I feel like I’m a little late on the uptake here, but if you don’t know Eric Strom, check out his website. This 23-year-old cat has been writing a completely original song every day for the past 120 days (as of this writing.) Any way you slice it, that’s impressive.
Either strumming his guitar solo, or playing with an unnamed accompanying band, the catalog includes tracks like “The Hummer Song,” where Strom sings about buying a Hummer every day of the week and, appropriately, hums a chorus.
There’s also “Daily Song Blues,” a song about the struggles and pressures of writing a song every day, with lyrics “I got a deadline, can’t refuse,” and “I want to quit daily song and buy a canoe.”
My personal favorite so far is “A Girl to Carve a Pumpkin For.” It opens with “Have you ever had a girl to carve a pumpkin for, and put a candle in it and leave it at her door?”
But don’t be fooled by some of the whimsical lyrics – listen closely and there’s a message thrown in every now and then. Strom is showing some real talent, both musically and with some very clever writing. You can support his efforts through purchasing any song for $1, making a donation, or simply by checking out his site and letting him know what you think. You can also follow Strom on Twitter and Facebook.
12/28/08 (Video/Audio after the jump) The first time I saw My Morning Jacket live, I was impressed. That was about three years ago. Then I saw them at Austin City Limits. Whoa Nelly! It was one of the most disappointing shows I’ve ever seen. They embarrassed themselves. They embarrassed me … I forced a couple people to see them with me that day. The whole band seemed drunk, or high, or both (it was, then, no surprise that guitarist/singer Jim James ‘fell’ off the stage in October, canceling the originally scheduled Chicago shows.) Simply put, the show amounted to little more than un-choreographed noise. And there’s nothing worse than seeing a terrible performance from a band you really like – it can turn you off of them for a while, as it did me. So, as I walked into The Chicago Theatre to see them for a third time, I was skeptical. In my eyes, it was their last chance. And this time, they did not disappoint.
Want to write your own My Morning Jacket concert review? Get your My Morning Jacket Tickets – from Barry’s Tickets today! And be sure to stay on the lookout for Jim James’ new project, a collaboration with Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis, and M. Ward under the name Monsters of Folk, to be released on September 22. Back to the review…
They opened with “At Dawn” and it was immediately apparent that James was in better shape (and without his beard) than the last time. He came to play, and sing. He was on key and, based on appearances, recovered from his October injuries and sober.
A couple of songs later they busted out their latest big hit from the new Evil Urges, “I’m Amazed.” For the first time, I was transported back to the My Morning Jacket I knew. It sounded perfect. Timing is crucial for that song and it was spot-on. From there, it marched on like a typical MMJ show – rhythm, meandering jams, soul and the pleasant, distinct, high-pitched tone that is Jim James.
Chicago Theatre is a masterpiece (lobby pictured above.) Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, the architecture is beautiful. So much so that James commented on it – saying something to the effect of how we live in a linear world, full of straight lines, steel and glass, and how refreshing it was to be in a place with architecture that resembled the human brain. Something like that. He was clearly enjoying the place and I think that added to their enthusiasm on stage. The acoustics are solid and the space is large but cozy.
There’s something so cool about watching someone rock a Flying V guitar. James did several times throughout the show, and watching him thrash is just plain fun. It’s a testament to the distinct flavor of MMJ – they go from playing ballads, mixed with jam sessions, mixed with metal – and at no time do they sound out of their element. In one of the more surprising developments, a new sound was tossed in when they played a new song, “Highly Suspicious.” It’s kind of Devo-ish and has all the makings of 80′s inspired electronica. Throw in James’ high-pitch and you’ve got … something. I admit, on the album, I wasn’t a fan of the song at all (reviews have continually blasted it.) But hearing and seeing it live – a whole different story. It nearly blew the roof off. The accompanying light show (pictured) was cool too. Don’t know if I’ll be jamming the song in my apartment, but I hope they play it live when I see them again.
James brought out an interesting instrument during several songs (including ‘Touch me I’m going to Scream Part 2′) that I’ve never seen. From my vantage point, it looked and kind of sounded like a keytar, but it’s not. I don’t know what it is, but it made for some interesting sounds. Leave a comment below if you can help me out.
The crowd was just about exactly what I expected. A spattering of middle-agers but mostly twenty-somethings and college kids on winter break. By far, the most entertaining was a young couple (pictured) – him in sleeve tattoos and her in pigtails. He did some headbanging, while she attempted to dance. All I kept thinking was, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” It was a strange bob-and-weave with absolutely no rhythm. Not as bad as Elaine Benes, but not far off either. At least she was having fun. And so was everyone else. From the devout fans singing along to every song, to the casual observer, the crowd was enjoying a good experience.
Yes, My Morning Jacket atoned for their Texas sins. I’m still a little peeved (I passed up Wilco for them) but I feel much better listening to them again. They were sharp and focused, and made some great music. I wouldn’t put it in my top 5, but it was very good, and I would recommend seeing them on this tour, should they pass through your town. I’ll be on the lookout for when they come back to Chicago.
It’s not permitted to record at this venue … a Sound Citizen was caught in the act and forced to erase the recording, as well as check her camera. So, I couldn’t get any real video, but managed to get some audio of “Golden,” a personal favorite. You can hear it below, just don’t pay attention to the actual video.
(Video after the jump) It’s time to close the books on 2008. It’s been a good year – there was plenty to see, some great new releases and some good tours. We asked some readers about their favorite concerts of 2008 and we got back a variety of responses. Posted here are some of your answers. Thanks to everyone who responded and, if you didn’t, we’ll be polling the audience more in 2009 so don’t miss out on the next one! If you think we missed out on some great shows, leave a comment below. And if you have any questions, or if you would like to submit future concert or album reviews, please send us an email. Have a great time this New Year’s Eve – if you head to a show to celebrate, send us a review!
What was your favorite concert of 2008? Who, where and why?
TheLocalTourist, of Chicago, Illinois says, “Taste of chaos at the Aragon. Some of my fave bands! Venue bad acoustics, but historic.”
Note: Taste of Chaos featured Atreyu, Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet For My Valentine, Bless The Fall, Idiot Pilot, and others.
Kelly, of Denver , Colorado says, “Snoop Dogg in a small bar up in Aspen. Self explanatory!”
Meg!!! <333, says, “Avril Lavigne’s Best Damn Tour. The effects, her voice, everything blended perfectly.
kelody says, “If I had to pick just one it would be The Academy Is…‘ Bill and Trav’s Bogus Journey Tour at the House of Blues, Anaheim, California. William Beckett’s voice is captivating and you can’t ignore their stage presence. At the end I felt so exhilarated that I only played their songs for weeks.”
Sound Citizen’s TheMikePhillips, of Chicago, Illinois says, “Tough question, so I’m going to cheat. The Raconteurs at Lolla – one of the best shows I’ve seen 2008 or otherwise. Some serious talent there. And The Kooks at the Vic – great talent, high energy and just a good time.”
Note: Video below is “Sway,” from the Kooks show.
It’s the season for giving. And as a music fan, what better way to express your love of music than to ensure music lives on and continues to grow and evolve through future generations? Therefore, Sound Citizen presents to you a list of 10 music charities, both to support existing musicians and to give the chance for aspiring musicians of all ages to share in our love for music. Do your part, be a sound citizen and make a contribution. In no particular order …
- VH1 Save the Music Foundation: Perhaps the most widely known, this non-for-profit is “dedicated to restoring instrumental music education in American public schools, and raising awareness about the importance of music as part of each child’s complete education.” Since 1997, VH1 has provided more than $43 million worth of musical instruments to over 1,600 public schools in America. You can contribute through donations, attending fundraiser events and more.
- Guitar Center Music Foundation: Tax benefits come with a donation here. You can donate on the website, participate in fundraiser auctions and buy gear from which proceeds benefit the foundation. Guitar Center’s foundation looks to provide opportunities for music education through programs for all ages. They are also partnered with former President Jimmy Carter’s Carter Center, focused on human rights issues.
- Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation: Inspired by the film, Mr. Holland’s Opus, the film’s composer started this foundation to collect and donate new and used instruments to schools. You can donate money through the website and by check, or donate a gently used instrument.
- National Endowment for the Arts: The federal government’s arts program collects donations online, but you can also mail a check. In addition, you can specify how your donation is used via a particular discipline (arts education, literature, music, musical theatre, etc.) or by national initiative (Poetry Out Loud, NEA Jazz Masters and more.)
- Tipitina’s Foundation: The goal of Tipitina’s Foundation is to “support Louisiana’s irreplaceable music community and preserve the state’s unique musical cultures.” The birthplace of Jazz, the New Orleans unequaled music scene must be saved. To date, Tipitina’s has donated more than $1.2 million worth of musical instruments to 20 area schools. Sound Citizen is a New Orleans native, and I can tell you there’s nothing more important there than the music. The food is a close second.
- The ASCAP foundation: “Children Will Listen” was established “to bring the musical theatre experience to young students nationwide.” It was started in honor of Stephen Sondheim, ASCAP member and the composer behind such greats as West Side Story and Gypsy! In addition to providing funding and equipment for schools, the program runs several summer camps.
- Sound Art: This organization provides music instruction and resources to the children of Los Angeles. You can donate on the website through PayPal, and there is a “wish list” where current items in need are listed for hopeful donations.
- Sphinx Organization: Sphinx seeks to encourage classical music in underserved communities and among minorities. They also strive to “… promote the creation, performance, and preservation of works by Black & Latino composers.” Sphinx was started by Aaron P. Dworkin, “… to help overcome the cultural stereotype of classical music, and to encourage the participation of Blacks and Latinos in the field.”
- MIMA: Modern Improvisonational Music Association. This organization is focused on world-wide music creation. This is truly a global effort and is supported by an array of countries. Visit their website and watch the video – it’s inspiring.
- DownloadUplift.com: The brainchild of Music For Charities (MFC), you can listen to, then download music from a varitey of indie artists. Each time you purchase a download, proceeds go to any number of charities of your choosing – everything from the Susan G. Komen Foundation to the Best Friends Animal Society.
UPDATE: I found another very worthy cause. Pandora – teamed with Global Giving, Pandora looks to spread the music love through three projects. Music Transforming Lives for Brazilian Youth aims to keep kids away from dangerous jobs with drug dealers. Little Kids Rock focuses on supplying public school teachers with supplies, curricula and training for music education. Pandora also teams with the aforementioned Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation.
There you have it, 10 great ways to make the world more musical and to ensure future generations experience the same joys we do every day. Go ahead … make someone’s day.
It was the promise of a pass to the Foundation Room and possible box seat that lured me to the House of Blues in Chicago for a Sister Hazel concert. I don’t know much of Sister Hazel, and I don’t claim to be a fan. But I’m a big fan of HOB and box seats, so I went. On the cab ride there, I asked my companion about Sister Hazel’s sound and “Hootie” came up in the conversation…
It was a cold, bitter night so it was with great joy that we walked into the warm, inviting Foundation Room, complete with burning incense and fuzzy upholstery. A couple cocktails later and we decided to check out the opening act, Pat McGee Band. I didn’t know this guy either. I paid slight attention, but what I heard was pretty good. Laid-back but fun. What did catch my attention were his repeated attempts to rally the crowd … “Get into it!” “Make some noise!” Pretty ballsy for simply a guy with a guitar. I can’t remember the last time I saw a mosh pit develop over a single acoustic guitar set.
So on to Sister Hazel. Like I said, I don’t really know their stuff. But what I heard was poppy, do-your-white-guy-dance music. A few songs into their set, I did start to recognize some songs. And if I remember correctly, they came straight from my college days.
Sister Hazel has some dedicated fans. Looking around the room, there were plenty of dancing folks, most of whom knew every song, and the majority of lyrics. And the crowd was fairly diverse, age-wise. There were forty- and fifty-somethings and twenty- and thirty-somethings reliving the days of CD jukeboxes and underage drinking.
I will say this – they sounded good. From the songs I didn’t know to their mass hit Change Your Mind the songs sounded like they came right off the radio or from some sweet floor speakers in the dorm room across the hall. And the crowd was pleased. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see them again, but I had a good time. They clearly have talent, and if you’re a fan, they definitely won’t disappoint.
A few side notes:
- The House of Blues remains a top-flight venue. And if you have the chance, get to the Foundation Room. There was no recording or photography allowed, so I didnt’ get any video. But I did sneak a photo from the box.
- Sister Hazel’s name comes from Sister Hazel Williams, an African-American woman who ran Sister Hazel’s Rescue Mission in their hometown of Gainesville, Florida.
- Yes, several times I was reminded of Hootie – before he went country.
Sister Hazel’s remaining 2008 tour dates:
December, 31 2008 08:00 PM – Jannus Landing, St. Petersberg, FL
January, 8 2009 08:00 PM – House Of Blues, Dallas, TX
January, 9 2009 08:00 PM – House Of Blues, Houston, TX
January, 10 2009 08:00 PM – House Of Blues, New Orleans, LA
January, 17 2009 08:00 PM – Carnival Cruise – The Rock Boat, Nassau, Bahamas
February, 11 2009 08:00 PM – Varsity, Baton Rouge, LA
February, 12 2009 08:00 PM – Jupiter Bar and Grill, Tuscalossa, AL
February, 13 2009 08:00 PM – Ricks, Starkville, MS
February, 14 2009 08:00 PM – Georgia Theatre, Athens, GA
February, 18 2009 08:00 PM – Freebird, Jacksonville, FL
February, 19 2009 08:00 PM – Headliners, Columbia, SC
February, 20 2009 08:00 PM – Revolution, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
February, 21 2009 08:00 PM – House Of Blues, Orlando, FL
Christmas just came early to Flight of the Conchords fans. The entire first episode of the new season has been released online. There’s absolutely no reason to not watch it … right now. Therefore, you’ll find it below. These guys are the one reason I continue to subscribe to HBO. And yes, it is worth the extra $9 per month or so. If you haven’t seen them before, and you like what you see, you can buy it on Amazon: Flight of the Conchords – The Complete First Season