Get ready, potential album cover for my next project, “It’s A Beautiful Thing”

cc: @amcsucks for helping me shoot it, @josepoops and @_sneek for holding it down (at 🎶  09/30/14  🎶)

Get ready, potential album cover for my next project, “It’s A Beautiful Thing”

cc: @amcsucks for helping me shoot it, @josepoops and @_sneek for holding it down (at 🎶 09/30/14 🎶)

Do It Yourself: Long Beach Musicians on Creating a Scene

By Nik Bates

LONG BEACH, Calif.—The next generation of young, aspiring musicians in Long Beach are becoming more resourceful when it comes to live performances. Trying to stay within the lines of the city’s noise and entertainment regulations, they are organizing shows and benefits closer to community events than concerts.

“Even if you don’t know anybody there, you’re guaranteed to make five new friends,” said Brandon Kent, bass guitarist of the punk rock band Tough Stuff. On March 22, Tough Stuff played a show at The GreenHouse Café in Long Beach, along with Struckout, Olivias and Roman Candles.

Everyone greets each other with hugs and handshakes. They catch up and update each other with future plans for school, music or even just the next weekend. For those attempting to build a career off their music, however, the circumstances could be better. Opposed to a city like Los Angeles, where there are numerous venues for artists of all genres to perform, Long Beach does not have as many regular gigs.

“Everything is built against us,” said Daniel Speer. He is a member of the band Struckout and one of the creators of the Underground Music Society at Cal State Long Beach. “Long Beach is a weird little bubble for shows,” he elaborated. “There aren’t a lot of venues that do all ages shows.”

Many musicians in Long Beach are left to organize, set up and host their own shows. In the punk rock scene, they call these events “DIY shows,” in reference to the do-it-yourself nature of the set up. A majority of these shows take place in houses, but sometimes occur in coffee shop or small club venues when the chance presents itself.

“That’s the nature of DIY places, it’s like whack-a-mole,” said Speer. “Once one goes down, another comes up.” He is referring to the constant shut down of these places due to things such as noise regulations, proper licensing or even the ability to stay afloat through making profits.

The City of Long Beach Noise Control Office offers a list of viable reasons for contacting the police department about the issue of noise. These include music from nightclubs, construction, parking lot sweepers, air conditioners and even loud talking. In order to circumvent the rules, many bands plan for their shows to end at 9 p.m.

“I’m more of an acoustic artist, so my sessions don’t get all that rowdy,” said musician Kathleen Santiago. But even acoustic shows can get shut down. Both Kent and Speer spoke about folk punk singer Paul Baribeau’s performance in Long Beach and how it nearly got shut down by the police.

Venues for these artists rarely stay in business for more than two years, according to Kent. The issues involve compliance with entertainment, business or fire department licensing, the topic of alcohol and noise regulations.

image

Tough Stuff at the Greenhouse Cafe, March 22nd. Photo by Nik Bates.

“Alcohol is one of the biggest no-no’s,” said Kent. “That’ll for sure get you shut down.” These artists push for sober shows, in order to attract a lager fan base and keep their venues safe from fines, closing or police investigations.

Moreover, this leaves artists to venture outside of the Long Beach for shows.

“We’ve done extensive touring,” recalled Kent. “We’ve done west coast tours that go all the way up to Vancouver and back.” He also explained that Tough Stuff’s most recent tour took them as far as Akron, Ohio eastwards, and Decatur, Alabama toward the south.

“It’s really simple,” explained Kent. “We just exploit social media platforms.” He messages people who run venues across the country, asking them if they would like to have Tough Stuff perform there. They will either respond with a yes or connect them to a venue better suited. “We might ask for Seattle, but we’ll end up in a city two hours south of it,” said Kent.

As far as alternatives in California, many popular places that these local artists go to are VLHS in Pomona, Bridgetown DIY in La Puente, The Dial in Murrieta, and Ché Café on campus at UCSD. This leads to travel expenses and boarding fees that often come out of the pockets of the artists.

A safe and consistent place for these people to play music would allow for a thriving music scene to develop here in Long Beach. The difficulty is trying to keep a venue open that can make a profit without forcing the artists to dish out pre-sale tickets, hurting the artists in the end. Most pre-sale agreements state that if you don’t sell all of your tickets, you still must furnish the money for the total number. That means struggling musicians are left to purchase their own tickets.

In the world of music, this is known as “pay-to-play.”

image

Friends gather around the musician’s gear outside of the Greenhouse Cafe to chat and catch up with each other. Photo by Nik Bates.

“Overall, your goal is to get your music out there and that’s difficult when you have to pay to play everywhere,” said Santiago.  Yet, the small concert business model seems to thrive the most off this tactic. It guarantees them the money regardless of actual physical attendance the day of the show.

“Long Beach shows, being as frugal as they are, will reel in people because of that,” explained Kent. But it’s hard to make a business believe you can guarantee attendance if you aren’t an already established act in the music industry.

“My goal is to start a DIY venue, here in Long Beach,” said Speer. “I think if there’s going to be one person who can do it, it’s him,” Kent explained when talking about Daniel Speer’s aspirations. This is the biggest way these artists can take control of their careers in Long Beach.

There isn’t a lack of shows, but a lack of organized places to play. For artists like Santiago, the events are a bit more palpable. She is a part of a group of artists that have built followings on YouTube and are using their music to help out the society around them. The charity concerts and benefits that she plays take place all over California.

It’s reassuring to know that someone across the universe can actually relate to your music,” said Santiago. Connecting with fans and other artists is what drives these musicians to play live shows. “I’m playing shows with similar bands, and I’m bumping into the same people over and over again,” said Speer. “We’re starting to be friends. It feels like a genuine connection.”

That connection is what drives these artists everyday to pursue what they love, which is performing their music, no matter the circumstances.

###

CONNECT

Struckout @ Bandcamp

Tough Stuff @Bandcamp

Kathleen Santiago @YouTube

Here is the full, unedited version of last week’s album review/release party recap for Asher Roth’s RetroHash, from DIG Magazine here at CSULB.
ASHER ROTH FINDS INDEPENDENCE WITH RETROHASH
By Nik Bates
RATING: 7.2/10 

Since he broke out into the hip-hop scene as a member of the 2009 XXL Freshman Class along with Kid Cudi, Curren$y, and B.o.B. among others, Asher Roth had been caught in a major label standstill following the release of his debut album Asleep In The Bread Aisle. A 2012 article by Clash Magazine asked: “Why don’t you go indie, Ash?” In 2014, Asher Roth has finally answered his fans.
After four years, three mixtapes, two tentative album titles and an EP, in December of 2013 Asher Roth announced the title for his upcoming album. RetroHash was released April 22nd, accompanied by an album release party that same night at the Troubadour in Los Angeles.
Music duo Blended Babies handle the production for this album. Roth describes RetroHash—an anagram of his name—as an offshoot of his 2011 mixtape Pabst & Jazz. A cohesive body of work, this album finds Roth lyrically weaving his way through 10 hazy, alternative and psychedelic rock inspired tracks.
His verse on “Pull It” is proof that Asher Roth hasn’t lost a step when it comes to flowing on a beat. The Curren$y assisted “Dude” is another stand out track, a nonsensical wordsmith’s dream, tribute to Jeff Lebowski and possibly the only conventionally hip-hop track on the album.
Tracks like “Fast Life” featuring Chicagoan Vic Mensa and “Be Right” sound like updated versions of “Be By Myself” or “La Di Da” from Bread Aisle, but more indicative of where Asher Roth is at in his career today. These feel good songs straddle the line of pop rock crossover appeal, but Asher spills enough wisdom about leaving behind the major label dreams in return for artistic freedom to bring these tracks back down to Earth.
The album isn’t without a few lulls. At times, the drums sound like they were distorted and made to appear gritty, versus actually being lifted from vinyl records or recorded with older equipment. Blended Babies’ signature basslines are brooding and deep, but sometimes clash with the rest of the instruments rhythmically and stand out too much (“Last of the Flohicans”), or end up sounding unchanging and lifeless (“Something for Nothing”). However, tracks like “Dude” and “Pot of Gold” pull off the drum and bass mix well.
The singsong hooks and verses sometimes become repetitive. “Keep Smoking” features more halfway sung verses, and a lackluster attempt by boom bap beat mastermind Chuck Inglish to fit in with the RetroHash aesthetic. Thus, it ends up being a weak closer for the album. Throughout, it becomes apparent that Asher Roth is not a singer, but a rapper who decided to sing on his own tracks. Save for the harmonized falsetto of “Tangerine Girl” or catchiness of “Fast Life,” the singing is usually blurred and lacking dynamism. Amidst all of this, the singing still fits in with the mellow vibe and honesty of the album.
It is apparent that Asher has placed more of an emphasis on songwriting and making music opposed to strictly writing raps. The extended bridges and gritty instrumentation lends itself tremendously to Asher’s live shows.
LA underground rapper and singer Doja Cat opened up at the Troubadour with a smoked out, vibrant and wavy set. Chuck Inglish followed, playing some of his heaviest solo tracks before bringing out Sir Michael Rocks to perform some of their songs as The Cool Kids. Afterwards, Asher Roth was on stage backed by a live band and DJ Wreckineyez.
With Blended Babies in the audience, Asher ran through a medley of tracks like “In The Kitchen,” “Common Knowledge” and “Pearly Gates” as well as new material. The show felt more like a rock performance thanks to his backing band. Many of the songs featured instrumental breaks with bass, drum and keyboard vocoder solos, as well as Asher head banging or dancing around the stage. Eventually, it all ended with an encore of “I Love College,” for old times sake, Asher explained.

Complete with stage diving, a Soul Train dance line, crowd surfing grandma, handshakes and smiles all around, Asher reveled on stage in his moment of closure with the music industry in exchange for independence. The release of RetroHash and the Troubadour show marked the beginning of a new chapter for this eclectic rapper.
###

Here is the full, unedited version of last week’s album review/release party recap for Asher Roth’s RetroHash, from DIG Magazine here at CSULB.

ASHER ROTH FINDS INDEPENDENCE WITH RETROHASH

By Nik Bates

RATING: 7.2/10 

Since he broke out into the hip-hop scene as a member of the 2009 XXL Freshman Class along with Kid Cudi, Curren$y, and B.o.B. among others, Asher Roth had been caught in a major label standstill following the release of his debut album Asleep In The Bread Aisle. A 2012 article by Clash Magazine asked: “Why don’t you go indie, Ash?” In 2014, Asher Roth has finally answered his fans.

After four years, three mixtapes, two tentative album titles and an EP, in December of 2013 Asher Roth announced the title for his upcoming album. RetroHash was released April 22nd, accompanied by an album release party that same night at the Troubadour in Los Angeles.

Music duo Blended Babies handle the production for this album. Roth describes RetroHash—an anagram of his name—as an offshoot of his 2011 mixtape Pabst & Jazz. A cohesive body of work, this album finds Roth lyrically weaving his way through 10 hazy, alternative and psychedelic rock inspired tracks.

His verse on “Pull It” is proof that Asher Roth hasn’t lost a step when it comes to flowing on a beat. The Curren$y assisted “Dude” is another stand out track, a nonsensical wordsmith’s dream, tribute to Jeff Lebowski and possibly the only conventionally hip-hop track on the album.

Tracks like “Fast Life” featuring Chicagoan Vic Mensa and “Be Right” sound like updated versions of “Be By Myself” or “La Di Da” from Bread Aisle, but more indicative of where Asher Roth is at in his career today. These feel good songs straddle the line of pop rock crossover appeal, but Asher spills enough wisdom about leaving behind the major label dreams in return for artistic freedom to bring these tracks back down to Earth.

The album isn’t without a few lulls. At times, the drums sound like they were distorted and made to appear gritty, versus actually being lifted from vinyl records or recorded with older equipment. Blended Babies’ signature basslines are brooding and deep, but sometimes clash with the rest of the instruments rhythmically and stand out too much (“Last of the Flohicans”), or end up sounding unchanging and lifeless (“Something for Nothing”). However, tracks like “Dude” and “Pot of Gold” pull off the drum and bass mix well.

The singsong hooks and verses sometimes become repetitive. “Keep Smoking” features more halfway sung verses, and a lackluster attempt by boom bap beat mastermind Chuck Inglish to fit in with the RetroHash aesthetic. Thus, it ends up being a weak closer for the album. Throughout, it becomes apparent that Asher Roth is not a singer, but a rapper who decided to sing on his own tracks. Save for the harmonized falsetto of “Tangerine Girl” or catchiness of “Fast Life,” the singing is usually blurred and lacking dynamism. Amidst all of this, the singing still fits in with the mellow vibe and honesty of the album.

It is apparent that Asher has placed more of an emphasis on songwriting and making music opposed to strictly writing raps. The extended bridges and gritty instrumentation lends itself tremendously to Asher’s live shows.

LA underground rapper and singer Doja Cat opened up at the Troubadour with a smoked out, vibrant and wavy set. Chuck Inglish followed, playing some of his heaviest solo tracks before bringing out Sir Michael Rocks to perform some of their songs as The Cool Kids. Afterwards, Asher Roth was on stage backed by a live band and DJ Wreckineyez.

With Blended Babies in the audience, Asher ran through a medley of tracks like “In The Kitchen,” “Common Knowledge” and “Pearly Gates” as well as new material. The show felt more like a rock performance thanks to his backing band. Many of the songs featured instrumental breaks with bass, drum and keyboard vocoder solos, as well as Asher head banging or dancing around the stage. Eventually, it all ended with an encore of “I Love College,” for old times sake, Asher explained.

Complete with stage diving, a Soul Train dance line, crowd surfing grandma, handshakes and smiles all around, Asher reveled on stage in his moment of closure with the music industry in exchange for independence. The release of RetroHash and the Troubadour show marked the beginning of a new chapter for this eclectic rapper.

###

Shatter Your -Isms

Response to New York Times piece “The Pernicious Rise of Poptimism” by Saul Austerlitz

A writing response where I take down the notion of “poptimism,” arguing not only that pop music is worthy of educated critique but of how the ideas of poptimism, ageism and classism among others do nothing but the hurt music as a whole.

SHATTER YOUR -ISMS

By Nik Bates

Most “-isms” in music writing value and call attention to a specific segment, niche or genre of music. While that is understandably known as “preference,” the rigid and untraveled dichotomy these attitudes create on the other side is troubling. An “-ism” also looks to call forth to war two seemingly opposing sides in music, bringing attention and praise to just one side of the battle of good versus evil. In “The Pernicious Rise of Poptimism” from The New York Times,  Saul Austerlitz shuffles off music critics who praise pop music to one side of the room, and in the process brings up many conversation points that beg questioning.

This article makes many agreeable notions concerning the topic. Proponents of poptimism assert that pop artists are now being praised for the very things they were previously criticized about. In that instance, it is odd to think that we need a music laureate to remind us of what the Billboard 200 or Hot 100 can already tell us about the popularity of albums and singles. These are two different realms of judging music, as the charts tell us what has sold the most units and reviews dive deeper into the realm artistic merit and authenticity. Music critics have also collectively taken on the role as a voice for the voiceless, like Austerlitz refers to. He acknowledges that one of the goals of a music writer is to help new and unknown artists gain exposure, rather than “cheering the winners.”

Read More

MY FAVORITE SONG: March 31st, 2014

The Rolling Stones - “She’s A Rainbow” (Their Satanic Majesties Request)

I had always heard the Stones on the radio growing up. So, I’m very familiar with all of their hit singles. However, it wasn’t until my first year of college that I got into their albums.

Their Satanic Majesties Request is where I started.

The entire album is magical, but once I got to “She’s A Rainbow,” I couldn’t help but be overcome with feelings of joy and elation. The song sounds like everything that’s good about what it must feel like to be in love. There’s also something else I want to mention:

I think The Rolling Stones are better than The Beatles.

As musicians and song writers I find the Stones a lot more interesting. I mean, all I have to say is “Sympathy for the Devil” and that sums up why I like them way more. I have a much more substantial emotional connection with the Stones than I do The Beatles. It’s very hard to explain. I guess part of it is that I’ve always been told all my life that: “The Beatles are the greatest band ever,” or other things of that nature.

One time at Andres’ house, Marco was attempting to loop the piano part of the song and make a beat out of it. He was working with a sample of the riff in Audacity. I was actually trying to be the voice of reason, telling him that “She’s a Rainbow” is too much of a classic to be sampled into a hip-hop beat. I just can’t imagine it any other way.

This song comes on at work a lot. That’s actually where I discovered this song. It came on at work, so I ran to the back, looked up at the music player and wrote down the song title. To my surprise, it was The Rolling Stones. I thought I knew all of their songs. That’s what lead me to getting the whole album, then finally digging into the Stones.

In my opinion, Their Satanic Majesties Request kind of stands out above the rest of their releases. It’s one of those albums where I can’t pick out favorite songs, because the album is so incredible as a whole. It’s a single body of work meant to be appreciated from start to finish.

While I think Led Zeppelin is the best band of all time, here’s to The Rolling Stones, who I think is the greatest band of all time.*

###

* “Best” meaning most skilled, musically. “Greatest” meaning artistic excellence.

MY FAVORITE SONG: March 30th, 2014

Whitesnake - “Still of the Night” (Whitesnake)

When I hear this song, I immediately imagine lead singer David Coverdale singing the opening lyrics in a transparent shot over his band playing in the background (10 seconds in). 

Personally, I think that’s an iconic image. This music video visually captures the entire 80’s hair metal movement. Hard hitting guitar riffs, ballad-like vocalism, and head-banging drumming.

The reason I remember that opening shot of Coverdale the most is because there was this 80’s metal CD commercial that would play. It’s like one of those “Now! That’s What I Call Music” type compilations, but this one was for bands like Whitesnake, Warrant, Twisted Sister and Def Leppard. It was one of those sequences where it went like:

"Featuring ALL of your favorite hits! Such as… WHITESNAKE!" *Still of the Night plays for three seconds*

This isn’t the exact commercial, but I saw this one on TV all the time. If you were to play the audio from the commercial I’d be able to visualize it in my head. It also features a Whitesnake snippet.

The main guitar riff is one of my favorites of all time. I eventually learned how to play it on the guitar, and it is so much fun. The long break where the strings come in is also very catchy. The song has so many parts and verses, it’s all just very cool. 

Whitesnake is one of those bands that reminds me of my parents. Their taste for classic rock and heavy metal was a huge part of my life growing up. I heard this song in the car all the time. I experienced the 80’s vicariously through their music. Mix that with old picture albums, band t-shirts, Headbanger’s Ball VHS tapes, cheesy movies and awesome live albums and you have your own little classic rock and metal fan.

These music videos are so engrained in my memory, and I’m not even sure how. I don’t remember watched much of these videos too often, so I assume they were on often when I was young. They’ve been subconsciously embedded into my brain.

I have yet to meet someone with as much of an affinity or familiarity for 80’s metal like myself, yet still enjoys other genres like hip-hop or electronic music. If you’re out there, we can be best of friends, no doubt.

###

MY FAVORITE SONG: March 29th, 2014

ASHER ROTH - “IN THE KITCHEN” (PABST & JAZZ)

I. ABSOLUTELY. LOVE. THIS. SONG.

And that is NOT an understatement. I can probably go on for hours describing everything I like about the song. 

I was already a huge fan of Asher Roth before this came out, but when Illroots.com dropped this track, my mind was blown. I mean not only is this Chuck Inglish beat in my opinion his best, but Asher Roth has the nastiest yet still unassumingly simple flow ever. 

This song is straight rap. No concept, no gimmicks, just lyrics. It’s probably one of the best examples of how mean Asher Roth is when he’s spitting, aside from “Summertime.” When I needed inspiration to write some of my more lyrical flows (especially I’m Only Nineteen’s second verse), I would go directly to this song and study Asher’s verses.

I can’t tell you how many times I tried making similar beats to this. None of them ever ended up being used, but I took a few cues from Chuck’s production on this and used them for beats in the past. One of the biggest things I learn from “In The Kitchen” was the kick and sub bass hit combination Chuck uses. It’s a very high end kick, with a low end sub that fills in whats missing in the bottom half of the kick. I used that technique a lot when I started making trap inspired beats.

I took a lot of things away from this video. Such as when the shot plays, then it reverses and that same shot plays backwards; I used that in “Whirlwind" quite a few times (I also listed Asher Roth & Chuck Inglish as my biggest inspirations in the description of the music video). I planned on using a lot of sideways panning shots for my song "Super Soakers," but that video is never coming out. 

I had been listening to Kanye West, Justice and A Tribe Called Quest for about four years consistently by the time this song came out. But it very quickly became one of my most listened to songs, clocking in 337 plays at the time of this writing, sitting at 6th place only behind Kanye, Tribe and Justice songs.

This song was my go-to song for pulling into the Southwestern College parking lot every morning. It was also my go-to song for leaving the parking lot every afternoon. I installed a subwoofer not too long before this song came out, so I was playing loud music every time I got in the car. I don’t think I’ve ever skipped this song when it came on. I’m always in the mood to listen to “In The Kitchen.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve posted this song on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. Any chance I get, I would play it, whether it be just sitting around at someone’s house, or at a party.

This song is amazing in my eyes.

It saddens me whenever Asher Roth is brought up and all someone can think of is “I Love College” (which is one of my favorite songs by him btw). I’d say 80% of people don’t know how nasty Asher is on the mic. I knew it when I heard Greenhouse Effect Vol. 1, and I still maintain that idea with Retro Hash coming out soon.

Pabst & Jazz is also one of my top mixtapes from 2011. I think just about every song has inspired me in some way. I mean, the title track, “Choices,” “Common Knowledge;” there are too many dope songs. This mixtape is also the first time I heard Action Bronson, A$AP Twelvy, Rockie Fresh and Hassani Kwess.

My biggest goal as a musician is to work with Asher Roth. I don’t even want to be a legend in the game. I just wanted to make a sustainable living off music and have the chance to work with one of the biggest inspirations I’ve ever had, musically. 

Here’s a kid from the suburbs, who was judged solely on his ability to rap, and not his street credentials. I mean, Don Cannon and DJ Drama of all people broke him into the rap game. It gives me a little bit of hope, reminding me that if I work hard on improving my lyricism, maybe I can actually get somewhere.

I say that I’d be incredibly satisfied if I got to “Asher Roth Level” in the music business, and that’s all I really want. He’s taken such a level-headed approach to music and that’s how I want to do it too. 

Here’s to hoping that one day, maybe I can work with Asher Paul Roth.

###

MY FAVORITE SONG: March 28th, 2014

Eminem - “Guilty Conscience Ft. Dr. Dre” (The Slim Shady LP)

When “The Real Slim Shady” came out, the only other remotely hip-hop artist I knew was Kid Rock. Eminem was essentially the first rapper I ever liked. But I wasn’t much of a music collector in 2000, so that was the only song I really listened to. It wasn’t until 2003 I really started digging into Eminem.

My dad ordered a copy of The Slim Shady LP from this music catalog. The day it came in the mail, he used the album to test out the system in his old car, the convertible Pontiac Sunfire. Not long after, I took the CD for myself when I found it in our CD stack holder. I would listen to it almost every night before I went to sleep in the 5th grade.

It blew my mind. 

I remember trying to explain some of the lyrics to Jon and Marvin, and they didn’t quite see why it was so amazing. I definitely flubbed what Eminem was trying to say, telling them: “He talks about doing somebody’s ear hole!” in a much more explicit manner. I can’t think of what the actual lyric was.

Now these were the Limewire days. So the only way I can remember watching Eminem videos was on his website, or by downloading them. “Guilty Conscience” was one of the videos I watched on Eminem’s website.

It quickly became my number one favorite video.

The concept was amazing. I was also blown away by the effect where the “Eddie” freezes and they start rapping circles around him, literally. I mean it’s still not 100% clear how they did it, but I’m assuming the impact of the shoulder bump was green screened, with 360° of cameras surrounding the actors. 

When I was younger, I could watch a music video I liked over and over. I was just discovering music so this was all new to me. 

I also remember that I would always go to sleep by the time “If I Had” came on, so the first songs were my favorites. I’m still an album listener, rather than a song listener.

When I listen to music, I listen to the entire album, so unless they’re pointed out as singles or highlighted to me by someone, songs usually don’t stand out independently from each other. For example, if I didn’t know “My Name Is” was a single, it might be a bit harder for me to pick it out and notice it. In that case, a song has to be really odd or innovative to grab my attention.

When I was younger, I wasn’t the type to develop a “good or bad” opinion about music, but rather just enjoy the music for what it was. So, I never really skipped songs in an album. There wasn’t a song in The Slim Shady LP that I didn’t want to hear.

I still listen to music with that mindset today. 

###

MY FAVORITE SONG: March 27th, 2014

Dance Gavin Dance - “NASA” (Happiness)

In 2011, I finally started digging into post hardcore music. It was like throwing myself into Shai and AJ’s world.

I’m talking about Of Mice & Men, Attack! Attack!, A Day To Remember, Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! and more. When Warped Tour 2011 came around, I had the chance to check all these artists off my list of bands to see (and I did). I also got to cross off my number one favorite post hardcore band, Dance Gavin Dance.

The cool part was that lead singer Jonny Craig was actually going to join them for this tour. Aside from all of the heroin and iMac scams, he is a great singer. Overall, the self-titled album was my favorite work by them, but “NASA” was easily my favorite DGD song. 

I’m not sure what it is about the song, it might have been that the intro caught my attention so vividly. I learned how to play it on the guitar, it’s a lot of fun to play. The drums are also really fun to play. If I had a drum set, I would’ve played to “NASA” so much.

Other than a We Remain The Sea show at SOMA, I had never been to any hardcore shows before Warped 2011. I had to prepare myself. I watched this video over and over:

Dance Gavin Dance’s “NASA” live

I got free tickets from our district manager at Vans. After packing water, sun screen, a hat and extra shirts to wear around my head, I put on my Vans Warped Tour employee shirt, shants and Authentics as I set out early in the morning. I knew that I was going to be surrounded by people I had nothing in common with, other than a love for music. Oh, and maybe the fact that we all were wearing Vans.

Dance Gavin Dance came on at 2 p.m., so I went to their stage immediately after Attack! Attack!’s main stage set. I didn’t know how much of a big deal it was going to be seeing Jonny Craig with the band at the time. I was also enlightened by someone standing next to me about these iMac scams that he was supposedly involved in.

My goal was to see “NASA” live, and I got my wish. I went nuts on the inside, but since I wasn’t that comfortable there yet, I stood pretty still. The real DGD-related highlight came later in the night however.

I was watching Yelawolf, one of the few hip-hop artists there. I didn’t know his music prior but figured this would be a cool way to check him out. As I peer over towards the back of the stage, I see Jonny Craig standing there waiting for Yelawolf to come on. As he performs, I see Craig with his arms folded and head bobbing. It was kind of funny to see that. 

I still listen to Dance Gavin Dance often, they’re my go-to for hardcore music. “NASA” is still the first song I play, and it will probably stay that way for quite some time.

###

MY FAVORITE SONG: March 26th, 2014

Pearl Jam - “Alive” (Ten)

If you know me, you know I love making jokes out of musicians’ trademark voices. Whether it’s the MF Doom flow, the British blues band lead singer or James Brown’s mannerisms. If you really really know me, you know which voice is at the top of my list:

The scowl of the 90’s grunge band lead singer. 

It’s Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots… It’s also how the lead singer of Creed sings. 

Aside from their voices, many great hits came out of this era of alternative rock. While Nirvana ruled the world with their music, to me, Pearl Jam sounds like grunge on a much grander scale. It’s like they took the music and made it work for arenas. “Alive” is much more of an anthem than “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in my opinion, meaning it’s structured in a much different way.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but you can tell when an artist is trying to make music and when an artist is trying to write music. Making music is a much more internal, visceral process. Writing a song is much more about crafting something that is dynamic in that it has sections that build up and break down, much like a story would.

"Alive" runs nearly 6 minutes, but it never gets boring along the way. Nirvana’s "In Bloom" may be closer to my own interpretation of a song that was written. Alice in Chains’ “Man In The Box” is kind of in the middle between the two for me.

Who knows, I mean grunge isn’t exactly my area of expertise so if anyone would like to enlighten me as to where these artists should be correctly positioned in the world of rock, please do.

###