Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Footprint in Hip-Hop Tour hits DC

By Ben Cantlupe

On Friday, July 24th, security at the 9:30 club in DC was tight. All bags were being checked, and all persons were being patted down. A line was forming around the block, promising a full capacity show, and no one was taking chances on the night that former members of the rap super-group Wu-Tang Clan were rolling into town. The night’s performance was part of the Footprint in Hip-Hop Tour, consisting of opening act Duo Live (pronounced ‘liv’), lyrical master and former Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah, and headlining superstars Redman and Methodman (also former Wu-Tang member). The show was like a time warp back into the 1990s, when the hip-hop culture was ruled by big shirts and low pants, thick beats and hardcore rap. All of the performers reiterated the theme of ‘real hip-hop’ vs. ‘today’s hip-hop’ during their sets, and from the audience response they were most definitely preaching to the choir.

Duo Live was first to take the stage, and they did so with confidence and good humor, considering they seemed relatively unknown to the crowd. DJ Sid V manned his turntables on a platform at the back of the stage, and MC Fre took to the front, accompanied by a woman in a wife beater and bright yellow pants. Her name is Chloe and she was announced as the first hype-girl in the game. The group, later joined on stage briefly by rapper Bill Young, put on a show worthy of being on the tour. DJ Sid V threw down simple and raw beats in their elements but perfectly complemented MC Fre’s formidable flow and stage presence. They performed one song that is supposed to be in a new mix-tape the Brooklyn-based duo is working on, adding to their already impressive arsenal of underground mix-tapes which contributed greatly to their current success. At a few key points during their performance, Duo Live showed how they like to give life to the show. MC Fre delivered a verse or two of one-song acapella. During their R&B-like song “Princess,” a girl from the crowd was brought up on stage, given a tiara and crowned princess for the night, then MC Fre and Chloe shared champagne mid-song. Towards the closing of the set, Chloe downed the better part of a forty, and then started singing as if it were a bottle of water. Although it seemed most of the crowd didn’t know what to think of Duo Live when they took the stage, the group met with a more welcoming reception as they were leaving.

The next act was a stranger to no one in the club. Ghostface Killah hit the stage in an oversized red shirt, oversized jeans riding close to his knees, with a white towel resting around his shoulders. He took immediate control of all aspects of the show, giving directions to the crowd, ordering certain lights to go on or off, and giving lengthy speeches in between songs. After one song, Ghost talked about his disgust for music on the radio and how ‘real hip-hop’ has conceded it’s crown to meaningless noise. He also had a somewhat backwards way of performing his songs; he would cut them short and hit the most popular parts of three or four songs within five-minute segments. Nevertheless, the crowd seemed to love every minute of the performance and showed their love with Wu-tang signs and crowd participation. The two DJs who were backing Ghostface had an opportunity to show off their skills during a DJ scratch battle in the middle of the set, which was incredible. Ghost finished his set with a tribute to “the man who taught me all the dance moves I know,” Michael Jackson. Blips of some of M.J.’s biggest hits from The Jackson Five and his solo work were played by the DJ while Ghostface busted out the moves he apparently learned from the master himself.

Unfortunately Ghost’s moves weren’t nearly as impressive (or hilarious) than those of headliners Redman and Methodman. The dynamic duo moved all around the stage, sometimes using choreographed dance, sometimes grooving to the beat, sometimes just flailing themselves about like rabid animals (crumping anybody?). Redman seemed to be the crazier of the two. He did most of the talking in between songs, pumped the crowd up, threw his water bottles, and also liked to get in the face of front-row audience members. His mohawk haircut probably helped project that image. Methodman did his part to hype the crowd too, starting Wu-tang chants and stage diving into the outstretched arms of the fans below. Every time a beat dropped and a new song began, the club roared as if it were a stadium at capacity. Red and Meth performed a lot of newer material, promoting Blackout 2, the sequel to their original collaborative effort as a duo. They did not neglect their old popular songs though, making sure to keep the veteran fans engaged. And engaged they were until the end of the show, leaving a sweet retrospective taste in the mouths of all of the attending fans at 9:30 club.

I had a chance to talk to Duo Live after the show and see what they had to say about DC and the Footprint in Hip-Hop Tour. According to Fre, they had been working on writing and recording music for two years before this tour, and playing members of Wu-Tang is “a dream come true.” “DC was the first place we came to outside of New York when we were starting out,” he said. “For a minute it felt like a job, but now we are approaching our music from a younger perspective and love every minute.” Duo Live have been putting music together since 1989, and since then they have been trying to be the “voice of the voice,” speaking to blue-collar, working class people.

The Footprint in Hip-Hop tour continues until mid-August, finishing in San Francisco. Fans of ‘real hip-hop’ should not miss this team-up of masters.

Official Redman website

Official Method Man website

Ghostface Killah on myspace

Official Duo Live website

RX Bandits hit the road with new release

By Ben Cantlupe

This summer, RX Bandits and Dredg are touring the US together, promoting their recent album releases. Texas based Zechs Marquise jumped on the tour for a couple weeks, and will be parting ways to tour on their own during August. On Tuesday, July 28th, the three groups performed at Recher Theatre in Towson, MD.

Zechs Marquise was first to take the stage. Their first official studio release, called Our Delicate Stranded Nightmare, dropped in spring of 2008 and has since been picking up speed in sales and reviews. The group’s live performance stretched the songs to a point where some of them were almost un-recognizable to ears familiar with the album. Marfred Rodriguez-Lopez, the Zech’s bass player, commented about the drastic difference in performance. “We try to give a whole different vibe when recording versus the performance.” Most of the songs opened up into extended solo sections, with the guitarists giving searing improvisations over bass and drum grooves or arranged hits. Zechs Marquise has a distinct sound although they like to play with spacey guitar effects and tonally ambiguous melodies. The instrumental group received cheers and applause from the captivated audience. Marfred stated that Zech’s “goal has been one new fan in every city.” If that is the case, they exceeded well over expectation on Tuesday night.

Next up to play was prog-rock RX Bandits. They were clearly the band most of the audience showed up for, not only from the excitement of the packed room when they started playing, but also from the “Bandits’ Bandits” shirt-wearers scattered amongst the pit. Their set was very percussion based with drum intros and all-member inclusive drum jams. Most of the songs they played were from the newer albums, namely their last release …And the Battle Begun and Mandala which dropped on the 21st of this month. The singers soulful vocal melodies were matched in intensity by the lead guitarist/keyboardist’s virtuosic solos and the drummer’s tireless execution of the band’s practically break-less set. The song “Only For the Night,” appropriately the last song of the set, was most definitely the crowd favorite. The crowd almost buried the speakers because so many sang along with the lyrics. Solo sections and a couple breakdowns elongated the song, and finally members of Zech’s Marquise came out for another percussive congregation dubbed “Zech’s Bandits,” which concluded in a mini drum off then a huge finish of the song and the set.

RX Bandits and Dredg traded off headlining sets during their tour, and it was Dredg’s turn at Recher. Unfortunately for them, it seemed as if they might have benefited from not headlining. Almost half the crowd left the show following RX Bandits. Dredg released a new album entitled The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion at the beginning of this summer. The group performed a few of the hits from that album, including “I Don’t Know,” which is representative of their introspective anthems. Dredg plays music that is very bass and drum heavy, with the guitar usually either furiously strumming or picking at chords note by note. The singer was the most eclectic member of the group. He had wailing vocals like Coheed and Cambria, though not quite as high-pitched. He had dance moves like Jack Black, though not as hilarious. Occasionally he laid his guitar on a table and played it horizontally like a steel guitar, achieving eerie yet interesting sounds. The fans that stayed for the headliners never regretted it, and the night closed on a positive note.

On August 1st, Zechs Marquise parts ways with Dredg and RX Bandits to tour solo. As Tall As Lions will be filling in the empty spot on the Dredg/RX tour. This is no excuse to miss any of the bands if they make it to your town. An extra ticket is worth the shows that you won’t want to miss.

Official Zech’s Marquise Website

Official Dredg Website:

Official RX Bandits Website:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pop-Punk Act Surprise Fans Before Warped

By Sarah Rutz

photos by Amy Willard

Just two weeks ago, All Time Low released their latest studio album, Nothing Personal. The album has since sold more than double what their 2007 album, So Wrong It’s Right, sold, and held no. 4 on the Top 40 albums since its release. The band did a short tour of ‘secret shows’, with friends We The Kings, Cartel and Days Difference. On Thursday, July 16th, they played to a sold-out crowd in Cleveland, where the last time that they played in the city was on the Believers Never Die tour with Fall Out Boy, Hey Monday, Metro Station and Cobra Starship.

Days Difference opened up the show with their melodic pop-rock. The four piece Virginia based band played a short set, but even as the newcomers that not a lot of people in the crowd knew, they were able to get the crowd moving and excited about the remaining three bands.

Next up was Cartel. Cartel is working on their newest album, Cycles, so not only did they play several old songs, they played two or three new songs. Let Go, a song that was streamed on, was played to obvious crowd approval and delight. A lot of the kids in the crowd seemed to be more excited for Cartel than they were for anyone that night, and part of it might have been that Cartel had been silent for a little while prior to this tour. Lots of kids said that this was their first time seeing Cartel, despite that they had wanted to see them for a really long time. Nevertheless, Cartel’s set was energetic and exciting and a general crowd-pleaser. The single, Let Go, can be purchased on iTunes on July 28th, and the album is expected to be released later this year.

We The Kings had just been in Cleveland a little over three months ago, instead on the Bamboozle Road Show. That day it had been Travis Clark’s birthday, and the July 16th show had the same energy that that show did. We The Kings is always a band that crowds love, if not because of their personable band members, then because their infectious personalities seep through into their music. Crowd favorites like ‘Check Yes Juliet’ and ‘Skyway Avenue’ were played to an upbeat and room completely in motion. We The Kings never fails to put on an amazing show, and Thursday was no exception. As the direct opener for headliner All Time Low, We The Kings got everyone so pumped up that everyone was teeming with excitement by the time All Time Low took the stage.

Opening with ‘Lost In Stereo’, a fan favorite from their latest album, All Time Low took the stage by storm (Dear Maria pun, aha) to an overexcited and anxious crowd. All Time Low’s shows are always exciting—part of it is the music, part of it is the personalities of the boys on stage. The onstage banter that happens amongst the band members always warrants a laugh out of nearly everyone present, even if some parents might be a little uncertain about what’s being discussed. All Time Low manages to appeal to a wide age range, and always plays consistently with just as much vigor and enthusiasm as before. They played several new songs, mixed in with songs from previous albums, creating a good mix for people who maybe haven’t had the time to learn every single word to all of their songs. The show closed out with an all time favorite, Dear Maria, Count Me In, and brought their impressive light, sound and personality show to an end.

Overall it was a very exciting concert to attend. Cleveland was just one stop on their two week stint before hopping on Warped Tour, which is where you can catch them now. We The Kings will be joining Warped Tour in August.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Warped Tour Report

by Amy Willard

Alright, this piece is going to be an informal recap of the July 14, 2009 Van's Warped Tour stop in Columbia, Maryland (that's because I'm still recovering from the 3,000+ photographs I've taken since last Saturday). Pretty much the day started out by heading up to the Merriweather Post Pavilion about 30 minutes before the gates, only to find thousands of fans already lined up in both directions around the venue (insane!).

I picked up my press credentials, and dropped off a box of pasta for the food drive and made my way through the sea of fans to the Hurley stage to catch Sing It Loud. I wasn't too familiar with them, but they put on a good opening set at 11:15 AM.

After my first 3 songs (that's all you're allowed to photograph in the pit) I picked up some more press information-- aka the handy daily schedule-- and headed over to the Main Stage to catch the end of the After Midnight Project set and wait for Chiodos at 12:15. Armed with the usual 9:30 Club security, I ran into some familiar faces while in the pit.

Craig Owens, lead singer of Chiodos, picked up the tempo set by the After Midnight Project and really got the crowd going as he asked the mosh pit to separate entirely-- a gap of about 20 yards-- and then commanded them to "go fucking nuts" at the start of their next song (another instance where I'm thankful I shoot from a photo pit).

After Chiodos, it was mad dash across the field and back to the main pavilion's Hurly.Com stage to catch Lights. I had absoluely no idea who they were (later to find out it would be "who she is"), but was recommended to check her out. She's a tiny girl, with a powerful voiced, armed with a keyboard guitar who I would later discover on the homepage of MySpace. She's definitely worth checking out.

1:00PM? A sprint all the way back to Main Stage for ska rockers, Less Than Jake. Definitely one the more animated groups of the day. I've never really seen a group play it up so well for the photo pit. It was definitely a joy photographing them.

Less Than Jake's set gave me a little bit of down time to explore the hundreds of tents filling both the field and the main pavilion area... that's right, this Warped stop was in two locations which had to be a least a half a mile apart-- running between stages was a marathon (and there was no one holding up cups of water or crackers along the way, my friends).

I checked out the To Write Love On Her Arms tent, along with Invisible Children, and some other great causes represented on this years tour. I also snagged free stickers at most places I stopped. A good suggestion to Warped goers is to set your phone up with Twitter and start following the bands and sponsors, there were a lot of freebies givenway that day and if I wasn't so buys getting to set starts, I would have been all over that!

After my freebie excursion, I headed back to the Hurley.Com stage to catch Meg & Dia. The sister act provided ample entertainment to the pavilion that was quickly filling with A Rocket To the Moon fans who were slated to play the SmartPUNK Stage on stage left after.

I stuck around for the Rocket boys. I got to meet them and do an interview during their DC stop (but wait... there was no interview ever posted to oh yeah, that's because the tape recorded crapped out and my notes were illegible. Go me. Worst reporter ever). Anyways, it was great to photograph them outdoors, with better lighting. Their fans definitely packed the pavilion for their set.

With dehydration setting in (as noticed by my inability to keep my camera steady) I had to get something to eat. Thanks Merriweather Post Pavilion for my $5.00 hotdog and $4.00 soda. So refreshing-- and so necessary to survive the next set: A Day To Remember.

I made my way through the sea of aviators, Converse, Vans, tight jeans, and emo plaid to find a crowd doubled in size at the Hurley Stage since I last saw it for Sing It Loud. Having to push my way through the side stage areas just to get to the pit, I knew I was in for another rough set (not to mention the last time I photographed these guys, I had two crowd surfers thrown on me, and I managed to tear up my elbows on the stage deck pretty bad-- oh and let's not forget the bottles that started flying towards the stage as I entered the pit this time-- where was my helmet?).

Anyways, my goal for the ADTR set was to finally get some good photographs after a poor turn out in Baltimore a few months back. Mission accomplished (the beauty of outdoor concerts is the copious amounts of natural lighting-- it's like a concert photographer's best friend).

After fighting to get out of the pit at the Hurley Stage, I headed back down the path to the SmartPUNK Stage for Hit The Lights-- another band I needed to makeup photos on (shooting the AP Tour was just short of a nightmare...). Lead singer, Nick Thompson, was finally able to get those sitting in the pavilion to rise to their feet and really feel the Warped experience.

Finishing up with HTL gave me just enough time to run up the hill to back of the venue to find the Ernie Ball Stage and catch female fronted, VersaEmerge. There were definitely a band I wanted to make sure I saw, and was a little surprised to find them shafted to the back of the event-- they were really playing in "no man's land," if you ask me. Sierra Kusterbeck, lead singer, is packed with powerful vocals and plenty of hair tossing energy. If you're headed to Warped this year, give this up and coming band some love.

Headed down from the hill I was stopped by two guys armed with an iPod and box of CDs... A familiar sight throughout the day as local bands were constantly trying to get Warped goes to check out their stuff. They introduced themselves as "Standard of Living," and me, begin absolutely exhausted after about 6 hours of running around didn't quite realize who they were, until it finally clicked "Oh wait! I know you guys, you sing "Autumn In Amherst" that song is awesome." I think they were impressed, 'least I hope they were. I chatted it up with them for a little bit, and had them do a video clip for Buzz TV. Nice guys, Josh and Clayton. Check out Standard of Living, NOT on Warped Tour.

I finished out the day by catching The White Tie Affair on the SmartPUNK stage, a very impressive and animated band, that I had never heard prior to being in the pit. The Steven Tyler like performance made photographing fun. They were followed up by The Maine back on the Hurley Stage. The Maine belted out an awesome cover of "Pour Some Sugar On Me," to which the crowd of swooning teenage girls went absolutely nuts-- or maybe that was just them fighting over the Monster energy drink lead singer, John O'Callaghan, had handed into the audience after taking a swig. Who knows.

I made my way back up to the Earnie Ball Stage-- truck if you will-- to catch AIDEN. I was late getting in the pit, so the shots are limited, but I'll just say it involved a lot of eye liner and guitar licking (the photos will explain).

The day concluded with my favorite Florida pop-punk rockers, There For Tomorrow. I also had the opportunity of interviewing them in the fall at the 9:30 Club, and I've got to say, those guys have a special place in my heart-- very earnest and open about their music, it's no wonder so many love them.

Clearly the lesson I learned in my first (that's right, Warped Tour virgin) Warped Tour is that all cannot be accomplished in a day. I'm thinking you really need about 3 Warpeds to really get the full experience-- well probably like the whole tour to get the whole experience, but whatever. It would take at least 2 days to see everyband and probably a 3rd if you want to do all of the meet n greets and signings.

Some acts that I missed, but heard from other attendees that were worth checking out include: Gallows, Escape The Fate, TAT, and Black Tide.

If you've headed out to Warped Tour this year, let us know what your experience was like!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Might Could delivers delightful complexity

By Ben Cantlupe

In Adams Morgan, behind the confines of the worn brick walls of BOSSA bistro, adorned by black and white photographs of nude people indigenous to a place most of us have never been to, Might Could, the acoustic guitar quartet from College Park, MD had taken to the stage. This was the second performance of their first tour, which includes dates in New York, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. On the night of June 28th, they traded sets with guitarist John Lee and his namesake group The John Lee Experience.

Might Could played selections from their two albums as a quartet (the very first album was a duo endeavor) as well a few new, unrecorded compositions. They performed “Machinery” from the album All Intertwined, which is a characteristic composition of the group, but doesn’t encompass all of the compositional facilities that Might Could has to offer.

Like all of their songs, “Machinery” is composed note for note and played as such, despite how incredibly complicated it is and seemingly impossible to follow at times. The song features an ostinato, or repeated bass figure in 7/8 time, but changes time signatures as one guitar plays a melody and the third guitar alternates from harmonizing the bass part to the melody to playing counterpoint. If your head isn’t spinning already, just consider the fact that all of the songs have this level of complexity on top of searing 16th note runs, rhythmic interplay, and a wide dynamic range. Oh, and it was all memorized verbatim. That is an achievement in it of itself.

Don’t be discouraged by the complexity of the songs; Might Could's music is quite an easy listening, even for someone who is accustomed to much simpler music. Some of the songs invoke a folk-spirit and have much softer and slower tones and tempos. Even the faster ones can make you think of mystical places or maybe obscure NES game levels.

You can have a listen for yourself at where some tracks from All Intertwined, the newest album (2007) Wood Knot, and the self-titled duo album are available for free streaming online. You can also purchase the two group albums through the website. In addition, you will find their tour dates, so be sure to catch these guys live if they are headed to your city.