M. Ward Rave’s On

I walked into Buffalo’s Tralf Music Hall mildly familiar with M. Ward’s musical stylings…I admit I knew: that I really liked his track “To Go Home,” he is part of the duo She & Him (probably the only act where an actress can ACTUALLY sing-who knew, Guinness Book of Records?), that he has produced several artists, and that every other show he has is sold out! So when the Ward decided to grace lil’ ol’ Buffalo with his presence…I knew that I better go. Hold Time is a great album and though some of his tracks from releases old and new were a wee bit too “country” for my musical tastes…Ward was amazing!

Check out my review of his performance and if you are not familiar with the talented musician (which you should be!), check him out here!

Photo note: I’ve been to Tralf before but this night it was packed and I wormed my way as close to the stage as I could get…a few heads were still in my way. All images were taken on B&W film, 28mm wide angles lens with the Minolta XG-1…

Circus…Nah, We Have British Sea Power

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British Sea Power, Rosebuds
Tralf Music Hall, Buffalo, NY – 05.17.08
Filter Grade: 92%
by April S. Engram | 05.21.2008

(Gallery Below)

Who knew that a simple venture to see Rosebuds and British Sea Power at Buffalo’s Tralf Music Hall would result in an impromptu circus act including: a rubix cube master, a soccer ball, the tossing of audience members and acrobatics…all future concerts will pale in comparison.

North Carolina’s Rosebuds, Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp, sharpened their pop melodies with their 2007 release Night of the Furies and created an album full of rocking, dance goodies that will make the most uncoordinated soul forget their two left feet and shake their asses. With just a guitar, keyboard and drums the duo (turned trio while touring) managed to create a loud wall of sound. The feel good tunes was just the “pick me up” the evening needed as onlookers sat on the floor in front of the stage and bopped their heads to Rosebud’s infectious, melodic sounds; but never fear, they didn’t stay seated for long. Crisp beckoned everyone to move in closer, get up and dance; the audience did just that.

Rosebuds fans were in the crowd and sang along with Howard and Crisp and danced continuously. Crisp even jumped into the crowd, gave Hamilton of British Sea Power a bear hug, greeted the first couple of rows of people, and returned to her keyboard as Howard looked on and smiled. Their infectious, warm personality and music made the show all the more enjoyable and the fan favorites were “Cemetery Lawns,” Boxcar,” and “Hold Hands and Fight.” For The Rosebuds’ grand finale—where Crisp invited people to jump on stage and dance—was their upbeat “Get Up Get Out.” However, before Rosebuds were through with the song they brought on the stage their merchandise/photographer extraordinaire, Tim the rubix cube master who solved the jumbled puzzle in a few minutes. The crowd cheered, all members of The Rosebuds returned to their instruments and finished in style, chanting the chorus to British Sea Power’s “No Lucifer” to close with a bang. All of this excitement got the crowd ready for British Sea Power.

The crowd packed the front of the stage as the band: Yan (bass, guitar), and Hamilton (bass, guitar) switched between vocals and instruments, Noble (lead guitar), Wood (drums), Abi Fry (viola, backing vocals) and Phil Sumner (cornet, keyboards); walked out, immediately picked up their instruments and with no hesitation leapt into “Atom” from their latest release Do You Like Rock Music?. As fans happily sang along and danced feverishly, the crowd pleaser was the sweeping track “No Lucifer.” A fan shouted to another if he only heard that song this night, he would’ve been satisfied, that’s how good British Sea Power sounded. The band did not walk off the stage for their encore, they plowed through the last tracks, “St. Louis,” “A Rock,” and “Stop Wasting My Time.” And it is with the last song that the circus act came full circle.

As everyone played on, Noble jumped off the stage, stood on a chair in the back of the crowd when Tim of the Rosebuds pulled out a soccer ball and tossed it at Noble who head butted it into the crowd. Then the audience members jumped in, throwing the ball to Noble then Yan who kept the ball afloat. Noble then dropped his guitar on stage, placed his shoes on his hand, jumped back into crowd and proceeded to do a handstand. While Noble was having fun with the audience, all members from the Rosebuds climbed on stage, Crisp grabbed Noble’s guitar, Howard danced on stage and waved a lamp above his head while Hamilton tried to jump on Yan’s shoulders and the two fell to the floor, with Hamilton still playing his bass. But the song was not over yet, Noble grabbed an audience member and carried him to the stage then followed Hamilton’s lead and successfully climbed on the shoulders of Rosebud’s singer Howard. And Yan ended it all with a handstand on stage as Fry quietly put her viola away.

After all of the excitement British Sea Power waved farewell to the ecstatic crowd and closed the night. After it all finally quieted down the sound guy sarcastically shouted, “what, no encore,” how could they top that?

British Sea Power’s Set List:

Oh Larsen B
Down On The Ground
Waving Flags
The Great Skua
Canvey island
Lights Out For Darker Skies
Fear of Drowning
A Trip Out
No Lucifer
Remember Me
St. Louis
A Rock
Stop Wasting My Time


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DCs Le Loup in Action

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Le Loup
Bug Jar, Rochester, NY – 05.03.08
Filter Grade: 88%
Hard rocking septet Le Loup ended their two-month-long tour in Rochester, NY’s Bug Jar. Don’t let the name fool you, not from France—as some ask upon hearing the name—the band hails from Washington, D.C.; the only European addition to this outfit is the occasional French horn. Meaning “fear not,” the band’s name was inspired by the artwork of James Hampton and after one year of solo efforts, just two years after the creation of Le Loup, Simkoff and the band of musicians he corralled are garnering a reputation for excellent, kinetic live shows. And this night, Le Loup definitely closed this tour with a loud and explosive bang.

A sizable crowd gathered at the Bug Jar to see what this D.C. band was capable of and the spectators were in for a good show. Members of Le Loup were scattered about the bar/club, taking in the sounds of the opening bands or enjoying a quiet drink till finally the moment came for them all to close the night. Sam Simkoff (Banjo, Keyboards, Lead Vocals), Christian Ervin (Computer, Guitar), Mike Ferguson (Guitar, Vocals), Nicole Keenan (Keyboards, French Horn, Vocals), Dan Ryan (Bass, Percussion, Vocals), Robert Sahm (Drums, Percussion, Vocals), May Tabol (Guitar, Vocals), and Jim Thomson (Guitar, Vocals) all managed to fit themselves and their gear on stage and leapt into their set.

Promoting their debut The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly—the title is also derived from a work by Hampton—Le Loup effortlessly blends their countless instruments (three electric guitars, one bass, a banjo, keyboards, French horn, drums, tambourines, drum machine and pedals) to create an electro-experimental sound that includes vocalized harmonies, hand claps, crunchy and airy guitars and even a drumstick banged on a water jug. That’s right, a jug; but somehow Le Loup makes it all meld perfectly together and creates a unique ethereal wave of music that rises and falls, complementing Simkoff’s vocal stylings.

Simkoff put on a passionate performance and could not stand still for the entire set as he feverishly danced and leaned into his mic. Like Simkoff, two audience members also had “dance fever” though their motivation may not have only been influenced by the music as they violently threw their bodies about for the entire performance. At times their “dancing” proved distracting to the performance taking place on the stage but Le Loup’s beautiful set drifted us away from those two. The band played from their debut as well as some unreleased songs and shelled out a great show as they cruised through such songs as, “Sea Took Me,” “To The Stars! To the Night!,” “We are Gods! We are Wolves!,” and “Outside of This Car, the End of the World.”

Le Loup closed the evening with the lengthy “I Had a Dream I Died,” Simkoff was not quite ready to end the song as he motioned to his band mates “one more.” He sang the last few words before pointing his finger in the air again and said, “one more” then he was ready to end the set. Simply listening to Le Loup’s fantastic debut does not do them justice, they are damn good live! The seven person strong band wonderfully balances quiet, emotive sounds with explosive crescendos that will pull at the heart strings and make you want to dance simultaneously.

VHS or Beta and Tigercity Shake Up Rochester

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VHS Or Beta
Bug Jar, Rochester, NY – 04.05.08
Filter Grade: 82%
It was time to dance and shake off the winter doldrums. Finally, the mounds of snow have melted away with spring encroaching upon us and VHS or Beta brought their touring mates, Tigercity, to shake up Rochester’s Bug Jar with some sweaty, pop, hooked-filled, dance-rock beats…at least that was supposed to happen. After two lackluster openers, Tigercity got the small club dancing and ready for the headliners, VHS or Beta. Yet, through miscommunications, the quintet was without instruments, so what is an electronic, rock band to do…go acoustic of course.

Tigercity proved to be sanctified as they resurrected the evening with their electro-rock, disco influenced tunes. The Brooklyn four piece, touring with VHS to promote their 6 track EP, Pretend Not to Love, unleashed their full EP as well as unreleased songs. Joel Ford (bass/vocals), Aynsley Powell (drums), and Andrew Brady (guitar) put on a flawless performance as Bill Gillim (lead singer) could not contain himself as he hypnotically moved about the stage while hitting those high notes. The tall, scruffy faced Gillim caught audience members by surprise when he managed his Gibbsian (as in Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb) high pitched, falsetto voice. The band shelled out the perfect compliment: catchy bass, spacey keyboards, drum loops and funky guitar; the spectators delightfully danced.

Gillim beckoned for the audience to move closer as he wanted to “crowd surf” of course, the quick one liner was indeed ironic as there were not enough bodies in the audience to carry a mid sized dog across the room. Nonetheless, the guys put on a great show for us few and chatted up the thickening crowd they were drawing from the bar. Tigercity managed to get the modest crowd moving with the fast favorite “Are You Sensation;” the quartet revved the crowd up for more dance tunes from VHS or Beta. Members of VHS were scattered about the venue, equally enjoying the tunes; yet, when it came time to perform, only lead singer Craig Pfunder and guitarist Mike McGill approached.

When one of the opening acts stated, “and later you’ll have a special acoustic performance by VHS or Beta,” I thought it was a harmless joke. Yet, as Pfunder stepped up on the platform and began setting up chairs, the harsh reality was now comprehended …VHS or Beta was indeed about to churn out an acoustic performance. However, worries were abated as Pfunder and McGill pulled off a sound performance, though quieter than preferred. Pfunder and McGill filled the void of missing instruments and band members by chatting with the crowd between each song. With guitars borrowed from other bands, it took the guys a few minutes to get the sound and mic just right, Pfunder modestly asked the crowd, “we’re VHS or Beta…so do you know who we are,” the crowd cheered a resounding yes.

As the lead singer again apologized for their missing equipment, which did not find its way to Rochester though they did, Pfunder looked at McGill, confirmed which song they were going to perform and began “Burn it All Down.” Mark Palgy (Bass) jumped on stage to film VHS’ first time ever, “and last” Pfunder added, acoustic show while Mark Guidry (drums) and Chea Beckley (keyboards) joined the audience. Pfunder still sounded flawless and sang fan favorites from their new release Bring on the Comets and their 2004 release Night on Fire. After finishing a song Pfunder asked for the time as someone shouted 1:36, he shared “we just have a time for a song or two,” to which the crowd lamented. “Unless you want us to go on,” Pfunder teased as an audience member responded “I can listen to you guys all night!”

Regardless of “technical” difficulties, VHS of Beta entertained the delighted and appreciative crowd who did not want Pfunder and McGill to leave the stage. They did pull off an excellent show regardless of their missing gear. I am still secretly pouting and kicking dirt like a school girl since I did not get to see the rocking show I anticipated, ‘tis the curse of living in a semi-small town, bet that wouldn’t have happened at Bowery Ballroom!


Yeasayer Made the Night!

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Bug Jar – 09.13.07
Filter Grade: 89%

After hearing Yeasayer’s single “2080” on the radio I wondered if a trip to local venue would be a worthy one. Standing in front of the stage and witnessing the guys complete just one song, the Brooklyn quartet shattered any qualms I had, the guys put on a passionate filled show that left not only me desiring to hear more when their short set was over.

Their sound is a fusion of many influences: electronica, soul, rock, psychedelic, reggae, and world; even the word gospel has been used to describe Yeasayer’s music. Regardless of the fact that one may find it difficult to place a label upon their sound due to its uniqueness, a fact that I appreciate, Yeasayer’s songs are captivating as was their live performance. Brimming with heavy bass, sound effects, an ethereal guitar and choppy drums, it’s hard not to enjoy their tunes.

Touring to promote their unreleased self-titled debut (due in late October) guitarist Anand Wilder, lead singer/keyboardist Chris Keating, bassist Ira Wolf Tuton, and drummer Luke Fasano began their month long tour with this show at the Bug Jar. The opening act introduced Yeasayer as Yeah-sayer when a member from the audience corrected him. As he contemplated the name and praised its ingenuity Keating yelled from the back of the crowd, “the name sucks” which made his band members have a good laugh. Once on stage themselves, Keating joked with the crowd that since we were witnesses to their first show of this tour, we may hear them “screw up” songs, “by Rhode Island we’ll sound great.” “Come to that show” another member joked. With my untrained ears, I certainly did not hear any flaws, and was marveled by the intensity and enthusiasm with which they played every song.

Unfortunately, the venue had an event after the live music so each band was allotted a short set of five to six songs. “Final Path,” “Sunrise” and new songs made the cut when suddenly a deep voice came over the speakers and said, one more song. Definitely not the voice of God, the sound tech reminded Yeasayer of the time so the guys closed with “2080.” With the song’s great chant along moments, it is easily my favorite. Yet, the show came to an end a little too soon for several people and as Yeasayer began to put down their instruments the crowd that gathered from the bar began yelling “encore…one more song!” As much as they wanted to oblige the crowd, Yeasayer had to end their set and quickly remove their instruments. “I wish we could,” Keating apologetically said to the crowd, “you’re going to have to come to Alfred University.” “I bet you’d play more for Alfred,” a disheartened listener said under her breath…can’t please them all I guess.

A unique band with an equally distinctive name, Yeasayer stole the show. I hope Yeasayer plans on spending more time away from their day jobs and continue touring, I’ve got to see them again.