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Metal Monday: Metal Videos 101

Unlike many genres of music these days, the metal community is still making music videos with as much fervor as ever. By and large, metal video features some of the same common traits. Here’s a list of things you need to make sure you put in your metal video so that people instantly know it is a metal video, without even listening to the song:

  1. All members of the band must be wearing black. Color is not an option.
  2. Band members are required to headbang, scream, shred, look angry, act violent.
  3. Under no circumstances, should any band member look happy. Smiling is acceptable only if it is, in fact, a maniacal grin in response to a grotesque and heinous crime.
  4. Video location is key. Consider a mountain top, boiler room, abandoned industrial park, hell, motorcycle rally, graveyard, bar, cave, crime scene, the woods, car accident, prison or desert as your backdrop. Really, anywhere dark will do.
  5. The more closeups of band members playing their instruments the better. Except the bassist. No one cares about the bassist.
  6. Bonus points for covering props in blood and/or setting them on fire. This is metal to the max.
  7. For solos, it’s best to focus the camera on the performer of said solo. This is just good manners.
  8. When considering video themes, stick to war, vikings, violence, politics, sacrilege, inclement weather conditions (e.g. snow, rain, thunderstorms), evil, zombies.
  9. Rapid camera changes make for a more extreme video so switch up the camera angle whenever possible. Shake the camera if need be.

Obey these rules to ensure your video is as metal as it can be. Follow all nine of these rules, and you have probably created the most metal video in the history of music videos. Now that we’re clear on the precepts of metal videos, let’s check out some awesome OurStage examples that may (or may not) abide by these rules:

On a side note, check out this post from Away-team.com giving some press to the current Hard Rock and Metal number ones!

Captain Hooks

Jersey Boys: The Years Gone By

Jersey Boys: The Years Gone By

Every musician chases his or her own particular muse. For rappers, it’s verbal dexterity, the gift of flow. For funk/soul purists, it’s the groove. And for the legions of pop-punks out there, it’s hooks. Irresistibly kinetic, irrefutably catchy hooks.

Like every pop-punk band, The Years Gone By focus their songwriting around those powerful chord progressions that define a song. They fill in the gaps with the usual trappings: snotty, call-and-response vocals; wiry and careening guitars; drums and bass driving at breakneck speeds. The strident “Tell Someone Else I Don’t Care” is three minutes of Sturm und Drang, Jersey-style. Guitars scribble across a wash of distortion and crashing cymbals while singer Nickolas Madore leads the fray with a nasally sing-along chorus. “Tear Down the Stars” is a technically precise, if forgettable, ballad that’s perfect for slow-dancing in a suburban high school gym. Look, when you’re a pop-punk band, you gotta keep the teens happy. And in that regard, The Years Gone By pass with flying colors.

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Download of the Week: Killed By Design

Killed By Design

Taking cues from genre pioneers like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, Killed by Design’s approach to rock stands out from current trends with their larger-than-life rhythm section and timeless vocals. Led by singer Kyle Spicer, the LA-based alt-rock group takes the tried and true guitar+ bass + drums formula and infuses it with a modern twist. Their track “Get Out of Alive” dominated in June’s music finals with its epic build up and chunky sustained power chords. So it’s not surprising to hear stadium-ready quality production value on Killed By Design’s Occulta Veritas EP, thanks to the magic of mixer Ken Andrews (NIN, Beck, Failure) and producer David Spreng (The Bravery, Bob Dylan). Give it a spin and prepare to be blown away.

OMNIVORE’S DELIGHT 7: Q&A WITH THE HAUNTED WINDCHIMES

OSBlog02_Omnivore_MASTERSure as the overflowing soul in their nomadic tunes, The Haunted Windchimes are giving folk music yet another modern revitalization. These Colorado natives (and others like them) are steadily introducing young listeners all over the country to the nostalgia of folk music with a fresh twist, all while maintaining the same traditional roots themes and lyrics that have touched audiences for decades. Attribute it to the wide-open spaces and intimate spirit of the road, or to the band’s contagious easygoing life style. Whatever the reason, there’s no denying that Windchimes’ reinvigorated sound is gaining momentum from coast to coast. Guitarist / vocalist Inaiah Lujan was kind enough to answer a few questions about The Haunted Windchimes’ music, their philosophies on the West, true freedom and good vibrations. Check out what he has to say below!

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OS: How did the Haunted Windchimes come to be, and where did you come up with the idea for that fantastic name?

HW: I was dealing with some severe insomnia when my Desirae Garcia (ukulele, vocals) came into my life in 2006. We had a chance meeting via MySpace and spoke on the phone before we ever met. We’d have these epic conversations and spoke as if we were old friends. Somewhere along the lines we got on the topic of windchimes, and how I thought mine were haunted because they would chime without a hint of wind. She too had a tale of windchimes, and we toyed with the idea of starting a band called The Haunted Windchimes! I don’t think either of us could have anticipated or predicted how far it would go. We were planting seeds, and in the harvest of that year, these seeds and dreams begin to grow and become our reality.

OS: You guys seem to find a new musician to draw influences from (Leadbelly, Hank Williams Sr., Dylan, Patsy Cline) everywhere you travel, in turn creating a very unique sound. Who were you listening to when you first started playing music as kids?

HW: We all come from pretty diverse musical backgrounds, my sister Chela (banjo, vocals) and I grew up with a music lover for a Mom and often fell asleep to the likes of Bob Dylan, The Beatles and her favorite Neil Young. She would take us for long drives and listen to her favorite songs, and we’d all sing along. The first band I ever truly loved was Queen! I started off on the piano, listening to composers like Chopin and Beethoven. Freddy Mercury and Queen taught me that music could be fun and catchy too. Desirae grew up with a music lover for a father who leaned more towards soulful and jazzier music. She joined a southern-style choir when she was a young girl in Savannah, Georgia. Because her mom was in the military, they moved around quite a bit, giving Desirae in even broader scope on the world and the world of music all around her.

Haunted Windchimes in Concert

Haunted Windchimes in Concert

OS: From Paper Bird to Rojos Calientes, there seems to have been a resurgence of folk and Americana with a modern twist on the Colorado music scene in recent years. Do you attribute this pattern at all to the lifestyles and atmosphere particular to the West? If so, what do you think it is about the West that inspires these sounds more so than other parts of the country?

HW: In the West you have all the inspiration in the world to write songs while in a traditional folk setting. From the beautiful rocky mountains to the various valleys and rivers, and there always seems to be a train whistle blowing somewhere off in the distance. Pueblo, Colorado, where we are from, particularly has an old timey feel. There is a lot of history in this town, and that seems to resonate on every street corner.

OS: As a native Coloradoan myself, I know there is limited civilization East, South, and West of Pueblo for many miles. Has this handicapped your ability to spread your music on a larger scale? Or have you found a niche spreading your music by playing in the tiny cafes and coffee houses scattered throughout rural America?

HW: We’ve managed to carve out quite a niche for ourselves here in Colorado. The music scene is always in flux, always changing and growing. With the help of some great friends in the Colorado Springs area and dedicated fans, we have had great success! We play the majority of our live shows (while in our home state) in Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. We continue to work on branching out to more places such as Grand Junction, Aspen, Denver, Boulder and others.

OS: Whether battling natural disasters, fast food, or insufficient funds, you guys have always persevered to move onto the next town during your marathon summer tours, and in some senses lived the concept of true freedom, an idea at the center of your idea of America. How have these journeys in pursuit of complete freedom affected your songwriting?

MWCUHMGWLGNJ-largeHW: We’ve tried many times to describe this particular sense of freedom while traveling. It kind of boils down to what we have dubbed “The Spirit of the Road.” This spirit, if you can turn your mind on to it, has infinite possibilities, or so it seems. It is nurturing and giving if you simply acknowledge it and above all are thankful for its blessings. There have been many times when we’ve been flat broke trying to make it to the next town, and something will always open up, whether it be a generous donation by a stranger while busking, or a show offer that ends up paying well or leads to a chance meeting, this spirit seems to take care of us and light the way. Of course this has had a huge role on our songwriting, but more so made us appreciate the beauty of creation, and believers of the saying, “life is what you make it.”

OS: At times you’ve relied on hitchhiking as your primary mode of transportation and on busking to pay well enough to feed you. It seems as though you have placed a heavy karmic belief and enormous trust in your fellow human. Does this intimacy translate into the live performance setting?

HW: I think it has less to do with karma, and more to do with vibrations. Music is a favorable form of vibration, but we all carry a vibration as people, every city and town too. If we are aware of our own vibration we learn to work in harmony with the world around us, and thus attract like minds and energies that are complementary vibrations. You get what you give out there on the road, but most of the time you are content with giving, and sharing music, because it is a part of you, or an extension of your higher self that wishes to reconnect with its source. The same goes for our live performances! We wish to make people feel a part of something, and that we are all in it together. Sing-a-longs are a staple at a Windchimes shows

OS: Most of your songs sound at home in the folk genre, except for the richly soothing “Summer Solstice”, which is more of a slow delta 1-4-1-5-4-1 blues piece. What was the inspiration behind this song?

Haunted WindchimesHW: Everything surrounding the creation of this song is nothing short of amazing. Shortly after Desirae and I formed the Haunted Windchimes in 2006, we embarked on our first tour in the summer of 07. Before playing music with me Desirae had never been in a band or on the road without her parents. I felt like there was always this gigantic voice inside of Desirae waiting and wanting to come out. One night while in Nashville, Tennessee, we lucked out and got an impromptu gig at a place called Café Coco, we talked the owner into letting us set up on the patio and play for tips. While we were singing songs, I was coaxing Desirae to sing louder because the crowd was so loud. It didn’t quite happen during that particular performance. Later that night something inside of her seemed to turn on, as if she were being born, and seeing the world for the first time. We made our way to a log cabin where some nice folks were letting us stay in Hendersonville, and in this moment of clarity she wrote that entire song on the car ride home… It was during the summer solstice, and we later called her mom in Hawaii to sing it to her over the phone.

OS: With song titles like “Leaving Here” and “Waiting on a Train,” and lyrics like “We’re on the run and we know why,” the first time listener would assume you’re chomping at the bit get hit the road in one direction or another. Is this always the case? Or is there ever a tinge of wanting to stay put for a while?

HW: Our songs of travel have many meanings, the most obvious one is the need to escape, maybe get out of a bad situation or just a change of pace with new faces. The other much deeper meaning is the internal quest we are on (individually and as a group) constantly moving towards and seeking truth and love.

OS: Something tells me you’re not the type to keep strict plans and deadlines, but do you have any general idea of what comes next for the Haunted Windchimes?

HW: We have big plans for 2010! Right now we are scheduled to hit the studio in January to record songs for our new album Honey Moonshine, and a summer tour to promote it! I feel like we have all matured a lot as a band and as musicians since our last album and have become better friends. Our line up now consists of 5 members: Mike Clark – Harmonica / Mandolin / Guitar, Sean Fanning – Stand-Up Bass, Chela Lujan – Banjo/Vocals, Desirae Garcia – Ukulele/Vocals and Myself – Guitar/Vocals, and with the new additions it has inspired better arrangements and better songs. We’re just getting started!

JUDGE IN CAKEWALK’S “YOUR MUSIC: ANYTIME, ANYPLACE” CONTEST TO WIN A MOBILE STUDIO

Cakewalk’s “Your Music: Anytime, Anyplace” Songwriting Contest is now open for judging! Cakewalk and OurStage need your help finding the best original tracks from up-and-coming rock and urban acts. This is your chance to help six talented artists win Cakewalk and Intel Core i7 powered mobile studios so they can keep making hits!

Need some incentive? The two fans with the best ears will be awarded mobile studios of their own! The top predictor of the final rankings for each “Anytime, Anyplace” Channel will win an Intel Core i7 powered laptop along with tons Cakewalk goodies including Music Creator 5 and Pyro Audio Creator 1.5 software and much more!

Click here to begin judging the “Your Music: Anytime, Anyplace” Rock Channel.

Click here to begin judging the “Your Music: Anytime, Anyplace” Urban Channel.

For more information on contest rules and prizing visit ourstage.com/go/anytimeanyplace.

METAL MONDAY: THE STORY OF WINTERSUN’S TIME

Early in 2004, Jari Mäenpää (of Ensiferum fame) had his side project, Wintersun, well in the works. Wintersun finally came to fruition with their debut album on September 13, 2004. But, the release of the self-titled Wintersun forced Jari to choose between the two bands, with Wintersun ultimately becoming the priority. It was a wise decision given the album’s critical acclaim. Wintersun is considered to be one of the greatest metal albums ever, sitting at Number 15 on MetalStorm’s Top 100 albums (highest rated among users of the site). So, where does a band go from there? Well, if you’re Wintersun, you don’t really go anywhere. The last few years has been a roller coaster ride for the band and its fans, with news of more recordings and tours, followed by news of mishaps, canceled tour dates and pushed back release dates.

Cliché power metal band collage

Cliché power metal band collage

Fans first got word about Wintersun’s second album, Time, on September 29, 2005. The band booked studio time to begin recording in May of 2006. All was going well and smooth until October of 2006 when news of the band’s exit from their fall tour broke. Though no details were released, fans were also told that the recording of Time was going to be delayed. Six months went by without any updates on the now much-hyped album release, then came the news that it would not be released in 2007. Now, some people may not know this, but it is not commonplace for a band to begin recording an album and not release it within a year and a half (unless, of course, Axl Rose is in your band). So what could possibly be the excuse for Wintersun’s delay? In Jari’s own words, “I’ve set the bar really high on this album, but my equipment isn’t even close what I need to work faster.”

Cover for Wintersun's (eventual) album, Time

Cover for Wintersun's (eventual) album, Time

This sounds like a joke, right? Jari really ought to to man-up and play with the gear available. If the equipment was good enough to make one of the best metal albums ever, why the sudden need for gear upgrades? Even more ridiculous, Jari went on to say that he was not sure the material he had would even fit on a standard audio CD, since he had written more than 80 minutes of material. The technological problems reported by Jari most likely spawned from having more than 200 audio tracks per song in some cases (for those unfamiliar with recording and production, this is a staggeringly absurd number of tracks). That many tracks per song = overkill.

Jari Mäenpää, organizer of Wintersun

Jari Mäenpää, organizer of Wintersun

More than a year later, there was finally some good news in the Wintersun camp. Nuclear Blast (their label) stepped in and helped them get the necessary gear and equipment to finish the album. But that effort was in vain, since Time was not released. Another year went by before the next Wintersun update, and what a surprise, more bad news! On February 27, 2009, the most recent update of the Time endeavor, Jari lists the following roadblocks for releasing the album: personal issues, writers block, technological problems. Even worse than the announcement giving out false hope with yet another release date, was the news that all Wintersun shows are canceled until Time is released.

At this point, the whole scenario could very well could be a joke. I do not like to count my chickens before they hatch, but this smells an awful lot like the Chinese Democracy fiasco. At some point, someone in the band needs to say, “Hey, maybe we should release the album as we have it now, and focus on our third album.” If Wintersun keeps delaying the album release, they will have missed the opportunity to capitalize on their 2004 success as well as put themselves in the unfortunate position of building expectations so high that album can’t possibly deliver. The biggest question now, even bigger than when will the album be released, is the question of will the album ever be released? The band should seriously consider either releasing the album in the very near future or just hanging it up, happy with the success of Wintersun.

If you wish to check out Wintersun’s never ending news updates, check out their home page. They even have a couple songs there for free download, check them out below:

Wintersun Medley 1, “the Fast, agressive, technical and melodic s***” has parts of “Winter Madness,” “Beyond the Dark Sun” and “Battle Against Time”

Wintersun Medley 2, the “Slower, majestic and epic s***” — has parts from “Sadness and Hate”, “Sleeping Stars” and “Death and the Healing”

UNDER COVERS 7: SPOOKY DOOM AND GLOOM SONGS!

jackolantern_christopher_walters_470x353JackoLanternFrom the love-laden crooning ballads of Valentine’s Day to the boldly dogmatic odes of patriotism celebrating the 4th of July, all holidays carry their own audible flair. Yet despite an enormous volume of songs amassed over hundreds of years, holiday tunes seem one dimensional in the emotions they bring to the festivities. Except for Halloween of course. The international celebration of the dead is blessed with the expected spooky doom and gloom of songs like “Tubular Bells” (theme from The Exorcist) and The Misfits’ “Halloween,” as well as danceable, iconic tracks like “Monster Mash” and “Thriller.” As is the nature of this column, this week’s “Under Covers” pertains to both boo-riffic and goofy Halloween themed cover songs right here on OurStage!

The Queen of Blues: Koko Taylor

The Queen of Blues: Koko Taylor

Films like The Blair Witch Project and Texas Chainsaw Massacre taught us to be wary of the sun setting over remote places. Similarly, Koko Taylor‘s “Voodoo Woman”, off her 1975 release I Got What It Takes, is a standard blues jam depicting an eerily backwoods bayou woman with “a rabbit’s foot in her pocket and a toad frog in her shoe.” Those fortunate enough to see Taylor perform live before her passing earlier this year will be able to tell you that her voice was even bigger than her personality. Just one growl, and you understand why Voodoo Woman’s aura really is frightening enough to make “the sky cry.”

She's got a crawfish on her shoulder: Half Pint

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Thankfully, this song has not gone unnoticed on OurStage. Though Half Pint Jennifer Tracy Kessler’s voice might not be as volcanic as Koko Taylor’s, she does a fine job staying near and dear to the original. The biggest difference is a more concentrated voice and, of course, a refurbished recording sound that sheds a clean, modern light on this underappreciated 34-year-old treasure. Oh, and the jazzy live version kicks ass too.

Talking Heads: Pyscho Killer(s)?

Talking Heads: Pyscho Killer(s)?

Far less magical but disturbingly more horrific is The Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.” The theories behind this song’s meaning range from a first person account of a schizophrenic outsider to a soliloquy sprouting from Son of Sam killer David Berkowitz, all sung with a suspiciously convincing vocal articulation. But even if David Byrne is secretly a deranged bilingual psycho killer, the song has left a lasting bone chill since its mega-hit reception in 1977. Unfortunately, the song predates the dawn of MTV but, lucky for us, OurStage artist Clint Crisher has taken this mattersinto his own hands.

Clint Crisher: Escaped Psycho Killer!

Clint Crisher: Escaped Psycho Killer!

Crishered merge the Talking Heads’ classic with a synthesized dance beat then made a music video. The video displays an escaped convict (prison suit and all) wandering around various parts of Hollywood with blurred vision and a raw voice, all adding to the effect of an uncomfortably estranged outsider.

Sheb Wooley: Accompanied by Purple People Eater on Horn

Sheb Wooley: Accompanied by Purple People Eater on Horn

Back in the 50s, Halloween was more of a festive occasion for dressing up as something else, and if that something was scary, well, it was scary in a goofy sense. So it makes sense that songs like Sheb Wooley’s country hit “Purple People Eater” were so successful. The song is about a monster that eats purple people coming down from the sky and wanting to play in a rock ‘n’ roll band, runs in the same vein as “Monster Mash.” Fortunately for our monster friend, he was born with a (musical) horn in his head, so he’s all set. At the end of the story, the Purple People Eater is seen on TV playing some rockin’ tunes and “knockin’ em dead.” The Purple People Eater is still making rounds today, and has most recently landed on the face of planet OurStage, this time performed by Billy & The Rockets. Somehow, this rockabilly quartet managed to capture the same dated recording quality as the original 1958 recording. The soft harmonies, reliable guitar lick and even the “we wear short shorts” and “tequila” outbursts have all remained, making this carbon copy cover a true gem in the Halloween’s musical catalog.

The Purple People Eater made the background of this photo.

The Purple People Eater made the background of this photo.

No Halloween would be complete without an appearance by a certain red-hot, pitchfork-carrying, horned character. Whether you believe the Devil is fact or fiction, there is no question that he will forever be the certified emblem of evil. Musically, Satan has made a number of appearances, both as a mythical threat and a legitimized character.  Handshakes with the dark angel have become frequent themes, but is perhaps most famous in the Charlie Daniels’ Band’s “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.”

Tempting the Devil since 1979: The Charlie Daniels Band

Tempting the Devil since 1979: The Charlie Daniels Band

In this 1979 smash hit, protagonist Johnny makes a bet with the Devil on which on of them is the best fiddle player in the world. Just as us mere mortals would have it, Johnny won and Lucifer wandered back down below with his tail between his legs. Of course, the real life Charlie Daniels is a virtuosic fiddle player, and his abundant talent is adequately displayed on the song.

Awarded a fiddle made of gold: INNERTUNE

Awarded a fiddle made of gold: INNERTUNE

OurStage group Innertune also took their chances with El Diablo, and similarly destroys their opponent. Most noticeably different from the original is the faster tempo, but Innertune also adds an effected bass line during the Devil’s performance making up for the absence of the funky guitar strum pattern. And the essential fiddle licks are just as good as ever.

Voodoo women, Psycho killers and Devils aside, don’t let this Halloween season pass you by without making the most of the mix tape opportunities! Whether you choose to jam out to Ray Parker Jr.’s classic “Ghostbusters” or shock rock to Marilyn Manson’s creepy crawly cover of “Halloween,” there is ample musical fun to be had by all on this year’s All Hallows Eve!

PUNK ON THE ROCKS: THE ROUGHNECK RIOT

Celtic punks The Roughneck Riot

Celtic punks The Roughneck Riot

Warrington, UK’s The Roughneck Riot are a little bit Celtic, a little bit rock and roll. Taking their cues from The Pogues, The Clash, Johnny Cash and Flogging Molly, this six-piece Celtic punk band features acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo and accordion in addition to the usual guitar, bass and drums. The Roughneck Riot has shared the stage with artists such as Billy Bragg, The Damned and Sham 69. Currently in the studio recording their new album Night Train with The Reaper, the band recently posted the lyrics to the title track on their MySpace page. The words lie somewhere between Dropkick Murphys and Tom Waits, and if the music is even half as good, this is going to be a great record! I managed to catch acoustic guitarist/mandolin/vocalist Matty Humphries during a break from recording to talk about the band’s sound, their album and their plans for the future.

OurStage: I read that The Roughneck Riot started life as a four-piece punk band. How did you make the transition from four-piece punk band to six-piece Celtic punk powerhouse?

Matty Humphries: Personally I’ve always aimed to play Celtic punk, however when we first started out we weren’t the most talented bunch when it came to playing folk instruments and such. We had to let our last 2 guitarists go for personal reasons and I managed to persuade a few of our best friends to pick up a banjo, guitar and an accordion and for the past 7 months or so. With continuous advice and motivation from our good friends The Mahones, we’ve finally managed to focus on our sound, and since then we’ve never looked back!

OS: Even on your mostly acoustic recordings, you guys sound badass. What would you say to people who think that punk music can’t be acoustic?

MH: Haha, Thanks a lot! Well I believe that all the best music started out acoustically, from early blues, bluegrass and folk to gypsy jazz and rock ‘n’ roll, so why can’t punk be played in the same way? People like Johnny Cash always stuck to playing an acoustic guitar, but always delivered.  It’s all about the energy you give when playing, not how loud your amps are or how distorted your guitar is.  And of course our main influence besides punk is Celtic folk, which traditionally started out acoustic. Playing acoustic can also add so many different dynamics to a song, and change the feel completely!

OS: As a Celtic punk band, you must be over the moon to be playing with Shane MacGowan of The Pogues this December. How did this come about?

MH: The magic of MySpace!! We were asked if we were interested in the slot through a message from a promoter, so how could we possibly turn this down! In my opinion Shane MacGowan is one of the greatest song writers in history and has had a massive influence on us, and it’s an honor to share a stage with him!

OS: Your song “Travellin’ Man” made it to the Top 10 in the OurStage Punk Channel last month. Can fans expect a similar sound on your upcoming album Night Train with The Reaper?

MH: This was a great and unexpected thing for us, as half of the band didn’t realize we were signed up to OurStage! But it’s fantastic to know we’re being heard! And yes, Night Train with The Reaper is full of songs that are guaranteed to put “Travellin’ Man” to shame!! It’s a huge mixing pot of influences, from the obvious (The Pogues, The Mahones, The Clash, Flogging Molly) to some more unusual influences to our music such as Johnny Cash, The Urban Voodoo Machine and Tom Waits. Its going to be something we can be really proud of! We’re recording the title track for the album this November with Ex-Mahones’ fiddler Dave Allen in Banbury so it should be up on Ourstage by mid November!

OS: What’s next for The Roughneck Riot? Any plans to tour?

MH: I’ve just this week opened up a recording studio where we should be finishing our album which is all very exciting! And as for tour plans, yes! Hopefully early 2010 we should be touring Europe! Possibly with The Mahones and The Popes, which is another great honor for us! So hopefully we can get Night Train with The Reaper out across the water!!

Check out “Mutiny” from The Roughneck Riot’s EP Drain The Bar in the player below!

50 STATES IN 50 WEEKS…WEEK 20: NEBRASKA

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Home of: Saddle Creek Records, Fred Astaire, Marlon Brando, Azure Ray, Bright Eyes, Tilly and the Wall, Smashmouth, The Faint, 311, Cursive

Fun Facts: State flower; goldenrod, state song; “Beautiful Nebraska,” state beverage; milk

The Venues:

While you may not think of Omaha, Nebraska when you think of jazz and R&B, the city actually has quite the history. Home to Wynonie Harris, Preston Love and Buddy Miles, the city was a regular stop for many Kansas City jazz musicians. For the past 6 years, Omaha has celebrated its musical heritage with the Omaha Blues, Jazz & Gospel Festival. This year’s festival included Everette Harp, Kelly Hunt and Little Brian and the Zydeco Travelers.

The biggest new development in indie rock in Omaha is Slowdown, a new all ages venue owned by Robb Nansel and Jason Kulbel, the duo behind Saddle Creek Records. Opened in 2007, Slowdown is part of a building complex (also owned by Nansel and Kulbel) that houses Saddle Creek Records, a coffee shop, retail stores (including an Urban Outfitters) and a movie theater. The venue was named after Omaha band Slowdown Virginia, which later went on to become the much loved indie band Cursive.

The Music:

l_105bc92dd8f64097ad84014948c3ca8dThe Beat SeakersThe broad appeal of The Beat Seekers straight up powerpop will have both teenagers and parents tapping their feet. The rock radio nostalgia track “Dead Air Radio” sounds like it could be an outtake from an early Sugarcult album. If you like what you hear, the band is offering their full-length Dead Air Radio for free here.

NALSRNQHEYGE-largeLucas Hitch – Growing up in a musical family, pop singer-songwriter Lucas Hitch started playing shows when he was ten year old. In the last ten years, he has played 1500 concerts to over a half a million people. This August, Lucas released his first full-length album Fade. Because of his musical background, Lucas played almost all of the instruments on the album. Check out standout track “Wander On.”

l_f6a1f63c375743c2be5cc3ec549c87ecBombs Blast- The Bombs Blast press kit describes the band’s music as “Spit in your face Punk Rock,” and it’s obvious from the first chords of “Treachery” that they mean business. The band has been spreading the punk gospel, playing shows everywhere from backyards to dive bars for the past two years.

Check out these acts and other great Nebraskan artists in the playlist below! Who are your favorite OurStage Nebraskans? Where do you like to see live music in Nebraska? Let us know in the comments!

DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS

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One of these things is not like the other: Oso Closo

Big, burly men don’t normally write tunes called “The Friendship Song,” or say things like, “Speak freely and know that I take joy in your voice” without the slightest trace of irony. Which is part of what makes Adrian Hulet such an alluring artist. Sporting a beard as feral as Captain Lou Albano’s (RIP), Hulet doesn’t look like your average emo waif. And with his soulful, booming voice, he doesn’t sound like him either. But as frontman for the Texas group Oso Closo, Hulet delivers grandiose, high-concept rock saturated with earnestness and compassion.

Melding jazz, metal, orchestra music and piano rock into complex, polyphonic arrangements, it’s impossible to predict where Oso Closo will lead you. In “Song for the Morning” pianos and guitars lurch in unison, before breaking off into a minimalist melody while Hulet intones “For a dreamer night’s the only time of day.” Just when you think you know where he’s headed, backup soul singers chime in, or a string quartet swells into the forefront. In “The Friendship Song,” Styx guitars noodle against pounding drums and cascading keys. The meaty melodic hooks, expansive scope and lightning-quick changes make the music feel as epic as Broadway. Then again, everything’s bigger in Texas.

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