Tuesday, December 27, 2011

We Have Movied To A New Website!!!

I am very excited to announce my new presence on the web has launched. Please click here to navigate to the improved I Live Music page.

Also, be sure to follow us on the website and on
Twitter: @ilivemusicblog or https://twitter.com/#!/ilivemusicblog
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ilivemusicblog
Website: ilivemusicblog.com
Email: ilivemusicblog@gmail.com

See you on the front lines! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

AURA Music & Arts Festival Newsletter Volume 1 Issue 3

The third issue of the AURA Music & Arts Festival newsletter that I have been writing. This issue features ArtOfficial, Green Sunshine and The Fritz, and a feature on the Vote to AURA fan selection content.

AURA Banner

Included In This Issue:

  • About Your Writer - A Brief Bio From Staff Writer, Adam Smith
  • Know Your Aura - Vote to AURA 2012!
  • Artist Spotlight - ArtOfficial
  • Local Love - Green Sunshine
  • On The Radar - The Fritz
  • Featured Bands - Upcoming Tour Dates
**TIER 1 PRESALES ALERT** We are almost completely sold out of Tier 1 $75.00 weekend tickets. Be sure to pickup your tickets today to guarantee yourself a spot at AURA 2012. For only $25/day, you can see over 35 bands, camp in a beautiful setting for three nights, and have one of the best weekends of your life. Don't delay! (AURA tickets make great stocking stuffers) Tickets Available Here
About Your Writer: Adam E. Smith
Adam Smith - Staff WriterAdam E. Smith is a music enthusiast and journalist living in Delray Beach, Florida. His progressive writing endeavors have been featured in publications ranging from The NewTimes Broward/Palm Beach to South Florida magazines Barcode and WeMerge. Employing a hands on approach to building a narrative, Adam can be found haunting local music venues and festivals in the state of Florida and abroad. To contact him directly please send all questions and comments to adam@auramusicfestival.com
Know Your AURA: Vote to Aura 2012!
Vote to Aura 2012 is a fan choice contest that pits eleven of the best up-and-coming bands against each other for a chance to perform at the 3rd Annual AURA Music & Arts Festival. After hitting capacity with the second installment of AURA last year, the only option this year was for us to bring you a bigger and better event. With that in mind, we have worked to build the strongest lineup to date. In addition to that, there will also be new interactive activities planned that start even before you arrive.
The people do have a voice, and we proudly announce your chance to become a part of making the last artist addition to the AURA lineup. This is your opportunity to see your favorite new band showcase their talent on the stages at Forever Florida Ranch. Voting is open now and can be cast until December 28th, 2011 at 5:00 PM EST. Good luck to all the artists!
Follow the link on Facebook to vote your favorite artist to AURA! http://www.facebook.com/AuraMusicEvents?v=app_126231547426086
Artist Spotlight: An Interview With ArtOfficial
artofficial banner South Florida-based Sun Sentinal writer Dan Sweeney recently described ArtOfficial's latest album release Vitamins and Minerals as, "the best thing to come out of the South Florida hip-hop scene in years." Given the region's music climate that boasts power players on their way to household names, this is a bold claim that is backed up by a consensual truth. Sonically, the quintet from Miami brings polished instrumentals that transgress New Orleans horns, gritty pianos, technical bass jumps and two-step beats that are independently impressive. Emcees Logics and Newsense spray their vocals onto the fusion-funk canvas and paint narratives of life, love and universal truths.
For music connoisseurs that encourage equal opportunity genre use, the welcomed switch from rap harmonization over throwback hip-hop to full band jazz breakdowns in a single song, is appealing and encouraged. This is no accident. ArtOfficial is the product of two bands melding their influences and experience to take off running in the direction of building a rap sheet as the best showmen in the Magic City. The guys' efforts have gained attention of hip-hop heroes KRS-One and Pharoah Monch, both of which they've shared the stage with, and have had videos featured on the Roots' Okay Player site. They even spit among rap royalty when opening up for Wu-Tang Clan. Early successes have given the guys the platform to perfect their art, and their status as a must-see act for the dance party-inclined is official. Logics took some time to talk about the new album, live band hip-hop and where ArtOfficial is heading.
You guys just released your latest studio effort, Vitamins & Minerals, in November. On the title track, the jazz hook repeats "vitamins and minerals, this here's how we livin' though." What is the significance of the album title in a cosmic sense?
We left the album title open for interpretation. I like when a listener comes to their own conclusion. Sometimes what people come up with is more interesting than any meaning we apply to it. Everyone in the band has their own personal definition.. I can guarantee that. To me, Vitamins & Minerals symbolizes a completeness. By that I mean that we completely submerged ourselves in this project and in turn provided something complete for people to enjoy. Hopefully something timeless. Something they can relate to and a counter-balance to all the sonic-high-fructose-corn-syrup.

You have a few collaborations on Vitamins & Minerals with Miami musicians like Mayday's Wrekonize and even the Miami Symphonic Strings. How influential is the Miami music scene in crafting your style and overall approach to music?
We're lucky to have good resources a phone call away. Vitamins & Minerals is a Miami record - no doubt about it. It might not have the familiar sounds of a Miami record, but Miami is evolving so fast these days that it's getting harder to pigeon hole us. The Miami spirit is definitely in there though. Being crafty, working with what you have around you, and melding sounds, cultures and genres, that is all in this record.

Your approach to hip-hop is instrumentally nontraditional with a meld of jazz, funk and fusion. When in the studio, how does this affect the writing process? For example, does the beat come first or do the lyrics form and you fit the instrumental to those hooks and verses?
Our formula is pretty loose. Sometimes the lyrics come first, sometimes a keyboard riff, or a programmed drum loop. Newsense and I come from a hip-hop background. The rest of the band comes from a jazz and funk background. We don't necessarily plan to smash genres together, it just happens from everyone playing off their strengths. Over the years we've gotten more adventurous, so our sound will keep evolving.

Having a live backing band gives you an advantage over emcees with just a DJ, as it gives you the freedom to control tension and release. Beyond that, what else sets ArtOfficial apart in the live setting?
I'm always on stage looking out, so it's hard for me to pinpoint what attracts outsiders looking in. I think what catches people is our sound - hearing raps on top of a funk and jazz band with rock band-like energy, sounding unforced - that's what stops people. There's a lot of improv on stage too. Just having the label of "hip-hop band" sets us apart.

How did you meet artist Luis Toledo?
The internet. I spent tons of time researching, looking for something exceptional and representative of ArtOfficial and Vitamins & Minerals. Luis' work is amazing. I can't say much more. He has incredible vision and the talent to execute it.

Collaborations between artists and musicians seem to be more important than ever before. His art represents themes of life, identity and reality. Did you choose his work because this represents your approach to music as well?
The particular piece we chose for Vitamins & Minerals spoke to me on a subconscious level. I'd be lying if I said I could describe why. The piece just felt right. The colors felt right. Chaotic elements perfectly put together. In some twisted way, that's us.

How do you expect your brand of live instrumental hip-hop to be received at a festival heavily represented by jambands and live-electronic acts?
With open arms of course! Lucky for us, jam band lovers are pretty open-minded. They want to have fun, vibe off the energy and appreciate the musicianship. Check, check and check!

Other than producing innovative hip-hop and tearing up stages, what can we expect from the ArtOfficial camp leading up to AURA Music & Arts Festival in March?
Producing innovative hip-hop and tearing up stages is kind of our forte. We're always working on putting out new visuals, new sounds and of course, going city to city. Life of a vagabond.

Local Love: Green Sunshine
The art of genre blending is a perfectionist game and requires music IQ and overt creativity beyond the standard requirements from any musician. Traditional funk, rock and hip-hop combine in perfect harmony with the diverse septet Green Sunshine. Throw in a horn element, thick bass bombs, smooth rap presentation, and you have the formula that sets Green Sunshine apart from their live band hip-hop counterparts. Resident Tampa Emcees Motown Tea, Reason and (Optimus) Rhyme define the lyrical front with soulful vocal breakdowns and uplifting rap verses that fit, and accent, the groove progressions.
Feel good party anthems and dance hall kick starters are what Green Sunshine specialize in. Coming off the release of their first full-length album in October, the funksters have been promoting the tracks off From A Planet With A Green Sun at major music events like Bear Creek Music & Arts Festival, Orange Blossom Jamboree, Jambando and will help Florida music fans bring in the new year with a slot at the highly anticipated Bond-Fire Music Festival before bringing the hippy-hop boogie to AURA.

On The Radar: The Fritz
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Taking form in 2007, The Fritz has been building a band sound that combines funk and rock improvisation with hints of jazz, live electronic and world music. Screaming guitars, soulful vocals, bouncing organ tones and concentrated grooves create a desirable earful. Their efforts and unique approach have afforded them well-deserved success in the South East as they relentlessly tour and recruit a fan base.
A strategic relocation to the music hub of Asheville, NC resulted in a partnership with The Macro-Management Group. From there, a snowball effect of milestones took form with a residency at Modaddy's Bar, featurs on radio stations like WNCW 88.7 and touring through Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Adding to their festival appearance experience, The Fritz earned a spot on the eclectic lineup for the Blackwater Music Festival this year.
Right now, the guys somehow manage to find the time to write new music and will be recording a new album in Florida a month before they tear it up at AURA. That album will be released during the summer just in time for festival season.


ArtOfficial On Tour

  • Thursday 12/22 @ Nick & Johnnie's, Palm Beach, FL
  • Friday 12/23 @ Lucky Clover, Miami, FL
  • Saturday 1/7 @ Bougainvillea's, Miami, FL
  • Friday 1/13 @ Bayfront Park, Miami, FL
  • Friday 1/20 @ The Stage, Miami, FL
  • Friday 1/27 w/ Reptar @ Will's Pub, Orlando, FL
  • Saturday 2/11 @ GrassRoots Festival, Miami, FL

Green Sunshine On Tour

  • Friday-Saturday 12/30-31, The Bond-Fire Music Festival, Lakeland, FL
  • Saturday 1/7 @ Crowbar, Tampa, FL
  • Saturday 1/28 @ Dunedin Brewery, Dunedin, FL
  • Friday 2/10 @ Titanic Brewery, Miami, FL
  • Saturday 2/11 @ Guanabanas, Jupiter, FL
  • Sunday 2/12 BLP Rockout With Your Cookout @ Hurricane Bar & Lounge, Delray Beach, FL

The Fritz On Tour

  • Friday 12/16 @ Palm Coast Coffee and Pub, St. Simons Island, GA
  • Saturday 12/17 @ Blues Rock CafĂ©, Jacksonville Beach, FL
  • Thursday 12/29 @ Barley's Taproom & Pizzeria, Knoxville, TN
  • Friday 12/30 @ MoDaddy's, Asheville, NC
  • Saturday 12/31 @ Dog Star Tavern, Fernandina Beach, FL

AURA Music & Arts Festival Newsletter Volume 1 Issue 2

The second issue of the AURA Music & Arts Festival newsletter that I have been writing. This issue features Aquaphonics, Fusik and J2K and an overview of the festival site Forever Florida Ranch.

AURA Banner

Included In This Issue:

  • Know Your Aura - Forever Florida Ranch, St. Cloud, Florida
  • Artist Spotlight - Aquaphonics
  • Local Love - FUSIK
  • On The Radar - J2K
  • Featured Bands - Upcoming Tour Dates
Know Your AURA: Forever Florida Ranch in St. Cloud, Florida

A return to the 4,700 acre eco-ranch and wildlife conservation area will set the tone for the foundation of the third installment of the Aura Music & Arts Festival this coming March. The remote location boasts nine unique ecosystems ranging from pine flatwoods to marsh and cypress domes. The feel of a real, almost untouched Florida environ is in full effect when roaming the festival grounds. The drive into Forever Florida builds the isolation theme as the dirt road takes you deep into the natural surroundings before reaching the retrofitted festival area.
The region is home to countless varieties of flora and fauna including alligators, black bears, nearly 200 species of birds and even the endangered Florida panther. Small lakes sit right in the middle of the concert area and provide a natural aesthetic facilitated by the terrain. Beyond that, there is also the presence of streams, forests, pastures and wetlands. The scenery is really the perfect backdrop for a music getaway free of distractions and hell bent on emphasizing the most natural thing in the world - music.
Geographically speaking, the Forever Florida location could not be better at serving as a central point for Floridians traveling from all over the state. If you're driving, it is just 2 hours from Tampa, 3 hours from Miami and Jacksonville, and 5 hours from Tallahassee. In addition, Downtown Orlando is only a short 30-minute drive for any out of state folks that want to fly in.

Artist Spotlight: An Interview With Jessiah Weston of Aquaphonics
aquaphonics banner
Aquaphonics have been hard at work making a lot of noise in the South Florida region. With the release of their new Headline EP and a string of shows opening for bands like Perpetual Groove and Cope, the dance-fusion rock trio has solidified their status as a local gem with the potential for fueling much more in the way of success. I caught up with drummer Jessiah Weston amid his busy schedule of relentlessly playing all the Southeast Florida venues the band can get their hands on.
A certain level of being enigmatic, from a sound perspective, seems to be something you guys have embraced. What is the proper way of describing the collective sound that Aquaphonics aim to produce?
I think for the most part we want to make feel good dance music. But that is just the canvas for what we are really trying to achieve, which is a connection point, the energy exchange that takes place between audience and the band. Personally it is my church, it's a realm that I will never be able to explain with words.

As of right now, you do not have a true bass player, yet you creatively fill that role. How do you pull that off?
We have the talent of [keyboardist] Alan Martinke to thank for filling that role. His ability to independently play the bass with his left hand and the rest of his key parts with his right still blows my mind to this day.

Do you foresee adding in a full time bass player in the future?
We have had sit-in guests, as well as a full time bass player from time to time in the past, but for a permanent situation it is going to take the perfect fit. With our location, which is in the middle of nowhere, it might take some time to find that person, but yes it is something that we would like to eventually have.

Aquaphonics are returning to AURA this year. What are your thoughts on having a hometown festival that features lots of Florida bands and brings together the local fanbase?
We truly love AURA! It was the first festival we ever played, so that is always going to be dear to our hearts. Daryl is one of the first people to ever help us out. He does an amazing job with AURA, and we are blessed to be a part of the third year.

Lyrically it seems you guys are inspired, or motivated, by progressive thinking and even revolutionary/activist themes. How important are these things to you personally and in reference to the creation of music?
I'm probably most to blame for that. I have always been somewhat of an activist, and I've always seemed to incorporate my views into my music even before Aquaphonics. I have come to realize it is all about subtlety. I have to stop myself at every gig from going on some kind of rant because I know my ideas do not represent the band as a whole. My approach is to send the message subconsciously through the energy I put into the music and with that, the lyrics have more meaning.

Given recent events relating to that and musicians that joined in efforts such as Occupy Wall Street, how important do you think it is for music and artist to play a role in movements such as this?
Musicians and artists can reach and affect a lot of people. I think this can be good and bad in theses situations. I think if the message is peaceful and positive, then it could be used in a powerful way to unite the people. The sound of music is more important in this movement then most might think, whether it's the beat of the drum that the protesters march to, or the soundtrack of that amazing video that inspired you. I personally would like to be more involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement and take part in the dialogue, but my location prevents me from doing that. I do my part locally by choosing carefully what I spend my money on and what company's I support.

You recently released an LP of live staple tracks. What is the writing process like for you guys? Do you have any new material that you are testing in the live setting?
We don't write as much as we should, and the process changes from time to time. Sometimes we write as a two-piece with just myself and Steve [Elmore], or myself and Alan, and sometimes we write as a three piece. One thing for sure is the songs we write are never done, and that's the beauty of it. We are still developing as a band so we try different things to see what people respond to. Every Aquaphonics show is a test in a sense.

Any plans for future studio releases?
Nothing for 2011 but we really want to spend some time in a studio and hope to do so in 2012.

Are there any charities or philanthropy that Aquaphonics are involved with?
We have some great ideas for when we get to that point, but currently we are limited to just playing free shows or a benefit for a cause that we believe in collectively. We look forward to getting more involved in food and water quality awareness. It is one of my biggest passions and so very important worldwide.

The near future looks bright for you guys, what would you say we should expect from you guys between now and AURA?
We really want to tour! I know these things take time but our goal would to do a Southeast run before AURA so more people can get familiar with our music. We also have plans to write a lot more new music.

Local Love: FUSIK
fusik banner Originating as a goal driven project with the sole intention of restoring the artistic integrity of hip-hop, the quintet known as Fusik has evolved into their namesake - a fusion of music. With the sharply honed trade tools of high-energy beats, funked out rhythms, polished solos and intricate compositions, these guys bring a totally unique sound that was built for danceability.
Early 2011 saw the band traveling across the pond for performances at international BBoy events in Nates, France and Warsaw, Poland. The globe trotters didn't stop there directing the mometum to Calaya, Mexico for a break out show that drummer Daniel Felix Garcia describes as one of our best internal performances. From there, a spot at the Outbreak Hip Hop Festival in Los Angeles punctuated an impressive touring rap sheet and secured them as the favorite live band for break-dancers worldwide.
Right now, the guys are translating that energy from their touring success to the City of Progress studio in North Miami. Their third album will drop in early 2012, and the first single, On The Fly, will come out on a 7 inch 45 RPM vinyl in December. The AURA veterans will ice a huge year with the Outbreak Hip Hop Festival World Finals before bringing their dynamic, homegrown fusion of hip-hop, jazz and funk to St. Cloud, Florida.
On The Radar: J2K
j2k banner
Coming off an official after-party following Bassnectar's performance in Gainesville this past weekend, the trio choose to self-describe themselves as what took eons for quantum particles to align to construct the glorious trio of doom. J2K might be a progressive rock band with dance music tendencies and fusion accents, but they are more sonically inclined than these descriptors. Clean, deep bass rhythms, ethereal synthesizers, driving drums and smooth guitar work have earned these guys stage sharing rights with everyone from Dumpstaphunk to Big Gigantic, as well as AURA veterans Papadosio, Zoogma and The Heavy Pets.
Right now they are in the studio putting the finishing touches on their first album, which will feature fan favorite selections Spaghetti and Meatballs and Like Your Face. In November, they support Archnemesis at home and in St. Petersburg before bringing in the New Year with a slot at Bond Fire Music Festival. Look out for these guys on the front lines at AURA!



  • December 11th in Winter Park, FL at OUTBREAK 7 Hip Hop Festival


  • November 4th w/ Archnemesis in Gainesville
  • November 5th w/ Archnemesis in St. Petersburg
  • December 31st at the Bond Fire Music Festival

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Funky Nuggets 2011.12.17 Kevro's Art Bar Delray Beach, FL

Winter live music sessions are in full swing as the temperature dips into the perfection range. A short lull in chaotic scheduling, due to the holiday weeks, presented a chance to catch up with some local acts that have been gaining momentum. Under the setting of an open air garage-turned-stage, The Funky Nuggets blazed through two sets at Kevro's Art Bar in Delray Beach this past Saturday. Their blend of alternative jam rock ranges from bluesy Grateful Dead sensibilities to fast-paced electronic dance grooves. It wasn't a forced effort to hear a rendition of Sublime's "What I Got"transition into "Home Again" by The Disco Biscuits before jamming back into the Brad Nowell anthem. To end the second set a full band switch with The Psychedelic Pubes provided for some invitingly off-kilter improv exploration. It also showed off the ability these young kids have in adapting to change in the sonic terrain. By cleaning up some of their transitions and changes, the threshold for potential is inspired, if not infinite, for the homegrown crew. 

After a break The Funky Nuggets returned for a more aggressive set that inspired the previously lackluster crowd to dance. An easy high light was a extended "Higher Ground" cover that caught legs into a spaced out jam. The open room, filled with choice street art and just enough prismatic lighting, was a perfect hang out spot for taking down some microbrews and soaking up the reason why Floridians deal with five months of summer to get two months of paradise. A great night with some worthwhile high lights from the Nugs. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Orchard Lounge 2011.12.10 Vagabond Miami, FL

Not many places in the country can brag about a mid-70 degree evening half way through December, but in Miami this climate fact is a justification for the location. That kind of logic can also be applied to traveling musicians that want to escape their Northern strong holds for a respite in a tropical paradise of sorts. It doesn't hurt that the Magic City is musically inclined and on a Saturday night the city folk are ready to lace up their dancing shoes and let their hair down. On tap this past weekend was a Chicago three piece DJ collective that goes by the festival-familiar nomenclature Orchard Lounge. A blessing of perfect weather, a free buzz from Grand Central's Absolut party and a mind for getting down on the get down with one of my more favored electronic groups was where my head was at when my taxi arrived downtown. 
Comprised of Ben Silver, and spouses Spencer Lokken and Bethany Lokken, the trio has spent the last eleven years building their Chicago-based funky down tempo space disco party sound. Their dynamic of personnel switching out periodically through an extended set opens up a rare diversification in sound exploration, but still toes the line in maintaining thematic undertones and consistent soundscapes.  The uniqueness has landed them spots playing along side just about every top tier live electronic band on the circuit. Festivals are where they made a name for themselves, but experiences from this writer has shown they really shine in intimate club venues with unsuspecting on lookers.
In other words, sonically speaking, the experience is often contingent on the atmosphere of the audience in play. The Vagabond shares a block with the likes of Miami's famous dance club Space, but the area surrounding the club borders on gritty neighborhoods like Overtown.  Although repping a sketchy vibe, the setting of an underground danceplex specializing in a mixed crowd hell bent on late night shenanigans should have been a sure bet.  In truth, this was a perfect venue for Orchard Lounge to strut their stuff, but the fragmented club owners made the mistake of having two other rooms open with DJs spinning. The end game was the generic hipster and hip-hop DJs outweighed the attendance in the main room where OL was on the decks.
Despite that, the patrons that did venture into the mix of colorful lights, wall projections and thumping technical house drops shuffled and socialized to the mix. Spencer got the ball rolling closer to 1 AM, and then passed it to Ben and Bethany after half hour runs by each. This would be repeated a couple times. Their individual approaches varied with each turn, but the beats never stopped and seemed to get better as the night progressed. Of course, that could have been the cocktails catching up. As the early morning neared, the crowd grew thin and bored with the set. In truth it seemed to lack any far reaching directional innovation, which is usually a staple trait for the threesome. In Miami it is expected that the energy should be higher from the crowd, but the lack of that reality was most likely the cause for a standard set. Usually this would be grounds for OL to bust out something special, or will their overt talents into the ears of those fortunate enough to be in the room.  Despite that, anything pumping from the minds of Orchard Lounge is still worth the ride. Mark it an eight.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Penguin Prison 2011.12.05 Ricochet Bar & Lounge Miami, FL

Penguin Prison | Ricochet Miami
Much like it should, the Art Basel madness continued on all weekend. Friends and colleagues shared tales of their blissfully chaotic weekend in the Magic City over free Perrier and Big Macs. Midtown's impressive Ricochet Bar & Lounge was still going strong with the help of their aforementioned sponsors. No one told them it was a Sunday night after the biggest week long event in the city - that was a good thing. Patrons were noticeably on their last leg after exploring art all day and boogieing in the finest clubs in the South East all night. Bar conversation danced around sensory overload, and its welcomed effects were a general consensus between smiles and telling yawns. Only the hopelessly addicted could push through the fifth day of non-stop art and we used conversation and commentary on the house music as a means to keep our eyes open. The vibe was chill and the room felt like a comfortable corner bar. The contrast within the same space just days ago showed that this venue could transform with ease, and will really be a choice spot as they continue to bring great artists to their door step.

A rumored 10 PM start time faded into an anxious crowd when the New York City indie dance poppers took the petite stage an hour and a half later. With a sound that touches upon the youthful approach of MGMT, and the funk undertones of Chromeo, Penguin Prison connects the dots on polished dance rock that can translate incredibly well in a live setting. Even overcoming sound issues to the point of their front man scolding the engineers, "can we turn the monitors on, do you know what monitors are?," the band played through a majority of their hit-worthy catalog. Feeling more like a lounge and less like a packed club, the questioning audience on the dance floor slowly warmed up as the energy from the stage took on a contagious form.

A particularly elevated track came from the poignant "Don't Fuck With My Money," now couples and too cool hipsters on the couches jumped up to shuffle to the comical dance anthem. Keeping with the sarcastic money theme, "Multi-Millionaire" brought out the super-synth laden side of Penguin Prison. The effort was well received and that 70s Miami disco motif was in full effect. We were dancing and had lots of space to move. "Something I'm Not" switched gears and went into a heavy and dark gated synth section that washed a vocal harmonization over the instrumental. If the volume had been louder the track would have translated more appropriately. That would be true for almost all of their songs. The large stage festival scene, with massive high energy crowds, will be where there sound can really succeed. The intimate experienced was great on a personal level, but this genre really shines in numbers.

The band seemed a bit uninspired towards the end of the set. They were pulling out all their discography tricks but the crowd still seemed overtly lackluster beyond the few energetic front row dancers. I am not sure it was an intentional demeanor, as most seemed to be soaking up the tunes, but I would be lying if I didn't express the drawbacks of being at what seemed liked a listen session. As a result,  after announcing their last song the guys attempted to leave the stage but returned for one more to round out the 50 minute set. Look out for these guys on the Lollapalloza and Coachella type circuits.          

Friday, December 2, 2011

Art Basel 2011.12.01 Nas with Theophilus London at Richochet and Special Disco Version (James Murphy and Pat Mahoney of LCD Soundsystem) at Grand Central Miami, FL

It is beyond reason that this December is my cherry popping for Miami's most comprehensive city-wide art and music event of the year. Art Basel is a six day whirlwind of galleries, guerrilla artistry, intimate private parties and unique live music throw downs. Due to scheduling conflicts, last night would be my only shot at getting a proper taste. I would argue I got the whole food pyramid plus dessert. Fellow music and art pseudo-connoisseur Joan Rivers would be my cohort for the night and we were slipping into a North Miami Avenue parking spot some where around 8 PM. The plan was to not really have a plan, but rather to wander and exercise our options as the night progressed.

Within the first ten seconds of breathing in Miami city air, our good friends Tracy Block, of the recently launched melodysiac.com, and Lauren Perlstein, of the infamous musicobsessed.com, were sauntering down the street next to us with smiles and cocktails. We joined them as we made our way to Seven, which as it turns out, was closed. Many of the major galleries were closed. Having no back up plan we continued on with the girls to Graffiti Gone Global in Midtown. Despite a rather weak display of street art, no where near resembling graffiti up to par, we did score some stellar gift bags that included a personal sized bottle of 1800 tequila. Not too shabby.
From there we somehow got pulled into a VIP showcase of an architect titled Economy and Ecology. The vibe wasn't exactly catering to a lowly writer in sneakers, but we took advantage of the access, and a lot of the work he had put together was worth a look. Ditching socializing for the pursuit of art, Joan and I made our way to Wynwood in hopes of catching some real graffiti and street art. Every corner was buzzing and unmarked doors granted access into half a dozen impromptu galleries. The works got better and better as we approached the Wynwood Walls. A jazz-funk quartet was playing a back alley stage but the table wanted five bucks, so we passed. I noticed a stack of artist Marc PaperScissor's cards sitting there and figured he had to be around. As we turned back into the chaos, we ran right into Marc slinging his inventory on the corner. The backdrop at this point was an outdoor house DJ party and a team of ruthless Occupy Miami protestors being belligerent in the street. The people watching was prime.
After we left Marc we pushed into the maze of large painted walls that comprise the fittingly named Wynwood Walls. A few impressive motifs were scattered throughout, but many seemed lackluster at best. The interior galleries on the other hand had some of the best we saw all night. A intricate red and black two piece set showed off an insane amount of detail, and a very neat use of rubiks cubes stood next to it. I was taking pictures of the better edifices when I came upon artist Brandon Paul and his crew. He had been set up at the Moksha Art Fair with half a dozen new pieces so we discussed his thoughts on the event. His feedback, like everyone's, was very positive and we parted ways after hashing out details on a custom piece he is going to do for me. Leaving there we followed the drunken and disorderly, that clashed entirely with the pretentious vibe of Midtown, and landed ourselves in a live mark up competition that pitted American and European creatives in a duel to produce the best wall using thick sharpies. In my humble opinion the Americans were winning.
That same building was filled with amazingly good pieces including a standout psychedelic muscled man-baby. Time was flying so we made the game time decision to head back to the car in hopes of catching some music. On the way, we were very popular among taggers spraying paint on back alley walls. We found out it was the bottle of tequila that was the attraction. We swiftly directed them to the posh side of town, and stepped into two more galleries on the walk back. One of which had some awesome New York takes on super heroes, and another had an intense collection of copper metal sculptures. Reasonably fulfilling my art craving, we hit the road towards Grand Central.
The line was long. Stretching around the corner, it was five people thick and at least two hundred people long. I guess that's what we get for chancing the hipsters wouldn't show up early for a free show featuring the electro-dance rock gods James Murphy and Pat Mahoney of the legendary LCD Soundsystem. I pocketed a beer and we rolled the dice on getting in. Things started taking a dive when I realized I had forgotten my ticket print out, and as I went to recover it on my phone, the damn thing died. Joan was unable to locate his entry form. After a good thirty minutes we had only progressed about two thirds of the way. A scout returned with news that they had shifted entry to one-in-one out. Having no proof of entry, and no guarantee of getting in, we opted out and jumped in the car to hit Ricochet.
Despite being a fraction of the size, and in a more choice Midtown location, there was no line to get in. Of course, it was an invite-only party with the likes of Nas and Theophilus London billed to perform. I had to pull a string or two to get in the door. Calling in the favor was the best decision I made all night. The beautiful lounge was comfortably full and Theo was on the intimate stage rocking the room. I walked around and couldn't help but think what a hidden gem this venue was for now, but would probably soon be a hot spot. London closed with "I Stand Alone" before jumping into a humorous full band dance party to Jay-Z and Kanye's "Niggas In Paris." A good sign that people were getting loose. The crowd was mixed, as would be expected, but the vibe was surprisingly good.

A set break allowed us to maneuver forward and we were within arms reach when Nas was ushered in by his posse. The crowd went berserk and the cameras started flashing. There couldn't have been more than 125 people in the entire room. For the next hour Nasty Nas put on an amazing medley of greatest hits with the help of DJ "You Shouldn't Have" and a live percussionist. The room pulsed, fans rapped along to hits "If I Ruled The World," "Hate Me Now," "Got Ur Self A Gun," "N.Y. State Of Mind," and "One love" just to name a few. His delivery was completely on point, flow in perfect unison with the beats and he switched between instrumentals with ease while hyping the crowd.

It was everything you would expect from one of the best rappers of all time, and it just happened to be unfolding five feet away. The set list spanned his whole discography and catered towards the true old school fans. When there was room the heads nodded to the staple beats and girls danced for the Big Apple rap king. Getting into the weekend festivities, Nas even produced a hilarious live painting that transformed into a mutated facial expression with a blunt in mouth. The promoters stopped the show for a minute and auctioned the piece off for $14,000. Yeah, it was that kind of crowd and that kind of night.
Riding a contact high after a "One Mic" set closer, we bailed out of Ricochet and went back to try our luck at Grand Central. This time the line was nearly non-existent and we were in. As fate would have it, our make-shift after party would be hosted by the boys of Special Disco Version - and they were bringing it. It appeared the young hipsters had gone hard for the first four hours, but pockets of the dance inclined were still going strong as Murphy and Mahoney assaulted the club with deep cutting dance punk and their signature electronic delivery. We danced our way around the room and ran into friends that were equally enthralled by the performance. After an hour of grooving with them we decided to call it quits just before closing time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bear Creek Music and Art Festival 2011 Spirit Of The Suwannee Music Park Live Oak, FL

I am supposed to be on a writing hiatus of sorts, but after recovering some of my brain capacity following this weekend, I felt obligated to put down something about what transpired in Live Oak.
Design by Ariane B. Davis
The fallout of a gargantuan music event such as the Bear Creek Music & Art Festival would be nearly impossible to articulate into a comprehensive review for this writer. The sheer amount of world class talent and deep top-to-bottom scheduling literally makes for a whirlwind experience that requires sacrificing an ear for an ear and gambling on the greater of two greats. That is all before the artist start randomly collaborating and playing statement sets like the hump date 11.11.11 may be an actual end of the world party. For me, this event was made even more blissfully chaotic because it is a home state event that literally claims the weekend for a majority of the cult of music fanatics I run with these days. With that being said, a decision to offer up a top five type scenario is about as much as I could do while I continue to let my endorphins, neurons and ear drums recover from over forty-five hours of music in two days and three nights. Call it a cop out, but it's all I got for you.

1. Medeski, Martin & Wood
My (un)healthy obsession with the best funk-fusion trio ever put me in front of the Purple Hat Stage for my 52nd chance to catch the boys from New York City. Anticipation and a certain measure of angst coupled with giddy excitement. It had been a long stretch since my last time sharing time and space with John, Billy and Chris. This was partly on purpose due to my last show with them being the last music experience I shared with a good friend that was slain in the school shooting at my alma mater Virginia Tech. As if knowing exactly what transmissions my neurons might need, the set took the form of a retro throw back approach with my favored selections from my favorite of their albums. The mind bender mutated into ridiculous collaborations with power players like Will Bernard and Stanton Moore. It really does not get much better than that.  Ok, yes it does, how about a ridiculously jammed out "Where's The Music" with Pee Wee Ellis.  

2. Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood
How do you turn perfection into something better? Try adding in a guitar demi-god. How do you make perfection with a deity even better? Bring out one of the best lap steel guitar players in the business for an epic version of the eerie anthem "Hanuman." It helps that this is one of my favorite tracks ever put forth by the trio, but in the context of the infamous Big IV Amphitheater Stage, as the night enveloped the music park, the quintet truly hit some ethereal levels of bliss.

3. Trey Anastasio Band
My affinity for all things Phish place this set as a default must-see, but in the past I have not been entirely overwhelmed by Trey's solo efforts. The supporting members are extraordinary, that is for sure, but the material doesn't always hold up through the lens of comparisons to the Vermont jam legends. All of that went straight out the window from note one, and the full two hours and thirty minutes from Trey and the crew were nothing but a feel good dance party with more high lights than I could count. Above and beyond all other moments was a perfectly executed "Simple Twist Up Dave." My cohorts and I silently raged as a homage to our friend David that passed away days previous to that night. He was the ultimate Phish fan and the harmonious scents, sounds and setting at that particular moment was a much needed therapeutic outlet. One of the many reasons we all love Mr. Anastasio.

4. Papadosio
The talk of the town in the festival circuit sphere for those inclined to live electronic music, these guys have earned every bit of success coming their way. All summer they slayed the big events, even having a clutch spot at AllGood Music Festival, and the feedback was overwhelmingly good from that point on. I made the six hour drive up on Thursday solely to catch a late night P-dose set in the SOS Music Hall with my pals from Virginia. I then woke up early the next "morning" to catch their day set. In truth the approach seemed inverted with a more laid back, experimental take on the late night show, and then a all-out high energy face melter during the day. I posit that the 11.11.11 date was grounds for a statement set on Friday afternoon that didn't take into account anything other than playing one of the best shows I have heard from the Ohio kids. 

5. Anders Osborne Trio
Beyond the obvious shredding capacity that Osborne has been proving over and over to me the past year, this festival performance seemed to have a much fuller feeling than before. It may be a case of set and setting, as is the reality with anything that happens at The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, but even his staple tunes like "Cortez The Killer" seemed to go deeper and heavier into the void. The push over the edge was a sit in with George Porter of the Funky Meters that turned into an epic cover of "Sugaree" with Stanton Moore of Galactic (and a million other bands) on the drums. Jaw replacement surgery would have been necessary if only we could have found our faces.

I could go on and on and this is just the tip of the iceberg, but those that were there already know, and those that weren't should make sure they are there next year to find out.

Honorable Mentions: The New Mastersounds, Soulive, Dr. Klaw, Big Gigantic, Dopapod and Michael Menert.

A huge special thanks to Adam, Mark and Steve at Cheesehead Productions, and Taper Steve, for archiving this special moment in music history.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bear Creek Music & Arts Festival: Off The Radar

The highly reputable Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida may be getting its biggest event yet this weekend. The hype for 2011 Bear Creek Music & Arts Festival has been building since they announced the initial lineup during last year's installment. A pre-party kicks off today while a frenzy of ticket trading, schedule swapping and last minute travel arrangements have the Florida and South East music community buzzing about what should prove to be a five day party featuring some of the most talented musicians in the land.

Any festival vet will tell you that a top heavy event like this creates the Scylla and Charybdis scenario of choosing who to see during overlapping time slots - tough life, eh? Even more brutish is rolling the dice on an act that no one in your crew has heard or heard of, but yet you have that feeling they might be the one you talk about all year as a jackpot find. Consider this your cheat sheet on what could be that up-and-comer you saw on the side stage with a handful of other fortunate souls.

Zongo Junction 
Campground Stage - Thursday - 2:00 PM
Big IV Amphitheater - Friday - 11:30 AM

Boiling up from Brooklyn's already vibrant Renaissance of sorts, it is no coincidence that world music in the vein of afrobeat is among the many genres being represented by the borough. These guys are as tight as a square knot and can bang out a Feli Kuti cut as good as anyone. If you like layered horns (if you're at Bear Creek, you like horns) and meditation-driven feel good funk music with the uber-pro grit that the Big Apple commands, this is what you need in your life.

The Pimps of Joytime 
SOS Music Hall - Thursday - 9:15 PM
Uncle Charlie's Porch Stage - Friday - 3:15 PM
Instantly danceable and transcending their funk roots to reach into the world of psychedelic synthesis and groove pop, the Pimps prove that it may not be easy, but bringing the friction to the soul of dance shoes is what they are all about. Oh, and don't be surprised when they slap a little smooth calypso or latin rock sensibilities on your face. Whose got the baby powder?

Anders Osborne Trio
Big IV Amphitheatre - Friday - 4:30 PM
No, he of no relation to the half-dead rocker, but certainly has a propensity for shredding and raising hell on stage. Anders Osbourne has been making a name for himself all year, especially on recent ventures out West with a life changing sit in with moe. at Telluride Blues & Brews and a killer collaboration with legend Karl Denson (who will be playing the fest too, so look out for some sit in action) covering the Stones on Halloween. Truth be told, Os may be the most slept on secret the jam rock scene has in its arsenal, but the gig is up and the man is ready to show you how a guitar can scream. I would say don't miss it, but the whole park is going to be blasted by this one. 

Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds
Full Sail Stage - Friday - 5:45 PM 
With all the hybrid takes on the spectrum of funk that fulls the gaps at Bear Creek, sometimes visitation rights to the core of the genre is necessary. Lead by a sibling tag team, Arleigh and Jackson Kincheloe mix their soulful superpower of friends and family to produce a cross-coast sound that is a showcase of Arleigh's soaring vocal range and Jackson's elite harmonica efforts. Much like their grandparents, these New Yorkers are ready to take over the Sunshine State.

The London Souls 
Purple Hat Stage - Thursday - 3:15 PM
SOS Music Hall - Friday - 7:00 PM 
Raw, hard and heavy is not just a questionably suggestive statement, but really the best way to paint the picture of what a take no prisoners approach to gritty rock might be for the London Souls. Fittingly named, the band reincarnates that missing bit of heaviness that came across the pond and changed the world. That might be the only thing they fit as their sound switches from blues to punk, and will be a welcomed change of pace for the musically attention deficit.

Of course, you could just chase the headliners and you won't see one less than stellar note of music all weekend. See you on the front lines! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fitz and The Tantrums 2011.11.01 Culture Room Fort Lauderdale, FL

Re-post from my show review for The NewTimes Broward/Palm Beach found here.

Live: Fitz and The Tantrums at Culture Room, November 1

Categories: Concert Review
Photo by Adam E. Smith
Fitz & the Tantrums
Culture Room, Fort Lauderdale
Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Better Than:
  Almost anything that calls itself "soul" these days.

Nearly 3,000 miles from their native city of Los Angeles, Fitz & the Tantrums made their Fort Lauderdale debut to a packed house at the Culture Room. Channeling the soulful funkability of Detroit's Motown swagger, front man Michael "Fitz" Fitzpatrick brought an undeniably pure vocal presentation, and all the right stage presence mojo to the live setting. He is but one part of the whole. Vocalist Noelle Scaggs and saxophonist James King were also instrumental in working the crowd and nailing track after track all night. They like to show off and that kind of behavior was encouraged. 

The Tantrums' debut record Pickin' Up the Pieces is a series of single-worthy hits that stay in the same nu-soul vein, but also pump out original, highly contagious pop characteristics. The kind of tunes that get stuck in your head, but you don't seem to mind. Almost everyone knew the words to each song, and the fast paced set used the album in its entirety. Because of this the live show had virtually no down moments. Hell, there wasn't even time to breathe. 

The real appeal for catching the sextet from California is the raw kinetic ardor that pours from the stage. Fitz and Noelle never stopped dancing and working the floor, and it compelled the crowd to periodically wave their hands, jump up and down and shake their asses -- sometimes all at once. These guys aren't a one trick pony limited to just the song structures. They proved this with countless groove breakdowns, a vocal duel layered over a flute solo during "Picking Up the Pieces," and a stunning saxophone solo in the middle of "L.O.V." that compelled Fitz to jump off the drum platform and land behind Jeremy Ruzumna"s keyboard. He proceeded to stay there and peak out the full band jam. The lost art of showmanship has returned with this crew and they have the choreography and musicality to back it up. 

The new songs, "6 AM" and "Love Sick Man" showcased the creative direction the band is moving, while well executed covers of The Raconteurs' "Steady As She Goes" and Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams" demonstrate the band's diverse influences that mold their unique sound. Over 200 concerts this year alone has not slowed them down at all. Their intentions are pure, and you can tell as they put work into promoting the music they create. As the encore came, the Tantrums saved the best for last. Fitz directed the crowd to boogie down to the crouching position during the "Moneygrabber." When the chorus dropped back in the whole room exploded with wildly jumping fans. A perfect ending to one of the best inaugural performances South Florida has ever seen. 
Critic's Notebook

Random Detail: Fitz is the only white guy to make the "running man" dance move look good.  

The Crowd: A lively mix with pockets of dance-inclined patrons that kept the vibe and the energy high. Fitz and Noelle vocalized being pleasantly surprised by the great turnout and positive response after each song.

Personal Bias: This was my second chance to see the band this year. I would have to say the hype is real and that this is one of the hottest shows of the year. 

Don't Gotta Work It Out, Winds Of Change,  Breakin' The Chains of Love,  Wake Up, Pickin' Up The Pieces, Rich Girls, 6 AM, Tighter/We Don't Need..., Love Sick Man!,  L.O.V., Steady As She Goes,  Dear Mr. President,  News 4 U 
E: Sweet Dreams, Moneygrabber

Follow County Grind on Facebook and Twitter: @CountyGrind. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Interview with Noelle Scaggs of Fitz and The Tantrums for The NewTimes Broward Palm Beach 2011.11.01

Re-post from my interview for The NewTimes Broward/Palm beach found here.

Fitz & the Tantrums' Noelle Scaggs: I'm Inspired by My 7-Year-Old Niece

Los Angeles' Fitz & the Tantrums offer up a grassroots success story built on unadulterated creativity, elbow grease and and just the right amount of luck. All systems were a go after the practice session in late 2008, and the band played their first gig just a week later. Six months into it, they were on tour with punk powerhouse Flogging Molly. Slots at major U.S. festivals such as Lollapalooza and Telluride Blues & Brews and an itinerary of near 200 live appearances since January has contributed directly to the band's mounting success.

Their sound is pleasantly nostalgic, yet maintains a necessary fresh flare of neo-soul and futuristic lounge. In the live setting, frontman Michael "Fitz" Fitzpatrick executes showmanship reminiscent of James Brown, but with the presentation of Robert Smith and the sincerity of his indie pop counterparts. The rest of the Tantrums' outfit defy their backing band nomenclature and showcase a thematic equal opportunity approach to the universal get down.

Noelle Scaggs, sultry vocalist, tambourine shaker and personification of a new age for soul music, connected with County Grind from her home in L.A. to talk about the band's unique road to success.

County Grind: You guys have been on the road non-stop for the past year it seems. How are things going out in California now that you are getting some time at home?

Noelle Scaggs: Things are good here, nothing too crazy, just getting ready for the first date of the tour in Charleston. This one is going to be a long haul. So other than a couple one off shows around here it has been nice to just be home and catch up on life things.

The band's story is pretty unique in that you rehearsed one time and had a gig the next week. What was the selling point for this music project initially that enticed you enough to see it through from the beginning?

When I first heard the project I was really attracted to the sound. It was something that wasn't really familiar in the spectrum of not being exactly Motown or something from the '80s. It had a really cool mixture and a more modernized feel. I was also really attracted to Fitz's singing voice and the vibe that he was trying to create. When we initially talked about doing the show I was in an in between phase of whether or not I wanted to join another band, do a solo thing, or maybe not even do music for awhile to focus on other things. I ended up doing the rehearsal and that pretty much solidified it for me.

So even though you knew most of the musicians in the room, it was almost a love at first sight type of situation in reference to the sound?

It was like I was walking into a room with a bunch of friends. It was actually my first time meeting Fitz, and that was also the case for everyone in the band other than [saxophonist] James King. James was pretty much our connection, and I had enjoyed playing with him over the years, so I really knew the caliber of musicians I was going to be involved with. After we did the first show the feedback from people made us want to continue. We really just loved playing music and performing with each other. That is how it all began.

Did you have a feeling that the band would ever be at the point you are now?

No, we had no idea. I was really just going for it and because it was so easy vibe-wise, and creatively we were all on the same page, so that made it even easier to continue doing it. Even when things got harder for us financially we still decided to see it through because we knew there was something special here that we had not felt with other projects. Everything seemed to align itself and we realize the serendipity of every moment, like being asked to go on tour with Flogging Molly after only six months of playing, and getting a deal with Dangerbird Records when were on our last leg financially. From there we have just been trying to gain as many fans and make as much noise as we can.

Much like how the band came together for the first rehearsal and then played your first gig a week later, you guys have been gaining lots of momentum in a very short amount of time. With all the hard work, how do you balance that out?

If you are trying to maintain some sense of a regular life you have to stay connected to home as much as you can. Because we are all friends, it makes it a lot easier for us when touring life becomes difficult. I don't think anyone in the band expected us to be gone as long as we have been. We had no idea we were going to end up touring for the last 14 months, so it becomes important to have an environment where we can communicate. That has been a key element of making it through this experience as a band. The consolation is that it is a tough life to live but it is also really fun and inspiring. Every day I get joy from performing live and watching our fans feel inspired enough to just let go for an hour or two. That is moving.

Have you had one of those moments where you stepped back and realized you have made it to this point?

Yeah, they happen every day (laughs). The biggest thing for me was going to Holland and playing in front of sold out crowds the first time we had ever gone there. We also went to Italy and came back a week later and found out we were in the top 10 of all Italian radio. When we came back from there we played Lollapalooza to a crowd of 30,000 people. Everyone there was singing and really into the music from song one. That moment for me, stepping on that stage, and seeing their reaction was a beautiful thing. At that point everyone in the band realized all of the work we had put in the last two years was really flowering.

Fitz and the Tantrums are reminiscent of classic genres, but with a fresh approach, what was the initial inspiration for tackling that sound in particular?

When Fitz wrote "Breaking the Chains of Love," and then collaborated with James King, I think they were building off the concept of things they had listened to growing up. That also built on top of what Fitz had created in those first 20 minutes it took him to write that song. Looking at the '60s as one of the best periods of song writing, with songs that still stand the test of time, when we started recording the full record we wanted to focus on balancing simplicity with the complex nature of what we were doing. We didn't want to be a carbon copy of anything we were inspired by. We started playing together early on it so it made it that much easier to develop strong songs that could really stand on their own.

What inspires your music beyond music itself?

A lot of the things that come out of me lyrically adhere to my relationships in subjects like love. Love, or the lack of, plays a big part. That isn't just romantic love, but also love that you might get from talking to a child. A lot of joy and inspiration for me comes out of something like speaking to my seven-year-old niece. For me in general it is about focusing on the little moments in life that happen. That way people can identify with them. I am in turn inspired by individuals and I think that comes out in my music.

Any new material on the horizon from you guys?
We were actually in the studio last week cranking out some ideas. While we are on tour, and when we get back, we will probably do a lot of writing as well.

Fitz & the Tantrums are finally coming down to Florida. How do you feel about tackling a new territory?

We are really trying to get the word out down there. I have a lot of friends in Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Miami so they are all excited that we are coming. We are excited about coming. I hope we are well-received.

Fitz and The Tantrums perform at 7:30 PM Tuesday, November 1st at Culture Room 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $20. Call 954-564-1074, or click here.