Matt Butcher Carves Out a Following at Orlando Calling

After listening to three O.A.R. songs, I turned to my friend in boredom and said, “Hey you want to check out that Matt Butcher guy at the Art House Stage?” She quickly agreed and we headed from a large stage area with thousands of people and beer tubs to a tiny tent that could hold maybe 75 people. The Art House Stage was for up-and-coming artists. The baristas and red velvet couch created the appropriate atmosphere for the performance that was about to ensue.

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Matt Butcher and Justin Beckler took the stage in colorful western attire and immediately connected with the audience with a confident yet humble presence. Butcher asked the crowd to move in closer so he could see our beautiful faces. However, the real treat was when Butcher and Beckler began to play their soulful rock. Butcher’s voice and style reminded me of other folk like rock artists such as Band of Horses, Gavin Degraw, and the Avett Brothers. They both played guitar with the occasional mandolin thrown in for good measure. Their seven song set was a pure delight. I only know the name of one of the songs because it was a cover of “Sympathy for the Devil”. I wish I could tell you the names of the others…because they were really good! Butcher admitted that he is a poor self-promoter and decided not to play any of the new songs off of his latest album, Ghostwriter. However, I took a risk and decided to purchase Ghostwriter anyway since it was available for immediate purchase.

I highly recommend the album (available on iTunes). My favorite song on the album is called “Rome, Rain or Hail.” I turned my stereo up as the sweet melody filled my car with a playful beat and interjections of a harmonica. Take a chance on Matt Butcher. Walk away from the unoriginal, have a seat on a red velvet couch and take it all in.

Mango

Bobby Long Concert in the ‘Burgh

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So, after some prodding from the editor, I finally have a show to write about for RARA’s.  I recently moved back to the Pittsburgh area, so am in the process of developing a social life and finding fun places to go for live music.  Going into this show, I didn’t have any intention of writing an article about it, as I knew very little about Bobby Long. A friend of mine asked me to go to the show with her as she had stumbled across his music while wandering around the internet one night, and I agreed, because I love discovering new people and I adore British singers for some reason.

I was optimistic… the location of the concert was absolutely my speed, a small bar in the South Side of Pittsburgh called Club Cafe. It only holds about 100 people max, and was set up with small tables and some bar stools. We sat in the second row, and I love having the chance to be up close and personal with musicians.

After the opening act, Bobby Long got on stage. Just him, his guitar and harmonica. The best description of his music that I can come up with is a cross between rock, blues and folk. It’s not a hard rock sound by any stretch, but his faster songs will have you tapping your foot to the beat. His lyrics are heartfelt and seem to hint at experiences beyond what a normal 24 year old should have. He told stories in between songs that were funny and gave some insight into his personality. His guitar playing is impressive both live an on cd.

Two of his songs really stuck with me, one titled “Who Have You Been Loving” and “Penance Fire Blues” (video of it live from a different show. The second is the most he rocked out during the evening and is just a great song overall.

At the end of the night, after playing for about an 90 minutes straight, he was done for the evening, and went to a small table to sell shirts, posters and CDs. After that show, I knew I wanted a CD, so after a brief wait in line, I bought my copy and Bobby signed my CD and posed for a picture.

This young musician is just starting out, and I personally think that this is someone a lot of people will be talking about in the next one to two years. So I’ll hold on to my picture and autographed CD (that also has my name spelled correctly on it!) so that I can say that I saw him before he hit it big.

Kari

Wednesday Evening Random Thoughts

So – Orlando Calling has come and gone.  We asked for press access to the inaugural event so that we could dazzle you with our amazing coverage, but the Festival organizers ignored us.  Truthfully, I can’t really blame them, we’re still a small player on a huge stage.  You can help us for next year – follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook. Then tell your friends to do the same thing.  And finally – post on our Facebook page, share your pictures, provide your thoughts, and offer tips on new music, beer tasting and your favorite Modern Family episodes.  OK – got it?

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As for the first iteration of Orlando Calling, we’ve talked to a bunch of people who were there, and all of the reports have been positive.  Personally, Day 1 was much more appealing with The Killers, Gogol Bordello, Pete Yorn and The Pixies among the many bands spread across their five stages.  Day 2 had a totally different vibe with Bob Seger, Kid Rock, The Doobie Brothers and Blake Shelton headlining.  Truthfully a little schizophrenic.  Next year, they need to decide what they want to be when they grow up and have the entire weekend gel better as far as the line-up is concerned.  Seriously, what would a Bob Seger fan think when they saw the antics of Gogol Bordello???

Although we weren’t there, a few of our website members (oh yeah – you can register there, too) did attend, and we’ll be sharing some reviews shortly.

We’ve reviewed a bunch of great new music lately to tide you over.  Here are quick links to the last handful, if you want to check them out:

They were all good – honestly (we are not just schmoozing for more free music, although we are certainly open to that).  My favorite was Grouplove’s effort – and fortunately, they’ll be hitting the Sunshine State shortly for a few shows in early December.

We also had a great interview with Lovedrug’s Michael Shepard.  The band has a great story, a unique sound and their talented front man is a helluvanice guy.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this little tidbit from The Last Royals, who we interviewed a few months back.  Here’s a recording studio that is truly a “head” of its time: Crystal Vases

 

Checking Out The Perms – Sofia Nights

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The Perms recently released fifth album Sofia Nights spotlights their melodic pop rock blend of music.  The Winnipeg, Manitoba trio has been around for a decade plus and continues to turn out likeable rock music.

The album kicks off with High School High,” a catchy ditty reflecting on those halcyon high school days gone by.  The song has a nice hook “It’s my life and I’ll do what I like, because I’m just another kid and I’m wound up like a string too tight.”  On this tune, and throughout, the threesome’s sound reminds me a bit of The Kooks and maybe even Simple Plan, without the edge.

“It’s You I’m Thinking Of” and “Live For the Day” are two other fun and catchy alternative rock tunes with hit potential, featuring the vocals of brothers  Shane (bass) and Chad Smith(guitar).  The latter has been stuck in my head for days and grows on me with each listen.  They are good representations of the album – generally happy, melodic tunes.

I’d describe the band as power-pop.  It’s good stuff, but I don’t see a breakthrough single on the album.  I liked most of the tunes and was also drawn to the songs where the instrumentation was stripped down a bit, such as the slower “Make It Through” and “Manheim,” which showcase the fine drumming of John Huver and features some of the strongest vocals of the album.

It’s worth a listen.  Check out the album now on iTunes.

Rock On! – Cretin

Social Distortion Shares Some Nursery Rhymes at HOB

Mike Ness and Social Distortion delivered a powerful set at House of Blues in Orlando last night in front of an electric and packed House. Ness has long epitomized the consummate bad-ass rock and roll front man and he still carries that torch.

Social D is touring in support of Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, their first studio album in the past seven years. Still they only included two songs from the latest album: “Machine Gun Blues” and “Bakersfield.” Instead of shamelessly pushing the new tunes, they reached deep into their catalog, featuring classics from the past three decades, and throwing in a few nice surprises along the way. Perfect for the fervid fans in attendance.

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The band exploded onto the stage with a powerful version of “1945” and immediately ratcheted it up a notch when they moved into crowd favorite, 1983’s “Daddy’s Little Monster,” which pushed the considerably-sized mosh pit into a fever pitch. Then it was directly into their current hit “Machine Gun Blues” and a great singalong version of “Bad Luck” before Ness finally caught his breath.

Ness was energetic and engaged the crowd all night.  His signature vocals may have been even a bit more raspy at this point in his career, but still sounded strong considering his three decades of heavy touring.

Longtime sidekick Jonny Wickershamm was back on guitar.  He and Ness traded off the lead throughout the evening while bassist Brent Harding and drummer David Hidalgo, Jr kept the hard driving rhythm guiding the set all night. The only issue all night was that the sound mix was a little muddy – especially earlier in the show.

Other setlist highlights included “Story of My Life,” “So Far Away” and another fun singalong, this time to “Six More Miles” – an old Hank Williams cover.  The band closed the core sixty minute set with “Nickels and Dimes.”

For the encore, they took the pitch up a notch and started with “Dear Lover” and “Don’t Drag Me Down” before closing it out with powerful versions of fan favorites “Prison Bound” and their fantastic cover of “Ring of Fire.”

Eighty minutes of energy and passion with a set-list clearly designed with the fans in mind; a great night with the greatest hard rocking punkabilly band ever.

Setlist

  • 1945
  • Mommy’s Little Monster
  • Machine Gun Blues
  • Bad Luck
  • So Far Away
  • King of Fools
  • Story Of My Life
  • Bakersfield
  • Sweet & Lowdown
  • Reach for the Sky
  • Six More Miles (Hank Williams cover)
  • Nickels and Dimes

Encore:

  • Dear Lover
  • Don’t Drag Me Down
  • Prison Bound
  • Ring of Fire
Chuck Ragan warmed the crowd up with an impressive set of his trademark folksy rock.  He and fiddle player Jon Gaunt and bassist Joe Ginsberg filled the forty minute set with an interesting and unique blend of contemporary rock.

Checkout our video snippets of the show on our YouTube channel: Social D in Orlando 

Drowning Men Beheading The Song Bird

The Drowning Men
The Drowning Men

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Damn, just seeing that album title convinced me that I needed to listen to this band.  Beheading of the Songbird?  Twisted? Maybe. Interesting? For sure. I think I’d describe it as eclectic and hectic – and good for the ears.

I first became aware of this San Diego area quintet when Flogging Molly brought them on tour and subsequently signed them as the first act on their new Indie label Borstal Beat.

The album was originally released in the UK two years ago, but has just now been released in the United States.  It’s an excellent introduction to their powerful and divers music.  It’s a unique sound. I would imagine the progeny of Arcade Fire and The Pogues would have resulted in a band just like The Drowning Men.

Their music is deep and layered, packed with dark lyrics and filled with passion.  It seems as though it would translate fantastically into an excellent live show.  And, you’ll be able to see for yourself this fall, as they tour the country supporting The Airborne Toxic Event.

The selections on Beheading of The Song Bird are hit or miss, but the best tunes are very strong.  “Songbird” is a future anthem in the making. It’s a song about a troubled youngster struggling with the aftermath of something horrible he’s done: “I took all his worries, I cut away his charm. From the nest to the hand, What a mess Iʼve done.” The song starts with some nice keys from Gabriel Messer and features moving vocals from Nathan “Nato” Bardeen throughout; where he seems to channel Arcade Fire’s Win Butler.

“Oracle Meets Weeping Willows” is beautiful and is a fitting intro to another strong song, “Down These Days,” which resembles Arcade Fire.  “Get A Heart”and “More Than This” are also excellent arrangements that spotlight the band broad musical talent. The songs that feeatured piano and keyboards were the most memorable.

The cut with the greatest potential for airplay is “Rita” driven by the powerful drums of Rory Dolan, and melancholy vocals of a relationship gone bad.  It’s got a nice sing-along vibe despite the dour message.

“Courageous Son” is my personal favorite. The lyrics reflect tough times adjusting to life in America. “This is the wishy washy land, That you hold so dear. This is the final cure, This is America. In their hearts you will never win!” The music belies the lyrics and conjure images of a crazy musical carnival ride. It brought back good memories of The Killers and Pogues. Good stuff!

Check out the tracks on iTunes.

Rock On – Cretin

You Are Lovedrug – A Chat with Michael Shepard

Lovedrug has taken a novel approach to funding their upcoming album release. The Alt-Rock veterans have been sharing their distinctive sound for nearly a decade, but now they’re taking a creative new approach that re-defines Indie music. Michael Shepard, the engaging and talented front man stopped by the farm to share the I AM LOVEDRUG experience, as well as to chat about a few other things.

Cretin: So, before we get into the I am Lovedrug experience, can you explain the group’s name? I’ve heard that it is not a reference to an aphrodisiac, but more about your passion for creating music?

Michael Shepard: You’re correct. It’s funny, a lot people do think of it as we’re slinging ecstasy or something. That’s not really what our M.O. is. It was really a time when I had gone through a lot with my old band and decided to get out of the game and spend some time away from music. I realized it was something I couldn’t escape. My passion or whatever that inner desire is that exists in people when they have something they know they should be doing. It’s just something you can’t walk away from. The name is really derivative of that concept. The love for something sort of drags you along whether you want to or not.

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Cretin: You guys went the major label route and had some ups and downs. Now, you’re taking a novel new approach with a Pledge Music campaign.  How did you choose that route, is it something new?

Michael Shepard: I had never heard of the concept until a friend of mine went through a Kick Starter campaign to raise money to record her album. I thought it was really fantastic how the fans could get involved and help the artist.  I thought it was a wonderful concept so we started doing research and found several sites that do a similar thing. Some are more geared toward businesses, others are for the arts.  Kick starter is about anything you can imagine.  Pledge is strictly music. The inner workings are a bit different and made the most sense for us and where we’re at.

Cretin: looking at the website, iamlovedrug.com, it looks like you had a great response to it.

Michael Shepard: We really did.  It was above and beyond our expectations.   We raised enough money to record our first album and everything that we were shooting for we got, and it was all thanks to the fans that pledged through that site.  It worked 100% – more than 100%, we were ecstatic.

Cretin: I was looking over some of the things you did and some of them were off the wall. Answering machine messages, postcards from the road, standard stuff like autographs and liner notes, but then I saw you had an afternoon of bowling thrown in there. Where did those ideas come from?

Michael Shepard: Yeah, haha.  Well some of them we thought up, and our manager was sort of cooking up some of those schemes.  Bowling was mine because I love to bowl and thought what a better way to celebrate an afternoon than to hang out with someone who digs our music and go bowling.

Cretin: I thought that was out of the box – an awesome idea.  Was there any one item greatly appreciated by the fans or that had a great response which really surprised you?

Michael Shepard: Well, yeah, the biggest response was for cover songs. We got so many requests for covers because it was not an astronomical price(it was only $150). It was something that if someone wanted to donate kind of above and beyond, but not crazy they could get this cover song option.  We were shocked at how many responded to that.  It was a challenge, because they would pick the song, we’d do it the way we do it, personalize it and send it to them.  We got songs all over the map to cover which was a challenge to me personally, but a lot of fun, too.  That’s why the tail end of all that we put together The Best of I Am Lovedrug CD which is actually just  a compilation of  some of those cover songs so that everyone could hear how they turned out.  It was a lot of fun.

Cretin:You guys were offering videos at a reasonable price too weren’t you?

Michael Shepard: Yeah, that was another option we had. In retrospect we probably should’ve shortened it a little bit more just  because of the amount of work that went into it we were shocked when we have tons and tons of cover songs to record, but it was worth it, at the end of the day it was all worth it.

Cretin: I was talking to Eric James of The Last Royals and I asked him what his favorite cover song ever was and he picked your cover of “Pure Imagination.” I first thought “someone covering Willy Wonka? That’s insane.” But it was really cool; you put your own spin on it, an interesting approach to the song.

Michael Shepard: Thank you, we really enjoyed doing that one.  It was actually our guitar player’s brother who requested we do that one. It was sort of a little poke because Jeremy Gifford, our guitar player is a huge Willy Wonka fan – one of his favorite films of all times.  So we were pretty excited to cover that one.

Cretin: During that whole event was there one song other than “Pure Imagination” that you really enjoyed recording for one reason or another.

Michael Shepard: Oddly I really liked the way “Nights In White Satin: turned out, we did that, too and it sort of pulled on my heart strings. I can’t even explain why. It just sounded a lot more melancholy than I meant it to sound, but very cool and is actually one of my favorites.

Cretin: That’s an interesting choice. I grew up with an uncle who is a huge Moody Blues fan so I listened to that music a lot when I was a kid.  Is that cut on your The Best of I Am Lovedrug record?

Michael Shepard: Actually I don’t think it made it on there.  There were a bunch we had to choose from and it was a collective choosing to figure what should go on and what  shouldn’t. It didn’t quite make the cut, but it still remains my favorite.

Cretin: Very cool. I’ll definitely look for that. (I did look but could not find a copy anywhere, but there are a slew of very creative covers on the album). Going back to your approach on the forthcoming album; in the past you were with Columbia then before that you were with Militia Group but now you’re really on your own.

Michael Shepard: Yeah, we’re really doing everything ourselves. It’s us and our manager. It’s a lot different than when we started out.

Cretin: Different in a good way or bad way? I imagine it’s a bit of both?

Michael Shepard: It is a bit of both but mostly positive. I’d say 90% is positive actually just because there is no red tape. There is always a certain amount of waiting room effect. “OK, great you turned out a record now sit out here while we do our thing,” and things seem to get sort of lost in the cracks and its unfortunate but when you’re working completely independently like we are now there is more freedom to make decisions like we did to connect directly to fans and say “hey we want to make a record, we need your help or we want to cover a Moody Blues song and throw it up on the internet.” We can do these things and there are clever ways to propel ourselves.  There’s a little bit of freedom that’s lost when you’re dealing with a label.  It’s been a blessing honestly, maybe in disguise at first, but we really enjoy the freedom now.

Cretin: It has to be rejuvenating to go through that process and do what you think makes sense. It’s really all riding on you guys and your manager whether this album makes it and the album is successful.

Michael Shepard: Absolutely. Not that there was finger pointing before, but you only have yourself to blame. We know that if we’re giving 100 percent and working hard, there’s no way the ball’s going to get dropped unless we drop it. Really that whole concept is so indicative of where we are at right now as a band.

Cretin: A new approach?

Michael Shepard: Yeah, everything. We’ve been a band for ten years now, but at the same time, this feels like our first album. We feel like a new band, and that same energy is still there and I feel like it’s becoming even more intense and bubbling up like it used to when you first strapped on a guitar and start a band for the first time. That feeling can kind of wane, but fortunately for us, we’re at a point where we’ve rejuvenated ourselves.

Cretin: So, now that you’ve been doing this for ten years, any major shifts in the way you approach things?

Michael Shepard: There’s been a lot of changes.  The way we approach writing is a lot more relaxed now. A lot of the pressure used to be on me, just because I was working with musicians that were hired to be on call and it wasn’t much of a band but more a solo thing, whereas now it’s way more of a collective effort. The group of guys in this band all put their equal input into the creative process and it makes for a much more enjoyable song in the end.

Cretin: Sounds like you’ve now got a band with a lot more passion about what they’re doing?

Michael Shepard: And it translates in all kinds of ways. It certainly translates live, because inevitably someone is just going to play more passionately when they had a part in the making of what you’re playing.

Cretin: So, I noticed “Pink Champagne” off of your recent EP will be on the new record.  Are there any other songs we’ll be familiar with?

Michael Shepard: There will be a couple. The songs “Ladders” and “We Were Owls” were on the EPs and they made the record, and then there were a whole bunch that we hadn’t released that we wanted to save for the final album.

Cretin: Tell me about directing the video for Dinosaur, the first single from the new album.

Michael Shepard: I went to film school during my break from music.  That video was a short story I had kicking around for awhile so I thought it would be fun to bring it to fruition via a Lovedrug video.

Check out Lovedrug music on iTunes

RARA’s Six Pack (six quick mindless questions):

Cretin: You grew up fairly close to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  When you are inducted, who do you want making the induction speech?

Michael Shepard: If he’s still kicking around, Billy Corgan. I was a huge Smashing Pumpkins fan, One of the first bands I heard that really turned my world upside down.

Cretin:  Your favorite cover tune?

Michael Shepard: That’s a tough one. One that always made me chuckle was The Deftones cover of Freebird. That was pretty hilarious and awesome.

Cretin: What’s your high score in bowling?

Michael Shepard: I’m very proud to say my high score was 269.

Cretin: Do you have a favorite city where you like to play?

Michael Shepard: I could name dozens that I love to play.  The ones that stand out are Chicago, I love playing Chicago, and we always get fantastic responses playing in New York. And, actually Nashville which is one of the many reasons we moved here.

Cretin: Of all the bands you’ve toured with over the years, who left a lasting impression?

Michael Shepard: We’ve toured with some fantastic bands, and some not so fantastic bands, but we won’t name those. We got to play with The Killers a long time ago before they were big and that was cool. They were really nice guys.

Cretin: What’s your favorite roller coaster?

Michael Shepard: Probably still The Magnum at Cedar Point. Not the tallest one any more, but it scared the living shit out of me when I rode it.

Cretin: Thanks for visiting with us and best of luck with the album.

Michael Shepard: Thank you. I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who has helped us out and pledged along the way. I know it’s been a long process, but I wanted to thank everyone for their patience, and let them knwo the record is going to be out by March.

 

Grouplove – You Can Trust These Happy Songs

Never Trust a Happy Song
Grouplove's latest album Never Trust a Happy Song

I was intrigued by this band the first time I heard their quirky Alt-Rock hit “Colours.” It’s a catchy tune that immediately grabs your attention with the unique and edgy vocals of Christian Zucconi and a memorable chorus.  I was expecting an album packed with similar songs, but “colour” me surprised, as it is a very diverse collection of mostly excellent songs.

The album, Never Trust A Happy Song kicks off with a cool handclap intro to “Itchin’ On A Photograph,” and bounces across the spectrum with a bunch of clever, original, happy pop tunes.  It’s good stuff for the most part and definitely worth a listen. The quintet is clearly taking chances on this album; there’s no cookie cutter recipe for success here.  They throw out a bunch of stuff, lots of different sounds and approaches, and although they’re not all perfect, this album is packed with excellent tracks.

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The first four cuts are all mainstream Alt-Rock tunes, with “Colours” and “Itchin’ On a Photograph” the two with potential to get the most AltNation-like airtime.  But, the album grinds to a halt on the aptly titled “Slow.” Not a bad tune, but it belongs somewhere else on the album. The next few songs are back along the happy vein, “Naked Kids” is a fun ode to adolescent fun, and “Spun” is a catchy tune with a great ukulele intro, another nice surprising nugget on an album packed with them!  Then, it’s another trip down the roller coaster for “Betty’s a Bombshell.”

The next two back-to-back tracks are my favorites on the album. “Chloe” is a fantastic song. Absolutely fun – a blast to listen to, and one of my top 2011 discoveries.  It’s got a bit of a rockabilly sound and features powerful drumming from Ryan Rabin, the son of uber-talented Trevor Rabin.  “Love Will Save Your Soul” is another great track, and spotlights Hannah Hooper’s superb vocals.  Along with “Colours,” these two are the highlights of the album.

As the album winds down, the last few cuts continue to highlight the band’s diversity, “Cruel and Beautiful World” offers Zucconi’s strongest vocals and great harmonies from Hooper and the rest of the band.  It is a beautiful song, and destined to be a soundtrack staple for years to come. On this song and throughout, Ryan Rabin’s production is fantastic.

I have to give the band credit. They’re talented and they’ve experimented a bit here – and it works.  There are a few misses, but for the most part, this is a strong and deep album that features a handful of great songs, and a few more that are destined to grow on you over time.  Buy the album; just rearrange the songs on your playlist.

Cretin

 

Grouplove’s Official Website

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