Read Live Review @ Blurt!

Upon the release of their sophomore album, Reptilians, the Portland eclectro-pop-dance-rock band STRFKR hit the road with Seattle rap trio Champagne Champagne. The range in musical genres may seem wide to some, but both bands melded together well on the stage as each knew how to put on a highly energetic show. However, not all dance music lovers are rap lovers so some STRFKR fans bore stoic faces until the dance party started.

So, fans of great dance music, familiarize yourself with STRFKR and rap enthusiasts, be sure to check out Champagne Champagne!

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Matt & Kim's on FIIRRREE!

Article & Images Published w/ Blurt Magazine

Matt and Kim 8-6-08
Bug Jar • Rochester, NY
By April S. Engram

The patrons of Rochester, NY’s Bug Jar do not often break out into riotous form full of moshing, shoving, hoisting friends on shoulders, jumping on stage and the lead signer leaping into the crowd to dance with fans… but then again it’s not everyday that Matt and Kim takes command of its stage. 

With album number two soon to be released, Matt and Kim still find themselves touring continuously behind their 2006 self titled debut. The duo took a detour from their larger tour with CSS and The Go Team to humble the faithful in Rochester, NY. Opening act Ice Cream Social, a fellow electro-synth based band, filled ears with lyrics such as “We all wear glasses,” and sights such as hot red, tight jeans, a fanny pack and convulsive dancing. Then it was time for Matt and Kim to take control. 
The couple/duo keeps everything simple. The band name, short and sweet – we know who they are. The sounds, alt-punk, dance and rock, are shelled out in short, fast-sometimes lyric-less-tracks. And of course the instruments: just drums and keyboard/synthesizer. The fact that out of such a straightforward equation Matt Johnson (keyboard/vocals) and Kim Schifino (drums) manage to make such a volume of melodious noise is compelling…not to mention the fact that they seem to bear permanent smiles. 

Matt and Kim always makes sure to set up as close as they can to the edge of the stage. And from the audience standpoint, once you are pushed to the brim by ravenous fans, you can easily reach out and give Matt a high five, which one person did. Matt made sure to start the evening off on a dramatic note as he asked for the lights to be turned down, stood atop his stool, asked the crazed crowd to “turn it down a level…just one more” and introduced his band. As if we didn’t know. 
But their humbleness is of course part of the charm. After a quick run through three songs, Matt again chatted us up. After a second request to “turn it down a level… just one more” Matt shared a tale of the band’s trials crossing the border and Kim’s innate uneasiness, and inexplicable nervous laugh when being asked questions (which he of course imitated). 

With everyone in the room already hot and sweaty, Matt decided to slow things down, switch to his keyboard and take a breather. (His keyboard had been malfunctioning.) Yet he did not want to keep the crowd waiting so Matt resorted to using a synth and played the fastest song of the night and that is when the crowd got even nuttier. About six people shoved their way to the front and even I got caught in the riot and found myself collided into and sweated upon mercilessly. By the time that track was over a backup keyboard was making its way to the stage so Kim stood on her stool and took a moment to bid hello to the audience. Her first words: “I don’t really sound like that when I laugh.” 

While she made us laugh with her own tale defending her actions against Matt’s words, the latter set up his keyboard and was raring to go again. The duo plowed through fan favorites, “Yea Yeah,” “5k,” “Silver Tiles,” and “Grand.” About halfway through their set, the sound man requested that Matt open the rear door – and make sure that no one jumped on the stage from outside – since it was so damn hot. Unsuspecting smokers standing just before the door got a nice surprise: a free dance party as they too started dancing. 

However, a Matt and Kim show would not be complete with out audience members leaping on the stage. So when Matt announced that they were going to play the last song of the night, the crowd decided to make it the most memorable song of the evening. Someone from outside jumped on the stage and immediately people inside the club followed suit. As a dozen people shoved and elbowed their way onto the small stage, Matt and Kim ended their last song with a bang and the audience roared. But Matt wasn’t done yet. e immediately asked the DJ to turn up the dance music and jumped beside one delighted fan and began dancing while Kim was chatting away in the back of the room. 
Like a sonic boom, Matt and Kim hit us quickly and fiercely with their tunes. Though the set was short, approximately 35 minutes, it was the “bestest, shortest set” I’ve seen in some time.

DCs Le Loup in Action

Article and Images Published w/ Filter

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!


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!

Yeasayer Made the Night!

Article and Image Published w/ Filter Magazine

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.