Wednesday, December 9, 2015

for KING & COUNTRY at Aloft Live

I was invited to check out the final show of the Aloft Live concert series, for KING & COUNTRY at the downtown Denver Aloft hotel. I received invitations to previous Aloft Live shows (Christian Burghardt, The Veronicas, Michelle Chamuel) but wasn't able to make it out for those. This time around the hotel smartly offered a "staycation" night in addition to the opportunity to interview the band. I accepted, arriving on Tuesday afternoon and entering the lobby around 3pm to the sounds of the band's soundcheck.

I checked in, dropped off my bags in my room, and headed out to dinner with a friend.

In preparing for the show & interview, I checked out the band's back catalogue on Spotify and found anthemic Christian pop. Sometimes felt like the new "hey-ho" folk and Coldplay at other times. Not music that I typically gravitate to, but it's well-produced and enjoyable.

I met up with my Aloft Hotel contact at the W XYZ lobby bar and watched the space fill with a young crowd, more in the teen range than college age. The majority were women and girls, possibly because - let's face it - Joel and Luke Smallbone are good looking men.

Soon we were off to the basement green room to chat with Luke & Joel. After some small talk about Colorado (Luke told me that "I've often said to my wife, if there was a place that, in another world where we could live - 'cause I'm never gonna probably live in Colorado - it doesn't get a whole lot better than this."), I got to find out about *their* "older brother" and sister, how their parents encouraged them, and Stryper.

(This interview has been edited for clarity and length)

Sam: So, the name of my blog is "Your Older Brother's music blog" because there's the idea that everybody had that cool older brother - or sister - I have an older sister. Keeping that in mind, who were your "older brothers?"

Luke: For me, there's seven kids in our family, and, though Joel is my older brother, my next oldest brother, Ben…I was in the 7th grade and he was a senior in high school, and I would always ride with him pretty much everywhere we went. I was fairly tall for my age and I would like to think mature, so I would hang out with a lot of his friends. What you don't realize is, when you drive in a car, what do you listen to? You listen to the radio. So, a lot of the bands that he liked, he would go "Man, have you heard this song?" and you're driving along and you're like "Oh, man, that *is* a cool song!" So a lot of that music that may have been before my time, I fell in love with.

Joel: Vertical Horizon

Luke: Vertical Horizon, yeah! Goo Goo Dolls were right around there…

Joel: "Yellow" from Coldplay…

Luke: Yeah! And he was the guy that was introducing me to all this good, quality, cool music. And that's a lot of my memories, of him taking me - since he could drive and I couldn't - and he would either take me to a friend's place or out with him and we would listen to whatever he was listening to, and that was the cool music at the time.

Sam: Joel, what about you?

Joel: Well, Ben is actually a film director. Luke and I have always done music together, Ben and I have always done film work together. Ever since we were teenagers, we would gallivant around in the back hills, shooting war films and that sort of thing. We would always come to this point where we would need to put music underneath it, so we really studied theatrical scores. Last of the Mohicans was one of our go-to's. Jurassic Park, you know. And the deeper I got into music, the more I leaned into theatrical scores because I loved this idea of this beautiful emotion not tied to a lyric. You're just *feeling* these melodies. And so even your older brother taking the Goo Goo Dolls, the Vertical Horizons, the Coldplays, and then taking these theatrical score moments and putting them into for KING & COUNTRY. You'll see a little bit tonight, but usually more when we do a full show. You have the tubular bells and the concert drums and the cello and the orchestra cymbals and the timpanis… We keep incorporating more and more bits and pieces from the classic symphonic sound.

Sam: That's amazing that he influenced you so much but in different ways. So of the music that you knew - you (Luke) from the pop stuff, and you (Joel) from the symphonic stuff - what of that music influences you now? Or does it?

Luke: I've got two little boys, and it's funny when you play music to young kids, you can see how they absorb it. Will they ever remember the music that I'm playing to them now? Probably not. But it influences their likes and dislikes. I think back to when I was in middle school, listening to that music, and the melodies of Goo Goo Dolls, and though Vertical Horizon only had that one album that was ridiculously popular, I don't think you can ever really put a pulse on how much that influences your lyric taste or your melodic taste. One of the early artists that we loved when we first moved to America was Seal. And if you listen to some of Seal's really early stuff, "Kiss From A Rose," some of those, there's tons of harmonies. I've sung my whole life, I have people ask all the time "When did you learn to sing?" and it's either you sing or you don't sing. But nobody ever taught me how to sing harmony. Nobody ever taught me how to do all these things. It came from somewhere, and I don't know where. Sometimes I look at that type of music as being the thing that, whether you know it or not, certainly impacts the music you write and create.

Joel: Recently, the theatrical scores - TRON: Legacy, Batman - that influence is still carried on. And like Luke said, you just don't know. We're not ones to set out to listen to something and try to emulate it. But in appreciating music… - U2 has always been a great inspiration. I had the chance to go to Madison Square Garden about a month ago and I got the lifelong dream of getting to meet Bono for about five minutes and go to the show and see how they merge melody with spirituality with causes, and it's masterful. It's very rare that I cry at shows, but some of those *moments*…they just hit you in the heart. So those things, you inevitably - even a month ago - I came away from that with, not that I want to steal this moment, but the way that they crafted that was really stunning.

Sam: Yeah, it helps develop your craft in playing to audiences.

Luke: Because you long for those moments. You hope to hear that people come to your shows - and though the makeup of that emotional moment might be totally different, you're trying to design moments in your shows that you feel like that. I remember seeing U2 years ago on their 360 tour, and you do have those moments where you go "I don't wanna copy that, what they're doing, but let me look and pay attention to how they orchestrated that." Because our bands sound nothing alike, but music is still a common thread. You've still got melodies and you've got lyrics.

Joel: I think there's… Not to go real dramatic with it, but there's a life principle in that. If you can build and there's that competition and there's that conviction, and we all take these things, whether it's personally, whether it's work-wise, whether it's relationally, we take these things and we all compound on it and it makes humanity stronger. I think it's a beautiful thing. We get in the way of that sometimes.

Sam: It's like being in a band or making mixtapes for people. When you're crafting a setlist, when you're crafting a mixtape, if you're doing it with intention, you're doing it to have that impact on people and build it. You start out with the banger or the hit, or something that gets people's attention, and then you might go into something that jams out a little bit…. Do you find yourselves doing that, or after seeing U2, do you feel like - even though this is a short set - do you find yourselves being a little more conscious of it? Or, working in film, have you always been conscious of it?

Luke: I would say, from the get-go, we've always been conscious of it.

Joel: There's another layer to it, as well. Our older sister was an artist for many years, and we traveled with her as teenagers, so we got to see firsthand. Dad, who manages us, he managed her and we kind of joke (but we're mostly serious) that he needed cheap labour. And we were homeschooled, so it was like the Australian version of the Von Trapp family! We were out there, all together - stage managing, running lights, background vocals, spotlight - you name it, we did it. So we got to see, we got to learn the craft, got to see the set list come together, got to see the impact of music. Got to see all these great things, and so yeah, I think there's always been - I would call it "intent." There was always, from the inception of the song, the purpose of the song, to what we do, where we move onstage, why we do it, what we play, what we say, there is a very…y'know, we're not meanderers. You'll see tonight, it's kind of, for better or for worse, it's pretty intentional.

Sam: You mentioned your brother, and your sister, and now your dad. What did your parents do to encourage this lifestyle? Because…

Luke: It's not normal!

Sam: No, it's not normal, but it's great!

Luke: When we were kids, my parents were really really good at saying "Well, what do you like?" Before music, it was sports for me. I played a lot of tennis, so my parents…I don't know how much money they spent on tennis lessons for me. And they just opened up to whatever your interests were. So then as I got more into music, they bought me a drum set for Christmas one year. And that was the beginning. It's funny, I remember thinking later on in high school, "Man, I spent all this time playing drums, but I never was in a band." I used to just go down & play by myself, and I used to *love* it when I could jam with somebody, but I never really did. And I was like "What a waste of time." Little did I know that what we do now as for KING & COUNTRY is very drum-centric. There's this influx of rhythm that comes from really early on, when my parents said "What are you interested in?" And drums so happened to be one of those things, so they provided a way for me to explore that.

I think, as I said, having little kids, what I've realized is what you do when you're really young really influences the pattern of the rest of your life. And I think for all kids - myself included - it's very important to allow them to explore. To allow them to figure out: Do they love sports, do they not? Do they love music, do they not? And to see if they've got any talent there. Like my parents did, they nudged there. They said "Well, you're pretty good at that, why don't you continue to explore that?" And it just so happens to be now, as a man, those things that I explored at a very young age that my parents allowed us to explore, happen to be the things that I technically do for a living.

Sam: I think you'll actually be surprised at the music that your kids listen to now that you play, because my oldest is 17 and I remember getting in the car and we'd start to drive and she'd ask for "Bored walking on the boardwalk" which is the first line of a song from a band called The Promise Ring, a song called "Jersey Shore." And we still listen to it now and it's this communal thing. One of our favorite artists as a family is a guy named Matt Wertz

Luke & Joel: Yeah!

Sam: He just came through here, actually, to the Soiled Dove

Luke: What a good guy, right?

Sam: Yeah! *Great* guy. We bought tickets for my birthday - my birthday present from my wife was tickets for us to go see him. They were only $22 apiece, but we were right there in front. It was a fantastic show. But that started because I was building a playlist in 2007 for a trip we took to South Carolina, and he's got a song called "Carolina." I found that and put it on the tape and we've just loved him ever since. And so it's just grown into this family thing.

Luke: Music has this ability…you remember where you were and what you were doing a lot of times because of music. Part of the reason why it's so hard for artists to create hit after hit after hit is because you fall in love once, and that first love with whatever album it might be, will always be your favorite. You might still like that music, but you'll always compare it to that first time that you fell in love with it, and you remember exactly where you were, you remember what you were doing, you remember that part of your life. And that's what's so cool about music, is we get to be a part of creating those moments for other people. That's the humbling, fun process.

Sam: So, what's one of those "falling in love" moments that you remember? For me, it was The Police. We took a vacation to Hawai'i, and I had their first record, I remember walking on the beach, listening to Outlandos d'Amour over and over and over. What are some of those for you?

Joel: For me, I was about 4 or 5, in Australia, in Sydney, and Dad was a concert promoter at that time. He'd bring bands and artists over to Australia from America and there was this old rock band called Stryper. (laughing) Yellow & Black Attack, To Hell With The Devil…and they had these terrible, really elaborate colorful record covers…

Luke: And the lyrics were so outrageous! (laughing)

Joel: And I remember, one of my first memories is sitting cross-leg in the living room on the floor with the record playing and just staring at their cover with an ambulance or shotguns or uzis, whatever it was. I don't think we've taken a lot of that into for KING & COUNTRY. (both laugh)

Sam: My uncle Jon Scott was a record promoter, so he'd send us Elton John records. I remember Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy had a gatefold with a comic book in the middle. And I remember doing the same thing, listening and looking. And sometimes not even listening to the record but just looking at it and being, like, "What's going on?"

Luke: What a great idea.

Sam: So what about for you?

Luke: For me…this isn't my first, but one that I will forever remember. I was in high school, I loved sports, and I tore my ACL my junior year of high school playing basketball. And I had a lot of my identity wrapped up in sports, and so I had to go through rehab and all that. Switchfoot had just released an album called The Beautiful Letdown. It's still one of those things that, though I like their later stuff, I can't ever get over how good that one album was. And that was what I rehabbed to, was that album. So ever time I hear those songs, I go back to driving to the rehab place, I go through all those memories. Even if critics were to say they released a better album, there will never be a better album for me. Because all of those lyrics seemed to really collide with my situation of trying to rehab my knee. It's just one that I will always remember as being that sweet, sweet moment.

It was cool to have this type of discussion about music, because a lot of times people are asking about "how did you get started," the normal stuff, and just yesterday I had an interview that I was totally unprepared for. I didn't realize until I was walking into it that it was an hour interview, asking about every song on our album and the stories behind them. It was cool in a roundabout way, because it wasn't the normal stuff, and I said to the guy after we finished, I said "You know, it's so funny, when you start talking about music and why you wrote that lyric and why you wrote that song or why you love that album or whatever, different stories come up that you're not aware of, because the focus of the question is on something entirely different." For better or worse, we get pretty good at answering "Tell me about this" and we've figured out a way for that story to be engaging, but I also have answered that question 60 times prior. So when you talk about stuff like this, music and what made us fall in love with music originally, it's fun, because that's where it all started.

All iTunes links are affiliate links for Your Older Brother and help support our website. Your Older Brother also received a free night's stay at Aloft Hotel Denver but was not paid. Our sister site The WanderEars reviewed the hotel experience.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Riot Fest 2015 - Denver Day 1

First off, I need to thank a few people & organizations - most notably Ultra5280 and I won tickets after entering contests from each and ended up with surplus tickets that I gave away to some people who were really thankful. I'd also like to thank my friend Chad, who hooked me up with a VIP pass. Daps and hugs also to Terry & Kia who really wanted me at the show, and lastly to the Riot Fest Twitter guy. He probably doesn't know why, but his awesomeness is enough, isn't it?

So…3rd year for Riot Fest in Denver, 3rd year I was able to attend. Let's do this.

"And the heat! My god! The heat!"
How I found myself attending this year was a little bit of a circuitous route. Short on actual cash for me & my kids to attend (same old story for everyone, I know), I fell into a bit of a funk for a few reasons, none of which will I stultify the reader with. Suffice it to say, I threw in the towel on making it out to Riot Fest in 2015, missing out on a few bands I really wanted to see - Swervedriver, most notably, but also your Get Up Kids, your Dead Milkmens, and the odd Andrew W.K. and Damned and Joy Formidable.

Listening to a buddhist podcast one day on a long commute, something somehow snapped me out of it. What the hell was I thinking, passing on Riot Fest? I had friends offering me a pass that I turned down because I was feeling a little sad. (Okay, a lot sad.) WHATEVER, DUDE. So I scrambled to enter the last minute contests in hopes that I'd win - and I did! Twice! From and Ultra5280 as mentioned above. I had tickets for my family and I, and one left over - but then found out that my oldest was working all weekend, so I actually had *two* passes to give, which turned into three once my VIP pass turned up. A friend had posted on Facebook about Riot Fest and I recalled seeing someone respond who said she couldn't go for money reasons, so I sent her a message & invited her. She was thrilled to accept, bought her husband a pass, and I made the handoff later that day. Making new music friends is awesome.

My biggest stressor was getting to the event grounds - the National Western Complex in Denver (where the stock show is held every year) - in enough time to see De La Soul. I have enough issues going to shows anyway (I have a digestive disorder called ulcerative colitis and live about 40 minutes away from Denver), but throw in that it's the first year at a new venue plus traffic to Denver on a Friday afternoon, and I was a little skeptical we'd get there in time.

My worries were unfounded as we slipped into the parking lot on a sidestreet, found a spot, walked to will call, picked up our tickets (after a small game of "Where's Sam's name on the guest list?") and headed inside. (Not before my youngest saw a girl so wasted she could barely walk being led away from the entrance by her almost-as-wasted boyfriend.) Made a beeline for the stages at the north end of the grounds just in time to see De La hit the stage.

De La Soul - Pos - Plug One
De La Soul - P.A. Mase - Plug Three
De La Soul - Dave - Plug Two
I saw De La Soul at an X-Fest in San Diego in 1989 (more on that show from Yer Doin' Great here) and really dug that show. It was at the height of the D.A.I.S.Y. Age and they were full-energy performing for the afternoon crowd, so this was somewhat similar. Except that this time, they are hip-hop princes and did whatever they wanted. They did play "Me, Myself, and I" later in the set. It wasn't a great set, but it was hot & they were just buggin' out for themselves. Can't blame them for that. (More pics & videos of De La & other bands at the bottom of the post)

Next I hustled back to the south end of the grounds to watch The Get Up Kids on the Rebel Stage. A favorite band (although I don't know much beyond Eudora & Something To Write Home About), I was stoked for my first time seeing them. Not so much kids anymore, and the heat was pretty stifling, but I enjoyed the songs.

"Oh, hey, look! The Get Up Kids are playing! Look! Aw, nevermind…."
The Get Up Kids - Jim Suptic
The Get Up Kids - Matt Pryor, Ryan Pope
They played some songs I knew, some I didn't know, and they also played an unexpected and awesome cover of "Beer For Breakfast" by The Replacements. Great job for a hot festival set.

Just next to where The Get Up Kids played, Testament started their metal assault on the Rock Stage. I love me some metal, and this was pretty awesome.

Testament - Gene Hoglan, Alex Skolnick, Chuck Billy, Steve DiGiorgio
The pit was a crazy insane dust bowl. I mean, the band has a song called "Into The Pit," so what do you expect?

Testament pit dust cloud 
I don't know much else about Testament, but they have a sweet cover of Queen's "Dragon Attack." They didn't play that, but everyone seemed to be having a good time. We left partway through the set to go catch some of Death Grips, who were scheduled at the same time as Testament.

Death Grips - Stefan Burnett aka MC Ride
Death Grips is one of those bands with a brief and legendary history - ducking out on shows, breaking up (or not), but also bringing it live. I felt it would be a good idea to catch them while I could. Can. Did.
Death Grips - Andy Morin, Stefan Burnett, Zach Hill
Definitely some kind of performance art/crazy shit. I dig that.

I believe that this was the period where I went to hand off the ticket to my friend's friend (who is now my friend too, hi Rachel!), so I didn't really see any of the bands playing between 7-8pm. Oh well. I did get to see this amazing sunset, though:

Riot Sunset
I was able to then catch some of Anthrax's set, and shot a few shitty pictures. I gotta figure out my camera.

Anthrax - Frank Bello, Scott Ian, Charlie Benante
I know Anthrax going WAY back to their crossover rap "I'm The Man" and cover of "Bring The Noise" with Public Enemy. They didn't play either of those in the short festival timespace, but they did bust out their version of Joe Jackson's "Got The Time," which rocked. I beat feet after that, though, because I wanted to catch some Cypress Hill. (Are festivals kind of like "Band Bingo" for anyone else?)

On the way back to the north side, I stopped to snap a couple of the rides in the moonrise.

Moon + ride
"Beam me up, Scotty!"
Cypress Hill's second album was HUGE when I worked in a chain record store back in the early 90's. (Rhymes with "Ma'am Woody") We didn't (couldn't) play the album in the store, but we sold a ton of their merch - posters & shirts, mostly. I remember them playing "Insane In The Brain" and "How I Could Just Kill A Man" here at Riot Fest, but I don't know the rest of their music to put names on the songs. They sounded pretty great, though, and it was really crowded in front of the Roots Stage.

I took some more pictures of the Riot crowd during and after the Cypress Hill show. This first one shows how dirty and dusty it was, with all the specks in the air and on the lens:

Sweet sea-mine hair.

These two guys were walking by and had a classic look that I wanted to capture. I asked them for a photo, and they obliged:
These guys look famous. Anyone know them?
The gentleman at the Chronic Candy booth was enjoying himself.
I wanted to catch Coheed and Cambria next. They have some songs I really love - "Goodnight, Fair Lady," "Feathers" - and I wanted to check out their live show. My cousin Shannon really loves them, too, so I felt I owed it to her to see them.

Coheed and Cambria - Travis Stever & Claudio Sanchez
Coheed and Cambria - Claudio Sanchez, Travis Stever, (Matt Williams?)
Last but not least, we then moved back over to the Roots Stage to watch Ice Cube. Motörhead had cancelled due to Lemmy's altitude sickness, so there wasn't anyone else playing anyway. The resulting crowd was thick and deep.

Ice Cube
Ice Cube & crew
Cube came out by himself for a few songs before running clips from the movie Straight Outta Compton, after which he brought out MC Ren & DJ Yella from N.W.A., along with his son O'Shea Jackson Jr. (O'Shea played Ice Cube - his dad - in the film.) They ran through some of N.W.A.'s best - "Straight Outta Compton," "Gangsta Gangsta," "Dopeman," "Fuck tha Police." Really great set.

I didn't stay for System of a Down, although I heard they were in great form. I don't know their music beyond "Chop Suey!," and figured that I'd take the opportunity to pace myself (since I had gotten in for free, and wouldn't otherwise know what I was missing of SoaD). We walked to the car, hopped on the freeway, and made it home by midnight.

And just like that, Day 1 was done.

Overall impression? I *really* like Riot Fest at the National Western complex. Riot Fest in Byers in 2013 in an RV was awesome, and I would still love to RV again someday. I didn't love the setup last year in the parking lot at Mile High stadium. A little too "Warped" for me, and I don't dig festivals on asphalt.

This year, there was a lot of walking between the Riot/Roots stages to the north and the Rebel/Rock stages to the south, but at least there was the huge arena in the middle where people could get out of the sun, use a real restroom, fill up their water bottles (there was a great station outside as well), and just chill in a regular stadium seat instead of on the dusty or hot ground. There was also the Radicals Stage set up inside, which helped entertain the masses.

Riot Fest has done better each year with more shade and more places to sit, and I thought the National Western complex was just perfect. Maybe a little something to cut down on the dust next year (if it's hot and sunny), although I don't know what that would be. The location seems like it would be a mudfest if it rains, but overall, two thumbs up.

More pics!

De La Soul

De La Shoes
De La, De La, De La!
The Get Up Kids

The Get Up Kids - James Dewees
The Get Up Kids - Matt Pryor & Ryan Pope
The Get Up Kids - Rob Pope
Testament - Gene Hoglan, Alex Skolnick, Steve DiGiorgio
Testament - Eric Peterson through the pit cloud


De La Soul

The Get Up Kids


Cypress Hill

Ice Cube

Spotify Playlist of songs mentioned in this post:

Spotify Playlist of all bands from Day 1:

Next up: Riot Fest 2015 - Denver Day 2

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Album Listening Club - Every Kingdom

…And we're back! The last album that the club chose was Ben Howard's Mercury-prize nominated debut Every Kingdom, released in September 2011.

The music is very solitary, to my ears. He reminds me of other solo acoustic artists that play with effects, like Kim ChurchillGarrin Benfield, Julie Collings, and Howie Day. Before this album was chosen by the listening club, I had pretty much no knowledge of Ben, and whatever musical circles he travels in are still below/outside my radar.

So, let's get to it and talk about Every Kingdom. What say ye, Clubbers?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

ThURGHsday #12 - Athletico Spizz 80

I'm sorry, what? Athwhoica whazza wha?

Spizzenergi was formed in the late 70's in England and changed the name of the band every year - hence "Athletico Spizz 80." (Also known as Spizzles, Spizzology, Spizzoil, etc.)

The track featured here,"Where's Captain Kirk?," had a bit of a novelty feel to it, as Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out in 1979 around the same time as the song was released. The rest of the Spizz output was more avant postpunk, but this song has a new wave/skinny tie sound & energy to it. I love their pizzazz onstage, though - that's Spizz on vocals. They look like a bunch of kids having fun. As it should be. Silly string onstage in 1980, don't know that I've seen that anywhere else. Good placement of the song and spirit in the movie, grounding things after the Klaus Nomi song.

Where URGH they now?

Amazingly, Spizzenergi put out a single in September 2014! "City of Eyes" is catchy, sounds a bit Buzzcockian, but that's a good thing. I dig it. Check it out:

Based on that song, I think the Spizzybuzzy boys should put out more music. Not often you say that about a near-40 year old band.

They're also playing a lot in the UK, so if you're in that area, catch a Spizz show. Judging by the vids on their FB page, it's still a good time.

Last ThURGHsday! - Klaus Nomi - "Total Eclipse"
Next ThURGHsday! - The Go-Go's - "We Got The Beat"

As always, purchasing from the iTunes links in this post help support

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Riding SideSaddle* with Teacup Gorilla, Jen Korte, and Open to the Hound

Teacup Gorilla embarks on a midwest tour starting August 2nd 2015 in Wichita, KS. Catch them if you can!
"Better late than never" is a saying that is appropriate for how late this show review is being posted, but it's especially apt when it applies to writing about a compelling band with great tunes.

Riding Sidesaddle*
Miriam Suzanne, the bass player and part-time vocalist for Teacup Gorilla wrote me an e-mail back in March about the open-source multimedia novel Riding SideSaddle* and asked if I'd like to come to the release party at Syntax Physic Opera. Having seen Kotorino at Syntax in February, I knew that it was just the type of space that would be welcoming to such an event. I listened to the Teacup Gorilla demos that were available at the time and instantly liked what I heard - at the time I said that they have a "sound that's a gorgeous blend of Pixies & Pavement," and I stand by that assessment. The music recalls those bands at times, and, diving into the lyrics, one could also spend days scanning and interpreting the lyrics, much like those of Messrs Francis and Malkmus.

I previewed Open to the Hound from songs they had posted on their website and liked what I heard of their new-folk (mostly that it wasn't that over-echoed "hey ho" stuff that was so pervasive for a while). I was in for a surprise, however.

I met Miriam before the show, pink-coiffed and a wonderful person. I know that setting up before a show takes time, so we didn't chat for too long.

Syntax Physic Opera - Denver
Jen Korte started the show, playing her guitar and accompanied by Jessica DeNicola who sang along. Haunting and powerful tunes. I love going to shows like this, because I'm introduced to musicians and people who I wouldn't otherwise see. Jen and Jessica had a wonderful harmony together.

Jen Korte & Jessica DeNicola
Miriam and Daniel from Teacup Gorilla got onstage for a song and Miriam read from the novel while Daniel added ambient guitar sounds.

Open to the Hound played next. Their live set was a high-energy departure from the tracks I sampled online. It took me by surprise, but in a really good way. I loved the power and dynamics. So much so that I didn't really get a decent picture because I was so drawn to the music & performance.

Open to the Hound
OttH reminded me more of a boozy roadhouse band from a David Lynch film, plugged in and distorted, with yelping primal screams for good measure.

Teacup Gorilla was up last, the musical focal point of the night, with Miriam and others reading parts of the novel during the songs of their set as well.

They played about nine songs, some of which reminded me of different bits of other songs and artists - "Cortez The Killer" here, "The New Stone Age" by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark there.

Teacup Gorilla - Eric, Sondra, Daniel
The set ended with a rocked-out cover of "Sixteen Tons," employing the vocal talents of Aaron Liechty, the singer for pre-Teacup Gorilla band Dirt Circle Dogs.


Sometimes when I'm watching a band, I daydream that I'm up there playing along, partaking, creating, crafting. Watching Teacup Gorilla, it occurred to me that I wouldn't have anything to add, and wouldn't want to. They had a rotating cast throughout the night, each adding something wonderful, but where I normally would feel the pull to be up there, I was more than content to enjoy the evening as it was. I don't know if that makes me more mature or at peace, but I was just digging everything, and didn't want the night to be over, grateful that Miriam invited me to be a part of the night and experience their art, and the art of Jen and Open to the Hound, and everyone else there.


Teacup Gorilla plays Saturday, July 25th at 5pm at Historians Ale House in Denver as part of the Underground Music Showcase. Their new EP The Holes They Leave was released on July 9th 2015 and is available at all popular music buying & streaming locations: SoundCloud | Bandcamp | iTunes

Riding Sidesaddle* - the novel

Monday, May 25, 2015

Album Listening Club - Goo

In the early 90's, as punk rock made its way into the American mainstream, Sonic Youth was about as punk as you could get. This was before Nevermind, before Dookie. This is Raymond Pettibon drawings and guest vocals by Public Enemy's Chuck D. This is Goo.

Sonic Youth - Goo (chopped effects by Your Older Brother)
But Sonic Youth isn't "punk" in the loud-fast Ramones/Pistols/Exploited vein. Sonic Youth rose out of the no-wave scene in NYC. Non-standard guitar tunings, vocals that were more screams or spoken word than singing, extended soundscapes - these were the tools Sonic Youth used to combat the mainstream.

However, by the time Goo came along, Sonic Youth had produced five previous albums. The previous album, Daydream Nation, was a critical hit and is still considered one of the quintessential indie albums of all time. Goo was SY's first album on a major label. Sonic Youth was punk on the edge of the mainstream.

Enough of the facts & background - let's get our Goo on.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Album Listening Club - Express

I don't know that I had heard much Bauhaus other than "Bela Lugosi's Dead" when I started hearing Love and Rockets, but I had heard the in-between band Tones on Tail out at dance clubs.

Love And Rockets - Ball Of Confusion single J-Card
I'm glad I didn't have any associations with Bauhaus, because I didn't have any sort of expectations of Love And Rockets along Bauhaus lines. In fact, I think I knew of L&R more as some of the guys who were in Tones On Tail than Bauhaus. I still love Tones On Tail. And Bauhaus. And Love and Rockets, too.

Love And Rockets - Express - Beggars Banquet/Big Time
But, this is about Love and Rockets. They took their name from the Los Bros Hernandez comic but I don't know that there's been any other cross-connection other than just the name. I first heard the "Ball Of Confusion" single, a cover of the Temptations song from 1970, and loved that. I probably heard it and Tones on Tail in the dance clubs I was going to back then. Oddly, I wasn't familiar with the first Love And Rockets album Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven. The first song I heard from that album was when a love interest put "Saudade" on a mixtape for me. That must've been 1989.

I mostly came to Express when I was in college, but I'm not sure of the year. Maybe 88? 89? Definitely a couple of years after the album itself was released. The psychedelic sound of "Kundalini Express" pulling out of the station, blaring out of a friend's stereo system was intoxicating in and of itself.

Love and Rockets reached their sales & chart pinnacle with the album after Express, self-titled and released in 1989. It had some good songs but lost what I liked about their earlier work.

So let's talk about Express!

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Juicy Tapes Vol. 5 - A little bit country & rock n' roll

The full name of this tape is actually "I'm a little bit country & I'm a little bit rock n' roll, babe. So back off" - you know, from the Donny & Marie TV show? No? There's not that many of us that remember that show at this point…. Anyway, that title is too long to write on the tape glass and it's too long for a URL, so I've truncated it. Now you know.

I'm not sure why I put the rock songs on the A side, but that's what we've got going on here. The tape starts off with one hell of an opener, "Sure Thing" from the UK's The Darling Buds, but it's not on the streaming services. (Not to be confused with some newer grungy dude band) I wouldn't normally do this in the middle of the post, but check this song out. It's SO GOOD. Turn it up loud if you can.

Kind of a horrible video, though. Dudes standing around in the sand playing their guitars with zero verve while the singer somewhat sort of mimes the lyrics. Ugh. Anyway.

Lots of great (mostly)early-90's indie rock on the A-side. Not sure why I called the This Mortal Coil song "Neet & Meniscus," it's just the song "Meniscus."

The B side goes a little blues in the middle. I think the songs just kind of went there for me, or that's all the "country" I had in my collection at the time. This was well before alt country was a thing, and maybe was still rebelling a bit against country music, as that's what my dad listened to all of the time in the car. I tried having him listen to my music sometimes and I recall him ripping on Bernard Sumner's vocals in the New Order songs I played for him. I've eventually come around to some country, for example what you hear on the alt country station on, but the "pop" country that makes up the mainstream for the past decade or so is, by my unscientific estimation, about 99% crap. I'm happy for you to try and convince me otherwise in the comments!

I suppose that's what this mix is, for me. An attempt to reconcile the music that I loved and listened to (Stone Roses, Boo Radleys, Smashing Pumpkins, etc) with what I saw as my dad's music, or music that sounded somewhat like something my dad would listen to. Bonnie Raitt and Eric Clapton were certainly music he listened to. The Hound Dog Taylor record was my dad's album!

So, to paraphrase Timbaland: Getcha country on. And your rock. And maybe some roll, too.

Here are the tracks other than "Sure Thing" that aren't on the streaming services. The Garth Brooks tune:

Jack Frost is Grant McLennan from the Go-Betweens (and his own solo career) and Steve Kilbey from The Church. GREAT song. I'll post the song that has better audio and the music video below. The vocals in the music video seem a bit different from the song itself, but only slightly. Maybe only Steve's vocals. Anyway - minutiae. Listen to the song. :)

And lastly, the Don Henry song. (It's not a typo of Eagles' Don Henley, either.) Don Henry is an American songwriter who has had his songs recorded by Ray Charles, Conway Twitty, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert. This song is from his record Wild In The Backyard. I can't find "Mr. God," so here's his song "Harley":

And finally - Donny and Marie!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Album Listening Club - To Pimp a Butterfly

Kendrick Lamar released his third album in March of 2015. It was the third rap album to top the sales charts at that point in the year, and held the top spot for 2 weeks, the first album to do that since Taylor Swift's 1989.

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg Entertainment)
Lamar released two singles ahead of the album in 2014, one of which, "i," won him a Grammy award for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song in February of this year.

Critics have lauded To Pimp a Butterfly, but what do we care what the critics think? I care what *you* think. So let's talk about this record in the comments below!

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Festival Of My Dreams

I've been lamenting the lack of compelling festival lineups this year, and instead of whining about what I'm not seeing, I thought I'd compose a list of what I would like to see at a music festival - preferably my own. (No, really, I'm hoping to put on a music festival here in my home state of Colorado in the next year or so!)

Your Older Brother's Music & Art Festival won't be this big right away. But hopefully someday.
My only rule is that I'm keeping this list realistic, which is to say only booking bands that are still touring, or bands who may have broken up but with all living original members who still seem to want to play together, or at least haven't outright said "never again" (I'm looking at The Smiths & The Police here - they're both done). For instance, I'd want Big Country to play (they're still together & tour), but without Stuart Adamson…sorry, guys.

All that said, there are surely bands I'm forgetting. These are in not much of an order. There are 52 bands, I think, so that's, what…26 bands/day. If 2 stages, 13 bands/stage, if 3 stages, about 9 bands/stage. Three stages sounds about right.

So, in no order, here's my dream lineup for Your Older Brother's Music & Art Festival:

Cocteau Twins (probably the longest reunion shot here)
Uncle Tupelo (Playing Anodyne)
The Replacements
Sinead O'Connor
The National
Against Me!
Billy Bragg
The Hold Steady
Kimya Dawson
Real Friends
Deltron 3030
Skinny Puppy
The Art Of Noise
Pete Wylie (playing Sinful)
Diane Schuur
Standard Fare
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The Afghan Whigs
The English Beat
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Sparks + Jane Weidlin (playing In Outer Space)
Dillon Fence
The Toy Dolls
Marc Almond
Chrissie Hynde/Pretenders
St. Paul & the Broken Bones
Lux Lisbon
Lydia Loveless
Steel Pulse
Dan Boeckner - Any project, past or present
Kasey Chambers
Kevin Devine
Bloc Party (original lineup)
De La Soul
Calder's Revolvers
Dwight Yoakam
Todd Farrell, Jr. - & the Dirty Birds
The Cables (rock band from San Diego)
Teacup Gorilla
I Sank Molly Brown
aMiniature (They're still playing shows…)
Tucker (Ok, this last one is my old band from back in the day, but I figure I can book myself to play my own festival if I want. :)

Who would you want to see at a festival? Give me your top 3 festival bands in the comments.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Kotorino at Syntax Physic Opera

One of the benefits of writing about music is that there are a lot of people who want you to listen to their bands. They reach out and tell you a bit about the music and why they're contacting you - they've got a new release, they're coming through town, etc.

Some bands aren't great, but they're trying. They're playing. They have something inside that wants to get out, and to me, that's cool. Some bands are good, but sometimes don't hit me in the right spot. Whether I'm just not in the mood to hear what they've got, or it's not my thing overall, I'll take a pass.

Then there are bands like Kotorino that get my attention at just the right time.

Kotorino at Syntax Physic Opera
I like Kotorino's music - kind of an art-y, jazzy vibe. The type of music that they create is best experienced in a live setting, and especially at a club like Syntax Physic Opera in Denver.

Kotorino came through town in late January/early February to play a few dates, and I was contacted by Jeff Morris, one of the singers of and guitar player for the band, to see if I wanted to check out one of their shows. It turned out that I was going to be in town the night of their Feb. 2nd show anyway, so I stopped by just in time to see their last two songs. I'm so glad I made it there, because the band is definitely in their element in a unique, harmonious space such as Syntax.

Kotorino at Syntax Physic Opera in Denver, CO
My friend Terry and I stayed around and chatted with the band for a couple of hours afterward. They're all very friendly and had interesting stories to tell about the other shows they played in Denver that trip. We also talked with Jeff and the other main singer Ellia Bisker about their additional music project of "murder ballads and love songs", Charming Disaster, and Ellia's solo work as Sweet Soubrette. These are some talented and crazy creative people, folks.

I had a ways to drive home and Terry needed to have a bite to take the edge off the excellent cocktails from the Syntax, so we parted ways with the band and each other and went our separate ways.

Inspired by our night with the band, however, Terry and I got to talking and have worked with the folks at Ignite Denver to bring the band back for Ignite Denver 20 on Thursday, June 11th at the Oriental Theater.

As of this writing, the band is still looking for other gigs that weekend, feel free to contact them if you'd like them to play your event/gallery/house party/wedding/etc! Jeff and Ellia as Charming Disaster have a couple of dates lined up in early May in Vermont & Massachusetts, so catch those shows if you can.

Here's their music on the Spotify and Rdio streaming services as well:

Viva Kotorino!