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…

Ra Ra Riot in Rochester

Article and Image Published w/Harp Magazine

Bug Jar
Rochester, NY USA
March 3, 2008
Syracuse band Ra Ra Riot faced a tumultuous 2007 upon the unexpected death of their drummer John Pike (whom Riot refers to as their “lifelong inspiration”). Yet the sextet plowed forward, and within the same year released their self titled EP which proved to be an excellent mixture of well crafted songs balancing violin, cello, lighting fast drums, rhythmic guitar and punchy bass. Touring in support of the EP, Wesley Miles (keyboards, vocals), Milo Bonacci (guitar), Alexandra Lawn (cello, vocals), Mathieu Santos (bass), Rebecca Zeller (violin), and Cameron Wisch (drums) invaded Rochester for a night and stirred the crowd up to a riotous form (pun intended).

Monday night shows at the Bug Jar usually warrant a nearly empty venue that slowly fills to capacity by the time the headlining band takes the stage. However, Ra Ra Riot drew a thick crowd and the small club was teaming with Riot fans. Monday night is dance night at the Bug Jar, so the performing bands were on a tight schedule and had to move quickly through their set. After the opening acts were done, Riot weaved their way through the crowd, quickly set up their instruments, Miles greeted the audience and they leapt into the music.

Riot’s music is a mixture of fast, pulsating beats complemented by strings and Miles’ delicate, soft voice; think Sea Wolf meshed with Tokyo Police Club. Riot sounded amazing live, and they put on a loud and kinetic performance to yield an excited audience that sang and danced along to every song. Every song seemed to be the crowd’s favorites — fast tracks like “Each Year,” “Can You Tell,” “Everest,” and “A Manner to Act” in particular. Yet slower, quieter melodies such as “Suspended in Gaffa” were equally celebrated as the track beautifully allowed the cello and violin to reign.

Yet, when it was time to dance, Miles could barely stand still as he sang and jumped about to the music, and bassist Santos was equally energetic as he moved about. He and Miles often collided on the small stage, resulting in the bassist resting his head on the singer, who embraced his fellow band member. It’s difficult to tell who is having the most enjoyment at a Riot show, the audience or the band, as everyone on stage was beaming. Drummer Wisch had a smile on his face for most of the evening as he pounded away on his set and at times sent his cymbals flying away from him. One male audience member shouted, “I love the drummer,” which made Wisch momentarily raise an eyebrow as he waved to his unknown supporter. With time restraints working against the band, they thanked the audience for the warm reception after each track but immediately began their next song.

To the crowd’s delight, Riot played their entire EP and quite a few unreleased tracks yet the audience still hadn’t gotten enough. People cheered and shouted, “One more!” as some members were setting down their instruments and beginning to leave the stage. Miles shared a few words with Santos, turned to the mic and agreed to do one last song. Then Riot were officially done for the night. Ra Ra Riot proved to be a great live band where the EP does not do their music complete justice: the place to enjoy Riot’s music is… in concert!

The Editors Live in Toronto

Tom Smith: Article & Image Published w/ Harp Magazine

Kool Haus
Toronto, ON Canada
January 22, 2008
by April S. Engram

Waiting to see The Editors for my first time, I patiently stood in line for 20 minutes—not so smartly, wearing canvas Converse—in the freezing -4 Celsius, Toronto cold and snow. At precisely the moment when I was positive I was about to lose my appendages, the doors finally opened, and I hurried inside past the ticket box to claim my tickets and photo pass from security—only to learn that the tickets were indeed at the kiosk… outside. Back into the cold I went to endure another lengthy frostbitten wait. By the time I finally entered the Kool Haus venue I was tempted to take a good slug of scotch just to warm my blood (and I’m not even a drinker).

Nevertheless, all was fine; I would see The Editors, as would my guest—my mother, who has been singing Editors songs for weeks in anticipation of seeing her new favorite band. And even though the oversexed Louis XIV and the energetic Hot Hot Heat were also on the bill as opening acts, The Editors genuinely stole the show.

Supporting their sophomore release An End Has a Start, singer/guitarist Tom Smith, lead guitarist Chris Urbanowicz, bassist Russell Leetch and drummer Ed Lay were all excellent and practically rendered their album a cheap imitation: live from the concert stage is most definitely the best way to absorb this band’s songs. With their piercing, wailing guitar, hypnotic, bouncy drums and punchy bass mixed with Smith’s dark vocals, the UK four-piece kept the crowd dancing from beginning to end; the band’s formula quickly became familiar, and feel-good—brooding lyrics mixed with high-adrenaline music.

Even slower paced songs such as “Spiders” and “The Racing Rats” were crowd favorites as many sang along with Smith. He’s a brilliant front man, climbing his piano and reaching outward towards the stars and at the crowd, embracing his guitar and singing his heart out. It was surprising he hadn’t lost his voice yet on this North American tour. Indeed, as Smith ended one song with a long and powerful note, never losing his breath, the crowd roared and I heard someone next to me shout to their companion, “Oh man, that voice!”

Melding together songs from debut album The Back Room as well as the new record, The Editors also performed fan favorites “Bullets,” “All Sparks,” “Blood” and “Munich.” After a solid hour of performing, Smith and crew bid the crowd farewell, but with nonstop applauding and cheering, they were quickly back onstage for an encore. The band leapt into the first of three more songs, “Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors” (my mother turned to me in delight—they didn’t forget to play her favorite song after all). Smith gave mention to Louis IVX and Hot Hot Heat and stated, “If you didn’t come to see us tonight, thank you for sticking around, hope you’ve had a good time,” then after a quick thank-you to the audience, The Editors were officially done for the night.

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The Eclectic Fiery Furnaces

Article & Image Published w/ Harp Magazine

Bug Jar
Rochester, NY USA
January 21, 2008
by April S. Engram

(Gallery Below)

Who needs neatly patterned, formulated and simple tunes? Most definitely not the rebellious brains behind the Fiery Furnaces, brother and sister duo Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger; the creative twosome unleashed their mutinous sounds on the eager, salivating crowd who loved every moment of the Furnaces’ performance.

The small bar/club was filled to its capacity as concertgoers in the rear were forced to stand on benches to see the Fiery Furnaces perform their artful music; it was an art form in and of itself just to maneuver about. A large, black cloth that held random lyrics from their songs as a backdrop—eccentric words that fill their songs such as “Zapped by the zombie in the two door dodge.” Already at the front, I was pushed to the brim of the stage as more bodies packed in when the Friedbergers made their way to the stage. Joined by bassist Jason Loewenstein and drummer Robert D’Amico, the moment The Fiery Furnaces leapt into new material from their 2007 release Widow City I spied happy faces smiling with delight, a strong fanbase gathered tonight and The Fiery Furnaces did not disappoint them.

The Furnaces played a melting pot of songs and fused tracks together; they solidly played around five songs before taking a breather to chat up the audience. Matthew greeted the crowd and asked us to grab a piece of paper to write down any song requests and pass them up to the stage. Eleanor chatted a bit as well before announcing their next song, “Philadelphia Grand Jury,” upon hearing the song title there was a roar of applause and cheers as a mystery man from the middle of the crowd laughed shouted, “Yeah, man I love this band!” The audience laughed in response as the Matthew leapt into the quirky, upbeat keyboards followed by a change in tempo which met the deep, melodic growl of Loewenstein’s bass. As the night went on, more pieces of paper floated forward and Eleanor collected the ballots.

Quick on his bass, Lowenstein’s fingers effortlessly flew about his instrument without hesitation. Considering the complexity of the Furnaces’ tunes, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Loewenstein doesn’t merely provide the usual one-two time widely seen from bass players. And the same can easily be said for D’Amico as he kept the ever changing tempo of each song and banged away at his set with a “fiery” intensity. (OK, bad pun, but D’Amico was amazing.) His skills, and Loewenstein’s, were not lost to anyone in the room as Matthew made special mention to the talented drummer and bass player.

Performing an array of songs from several releases, some of the tracks played this night included “A Candymaker’s Knife in my Handbag,” “Navy Nurse,” “Duplexes of the Dead,” “Automatic Husband,” “Widow City,” and my personal favorite, “My Egyptian Grammar.” A peculiar song whose lyrics I still do not quite comprehend, with passages such as, “I consulted my Egyptian Grammar. On p. 333 was the hieroglyph for motorcycle helmet… Maybe a nether-world entity would see it and pass it on to the responsible. That kind of thing must happen sometimes.” What can I say; I love its tongue-in-cheek quality.

If you dig the Furnaces, make sure to catch them before their tour is over. They put on a stirring live show.
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Malajube Live in Rochester

Article and Image Published w/ Harp Magazine

Bug Jar
Rochester, NY USA
November 14, 2007
by April S. Engram

(Gallery Below)

The Bug Jar is a nice, small, personable bar/club venue where I hold many memories of viewing great acts and shaking many hands. The Rochester space makes it possible to have that close interaction with bands, and Montreal’s Francophones, Malajube, also appreciated this luxury.

The quintet has toured endlessly since February of this year (no exaggeration; just check out their website for the proof), and it is amazing that all members have not collapsed from exhaustion. Though singer/guitarist Julien Mineau had an obvious cold, he managed to restrain his coughs while singing. Mineau and mates—Francis Mineau (drums), Thomas Augustin (keyboards, vocals), Renaud Bastien (guitar, keyboards) and Mathieu Cournoyer (bass)—put on a fantastically loud and energized show. Very much seasoned musicians, it’s amazing what this fairly young band can pull out of their bag of tricks. With just two albums on their track record thus far, I am excited to see what album three will hold. Performing tracks from their 2004 release Le Compte Complet and their 2006 album Trompe L’oeil (Trick of the Eye), Malajube kept the crowd dancing from the first song to last.

Though my French comprehension skills are laughable, one doesn’t need to be fluent in the language to enjoy Malajube’s high octane performance and their punk-pop songs. What makes a Malajube song so enjoyable is the roller coaster ride of each track; a single song will face a change in tempo, from light and happy to dark and intense, and it’s fun to watch the guys in action as they transform with the songs. Mineau and Augustin shared friendly banter with the crowd between songs and one audience member tried to show off her French speaking abilities. Mineau joked, “Woah, someone is speaking French in the crowd.” “Kill her!” Augustin shouted.

As the band beckoned for us to move closer, they again played flawlessly. Favorites from Trompe, “Montréal -40°C,” “Pâte Filo,” “Le Crabe,” “Casse-cou” and “Etienne d’août”, all made the cut, but the obvious crowd pleaser was the hard driving and dark “Fille à Plume.” Even the video for this track fits the dark mood of the song and is a must-see. With a few adjustments of his strings, Mineau said to the audience, “Now it’s time to dance,” and began to play the hypnotic chords. The crowd happily did just that—dance. When the night was over Augustin expressed his joy with the Bug Jar, how he loved the personable atmosphere of the club, and even Mineau stated that the audience was the best they have seen for quite some time.

Fingers crossed that Mineau can hold off his cold until the end of their journey as their touring is not quite over. Malajube will be on the road until December and it will not be a wasted evening if you decide to take in the sights and sounds. And maybe you’ll be as determined to brush up on your rusty French as I am.
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Viva Voce in Toronto

Article and Image Published w/Harp Magazine

The Docks
Toronto, Ontario Canada
November 1, 2007
by April S. Engram

I am continually astounded by Portland duo Viva Voce. Kevin Robinson behind the drums working multiple instruments at once, continually breaking his drum sticks, while Anita Robinson shreds her guitar making spectators gawk in awe — they know how to put on a solid rock show. Only catching Viva Voce on stage once before, I was itching to witness their talent again; unfortunately, the duo skipped over my little town, so when they announced on their website that their current monthlong stint would be the “final” tour of 2007 and beckoned fans “come on out if you can,” I pounced. Yes, I had to drive three hours from Rochester; indeed, I had to fight my way through three check points to prove I was on the guest list; and sure, I was banned from using my advanced camera. Furthermore, unlike my last run in with the Voce’s, I didn’t even have the opportunity to chill with them and have a chat. Was it worth all of these roadblocks to see Viva Voce live once again? Insert confirmatory expletive here!

Opening for Jimmy Eat World, perhaps not the best musical match up stylistically, Viva Voce claimed the stage for one hour. With not much time to spare, the Voce’s made a quick introduction and leapt into “Fashionable Lonely” from their new double album combining their 2003 release Lovers, Lead the Way and their 2004 LP The Heat Can Melt Your Brain. True to my expectations, Kevin and Anita sounded great live, and by the end of their set established new fans within the Jimmy Eat World audience. I observed wide eyed onlookers amazed at the range of noise coming from only two people; quite similar to my first experience upon seeing the duo perform. A young observer next to me expressed her admiration for Kevin’s skill of playing the drums, synth and guitar while singing. When her friend pointed out that the talented drummer also played the harmonica, she turned and asked in disbelief, “He played a harmonica?!” Kevin was pulling out instruments so fast she lost track.

The Voce’s short set mostly included songs from their third album Get Yr Blood Sucked Out, a great record which includes a lot of my favorite Voce songs. Although they did not have the opportunity to perform many of Blood’s songs, the evening’s show stopper was easily the 9 minute long track “So Many Miles.” Within this number Anita’s guitar wails for a long solo as the audience watches her hands fly about producing loud psychedelic sounds. Kevin and Anita closed the set with the rollercoaster of a song “Alive with Pleasure” which opens and ends with buzzed out guitar riffs and catchy drumming, while the center of the song is quiet, sweet and slower in tempo.

Though The Docks lacked the personable flair of smaller bars/clubs I usually frequent, and there was a questionable gentleman selling questionable materials in the men’s room, the Voce’s performance was outstanding and made me forget the negative aspects of the venue. Will I visit The Docks again? No. But will I journey to see Viva Voce on stage once more? Of course. Viva La Voce’s!

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Black Angels Hypnotize Rochester

Article and Image Published w/ Harp Magazine

Bug Jar
Rochester, NY USA
October 18, 2007
by April S. Engram

(Gallery Below)

The Black Angels drew the best crowd I’ve yet to be a part of at the Bug Jar, a venue where I’ve frequently had to contend with obnoxious inebriates who insist on “dancing” and colliding into me or standing four inches in front of me and wondering why I am giving them the evil eye. None of that! The audience this night was full of amicable Black Angels fans eager to witness the six piece Austin band blow us away with their fuzzed out, nostalgic, psychedelic rock…and the Angels delivered.

A good omen that this night would be an astounding one: Upon my entering the doors of the Bug Jar; a patron noticed my shoe lace loosening, falling to the floor and about to cause a spectacle of an accident. With the words, “Wait, you’re gonna kill yourself,” he knelt down and began tying my lace. How often does such an event occur in a bar? Reminds me of that insurance commercial of strangers helping their fellow man…but I’m digressing.

Members of the Black Angels were secreted about the Bug Jar but lead singer Alex Maas and guitarist Christian Bland decided to enjoy a game of pool before they were to take the stage. When the moment finally arrived for The Black Angels to possess the platform, all instruments tuned and ready, the crowd suddenly poured in from the bar. With limited time, the Black Angels performed for one hour and rarely had a break between songs. A quick switch of guitars and a thank-you from Maas to the crowd was all there was time for as the Angels leapt into their next track.

Maas, in his usual beard and cap and with eyes hidden from view, droned out the lyrics to the hypnotic music being formed around him. Each member of the band methodically played their instruments and rocked to the beat, Jennifer Raines (organ), Nate Ryan (bass, guitar), and Kyle Hunt (bass, guitar, keyboard) creating a wail of music that smacked us all; the catchy, ‘60s styled, guitar buzzing rock goodness never stopped. But my favorite part of the equation that is the Black Angels was the drumming—a rhythmic, raw, loud drumming that made everyone in the crowd rock their heads in succession and one audience member cry out, “What an awesome drummer!” With a calm face full of concentration, Stephanie Bailey beat her kit senseless. I was mesmerized at how she created so much sound while appearing to barely break a sweat. The petite powerhouse created a stir as members of the audience shouted her name and praises until the set was done.

Though I waited eagerly for the Angels to perform “The First Vietnamese War” (from Passover), a moment that never arrived, they indeed played crowd favorites. People sang along with Maas and cheered at the commencement of each song. “Empire,” “Black Grease,” “The Sniper at the Gates of Heaven,” “The Prodigal Son,” and “Better Off Alone,” made the cut this night, as did another personal favorite of mine, “Young Men Dead.”

However, music was not the only thing the Angels had in store for their audience. With a visual show added to the set, The Black Angles had random patterns and colors flowing in the background; this display was intermittent with a silent, black and white film. With scenes of a man escaping a noose and swimming to freedom, I sometimes found myself captivated by the images behind Bailey and forgot to watch the band.

An excellent night of LOUD music and film, and one that I would be eager to view again.svgallery=ba

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