Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Don't Forget!

My friend Sheila happily listening to the music of downtown Athens

It's possible that you've already been bombarded with links to the 2009 Flagpole Athens Music Awards site, but just in case you haven't, I've got a gift for you! Cast your ballot here before voting ends on June 5th. The bands and acts of Athens are counting on you!

Can't decide which ones to choose? Never heard of some of them? Well, my friend Jordan, the Athens Music Junkie, has a gift for you too! She wrote a whopping twenty blogs with information about all of the bands and acts in each of the different voting categories to help you decide. Of course, there's always the write-in option if your favorite choice for any of the categories didn't make it onto the ballot!

Happy voting!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A New Chapter in the Musical Story

Music is ever-changing. That's one of the aspects of the industry that keeps it exciting! Sometimes these changes include the birth of an entirely new musical act. Other times, though, these changes mean that we must say goodbye to some of the bands and band members that we've come to know and love.

First on my list of farewells today, I must salute local country rock band Royal Blue and the Stone Grifters. Favorites for University Union and blues music events, this band will definitely be missed. I'll also never forget the fact that the members were gracious enough to allow me to host my latest birthday party in the "House of Royal Blue." I wish them all the best of luck for their futures. From what I can gather, David "daveosaurus" Rogers , drummer for the band, will continue to spread musical joy with his other band Blueswater Bridge, so be sure not to miss them in action!

On the other side of the spectrum, there's a new band in town. Dubbed Neptica by their already anxious fans, this band just began their musical journey during the past semester, and they've begun work on a few soon-to-be hits as well. I had the incredible pleasure of foregoing a night of studying to attend one of their very first practices, and I'm ridiculously glad that I did. I look forward to finding out what band creators Adriana, Jeff, Parker, and Paul do with their "newfound skin"!

And finally, one of my favorite local acts, Chris McKay and the Critical Darlings, is saying farewell to their singer/ guitarist Joe Orr. If you've ever heard the amazing harmony of Chris's and Joe's voices in the Critical Darling's hit Rage On, you'll know exactly why this is quite tragic news indeed. If you ask the band members, Joe was abducted by aliens which prompted them to begin searching for replacements. What an explanation! Well, we'll certainly miss Joe, but the ever-positive Chris McKay told me when I last spoke to him that he has high hopes for the future. That's the spirit, Chris! Rage on, everyone. Rage on.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Crumbling Arches Goes Full Circle

The marquee at the 40 Watt

Honestly, there's no better way to end the year than the way I started it... with Crumbling Arches, of course! Despite the fact that I've now been privileged enough to see eight of their shows, this will actually be my first show blog of my favorite band. Madness, I know!

My friend Susannah and I started off Friday night by arriving at the 40 Watt slightly earlier than we had anticipated, but this merely gave us a chance to rest a bit since we both had spent the day packing up our stuff for the summer. While we were chilling, Alex, one of the lead singers of the band, came by to chat and to steal my pen for Zachary the drummer's use. Curiously, I never saw that pen again. However, losing a pen is a small price to pay for the absolutely amazing show that they served to us later that night!

Before the Arches took the stage, Puddin Tang, a band whose sound resembled that of a rather peppy 50's sock hop, opened the show. I should probably mention at this juncture that this show was originally meant to feature the Presidents of the United States of America, but unfortunately, they had to cancel due to a family emergency of some sort. Puddin Tang was one of the two bands who stepped in to join Crumbling Arches in a celebration of the beginning of summer. While their tunes were quite bouncy, the fact that I wasn't able to understand a single lyric from any of their songs kept me from truly getting into their music.

Then it was time for Crumbling Arches to show everyone how it should be done. They began their set with one of their newest songs, Mutant Love, which has one of the most musically satisfying instrumental intros I've ever heard. Then, after blessing our eardrums with a few of their slower pieces, they played one of their most well-known and most danceable songs, The Preachings of Priamides. Nearly everyone left their seats for this one and crowded around the stage, singing along. The audience was so loud, in fact, that had they pointed a microphone at us, the lyrics would have been clearly heard from every corner of the club. Before they ended their set, they gave the audience a choice between a song about their "love/hate relationship with Athens" and their infamous cover of "I'll Make a Man Out of You" from Mulan. Being a huge fan of both songs, I couldn't choose, but Mulan turned out to be the winner of the night. A cover like no other, Crumbling Arches demonstrates their incredible versatility in this song, showing us that the link between Disney and rock is most certainly an arch.

However, they did more than just pleasure us with their songs that night. I've mentioned before that a band's between-song antics and comments will often make a live show, and honestly, Crumbling Arches spoils me in this regard. No other band does it better! This time, Alex served us a bit of his most hilarious drabble with a public service announcement endorsing the HPV vaccine Guardasil. Later in the night, he managed to surpass even himself in delicious hilarity with an impromtu song about the band Lifehouse and the movie Teen Wolf. Then, while singing the Preachings of Priamides song, he and lead singer Brian reached for each other longingly in time to the music. It's unique bits of arbitrary banter and insanity like these that truly make every Crumbling Arches show an experience to remember! And speaking of experiences, nothing can prepare the first-time CA concert-goer for the acrobatics they might see at one of their shows. Sometimes it's like attending a rock-filled, visually exciting circus. In the past, they've delighted audiences with leaps from speakers and guitar-playing embraces, but this time, they showed us their most ridiculous feat, the one I call the flip. The flip is an indescribable display of balance involving Alex's ability to climb up, over, and through the legs of bass player Ian without touching the ground. You'd have to see it to believe it! Soon, I'll try to provide a video of it so that you can get a small taste of what it's like to view it live.

The show ended with a seven member band Quiet Hooves whose sound could only be labeled, for lack of a better word, interesting. With so many instruments onstage, I was hoping for some combination of sounds that would delight my ears, but instead, I struggled to hear anything that sounded much like music. However, I suppose I'll just give them the benefit of the doubt and say that perhaps this is just one type of music that exists beyond my understanding.

Luckily, though, the night was not over just yet. My friend Sheila, who had been dying to see Crumbling Arches live ever since she first heard the songs on their myspace, finally had the opportunity to buy their CD, the Somnambulist. Because there was no pen to be found, she got all of the members to sign it in my eyeliner. Hooray for creative solutions! It was after this that I truly realized that my Crumbling Arches connection had gone full circle. So many things about this show reminded me of my own first Crumbling Arches show over a year ago, and here was Sheila, just beginning her CA experience. What a way to kick off the summer!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The One They Call "The Prodigy"

My friends and I with CDs and posters from Aman Amun

With more than just a little bit of enthusiasm, my friends and I walked into the Lamar Dodd art building for Aman Amun's debut live show last night. As we eagerly awaited the nine o'clock hour, we checked out all of the student artwork that adorned the walls for the multiple exit shows that were occurring at the same time. I've got to say, the pieces in this art show were some of the most beautiful I've seen! Also, the interactive works were absolutely fascinating. Still, nothing could keep us from the lure of the auditorium and the promise of a musical experience like no other.

Long before the show started, people began lining up excitedly outside of the auditorium for his performance. While we were waiting, a few of his friends gave out free CDs to the audience, always a good way to start things off. Finally, it was time for the show to begin. As we filed into the dark auditorium, we were greeted by pulsating lights and mysterious fog. Soon the place was standing room only, and Aman Amun appeared. Rather than welcoming the audience to his show in a standard way, he opted to use a smart board (monome) behind him to draw words with lights on the screen while soft music played. It was a wonderful way to pull everyone into the celestial world of Aman Amun.

After introducing himself, he started off the show with the deeply moving "Opportunity Cost" which was supplemented by an incredible visual display of color that appeared on the screen, drawn by the music itself. Sadly, the screen froze halfway through the performance, but this merely gave me an opportunity to close my eyes and feel the music. His next song was one of the newer ones that I first heard at his performance on WUOG radio a few weeks ago. This time, the screen worked as it was meant to, and a rather abstract, bulbous shape materialized above him, growing and changing as the song continued. I felt immersed in the experience, and I was nearly overwhelmed by the amalgam of art and music that surrounded me. He followed this song with my favorite, rather danceable tune "Scapegoating" which incorporated the use of the monome again and some sort of pen pointer device that directed the appearance and movement of the lights on the screen. As the face of the screen changed, different sounds and melodies flowed from it, matching the beat of the song. Honestly, I've dreamed of seeing the live performance of this song ever since he released a video of it a few months ago. To see it perfectly executed right before my eyes was absolutely amazing.

The original scapegoating video

I'd be lying if I said I understood any of the technology behind Aman Amun's performance. The screens interacted with his songs in a way I've never seen, and the machines he used, many of them self-made, brought the performance to a whole new level. One of them recorded his voice and his guitar playing in real time and then played it back to the audience at his command so that he could harmonize with himself. Another machine electronically altered the tone of the music, making it sound even more otherworldly than it already did. Essentially, his display of music, art, and light blew me away, and I wasn't the only one in the audience who remained frozen in their seat after the show ended, unable to jump so quickly back into the real world. The show was, without a doubt, a work of pure brilliance!

Next Friday, I'll be seeing Aman Amun's alter ego Brian again, this time with his band Crumbling Arches. They will be opening for the well-known band, the Presidents of the United States of America at 40 Watt on May 8th! As an after-finals treat, I'm sure this will be a show to remember. Don't miss it!

**Note (4/5/09): The Presidents of the United States of America are unable to come due to an unspecified family emergency. I feel deeply for whatever parties are involved. However, Crumbling Arches will now be playing a FREE SHOW at the 40 Watt that night. Trust me, this is what your ears have been waiting for!