Thursday, January 10, 2013
A lot of sentiment has gone into writing about the Mohawk Place closing-- but this piece isn't about sentiment. It isn't about two or three 'epic' stories they somehow end up circling back to me: how my band played there, how I saw indie microcelebs there, or got shit-faced drunk and made an ass out of myself.
This isn't about placing myself in the pantheon of Mohawk legends past-- its about the future.
In a town that seems self-obsessed with its own history-- writing about the future will come as shocking, or even offensive to some. Mohawk Place, especially most recently, is part-and-parcel with Buffalo's backward-looking mentality.
The bar is an extension of the greater music culture in Buffalo. Taking a deep dive into the local papers, blogs, and band websites will fill your head with a laundry list of rock-and-roll namechecking and a retelling of the gospel of rock and roll. Of course local musicians, scenesters, and music bloggers should embrace the past-- but many of them use it as an exclusionary device, making their tent smaller and filling it with the familiar and the non-challenging.
Grumblings within the music community have persisted throughout the years over this orthodox groupthink that derides nonconformists as outsiders-- regardless of their creative output or approach. In fact, several bands that saw themselves as reactions to this local groupthink found success outside the area, including the Tyrades and Bloody Hollies.
Many of these same critical musicians cite Mohawk Place as ground zero for the rock-and-roll orthodoxy that holds sway over the Buffalo music scene. Critics say their exclusionary local booking policy rewards unoriginality-- picking winners and losers based on adherence to a strict doctrine.
For this reason, the closing of the old bar could be seen not as a tragedy, but as opportunity. Shaking off the shackles of a static infrastructure could shift the emphasis away from groupthink and towards meritocracy. New venues will have the opportunity to establish themselves based on the ability to curate an aesthetic and musical talent on a nightly basis.
Buffalo needs to embrace a start-up mentality-- one that rewards effort and creativity. The local scene needs to become an incubator for good ideas, regardless of where the come from: classic rock, indie, punk, dance, hip-hop...
Closing the doors at 47 East Mohawk Street could just be the first step towards changing a conservative culture that has yet to bring results.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
by Rudy Sizzle
Something told me that I was not from around here. I drove up towards the "Hard Rock Cafe" in downtown Niagara Falls, NY and felt like I took a wrong turn into a nightmare I had about once accidentally driving into a building and then realizing I was doomed to actually drive off of Niagara Falls and never be seen again. I recall the dream quite vividly. Me, my sweet little "Stella" (a 2008 Pontiac Vibe) going over the great Wonder of the World, disappearing into the mist at the bottom forever. When I awoke, I am pretty sure I had almost pissed myself. Sometimes drinking too much water before bed and watching movies about drowning will do that to you.
Why do I not dabble in some "guilty pleasures" audibly speaking? Like, what's so terrible about "Ke$ha" and why am I too good to find "Maroon 5" awesome? Well, it's because I am a musician and I have standards. I cannot “settle in and saddle up” for a joy ride with the likes of Miley and Adele. Sure, they are gems in their own minds and the world’s rewarding them with success they totally and undoubtedly worked very hard for.
Perhaps our culture has stalled out and stuck in "mediocre" gear. I am not sure if Triple A is coming to give us a jump any time soon either. The Battle of the Bands I was invited to be a guest judge at in Niagara Falls, NY on Thursday February 16th did not dissuade me from feeling hopeless about the future dirge of mediocrity in the local scene. Plus it made me realize that the term "Hard Rock" is totally strange and perhaps more meant to mean, "Pretty loud," or "Kinda loud." Or I have no idea what "Hard Rock really means," just order some food and buy some rock n' roll memorabilia already…
First off, I was invited by the opening band of this quadruple band battle, the Screaming Jeans. I need to fully disclose this: they invited me as they seem to dig my music and respect my opinion. I think it may also because none of their other friends were willing to take the trip as it was a Thursday in February and it was kind of a weird scene to end up in.
Regardless, I got fed lots of booze and could've eaten some of HRC's finest cuisine, if I so felt inclined. I did not know this ahead of time though, so I was only indulging on free booze. It was cool to sit at high tables amongst the other "judges" of the battle. I felt like I was given a secret word to enter the VIP room on a cruise ship or the back room at a bar where the good drugs and weird sex is happening. But really, it just meant that I was stuck to endure a night of relatively tame music.
The Screaming Jeans kicked off the battle and were initially thrown off by some weird sound-related issues. The sound person seemed disinterested in this event, plus I am not sure if he knew exactly what was going on. I assume he was the regular engineer for the venue, but maybe he was the back up. Regardless, SJ sounded a bit off their normal well balanced mark right out of the gates and it threw their live energy out of whack. It was odd watching them seem a bit more self conscious about their live stage levels than usual, I am pretty sure the crowd may have noticed it, but regardless, the band pulled off their trademark brand of catchy guitar pop a la the Pixies/The Strokes well enough to earn applause and props from the other fellow judges on the panel sitting next to me. I would have chosen them to win, not just because I like them as people and a band, but because they were really the only "authentic" sounding band that night.
Up next were Google-proof rockers The Path. From their name, it was clear they were "straight shooting," normal rock. Parental Rock. Really something that would go well with a shot of Jack and a Bud. You know, not so much rock as it is-- roll me into a fire and let me stoke a bit. It was pretty much like being hit with a wet and muddy sock in the face while playing Tetris on a Gameboy, while camping with your asshole significant other to make them happy on their birthday.
It's weird to think that this may be the next level of what I used to affectionately call "Rapcore" or "NuMetal", but alas, it may very well be. The audience they brought out seemed to love them, with people performing back flips in front of us at the judging station and even a quasi dance party happening in front of the stage. It was sad to behold, since it was really 20 people they knew giving it their all to show that they too loved Whiskey Reverb like it was their own baby to be swaddled and rocked gently to sleep.
I was on my 5th drink at this point, totally feeling good and not really paying as much attention to Whiskey Reverb's musical performance as I was the cute girls they brought out with them and also how weird the "rapper" in the band looked, reminding me of Lil' Kev from Always Sunny in Philadelphia. And just like the ending of that episode, Lil' Kev got the last laugh and thus Whiskey Reverb won the battle. I was not surprised in the least. At least they love their band more than Jesus.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
On a cool, fall Saturday night the flannel-clad descended upon the western edge of Allen Street to celebrate the latest release by local hard rockers Handsome Jack. The crowd spilled out of Nietzsche’s and onto the sidewalk in anticipation of hearing songs from the band’s fourth proper studio album, Super Moon.
Sitting next to the merch table, just a few feet and a few hours from where his band will take the stage, guitarist and lead singer Jamison Passiute leans back and says the band had an extremely simplistic approach to the new record.
“We basically listened to what we did in the past, heard things we don’t like, and kinda go in the opposite direction.”
Over the past year the band scraped together money for Super Moon by playing in a multitude of different bars throughout Western New York. Some of those included long hours and late nights doing 3-hour stints at Gonzo’s in Lockport “just to make some money.” Passuite explains the band would do what it could to earn enough money to pay for recording and pressing the album.
“We even played a birthday party for some guy we didn’t even know cause they paid us 400 bucks just to do it.”
After a stripped-down, drummer-less set by fellow classic rockers Johnny Nobody and indie atmospherics by the Mourdant Sisters, Handsome Jack takes the stage around midnight to a packed-in back room of Nietzsche’s, buzzing with anticipation. The group quickly settles into their somewhere-between-mid-and-slow-tempo bluesy groove.
Holed up at Matt Smith’s HI/LO Recording in Eden, NY the band recorded the majority of the music in just two days. After a few overdubs, some re-recording and mixing, Super Moon was completed in just less than three months. Inspirations varied from song to song but are all “rooted in the same feel” said Passiute.
While the title Super Moon could easily be mistaken for a pagan reference, the album, with its down-home lyrical affirmations, feels like a template for what they could be playing at packed-full mega churches instead of the typical Christian rock and reworked hymns. On “Time will tell”, Passuite sings “I know there’s a good life that’s out there in the sun/ It’s not too far to see.”
On stage, the band belts out the new songs with the conviction of a Sunday preacher, inspiring more than a few sweaty dancers. The group maintains a rhythmic slow burn as Passuite and bass player Joe Verdonselli wring every note from their instruments. It’s now in the early hours of Sunday morning, and Handsome Jack is working hard to conjure up a catharsis-- just a few yards from the First Presbyterian Church quietly sitting down the street.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Would an artist who has work within the paragon that is the Albright Knox Museum cringe at some of the sights and sounds of the Music is Art Festival? Would he or she be disgusted by the over-priced and sub par vendors and crafts being filched as cuisine and artistry?
I cannot imagine Renoir being inspired by a bloated belly dance troop from Williamsville sloppily traipsing through the courtyard of the Museum façade and I am pretty sure Mozart would gladly toss crab apples at the generic, blustery hoopla that sprung forth from the backline of amps of the usual suspects at this years MIA fest. Sadly, art is not being yielded at this event, but rather the mirrored image of a banal culture and its slovenly patrons. Does this seem to be a concern to the masses that get drawn to this event (for the 6th year now)? Would the suburbanites who show up in droves care if the music was higher browed and perhaps the vendors were of higher standard?
Being that as it may, people still enjoyed themselves. Perhaps the event should be called “Music and overpriced food is fun for most people,” or “Music is art, kind of.” I get the feeling that the average MIA audience member is friends with someone in a band (you know the type: you went to see them play at 3pm, bought a hot dog, drank some beer, did not watch any other stage, did not even know there was a side stage around the corner, or did not know any of the other bands, so therefore they probably suck.) Chances are you saw your friends play and thought they should’ve played longer, since it is strictly 3 songs per act, but hey you don’t make the rules. The rules are pretty straight-forward. Most bands think they can sneak in a 4th, perhaps even 5th tune. I mean, c’mon, Robby likes us more than the other bands. He totally gave us the sweet slot because he loves you man.
I honestly think Robby’s intentions are relatively good, I just think he has bad taste. There is no accounting for this in today’s day & age though, especially when people are herded like cattle and given the scraps to chew on. I guess I should not look the gift horse in the mouth since Robby is supporting the local community with this event. It just seems that there are so many amazing artists not being represented. It seems that it is always the same line up, with a few variations to keep it seemingly “fresh.” But that being said I pretty am sure if my band spent a ton of our hard earned cash in Robby’s beauty of a studio, I’d expect to be put on his showcase too.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
The Stay Lows are:
Eric Kendall - Guitar
Rick Wright - Cello
Brandon Delmont - Drums
Jeff Delmerico - Bass, Keys
1) Burning None
"What's kind of weird is-- and it's the same thing with the last album-- the order we have been writing them, is how they've been ending up on the albums too. I don't know if that means anything, but that's where we started and the songs progress as we progressed going through it. So if somebody has it on 'shuffle'-- don't." (RW)
"It's a great intro to what we were trying to accomplish, by releasing the four songs we had written previously and then bridging into the newer stuff." (RW)
2)Business of Taking Care
"That song, more that the rest of them, evolved during the mixing." (JS)
"That's probably one of the first songs where we wanted the vocals to be prevalent in writing (the song) at least." (EK)
"Actually, more of the new stuff is 50/50 right now, if not weighted more toward the vocal side." (JS)
"Yeah, our next album is going to be doo-wop" (BD)
3)They Smoked the Moonlanding
"I really like the concept of industrial-in-motion. When we started the electronic drum beats on there and in some of the other parts, it just started morphing. We had a couple of themes going into the album and post-album a couple more came out." (RW)
"That was also JP Losman's favorite song-- he told us." (RW)
"At a Califone show. We opened for Califone and he was there." (EK)
"He came up to us after the set and said he liked us. We had a demo of 'Moonlanding' up (online) and he's like, 'Yeah, it's on my pump-up tape.' " (JS)
4)Are You Guys Pilots?
“That’s actually my favorite song. I guess playing it on drums, it’s cool, you get the best of both worlds. You have a groovy, I don’t want to say dance-y or whatever, but it has a feeling to it more than just like-- rock. Then it kind of goes into, a rock thing. But I don’t know it’s just a really good song.” (BD)
“Haunted Mouse was the one song written in that weird practice space on Main St.” (RW)
“We would just heard these two bands that were really loud (all the time).” (BD)
“It was the quietest song we wrote ‘til it progresses…” (RW)
“...until the guitar part then we’re like ‘All right, we have to be louder than the other bands in the space and this is what we’re writing right now.’ “ (JS)
6)Back of the Face
“When we were recording, and we got to that final part, things started just adding on, and adding on-- that’s when I started kind of getting excited about it. Because, there’s a lot of stuff going on and it was just crescendo-ing very nicely.” (RW)
“I always thought (the song) was hysterical… We played with this band Dungen, from Sweden, and the dude from that band came up to us and said (in a Swedish accent)‘That song you did was beautiful-- that dun-ga-dun-ga-da dun-ga-dun-ga-da.’ It was great.” (BD)
7)To Evil (Waltz)
“I came up with the original thing at home and I had just started playing with them. I went out on a limb and showed these guys (the song). They took it and turned it into what it is. But it was a totally new idea for me to be in a band where people listened to me.” (BD)
“And that was the last time that ever happened…” (JS)
“When we play live, we’re a loud band. We’re not deafeningly loud, but we’re up there on the decibel level, and when we were writing that song, I wanted something that took take advantage of the fact that we play loud.” (JS)
“Yeah people nod their heads. People tap their toes…” (RW)
“I don’t really understand why it works, but it seems to.” (JS)
9) The Pastoral
“What I like about that song-- it has such a great sad, tinge-y melody. But then there’s the comedic part, the 70’s cop part, and this is probably very Stay Lows, is to take a really nice, beautiful piece of music and then lob it between comic, you know, cop parts and stuff.” (BD)
“That song's a good closer.” (EK)
“Yeah, its kind of like when Hercules walks off on the path, but with that like ‘To be continued…’ ” (RW)
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