Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Worth A Thousand Words

I've come to learn over the past few years that words aren't the only way to tell a story. Sometimes a simple photograph can express more than words ever could. And in this post, I'll be giving you a glance into the "scene," as well as the last four years of my life, through my own personal collection of photos. Some were attempts at being artsy, and some were just plain mistakes. Nevertheless, they're the favorites of my collection. Enjoy...

Webster Theatre Marquee - Hartford, CT
Summer '07

Bayside's setlist - November '08
Showcase Live - Foxborough, MA

Anthony Raneri of Bayside - November '08
Showcase Live - Foxborough, MA

Anthony Raneri & Chris Guglielmo of Bayside - November '08
Showcase Live - Foxborough, MA

Side-stage at blink-182 - Hartford, CT
August '09

Tom DeLonge of blink-182 - Hartford, CT
August '09

Mark Hoppus & Tom DeLonge of blink-182 - Hartford, CT
August '09

Mark Hoppus of blink-182 - Hartford, CT
August '09

Joseph Hamilton of So They Say - August '07
Vans Warped Tour - Mansfield, MA

Joseph Hamilton of So They Say - August '07
Vans Warped Tour - Mansfield, MA

Marko DeSantis of Sugarcult - October '07
Framingham Civic League - Framingham, MA

Marko DeSantis' pedalboard - October '07
Framingham Civic League - Framingham, MA

Christian McAlhaney of Anberlin - February '07
Axis - Boston, MA

Christian McAlhaney of Anberlin - February '07
Axis - Boston, MA

Stephen Christian of Anberlin - February '07
Axis - Boston, MA

Thank you to anyone who was there by my side at any one of these shows, or the countless others that I've seen in the past few years. They were the best days of my life.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Taking Back Sunday - Band Of The Year 2009

It's always been an uphill battle for Taking Back Sunday. Whether it be the constant rivalry with that other Long Island band, or the slew of line-up changes that leave you guessing who's playing guitar, TBS have seen it all. But this year they put that all behind them and dropped one of the best records we heard in '09. And for that, Backstage Press is pleased to reward them with Band of the Year for 2009.

It's been a few years since we've heard from TBS. After ex-guitarist Fred Mascherino left the band back in October of 2007, TBS went into hiding. It seemed like we would never hear from this punk-rock powerhouse again. But that all changed when guitarist Matt Fazzi joined up. Their next step - writing a new record.

New Again was released in June, and quickly propelled TBS back into the ranks of punk-rock stardom. To those of us in New England, their concerts became an almost monthly occurrence for the rest of the summer. Let's take a look back.

It all started this past May when the band set out on the road to give fans a preview of their yet-to-be-released album. Of the three or four cities that were graced with this opportunity, Boston was one of them. TBS spent the day in and around the Hub, letting fans hop on their tour bus for a quick listen, snag a free t-shirt and score some autographs. I was personally at the Danvers, MA stop, and I can say it was one of the coolest experiences of my life.

Cut to late June and the band were busy headlining a tour with Anberlin and Envy
On The Coast. After being a fan for nearly six years, I finally got to see TBS live. Two nights, two shows. New Hampshire and Boston. Different set lists each night let the local scene hear both old and new tracks. TBS were quickly slated to become the soundtrack to my summer.

By mid-July, Boston was just starting to regain their hearing. And that's when the Long Island natives strolled through town again, this time offering a free concert at City Hall Plaza as part of the Dew Tour.

Then in August, TBS opened for one of the biggest shows all summer - the
blink-182 reunion tour. You had to drive a bit to see them, Hartford to be exact, but it was well worth it. They owned the stage that night as almost 20,000 fans packed the amphitheater.

After four consecutive months of shows you'd think the band would take a break. Not these guys. They came back in November for their last hurrah. They brought out Anberlin and the All-American Rejects for an arena tour that blew the speakers. In fact, I'm still in awe over that show.

Besides the amazing musicianship that this party of five possess, it's their off-stage character that helped them clench Band of the Year. I had the opportunity to meet and talk with these guys a few times over the course of '09, and I've got to admit they are some of the most humble and accommodating dudes I've ever met.

So here's to you Taking Back Sunday. Thanks for the music, the showmanship and the constant entertainment. Congratulations, you've earned it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

December Is For Cynics

Well folks, that evil time of year is upon us again. "The Holidays" as they're now called, are to blame for every crappy song you hear out in the world nowadays. Trust me, I hate it as much as the next guy, but I was able to find a happy medium with Christmas music a few years back, and I figure I'll let you all in on my secret.

Let me introduce you to A Santa Cause: It's a Punk Rock Christmas - a 25 track album packed with some of the best holiday music you'll ever hear. The lineup includes everyone from Something Corporate to From First To Last, MxPx to Matchbook 
Romance, and many more. 

I originally bought this compilation back in the winter of '04 so that I could snag blink-182's contribution, a 3-minute track entitled, "I Won't Be Home For Christmas". But every year around this time, I throw this CD back in my car and somehow manage to find a song/band that I had no clue were on there. This year's find, Saosin's "Mookie's Last Christmas".

A Santa Cause has got a little something for everyone, though. If you're into slower acoustic-type punk, be sure to check out Something Corporate's "Forget December" or Acceptance's rendition of "So This Is Christmas". They're
perfect to mellow out to over a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.

Want something that's going to make you jump up and down? No worries. New Found Glory's "Ex-Miss" is as pop-punk infused as Christmas can get. Unless of course you should happen upon the album's seventh track, "Christmas Night of Zombies" by MxPx. With lyrics like: Christmas night of the living dead/their faces green and the snow is red, you're bound to be wanting to kick some ass. Besides, zombies are all the rage this year. Score!

And don't think Santa has forgotten about all you good little emo kids. Oh yes, Fall Out Boy even grace this compilation. "Yule Shoot Your Eye Out" will forever be the break-up anthem of Christmas. It's as catchy as any FOB song, and just as lyrically astounding. It's been one of my favorites since I got the CD. Oh, and as far as street cred goes, I was listening to this in '04 - before FOB blew up. (Writer sticks tongue out at reader and emos alike)

Other than that, the album packs in some pretty awesome tunes from The Matches, Punchline, The Mighty Mighty BosstonesGatsby's American Dream and more. It's a must have for any collector, punk-rocker or anyone who is sick of the same old crap every year. Plus, some proceeds go to a children's charity. So there ya go, you get new music and help some people out. What can be better?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Most Anticipated Records For 2010

Though the future of our scene might be as uncertain as social security, there are a few bands to look for in 2010. So here's a look at the fresh records you can expect, and get excited for, in the coming year.

The Long Island natives are currently in the process of writing and recording what lead singer 
Anthony Raneri is calling their "best record ever." Free from the pressures of any label, Bayside are taking their time with this one. Raneri and his band mates are harkening back to a sound that escaped them on their 2008 release, Shudder. "With this one," Raneri told Alternative Press, "we want to go back to what we did with Walking Wounded, but even bigger, with some hard left turns." Expect this little slice of heaven out sometime in the spring.

Fresh off the Dino Trail, MCS are gearing up for a nationwide tour in support of their upcoming January release My Dinosaur Life with Set Your Goals, This Providence and The Swellers. This, their first record since 2007's Even If It Kills Me, takes a deeper approach to the lyrical writing process, while still infusing just enough synth and playful guitar tricks to make this record worthy of being called pop-punk. Check out "Disappear" and "Her Words Destroyed My Planet" for your proof.

Possibly the most eclectic band today in terms of influences, EOTC bring it all to the table with Low Country. Backstage Press caught up with Envy's lead singer Ryan Hunter this past summer and learned that the quartet found a certain comfort in writing the new record. "There was no clock, no pressure or anything like that," said Hunter. "[Writing and playing] was all second nature, and it was a lot of fun." This will undoubtedly produce a solid record as evidenced by their vicious first single, "The Devil's Tongue."

With the era of The Black Parade as dead as most of their followers feel inside, MCR are taking a step in a new direction. They've written, rewritten and then altered some 20 plus songs for their yet-to-be-named spring 2010 release. If it's anything like their last three records, fans can expect something completely new and different. Get amped, kids.

As if reconciling old friendships, running a clothing company and touring with blink-182 all summer
weren't enough, AVA frontman Tom Delonge managed to squeeze in recording a new record with his experimental rock band. The album entitled Love will fittingly drop on Valentine's Day this year along with the ever so anticipated AVA motion picture. As Delonge notes, it's been a work of progress spanning almost the last five years. Love will definitely be something any avid Delonge fan won't want to miss.

Also, be on the lookout for new albums from As I Lay Dying, Crime In Stereo, Sense Fail, Anberlin, Gaslight Anthem and Four Year Strong to hit stores in 2010. Sweet!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Black Friday... For Those Who Dress In Black

Looking to score some really good deals on Black Friday, but don't feel like getting up at the crack of dawn? Forget the stampedes and cold weather. Sleep in if you want. All the deals you need are online this year. And the best part is they last all day.

Let's call this an excuse to go Christmas shopping for yourself. I mean, we all deserve a new band hoody or a few new CDs right? It's been a long year, so why not treat yourself? Just take a look at some of the online deals you can find in '09.

Be sure to check out the Victory Records website on Black Friday for 25 percent off their entire webstore. That means more reduced vinyl, CDs and merch than
 you'll know what to do with. The sale is actually lasting through the weekend so even if you miss Friday due to a turkey coma or likewise, you'll be okay.

In the mood for some fresh blink gear? Not to worry, the trio are offering some brand new designs by way of hoodies and t-shirts. They're some new takes on classic designs. The six arrow smiley hoody and bunny zip-up are some of the hottest items just released. Plus, if you throw down the code "blackfriday" during check out, you're going to save 20 percent on the whole order. Sweet deal!

If you've been following guitarist Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory on Twitter you'll know that there is something pretty cool coming for those hardcore NFG fans. The band are releasing a special shirt (apparently Gilbert's all-time favorite) on Friday. He's been dropping sneak peeks of it in his tweets the last few days. Head over to to snag this obviously limited item on the 27th.

So see, Black Friday isn't all bad. Us punk rockers can finally get in on the action this year. And the best part of all is we can do it from our favorite spot in the entire world - behind the electric glow of our computers. Happy shopping.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Dino Trail Hits Boston

The clock on the Park Street Church had just struck 9 p.m. as I stood patiently waiting alongside the crowd. The bitter cold was ripping through everyone with no regard for fingertips or faces - the only bits of skin exposed by most of the 50 or so scenesters gathered. We all stood in a virtual silence just waiting... watching...  and waiting.

At about quarter past 9 our reason for being showed up in the form of one overly eccentric man carrying a guitar. It was Justin Pierre, lead singer of the pop-punk act Motion City Soundtrack. Screams erupted from the crowd as they rushed to form a tight circle around the medium built performer. His only reaction - "Holy shit! This is too many people."

Pierre is out promoting MCS' upcoming record, My Dinosaur Life, in a way that is entirely new. The "Dino Trail" as its called is just the singer, an acoustic guitar and a list of cities across the country. There are no venues on this tour, just impromptu performances at locations disclosed on Pierre's Twitter account. And thankfully last weekend, we in Boston were lucky enough to witness this bit of music history.

"Attractive Today", the first track from MCS' 2005 release, Commit This To Memory, opened the performance. The crowd seemed awkwardly nervous. Most lipped the words, leaving the singing to the professional at first. But as the half-hour set wore on, the crowd grew louder essentially turning the performance into a 50-person singalong. 

Pierre later took time to plug his new record by playing a stripped down version of his band's infectious new single "Disappear" - a three minute track reminiscent of MCS' earliest work. 

But all was not over for Boston. As promised, we had yet another surprise coming. For what Pierre said would be the last two songs, ex-Matches lead singer Shawn Harris showed up, dressed as the Mad Hatter nonetheless, to help out. With Harris on harmonica, they led the crowd in comically flawed renditions of "Everything Is Alright" and "The Future Freaks Me Out". 

As the set came to its close the crowd called for "Cambridge" to fill the cold November air before Pierre departed. The singer obliged and payed homage to that little slice of Boston that sits just over the river. A fitting way to end any show in this town.

Soon after, the happy crowd dissipated knowing that they had just witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime event. While it was a bitter cold wait, the end result was well worth the near frostbite. I know I'll never look at the Park Street T stop the same way again.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Top 20 Singles From The Decade (1-10)

Last week I let you in on the latter half of my top 20 picks for the decade's best singles from the punk scene. There was some good feedback, so I know you're all just dying to get to number one. So without further adieu, here are the top 10 from Backstage Press.

10. All-American Rejects - "Swing, Swing" The song that paved the way for the Rejects. An instant MTV hit in 2002, "Swing" quickly became the anthem of every lonely high school nerd. Punk suddenly had a new name: emo. Dun, dun, dun... 

9. Brand New - "Jude Law And A Semester Abroad" Off their 2001 release, Your Favorite Weapon, Brand New showed us what a little Long Island angst can do. I can only guess how many times these lyrics popped up in away messages on college campuses. Damn English boys.

8. My Chemical Romance - "Helena" Two parts rock, one part Halloween. Served to a blood thirsty mob of emo enthusiasts back in 2004. Helena's epically choreographed video was proof that death can be artsy, but only if all the guys in the room are wearing make-up of course.

7. Motion City Soundtrack - "Everything Is Alright" It's hard to find a band with an original sound anymore. But it's safe to say MCS' hit off 2005's Commit This To Memory was a brand new blend of pop-punk. I mean, you've got to expect greatness when you've got a moog player, and Mark Hoppus producing you.

6. Hawthorne Heights - "Ohio Is For Lovers" This wasn't necessarily one you heard on the radio, but to anyone with hair covering at least one eye, this 2004 single was a gateway drug to the scene. I don't care what anyone says, Hawthorne Heights still owns. Punks.

5. Jimmy Eat World - "The Sweetness" Are you listening? You should be, 'cause this 2001 jam has got everything a timeless rock song needs. It's catchy, simple and the perfect singalong - even if you don't know the words. Woah, oh oh oh oh oh!

4. Taking Back Sunday - "Cute Without The 'E' (Cut From The Team)" Although I still don't know what a "clever napkin" is, I've got to give it up to TBS for their 2002 hit off Tell All Your Friends. Any song that can make me mosh by myself in my apartment ranks highly with me. 'Nuff said.

3. Fall Out Boy - "Sugar, We're Going Down" Released in 2005, just after blink-182's
 indefinite hiatus, FOB's "Sugar" gave every hungry, and somewhat lost, pop-punk fan what they needed. The Chicago natives filled the void with this radio-friendly hit. It's what ultimately launched them into punk-rock stardom. Well, that, and those racy photos of Mr. Wentz that hit the internet. Come on, we've all seen 'em (whether we wanted to or not).

2. New Found Glory - "Hit Or Miss" An old-school classic from the Florida-based punks. It's hard not to hear remnants of this 'hit' today with bands like A Day To Remember or Broadway Calls. Just try a YouTube search of this song and you'll see just how many different bands, and crappy new guitarists alike, have covered this beauty. A pop-punk masterpiece.

1. blink-182 - "What's My Age Again?" I may be a bit biased, as blink is my favorite band of all time, but you can't deny the impact that this song has had on culture as a whole. WMAA? is 10 years old this year, and is as timeless as ever. If you saw blink this past summer then you know that when this song was played, the trio were practically drowned out by the masses. When MTV launched this single back in '99 to every tween watching TRL, it was an instant classic. And it's only gotten better with time. I mean, I'm finally 23 and I can see what they were saying. Oh well, at least the song has some new meaning now.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Top 20 Singles From The Decade (11-20)

Alternative Press recently ran a 10-page spread outlining the past decade's 100 best singles from the punk scene. Now, there's no way I'd bore you (or myself) with my top 100, so I knocked it down to 20. And here's your teaser, numbers 11-20. Check back later in the week for Backstage Press' top 10.
20. Paramore - "Pressure" Off the band's 2005 release, All We Know Is Falling, launched Paramore into the ears and hearts of of pop-punk fans across North America. Besides, who couldn't love a girl in a Philadelphia Flyers shirt?

19. Anberlin - "Paperthin Hymn" Christian rock never sounded so good. This anthemic single off Never Take Friendship Personal has been, and will be, the hard rock staple of Anberlin's success. A perfect blend of edge and melody leaves this gem stuck in your head for days.

18. The Used - "All That I've Got" This single off The Used's In Love And Death showed the softer side of the band. Combined with a video profiling a boy getting lost in a creepy old bookstore, "ATIG" proved a successful avenue for a screamo band in a post-screamo world.

17. Sugarcult - "Bouncing Off The Walls" Remember freshman year of college? Yeah, it's blurry for me too, but somehow I remember this song playing a major part in my existence. Though it could have been because "Bouncing" was the anthem to Van Wilder. Hmm.. Either way, this 2001 release is punk having fun, making it worthy of this list.

16. Rise Against - "Ready To Fall" Off the band's 2006 release, The Sufferer And The Witness, this four minute tune managed to pack in a ton of catchy hooks and a little life lesson. Just watch the video. It'll stick with you for years.

15. Bayside - "Devotion And Desire" Though Bayside have yet to have a radio "hit," their 2005 self-titled release propelled them into punk-rock legitimacy by means of "Devotion And Desire". Hardcore fans apply within.

14. Green Day - "American Idiot" Though Green Day owned long before '99, American Idiot 
was the hit single that put them back on the map in '04, and launched a rebirth of the band that will undoubtedly keep them in sold-out arenas for years to come.

13. Bad Religion - "Sorrow" How do you decide which Bad Religion song from the last 10 years should make this list? Well, this was the anti-war anthem of 2002... and it's catchy as Hell. Sold.

12. AFI - "Silver And Cold" From 2003's Sing The Sorrow. It's as dark as it is poetic. The video is hauntingly epic, symbolically penning suicide against friendship. Woah, it's deep. It makes the list.

11. The Starting Line - "Best Of Me" The band's 2002 hit single could easily trick you into thinking love was real or something crazy like that. Listen to it and you'll think that girl from class actually does like you. Don't get ahead of yourself. The song is a great mixture of acoustic and electric guitars paired with a young Kenny Vasoli on vocals. It doesn't get much cuter than that bleach-blonde hair, huh ladies?
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