show review:Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros with Letts

150703-Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros:Photo by Drumnmike
150703-Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros:Photo by Drumnmike

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros
Although I can get down with this music when it’s on the radio or I’m at a bar, it’s typically not my thing.  I’m definitely not one of those guys the Onion talked about when it comes to popular music, but I’m just aware and typically don’t listen.  Going to this show was a last minute ordeal.  I mentioned to my Aunt & Uncle they were coming in town to help them out but they mentioned they already had tickets and we should go with them.  I mentioned it to the wife and she was interested so bam: we got tickets.

7-3-15 Letts at Thalia Hall:Photo by Drumnmike
7-3-15 Letts at Thalia Hall:Photo by Drumnmike

The first band, Letts, was the guitar player in ES and 4 other musicians from the band. The music was more subdued than the pop folk of ES, but the songs were interesting and cool.  They were somewhat somber and sounded like songs from a heavy, contemplative heart. Dude has a really great voice and he let it carry over the music, reminiscent of older style country and blue grass. They were a great intro group warming you up for what was about to happen next.

150703-Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at Thalia Hall: Photo by Drumnmike
150703-Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at Thalia Hall: Photo by Drumnmike

By the time Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros played I was rocked and ready for the performance.  We stood where we sat when we saw Ginger Baker. That must be our spot at Thalia Hall. As mentioned above I only really know about 2 Edward Sharpe songs, but the show was still a blast.  Being only a singer (I use that lightly) Alex had great stage presence and took advantage of the fact he wasn’t carrying around an instrument.  For being blue grass pop music there was a lot of playful energy from the crowd and the band with the majority of the audience dancing along to their songs, not just the hits.  Behind the band was a massive video screen that displayed psychedelic colors, split screen and kaleidoscope style views of the band as they were playing.  Considering the band had so much energy and there were so many members the video wasn’t entirely necessarily, but it added to the total immersive feeling of the event and made it that much more fun.

The band waited until the end to play their hit song Home, but the audience was there to be the band and weren’t just waiting to hear there radio songs.  Although when they finally did play it the place erupted.  As a neat touch during the breakdown of Home the band really took it down and Alex was letting people in the front of the stage have the microphone and would let them tell a little story.  It was a nice touch.

It could be easy to think of them as a 2 song band but their entire set was fun and the crowd was interested in what they were doing.  The singer Jade parted ways with the band but it wasn’t until we got home that we did some research about it. During the show I was a little distracted expecting her to come out and sing.

I did have a strange feeling like Alex was an Andrew WK type person, that there’s some type of over the top hippy persona. However reading his Wikipedia is interesting as he used the Edward Sharpe character as a reinvention of himself.  Overall I had a blast.  I wish I was able to buy the tickets at face value but even for what we had to pay they put on a great show.

And yes, I’m looking into a new camera.

showish review: Mark Guiliana drum clinic

7-2-15 mark guiliana at Constellation - Drum Clinic
7-2-15 mark guiliana at Constellation – Drum Clinic

buy Mark Guiliana music here | Listen here.

Don’t say Instagram doesn’t help bring people to the physical world.

I saw a post by Mark Guiliana stating he just landed in Chicago and was drinking Intelligentsia coffee and put 2 and 2 together.  Much to my surprise he was playing with one of his groups High Risk the 1st and 2nd of July at Constellation. He was also giving a free drum clinic on the 2nd before the show! Holy crap.  I set my sights on attending and I’m glad I did.

After a short drum solo because, as he stated ‘these beautiful drums are just in front of me’ Mark discussed how he goes about improvisation and how he practices. He tries to use improvisation to tell a story and fit in with the song, whether it be taking the last lick of a trumpet or bass melody and then trying to build that in to something.  His main goal is to tell a story and serve the song, instead of just banging around like crazy with as many licks as he can think of to throw in the space.

He then ‘simplified 4 years of practice into 20 seconds’ by taking a basic 5 count 16th note roll and playing them as quarter notes, eighth notes and triplets to show the same type of theme, but dissecting it and giving it a slightly different feel.  Mark then used an extremely simple acronym to discuss how to play the theme differently, but of course I forgot it.  The clinic started at 5 and I didn’t leave til 9:30, with a lot of downtime.  You get the idea.  I need to start writing things down as they happen.

Anyway the general idea were dynamic and spacing of the notes, with 16(?) different ways to play the 16th note version, and so on down for 8th and triplets.  Pausing for a 16th note and playing 3 hits, but switching between the rest on the 1, the e, the & and the a.  He then did this variation playing 2 hit and 1 hit combinations as well. After the 16th notes he moved onto the 8th notes and triplets, with the same general idea of different hit combinations and rest placement.

As can be seen with his playing his practice technique’s were very intelligent and very deliberate. For a brief time in college he tried to play only his style and if he felt he sounded too much like someone else he’d stop playing and would start over.  This type of dedication proves why he’s such an in demand and well respected drummer.

One of the main things I found interesting with his practicing was that he rarely spent 8 hours at a time practicing by himself.  He would be behind the drums for 8 hours but maybe only an hour was practicing by himself, and the rest of the time he was practicing with other musicians.  He was able to develop his chops in the group setting, learning to play with other musicians and how to serve the song instead of how to just do rudiments.  As I’m teaching my drum students rudiments from books they’re helpful to learn your chops, but it’s also extremely important to play as a musician, so that what you’re doing will complement what the song needs, instead of just wail.  I’m definitely guilty of being a gratuitous with my playing, but why else would you play metal than to just shred?

He took some questions from the audience then finished with a short drum solo.  He then ‘chilled’ in the main lobby for a half hour taking pictures and signing stuff for fans before he had to get ready for the performance.

And yes I had to get a picture.  Pardon the bad lighting but the one with good lighting I have a crazed stand still don’t move look in my face.

7-2-15 mark G & drumnmike - constellation:
7-2-15 mark G & Drumnmike – constellation:

album review: Save us From the Archon – Fear Eats the Soul

listen here.
What a pleasant surprise.  There I was enjoying myself at the SubT on Friday when I received an email that these guys (and 1 gal) released something new on bandcamp! I first heard about them when my last group Still Machine was offered to play a show with them.  I was looking up the different bands to see with whom we’d fit best and once I made it to them I listened to Thereafter all the way through, then again.

Since this is a review of the latest, I won’t talk about how in love I am with Thereafter.  I will say that even though my band didn’t play the show with them, I still dragged Aaron to the show with me and watched them play in front of 15 people, most of whom I don’t think were prepared for the onslaught of insanity they were witnessing.  That might have made it an even better show, because they still put intense focus onto their instruments and played like mad people. My only complaint was that they didn’t play Thereafter straight through, instead jumping around between releases.

But back to Fear Eats the Soul.  They clearly have a style.  You could put one of these songs in between their other release and it could be the same release.  In the last album they focused on the triplet to enter and exit their phrases.  Here seems to be doubles, but they do switch it up a bit.  If I had to pin them down I’d call it progressive punk, since they typically focus on speed.  One of my band mates replied that they’re ‘technical smilecore’.  Apt description.  I could only imagine trying to have a conversation with this group. It would probably jump from one topic to the next every few minutes, getting to the heart of the subject quickly before switching to the heart of something else.

The worst thing about this release is that it’s only 4 songs, running just under 15 minutes.  I’ve already listened to the whole release and I’ve typed only 350 words. The music is by no means lazy, just short.  They’ve packed a whole bunch of material into those 13 minutes, rarely repeating the same phrase twice or resting on a phrase for too long.  As per their previous releases they rely on delays and loops to bridge the gap between the songs, although surprisingly this one isn’t as fluid as the full length.  Speaking only of the drummer (because again that’s my thing) it sounds as though he’s gotten even better since the last release just over a year ago.  The speed at which he does fills on the toms, and incorporating toms and double bass are astounding.  I’m jealous.  The songs feel mostly like a constant solo, giving the impression of flying through the trees jumping from branch to branch while someone on the ground floor is chasing you, shooting up at you.  Sure you get a minute to catch your breathe, but not for long. I hope they come back to Chicago soon. (and now I’ve listened to it twice)