set, which led Black Pumas into new territory. âEric had all these other songs based on other styles, going back into what he was doing when he was busking,â says Quesada. âIt was a real spark that we could huddle around him and his songs, too, and get a real sense of what our sound was.â
In fact, the final song recorded for Black Pumas was âOctober 33,â a tense, pleading ballad by Burton. âI didnât feel like we had the right last song,â says Quesada, âwe needed something with more of Eric on guitar. I said âI want to put down one more, do you have anything?â and he texted me back exactly what I was imagining -- it was almost unspoken.â
Quesada and Burton both return, over and over, to this almost mystical connection they felt from the beginning. Itâs this sense of common purpose, of shared vision, that gives Black Pumas its focus and power -- and that points to great things ahead.
âItâs so seamless, itâs like weâre musical brothers to some degree,â says Burton. âIt feels so easy to meld together that whatâs most important for us now is to continue to look for new sounds -- to make sure weâre feeding ourselves the knowledge to continue to evolve. Every time we get together, itâs better than the last time.â
(Rescheduled from August 8, 2020) - David Archuleta - OK, All Right Tour
This show has been rescheduled from April 21 and August 8, 2020 - all tickets honored
David Archuleta became a star when he was just 16 years old. In 2008, more than 30 million television viewers fell in love with his angelic voice and their 44 million votes made him runner-up in Season 7 of âAmerican Idol.â
Soon after, David had his first single, âCrushâ debut at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart the week of its release. According to Nielsen SoundScan, the track sold 166,000 downloads that first week in the U.S. and subsequently more than 1.92 million digital copies to become double platinum. Three months later, Davidâs self-titled album, âDavid Archuleta,â went gold, selling more than 750,000 copies in the U.S., and more than 900,000 copies worldwide.
With a faithful social media following (3.5 million Facebook followers, 1.3 million on Twitter and over 290K on Instagram), David has toured all over the U.S., Canada, Asia and even performed in the Middle East for the U.S. troops. In 2017, he relocated to Nashville and released his seventh album âPostcards In The Skyâ featuring all original songs that he had a hand in writing. David says it was an album of finding his own voice and what mattered most to him, and would begin shaping the music to come.
After a 2nd Christmas album release in 2018 with âWinter in the Air,â David has started working on his 9th project for 2020. âThere has been a movement with understanding oneself, going to therapy. Iâve been one of those people on that train and been discovering a lot about why I have these battles in my head, and how to separate myself from the negativity that can flood the mind a lot. I wanted to write about those battles, and Iâve been determined to show that we can win when the negativity and anxiety starts telling us weâre not good enough and canât get through it. Iâm determined to walk people through with me to prove we can be the victors of our minds, and that worrying paralyzing thoughts arenât what define us, though I will say they can help us to become stronger by fighting forward.â
Parquet Courts - Presented by 91.3 WYEP, Opus One & PromoWest North Shore (rescheduled from July 16, 2020)
Wide Awake! is New Yorkâs Parquet Courtsâ fifth record since their formation eight years ago. Itâs also their most groundbreaking. Itâs an album about independence and individuality but also about collectivity and communitarianism. Love is at its center. Thereâs also a freshness here, a breaking of new territory thatâs testament to the groupâs restless spirit.
In part, this may be attributed to the fact that itâs produced by Brian Burton, better known as Danger Mouse, but itâs also simply a triumph of their songwriterâs art. The songs, written by Austin Brown and Andrew Savage are filled with their traditional punk rock passion, as well as a lyrical tenderness, but are elevated to even greater heights by the dynamic rhythmic propulsion of Max Savage (drums) and Sean Yeaton (bass).
The plan from the start was to introduce new musical ideas previously unexplored by the band. These were varied. For Brown, a few of the touchstones were Grace Jones, The Upsetters, Townes Van Zandt, Parliament and Augustus Pablo. For Savage though, the soundtrack to the sessions in Electric Lady Studios in New York and later at Sonic Ranch in Texas, was different.
âI found myself listening to a lot of â80s American punk,â he explains, âIâm talking about Big Boys, Minutemen, The Dicks, Flipper. Bands that were no doubt punk but donât quite fit in. Iâve always loved the playfulness of Minutemen and Big Boys, and especially the way the latter mixed funk into their sound.â
Two early examples of what these influences meant in practise for the record arrive early. âViolence,â the albumâs blistering second song, revisits the proto hip hop of âHeâs Seeinâ Pathsâ from 2013âs âTally All The Things That You Brokeâ EP. Savageâs furious denunciation of the casual acceptance of violence as part of everyday life is given even greater urgency following the recent shootings in Florida and Sutherland Springs.
âMardi Gras Beads,â on the other hand, offers a complete different, texturally ambitious standout moment. Brown has never been so vulnerable on a Parquet Courts record, and the band, for all their ferocity, has never played so movingly; itâs a prime example of Brown âwriting songs Iâve been wanting to write but never had the courage.â
The band credit their producer Brian Burton with helping them carve out the essence of an idea and bringing his polish to the album.
âThe ethos behind every Parquet Courts record is that there needs to be change for the better, and the best way to tackle that is to step out of oneâs comfort zone,â Savage says of the unlikely pairing. âI personally liked the fact that I was writing a record that was aggressive and indebted to punk and funk, and heâs a pop producer whoâs made some very polished records recently. I liked the idea that it didnât make sense to work with him, which to me makes total sense as to why we should work with him.â
âI was expecting bringing in a producer would be a redefining element of the band, someone who would pilot us to a new place entirely,â expands Brown, âhowever where Brian excelled was rather to hold a mirror to the group, and help us bring out our best versions of ourselves.â Indeed it was Danger Mouse, an admirer of the Parquet Courts who originally reached out to work with them.
The record also reflects a burgeoning confidence in the bandâs exploration of new ideas in a hi-fi context. For his part, Savage was determined not to make another ballad heavy record like the bandâs 2016 Human Performance. âI needed an outlet for the side of me that feels emotions like joy, rage, silliness and anger,â he says. They looked to play on the duality between rage and glee like the bands Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits and Black Flag. âAll those bands make me want to dance and thatâs what I want people to do when they hear our record,â adds Savage.
For Brown, death and love were the biggest influences. One of the most courageous songs on the new record is âDeath Will Bring Change,â a moving elegy, with a chorus not unlike the Rolling Stonesâ âYou Canât Always Get What You Want,â only this time, Londonâs Bach Choir were 15 twelve year olds from the upper east side being recorded at 9am on a Saturday. âNothing scarier,â says Brown.
The songs on Parquet Courts new record also make you think of what Joe Strummer of The Clash once said, about why he wrote songs â i.e. âto expand peopleâs vocabularies.â So set against the likes of the elegiac âMardi Gras Beadsâ is the opening track âTotal Football.â Named after the eponymous theory of soccer pioneered by the Dutch that requires every player to be able to play every position on the field, it has shout-outs to iconic individualists like the painter Cy Twombly, the poet Mina and sculptor Eva Hesse.
Itâs a song about âopposing the tired alpha-male-lone-wolf archetype that too many people rely on as an avatar,â Savage explains, and lauding âcreative and inspiring individuals (the song also touches on KoBrA, The Beatles and The Black Panthers) that approached individuality in a way that wasnât contrary to collectivism, and vice versa.â Much like the band themselves â four individual artists forging a brave new world of sound.
Ultimately then the message contained in Wide Awake! is complex. âIn such a hateful era of culture, we stand in opposition to that â and to the nihilism used to cope with that â with ideas of passion and love,â Brown says. For Savage, it comes back to the deceptively complex goal of making people want to dance, powering the body for resistance through a combination of groove, joy, and indignation, âexpressing anger constructively but without trying to accommodate anyone.â
That theyâve managed to weave such disparate themes into such a unified whole says everything about Parquet Courtsâ achievement on Wide Awake!. This isnât just another record by them, it might well be the record.
POSTPONED TO SEPT 11, 2021 - An Evening With Steve Forbert
This show has been rescheduled from April 27 and December 6, 2020 - all tickets honored
The title of Griffin Houseâs upcoming release,âRising Star,â references the first track on the album, which tells the story of a character who moves to Music City, like so many do, with a guitar and a dream. Although not intended to be auto-biographical, the listener gets the sense that this comical and fictitious tale could hardly have been woven by someone without a similar life experience to the protagonist in âRising Star.â
Indeed, Houseâs story began in much the same way. He moved to Nashville in 2003, as a young man, with not much more than a guitar, and a handful of songs. He took a part-time job downtown on Broadway at Legendâs Gifts, biding his time before he caught his big break. That big break came, after just a few months, in the form of a phone call from Island Def Jam records that jumpstarted his career and led to him signing with CAA and Nettwerk Records.
After that, things happened quickly for House. His 2004 debut album âLost and Foundâ was lauded by music critics such as Bill Flanagan (Executive VP MTV/VH1 Networks) who featured House on the CBS Sunday Morning show as one of the âbest emerging songwriters.â House began touring, opening for acts like John Mellencamp and the Cranberries, and found himself meeting people like Bruce Springsteen and Willie Nelson. House seemed poised to be more of an âovernight successâ rather than a ârising star,â but thatâs not exactly how things turned out. âIâve been a ârising starâ for the past 15 yearsâ House jokes, âitâs a slow rise.â
Although House has enjoyed plenty of success as national headliner for over a decade and has earned a great deal of respect as a well-known performer and singer-songwriter, he seems to not take himself or his career in the music industry too seriously. Now married, sober, and a father, House has learned to balance his career by making his family and his sobriety his first priority.
He pays tribute to his wife and children (with) âWhen the Kids are Gone,â a song about watching his daughters grow up and imagining he and his wife as empty-nesters.
Thereâs a lightness in his new record that comes across especially in the first fews songs, such as âMighty Good Friend,â where you can hear his kids on the recording, as well as the sense of humor in â15 Minutes of Fame.â
House acknowledges that his new album is a collaborative effort. âI teamed up with my old buddies Paul Moak and Ian Fitchuk who helped me make my very first record Lost and Found. It was so good to reunite with them and work together again. Itâs amazing that these guys I started out with in the very beginning are now world class musicians and producers being nominated and winning Grammys. This album seemed to come together with a little more grace and ease than records Iâve made in the past, and I think so much of that is attributed to how good the people I got worth with on this record are, they all just happen to be really good friends too.â
Several songs on Houseâs album are also co-writes with friends and fellow Nashville musicians, including Brian Elmquist (The Lone Bellow) and Joy Williams (The Civil Wars).
âI usually lock myself in a room for 8 hours at a time until I have enough songs done,â House says, âBut with touring part time and being a dad part time, that adds up to full time job, so I decided to call in a little help from my friends to write some of these songs. Some songs come easier than others,â says House. âI wrote Mighty Good Friend with Brian (Elmquist) and itâs a song about how Iâd been fighting through writerâs block, and then there are songs like Change that I wrote with Joy (Williams). We sat on her couch one morning and I remember showing her the idea for the verse. We worked on the words for an hour or two, and then out of nowhere she sang this beautiful chorus. We broke for lunch and came back and finished it that afternoon. It was one of those songs that took years to live and only one short day to write.â
âI love making music with friends,â says House. âHindsight was another one with my friend Brian (Elmquist). We share some similarities including our journey into sobriety together. Thereâs a line in the song âIâve been thinking lately, of a boy young and on the runâ that always makes me imagine Brian as a little boy with a dream, both running away from a hard past and on toward a brighter future. Weâve formed a bond and friendship through music and sobriety, and I think you can feel that in the songs we wrote together.â
Just when you think you have Houseâs album pegged, there seems to be a surprise around every corner. Each song is distinct in its own own way. The heavy guitar on âHung Up On You,â a song that House says is a break up letter addressed to alcohol, gives way to the intro of âCup of Fulfillmentâ which starts with a bag pipe solo and leads the listener on an epic journey that crescendos into one of the record's most moving moments.
We catch a glimpse of a much more rock nâ roll side of House than weâve heard before from the Pink Floyd-esque âCrash and Burnâ to the rowdy punk influenced âNatural Man.â
Houseâs new album âRising Starâ is set for release on June 28th 2019. Also set for release in 2019, is a full length film called âRising Star,â in which House stars and co-produces with music video director and film-maker Shane Drake. The film features music from Houseâs new album as well as his previous catalogue and chronicles his life as a musician.
Nicole Atkins - Presented by Opus One & 91.3 WYEP (rescheduled from June 30, 2020)
In each song she creates, Nicole Atkins reveals her incredible power to transport listeners to a much more charmed time and space. On Italian Ice, the New Jersey-bred singer/songwriter conjures the romance and danger and wild magic of a place especially close to her heart: the Jersey Shore in all its scrappy beauty. Inspired by the boardwalkâs many curiositiesâthe crumbling Victorian mansions, the legendary funhouse, the Asbury Park rock-and-roll scene she played a key part in revivingâAtkins transforms her neverending fascination into a wonderland of her own making.
For help in capturing the shoreâs kinetic spirit, Atkins assembled a studio band whose lineup feels almost mythical. Recorded at the iconic Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, Italian Ice finds the Nashville-based artist joined by Spooner Oldham and David Hood (both members of The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, who played on classic records from the likes of Aretha Franklin and Etta James), Binky Griptite of The Dap Kings, Jim Sclavunos and Dave Sherman of The Bad Seeds, and drummer McKenzie Smith (St. Vincent, Midlake). With special guests including Spoon frontman Britt Daniel, Seth Avett of The Avett Brothers, Erin Rae, and John Paul White, the album is a testament to Atkinsâs uncommon talent for uniting musicians of radically different sensibilities. As Atkins explains, the abundance of collaborations on Italian Ice partly stems from a freak accident in which she stumbled into a sinkhole in a Knoxville parking lotâan incident that left her with a profound longing to fill her life with the people and experiences that bring her the most joy.
Co-produced by Atkins and Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes, Italian Ice makes brilliant use of its A-list personnel, unfolding in a kaleidoscopic sound that Atkins likens to âan acid trip through my record collection.â At turns as opulent as symphonic pop and gritty as garage punk, the album wanders into shades of psych-rock and honky-tonk and girl-group melodrama, endlessly spotlighting the tightly honed musicianship and unbridled originality at heart of Atkinsâs artistry.