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Holiday In The Sun: All Aboard The Bruise Cruise

A funny thing happened on the way to the dive bar. Yes, the Black Lips, Vivian Girls, DJ Jonathan Toubin and others will be performing on the first-ever “Bruise Cruise Festival,” a luxury line headed from Miami to the Bahamas from February 25-28, 2011. With rockers/patrons paying $615 for an interior cabin and $665 for one with an ocean-view, the cruise is a fascinating study in indie music marketing. No doubt digital realities have lent freedom to artists seeking new channels of distribution, but they have also somewhat paradoxically devalued their creative output. Generating less income through recordings, it has become all the more important for them to monetize live performances and the Bruise Cruise can easily be understood in this context.

Organized by Michelle Cable of Panache Booking and Jonas Stein of Nashville band, Turbo Fruits, the concept is hardly revolutionary: There is a “Opry Country Classics Cruise” on Royal Caribbean, a “Gospel Music, Mexican Riviera Celebration” on Holland America, so garage rock on the Carnival Line is not a gigantic leap. Yet, unlike other musical genres, garage hasn’t historically occupied a cultural space one would readily associate with ice sculptures and elaborate floral arrangements and so the cruise suggests that the line between the alternative and mainstream is

Black Lips

growing increasingly blurry.

The 400 rockers who book tickets, as the Bruise Cruise website states, will share the ship with about 2000 regular passengers, which means that out-of-shape, Middle Americans in their fat pants will be piling fajitas and pasta salad onto their plates at the all-you-can-eat buffet next to the rockers in skinny jeans. The fest promoters seem aware of the cultural tension. On the site, next to a photo of the ship’s resort-style swimming pool they urge potential fest-goers to “Think Boogie Nights” and next to a photo of a miniature golf course to “Think Caddyshack meets Weekend At Bernie’s.” In these awkward attempts at spin, the promoters seem to be worried whether this indie experiment at sea will work out.  But is there really reason for concern?

As Rachael Maddux announced in her much-discussed cover story for Paste Magazine earlier this year, “Indie” as an artistic ideal that implied a willful operation outside the mainstream, has virtually lost all meaning. And perhaps, it could be argued, so has the idea of “mainstream.” In September, Iggy and the Stooges will be performing Raw Power at Kutsher”s Country Club in the Catskills. In October, indie institution Matador Records will celebrate its 21st anniversary with a three-day event in the mecca of kitch, Las Vegas. Hell, Arcade Fire just released an album called Suburbs about lawns, malls and the desire to settle down and have children. The world is ready for the Bruise Cruise. So, grab your PBR and head to the starboard deck. The shuffleboard tournament is about to begin.

-Josh Neuman

Joshua Neuman used to be the editor-in-chief of Heeb Magazine. He has written for Slate, eMusic and ESPN. His first book, The Big Book of Jewish Conspiracies, was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2005.

Q&A With Bouncing Souls

It’s impossible to enter the realm of current fast-paced, punk rock music without mentioning Bouncing Souls. The name itself implies upbeat, intense music. These Jersey skate punk legends have been on the scene since 1987, working the simplicity of a “one guitar, bass and drums” lineup that is often overlooked and  typically quite difficult to pull off. But, with the unique lead vocals of Greg Attonito and a touch of optimism, The Souls fulfill even the most stubborn of punk rock fan’s needs.

Despite releasing an abundance of EP’s and singles as well as almost 10 studio full-lengths, the band have really stayed true to their sound and aesthetic. Their most recent release Ghosts on the Boardwalk is already being received with critical acclaim. OurStage got in touch with Attonito backstage at this year’s Vans Warped Tour where the band emerged as a veteran act. Check out his  thoughts on Warped, his take on the band’s music and even his recent acoustic tour with his wife.

OS: How often do you guys do Warped Tour?

GA: We do it in different cities. We did a couple weeks last year, a couple weeks the year before, and so on. We’ve been on Warped Tour every summer, and this is our 9th one.

OS: Yeah, so you guys are kind of Warped veterans.  What have you come to expect when hopping on the tour?

GA: It’s always an adventure, and this year has been that, completely. We had some vehicle troubles, our vehicle overheated. We got our U-haul trailer stolen, and then recovered, and everything was in it. Which is crazy. We had some great, great shows. It’s been a wild adventure, and that’s what the Warped Tour always is.

OS: All the bands sort of agree that Warped Tour is a real community experience. Some have called it a giant “tailgate party”. Having been on the tour so much, how has that been for the Bouncing Souls?

GA: We were doing the interview for the Warped Tour documentary earlier, and they were kind of talking about the same thing. For all the people who complain about the Warped Tour being “not punk”, in that sense that we’re all throwing all this random stuff in a pile and just seeing what happens—that’s the punk spirit of the tour. That’s what those early shows I went to were like. There wasn’t all this talk about “different types of genres”, and it wasn’t as big of a deal as it is now. Which, it is on the Warped Tour, but just the fact that all the genres are just thrown in together gives it that spirit. You don’t know what you’re going to find here. Lots of people are into one thing, so they’re going to be exposed to other stuff. So, I would say that that’s the essence of the Warped Tour. That’s what makes it so interesting.

OS: The band seems to have a strong charitable goal in a lot of your shows/releases. Why have you decided to move in that direction?

GA: I guess it just comes from who we are, and what we know makes sense as people and as a band. We care about the music. We care about ourselves and each other as friends. We care about the audience, and it all becomes one thing. It’s like a family—friends and family. That is the type of people we are, but as we put it into a band it becomes like a “band thing”. That’s what people see as more of a public thing.  We’re a group of people that want to live a certain way, and our band reflects that.

OS: Yeah, and a few years back, your wife released a children’s book, and you did a tour with her playing acoustic songs for kids at bookstores, right?

GA: Yeah, that was a ton of fun. Also, my wife and I just came up here to Boston. We did the Middle East. We did a really fun little experimental tour. We got Vespa to sponsor us and we rode from every show on our Vespa scooters— my wife and I. We started in Philly, did 8 or 9 shows, and we ended up here in Boston and played at the Middle East. It was just a couple months ago. It was totally fun. We documented it. Every day we had to drive maybe 50-60 miles.

OS: The Bouncing Souls, in general, kind of “embody” the Jersey punk sound, and you aren’t shy about mentioning it. Do you feel it’s important to get this into your sound?

GA: I think it jut happens. If we thought about it, it probably wouldn’t be quite right. I think it’s part of who we are and what we love. It’s just part of us. I think that’s why people enjoy it, because it’s real. You know what I mean? We love it, so we play it.

OS: On The Gold Record, there’s a song called “Letters From Iraq”. Someone else wrote the lyrics for it. Can you tell us a little about that process?

GA: It was in the heat of that time when the soldiers were there. We were writing the record and we were like “We want to address this.” We’ve never been real overtly political, and choosing political parties and writing music about that never made sense to us. So it didn’t seem real. There you are watching CNN, but you’re really disconnected. It’s hard to write about it if you’re just watching it on TV. We literally had that conversation one day. We’re like “War sucks! War sucks!” But what are you going to do? It’s not real to us. That night. The night of that conversation, our friend Garrett who had served over there, had written a bunch of poetry while he was over there,tons of it. He wrote Brian an email and said “Hey, I’ve got all this poetry if you guys want to check it out.” I don’t remember, but he might have suggested we put it in a song. He was getting it together. He was back, and he was kind of amped on it. Brian came back, and we were like “Holy Shit”. We all went to the computer and started reading it. We’re like “Here is the song.” There were like ten songs there. He had a ton of it. We printed it out, and reworked it. We definitely changed things around so it would work with the song. That was it.

What I was stoked about was that when you read the lyrics, it was so not the same vibe of watching the news. It was so real. There’s something about the way CNN does the visuals and the way they present it. It’s almost romanticized. The way you see it on TV, it’s so disconnected that it’s not real. People dying, suffering and blood. You don’t feel it. That’s kind of the problem I have with the way the military is presented on the news: being like a solider, serving your country and stuff. In a sense, that can be real and genuine, but also, there’s so much reality that’s not there. I was happy to put that into the song. Hopefully, we achieved it, and I feel like we did, because a lot of the soldiers appreciated the genuineness in it.

OS: The new album, similarly to some of your other releases, seems to deal with optimism and rising above negativity. Why is it important for you guys to portray that and how do you think it fits in with all the negative lyrics common with other bands in the punk genre?

GA: Again, it’s how we want to live. The energy you project into life is what you will be living in. You create your world. You have the power. Everyone does. So, I guess we’re just aware of that. We want to live in a positive energy. We’re aware that if we put that into our lives, then we’re going to be living in it. It’s that simple. We can be negative, but we want to overcome those moments, and that’s why a lot of the songs are about that. It’s about overcoming negativity within ourselves, and when other people are projecting it at you.

Also, it’s the way of the world. It’s always going to be that way. You can’t have positive without negative. I’m talking about science and nature now, you know what I mean? There can’t be one without the other. Otherwise there wouldn’t be any drama going on. In other words, it is what it is. It’s everyone being negative or positive at the right times in their lives, and having those experiences at the times that they need to have them, because they’re experiencing all of it.

Bouncing Souls are performing at the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle, WA on Sept 5th. Catch them on their Australian tour later this year with Hot Water Music.

9/5- Bumbershoot Festival 2010, Seattle, WA

9/6- The Alley, Reno, NV

9/11- The Black Car, Washington, DC

9/12- The Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY

9/13- Concert Cruise on The Temptress, New York, NY

10/8- Riot Fest 2010, Chicago, IL

Rock ‘n’ Roll Call: Something Corporate Reunion Tour Review

Although they’ve spent half  of the past decade on hiatus, Something Corporate clearly still have a special place in the hearts of their fans. During the band’s peak in the early 2000s, the vast majority of their fans were teenagers who now fondly associate the band’s discography with nostalgic memories of high school. Though frontman and pianist Andrew McMahon has kept himself busy over the years with successful side project Jack’s Mannequin, SoCo enthusiasts shoped that the band would one day return to the stage. This year, their wish came true.

L to R: guitarist Josh Partington, drummer Brian Ireland and bassist Kevin "Clutch" Page

The Something Corporate Reunion Tour began on August 2nd in Minneapolis and will continue until the last show on August 28th in Los Angeles. The tour follows the band’s first reunited performances together at all three Bamboozle dates and the release of Played in Space: The Best of Something Corporate in April.

The ninth tour stop hit  Boston’s House of Blues, which stands in the shadows of the famed Fenway Park. As Something Corporate took the stage, they were greeted with thunderous cheers and applause from the sold-out crowd. Kicking off their  twenty-song set with the energetic “I Woke Up In a Car,” smiles were plastered on all five members’ faces. SoCo continued to please the crowd with driving pop-punk tunes like “Hurricane,” “Space” and “Punk Rock Princess,” but they also made time for acoustic ballad “Wait” and “Watch the Sky,” a track exlcusively released on the Japanese version of their third album, North.

Andrew McMahon working the crowd

In between songs, Andrew had nostalgic moments himself, as he recalled the inspiration behind even the oldest tracks, as well as when the band played to ten people in the original House of Blues in Cambridge back in the late 90′s. But perhaps the most nostalgic moment of the night occurred when Andrew returned to the stage for an encore and launched into the nine-minute fan favorite, “Konstantine.”  The band ended the night on a high note with rock anthem “If U C Jordan,” which culminated in Andrew stomping on his piano keys and bowing to the crowd.

Throughout the two-hour performance, the band proved that five years apart had no effect on their stage presence or chemistry. As Andrew sings in “Cavanaugh Park,” Something Corporate’s reunion show proved that- even as the years fly by “some things never do change.”

Hip Hop Habit: Yung Bizzy

A few months ago this column featured Tru Quality, a laid back hip hop act from Portland, OR. This week’s act, Yung Bizzy, is another laid back hip hop act from Portland, where weed flows like wine. The Beaver State’ illicit reputation is audible in both acts’ sound, not that either group necessarily promotes drugs. Relaxed, peaceful, and inviting, Yung Bizzy’s rhythms and rhymes are likely to lull you into a meditative state only life on the Pacific can create.

Aside from the aggravating watermark, “Problems” is a pretty strong piece, and at the upper capacity of Bizzy’s energetic output. Other than the recurring crystalline piano/guitar unison riff, the beat is skeletal at best and certainly nothing special, in turn giving rise to Bizzy’s long-winded wisdom. For a mere 18 years of age, the kid is much wiser than that baby face will lead you to believe. In “Problems,” he assumes the role of a wallflower and mediator, both observing the problematic issues around him: “she wanna live life cruisin’ in the fast lane/ wind up with a nigga dealin’ mad ‘caine/ on his arm at the mall spending mad change/ not known that she givin’ herself a bad name” and suggesting remedies he knows won’t go down easily: “I know what your problem is/ all that misplaced faith where the dollar is/ all that misplaced hate just model this/ and every one of your problems will not exist.” Along with his sagacity, Bizzy uses the opportunity granted by overflowing verbiage to show off his technical skills as well, often rapping in quadruple time for measures on end.

Yung BizzyMine” returns the tempo back to hazy northwestern normalcy, and with its hollow percussion and dinky guitar riff, it is very similar to “Problems.” Lyrically, it’s Bizzy’s modern version of “Mo Money Mo Problems.” Of course, at this point in his career, this is all imaginary, but it once again goes to show the incredibly mature foresight he’s capable of. Told from the voice of a future Bizzy, he regrets asking for what he received, claiming that all the baggage that inevitably comes with fame and fortune wasn’t what he meant when he vowed to “get his”: “lost my friends to the fans in the stands/ my family to the popular demand of me.” For every rap song dedicated to the cash and women that are ostensibly part of the fame and fortune package, how many tout it as something to avoid? If Bizzy sticks to his guns, his career in the rap game will last a lot longer than most.

Whether the moniker Yung Bizzy was born out of the fact this 18-year-old is always busy I’m not sure, but according to his bio, that would make sense. A full time rapper, Bizzy also co-founded his own production company Young Threat Productions and is currently involved with Turf Noize ENT. Having been accepted to St. Francis College in Brooklyn, he plans to enroll this fall and take his dream as far as it will let him on the east coast. It probably won’t be long before he’s performing locally, so if you’re from BK keep updatedwith his performance schedule!

Meet The Winners Of The John Mayer Side Stage Warfare Competition In July

Winning artists from the June John Mayer “Side Stage Warfare” Competition recently rocked out arena-sized crowds at venues in Scranton, Boston, Cleveland and Indianapolis. In July, we offered artists the chance at nabbing a side-stage slot on John Mayer’s “Battle Studies” tour in Phoenix, Atlanta, Houston and West Palm Beach. Over 1,000 artists submitted their music in July for a shot at the stage and the battling was fierce throughout the month.

The dust has settled since then, and now 4 acts are on their way to playing in front of thousands of screaming fans. Hand-picked from the Top 20 of each channel by John Mayer and his team, these artists have won not only a chance to play on the summer “Battle Studies” tour, but also free tickets to the show so their friends and family can be there to cheer them on. Check out the winners and their OurStage profiles below:

Atlanta Winner
The Kicks
View Profile | Listen to The Kicks | See All Entrants
Houston Winner
SleeperStar
View Profile | Listen to SleeperStar | See All Entrants
Phoenix Winner
Jesse Thomas
View Profile | Listen to Jesse Thomas | See All Entrants
West Palm Beach Winner
RIA
View Profile | Listen to RIA | See All Entrants

Metal Monday: Nu Metal Lives On!

Rewind ten years to the mainstream metal scene at the dawn of the new millennium. No kids with flippy hair, just baggy Dickies and backwards baseball caps. Back when nu metal reigned supreme in the mainstream metal world. The year 2000 marked the release of Mudvayne‘s L.D. 50 as well as Deftones‘s White Pony—easily two of the most highly regarded nu metal albums ever released.

mudvayneToday in 2010, many bands that led the original nu metal charge are still very much alive and kicking. On May 4th, Deftones released their seventh studio album, Diamond Eyes to critical acclaim. Nu metal legends Sevendust released their eighth studio album, Cold Day Memory to a lot of good press as well. But not all nu metal bands have had such lasting power. Bands such as Limp Bizkit fell off the map completely, and are now trying to hop back on the nu metal train and ride it to more riches with their fall 2010 release Cold Cobra. Other nu metal bands with 2010 releases: Korn, Mushroomhead,  Linkin Park, Nonpoint, Stone Sour, Ill Niño, Disturbed, 36 Crazyfists and Mnemic. Sounds like the year 2000, right?

This begs the question, why now? And who is still listening to this stuff? Try to remember who listened to nu metal back in 2000? It was mostly angsty teenagers who are now in their mid twenties, perhaps clinging on to the (not so) fond memories of their rebellious youth. Regardless, which would you prefer—hilarious “over-the-hill” nu metal bands or whiny young kids with flippy hair? At least we can get a laugh along the way while we get a good album or two from the whole movement.

The Old Soul

Hannah Thomas

Hannah Thomas may be a fresh-faced 21-year-old, but she’s got a seasoned voice that sounds like it’s seen it all already. And maybe it has seen a good bit. Thomas made her debut at an open mic night at Atlanta’s songwriter haunt, Eddie’s Attic back in 2006. From there, it was full-steam ahead—taking first place in competitions, appearing on local TV and radio shows and releasing a record. “The Rest is Yet to Come” is Thomas’ first offering, a low country, bluesy, coming-of-age anthem that sounds like it could have been written by KT Tunstall. “Will I get married settle down and have some babies? Or spend my whole life searching and never find love?” the singer muses. Thomas’ deep, smoldering drawl is her calling card. The electric guitars may whinny, the bass and drums may thump, but it’s Thomas’ voice that will thrill you to your country-lovin’ core.

Scene & Heard: Las Vegas, NV

“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is one of the most famous travel mottos out there thanks in part to the abundance of  casinos, clubs and lavish resorts. This week, we’ll stop in and take a virtual look at “Sin City” and learn why it has become the Entertainment Capital of the US.

The music scene of Las Vegas is obviously flooded with outlandish onstage performances, big name acts and huge venues. In terms of a “local” scene, it’s much different than many other scenes. It’s difficult to find a band that actually claims their origins in Vegas, as it is flooded with big name acts and non-musical “extravaganza” performances. Perhaps this is why Vegas immediately conjures up images of Wayne Newton, Siegfried & Roy and Cher.

Much of the Vegas entertainment market is tied directly to the casino/resort market. Many of these establishments, like the Bellagio and the MGM Grand, have their own notable stage. Extravagant performances like Cirque du Soleil attract many visitors to huge auditoriums every year. On top of this, Vegas also has venues exclusively devoted to music and touring acts. The Las Vegas House of Blues is one of the most well known locations of the nation-wide venue chain started by Dan Aykroyd. In the coming weeks it will host Lamb of God, Hatebreed and Steel Panther. Another large chain in Vegas, The Hard Rock Café, will host Neon Trees and the Paper Tongues.

Las Vegas also has its share of smaller-sized clubs to offer. When pouring over the scene, what stuck out to me the most was the blues/rock presence. Many of the clubs in the area cater to guitar heavy blues music with a “west coast” flair. The Sand Dollar, located on Spring Mountain Rd is a bit off the beaten path. However, they offer a lineup of resident blues musicians with that heavy, driving Vegas sound.

OurStage Vegas rock band Left Standing—an in-your-face melodic, alternative rock band that has been tearing up stages cross country for the past several years—was kind of enough to give me their personal experiences in the local Vegas scene.  The band has participated in shows for 94.1 and 107.5 which has hosted shows for bands like Papa Roach, System of a Down, Switchfoot, Cypress Hill, Godsmack, Staind and Stone Temple Pilots. They’ve played venues like Whiskey a Go Go, The Viper Room and The Stone Pony. To put things into perspective, the band said, “There are so many things to do in this city besides going to see a local band that if you are not on your game people will lose interest quickly.” This sentiment sums up the whole Sin City vibe and really portrays the difficulty of the local music scene. According to Left Standing, Vegas is a musical “family of diversity”.

The band paid tribute to the Vegas House of Blues by naming it their favorite local room to play. “Huge stage, great sound, a place that can hold a lot of people, but at the same time still feels intimate. A lot of venues lose the most important thing in rock, the connection between the fans and the band.” The band even went into discussion about some of the local radio stations (KOMP 92.3 and 107.5 Extreme Radio) and their tendency to play music by bands that will be playing locally in the coming week.

Check out Left Standing’s OurStage profile to stay tuned for the release of their latest album Brand New Day which will be available on iTunes as well as on their Web site. Catch them on their upcoming cross-country tour.

Poptarts: Koalia

The OK Go craze swept the nation after the release of their famous treadmill video. But a viral YouTube video can only take you so far. You need to have the look, the attitude and, of course, the sound. Upbeat pop music can take on many forms. This week’s Poptarts pick, Koalia, supports that “OK Go” aesthetic with an almost Sugar Ray-like flair. Yes, that was a Sugar Ray reference.

The band’s latest single, “Radioman,” left the whole OurStage office nodding their heads when I played it. With upbeat rhythms, optimistic vocals and a pinch of distortion, what else would you expect ? In fact, if you listen hard enough you can hear the echoes of a ’60s pop-rock song, complete with 3 part harmonies and clear electric guitars. The bottom line: this band creates music synonymous with the term “party pop/rock”.

Koalia hails from Finland and boasts significant regional notoriety. While the Finnish indie scene isn’t commonly discussed, the band has secured many gigs and collaborations within their local market. Recently, Koalia played gigs in the cities of Oulu and Tempere. In addition to ranking high on OurStage, their music has been featured on local radio station YLEX as well as other online indie radio. Currently, they are working on a video for “Radioman.” Keep an eye out for it, and listen to the song here:

New Music Biz 101: Facebook (Part 2)

In Facebook (Part 1) we discussed a few important tips to help expand your Facebook fan base. In this week’s blog, we’ll discuss strategies to help increase conversion rates to fandom on Facebook. Driving more traffic to your page can be difficult. You want to be sure that you’re able to capitalize upon your efforts.

One of the best ways to increase your conversion rates to fandom on Facebook is by creating a custom Facebook tab. To create a tab in Facebook, you’ll need to have a basic understanding of Facebook’s native coding language, FBML. We won’t go too deep into this today, but we’ll go over the basic features you should include on your page. That way, you’ll have the essentials when getting someone to help you create the page.

  1. Your page is all about the music. Be sure there is an easy way to listen to your music quickly. Whether it’s a link to a Web site where potential fans can stream a song, a YouTube video embedded on the page or, better yet, a system where someone can download a track in exchange for an email address, you need to have a way for fans to experience your art.
  2. Call to action. Make sure your landing page has a clear call to action to join—an arrow pointing to the “Like” button, a message at the bottom of the page, even an embedded video explaining why someone should join. Give fans a reason to connect with you!
  3. Visual representation. Show the viewer what you and your music is all about. Literally. Include pictures of you and your band showing off a bit of your personality, or create a look and feel to the page that goes along well with your style of music.
  4. Link up. Make sure you link to your other social media profiles and Web site. You want your fans to connect with you on as many levels as possible!
  5. Use analytics. Information about where your fans are coming from and where they’re going once they hit your landing page is really important. Here’s a great post about how to set up Google analytics on your Facebook landing page from SocialMediaExaminer.com

Be sure to make your page the default tab for new viewers. You can change this in the page settings on Facebook. Here are a few landing pages to take a look at that we think do a pretty good job incorporating some or all of the points above:

The Artist E-dubble’s Facebook Page

The Artist “Unknown - The Universal Element’s” Facebook Page

 


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