A collection of musically themed musings by Brendan Bush in Burlington, VT

This week’s music purchases

Filed Under: New Releases
Written by Brendan
Wednesday May 5, 2010

I’ve been really looking forward to this week for quite a while. 5 years, to be exact. It was way back in 2005 that Broken Social Scene last graced my ears with a new album (that self-titled album, coincidentally, still stands as my favorite of this decade). Anyhow, yesterday I picked up the new Broken Social Scene album “Forgiveness Rock Record” as well as “Together” from The New Pornographers, “Heaven Is Whenever” from The Hold Steady and “A Balloon Called Moaning” from The Joy Formidable.

Forgiveness Rock Record is easily the best album of the year. I’ll write a more formal review of it at some point in the near future. But until then, just go buy it. Seriously. Right now.

I’ve never been much of a fan of The New Pornographers, but I really got into A.C. Newman’s solo album “Get Guilty” from 2009, so I figured I’d give them a try, and I have to say that I love this album. Maybe Neko Case, who recently moved to VT, can convince the band to come to Burlington for a show?

The Hold Steady album is a significant improvement from their last effort (which was almost enough to make me give up on them altogether), and definitely a departure from their signature sound without completely redefining who they are. The Joy Formidable album is also definitely worth picking up.

p.s. JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound tonight at Monkey House in Winooski – don’t miss it!

Broken Social Scene Forgiveness Rock Record The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever The Joy Formidable - A Balloon Called Moaning The New Pornographer - Together

Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: The Morning Benders @ Monkey House 4/16/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews, Live Shows, New Releases
Written by Brendan
Sunday April 18, 2010

As my first thought, I just want to say that I love the Monkey House. It’s amazing that a venue that size (~100 capacity) is able to bring bands like The Tallest Man on Earth and The Morning Benders to the Burlington area. Not only that, but the bartenders were attentive, the crowd was generally friendly and respectful, and it’s pretty hard to find a bad place to stand there.

Moving on, and I’ll get these out of the way quickly – though the crowd was generally respectful, there was WAY (and I don’t capitalize frivolously) too much talking going on from the back of the room. Yes, it’s still a bar, and yes, there is a pool table. But why waste $12 extra for a ticket to a show you only marginally pay attention to? You can definitely buy the newest Morning Benders album for less than that, and I bet there is a better place to play pool on a Friday night. So I’m just saying…

(also, I wish I had brought my SLR because I’d love for quality photos to accompany these posts, but the Monkey House photo policy requires explicit permission from the band, and I unfortunately never got an answer from the band’s manager)

I’ve done some intentional damage to my ears in the past few years, there’s no disputing that. But like various other things, it’s taken me this long (30+ years) to figure out that it might be better to start with prevention instead of instigation. So I donned my heavy duty construction-grade earplugs early, having heard ringing for at least 2.5 days after The Hold Steady show the week before. And as it’s always really tough to gauge the true sound of a show with earplugs in, I may have had it better or worse than those standing around me — but I thought the Morning Benders sounded great.

The musical depth of their recently released album “Big Echo” could truly be felt at The Monkey House. The vocals were crisp and comfortably sung, the guitars were steady and strong, and the bass and drums made me move. If I paid more attention, I’d say that they may have played the entire new album (though not cover to cover). We also got to sing happy birthday to Tim the bass guitar player, whose earnest smile made it worth having to hear myself sing.

Having put “Patient Patient” from their 2008 release “Talking Through Tin Cans” on my favorite music from that year, I do have to say that I was sad to not hear a single tune from the album. But I gather that album was personal and the band feels good about moving on, so I’m glad I was along for the ride. The Morning Benders are fresh-faced (literally and figuratively) and entertaining, and I definitely recommend seeing their show.

Looking forward to seeing these guys again at Osheaga. Maybe this time they’d at least give me all 1:58 of “Damnit Anna”…

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Strikes and gutters

Filed Under: Live Shows, Random Thought
Written by Brendan
Wednesday April 14, 2010

I often end up in discussion leading up to and after shows at the Higher Ground about the relative values of the music scene in Burlington.

On one hand, I get to stand up front with room to move comfortably at 90% of the shows I go to there. I’ve been to many shows in the Showcase Lounge (the smaller of the two stages) where a band that easily sells out the Black Cat or even 9:30 Club in DC doesn’t even have 50 people in the audience (see Band of Horses, Ra Ra Riot, Rural Alberta Advantage, Princeton…). So there’s a real intimacy that is more difficult to obtain in a bigger city.

I also rarely have to worry about obsessively following the web sites, twitter feeds and facebook profiles of bands I like and venues that are close by. Not that I don’t still do that, but I don’t have to, because even if I stop paying attention for a week or two, there’s still very little chance anything comes up that sells out that quickly.

On the other hand, bands like Band of Horses, Ra Ra Riot and Rural Alberta Advantage have to play to half- to quarter-sold shows. There always seems to be enough really engaged people in the audience at those shows, so the numbers don’t feel as meager as they could; but there’s also definitely something missing. Something like seeing Metric at Metropolis in Montreal amidst a crowd of Canadians who’d driven 3 times as long as we had to get there.

And of course the money for these bands has to be an issue, which makes me all the more gracious to the bands who do choose to make Burlington a stop on their tours (and the labels who support them).

To summarize: I’m glad that I got to stand comfortably, 15 feet from the stage at the Hold Steady show last week. And I’m glad that I didn’t miss them like some poor souls in the many cities they sold out before and continue to since. And I hope they and bands like them continue to come back.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: The Hold Steady @ Higher Ground 4/5/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews, Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Tuesday April 6, 2010

I knew I should have worn earplugs last night. My ears are still ringing and clicking. Needless to say, it was once again worth it.

The Hold Steady played the Ballroom to a crowd of a couple hundred. The turnout was actually fairly impressive given that they have never been here before and they aren’t a jam band or an aging hip-hop artist (oh, Burlington). It was an eclectic crowd — from the 20 or so x-hands jumping around up front to the decently sized college kid contingent to the more subdued 30, 40 and 50 somethings in the back.

I got there in time to catch a few songs from The Oranges Band, who are celebrating 10 years together. I found them to be a bit bland, like a watered down version of The Hold Steady (their lead singer Roman Kuebler — no relation to Hold Steady guitarist Tad Kubler — even looks like a watered down version of Craig Finn). Kuebler’s best performance came when he returned to the stage to sing a couple of songs with The Hold Steady — apparently he is featured a bit on their new record.

unfortunately I only had my camera phone...

Anyhow, I went in to the show hoping they’d play a good chunk of songs off of Separation Sunday and Boys & Girls in America, and they didn’t disappoint. The set began with “Cattle and the Creeping Things”, and while the sound mix could have had Finn’s voice a little louder, it definitely set the energy level fairly high for the rest of the show. My favorites were “Your Little Hoodrat Friend,” “Chips Ahoy,” and “South Town Girls.” Finn said “South Town Girls” is his mom’s favorite Hold Steady song, though she has worried that the lyrics mean that he’d settle for a woman even if he knew she wasn’t good enough — to which he replied no, but I know some guys who would.

The crowd was definitely into the show, and I think the energy and interest was returned to us by the band. I didn’t come across any show-talkers, and at points it almost seemed like the whole room was dancing/bobbing/nodding along.

The Hold Steady

Having seen The Hold Steady during what I consider to be their prime (Lollapalooza 2007), I do have to say that the presence of Franz Nicolay was definitely missed (not to mention his mustache). There was something about the energy that flowed between him and Craig Finn that is really lacking in their new arrangement. Though for what it’s worth, Finn still has an incredible stage presence. During many of the songs, after singing a line, he would then step away from the microphone and repeat the line to the crowd, seemingly smirking at the cleverness — an endearing quirk in spite of the obsessive-compulsiveness.

I’m getting old and had to skip out before the encore, which I regrettably have to assume included “Massive Nights.” The price you pay I guess…

All in all, another great Hold Steady show that has me eager to pick up their new album “Heaven Is Whenever” when it comes out on May 4.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.