Harp Lives again via BLURT!

The new mag from the creators of Harp is up and running…and it is mighty fine! OK, perhaps I am SLIGHTLY biased as I wrote for them…but do check it out! (click on the image)

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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!

Lo Fi Say Hi In Action

Article and Image Published w/Harp Magazine

With a recent modification to the original band name, Say Hi To Your Mom, Eric Elbogen bid farewell to the latter portion of his moniker and started 2008 anew. Since his last release, 2006’s Impeccable Blahs, Elbogen left the fair state of New York for Seattle, took a promo picture in a bunny suit, sung about the lovely girls in the Northwest and brewed a toasty new album, The Wishes and the Glitch. This recent fifth self released album (all of Elbogen’s releases have been released on his own label Euphobia) is garnering Say Hi praise for its more upbeat sounds and is capturing the ears of critics and fans alike. Out to promote Wishes, Elbogen has hit the road with drummer Westin Glass to invade a new state each night with his lo-fi sounds and quirky lyrics.

Primarily a one man band, the accompanying musicians change with each release and sometimes Elbogen travels solo, so it’s a mystery what the setup will be when you catch Say Hi on tour. Yet Elbogen was far from alone as he waited for his time to command the stage in the quite dank Soundlab. Bundled in sweatshirt and coat Elbogen relaxed while Glass occasionally stood and danced to some bad dance music (possibly to get the blood flowing to his legs, as no heat was circulating in the basement venue).

The opening act was a noise band who was not impressive for their sounds but for their choice to run clips of Twilight Zone as they played. However, the awe quickly abated when the clip proved to be approximately 6 minutes long and the same images looped for their full 30 minute set. Finally it was Say Hi’s turn and the crowd was also eager for the band to work their magic as they quickly gathered before the stage.

With Twilight Zone still screening in the background, Eric Elbogen set up his drum machine and looper, greeted the crowd, queued up the first track of the evening, “Zero to Love” from Wishes, and the rhythmic bass began pouring into the club. Performing mostly tracks from Wishes, Say Hi put on a solid performance, and after each song, Elbogen thanked the crowd then proceeded with the next song. He did not chat too often with the crowd but when he did, the mellow singer provided some laughs and the audience proved just as entertaining. When Elbogen asked how the music “tasted,” someone shouted “caliente,” to which he laughed and in a monotone voice responded, “Caliente indeed!”

Elbogen and Glass effortlessly leapt from one track to the next, from new tracks to oldies, and played crowd favorites. Among the songs performed were “Northwestern Girls,” “These Fangs,” “Zero to Love,” “Blah Blah Blah,” “Toil and Trouble,” “Back Before We Were Brittle,” plus a closing solo performance of “Let’s Talk About Spaceships.” The banter between Elbogen and the audience continued, people cheering after each track and shouting requests or praise. At one point someone demanded, “Tell us a story,” and Elbogen had to oblige.

He began telling the story of a die hard Say Hi fan who was eager to receive her Say Hi tote, the new design with robots on one side. Well, one fair evening, after a night of partying she felt nauseous while in the back of a taxi and had to… well you can guess what—right in the tote bag. As Elbogen closed his story with, “My soul was in that tote bag,” someone shouted, “Your soul was in a tote bag, that’s a silly place to leave it!” Elbogen laughed as suddenly a girl in the back of the room yelled, “Sorry!” It turned out that Say Hi’s merchandise purveyor was the guilty party. After some more laughs Elbogen and Glass played the last songs of the evening and closed before a delighted audience.

Don’t let the mellow sounds of Say Hi fool you into thinking that an equally “mellow” live performance will be in store. The mixture of electro beats, simple yet catchy sequences and hypnotic drumming combined with Elbogen’s tongue in cheek lyrics (who else signs about meeting a girl in the Laundromat and commenting that her “soap technique is pretty ill”?) and

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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