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Win Gift Cards By Judging In Guitar Center’s Your Next Record with Keith Urban Competition

Guitar Center has teamed up with Keith Urban and OurStage to offer artists nationwide a shot at a grand prize package that includes a $10,000 shopping spree at Guitar Center, $10,000 worth of Gibson Gear, a 3 song EP with a top-notch producer including a single featuring Keith Urban, a single feature on iTunes Country and so much more! Fans who judge in the competition can help one lucky up-and-coming artist snag a career-breaking prize and bring their music to the masses. All judges are automatically entered into a weekly drawing to win a $50 gift card to Guitar Center! Head to Guitar Center’s “Your Next Record with Keith Urban” Competition Channel to weigh in on your favorite artists now! Click HERE for official rules and competition information.

Smokeout Festival 2010: Music, Politics, Higher Learning

The San Bernardino hills were alive with the sound of music (and the smell of some serious ganja) for the eleventh annual Cypress Hill Smokeout Festival, presented by Guerilla Union, this past Saturday. Forty thousand fans turned out for a day of food, music and of course—marijuana. This marked the first year that certified medical marijuana users were able to consume pot at the show in designated smoking areas. The festival featured a Medical Marijuana Expo that included voter registration booths, product samples and speaking panels on related issues like cultivation, Prop 19 and other relevant issues.

Authors Shirley Halperin and Steve Bloom led a discussion of their new book, Reefer Movie Madness, and hosted a day of stoner movies including Dazed and Confused, Friday and Pulp Fiction. Jeff Dowd, the real-life “The Dude” himself was on-hand to introduce The Big Lebowski.

Despite all the Prop 19 propaganda, the real attraction of the day was the music. Over 26 acts performed on three stages including MGMT, Los Rakas, Slightly Stoopid, Paul Oakenfold and Living Legends.

Nas showed no signs of stress from his current label feud when he joined Damian Marley for a high-energy performance on the main stage, looking and sounding better than he has in years. Damian’s floor-length dreads swung behind as he commanded the crowd to light up during his set, yelling, “I heard this was a smokeout…Everybody SMOKE-OUT!!”

Legendary hip hop group, and the festival’s hosts, Cypress Hill hit the stage with Travis Barker on the drums, delivering a power-packed set of their hits “I Wanna Get High” and “Stoned Is The Way. ” B-Real and Sen Dog sounded as good as they did when the group burst onto the scene almost 20 years ago. After a beat battle between Barker and DJ Muggz, the crowd went wild for a rendition of their classic, “Insane In The Brain.”

New Amerykah, Pt. 2: Return of the Ankh

The real showstopper of the evening was Erykah Badu. The crowd waited with baited breath as Badu hit the stage in a blonde wig and plaid poncho that covered her from neck to knees, later revealing a seventies style shift dress. She opened her stellar set with her 2008 hit “The Healer”, emphasizing the politically peppered evening with a raised fist and animated delivery. After introducing her band, “The Cannabinoids”, she followed up with her throwback hit, “On And On” before performing mostly new material sprinkled with fan favorites like “Tyrone”.

By the end of the night, throngs of mellow music lovers gathered at the main stage to watch Incubus end their 18-month hiatus. Despite a lack of fresh material, save for the track “Surface To Air,” they wowed the crowd with classics like “Drive” and “Stellar” to close out the night on a high note.

As the first festival to formally blend fans’ love of music with their love of marijuana, only ten arrests were made (all misdemeanors such as public intoxication). Show sponsors and artists begged the question: Can pot smokers be united and assemble peacefully? Furthermore, is there a chance in hell Prop 19 supporters could see success on the November ballot? The answer, written across signs and t-shirts throughout the festival, was a resounding: “Yes We Cannabis.”

See fan video of Incubus, MGMT, Slightly Stoopid and Deadmau5 performances from Smokeout 2010 here.

By Cortney Wills

Cortney Wills is a pop culture journalist born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has lived in LA, Chicago and NYC and enjoys all things entertainment.

Q&A With Jason Derülo

Twenty-year-old Jason Derülo has certainly had an incredible year. It began with his first tour ever, where he found himself not only traveling across the country, but performing for thousands of fans as an opening act for pop megastar Lady Gaga. His hit singles, “Whatcha Say,” “In My Head” and “Ridin’ Solo” have topped the charts for months, and now he’s wrapping up a headlining world tour. OurStage got the chance to speak with Jason about adjusting to the star life and what’s in store for his undoubtedly bright future.

OS: Though you’ve always been a performer, you originally made a name for yourself in the industry as a songwriter for Lil’ Wayne, Cassie and Danity Kane, to name a few. How did you land that job at such a young age?

JD: I was 16 when I got my first placement, and I wasn’t chasing the writing dream. What I was doing was kind of tricking the producer that I was working with into thinking that I was a writer [laughs]. I just really wanted them to record records for me…but I was posing as a songwriter so I could get them to record me.  While I was doing this, I just so happened to get a placement and the ball just kind of started rolling. Once you get one placement, it just kind of snowballs…then Lil’ Wayne, Danity Kane, Cassie, for all these people…P. Diddy…all of them kind of fell in line. Once you start getting more and more, more come.

OS: You had over 300 songs recorded before the album was put together. How did you narrow down that huge list to the nine that eventually ended up on the CD?

JD: I think every song is special in its own way…and I wanted to have every song be totally different from the last. You can kind of tell from the singles… none of them were really in line with the others. Every single song can really spin on its own and be it’s own story. When I narrowed it down, I took the best in each category. Those were the ones that I felt were special.

OS: Your hit single “Whatcha Say” samples Imogen Heap’s song “Hide and Seek.” What made you decide to use that piece for the chorus of your own song?

JD: It was actually JR [Rotem, producer]‘s idea to sample that. When he brought it to me, I was floored because it’s just so different… I knew it would be something that would cut through and would catch people’s attention. It’s such a beautiful song…and when I wrote to it, it really meshed together and it just happened to be magical.

OS: You work with so many other artists as a songwriter but haven’t collaborated with any yet. Who would you most like to collaborate with on a future release?

JD: I’m not that person that’s going to have a million features on his album, because I think that your album is a representation of you. I don’t really need to hang on anyone’s coat tails, you know? If it is a collaboration, it would be a collaboration that’s right for the song. I wouldn’t sacrifice a song that I thought was good on its own to have a feature on it. But, I mean, if I had my first choice…I would choose Madonna! [laughs] She’s been able to reinvent herself time and time again and I have yet to be a part of another reinvention. I grew up listening to Madonna because my mom listened to Madonna.

OS: Earlier this year, you spent six weeks touring the country as an opening act for Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball. What was that experience like?

JD: Lady Gaga, she’s awesome…I had a great time on tour with her. She’s spectacular in terms of helping the process run smoothly. She was an absolute sweetheart and her staff were really helpful in making my first tour a success. It was my first tour, so I needed time to get acclimated to being on tour….living in a tour bus, performing in front of thousands of people everyday…it takes some getting used to. It’s a completely different life. But she was awesome throughout the whole thing. She’s inspiring. She said a lot of inspiring words to me. She’s a kind, kind girl.

OS: Your live show is very energetic. How do you prepare for weeks of touring?

JD: It’s crazy. My schedule is so crazy that I have minimal time to really, really prepare. I feel like every show is somewhat of a rehearsal. Because literally, before my tour, I had one rehearsal on my set. I was thrown on the stage in London, one of the biggest cities in the world…and I had to do my thing. And I think it makes for a better performer, being put on the spot, and to just go. I think that’s the beauty of performance…when you can just go and be yourself, without all the gimmicks…you can make a great show.

OS: In addition to being a singer, songwriter and dancer, you’re also an actor. Do you have any plans to return to the film set in the near future?

JD: It’s crazy, you know…I never thought I’d be turning down film roles left and right… it’s pretty crazy. I did this series online and it raised a lot of buzz in the acting world. It was the story of my life…I played myself, it was called “The Walk of Fame.” It raised a lot of attention. I’m getting offered film roles left and right, but I can’t—everything that I’m doing is taking up my time, in the music world. But I hope to in the near future, because I love it. It’s an amazing thing, also.

OS: You have an incredible work ethic and don’t seem to ever rest. Do you have any interest in working on the business side of the industry?

JD: Yeah, I actually have a girls’ group coming out in Australia, first…and I [am also mentoring] a young girl, Alyssa, she’s 15, as well. I’m really into fashion, too, so I’ll probably do that.

Don’t miss Jason Derülo at the last dates of his world tour:

10/20 – Arizona State Fairgrounds, Phoenix, AZ
10/21 – University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
10/22 – Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ
10/23 - Warehouse Live, Houston, TX
10/25 - House Of Blues, Dallas, TX
10/27 - Center Stage, Atlanta, GA
10/28 – The Ritz Ybor,Tampa. FL
10/29 – Alumni Hall, Fairfield, CT

Rock ‘n’ Roll Call: Throwback Suburbia

Don’t be surprised if Portland, Oregon’s Throwback Suburbia instantly remind you of Death Cab for Cutie or The Shins. After all, their album was created with the help of the same legendary producers who worked with both bands, plus John Lennon, The Who and David Bowie among others.

Though this roster is certainly impressive, Throwback Suburbia are well on their way to great achievements themselves. Their 2007 single “Circles” earned regular rotation on LA’s KROQ radio station and became the most played song by an unsigned artist on several other national stations. They also landed television spots on Fox and FuelTV and were named Eastwood Guitars’ favorite new act.

It’s always nice to have a breath of fresh air in the pop-rock scene, even when the sound is, well, a throwback. This power pop quintet boast some retro ’60s charm in their clean and simple song structures, perfectly timed harmonies and complimentary keyboard parts. The sweet and sugary “Head Over Heels” will definitely get you dancing, as the piano, bells and vocals make this feel-good tune a stand-out track. Soft-rock ballad “You’ll Never Know” could easily be a Beatles song. The track is surprisingly hopeful as vocalist Jimi Evans sings, “Clear those cobwebs inside/Don’t wait for tomorrow/You’ll never know ’til you try.”

After spending 23 weeks in the Top 100 on our Best of Pop Charts and sharing the stage with Rooney and The Gin Blossoms, Throwback Suburbia are on the fast track to hitting it big. Be sure to check out their latest album, Throwback Suburbia, on their official Web site!

Hip Hop Habit: Yes Lord

Hip Hop Habit LogoAs a man with familial connections to Northern Philadelphia, I’ll be the first to tell you the day-to-day existence there is less than rosy. Needless to say, growing up in that environment is tough, but surviving it with the goal of becoming rap’s next superstar? That’s downright ambitious. Luckily for Yes Lord (born Jamal Tillery), ambition is innate.  Although Tillery bounced in and out of trouble as a teen and had difficulty staying in the same school for an extended period of time, he found his drive after attending college. Since then, he has churned that motivation into 1 BA , 2 MBAs and even runs his own businesses. The music? Well you could say that’s pretty ambitious too.

As is often the case with singles these days, the song Yes Lord’s received the most recognition for here on OurStage is not his strongest. Winning first prize in last November’s Converse Get Out of the Garage Urban Competition, the tongue and cheek “Hold Me Down” blithely describes the emcee’s adoration for the lady in his life over a moderate beat that leaves listeners asking for more. What’s important to note about this piece is that it carries a trait resoundingly present in much of Tillery’s content: desire. As noted above, Yes Lord has proven himself to be a very motivated person, and once he wraps his mind around what he wants, there’s no stopping him. Such is audible in “Hold Me Down,” where it’s heard through the satisfaction of successfully pursuing the woman he loves. However, his dream chasing really gets inspiring is in ghetto-documenting “Life in the City.”

Yes LordThis track follows the one time delinquent down both the rabbit hole of drug addiction and the rare yet resilient comeback. Opening with promising vocals from featured singer Jeremie Morris over an ironically calming beat, the slow tempo automatically places Yes Lord’s tone into a category of resolve; he’s not happy with the present but he’s confident in what the future can hold. But, if there’s any truth to Slug’s (of Atmosphere) line “Junkies won’t bounce ‘till they hit the ground” then Tillery provides the supporting evidence. Referring to himself as a “coke sniffer, chain smoker, perk popper, and weed mover,” it’s safe to say he was going nowhere fast: “Graduation nah I was agitated/ and fascinated with dice as they scratched the pavement passing payments/ cash that was actually tainted/ crack acquainted/ marijuana sacks is flaming.” After a bust introduces him to rock bottom, Tillery uses a new year as fuel to power his goals of replenishing cash flow and doubling up on real estate.  His story is truly moving.

With enough earned business know-how to run his career independently, it’s pretty safe to say that Yes Lord controls his own destiny. He’s won various awards and performed at multiple hip hop events, but time will show these things were just steps along the way to the big time. Check his tracks out in the player below, and let us know if he enthuses you in the comments!

Help Undiscovered Artists And Win Prizes By Judging In The Big D NYE Fast Track To Fame Competition

The Big D NYE “Fast Track To Fame” Competition is giving one lucky OurStage artist a shot at performing in front of an audience of 25,000—not to mention over 450,000 TV viewers—on New Year’s Eve at Big D NYE 2010, the premiere New Year’s Eve experience in Dallas, TX. Artists in the Dallas / Fort Worth area need YOUR help to get to the big stage. In return, OurStage and Big D NYE are hooking up fans who judge with awesome prizes. Each week in October, five fans will be chosen to receive a free Big D NYE T-shirt along with OurStage swag. At the end of the month, one national runner-up will receive $250 cash, and one grand prize winner in the Dallas / Fort Worth area will receive two free tickets to Big D NYE 2010!  By judging, not only can you can help undiscovered artists get their big break, but YOU can also take home a share of the prizes. For rules and official competition information head to the Big D NYE page HERE.

Metal Monday: True Norwegian Black Metal by Peter Beste [book]

Norwegian Black Metal is an often explored sub-genre and culture of music, but usually looked under intense media scrutiny. On very few occasions has the Norwegian Black Metal scene been explored from the inside out, free of media pressures. The book True Norwegian Black Metal is a photo book that spawned from the VICE Magazine 2007 documentary of the same name. Peter Beste, the photographer, helped put the VICE documentary together and while doing so became inspired to compile a book of his black metal expeditions. While the documentary is criticized for not being entirely factual, the book garners no such criticism—unlike the film, only bits of text in the entire book are quotes from famous people (both in and out of the scene)—and includes an introduction by Jon “Metalion” Kristiansen, creator of the first and most influential fanzine in black metal (Slayer Magazine).

Short and to the point, True Norwegian Black Metal starts off with black pages using minimal amounts of white text then immediately grabs the reader’s attention with an incredibly stark spread juxtaposing a black metaller breathing fire into the air with the Latin text “in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni” (translation: “we enter the circle in the night and are consumed with fire”) in medieval English typeface. The first section of photos feature characters prototypical of what many think when you say “black metal”—corpse paint, leather jackets, long hair, the works. It isn’t until after the introductions that you get a look into the real Norway and members of the black metal scene.

In terms of photo selection, there is no censorship among the photos. The reader sees all of the gory details, including more real and behind-the-scenes photos. Media depictions and dress associated with a black metal live show are all hyped and presented as the way that things are normally—True Norwegian Black Metal shows that there is more to the scene than aesthetics alone. There are sections that show the beautiful, and sometimes bleak, Norwegian countryside and sections that show the everyday life of black metallers around Norway. Quotes from the likes of E.M. Cioran, Gaahl (of Gorgoroth), Frost (of 1349/Satyricon), Fenriz (of Darkthrone), Abbath (of Immortal), H.P. Lovecraft, Albert Camus, etc. add a surprising amount of insight to the book as they speak volumes about the scene, the mindset of the people involved, how their world is perceived and why it is the way it is.

Undeniably the most moving part of the book is the introduction, an incredibly personal first-hand look at black metal written by Metalion. His writing it completely different than that of journalists and other media personalities—it’s devoid of judgment, and details how the scene all came to be. This includes the infamous Helvete record store as well as the strife between the bands Burzum and Mayhem—the suicide of vocalist Dead and the murder of guitarist Euronymous by Vark Vikernes—which shook Norway’s black metal scene to it’s core.

True Norwegian Black Metal is a must-have for anyone who has a serious fascination with music genres, those who want to learn something about black metal from a new perspective or just want to have a collection of fantastic pictures from the black metal scene in Norway. Cumulatively, this photo book gives much more insight to the real happenings involving the Norwegian black metal scene—much more than any text or spoken words could. True Norwegian Black Metal can be found any many book retailers such as Barnes and Noble, and can also be found at Newbury Comics. It can also be purchased from many retailers via Amazon. If you’d like to see the documentary, it can be found on

Even Better Than The Real Thing, Baby: Tribute Bands for the Irony Age

Once the domain of super-serious, straight-up cover bands like Sticky Fingers (The Stones), Crystal Ship (The Doors) and the thousands of Beatles covers bands who flourished after the Broadway musical Beatlemania made it cool to be faux, the world of tribute bands has evolved along with every other musical movement. From the weird and marginal (Mini Kiss, a band of little people who lip sync to Kiss recordings) to the ultra professional (Bjorn Again ,the highly successful traveling fake-Abba stage show), tribute bands are multiplying and diversifying.

In the post-millennial, post-irony era, it is difficult to enjoy even our “guilty pleasures” without some conceptual tweaking that allows us to feel that we are in on the joke. So while the more serious tribute bands continue to rake in literally millions of dollars per year from ticket sales, a whole crop of acts have emerged that combine off-kilter performance art with sing-a-long élan.

Tragedy, The Bee Gees Tribute band

One popular trend in this direction is the stylistic mashuplike New York City’s Tragedy, who play heavy metal versions of Bee Gees songs; Beatallica, a seamless blend of thrash metal and Fab Four pop; Hoboken’s Skanatra, who apply a spirited blue-beat to the Ol’ Blue Eyes repertoire; and Hayseed Dixie, whose bluegrass renditions of hard rock classicsand elaborate fictional backstoryhave kept audiences chuckling for over a decade.

An offshoot of the hybrid tribute act is the gender switche.g. Hell’s Belles (femme AC/DC), Deva (double-X chromosome Devo tribute), Lez Zeppelin (“All girls, all Zeppelin”), We Got the Meat, (Portland’s all-male Go-Go’s) and The Pretty Babies, the all-girl Blondie tribute band led by New York singer/comedienne Tammy Faye Starlite, who was an actress before she turned to musical comedy.

“I like to play characters,” says Starlite, who also plays Mick Jagger in the hilarious all-female Rolling Stones act, The Mike Hunt Band. “I guess I’d call myself a ‘performer’like Liza, but less sequined. And unfortunately, with fewer opiates.”

Inhabiting the persona of Debbie Harry, Nico or Mick “is like doing a great play. The singer is the lead character, and the songs are the lines.”

Bambi Kino Photo Credit: Andrew Bicknell

Then there are the less theatrical but still high-concept acts. Former Guided By Voices member Doug Gillard (now mainly a solo artist) has recently begun playing in Bambi Kino, a Beatles tribute with a twist: their song selections and playing style directly copy the early-‘60s, Hamburg-nightclub-playing era of the band, during which their set lists were mainly pop covers and a few primitive originals. Although the group, which includes Nada Surf’s Ira Elliot, doesn’t assume fake Beatles identities, they do aim for sonic authenticity.

Says Gillard, “We try to avoid more modern guitar chord voicings, licks, and drum fills in favor of period-appropriate styleswhich is a challenge. There’s an appeal for us in really inhabiting the music and the era we’re playing songs from.”

Aside from the artistic challenge, and the potential to make some money, what motivates tribute artists to do their thing? Singer Cathy Cervenka heads up the New York-based Cathyland rock collective, which puts together tribute shows for their favorite ‘80s artists, demonstrating both great devotion and dashes of amiable camp. A recent gig had Cervenka performing, with gusto and supple vocal skill, Pat Benatar’s breakthrough Crimes of Passion album with a strong backing band in full ‘80s spandex array.

“There’s nothing more fun than getting to play your favorite songs onstage with your band,” says Cervenka, “for an audience of fellow fans, who know every word and guitar lick of every song.”

She adds reverentially, “It’s a very communal experience.”

By Paula Carino

Paula Carino is a musician and writer based in New York. She’s written for AMG, American Songwriter and contributed to the Encyclopedia of Pop Music. She’s also a yoga teacher and authored the book Yoga To Go.

Byrne, Baby, Byrne

Shawn Byrne

No one said you can’t write a good country song living in the urban Northeast, but it may be true that you’ll find more fodder on Southern terrain. Singer-songwriter Shawn Byrne make the pilgrimage from Boston to Nashville in pursuit of a career as a country artist, writing songs for the bright stars of Nashvegas and earning a SESAC award along the way. His music is canny, upbeat and polished to perfection. “Tough As This Town” celebrates the quiet nobility of small town life with big hooks and a vivid, visceral chorus you’ll want to sing along to. “Simpleton” is another romp and roll. Harmonicas wheeze and basses thump like a jug band that’s just getting warmed up. We happen to like the moodier stuff, from the driving, full-tilt gallop of “That Train Keeps Me Up All Night” to the dusty blues shuffle of “Ol’ Cook Pot.” Byrne’s a great songwriter … it’s only a matter of time before his rep spreads beyond Nashville city limits.

Needle in the Haystack: Mel and teamed up to find another star on the rise. When you listen to this week’s Needle in the Haystack, it’s clear music is in his blood . Mel, AKA Kid Carter is doing big things in the music world, which may not be a surprise since he is  the nephew of hip hop icon Jay Z. And while the relationship definitely has its perks, Mel is determined to make it as his own person and on his own hard work. For Mel, his uncle is a source of inspiration to work hard and continue to strive to be the best.

As for the music, Mel boasts an east coast flair that he refers to as “New Breed.” Using this unique style, Mel won first place in the “Faces in the Crowd” showcase in New York and was interviewed on Mel released a mix tape in September 2009 that received over 150,000 downloads and has been featured in many magazines, radio shows and advertisements. Although I’m sure he gets asked about his uncle a lot, his uncle’s interviewers are beginning to turn the tables, asking how his nephews music is coming along!

Take a listen to the track, “Watch Me Do” found below. What do you think of this future star?


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