Archive for the ‘Music Review’ Category

Do I Secretly Like Goo Goo Dolls?

It’s funny how music travels with you over the years. The memories that are created around sounds can be so vivid…you might remember a conversation with someone or an intimate moment, maybe even a horrifying time at the drop of a dime if the right song comes on the radio. And it doesn’t matter what the song is, it’s just whatever was playing at the time.

I got an email last week that got me thinking about this. Goo Goo Dolls are coming to town next month for a show that I may or may not end up going to see, but as soon as I read the name Goo Goo Dolls, all these things came rushing back to me. I’ve never considered myself a fan of theirs, but I seem to have a good chunk of time haunted by their songs.

One important thing I just found out recently-Goo Goo Dolls have been around for 31 years, and John Rzeznik hasn’t always been the lead singer. *MIND BLOWN* I know that the music industry was different in the 90’s, and a lot of the bands that got big back then had been together for a long time prior, but 1986 seems like forever ago. So kudos to Goo Goo Dolls for sticking it out through the good times and the not so good times. Your fans are probably thrilled that you’ll be on tour again this summer.

My first recollection of Goo Goo Dolls came shortly after they broke out with A Boy Named Goo. The song “Name” was constantly on the radio (U93 for all my hometown readers!) and it drove me crazy. I think I was already getting snobbish at that point, which is probably why I didn’t have a ton of friends. Anyway, I was the youngest of the group of friends I did have, and one of them was already driving with a learner’s permit at that time. We had hit up the video store to pick up our 1-2 combo of Clerks and Pulp Fiction for the millionth time, and as we were driving back to his house to hang out, he pulled a cassette out and popped it in the player. It was Boy Named Goo and I screamed.

At that time in my life, this guy was probably my best friend. We had gone to grade school together and then he moved away for a number of years before returning for High School. We spent a lot of time together, and his home life was less than great. His mom had some mental issues that weren’t being dealt with, her boyfriend was a grade A jerkoff who, looking back, was pretty clearly beating both of them or at least threatening to do so. I viewed my role as a mood lightener, but it didn’t always work.

He mostly listened to harder stuff like Henry Rollins, Sponge, and Nine Inch Nails. I was surprised that A Boy Named Goo was even on his radar. Of course, “Name” is a bit of an anomaly on that album. The rest of it features some bigger guitar riffs and aggressive vocals. The band, I assume, noticed that this was the song everyone wanted to hear and changed their style a bit to better position themselves for record sales (12 million albums sold as of 2016).

Over time he and I had a falling out, and I haven’t spoken to him since before the end of our senior year. In fact, I believe his last words to me were “Fucking faggot” as he slammed me into the lockers in the hallway outside my science class because someone told him I called his girlfriend a slut. Which I hadn’t, despite the fact that she was a slut in High School. I’m sure she’s a perfectly nice person now, though.

Fast forward a few years to 2004. We’re living in Buffalo, NY, the hometown of Goo Goo Dolls and it’s Independence Day. Buffalo didn’t have much a downtown by the time we moved there, but they did a great job with what they had left. Every week in the summer there were free outdoor concerts and on the 3rd and 4th of July they upped the ante. On the 3rd we got to see Ben Folds in the middle of a Rufus Wainwright and Guster sandwich, and then on the 4th was the famous Goo Goo Dolls in the rain show which they have immortalized on DVD.

I’ve never watched the DVD, so I don’t know if it fully captures how absolutely infuriating that evening truly was. The starts and stops of music, the rain turning from a drizzle to a downpour and back again for a couple of hours, the people climbing trees to get a better view because there were so many people packing Niagara Square…it was madness.

Imagine hearing just the opening guitar part of “Slide” five or six times and then nothing because lightning strikes keep happening and the band has to leave the stage. Rzeznik did his best to keep the crowd entertained-they had to shut the power off every time the band left, so he’d come out with his acoustic guitar and play, but not everyone could hear him. It was a real disaster. Eventually we left for dry land and hung out listening from the parking garage across the street for a while. Then when we drove home the water was so high where Delaware and Forest come together that it covered the grill of the car.

Those are my two big Goo Goo Dolls memories, and I think about them any time I hear one of their songs. So if I do go see them on July 24th at Huntington Bank Pavilion, don’t be surprised if I spend half the time staring off into space reminiscing.

For dates near you, check out the band’s website.

Marc Broussard: S.O.S. 2 Save Our Soul

A few years back, Marc Broussard put out a covers album to raise money for charity. On September 30th of this year, he’s doing it again. S.O.S. 2 features Marc covering some classic soul songs that are sure to make you smile. Half of the profits from the record will go to City Of Refuge, an Atlanta-based group that helps with all kinds of issues. Check out their website to read more about them.

Broussard, journeyman that he is, will be touring this summer in support of the record. He’s hitting SPACE in Evanston on June 28th for a SOLD OUT show. Check out his site for more dates and info on how to purchase this album (and why not grab a couple of his older records while you’re there?)

As a preview, I selected this video of his version of Otis Redding’s “These Arms Of Mine” because it features Huey Lewis.

TJ Stafford-“Catch”

Decided to check out this TJ Stafford track I was sent without knowing anything about the artist. I was pleasantly surprised to hear something like The Weekend if he had loud guitars backing him. The song is the second single from his debut album All My Bad Habits Prepared Me For This, out June 30th. Stafford recently got his first single premiered over on Pancakes & Whiskey (the most delicious music website).

Categories: Music Review

JD & The Straight Shot at Huntington Bank Pavillion 6/17/2017

June 19, 2017 1 comment

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to check out a show at Huntington Bank Pavillion on Chicago’s Northerly Island. Having never taken pictures there, I jumped at the chance to shoot the opening act for Don Henley’s show, JD & The Straight Shot. The weather turned south after the opening set, and many people took to Facebook to knock JD for even taking the stage, as if the opening band has any say in such things. Don Henley ended up playing from 10:15 to 11:30-I was home watching Friends and editing photos by that time (90 minute delays really aren’t my thing, especially when it means standing in the rain).

So I missed out on seeing the former Eagle, but I did get to see another person who has been a big part of my life over the past 18 years as the JD in JD & The Straight Shot stands for James Dolan. As a Knicks fan, I had a lot of conflicting feelings going into the concert about separating my great disappointment as a basketball lover and my photographic assignment. As it turns out, once the music started I didn’t really even think about the other stuff.

Dolan has done exactly what I would do if I had a lot of money and a desire to make music. He’s surrounded himself with musicians that are supremely talented at everything they attempt. He’s got Shawn Pelton on drums. If you recognize that name it’s because you see it in the credits of Saturday Night Live, where he’s been drumming in the band since 1992. Erin Slaver is a brilliant violinist/singer who’s worked with a wide range of artists, including Rod Stewart and John Legend. Marc Copley played guitar with BB King and Roseanne Cash. Bassist Byron House, the eldest member of the band, played with Robert Plant on the Band Of Joy album, as well as collaborations with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris.

What I’m saying is, there’s a lot of talent on the stage. Call it a vanity project if you want, but Dolan’s has built a strong supporting cast and has been putting out albums and playing shows since 2000 (granted a lot of those venues are owned by his company). They play old-school rock and roll with a lot of blues and soul influence. They covered Little Feat’s “Let It Roll,” and to my shock a cover of “Nature’s Way” by Spirit.

Dolan doesn’t shy away from the mic at any time. He was actually a bit funnier than I thought he would be. At one point they were getting ready to play a song and he said “We get a lot of songs in movies and tv. This one is from a movie called Jane Got A Gun. Anyone see that?” *CRICKETS* “Well, it should be on Lifetime soon so keep an eye out for it.” I found that hilarious-I remember when that Natalie Portman movie was going through distribution hell a couple years ago and it finally came out last year. No one saw it.

As far as the experience goes, I thought it was cool. They’re not reinventing the wheel here, and I think Dolan knows that as a singer he’s not Sinatra. That said, I’d rather see a band that looks like they’re having fun and enjoying playing music than a band of dour dudes who would rather be anywhere else. The mood was light and breezy, they cranked through seven or eight tunes pretty quickly, and a lot of people seemed to enjoy the show. I even talked to a couple afterward who were asking me if I knew the band because they were really digging it.

Categories: Music Review



Over the past few months a handful of my friends have been talking about Joywave. Most of them are into stuff a bit poppier than I am, but I wanted to check them out before they start getting super popular. When they released their recent single, “It’s A Trip!,” I wasn’t too excited by it. The latest song, “Doubt,” is much more in tune with my tastes.

The song is a bit darker, more synth-pop with a New Wave 80’s influence.Produced by vocalist Dan Armbruster and Sean Donnelly, you can feel a lot of the bands that they’ve been opening for over the last couple years starting to seep into their sound. They’re about to head out for some dates with Cold War Kids and Young The Giant later this summer, and the fans of those bands should be prepared to show up early to hear a group they’re sure to love.

Check out the band’s website for details on the new album Content, as well as tour dates (also to hear the new song if you can’t check it out via Spotify below).

Bent Knee at Schubas 6/12/2017

I was introduced to Bent Knee a couple weeks ago when I read about their new record, Land Animal, which comes out next week on Inside/Out. The title track was put out as the first single, and I was sure it was a cover at first because there was something familiar about it. The pace and timbre of the delivery from Courtney Swain was stuck in my head for a couple of days. I realize now that my mind was just playing tricks on me. Her voice does remind me of Hayley Mary from The Jezabels (particularly on “Noah’s Ark”), but the song is wholly original.

Going into the live show I didn’t really have any expectations. Bent Knee has been playing together for a long time now, so I knew they’d be tight, and I had some idea of what they sounded like on record but no clue what their concerts were like. Turns out they’re just as interested in having fun as the people in the audience.

The show was being taped by the people at Audiotree, who also own the venue. That limited where I could go to take pictures a bit because I didn’t want to get in the way of the guys filming up front. I moved around a bit to try to get some different angles, but there were enough people there for the show that it wasn’t always easy (I’m average height, but a lot of concert goers are much taller than myself).

The most animated member of the band, Ben Levin, was a joy to watch. He seemed both completely focused and freewheeling at the same time. He was all smiles and his energy just couldn’t be contained by the stage. That energy was felt throughout the audience, as the ground shook multiple times from people stomping and jumping right along with him.

I enjoyed what I heard from this group of Bostonians. Swaine’s vocals can feel overwhelming at times, but it’s that same raw power that gives the songs their emotional weight. The label “orchestral pop” does fit to a degree, but I’ve never liked it. Nor “chamber pop,” though I think that works better. Having a live violinist is almost always a good thing, and though I didn’t get any good pictures of him, Vince Welch working the knobs and synths adds a great element to the music.

Arkells at House Of Blues 6/9/2017

Arkells returned to House Of Blues on Friday night after opening for Frank Turner at the venue back in January. Frontman Max Kerman must have been taking notes during those gigs, because he utilized every square inch of the stage during their headlining set. And when he divided he needed even MORE space, he just jumped over the barricade and hung out with the crowd. They’re a fun bunch of guys, and their music lends itself to a night of fun and good feelings. This was my fourth time seeing them in two years, and I have left each show very satisfied.

With last year’s release of Morning Report I think Arkells turned a corner and stumbled onto the path to fully realizing their potential. Like most great bands, it took a while to get there. I think they’re headed toward much bigger things in the future.

The set list was a mix of new and old, reaching as far back as 2008’s Jackson Square for “Pullin Punches.” For newer fans who haven’t gone back to listen to the older albums, its good to pepper in some of that original stuff so they get a better idea of where the band came from.

One of the big highlights for me is watching Max mess with lead guitarist Mike DeAngelis. I don’t know them personally, but they seem to have a great relationship. Mike is a great guitar player and, I think, gets overlooked at times due to Max’s boundless energy and charisma.

The connection with the audience is really what it’s all about. Arkells do a great job of making everyone feel involved, naming the concert goers the “non-denominational choir” of whatever city they’re playing. They even asked a guy to come up and play guitar on a song-and he sounded pretty good!

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