Sunday, December 28, 2008

Coffee shops serve up more than than espresso these days

Ever since Phoebe serenaded her Friends at Central Perk with ‘Smelly Cat’, coffee shops and live music have gone hand in hand. Locally owned coffee shops such as Danneman’s, Aurora, Java Monkey, and Kavarna with their eclectic aesthetics and local musical acts bring a welcome reprieve to a city saturated with Starbuck’s. Coffee house performance spaces are making a comeback on the scene, especially with the increasing popularity of singer/songwriter and folk music. People can see true talent in a small venue and enjoy a chai tea and biscotti with their friends all in their own backyard. Areas such as Decatur, Virginia-Highlands, and the Old Fourth Ward are where many of these cafes call home.

“People just kind of come in and ask to play,” says Kate Pedrick, owner of Danneman’s Coffee in the Old Fourth Ward. “We don’t have a regular schedule of artists, but we do host several events such as Painters and Poets, Tango lessons on the first and third of every month, and Sunday Dinner.” explains Pedrick while making a latte. Sunday Dinner is like a jam session for local DJ’s, where they mix and sample their own, and each other’s, music.

“You’ll just be downstairs [during Painters and Poets] and all of a sudden you’ll hear this loud cheering from upstairs. It’s pretty crazy.” Pedrick says with a smile.

Danneman’s, a renovated old grocery store, has two levels. The Downstairs is a cozy space with couches and a few high top tables, while The Upstairs is where musicians take the stage on the charmingly worn hardwood floors. They even recently hosted a CitySearch event where Missy Gossip & the Secret Keepers was the in-house headliner.

While some places stick strictly to drip coffee and cappuccinos, others such as Kavarna in Decatur offer up friendly baristas, an expanded food menu, and a large selection of beer and wine when just a simple cup of joe won’t do. The stage in the front corner is large and inviting to any artist who is lucky enough to play on the Thursday, Friday, or Saturday nights that the shop hosts entertainment. The art on the walls is a visual seizure, and will inspire even the most tone deaf and lyrically challenged shower singer to grab a guitar and take the stage.

As the days go on, every Atlanta neighborhood will surely have their share of quirky coffee houses with brilliant musical acts. The symbiotic relationship between musicians and coffee houses is strong and will only increase as performance spaces are being factored into the renovations of old buildings, and artists are being booked for bi-monthly or weekly appearances. In the end, everybody wins as local business stay busy, local artists gain new fans, and coffee shop patrons satisfy not just their caffeine fix, but enjoy a tasty treat for their musical sweet tooth.

But that's just This Girl talking...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Back to square one...

So This Girl got some disturbing news yesterday. The magazine that I write for, Performer Magazine, is just another casualty of the failing economy. I received an e-mail yesterday stating the Performer will no longer exist in the southeast, which means that I am now writing for no one. This does not bode well for my dream of becoming a music journalist, you see. I have thought of my options, contacted a few people, and am not above grovelling to anyone reading this to give me a shot at writing for you. I will accept payment in dollars, Moe's lunches, or hugs. I was supposed to review a show last night and needless to say that didn't happen. I am keeping my fingers crossed that over the next year as things bottom out and then start back uphill in our economy, I will find something or somebody who needs a talented and enthusiastic writer (me for all those wondering) for their publication. Help!

But that's just This Girl talking...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The greatest band you've never heard of

There are good bands that you have heard of, maybe have one or two of their songs on your iPods; Oasis, Snow Patrol, Linkin Park. Then there are the legendary bands that is a staple on everyone's playlist; U2, The Beatles, Led Zepplin. But what about those bands, the ones that are just as good the first time you hear them as the hundredth time? These are the bands that not everyone has heard of, or even heard on the radio, or even heard at all. These are the bands that are specific to the person who hears it, who makes a judgement whether it's good or bad, if they choose to play the CD or skip to the next. I am here to tell you of your new favorite band, and is the greatest band that you've never heard of: Dayroom.

Dayroom is a funky but softer alt rock band that formed and based themselves out of the college town of Athens, GA in the 90's. Unless you attended a southeastern college during the last decade you most likely do not recognize the line "Come over anytime/We'll open a bottle of cheap wine/Wake up stinking like a wild Irish Rose." I can tell you that this line from Dayroom's most famous song, Cheap Wine, made every college co-ed and frat boy alike line up at the drive-thru of Sam's Package and order bottles upon bottles of Boone's Farm to drink at their apartment before hitting the bars while listening to the catchy tune. The song comes from their second studio album Contagious, which is also host to several other ditties with ridiculous lyrics like "I keep getting older and you keep looking like death warmed over." from Wait a Minute or "Turn the key and push the gas/It's time you move your ass/I've got no time to waste/Your shitty little car's gonna make me late." on Time Bomb where the driver seems to be possessed with a nasty bout of road rage for 6 minutes and 58 seconds.

From the time you listen to the title track, Contagious, you are hooked by the voice of lead singer Michael Winger, who sounds as if he is singing through his teeth in anger, but it comes out like he's having the time of his life. Backup keyboards and an almost whiney guitar keep the song moving and really set the tone for the rest of the album. It is next to impossible to listen to Contagious without getting out of your seat and moving around, or even just crack a smile and burst into laughter. The songs are so catchy and Winger sounds like he's having so much fun singing them that you can't wait to relisten to the lyrics just so you can memorize them and join in the party. As the album continues, there are more than a few references to sex and nighttime fun with tracks like Lying Awake and Come on Over which act as tantric foreplay to the climax of Contagious. It makes you wonder if the songs are about and particular girl or if the band just needed to get laid. Either way, the songs work and put the finishing touches on a superb breakthrough album.

They say it's better to go out on top, and with Dayroom's third and final studio album Better Days, they did just that. The beginning is absolute perfection with Winger's guitar riff and inviting lyrics "Come in and sit down for a while/Come in and I'll sing you a lullaby," in Not Enough. The title track is the type of song that starts a little soft but explodes towards the end and is guaranteed to have you singing at the top of your lungs in your car. This album has a little more depth to it than Contagious, with a few more ballad-type songs and a little less sexual inuendo. There is even a full out love song with Till I Die, which was written for a band member's finace. Keyboardist James Riddle takes his turn on the mic on Condo with a piano led chorus that states, "I eat my soul food from a can/This world is small and it's all in our hands." It's non-sequitors like this that add to Dayroom's charm. They use background noises like car horns, house keys, and even a hint of R2D2 from Star Wars in their songs and this creates an atmosphere of good times with good friends and good drinks.

Crazy is addictive with a sharp chorus of "Bang! Bang!/Slam the door!/It's quarter to 4!/It's time to go to sleep!/I guess I'll sleep on the floor." Are they sending a message to the college students of UGA in Athens, or just merely repeating a story after a night out with the boys? Crazy is to Better Days what Cheap Wine is to Contagious. Finishing with an acoustic sounding Maybe is a genius set-up to the last track Postcards From a Midwestern Salesman. It's like the band knew this was their last album and were waving goodbye with an encore to finish their 8 year career. If Dayroom welcomed you to come in and sit down for a while, then they wish you farewell with "So I get up/It's time to wake up and leave/I put my bag on my back and my heart on my sleeve/I head out the door/And know what I left behind me."

Dayroom is by far one of the most talented bands of the 90's, even if they didn't really leave the CD players of college students from UGA. Their albums can still be found for sale online, and are contributors to many complation albums out of Athens. They can even be found on myspace, even if the members disbanded in 2000, only to reunite once in 2001 for a sold out show at the Georgia Theater (I was there and it was absolutely electric). I suggest buying the albums and use your time stuck in traffic to your advantage: have some fun singing along to Dayroom, the greatest band you've never heard of.

But that's just This Girl talking...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

First Publication!

So as This Girl tries to break into the world of music journalism, I use my spare time to write reviews and articles for a local magazine called Performer Magazine. Excitingly enough, I just got published! It's my first time being published in any public publication and I'm super stoked about it. In case anyone was wondering, you can find my TWO live reviews at

I would like to give a shout out to the The Stud Asian (he doesn't like That Guy) as he has been at every concert I attend. And If I didn't he'd kill me so there. ;) I have done more work for Performer and hopefully there is more to come, but again, for my 3 fans out there, here you go. Let's just keep our fingers crossed that I will someday get paid for this... :) Enjoy!

But that's just This Girl talking...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Coldplay brings the heat to Phillips Arena

So this is going to be a bit more of an informal blog. This Girl has had her FIRST request for more blogs from her fans (Thanks Chicago!), and by fans I mean the 3 people who read this thing. So I'm going to start a few more off the cuff and unedited pieces, but of course they'll stay in the unending theme of the endless possibilities of music.

So this past Wednesday night, This Girl attended the first of two Coldplay shows in Atlanta. Now, I am not the biggest Coldplay fan the begin with. Yellow was good, but as the songs and albums continued, I felt as if everytime I heard a song they were trying to put me under some sort of spell or play strange mind games, Clockwork Orange-style. As soon as Brian Eno, the world famous producer-maybe you've heard of U2's The Joshua Tree-and musician took the reigns of Coldplay's newest album Viva la Vida (Death and All of His Friends) they were reincarnated as the band who released one of This Girl's favorite albums of the year.

As I listened to the Viva la Vida on my iPod, in my car, and at my home, I realized that these celestial songs must be heard live and in person. I convinced my concert buddy, who wants to be refered to as The Hot Asian but I'll just call him That Guy, to get bad seats and go anyway. As we sat in the very back of Phillips Arena waiting for Chris Martin and the boys to appear, I couldn't help but get caught in the anticipation of what the new sound of Coldplay would be to my senses. I say senses, because (lame-o alert!) I watch shows with every sense I have. Good music has the ability to speak to your ears like a lover, visually stimulate like the Northern Lights, create an aroma of hard work and sweat, make you physically feel each note and word throughout your entire body, and bake the sweetest treat on your tounge as you sing along. Money is wasted and time is spent better elsewhere if these guidelines are not met at each show. But I digress....

Coldplay appeared to a darkened stage and opened with the instrumental first song on Viva, and then launched with everything they had into Violet Hill, my personal favorite. The roars of Chris Martin's voice, the heavy banging of the drums, and the intensity of the guitars came through with every breath the band took, and the laser lights that accompanied created the feeling of climbing through a dark forest and up a hill to the top. All while broken and battered, parched, with nothing but sheer will driving you upwards. The song climaxes 10 seconds before its' end, just like as if you used every last bit of strength you had to pull to the top of a mountain, only to lay down and rest as soon as you reached the summit. Even though it was at the beginning, this song was the best part of the show.

As the minutes went on, Coldplay played most of their new stuff, and all of their old favorites. Chris Martin's stage presence is nothing if not spectacular. He moves around the stage with every beat and bangs on the piano like he doesn't have a microphone and needs everyone in the arena to hear it. He throws himself on the ground, contorts his body in ways that you just can't choreograph. The drummer is so intense that he doesn't even look at the drum set througout most of the show, but plays by instinct and repetition of the songs he clearly loves. The boys who play the guitar seem to not even notice the crowd as they swayed with each strum and put all them had into each song. Coldplay is obviously grateful for all their fans, and clearly wants to provide an unforgettable show to each of them.

Fix You was a fan favorite, and to end with Viva la Vida was absolutely genius. That Guy had not heard most of their new songs, so he spent most of the time trying to appreciate the newer sound, and I think that hurt him in the long run. I have had a few months to get acquainted with Viva and wasn't spending the entire night determining whether I like the new songs or not. I will suggest that anyone seeing a Coldplay show to introduce themselves to Viva, because the live show is definitely worth money spent.

Stay tuned for many more reviews and roughly unedited blogs. This Girl and That Guy attend on average one show a week and to keep my fans happy, I will be abiding by their rules.

But that's just This Girl talking...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Tabernacle welcomes Ray LaMontagne and his band of followers

Let me start off by saying that This Girl has seen many shows in her day. MANY shows. I have discovered favorite bands while seeing them open up for the artist I actually came to see, and I have been severely disappointed by favorite legendary artists, never to be seen again. So listen to me, and listen good, because I will only say this once. Biasly, Ray LaMontagne is the greatest show you will ever attend. Unbiasly, Ray LaMontagne is the best show you will EVER attend. There are so many words to describe this remarkable display of unmistakable talent and soul capturing passion that I am at a loss at where to try to begin and explain the experience that is Ray LaMontagne; live and flawless.

The Tabernacle in downtown Atlanta is neighbor to tourist staples such as the CNN Center, Georgia Dome, Phillips Arena, and Centennial Olympic Park. It colorfully painted walls, ceilings, and floors provide wonderful views of the stage no matter where you choose to sit in the usually unassigned seats. This particular Saturday, however, chairs were unfolded on the usually open floor, and the balcony seats were already chosen for the ticket holder. Everywhere you looked, couples were being asked to return to their purchased seat, as many tried to squeak their way into lower seats, hoping that their owner somehow didn't make it to the concert. You could see people engaged in conversation, all the while keeping one eye on the stage, afraid they were going to miss one note of the raspy voiced singer/songwriters voice. The beer lines were short, and everyone was in their seats by 8:59 p.m. You could cut the anticipation with a knife.

As the lights dimmed, the crowd exploded with simultaneous loud applause and hushed screams and Ray LaMontagne appeared with his band of 4 behind him. The musician hails from the backwoods of Maine, and his physical aesthetic echos the stereotype. He is tall and lean, with a heavy beard, and dressed in what look like old jeans and a well worn flannel shirt that makes him seem like a skinny lumberjack. The entire scene makes LaMontagne seem as if he was greeting you on the porch of a log cabin, snow all around, with a hot cocoa (or hot whiskey) in hand for your tastebuds instead of coming out on stage. And then he starts to sing.

Oh God, the singing. The first few notes that break through are from You Are the Best Thing, which is the first single from LaMontagne's third album Gossip in the Grain. He is best known for writing songs about wearing your broken, battered, and bloody heart on your sleeve. This song, however, is the most upbeat of any Ray song on any album. When he finishes, the crowd errupts in a frenzy of hand clapping, whistles, and cheers. You would have thought they had more than 4 days to listen to the new album, as it was released only the Tuesday before the show. LaMontagne continued with the more acoustic Hold Me in Your Arms, and the fans sang right along with the performer. Nothing about LaMontagne screams pop star, but you wouldn't know it by the audiences' reaction of several 'I LOVE YOU, RAY!' and 'PLAY JOLENE!'. He seems not to notice as he stands still, stage left, guitar in hand.

The musician's stage presence is nothing if not un-memorable. He doesn't move around a lot or speak to the audience inbetween songs. Actually, LaMontagne keeps his eyes closed the entire time he's performing. That being said, you can hear every single enunciation, every voal inflection, everytime he crosses his t's and dots his i's when he sings. It makes you wonder if closing his eyes doesn't transport him into a world of absolution, where every syllable is indefectible.

LaMontagne continued on the journey of a mountain retreat by playing Empty, a hollow and painfully beautiful song from his sophmore album Till the Sun Turns Black. The song is sung in what sounds like a loud whisper, and insantly it seems as if he's playing only to you by a campfire outside his log cabin, with only a wool blanket and warm lyrics to fend off frostbite. With no dialogue inbetween songs, LaMontagne launches into two new songs, I Still Care For You and Let It Be Me. The former is written like a love letter and played with instruments that melt together to create an audio orgasm, the latter rings as a last effort speech with ambiguous lyrics that can apply to any relationship in life.

Mixing up the pace of the show, Henry Nearly Killed Me (It's a Shame) is played next, and in the movie that is a Ray LaMontagne concert, Shame is the chase scene. It's high energy, bluesy melody forces toe tapping and the hint of a smile as every strum of the guitar is felt in the depths of your chest. If Shame is the chase, the Roses and Cigarettes is the climactic love scene with the songwriting perfection that is 'Oh roses and cigarettes/a pillowcase that remembers you/the scent of you still lingers on my fingertips/till I think I might go insane/when will I see you again?' Meg White is the most clever part of the show, as LaMontagne sings about a 16-year-old crush on the drummer for the White Stripes. The simple, rhyming lines seemingly fit into the emotionally complexity that is LaMontagne's songwriting. It is the sigh of relief in a show where the crowd holds their breath, as if to scare away a rare endagered animal.

LaMontagne nears the end his set with the sublimely bluegrassy feel of Hey Me, Hey Mamma and the underground jazz clubby You Don't Bring Me Flowers; each somehow reinventing a new respect for LaMontagne and his ability to create an atmosphere of music, not just an exceptional album. Expectedly, he ends the set with his radio hit Trouble and leaves the stage for a minute, only to return for the obvious encore. What's not so obvious, is the fact that he chose the Rod Stewart tune Stay With Me to open with. The oldie but goodie selection solidified any doubt that one might have of the musical range Ray LaMontagne might have, as he killed the song in such a way that Rod himself would be proud. After the familiar Three More Days, LaMontagne strummed three times on his guitar and quenched the audience with the water they were thirsting for: Jolene. Jolene was never a radio hit, was never made famous by a placement on Grey's Anatomy, or featured in a Jennifer Garner romantic comedy. It is the kind of song that comes on your iPod and makes you actually stop what you are doing, stop what you are thinking, and listen to the words. It forces you to rewind and listen again, it unwillingly becomes the single most passionate song you have ever heard from an artist. It is the moment in the show you wish to stay in forever.

There is nothing about the performance Ray LaMontagne could have done to make it better. The set list was in place and the musician got completely lost in the execution. The crowd responded to every song as if it were their favorite, and the token cover song was a crowning compliment to the original ditties. There is a reason Gossip in the Grain was number 3 on the Billboard charts the week in was released, and that reason is because even though listeners can be deafened by studio created pop acts and sampled hip hop tracks, real music lovers know a true gift to the ears when they hear it.

But That's Just This Girl Talking...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Amos Lee brings relief to Hot-lanta

It was 90 degrees outside on the Atlanta streets, without much relief inside the Variety Playhouse. The sold out Amos Lee show that consisted of a crowd of all ages created a sort of still, hot air that at times made it difficult to breathe. However, when the headliner took to the stage and opened his show with Keep it Lose, Keep it Tight from his self-titled debut album, it was as if you were transported to a quaint coffee house sipping on a cafe au lait. It was like this all night, with Amos Lee taking you from coffee house, to smokey jazz bar, or the underbelly of a basement blues club. The singer/songwriter's three albums have been released to lukewarm reviews, while finding success on satellite and internet radio. But, for the live performance on a steamy Tuesday night, he created a refreshing cocktail made of 1 part jazz, 1 part blues, a splash of folk, topped off with a garnish of sensual soul.

Lee continued his show with songs from his sophmore album Supply and Demand with the upbeat song of the same name, to which you couldn't help but smile, then followed up with the entrancing Truth and Careless. This is one of the few performances where the artist doesn't need to make small talk with the audience to keep their attention. Amos Lee had the crowd in the palm of his hand since the beginning, and continued to enthrall them with an energizing Freedom, and even had them clapping along during Bottom of the Barrel. There is something in the John Mayer-esque way that Lee bobs his head in and out that keeps his fans asking for more.

Lee has a quiet charm about him, only pausing to have a few sips of water, change from acoustic to electric guitars, or update the crowd about new songs he's about to play. His third studio album, Live at the Lodge, keeps the same mellow sound as his previous ones. However, he did re-record Truth from his first album to create a newer plugged-in version of the tune. Songs like Kid, What's Been Going On, and Baby I Want You are almost filler songs in between his well known hits. But when Won't Let Me Go was being played, the song is so sexy that you half expect Barry White to come strolling on stage for a duet. The lines 'Stood around while you dated that old fool Marcus/Whole time I knew he wasn't no damn good for you/Guess it's true sometimes I know we can all be a little bit heartless/But tonight all I wanna do is make sweet love to you.' might make you want to grab the nearest guy or girl and find a dark corner, or even leave the show early for a late night at home if the music wasn't so addicting.

As the first few chords of Southern Girl were being strummed, every woman in the theater went up in screams. Every girl there imagined herself the subject of the musicians romantic fantasy. This was the start to a string of well known songs to wrap up the show. Fun diddies like Sweet Pea and Shout Out Loud made you dance in your seat, and the heart wrenching lyrics of Black River was felt deep in the soul of each individual. Black River, reminiscent of old southern hymnals, was the most intensely played song of the evening. The crowd's reaction to Lee left no doubt to an encore. After two songs from his new album, he catered to fans with Colors, and after a bit of yelling by concertgoers, the deeply emotional Nighttrain. Perhaps the most pleasantly surprising moment of the entire show came in the form of the Queen classic Fat Bottom Girls. This cover was the most insanely appropriate song to convert into a blues sound, and Amos Lee made it work amazingly.

Amos Lee has yet to find his footing in the spotlight, even though his songs can be found on various movie and TV soundtracks, and even in a cell phone commercial. He has also recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios for the IFC's Live at Abbey Road music series. He does not need fancy lighting, a 9 piece band, or mindless chatter inbetween sets. Lee's music says it all in the lyrics and his clearly apparent love for playing live. If you are less than impressed with his studio albums and think all the songs start sounding the same, then attending a show is the best remedy. Afterwards, each song will sound differently from the first time you heard it, and you will rediscover an incredible artist with unparalleled talent.

But that's just This Girl talking...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

It's time to discover the Undiscovered

So I have a tendency to pull a John Cusak in High Fidelity and make 'Top Five' lists. Top 5 movies, top 5 best pick up lines, even top 5 best sandwiches. Well as a music buff, I have to make sub-categories because there's just too much good stuff out there. I want to tell you a little bit about one of my favorite CD's released in the past 5 years.

This Boy. Wonderful World. You Give me Something. Undiscovered. All hit songs off of 23 year-old James Morrison's breakout CD Undiscovered. And if you haven't heard of any of these, they are huge hits in the UK. Now, I first heard this amazing talent while in Ireland a little over a year ago. I mistook him for Ray LaMontagne. The throaty voice, the tame melody, and though provoking lyrics all pointed in that direction. But after a few times hearing You Give Me Something on the radio, the Irish DJ proceeded to tell me that it was James Morrison. As soon as I returned stateside, I looked him up on iTunes, only to be disappointed when he wasn't there. So I ordered his CD online. As soon as I popped it into the player, I didn't take it out for a month.

So let me just start by saying WOW. Not exactly poetry, but there might not be any other words to describe this young wonder. And no studio tricks necessary. I saw him live, TWICE, in the same day. All acoustic, and all fabulous. The highlight of the second show was when he broke out in the Van Morrsion classic
And it Stoned Me. The young crowd seemed oblivious to the fact that they were hearing history.

But enough of my praise for the singer. Technically, James Morrison is flawless in his songwriting and perfectly flawed in his voice.
This Boy tells a tale of a young boy forced to make up for his parents shortcomings. Clearly comes from past experiences. The boy grows up into a young man who falls in love and gets his heart broken, but lives to tell the tale in The Pieces Don't Fit Anymore. As the boy recovers and experiences adulthhood he realizes that he's "Not lost, just Undiscovered." This he screams from the top of his lungs in Undiscovered.

Undiscovered by James Morrison is a CD you will listen to for 60 days straight, then put back in it's case for a few months. You will find it while looking for your Bob Dylan or Dave Matthews, see it, and think 'This is a great CD. I think I'll listen to it again'. And as you do, you'll wonder why you ever stopped.

But that's just This Girl talking...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

What do you do when you become a classic?

As we grow up, we learn that the word classic is usually used to describe something that stays great throughout time. In school, we study the classics: Shakespeare, Dante, Twain. When we are looking for our first car, we drool over the thought of owning a classic: perhaps a '64 Mustang or '67 Chevy. So how come as the decades pass, each generation distastefully refers to their parents’ moldy oldies as classic music? And why, although generally acknowledged as good, does classic music get categorized by young listeners as old people music? What do you do when you realize that the bands you listened to in high school are now considered classic rock?

The exact scenario above just happened to This Girl. I was passing the time watching music videos, tuned into VH1 Classic, and the music video for Soul Asylum's Misery from 1995 came on. As always, the first 4 chords reminded me of hot and stagnant summer nights spent playing capture the flag and an 11 o'clock curfew. This music video would inevitably always be on late night MTV as I recapped the days events with my best friend on the phone, or with my Marvin the Martian diary. I sat on the couch and watched the video with a smile on my face, but then realized that this was now considered a classic rock song! I remembered that my other favorite band from the mid 90's, The Gin Blossoms, toured with Soul Asylum this summer. They came to Chastain Amphitheater as part of the Classic Chastain music series. What!? Classic who?! Now I consider myself pretty hip and trendy, and I am most certainly up to speed on fresh new music. So how come bands I think are cool, would now be boo-ed by my 17-year-old cousin? What is going on here!

I thought back to some of the other music that gets played on this 'classic' music channel. Dire Straits, Michael Jackson, and wait, Blues Traveler?! What constitutes a classic band? When I was a youth, classic rock was considered Led Zepplin, The Who, Boston, and The Beatles. Now those bands at the time hadn't released a new album in a decade or more, even if they were still participating in the occasional U.S. tour. Others such as Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, and U2 had been around for 10-30 years but not considered old or classic. They were still releasing new albums, which generally had a new sound from their previous ones. Generating a new sound allowed the bands to be enjoyed and discovered by a younger audience, who then went backwards to fall in love with their earlier works. So maybe keeping up with the times, redefining the original sound, and creating fresh chords is what keeps a band from being considered a classic.

There are moments in every person’s life where they begin to feel old. Maybe it’s the first time a child puts Mr. or Ms. in front of their name. Or maybe it’s the first time you leave a bar early because you ‘have a busy day tomorrow’. But for every music enthusiast, the gauge of age comes when their favorite album from high school is filed in the classic rock category of the used record store. They say that all things get better with age. If this is true, then the brilliance that is The Doors, The O’Jays, and Earth, Wind, and Fire will soon be studied as ‘The Classics’ in the next music appreciation class. With that being said, if Bon Jovi, Blues Traveler, and Soul Asylum are considered classic, then just think of This Girl as an old fart.

But that's just This Girl talking...

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Swell Season blows Atlanta out of the water

From the moment Glen Hansard stepped out on stage, alone and unplugged, the audience was never the same. The lead singer then, without any into, started the show the way he started the movie, ONCE. With a powerful song titled Say it to me Now that would have the audience jaw dropped the rest of the show. There was no better way to open the show than to have Hansard with his beat up guitar, playing so hard and intense that the sound resonated the large theater and gripped your heart with the strong hand of his passion for music.

The Swell Season arrived at the Cobb Energy Theater on a tidal wave of international charm and musical genius. Just a year ago, Irishman Glen Hansard and Czech piano playing beauty Marketa Irgolva were on the big screen in the small budget film ONCE. Their band, The Swell Season, provided most tracks on the soundtrack and with their electric melodies, made the soundtrack and accompanying movie the Indie hit of the year and adopting an Oscar in the aftermath.

When the breath returned to the concert goers, Irglova then joined Hansard on stage for a few more songs familiar to the audience from the best-selling soundtrack. A fun surprise was the fact that Hansard's other band, The Frames, had joined them as the backup band and delivered with a solid thunder strike in the emotional Lies and incredible When Your Mind's Made Up. They introduced a few new songs, even switching instruments for an angelic Irglova sung I Have Loved Gone Wrong. When they returned to familiar soundtrack tunes, the shy Irish lad continued with another solo acoustic version of Leave, which again left the fans wanting more.

Because these singer/songwriters are so used to being under the radar, it is evident they are still trying to find their footing in the spotlight. Hansard tended to ramble on about subjects such as Irish divorce and the Pagan meaning of the word, all the while soliciting eye rolling and witty banter from his counterpoint in Irglova. He even tended to play into the stereotype of Irish storytellers by ending stories with life lessons in quotes like 'I may not be perfect but I'm dependable.' and 'A fool knows nothing, which is why he knows everything.'. This charm works for The Swell Season and is sure to keep their fan base solid, only continuing to grow in strength.

So if you haven't already, see the movie, listen to the soundtrack and buy tickets to a show. The Swell Season will sweep you up in electric lightning bolts of lyrics and whitecaps of melodic piano keys. Don't bring a raincoat, as you will want to feel every raindrop of emotion that the Swell Season brings with them.

But that just This Girl talking...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Matt Nathanson lights up the 40 Watt

Anyone who attended college from 1996 to present day is familiar with the name Matt Nathanson. This was apparent in the famous college town of Athens, GA on a chilly Monday evening. The legendary 40 Watt Theater, which has housed bands such as R.E.M., B-52’s, and George Clinton and the P-Funk, was abound with undergrads in UGA hats and underagers with fake ID’s. The red and blue Christmas lights that hang across the ceiling, reflected off girls’ oversized earrings to show the anticipation for the young and ruggedly handsome singer to appear. And appear he did, to a crowd of youthful faces with a ratio in the favor of the boys.

Matt Nathanson has always been best known for his live performances, where he wins the heart of his audience by humor filled dialogues and crass jokes. He’s not afraid to make fun of his fans as if he is teasing his crush on the playground, and he’s not afraid to use profanity for emphasis or use the F word to make his point. It is this kind of down home wit that had his newest album Some Mad Hope, the number one album on iTunes the first week it was released. It is this kind of relatable personality that put his first single Car Crash on VH1’s Top 20 Countdown. After a few songs from his previous album Beneath These Fireworks, he begins his song Princess, and before long, segues into the 80’s favorite Jessie’s Girl, which the crowd loves. Even though the song was released before half the crowd was even born, it is an instant hit. After a few slower songs that Matt ‘gives you permission to make love to’, the band becomes re-energized with Pretty the World and gives spark to the second half of the show, where an Angel/I Saw mash-up became the most intense moment of the night.

Throughout the show, Matt Nathanson covered many songs including Delilah, La Bamba, and even the Bert and Ernie classic Rubber Ducky. It is this odd sense of self-establishment that makes Matt Nathanson as successful as he is sure to become. Pretty soon he will go from college dive bar, to large venues with opening acts and a double encore. See him while you can, and get close to the stage for the full facial expression effect. The next time he comes into town it might be too late because you’ll be sitting in the balcony watching through squinted eyes. His new mantra (courtesy of the 40 Watt bathroom wall) is this: ‘Anyone can piss on the floor, but be a hero and shit on the ceiling’. Well, maybe not Matt’s REAL mantra, but it has some truth to it if you look. Anyone can copy a CD for a friend, but do your friend a favor and drive him to a Matt Nathanson show. For their eyes and ears will never be the same again.

But that's just This Girl talking...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Politics of Rock N' Roll

"Isn't it cheaper and smarter to make friends out of potential enemies than to defend yourself against them later?” If you had to guess what public figure made this statement, you might say something like Barak Obama. But what if the next quote went something like this? “I'm a lippy Irish rock star, and I'm more used to putting my foot in my mouth than my fist. So occasionally I'm just going to talk about it." That’s right. It’s Bono of U2 fame in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. Every other day the media is airing or writing about some social issue plaguing our society: the war in Iraq, Save Darfur, legalize marijuana. So what makes aging rock stars the authority on global warming or female genital mutilation? And is it ‘good for business’?

As we all know, the constitution gives us (arguably) the right to free speech in any forum. So as people, rock and rollers have the right to say anything they want. However, whether they like it or not, this doesn’t come without consequences being as they are in the public eye. Bruce Springsteen has been known to be an advocate for the ‘working man’ in the U.S. You couldn’t ask for a better anthem than Born in the U.S.A., and through The Boss’ almost 30 years of making music, he has cultivated a fan base of upper class WASPs, middle class blue collar workers, and everyone in between. So after the horrific events of September 11th, Bruce used his outlet of music to create his album The Rising to express all the emotions that came from such a disaster. Millions of citizens around the globe were trying to find a way to handle all the confusion, anger, forgiveness, and patriotism as well, and many found it through the words and songs of The Rising. Others saw it as arrogant and ‘left wing’. Regardless, Bruce Springsteen had earned the respect of man and woman alike. Those who disagree with him politically, are still buying front row tickets to his concerts and making sure he keeps selling platinum records.

Now, some artists have put a little muscle behind their words. Bono, for example has been a spokesman and delegate for several world issues, including schools in Africa, and the crisis in Darfur. This type of commitment and passion offers a bit more credibility than the pop star who wears their LiveStrong bracelet out to NYC’s hottest club. Bono has done his research. He has lived in the African huts, and seen the children affected by malaria and AIDS first hand, not just on CNN. It is a fine line to walk, political advocacy. As a celebrity, you can run the risk of looking pompous and cliché. But Bono’s soft-spoken but concrete actions start turning the wheels of change. He doesn’t need to hold a press conference so the general public knows what good work he’s doing for the world. He is meeting with world leaders in private, and establishing charity groups which he advertises during HIS OWN shows. Like Springsteen, U2 will continue to sell out shows and stay the music legend they always have been.

Some bands take a riskier approach to their cause. It is hip right now to take a stand against something. An easy target is the war in Iraq and the U.S. president. So when Linkin Park released their third original studio album Minutes to Midnight, it was surprisingly angry and sent a strong message about the government. The band is relatively green and even though they exploded with their first album in 2001, have a massive following of young and old alike. So to push the boundaries of the norm and create songs that attack the president, Hurricane Katrina, and Iraq could have blown up in their screaming into the microphone face. With lines like ‘Have respect for a leader so nervous in an obvious way/ stuttering and mumbling for nightly new to replay/ and the rest of the world watching at the end of the day/ in their living room laughing like what did he say’ it leaves no doubt what where their intentions lie. So why was this one of the greatest albums of 2007, both critically and in sales? It was a risky move, and in true Linkin Park fashion the band said ‘screw it’ and made the album anyway. I guess it goes to show, you really do have to play big to win big. And win big they did, with a multi-platinum record. The Dixie Chicks were not so lucky with their statement about George W. Bush. Concerts had to be cancelled and CD’s were publicly burned. Again, it just goes to show that sometimes, it’s just a crap shoot.

While the 60’s and 70’s were a simultaneous musical and political revolution, today’s ‘P.C.’ society is unable to handle such turmoil. Artists today cannot make a living with anti-war and peace/love guitar chords. It’s more business than pleasure, more contracts than handshakes. So musicians today better be able put their money where their mouth is, or the recording label will drop them, and pretty soon the only thing they’ll be singing is ‘Would you like fries with that?’

But that's just This Girl talking...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The downfall of FM Radio

This week, This Girl went through one of the most major changes a girl can go through in her life. Getting married? Nope. Having a baby? Guess again. Breaking a nail? Not even close. She learned that her favorite radio station is getting the boot. Yup, that's right ladies and gents. Everything Alternative 99x, the ONLY alternative radio station in Atlanta will be off the air and All the Hits Q100 will be taking over.

Now, word on the street has it that the reason for the switch is due to the fact that the morning show on 99x isn't getting great ratings, and the head honchos want to move Q100's morning show to the stronger signal of 99.7 f.m. And I guess technically, this is true. However, the decision to replace the entire radio station was most likely not a hard one for corporate swine because 99x and alternative music altogether has not been getting the listeners it used to. Instead, 99x will become just an internet and HD radio entity.

Now that we have the hard truth and boring facts behind us, we can begin to wonder, "What the hell are we supposed to listen to NOW?" Being in the south, there are several country radio stations around town. And not to say anything bad about country music because many of those folks are very talented, but I can almost guarantee that at least 75% of 99x listeners (we'll refer to an alternative fan as Alt from here on out) do not consider themselves country music fans. It is a simple truth of personal preference. We can scratch off any station that plays Barry Manilow, Michael Bolton, and Celine Dion. Which leaves us with the Top 40 station, the hip-hop station, the hard rock station, and Pop station; Q100, 95.5 The Beat, Project 96.1, and Star 94 respectively.

Alt tunes to the hip-hop station 95.5 The Beat. There is a good chance that anyone listening to the alternative likes of Oasis and Stone Temple Pilots such as Alt, might like to hear a Snoop Dogg or Nelly classic from their high school days. But does Alt usually go to the club on Friday nights to 'Lean Wit it, Rock Wit it', or do the 'Soulja Boy' dance? The correct answer is no. So why would he listen to it on his way to work or going to pick up a date? Alt will learn to change the channel when he hears Rhianna's 'Umbrella' for the third time in an hour.

After flipping stations, Alt settles on Star 94, the Pop music station. After a few songs, he wonders why the station isn't called American Idol Contestant 94. Every other song is sang by either, Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry, or Jordin Sparks. When a singer with questionable talent is finally played, Alt looks at the car next to him to see the most disturbing sight. A mini van with a car seat in the back and a kid in a soccer uniform playing his Nintendo DS, a bumper sticker that says 'I heart my Shitzu', driven by a woman in a button up top singing and dancing to the EXACT same Justin Timberlake song that he is listening to at the moment. Alt sinks down in his seat and turns the volume all the way down.

When the embarassment has faded, Alt decides to brave the radio once again and finds Project 96.1. At first listen, it's not so bad! A little Foo Fighters, a little Chili Peppers, even some Finger 11. But after 15 minutes, Alt starts to get a headache. With all the Drowing Pool, Senses Fail, and Disturbed how can a guy think and drive at the same time?! He finds himself headbanging uncontrollably and has to pull over to the side of the road to prevent a full blown siezure. Deep breaths, Alt, deep breaths. He makes the wise choice of changing the channel once more.

The last station of the day is Q100. The arch enemy. The suck up who got to go to the front of the line. The guy who took your girl. It takes exactly one hour to hear all the music in the playlist rotation. Alt must be a genius because he has figured out what songs, and in what order they are played every hour. He has learned the Beyonce dance, memorized all the words to Timbaland, and purchased Gwen Stefani's purfume for his girlfriend. He has become just like any of the other plastic people that live in Atlanta. All in one hour of poison and brainwashing. While at a stoplight, Alt overhears a 311 CD being played in the car beside him by a girl with 4 earrings in each ear. With a shake of his head, Alt is back in reality.

So tell me my friends, what are WE, those who enjoy Radiohead, Silverchair, Nirvana, even Primitive Radio Gods supposed to do without our alternative radio station? Where do we get our daily dose of Linkin Park and Wolfmother? Where WILL the Killers go?! Until that question can be answered, I guess the 'Alts' of Atlanta will be stopped on the side of the road headbanging until someone brings back Organic X to calm us down.

But that's just this girl talking...

Friday, January 11, 2008

It's coming...

This is for the two people who read my blog.

It has to due with the airplane and the music on it while boarding and de-boarding. Stay tuned for one when I'm back from vacay.