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8.31.2010

WAKE UP SIOUXSIE sets off alarm with an alt-styled-50s-60s-rock 'n' roll twist

Wake Up Siouxsie is a four-piece Chicago-area rock band that draws from 1950s /1960s rock 'n' roll roots and twists it into an alternative rock-based format...very original in overall sound, you can hear elements of a Beatles-vox-guitar influence lying just beneath the surface on some of their tunes while throwing in some references to early Elvis-era beats and stylings along the way...then wrap it all up into a youthful high energy alternative-imaged band in their approach to on-stage performance and meticulous choice of cover music displays and there you have it...musical re-invention at its finest. Their band's moniker tries to illustrate where their musical compass lies I believe, ranging somewhere between the be-spectacled Buddy Holly rock-a-billy to the British punk rockers group Siouxsie and the Banshees. This band had the honor of being the final one on-stage to close out the now defunct nightclub venue, North Beach in Downers Grove, Illinois on Saturday August 14th, 2010 and as a result (due to another band cancelling) got to play an extended set of music for a total of eighteen tunes.

(Images in order of appearance below: Mike Curran drums, dopplegangers Andrew Paluch and John Lennon, Jake Ames bass guitar, Mike Napoli lead guitar, Andrew Paluch lead vocals/rhythm vox guitar)

They opened with their very good original that sounded like a back-handed tribute to Buddy Holly and The Crickets called "Wake Up", very representational of their musical style, then "Chinese Eyes Blues" which featured the drummer Mike Curran and I loved Mike Napoli's lead guitar riff here...then the third tune, introduced as a new one, was "Seventh Trumpet" where the sound was uneven and the lead vocals by Andrew Paluch seemed to be over-reaching drowning out the back-up vocals (the band started into drinking gratuitus rounds about here, proclaiming "one more shot")...then they dove into their fourth "Your Way"...they made it to the fifth tune before starting in with covers, this one being Muddy Waters's "Hoochie Coochie Man" which I have to admit was a great rendition with a slight heavy metal take and great bass work by the fedora-hatted Jake Ames, although I prefer when bands stick to their originals...then another cover, The Beatles tune "Money" again offering a rendition with an alt-metal twist...the seventh I believe was "Yellow Rain"(?)...then one of their best ones of the night, number eight, "White Cadillac" where Mike Napoli's guitar lead was doubled-up on with Andrew Paluch's rhythm guitar offering a 50s-era rock 'n' roll styled song (by the way Andrew's appearance at times reminded me of a young John Lennon but then maybe it was just the vox guitar)...by the ninth tune (didn't catch the title) another round of shots preceded the playing and it was a hard rock 'n' roller song definitely 50s-styled guitar-lines but with punk-rock-yelling on the vocals by Andrew...on the tenth tune (again no title given) the band mentioned something about another group called The Rebel Angels playing a reunion concert at the Beat Kitchen on October 22nd (apparently one of the band members, I think it was lead guitarist Mike Napoli, was an alumni)...the eleventh tune was my personal fave of the night called "Magnum Forty Four" which featured a great guitar riff on the opening coupled with good guitar lines and drumming throughout sounding like The "early" Beatles from The Cavern Club days...then number twelve, "What Goes Wrong In My Mind" a tune that was just good and loud where the drummer seemed to get really worked up on this one, very syncopated rhythm...the thirteenth was strictly a drum solo, no guitars with the exception of an occasional bass line...then number fourteen, another original called "Ziploc Lover" interesting title which Andrew explained to me that its about how people are always putting stuff into ziploc bags throughout their life...the fifteenth was a cover of punk-rockers The Clash's "Should I Stay Or Should I Go", again a great rendition...then another punk-rock band cover of The Undertones's "Teenage Kicks" which was fairly good...then number seventeen was another new song by the band entitled "Boy Who Cried Wolf" fairly good...finally ending with the tune "Deadman (a.k.a. Run Like Hell)" which was a slow tune, one of their better ones of the evening featuring the lead guitar on a short shred with the drums doing a nice job here (according to lead singer Andrew Paluch, it was a tune that was a homage to the late grunge musician Kurt Cobain). Their original tunes offer a very promising and appealing sound and their presentation of the cover tunes were, I admit, quite good by not emulating the authors of those tunes but to present them in their band's own fashion.

Not sure if it is intentional (if it is it may be to keep the aura of underground rock appeal) but the Wake Up Siouxsie's MySpace page is very unprofessional and appears to have been cobbled together in hap-hazard fashion...ditto on the photos of the band, they need to be better quality if they are interested in viable commercial promotion...the array of videos available on the internet of Wake Up Siouxsie are even more atrocious; the sound quality is very poor and the images are either out of focus half the time or are not very steady shots...it would be great if they would invest a little effort to get these things improved on...it wouldn't take much...also there doesn't seem to be an official logo for the band, aside from artwork found on the occasional promotion poster advertising an appearance. The band doesn't seem to care about this aspect I guess, just their music, which they do seem to be very serious about...but it could help them greatly to get these items organized and more presentable along with the establishment of an official YouTube channel of high quality videos. Seeing them live, they are definitely a cut above the "garage band" level, but you wouldn't know it by what is out there on the web. At least the recordings available on their MySpace site do not suffer the same fate and are half-way decent but again they only have a measly four of their many great originals posted to their site (there are more on video but they have very bad sound quality and do not do their musical genius justice)...they just need to get their act together a little more on these elements that represent their ongoing musical enterprise. I believe they could go far in the music business if they give more attention to these things I mentioned here. This two-year old band has great potential and I was very impressed with their sound, although it is still somewhat immature in musical production technique and marketing. Thier repetoire of great original music is on a very good start and growing. But, if you want to make this band a serious move at a career guys...you had better Wake Up...Siouxsie. 'Nuff Sed.

Video of Wake Up Siouxsie (best sound quality one I could find):


NEXT SHOW:
tba

BAND MEMBERS:
Mike Curran-dummer
Andrew Paluch-vox rhythm guitar, lead vocals
Mike Napoli-lead guitar, backup vocals
Jake Ames-bass guitar, backup vocals

MANAGEMENT:
self-managed

LABEL:
indie

WEBSITES:
http://www.myspace.com/wakeupsiouxsie

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wake-Up-Siouxsie/77048639785

http://www.youtube.com/user/mhcdrum

http://twitter.com/wakeupsiouxsie

8.25.2010

6 DEGREES OF SEPARATION american-hard-rock power-pop trio connects with the basics


Ever since I attended my very first rock concert at age 15 to see The Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Chicago Coliseum (a.k.a "The Syndrome") in December 1968, I have always had a special place in my heart for the classic sounds of a 3-piece rock band comprised simply of guitar, bass and drums. I finally got a chance to see this rockn’ similarly-formatted "power pop" trio hailing from Hanover Park, Illinois called 6 Degrees Of Separation at a Chicago suburban venue earlier this month (August 14, 2010@North Beach-Downers Grove, IL). One word describes these old school rockers…WOW! This band rocked me to the rafters, baby! Good ole solid American straight-ahead classic hard-rock music recalling the 1970s and 80s somewhat, giving you the expectant feeling that the Chicago Outlaws or the Hell’s Angels are gonna show up riding their Harleys to the edge of the stage in dazed excitement at any minute. Okay, okay...maybe thats a little over the top...but then so is this band's original sound. Also known as “6DOS” to their fans, these musicians pretty much stole the musical show for me this night and it was great to get to hear them do an extended set of 13 tunes (due to a band cancelling so they got extra stage time) that were ALL ORIGINAL with the exception of a Billy Idol cover, thank god. Damn, this band is good! With a tinge of the laid-back bluesy-hard-rock heavy-driving sound one hears with ZZ Top, the very experienced songwriter/lead singer/guitarist and consumate musician Rich Dahl was singing forth with a timbre in his voice and a vocal style similar to that of Roy Orbison...with perfectly and clearly heard lyrics to boot and a unique guitar sound that uses a "sustain" technique...then the steady drumming of a Ginger Baker coming from the sticks of Scott Jacks, along with the "way cool" occasional single-fingered bass playing by the chick musician D.D. Dierking displaying a playing style reminiscent of Cream’s Jack Bruce (which she claims to be one of her musical influences, not surprisingly). What a musical combination this band of rockers make. They've got their craft down cold. 6DOS is very polished and professional in thier presentation, hitting the stage right on-time, tuned up and ready to play for you. No fumbling around with the equipment or annoying sound-check or anything like that, just getting directly to the show at hand.

Prior to starting their set, Rich half-jokingly called out to the beer-happy crowd of mostly 20-something-rockers (which were gathered there in-part for the last night of the venue’s incarnation as the North Beach nightclub), “You’re gonna hear a lot of good music you won’t know.” I laughed when I heard him say it as I purveyed the youth-laden crowd. He was right. It was all original music created by this band (except for one cover). Only I would have replaced the word “good” with “great". After a short intro riff...the opening tune was “Tear This Down” loved this tune's opening guitar riff, the Orbison-like vocalizing by Dahl and driving drums by Jacks with lyrics pleaing "give me the power to change me now", then “Face In The Crowd”, followed by Rich matter-of-factly announcing “...A new one by us...” called “Modern Life” a tune that has a slow start then gets jacked up in speed, about dealing with the fast-paced gadget-oriented life of today and the electronically-caused isolation/withdrawal from in-person contact with people these days due to FaceBook and cell phones and the like singing the lyrics "I feel like I'm getting so old...I feel so lost...I feel alone"...then a chick wearing a sequined belt buckle that simply spelled out the word ROCK in sparkling letters (named Michelle) was called to the stage by the band from the audience to do some back-up singing with them on the Van Halen-esque title-track tune from their album of the same name “Just Wake Up”...next “Pennies For Heros”...then they deferred to a cover of the Billy Idol tune "Rebel Yell", followed by “Just A Little Rain” which I considered bet of show...“Healer” which had a guitar riff using a plucked/picked lead style of playing alternating with beats from the drums...then after two clicks of the drum sticks they drove into the tune “All I Can Do”...but my personal fave of the show was “Seven” I guess due to the hauntingly repetitive guitar riff and lyric that defines the tune...“Make It To The Bridge” was the only song that didn't make it for me having the beat being tempered by a cowbell on the drum kit that somehow seemed out of place with the guitar line of the tune...then another great original sounding tune similar to ZZ Top stuff that showcases Dahl's lead guitar work and Dierking playing the bass guitar one-fingered throughout called “Thin Skin” and ending with another one featuring Rich's lead guitar skills entitled “No More Heartache”.


The self-described "power pop trio" was formed about five years ago with the goal of reording and performing in their words, "strong definitive original music". The band's configuration as a rock trio lends itself to the "rawness and edge of real rock music" as the band states in their MySpace bio. They are in the process of moving from playing Chicago suburban venues to those in the city. Rich Dahl has a ton of experience fronting bands over the years such as Watz (1978-81) to Ready For Ransom (circa mid-1990s) and having had played with members of the band The Blasters (before they came to fame on L.A.'s punk rock scene in the 1980s) from his early musical years in Los Angeles, California. The self-taught Rich had a musical association with the drummer Bill Batemen from that band, as he made use of him in several of his California-based bands. He also played with the likes of Elton John, the Allman Brothers and Eric Burton of War fame. The drummer for 6DOS, Scott Jacks, started playing in rock bands, age 16, at venues from Chicago to Los Angeles and back. Bass player D.D. Dierking, not having been at the music game as long as the other two members, has guested with many bands but now has found a musical home here with 6 Degrees Of Separation.

The actual concept of "Six Degrees Of Separation" (also known as the "Human Web") refers to the idea that everyone is at most six steps away from any other person on Earth, so that a chain of, "a friend of a friend" statements can be made to connect any two people in six steps or fewer...the band will accomplish this easily through their original music as it goes out into the world at large, as once you've heard them you'll probably become a fan and find yourself connected with other people by only 6 Degrees Of Separation. 'Nuff Sed.

NEXT SHOW:
tba

BAND MEMBERS:
Rich Dahl-Guitars, Vocals
Scott Jacks-Drums
D.D.Dierking-Bass

MANAGEMENT:
self-managed

LABEL:
indie

WEBSITES:
http://www.myspace.com/6degreestheband
http://www.facebook.com/pages/6-DEGREES-OF-SEPARATION/136183999759
http://6degreestheband.com/
(source: Wikipedia.org, MySpace.com, various artists sites)

8.24.2010

SIX WAYS FROM SUNDAY metal-alt band shows commercial promise but may have long road ahead

Six Ways From Sunday is a 4-piece band that headlined a four-band Friday-the-13th August 2010 show in the waning days of the now-closed-venue North Beach in Downers Grove, Illinois. Their music offered eight really good original rock tunes, in fact a couple of great ones ("Tell Me Father" and "Hold On")...and I liked the way that they moved from tune to tune without hardly a pause in between...but they deferred to cover music (counted at least five covers) towards the end of their thirteen-song set. Bands sometimes have a "not-the-best-they-could-do-show" and I believe this may have been the case here (I would like to re-review the band in about a year from now). The set may have gone on a little too long for the musicians, tiring both themselves and the listeners...not sure...but whatever the cause was, I know from hearing their recorded work that they have great potential for commercial success with a "wall-of-sound" that combines and showcases very good alternative-rock song-writing with metal-based guitar lines. This is an instance where I think the band is much better sounding studio-recorded than live. Even though I heard it in their music, the energy of performance was missing visually on-stage. At times the guitar and drum work, although very good, would drown out the lead singer and the lyrics would become unintelligible...maybe a more careful sound-check procedure prior to showtime would help here. During the course of the first three tunes I did not catch a song title announcement...the fourth tune entitled "Tell Me Father" was the first song to capture my attention with expressive lead vocals by Francesco Roti containing noteworthy lyrics (probably the best one of the show), the fifth tune was declared to be a "new song debut" but I did not catch the title (if it was mentioned), on the sixth tune it started out very strong but the guitars buried the lead singer, the seventh one was the first of four cover tunes, the eighth song was called, I believe, "Hold On" which featured the drummer Tony Rotkvich doing a more than adequate job and on this one the band really came together with a song that offered up very nice soulful lyrics, however, the ninth tune the band seemed to fall apart on (again no title), then for their tenth they sailed into what they claim Joe Chavez (band/talent booker for the venue) considers to be "The Best Song In The World"...it was a not-quite-up-to-par rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" with lyrics that were aimed at poking fun at Chavez. The next two tunes were covers and the final song of the set was the original "What If" (I think). Their internet presence needs to be a little more professionalized if they want to garner more marketability. They have a substantial MySpace page but it looks like their namesake site is still under construction. They also have a good start on a YouTube channel and I understand they are about to release a professional quality video for the tune "Blind" which is currently getting the finishing touches and should be out by summer's end. Once it is available I will post it here assuming its embedable. Currently they are in the studio re-tracking thier first album "Long Road Ahead" and are in the process of working on a second one called "Breaking The Chain"...so they may not be doing live shows for a while until these projects are completed. The "Boys Of Six Ways" (a.k.a. SWFS) show a lot of promise to go commercial successfully someday and their sound is intriguing...they have a growing fan-base that is quite large for a band that was essentially started in 2003 when Frank Roti and Tim "The Hatter" Hughes discovered their mutual interest in making music...having formed a band, they named it Six Ways From Sunday in 2005 and then in 2006 they did their first show...but only as recently as 2009 did they acquire musicians that fit with the vision that lead vocals/guitarist Frank Roti (who writes the music) and vocals/bass guitarist Tim "The Hatter" Hughes (who writes the lyrics) have to showcase their talent with the help of driving-drummer Tony Rotkvich who was brought into the group along with (and by) the more-than-able guitarist Jason Moore. I have mentioned this in other articles before...a band is so much better when they stick to their original songs...these guys don't need to do covers...spend the time you have on stage doing your own stuff...it sounds "way better"...this band proved it in the show I saw them in. As I said, they have much promise and a great start...if they can survive the challenges that lay before them as they work on getting the band more "together" professionally-speaking, the road ahead may not be such a long one after all...just keep the compass steady and concentrate on one direction...forward. 'Nuff Sed.
Video of Six Ways From Sunday doing the tune "Tell Me Father" live at Reggies in Chicago:



Video of Six Ways From Sunday featuring Frank on lead vocals doing the tune "Hold On" live at Reggies in Chicago:



NEXT SHOW:
tba

BAND MEMBERS:
Francesco Roti - lead vocals/guitar
Tim “The Hatter” Hughes - bass/vocals
Jason Moore - guitar/vocals
Tony Rotkvich - drums/vocals

LABEL:
indie

MANAGEMENT:
self-managed

WEBSITES:
http://www.myspace.com/sixwaysfromsunday

http://www.facebook.com/sixwaysfromsunday?v=wall

http://twitter.com/BoysofSixWays

http://www.six-ways.com/

http://new.music.yahoo.com/six-ways-from-sunday/albums/long-road-ahead--202184163

8.23.2010

BUILDING ROME power pop alt rock band has emo foundation & commercial appeal

"Roma die uno non aedificata est"(translation from latin: "Rome wasn't built in a day") How long did it take to build Rome? It began around 753 B.C. and reached its peak in 120 A.D. when the population became 1.2 million, so technically it took about 870 years. Oh, you mean the St. Louis, Missouri-based power pop alt rock band with an aura of emo? Five years, no make that six, no they just added a fourth guy to play bass, so make that ah...well, the fact of the matter is...they're still Building Rome, the band. (images in order of appearance: Building Rome CD covers, Buddy Holly from a picture by Billy Hathorn and his look-a-like Jon Heisserer, awesome drummer Brian Porter, band's original founding member Jon Heisserer, new bass player Heath Robertson, skilled lead guitarist Tom Butler) I caught up with these musicians performing their craft at a show in suburban Chicago this past month on August 14th, 2010. Simply...they ROCKED! In speaking with founder Jon Heisserer when questioned about the name of the band he told me "it's been difficult trying to find the right mix of musicians to make up the band and as a result a frined had mentioned that Rome wasn't built in a day". Right from the git-go they came onstage with a refreshing look, ditching the t-shirt ripped jeans thing which many bands tend to do nowadays (where you can't tell a fan from the featured rock performer), wearing collared shirts with the band's leader Jon Heisserer looking eerily like a youthful reincarnation of a clean-cut guitar-laden Buddy Holly. This band presented themselves very professionally and they jumped into their set of seven all-original rock music tunes with conviction and polished enthusiasm...the lyrics were easily and clearly heard with a perfect balance between the four rockers bringing forth such a high definition in the execution of their songs, making it sound as if I was listening to a very audiophilic quality studio version recording of their music pulsing out into the audience. They upstaged all the other bands I heard on the bill that night (Dear Noel, Odayin, and 6 Ways From Sunday) with their overall no-nonsense stage presence, technical playing skills of drummer Brian Porter, Tom Butler on lead guitar/backup vocals, newly acquired bass player Heath Robertson, and the exceptional songwriting talent of Jon Heisserer on lead vocals/rhythm guitar. The band's sound is very much in the power pop vein which draws its inspiration from 1960s British and American pop and rock music, typically incorporating a combination of musical devices such as strong melodies, crisp vocal harmonies, economical arrangements, and prominent guitar riffs with limited soloing...yet also having that sound which is descended from punk rock making them somewhat alternative in nature with a solid base of emo (music that is typically characterized by melodic musicianship and expressive, often confessional lyrics) that is noticably apparent in their sound/image which it is creatively built on. Building Rome's fourth and latest CD release, "Nightmare", is a concept album supposedly loosely based on the movie Jacob's Ladder, but it seems to me it is more tellingly a revealing portrait of the band's songwriter Jon Heisserer and his expressive visions and angst of what he personally was going through during "...a really rough time..." in his life; his band had broken up, and as Jon states in an interview he had with Courtney Marsh of the St. Louis Music Examiner, "...I pretty much sat on my couch for a year being really depressed. The concept for the album started up with a dream that I had, and sort of perpetuated itself into a whole story about love, death, anger, addiction, and war....I just wanted to make something real. I can always tell when people write music just to write music. I wanted to write something that I would listen to...I was tired of writing songs that ended after three minutes." The set of seven tunes opened with "Welcome To My Brain", then "Nightmare", 3rd was what I considered their second best tune of the show "Take Cover (Burn)", the 4th tune they slowed it down a little bit with "The Panting Dog" another great tune with a memorable guitar riff, the 5th song performed was "Sleep In My Eyes", the 6th tune livening up the audience with "Dr. Doctor" and finally their biggest hit to date and what I considered their best tune, "What Are We Fighting For?". All in all, they are a band not to be missed and seem to be a step away from commercially viable rock n' roll fame...the band is still going through changes as Jon continues to re-form and enhance the band, Building Rome, in pursuit of the musical vision to be had...keep it up guys and hone your sound...just remember, "If you build it,they will come." 'Nuff Sed.

Elbo Room Chicago live show video of Buiding Rome doing the tune "Take Cover (Burn)":



Commercially produced video of Building Rome's hit "What Are We Fighting For?":



NEXT SHOW:
Oklahoma City, OK
August 24, 2010
8PM

BAND MEMBERS:
Jon Heisserer – Lead Vocals / Rhythm Guitar
Heath Robertson - Bass
Tom Butler – Lead Guitar/Backup Vocals
Brian PorterDrums/Backup Vocals
(on recordings but no longer a current band member Brandon Armour – Guitar/Backup Vocals)
LABEL:
indie

MANAGEMENT:
self-managed

WEBSITES:

NOTE:
I indicated that this band was based on a foundation of emo. What is emo? It is a form of culture that commonly is tied to both music and fashion as well as the emo subculture...usually among teens, the term "emo" is stereotyped with wearing slim-fit jeans sometimes in bright colors...some males also wear thick, black horn-rimmed glasses. The emo fashion is also recognized for its hairstyles...popular looks include long side-swept Fringe (hair)bangs, sometimes covering one or both eyes...also popular is hair that is straightened and dyed black...bright colors, such as blue, pink, red, or bleached blond, are also typical as highlights in emo hairstyles...short, choppy layers of hair are also common...this fashion has at times been characterized as a fad...in the early 2000s, emo fashion was associated with a clean cut look but as the style spread to younger teenagers, the style has become darker, with long bangs and emphasis on the color black replacing vests...the term emo has been associated with a stereotype that includes being particularly emotional, sensitive, shy, introverted, or angst-ridden...it has also been associated with depression, self-injury, and suicide.

(source: Wikipedia.org, BuildingRomeRocks.com, MySpace.com, Youtube.com)

8.19.2010

ODAYIN metal-alt-rock band has prog heart

The five musicians of the heavy metal-alternative rock band from Michigan known as Odayin came across as a bunch of "lets-just-have-a-good-time-and-rock-these-people" dudes (normally six members but Graham Rockwood the keyboardist/bass was M.I.A. for this show)...formed in 2008 this band makes use of a word from the Ojibwa indian tribe that means "heart"...and they've got plenty of it. As stated in their band brochure which was passed out in the club prior to the show that gave a wonderful overview of the band and its members including their names, email, websites and booking info (great marketing idea/format by the way), "The heart stirs up many emotions or ideas, like passion, belief, truth and life. It's those feelings this group of six fun-loving individuals brings together to create energetic and thought provoking tunes for anyone to enjoy". I know it waxes a little philosophical, but there it is, a description of their band and what they're about.
(images in order of appearance: Steve Dombrowski, Randy Gray, Nick Weidner, Odayin Album Debut Poster, Dustin Buckley, Danny Pica, Graham Rockwood)


Odayin's music is very heavy metal oriented due to the stellar lead guitar work of Steve Dombroski with alternative-rock-influenced spurious vocals adequately handled by two alternating and sometimes harmonizing vocalists Nick Weidner and Randy Gray (also rhythm guitarist)...combine this with the more than ample vibes emanating from the bass guitarist Dustin Buckley and then bringing it all together, the driving "heart" beat-to-be-
reckoned-with, rock drummer Danny
Pica...they coalesce as one solid magma of rock force to be heard that carried the night away (as well as the crowd) at the North Beach nightclub located in a suburb of Chicago.

Their show of originals opened with the tune which is the title track to the album they released in 2009 entitled "The Last Flight Of Chaos"...best of show goes to this one...does a great job of defining the band's sound...it features the alternating and harmonizing double vocal leads, a very unusual approach but it helps to make their music unique...just a word here, when they began the show they failed to make mention of their name initially for those that missed the brochure, but did say they were from out of state. The second tune "The Doubt", showcased the bass player quite well in conjunction with the other guitars playing a distinctive repeating riff together...the third tune "Poison Arrows" loved the guitar line on this one and what lyrics I could hear were thought provoking...by the fourth tune about five chicks grabbed a table to stage right of the band and as a result the lead singer "dedicated the next song to table 7" which was called "Undertow"...it offered up a magnificent solo by Steve on his blonde-bodied lead guitar and Dustin's bass the way it was being worked reminded me of the playing style of Stanley Clarke on this one...this was the first tune I could clearly her all the vocals on...previous tunes they were being overshadowed by the guitar lines it seemed to me...the next tune really rocked me...number 5..."Weight Of the Revolution" and I consider their second best one of the show...the harmonized vocals were way cool as well as the driving riffs and again the presence of Steve's major, major lead guitar work (almost out-classing his band mates, his technical skill and ability is quite impressive and at times seems to carry the band)...on the 6th tune "Redefine", the bass player and drummer meshed quite well here and made for a great tune...after the 7th and final tune "TNT"...the band did right by announcing to the audience "Thanks for being here and listening to us...hope everything works out for everybody" which was referring to the fact that this was the last Friday night for the night club to be open...rumors of the death knell had been sounded for the venue earlier in the week.

The band has only one really well produced high quality video available to post here where it shows scenes from their album debut party accompanied by the track "Weight Of The Revolution" from their album "The Last Flight Of Chaos"...the others out there on Youtube all have very bad sound quality so I would recommend going to their MySPace page or iTunes to listen to their other music offerings. I would suggest that they get some good quality videos out there to help follow-up and support their marketing campaign that was so nicely done with their informational flyer distributed at the show. The band appears to truly enjoy working together to entertain and brings forth a "now-lets-get-rocked-and-have-fun" atmosphere of stage presence. The two lead vocalist thing by Nick and Randy I think is what sets them apart from other bands I see out there...in addition to a great rhythm section comprised of Dustin and Danny and the rock-shredding lead guitar of Steve Dombrowski. Odayin is so good, when you go to see and hear these dudes rock live, don't be surprised if you get a...dare I say it..."heart" attack. Odayin ROCKS! 'Nuff Sed.

Odayin album debut party vid (circa 2009) featuring the track "Weight Of The Revolution" with a "KILLER" lead guitar solo by Steve Dombrowski:


NEXT SHOW:
Odayin at
Hard Rock Cafe Detroit, MI
Thursday, Aug 19, 2010 @ 7:00 PM

BAND MEMBERS:
Steve Dombrowski-lead guitar
Nick Weidner-vocals
Randy Gray-vocals/rhythm guitar
Dustin Buckley-bass
Danny Pica-drums
Graham Rockwood-bass/keys

LABEL:
Indie

MANAGEMENT:
Ebone McLean

WEBSITES:
http://www.myspace.com/odayinmusic

http://www.facebook.com/odayin

http://www.famecast.com/backstage/artist.php?artist_id=25515

http://www.sonicbids.com/epk/epk.aspx?epk_id=160419

(sources: myspace.com, youtube.com)

8.16.2010

VAL HALLA rock music guitarist blonde chick slays fans at the gates with sass & song



Val Halla in Scandinavian mythology refers to the "hall of the slain"; if ever you get to be a member of her all-original-music-rocked audience on this latest tour with her band, slay you she will...when she finishes her show at any venue she plays, it definitely becomes the mythic "hall of the slain" alright, deftly vanquishing her audience with her guitar, vocal and (most pre-eminently) songwriting skills and talent, hastening the annihilation of the musical memory of any band that comes onstage before her act. The folksy-brunette-turned-stunning-blonde-rock-red-guitar-wielding-songwriter-chick Val Halla (a.k.a. Valerie Raye McLeod), dispatches rock fans to the realm of those yearning to hear more of her original sound...her unique approach to the rock music genre has a touch of Nashville country sustained by a heavy metal foundation (when accompanied by her band), combining the experience of years learning piano and writing her first song at the age of 5, learning guitar at 11, leaving home at 17 (inspired to follow the life of a musician by having seen a live show of music by Hawksley Workman), 9 years of actively and with professional dedication pursuing her musical craft, 2 recent years touring as a solo artist (acoustic guitarist) internationally and now becoming the opening act for Ted Nugent's current 2010 summer tour (image above: Ted Nugent with Val Halla).

This 26 year old "Devilishly Dazzling Doll" with her signature angel-winged eye makeup and smokey-laden voice, is a musical talent to be reckoned with. Her music is so original in nature, she quickly discovered that her sound is hard to put into a commercial category according to recording industry people that she has tried to get her music produced with...and as a result has named her new album "No Place" in response to the claims by the music industry "suits" that her music won't fit anywhere. Halla calls her brand of music "Rock Americana" as in Sheryl Crow-meets-Joan Jett...some have called it Allman Brothers-meet-Courtney Love...still others have named it "Gruntry" which implies a clash of the 1990s grunge music she grew up with and the country music that now surrounds her currently, residing in the Tennessee town known to many as "Music City USA" (Nashville). Whatever it is classified, her music is as appealing as her looks and on-stage "bad girl" manner. Its a dynamite combo just ready to explode into a cloud of musical marketability where she could easily crossover between a country and rock music fan base. I think the "suits" better wake up and sign her to a deal as soon as possible...she's only going to continue to get better at her craft as you can see by the devotion to her music in talking with her as I did for this interview...until a recording label picks her up, Val Halla is a promise waiting to be kept.

As her aptly named blog entitled, "Val Halla-My Journey To Rock N Roll Heaven" (with a subtitle that reads "In our dying days, where the outcome is predefined, we chose to fight despite our fate, standing tall at Valhalla’s gate")...it has definitely been all that for her...a task that requires one to stand tall for sure, be steady and at times defiant, literally fighting for survival in the face of the many
devastating situations encountered by her on this tune-filled
tumultuous trek. She has no record label (self-producing her CDs "Val Halla" and "No Place") and was in need of a tour manager for the band. Financially it has been a strain even though she has had help via a touring grant from the Canadian Saskatchewan Arts Board as Val is from Regina, Saskatchewan Canada originally. But all the trials and travails she claims is worth it to her as the exposure for her music now is very great due to her current tour with legendary rocker Ted Nugent, playing to three or four thousand people per show. Its estimated that the tour closer in Detroit on September 5th, 2010 will garner an audience of ten thousand.

When she was informed that she would be touring with Ted Nugent she only had two weeks to put together a band to get ready for it. Then her tour van had been broken into and equipment stolen. In another instance the van broke down causing the band to be late for their sound-check at a concert venue. Being the true rock music road warrior she is Halla took it all in stride. What else could possibly go wrong? Guess. Val Halla, just prior to coming here to do a couple of shows in Chicago between Nugent tour dates, discovered that her band (Neal Davis-guitar, Alex Ferreiro-bass, and Marty Higman-drums all from Austin, Texas) was deserting her in Pittsburgh
having fallen prey to their inability to handle the grind of a road tour or maybe it was just another case of the "band drama trauma" thing that takes down so many aspiring musical acts these days. This left the determined and road-hardened Val Halla stranded without a band for the balance of the Ted Nugent tour. But fortune (and maybe the Norse gods of old) smiled down upon her, not to mention her tenacious persistence to succeed. Val Halla was backed by the local heavy metal rock band Till Death for her House Of Blues Chicago show this past month and as a result she recruited the more-than-capable guitarist Mike Styrczula from that band to help finish out her tour with Ted Nugent (Mike also plays with the group Chris Servia & The Ivory Theory). She also acquired the former band talent recruiter for the now-shuttered and defunct North Beach nightclub, Joe Chavez and annointed him her tour band manager. Val also brought in a bass guitarist dude named Ron Lawson who flew in from Canada right before the show I saw and has a very capable rocker named Tristan Helgason on drums (from the Canadian alternative rock band Ghosts Of Modern Man) to fill out the all-new cast of members for her band.

The first of seven all-original tunes that she opened with (mostly from her recently released album "No Place" March 9, 2010) was "Whiskey Evening" a rock guitar-driven tune with a splash of country about making friends with Jack Daniels after a bad day at work and being stood up - of course when you've known him as long as I have he goes by the name of John - ha ("I don't want to be your one and only I just want to be your baby"..."I don't want to be your everything I just want to make everything all right"), then "Be One Tonight" a clean and tight performance by the
band on this one, followed by the tuneful promise that she will be "Coming Home" one of these days from her travels, then "Makers Moon" which I thought was a good representation of a tune that could have crossover appeal 'tween rock and country audiences, "Dark Sister" a country-slanted tune about a change in her disposition ("I'm not the girl I used to be since my dark sister came lookin' for me"), "40 Days and 40 Nights" good professional-sounding rock with the drummer throwing his sticks up in the air at the end of the song, and finally closing with "The Bad Girl Touch" probably her best example of the metal-rock that she is currently displaying on tour which is an autobiographical piece about what Val Halla is really like (as she points out in her interview video below).

Val Halla the "Rocker Chick" backed by her heavy-metal-based-band on the autobiographical tune "Bad Girl Touch":





Val Halla's music is not so much revolutionary as it is evolutionary...her current commercially available recordings lean towards country music with a splash of rock and heartfelt lyrics that draw you into her world of folksy
tunesmithing...yet when you see her live during this current concert tour the commercial music presented on her websites and in her recordings belies the everpresent musical influences of some of her heavy-metal band faves such as Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin and the like...especially evident when she is fronting her current metal-oriented rock band that is on tour with her. The professionally recorded internet-based tunes turn into in-your-face rock anthems when you see her live. So...bottom-line...I see her music as still evolving due to the "introverted-brunette-acoustic-guitar-carrying-good-girl" image/sound battling with the "extroverted-electric-guitar-wielding-BlondeRockerChick-bad-girl" aura...I believe she is still wrestling with this duality and which vehicle will be best to use to showcase her music...personally the latter appeals to me and it seems to me that it does to her, too...in the end I know she will make the choice that is right for her...she is very much her own person and has done a great job carving out her unique musical niche...hmmm...there may be some additional insight here to the real Val Halla/Valerie McLeod...there is a very revealing passage that Halla had scribbled on the side of the box she was carrying her CDs in which she was busy selling to avid fans...it goes:




"No judgement All fear

Panic evil's here

Keep saving yourself

Way down in that beer

There's some ugly mistress

Hiding out in that mirror"


Val Halla has re-booted her image, her music and her show and is now in line for a raging commercial success (she certainly has been paying her dues for the past decade)...and touring with "Uncle Ted" will be an experience she will gain alot from...but until that decision has been fully committed to on how to purvey her craft (bad girl? good girl? country? rock? metal? gruntry? or a mix thereof?) and she has fully reconciled with herself...well...you've come a long way baby...you're almost there...but you've got just a little further to go before you enter Rock N Roll Heaven...however, I think they hear you now...rattling the gates. 'Nuff Sed.

NEXT SHOW:
August 19th, 2010
Ted Nugent "Trample The Weak Hurdle The Dead Tour"
The Catalyst Santa Cruz, CA

BAND MEMBERS:
Val Halla-lead singer/rhythm guitar
Mike Styrczula-Lead guitar
Ron Lawson-bass
Tristan Helgason-drums

LABEL:
Indie

MANAGEMENT:
Joe Chavez


WEBSITES:
http://www.valhallaonline.com/
http://www.myspace.com/myspacemusicvalhalla
http://www.facebook.com/valhallamusic
http://www.youtube.com/user/ValHallaOnline
http://valhalla.bandcamp.com/album/no-place
http://itunes.apple.com/artist/val-halla/id268704087
http://www.blog.valhallaonline.com
http://www.twitter.com/valhallamusic
http://www.reverbnation.com/valhallamusic
http://www.myspace.com/valeriemcleod
http://www.myspace.com/valhallavancouver

"Girl Next Door" Valerie McLeod before the Val Halla rocker-chick reboot:





Val Halla's commercially-oriented music video of the tune "Stay" from her new CD "No Place":





Val Halla's tune called "Coming Home" with scenes from her journey on the road to Rock N Roll Heaven:





Can't get enough of Val Halla? Hey, scope out this interview:




(source: valhallaonline.com, myspace.com)

8.12.2010

CHRIS SERVIA & THE IVORY THEORY never judge a book by its cover or a band for that matter

(image: Chris Servia postulating The Ivory Theory)
Many years ago I caught a keyboardist/singer/songwriter on his way up the pop-rock fame-ladder in, of all places, DeKalb, Illinois performing in a small, dark, overly-warm, low-ceilinged and very crowded venue on the campus of Northern Illinois University...he walked out onstage, barefoot, alone, with a sixpack of beer and slammed it onto the baby grand piano while holding another freshly opened can of brew in his other hand...he was wearing blue denim coveralls, no shirt and had these really huge oversized pop-bottle-thick-lensed-tinted-glasses on, looking unshaved and pretty rough...but then I was there to catch an electric rock violinist (Jean Luc Ponty) that had just recently joined this guy's band on a pre-release tour promoting the group's forthcoming 5th album and wasn't really there to here this bespeckled piano-man play...besides, I didn't know what to make of this guy...when he sat down and started plunking on the ivories, sailing into a self-written lyric-rich song with sincerity, emotion and ease, I suddenly became enamored of his music...then the rest of the band joined him onstage...however, I'll finish that story later.

I had a sense of
déjà vu the other night of this same whole scene...I was at the small, dark, overly-warm back-bar-stage venue at North Beach in Downers Grove (August 7, 2010), reminiscent of the one I had been to so many years ago...was primarily attending to catch the up and coming rock artist Val Halla, but discovered that several other bands were going to be there prior to her onstage appearance and one of them was the Till Death group's keyboardist (formerly a member of the band MoXXy) showcasing his talent as a singer/songwriter accompanied by his band, The Ivory Theory...his name, Chris Servia. I had been to North Beach a few times prior to this and only knew him as a bartender there. Just thought he was a guy happy being a barman...didn't know he was into music...didn't know he could play keyboards...didn't know he could sing...didn't know he could write songs...didn't know he had his own band...didn't know he was a musician of such high caliber...just thought he was another kid working at the club. Hmmm...never judge a book by its cover...never make assumptions...never consider things at face value. Nope. Never.

(images below: in order of appearance...Mike Styrczula, Timothy Flynn, Tim Eads, Chris DiDomenico, Joe Chavez)

Chris Servia & The Ivory Theory was quite a surprising tour-de-force for me...a tuneful musical delight to be reckoned with...they gave an excellent show performing about nine songs all original and all written by Chris Servia from what I understand. I know musicians hate to hear the "sounds like" references, especially when they are presenting originals and are as talented as "Chris & The Theory" are...but on some of the tunes Chris's vocals reminded me of Joe Cocker's vocals, on others...the piano-man I had listened to in a time-zone way back there in my memory...Servia's voice at times similar to Cocker, a little throaty but good (maybe due to the cigs Servia smokes)...giving some extra texture to the song (unfortunately I did not get the name of that particular tune). In fact, the band has so much talent in addition to Chris, that some of it was recruited for Val Halla's band to help finish out the last 15 tour dates with Ted Nugent (who she is currently on tour with)...so Mike Styrczula was going on the road with Val Halla, leaving The Ivory Theory minus a lead guitar for the time being. But no matter...Chris took it in stride as he was telling me while patting Styrczula on the back saying he was really happy for Mike to get the chance to go on the road and have the experience of working on a tour with bands like Ted Nugent and Val Halla. Chris also had (I believe it was Timothy Flynn) a guy filling in for the band's regular bass player Tim Eads who was missing in action for this particular show.

In spite of all the changes going on with the band that night, Chris gave a great display of his talent. At one point Servia did two tunes solo (without the band onstage), one moment arched down over his keyboards, the next, reaching up to the microphone caressing it with the lyrics from his heartfelt original songs...working through the musical theory with an introspective contemplation of the ivories that he had such great technical command of, causing me to recall that piano-man experience I had so long ago...they were very soulful ballads leaving you with a sense of...being.

Chris Servia & The Ivory Theory's best tunes were "
Fallen World" and the final tune to close the show, "One Last Time" (which is to be the theme song for a new ABC-TV show, "Check Please"). Aside from Mike Styrczula's great lead guitar work there was the ever-present driving beat on all these tunes provided by Chris DiDomenico's drums...both musicians showing evidence of a heavy metal background in their music-related experience and sound...yet toned down somewhat to accomodate Chris and his vocals. But the tune that brought me right back to that long ago concert I had experienced and which had caused me to conjure up all this memory was one that Chris was debuting this night entitled "No Time". It made me think to myself that Chris and his band were just like that other young aspiring musical artist I had seen so many years before. Showing so much promise, enthusiasm, originality, youthfulness, and love for pop-rock music and lyric-laden song.

The keyboardist/singer/songwriter piano-man from so long ago?
Elton John...the year? 1972...the album that they were previewing to the audience live prior to release? "Honky Chateau". If Chris Servia & The Ivory Theory endure and get the elusive big break that every upcoming band out there dreams of, especially a band as good as this one surely deserves...then...dare I say it? It looks like pop-rock musical history is about to repeat itself. 'Nuff Sed.

NEXT SHOW:
tba

BAND MEMBERS:
Chris Servia-keyboards/vocals
Mike Styrczula-lead guitar
Tim Eads-bass (Timothy Flynn was filling in for the show I reviewed?)
Chris DiDomenico-drums

MANAGEMENT:
Joe Chavez













LABEL:
Indie

Here is the show-closing tune from the North Beach performance of Chris Servia & The Ivory Theory...in action:

8.11.2010

SHANGHAI SUPERSTARS this pop-punk-reggae band is absolutely dot dot dot good!!!


Shanghai Superstars…wha da? Strictly from the name you’d almost expect to see a Chinese family trapeze act not a professionally-polished high-energy-exuding rock band...but this group (in existence only 8 months with this being the first time they have played a show in 3 months) is way more entertaining than that...initially they sounded to me like a cross between Men At Work (a 1980s Australian band that introduced a form of new-wave-reggae music) and Cheap Trick (the power-pop music group from Rockford Illinois)...this band has blended those music genres together creating a pop-punk-reggae format and as a result is as original as HELL (as mentioned in their tune "Fallen Angel")...sweeet!!! Shanghai Superstars was the fresh and exciting opening act for Val Halla (currently on tour with Ted Nugent) and appeared with two other bands Last Second Signal and Chris Servia & The Ivory Theory in Downers Grove, IL at North Beach nightclub on Saturday August 7, 2010.

(images: in order of appearance band members Mark, TJ, Spoon, Wes and band manager Bryan Javor)

The "Stars" performance was tight and clean and began with a "lets-get-ready-to-rumble?-styled" recording clearly announcing the name of the band to the audience prior to the band members running on stage...something which many bands get around to doing somewhere in the middle of their show, if they remember to do it at all...Shanghai Superstars made a point to let you know they were there to entertain you...and put on a show they did. Complete with choreographed routines on a few of the tunes, endless energy, great lead guitar work by Wes Anderson, harmonic-oriented vocals by TJ Neville and Mark Lewandowski and stunningly driving, regimentally-rhythmic beats to keep the band's tunes on track by the drummer Spoon (a.k.a. Ryan Jezuit), Shanghai Superstars brings it on and brings it all to the rock-arena stage, leaving their music fans wondering what's coming next. Inventive, honest and original music with entertainment chutzpah to match. At the performance's end, they even, actually made a point of sincerely THANKING thier audience for being there to catch their show...pretty rare nowadays.

It's very evident that the band's identified leader, Spoon, has a background rooted in drum and bugle corps music ("beat and blow" as we used to call it back when I was in the U.S. Navy Drum & Bugle Corps)...which has a definite influence on the Stars's sound. Shanghai Superstars opened with an appropriately-named catchy tune "Shanghai Radio" asking the question of the audience "are you listening, are you listening (Shanghai Radio)?" imploring them to "turn the dial to where we are"...it shows off the elements of all of their music that is about to be displayed during the course of the show...harmonized vocals, some heavy metal guitar riffs thrown in for good measure, nice short lead guitar solo, reggae-rock beats. The Stars continued to take you along on their personal musical journey with their original tunes like "Run", "Adore You Madly", "Met Her On A Train", "Voodoo Chica", and ending with "So Long"...their best three tunes I think were "Fallen Angel", "Stay" and the most memorable "Savannah" (a song inspired by the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers that pensively asks a blonde chick named Savannah "can we just meet?")...these three tunes in particular show evidence of some of the band members' love of heavy metal music as well, proffered by the guitar riffs contained therein. The fifth tune into the set the band did a "just okay" cover of Katrina & The Waves's 1985 hit "Walking On Sunshine" which really was unneccesary as a band this good doesn't need to prove their technical abilities when they have so much to offer in music originality. A band always sounds better when they play their own creations. I would recommend they remove it from their set and use the time to showcase more of their unique brand of musicality.

In speaking to their manager, Bryan Javor, having had many years in the music business himself, he pointed out that he hopes to guide the band through the maze of "drama, drugs and women" that seems to permeate the rock music scene and kill off many bands trying to make it...this was seconded by the band members stating that they "save the real partying for after the performance", not when they're on stage. Admirable behavior. This attitude reflects their devotion to their music, sense of purpose, focus of effort and teamwork as a band to be an enduring success...with this approach intact, I would expect nothing less.


One additional comment here, although there is an ample supply of Shanghai Superstars music to download, listen to, or buy, curiously the band has no videos available on Youtube or their other various websites...it could definitely help to promote their internet presence greatly and give people a chance to see them in some on-stage action...it would have been great to have one to embed for this review in particular.

Other than that, all I know is, when you plunk down some bucks to catch this band at one of their high energy shows, you can be sure your money won't get "Shanghaied" by the Shanghai Superstars...but your musical appetite for their style of rock sure will.'Nuff Sed.

Next Show:
August 13, 2010
Penny Road Pub
Barrington, Illinois

BAND:
Wes Anderson-lead guitar
TJ Neville-guitar/vocals
Mark Lewandowski-bass/vocals
Spoon (Ryan Jezuit)-drums

MANAGEMENT:
Bryan Javor

LABEL:
indie

WEBSITES:
http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000075635200&
http://twitter.com/shanghaistars
http://www.myspace.com/shanghaisuperstars
http://www.last.fm/music/Shanghai+Superstars
http://www.shanghaisuperstars.com/

(source: shanghaisuperstars.com, photos: J. McCune & Jenn Wilczewski)