Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Frontier(s), White Lights, 2014

EP Review

I just hope they made shirts in, ahem, my size.

Seems as though 2014 has been a revival of sorts. Some of you may have heard about it. I've seen some shows this year that have dabbled in a sound reminiscent of the indie rock of the mid-90s. Some good, others... not so much. I still dabble in the mid-90s myself from time to time. Ah, who am I kidding? I love me some mid-90s goodness.

The gentlemen of Frontier(s) are back. Well, not that far back. Their last full length, There Will Be No Miracles Here, was released in 2010. Frontier(s) are Chris Higdon (guitar and vocals), Matt Wieder (guitar), Bryan Todd (bass) and Nick Stinnett (drums). These are some names you should recognize as they are firmly rooted in the punk and hardcore histories of such Midwest bands as Falling Forward, The Enkindels, and Elliott. This is some serious Louisville stuff here. And let's not forget the NJHC pride of Mouthpiece.

Look. It's hard not to reference Chris Higdon's previous bands. His voice, it's, it's just one of a kind. As Elliott evolved, they experimented with electronics; and, by the time their swan song False Cathedrals came along, I felt they were exploring Radiohead-esque territories in search of their future. Here, Frontier(s) return to brute force rock and roll. There is a fierceness, an anger that storms through this EP. The guitars are front and center. Frontier(s) have not mellowed.

“Higher Hills” opens with the pedal to the floor and a rousing chorus that commands you to wipe those tears away and pull yourself up for your final go. “33/3” continues the theme as we teeter at the end of days. Straight out rockers. “Our March” bridges the gap between past and present, eyes closed, head bobbing in time, piecing together lyrics on my repeated listens. “The Low High” returns and I feel raw as we repeat the lyrics “I turn to love, I turned too late, I turn to love, without fearing." The EP closes with “Bare Hands." We've built up to this track, and I'm in. So in. My favorite. Everything turned up, and I want to follow them into battle. There's a bunch of stuff on the floor now. I got carried away.

There's only one problem: I'm left wanting more.

The White Lights EP will be out on Tiny Engines on August 5th.

Frontier(s) are on the road. Plan accordingly. You won't get these opportunities often.

8/12 - Louisville, KY @ The Cure Lounge
8/13 - Lancaster, PA @ The Seed
8/14 - Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle
8/15 - Brooklyn, NY @ St. Vitus
8/16 - Garwood, NJ @ Crossroads
8/17 - Washington, DC @ DC9

In short. Buy this. See them. Thank me later. I'll be present for at least one show, maybe more if I can swing it. I don't know when I'll get this chance again.

Monday, July 28, 2014

I Go to Lots of Shows "By Myself"

Pavement, 2010. The first show I ever attended alone.

You'll Never Walk Alone

I've been going to concerts since I was 14 years old. My first one was in September of 1984, the night before I started high school, for Yes at The Garden State Arts Center in Holmdel.  It was the Trevor Rabin-in-place-of-Steve-Howe 90125 version of Yes, and I went with my friends Bill and Dan. "Owner of a Lonely Heart," "Leave It." I was pretty into that record at the time. Danny and I used to listen to The Yes Album and Fragile incessantly in his room while we played Jumpman on his Commodore 64.

That started a long run of going to shows for me that never really stopped. I didn't really spend any time going to punk or hardcore shows in DIY spaces. Never really paid attention to any local bands. It was always the big bands that I heard on WNEW -- The Who, Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, The Firm (Paul Rodgers, Jimmy Page, Chris Slade, Tony Franklin. At Madison Square Garden.), Dylan and The Dead (horrible), Bruce, Dire Straits, The Kinks, Pink Floyd, Elvis Costello. I usually went with a group. Sometimes I went with just one person. I never went alone.

One day I heard R.E.M.'s Life's Rich Pageant, and the bands I chose to see kind of changed -- R.E.M., Camper Van Beethoven, Billy Bragg, 10,000 Maniacs, They Might Be Giants, The Replacements, Sinead O'Connor, The Cure, Matthew Sweet, U2, The Pogues. I started listening to WHTG instead of WNEW.

In college, my buddies and I started going to this place called the Mondo Cane Blues Bar over on Thompson St. I was heavily into my alternative rock phase at this point, but I still had a soft spot for the blues. There were blues acts that played there regularly. This guy Johnny Allen and his band would do fantastic covers and originals. Blues Traveler, Joan Osborne, and The Spin Doctors were kind of house bands there as well. Before they were famous.

As an adult, I've always gone to more shows than my contemporaries. It's just the way I like to spend my time. Some people garden. Some people play golf. But, basically, if CoolMom couldn't go with me; I didn't go. So, by my standards, I missed a lot of stuff.

Then, in 2009, Pavement announced a reunion tour. Tickets for their Central Park shows went on sale a full year in advance. I snapped up a pair; and, in what may be considered an early, primordial version of this blog, I spent the next 52 or so Fridays posting Pavement or Pavement-related songs to my personal Twitter feed for my 35 followers. #PavementFriday. Remember blip.fm? Is that still a thing?

When you're a grown-ass adult with kids, it's kind of hard to say what you'll be doing on any single evening that's a year away; but it was a midweek show. I didn't think there'd be an issue. Back to School Night 2010. I told CoolMom that we couldn't make it to the school. She decided she had to go but absolved  me of responsibility. I attended my first-ever concert alone. I was 40 years old. It rained. Lightning caused a break in the set. It was wonderful.

A few months later, The Decemberists hit the road in support of The King Is Dead. CoolMom got strep throat. She told me to go, so I went alone. I was sold.

Something about being in a group of like-minded people who enjoy the same things as you do is beautiful. You're absolutely never alone at a show. There are 50, 100, 300, 800, 2000, 20000 people there with you. There was the guy at the Sebadoh show who told me how Lou Barlow's early recordings changed his life. There was the great couple I met at The Feelies show in Hoboken. There were all those kids at FYF who went to see Jonathan Richman without knowing who he was and all ended up dancing by the end.

Plus, the ability to enjoy things the way you want to is liberating. Want to linger over dinner or a beer beforehand? Go ahead. Want to arrive at doors? You can do that. Want to stay through the second encore? Have at it. Want to leave after 20 minutes? You'll get home early.

I became addicted to going to shows "alone." You can see that here and at Speak Into My Good Eye. But, over the last couple of years, a really funny and wonderful thing happened as I went to more and more shows by myself. I made friends. Really good friends. Friends who understood and shared my love of music. Friends who didn't tell me I was nuts for going to so many shows. For the first time -- with the exception of a relatively small existing group -- I got to know people who made me feel like I was at home. Like I was me. I started to feel happy for the first time in a long time. I became a better dad. I, hopefully, became a better husband.

I owe everything that CoolDad Music has become and everything that it's done for me to CoolMom. "You should go. We don't both need to be at Back to School Night." "Sebadoh are in New York. You should go see them." And, through a haze and a veil of sleep at 2AM on a Tuesday, "How was it? Did you have fun? Good."

I never feel alone at shows anymore. There are too many coolpeople at every show with whom I can chat or enjoy a soft drink. If there's something that you're just dying to see, don't miss it because you can't get anyone to go with you. Head out. You won't be sorry. You won't be alone. Hell, I'll probably be there. If we're both lucky, maybe it will be one of those nights when I've got CoolMom with me and I'm showing her off to all of my friends. Those nights are still the best.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Scene Report: Braid with A Great Big Pile of Leaves & Marietta @ Asbury Lanes! 7/23/2014


I think I've been crossing more things off of my unknown bucket list. Last night, I saw Braid in a bowling alley. Way, way back in the 90s, I wanted to see bands play at the Fireside Bowl in Chicago. I romanticized the idea quite a bit as the touring bands I worked with of that era played there on the regular. The Midwest indie rockers of the mid 90s mixed with John Hughes movies of the 80s and a dash of fanzines and word of mouth made it seem like Fireside Bowl was a little slice of punk rock heaven. In my 20s, that was enough to go on. Never made it to Chicago; but I do get to live that dream, living in close proximity to just that sort of venue: Asbury Lanes. I started pestering Jim just after this show was announced. I wanted him to love Braid the way I did then, and now.

Marietta are a Philly band that I was unfamiliar with before the show. On first listen, they reminded me a bit of American Football and Modern Baseball. I wish I had a hockey related band name to include; but this was my first impression, kids. They drew a great early crowd who sang along from the get-go, but I needed to retreat to the steps for a little cool breeze. The Lanes can be downright tropical at times. I'm sure we'll cross paths again.

Next up was A Great Big Pile Of Leaves or AGBPOL, for short. Kids and their acronyms. LOL, WTF. I heard their 2013 LP You're Always On My Mind (not a Willie Nelson reference) sometime last year. It didn't stick at the time, but I'm going to go back and give it another chance. They were solid live; and, although I can't name a tune, I was engaged. The kids dug it, too. Sing along choruses and they packed them kids tight into the tiny spot at the foot of the stage. They all pogoed and swayed and threw in a little crowd surfing for good measure. Great set and definitely worth checking in on again.

Jim worked his way in and out the crowd taking pictures and sweating. My buddy Joey made it out. He's an old indie rock vet from back in the day so our old guy duo was now a power trio. Braid hit the stage with the energy and passion of bands half their age. They still love what they do, and it shows. Their new LP No Coast is great and shows how they've grown as musicians during their absence from the grind of writing and touring.

Braid were a touring machine once upon a time. I'm pretty sure I saw them at CBGBs and Brownies on more than one occasion. Toss in a few VFWs for good measure. No bowling alleys though. That problem is now solved.

The combination of dancing and humidity made Asbury Lanes feel like Kuala Lumpur. I was drowning during "New Nathan Detroits." That's my jam.

There are plenty of bands with two singers that do call and response vocals, but none quite like Bob and Chris. They work separately and in unison, layering different lyrics. Not harmonizing, but separation and interplay. Think The Beatles' “I've Got A Feeling.”

The rhythm section was a well-oiled machine not counting one bass breakdown. Once we got a replacement bass in, we were back up and running at a breakneck pace. The set was tight and held down the classics. There was a brief break for an encore. I'm not gonna run down a set list. Past and present were all represented, and the closing number was a deep cut from The Age Of Octeen. I'm not going to spoil the set list just in case you'll be heading out during the rest of these dates. And you should.

With all this discussion of revival -- and it has been quite the topic online as of late -- get out and go see bands like Braid, Frontier(s), and Mineral. See where it came from. See what your favorite bands are emulating. Go back to go forward. And buy their records. Then go start your own band. That's my final answer. Now get off my lawn, you screaming kids!

Pics by CoolDad. More at Flickr.

What's Going On: 7/24, 7/25, 7/26 & 7/27, 2014

Life Eaters play Kearny, NJ with our own The Battery Electric on Friday. Amy Malkoff and Ron Santee play free at Langosta on Saturday.

Now With Printer-Friendly PDF

This week, I'm including for the first time a printer-friendly, photo- and preamble-free version of these listings in the form of a PDF -----> HERE.

The cooldaughters have their last swim meet of the summer next Tuesday and this summer just seems to be flying. It's not even August, though; so don't start thinking about back-to-school just yet. You've still got a bunch of warm summer nights left to catch a show or two.

Thursday night sees Electric Six and heavy metal Bee Gees cover band Tragedy taking the stage at Asbury Lanes as the pre-party for this weekend's Visionary Tattoo Arts Festival. 90.5 The Night brings Elizabeth and The Catapult along with Hey Anna to Belmar for free. Old 97s play The Stone Pony with special guest, Replacements bassist and solo artist Tommy Stinson.

On Friday night, Asbury Lanes presents Wild Wild West Burlesque. Local rabble rousers The Battery Electric head to Kearny for a show with Life Eaters and The Cartwheelers. Cheers Elephant play The Wonder Bar, and you can get your fix of 1990s number 1 hits as the Under The Sun Summer Tour w/ Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth, Blues Traveler, and Uncle Kracker hits The Stone Pony Summer Stage.

Saturday brings Full Speed Ahead with a special "GU'EST" to Asbury Lanes. I think there's a clue there. Can anyone think of a band whose name contains an apostrophe after the first two letters and may or may not include a former member of a huge rock 'n roll act? Yeah. Me neither.

UPDATE: Take out the apostrophe. Now it should just read "special guest." I am assured that this special guest is super fun and awesome. 

Anyway, also on Saturday, Dick Dale will be playing The Wonder Bar with The Brigantines. Little Big Toe will be holding the CD release party for Blind Sober at The Saint with Cranston Dean, Puppy Grease, and The Dawn Drapes. The Dirty Heads hit The Stone Pony Summer Stage with Pepper, AER, and Katastro. Amy Malkoff and her Moonshines play Langosta for free with Ron Santee and Champagne Black.

UPDATE: Goll-darnit. It's always something. I almost forgot to include The 4th Annual Soulsational Music and Wellness Festival which takes place this Saturday, July 26th in Bayville. The Shady Street Show Band, Chris Rockwell and The Stickball Social Club, Julian Fulton and The Zombie Gospel, Colton Kayser, Creeptones, more. A great day for families on what is looking like a beautiful day.

Sunday keeps on keepin' on with its two, free summer staples. Lakehouse Music Academy has free acoustic punk at 2pm featuring A Day Without Love, No Stranger, and Fairway. Deal Casino play The Saint for free with the Ian Bamberger Trio and more. Also on Sunday, Alanis Morissettte is "Live, Intimate, and Acoustic" at The Basie.

Have fun. Make the most of summer's final month. And remember: You're an all-star! 


Asbury Lanes (Asbury): Pre-Party for 5th Annual Visionary Tattoo Arts Fest: Electric Six / Tragedy, 7pm, $15 (18+)

Asbury Park Yacht Club (Asbury): Sound Waves Presents Michael Dante Summonte / Terrible Terrible / Lumberjack City, 9pm, FREE

Belmar (Ocean Ave., Between 5th & 6th): Elizabeth and The Catapult / Hey Anna, 7pm, FREE

Court Tavern (New Brunswick): Feudalism / Bible Fiction / InCircles / When Thieves Are About / Regular Birds, 9pm, $5

Langosta Lounge (Asbury): Boardwalk Jazz w/ PJ Rasmussen Ensemble, 7pm, FREE

Roxy & Dukes Roadhouse (Dunellen): Rocketz / Straight Shooter, 6pm, $10 adv, $15 door

The Saint (Asbury): Jimkata / Cocktail Party Phenomenon / Stranger! Danger!, 7:30pm, $10

The Stone Pony (Asbury): Old 97's / Tommy Stinson, 7pm, $20 adv, $25 door (ALL AGES)

FRIDAY (7/25)

Asbury Lanes (Asbury): Wild Wild West Burlesque, 8pm, $10 adv, $12 door (18+)

Asbury Park Yacht Club (Asbury): The Irish Troubadour Steve Reilly, 10pm, FREE

The Brighton Bar (Long Branch): As Glory Fades / Silent Future / Restless Spirit / Badwolf / Underground, 7pm, $10 adv, $12 door (ALL AGES)

Court Tavern (New Brunswick): Brunswick Basement Burlesque / Roadside Graves / OnOnOff / Zero For Conduct / Seapost, 8pm, $??

Donegal Saloon (Kearny): Life Eaters / The Battery Electric / Cartwheelers, 9pm, $5

Langosta Lounge (Asbury): The Howler Weary, 10pm, FREE

Roxy & Dukes Roadhouse (Dunellen): Rainbow Fresh, 9:30pm, $8

The Saint (Asbury): Waylaid / The Rooftop, 7:30pm, $10

The Stone Pony Summer Stage (Asbury): Under The Sun Summer Tour: Sugar Ray / Smash Mouth / Blues Traveler / Uncle Kracker, 5pm, $39.50 adv, $45 door (ALL AGES)

The Wonder Bar (Asbury): Cheers Elephant, 7pm, $8 adv, $10 door (+fees)


Asbury Lanes (Asbury): Full Speed Ahead w/ Special GU'EST (hmmm) / Stag Party / Born Annoying / Defiance Engine / Manalive, 7pm, $15 or $10 w/ wristband from Tattoo convention

Asbury Park Yacht Club (Asbury): Cabaret Nite w/ Josh Zuckerman and Rand Hubiak, 10pm, FREE

The Brighton Bar (Long Branch): Ten Foot Pole / Why Not? / Burning Streets / I Hope You Die, 8pm, $10 (18+)

Court Tavern (New Brunswick): Funkadelic Astronaut / Pending / Bootstrap Bandits / Small Planet Radio / Future Games, 9pm, $MaybeItsFree?

Forest Hills Parkway (Bayville): Soulsational Music and Wellness Festival ft. Shady Street Show Band / Chris Rockwell and The Stickball Social Club / Julian Fulton and The Zombie Gospel, 11am

Langosta Lounge (Asbury): Amy Malkoff and The Moonshines / Champagne Black / Ron Santee; Marrow, 10pm, FREE

Roxy & Dukes Roadhouse (Dunellen): Raisin' for Ray Benefit: Nuse / Red Hill / Undercut, 9pm, $10

The Saint (Asbury): Little Big Toe (CD Release) / Cranston Dean / Puppy Grease / The Dawn Drapes, 7:30, $10

The Stone Pony Summer Stage (Asbury): The Dirty Heads/ Pepper / AER / Katastro, 5pm, $29.50 adv, $35 door

The Wonder Bar (Asbury): Dick Dale / The Brigantines, 7:30pm, $25 adv, $28 door (+fees)