Nevermind The Posers

See ya in the pit.

#2…Top 5 Favorite Musicians of All Time May 6, 2010

TNT’s #2 Musician of All Time
2. Joan JettJett made it possible for women to rock, without her, we’d be generations behind.  The face of women in rock music,  she is an authentic rock icon.  She always knew what she wanted and she stopped at nothing to get it.  Still touring with The Blackhearts, she also has her own label- Blackheart Records.  Joan Jett is woman, hear her rock!  Bottom line- Jett kicks ass!

Alex’s #2 Musician of All Time
2. A) Prince – Androgyny may not be all it’s cracked up to be, but this dude has put out dozens of albums where he wrote, composed, and played every instrument.  If that’s not musicianship I don’t know what is.

2. B) Smokey Robinson – After seeing this guy live, who is pushing his 70’s, and hitting up a seminar at SxSW where he was a keynote speaker, this dude has done it all.  He basically made the MoTown genre what it is today, and worked with almost every act ever to come out of the Motor City.  Besides writing lyrics and singing, he produces and owns a label.  In short, he has pulsed through the veins of the music industry for 50 years, never missing a beat.

Mark’s #2 Musician of All Time
2. Andy Summers – Although I am not an accomplished guitar player myself, I count The Police’s Andy Summers as a personal guitar hero of my own (his classically trained background only).  Interesting enough, if you listen to all the Police records, you will notice one big detail, he never used straight distortion.  Instead, he used his own distinctive palette, which featured a barrage of effects pedals, which he used to create the sonic soundscapes contained within each police song.  To see what I mean, check this site out for a gander at his artillery:
RECOMMENDED: Zenyatta Mondatta (“Don’t Stand So Close to Me”, “When the World is Running Down”, “Driven to Tears”), Ghost in the Machine (“Secret Journey”, “Invisible Sun”, “Omegaman”), Synchronicity (“Synchronicity II”)

Angela’s #2 Musician of All Time
2. Green Day – Not only is Green Day one of my favorite bands since childhood, but I also rank them as a top artist (collectively) because of their consistency with delivering phenomenal live shows as well as their continuing growth musically.  Lots of bands from the 90’s never made it out of that decade. . . but Green Day did something not many bands can do to maintain longevity Evolve.  No, they don’t sound 100% like they did on Dookie, but why would I want them to?  I’ve grown up since then, and I’m glad they have been able to grow with me.  In their maturity, they haven’t been afraid to take risks and follow their music wherever it may take them. . and for that, I admire and respect their work beyond a regular fan.

Klone’s #2 Musician of All Time
2. Maynard James Keenan (1964 – ) – Born James Herbert Keenan, Maynard = Tool.  Tool = one of the most visionary rock bands of recent decades.  One could argue that Keenan is one of the many artists whose multifaceted talents place them in the same arena as icons like David Bowie and Frank Zappa, artists who clash with the mainstream by creating their own genre with the music they write, performances they conceive, and constantly reinvent themselves as an extension of their art.  Maynard is notably reclusive, making few public appearances other than at charity events, but his on-stage presence is one of confidence and experimentation.  This blatant lack of spotlight antics makes me feel like Keenan is even more of a true artist, concerned with creation first, and cash second.


What Can I Say About SxSW? Part Two April 2, 2010

After this trip, my shoes were worn out and legs a new type of sore.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have a problem hoofing it to see legends like Cheap Trick and Smokey Robinson tear it up, logging 2 miles on my feet bouncing from show to show.  But I now see the appeal of “pedi-cabs.”  Stone Temple Pilots, although I was never a huge fan but dug their sound in general, killed it.  I couldn’t tell if I was at a live show or listening to a record.  That good.  The same went for old Smokey and Cheap Trick.

Scott from Stone Temple Pilots @ Austin Music Hall.

STP again...yea the light show was that serious.

And one thing I want to note about seeing Cheap Trick, first off, whatever venue it was, whatever park it may have been, they took care of press. We had our own section with our own bar.  And free beer . Yes free beer.  Shockingly to this New Yorker, everyone was nice, helping people up and down embankments, moving to the side, and saying sorry for bumping into you.  Imagine that, New York, people actually apologizing for running into you.  Teens, twenty-something’s, and the older crowd all sang along together;  while the kids quietly played light sabers with glow sticks in the corner – probably the first and last time kid’s didn’t get on my nerves at a show.  When they played their classic “I Want You To Want Me,” all I could do is smile and revel in the intoxicating nature of music, and its ability to transcend decades, generations and nationalities.  Cheap Trick isn’t the first band to do this, but at this show, it was the most apparent.

As for the street that Friday night, imagine the feast of San Genaro in Manhattan, Feast of Santa Rosalia on 18th Ave in Brooklyn or any other street fair in the tri-state.  Now add 70 bars, rope off six blocks, incorporate live music everywhere, and multiply it by 30.  That was 6th Ave in Downtown, Austin on a Friday night.  And on Saturday night.  You get the idea.  The place lived, breathed, sweated, and became music, everywhere, all day and night.

This is what the show would seem like if you were trippin' balls.

I could go on for days about the observations I made and experiences I absorbed, but I’m going to cut it here, and just give you a few bands I saw for the first time and recommend.

In short, two bands I HIGHLY RECOMMEND: (All which I had the pleasure of catching, and I thought they absolutely destroyed it.)

Jupiter One – Caught them at the Galaxy Room on 6th Ave – Hailing from Brooklyn, NY, this quartet is the most dynamic, engaging, and utterly magnetic stage performance I have seen in a while.  Without pyro and flashy lights, this multi-talented ensemble ripped it apart.  A mellow vibe in some of their tracks and a pounding rhythm in the others, it’s simply great “tune-age.”  But here’s what I found to be astonishing: Both guitarists, yes both, would switch from playing their respective Strats to drop some keyboards…mid-song!  And it doesn’t end there.  Did I tell you the rhythm guitarist is also the singer.  And he also plays violin. Yes, vio-fuckin-lin, mid-song.

The best track by far, and it was amazing seeing them close with it live, otherwise I would have thought all the layering was done post-production.  This track (which you will have to buy the CD to hear because I have no idea what it is called) was a sonorous ascension, complete with out of control stage antics by everyone.  Violin, keyboard, drums, bass, and two guitars being played by 4 people simultaneously.  It ended in a rising crescendo, with each band mate layering and looping a chant or sung word to come together in perfect harmony.  From an onlookers point of view, I was amazed, from someone versed in technology and studio gear, I was in awe.  Astounding musicians, every one of them.  Check out Jupiter One from Brooklyn, NY.

Fighting With Wire –Checked them out at B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub.  All the way from across the pond in Dublin, these dudes can wail.  A little more aggressive than the previous band I told you to check out, they definitely rock.  A nice blend of old Thrice and old Poison the well with a few other influences I can’t quite put my finger on.  At least not until they’re CD gets here.  All in all, they are a kick ass band on Photo Finish Records/Smalltown America, and you should go check them out.  Period.

By: Alex ‘Stigz’ Castiglione


What Can I Say About SxSW? Part One April 1, 2010

(That stands for ‘South By Southwest,’ a gigantic international music festival held annually in Austin, Texas, by the way.)

Well there are literally, and I mean it, no words to describe the experience, but I will do my best.

First, allow me to take you on a journey with just some key phrases.  Picture this:

A quaint strip called 6th Ave in Downtown Austin lined with nothing but bars, cantinas, shops, tattoo spots, and restaurants.
Everyone has a tattoo, and I mean everyone.  Face.  Neck .  Legs.  Chest.  And other unseen places I’m sure.
Music emanating from EVERYWHERE.  Blues, Jazz, Rock, Punk, Metal, Indie-all blending together a dissonant symphony that permeates energy.
Awesome fuckin’ food and never a minute to say, “Hmm, what should I do.”

Leave it to Texas to have an ENTIRE SHOP with nothing but hot sauce.

With those phrases in mind, let me take you on a journey.

From the time I woke up in this city, I knew it was going to be a crazy weekend.  March 18th, a Thursday, I awoke to the din of an indie-blues type jam pulsing against my 11th story window.  Looking down, I could see a moat of sorts, cutting through the outside patio of my hotel, with little catwalks leading to the street.  Some walkways were al fresco and wide open, other ways took you through a little detour through a faux-cave tunnel.  The sun was shining and it was a balmy 71 degrees.

It was 10 AM, and music was already pumping, and people were pounding the pavement.
Sweet, right?

6th Ave in Austin 10AM

I hoofed it over to the convention center, a nice 2 block walk, passing a horde of music junkies, bands, groupies, wanna-be’s, and of course, locals en route.  Passing a sign that said “Austin-Live Music Capitol of the World,” I just smiled.  If I only knew how this place was going to explode at night.

So I caught a few seminars, all of which were cleverly named.  “Welcome to the Music Industry – You’re Fucked,” “Quickies 1: Branding Marketing & Publicity,” “Nerdcore 101,” and even more enticingly quirky titles for panel discussions.  Not the first time SxSW takes a conference to a rock star level.  They give out free beer to press and people with SxSW passes from 3-4 PM.  But the bad-assery has only just begun.

Other panels included names…big names.  GWAR and Smokey Robinson to give you the two ends of the spectrum.  Both the infamous and incomparable metal band and Motown phenom were equally entertaining.

On top of all of this, there were trade shows with new recording rigs, guitar gadgets, music schools, promo companies, internet networking sites.  Name it.  If it was connected with music, marketing, press, or anything between the trifecta, it was there.

Know who else was there?  What seemed like every band on the planet!

In my handy SxSW itinerary, the first thing I noticed was the fact that there were 76 authorized SxSW venues.  Authorized venues is only the tip of the iceberg.  Any place that served food and/or liquor and could squeeze a band and at least 50 people in; music was bumping from.

Just like NYC, you never know what you'll see at SxSW. Like a dude hula hooping while balancing a guitar on his nose.

And I mean every band.  From Motorhead on Wednesday night, to Stone Temple Pilots on Thursday, to Cheap Trick and Smokey Robinson on Friday, the musical spectrum was represented in its entirety.  And these were just the headliners that played the Austin Music Hall and such, with legends like Cheap Trick playing (what seemed like a festival-in a good way) in one of Austin’s beautiful parks-right outside the Performing Arts Center.

But don’t get discouraged if the classics I just name didn’t get your pulse going.  Minus the Bear, Andrew W.K, Temper Trap, The Crystal Method, Steve Aoki, Redman (Yes, fuckin’ Redman), Street Sweeper Social Club, Estelle, Sum 41 (I know I thought they were dead, too) , The Boxer Rebellion, and frankly too many more bands and artists to named.  And these were just the ones I knew.  There were tons, and I mean tons, of kick ass bands rocking the 15 block radius, pulsating all night in downtown Austin.  I was left with a couple questions though when I looked at the bill.  Like who the hell were some of these DJ’s I never heard of, who the fuck invited Patrick Stump for a solo performance, and who was the genius who came up with “Flosstradamus,” “Pigeon Religion” and “Puffy Areolas” for band names?

The overall vibe of the entire trip was simply “chill.” That is probably the most hippie statement I have ever put in print, but everyone was unbelievably nice and laid back, music was everywhere, drinks were flowing and the food was great.  Add this to a nice 75 degree sunny day, and this is a recipe for something beautiful.  Everyone was in a good mood and there was a reason to be.  Despite all the stigma surrounding Texas, I saw one fight in all my travels.  And it was at a metal show.  No surprise.

By: Alex ‘Stigz’ Castiglione