Category Archives: Music

I write on music: music festivals, music venues, music you should listen to, music you should not listen to! The beat goes on…

Coming In Hot- HOTTUB at Beauty Bar- 3/15/12

HOTTUB @ Beauty Bar, Austin- March 15, 2012

By Amy Powell

HOTTUB has just arrived in Austin, Texas for their first of three performances at the 26th annual South by Southwest festival. Despite a chaotic day of cross-country travel- 6am flight out of California, 2-hour drive from Houston, one empty tank of gas, and more in-town traffic than Austin locals have seen all year- the five-piece disco rap band from Oakland, California arrives at Beauty Bar fierce with energy.

Backed by beat-making producer, Jason “Jaysonik” Stinnett, and keyboardist, Mark “Funky Fingers” Gregory, HOTTUB packs a 3-part vocal punch powered by Nicole “Coco Machete” Feliciano, Amber “Ambr33zy” Royal, and Jennifer “LoliPop” Ackerman. Tonight, the hyper dynamic MCs are dolled out in lace, jean, leather, and leopard print fashion, with gold bracelets, exotic eye makeup, and “baller” necklaces that push “bling” kink to punk-pop party levels.

With “10 Numbers” in her pocket, Feliciano leverages her way up, onto a front speaker, while Royal and Ackerman thrust themselves into the crowd to join fans for Feliciano’s rap. Just three songs into their set- Beauty Bar is on “Man Bitch” fire. HOTTUB brings hard-hitting disco funk beats and shout-out “Oakland in Jungle” lyrics to Austin music fans- the house has no option but to get down with ghetto-pop enthusiasm- Bay Area-style.

How can one band manage a band-in-crowd, beer soaked, mic-in-mouth, motor boat girl sandwich (x2), fans-on-stage dance party into one 30-minute set? The answer, HOTTUB is not just a band. HOTTUB is fast and clever, hard-hitting and concise, like-minded and glam, full-boobied and fabulous. HOTTUB is a “game changer.”

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DJ 2 Watch: Dylan McIntosh

Splash Pit Recommended by Amy Powell

Photo by Megan Krause

Tall, slender, and striking, Dylan McIntosh is poised in front of a lap top and turntables, gripping cushy headphones comfortably wrapped around his neck. For the last seven years, audiences have found McIntosh, veiled behind a gleaming drum kit, in San Francisco’s electronica-rock trio, BLVD. Now he stands solo, at center stage, in pursuit of entertaining audiences through an alternate music medium, DJing. McIntosh’s unique method focuses on mashing traditionally arranged songs– strong with melody and (most importantly) vocals– to create a set, rich with timeless hits and modern variety. In one hour, McIntosh will feature remixes from Foster the People, Empire of the Sun, and the Foals, and highlight throw-back classics from Fleetwood Mac, The Police, Natalia Kills, and Gaelle. With an audacious sense of cultivating genre infusions, McIntosh is distinctively capable of stirring up a cold dance floor to get any dance party in motion.
For booking & event rates, contact Dylan McIntosh via email, dylan@elevateproduction.com or phone, 415-706-0793.

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The Legacy Continues- BLVD at The Independent- 1/6/2012

With four girls in front of her, Jessica Westwood is an impatient wreck as she waits for a stall in the ladies’ room. “No way I’m getting a spot in the front row now, I’ll have to push my way up, I haven’t seen BLVD for over a year, they’re one of my favorites,” she gushes. Her confession is received with nods from the others waiting in line.

Tonight is BLVD’s third annual winter showcase at The Independent in San Francisco. Just six days after New Year’s Eve, winter takes a turn for the warmer while locals take the popular venue by storm. All guests are in rare form, including an unwavering party-ready honey badger centered prominently on the show flier- “Honey badger don’t care… honey badger just wants to get down!”

House lights dim to dark and three slender silhouettes slip on stage. The rowdy crowd settles as a calm, methodical pulse hits through the kick drum. The stage is swept over by a rich peach glow illuminating the members of BLVD– Dylan McIntosh, drums/samples, Curtis Sloane, electric guitar/samples, and Tripp Bains, bass/keyboard– along with an eager Westwood who is now standing, front and center, in the first row.

For the next ninety minutes, BLVD takes their audience– both local fans and long-time friends– on an euphoric roller coaster of synthesized jams, mashed up remixes, electro pop riffs, and energized arrangements that showcase classic BLVD genius; one epic dance party.

Since the conception of BLVD’s legacy in 2003, the band has tested various production and talent to stimulate their audience and progress their sound. They have featured elaborate laser shows that prove to be a sensational highpoint during late night sets. And in 2008-10 they invited noteworthy lyricist, Souleye, on board to fuse the trio’s instrumental talent with flowing hip hop vocals.

Tonight the band invites members of supporting acts– livetronica duo, Crush Effect, and electronic hip-hop group, Vokab Kompany– to sit in. Saxophonist Jesse Molloy fills the house with smooth, sophisticated vibration. And Vokab Kompany MCs, Robbie Gallo and Matt Burke, energize the stage with charismatic fashion giving fans a chance to reminisce on days when Souleye dominated the mic and danced the stage.

Over the last two years, BLVD has developed new method for their original sound. Their set is built on covered samples from Michael Jackson, Kaskade, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Ghostland Observatory, Foster the People, Empire of the Sun, LMFAO, Foals and Calvin Harris; and peppered with new rhythms that range from original Cuban sahara to popular Miami cool. Luckily, BLVD has not abandoned their signature rhythm– an eerie X-Files cadence glittered with angelic beats that give way to hard-hitting wah-wah bass– and make conscious efforts to feature melodies that celebrate their initial blend of unique synthesized melodies and unpolluted instrumental technique.

Center stage, under sporadic projections of Japanese characters and pulsing heart rate monitors, McIntosh shoots a smirk to Bains at stage right and then looks to Sloane at stage left before announcing the next selection in their set, BLVD’s first-written song, “Again in the Light.”

Wearing satisfied smiles, collard black shirts, and professional confidence, BLVD is nine years deep, three men strong, four albums produced, and thousands of fans deserved. With a reinvented sound full of energy, sophisticated attitude and just enough pop culture to keep critics on their toes, BLVD still holds electronic legacy to make fans– and even a ferocious honey badger– get down.

Tripp Bains on bass guitar at The Independent- 1/6/2012. Photo by: John Mortimer Photography

Dylan McIntosh on drums at The Independent- 1/6/2012. Photo by: John Mortimer Photography

BLVD at The Independent- 1/6/2012. Photo by: John Mortimer Photography

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Interview w/ Erik Yates of Hot Buttered Rum: 7/28/11

Speaking with Erik Yates  of Hot Buttered Rum on July 28, 2011:  Music Festivals, Projects, Etc.

Amy Powell: In the last 10 years, Hot Buttered Rum (HBR) has played music festivals across the nation. At which festival do you feel most “at home,” and why (people, place, festival goal/mission)?

Erik Yates: I’ll say Hardly Strictly Bluegrass – it’s here, has most of the musicians I look up to and, hey, it’s free.

AP: What are two things you look forward to when getting ready for a tour?

EY: The people we’ll play for & the music we’ll play for ’em. I feel like I started into this business for the music, and that’ll always be its own reward, but I find myself also staying in it for the people, for the other players, for the friendships, for the fans I know and for the fans I don’t.

AP: During live sets, do you often visit tracks from your first studio album, “In These Parts?” and if so, which track(s)?

EY: 3.2 is one we pull out quite a bit. I mean, it’s a bluegrass song about cheap beer – what’s not to love? We got ‘In These Parts’ back up for a Colorado date last weekend, and I think we may put ‘Lighten Up Your Load’ back in the hopper, too.

AP: During festival season, you run into old music buddies (“Poor Man’s Whiskey,” and “Tea Leaf Green”), and you come across new artists. What band(s) have gotten your attention this year?

EY: We got the chance to hang out & pick with Mumford & Sons at Wakarusa, and I loved their set. It’s great to see a band with so much buzz be so fully deserving of it. They give it up; they play until they drop, onstage and off. That’s the glory of folk music – what you see onstage is always the tip of the twangy iceberg. Anyone I know who’s played tunes with Gillian Welch & David Rawlings (whose new album is amazing) is always amazed at how many country songs those two know together, with the harmonies to boot. They could play for days, but their set’s an hour long. So all that music’s standing behind them, giving the songs they do sing that much more power. I aspire to that. Another band I dig that’s rising through the ranks is Fruition, a group from Portland, OR. Right now, they’re young and hungry and stupidly talented and, like Mumford & the Avett Bros. & the Old Crow Medicine Show and some of the other new-timey banjo-picking groups that are kicking ass right now, they write well, sing big and lay it on the line.

AP: What is your plan of attack when preparing for a show in your hometown zone – the great San Francisco Bay?

EY: Motivate the inner circle, get on the radio and talk things up online. We’ll also print up flyers &/or CDs and have them handed out at other shows where fans would like our music.

AP: Since 2005, HBR has been cruising “green” in a tour bus powered by veggie oil. After 6 years in action, have you seen more “well-oiled machines” out there? And are you surprised that more bands haven’t followed suit by “greening” their rig?

EY: We haven’t seen too many. The veggie oil / biodiesel tradeoff is not always the easiest, since overproduction of mono-cropped corn and soy is no picnic, either. The only way to make truly green fuel is to use waste oil, and finding and rendering that useful simply requires more time than most touring acts have. When we used to dumpster-dive, we were in a phase of our lives when being on the road for weeks at a time made sense, and when an extra three-hour excursion was no big deal.

AP: You have had three members come and go since HBR’s conception in 2002, what makes the current five-man band unique?

EY: Our current drummer, Lucas Carlton, is a born rock star. Really. The band is grooving its ass off.

AP: You released an album in 2009 called, “Limbs Akimbo.” What have the members of HBR been focusing on (individually and as a band) since?

EY: Three of us, Lucas, Nat and Erik, went to Ghana where we dug in on rhythm & dance and recorded an album of Nat’s tunes, due out soon. Aaron recorded a solo album and has been playing with Bryan in his side project, Kinky Buddha. Erik stared a side project as well, the Pedal Thieves, and Nat continues to produce his yearly multimedia variety show, the Nat Keefe Concert Carnival.

AP: Some artists say they get inspiration for lyrics from fans, some say during late night conversation or adventure, and some say from being on tour. Where do you get your lyrical inspiration?

EY: Love and death. Impossible to get away from either, no matter how you try.

AP: If Fox Theater (Oakland) called you tomorrow, offered HBR a show date next month, but required that the band play one of your five albums in its entirety, which album would you pick?

EY: Limbs Akimbo. I’m partial to the new stuff.

AP: You are traveling the states this summer and fall, is there any talk of bringing HBR back to Europe (or beyond) in 2012?

EY: Nothing on the calendar right now, but some backstage conversation with John Butler at the All Good fest got us thinking about the Australian festival scene. It’d be nice to do summer festies in January.

AP: What is one instrument that you currently don’t know how to play, but would like to learn in the next five years?

EY: I think I’d like to rock the trombone. I’ve had dreams where I can do those dixieland slides. Maybe the harmonica’s more realistic, though . . .

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Elvis Costello: 5/9/11

Elvis Costello Creates Carnival Fantasy

A girl appears from backstage wearing white go-go boots, a pink plastic dress, and a pink bow in her impossibly shiny brunette hair. She nods to the band (already in position) and steps into a fringe-curtained pedestal esteemed the “Hostage to Fortune Go-Go Cage.” It is May 9, 2011, the second and final run of “Elvis Costello and The Imposters present ‘The Revolver Tour’” at the Fox Theater in Oakland, CA.  The Revolver Tour is Costello’s first tour in twenty-five years, and fans (of all ages) are seated in anticipation for tonight’s “game-show” carnival. A drum roll builds, lights flash theatrically, and Elvis Costello takes the stage while the girl spins effortlessly inside her Go-Go cage. (Apparently, this is not her first “carnival.”)

With no set list, a slight English accent, and multiple stories to share (some involving Donald Trump), Costello is calm and poised wearing a dapper black hat and his classic black-rimmed glasses. His band, The Imposters, is colorful in clothing and rambunctious in character – the group is a mix between The Beach Boys, The Partridge Family, and the Austin Powers 1960s power and love revolution. Costello runs through a few songs to start off the show – “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” “Heart of the City,” “Strict Time,” and “Mystery Dance” – before Costello calls his assistant onstage.

His assistant, fitted tightly into a teal, yellow, and black one-piece, bell-bottom spandex suit, motions to a ten-foot wheel situated at stage left. The “Spectacular Spinning Songbook” features 40 song-titles, is color coordinated with red, yellow, and purple ribbons to categorize selections from Costello hits, rarities, and (never before covered-by-Costello) covers. The Songbook, now spinning, is lined with frantically flashing light bulbs. You can cut the crowd’s anticipation with a knife. “Bring someone up,” Costello calls to his assistant, “The fun is about to begin.”

Costello is flirty, flashy, and charismatic. He is an entertainer with dirty wit and a genuine heart. Between spins, he tells stories to excite his chosen Songbook spinners. “Now, while I play, you will sit over there, in the ‘Society Lounge.’ But be careful on those chairs, they are special, they are a gift from Donald Trump.”

Like clockwork, Costello’s assistant summons fan after fan on stage to “give The Songbook a strong spin” and reveal the next hit of tonight’s set-list. After a powerful push, spinners stand back and watch fate unfold. This time the Songbook selects, “Purple Rain,” a revised upbeat groovy jazz melody, accompanied by tight calypso reggae rhythms.

Next, two ladies are invited on stage. One offers to spin The Songbook while her friend ogles the gigantic wheel. The Songbook stops at a sparkling purple section titled, “BONUS!” Costello probes the ladies, “Do you know what sparkling purple mean..? That’s the jackpot “bonus!” You girls have some good music to listen to up here.”

Post-spin, Costello’s vivacious assistant invites the two (and every spinner) to Costello’s “Society Lounge.” She encourages guests to sip a cocktail (delivered from backstage VIP), to dance in the “Hostage to Fortune Go-Go Cage” (if they have the courage), and to just experience Costello Magic up close and personal. The ladies make their way to Donald Trump’s chairs as the stage is intoxicated with colors – green, orange, yellow, and purple. The crowd turns quiet, and the band starts to play (what turns into) a mini set of, “I Can Sing the Colors of the Rainbow.”

Costello engages his fans in another story. This time it’s about the artwork in a hotel room he stayed at in Berkeley circa 1970. “On the wall of the room, there was a beautiful, painted silhouette of a couple fucking. I knew this was a reminder for me – ‘things to do today’.” Eyebrows and laughter rise from the weed-dazed audience.

Costello runs through the next few songs without a Songbook selection. Fans yell “Chelsea!” as soon as they pick-up the well-remembered note combination of “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea.” The band plays deep reggae tones, and the lighting engineer flashes starry lights just before the stage is swallowed in bright yellow-orange hues.

The crowd continues to cheer until Costello walks out from backstage, alone, wearing a sparkly gold jacket with a black collar and, no surprise, his classic black-rimmed glasses. Costello serenades the audience, “I’m just one lone man, traveling, with a suitcase.” He continues, “Somebody’s calling me again,” before walking back off-stage.

The night ends with a third hard-hitting chaotic-rock encore rendition of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding.” Costello, still wearing the gold sparkling jacket, he claims is “a jacket you can cheat in,” is pleased with his production. He looks back to The Imposters, looks forward to his fans, and blows the Fox a kiss. The back lights flash frantically (vaudeville-finale style) and Costello is gone – off to perform his next outrageous musical carnival.

Amy Powell

The Revolver Tour, Fox Oakland - May 9, 2011

The Revolver Tour, Fox Theater Oakland – full set-list via Setlist.fm: http://tinyurl.com/44z4q8u

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Man Man: 5/14/11

Man Man at Bimbo’s 365

Man Man, an experimental 5-piece band from Philadelphia, has created a unique musical phenomenon with curiously stimulating (and unruly) live performances that have entertained fans and critics since their conception in 2003. Today, the band has produced four studio albums, two EPs and have toured (practically everywhere) across the US.

In December 2010, Metrowize listed Man Man as one of the “25 Best Acts to See Live.” After reading a few of their most recent reviews, I quickly added the band to my “must see” list, and on May 14, 2011, I found myself at Bimbo’s 365 in San Francisco waiting for Man Man to take the stage. Post-show, I do not agree that Man Man is one of the best live acts I have seen, but I will say that their stage set-up is worthy of important mention.

Man Man Stage Post-Show, Bimbo's 365

Man Man’s dimly lit stage was a chaotic yet, surprisingly well-organized array of instruments, toys, sculptures and tools that gravitated around (and faced) a glowing red gem object positioned at center stage. The entire set-up resembled a space orbiting time-machine’s command center set in front of a sparkling starry-blue sky that swayed gently behind the band’s exploratory sound.

The stage boasted five individual instrument set-ups – one for each crazical musician. From the house floor, each set-up looked like a hodgepodge mix of metal, uneven colors, and personalized trinkets. Strands of red lighting rope precariously connected the five cockpits from one side of the stage to the other. The only constant between the five set-ups were uniform tom and bass drums patterned (like sore thumbs) with neon-cool colored shapes.

As Man Man’s first song started, I questioned the relevancy of some stage pieces. To call out a few, a ladder stood prominently behind the mass of equipment on stage left. An up-side-down unicycle projected upward from one of the instrument sets on stage right. And a yo-yo hung from a keyboard at center stage. I thought, “such an elaborate collection of non-noise-making pieces was unnecessary.” But as the show progressed, each piece of equipment, art and/or mechanism was used in some capacity by one of the band members – nothing on stage was “just for show.” Yes, the ladder and unicycle were both incorporated (and featured) in the set.

Man Man and their stage are a match made in unconventional hippy heaven. The stage helped to set-up the band for improvisational perfection – overloaded with unknown twists and unexpected turns to ensure that every Man Man show is a one-of-a-kind experience by a one-of-a kind band.

Back in February 2006, Prefix Magazine wrote, “Man Man’s music will irritate you, make you laugh, put you off and then bring you back for more.” I do see truth in this statement, and I do plan to catch the Man Man quintet for a second take on what the war paint wearing, costume trending, crowd exciting act brings to the world of spontaneously original music performed live.

Man Man Stage Post-Show, Bimbo's 365

Check out Man Man (the band): http://www.wearemanman.com

See Man Man (the live act): http://atlanta.thebackstagebeat.com/2011/04/man-man-tour

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Avett Brothers: I and Love and You

Avett Brothers – I and Love and You

The single “I and Love and You,” written by Scott and Seth Avett of folk rock band, The Avett Brothers, is composed of sincere, simple, honest sorrow.

Read the lyrics and watch the video. Prepare to be “moved.”

“I and Love and You”
Written by Scott & Seth Avett

Load the car and write the note,
Grab your bag and grab your coat,
Tell the ones that need to know,
We are headed north.

One foot in, and one foot back,
But it don’t pay, to live like that,
So I cut the ties and I jumped the tracks,
For never to return.

Ah Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in,
Are you aware the shape I’m in,
My hands they shake, my head it spins,
Ah Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.

When at first I learned to speak,
I used all my words to fight,
With him and her and you and me,
Oh, but it’s just a waste of time,
It’s such a waste of time.

That woman she’s got eyes that shine,
Like a pair of stolen polished dimes,
She asked to dance I said it’s fine,
I’ll see you in the morning time.

Ah Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in,
Are you aware the shape I’m in,
My hands they shake my head it spins,
Ah Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.

Three words that became hard to say,
I and love and you.
What you were then I am today,
Look at the things I do.

Ah Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in,
Are you aware the shape I’m in.
My hands they shake my head it spins,
Ah Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.

Dumbed down and numbed by time and age,
Your dreams to catch the world, the cage,
The highway sets the travelers’ stage,
All exits look the same.

Three words that became hard to say,
I and love and you,
I and love and you,
I and love and you.

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