Monday, October 26, 2009

The Used Concert Review/Interview

Right behind Fenway's Green Monster sits Lansdowne Street, a small stretch of road worthy of its own exhibit in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. For years, Lansdowne has been home to a slew of rock clubs and hardcore enthusiasts alike. And last Friday night, the rock torch was passed down to The Used, who were in command of one hell of a show at the House of Blues.

Coming off their recently released fourth studio record, The Used hit Boston to reconnect with their fans. As part of a full U.S. tour supported by The Almost and Drive A, The Used played Friday to both die-hards and newbies alike. 

Their 15-song set lasted just over an hour leaving most fans sweaty, bruised and satisfied. "Artwork," the band's latest release was created solely for the purpose of being played live, explained bassist Jeph Howard. "When this record came out it was like, 'You know what, we need that live vibe.'," Howard tells Backstage Press. "We need that live edge. We need that power. So, we wrote these songs to be live songs, to be anthem-y and chanty."

It was evident from Friday's performance that Howard and the rest of his band mates have succeeded. Lead singer Bert McCracken was in full control of the Boston crowd, even ending the show with a floor-wide mosh pit that had the HOB security staff on the edge of their seats.

The whole concert was a fluid interaction between the band and the crowd. The music even stopped at one point so that McCracken could read a note that had been thrown up on stage. It was a testament to the band's influence over a particular fan, a feeling that resonated throughout the entire room. McCracken seemed to joke it off at first, but became serious when he told the crowd that some dreams really do come true. 

Picking back up with the music, The Used belted out hits from each one of their four releases. They came back for a two-song encore, even treating the crowd to an acoustic version of "On My Own", performed only by McCracken and 
guitarist Quinn Allman.

As the night came to an end fans crowed the merch tables, sending the line inside the HOB practically out the front doors. Outside fans waited in the cold for a glimpse at their hardcore heroes. It's easy to see from that scene just why The Used have made the mark that they have out here in Boston. Remarkable if you ask me, for a punk band from Utah that's had the cards stacked against them from day one. 

Check out the set list below. All video and exclusive interviews courtesy of Backstage Press.

  1. Blood On My Hands
  2. Empty With You
  3. Take It Away
  4. Listening
  5. Hospital
  6. I Caught Fire (In Your Eyes)
  7. Come Undone
  8. The Taste Of Ink
  9. All That I've Got
  10. Buried Myself Alive
  11. Blue And Yellow
  12. The Best Of Me
  13. Pretty Handsome Awkward
  1. On My Own (Acoustic)
  2. A Box Full Of Sharp Objects

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Broken Down On Memory Lane

I am often asked which was the best concert I've ever been to. And I've got to admit, this is one of the hardest questions for me to answer. Was it my first blink-182 show, the time I sang with Sugarcult or that time I saw Bayside and Anberlin at the now defunct Axis? 

Truth is, it's all of these and more. I'll never forget all those long nights spent driving around the northeast with some of my best friends. Hitting venues from southern Connecticut to northern Maine, countless fast food joints and a ringing in our ears that has yet to leave. It's what's made my life enjoyable, fun and memorable.

And every now and then I'll be listening to a playlist when a song comes up that just takes me back. Within the first few chords I'm suddenly in that laughter filled car, or sweating it out in a pit - surrounded by those closest to me. Such was the case the other day.

I was listening to music while doing homework the other afternoon when Defining Moment's "When Violence Fails" came through the speakers. Instantly I was back in the summer of '05, at my first Warped Tour experience. It was an overcast day in western Massachusetts, and I was standing in line next to my best friend. 

While we waited for what turned out to be one of the best days of our lives, we were approached by a semi-strung-out punk-looking kid claiming to be from Florida. He was selling his band's, Defining Moment, CD. He let us have a listen before asking for cash. Five bucks was a bit pricey, so we were able to barter him down to $2 - one from each of us. 

Thinking nothing of it, we threw the CD in a bag and got on with our day which included serving food backstage to such bands as Motion City Soundtrack, My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, Hot Rod Circuit and The Transplants. It was life changing. We greeted each one of our idols, relished in the vast amounts of free food and caught some of today's biggest bands play - right before they hit the big-time.

Since then it's been nothing but uphill. I've always had a burned copy of Defining Moment's self-titled album, which turned out to be their last. (In fact, the band split and reformed to become today's pop-punk icon Mayday Parade) And over time the CD has grown on me. As the scene slips and we make way for genres such as "crunk-rock," I can sit back and remember the good old times with Defining Moment.

So when that record came on the other day I was instantly in a daze. Suddenly I remembered what got me started in music writing. I remembered that feeling of family I received from everyone I met that day, now almost five years ago. I felt that the world was in my hands once again, and I couldn't help but smile. 

It's a memory I'll have for as long as I'm alive. And anytime I want to relive it, all I've got to do is throw the CD on. Boy, it's times like this that make me realize the real power of music. Amazing...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Between Rock And A Radio Station

The battle of words continues between political-punk band Rise Against and the Florida-based radio station Buzz 103. Last week it was announced on-air that the Chicago natives had pulled themselves off the bill from the upcoming Buzz Bake Sale, a commercially sponsored annual concert, when they found out that the US Army's recruiting department would be fronting the money. 

Needless to say, the radio station was not pleased. In fact, the DJs had no problem publicly bashing the band,
citing them as "un-American" while simultaneously covering their own tail by praising the Army's gracious funding. They continued on saying, "There's got to come a point when you grow up. You're here, you're musicians - play. That's what we're paying you to do."

Buzz made it well known that Rise Against had played this concert years before, and had lost their cool over finding out that the Army was sponsoring it. So, my question is why did you invite them back? You didn't like it back then when the band bashed your sponsor. So you decide having them play this year's main stage, sponsored once again by the Army, is a good idea? Has anyone in this radio station ever listened to a Rise Against song?

I mean, come on. Rise Against have built their empire on their liberal beliefs and anti-war stance. Any half-assed fan knows that. The situation was an obvious conflict. It's no wonder they backed off the bill. I just don't understand how this radio station couldn't see it. 

The DJs spun this into something it wasn't. They placed all the blame on Rise Against instead of looking at themselves in the process. They even had local callers demanding that Buzz never play another Rise Against song. It was just ridiculous.

Both parties are to blame here. One for backing out, the other for not thinking their decisions through. As a radio station and mainstream media outlet, they should know that attracting bad publicity will hurt the company. So 
bringing an anti-war rock band to play a military sponsored concert is like throwing a toaster in the bath tub. It's bound to blow up in your face.

Personally, I can't say this has changed my view of Rise Against. Good for them for standing up for their beliefs, whether you agree or not. It takes a virtuous person to follow their own moral code without giving it up for money or fame. Kudos to those guys.

So what's your take on all this? Who was right? Let me know people. God knows this blog could use some user feedback. 

Friday, October 9, 2009

AFI - Crash Love Review

If you subscribe to the philosophy that "bigger is better," then you'll have no problem becoming completely obsessed with AFI's newest album Crash Love. That's because the sound is huge in every aspect of the word.

From the first listen of this record it's obvious that the California rockers were out to tell a story. Crash Love is about 
something bigger, both lyrically and musically. "Torch Song" kicks off the album with an introspective look at a relationship that's doomed from the start. Musically, and in true AFI fashion, the song is as forceful as it gets. Crunchy guitars and flashy build-ups set an overall tone for this record that is not lost in any of the other 11 songs.

The next few tracks bring us closer to the crash, and further from the love. The anthemic "End Transmission" paints a darkening picture of the world around us, begging that "we can never truly know who we are." Coupled with the tight rhythmic sections of bassist Hunter Burgan and drummer Adam Carson, "End Transmission" serves as the standout song in the first third of the record.

Though the album starts out powerful enough, it really picks up its pace in the middle. The infectious first single, "Medicate," seems like one of the lost songs from AFI's 2006 release, Decemberunderground. With a "Miss Murder"-esque breakdown, and a chorus as catchy as a fishing net, "Medicate" will undoubtedly serve as an alt-rock radio hit. 

Complementing the rest of the center section is "I Am Trying Very Hard To Be Here." A song truly displaying the vocal talents of lead singer Davey Havok. The band were also kind enough to let a few lucky fans come into the studio to record gang vocals for the track. Flash flash car crash!

The final third of Crash Love presents itself as the ending of a harsh and unhealthy relationship. "Darling, I Want To Destroy You" comes to its climax with, And here's my favorite part/where you beg for my heart/and I disappear. If there's something beautiful in tragedy, then AFI have found it and used it to their advantage.

Crash Love is a journey of sorts; starting at one end of the spectrum and finishing at the other. Yet there are a few
key elements missing from this release. If you were a fan of Davey Havok's incredibly throaty screams from the past few records, you're going to find Crash Love to be tame as he refrains from any vocal cord grinding. 

No need to worry though. This record is a step in the right direction for the band. It's tight and concise. The arrangements fit well with one another, and lyrically Crash Love will deliver exactly what AFI fans expect. So what are you waiting for? Go grab it.

Songs To Download: End Transmission; Okay, I Feel Better Now; Darling, I Want To Destroy You

Friday, October 2, 2009

Book Smart - Tattoo Machine

Tattoos. Everyone from blink-182's Travis Barker to Bring Me The Horizon's Oli Sykes are covered with ink. And let's face it, it's freakin' cool. But have you ever stopped to wonder who put that ink into their skin? I mean, have you ever thought about what it's like to be on the other end of the needle? 

If you've answered yes to this question, like I did, then you might want to check out the book "Tattoo Machine" by famed artist Jeff Johnson. It's a memoir like account of nearly two decades of life lived in the world of ink. From dumpy tattoo shops across the US to the most horrendous medical oddities you can imagine, this book is an interesting look into the real tattoo world.

This read is not what you would get on say TLC's LA Ink or A&E's Inked. Forget the glamour and forget the fame. "Tattoo Machine" gives us an idea of what it's actually like to be hunched over some overweight dude you don't know for six hours at a time.  

Johnson's writing is filled with bizarre stories ranging from outrageous pranks pulled at his Portland, Oregon shop, The Sea Tramp, to what it's like to unknowingly tattoo a serial killer. Believe me, that chapter will have your skin crawling. He recounts growing up in the industry; seeing it boom and seeing its artistic decline. Often using too much metaphorical prose, and sometimes straying from the point, "Tattoo Machine" can leave your brain feeling freshly inked. Yikes. But overall it's a must read for anyone interested in body art.

And I mean, who in rock 'n' roll doesn't like tattoos? Spend a day at Warped Tour and you'll see my point. Everybody has got at least one, and some of the dudes in bands are artists themselves. No, seriously, I'm telling the truth. Frank Carter, The Gallow's brutal lead singer, was tattooing long before his band came together. And if you've caught any of this season's LA Ink you might have seen some guest work done by none other than The Dear & Departed's Dan Under.

Music and tattoos have gone hand in hand for years now, and show no signs of stopping any time soon. So honestly, pick the book up and get reading. That way the next time you're at a show and the 16-year-old girls next to you are talking about what they're going to get when they turn 18, you can let 'em know a thing or two about what tattoos are all about. 

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