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Ten Artists to Watch at CMJ 2011… Based Solely on Their Names

There are lots of things we love about indie artists here on OurStage. Their ambition, will-power and outright determination to do whatever it takes to make it are some of the things we admire most. But, personally, I think their sheer creativity takes the cake. Independent artists are constantly one-upping each other and themselves when it comes to the ways they create and promote their music. And, millions of bands later, one of the trickiest yet most defining decisions an artist makes is their name.

While perusing the CMJ Marathon schedule, I was impressed and even more so entertained by the band names making an appearance in New York this week. So, without further adieu, here are ten picks for artists not to be missed at CMJ based on absolutely nothing else other than the fact that their names are fantastic.

Sidebar: There are so many OurStage artists appearing at CMJ this year that we simply couldn’t list them. Listen to them all in one playlist on OurStage’s Facebook page! You can view the complete CMJ 2011 schedule here.

Dad Rocks!

Because I appreciate the enthusiasm of the exclamation point. And also, Dad does rock.

Continue reading ‘Ten Artists to Watch at CMJ 2011… Based Solely on Their Names’

Punk On The Rocks: In Memory Of Ari Up

Being an avid music lover is full of a lot of firsts: The first time a song moves you to tears, the first time you meet your favorite band and many more. On October 20th, with the announcement of the passing of Arianna Forster aka Ari Up—lead singer and founding member of The Slits—I experienced another, more unfortunate first: The first time that a musician that I really loved passed away.

I was lucky enough to see Ari and the new incarnation of The Slits in 2006 at CMJ. I had never heard any of their records, but I had heard the name back when I was first getting into punk, and I knew that I couldn’t pass up this chance to see the legendary Ari Up. The showcase they were headlining was at the old Knitting Factory in Manhattan. I arrived at early to guarantee myself a place inside. While waiting for The Slits to come on, I was taken by how many musicians were in the audience. The crowd was full of members of bands that had played earlier in the night who had stuck around to see The Slits. I was standing next to one of the members of Green Milk From The Planet Orange, a progressive/psychadelic rock band from Tokyo. It was amazing to think that a band that had once been almost forgotten by the mainstream had influenced that reached as far as Japan.

Ari and the new Slits lineup on the cover of 2009's "Trapped Animal"

When the Slits did take the stage, it was more like a rehearsal than a concert. The band stopped songs in the middle to restart sections, and the setlist seemed to be whatever Ari felt like singing at the time. Even so, they were unpredictable and wild and it was impossible to look away from them. My first impression of Ari was that she was completely insane. She was totally in the moment, in the music, and doing whatever she felt without a second thought as to whether or not it made sense or was “appropriate.” It was invigorating and inspiring to see someone be so uninhibited onstage.

After the performance, I bought a copy of Cut. I was—and still am—shocked that this record was released in 1979. Even now, songs like “Shoplifting” and “New Town” still sound dangerous, revolutionary and totally unlike anything else. The Slits are the very definition of “ahead of their time.”

After listening to Cut, I was dying to see The Slits on stage again. The possibility of a Slits tour seemed even more likely after the 2009 release of Trapped Animal, their first full length release in 25 years. Sadly, I won’t get another chance to see Ari onstage and neither will future generations of young women. But we can keep Ari alive through her music. Don’t let The Slits be forgotten again. Keep passing around the albums, CDs and tapes to your friends, sisters, daughters—everyone. Let them know that typical girls aren’t that typical after all.

R.I.P. Ari Up

Local Natives In New York: “It” Band Blows Up But Boys Escape Ego

California’s Local Natives have slowly but surely strummed, drummed and sung their way to the top of critics’ and general listeners’ “It” list. The outfit of five, comprising Taylor Rice (lead vocals, guitar), Kelcey Ayer (vocals, keyboards, percussion, guitar), Ryan Hahn (guitar, keyboards, mandolin, vocals), Andy Hamm (bass, backing vocals) and Matt Frazier (drums) officially formed five years ago, with the innocent intention of following their hearts by making meaningful music. Says Ayer, “We didn’t have a lot of money; we had a passion.”

From the lyrical content to the instrumental arrangements, the exhilarating live delivery to the pristinely produced disc, the quintet has succeeded in amassing both a cult and commercial following. Of their rise from at one time attracting a sum of five show-goers to performing nine sold-out sets at SXSW (not to mention roughly 200 other shows over the course of the past year-and-a-half), Ayer admits, “It’s pretty incredible. I don’t think there’s any other word to describe it.” He humbly elaborates; “It’s those [small] shows that make [bigger] shows so much more special.” The process wasn’t simple, he explains. “It didn’t happen overnight. We earned it. This band has always been about longevity. I think that will help us in the long run.”

by Nell Alk

Performing in Manhattan last week at a Ray Ban-sponsored SPIN showcase for CMJ, Local Natives took the stage close to 11:45 and played until 12:30. Before emerging, the longtime friends gathered backstage in a huddle, a more modest and adorable assembly of the classic football pre-play rally. Speaking of the specific show, which took place at Lafayette Street’s Firehouse, Rice shares, “Our live performance is a lot more energetic; has raw energy to it. At a small party vibe venue, like this, it’ll come off a lot more that way.” ’Tis true. They tore into their album, proving their rock star status by playing their hearts out. There was no lack of enthusiasm for these limelight pros. Rice commanded the mic, but a great deal of their appeal has to do with their powerful harmonies, which were in full force. Ayer took the lead on “Airplanes,” given the fact that he wrote it about his father’s father, whom he never met. All members were impressive, but Ayer takes the cake, earning major cred when balancing both keyboard and percussion simultaneously. Right hand plucks keys as left hand soars over other to tap his solitary drum. Pat head, rub belly much? Wow. And to think, this guy used to be, as he confessed, “A server at a California Pizza Kitchen.”

Rice, who before becoming LN’s lead sold products door-to-door (“I was hawking really expensive kitchen cutlery to housewives in Orange County”), says he enjoys intimate engagements as well as massive festivals; “There’s a different type of connection when it’s a mass of people versus a sweaty club packed to the gills. I like the fact that we get to mix it up.” Local Natives wound down the evening with the amped anthem “Sun Hands,” a pulsating song that manages somehow to channel the precise clip-clop pattern a horse makes when galloping. This thanks to Frazier, whose severe focus is evident when staring, mouth agape, from stage right. And he seemed so unassuming! Color me floored by their collective and unflinching gifts.

Perhaps the most recently buzzed about Local Natives venture is their music video for “Wide Eyes,” a soaring and somber number with so much more lurking beneath its surface. Much akin to the antagonist co-starring in said mini-narrative: a shark, who stalks a suburban man, flaunting his fins everywhere the increasingly insecure individual goes. Undoubtedly this cinematic decision aroused some questions about the band. Maybe they’ve an underlying desire to feature their twinkling track on Shark Week? Hahn fills in the blanks matter-of-factly; “I’ve got a fear of sharks. They always make fun of me.” So why go viral with a phobia? “I had the idea for the video a long time ago. Many of our ideas were way out of budget. It was a play on my ridiculous fear of sharks,” he laughs.

So, what’s next for this party of five? After enough bus travel time to make you hate highways, the boys are stoked to get back in the studio. That is, after writing the entire record, a shared responsibility. Of the experience, Frazier says, “We’ve learned so much.” He hints at the sophomore follow-up: “The bits and pieces of songs we have so far are really promising.” Ayer adds, “Everyone’s excited to jump into it next year.” Next year can’t come soon enough for fans, including this chick. But, for now, I’ll keep my impatient chin up; they’re returning to the Big Apple this Friday to blow away Webster Hall.

By Nell Alk

Nell Alk is a culture and entertainment reporter based in New York. Her work has appeared in Paper Magazine, InterviewMagazine.com, Zink Magazine and BlackBookMag.com, among others. She also contributes to NBC’s Niteside blog.

Wrapping up CMJ 2010

Taxi rides from east to west side; uptown todowntown, overlapping forty- to one-hour set times in Brooklyn and Manhattan, droves lined up to see the next big thing, open bars and deeply-discounted beers—this was the daily agenda for attendees at the 2010 CMJ Music Marathon.

Things moved expeditiously and, for the most part, the tightly-knit sets stayed on schedule from Tuesday through closing in the wee morning hours on Sunday. Wide-eyed by the first day and nearly trudging from venue to venue mid-way through the week, attendees and artists had their work cut out for them. This year, the CMJ Music Marathon was jam-packed with some of the most buzzed-about artists—most from New York—who had more multiple spots than last year, easing some of the timetable anxieties.

Courtesy of Patrick J. Eves

Bursts of electro and new wave pulsated throughout the five-day event. New York trio, BRAHMS, made the room dance from the moment they helped kick-off CMJ Tuesday night at a Piano’s showcase. Singer Eric Lyle Lodwick darkly thumped through each track like Dave Gahan making BRAHMS a melodious addiction. The name Oberhofer could be heard here and there. Fronted by Brad Oberhofer, the subtle guitars, meshed with keyboard  have a few chiming hints of Vampire Weekend in tracks like “AWY FRM U,” off the band’s debut, o0O0o0O0o, produced by Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock. Sydney’s Cassette Kids, who now reside in Brooklyn, didn’t fail to make patrons stir in and around their standing-room spots as vocalist Katrina Noorberger, like a willowy Terri Nunn, commanded the stage with her dirty dance-rock beats.

Courtesy of Patrick J. Eves

Out-of-towners brought as much hype to the daily time slots. Boasting five CMJ gigs under their belts, Newport Beach, Calif.’s Young the Giant offered their soul- and synth-fused set with tambourine-slapping Sameer Gadhia evoking some murmurs of Brandon Flowers vocals. A New Zealand Showcase presented an electronic beat down from Bowie-loving, petite powerhouse Zowie and the more Scissor Sisters-ridden Kids of 88 while Robert and David Perlick Molinari  of French Horn Rebellion filled Santos Party House with whimsical, electro beats (French horns included) as one of the last to perform Sunday morning at 1:30 AM.

A mix of dance, rock and DJ sets took place the final two days at the FADER Fort, reminiscent of a rave house, and some surprises filled in the week, including Phoenix, housed in a packed Madison Square Garden with surprise guests Daft Punk. A rumored turned confirmed appearance by Kanye West with new artist CyHi Da Prynce at the Brooklyn Bowl Fool’s Gold Records Anniversary Party heightened the end of the fest by Saturday night. Here’s to CMJ 2011.

Kanye West Live at CMJ via TimeOutNewYork

By Tina Benitez

Tina Benitez is a contributing writer, who covers music, wine and pop culture from her New York home office for publications like NY Press, Royal Flush, amNY, Men’s Fitness, Venus Zine and Wine Spectator.

iRock: The GoStation

Ever since the early 2000s, the rock genre has suffered from a mid-life crisis. Sure, rock has produced a slew of sub genres in its lifetime but many wear the masks of hip hop, pop,and electronica. What happened to The Verve? Oasis? Ride? The 1980s Stone Roses? You know, the real rock ‘n’ roll that not only captured listeners ears but their hearts. Did they all break up to form a supergroup? No, but you actually may think this is what you are hearing when you listen to this week’s featured iRock artist.

While the rock genre is in disarray and looking for its next savior, a group out of New York City has emerged out of the classic rock ‘n’ roll ashes to breath some fresh air into the world of 808’s, autotune and Grey Goose-inspired lyrics.Five members strong The GoStation embrace the natural rock sound and held on tight throughout the musical storm that hit the industry.  Their debut EP, Quiet Zone, received backing from various radio stations including Seattle’s KEXP, NYC’s 92.2 K-Rock and Q104.3 as well as XM/Sirius satellite radio. Building on this support, the band hit the road and performed at the CMJ, SXSW and NEMO festivals as well as opened for national artists like The Dears, Young Love, White Rabbits and The Bravery.  After making their mark on the local market and knocking on the door of the national scene, The GoStation recorded and released their year-in-the-making full-length album, Passion Before Function. They returned to Bill Racine’s (Rogue Wave, The Flaming Lips, Phantom Planet) studio to bring this album to life.

If you’re looking for infectious, back-to-the-roots rock, then you’ve come to the right place. I couldn’t say it better than the band itself, “just press play, and let the music do the rest.”

Download of the Week: I Fight Dragons

Video games, superheroes and infectiously catchy power pop are the fuel behind Chicago’s I Fight Dragons journey from obscurity to the national spotlight as this week’s Needle in the Haystack featured artist. Armed with Game Boys and guitars, the group spearheaded their way into the OurStage and CMJ charts this past summer with tracks off their stellar Cool Is Just a Number EP. However, the band isn’t just a treat for the ears — they’ve earned quite the local rep for their live show playing old school video game controllers, like the beloved Nintendo powerglove, alongside traditional tools of the trade. After a recent signing to Photo Finish Records, the Nintedo-crazed six piece is gearing up to share the bill with 3OH!3, Cobra Starship, and Travis McCoy of Gym Class Heroes on the Too Fast For Love Tour starting in April. Give a listen to this week’s free track, “Heads Up, Hearts Down” and see what all the buzz is about for yourself. Keep your eyes peeled to OurStage and the MTV Music blog to get better acquainted with the I Fight Dragons crew.

Tour De Force: Freelance Whales

Freelance Whales have made a name for themselves as a band “Busking to the Big Time.” However, this is not your average busking band. True — they can often be seen playing on street corners and in subway stations around hipster’s paradise (a.k.a Williamsburg), but they also get pretty creative. They’ve been spotted playing in dark abandoned warehouses, roof-tops,  “culturally significant Williamsburg house parties”, and other various nooks and crannies around Brooklyn, NY. Their unconventional methods and somewhat unusual sound caught the attention of many leading voices in the media. They’ve been featured artists on NPR’s World Café and Stereogum.com, taken the blogosphere by storm on respected pages such as Brooklyn Vegan and HearYa and recently nabbed a spot on Grey’s Anatomy — which some may hate to admit is a band’s one way ticket to indie fame and fortune.
Continue reading ‘Tour De Force: Freelance Whales’

Fine Tunings: Guitar Hero Marissa Paternoster of Screaming Females

OSBlog02_FineTunings_ScreamingFemalesPunk trio Screaming Females could prove to be the most talked-about thing to come out of Jersey since the Sopranos. Much credit for that goes to guitar shredder/vocalist Marissa Paternoster, who has the stage prowess of Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein and the chops of Jimi Hendrix.

Paternoster co-founded Screaming Females in 2006 with school chum, bassist Mike “King Mike” Rickenbacker and drummer Jarrett Dougherty. The New Brunswick-based group immediately got their feet wet playing all-ages house shows in basements in their home town and on tour. Screaming Females have already played more than 250 shows that they booked themselves.

FROM THE CMJ RELAY ARCHIVES: OURSTAGE PICKS VOL. 16

cmjdotcom_webWelcome to our sixteenth installment featuring CMJ’s OurStage Staff Picks from the CMJ Relay Blog. CMJ is well known for their industry leading New Music Report magazine, which contains music reviews, artist news and interviews with the best artists being played on college radio.

Eva Auad

“If You Love Me”
Pop
Commingling purring, soulful vocals with French cabaret and Spanish instrumental influences (notice the castanets), Auad gives more gusto and creativity than would be expected from an artist under the bland title of pop.
RIYL: Amanda Palmer, Nou Non Plus, Plastiscines

Happiest Lion

“Image of Chicago”
Electronic pop
This cutesy indie pop takes good direction from their electronic influences, making them sound like they traded their acoustic guitars in for synths. Simple lyrics and a tinge of emotionality brings more versatility yet stays within the indie spectrum.
RIYL: Postal Service, Moldy Peaches, Casual Women

FROM THE CMJ RELAY ARCHIVES: OURSTAGE PICKS VOL. 15

cmjdotcom_webWelcome to our fifteenth installment featuring CMJ’s OurStage Staff Picks from the CMJ Relay Blog. CMJ is well known for their industry leading New Music Report magazine, which contains music reviews, artist news and interviews with the best artists being played on college radio.

Sicarus

“Changing Faces”
Hard Rock
The strength of Sicarus’s “Changing Faces” lies not in its blistering guitar solos or insane bass pedal pumping, but in contrasting them with a powerful opening (and recurring) vocal riff.
RIYL: Mastodon, Rise Against, Saosin

Yung Papi

“Crown Me”
Hip-hop
Sampling the opening riff of Beethoven’s Edgemont Overture is an educated and compelling move that will go over most heads, but works brilliantly in this boisterous young rapper’s favor.
RIYL: Lil’ Wayne, Kanye West, Jay Electronica

Nicolay

“Grand Theft Auto (GTA)”
Hip-hop
The title says it all. This track is pulsing with a beat that generates enough adrenaline to take on the street racing, police helicopter evasion, gang wars, and girls described in the lyrics. Let’s see the 5.0 try and keep up with this!
RIYL: The Game, Young Jeezy, Lloyd Banks

 


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