Setting up the gear....
Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble play dance music. Even if you are not prone to dancing their music is liable to make you, at the very least, tap your toe (maybe even your toes).
The group employed a ten piece group of musicians to record their latest record, Mr. Machine (out now). The term "ensemble" therefore isn't a total red herring. Basically the record is techno with classical instrumentation. Don't be lazy and think this is classical music turned into techno (which is how I read it the first time I saw a release on the band!).
The Chicago date at Empty Bottle is the second on the tour (remaining dates at the bottom of the page).
The band's first record, You Make Me Real, came out in 2010. It is bit of a shame they couldn't have come out with a full-on representation of the instrumentation on the new album. That is, obviously, something that is prohibitively expensive.
Dance music fans will be happy regardless. Indie rock fans will be unhappy regardless. Death Metal fans will not know what to make of the whole thing.
10/26 – Toronto, ON – The Drake Hotel
10/27 - Brooklyn, NY – Glasslands
10/28 - Washington, DC - The Red Palace
10/29 – Asheville, NC – MoogFest
10/30 - Atlanta, GA – 529
10/31 - Orlando, FL – Plaza Live
11/01 - Tallahassee, FL - Club Down Under/FSU
11/03 - Dallas, TX - The Prophet Bar
11/05 – Austin, TX – Fun Fun Fun Fest
11/09 – San Diego, CA – Soda Bar
11/10 – Los Angeles, CA – The Satellite
11/11 - San Francisco, CA - The Rickshaw Stop
11/12 - Los Angeles, CA - Luckman Fine Arts Complex
Guillaume de Maria of French act, Chateau Marmont, has an unusual way of describing the band’s music.
“(It’s) like a soundtrack for a porn movie, but with robots only. Always a mixture between organic and electronic,” says de Maria. “But for the wannabe musical critics, let's say that we play some spacey-prog-french-robot-pop.”
One recent critic, in a major paper I won’t mention (except to say that the name begins with “Washington” and ends with “Post”) said the band was trying to be Alan Parsons Project. This says more about the dismal state of music criticism than anything else. Apparently this critic hasn’t gotten out much in the past 25 years. And this band sounds more like Men Without Hats than Alan Parsons Project. Actually, they sound pretty much NOTHING like APP.
They sound more like Electric Kingdom (remember that song? If you do you are OLD). They sound more like a Bowery Electric dance album. Perhaps it is just the 80s sounding synths that make people think of asinine comparisons. Who knows?
De Maria says that the best part of touring is seeing the landscape and meeting people. The worst?
“Spending 3 weeks in a bus with 11 guys, with all the smell and disorder you can imagine. And the food...” he says. “No problem when you're in a big city where you can find Whole Foods, but we're tired of the eternal burger on lost roads.”
His favorite tour moments include driving on Big Sur, nights in clubs of New Orleans and Nashville.
“Big souvenirs for the rest of our lives. And chilling out in L.A. listening to Steely Dan.” he says.
After the tour the band is taking a few days off in Paris to spend with friends, resting, then finishing mixes on their new record—which comes out March 2012. They will also likely play some shows here and there.
After just a few songs by Portugal's The Gift
, I thought; this show should be in a stadium, not a medium sized venue. I keep saying to people that they remind me of Queen
with a woman singing. This bears some explanation. It isn't that they write extraordinarily long songs a la Bohemian Rhapsody
(although they did have one they announced at 12 minutes). It isn't that they are bombastic. It is that their music is often "grand." They make a medium sized venue FEEL like a stadium.
The recorded version of the song, Made For You
, from the record Explode
, is fantastic but it pales next to the live version. The studio version took a few listens for me to like it. It has an odd style; listening to it live I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I had tears in my eyes. It is simple, it is beautiful and it is infectious, live or recorded.
Made For You from Explode
I have a huge problem with The Gift. They are in a long line of recent bands I have seen that were better than just good. The problem with The Gift is that they are way better than the previous bands. I am not insulting the others. I just hope I see someone I hate soon. The Gift may well be the best live band I have ever seen.
Why is that? They can certainly play, they write great pop/rock/dance songs but it is really about the sheer joy of the music. You cannot fake that. If playing music is just your job you can be good. You can put on a show people walk away from happy. But if it is more than just a job? That comes through somehow. We sense it.
Great, now I sound like a Hippie.
Honestly, I feel like I need testimonials. I do not like everything. I am usually pegged as disliking far more bands than I like. Take the wholly inadequate support bands on this show, for instance. The Double Door in Chicago is good at inappropriate or flat out bad local and national support. Otherwise it is a fun place to see a show.
They seem to be a group of multi-instrumentalists—four members and three additional musicians, although this varies. Finding this record, Explode, which is apparently also out on vinyl (and I search for that), will lead you inevitably and inexorably to their back catalog. This band is a treasure.
And I couldn’t agree more with “read books not Facebook.”
After this brief jaunt there has to be a future, longer tour; a tour where the band doesn’t get stuck playing in a city the size of Chicago on a Tuesday night.
This photo is for all you synth gear dorks
-words and photos by Patrick Ogle
, as noted elsewhere in the vaults of Mapanare, have just released their self-titled ep
and hit the road with the wildly entertaining Van Hunt
. They bring to mind a new truism--when you see an opening act that is really good? The headliner has tons and tons of confidence. If an opener comes out and warbles some tunes off key and them pisses themselves onstage? Indicates the headliner is a) not real confident b) for some other reason wants no competition.Van Hunt apparently wasn't worried about this because Empress Hotel could easily satisfy an audience as the lone act. It is to be hoped they will tour as a headliner soon.
The band's ep isn't the whole story of the band's sound. Their live show is both like and unlike the record. Some of the songs are almost doo-wop sounding. Then there are these keyboard sounds from another time. You are going to buy this, listen to it, take off your little headphones, shake your head and listen to it from beginning to end again.
The live show rocks more than the EP. But the EP songs do not NEED to blaze and rock you out of your shoes. They are catchy pop tunes and as I try to write about what they sound like all I can think of is that in any art where words are involved good writing rules. You do not need to be profound necessarily you need to write words that fit what is around them.
If they make you think, miss your ex-girlfriend or want to go join a street protest? So much the better but "good writing" doesn't mean it has to be akin to Bob Dylan. You Shook Me All Night Long is also good writing. It would sound stupid if ACDC used that music and wrote about the plight of aboriginal peoples.
But what of the bands live show? Think of 90s alternative rock with, for lack of a better word, a groove. Micah McKEE's vocals change subtly from song to song. Some might say; all singers do this. I would respond with; good singers do this.
Musically the lynchpin in one song might be the modeled sound of a Fender Rhodes, the next blazing guitar riffs and another subtle, almost reggae-esque bass line. They move their sound around to make each song unique but never out of place.
Ultimately they are just a really good live band and with both the show and their EP come an inescapable realization; they have just scratched the surface.
-words and photos by Patrick Ogle
Van Hunt’s latest record, What Were You Hoping For?, came out at the end of September. Hunt is one of those performers who have a lot of different genre labels hung on him. His music is part soul, a large part rock and even larger part old-school 1970s style funkiness. Hints of psychedelia can be whiffed here and there as well. And he is a songwriter par excellence.
The live show is a hundred kinds of good; enthralling vocals, blazing guitars and the rhythm half of the band (including Hunt himself on bass) do not know how to miss a beat. This is a true updating of 70s rock/funk/soul crossover. Think Delfonics (maybe) but this band rock more than Delfonics (who were, in their defense, not tryint to rock. You can even hear a little Marvin Gaye when they dial it down a bit. The thing is, you could name a lot of acts from the 70s trying to create this mix and get it right—most of them didn’t do it nearly this good. The band's press mentioned a bit of "punk" in the music. I doubted that but, especially on the record, there is no doubt. Van Hunt and band are not imitative but they take whatever they need for a given song from whatever genre is appropriate.
This isn’t nostalgia music; it is music for right now.
Van Hunt is one of a number of recent acts that I've seen with opening acts that were top notch. It usually bodes well when a band is touring with an opener who is really good; it means they have no fear of being upstaged. New Orleans' Empress Hotel are a band in a similar vein to Hunt's. They emphasize different aspects of the music which make the two acts a good fit on the same bill.
Empress Hotel photos will be up soon.
Finding out more about Van Hunt and buying What Were You Hoping For?
are both highly recommended. You can both at www.vanhunt.com
Drummer & Keyboard Player--Out Of The Light Makes For Bad Photo!
Taking pictures of the crowd...
The first time I went to a concert Jimmy Carter was President. In the intervening years I have seen an enormous number of acts in venues from tiny holes in the wall to stadiums. I hesitate to even try to calculate the number of bands I have seen over the years.
But I haven’t seen a single one any better than Mekons.
Why is that? Is it songwriting? Is it performance? Is it how it seems effortless and as if you were sitting with the band in your living room? It is likely all those things and more. It is just a fact. Other bands that write great songs (and I shall mention no names) will bore you right to sleep live. Likewise I have continuously heard bands whose musical efforts, when confined to a shiny metal disc or an mp3, fall flat. They only come alive on stage. Mekons' live show may be different from the recordings but it would be difficult to say either was superior.
Space In Your Face from Ancient & Modern
My admitting my age (I was very young when I went to see those Carter Administration shows, in fact, I was 3) I may make it seem as if the Mekons will appeal only to geezers. Far from it. The audience was a mix of ages. A couple of weeks before this show I attended the Hideout Block Party with my 14 year old son (he was born when I was 15). When all was said and done I asked him which act he liked best from the day’s performers. He responded, “The Welsh guy.”
The Welshman in question, in this case, was Jon Langford.
discussed how the band were given incentives to learn the new songs—from the just released record, Ancient & Modern
. Usually she said they learned them on tour so it took three or four weeks beyond the first date before they had the songs down.
“Those poor people in Boston,” said Langford.
USA shows10/06 - ARLINGTON, VA - Iota (A quiet night in with the acoustic MEKONS)
10/07 - BROOKLYN, NY - The Bell House (A wild night out with the electrified MEKONS)
10/08 - NEW YORK, NY - City Winery (A quiet night in with the acoustic MEKONS)
FOR FURTHER TOUR INFORMATION (EUROPEAN DATES) GO HERE.
is playng a saz in this picture, as he usually is with Mekons. If you want to know more about the saz you can ask Edmonds when you see the band, shout at him about it between songs, I am sure he will appreciate that. OR maybe you can just go check out this video HERE
Another great thing about a band like Mekons is that if you see them a couple of times over years you are liable to hear them playing mostly different tunes. From the last time I saw them a few years back they played only a handful of the same songs. They played Thee Olde Trip To Jerusalem early in this set and their second encore began with Ghosts of American Astronauts.
Their new record and material is as strong as anything they've ever done and it is amazing how music made over so long a period and of such variations in style, fits together cohesively in a set. Their shows are time capsules but with past, present and a little future all tossed in together.